Explainer: what is the deadly India-China border dispute about?

At least 20 soldiers have died in fighting along the disputed Himalayan border, the first fatal clash between the nations since 1975

 Indian protesters burn effigies of President Xi after China border clash – video

What has happened?

At least 20 people have died in clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along the disputed Himalayan border running along the Ladakh area of Kashmir. It is the first fatal clash since 1975 and the most serious since 1967.

Fighting broke out on Monday evening when an Indian patrol came across Chinese forces on a narrow ridge. During the confrontation an Indian commanding officer was pushed and fell into the river gorge, sources told the Guardian. Hundreds of troops from both sides were called in and fought with rocks and clubs. Several fell to their deaths.

The Indian Army said there were casualties on both sides, and confirmed three of its soldiers were killed during the clashes, with another 17 later succumbing to injuries.

Beijing has refused to confirm any deaths on its side, but accused India of crossing the border twice and “provoking and attacking Chinese personnel”. The editor in chief of state-run the Global Times, said he understood there had been Chinese casualties, but the People’s Liberation Army wanted to avoid “stoking public mood” by comparing numbers.

Why now?

Tensions have been escalating since late April, when China sent thousands of troops into the disputed territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), bringing artillery and vehicles.

Their refusal to leave disputed areas, including the Galwan Valley inside Indian territory, has triggered shouting matches, stone-throwing and fistfights in key border areas. Last month, there was a massive brawl between patrols, but no deaths.

Earlier this month senior military leaders from both sides met and made a commitment to disengagement.

What is the history of the dispute?

India and China fought a war in 1962 over their contested border in the Himalayas. The war ended with a truce and the formation of a de facto boundary, known as the Line of Actual Control.

There has been an uneasy and fragile peace since, punctuated by skirmishes on the border, including in 2013 and 2017.

No official border has ever been negotiated, the region where the clashes occurred is hostile terrain, at high altitude and sparsely populated, running through the Ladakh region bordering Tibet, home to a Buddhist-majority population. It is a popular tourist destination.

What is the Line of Actual Control?

The LAC is a rough demarcation line separating Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory. The exact location of sections of the line, particularly in the western Ladakh region, have remained in dispute. Efforts between the two countries to clarify the LAC have stalled in the past two decades, according to Indian media.

What do the two sides want?

Both countries have sought to establish their claims to territory, by heavily militarising the region. Both have built roads, airstrips, outpost stations, and other infrastructure, such as telephone lines. Troops conduct regular patrols along the disputed border. China claims more than 90,000sq km in the eastern Himalayas and another 38,000sq km in the west, both of which are disputed by India.

What next?

The conflict has enormous geopolitical consequences for the world. China and India are the two most populous nations on earth, and both are nuclear powers. They are led by governments run strongly along nationalist lines, and whose militaries are seen as markers of national status and pride.

Both parties have been working towards de-escalation in recent weeks but the loss of life makes the situation even more complicated and precarious.

Chinese state media has reported the PLA is conducting joint military exercises “aimed at the destruction of key hostile hubs in a high-elevation mountainous region”. The PLA Tibet Military Command conducted live fire drills with heavy artillery on Tuesday, with reports linking the PLA’s preparedness for high elevation combat to the clashes with India.

“A nasty, brutal fight”: what a US-Iran war would look like

An Iranian military truck carries a US-made Hawk air-defense missile system during a parade on the occasion of the country’s Army Day on April 18, 2017 in Tehran.
An Iranian military truck carries a US-made Hawk air-defense missile system during a parade on the occasion of the country’s Army Day on April 18, 2017 in Tehran.
 Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

The bottom line: It’d be hell on earth.


intraceable, ruthless proxies spreading chaos on multiple continents. Costly miscalculations. And thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — killed in a conflict that would dwarf the war in Iraq.

Welcome to the US-Iran war, which has the potential to be one of the worst conflicts in history.

The Thursday night killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who led Iranian covert operations and intelligence and was one of the country’s most senior leaders, brought Washington and Tehran closer to fighting that war. Iran has every incentive to retaliate, experts says, using its proxies to target US commercial interests in the Middle East, American allies, or even American troops and diplomats hunkered down in regional bases and embassies.

It’s partly why the Eurasia Group, a prominent international consulting firm, now puts the chance of “a limited or major military confrontation” at 40 percent.

But the seeds of conflict weren’t planted with Thursday’s airstrikes alone. Washington and Tehran have remained locked in a months-long standoff that only continues to escalate. The US imposed crushing sanctions on Iran’s economy over its support for terrorism and its growing missile program, among other things, after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal last year; Iran has fought back by violating parts of the nuclear agreement, bombing oil tankers, and downing an American military drone.

The crisis has become more acute over the past week. An Iranian-backed militia killed an American contractor while wounding others in rocket attacks, leading the Trump administration to order retaliatory strikes on five targets in Iraq and Syria that killed 25 of the militia’s fighters. In protest, the militia — Ketaib Hezbollah — organized a rally outside the US embassy in Baghdad where some got inside the compound and set parts of it ablaze.

That led Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to tell reporters on Thursday that “if we get word of attacks, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives,” adding “the game has changed.” The US killed Soleimani hours after that statement, underscoring that change.

Importantly, experts note that neither country wants a full-blown conflict, with President Donald Trump saying he prefers “peace” when it comes to Iran. But the possibility of war breaking out anyway shouldn’t be discounted, especially now that Iran’s leadership has sworn to avenge Soleimani. “The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted Friday morning.

Hassan Rouhani


The flag of General Soleimani in defense of the country’s territorial integrity and the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region will be raised, and the path of resistance to US excesses will continue. The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.

22.6K people are talking about this

Which means US-Iran relations teeter on a knife edge, and it won’t take much more to knock them off. So to understand just how bad the situation could get, I asked eight current and former White House, Pentagon, and intelligence officials, as well as Middle East experts, last July about how a war between the US and Iran might play out.

The bottom line: It would be hell on earth.

“This would be a violent convulsion similar to chaos of the Arab Spring inflicted on the region for years,” said Ilan Goldenberg, the Defense Department’s Iran team chief from 2009 to 2012, with the potential for it to get “so much worse than Iraq.”

How the US-Iran war starts

US-imposed sanctions have tanked Iran’s economy, and Tehran desperately wants them lifted. But with few options to compel the Trump administration to change course, Iranian leaders may choose a more violent tactic to make their point, especially after Soleimani’s death.

Iranian forces could bomb an American oil tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for the global energy trade aggressively patrolled by Tehran’s forces, causing loss of life or a catastrophic oil spill. The country’s skillful hackers could launch a major cyberattack on regional allies like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

Israel could kill an Iranian nuclear scientist, leading Iran to strike back and drawing the US into the spat, especially if Tehran responds forcefully. Or Iranian-linked proxies could target and murder American troops and diplomats in Iraq.

That last option is particularly likely, experts say. After all, Iran bombed US Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 and killed more than 600 US troops during the Iraq War. Taking this step may seem extreme, but “Iran could convince itself that it could do this,” Goldenberg, now at the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, told me.

At that point, it’d be nearly impossible for the Trump administration not to respond in kind. The recommendations given to the president would correspond to whatever action Iran took.

If Tehran destroyed an oil tanker, killing people and causing an oil spill, the US might destroy some of Iran’s ships. If Iran took out another US military drone, the US might take out some of Iran’s air defenses. And if Iranian-backed militants killed Americans in Iraq, then US troops stationed there could retaliate, killing militia fighters and targeting their bases of operation in return. The US could even bomb certain training grounds inside Iran or kill high-level officials.

Fire and smoke billowing from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair oil tanker attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019. The US blames Iran for the bombing.
Fire and smoke billowing from the Norwegian-owned Front Altair oil tanker attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman on June 13, 2019. The US blames Iran for the bombing.
 AFP/Getty Images

It’s at this point that both sides would need to communicate their red lines to each other and how not to cross them. The problem is there are no direct channels between the two countries and they don’t particularly trust each other. So the situation could easily spiral out of control.

Messaging “is often more important than physical action,” Jasmine El-Gamal, formerly a Middle East adviser at the Pentagon, told me. “Action without corresponding messaging, public or private, could most certainly lead to escalation because the other side is free to interpret the action as they wish.”

Which means the initial tit-for-tat would serve as the precursor to much more bloodshed.

“What are we going to be wrong about?”

You may have heard the phrase “the fog of war.” It refers to how hard it is for opposing sides to know what’s going on in the heat of battle. It’s particularly difficult when they don’t talk to one another, as is the case with the US and Iran.

Which means that the way the US and Iran interpret each other’s next moves would mainly come down to guesswork.

Eric Brewer, who spent years in the intelligence community before joining Trump’s National Security Council to work on Iran, told me that’s when the Pentagon and other parts of the government rely heavily on their best-laid plans.

The problem, he noted, is that wars rarely play out as even the smartest officials think they will. A guiding question for him, then, is “what are we going to be wrong about?”

Here’s one scenario in which the US might get something wrong — and open up the door to chaos: After America launches its first set of retaliatory strikes, Iran decides to scatter its missiles to different parts of the country.

Now the Trump administration has to figure out why Iran did that. Some people in the administration might think it’s because Tehran plans to attack US embassies, troops, or allies in the region and is moving its missiles into position to do so. Others might believe that it was merely for defensive reasons, with Iran essentially trying to protect its missile arsenal from being taken out by future US strikes.

Without a clear answer, which interpretation wins out comes down to which camp in the Trump administration is the most persuasive. And if the camp that believes Iran is about to launch missile strikes wins, they could convince the president to take preemptive action against Iran.

That could be a good thing if they were right; after all, they’d have made sure Iran couldn’t carry out those planned attacks. But what if they were wrong? What if the other camp guessed correctly that Iran was merely moving its missiles around because it was scared the US would strike once more? In that case, the US would have bombed Iran again, this time for essentially no reason — thus looking like the aggressor.

That could cause Iran to retaliate with a bigger attack, setting off a spiral that could end in full-scale war.

Iran could make a grave error too. Imagine Trump sends thousands of troops, say 25,000, along with advanced warplanes to the Middle East in the hope that they’ll deter Iran from escalating the conflict any further.

Tehran could just as easily read that buildup as preparation for a US invasion. If that’s the case, Iranian forces could choose to strike first in an effort to complicate the perceived incursion.

US Navy sailors on the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln on May 10, 2019 in the Red Sea.
US Navy sailors on the flight deck of USS Abraham Lincoln on May 10, 2019, in the Red Sea.
 Mass Communication Specialist Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley/US Navy via Getty Images

Of course, cooler heads could prevail in those moments. But experts say the political pressures on both Washington and Tehran not to be attacked first — and not to be embarrassed or look weak — might be too strong for the countries’ leaders to ignore.

“Unintended civilian casualties or other collateral damage is always possible, and it is not clear that this administration — or any administration — understands what Iran’s own red lines are,” El-Gamal, now at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, told me. “As such, the greatest risk of a full-blown war comes from one side miscalculating the other’s tolerance” for conflict.

If that proves true, and the US and Iran officially escalate their fighting to more than a few one-off attacks, it’s war.

What the US-Iran war might look like

At this point, it’s hard to be very precise about a hypothetical full-blown conflict. We know it would feature a series of moves and countermoves, we know it’d be very messy and confusing, and we know it’d be extremely deadly.

But unlike with the path to war, it’s less useful to offer a play-by-play of what could happen. So with that in mind, it’s better to look at what the US and Iranian war plans would likely be — to better understand the devastation each could exact.

How the US might try to win the war

The US strategy would almost certainly involve using overwhelming air and naval power to beat Iran into submission early on. “You don’t poke the beehive, you take the whole thing down,” Goldenberg said.

The US military would bomb Iranian ships, parked warplanes, missile sites, nuclear facilities, and training grounds, as well as launch cyberattacks on much of the country’s military infrastructure. The goal would be to degrade Iran’s conventional forces within the first few days and weeks, making it even harder for Tehran to resist American strength.

That plan definitely makes sense as an opening salvo, experts say, but it will come nowhere close to winning the war.

“It’s very unlikely that the Iranians would capitulate,” Michael Hanna, a Middle East expert at the Century Foundation in New York, told me. “It’s almost impossible to imagine that a massive air campaign will produce the desired result. It’s only going to produce escalation, not surrender.”

It won’t help that a sustained barrage of airstrikes will likely lead to thousands of Iranians dead, among them innocent civilians. That, among other things, could galvanize Iranian society against the US and put it firmly behind the regime, even though it has in many ways treated the population horribly over decades in power.

There’s another risk: A 2002 war game showed that Iran could sink an American ship and kill US sailors, even though the US Navy is far more powerful. If the Islamic Republic’s forces succeeded in doing that, it could provide a searing image that could serve as a propaganda coup for the Iranians. Washington won’t garner the same amount of enthusiasm for destroying Iranian warships — that’s what’s supposed to happen.

An Iranian Army soldier stands guard on a military speed boat, passing by a submarine during the “Velayat-90” navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on December 28, 2011.
An Iranian Army soldier stands guard on a military speedboat, passing by a submarine during the “Velayat-90” navy exercises in the Strait of Hormuz on December 28, 2011.
 Ali Mohammadi/AFP/Getty Images

Trump has already signaled he doesn’t want to send ground troops into Iran or even spend a long time fighting the country. That tracks with his own inclinations to keep the US out of foreign wars, particularly in the Middle East. But with hawkish aides at his side, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, there’s a chance they could convince him not to look weak and to go all-in and grasp victory.

But the options facing the president at that point will be extremely problematic, experts say.

The riskiest one — by far — would be to invade Iran. The logistics alone boggle the mind, and any attempt to try it would be seen from miles away. “There’s no surprise invasion of Iran,” Brewer, who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, told me.

Iran has nearly three times the amount of people Iraq did in 2003, when the war began, and is about three and a half times as big. In fact, it’s the world’s 17th-largest country, with territory greater than France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal combined.

The geography is also treacherous. It has small mountain ranges along some of its borders. Entering from the Afghanistan side in the east would mean traversing two deserts. Trying to get in from the west could also prove difficult even with Turkey — a NATO ally — as a bordering nation. After all, Ankara wouldn’t let the US use Turkey to invade Iraq, and its relations with Washington have only soured since.

The US could try to enter Iran the way Saddam Hussein did during the Iran-Iraq war, near a water pass bordering Iran’s southwest. But it’s swampy — the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet there — and relatively easy to protect. Plus, an invading force would run up against the Zagros Mountains after passing through, just like Saddam’s forces did.

It’s for these reasons that the private intelligence firm Stratfor called Iran a “fortress” back in 2011. If Trump chose to launch an incursion, he’d likely need around 1.6 million troops to take control of the capital and country, a force so big it would overwhelm America’s ability to host them in regional bases. By contrast, America never had more than 180,000 service members in Iraq.

And there’s the human cost. A US-Iran war would likely lead to thousands or hundreds of thousands of dead. Trying to forcibly remove the country’s leadership, experts say, might drive that total into the millions.

That helps explain why nations in the region hope they won’t see a fight. Goldenberg, who traveled recently to meet with officials in the Gulf, said that none of them wanted a US-Iran war. European nations will also worry greatly about millions of refugees streaming into the continent, which would put immense pressure on governments already dealing with the fallout of the Syrian refugee crisis. Israel also would worry about Iranian proxies targeting it (more on that below).

Meanwhile, countries like Russia and China — both friendly to Iran — would try to curtail the fighting and exploit it at the same time, the Century Foundation’s Hanna told me. China depends heavily on its goods traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, so it would probably call for calm and for Tehran not to close down the waterway. Russia would likely demand restraint as well, but use the opportunity to solidify its ties with the Islamic Republic.

President Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, stand side by side in the group picture at the G20 summit on June 28, 2019.
President Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, stand side by side in the group picture at the G20 summit on June 28, 2019.
 Bernd von Jutrczenka/picture alliance via Getty Images

And since both countries have veto power on the UN Security Council, they could ruin any political legitimacy for the war that the US may aim to gain through that body.

The hope for the Trump administration would therefore be that the conflict ends soon after the opening salvos begin. If it doesn’t, and Iran resists, all that’d really be left are a slew of bad options to make a horrid situation much, much worse.

How Iran might try to win the war

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart left his post as the No. 2 at US Cyber Command in 2019, ending a decorated four-decade career. Toward the end of it, he spent his time at the forefront of the military intelligence and cybersecurity communities.

If anyone has the most up-to-date information on how Iran may fight the US, then, it’s Stewart.

“The Iranian strategy would be to avoid, where possible, direct conventional force-on-force operations,” he wrote for the Cipher Brief on July 2, 2019. “They would attempt to impose cost on a global scale, striking at US interests through cyber operations and targeted terrorism with the intent of expanding the conflict, while encouraging the international community to restrain America’s actions.”

In other words, Tehran can’t match Washington’s firepower. But it can spread chaos in the Middle East and around the world, hoping that a war-weary US public, an intervention-skeptical president, and an angered international community cause America to stand down.

That may seem like a huge task — and it is — but experts believe the Islamic Republic has the capability, knowhow, and will to pull off such an ambitious campaign. “The Iranians can escalate the situation in a lot of different ways and in a lot of different places,” Hanna told me. “They have the capacity to do a lot of damage.”

Take what it could do in the Middle East. Iran’s vast network of proxies and elite units — like Soleimani’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — could be activated to kill American troops, diplomats, and citizens throughout the region. US troops in Syria are poorly defended and have little support, making them easy targets, experts say. America also has thousands of civilians, troops, and contractors in Iraq, many of whom work in areas near where Iranian militias operate within the country.

US allies would also be prime targets. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terrorist group in Lebanon, might attack Israel with rockets and start its own brutal fight. We’ve heard this story before: In 2006, they battled in a month-long war where the militant group fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, and Israeli forces fired around 7,000 bombs and missiles into Lebanon.

About 160 Israelis troops and civilians died, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and about 1,100 Lebanese — most of them civilians — perished, per Human Rights Watch, a US-headquartered advocacy organization. It also reports about 4,400 Lebanese were injured, and around 1 million people were displaced.

But that’s not all. Iran could encourage terrorist organizations or other proxies to strike inside Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf nations. Last year, it planned and executed drone strikes on two major Saudi oil facilities deep inside the kingdom, convulsing world markets. Its support for Houthis rebels in Yemen would mostly certainly increase, offering them more weapons and funds to attack Saudi Arabia’s airports, military bases, and energy plants.

The US government on April 8, 2019 said it had designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization, marking the first time a US government has made such a designation on a foreign government’s organization.
The US government on April 8, 2019, said it had designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization, marking the first time a US government has made such a designation on a foreign government’s organization.
 Rouzbeh Fouladi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Experts note that the Islamic Republic likely has sleeper cells in Europe and Latin America, and they could resurface in dramatic and violent ways. In 1994, for example, Iranian-linked terrorists bombed the hub of the Jewish community in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring roughly 300 more.

That remains the largest terrorist attack in Latin America’s history, and the possibility for an even bigger one exists. In 2018, Argentina arrested two men suspected of having ties with Hezbollah.

But Chris Musselman, formerly the National Security Council’s counterterrorism director under Trump, told me the US and its allies may have the most trouble containing the proxy swarm in Western Africa.

“We could see a conflict that spread quickly to places the US may not be able to protect people, and it’s a fight that we are grossly unprepared for,” he said, adding that there’s a strong Hezbollah presence in the region and American embassy security there isn’t great. Making matters worse, he continued, the US isn’t particularly good at collecting intelligence there, meaning some militants could operate relatively under the radar.

“This isn’t really a law enforcement function that US can take on a global scale,” he said. It would require that countries unwittingly hosting proxies to lead on defeating the Iranian-linked fighters, with US support when needed.

The chaos would also extend into the cyber realm. Iran is a major threat to the US in cyberspace. Starting in 2011, Iran attacked more than 40 American banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. The attack made it so the banks had trouble serving its customers and customers had trouble using the bank’s services.

In 2012, Iran released malware into the networks of Saudi Aramco, a major oil company, which erased documents, emails, and other files on around 75 percent of the company’s computers — replacing them with an image of a burning American flag.

In the middle of a war, one could imagine Tehran’s hackers wreaking even more havoc.

“I would expect them to have begun selected targeting through socially-engineered phishing activities focused on the oil and gas sector, the financial sector and the electric power grid in that order,” Stewart wrote. “There may be instances now where they already have some persistent access. If they do, I expect they would use it, or risk losing the access and employ that capability early in the escalation of the crisis.”

Recent reports indicate that Iranian cyberwarriors have stepped up their online operations, with a particular emphasis on preparing to attack US firms. Among other moves, they’re aiming to trick employees at major businesses to hand over passwords and other vital information, giving them greater access to a firm’s networks.

“When you combine this increase with past destructive attacks launched by Iranian-linked actors, we’re concerned enough about the potential for new destructive attacks to continue sounding the alarm,” Christopher Krebs, a top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, told Foreign Policy last July.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a graduation ceremony of the Iranian Navy cadets in the city of Noshahr on September 30, 2015.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attends a graduation ceremony of the Iranian Navy cadets in the city of Noshahr on September 30, 2015.
 Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

All of this — proxies striking around the world, cyberattacks on enterprise — would happen while Iran continued to resist conventional American forces.

In the Strait of Hormuz, for instance, Iranian sailors could use speedboats to place bombs on oil tankers or place mines in the water to destroy US warships. The Islamic Republic’s submarines would also play a huge part in trying to sink an American vessel. And the nation’s anti-ship missiles and drones could prove constant and deadly nuisances.

Should US troops try to enter Iranian territory on land, Iranian ground forces would also push back on them fiercely using insurgent-like tactics while the US painfully marches toward Tehran.

Put together, Brewer notes succinctly, a US-Iran war would be “a nasty, brutal fight.”

Aftermath: “The worst-case scenarios here are quite serious”

Imagine, as we already have, that the earlier stages of strife escalate to a major war. That’s already bad enough. But assume for a moment not only that the fighting takes place, but that the US does the unlikely and near impossible: It invades and overthrows the Iranian regime (which Trump’s former National Security Adviser John Bolton, at least, has openly called for in the past).

If that happens, it’s worth keeping two things in mind.

First, experts say upward of a million people — troops from both sides as well as Iranian men, women, and children, and American diplomats and contractors — likely will have died by that point. Cities will burn and smolder. Those who survived the conflict will mainly live in a state of economic devastation for years and some, perhaps, will pick up arms and form insurgent groups to fight the invading US force.

Second, power abhors a vacuum. With no entrenched regime in place, multiple authority figures from Iran’s clerical and military circles, among others, will jockey for control. Those sides could split into violent factions, initiating a civil war that would bring more carnage to the country. Millions more refugees might flock out of the country, overwhelming already taxed nations nearby, and ungoverned pockets will give terrorist groups new safe havens from which to operate.

Iran would be on the verge of being a failed state, if it wasn’t already by that point, and the US would be the main reason why. To turn the tide, America may feel compelled to help rebuild the country at the cost of billions of dollars, years of effort, and likely more dead. It could also choose to withdraw, leaving behind a gaping wound in the center of the Middle East.

In some ways, then, what comes after the war could be worse than the war itself. It should therefore not be lost on anyone: A US-Iran war would be a bloody hell during and after the fighting. It’s a good thing neither Trump nor Iran’s leadership currently wants a conflict. But if they change their minds, only carnage follows.

“The worst-case scenarios here are quite serious,” Hanna told me.

Refugees on April 5, 2019, camp out in Greece as they flee violence in the Middle East.
Refugees on April 5, 2019, camp out in Greece as they flee violence in the Middle East.
 Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Foolishness of Provoking Iran

by Captain Paul Watson

Great Britain is now all indignantly self-righteous and acting shocked and surprised about Iran seizing a British oil tanker.

What did they expect?

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif characterized the seizure of an Iranian super tanker July 4 as “piracy.”
Former Revolutionary Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezai, wrote that Iran was not seeking conflict, “but we are not going to come up short in reciprocating.”

The Iranian tanker Grace1 was seized by Britain while transiting the Strait of Gibraltar. The British tanker was seized by Iran while transiting the Straits of Hormuz.

So the question must be asked. Why is Great Britain acting so surprised and indignant?

Who is the provocateur here?

And all of this because President Trump did not like the deal Obama made with Iran on the nuclear deal. It was a deal that was working and Iran did not violate that deal. The USA did.

The population of Iran is 81 million people. The population of Great Britain is 66 million. The population of France is 67 million. The population o of Israel is 8.7 million. These three countries have nuclear weapons as does North Korea with a population of 25.5 million.

Why do Western nations with less populations get to possess nuclear weapons yet Iran is expected to remain nuclear free.

Personally I wish all nations were nuclear free but as North Korea has demonstrated the possession of nuclear weapons is a guarantee of security. Iran wants security and the only way to secure that security is by being a nuclear power.

I spent time in Iran in 1969 and again in 1972 while working as a merchant seaman on Norwegian and Swedish ships. I was there when the Shah was the ruler and it was an oppressive regime supported by the United States. In fact I was arrested in 1972 in Abadan on suspicion of being a British spy. I was taking photos in a place I was not supposed to be taking photos of military installations on the Arab Al Shat river. Because my Canadian passport said I was a British subject and Britain was not in favor in Iran at the time. I was questioned briefly, jailed and released.

While there I learned quite a bit about the history of Iran. And it all started as do most issues in the Middle East with oil. Mohammad Mossaddegh as Prime Minister nationalized the Iranian oil industry in 1953, an industry that had been built by the British on Persian lands in 1913 by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company that later became known as British Petroleum (BP)

As a result his government was overthrown in 1953 in a coup d’etat orchestrated by the CIA and MI6

Prime Minister Mosaddegh was the leading champion of secular democracy and resistance to foreign domination. Following a coup by the CIA/MI6-backed General Fazlollah Zahedi, Mosaddegh resigned four days later on 19 August 1953, with Zahedi succeeding him as prime minister.

Mosaddegh was imprisoned for three years, then put under house arrest until his death and was buried in his own home so as to prevent a political furor. In 2013, the U.S. government formally acknowledged the U.S. role in the coup, as a part of its foreign policy initiatives.

The foreign oil companies returned in 1953 and Iran became a dutiful puppet for Western powers under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a harsh autocrat. All democratic opposition was eliminated and driven into exile.

In 1972 I was a witness to the severity of the Shah’s secret police called SAVAK. While being interrogated I saw dissidents being brutalized by SAVAK agents. Thousands were rounded up and made political prisoners. The Muslim clergy were driven into foreign exile.

By 1978, Iran was a powder keg ready to blow after years of corruption by a government backed by the USA and the UK and finally on January 17th, 1979 the revolution led by Ruhollah Khomeini drove the Shah from power and regained control of the oil resources and declared Iran to be the Islamic Republic.

The revolution was quickly followed up by a U.S. and U.K. back Iraqi offensive against Iran that resulted in the Iran/Iraqi war that began in 1980 and lasted until 1988 with over a million casualties.

What was in 1953 a democratic nation was subverted by Great Britain and the USA into an autocratic dictatorship which led directly to that revolution and to the state that presently exists in Iran today. That plus the USA and the UK goading and financing Iraq under Saddam Hussein to invade Iran has led to a complete lack of trust by Iran towards the United States and Great Britain

And now the sabers are rattling again. Iran today however is not Iraq or Afghanistan, Libya or Syria. It is a powerful nation with a strong and well trained military and a war with Iran will be long, vicious, costly and brutal. It will be a conflict that will take the lives of thousands of soldiers on both sides and tens of thousands of civilians. It will be a war that will spill over into the Persian Gulf States, will erupt into new conflicts in Iraq and Syria, will see attacks on Israel and will disrupt commerce in the Middle East to dangerous levels not yet ever experienced.

To continue to provoke Iran makes no sense, politically, militarily or economically. Iran today is what the USA and the UK has made it to be through foolish meddling and interventions.

If this situation continues to escalate, Russia and China will begin to take sides and it is quite possible that Iran has already been provided with or has secured nuclear weapons.

I find it amazing that the British can seize a tanker in international waters and then not expect retaliation in a similar manner.

However I should not be surprised. The history of the involvement of Western powers in the Middle East for the last century has demonstrated over and over again the incredible foolishness of Western involvement in trying to control the people who control the reserves of oil.

What is the solution? The USA needs to honour the Iranian nuclear deal authored by the Obama Presidency. The sanctions need to be lifted and Iran needs to be free to participate on an equal level with other nations.

No photo description available.

On Iran: US considering range of options including military

Source: Before tanker attack, Iran fired at U.S. drone

Play Video

Source: Before tanker attack, Iran fired at U.S. drone 02:39

Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the United States is “considering a full range of options” regarding rising tensions with Iran, including military options, but emphasized that President Donald Trump has said that he does not want to go to war.

“The United States is considering a full range of options. We have briefed the President a couple of times, we’ll continue to keep him updated. We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence which is our mission set,” Pompeo said in an interview on CBS “Face the Nation.”
When asked if a military response was included in that set of actions, Pompeo responded, “Of course.”
“The President will consider everything we need to do to make sure, right? But what’s the President said? We don’t want Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” Pompeo added. “President Trump has said very clearly, he doesn’t want to go to war.”
Pompeo’s comments come as tensions are rising in the waterways of the Middle East, where two tankers — one carrying oil and the other transporting chemicals — were attacked near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route that has been the focal point of regional tensions for decades. Roughly 30% of the world’s sea-borne crude oil passes through the strategic choke point, making it a flashpoint for political and economic friction.
Iran has categorically denied the attacks.
The United States has blamed Iran for the attack on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, releasing video footage that it claims shows an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine from one of the vessels’ hulls.
The explosions, which sparked a fire on at least one of the two ships, are still under investigation. Pompeo blamed Iran for the incident, citing intelligence assessments, the weapons used, the level of expertise required and the similarity to other recent attacks. On Fox News Sunday, Pompeo reiterated that is is “unmistakable” that Iran carried out the attacks with a “clear intent to deny transit through the straight.”
Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Sunday — before Pompeo’s interviews aired — that the United States may have carried out “acts of sabotage” against two oil tankers in the Sea of Oman to blame them on Iran and pressure Tehran.
Larijani mocked remarks by Pompeo, who urged Iran to “meet diplomacy with diplomacy.”
“Is it diplomacy to start a face-off with a revolutionary nation with acts of economic terrorism, [economic sanctions] which they themselves call the toughest ever?” Larijani said. “Is it diplomacy, Mr. Pompeo, to renege on one’s promises in the nuclear agreement?”
British Defense Minister Tobias Ellwood said Sunday that “tensions” in Iran “are a concern for us all,” in an interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.
Ellwood said that while he understands Iran’s frustrations over the nuclear deal, “that does not give license to start attacking ships.” In a statement Friday, Britain’s Foreign Office said it was “almost certain” that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were behind the attacks.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also blamed Iran for the attacks on the ships, calling on the international community to take a “firm stand towards an exponential regime that supports terrorism and spreads killing and destruction.”
When pressed Sunday on legal authorization to strike Iran, Pompeo said that the administration “always” has the authorization to “defend American interests.”
In the US Constitution, Article I grants Congress the power to declare war, while the President derives the power to direct the military from Article II, which names the President commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In the lead up to the Iraq War, the effort to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Congress became a point of contention, and once again became an issue during the US military campaign against ISIS.
Ultimately, Congress never took a full vote on an ISIS war authorization.
“It was them that did it,” Trump said on Fox and Friends on Friday, referring to Iran.
“We will see what happens. We are being very tough on sanctions … We’re going to see how to stop (it),” Trump said, before claiming that because of his policies “they are pulling back from everywhere.”
Pompeo also said Sunday on Fox that “President Trump has done everything he can to avoid war — we don’t want a war,” adding, “We’ve done what we can to deter this. The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior.”
Iran will release “significant” information on Monday regarding the scaling back of its commitments to the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to Iran’s semi-official news agency, Tasnim on Sunday.


More than 70 retired military leaders urge Trump not to go to war with Iran

Any conflict would come at “immense financial, human and geopolitical cost.”

RED SEA - MAY 10: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Navy, an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the "Sidewinders" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) May 10, 2019 in the Red Sea. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has been deployed to U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as tensions with Iran have recently escalated. With Abraham Lincoln as the flagship, deployed strike group assets include staffs, ships and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and Carrier Air Wing Seven (CVW 7). (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael Singley/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

More than seventy former senior national security officials, including retired admirals, generals and ambassadors, have written an open letter to President Donald Trump urging restraint towards Iran as tensions ratchet up again in the Middle East.

The letter, which was first published on the website War on the Rocks and was coordinated by the American College of National Security Leaders, said that the accelerated deployment of troops and weapons to the region raised the potential of a deadly confrontation, either done on purpose or by accident.

“A war with Iran, either by choice or miscalculation, would produce dramatic repercussions in an already destabilized Middle East,” the letter read. “[It would] drag the United States into another armed conflict at immense financial, human, and geopolitical cost.”

“Crisis de-escalation measures should be established with the Iranian leadership at the senior levels of government,” the letter continued. “The protection of U.S. national interests in the Middle East and the safety of our friends and allies requires thoughtful statesmanship and aggressive diplomacy rather than unnecessary armed conflict.”

This week the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier was ordered to the Gulf, and on Friday the White House announced that they would be sending an extra 1,500 troops to the region to guard against perceived Iranian aggression. Over Congressional objections, the Trump administration has also moved forward with plans to sell $8 billion worth of weapons to Iranian adversaries Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — despite the fact that US-sold weapons have been used by Saudi Arabia in its prolonged military campaign in Yemen where thousands of civilians have died.

The administration itself has also decided to ratchet up its own rhetoric in regards to Iran. Last Sunday Trump tweeted that “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran.”  Earlier in the month National Security Advisor John Bolton — who has frequently advocated a hardline approach with Iran — said that the US military buildup in the region was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” GOP Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) also recently boasted that it would only take “two strikes” for the U.S. to defeat Iran.

The bellicose rhetoric from the White House, however, contrasts with intelligence from U.S. allies. Earlier in May, Major General Christopher Ghika, the top British general in the coalition against ISIS, explicitly said that there was no increased threat from Iran in either Syria or Iraq. His assessment however was quickly disavowed by US Central Command, who said they “run counter to the identified Credible threats available to intelligence from U.S. and allies regarding Iranian-backed forces in the region.”

Deadly Shelling Erupts in Kashmir Between India and Pakistan After Pilot Is Freed

The funeral of a man killed when Indian soldiers fired mortar shells into the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. At least two Pakistani soldiers and two civilians were killed in renewed fighting across the disputed border.CreditAmiruddin Mughal/EPA, via Shutterstock
The funeral of a man killed when Indian soldiers fired mortar shells into the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir. At least two Pakistani soldiers and two civilians were killed in renewed fighting across the disputed border.CreditCreditAmiruddin Mughal/EPA, via Shutterstock

 — Intense shelling erupted along the disputed border between India and Pakistan on Saturday, killing several civilians and making it clear that hostilities between the two nuclear-armed nations were hardly over — only a day after Pakistan handed over a captured Indian fighter pilot in what it called a “good-will gesture.”

At least five civilians and two soldiers were killed, according to officials on both sides.

At the same time, independent security analysts continue to questionIndia’s claims this past week that it had killed “a very large number” of terrorists at a major training camp in a cross-border airstrike. The bold strike set off an enormous mobilization of Indian and Pakistani forces and a cycle of military attacks, bringing South Asia to red alert.

Michael Sheldon, a researcher at the Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, said on Saturday that after studying satellite imagery of the area in Pakistan that India had bombed, he could see “no evidence any buildings were hit.” He added, “It appears to me they didn’t hit their targets.”

Instead, he said, all publicly available evidence and accounts from witnesses on the ground indicated that the Indian bombs had landed in an unpopulated forest and had taken out some pine trees. He set out his argument in an online article titled “Surgical Strike in Pakistan a Botched Operation?


The administration of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who faces an election in a few months, had presented the airstrike as a robust response against a terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, that claimed responsibility for a devastating suicide bombing in February that killed more than 40 Indian troops.

Why Do India and Pakistan Keep Fighting Over Kashmir?

A simple guide to the roots of the conflict and what could happen next.

The troops were part of a large convoy crossing Kashmir, a highly militarized mountainous territory claimed by both India and Pakistan and the source of violent tensions between the two countries for years. Indian officials have declined to offer any photographs, witness accounts or other tangible evidence that their airstrike on Tuesday killed a large number of terrorists.

But they remain adamant that the Pakistani government has allowed anti-India militant groups to operate in Pakistan, which officials there deny. Indian officials have said that the target of their airstrike was a hilltop training center run by Jaish-e-Mohammed near the town of Balakot in northern Pakistan.

Villagers near Balakot said that the group — which the United States considers a terrorist organization — runs a religious school in the area and that it had operated a militant training camp that closed more than 10 years ago.

They told reporters that no structures were damaged during the Indian airstrike and that the only person hurt was a 62-year-old man who suffered a small cut above his eye. The villagers led reporters to several large holes in the ground in the forest, where they said the bombs fell.


Western intelligence officials say that militant groups in Pakistan still provide material support and expertise, such as bomb-making skills, to insurgents fighting Indian rule in the Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India spoke at a charged rally in front of photos of soldiers killed this month by a militant attack in Kashmir. On Tuesday, Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistan and conducted airstrikes.CreditCreditEPA, via Shutterstock

On Wednesday, Pakistan mobilized its air force and shot down an Indian fighter jet above Kashmir, capturing the pilot. On Friday, Pakistan released the pilot, Wing Cmdr. Abhinandan Varthaman, calling it a gesture to ease tensions.

On Saturday, Wing Commander Varthaman was recuperating at a hospital in India’s capital, New Delhi, undergoing medical tests and meeting with officials.

The prospect of a major conflict erupting between India and Pakistan, which was a real fear just a few days ago, may have receded somewhat. But this region remains jittery. On Saturday, United Airlines rerouted some of its flights from India, citing concerns about the airspace.

Residents said the artillery battle that raged on Saturday was much heavier than usual, with both sides pounding each other’s positions for hours.

“The shells are landing everywhere,” said Najeeb Ahmad, a primary-school teacher who lives on the Indian side of the disputed border, called the Line of Control.

The funeral in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Saturday, of two Indian paramilitary troops killed in a gunfight.CreditTauseef Mustafa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The funeral in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Saturday, of two Indian paramilitary troops killed in a gunfight.CreditTauseef Mustafa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Along the border, artillery exchanges break out all the time and large rounds continually sail over the troops dug in on each side and crash into nearby villages, maiming and killing civilians.


Every night, villagers crawl into bunkers and huddle together, waiting for the intense pounding to stop. Sometimes, there is no place to hide. The people who live along the border say their continued existence is now purely up to the soldiers’ mood.

Mr. Ahmad, the teacher, said an artillery shell from the Pakistani side had smashed into a house where a woman was living with her two children. “They were sleeping in the kitchen,” he said. “All of them died.”

Both India and Pakistan accused the other of firing first.

Pakistani military officials said on Saturday that they had lost two soldiers, and that two civilians in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan were killed by Indian shelling. A Pakistani military statement said its troops then gave “a befitting response.”

Pakistan has also threatened to lodge a formal complaint against India at the United Nations, accusing it of “eco-terrorism” over the bombs that damaged several pine trees.

A peacemaking plea urging both sides to quit fighting was published as a letter in one of India’s leading newspapers and signed by more than 600 scholars, lawyers, scientists, writers and actors.

“Even a limited confrontation would resolve nothing,” the letter said. “Unfortunately, the climate of jingoism that tends to develop around this sort of situation is obscuring these simple truths.”

Jeffrey Gettleman and Hari Kumar reported from New Delhi, and Sameer Yasir from Baramulla, Kashmir. Salman Masood contributed from Islamabad, Pakistan.

State of the Union Fact Check: What Trump Got Right and Wrong

President Trump appeared in front of a joint session of Congress for the annual address. Here is how his remarks stacked up against the facts.

President Trump during the State of the Union address on Tuesday.CreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times
President Trump during the State of the Union address on Tuesday.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times

By The New York Times

President Trump leaned hard on the strength of the American economy during his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, but with a blend of precise statistics and gauzy superlatives that are much more difficult to measure.

He also returned to a theme that dominated the second year of his presidency — a quest for a border wall with Mexico to cope with what he said is a crisis of crime and drugs in the United States caused by illegal immigration.

The two issues dominated his address, which in tone was more measured than his biting Twitter feed, but in substance contained numerous claims that were false or misleading.

Here is what Mr. Trump said and how it stacked up against the facts.

[Sign up for Crossing the Border, a limited-run newsletter about life where the United States and Mexico meet.]

“The U.S. economy is growing almost twice as fast today as when I took office, and we are considered far and away the hottest economy anywhere in the world.”

The American economy expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018. Growth in Latvia and Poland was almost twice as fast. Same for China and India. Even the troubled Greek economy posted stronger growth. And a wide range of economic analysts estimate that the growth of the American economy slowed in the fourth quarter, and slowed even further in the first month of 2019.

“We recently imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods — and now our Treasury is receiving billions and billions of dollars.”

Since Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on certain imports from China — and imported steel and aluminum from around the world — federal tariff revenues have increased. Revenues from customs duties, which include tariffs, rose by $13 billion in the third quarter of 2018 compared with a year earlier, the Commerce Department reported. Technically, that money is paid by Americans who bring the goods across the border, and it is often passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices.

“My administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure.”

The Trump administration has slowed the pace of adopting new rules, and it has moved to roll back some existing or proposed federal regulations, particularly in the area of environmental protection. The White House claimed that as of October, a total of $33 billion worth of future regulator costs had been eliminated. But experts say the scale of the rollbacks in the Trump era still does not exceed extensive cuts in federal rules during the Carter and Reagan administrations, when rules governing airline, truck and rail transportation were wiped off the books, among other changes.

“We have created 5.3 million new jobs and importantly added 600,000 new manufacturing jobs — something which almost everyone said was impossible to do, but the fact is, we are just getting started.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since January 2017, when Mr. Trump took office, the economy has added 4.9 million jobs, including 454,000 jobs manufacturing jobs. Far from being “impossible,” that is closely comparable to the pace of job creation during some two-year periods during the Obama administration, and significantly slower than the pace of job creation in manufacturing in the 1990s.

Wages were “growing for blue-collar workers, who I promised to fight for. They are growing faster than anyone thought possible.”

Wages are rising faster for construction and manufacturing workers than workers in service occupations, according to the Labor Department.

“More people are working now than at any time in our history.”

While the total number of people working in the United States is higher than ever, it is not because of the president’s policies. It is because more people than ever live in the United States.

“The border city of El Paso, Tex., used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country.”

El Paso was never one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, and crime has been declining in cities across the country — not just El Paso — for reasons that have nothing to do with border fencing. In 2008, before border barriers had been completed in El Paso, the city had the second-lowest violent crime rate among more than 20 similarly sized cities. In 2010, after the fencing went up, it held that place.

“San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in our country. In response, a strong security wall was put in place. This powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings.”

Border apprehensions decreased by 91 percent in the San Diego sector between the 1994 fiscal year, right after the original border fencing was completed, to the 2018 fiscal year. But, according to the Congressional Research Service, that fence alone “did not have a discernible impact” on the number of immigrants crossing the border into the United States illegally.

“As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States.”

At the end of January, a new caravan of thousands of migrants from Central America was headed north, and some of the travelers said they intended to try to cross into the United States. But many in the caravan have said they plan to remain in Mexico, thanks in part to policies put in place by the new Mexican government. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made it easier for Central Americans to get visas and work in Mexico. President Trump’s warnings of an imminent invasion from new caravans is overstated.

“I hope you can pass the U.S.M.C.A. into law, so we can bring back our manufacturing jobs in even greater numbers, expanding American agriculture, protecting intellectual property, and ensuring that more cars are proudly stamped with the four beautiful words: Made in the U.S.A.”

The revised trade deal with Canada and Mexico, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, does include provisions that are intended to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States — like minimum wage provisions for some auto manufacturing. But some economists have said those provisions could ultimately push more manufacturing — and jobs — outside North America. The deal does allow American farmers to sell more dairy products to Canada. But the trade pact has yet to be approved by Congress, and both Democrats and Republicans say that is unlikely to happen without significant changes.

“When I took office, ISIS controlled more than 20,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria. Just two years ago. Today, we have liberated virtually all of the territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters.”

The Defense Department reports that the Islamic State now controls only around 20 square miles of territory in Syria, down from 34,000 in 2014. But many of the gains against the Sunni extremist caliphate began under President Barack Obama, with the Trump administration continuing Obama administration policy. And the top American military commander in the Middle East told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the Islamic State could return if the United States and its allies abandoned the fight. In December, Mr. Trump announced he was withdrawing American troops from Syria.

“We condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.”

This has become a popular talking point among American conservatives. It is true that the rule of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela has brought that country to economic ruin. Inflation is at astronomical rates, and ordinary people are struggling to get basic food and health supplies. Three million citizens have fled. Some of the collapse can be traced to Mr. Maduro’s economic policies, which do fall under the broad label of socialism. But analysts say that corruption, the lack of rule of law and the absence of democracy — all the hallmarks of a dictatorship — have played just as big or larger roles.

“If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”

In 2016, at the end of the Obama administration, there was no sign that the United States and North Korea were about to go to war, though Pyongyang had been conducting nuclear tests and Mr. Obama had continued economic sanctions. In Mr. Trump’s first year in office, he increased tensions with North Korea by attacking its leader, Kim Jong-un, in a series of Twitter posts, which prompted hostile statements from Pyongyang. Mr. Trump wrote that North Korea’s actions would be met with “fire and fury” and called Mr. Kim “Little Rocket Man.” Analysts said at the time that the chances of war between the two nations had grown because of these exchanges.

“Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments from birth.”

On Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision Roe v. Wade, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Democrat of New York, signed the Reproductive Health Act. The new law ensures a woman’s right to an abortion in New York if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned. It does not broadly allow abortions until shortly before birth, as Mr. Trump suggested. Instead, it will allow for an abortion after 24 weeks to protect the mother’s health or if the fetus is not viable. Under the prior law, abortions were allowed after 24 weeks only if the woman’s life was in jeopardy.

“We had the case of the governor of Virginia where he stated he would execute a baby after birth.”

In an interview last month, Gov. Ralph Northam said that he supported a late-term abortion bill that would loosen restrictions on the procedure, and allow women to consult with a doctor on an abortion up to, but not including, the time of birth.

The governor, a pediatric neurologist, also talked about some of the dangerous medical emergencies that pregnant women could face, such as carrying a nonviable fetus. He said that in such a case, the mother would deliver the infant and then, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” While Mr. Northam was talking about an end-of-life care discussion in the case of a child that would not live, Republicans seized on his remarks as evidence that Mr. Northam supported killing babies after their birth.

Reporting was contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Michael Tackett, Linda Qiu, Edward Wong, Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt, Adam Liptak, Binyamin Appelbaum, Caitlin Dickerson, Charlie Savage, Coral Davenport, Glenn Thrush, Helene Cooper, Jim Tankersley, Julian E. Barnes, Katie Benner, Matt Phillips, Robert Pear and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.

Curious about the accuracy of a claim? Email factcheck@nytimes.com

More coverage of the State of the Union
Trump Asks for Unity, but Presses Hard Line on Immigration

As Pelosi Applauds Trump, the Internet Sees a Clapback

Opinion | David Leonhardt
The Real State of the Union, in Charts

Opinion | Frank Bruni
In State of the Union Speech, Trump Comes Out as a Feminist

George H.W. Bush Empowered Atrocity Abroad and Fascists at Home

The television spent the entire weekend reminding me that George Herbert Walker Bush loved his country, his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, his dog, the city of Houston, the town of Kennebunkport, baseball, football, golf and so very much else besides.

Our 41st US president, the talking heads assured me, was a veritable ocean of love. The newspaper folks did their part to paint this picture, as well; stealing a leaf from Jesus of Nazareth over the weekend, Bush Sr. died and rose again on the warm updraft of early 1990s B-roll footage and gushing headlines from all corners of the country.

This legion of whitewashers was at pains to commend Bush Sr.’s decency, fairness and honor before, during and after the commercial breaks. In the age of Trump, the power-loving media clearly relished the opportunity to say good things about a president again. It was a fused loop: Bush Sr. is dead; he was nice; lather, rinse, repeat.

The hagiography festival made a particularly grand to-do about the fact that George H.W. Bush was president when the Cold War ended. What the glowing obituaries obscured, however, was that Bush Sr. was a Cold Warrior of the first order, actively involved in a number of genuine atrocities that spanned the globe.

Most of Bush Sr.’s biography has been well documented for good and ill, but his time at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is seldom discussed in this hemisphere. He spent only a year in that job, but it was one of the bloodiest years South America has ever known. Fifteen years later, he personally, if inadvertently, opened the door for the proto-fascist takeover of his own party. Those two tales, combined with some other dark chapters of Bush Sr.’s life, frame a career in power and politics that did damage most everywhere it went.

As director of the CIA from 1976 to 1977, Bush Sr. was an integral part of a US government covert terrorism/torture program in South America. Known as Operation Condor by the participants, the program was aimed at destroying left-leaning governments and organizations they feared might come to support the Soviet Union. Forty years later, the horror and chaos unleashed by Operation Condor still plagues that region, and is a fair explanation for why massive caravans of asylum-seeking migrants continue to arrive at the US-Mexico border.

Documents that were recently declassified reveal that the “Dirty War” in Argentina, the Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile, Alfredo Stoessner’s dictatorship in Paraguay and other atrocities across the continent were actively supported by the US government. Thousands of leftist peasants, union leaders, teachers, students, priests, and nuns were slaughtered, imprisoned and tortured, and George Herbert Walker Bush went to work every day at CIA headquarters to make sure it happened.

Many years later, when Bush Sr. rose to accept the Republican nomination for president in 1988, he made a fateful promise. “Read my lips,” he told the enthusiastic crowd, “no new taxes.” He broke that pledge in 1990, and in doing so dropped an atomic bomb on politics in the United States. Breaking that pledge infuriated the conservative wing of his party, which was deeply suspicious of Bush’s internationalist leanings to begin with.

Political opportunists like Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist “made their bones” in conservative circles by attacking Bush Sr. from the right for breaking that promise on taxes. Buchanan’s 1992 primary challenge, combined with Ross Perot’s outsider run for the presidency, conspired to make Bush Sr.’s first term his last. Notorious GOP operative Lee Atwater couldn’t help this time; he’d been dead for a year.

When Bush Sr. lost to Clinton in 1992, Gingrich and his ilk began a takeover of the Republican Party that became complete during the administration of Barack Obama. Odd as it may seem, it was the Cold War that ultimately caused all this: Bush Sr. couldn’t afford his Gulf War after Reagan’s long military binge, and that binge happened because the Reaganites (Bush Sr. included) decided to spend the Soviet Union out of existence. Raising taxes was Bush Sr.’s only option, and it was the end of him in politics.

The fascist upswelling that came in the wake of his broken campaign promise is as much a part of Bush Sr.’s legacy as the crisis at the southern border. Operation Condor happened even though the TV people this weekend chose to leave it off the script. The GOP’s neo-fascist twist erupted during Sr.’s administration. Both are side effects of the Cold War that will be with us for many years to come, and deserve their own wing in Bush Sr.’s library down in College Station.

Bush Sr. was the first president I was fully aware of from the beginning of his administration to the end. I was barely alive for Richard Nixon, only a boy during Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and only half-aware of Ronald Reagan’s first term. I remember being afraid of nuclear bombs for much of that time but didn’t really understand how terrible Reagan was until his second term, and by then he was already gone.

It is fair to say that I have actively disliked Bush Sr. for my entire adult life. When he became president, I hated and protested his war, scuffled for work during his economic downturn, laughed my ass off when he barfed on the Japanese prime minister and voted gleefully against him in 1992, helping to make him a one-term Republican president just like Ford and Herbert Hoover. As I grew older and somewhat wiser, I came to fully appreciate all the many reasons why my bedrock disgust for the man was not merely justified, but required.

Bush Sr.’s involvement with and subsequent cover-up of the Iran-Contra scandal could give Donald Trump lessons on how to obstruct justice.

He became a member of the #MeToo fraternity of scumbags after eight women claimed he groped them during picture-taking sessions.

He lied about the threat Iraq posed in order to justify the Gulf War a full 13 years before lying about Iraq and war became the hip family thing to do.

US forces deliberately bombed water-treatment facilities during that conflict, actions that were nothing more or less than biological warfare waged upon a civilian populace, also known as “war crimes.”

Iraq still glows in the dark from the depleted uranium left behind by all the exploded US ordnance during that war.

He tripled down on the Nixon/Reagan “Southern Strategy” during his 1988 presidential campaign by turning Atwater loose with the “Willie Horton ad” that set the low bar for gutter racist politics in the US for a generation.

That institutional bigotry also fed Bush’s vicious ramp-up of the so-called “war on drugs,” which even many Republicans now call a giant racist failure.

He fathered George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, raised them to be the men they became, and while the sins of a father should not necessarily reflect upon the sons, the sins of the sons — W. in particular — certainly cast a grim light upon the father. Something in that household made those two boys into the malevolent fools they grew into, and it wasn’t the fishing on Cape Porpoise Harbor.

The benign, benevolent, grandfatherly figure we’ve been seeing on TV was also, thanks to W., one of the more shameless war profiteers of the 21st century. As a board member and unofficial “ambassador” of the private equity Carlyle Group, Bush Sr. made many millions from that company’s weapons sales thanks to his son’s ongoing Iraq catastrophe. “A tidy gift,” I wrote some 15 years ago, “from son to father.”

Bush Sr. was a creature of the Cold War and all the derangement that entailed, to be sure, but the man also had free will and made his choices. His legacy is not binary — as vice president and then president, he championed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments which are still protecting the environment to this day — but there is a hell of a lot of suffering and death out there with his name all over it, for which he was paid very, very well.

Ignoring these truths in the service of a palatable mythology is a disservice to the future. The TV people can buff up George H.W. Bush’s resume all they please. We deserve better heroes than him.

Putin Flaunted Five Powerful Weapons. Are They a Threat?

The animated videos show Russian warheads speeding toward Florida and missiles outmaneuvering obstacles in the southern Atlantic. Russia has a new class of weapons, President Vladimir V. Putin said on Thursday, that could make American defenses obsolete.

Mr. Putin could be bluffing. It’s unclear how many of the five weapons he described actually exist. But a close look at the videos he presented indicates some telling details about their state of readiness and how they work.

Here is what we know:

Nuclear Cruise Missile



The Russian cruise missile in this animation zigs and zags all over the globe, avoiding antimissile defense systems.Published OnCreditImage by Ru-RTR, via Associated Press

Most cruise missiles are like small airplanes. Their engines suck in air and burn hydrocarbon fuels. A nuclear cruise missile, in theory, would use a small reactor to heat air and fire it out the rear end to create forward thrust.

Russian scientists have developed “a small-scale heavy-duty nuclear energy unit,” Mr. Putin said, that can power a cruise missile so that it could achieve “basically an unlimited range.”

Such a technology could evade American defenses and alter the balance of power. But analysts were skeptical.

“If we’re talking about nuclear-armed cruise missiles, that’s a technological breakthrough and a gigantic achievement,” said Aleksandr M. Golts, an independent Russian military analyst. But, he added, “The question is, is this true?”

You have 3 free articles remaining.

Subscribe to The Times

Mr. Putin said the nuclear cruise missile had been tested successfully late last year. But American officials said they believed it is not yet operational, despite Mr. Putin’s claims, and that it had crashed during testing in the Arctic.

The video shows a missile launching and then fades into an animation in which a cruise missile maneuvers around natural barriers, like mountains, as well as missile defense systems created to intercept it. “It is invincible against all existing and prospective missile defense and counter-air defense systems,” Mr. Putin claimed. At the end of the animation, the missile zeros in on Hawaii.

Sarmat Intercontinental Ballistic Missile



The Sarmat

0:47The Sarmat
The Sarmat, which NATO calls Satan 2, is a replacement for the SS-18, the biggest and deadliest Soviet missile of the Cold War.Published OnCreditImage by Ru-RTR, via Associated Press

In theory, this missile could loft many nuclear warheads or decoys meant to outwit antimissile systems. In a video animation, the missile is able to zoom round either Earth pole, reaching anywhere in the world.

The Sarmat is a replacement for the Voevoda, or SS-18, the biggest and most deadly Soviet-era missile of the Cold War. According to Mr. Putin, its weight exceeds 200 tons and has practically no range restrictions. Images of the missile were first revealed in 2016, as reported by Russian news sources.

The Sarmat has not been deployed, but “the Defense Ministry and enterprises of the missile and aerospace industry are in the active phase of testing,” Mr. Putin told his audience.

The video opens with footage from what appears to be a test site. The missile was successfully ejected from an underground silo in a December test, according to Russian news reports.The video closes with an image of nine warheads zeroing in on Florida, where President Trump often stays at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Hypersonic Cruise Missile



Launched from a jet, this missile burns regular fuel.Published OnCreditImage by Ru-RTR, via Associated Press

By definition, hypersonic vehicles travel at speeds of one to five miles per second — or up to dozens of times faster than modern airliners. Such blinding speeds would enable a hypersonic cruise missile to evade interceptor rockets, which fly at relatively slow speeds. Mr. Putin said such superfast missiles have been tested successfully and begun trial service.

The video shows what appears to be a possible test launching from a military jet. The missile engine is apparently a type of ramjet or scramjet, meaning it burns regular fuel, unlike the nuclear cruise missile. In the animation, the weapon rapidly gains altitude, then hits targets precisely with powerful warheads. American officials have talked about deploying such weapons in the 2020s.

Status-6 Nuclear Torpedo



The animation shows a torpedo that could operate at great depths and over long distances at tremendous speed.Published OnCreditImage by Ru-RTR, via Associated Press

This nuclear-powered torpedo, launched from a submarine, could carry conventional or nuclear warheads. Most modern torpedoes have relatively short ranges. A torpedo powered by a small nuclear mechanism, in theory, could possess unlimited range, spanning oceans or circling until a target appeared.

The Trump Nuclear Posture Review, released in early February, makes the first known federal reference to this Russian weapon, calling it “a new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.” After years of development, this technology was successfully tested in December, according to Mr. Putin, who called it “really fantastic.” The United States appears to have nothing similar.

The video shows what appears to be a factory for making the weapon, as well as submarines. In the subsequent animation, a submarine navigates deep in the ocean and releases the torpedo, which then maneuvers to hit targets in the water and on land.

Avengard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle



This kind of weapon can fly into space on a regular rocket, zoom around the atmosphere and outwit defense systems.Published OnCreditImage by Ru-RTR, via Associated Press

All the big powers — Russia, China, and the United States — are racing to develop this kind of superfast maneuverable warhead. It can fly into space on a regular rocket and then navigate autonomously in the atmosphere. That way, it can evade antimissile defenses, as well as shorten or eliminate enemy warning time.

Citing such dangers, the Rand Corporation produced a detailed report last year on the technology and called on nations to curb its spread. Mr. Putin said Russia had successfully tested the novel warhead technology, capable of travel at 20 times the speed of sound.


The video shows a rocket laboratory and launch. The animation segment shows the hypersonic glide vehicle separating from the rocket that launches it into space. It then avoids spy satellite tracking and military counter strikes. Hans Kristensen, of the Federation of American Scientists, says the Avengard is an ideal fit for the Sarmat heavy-lift intercontinental ballistic missile.

“For obvious reasons we cannot show the outer appearance of this system here,” Mr. Putin said. “But let me assure you that we have all this and it is working well.”