US claims Iranian missile accidentally downed Ukrainian jet

According to the US it wasn’t an unfortunate coincidence that a jet crashed in Iran just after a missile attack on US bases in Iraq. They claim a Iranian missile accidentally brought the Ukrainian plane down, killing 176 people.

But a news post making the claim may have been taken down.

RNZ:  Iran ‘mistakenly shot down Ukraine jet’ – US media

US officials say they believe the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 was hit by a missile, CBS says.

Ukraine earlier said it was examining whether a missile strike brought down the aircraft – but Iran ruled this out.

The crash came just hours after Iran carried out missile strikes on two airbases housing US forces in Iraq.

CBS News quoting US intelligence said a satellite detected infrared “blips” of two missile launches, followed by another blip of an explosion.

More to come…

CBS News – Special Report: U.S. officials believe Iran shot down Ukrainian passenger jet

The page cannot be found

The page may have been removed, had its name changed, or is just temporarily unavailable.

More will no doubt be reported during our day.

If the report is accurate (it sounds feasible) it demonstrates that in war zones accidental and civilian deaths are unfortunately a real risk. I think that flying anywhere near Iran or Iraq is best avoided, especially right now.

Meanwhile U.S., Iran ease conflict fears but threats keep crisis rolling

Iran spurned the U.S. president’s call for a new nuclear pact and its commanders threatened more attacks as the Middle East remained on edge following the U.S. killing of an Iranian general and Tehran’s retaliatory missile strikes.

Concern the war-scarred region was primed for a wider conflict eased after U.S President Donald Trump refrained from ordering more military action and Iran’s foreign minister diplomat said missile strikes “concluded” Tehran’s response.

But each side’s next move in their protracted shadow war was uncertain. Iranian generals resumed their habitual barrage of warnings to Washington and Trump said new sanctions were being imposed, as his Democratic rivals criticized his handling of the crisis.

Also:

  • Trump says he has approved increased U.S. sanctions on Iran
    “It’s already been done. We’ve increased them. They were very severe, but now it’s increased substantially,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I just approved it a little while ago with Treasury.

  • Pelosi does not believe Soleimani strike made the U.S. safer
    “I do not believe in terms of what is in the public domain that they have made the country safer by what they did,” she said at her weekly news conference, hours before the House is due to vote on a war powers resolution intended to prevent Trump from waging war against Iran without congressional approval.

 

US versus Iran continues

Donald trump may be trying to defuse the escalating situation between the US and Iran in Iraq.

Reuters: Trump says U.S. does not have to use military against Iran

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States did not necessarily have to use its military power against Iran, in an apparent attempt to defuse a crisis over the American killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

The crash of a Ukranian airliner in Iran has added to the tensions.

No survivors after Ukrainian Boeing plane with 176 aboard crashes in Iran

A Ukrainian airliner crashed shortly after take-off from Tehran on Wednesday, bursting into flames and killing all 176 people on board.

Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, three Germans and three Britons, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said.

It was the Kiev-based carrier’s first fatal crash, and it said it was doing everything possible to establish the cause.

Ukraine will send a team of experts to Iran later on Wednesday to investigate the crash, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in the Ukrainian capital.

“Our priority is to establish the truth and those responsible for this terrible catastrophe,” he said.

Asked at a briefing in Kiev whether the plane could have been hit by a missile, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk cautioned against speculation until the results of the investigation were known.

Safety experts say airliner accidents rarely have a single cause and that it typically takes months of investigation to understand all the factors behind them.

In Paris, the maker of the plane’s engines, French-U.S. firm CFM – co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran – said speculation regarding the cause was premature.

U.S. calls for complete cooperation with any probe into cause of Iran crash

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the United States was calling for complete cooperation with any investigation into the cause of the crash of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran.

In a statement, Pompeo said the United States was prepared to offer Ukraine all possible assistance after the crash of the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737, which burst into flames shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people aboard.

The plane crashed hours after Iran launched missiles at bases housing U.S. forces in Iraq, and officials have cautioned that speculation about what happened was premature.

There have been wider effects of the tot for tat attacks.

Airlines re-route or cancel flights around Iraq, Iran after missile strike on U.S. troops

Major airlines canceled Iran and Iraq flights on Wednesday and re-routed others away from both countries’ airspace, following an Iranian missile strike on United States-led forces in Iraq.

On the Iranian missile attacks:

Trump says no U.S. casualties, Iran appears to be standing down

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday there were no American casualties in the Iranian strikes on military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and that Tehran appeared to be standing down.

“No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties,” Trump said in a White House address. “Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down.”

Iran believed to have deliberately missed U.S. forces in Iraq strikes: sources

Iran is believed to have deliberately avoided U.S. military casualties during retaliatory missile strikes on bases housing American troops in Iraq, following the U.S. killing of an Iranian general, according to U.S. and European government sources familiar with intelligence assessments.

USA Today: US knew Iranian missiles were coming ahead of strike

The U.S. military had advance warning of Iran’s missile assault on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces, attacks that prompted new economic sanctions Wednesday from President Donald Trump.

The missiles targeted al Assad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar province and another base in Erbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The extent of damage to the bases was not immediately clear, but early-warning defense systems gave U.S. forces advance knowledge that missiles had been launched, according to a U.S. official speaking to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity.

The advance warning explains no casualties. I would expect the US to be monitoring and detecting missiles, but they can’t have known in advance what the exact targets would be.

CNN, citing an Arab diplomatic source, reported that Iran notified Iraq in advance and that Iraqi officials then tipped U.S. troops before the attack began. A U.S. defense official also told CNN that Iraqis were told by Iran to stay away from certain bases.

The militaries of Finland and Lithuania, which had personnel at one of the targeted bases, said they also received information about an imminent attack and had time to take shelter or leave the base.

It sounds like it was a symbolic counter attack.

Trump has given a national address on the situation. Highlights from Reuters: Trump addresses Iran situation

ATTACK ON MILITARY BASES

“I’m pleased to inform you the American people should be extremely grateful and happy. No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.

“Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”

U.S. STRENGTH

“Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal and fast. Under construction are many hypersonic missiles. The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.”

SANCTIONS

“As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.”

There have been US imposed sanctions on Iran for years.

CREATING A NEW IRAN DEAL

“Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Greece, France, Russia and China to recognize this reality. They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal, or JCPOA. And we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.”

Trying appeasement after assassinating a foreign leader in another country.

Wanting to scrap one deal and make another deal is typical Trump.

50 killed at Soleimani funeral in Iran

This may add to the tensions in Iran and Iraq – Qasem Soleimani burial: Stampede kills 50 mourners

Fifty people have been killed and more than 200 injured in a stampede as Iranians gathered for the burial of a leading commander killed in a US drone strike.

Millions are already estimated to have packed the streets for a series of funeral processions in Iran.

Soleimani’s killing has raised fears of a conflict between the US and Iran.

The US has labelled him a terrorist, and in explaining why he ordered the strike President Trump said he was acting on an “imminent” threat.

The head of the Quds Force was tasked with defending and projecting Iranian interests abroad, and was hailed as a hero in his home country.

He was also regarded as having been instrumental in the defeat of Isis in Syria.

That is ironic – Trump has claimed credit for the defeat of ISIS, but that battle still isn’t over

Bloomberg last October:  Graham Says Trump’s ‘Biggest Lie’ Is of Islamic State’s Defeat

One of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders in Congress rebuked the president’s decision to step aside from Kurdish allies in Syria while Turkey’s military advances, saying it would result in the re-emergence of ISIS.

“ISIS is not defeated, my friend. The biggest lie being told by the administration is that ISIS is defeated,” Senator Lindsey Graham told “Fox and Friends” in a phone call Monday. “The Caliphate is destroyed, but there’s thousands of fighters” still there.

Also, from Fox: Sen. Graham warns Syria withdrawal would be ‘big win for ISIS,’ compares Trump’s strategy to Obama

And the ISIS risks my have been raised by the assassination.

New York Times: Conflict With Iran Threatens Fight Against ISIS

The American assassination of a top Iranian commander may make it impossible for American forces to stay in Iraq. That could ease an ISIS comeback.

For the militants of the Islamic State, the American drone strike that killed the Iranian commander Qassim Suleimani was a two-for-one victory.

First, the killing of General Suleimani removed the leader of one of the Islamic State’s most effective opponents, responsible for building up the alliance of Iran-backed militias that did much of the ground fighting to drive the militants out of their strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

The assassination has also redirected the wrath of those militias and their many political allies inside Iraq squarely against the American presence there, raising doubts about the continued viability of the American-led campaign to eradicate what is left of the Islamic State and to prevent its revival in both Iraq and neighboring Syria.

“This is precisely the sort of deus ex machina the organization needed, to give it room to operate and to allow it to break out of its current marginality,” said Sam Heller, an analyst at the International Crisis Group who studies the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Just Security – Trump’s Fatal Mistake: Killing Suleimani vs. Countering ISIS

The fight against ISIS is on hold. It’s unclear how exactly it will ever resume. With U.S. and coalition forces hunkered down in anticipation of Iranian retaliation for the killing of Qassem Suleimani and the Iraqi parliament calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, combined with continued fallout from President Trump’s decision to withdraw from parts of Syria, our counterterrorism campaign is deeply compromised.

And running across all of this is the same dynamic – a president who knows very little about how to wage counterterrorism and cares not at all about setting the diplomatic conditions to achieve our goals against ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. Counterterrorism is about much more than dropping bombs and training partners, and unless the President or somebody in his administration shows some diplomatic savvy in a hurry, our campaign against ISIS in the region is, for most all intents and purposes, over.

Back to the funeral in Iran – ‘Soleimani’s revenge’: Huge crowds at funeral hear vows of Iranian action

As the coffins of General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who also died in Friday’s attack in Baghdad, were passed over the heads of mourners, Soleimani’s successor vowed to expel US forces from the region in revenge.

The killing of Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s drive to build its influence in the Middle East, has stoked concern around the globe that a broader regional conflict could now erupt.

Trump has listed 52 Iranian targets, including cultural sites, that could be hit if Iran retaliates with attacks on Americans or US assets, although officials sought to play down the president’s reference to cultural targets.

General Esmail Ghaani, the new commander of the Quds Force, the elite unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards charged with overseas operations, promised to “continue martyr Soleimani’s cause as firmly as before with the help of God, and in return for his martyrdom we aim to rid the region of America”.

“God the Almighty has promised to take martyr Soleimani’s revenge,” he told state television. “Certainly, actions will be taken.”

Other political and military leaders have made similar, unspecific threats. Iran, which lies at the mouth of the key Gulf oil shipping route, has a range of proxy forces in the region through which it could act.

The assassination has created problems in an already troubled Iraq.

Iraq’s rival Shi’ite leaders, including ones opposed to Iranian influence, have united since Friday’s attack to call for the expulsion of US troops, who number about 5,000, most of them advisers.

Soleimani, widely seen as Iran’s second most powerful figure behind Khamenei, built a network of proxy forces to create a crescent of influence stretching from Lebanon through Syria and Iraq to Iran. Allies also include Palestinian and Yemeni groups.

Trump’s ‘threat of war crimes’

Tehran has said Washington must return to the existing nuclear pact and lift the crippling sanctions before any talks can take place.

Trump stood by remarks that cultural sites were potential targets, despite criticism from US politicians that this amounted to a threat to commit war crimes.

“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” Trump said.

Democratic critics of the Republican president have said Trump was reckless in authorising the strike. Republicans in the US Congress have generally backed his move.

RNZ: US denies troop withdrawal from Iraq after letter sent by general

The United States has no plans to pull troops out of Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says, following reports by Reuters and other media of a US military letter informing Iraq officials about the repositioning of troops in preparation to leave the country.

“There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper told Pentagon reporters when asked about the letter, adding there were no plans issued to prepare to leave.

“I don’t know what that letter is… We’re trying to find out where that’s coming from, what that is. But there’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period.”

The United States has about 5,000 US troops in Iraq.

The letter was a poorly-worded draft document meant only to underscore increase movement of US forces, the top US military officer told reporters.

“Poorly worded, implies withdrawal. That’s not what’s happening,” US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, stressing there was no withdrawal being planned.

The authenticity of the letter, which was addressed to the Iraqi defence ministry’s Combined Joint Operations Baghdad and signed by a US general, had been confirmed to Reuters by an Iraqi military source.

Meanwhile we still have an involvement in Iraq that has been affected. RNZ – New Zealand should be a ‘principled voice’ as US-Iran tensions rise, Golriz Ghahraman says

The Green Party defence spokesperson says New Zealand needs to be able to stand up to its allies if the situation between the US and Iran continues to escalate.

Golriz Ghahraman said the situation in Iran had also reignited calls from the Green Party to get troops out of Iraq.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Ron Mark confirmed that training activities being conducted by the 45 New Zealand troops at Iraq’s Camp Taji were being halted. The government is monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has called for restraint and de-escalation in the region.

The New Zealand government was already planning to withdraw troops by June this year.

Ghahraman said she had spoken to Mark about whether troops would need to be evacuated now.

“Whether in fact it is far too dangerous is something we don’t know, but we know the risk is growing by the minute and the situation is changing very fast, so I have raised it with the minister and we are having those conversations now,” she said.

Previous comments by Peters asking for calm early on was the right move, but New Zealand would need to reassess where it stood when allies like the US were threatening war crimes, she said.

“We do have to, in the days to come, reassess whether or not we are really going to stand up to what has become a belligerent US president.

“I think that is a good place for New Zealand to be, that we stand as a principled voice on the international stage and we do call out our allies,” she said.

She hoped it would not come to war, but if it did, she believed the US would try and pressure New Zealand to be involved.

“They have always put pressure on us to join their wars, the kind of war on terror rhetoric we saw in the early 2000s will come back again.

“That pressure was withstood by Helen Clark’s government, then the previous National Party government did put our troops in the position they are now where there is political football being played by someone as reckless as Donald Trump and their lives are on the line. ”

“We have no place contributing to the militarisation of the Middle East, because that doesn’t help the region, but also because it puts Kiwi lives at risk.

“Yes there will be pressure and I would hope this and successive government’s will withstand that if there is a war.”

Greens are likely to resist any attempts to draw New Zealand further into the Middle East mess if things escalate there.

Iraq wants to expel US troops

US troops were allowed into Iraq four years ago in an agreement to help fight against the ‘Islamic State’. The Iraqi government now wants to expel the troops after the US airstrike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – but remarkably, under the agreement they are required to give one year notice.

There are fears that there will be a resurgence of ISIS if the US leaves Iraq, and that Iran will increase it’s influence in Iraq.

More of an immediate concern is that both the US and Iran have threatened each other of further aggression over the ‘act of war’ committed by the US.

Stuff (AAP): Iraq’s Parliament calls for expulsion of US troops

Iraq’s Parliament called for the expulsion of US troops from the country Sunday (Monday NZT) in reaction to the American drone attack that killed a top Iranian general, raising the prospect of a withdrawal that could allow a resurgence by Islamic State extremists.

Lawmakers approved a resolution asking the Iraqi government to end the agreement under which Washington sent forces to Iraq more than four years ago to help in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The bill is subject to approval by the Iraqi government. Even then, cancelling the US-Iraq agreement requires giving the Americans a one-year notice for withdrawal.

Amid Iran’s threats of vengeance, the US-led military coalition in Iraq announced Sunday it is putting the fight against Islamic State militants on hold to focus on protecting its troops and bases.

A pullout of the estimated 5200 US troops could cripple the fight against Isis and allow it to make a comeback. It could also enable Iran to deepen its influence in Iraq.

US Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Fox News that the parliamentary vote is “a bit concerning”.

“The Iranian government is trying to basically take over Iraq’s political system. Iran is bribing Iraqi politicians. To the Iraqi people, do not allow your politicians to turn Iraq into a proxy of Iran,” he said.

“The killing of Soleimani was a political assassination,” outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told Parliament, adding that the Iranian general was scheduled to meet him the next morning about relations with Saudi Arabia.

The US has been supporting Saudi Arabia and provided them with arms. It is a complex situation in the Middle East.

 

  • President Trump Says 52 Targets Already Lined Up If Iran Retaliates AP News

    President Donald Trump issued a stark warning to Iran on Saturday, threatening to hit dozens of targets in the Islamic Republic “very fast and very hard” if it retaliates for the targeted killing of the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.

    The series of tweets came as the White House sent to Congress a formal notification under the War Powers Act of the drone strike on Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a senior administration official said. U.S. law required notification within 48 hours of the introduction of American forces into an armed conflict or a situation that could lead to war.

  • Iran Official: ‘The Response for a Military Action Is Military Action USA Today

    Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations said Saturday “the response for a military action is military action,” as fears grew that a U.S. airstrike that killed the head of Tehran’s elite Quds force and mastermind of its security and intelligence strategy will draw Washington and the Middle East region into a broader military conflict.

    Iran has already vowed an unspecified harsh retaliation for the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani near the Iraqi capital’s international airport on Thursday. President Donald Trump said he ordered the strike to prevent a conflict with Iran because Soleimani was plotting attacks that endangered American troops and officials.

    No evidence was provided.

  • No, Attacking Iran Won’t Help Trump Get Reelected Jonathan Chait, NY Magazine

    Beginning in 2011, and continuing through the next year, Donald Trump began obsessively predicting that President Obama would start a war with Iran in order to be reelected. Trump stated it publicly, on at least a half-dozen occasions, explicitly positing that attacking Iran would help Obama win reelection.

    Trump’s allies have framed the issue as being about Qasem Soleimani’s moral culpability, or Iran’s responsibility for escalating the conflict. And it is certainly true that Iran is a nasty, aggressive, murderous regime. But none of this refutes the fact that Trump’s Iran policy is failing on its own terms. Having violated a diplomatic agreement on the premise that doing so would not lead to war, they are now blaming Iran for the war they insisted would never happen.

  • The Soleimani Strike Defied the U.S. Constitution Oona Hathaway, The Atlantic

    The drone strike that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, raises many legal issues, but one of the most significant—at least to the American constitutional order—is that President Donald Trump ordered the strike without so much as informing Democratic leadership in Congress, disregarding Congress’s essential role in initiating war. If Congress fails to respond effectively, the constitutional order will be broken beyond repair, and the president will be left with the unmitigated power to take the country to war on his own—anywhere, anytime, for any reason.

  • Iran, Not the U.S., Is in a Dilemma Victor Davis Hanson, National Review
    For all the current furor over the death of Qasem Soleimani, it is Iran, not the U.S. and the Trump administration, that is in a dilemma. Given the death and destruction wrought by Soleimani, and his agendas to come, he will not be missed.

    Tehran has misjudged the U.S. administration’s doctrine of strategic realism rather than vice versa. The theocracy apparently calculated that prior U.S. patience and restraint in the face of its aggression was proof of an unwillingness or inability to respond. More likely, the administration was earlier prepping for a possible more dramatic, deadly, and politically justifiable response when and if Iran soon overreached.

It seems rather simplistic and naive to think that the current situation doesn’t pose problems if not a dilemma for the US. Iran will have known that ongoing provocations would eventually result in a reaction from the US, and that was more likely in the US election year.

 

Trump via Twitter:

Iran is talking very boldly about targeting certain USA assets as revenge for our ridding the world of their terrorist leader who had just killed an American, & badly wounded many others, not to mention all of the people he had killed over his lifetime, including recently hundreds of Iranian protesters.

He was already attacking our Embassy, and preparing for additional hits in other locations. Iran has been nothing but problems for many years.

Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!

I think the only certainty in this situation is that this isn’t the end of USA versus Iran, nor the problems in the Middle East.

US versus Iran escalates

President Trump ordered a missile attack on Baghdad airport that is reported to have killed a ‘top Iranian general’, in retaliation for attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad.

Iran has promised ‘harsh retaliation’.

US versus Iran has been at risk of escalation for years. To an extent at least that now appears to be happening.

What Iran has been doing is a concern. The US response raises concerns. This too and fro fury could fizzle, but it could get very ugly.

  • Trump Orders Strike Killing Top Iranian General in Baghdad MSN
    The commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps was killed early Friday in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said.The commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran were killed when an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport.

    The killing of General Suleimani was a staggering blow for Iran’s military and national pride, and was a serious escalation of Mr. Trump’s growing confrontation with Tehran, one that began with the death of an American contractor in Iraq in late December.

  • Terrorist General Soleimani Had Blood of Thousands On His Hands Daily Mail (UK)
    Qassem Soleimani masterminded the killing of hundreds of US troops in IED attacks, helped Assad slaughter his people in Syria, was an ally of Hezbollah and ‘more powerful than Iran’s president’.
  • Esper Says Iran May Be Planning More Attacks on U.S. Interests PBS
    Iran or its proxy forces may be planning further strikes on American interests in the Middle East, and the U.S. is prepared to take preemptive military action if it gets sufficient warning, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday.“The game has changed,” Esper said, citing a series of violent attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq in recent months by Iran-supported militia groups. “We’re prepared to do what is necessary to defend our personnel and our interests and our partners in the region.”
  • Iran Vows ‘Harsh’ Retaliation AP
    Iran vowed “harsh retaliation” for a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad’s airport that killed a top Iranian general who had been the architect of its interventions across the Middle East, and the U.S. announced Friday it was sending more troops to the region as tensions soared in the wake of the targeted killing.

    Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S. after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the “international face of resistance.” Khamenei declared three days of public mourning and appointed Maj. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani’s deputy, to replace him as head of the Quds Force.

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the killing a “heinous crime” and vowed his country would “take revenge.” Iran twice summoned the Swiss envoy, the first time delivering a letter to pass onto the United States.

  • After Killing of Top Iranian General, What May Come Next? Heather Hulburt, NY MagIn less than a week, the standoff between the U.S. and Iran has zoomed from what seemed to be a somewhat calibrated exchange of rockets, cyberattacks, and rhetoric to the killing of a man reckoned to be Iran’s second-most-powerful military official, causing military and counterterrorism experts to worry about nasty scenarios from all-out regional war to terrorist retaliation against Americans abroad or at home.

    While its unclear how exactly Tehran will retaliate, we can predict some of the broader consequences of this drastic escalation in U.S.-Iranian hostilities.

  • Trump Calls the Ayatollah’s Bluff  Matthew Continetti, Washington Free Beacon
    The successful operation against Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, is a stunning blow to international terrorism and a reassertion of American might. It will also test President Trump’s Iran strategy. It is now Trump, not Ayatollah Khamenei, who has ascended a rung on the ladder of escalation by killing the military architect of Iran’s Shiite empire. For years, Iran has set the rules. It was Iran that picked the time and place of confrontation. No more.Reciprocity has been the key to understanding Donald Trump.
  • Attack on U.S. Embassy in Iraq Shows Trump Is Failing Wendy Sherman, USA Today

    He walked into Iran’s trap.

    It is President Donald Trump’s failed policy toward Iran that has brought us to this combustible moment.

    Like much of Trump’s national security and foreign policy, his Iran approach is tactical and not strategic. The results have been devastating to U.S. interests. Iran’s most extreme hard-liners, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Quds force, which never wanted the nuclear deal, have gained more power, arguing that the United States couldn’t be trusted to honor any agreement.

    Iran’s nefarious activities in the region have increased, because terror is not an expensive undertaking and so is largely immune from economic sanctions.

    Most would agree that the United States had to respond in some way to the death of an American, but whether the airstrike was the right and proportionate measure is debatable.

    Regardless, if the Trump administration really understood the dynamics of Iraq, it might have anticipated a move like the attack on the U.S. Embassy. Administration officials might have worked more closely with the Iraq government to think through the best way forward. Instead, in essence, Trump walked into Iran’s trap.

 

 

All we can do is watch and hope it doesn’t get too nasty or widespread.

Shaw, Mitchell question Mark on extended Middle East deployment

In Parliament today Green co-leader James Shaw took Minister of Defence Ron Mark to task after the deployment of New Zealand troops in Iraq and Afghanistan was extended.

4. Hon JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Defence: Is it his intention to continue the deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq beyond 2019?

Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Ultimately, those decisions are for Cabinet to make. This Government will undertake a strategic reassessment in early 2019. All options will be on the table at that point in time. Those decisions will be made around the strategic situation, our values, our independent foreign policy, and how we think that this Government might make a difference to the lives of the Iraqi people.

Hon James Shaw: Does he agree that continued military involvement of outside forces has actually further destabilised the region and made it easier for terror groups to recruit and has led to an increase in violence rather than a decrease?

Hon RON MARK: No, we don’t. We’re confident that the independent, principles-based decision that Cabinet made yesterday was the right thing to do. I think I would add that for Iraq to become a prosperous nation once again, for its people to enjoy a quality of life that we enjoy, and for them to enjoy the well-being and the support of a good Government such as we enjoy, they need security. Security is paramount to the well-being of the people of Iraq, and I think that is the greatest contribution we’re able to make at this time. But, again, come next year, this Government will reassess the situation.

Hon James Shaw: Does he agree that if New Zealand were to play a role beyond 2019, then the New Zealand public would rather it be focused on building schools and roads and hospitals rather than a seemingly never-ending military engagement?

Hon RON MARK: Mr Speaker, we understand that that is the view of some people, and we would share those views that ultimately that is where we would like Iraq to be. Right now the most important thing is to guarantee security. Right now where we can make a strong contribution, along with our Australian partners, is to improve the quality of the security forces there and thereby lend greater security. For NGOs to be able to deliver to those people, they need security. We’ve seen examples in Sudan where the wonderful efforts of NGOs have been interdicted by the lack of security. I would also point out that in Afghanistan alone this Government over the years since 2001 has put in over $100 million in aid. There’s another $2 million to the UN Development Programme and there is about $3.5 million going into the UN Development Programme around technical assistance for de-mining support.

Hon James Shaw: Well, would he agree that the money that we spend on these military deployments would be better spent on humanitarian aid and reconstruction?

Hon RON MARK: I guess a quick add-up of the cost of all of the deployments that the Government has just announced comes to a grand total of about $31.4 million, bearing in mind that a couple of those deployments are for two years, not one year. Ultimately, the Government will in time—and I think next year—look at how we can make a contribution. It may well be that there may not be a military contribution; the focus may be on humanitarian assistance. Of course we’d like to build hospitals. Of course we’d like to help build schools. Of course we’d like to help re-establish the infrastructure. Iraq, in particular, is looking at a $100 billion bill for reconstruction, but $31.4 million is not going to build a new school, it’s not going to build a new hospital, and it’s not going to rebuild the infrastructure. It can make a substantive difference to the NGOs who are delivering that sort of support and thereby enhancing security.


National’s defence spokesperson Mark Mitchell also questioned Ron Mark.

Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney): Has he seen the quote “Does he not realise that he sent our brave New Zealand soldiers to Iraq on a fool’s errand, and that training the Iraqi Army to stand and fight is literally Mission: Impossible?”, and does he agree with it?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can the member read the question, please? Read it again.

8. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Defence: Has he seen the quote “Does he not realise that he sent our brave New Zealand soldiers to Iraq on a fool’s errand, and the training the Iraqi Army to stand and fight is literally Mission: Impossible?”; if so, does he agree with it?

Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Yes, I recognise that quote.

SPEAKER: No. The member will finish answering the question.

Hon RON MARK: Yes, I recognise that quote, and on the information I had at the time, I still stand by that statement.

Hon Mark Mitchell: How does the Minister reconcile his statement on Morning Report today that there was never any attempt by the previous Government to work across parties, when New Zealand First declined a briefing, an invitation, to visit troops in Iraq with Gerry Brownlee, Andrew Little, and myself in 2016?

Hon RON MARK: I have never received an invitation from Mr Brownlee or from that member on any visit, and, in fact, that member can enlighten people about the conversation that he and I had on the telephone where that member apologised for not inviting me.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether it’s a fact that, contrary to being asked, with respect to consultation, the troops were already there before the invitation was sent to the New Zealand First Party in the first place?

SPEAKER: Order! That is not something the current Minister has responsibility for.

Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There appears to be some confusion. The Minister stood up and said that he’d never personally received an invitation—and I was very clear about the fact that the invitation went to New Zealand First—and the Deputy Prime Minister then stood up and contradicted him and said that we did receive an invitation. Which is correct?

SPEAKER: You’re not serious? Stand up and ask a supplementary, if the member wants to.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why didn’t the Minister consult with or brief either the New Zealand National Party or the ACT Party before a decision was made to deploy our New Zealand Defence Force men and women into theatres of war?

Hon RON MARK: On numerous occasions, I have taken National Party representatives with me. In fact, I took Mr Simon O’Connor into Iraq and into Afghanistan. In those conversations that we had on that trip, it became very apparent and very clear to me what the National Party’s view was on the deployment. In fact, one would have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to know that the National Party supported a continuation of that deployment, unless, of course, it’s just now changed its mind.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Has the Minister consulted with the ACT Party?

Hon RON MARK: No, I have not had consultation, but I would say this to that member also, and I would say it to Mr Seymour: the way that we have operated my office is that we make the door wide open. In fact, the member has been into my office for a briefing.

Hon RON MARK: We will always keep the door open, and I am fully ready, at any time, Mr Seymour, to give a full background briefing. Members of the National Party sat in on the bilateral conversations with the Prime Minister of Iraq. They sat in on the bilaterals with the Minister of Defence of Iraq and visited Afghanistan and sat in on the bilaterals with the NATO ambassador to Afghanistan. A member of the National Party has participated at all levels of those conversations and has made it very clear to me that the National Party support it. To Mr Seymour: the door’s open. I apologise for not getting round to you. I would have done that after the announcement.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Mr Speaker, can I just seek some guidance from you, because—

SPEAKER: No, you can’t. The member can ask a supplementary question or, if he has a real point of order, he can do it, but if he trifles with me again, he’ll be losing his supplementary.

Hon Mark Mitchell: It is a point of order, because—

SPEAKER: Well, the way the member does it is stand up and say, “Point of Order!”

Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point of order is simply this: the Minister is talking about taking other members away on trips. That’s not the question. The question was around consultation with Opposition parties before decisions are made on deploying New Zealand Defence Force men and women.

SPEAKER: Between the last two supplementaries, that has been very clearly answered.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Why hasn’t he applied his own high standards to himself in terms of a cross-party consultation and consensus in an MMP environment?

Hon RON MARK: Right at the outset of being sworn in as Minister, I think I made it very, very clear that I sought, for the benefit of the men and women in uniform, to gain as wide a cross-party consensus on defence matters as we possibly can. It is for that reason that we have gone out of our way to invite National Party representatives to attend briefings. It’s for that reason that I have never refused a request from the Hon Paula Bennett. I think there are about two or three National Party members who’ve sought permission to go on to military bases and talk with Defence Force personnel, unlike what happened to me when I was specifically blocked by the National Government at the time.

Iraq, Afghanistan ‘peacekeeping’ and the realities of international ‘leadership’

Jacinda Ardern has been promoted (or has promoted herself) as one of a radical new breed of young progressive wanting to lead the world in a new direction. But the realities for a small distant nation is that the leader largely has to follow along with allies, even in war situations.

So despite in Opposition promising to pull the troops out the Government has just announced an extension of New Zealand’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Greens remain opposed.

Official announcement: New Zealand to extend NZDF deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and 3 peacekeeping missions

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, and Defence Minister Ron Mark have announced an extension of the New Zealand Defence Force military training deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a renewal of three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa.

“The decision to deploy defence force personnel overseas is one of the hardest for any government to take, especially when these deployments are to challenging and dangerous environments,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“The Government has weighed a number of factors, including carefully considering the risks to our servicemen and women based on advice from the New Zealand Defence Force. The decisions themselves were taken following careful Cabinet deliberations.”

The Iraq deployment will be extended until June 2019, and the Afghanistan deployment will be extended until September 2019.  This allows New Zealand to fulfil its current commitment to both missions.

In the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan the Government will be using the coming year to consider all options for New Zealand’s future contributions.

The three peacekeeping missions are to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) in the Golan Heights and Lebanon and the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.

“The Government has decided to continue with our current commitments to three peacekeeping missions in the Middle East and Africa, where we have an established presence and proven track record,” Winston Peters said.

A quite length explanation of all the deployments and their histories then followed.

This would normally be seen as a pragmatic decision with New Zealand being seen to contributing to international peacekeeping obligations, which it is. But this is a reversal of Labour’s position. National found themselves in a similar position.

Labour press release (June 2016): Iraq mission extension case not made

The Prime Minister has not made the case for extending the Iraq deployment another 18 months nor the expansion of their mission, says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.

“Labour originally opposed the deployment because the Iraqi Army’s track record was poor, even after years of training by the American and other armies. Having visited Camp Taji, my view on this has not changed.

“It was always obvious that the Iraq deployment would not be complete within the two years originally set for the mission, and the Prime Minister has not been open with the public about the demands being made on our troops by Coalition allies.

“Today in his post cabinet briefing Key could not even confirm the troops would be home in 18 months. He has not been straight with New Zealanders, nor has he made the case for mission creep. He owes it New Zealanders to explain why we’re committing our forces to an ongoing volatile theatre of war.

The Government has announced an extension to the two-year deployment, keeping up to 143 personnel in Iraq for an extra 18 months.

John Key admits it’s a change from the initial promise, but said there’s still work to do. He said the other options are to “do nothing”, or do “something that in hindsight may be more dangerous”.

Labour leader Andrew Little…

“We can be a good global citizen by looking after the civilians who are displaced. What we don’t want to be is caught up in a conflict that goes way out of control.”

“The fact that he’s now completely indefinite about how long we might be there – we could be there for a long, long time. The real threat then is of civil war and who knows where that will go.”

Green co-leader James Shaw…

…said we shouldn’t have our military in Iraq at all

“This is mission creep, and it’s extremely dangerous. He’s broken a promise about how long we were going to be there in the first place, it could easily get extended again, both in terms of the length of time we’re over there and also in terms of the scope of the mission.’

“Our good global citizenship role would be much better deployed as part of the humanitarian effort, rather than part of the military effort. We’ve got a lot more skill in humanitarian aid.”

SBS News/Reuters (November 2017 just after Ardern became Prime Minister): NZ could pull out of Iraq deployment

Australia may lose New Zealand as a partner training Iraqi security forces to fight Islamic State militants next year.

Ms Ardern said her government will review NZ’s commitment of just under 150 military personnel in November next year.

“We will look again at the circumstances when that mandate comes up again,” she told reporters at Sydney airport before her departure.

“It’s a complex conflict and things could change dramatically between now and then.”

Former NZ Labour leader Andrew Little, who Ms Ardern replaced, has previously cast doubt on the benefits the country’s role in Iraq and had vowed to bring the troops home.

Incline (February 2018): Groundhog Day for New Zealand’s Iraq Deployment?

National’s decision might have been broadly predictable, but the same cannot be said for Jacinda Ardern’s Labour-led coalition. What the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues choose to do on Iraq presents a series of challenges in the weighing of international and domestic expectations.

For New Zealand First, which holds both the Defence and Foreign Affairs portfolios, the shift in position is a slightly easier one. Ron Mark prides himself on his commitment to a Defence Force that is ready to undertake missions in difficult conflict zones. At a time when his portfolio is not among the government’s top spending priorities, he needs a win for his view of the Defence Force. That Mr. Mark has been in Iraq, and has reported that the New Zealanders are doing “vital tasks” in the national interest, says all we need to know about his position on the issue.

His New Zealand First boss also seems a very likely supporter of extension. As Foreign Minister, Peters will be keenly aware of Australia’s interest in seeing New Zealand commit to a further six months and more.

We can be certain that if Jacinda Ardern announces that New Zealand will extend its mission she will not use the “price of the club” argument which landed John Key in political hot water. Explaining New Zealand’s involvement as a consequence of its five eyes connections would be exactly the message that would fire up opposition from the Greens and the Labour left.

…the Iraq decision is a more difficult test. Unlike the TPP, where significant parts of New Zealand’s business community have been strong supporters, there is no comparable domestic constituency for the Iraq deployment.

This raises an obvious challenge for the government if it does choose to extend. How does it show this choice is consistent with an independent foreign policy? Labour may think it owns that concept by virtue of its nuclear free push in the 1980s. Will Ardern be tempted to repeat the Key-English argument that New Zealand has made its own (i.e. “independent”) choice to work with traditional partners in Iraq? That will hardly convince many of the people who brought her to office.

Newshub (yesterday): Jacinda Ardern’s U-turn on pulling troops out of Iraq

The Labour-led Government is extending New Zealand’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan despite promising in Opposition to pull troops out.

The Prime Minister is refusing to comment on whether New Zealand’s elite soldiers, the SAS, will or have joined them.

This is another example of Labour leaning towards NZ First preferences, with Greens opposed. The Green Party doesen’t seem to have put out an official statement, but…

In the context of the ‘War of Terror’ & ‘peace in the Mid East’, one thing we know is more foreign military presence is not working, has never worked, & has made things far worse. Bring on the sustainable, non-military led humanitarian, conservation, restoration focus.

Stop spending Mills$ joining failed military campaigns that only help weapons manufacturing nations/corporates. Instead invest in helping victims access medicine, rebuild schools, roads…And flex our diplomatic muscle to tell everyone we won’t stand for them profiting from war.

She has a point – Iraq and Aghanistan seem to be bottomless pits and graveyards when it comes to military involvement, and perhaps futile: Seventeen years after September 11, al-Qaeda may be stronger than ever

In the days after September 11, 2001, the United States set out to destroy al-Qaeda. US President George W Bush vowed to “starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.”

Seventeen years later, al-Qaeda may be stronger than ever. Far from vanquishing the extremist group and its associated “franchises,” critics say, US policies in the Middle East appear to have encouraged its spread.

New Zealand is now extending support of US policie.

What US officials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, director of the Site Intelligence Group, in a recent phone interview, is that al-Qaeda is more than a group of individuals. “It’s an idea, and an idea cannot be destroyed using sophisticated weapons and killing leaders and bombing training camps,” she said.

The group has amassed the largest fighting force in its existence.

It is a dilemma. Pacifism would also not have contained Al Qaeda nor ISIS. But a seventeen year military approach hasn’t solved Middle East problems either.

Ardern, Peters and their Government are doing their bit, but it’s very debatable whether that is going to help anything other than their standing in the US and it’s military industrial complex.

Claims of defeat of ISIS in Iraq, Syria

Iraq claims to have driven ISIS out of the country, and Russian claims to have defeated ISIS in Syria.

Reuters: Islamic State completely ‘evicted’ from Iraq, Iraqi PM says

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Saturday that Iraqi forces had driven the last remnants of Islamic State from the country, three years after the militant group captured about a third of Iraq’s territory.

The Iraqi forces recaptured the last areas still under IS control along the border with Syria, state television quoted Abadi as telling an Arab media conference in Baghdad.

Several squadrons of Iraqi helicopters flew over Baghdad carrying Iraqi flags at noon, in an apparent rehearsal for a victory parade that Iraq is planning to hold in the coming days.

“Commander-in-Chief @HaiderAlAbadi announces that Iraq’s armed forces have secured the western desert & the entire Iraq Syria border, says this marks the end of the war against Daesh terrorists who have been completely defeated and evicted from Iraq,” the federal government’s official account tweeted.

In a separate tweet later, Abadi said: “Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border. We defeated Daesh through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people.”

New Zealand has helped with the training of Iraqi military in their fight against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh: Announcement of New Zealand Defence Force personnel being deployed in a non-combat training mission to Iraq

On 24 February 2015, the government announced that the New Zealand Defence Force will deploy to Iraq in a non-combat training mission to build the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Up to 143 New Zealand Defence Force personnel were approved by Cabinet to deploy on a training mission, with the main body of the deployment expected to deploy in May 2015. The training of Iraqi security forces at Taji will cover a broad range of individual and organisational military skills so that Iraqi security forces can eventually assume responsibility for delivering their own training programmes.

Extension of the Iraq Deployment

On 20 June 2016, the Government decided to extend New Zealand’s contribution to the Building Partner Capacity mission to 30 November 2018.

The Minister of Defence’s press release regarding the extension.

Rudaw: Russia declares Syria ‘completely liberated’ from ISIS

Russia’s defence minister has informed President Vladimir Putin of the defeat of ISIS in Syria and the “complete” liberation of that country.

“All ISIS formations in Syria have been defeated. Syria has been liberated from terrorists,” General of the Army Valery Gerasimov stated Wednesday evening, adding that Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin of this “about an hour ago.”

Announcing the liberation of four villages in Deir ez-Zor province, “there are no territories controlled by ISIS in Syria today,” Gerasimov said.

The military operations were overseen by Russian military advisers “operating in every grouping of the government troops,” according to a statement from Russia’s Ministry of Defence.

“Units of Kurdish militia and tribes from the East Euphrates operating under the leadership of the joint staff and Russian military advisers have made a large contribution to the liberation of territories located to the east from the Euphrates,” Gerasimov added.

On Sunday, in a joint press conference with Russian military officials, the Kurdish armed force YPG announced the defeat of ISIS in the rural areas of Deir ez-Zor province, east of the Euphrates River.

These are major victories and will have significantly reduced the power and influence of ISIS, but I doubt it will be the end of ISIS related terrorism, which may now be be one of it’s only ways of trying to continue their aims.

The Nation: Iraq/Daesh, Maori seats, data

Today on The Nation:

As the battle for Mosul heats up talks to Gerry Brownlee about NZ’s role in Iraq.

Brownlee has just attended a meeting in France between the coalition countries trying to sort out Iraq.

Brownlee says a reconstruction team in Iraq is not on the table… but will see what requests come through.

Brownlee says NZ troops are “absolutely not” involved in combat in Iraq.

Brownlee confirms NZ troops have travelled outside of Taji to another camp near Baghdad.

What’s the end goal for our role in Iraq? Brownlee says it’s to ensure a stable civilian Govt in Iraq.

Live tweeting :

Fighting Daesh on the ground in Mosul is the easy part. We will win this battle. Fighting the ideology is the hard par.

NZ cannot be naïve about Daesh. Its ability to ideologically inspire people is scary. Thus, beating it in Iraq not sufficient.

How the West deals with the Kurds, who has suffered most with Daesh, will be interesting. I fear Turkey’s interests win out…

Turkish P Erdogan has been using rhetoric which evokes the Ottoman Empire. Fear is he has designs on Mosul and curtailing Kurds.

For me the broader question is: is it pertinent to NZ’s foreign policy to be part of America’s international security community?

If answer is yes then participating in American-led initiatives like Iraq is probably a price we have to pay.

Answering no is only palatable if you think NZ has zero security risks in an increasingly geopolitically sensitive Asia-Pacific.

I begrudgingly accept our Iraq action is a necessary activity. However, transparency is critical. Brownlee not convincing me.

Iraq’s problems are deeper than Daesh. Daesh is a symptom, not a cause.

Maiki Sherman, Chris Wikaira and Ella Henry on next year’s fight for the Maori seats… how crucial will they be for forming a Govt?

Ella Henry says it’s going to be a social media-driven campaign.

Sherman says Nanaia Mahuta has come out fighting after the King’s speech endorsing the Maori Party earlier this year (and also points out the questions will be asked what Mahuta has done for Maori after 20 years in Parliament).

Will Mana and the Maori Party do a deal? Sherman says she doesn’t think they’ll go down that path.

Te Tai Tonga and Te Tai Hauauru are the electorates to watch says Sherman.

Sherman on candidates in Māori seats: the people want to see that you’ve been peeling spuds or washing dishes at the marae.

Data Futures chair (and former Auckland City Missioner) Diane Robertson on what the Govt’s doing with your data… and how’s she’s trying to boost the public’s trust.

The Govt is collecting and sharing more data about us – but how do we make sure it’s being used the right way?

 

 

Q&A: Little, UK/Iraq and children

On Q & A this morning:

100 years of Labour-what is it offering voters today? joins at 9am this morning

cm8yetjueaaf1ul

Also we cross live to Br Major General Julian Thompson on this week’s damning report into the

cm8ylsbumaejl3f

Also on the show interviews new Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft

cm8walaviaaogzn

Andrew Little:

Little’s phrase of the day is “more affordable houses”. Building state houses and giving them to select people at subsidised rents is affordable for who?

Little says they can make houses affordable. Confident the can make houses at a much more affordable level, but does not favour bringing down house prices.

He says the Government is “terrified” of doing anything that will help first home buyers. Not consistent with leaving current prices as they are.

Talking about selling state houses to tenants and then building more. That could be a good idea but it depends on whether it is subsidised or not, people who qualify for state houses are unlikely to be able to buy unless their circumstances change significantly.

Little says a trade deal with the EU is important despite his opposition to the TPPA, but says that we can’t compromise our sovereignty.  He may find that negotiating trade deals without compromise will be a bit of a challenge.

Little is still speaking with uncertainty and hesitation.

He doesn’t have any conspiracies about media and conspiracies and bias. He says that the way people are getting news is changing.

Dann refers to Brian Edwards column Little sidesteps that and talks about addressing the issues. That’s something he keeps repeating.

“I’m not a show pony, I’m a straight shooter”.

Coincidentally from @josiepagani

Kinnock ‘People of deep convictions can afford to compromise. People of shallow convictions are terrified of it.

Br Major General Julian Thompson:

Supports exiting the EU, saying that NATO is what is important because the US is a part of it – he says that the US contributes 73% of the cost of NATO.