Friday, January 10, 2020

I was right about the Ayatollahs!

Trump's warnings worked!  I predicted that the only thing that the Ayatollahs would do after Trump took out their terror general would be something tokenistic.  And that is exactly what happened.  They did fire missiles at two American bases but aimed the rockets so they would do minimal damage and forewarned American intelligence of what was coming.

They were rightly scared of Trump's threat to hit them hard. They did not want to be the next dead Iranian.  To make their attitude triply clear they also announced that there would be no more attacks. So Trump just hit them with more sanctions. All the doomsters now have lots of runny egg on their faces! The red flag of war turned out to be a feather duster

Iran deliberately missed causing maximum damage to two US bases in Iraq, with most of its ballistic missiles failing to hit their target, intelligence sources claimed today.

Tehran launched what it promised would be a 'crushing revenge' strike against the US over the death of General Soleimani - but succeeded only in damaging two airbases in neighbouring Iraq.

Satellite images released today show only minor damage to the bases in Ain al-Asad in western Iraq and Erbil International airport in the north as Iran wanted to avoid escalating the conflict to all-out war, according to US and European government sources.

Images showed several missiles had either failed to explode on impact or else missed their targets. The remains of one rocket was found near the town of Duhok, some 70 miles from Erbil air base, which was the intended target.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired 22 ballistic missiles at the al-Asad airbase and Erbil in the early hours of Wednesday, but failed to kill a single US or Iraqi solider.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking on Iranian TV shortly after the missiles were launched, described the strikes as 'a slap' and said they 'are not sufficient [for revenge]' while vowing further action to kick US troops out of the region.

But foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attack was now 'concluded', praising Iran's 'proportionate' response and adding: 'We do not seek escalation or war.'

It came as Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, revealed today that Iran gave him a tip-off about last night's missile strikes, giving time for troops to scramble to bunkers.

He received a call from Tehran warning him an attack was imminent in retaliation for the US killing of its highest ranking general, his spokesman said.

Iraqi officials then passed the information on to US troops before the attack began, according to CNN.

US troops also got a heads up with a warning from America's advanced detection system based in Maryland.

Iran was believed to have tried to hit certain parts of the bases to minimise casualties and especially to avoid US fatalities, three sources said. This assessment was said to include some intelligence from inside Iran confirming the nature of the attack plan.

One of the US sources said: 'They wanted to respond but almost certainly not to escalate.'

Pentagon officials reportedly said they believe the Iranian military targeted areas of Iraq not heavily populated with Americans in order to 'send a message' without killing US personnel.

Iranian television had tried to claim that 80 'American terrorists' were killed, but that figure was quickly rubbished by Iraqi and US officials.

America said that 'early warning systems' detected the missile launches and sirens were sounded at the Asad base, allowing soldiers to seek shelter. It is not clear whether they were also informed by Iran.

Prominent analysts suggested Iran may have deliberately pulled its punches because they are fearful of the 'disproportionate' response threatened by Trump if US personnel were killed.



No matter what candidates say, America isn't leaving the Middle East anytime soon

Jeff Jacoby

TWO DAYS after the US drone strike in Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Iraqi parliament passed a measure directing the government to oust American troops from its soil. The following day, a senior Marine Corps commander sent a letter notifying Iraqi officials that US forces "respect your sovereign decision to order our departure," and would begin preparations for "movement out of Iraq."

So US troops are finally heading home?  Of course not.

The parliamentary resolution adopted on Sunday, though heavily played up by American media, was merely a nonbinding request and had the support of only Shiite lawmakers — most of the Sunni and Kurdish members boycotted the session. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kataib Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group backed by Iran, threatened vengeance against any member of parliament voting No on the resolution.

And just as Iraq's government isn't actually expelling US troops, US troops aren't actually planning to leave. The letter from Marine Gen. William Seely turned out to be an unsigned draft released by mistake. "There's been no decision made to leave Iraq," said Defense Secretary Mark Esper. "Period."

The whole episode embodied, in miniature, the single most obstinate reality of America's involvement in Iraq and the Middle East. Withdrawing our troops may seem a straightforward objective, but it just isn't possible.

Pledges to get America out of the Muslim world have become as much a part of presidential campaigns as rallies and fundraising letters. Bernie Sanders, denouncing "endless war," vows to pull the plug on US "military interventions" in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pete Buttigieg promises that if he becomes president there will be no "open-ended" commitment of troops in the region, and intones: "The best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place." Elizabeth Warren declares flatly: "We ought to get out of the Middle East. I don't think we should have troops in the Middle East."

Yet the Democrats are saying nothing that Donald Trump didn't say when he was running to succeed Barack Obama.

"We should have never been in Iraq," Trump insisted during one 2016 debate. "We've been in the Middle East for 15 years, and we haven't won anything." He called for a total US withdrawal from Afghanistan. One of Trump's "most consistent and specific positions," Reason magazine recalled last year, was his "skepticism about American military interventions in other countries."

Then again, the same was true of Obama when he ran for the White House. "I'll be a president who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home," he assured voters in 2008. Eight years before that, George W. Bush made clear that American foreign policy had to be "humble" and that "we can't put our troops all around the world."

In fact, US troops are deployed in most of the world's countries; in some cases they've been present for more than 70 years. Most of those deployments aren't controversial because they aren't hazardous or in regions roiled by dictators or terrorism. The American presence in the Middle East is so vexing precisely because that part of the world is constantly in crisis and has so many hostile actors.

Which is why America can't leave, as presidents to their chagrin keep learning the hard way.

Obama came to office convinced that America needed to lower its profile in the Middle East. He favored a foreign policy in which Washington eschewed intervention and practiced restraint. Sticking to that policy, he pulled US troops from Iraq, refused to assist protesters in Iran, and didn't retaliate when Syria deployed chemical weapons. The results were disastrous. "After the United States left Iraq in 2011," writes historian Hal Brands, "the state nearly collapsed, ISIS surged to prominence, and an emergency military intervention — which has now lasted nearly five years — was needed to repair the damage."

In 2014, President Obama paid tribute to troops at Ft. Bragg, N.C., where he celebrated bringing US forces home from Iraq. Within months, though, he had rush military personnel back to Iraq as the threat from Islamic State grew increasingly deadly.

Until Thursday, Trump was largely following in Obama's footsteps. Iranian attacks — from firing missiles at Persian Gulf oil tankers to shooting down a US drone — were growing increasingly brazen. When a US contractor was killed in Kirkuk, Trump finally decided that a red line had been crossed, and meted a lethal punishment to Iran's terror master.

Does the killing of Soleimani presage a fundamental change in strategy? Will rolling back Iran's widening aggression become a serious US priority at last? That, no one yet knows. All we can know for sure is that America won't be leaving the region anytime soon.

Like it or not, the United States cannot abandon the Middle East without quickening its enemies and unleashing fresh chaos. Whoever wins the White House in 2020, the world's most treacherous and dangerous neighborhood will need the stabilizing presence of the world's democratic superpower. US troops have been permanently deployed in the Middle East for 30 years. It will likely be another 30 before they can safely leave.



ObamaCare turns 10 – but decade of failure is nothing to celebrate

As the calendar flips to 2020, we’re coming up on a decade since the passage of ObamaCare.

But Democrats aren't celebrating 10 years of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law March 23, 2010. That's largely because President Obama’s signature legislative achievement hasn’t yielded the affordable care Democrats promised.

Let's start with that opening adjective – "affordable." ObamaCare's champions insisted that their elaborate system of subsidies, taxes, regulations, public insurance expansions and state-level insurance exchanges would ultimately drive down the price of health coverage. Obama himself promised it would save the typical family $2,500 a year.

But the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed over the past decade. Premiums on ObamaCare’s exchanges have increased 75 percent since the marketplaces went live. Off the exchanges, the average employer-sponsored family health plan now has annual premiums of over $20,000.

That was all too predictable. ObamaCare required insurers to cover 10 "essential" benefits, including things like substance abuse treatment and children's dental services, even if consumers didn't want or need them.

The law also ordered insurers to charge all people of the same age the same rate, regardless of health status or history. And it capped premiums for the old at three times those for the young, even though health costs for older people are about five times those for younger people.

All those mandated benefits and extra regulations raise costs for insurers – which they pass along in the form of higher premiums.

Many employers and individuals have not been able to bear the higher costs ObamaCare has brought about. For example, the slice of small firms offering health benefits to their employees fell by one-quarter between 2012 and 2016.

Meanwhile, the only people who can afford coverage through the exchanges are those who receive subsidies from the federal government. More than 87 percent of exchange enrollees in 2019 were subsidized.

And so, despite a growing economy and falling poverty rate, the national uninsured rate ticked up last year, from 7.9 to 8.5 percent.

ObamaCare was also supposed to give people more insurance choices. Those who liked their health plans could keep them, Obama repeatedly promised. For those who didn't have good coverage, the Affordable Care Act would supposedly be a godsend.

Things didn't turn out that way. Many patients have seen their insurance choices dwindle. Aetna, for example, exited in 2018 after years of ratcheting down its presence on the exchanges. Executives reported they'd lost $900 million due to what they euphemistically called "marketplace structural issues."

The average number of insurers in each state declined 10 percent between 2014 and 2020. Consumers shopping for coverage on the exchanges in Delaware and Wyoming have just one "choice" of insurer this year. In 15 states there are just two insurers on the exchanges.

Democrats allege that "sabotage" by the Trump administration deserves much of the blame for ObamaCare's problems. But without the administration's intervention, things could have been worse.

Take the waivers the administration granted to seven states to give them more flexibility over how to spend ObamaCare's individual-market premium subsidies. A Heritage Foundation analysis found that average premiums in the waiver states for benchmark plans – which determine overall subsidy levels for everyone in the market – fell more than 7 percent last year. The result is lower premiums for customers – and lower subsidy bills for taxpayers.

In states that did not get waivers, average benchmark premiums increased over 3 percent.

ObamaCare has left a decade's worth of failure in its wake. Given that track record, Democrats can't be trusted to lead the next round of health reform.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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