Fox’s MacCallum Gives Rand Paul Safe Space For Impeachment Trial Sabotage – NewsHounds

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After rejection by Chief Justice John Roberts and some of his own colleagues for trying to out the whistleblower in an impeachment trial question, Sen. Rand Paul ran to his safe space on Fox News. There, he freely sabotaged Trump’s impeachment with disinformation that was validated by “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum.

Yesterday, Paul deliberately flouted Justice John Roberts’ impeachment trial rules by re-submitting a previously-denied question outing the Ukraine whistleblower. When it was refused again, Paul stalked out of the trial and publicly aired his question (and the alleged name of the whistleblower) to reporters and on Twitter.

MacCallum helped reveal the whistleblower’s name without actually doing so by suggesting viewers read Paul’s tweet: “Anybody who wants to hear the whole text of that question and the names that you included, it’s on your Twitter feed and you talked about it today and I would direct them there but I’d ask you not to say them here,” she said.

She continued by asking “why you feel it’s so important to focus on the origins of this investigation and to bring that point home.” Nice way to ignore the actual findings of the investigation, Martha!

MacCallum did not mention that Roberts had signaled he would not allow whistleblower outing before the question period began, nor did she mention that top Republicans were in accord.

Instead, MacCallum cocked her head with a look of intent listening, messaging that Paul’s comments were to be taken seriously – unlike the serious impeachment accusations against Donald Trump which she conveniently ignored.

Paul claimed his question did not name the whistleblower, thus contradicting Chief Justice Roberts. Politico explains that while Paul may not have technically outed the whistleblower, he “named a person referred to in conservative media as the purported whistleblower.” But MacCallum didn’t challenge Paul’s disingenuousness.

So, we got a stream of Democratic demonization, unquestioned. Paul claimed his question discussed “two Obama partisans who worked in the National Security Council” one of whom now supposedly works for Rep. Adam Schiff and “one of them is someone who is involved in the origins of the impeachment inquiry.”

MacCallum nodded in agreement.

Paul persisted with his claim that “there are stories and reports now that they, a few years ago, were heard saying, you know what? We’ve got to do everything we can to bring down the president, to take down the president.”

You may recall that Fox described MacCallum as the embodiment of “ultimate journalistic integrity and professionalism” when it pleaded with the DNC to hold a debate on the network. But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never bothered to ask Paul his source for that smear. Nor did she note that even if true, that does not disprove any of the evidence uncovered during the House impeachment investigation. No, Fox’s “ultimate professional” continued nodding as Paul promoted his unsubstantiated, pro-Trump propaganda deflection and whataboutism.

Paul went on with his conspiracy theory (and MacCallum continued nodding in agreement) about “six people who were Obama partisans who worked for the National Security Council who all are transmitting stuff back and forth and my question is, did they have discussions predating the official impeachment inquiry?” We also heard about House Manager Adam Schiff’s supposed dishonesty in the process but none about Trump’s dishonesty – and it’s Trump’s behavior that is on trial.

But MacCallum responded to Paul by saying that questions about the origin of the Ukraine investigation, just like those about the origin of the Russia investigation, “are certainly valid questions.” She called it “frustrating” that there’s no cross examination. But she wasn’t promoting the calling of any witnesses, oh no. She meant Paul had no opportunity to see Schiff “try to answer” Paul’s questions. She later “asked,” on behalf of “anybody at home who says, yeah, I’d like to know the answer to these questions, why doesn’t the Senate Judiciary Committee or the DOJ, someone, start to look into this, just as we saw happen with the origins of the Russia investigation? Is that gonna happen?”

“Maybe eventually,” Paul replied. He quickly segued to promoting himself as “a big defender of whistleblowers.” He claimed that the whistleblower is only protected from being fired so he or she should come forward (and death threats are A-OK).

And Rand Paul wouldn’t be a Republican if he didn’t play the victim. “I never identified anybody as a whistleblower,” he disingenuously reiterated. “That’s why it’s unfair to exclude my question.”

Finally, in the last minute of the 7:15 interview, MacCallum asked if Paul saw “anything wrong” with Trump’s Ukraine phone call and whether he saw it as “a request for a political favor?”

Paul falsely claimed that there was a lot of corruption and that Trump “would actually be going against the law if he didn’t investigate the Bidens” (i.e. hold up aid to Ukraine) and that Trump’s actions were “completely within compliance with the law.”

FACT CHECK: The Pentagon sent a letter to four congressional committees last May certifying that Ukraine had taken sufficient anti-corruption measures to warrant the release of aid. The Department of Defense announced in mid-June that it would release $250 million but the White House blocked that assistance in July.

FACT CHECK: Furthermore, the Government Accountability Office found that Trump violated the law by withholding the aid.

But “ultimate professional” MacCallum never mentioned any of that to her viewers.

You can watch MacCallum enable Paul’s gaslighting propaganda below, from the January 30, 2020 The Story.

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McConnell blasted for letting trial run past SOTU; even Chris Wallace calls Dems ‘petty’ and ‘spiteful’ for it

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Because of pressure mostly from Senate Democrats but also from some of his colleagues, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed late Friday to postpone President Donald Trump’s acquittal vote until next Wednesday.

The decision provoked frustration in some, though for different reasons.

Here is the McConnell-Schumer Senate deal which extends impeachment to next Wednesday. Story first reported by @OANN pic.twitter.com/b2pKhBma2i

— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) February 1, 2020

Chris Wallace, one of Fox News’ most vocal Democrats, responded by blasting the Democrats for being so “petty” and “spiteful.” The remarks came after fellow FNC contributor Dana Perino opined about the Democrats’ motivation for pushing for a delay.

“I think one of the things that the Democrats want, and I don’t know why they think this would be helpful, is to be able to have the headline say, ‘An impeached president gives State of the Union,’” she said.

The president’s SOTU address is scheduled for Tuesday, a day before Trump is to be formally acquitted.

“I think it is so petty on the part of the Democrats and spiteful,” Wallace promptly chimed in. “End this. Land the plane!”


(Source: Fox News)

Others aimed their criticism at McConnell instead, including Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs and frequent FBN guest Ed Rollins, the co-chairman of the Donald Trump Great America PAC.

“Why in the world would the majority leader agree to run this thing through the state of the union address?” Dobbs asked in exasperation late Friday.

“He won, and the bottom line is that he should have shut it down tonight. And who cares if it’s in the middle fo the night? The whole thing is in the middle of the night,” Rollins replied.

“So what’s the profit in him doing this?” Dobbs pressed.

“There’s not,” Rollins replied. “There’s a danger to it because you have another whole weekend of the co-conspirators — The New York Times — leaking more Bolton stories and raising more hell. He’ll be on all the talk shows.”

Listen:


(Source: Fox Business Network)

Shortly before the Senate began the process of voting on whether or not to allow witnesses to testify in the president’s trial, the Times dropped yet another Bolton “bombshell.”

This one alleged that the “president asked his national security adviser last spring in front of other senior advisers to pave the way for a meeting between Rudolph Giuliani and Ukraine’s new leader.”

Within an hour of the “bombshell” dropping, the Democrat impeachment managers began making closing arguments that reportedly contained quotes from that very story.

“[T]he House managers begin their closing arguments, and guess what? They’ve got charts, they got graphs, they got quotes from the New York Times leak!” conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh noted at the time.

“It’s the playbook, and it is now so obvious, it’s become a joke. Every senator in that room knows exactly what’s going on here. We’re listening to closing arguments that are a coordinated, last-gasp, hail Mary for witnesses or what have you, that the New York Times found somebody to leak ’em something else from the manuscript of Bolton’s book.”

Dovetailing back to Dobbs, he shared his concerns on Twitter, as did other notable conservatives.

Look:

Why in the world would Senate Majority Leader McConnell allow this Radical Dem assault on @realDonaldTrump and the nation to run through the State of the Union and go on Wednesday when he could wrap it up tonight or at least tomorrow? #MAGA #AmericaFirst #Dobbs

— Lou Dobbs (@LouDobbs) January 31, 2020

Get the vote done Tuesday.

Exonerate the President BEFORE the State of the Union Address Tuesday so America can officially and symbolically turn the page from this duplicitous impeachment.

Tuesday night needs to be @realdonaldtrump‘s. https://t.co/koYyhxOQOv

— JD Rucker (@JDRucker) February 1, 2020

Why is McConnell pushing this now to Wednesday?

— Jeremy Frankel (@FrankelJeremy) January 31, 2020

Someone needs to ask all those ‘muh Cocaine Mitch’ people why McConnell is cutting deals with Schumer to extend the impeachment trial. Weird!

— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) January 31, 2020

Reports have emerged suggesting that “Cocaine Mitch” may have delayed the acquittal vote for his own personal benefit.

“A joint fundraising committee allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is hosting a fundraiser in the Miami area over Super Bowl weekend,” The Hill has confirmed.

“McConnell for Majority Leader, a joint fundraising committee, has scheduled a fundraiser at 4 p.m. Saturday at a ‘South Beach Miami Location Provided Upon RSVP,’ according to an invite obtained by The Hill.”

While it’s not clear whether the majority leader will attend the event, some have speculated that his scheduled presence at the event would certainly explain his inexplicable decision to delay the president’s acquittal vote.

So is this why McConnell didn’t force a vote tonight or tomorrow? Cause that would be bad https://t.co/n19AMOVDYg

— jim manley (@jamespmanley) February 1, 2020

To be fair, however, the president himself reportedly signed off on the delay.

“Before agreeing to the delay, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) phoned Trump to get the president’s approval, according to a source familiar with the conversation. Trump then signed off on the decision,” Politico reported.

It’s not clear what the strategy here is, though knowing the president, there is indeed most likely some sort of strategy at play.

Senior Staff Writer

V. Saxena is a staff writer for BizPac Review with a decade of experience as a professional writer, and a lifetime of experience as an avid news junkie. He holds a degree in computer technology from Purdue University.

Latest posts by Vivek Saxena (see all)

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Bye Bye AOC? Democrat Socialist Ocasio-Cortez Could Lose House Seat After New Census ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

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Based on the latest census projections, New York State may lose one congressional district, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fears the district that goes away will be hers.

The horror. 😉 A0C Fears Losing Seat Due to 2020 Census.

The Potential Loss of A0C’s District Highlights Why Democrats Fumed Over Trump’s Proposed 2020 Census Changes https://t.co/7xQu3sdo4K

— Junkyard Dogs (@baileyjer) January 1, 2020

Nothing is official yet. The Census Bureau will announce the final count in December 2020, and the congressional districts will be updated for the 2022 elections.

Party leadership is not happy with AOC, which is why her district is in danger.

As we reported in January of 2019, Congressional Democrats were growing sick and tired of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s antics, especially her use of Twitter to attack other Democrats and to get what she wants from the caucus.

Even some progressives who admire AOC, as she’s nicknamed, told Politico that they worry she’s not using her notoriety effectively.

“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” said one House Democrat who’s in lockstep with Ocasio Cortez’s ideology. “There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.

In  July, AOC used the race card against Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Responding to criticism from the speaker, she told WAPO:

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood. But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color,” she told The Post.

AOC appears to suggest that Pelosi is targeting her because Pelosi wants her to get death threats: “It’s singling out 4 individuals, and knowing the media environment that we’re operating in, knowing the amount of death threats that we get …. I think it’s just worth asking why” pic.twitter.com/cueiQi9XC8

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 11, 2019

When one adds the fact that in her first election she primaried and beat Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, who was seen as Nancy Pelosi’s heir apparent to the fact that she’s attacked the party leadership as much as the other party, it’s understandable why AOC fears being left without a district in 2022

There is something that may hold party leadership back from gerrymandering  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district out of existence. In 2022 Chuck Schumer will have to run for re-election. If she is left without a congressional district, AOC may attempt to primary Schumer. And who knows? Schumer is very powerful, but NY is VERY liberal, and a Democratic Socialist like AOC may be their cup of tea.

If you haven’t checked out and liked our Facebook page, please go here and do so.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @co_firing_line.  Facebook, Google and other members of the Silicon Valley Axis of Evil are now doing everything they can to deliberately stifle conservative content online, so please be sure to check out our MeWe page here, check us out at ProAmerica Only and the new social site, Hardcore Conservatives.

If you appreciate independent conservative reports like this, please go here and support us on Patreon and get your conservative pro-Trump gear here.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out our friends at Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative front-page founded by ex-military!And be sure to check out our friends at Trending Views:

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Irans Revolutionary Guard Is the Tip of Tehrans Spear

In the short run, at least, President Donald Trumps beef with Iran has more to do with its aggressive, destabilizing foreign policy in the Middle East than with its nuclear program, which, experts agree, is years away from producing even a single nuclear device.

The chief institution responsible for implementing the political warfare and military aspects of that foreign policy is the Pasdaranbetter known in the West as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The IRGC was forged on the anvil of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It has grown steadily in power and influence over the Republics turbulent 40-year history. Today the Guard is a unique, and uniquely powerful, politico-military organization within Iran. It has no exact counterpart in any Western nation.

The Pasdaran functions as both the sword and shield of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Shiite theocracy over which he presides, and it remains outside the chain of command of Irans conventional armed forces.The Supreme Leader commands the IRGC, and his imprimatur, in the eyes of the soldiers of the Guard, legitimizes every act of violence it perpetrates.

The Guards primary missions are to defend religious orthodoxy at home and to spread Irans anti-Western, pro-Islamic ideology throughout the Muslim World. The IRGCs senior leadership sees its primary enemies as the United States, Israel, and their allies in the Middle East. At home, it wages a constant struggle against secularism, liberal reformers, moral laxity, atheism, and anyone that challenges the righteous path of True Belief.

The organizations view of the world comes through very clearly in this excerpt from an early, official IRGC publication:

Imperialism and global Zionism, with the help of governments and their henchmen, are everyday involved in plots against the spread and penetration of the Islamic revolution among the hearts of the people of Iran and the world Therefore we can and must shoulder the global message of Islam. We have no recourse except the mobilization of all the faithful forces of the Islamic revolution and must, with the mobilization of forces in every region, strike fear into the hearts of our enemies so that the idea of invasion and destruction of our Islamic revolution will exit their minds. If our revolution does not have an internationalist and aggressive approach, the enemies of Islam will again enslave us culturally and politically.

The organizations extraordinary success in exporting the revolutionary ethos by any means necessary explains in large part why its the only foreign government entity labeled a terrorist organization by Washington. President Donald Trump made that determination this past April, but the IRGC has been at the epicenter of what historian David Crist calls the twilight war between America and Iran for almost 40 years.

The Corps today consists of about 125,000 men, but its influence is much greater than that number would indicate. Experts estimate the organization controls as much as one third of the Iranian economy, with an especially strong presence in construction, energy, and telecommunications. The Guard has its own television news channel. Many of the countrys leading politicians are former Guardsmen, and the organization is regularly called upon to thwart the efforts of groups like the Mujahedin-e Khalq that seek to liberalize Irans hardline political institutions and diminish the power of the Supreme Leader.

To quash dissent or mobilize Iranian society behind a particular cause or project, the IRGC leadership deploys the Basija vast paramilitary organization of some 10 million people with chapters in many schools, businesses, government offices, and mosques. The Basij is a cross between a cultural organization and a militia that provides basic religious and military instruction. Recruits are all volunteers noted for their religious zeal.

The Quds Force consists of about 5,000 men. Its a kind of hybrid of the CIAs Special Operations Group and the Green Berets.

Western powers, especially the United States, are most concerned with the activities of the Revolutionary Guards elite special forces, the Quds Force; its navy, which is a distinct from the countrys regular naval force; and its ballistic missile force, which is rapidly expanding in capability and would bear responsibility for managing nuclear weapons if Iran somehow found a way to develop them.

The Quds Force consists of about 5,000 men. Its a kind of hybrid of the CIAs Special Operations Group and the Green Berets. According to New Yorker journalistDexter Filkins, its members are "divided between combatants and those who train and oversee foreign assets." The force has branches focusing on intelligence, finance, politics, sabotage, and unconventional warfare.

From Washingtons point of view, the Quds Forces most troubling activity has been its role as a force multiplier. Quds operatives have trained, funded, and armed a vast network of proxy forces throughout the greater Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, a handful of Shiite militia groups in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Shiite military units in Saudi Arabia, to name but a few. According to Iran expert Ray Takeyh of the Rand Corporation, this proxy force network today consists of 200,000 fighters.

Irans proxies have been deployed against the United States or its allies in the Lebanese Civil War of the 80s; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the U.S.-led coalition in the civil war in Syria, and the Saudi-Houthi struggle in Yemen, among other places. Interestingly, Iranian-supported Shiite forces fought with the American coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Major General Qassem Soleimani, the charismatic commander of the Quds, is a national hero in Iran. Dexter Filkins describes him as "the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today" and the principal military strategist and tactician in Iran's effort to combat Western influence throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Many experts believe he has been one of the leading strategists for the Assad regime in the ongoing Syrian Civil War for the last several years.

The IRGCs mosquito navy of 20,000 men may be small, but it remains a significant concern for the U.S. Navy in the current crisis because of its highly developed asymmetric warfare capabilities. It has more than a thousand small attack boats, a formidable array of anti-ship missiles and naval mines, and it is highly skilled in hit-and-run and swarming tactics.

The IRGCs ballistic missile program is the most robust in the Middle East, and it continues to progress. The programs Revolutionary Guard commanders are determined to transition from liquid to solid propelled systems, which are more sustainable. They are also striving to improve accuracy, which still leaves much to be desired.

According to one of the leading experts on the Pasdaran, Afshon Ostovar, the Guard is at once a champion of Irans revolutionary ethos and a pragmatic organization with an approach to strategic affairs that comes closer to realpolitik than Islamism the organizations history is in many ways a microcosm of the Islamic Republic, from the struggle to carve and independent path to its controversial rise into a regional power.

Some knowledgeable observers of Iranian politics believe the Guard has a significant voice in the making of Irans foreign policy as well as its implementation. Given its symbiotic relationship with Khamenei, and deep roots in the countrys political life, this seems entirely plausible.

Cobbled together by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini from a wide array of Shiite militia and armed gangs during the revolution, it served as a counterforce to the regular army and police force, which were regarded as untrustworthy because of their close association with the Shah of Iran. The Guards spent most of 1980 and 1981 conducting assassinations and marginalizing non-clerical elements of the revolution, including liberals and Marxists.

Not for nothing has the Trump administration called Quds 'Irans primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorism.'

When the regular army performed lethargically in the face of Saddam Husseins invasion of Iran in 1980, the IRGC stepped into the breach, activating the Basij, and employing hundreds of thousands of partially trained warriorsincluding young teenagersin massive human wave assaults against the invaders. Often they defeated the Iraqis, but incurred horrendous casualties in the process.

After it appeared that Iran might defeat Iraq and come to dominate the region, the United States, France, and the Arab Sheikdoms threw their support behind Iraq. According to Ostovar, the Iran-Iraq War contributed significantly to the IRGCs paranoid view of the outside world. The war, of course, ended in stalemate in 1988, but not before the IRGC orchestrated a campaign to halt the flow of oil to and from Iraq through the Straits of Hormuz.

Protecting the free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf and the Straits of Hormuz has been a mission of the U.S. Navy since 1949. When an Iranian mine badly damaged the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts, a guided missile cruiser, the U.S. Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis, one of the largest naval surface actions since World War II. American ships and aircraft destroyed roughly half of Irans naval forces in one dayApril 18, 1988.

It was during the early years of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) that Revolutionary Guard covert agents cobbled together diverse Shiite militia groups in Lebanon into an umbrella organization the world soon came to know as Hezbollah. The IRGC was intimately involved in the training, funding, and arming of the Hezbollah terrorist cells that bombed the American embassy in Beirut in April 1983, and the much more costly suicide truck bombing that destroyed the barracks of a battalion of U.S. Marines in that city, killing 241 men.

After much dithering, President Ronald Reagan decided to withdraw the Marines without retaliating against Iran.

Nonetheless, IRGC-trained proxies continued to make life a misery for Americans in Beirut, capturing, torturing, and killing CIA station chief William Buckley, and partially blowing up the U.S. embassy annex on September 20, 1984, killing 24 people.

In the 90s, says Ostovar, the Guard became the standard-bearer for hardline politics in Iran, and was amply rewarded for its work with hundreds of contracts for reconstruction projects. Its network of proxies expanded. The Quds Force played a pivotal role in planning the suicide bombing of an Argentine Jewish Community Center in 1994 that killed 80, and the destruction of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, where U.S. Air Force personnel flying missions over Iraqs no-fly zones were housed. Nineteen servicemen were killed, and almost 500 civilians wounded.

The 9/11 attacks on the United States greatly enhanced the profile and standing of foreign policy neoconservatives in Washington who wanted to use American military power to reconfigure the Middle East along pro-Western, democratic lines. The abject failure of this project is due at least in part to the IRGCs dexterity in spreading its pro-clerical, anti-Western message throughout the region.

Ironically, the Bush administrations early successes in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in Afghanistan and Iraq had the effect of strengthening the IRGC at home and abroad. The GWOT seemed to confirm suspicions that the Americans were conducting covert operations inside Iran with a view to overthrowing the Ayatollahs hardline regime and replacing it with reformers receptive to democratic ideas and institutions. According to Ostovar, the GWOT not only failed to contain the IRCG, it was a boon to the organization, and both directly and indirectly encouraged its political involvement, domestic expansion, and entry into the Iraq War against the Americans and their allies.

The Quds Force in Iraq went into high gear, expanding its training, arming, and funding efforts, as well as providing strategic and operational advice to combatant groups. It did the same thing on a lesser scale in Afghanistan.The Bush administration was so concerned about Irans support for Shiite insurgents in Iraq that in 2005 in began to make detailed plans for attacking Iran directly.

According to the Trump administration, the Quds Force was directly involved in operations in Iraq that killed 600 American service members.

Today, Iran wields a great deal of political influence in Iraq through its allies, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution and the Badr Corps.Members of both groups hold important positions in the Iraqi government.

In 2012, Quds force operatives attempted to orchestrate the assassination of the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a swanky Georgetown restaurant. The plot fell apart when one of the operatives tried to hire the assassin through an intermediary who turned out to be a DEA informant. Not for nothing has the Trump administration called Quds Irans primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorism.

The current crisis between Washington and Tehran has made Gen. Soleimani even busier than usual, as his naval forces retain responsibility for defending Irans interests in the Persian Gulf, and have been directly involved in attacking tankers, shooting down a U.S. drone, and seizing the British tanker Stena Impero on July 19.

Should the United States decide on a military response, the chances are very good that American forces will be engaging the warriors of the Republican Guard.

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