Category Archives: Iran

Iranian Threat Is “Western Obsession” Noam Chomsky


Video And Transcript

Obama Escalates Israel-Palestine Conflict: More Extreme than Reagan

The majority of the states and the Arab societies don’t perceive Iran as a threat as polls show, says Chomsky. “They do perceive threats, the United States and Israel and that’s certainly one reason why the West is frightened of the prospect of democracy in the region.”

“If you have ambitions of global dominance you don’t want deterrence.” At the same time the US is blocking the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East and accelerating the armament of Israel.

Posted June 18, 2013
TRANSCRIPT
Gäste: 
Noam Chomsky: MIT Linguist, US critic and activist, author of dozens of books about US foreign policy, state based capitalism and mass media e.g. “Manufacturing Consent”, “Profit over People”, “Hegemony or Survival” and “Occupy”. Chomsky is official supporter of Kontext TV.
Transkript: 
David Goessmann: How do Israel and the confrontation with Iran fit into U.S. policy towards the Middle East and what is the current U.S. – Israeli planning in regard to Iran?
Noam Chomsky: Well, Iran is a very interesting case. Iran is regarded in the U.S. as the greatest threat to peace. If you follow the foreign policy debate from the Obama-Romney debate, the main topic discussed was Iran, actually the main topic discussed was Israel because both candidates have to explain their undying loyalty to it. But then next was Iran marginalizing everything else. At the defence secretary hearings, the Hagel hearings which you probably saw Israel and Iran were practically the only words mentioned, roughly the same story, and it was characterized as the greatest threat to world peace or at least regional peace. Which does raise some questions which are not asked here. But they are easily answered. One question is: Who thinks it is the greatest threat to peace? Well that turns out to be a Western obsession, United States and its allies. Certainly not true for the nonaligned countries, they have strongly and vigorously supported Iran’s right of enrichment of uranium. Interestingly it’s not the Arab World, not the Arab populations at least. When the Arab World is mentioned here it’s the dictators and they say, „Okay the Arab support us because the dictators support us“. And that’s an indication of the deep contempt for democracy in Western society. What about the populations? Well, we know a lot about the populations, they are regular polls, many of them run by leading Western polling organizations. So for example on the eve of the Arab Spring, right before there were polls in Egypt, Western run polls in Egypt and the results where interesting. Arabs don’t like Iran that goes way back but they don’t regard Iran as a threat, maybe 10 % regard it as a threat. They do perceive threats, the United States and Israel and that’s certainly one reason why the West is frightened of the prospect of democracy in the region. Democracy means popular opinion has some influence on policy somehow. With regard to nuclear weapons, of course they don’t want nuclear weapons in fact Egypt has been in the lead for decades in trying to press the world towards a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the region. On the other hand right before the Arab Spring actually the majority of the Egypts thought the region might be safer if Iran had nuclear weapons because of the major threats they face. They don’t want to have nuclear weapons of course. Are there other polls around the region with similar results. Not many regard Iran as a thread, they don’t like it, there is hostility but they don’t consider it a threat. And it’s also true in most of the rest of the world, it’s a Western obsession. And we might ask why? So, what’s the nature of the greatest threat? Well we have some answers to that, they come from U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon they give regular presentation to the Congress on the global security situation, quite open, they are not secret. And they say „Yes Iran is a serious threat“. Not a military threat, its military spending is low, even by the standards of the region, certainly a fraction of the United States’ or Israels’. It has a military doctrine but it’s defensive to try to hold off an invasion long enough for diplomacy to enter. They of course refer to the possible nuclear weapons program and they don’t know if Iran has one but if it does it would be part of their deterrence strategy. And that’s the primary threat. They might be a deterrent. And if you have ambitions of global dominance you don’t want deterrence. So that’s one threat. The other threat is that they are charged with what’s called destabilizing the region. It’s a technical term which means expanding their influence into neighboring countries – Iraq and Afghanistan. If we invade and destroy the countries that’s stabilization – if they expand their influence it’s destabilization. So we are not going to tolerate that. And there are some other charges. Well that’s basically the story. And then the final question is: Whatever the threat is, what can you do about it? A number of things. Actually we could follow Egypt’s lead reiterated again by the nonaligned conference about a year ago to move towards establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the region. International support for that is so strong that the U.S. has to agree formally but not now and with reservations. And that reservation is that Israel has to be excluded. Is there a way to pursue that? Yeah, definitely, for example last December there was supposed to be an international conference in Helsinki under the auspicious of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) basically the United Nations. Everyone waited to see if Iran would agree to attend and they did and within days in early November Obama had cancelled the conference. Not the right time. The European Parliament voted strongly to move quickly ahead with it and the Arab states said they would pursue it, but you can’t do anything essentially with a U.S. veto. Can we do anything about that? Like can there be protests about it? No, not a word about this has been reported in the U.S. Unless you are kind of an addict and you study arms control journals and proliferate dissent literature almost nobody knows anything about this. And so, what can be done about it? In Europe a lot could be done. Europe could follow the lead of the European Parliament for example. So yes there are things that could be done but they are going to run against obvious opposition. That gets us back to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The U.S. not only support Israel’s policies but is expanding its support for them. There are the whole budget problems and the U.S. is increasing the military aid for Israel which is already in the stratosphere and in fact providing them with material which could be used for an attack on Iran. They are not providing Israel yet with deep penetration bombs so called bunker buster bombs. They go deep into the earth. They haven’t done that yet. But the latest agreement just a couple of days ago provided more refuelling options which is of course crucial for bombing Iran and also missiles to destroy anti aircraft systems again crucial for that. So you have two countries which are violating the UN Charta every day – that’s what it means to say all options are open. The UN Charta rejects the thread or use of force in international affairs. But the West is immune from international law. It’s just too powerful. So no talks about this. But of course Iranians can hear it. Well, there’s a game going on, it’s not – I don’t think Israel really wants to bomb Iran, it wants the U.S. to do it. But they are threatening to bomb Iran in an efforts to induce the U.S. to take harsher measures in order to restrain them. You know you have to keep this dog on a tight leash. Actually if the U.S. doesn’t want Israel to do something they just order it. So that’s the end of that story. So we really don’t know what will happen but it’s threatening. Meanwhile there are very harsh sanctions which hit the population as usual but don’t affect the regime. In fact they will probably undermine popular resistance to the regime exactly as happened in Iraq. Not the opposition which is there but the possibilities to organize diminish. Recent reports from people who have come from Teheran report that regularly. So that’s where the situation stands now. What about Israel – Palestine itself? Well the U.S. have made it clear that they have explicit and strong preconditions, it’s calling for negotiations but with extreme preconditions. They are not called preconditions in the West because what we do is just for the common good. But if you take a look the Obama administration is not only calling for preconditions but is extending them. The primary precondition is: no talk about settlement expansion. Well that’s the crucial issue, the basic issue are the settlements. According to international opinion and international law, the Security Council, the International Court of Justice all these settlements are illegal. It’s not a question of expansion, these settlements are illegal. That was also the U.S. position up until Reagan. Reagan changed it from illegal to an “obstacle to peace”. Obama in his latest visits a couple of weeks ago weakened it still further to “not useful for peace”. Well that’s talking about expansion not settlements. That’s a precondition that makes negotiations almost impossible. The other major precondition is that the U.S. have to run them. That makes about as much sense as Iran running negotiations between Shiites and Sunnites in Iraq let’s say. If there were serious negotiations they were run by some international entity, maybe a state which has a certain degree of credibility and actually is neutral like say maybe Brazil, then we could have negotiations. But of course that’s out of the question. The U.S. have to run them and under the U.S. preconditions. And that leaves only few options really. The realistic options are either that the U.S. would move towards some sort of two state settlement in accordance with international opinion, has not done so, but it’s conceivable. The other possibility is that the U.S. and Israel will simply persist in their policies that they are now pursuing. Discussion about this option tends to be pretty misleading. The way it’s usually discussed on all sides is that Israel is facing a hazard which is called a demographic problem. If it doesn’t accept the two state settlement it will become a minority in its own territory and can’t have a Jewish state. But that’s not even an option! If you take a look at U.S. – Israeli policies they are designed to exclude that threat. Gaza of course is under siege and separated from the West Bank, in violation of the Oslo agreements. And for the West Bank Israel with U.S. backing is carefully taking over pretty much what it wants, roughly maybe half the territory, crucial territory like the Jordan valley which imprisons what’s left. Lots of Palestinians are being kicked out, settlers moving in. Hugely expanded region around Jerusalem, it cuts deeply into the West Bank. Corridorts cut the rest of Palestine into cantons. Israel takes essentially whatever is valuable to it. The policies have been pursued since 1967 in one form or another, taking over maybe amounting to 40 – 50 % of the territory. There are very few Arabs. The Arabs are either being eliminated, moved or there aren’t many. So that will be incorporated in some fashion into Israel of course including what’s behind the separation wall from which is basically Arabs excluded – so no demographic problem, no civil rights struggle, no anti-apartheid struggle. Those are the two options.
Fabian Scheidler: That was Kontext TV. Thanks for listening and watching. Fabian Scheidler and David Goeßmann say Goodby.

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Hagel to Israel: Military Option Will be Considered After Iranian Elections

U.S. officials show Israeli counterparts video trial of ‘bunker buster’ bomb that could be used to destroy Iran’s Fordow nuclear installation, Wall Street Journal reports.
By Barak Ravid
May 04, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Haaretz” – U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reportedly told his Israeli counterparts that the Obama administration would examine military options against Iran more closely following the Islamic Republic’s upcoming elections, and their possible ramifications on the country’s nuclear program.
According to a report Friday in the Wall Street Journal, Hagel, together with other senior American officials, reached an understanding with Israel during the defense secretary’s recent visit to Israel. Apparently, the two countries would conduct a joint situation assessment following the elections, and that if diplomatic channels are ruled out, efforts will be shifted to a more detailed discussion of military options.
The report also stated that the United States has redesigned its “bunker buster” bomb, that should be able to penetrate the underground nuclear enrichment facilities at Iran’s Fordow plant.
According to the Wall Street Journal, senior American officials showed Israeli military and civilian leaders several times in recent weeks an Air Force video showing a test of an earlier version of the bomb, in an attempt to convince Israel to hold off on a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear installations.
In the video, a bunker-buster is seen penetrating the ground within inches of its target, followed by a large underground detonation, people who had seen the footage told the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal described the newest version of the U.S. largest conventional bomb as the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, which has adjusted fuses to maximize its burrowing power, upgraded guidance systems to improve its precision and high-tech equipment for evading Iranian air defenses.
The Pentagon invested more than $400 million in developing the upgraded MOB, produced by the American company Boeing, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, the report also stated that the upgraded MOP has yet to be dropped from a plane.
U.S. officials were described by the report as viewing the development of the weapon a crucial element in convincing Israel that the United States has the ability to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb if diplomatic efforts fail and if the Israel Air Force lacks the capabilities to carry out the mission by itself.
“Hopefully we never have to use it,” a senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal, “But if we had to, it would work.”
See also
US bulks up ‘bunker buster’ : US officials told Israel that the United States has new weapons capable of destroying Iran’s underground nuclear site in Fordo, an American daily reported.

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US Gives Green Light For Israeli Attack On Iran

Israeli Strike Capability Just Got Real
By Marc Goldberg
April 22, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Times Of Israel” – The importance of the new arms deal between Israel and the United States cannot be overstated.
The arrival of an as yet undisclosed number of KC-135 aerial refuelling aircraft will give the Israeli Air Force (IAF) the range to attack any target in Iran that it deems necessary in order to suppress the Iranian nuclear program.
This is quite simply a game changer.
Up until now just about every expert and pundit, not to mention former chief of staff of the IDF has known that Israel simply couldn’t launch an attack against Iran on it’s own and that all talk to the contrary was more bluster than threat. That is no longer the case or rather it will no longer be the case once the tankers arrive and our pilots have been trained in their use.
Many of the challenges of attacking Iran remain, but distance is no longer one of them. The aerial refueling capability means that from now on when the Prime Minister of Israel talks about attacking Iran he needs to be taken seriously. 
In absolute terms the tankers on their own ensure that the IAF can reach every target in Iran that they need to, everything is in range. What they don’t do is increase the destructive power of the ordnance that their F-15s and F-16s can carry. Any strike that would be launched is likely to be launched at targets that were built with defense in mind. Essentially meaning that a large part of them is underground.
Although the much vaunted BLU-109 bunker buster bombs are on their way into the inventory of the IAF they are able to penetrate six feet of reinforced concrete whereas, for example, the Natanz nuclear plant is built under 22 meters of dirt as well as eight meters of reinforced concrete and in a facility that is about 100,000 square meters in size. Now multiply those problems by at least another 20 facilities that need to be attacked, probably more and the scale of the challenge still involved in destroying the Iranian program becomes clear.
These challenges are not insurmountable but it does mean that no attack on Iran can take place without Israeli boots on the ground, that fact is so important that I’m going to say it again;
No attack on Iran can take place without Israeli boots on the ground!
What’s really interesting is that the announcement of the imminent arrival of the V-22 Osprey into the inventory of the IAF came almost as an aside to the news of the KC-135s. These aircraft are a feat of design that compares with no other. They look like a regular propeller aircraft albeit with unusually large props on each wing. The wings can then be tilted 90 degrees while the plane is in the air giving it all of the hover capability of a helicopter. It has already performed exceptionally well in combat zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. It is perfect for the deployment of Special Operations Forces.
CV-22 Osprey flying over New Mexico (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Markus Maier)

CV-22 Osprey flying over New Mexico
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Markus Maier)

With the Osprey the IDF will gain the capability to transport troops and their equipment to the target zone in sufficient numbers not merely to conduct the reconnaissance that they are already carrying out but to launch direct action attacks.
Although it’s unlikely that the IDF has the power to stop the Iranian nuclear programme dead in its tracks, it does have the power to set it back a long way. 
Tehran, are you listening?

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Iran Nuke Talks: the Real Stakes

By Scott McConnell
April 11, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“American Conservative” – The so called P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran are apparently going nowhere. One can find small signs of optimism: there was, for instance, some serious give and take at the last session between negotiators. But right now what the West is offering—limited sanctions relief in return for Iran dismantling its major hard-to-destroy reactor—hasn’t impressed the current batch of Iranian negotiators. As I read the accounts—which are highly technical for non-experts—it appears that the Iranians believe that if they’re going to accept limits and more intrusive inspections on their program, they want full sanctions relief, an end to all “regime change” talk and actions, and formal recognition of their right to enrich uranium. Right now the U.S. is offering limited sanctions relief and little else. The sides are far apart.
What seems obvious is why Iran would feel it would want a nuclear deterrent. It is surrounded by other nuclear powers, and has seen Iraq—which lacked a nuclear program—invaded on the basis of a packet of lies and its government destroyed. It has seen the West act like the most prudent of realists when dealing with a nuclear North Korea, which behaves like a crazy and aggressive state in ways Iran does not. It has observed the world’s passivity as Israel built up a massive nuclear arsenal, and its silence while Israel shared its nuclear expertise with apartheid South Africa, then considered a rogue state. It would be hard to imagine that Iranians—who began their nuclear pursuit under the Shah—would hear Western proclamations about the sanctity of nuclear non-proliferation as anything but rank hypocrisy.
The real reasons for the obsession with Iran’s nuclear program are not vocalized, and perhaps—resting as they do under layers of self-deception and sublimated power drives—are not even fully comprehended this country’s leaders. Wiliam Pfaff makes the point here:
Wars of defense more often than not are motivated by illusion or fantasies that disguise real or sublimated aggression. Many wars are the product of entangled motives that include such aggressive ambitions and fears — often unwarranted, but deliberately exaggerated for aggressive reasons and propaganda.
The United States provides one convenient, indeed irresistible, current case of self-deception. The war being promoted in the United States against Iran is (or would be) a war of aggression disguised by — but also to — the leaders themselves, as a preventive war necessitated by threat, as if an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons would perform so suicidal an act as to attack the United States, or more to the point, Israel.
The real motive for Israel to attack Iran would be to destroy a medium-sized hostile power, not because Iran is a nuclear threat, but because, even without nuclear armaments, Iran by its size, history, resources and economic potential, is a serious competitor to Israel in a region that is itself hostile to Israel and the United States.
One cannot say inherently hostile, since Jews since the eighth century lived on reasonably peaceful terms in Islamic-ruled societies, ended only in the twentieth century with the partition of Palestine. In fact Jews and Arabs both lived more peacefully with one another in the Maghreb and Middle East than either did in the past with Christian Europe. So a preventive destruction, or crippling, of modern Iran may seem merely a brutal but useful precaution to Jerusalem (or Washington), but in the long run could have enduring historical consequences.
The United States would in such a case not simply be acting in response to the political stranglehold Israel now enjoys over the majority of members of the American House of Representatives and much of the Senate, or because of the American formal alliance with Israel. It would be going to war with Iran to serve one of its permanent if unacknowledged foreign policy objectives, the preservation of as much as possible of its surviving quasi-monopoly of global nuclear military power.
“Permanent if unacknowledged foreign policy objectives”—the maintenance of a quasi-monopoly of atomic weapons. For Israel, the maintenance of monopoly is also unstated, and the position actually more extreme, unique in fact among the countries of the world. Israel demands the right to sole possession of nuclear weapons in its region, and at regular intervals attacks its neighbors to assert its monopoly aspirations. More surprising still is that Israel has managed to persuade the United States to accept, indeed embrace, its doctrine without so much as a whisper of debate—surprising since it requires the United States to imperil its own economy fighting wars to enforce it.
One can’t effectively predict the future, but some things are virtually certain. One is that Israel will not always and forever be the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Another is that if the United States, in another violent effort to maintain Israel’s monopoly, lays waste to Iran with bombers, there will be negative consequences in the long run which none of today’s war planners will imagine. They may be as unpredictable as the constellation of events that followed Germany’s “logical” and “defensive” and ultimately self-defeating efforts to secure its own strategic position in 1914. (Pfaff elaborates on the Wilhelmine Germany analogyhere.)
Scott McConnell is a founding editor of TAC.

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Podcast Discussion With Two of America’s Leading Iran Experts: The Leveretts

Two former officials of the US National Security State become the most vocal critics of US policy toward Tehran

By Glenn Greenwald

Both because of their expertise and their long immersion in these issues, they (and their data-filled book) deserve a prominent voice in all serious debates about Iran. They are very worth listening to. The 30-minute podcast can be heard on the player below (or at this link):
Click play to listen
 
 
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett are two of the nation’s preeminent experts on all matters relating to Iran. They have also become the nation’s most unlikely yet compelling critics of US policy toward Tehran and particularly the misconceptions shaping political and media discourse in the west. What’s most amazing is that they come directly from the belly of the National Security State beast: they both were Middle East officials in the National Security Council and State Department during the Bush years, while he also worked as a CIA analyst and she for the US mission to the UN and as one of the few diplomats to directly negotiate with Tehran in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. With their top secret security clearances, they both had front-row seats to the run-up to the Iraq war from inside the US government.
They have now published an extraordinary new book entitled Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran. No matter your views, it’s impossible to meaningfully participate in debates over these issues without understanding the facts they have assembled and perspectives they advocate. Exactly as happened with Iraq, there is a whole slew of highly dubious assumptions and narratives about Iran and the US’s relationship to it that are rarely challenged in any meaningful way in standard media circles. The Leveretts and “Going to Tehran” are vital to thinking critically about these claims.
I spoke with them for 30 minutes about Iran, their new book, and the criticisms to which they have been subjected, and that discussion can be heard below. They identify the most significant misconceptions about Iran that prevail in the west, analyze the inflammatory policies toward Iran from the Obama administration (and its true motives in the region), and discuss the lessons they learned from the Iraq war and how they apply to Iran. Hillary also recounts the key role played by Bill Clinton in bolstering the resolve of Condoleezza Rice, her then-boss, to wage war on Iraq. Just as happened in the run-up to the Iraq war – when even the most informed experts on that country were marginalized if they opposed the prevailing Beltway assumptions – the Leveretts, as they detail here, are now experiencing a similar marginalization process (I erroneously said in the introduction that Flynt is with the New American Foundation: he no longer is, but is instead now a professor at Pennsylvania State University’s School of International Affairs).

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International talks on Iran’s nuclear program fail

By Peter Symonds 
8 April 2013
International talks in Kazakhstan between Iran and the P5+1 group (the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany) broke up on Saturday with no agreement and no immediate proposal for further negotiations. The failure of the talks heightens the danger of rising tensions, further sanctions and US-led military attacks on Iran.
The negotiators attempted to put a positive spin on the outcome. European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton declared that there had been “a real back and forth” in the talks and said she would speak to Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalali “in order to see how to go forward”. But she acknowledged that, after two days of discussion, the sides “remain far apart on substance”.
An unnamed US official told the New York Times: “There may not have been a breakthrough, but there also was not a breakdown.” However, he warned: “International pressure continues and will only increase if Iran is not responsive.” In a similar vein, British Foreign Secretary William Hague threatened Iran with “increasing pressure and isolation from the international community”.
The collapse of talks was no surprise. The US and its allies made only minor modifications to a proposal made during a similar round of failed talks last year. Washington’s “offer” is in reality an ultimatum to Tehran to halt its production of enriched uranium to the 20-percent level, shut down its Fordow enrichment plant and ship its stockpile out of the country.
The modifications would allow Iran to suspend, rather than shut down, operations at Fordow, and retain a small proportion of 20-percent enriched uranium to fuel a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes. These “confidence building” steps are just the first, as Washington is demanding that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, including to provide fuel for its power reactor.
The Iranian regime, which has repeatedly rejected allegations that it is seeking to build nuclear weapons, has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and its nuclear facilities are subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections. Iranian negotiators reportedly insisted that the P5+1 spell out its plans, saying “unless we know the destination, we’re not going to take the first step.”
Over the past four years, the Obama administration has imposed crippling economic sanctions, both through the UN Security Council and unilaterally. By threatening to penalise purchasers, including China and India, the US restricted Iran’s ability to sell its oil, resulting in a drop of about 40 percent in exports and hitting its economy hard. The official inflation rate is continuing to rise, reaching an annualised 31.5 percent in March. Actual price increases, including for food staples, are far higher.
The British-based Guardian reported last month that Iranian doctors are facing serious shortages of essential medicines, including anaesthetics, as a result of international sanctions. Kheirollah Gholami, a pharmacist from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, told the newspaper: “If these drugs are not supplied, our operating theatres will have to close … If you don’t have anaesthetics, patients in need of operations may simply die.”
If Iran winds back its uranium enrichment program, the P5+1 is offering little in return: a promise of no additional penalties, permission to trade in gold and other precious metals, and an easing of sanctions on the petrochemical industry. All the major penalties, including on the oil exports on which the economy depends, are to remain in place. Not surprisingly, Iran is demanding greater concessions.
In the wake of the talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry again warned Iran that negotiations were not “interminable”. Speaking in Istanbul at the start of a Middle Eastern trip, Kerry said: “This is not an endless process. You can’t just talk for the sake of talking.”
Kerry’s comments constitute another threat that the US is not only prepared to impose even harsher sanctions, but to launch a pre-emptive war against Iran. Obama declared again in Israel last month that all options, including military force, were on the table. His administration has built up military forces in the Persian Gulf, as well as consolidated alliances with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, in preparation for such a war.
Washington’s main aim is not the elimination of Iran’s nuclear programs, but the establishment of a regime in Tehran in line with US economic and strategic interests. As well as having its own huge reserves of oil and gas, Iran is strategically located between the energy-rich regions of Central Asia and the Middle East, and is thus central to US imperialism’s ambition to dominate the region.
Obama is also seeking to reassure Israel, America’s key ally in the Middle East, that it will retain its present regional monopoly on nuclear weapons. Last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also has repeatedly threatened military action against Iran, claimed that Iran would have all but completed the necessary steps to build a nuclear weapon by the middle of this year. He provided no evidence for his assertion, but his comments indicated the “red line” his government had set.
Over the weekend, Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz reinforced the threat, declaring: “The time has come for the world to make a more assertive stand and make it unequivocally clear to the Iranians that the negotiation games have run their course.” He called for international powers, especially the US and its European allies, to issue “a meaningful and concrete threat that also includes a brief, clear and definitive timetable.”
Speaking on Army Radio yesterday, Steinitz was even more explicit, calling for “a military threat, a form of red line or unequivocal ultimatum,” with a deadline of a “few weeks, [or] a month” for Tehran to shut down its nuclear programs. Israel’s continued demands on the Obama administration only add to the pressure for the US to attack Iran, sooner rather than later.

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Obama’s Choice: Real Diplomacy With Iran — or War

By Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett
March 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Huffington Post” – Contrary to conventional wishful thinking in American policy circles, developments in the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 and the Iran-related messages coming out of President Obama’s trip to Israel strongly suggest that the risk of a U.S.-initiated military confrontation with Tehran during Obama’s second term are rising, not falling. This is because Obama’s administration has made an ill-considered wager that it can “diplomatically” coerce Iran’s abandonment of indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capabilities. This is dangerous. For it will become clear over the next year or so — the timeframe Obama himself has set before he would consider Iran able to build nuclear weapons — that the bet has failed. If the administration does not change course and accept Iran’s strategic independence and rising regional influence — including accepting the principle and reality of internationally-safeguarded uranium enrichment in Iran, it will eventually be left with no fallback from which to resist pressure from Israel and its friends in Washington for military strikes at least against Iranian nuclear facilities.
The just concluded technical discussions in Istanbul between Iran and the P5+1 should dispel triumphalist optimism about the prospects for progress in nuclear diplomacy with Tehran. After higher-level political talks in Kazakhstan last month, some prominent Iran expertsdeclared that U.S.-instigated sanctions had gotten the Iranians back to the table, perhaps ready to make a deal along lines dictated by the Obama administration.
But a sober reading of the Istanbul meeting says otherwise: Iran has not been “softened up” by sanctions. (Based on our observations in Iran, only those who haven’t been there recently could possibly think that sanctions are “working” to bring Iran’s population to its knees and change official decision-making.) Tehran’s conditions for a long-term deal remain fundamentally what they have been for years — above all, U.S. acceptance of Iran’s revolution and its independence, including its right to enrich under international safeguards. Just as importantly, the Obama administration is no more prepared than prior administrations to accept the Islamic Republic and put forward a proposal that might actually interest Tehran. And Obama’s ability to modify sanctions in the course of negotiations — or lift them as part of a deal — is tightly circumscribed by laws that he himself signed, belying the argument that sanctions are somehow a constructive diplomatic tool.
In Istanbul, U.S. officials provided more details about the proposal advanced by the P5+1 in Almaty (itself a slightly modified version of a proposal initially tabled last May). And their Iranian counterparts had essentially the same negative reaction as before. The proposal calls on Iran to stop enriching uranium at the 20-percent level needed to fuel an internationally safeguarded research reactor in Tehran that makes medical isotopes, to ship abroad most of the 20-percent enriched uranium it has already produced, and, in effect, to shut down the new enrichment site at Fordo it has built inside a mountain to protect it from being bombed. In return, Iran would receive only marginal sanctions relief: Washington would waive, for six months, the imposition of recently legislated measures threatening to sanction third countries that supply gold or other precious metals to the Islamic Republic.
In Istanbul, Iranian representatives rejected the American terms as lacking in “balance between what they are asking and what they are offering.” U.S. negotiators told the Iranians that, after six months, Washington might be willing to temporarily waive more consequential banking and financial sanctions — but that it would then also demand “more significant steps” from Tehran. In Istanbul, the U.S. side declined to say what those might be. Privately, though, Obama administration officials say that their goal remains a complete halt to Iranian enrichment.
This is a recipe for diplomatic failure and, before the end of Obama’s presidency, strategic catastrophe. The United States is reachingthe end of its ability to threaten ever more severe sanctions against third countries doing business with Iran — but rarely implement such “secondary” sanctions — without eroding the deterrent effect of the threat. At the same time, America cannot actually impose secondary sanctions on major international players like China without risking serious diplomatic, economic, and legal blowback.
Moreover, Tehran will continue developing its indigenous nuclear capabilities. Iran is now enriching at the 3-4 percent level needed to fuel power reactors and at the 20-percent level needed to fuel its research reactor. It will continue to expand and update its centrifuge infrastructure, and could easily begin enriching at higher levels — for maritime reactors, in connection with its space program, of for other legitimate purposes. All will be done under International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring, and the Agency will continue to report that Iran is not diverting nuclear material from its declared nuclear facilities. But this will do nothing to alleviate Israeli concern that a nuclear-capable Iran is an unacceptable challenge to Israel’s freedom of unilateral military initiative — or Israeli pressure on the Obama administration to degrade Iran’s nuclear capabilities through war.
Under these circumstances, Obama will face a choice as fateful as it is unpalatable. He could, in effect, admit that the United States no longer has the wherewithal to dictate strategic outcomes in the Middle East. This is reality, but a reality that any American president would be loath to affirm so openly. Or, to avoid acknowledging this reality, he could launch another war to disarm yet another Middle Eastern state of weapons of mass destruction it does not have — not to remove a chimerical “existential threat” to Israel, but to protect Israel’s military dominance over its own neighborhood. This would prove disastrous for America’s strategic position, in the Middle East and globally.
The only way out of this self-generated dilemma is serious diplomacy, that treats Iranian interests in a serious way. But this would require the Obama administration to do something that not even a re-elected President Obama has shown a willingness to do — to accept the Islamic Republic of Iran as an enduring political entity representing legitimate national interests, and to come to terms with it as an unavoidably important player in the Middle East.
Flynt Leverett is professor of international affairs at Penn State. Hillary Mann Leverett is senior professorial lecturer at American University. Together, they write the Race for Iran blog.
A Response
Obama won’t decide on Iran’s nuclear program
By Iran Affairs
March 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Iran Affairs” -The Leveretts have an article at HuffPo entitled “Obama’s Choice: Real Diplomacy With Iran — or War” wherein they say,
Tehran’s conditions for a long-term deal remain fundamentally what they have been for years — above all, U.S. acceptance of Iran’s revolution and its independence, including its right to enrich under international safeguards. Just as importantly, the Obama administration is no more prepared than prior administrations to accept the Islamic Republic and put forward a proposal that might actually interest Tehran. And Obama’s ability to modify sanctions in the course of negotiations — or lift them as part of a deal — is tightly circumscribed by laws that he himself signed, belying the argument that sanctions are somehow a constructive diplomatic tool.
Frankly, I don’t see the point. By now it is obvious that Obama does not have the balls to take on AIPAC, and yet the US is in no position to start another war either … So Obama will most likely make all the right noises to keep the Israelis satisfied and yet will kick the ball down the road.
Like I keep saying, if you’re expecting these talks to ever pan out, you’re betting on the wrong horse. The Israeli influence over US foreign policy has not disappeared by magic — it is still there, and any US-Iran rapprochement is anathema for them. With Syria wobbling, the US and Israel are not interested in making any deals because their hand could be stronger later if Assad falls. But this assumes that the US is actually interested in making a deal in the first place, rather than dragging out this standoff until there is an opportunity to impose regime-change in Iran (which is and will always be the “best scenario” goal of the US and Israel.) The history of this standoff has shown that’s the case: the US has repeatedly batted away opportunities to resolve this standoff peacefully whilst also addressing any actual proliferation threats, and instead has repeatedly deliberately imposed conditions on the talks that were intended to kill any chance for compromise. And in addition, we all know that Obama is simply not capable of making any sort of deal with Iran even if he wanted to anyway, since the removal of sanctions would be the minimum quid-pro-quo demand by Iran, and US sanctions are mostly imposed by the pro-Israeli Congress not the US President. (That fact could not have been made more apparently by the treatment meted out to Hagel in his disgusting nomination process as Obama’s Sec of Def.)
In any case I was reminded of an Dec 2006 interview with Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif published in the National Interest Online site, when he predicted that the sanctions won’t have any effect except to act as an obstacle to reaching one of the many compromise solutions offered by Iran and others which would have addressed any real weapons proliferation threats, but certainly they won’t prevent Iran from continuing her perfectly legal nuclear program. Amb Zarif pointed out even back then that in fact the sanctions policy seems more intended to prevent any sort of resolution rather than solving the standoff:
The Security Council sanctions will not be able to stop the Iranian program [and] the sanctions that are requested will not satisfy proliferation concerns. Proliferation concerns—if there are any real, sincere proliferation concerns—can be addressed through mechanisms that would bring about transparency, international monitoring and other possibilities that would provide the assurance that Iran’s program will always remain peaceful. The Security Council can impose sanctions but that does not provide that assurance.
Because Iran has been denied technology over the last 27 years and this resolution only officiates what has been the policy and practice, Iran has had to be discrete in its acquisitions of peaceful nuclear technology to the point that today Iran’s nuclear program has been localized. Every element of that program is produced locally and our own scientists have developed the scientific know-how in order to be able to sustain the program without any external support.
That was not always the case. Our desire was to have international cooperation in order to have access to technology. But the option that was provided to Iran throughout the past 27 years—and now more officially in this resolution—is to either accept being deprived of this technology—which is assuming greater and greater significance—or to try to develop it based on our own. Between these two options, we certainly choose the latter.
If the option were to be provided to Iran to develop this technology through cooperation, that is what we have suggested: an international consortium. Other countries, including Western countries, could own jointly with Iran the facilities, and also jointly operate them. That would give the greatest assurance that these programs are not diverted into any illicit activities.

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Real liars go to Tehran

By Pepe Escobar 
March 23, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Asia Times” – Uncle Marx never thought about this one: history repeating itself as double tragedy after already being a farce in the first place. Let’s examine the case in hand. First of all, take a close look at this Wall Street Journal op-ed from September 2002, in the hysterical run-up towards the invasion of Iraq. 
Title: The Case for Toppling Saddam. Author: Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu – then out of the Israeli government. 
It’s all here: a “dictator who is rapidly expanding his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons” and “who is feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons”; the Saddam equals Hitler parallel; the portrayal of (de facto nuclear power) Israel as helpless victims of Palestinian “terror”; the claim that Saddam could produce nuclear fuel “in centrifuges the size of washing machines that can be hidden throughout the country – and Iraq is a very big country”; the cheerleading of a unilateral pre-emptive strike; and the inevitable conclusion that “nothing less than dismantling his regime will do”. 
Fast-forward over 10 years to this week in Israel. The scene: press conference of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and visiting US President Barack Obama. Anyone watching it live on al-Jazeera, from the Middle East to East Asia, must have thought they were watching a geopolitical Back to the Future – and frankly, Michael J Fox at least oozed charm. 
No charm here; this was more like an eerie, suit-and-tie Return of the Living Dead. Bibi and Obama were at pains to stress the US-Israel bond was “eternal”. Actually Bibi preferred to stress that Iran’s (non-existent) nuclear weapons posed an existential threat to Israel. He repeated, over and over again, that Obama was adamant; Israel was entitled to do anything to defend itself, and its security would not be anyone’s responsibility, even Washington’s. 
Obama, for his part, once again stressed that Washington’s official policy towards Iran was not containment – but to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He stressed the “window of opportunity” was getting narrower; and, of course, that all options were on the table. 
The thought that the president of the United States (POTUS) willfully ignores the verdict of his own alphabet soup of intel agencies on Iran might raise eyebrows in a rational world. But this is not reality; more like a trashy reality show. 
Dream, dream, wet settler dream
The powers that be in Israel – neocon-infested US corporate media avalanche of denials notwithstanding – were absolutely essential in the whole Iraq War cheerleading operation; Ariel Sharon, at the time, boasted that the strategic coordination between Israel and the US had reached “unprecedented dimensions”. 
Bibi was just a cog in the wheel then – as Jim Lobe details here – quoting Bibi’s pearls of wisdom dispensed to a misinformed-to-oblivion US Congress in 2002. 
Every usual “Israeli official” suspect at the time was breathlessly spinning that Saddam was only months away from a nuclear weapon. The bulk of WMD “intelligence” presented to Congress and faithfully parroted by corporate media was filtered if not entirely fabricated by Israeli intelligence – something duly detailed, among others, by Shlomo Brom in his study An Intelligence Failure, published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies of Tel Aviv University in November 2003. 
Of course it didn’t matter that UN inspectors found no nuclear weapon program evidence on site. Of course it didn’t matter that Saddam son-in-law Hussein Kamel, who had defected to Jordan in 1995, had told UN inspectors in detail there had been no WMDs whatsoever since 1991. 
Now it’s double tragedy, and double farce, all over again. Yet even Nepalis building glitzy towers in Dubai know that the ”Bomb Iran” hysteria is Tel Aviv’s tactic to change the subject from the relentless land confiscation/ethnic cleansing in slow motion in Palestine and consequently the de facto total impossibility of a two-state solution. 
Here, Jonathan Cook succinctly details the frankly scary political configuration in Israel after the recent elections. The Israeli website Ynet has reported that Israeli settlers can’t stop hailing their brand new “wet dream” cabinet. Translation: the ultimate nail in the coffin of the already dead and buried “peace process”. 
So here’s a modern geopolitical parable that would puzzle Aesop. Bibi publicly insults POTUS. He unabashedly supports Mitt Romney (who?) in the US presidential elections. He hits the “peace process” with a barrage of Hellfire “facts on the ground” (with loads of Palestine “collateral damage”). He sticks to his one and only message; Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran. And then POTUS, in theory the mighty Double O Bama with a license to kill (list) but actually behaving like an accidental tourist, lands in Israel with his kill list between his legs, to bask in Bibi’s glory. 
No wonder the rabid American neo-con/Israeli firster/Bomb Iran crowd is gloating. Over 10 years ago their mantra was “Real Men go to Tehran”. The question now is whether POTUS will be able to grow a set of proper cojones and stare them down. 
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 
He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com. 
(Copyright 2013 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd.

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Iran Will Raze Tel Aviv To Ground If Israel Attacks: Ayatollah Khamenei

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei says Iran will raze Tel Aviv to the ground if Israel launches a military strike against the Islamic Republic.
By Press TV
March 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“Press TV” – “Israel’s leaders sometimes threaten Iran, but they know that if they do a damn thing, the Islamic Republic will raze Tel Aviv and [the occupied city of] Haifa to the ground,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on Thursday in an address to large crowds of people in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad on the occasion of Nowruz (Iranian new year).
The Leader pointed out that the enemy seeks to create hurdles through sanctions and threats and downplay Iran’s achievements through propaganda, as its two major strategies against the Iranian nation.
“The center of conspiracy and the basis of hostility with the Iranian nation is the US government,” Ayatollah Khamenei noted.
The Leader pointed to the effects of the West’s embargoes against Iran over its nuclear energy program, saying, “Besides the negative effects of the sanctions, a highly positive impact also took place and the huge potential of the Iranian nation was activated and the talents of the youths of our country flourished.”
“Thanks to the sanctions, the Iranian nation embarked on enormous activities and massive infrastructural works were done in the year 1391 [Persian calendar year].”
The Leader alluded to the repeated offers of direct talks with the Islamic Republic by the United States and said, “Through different ways and messages, the Americans try to negotiate with us on the nuclear issue, but I am not optimistic about these talks.”
“I am not opposed to talks with regard to the nuclear issue, but certain issues must be clarified,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The Leader pointed to the US claim that they intend to be honest in their talks with Iran and noted, “We have repeatedly asserted that we do not seek nuclear weapons but you do not believe this honest word; why should we accept your word?”
“Negotiation is an American tactic for deceiving the public opinion and if it is otherwise the Americans should prove it,” the Leader said.
Touching on Iran’s comprehensive negotiations with the P5+1 (permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), Ayatollah Khamenei said that Washington does not want the talks to come to a conclusion, adding, “With regard to the nuclear issue, Iran only wants the recognition of its rights to enrichment.”
The Leader noted that the US seeks to prolong the course of the negotiations in an attempt to “paralyze” the Iranian nation and said, “Iran will never be crippled and if the Americans want the issue to be over, there is one simple solution which is the US should put aside its enmity with the Iranian nation.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to Iran’s 11th presidential election in June and called for a high turnout in the poll in a bid to disappoint the enemies and ensure national security.
The Leader underscored the importance of participation of various political spectrums in the election and noted, “All the [political] views and factions that believe in the Islamic Republic should participate; this is both a right and obligation, as election in the Islamic Republic is not for a specific political view and faction.”

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Poll: Americans Prepared for Military Action Against Iran

The Power Of Propaganda
By Nathaniel Botwinick

March 20, 2013 “Information Clearing House –NR” — According to a new Pew poll, 64 percent of Americans believe that it’s “more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons than to avoid a military conflict.” They point out that “majorities across nearly all demographic groups” agree — 80 percent of Republicans prioritized preventing a nuclear Iran over avoiding military conflict, but a majority of Democrats, 62 percent, did too. As President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu meet in Israel today to discuss the Iran question, among other issues, it appears the American public is ready to support the president if he decides a military intervention against Iran is necessary.

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Same Old Stuff from AIPAC

“The Iran Nuclear Prevention Act”
By Philip Giraldi
March 16, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “Antiwar” – The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has just completed its annual gala in Washington. A reported thirteen thousand AIPAC supporters reportedly cheered the latest efforts to make Israel America’s most favored nation. A small group of demonstrators was generally ignored though Scott McConnell reports that some protesters were spat upon by those filing in to celebrate Israel. It must be a habit they picked up in Jerusalem where spitting on Christian clergymen is considered de rigueur.
There has been considerable speculation that AIPAC’s power to corrupt and misdirect the American political system might be waning, that the struggle over the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense revealed all the ugliness of the Israel Lobby. I have never quite bought into that argument even though it is true that the attempt to derail the nomination of a qualified former senator demonstrated clearly that U.S. foreign and defense policies are being judged by many in the media and the punditry as well as, to our shame, in congress solely in terms of how they impact on Israel. It seemed to me that the Israel Lobby is too firmly ensconced in the places that matter to be vulnerable to thirty days of scrutiny. The American public has already forgotten about Hagel, if it was ever interested at all, and there is no sign that any of the demagogic senators – Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, James Imhofe, John McCain, and Marco Rubio among others – will in any way pay a political price for their placing Israel first. Indeed, many of their evangelical constituents will inevitably applaud what they have done.
It has also been noted that the recently concluded AIPAC gathering was the first in many years where a sitting U.S. President or an Israeli Prime Minister did not speak, and this has been interpreted as a loss of influence. Last year, both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were present but this year Netanyahu is engaged in forming a new government and could not travel while Obama is himself preparing for a trip to Israel next week. Vice President Joe Biden did yeoman’s work, however, making sure that everyone would understand that the Washington will continue to respond to Israel’s concerns, boasting how the Obama administration had successfully blocked any United Nations inquiry into Israel’s illegal settlements. So predictions that the death of AIPAC is imminent would appear to be somewhat premature.
Indeed, it would be a mistake to focus too much on AIPAC when the Israel Lobby encompasses so much more, but it is no coincidence that there has been a flurry of proposed legislation designed to coincide with the annual conference. Consider for a moment what the friends of Israel are now attempting to accomplish and how far their allies in congress are willing to go to compromise actual American interests. First there is H.R. 938 the “United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013” which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs last Monday. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who heads the committee and by her Democratic colleague from Florida Ted Deutch. Ros-Lehtinen is a familiar booster for Israel and also for what she perceives to be Jewish interests. In 2011 she co-sponsored a bill that provided special medical benefits to holocaust survivors to enable them to remain in their homes and receive medical care. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency described it “the bill would give Holocaust survivors preference in obtaining aging services,” providing in this case something that is not available to normal Medicare recipients. Ros-Lehtinen has also been a co-sponsor of most of the pro-Israel, anti-Iran legislation that has surfaced in congress over the past five years.
H.R. 938 calls for strengthening “the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel.” It’s declaration of policy is that “Congress declares that Israel is a major strategic partner of the United States” and it indicates that its intention is to upgrade “the framework of the United States-Israel strategic and military relationships.” The text of the bill is relatively soporific but it does several things. First, it extends the time frame and scope of various assistance and information sharing programs that Washington has entered into with Tel Aviv, including its ability to help itself to equipment from U.S. military stockpiles. Second, it creates reporting requirements for the White House and various government Departments to ensure that programs relating to Israel are actually moving forward. There should be particular concern over the bill’s expanding the areas of military technology sharing between Washington and Tel Aviv as Israel has a track record of stealing the proprietary technology for use in systems that its own defense industry is marketing. Assisting in that effort, the bill also specifically gives Israel blanked authority to re-export any technology it obtains from the U.S. An additional substantive area that the bill addresses is the various missile defense systems that Israel has in place and is developing, mandating that the U.S. “should provide assistance upon request by the Government of Israel, for the…procurement and enhancement” of the systems.
The House Resolution also calls for the State Department to include Israel in the visa waiver program, which would allow Israelis to travel to the United States more-or-less freely. It will be a boon to Israeli/Russian organized crime, which has already spread throughout the United States. Interestingly, there is also a Barbara Boxer produced Senate version of the same bill (S.R. 462) that adds some interesting language, “Israel has made every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all US citizens.” Normally participation in the visa waiver program absolutely requires that the arrangement be completely reciprocal, but in this case the Senate is certifying that Israel is compliant even though it is not: it regularly denies entry to American citizens of Palestinian descent, most recently to a teacher in a Christian school in Ramallah. So Congress is again rewriting its own rules on behalf of Israel.
It does not require any particular insight to note that the “major strategic alliance” suggested by the bill benefits Israel by extending various cooperation and sharing agreements while further committing to pay for enhancements of the Israeli missile defense system “upon request” by Benjamin Netanyahu or whoever winds up succeeding him as prime minister. And it might be noted in passing that no other nation, including countries like Great Britain and Canada whose soldiers have actually fought side by side with Americans in a number of twentieth century wars and also more recently, is regarded as a “major strategic ally.” It is a designation that will be unique to Israel and is intended to elevate that nation above all others in terms of its relationship with Washington.
And there is nothing in the bill that actually benefits the United States. The words “alliance” and “ally” are used several times but they have no meaning as Israel is not in any traditional alliance relationship with Washington that would actually require it to do anything. In any event, it would be difficult for Washington to define what constitutes an attack on Israel as Israel has expanding borders. No reciprocity and no conditions set on possible mutual action means there is no actual alliance, unlike an organization like Cold War-era NATO which once upon a time clearly defined what member states had to do if threatened or attacked while further limiting what they could do unilaterally. The U.S. exercises no restraint on Israeli behavior and the relationship is strictly one way.
An additional bill, this time from the Senate, S.R. 65, authored by unflinchingly pro-Israel Senators Lindsey Graham and Robert Menendez, with twenty other Senatorial co-sponsors, was introduced on February 28th. There is a parallel version in the House of Representatives called H.R. 850 with 102 co-sponsors. The Senate version is called “The Iran Nuclear Prevention Act” and is described as “A resolution strongly supporting the full implementation of United States and international sanctions on Iran and urging the President to continue to strengthen enforcement of sanctions legislation.” It cites the Iranian “continuing pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability” and “the policy of the United States…to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability” before urging that “if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense the United States government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military and economic support…”
S.R. 65 is a virtual declaration of war on a timetable to be established by Israel though the text of the resolution concludes with a disclaimer that it is not an “authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war.” Disclaimer aside, the resolution basically concedes that if Israel starts a war against Iran under any pretext, the United States must automatically support it up to an including using its own military and naval forces. As Senator Graham admitted in an interview, “If Israel acts in its own defense – even preemptively – we will support Israel economically, diplomatically, and politically.”
But one of the interesting things about the attack Iran resolution is that its premise is wrong: both Israeli and U.S. intelligence believe that Tehran currently has no actual weapons program though if one goes by “capability” rather than actually having or seeking a weapon, Iran is one of more than fifty nations that currently have the technical ability to construct a nuclear device. To do so, it would have to make the political decision to spend the billions of dollars required in the effort and be prepared to submit to a catastrophically damaging international response which almost certainly would lead to a war that would devastate Iran and the entire Gulf region.
Finally there is the sequester, which provides an opportunity to return again to AIPAC. Part of AIPAC’s annual routine consists of its supporters flooding Capitol Hill Senate and House offices to lobby legislators regarding key issues of concern to the pro-Israel community. This year there were a couple of hot buttons, including the perennial favorite of the alleged Iranian threat, but the issue that received the most attention was the sequester. AIPAC’s supporters fanned out in the House and Senate office buildings to tell their congressmen that under no circumstances should Israel’s $3.2 billion in aid be cut, no matter what the sequester calls for and no matter what domestic programs have to be eliminated. One has to suspect that the no-cuts in aid to Israel will somehow be tied to the bid to declare the country America’s “major strategic ally.”
So are we back to square one? Not exactly. The Hagel confirmation fight revealed that U.S. interests matter not a whit for Israel’s most vocal supporters while the American media is gradually becoming more open to criticism of what is going on in Tel Aviv. But the Lobby still has the whip hand, able to manage what appears in most of the media while having a vice-like grip on congress. It is probably futile in the near term, but we the people should start to imitate AIPAC by letting congressmen know that there are a lot of us out here who vote and who are not too happy about the prospect of a third war in Asia against Iran. Indeed, the real test of the Israel Lobby’s power will be played out over the next nine months or so. If we do get a war with Iran then those of us who have opposed it might as well fold our cards on “let us reason together” and begin to think of civil disobedience on a serious level. It might be the only option we have remaining to turn the ship around.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is a contributing editor to The American Conservative and executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

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Obama’s Endgame: War with Iran?

By RT
March 15, 2013 “Information Clearing House” -“RT” – Will launching a catastrophic military offensive against the Islamic Republic of Iran be the defining moment of US President Obama’s two-term presidency?
Against all common sense and uncommon wisdom, it looks increasingly possible that Barack Obama, the Democratic leader who once-upon-a-campaign seduced the world by pledging to “sit down and talk with America’s enemies,” will resort to armed conflict to stamp out Tehran’s nascent nuclear program.
Or were Obama’s comments on Iran this week the latest bluff in the geopolitical poker game known as the Middle East?
“I have been crystal clear about my position on Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. That is a red line for us. It is not only something that would be dangerous for Israel. It would be dangerous for the world,” Obama told Israeli Channel 2 ahead of a scheduled visit next week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Right now, we think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon,” Obama said, while not neglecting to add the “all options remain on the table” caveat.
For all the talk of a disconnect, Obama and Netanyahu are beginning to display some strong parallels in their position on Iran – despite what the US intelligence community thinks on the subject.
Rewind to December 2007 when the United States released its National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, which represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies. That assessment unequivocally concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.
The estimate declared with “high confidence” that an Iranian program intended to transform raw material into a nuclear weapon “has been dismantled since 2003,” adding that the halt “was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure.”
The NIE estimate stated matter-of-factly that Iran’s enrichment program could still provide Tehran with enough raw materials to produce a nuclear weapon “sometime by the middle of next decade” – a timetable that was essentially consistent with previous estimates.
Rather than portraying Iran as a rogue country hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, the 2007 NIE estimate stated that Iran’s “decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
That is certainly not the usual image of Iran that we have seen in the Western media.
It needs to be remembered that this very un-apocalyptic version of Iran’s nuclear capacities was released in the hyper-hawkish Bush years, a period when the US war machine was in high gear in the War on Terror. In fact, the tepid conclusions of the Bush-era assessment eventually forced the Obama administration to tone down its missile defense plans in Western Europe, which had been devised specifically with roguish Iran in mind.
This week, US National Intelligence Director James Clapper said Tehran has made progress in its nuclear program, but “we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU [weapons-grade uranium] before this activity is discovered.”
Iran’s nuclear sites are subject to monitoring from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as secret surveillance from US and other intelligence services.
Meanwhile, Obama’s threat of imposing a “red line” with regards to Iran’s nuclear program carried unmistakable echoes of Netanyahu’s UN speech in September where the Israeli PM, armed with a cartoon of a bomb complete with burning fuse, spoke of drawing a “clear red line” that Iran should not be permitted to pass in terms of producing weapons-grade uranium.
Netanyahu warned that Iran could acquire “enough enriched uranium for its first bomb” as early as the spring-summer 2013 – a prediction that has not been revised despite recent UN reports that show Tehran has decreased its stockpiles of 20-percent fissile material.
The fissile material in nuclear weapons usually contains at least 85 percent of weapons-grade Uranium-235, which is far beyond Iran’s present enrichment levels of 20 percent.
Given the crippling effects of sanctions aimed at Iran, together with less diplomatic means of halting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, as witnessed by the Stuxnet computer virus that attacked a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, it seems that Netanyahu and Obama’s prediction for a nuclear weapon falls far short of reality.
In the meantime, the world is forced to contemplate whether Obama is simply playing up to the home crowd ahead of next week’s visit to Israel, or if the US leader is attempting to exert pressure on Tehran to give up on its nuclear research.
Finally, there is the possibility that Barack Obama really believes his own rhetoric and – as was the case with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who was accused in 2003 of harboring weapons of mass destruction and paid with his life for the erroneous intelligence – the chances of a military misadventure in Iran seem to have increased dramatically.
With a domestic economy in shambles, the budget strained and the nation cracked politically down the middle between the haves and have-nots, will Barack Obama be tempted to drag the United States into a war with Iran as a memorable final act of his sagging presidency?
Perhaps not even Benjamin Netanyahu knows the answer to that question.

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Blix Warns on Repeating Iraq Scenario

By AFP
March 06, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – AFP – Ten years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, ex-UN inspector Hans Blix has urged world powers to avoid committing the same error by going to war against Iran based on fears it is developing nuclear weapons.
World “memories are short,” the now 82-year-old Swedish ex-diplomat told a small group of journalists, including AFP, at a press gathering in Dubai.
“Memories of the failure and tragic mistakes in Iraq are not taken sufficiently seriously,” he said.
“In the case of Iraq, there was an attempt made by some states to eradicate weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, and today there is talk of going on Iran to eradicate intentions that may not exist. I hope that will not happen.”
Blix, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq from March 2000 to June 2003, charged with finding the WMD that London and Washington were convinced former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was concealing.
Such weapons were never found, undermining the entire rationale for a conflict that left thousands of Iraqis and foreign soldiers dead.
Author of the book “Disarming Iraq”, Blix had repeatedly called for further inspections before launching a war on Iraq.
Following the 2003 invasion, the White House dispatched a team of 1,000 inspectors who failed to find any prohibited weapons.
Today, Blix believes that the international community has even less evidence of the existence of atomic weapons in Iran, which is facing international pressures over its controversial nuclear programme.
“It is true that diplomatic negotiations have dragged over the years with little results so far… Some people assume that a war action will solve the problem,” said Blix.
“I think others should examine what is the merit of that and find that there is much more demerit,” he said, adding that “a war could develop into a terrible conflagration in the region.”
“If Iran has not made up its mind to make weapons of mass destruction before a war, I think they will come to that conclusion after a war,” said Blix, who wants international pressure on Iran to be eased.
“Threats can back up diplomacy but threats can also undermine diplomacy,” he said.
The United States and Israel accuse Tehran of masking a weapons programme under the guise of a civilian atomic drive, charges Iran denies.
US President Barack Obama’s policy on Iran has stressed sanctions and covert sabotage while playing down possible military action.
However Israel, the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear power, has repeatedly warned it cannot rule out a military strike to prevent Tehran gaining the ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
Blix believes Iran gave “positive signals” during last week’s meetings with world powers — the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, known as the P5+1.
During the talks in Kazakhstan, the world powers put forward a proposal to ease biting sanctions if Tehran halts the sensitive work of enriching uranium.
Michael Elleman, senior fellow for regional security cooperation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), says the Islamic republic has taken a “very positive step … by converting the 20 percent uranium into fuel plates for the research reactors.”
According to him, the Iranians have not yet taken any “substantive steps to weaponise the uranium they are enriching now or to militarise the programme.”
But “they are building more and more capacity to do it and do it relatively quickly,” said Elleman.
Nevertheless, with the talks in Kazakhstan’s financial capital Almaty, “there is some reason to be slightly optimistic, more than six months ago.”

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Why We Must Resist Netanyahu and the Hawks’ Reckless Push for War on Iran

Now, just as diplomacy is yielding results, has never been a better time to ignore the lobbying of Israel’s prime minister for war
By Murtaza Hussain
“If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind … the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close.”
March 04, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – “The Guardian” — The above quote – from a speech given by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to a joint session of the United States Congress – is notable not only for its sense of urgency and dire threat, but also for the date on which the speech was given: 10 July 1996. That was far from the first time Netanyahu had sounded the alarm for the need to take drastic action against a purportedly imminent Iranian nuclear weapon: in a 1992 address to the Israeli Knesset, he declared, “within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb” – an assertion he repeated without irony in 1995, when, in his book Fighting Terrorism, he again predicted full Iranian nuclear weapons capability within “three to five years”.
This past Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared his belief that ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations were futile and represented merely an effort by Iran to “buy time” to develop a nuclear weapon. Coming from an individual with nearly 20 years of public statements consistently citing the purported imminence of such a weapon, this is a questionable statement to say the least. But given the present atmosphere of heightened tension surrounding this issue, such comments are particularly dangerous and revealing.
The present round of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran represent the only meaningful channel left to avoid another potentially disastrous war in the Middle East – and another conflict that would be likely to draw in the United States, as well. By many accounts, the latest round of talks between the two sides this past week in Kazakhstan represented the most significant mutual softening of positions since negotiations began; they were encouraging enough at the end to be described by participants as a “turning point” in a situation that, to date, has most often been characterized by bellicose rhetoric and shared distrust.
Coupled with the recent news that Iran had converted stockpiles of enriched uranium into reactor fuel – a significant step away from any possible weaponization of their program – the past several weeks would seem to indicate the most positive developments towards a peaceful resolution to the standoff in recent memory. The immediate response to this outcome, which would ordinarily be viewed by any rational actor as good news, is revealing for how it identifies the parties such as Netanyahu for whom the primary objective in shaping policy towards Iran is not to find a mutually acceptable resolution, but to engineer a war. For them, the nuclear issue simply provides a useful pretext. The prospect, therefore, of a negotiated settlement is an obstacle to be avoided and undermined at every opportunity.
The officially stated positions of leading figures in both the US and Israeli military and intelligence establishments, as well as of theInternational Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are that Iran is not presently developing a nuclear weapons program and has not made a decision to pursue one in the future. Yet, Netanyahu and other prominent hawks on the issue have continued to claim that such a program is both imminent and threatening enough to require immediate military action, and that negotiations over the issue are inherently pointless or counterproductive.
When viewed in its broader context, Netanyahu’s recent comments regarding the utility of continued negotiations can be seen as part of a longer-term effort to initiate a military conflict with Iran – independent of any legitimate concern about their pursuit of a nuclear weapon. In 2011, outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan went public to say in his final intelligence summary that Iran is a long way from developing a nuclear weapon and that any military attack against the country could “spur Iran to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and pursue its program entirely free of UN inspections”. Despite being supported in his assessment by leading figures in the Israeli intelligence establishment, as well as the chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee, Dagan was nonetheless excoriated by Netanyahu for undermining his single-minded effort to pursue a military confrontation with the country.
As described by Yuval Diskin, the former head of Israel‘s Shin Bet clandestine service, Netanyahu’s warmongering rhetoric against Iran isdriven by his own “messianic” impulse, which is leading him to deliberately mislead the public in order to engineer a new conflict. That is a damning assessment of the worldview of arguably the most significant public proponent of war with Iran, whose efforts at manipulation have also directly targeted the American public. It also reveals a stunning contradiction between Netanyahu’s own positions and the assessments of the intelligence services actually tasked with monitoring Iran’s nuclear program is notable.
In this light, Netanyahu’s push for war is clearly counter to the views of his own military and intelligence communities. That exposes the risk of handing the most gravely consequential of geopolitical decisions over to the calculations of ideologically-driven political leaders.
Were the most serious ramifications of a potential war between Iran and Israel primarily limited to those two countries alone, the United States might retain the luxury of maintaining a largely hands-off policy, as it has in Syria. However, given the likelihood that any military strike would set off a larger regional confrontation and threaten broader American strategic interests, the potential of an Israeli war with Iran would be extremely consequential from a US standpoint. Besides the direct security threat to American interests throughout the region, high-profile figures such as former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski have gone public to say that a war would have economic consequences “potentially devastating for the average American”. The current chair of the joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, has gone on record to state his desire that the US “not be complicit” in any Israeli military strike against Iran, citing the harm it would entail to American strategic interests.
Despite this, recent developments have made it increasingly likely that any military confrontation would necessarily draw in the United States to a large degree. As well as a recent report explicitly making the claim that President Obama is gearing up for potential military strikes against Iran starting in June, a joint resolution supported by Aipac and due to be introduced to Congress by Senators Lindsey Graham (Republican) and Robert Menendez (Democrat) is set to give express American consent to any Israeli attack. That would set the stage for the decision on war to be effectively outsourced to a foreign country.
An additional crippling economic sanctions (pdf) is likely due to be approved by Congress before further rounds of talks can begin. That and other signs indicate that foreign policy hawks and lobby groups within the American political establishment are pursuing a policy geared at preventing a negotiated settlement and focusing instead exclusively on war as an outcome.
Just over a year ago, the US managed to extricate itself from the strategic and humanitarian catastrophe that was its war with Iraq – a conflict fought on the basis of that country’s purported development of weapons of mass destruction, about which at the time Binyamin Netanyahu also told Congress there was “no question whatsoever”. The recent public attempts by Netanyahu and others to undermine negotiations should be recognized as the dangerous and cynical attempts at manipulation which they are.
It has become increasingly clear that those parties for whom any outcome short of war or absolute capitulation is anathema will attempt to torpedo any peacefully negotiated settlement with Iran. The knee-jerk reaction of hawks such as Netanyahu – independent of any sincerely professed concern over nuclear weapons – to any indication that such a settlement may be developing is revealing. It speaks to the obstacles that those trying to avoid military confrontation presently face. Unless the Obama administration can pursue peace with the same zealous determination with which its hawkish counterparts are pursuing war, the latter may likely win the day. That would propel the United States once more into a tragic and avoidable war in the Middle East.
Given the immense political, humanitarian and economic disaster such a conflict with Iran would likely entail, it is imperative that those who seek a solution in good faith find ways to marginalize the rejectionists pushing for conflict as an outcome. Before it is too late.
Murtaza Hussain is a Toronto-based writer specialising in foreign policy and civil liberties. He is a regular contributor to al-Jazeera, Salon.com, al-Masry al-Youm (in Egypt) and Aslan Media. Follow Murtaza on Twitter @MazMHussain.
See also –
Netanyahu to AIPAC: Only credible military threat will stop Iran: Netanyahu speaks via satellite to the pro-Israel lobby and says that Iran is getting closer to crossing the red line; Biden, speaking earlier, says Obama is not bluffing on Iran.
Biden at AIPAC conference: Obama is not bluffing on Iran: Biden says U.S. prefers diplomatic solution, but it is ‘important that the world is with us if we have to act’; all options ‘including military force are on the table,’ he notes.
AIPAC panel hints at deep US-Israel divide on Iran: Ex-IDF military intelligence chief Yadlin to US: ‘You don’t want another war, understandably. But this is not a war, this is a one-night operation’

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Iran Presents New Proposals at P5+1 Talks


By Press TV

February 26, 2013 “Press TV” – –The Islamic Republic says it will present a new comprehensive package of proposals at talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, Press TV reports.

Sources inside the Iranian delegation told Press TV that the proposals are dynamic and will determine the intentions of the West.
  
If video fails click here http://is.gd/z9Rk9P

The Iranian negotiators said the comprehensive package could change based on the proposals the 5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States plus Germany) is going to make.

Tehran handed its previous package of proposals to the P5+1 during the latest round of talks in Russia’s capital, Moscow, but received no response.

Meanwhile, the Al Monitor reported that the P5+1 plans to present Iran with an offer to ease sanctions on the “gold trade, petrochemical industry, and some small-scale banking sanctions.”

Also, Michael Mann, the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said on Tuesday that, “We have prepared a good and updated offer for the talks, which we believe is balanced and a fair basis for constructive talks.”

“The offer addresses international concerns… on the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, but is also responsive to Iranian ideas,” Michael Mann added.

Negotiations began in southeastern Kazakh city of Almaty on Tuesday with the presence of representatives from Iran and the P5+1.

Secretary of Iran Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili is heading the Islamic Republic’s negotiating delegation. The P5+1 representatives are led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Iran and the P5+1 group have held several rounds of talks with the main focus on Iran’s nuclear energy program. The last round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group was held in Moscow in June 2012.

The United States, Israel and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Over the false allegation, Washington and the European Union have imposed several rounds of illegal unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Iran refutes the allegation and argues that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is entitled to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

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Former Insiders Criticise Iran Policy as U.S. Hegemony

Review of Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett’s “Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran” (Metropolitan Books, 2013)
By Gareth Porter
February 26, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – WASHINGTON, Feb 25 2013 (IPS) – “Going to Tehran” arguably represents the most important work on the subject of U.S.-Iran relations to be published thus far.
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett tackle not only U.S. policy toward Iran but the broader context of Middle East policy with a systematic analytical perspective informed by personal experience, as well as very extensive documentation.
More importantly, however, their exposé required a degree of courage that may be unparalleled in the writing of former U.S. national security officials about issues on which they worked. They have chosen not just to criticise U.S. policy toward Iran but to analyse that policy as a problem of U.S. hegemony.
Their national security state credentials are impeccable. They both served at different times as senior coordinators dealing with Iran on the National Security Council Staff, and Hillary Mann Leverett was one of the few U.S. officials who have been authorised to negotiate with Iranian officials.
Both wrote memoranda in 2003 urging the George W. Bush administration to take the Iranian “roadmap” proposal for bilateral negotiations seriously but found policymakers either uninterested or powerless to influence the decision. Hillary Mann Leverett even has a connection with the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), having interned with that lobby group as a youth.
After leaving the U.S. government in disagreement with U.S. policy toward Iran, the Leveretts did not follow the normal pattern of settling into the jobs where they would support the broad outlines of the U.S. role in world politics in return for comfortable incomes and continued access to power.
Instead, they have chosen to take a firm stand in opposition to U.S. policy toward Iran, criticising the policy of the Barack Obama administration as far more aggressive than is generally recognised. They went even farther, however, contesting the consensus view in Washington among policy wonks, news media and Iran human rights activists that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election in June 2009 was fraudulent.
The Leveretts’ uncompromising posture toward the policymaking system and those outside the government who support U.S. policy has made them extremely unpopular in Washington foreign policy elite circles. After talking to some of their antagonists, The New Republic even passed on the rumor that the Leveretts had become shills for oil companies and others who wanted to do business with Iran.
The problem for the establishment, however, is that they turned out to be immune to the blandishments that normally keep former officials either safely supportive or quiet on national security issues that call for heated debate.
In “Going to Tehran”, the Leveretts elaborate on the contrarian analysis they have been making on their blog (formerly “The Race for Iran” and now “Going to Tehran”) They take to task those supporting U.S. systematic pressures on Iran for substituting wishful thinking that most Iranians long for secular democracy, and offer a hard analysis of the history of the Iranian revolution.
In an analysis of the roots of the legitimacy of the Islamic regime, they point to evidence that the single most important factor that swept the Khomeini movement into power in 1979 was “the Shah’s indifference to the religious sensibilities of Iranians”. That point, which conflicts with just about everything that has appeared in the mass media on Iran for decades, certainly has far-reaching analytical significance.
The Leveretts’ 56-page review of the evidence regarding the legitimacy of the 2009 election emphasises polls done by U.S.-based Terror Free Tomorrow and World Public Opinon and Canadian-based Globe Scan and 10 surveys by the University of Tehran. All of the polls were consistent with one another and with official election data on both a wide margin of victory by Ahmadinejad and turnout rates.
The Leveretts also point out that the leading opposition candidate, Hossein Mir Mousavi, did not produce “a single one of his 40,676 observers to claim that the count at his or her station had been incorrect, and none came forward independently”.
“Going to Tehran” has chapters analysing Iran’s “Grand Strategy” and on the role of negotiating with the United States that debunk much of which passes for expert opinion in Washington’s think tank world. They view Iran’s nuclear programme as aimed at achieving the same status as Japan, Canada and other “threshold nuclear states” which have the capability to become nuclear powers but forego that option.
The Leveretts also point out that it is a status that is not forbidden by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty – much to the chagrin of the United States and its anti-Iran allies.
In a later chapter, they allude briefly to what is surely the best-kept secret about the Iranian nuclear programme and Iranian foreign policy: the Iranian leadership’s calculation that the enrichment programme is the only incentive the United States has to reach a strategic accommodation with Tehran. That one fact helps to explain most of the twists and turns in Iran’s nuclear programme and its nuclear diplomacy over the past decade.
One of the propaganda themes most popular inside the Washington beltway is that the Islamic regime in Iran cannot negotiate seriously with the United States because the survival of the regime depends on hostility toward the United States.
The Leveretts debunk that notion by detailing a series of episodes beginning with President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s effort to improve relations in 1991 and again in 1995 and Iran’s offer to cooperate against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and, more generally after 9/11, about which Hillary Mann Leverett had personal experience.
Finally, they provide the most detailed analysis available on the 2003 Iranian proposal for a “roadmap” for negotiations with the United States, which the Bush administration gave the back of its hand.
The central message of “Going to Tehran” is that the United States has been unwilling to let go of the demand for Iran’s subordination to dominant U.S. power in the region. The Leveretts identify the decisive turning point in the U.S. “quest for dominance in the Middle East” as the collapse of the Soviet Union, which they say “liberated the United States from balance of power constraints”.
They cite the recollection of senior advisers to Secretary of State James Baker that the George H. W. Bush administration considered engagement with Iran as part of a post-Gulf War strategy but decided in the aftermath of the Soviet adversary’s disappearance that “it didn’t need to”.
Subsequent U.S. policy in the region, including what former national security adviser Bent Scowcroft called “the nutty idea” of “dual containment” of Iraq and Iran, they argue, has flowed from the new incentive for Washington to maintain and enhance its dominance in the Middle East.
The authors offer a succinct analysis of the Clinton administration’s regional and Iran policies as precursors to Bush’s Iraq War and Iran regime change policy. Their account suggests that the role of Republican neoconservatives in those policies should not be exaggerated, and that more fundamental political-institutional interests were already pushing the U.S. national security state in that direction before 2001.
They analyse the Bush administration’s flirtation with regime change and the Obama administration’s less-than-half-hearted diplomatic engagement with Iran as both motivated by a refusal to budge from a stance of maintaining the status quo of U.S.-Israeli hegemony.
Consistent with but going beyond the Leveretts’ analysis is the Bush conviction that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had shaken the Iranians, and that there was no need to make the slightest concession to the regime. The Obama administration has apparently fallen into the same conceptual trap, believing that the United States and its allies have Iran by the throat because of its “crippling sanctions”.
Thanks to the Leveretts, opponents of U.S. policies of domination and intervention in the Middle East have a new and rich source of analysis to argue against those policies more effectively.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Copyright © 2013 IPS-Inter Press Service.

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Our Man in Iran: How the CIA and MI6 Installed the Shah

By Leon Hadar
February 25, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – (Reason) – Both the critics and the admirers of the Central Intelligence Agency have tended to portray it as an all-knowing, all-powerful, invulnerable entity and to exaggerate the ability of America’s spies to determine the outcome of developments around the world. An American reporter interviewing an ordinary citizen—or an official—in Cairo, Buenos Aires, or Seoul may hear that “everyone knows” that the CIA was behind the latest rise in the price of vegetables or the recent outbreak of flu among high-school kids. It’s like you Americans aren’t aware of what’s obvious (wink, wink).
New histories of the agency, drawing on recently released classified information and memoirs by retired spies, provide a more complex picture of the CIA, its effectiveness, and its overall power, suggesting that at times Langley was manned not by James Bond clones but by a bunch of keystone cops. My favorite clandestine CIA operation, recounted in Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, involves its 1994 surveillance of the newly appointed American ambassador to Guatemala, Marilyn McAfee. When the agency bugged her bedroom, it picked up sounds that led agents to conclude that the ambassador was having a lesbian love affair with her secretary. Actually, she was petting her two-year-old black standard poodle.
But the CIA’s history does include efforts to oust unfriendly regimes, to assassinate foreign leaders who didn’t believe that what was good for Washington and Wall Street was good for their people, and to sponsor coups and revolutions. Sometimes the agency succeeded.
Topping the list of those successes—if success is the right word for an operation whose long-term effects were so disastrous—was the August 1953 overthrow of Iran’s elected leader and the installment of the unpopular and authoritarian Shah in his place. Operation Ajax, as it was known, deserves that
old cliché: If it didn’t really happen, you’d think that it was a plot imagined by a Hollywood scriptwriter peddling anti-American conspiracies.
Ervand Abrahamian isn’t a Hollywood scriptwriter but a renowned Iranian-American scholar who teaches history at the City University of New York. With The Coup, he has authored a concise yet detailed and somewhat provocative history of the 1953 regime change, which the CIA conducted with the British MI6. If you don’t know anything about the story, The Coup is a good place to start. If you’ve already read a lot about Ajax and the events that led to it, the book still offers new insights into this history-shattering event.
Abrahamian constructed his narrative by analyzing documents in the archives of British Petroleum, the British Foreign Office, and the State Department as well as the memoirs of the main characters in the drama. These characters—British spies and business executives, American diplomats and journalists, Soviet agents, Communist activists, Nazi propagandists, Shiite mullahs, Iranian crime bosses—have double or even triple agendas to advance as they jump from one political bed to another and back, lying, cheating, stealing, and killing. It all makes the CIA-led extraction of the American hostages in Iran, depicted in the film Argo, look kind of, well, boring.
On one side there was Muhammad Mossadeq, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953, a secular, liberal, and nationalist leader who wanted to join the “neutralist” camp that disavowed commitment to either of the superpowers during the Cold War. An aristocratic and eccentric figure who welcomed foreign officials into his house wearing pajamas, Mossadeq introduced many progressive social and economic reforms into the traditionally Shiite society, and sent shock waves across the world when he moved to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
On the other side there was Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt, Jr., Teddy’s grandson, a legendary spymaster, a self-promoter who dined with major world leaders and business executives but also befriended power-hungry Iranian military generals, corrupt politicians, merchants in the bazzar, and quite a few thugs, who helped him achieve what became Washington’s goal: to remove Mossadeq and his political allies, which included liberals, social democrats, and Communists, from power; to return the oil industry into British hands (with more American presence in Iran’s oil business); and to place reliable pro-western politicians in power.
It seemed to work beautifully. The United States gained a key strategic ally in the Middle East. American companies received a considerable share of Iran’s enormous oil wealth. Other oil-producing Middle Eastern nations got a lesson in what might happen if they nationalized. At a time when the Americans were facing challenges from nationalists such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and were trying to contain the so-called Soviet threat in the Middle East, Our Man in Tehran welcomed American soldiers and investors (and purchased a lot of American weapons). It all looked good until it didn’t.
While the coup did set back the nationalization of the oil resources in the Middle East, the delay ended in the 1970s. In that decade, Abrahamian writes, one country after another—not just radical states such as Libya, Iraq, and Algeria, but conservative monarchies such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia—“took over their oil resources, and, having learned from the past, took precautions to make sure that their oil companies would not return victorious.”
At the same time, the coup decimated the secular opposition, leaving Shiite clerics as the most viable political force when the Iranian Revolution deposed the Shah in 1979. The pro-American puppet gave way to a radical and anti-American Islamic Republic where the secular and liberal opposition remains weak and leaderless. That, as they say in Langley, is blowback.
The coup also intensified what Abrahamian calls the “intense paranoid style prevalent throughout Iranian politics.” While the Iranian clerics worry that Washington wants to do a rerun of the 1953 regime change, many members of the opposition are counting on that to happen. In Tehran, they still think the CIA makes the world turn around.
The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations, by Ervand Abrahamian, The New Press, 277 pages, $26.95.

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Are Iranian Magnets the New Aluminum Tubes?

By Peter Hart
February 16, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – In the run up to the Iraq War, the New York Times (9/8/02) famously reported on an Iraqi scheme to procure special aluminum tubes that could only have one purpose: Iraq’s secret nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein was attempting to “buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes,” and the “diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq’s nuclear program.” The claims were false–Iraq, as it turned out, had no nuclear program–but still hugely influential.
Yesterday, on the front page of the Washington Post (2/14/13), reporter Joby Warrick has the scoop on what Iran is evidently up to:
Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.
Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets–which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions–from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said.
Warrick explains that this “has fueled Western concerns that Iran is planning a major expansion in its nuclear capacity that would allow it to make atomic weapons quickly if it chooses to do so.” That point was underscored by an anonymous source–identified as “a European diplomat with access to sensitive intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”
We are told that the magnets are “made of an unusual alloy known as barium strontium ferrite” and that, like the Iraq tubes, they would seem to have only one purpose:
The specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely–to a fraction of a millimeter–those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1, a machine that spins at supersonic speeds to purify uranium gas into an enriched form that can be used in nuclear power plants.
So there are some striking similarities, a little over a decade apart.That’s not to say, of course, that yesterday’s propaganda is today’s propaganda; but perhaps some scrutiny is in order.
For starters, we know that Iran seeks to enrich more uranium for what is thus far known to be a peaceful atomic energy program. That they would attempt to purchase parts for those centrifuges might not be surprising; they are banned from doing so.
And some of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile, as Warrick’s report acknowledges, has been converted into a metal form that would be difficult, if not impossible, to use for a nuclear weapon. So the real issue is not that Iran is enriching uranium, or wishes to enrich more of it; the question is what they intend to do with it. And so far all evidence suggests that they’re doing what they say they’re doing.
On a more technical level: Are these magnets only useful for uranium enrichment? The Post tells readers that these magnets are made of an “unusual alloy” and that the “specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely–to a fraction of a millimeter” those of magnets needed for a specific centrifuge.
But a post at the Moon of Alabama blog (2/14/13) raises some interesting questions. It argues that the magnets in question could have many industrial uses, and that the any such components would need to be precise–within a “fraction of a millimeter” sounds close enough, but in this kind of mechanical engineering close might not cut it. The document obtained by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) that is the basis of this piece is posted on their website, but the technical details are redacted.
This is important not because it proves the Post is wrong; the point is that recent history tells us that often things are not what they appear to be. With respect to Iran, there was a flood of stories in November 2011–most prominent among them one by the Post’s Warrick– that claimed Iran was conducting research on explosives that could only be connected to a nuclear weapons program. But skeptics and experts looked at the intelligence and concluded that the research in question could very easily be part of an industrial nanodiamonds program.
It’s worth noting that back in 2002 there was one newspaper that poured cold water on the Iraq tubes story. It was the Washington Post. The reporter? The same Joby Warrick who wrote this story about Iranian magnets. And whose expertise did he rely on? David Albright of ISIS–the very same person pushing the Iran story now.
This article was originally posted at Fair

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Weighing a Possible War on Iran

As neocons mount a last-ditch offensive to stop Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary – partly because he isn’t hawkish enough on Iran – the war drums are beating again across Official Washington, drowning out any thoughtful cost-benefit analysis, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.
By Paul R. Pillar
February 15, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – One of the most oft-repeated, widely accepted and habitually unquestioned beliefs about the Iranian nuclear issue is that if Iran got a nuclear weapon then Tehran would — merely by possessing such a weapon, even if it never detonated one — throw its weight around in the region in ways that it wouldn’t or couldn’t do without a nuke.
A nuclear-armed Iran, according to the belief, would coerce and influence neighbors in untold ways we are not seeing now from a non-nuclear-armed Iran. This belief is shared by a wide variety of people who disagree on other aspects of Iran and its nuclear program.
It is held by many people who are firmly committed to using diplomacy to resolve differences with Iran, as well as by people who are itching to launch a war against it. It is held by many people who reject the notion that Iranian leaders are mad mullahs who would nuke Tel Aviv at the first opportunity, as well as by people who peddle some version of that notion.
It is remarkable how a belief that has come to play such a major part in discussion about an issue as prominent as the Iranian nuclear issue has been so automatically accepted and so infrequently examined or questioned. Probably the most prominent questioning of it was in a short piece last year in Foreign Affairs by Kenneth Waltz.
But Waltz, despite his long-established reputation as an eminent political scientist, has been preemptively pigeon-holed on this issue as an outlier. He had long ago argued, without specific reference to Iran, that the spread of nuclear weapons has been more of a stabilizing than a de-stabilizing force.
His piece on Iran is titled “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb.” So, sort of like George Ball in his devil’s advocate role regarding the Vietnam War, Waltz with his argument on Iran has been treated as someone to be politely acknowledged but safely dismissed.
A few others have questioned the belief about Iranian nuclear coercion, bucking its entrenched status in the conventional wisdom. I did so a year ago, pointing out how the belief simply does not hold water when well-honed doctrine from the Cold War about nuclear weapons and influence is applied to it. Stephen Walt has also shot down the belief, reviewing how the history of nuclear weapons and attempts at coercion simply does not support it.
And yet the image of Iranian nuclear extortion continues to prevail, probably in large part because for most people it seems to make intuitive sense that ownership of something as awesome as a nuclear weapon ought to have a significant effect on the owner’s international relations.
Those still stuck in the intuitive mode ought to consider the findings of a study reported in the current issue of International Organization by Todd Sechser of the University of Virginia and Matthew Fuhrmann of Texas A&M. Their study is partly a rigorous quantitative version of what Walt did, as an examination of the historical record of attempts at coercion.
They used a comprehensive database covering both nuclear and non-nuclear would-be coercers and spanning the entire nuclear age and more. Their finding: possession of nuclear weapons does not help in coercing other states. This is true whether or not explicit threats to use the weapons are made (they seldom are).
Sechser and Fuhrmann accompany their quantitative results with the key analytical points that explain those results. Nuclear weapons are great for deterring a catastrophic action — one that would extinguish one’s regime. But they are not very useful in imposing one’s will regarding other matters.
They are less useful for that latter purpose mostly for reasons examined many years ago by Thomas Schelling when he contrasted deterrence with — his newly coined word — compellence. It is very difficult to threaten credibly the use of nuclear weapons to coerce change to a situation that the threatener has already been living with. And the very awesomeness of nuclear weapons means great costs to anyone who uses them, even if the use does not start a full-scale nuclear war.
Given the stakes involved in the Iranian nuclear matter — with talk still out there about the “military option” — it is irresponsible for so many people who talk about the subject to be relying on intuition rather than on analysis and the historical record.
Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. This article first appeared as a blog post – Via Consortioum News

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US Officials Confess to Targeting Iran’s Civilian Population

By Franklin Lamb
February 10, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Tehran — Azadeh, a graduate law student from Tehran University, on the sidelines of Iran’s Third Annual Hollywoodism (www.hollywoodism.orghttp) reminded her interlocutors, of the obvious damming admissions last week by two US politicians:
“It would be a defense lawyer’s worst nightmare wouldn’t it? I mean to have one’s clients, in this case the Vice-President of the United States and the outgoing Secretary of state confess so publicly to serial international crimes against a civilian population?”
The confessions and the crimes, she correctly enumerated to her audience, were those admitted to by US Vice-President Joe Biden and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this past week.
Both of the US officials, in discussing US relations with the Islamic Republic, openly admitted that the US-led sanctions against Iran (and Syria) are politically motivated and constitute a “soft-war” against the nearly 80 million people of Iran (23 million people in Syria) in order to achieve regime change.
Mrs. Clinton, was the first of the dynamic duo to be heard from. She acknowledged that the harsh US sanctions were intended to target and send the people of Iran a message. “So we hope that the Iranian people will make known their concerns… so my message to Iranians is do something about this.”
Some listening concluded she meant food riots and inflation riots to overthrow the Iranian government. An Australian Broadcasting Company interviewer asked Clinton on January 31 of last year: “If you have issues with the government of Iran, why destroy the Iranian people with the current sanctions in place? It’s very difficult to find certain medicines in Iran. Where is your sense of humanity?”
What the Clinton interrogator had in mind, she explained later, were the US-led sanctions reducing Iran’s GDP growth (-1.1% GDP) resulting in an inflation of 21.0% that is being felt mostly by the civilian population. As well as periodic food shortages in the supermarkets of such staples such as rice, there are price rises on everything. For example, per page printing for students is up as much as 400% and the cost of a used car up 300%. In general, supermarket items have risen 100 to 300 percent or higher over the past twenty-four months and, devastating for many, certain lifesaving medicines are no longer available.
Clinton: “Well, first, let me say on the medicine and on food and other necessities, there are no sanctions.” This statement is utter nonsense and Mrs. Clinton knows it.
The targeting process by the US Treasury Department is well entrenched in Washington. When dear reader is next in Washington, DC, perhaps on a tour bus riding down NW Pennsylvania Avenue following a visit to the US Capitol, consider getting off the bus at 15th and Pennsylvania at the US Department of the Treasury. Walk around the main building and you will see an Annex building. This building, as Clinton knows well, and like Biden, has visited more than once, houses the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC). The well-funded agency’s work includes precisely targeting “food and medicines and other necessities” in order to force the civilian population of Iran to achieve regime change.
For more than two hundred years, since the War of 1812, when OFAC was founded to sanction the British, the office has become expert at imposing sanctions and it has done so more than 2000 times. OFAC currently uses a large team of specialists and computers to think-up, design, test, and send to AIPAC and certain pro-Zionist officials and members of congress their work-product topped off by recommendations.
OFAC and its Treasury Department associates have had a hand in virtually every US sanction applied to Iran since President Jimmy Carter issued Executive Order 12170 in November 1979 freezing about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold and other properties. From the State Sponsor of Terrorism Designation Act in 1979 to the Syria Accountability Act of 2004, more than a dozen Presidential Executive Orders including the 2011-2012 Executive orders which froze the US property of high-rankling Syrian and Iranian officials and more broadly E.O. 13582 which froze all governmental assets of the Syrian government and prohibited Americans from doing business with the Syrian government and banned all US import of Syrian petroleum products.
What OFAC does with its data base is science not art. It can calculate quite precisely the economic effect on the civilian population of a single action designating one company, bank, government entity or infrastructure system of a country. OFAC, on behalf of its government, electronically wages a cold war against its civilian targets.
This week OFAC and the Treasury Department blacklisted Iran’s state broadcasting authority, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, responsible for broadcast policy in Iran and overseas production at Iranian television and radio channels, potentially limiting viewing and listening opportunities for Iran’s civilian population. Its director, Ezzatollah Zarghami, was included 
in the action. Additionally sanctioned are Iran’s Internet-policing agencies and a major electronics producer. David S. Cohen, the pro-Zionist Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, who oversees the OFAC sanctions effort, reportedly following meetings with Israeli officials, said last week’s actions were meant to “tighten the screws and intensify the economic pressure against the Iranian regime.”
In reality, the sanctions target the civilian population and the “Iranian regime” won’t be much affected. The same applies to Syria. Despite the public relations language that “food and medicine are exempted from the brutal US-led sanctions, as OFAC well knows, the reality is something else. They know well the chilling effects of the sanctions on international suppliers of medicines and food stuffs with respect to a targeted country. The US Treasury department has thousands of gigabytes of data confirming that the boards of directors of international business do not, and will not allow their companies to risk millions of dollars in profits by technically violating any of the thousands of details in the sanctions — many of which are subject to interpretation — for the sake of doing business with Iran or Syria. This is why there are severe shortages of medicines and certain foodstuffs in these sanctioned countries and to state otherwise is Orwellian News-Speak.
OFAC does not operate in a vacuum. It works closely with other US agencies including the 16 intelligence agencies that together make up the UN Intelligence Community. Together they have applied sanctions of great breadth and severity against the civilian populations of Syria and Iran. These sanctions have been bolstered on occasion by several direct and/or green-lighted Israeli assassinations and cyber-assaults, hoping to foment civil unrest to achieve regime change and other political goals.
A few days after Mrs. Clinton’s somewhat inadvertent confession that the US government intentionally targets the civilian population of Iran, Vice President Joe Biden chimed in on the 4th of February that the US was ready to hold direct negotiations with Iran but added the caveat, “We have also made clear that Iran’s leaders need not sentence their people to economic deprivation,” acknowledging as did Hillary that the US sanctions are intended to target and harm the Iranian and Syrian people. A senior Obama administration official described the latest step as “a significant turning of the screw,” meaning that the people of Iran face a “stark choice” between bowing to US demands and reviving their oil revenue, the country’s economic lifeblood or more and more sanctions will follow until they do.
This targeting of Iran’s and Syria’s civilian population by US-led sanctions is a massive violation of the principles, standards and rules of international law and their most fundamental underpinnings which is the protection of civilians.
Some examples:
The 1977 Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions prohibit any measure that has the effect of depriving a civilian population of objects indispensable to its survival. Article 70 of Protocol I mandates relief operations to aid a civilian population that is “not adequately provided” with supplies and Article 18 of Protocol II requires relief operations for a civilian population that suffers “undue hardship owing to a lack of supplies essential for its survival, such as foodstuffs and medical supplies.”
Prohibition on Starvation as a Method of Warfare
• Under international humanitarian law, civilians enjoy a right to humanitarian assistance during armed conflicts.
• Art. 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention obligates states to facilitate the free passage and distribution of relief goods including medicines, foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under 15, expectant mothers, and maternity cases.
• Art. 70 of Additional Protocol I prohibits interfering with delivery of relief goods to all members of the civilian population.
• US-led sanctions are prohibited by the principle of proportionality found in Arts. 51 and 57 of Additional Protocol I.
• Under the terms of Art. 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, humanitarian and relief actions must be taken. Pursuant to Art. 18(2) of Additional Protocol II, relief societies must be allowed to offer their services to provide humanitarian relief
• The US-led sanctions violate the Rule of Distinction between civilians and combatants
The Right to life
The US-led sanctions violate the right to life incorporated in numerous international human rights instruments including Art. 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966; Art. 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950; and Art. 4 of the African Charter of Human Rights, 1981.
The Rights of the Child
One of the groups most vulnerable to US-led sanctions in Syria and Iran are children. The rights of children are laid down in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, which currently stands as the most widely ratified international agreement. Most relevant in the context of the US-led sanctions are Arts. 6 and 24 of the Convention, according to which every child has the inherent right to life and the right to the highest attainable standard of health and access to medical services.
If “terrorism” means, as the United States government defines it as the targeting of civilians in order to induce political change from their government, what is it called when the American government itself applies intense economic suffering on a civilian population, causing malnutrition, illnesses, starvation and death in order to induce regime change?
The US-led sanctions against Iran and Syria are illegal, inhumane, ineffective, immoral and outrageous. They must be resisted every day by every person of good will, everywhere, until they are withdrawn.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in the Islamic Republic of Iran and is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

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Paranoia Run Wild

By Paul Balles
January 27, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Thinking ahead is one thing. Pre-emptive thinking is paranoia run wild.
Pre-emptive strikes were something unheard of prior to Israel’s use of them to cripple any power in the Middle East that might eventually turn against Israel.
This was certainly the case in Israel’s bombing of a nuclear reactor in Iraq, to prevent Saddam Hussein developing a nuclear arsenal that could take out Tel Aviv.
But in reality, the Israeli pre-emptive strike was no less vicious than the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour.
The difference is that Iraq, unlike the US, was in no position to respond.
Israel had ignored the reason for Iraq’s antagonism, which was the treatment of Palestinians in lands occupied by Israelis.
Even if Iraq had developed a nuclear warhead capability, it would hardly use it to bomb Israel – since that would kill and injure more Palestinians than Israelis.
Yet the same kind of reasoning, that “the best defence is a good offence”, has once again taken hold of the US government.
“Defending the US requires prevention, self-defence and sometimes pre-emption,” explained then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld on January 31, 2002.
“Defending against terrorism and other emerging 21st Century threats may well require that we take the war to the enemy. The best, and in some cases, the only defence is a good offence.”
Rumsfeld and then vice-president Dick Cheney publicly applauded Israel’s destruction of the Iraqi reactor.
But what exactly is the US seeking to defend?
Iraq, Iran and North Korea were labeled by former President George W Bush as the “Axis of Evil”, but why?
None of them were connected to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Is the US afraid of a nuclear attack on its own territory by Iraq? What about an Iranian invasion of America?
Or is it worried about a North Korean accord with South Korea, after the US fought a war there to keep them separate?
Would pre-emptive strikes against these countries defend against terrorist attacks?
Have terrorists represented the countries they originated from, or have they been sponsored by organisations whose members and leadership have held grudges against others?
Would a pre-emptive strike against any of the “Axis of Evil” countries pre-empt acts of terrorism?
On the contrary, such action – as that taken in Iraq – inevitably kills and wounds a multitude of innocent civilians and encourages more people to become terrorists.
The pre-emptive invasion of Iraq by the US was a gross error in judgment based on faulty reasoning.
The arguments put forth by a cabal of Israeli “firsters” caused the death of more than a million Iraqis and thousands of Americans and British troops.
Now, President Obama has been talking about negotiating with Iran over its nuclear development, but he has done little to bring about any serious meetings.
Meanwhile Israel continues to insist on action to pre-empt Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel will be satisfied with nothing less than the destruction of Iran.

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Engineering consent for an attack on Iran: The Viral Campaign to Set a “Red Line” for Iran

By Eli Clifton
January 25, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – A viral video calling on world leaders to a “set the red line” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon has garnered over 1.3 million YouTube views thanks to a savvy social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s been promoted by conservative bloggers and Washington-based organizations like the Republican Jewish Coalition and The Israel Project. But the 15-minute-long film is leading some experts to question the filmmaker’s message.
The video is part of an “independent, not-for-profit project designed to harness the global voice of humanity for the purpose of a peaceful solution to prevent a nuclear Iran,” say the film’s two principals, Banafsheh Zand and Shraga Simmons, on their website, settheredline.com.
Zand, who narrates the film, was born in Iran and fled the country during the Iranian revolution in 1979.
Her father, Iranian journalist Siamak Pourzand, committed suicide in 2011 after having been imprisoned since 2001 for writing articles critical of Iran’s political leaders.
Set The Red Line’s narration offers a list of reasons why Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program must be stopped, including that “Iranian leaders are on a messianic warpath with the ultimate goal of hastening the Mahdi, the messianic Twelfth Imam, to usher in an era of global Islamic domination.”
“Iran has a plan to take over the world, and they view the United States as the ‘Great Satan,’ which must be destroyed,” Zand warns in the film.
“The Iranian regime will push war because that is [their] mandate and they’ve said it everyday and if westerners think that that regime can be deterred … then they will be in for a surprise because that regime has no intention of giving up its nukes,” Zand told The American Independent in an email.
The film endorses ongoing diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution to tensions over Iran’s nuclear program but urges viewers to support a “backup solution” should diplomacy fail.
“We must continue and even intensify the various diplomatic methods that world leaders have worked so hard to implement. But the reality is that Iran’s nuclear clock is ticking faster than the diplomatic clock,” says Zand in the film. “So we need an effective and reliable backup solution. It’s called the Red Line.”
Viewers are urged to participate in a social media campaign to push world leaders to lay down the “red line,” defined in the film as “world leaders make a pronouncement outlining a clear and unambiguous set of criteria that will serve as fair warning to Iran that crossing this line will trigger a devastating military response.”
“Pragmatically, the red line puts us in a much better position of going up against a non-nuclear Iran than having to face the certainty of war against a genocidal and nuclear Iran,” says Zand later in the film.
“The red line is specifically and only for the purpose of getting world leaders to pressure the Iranian regime to give up their nuclear weapons. I do not support any external military action on Iran,” Zand told TAI.
“Why would anyone attack a country whose people loath it?” Zand asked TAI. “Why would anyone attack a country with suicide bombers deployed around the world?”
“The Khomeinist regime totally intends to kill Westerners, Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs because they believe that they (the Shia Twelvers) are the ‘anointed’ ones and … they believe that it is the duty of all Muslims to die in the name of the Islamic pole that the Khomeinists have decided to head,” said Zand to TAI. “[T]hat regime openly says that it is Muslim duty to die, as collateral damage and that Sunnis have no say in the matter.”
Simmons told TAI that “military action should only be a last resort, when sanctions, diplomatic isolation and negotiations have failed to stop the regime.”
In interviews with TAI, experts questioned the approach outlined in the film.
“The video is conveniently vague so we never know to whom we’ll leave it to draw this red line. The US? Israel? The United Nations Security Council?” said Iran expert and author Barbara Slavin. “All we’re told is that it has to happen before Iran develops nuclear weapons. If Iran crosses this line it triggers a devastating response, say the filmmakers. This sounds more like an argument for war than an effort to prevent it.”
Matt Duss, a policy analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress, also criticized the film.
“Like most of the most hawkish arguments about Iran it’s plagued by a fundamental contradiction,” said Duss. “One is this claim, which is highly arguable, that Iran’s leaders are determined to destroy the west and this is a non-negotiable element of their extremist Muslim beliefs; and we must set a red line. These two things are contradictory. If Iran’s threat to destroy the west is nonnegotiable then why would they take a red line seriously?”
He added, “There’s this idea that Iran’s leaders are all apocalyptic crazies looking to trigger the return of the Shiite messiah, but there’s little evidence to suggest these beliefs drive Iranian policy.”
Zand, speaking in the film, says that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, the UAE, and Iraq “would all fall like dominoes” if faced with an aggressive, nuclear-armed Iran.
But, according to Slavin, “there is absolutely no indication that there would be regime change in any of these places.”
“If Iran got a nuclear weapon the Saudis and all the countries across the Persian Gulf would probably shore up their alliances with the US even more and there would be a vigilant effort to contain Iran,” Slavin went on to add.
Set The Red Line garnered over one million YouTube views thanks to an effective social media campaign, said the film’s director.
“It was very grassroots, which to me is a huge success,” said Simmons. “Thousands of individuals sent the film out to their private email lists and posted on Facebook. We also contacted approximately 1,000 ‘Facebook administrators’ whose groups deal with issues of foreign affairs. I know for certain that a number of very large Facebook groups (with a million followers) promoted it to their lists.”
The Israel Project, “a one-stop source for detailed and accurate information about Israel and the Middle East,” according to its website, promoted the film both on its website and on Twitter.
Twitter accounts belonging to the Republican Jewish Coalition and a Fox News Producer also promoted the film.
Neither Simmons nor Zand is new to political activism.
Simmons is senior editor of Aish.com, the online outreach arm of the Orthodox Jewish organization Aish HaTorah. His blog posts frequently criticize what he sees as biased reporting by journalists covering Israel.
Simmons accused CBS’s 60 Minutes of “further demonizing Israel and eroding its support in the West” after the show aired a segment examining the treatment of Palestinian Christians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
In a November 18, 2012, post — written during the Israel Defense Forces’ “Operation Pillar of Defense” in the Gaza Strip — Simmons criticized CNN’s Zain Verjee’s “horribly biased” interview of Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev. Verjee asked about reports of children wounded by Israeli airstrikes and questioned how the IDF’s actions help bring peace to the region.
Verjee “sounds like she’d be more comfortable on Hamas TV,” wrote Simmons.
Simmons emphasized that his work on Set The Red Line was conducted independently from his job at Aish HaTorah.
“It happens that I am employed as an editor at the Aish.com website,” said Simmons. “I knew that the credibility of the message required full independence, so I took a full leave of absence from that position to enable me to make the film independently, without any organizational involvements whatsoever.”
Zand explained to TAI that she and Simmons spoke on Skype about making the film and shortly thereafter she was flown to Israel to narrate the film.
“I don’t even know what Aish HaTorah is,” said Zand. “We both agree Iran is out of order and intends to kills westerners and Israelis. Neither one of us want war.”
Tax disclosures show that from 2005 to 2010, Simmons served as secretary of Honest Reporting, a group that characterizes itself as “monitor[ing] the news for bias, inaccuracy, or other breach of journalistic standards in coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Honest Reporting apparently participated in the release of Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against The West, a 2005 film that compared the rise of radical Islam to the rise of Nazism in the 1930s.
The film’s website warns, “As we sleep in the comfort of our homes, a new evil rises against us. A new menace is threatening, with all the means at its disposal, to bow Western Civilization under the yoke of its values. That enemy is Radical Islam.”
“[Honest Reporting] now denies any involvement in the production of ‘Obsession.’ But its website promoted it as an Honest Reporting project in 2005, the year it was first released,” reported Sara Posner in a 2008 Jewish Week article.
As Posner reported, an archived version of the Honest Reporting website from June 14, 2006, shows Obsession listed as an “affiliate” project. The site also declared at the time: “HonestReporting’s ‘Obsession’ Wins Award at WorldFest Independent Film Festival.”
The film gained mainstream attention after 28 million DVDs were distributed to swing-state voters via newspaper inserts and bulk mailings before the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
Set The Red Line was Zand’s first collaboration with Simmons but not her first foray into political advocacy.
Her LinkedIn profile states that from February 2010 to October 2012, the month Set The Red Line was released, she worked as a consultant at Iran180, a group that “demand[s] a 180 by the Iranian government on their pursuit of nuclear weapons and the treatment of their citizens,” according to its website. Iran180’s outreach director, Chris DeVito, told TAI that Zand no longer works with the organization.
DeVito declined to offer a detailed opinion on the film but stated, “There are elements of the narrative that are extremely important and entirely valid.”
This article was originally posted at The American Independent

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Waking Up in Tehran

By David Swanson
January 21, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – According to one theory, U.S.-Iranian relations began around November 1979 when a crowd of irrational religious nutcases violently seized the U.S. embassy in Iran, took the employees hostage, tortured them, and held them until scared into freeing them by the arrival of a new sheriff in Washington, a man named Ronald Reagan. From that day to this, according to this popular theory, Iran has been run by a bunch of subhuman lunatics with whom rational people couldn’t really talk if they wanted to. These monsters only understand force. And they have been moments away from developing and using nuclear weapons against us for decades now. Moments away, I tell you!
According to another theory — a quaint little notion that I like to refer to as “verifiable history” — the CIA, operating out of that U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1953, maliciously and illegally overthrew a relatively democratic and liberal parliamentary government, and with it the 1951 Time magazine man of the year Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, because Mossadegh insisted that Iran’s oil wealth enrich Iranians rather than foreign corporations. The CIA installed a dictatorship run by the Shah of Iran who quickly became a major source of profits for U.S. weapons makers, and his nation a testing ground for surveillance techniques and human rights abuses. The U.S. government encouraged the Shah’s development of a nuclear energy program. But the Shah impoverished and alienated the people of Iran, including hundreds of thousands educated abroad. A secular pro-democracy revolution nonviolently overthrew the Shah in January 1979, but it was a revolution without a leader or a plan for governing. It was co-opted by rightwing religious forces led by a man who pretended briefly to favor democratic reform. The U.S. government, operating out of the same embassy despised by many in Iran since 1953, explored possible means of keeping the Shah in power, but some in the CIA worked to facilitate what they saw as the second best option: a theocracy that would substitute religious fanaticism and oppression for populist and nationalist demands. When the U.S. embassy was taken over by an unarmed crowd the next November, immediately following the public announcement of the Shah’s arrival in the United States, and with fears of another U.S.-led coup widespread in Tehran, a sit-in planned for two or three days was co-opted, as the whole revolution had been, by mullahs with connections to the CIA and an extremely anti-democratic agenda. They later made a deal with U.S. Republicans, as Robert Parry and others have well documented, to keep the hostage crisis going until Carter lost the 1980 presidential election to Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s government secretly renewed weapons sales to the new Iranian dictatorship despite its public anti-American stance and with no more concern for its religious fervor than for that of future al Qaeda leaders who would spend the 1980s fighting the Soviets with U.S. weapons in Afghanistan. At the same time, the Reagan administration made similarly profitable deals with Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq, which had launched a war on Iran and continued it with U.S. support through the length of the Reagan presidency. The mad military investment in the United States that took off with Reagan and again with George W. Bush, and which continues to this day, has made the nation of Iran — which asserts its serious independence from U.S. rule — a target of threatened war and actual sanctions and terrorism.
Ben Affleck was asked by Rolling Stone magazine, “What do you think the Iranians’ reaction is gonna be?” to Affleck’s movie Argo, which depicts a side-story about six embassy employees who, in 1979, avoided being taken hostage. Affleck, mixing bits of truth and mythology, just as in the movie itself, replied:
“Who the FUCK knows – who knows if their reaction is going to be anything? This is still the same Stalinist, oppressive regime that was in place when the hostages were taken. There was no rhyme or reason to this action. What’s interesting is that people later figured out that Khomeini just used the hostages to consolidate power internally and marginalize the moderates and everyone in America was going, ‘What the fuck’s wrong with these people?’ You know, ‘What do they want from us?’ It was because it wasn’t about us. It was about Khomeini holding on to power and being able to say to his political opponents, of which he had many, ‘You’re either with us or you’re with the Americans’ – which is, of course, a tactic that works really well. That revolution was a students’ revolution. There were students and communists and secularists and merchants and Islamists, it’s just that Khomeini fucking slowly took it for himself.”
The takeover of the embassy is an action virtually no one would advocate in retrospect, but asserting that it lacked rhyme or reason requires willful ignorance of Iranian-U.S. relations. Claiming that nobody knew what the hostage-takers wanted requires erasing from history their very clear demands for the Shah to be returned to stand trial, for Iranian money in U.S. banks to be returned to Iran, and for the United States to commit to never again interfering in Iranian politics. In fact, not only were those demands clearly made, but they are almost indisputably reasonable demands. A dictator guilty of murder, torture, and countless other abuses should have stood trial, and should have been extradited to do so, as required by treaty. Money belonging to the Iranian government under a dictatorship should have been returned to a new Iranian government, not pocketed by a U.S. bank. And for one nation to agree not to interfere in another’s politics is merely to agree to compliance with the most fundamental requirement of legal international relations.
Argo devotes its first 2 minutes or so to the 1953 background of the 1979 drama. Blink and you’ll miss it, as I’m betting most viewers do. For a richer understanding of what was happening in Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s I have a better recommendation than watching Argo. For a truly magnificent modern epic I strongly encourage getting ahold of the forthcoming masterpiece by M. Lachlan White, titled Waking Up in Tehran: Love and Intrigue in Revolutionary Iran, due to be published this spring. Weighing in at well over 300,000 words, or about 100,000 more than Moby Dick, Waking Up in Tehranis the memoir of Margot White, an American human rights activist who became an ally of pro-democracy Iranian student groups in 1977, traveled to Iran, supported the revolution, met with the hostage-takers in the embassy, became a public figure, worked with the Kurdish resistance when the new regime attacked the Kurds for being infidels, married an Iranian, and was at home with her husband in Tehran when armed representatives of the government finally banged on the door. I’m not going to give away what happened next. This book will transport you into the world of a gripping novel, but you’ll emerge with a political, cultural, and even linguistic education. This is an action-adventure that would, in fact, make an excellent movie — or even a film trilogy. It’s also an historical document.
There are sections in which White relates conversations with her friends and colleagues in Iran, including their speculations as to who was behind what government intrigue. A few of these speculations strike me as in need of more serious support. They also strike me as helpful in understanding the viewpoints of Iranians at the time. Had I edited this book I might have framed them a little differently, but I wouldn’t have left them out. I wouldn’t have left anything out. This is a several-hundred-page love letter from a woman to her husband and from an activist to humanity. It is intensely romantic and as honest as cold steel. It starts in 1977.
On November 15, 1977, at the White House, our human rights president, Jimmy Carter, was holding an outdoor press conference with his good friend the Shah. The police used pepper spray tear gas on the protesters, including Margot White, in front of the White House. But then the wind shifted. Carter and the Shah ended up in tears as their wives fled indoors. Later that day, White and an Iranian friend were attacked with a knife, chased by spies, and occupied with hiding the wallets of anti-Shah protesters in a D.C. hospital from pro-Shah forces eager to identify them. In December, White was off to Iran to meet with the opposition, including those who had backed Mossadegh a quarter century before. She learned the size and strength of the movement and came to understand its power to overthrow the Shah better than did the U.S. government or the U.S. media. White was followed by the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK, during her stay.
In 1978 White spoke in Europe and the United States about the growing revolution and its members’ certainty that the Shah would be thrown out. She returned to Iran. She met with greedy Americans there who believed the Shah secure on his throne. She met with the opposition, including a grandson of Mossadegh, who believed the Shah was doomed and who saw the revolution as secular. He saw the mullahs as a danger and as a force susceptible to U.S. manipulation. 
White was followed and chased by SAVAK. The NSA (yes, the one based in Maryland) had wiretapped the whole country (yes, the Iranians’ country) — an abuse that would later come home to the United States, as such things do. White met with torture victims. She visited Eagle City, a colony of the U.S. military industrial complex and its spouses and children. She met with many activists in the revolutionary movement, all of whom, in the summer of ’78, saw the movement as secular. No one ever brought up the Ayatollah Khomeini, and if she brought him up (responding to his prominence in the U.S. media) they attributed no importance to him. White described the state of U.S. media coverage:
“The ‘benevolent monarch’ image was fast disappearing as the reality of the Pahlavi police state became widely exposed. Unfortunately, despite this, Iran’s protestors were being referred to as ‘mobs,’ instead of the courageous, unarmed, exhausted and determined citizens that they were. Their demands for social justice and political participation were barely mentioned, leaving the impression the protests were senseless and inexplicable, some sort of collective ‘over-reaction’ to the Shah’s ‘excesses.'”
The movement was depicted as Islamic. White quotes one of her friends’ reactions at the time:
“We think it’s a conscious decision, from several sources. It makes the Revolution seem ‘anti-West’ instead of ‘anti-US/Shah.’ It blurs the significance of Washington’s responsibility for most of the repression in Iran. It makes it sound like an ‘ideological’ movement, instead of a political one, like Iranians have some abstract, philosophical problem with Western ‘culture,’ rather than very concrete problems with jailing writers, torturing teenagers, and condemning millions of children to an early death from lack of clean water!”
White learned that Khomeini’s senior advisor in his exile in Paris was an Iranian-born American citizen named Dr. Ibrahim Yazdi, a close friend of Richard Cottam of the CIA. 
By January 1979 the Shah was gone, and that spring White was back in Iran where Khomeini was consolidating power and turning against the movement that had toppled the Shah. There were huge protests on Women’s Day and May Day and on the anniversary of Mossadegh’s death. When one of the largest newspapers in Iran reported that the Islamic Republic was being run by men with ties to the CIA, the government shut down the newspaper. It banned the pro-democracy groups that had led the revolution. It sent U.S.-made airplanes to bomb Kurdistan. Activists began organizing within the Iranian military to resist orders to attack the Kurds.
After the embassy was seized in November, a crowd of reporters gathered daily outside the gates, many of them new to Iran. White spoke to some of them and tried to educate them about Iran’s past and present. They encouraged her, as an American living in Iran, to hold a press conference and express her views. She did so, and hundreds of reporters came. She pointed out that the students said they had seized the embassy as a protest against current, not just past, CIA presence and interference. She noted the “elaborate cameras, surveillance technology and radar equipment” they had found in the embassy, photographed, and publicized. She said Iranians had good reason to want “no further CIA presence in their country, having suffered years of political repression, torture and surveillance carried out by CIA-trained SAVAK state police.” 
White’s statements were front-page news in the International Herald Tribune and big news around the world. The next day, Walter Annenberg, a wealthy Republican backer, placed a full page ad in the New York Times denouncing her. Also that day, the students in the embassy asked to meet her.
White was allowed into the embassy, where she met the students but not the hostages. Some of the students had studied in the United States and very much liked the United States, just not its government’s interference in Iran. During her meeting with the students, a mullah came into the room briefly. He clearly exercised authority over the students without actually holding their loyalty. The relationship fit with accounts of the mullahs having co-opted an action they did not initiate. The students told White they wanted the Shah returned to stand trial. They wanted his money returned. They gave White some of the many documents they were piecing back together following their shredding by the embassy staff. In Argo we see photographs of the six employees who escaped being pieced back together. In Waking Up in Tehran we learn that the documents given to White included U.S. plans to bring the Shah to the United States three months before he was actually brought there for medical care, as well as documenting the CIA’s presence in the embassy.
The hostage-takers in White’s telling were, among other things, an early version of WikiLeaks. They “continued to publish reconstructed Embassy documents, eventually producing 54 volumes of evidence of CIA operatives … manipulating, threatening and bribing world leaders, rigging foreign elections, hijacking local political systems, shuffling foreign governments like decks of cards, sabotaging economic competitors, assassinating regional, national and tribal leaders at will, choreographing state-to-state diplomacy like cheap theater.”
White had herself become a news story. She stumbled upon “a life-size photo of me near the gates at the front of the U.S. Embassy, looking rather baffled, my fist raised tentatively into the air. I felt awkward about it, not least because an American reporter had urged me to strike that pose. I’d asked the desk clerk where he’d gotten such a thing. He told me that someone had apparently enlarged the news photo into life size billboards that were being posted all around Tehran — at bus stations, the railway station, the Bazaar, and various other spots — all the way from Shoosh Square in the south up to Damavand. I’d begged the Manager to take it down and he had obliged.”
I asked White about Argo, and she said she’d watched it three times and taken notes. “As history,” she told me, “it’s worse than sloppy. The depiction of the students at the embassy is way off, as are several other thing. Public hangings were over with long before November 1979. They occurred mostly in February 1979, and were mostly the upper echelons of SAVAK. The six Americans were being rescued in January 1980, almost a year later. Those things were not happening. Just the opposite — the Resistance was underway.”
White finds fault with other details: “Even the suggestion that the students were using ‘kids’ or ‘sweat shop children’ to piece together the shredded embassy documents is wrong. They had high school and college students doing it, mostly their own younger brothers and sisters. Kids of the age shown would not yet have been able to read Farsi, much less English! There is no way such children could piece together those documents.”
White objects to the general depiction of ordinary Iranians in the film: “Most troubling is the depiction of people in the Bazaar going after the Americans. That would never happen. Anyone visiting Iran would be treated as a ‘guest.’ The tradition of ‘the guest’ is so deep in Persian culture — dating back to the caravans of the silk road — that it reaches almost absurd proportions. But it precludes any such behavior as that depicted in the Argo Bazaar. Iranians, unlike Americans, don’t blame the people for their government’s policies. Iranian men, in particular, would never approach an American woman that way, with such aggression, and speak about politics. They might politely inquire why they were in Iran, what they thought of the country, and they might even offer them tea! They would never behave as depicted.
“Likewise, the banging on the car windows. On the contrary, cars were so thick in Tehran that crowds could not be in the streets at the same time. Also, the burning cars were long gone by January of 1980! In Argo, the crowds are shown shouting ‘down with the Shah’ long after the Shah was overthrown. The crowds in the streets were, increasingly — as in my book — from the Resistance!”
White continued: “There’s another troubling depiction in Argo that I question, but I have no way to prove this. It’s the scene showing mock executions. I doubt they happened. The reason I doubt this is that when the hostages were released, they had one ticker tape parade (as noted in my book) and virtually disappeared — no talk shows, no endless interviews, no lecture circuits. Why? Wouldn’t Washington have wanted to publicize the worst features of their ordeal? If the hostages had really been subject to that level of torture, why keep silent about it? A) Reagan’s deal with the Ayatollahs? B) they weren’t tortured. Both A and B would be my guess. The students voted on their policies. They were a mixed group, but torture had been ruled out. I believe that is the case. Captivity, obviously, is a human rights violation, but torture is something else. Again, however, I have no way to prove this definitively.”
In the spring of 1980 Iran began bombing the Kurds in northern Iran with U.S.-made planes, and soldiers began deserting to the Kurdish side. The Iranian military attacked Tehran University, killing unarmed students, advancing a plan to islamicize the curriculum. The hostage crisis dragged on. President Carter launched an unsuccessful rescue mission.
“Interestingly,” writes White, “most people suspected the truth even though they couldn’t prove it: that the hostage situation was being deliberately prolonged — and not by the students inside, but by those unseen forces typically referred to as ‘they.’ Why were the negotiations taking so long? The students had continued, of course, to print and publicly display copies of the embassy’s classified documents, many of them meticulously re-assembled, pieced together strip by shredded strip. They revealed decades of clandestine CIA operations throughout Eurasia and the Middle East, conducted primarily out of this particular embassy in Tehran — precisely the interventions and atrocities against Third World peoples described by John Stockwell’s book. They also revealed ties with CIA on the part of certain powerful Iranian clerics dating back to the 1953 coup …. The students boldly sought publicity for the documentary evidence, but their efforts were repeatedly blocked by the regime. … [I]f such documentary evidence existed and was published, it would destroy the current regime’s credibility overnight. The students were being subjected to a news ‘blackout,’ and no wonder. Western media, for the most part, however, continued to refer to the embassy takeover as an action of Iran’s government, something done by the regime, rather than by its critics, or by ‘Iranians’ as a whole. Negotiations to resolve the crisis were necessarily between the two governments, reinforcing the perception that the regime had initiated and endorsed the action — instead of frantically trying to block it at every turn, fearing what would be revealed.”
The next unusual request for a meeting that White received came from Khomeini’s grandson. She agreed to meet with him. He asked her if Carter would lose the coming election if the hostages were still not freed. “We don’t like Carter,” the grandson told her. 
The day Reagan was inaugurated, the hostages were freed. That week massive roundups of activists began in Iran. Crackdowns targeted anyone and anything “insufficiently Islamic.” Arbitrary arrests were followed by executions of “infidels,” including poets and leaders of the revolution. A May Day rally in 1981 was attacked. Pro-democracy and anti-Shah activists were going to prison in large numbers. 
That summer, two men began standing all day, every day on White’s street and watching her house. She and her husband made plans to leave for the United States. They attended one more protest, an anti-Khomeini rally on June 20th. Then things really got interesting. I’ll leave it to you to read the book. I’ll mention only this: White herself was the victim of a mock execution. She knows in a very direct way that mock executions happened and how and by whom they were employed.
She also knows what war is and what sacrifices in the struggle against war involve. The reason the United States should stop threatening war against Iran today is not that the United States has mistreated and abused Iran in the past. It is not related to the quality of Iran’s current government. It is entirely related to the evil of war. There is nothing worse than war that war can be used to prevent — not even greater war, something that war has always made more — not less — likely. Stephen Kinzer, in his book All the Shah’s Men, relates a conversation he had with another grandson of Mossadegh:
“He told me that a few weeks before the 1953 coup, he attended a reception at the home of an Iranian diplomat in Washington and overheard the wife of Colonel Abbas Farzanegan, a military attaché who was on the CIA’s secret payroll, boast that her husband was involved in a plot that would soon make him a cabinet minister. The next morning Mahmoud Mossadegh cabled this intelligence home to his grandfather. ‘Later on, after the coup, I asked him if he had received my cable. He said, “Of course I did.” When I asked him why he hadn’t done something about it, he told me there was nothing he could have done. He said he knew full well that this coup was coming. His choice was to surrender or arm his supporters and call them out to civil war. He hated to think about giving up everything he believed in, but the other alternative was out of the question.'”
Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her work on behalf of human rights, women’s rights, and children’s rights in Iran. She is a critic of the current Iranian government, and lives in exile. In a message written for RootsAction.org, Ebadi opposes any attack on Iran:
“Not only military attack but even threat of military attack would slow down the progress of democracy in Iran because the government, under the pretext of safeguarding national security, would further intensify its crackdown on pro-democracy activists and critics. Moreover, such an eventuality would incite people’s nationalist sentiment, which would cause them to forget their criticisms of the government.”
If we cannot learn from our own history or this kind of common sense, let us learn from Mossadegh. War is not a solution. War is not a tool of public policy. War is not the first option, the second option, or the last resort. War is out of the question.
David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie.”

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Are Israeli Fears Of A Nuclear Iran Overblown?

By Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett
This week, as we prepare for the release of Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, we are pleased to be featured on Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish — or, more specifically, on The Dish’s “Ask Anything” video series. As The Dish’s editors note, “During the Iranian uprising of 2009, the Dish continuously clashed with Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the most well-known skeptics of the Green Movement.” Given that history, we are grateful to Andrew Sullivan and his colleagues for reaching out to us at this critical time in America’s ongoing debate about how to deal with the Islamic Republic.
Video posted January 09, 2013
Strategically, as we’ve argued before, see here, there is no way that a mythical nuclear-armed Iran, much less an Iran enriching uranium at well below weapons grade, poses an “existential threat” to Israel. In New York, Netanyahu made much of the Islamic Republic’s alleged irrationality, even citing Bernard Lewis that “for the Ayatollahs of Iran, mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent, it’s an inducement.” But countless senior Israeli officials—including the commander of the Israel Defense Forces, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, including even Netanyahu himself, see here and here—have acknowledged, on the record, that it is highly unlikely that Iranian leaders would use nuclear weapons. (For the record, Iranian leaders have said repeatedly over many years that they don’t want nuclear weapons and, in the assessment of both U.S. and Israeli intelligence services, they have not taken a decision to produce them. In fact, we believe that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, has taken a clear decision not to do so.) 
The real existential threat to Israel comes from what Israelis see going on around them right now, and which Ahmadinejad so aptly pointed out—the mobilization of Arab and other Muslim populations to demand more participatory political orders. 
For as Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, and other Iranian leaders understand very well, the governments that grow out of this demand will not succumb to American pressure cum blandishments to “make peace” with Israel, even as it continues to occupy Arab land, suppress Arab populations, and flout international law in its grossly disproportionate applications of military force around the region. Such governments will insist, before they can accept Israel, that it must change its policies in fundamental ways—ways so fundamental that most Israeli elites would see it as an abandonment of the Zionist project. And over time—perhaps measured in decades rather the merely years—that will persuade most of the rest of the world to demand basic changes in Israel, too.
A round-up of favorable reviews of their new book is here. Watch their previous videos here and here and read more in their new book, Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Destabilizing Iran as a Nation State: Targeted Sanctions as an “Alternative” to War?

By Ben Schreiner
January 08, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Washington’s quest to bring Tehran to its knees continues to accelerate. And in turn, ordinary Iranians increasingly find themselves caught in the crosshairs.
As the Washington Post reports on the latest round of Iran sanctions signed by President Obama last week, “the new policies are closer to a true trade embargo, designed to systematically attack and undercut Iran’s major financial pillars and threaten the country with economic collapse.”
“The new law imposes sanctions against international companies that do business with Iranian firms in the targeted industrial sectors, and also seeks to block Iran from obtaining aluminum, steel, coal and other materials critical for construction and vehicle manufacturing,” the Post continues.
The order — to conjure the ghost of Nixon — has clearly been given to “make the economy scream.”
In fact, as the New York Times reported back in June, the sanctions on Iran “represent one of the boldest uses of oil sanctions as a tool of coercion since the United States cut off oil exports to Japan in 1940.”
Of course, in the case of Japan, the oil embargo led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and gave the U.S. the pretext it sought to enter the Second World War. And for those fixing to attack Iran today, such a history is well understood. After all, waiting for the “next Pearl Harbor” has long been something of an obsession for U.S. neo-cons.
Sanctions as an Alternative to War?
It is often argued, however, that sanctions — imperfect as they are — offer an alternative to war.
As Zbigniew Brzezinski writes in a recent Washington Post op-ed, “a reckless shortcut to war…is not the wisest response to a potentially grave crisis.” Instead, Brzezinski goes on to argue that, “A more prudent and productive course for the United States would be to continue the painful sanctions against Iran.”
But such arguments by sanction enthusiasts obscure the fact that sanctions are indeed an act of war. After all, what else are we to call the deliberate crippling of a nation’s economy? And in any case, if the American economy were made to scream we can be assured there would be American bombs aplenty.
What’s more, though, not only are sanctions clearly an act of war, they often serve as a prelude to an escalated confrontation. And one certainly need not venture far beyond Iran to find evidence of Washington’s favored sanction today, invade tomorrow strategy.
“Targeted” Sanctions
The second lie so often accompanying the use of sanctions is that they are somehow “targeted.” In the case of Iran, the true nature of the supposedly “targeted” sanctions was exposed well before the latest round of escalation.
As a July letter from the Iranian Hemophilia Society written to the World Health Organization warned, sanctions have “seriously endangered the lives of tens of thousands of patients, particularly children, suffering from special diseases.”
Likewise, in an August report to the United Nation’s General Assembly, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon wrote that, “The sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have had significant effects on the general population, including an escalation in inflation, a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine.”
Indeed, as a New York Times piece from early November reported, Iranians “suffering from cancer, hemophilia, thalassemia, kidney problems and other diseases are increasingly told the foreign-made medicines they need are no longer available.”
A recent report in the British Guardian newspaper, meanwhile, has noted that “millions of lives are at risk in Iran because western economic sanctions are hitting the importing of medicines and hospital equipment.”
But such reports have fallen on deaf ears in sanction-happy Washington. After all, for Washington, ordinary Iranians are legitimate targets.
As U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, a co-sponsor of the latest Iran sanctions bill, once averred, “It’s okay to take the food out of the mouths of” innocent Iranians.
Kirk was of course simply trying his best to channel Madeleine Albright, who, when asked in a 1996 appearance on 60 Minuteswhether the half million dead Iraqi children due to sanctions was “worth it,” coolly affirmed that, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”
The “Mafia Principle”
Such examples of the callus thinking of the Washington elite offer clear evidence of what Noam Chomsky deems the “Mafia principle” of U.S. foreign policy at work.
“The Godfather does not tolerate ‘successful defiance’,” Chomsky explains. “It is too dangerous. It must therefore be stamped out so that others understand that disobedience is not an option.”
The Islamic Republic, of course, is well acquainted with the “Mafia principle,” having fallen under U.S. sanctions since its very inception. Tehran’s original sin being nothing less than the toppling of the favored American puppet, the Shah.
Yet as Iran’s power in the Middle East has continued to grow, the ire of the Godfather has only mounted. And the Don’s indignation has found no more reliable outlet than the ratcheting up of punitive economic sanctions — ordinary Iranians be damned.
Such is the punishment for the crime of defiance — the crime of national independence. As Americans love to say, freedom isn’t free. Especially, we might add, for non-Americans.
Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his website.
This article was originally posted at GlobalResearch
Copyright © Ben Schreiner, Global Research, 2013

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The Iranians Are Coming!

The Imagined, ‘Sinister’ Iranian Threat in Latin America
By Ramzy Baroud 
January 03, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Reading the text of a bill that was recently signed into law by US President Barack Obama would instill fear in the hearts of ordinary Americans. Apparently, barbarians coming from distant lands are at work. They are gathering at the US-Mexico border, cutting fences and ready to wreak havoc on an otherwise serene American landscape.
Never mind that crazed, armed to the teeth, homegrown American terrorists are killing children and terrorizing whole cities. It is the Iranian menace that we are meant to fear according to the new law. When compounded with the other imagined threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, all with sinister agendas, then the time is right for Americans to return to their homes, bolt their doors and squat in shelters awaiting further instructions, for evidently, “The Iranians are coming.”
It is as comical as it is untrue. But “The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act”, which as of Dec. 28 is an official US law, is not meant to be amusing. It is riddled with half-truths, but mostly complete and utter lies.
Yes, Iran’s influence in Latin America is on the rise. However, by US standards, the expanding diplomatic ties, extending trade routes and such are considered a threat to be ‘countered’ or per Forbes magazine’s endless wisdom, ‘confronted.’
Language in politics can be very dangerous as it can misconstrue reality, turning fictitious scenarios into ‘facts’. Despite its faltering economy, the US continues to experience a sharp growth in its think-tank industry—men and women whose sole purpose are to invent and push political agendas, which oftentimes belong to some foreign entity; in this case it is Israel. Ian Barman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council reflected that sentiment exactly in a recent article in Forbes.
Only in the past year, “policymakers in Washington have woken up to a new (Iranian) threat to U.S. security”, he wrote, citing an alleged Iranian assassination plot in Washington. According to Barman, that was the wake-up call leading to a “deeply worrisome” reality. In a moment of supposed level-headedness, he writes: “exactly how significant this threat is represents the subject of a new study released in late November by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. That report, entitled ‘A Line In The Sand’, documents the sinister synergies that have been created in recent years between Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and radical regional regimes and actors—from Venezuela to Mexican drug cartels—on the other.”
But according to Agence France Press, reporting on the new law on Dec. 29, “Washington has repeatedly stated it is closely monitoring Tehran’s activities in Latin America, though senior State Department and intelligence officials have indicated there is no apparent indication of illicit activities by Iran.”
Indeed, on the issue of Iran’s influence in Latin America there are two contradicting narratives. One that merely acknowledges Iranians growing diplomatic outreach in Latin America since 2005 and another that speaks of massive conspiracies involving Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, drug cartels, and yes, even underground music piracy groups. The alleged conspiracy is not only far-fetched, it is purposely fabricated to further punish Iran, on behalf of Israel, for its nuclear program. The panic over Iran’s ‘infiltration’ of the US ‘neighborhood’ in Latin America, didn’t start a year ago (as alleged by Barman) but rather coincided with old Israeli-Western propaganda which pained Iran as a country ruled by religious fiends whose main hobby is to assemble bombs and threaten western civilization. When pro-Israeli think tank ‘experts’ began floating a scenario of ‘what if Iran and Hezbollah join forces with Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel’ a few years ago, the idea seemed too absurd to compel a rational response. Now it is actually written into the new bill turned law as if a matter of fact. (Sec. 2, Findings 12)
The bill doesn’t only lack reason, proper references and is dotted with a strange amalgam of politically-inspired accusations, it also relies on wholesale allegations of little, if any plausible foundation whatsoever: “Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region.” (Sec 2, Findings 8)
Of course, since the whole exercise is fueled by Israeli anxiety, Hamas also had to somehow be pulled in, if not indicted through the same inexplicable reasoning: “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concluded in 2008 that almost one-half of the foreign terrorist organizations in the world are linked to narcotics trade and trafficking, including Hezbollah and Hamas.” (Sec. 2, Findings 10)
US author and journalist, Belen Fernandez has been looking into this matter for years. In all of her writings on the topic she seemed to trace the very thread that unites the invented upheaval over Iran’s supposed takeover of the ‘Western Hemisphere.’ In an article entitled: “Distorting Iranian-Latin American Relations”, nearly two years ago, she wrote: “Iranian ‘penetration’ in Latin America has in recent years become a pet issue of Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and American neoconservative pundits, many of whom take offense at the perceived failure of the U.S. government to adequately appreciate the security threat posed by, for example, the inauguration of a weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran with a stop in Damascus.”
The issue for Israel and its US conduits is entirely political. Iran is indeed expanding its political and diplomatic outreach, but entirely through legal and official means, something that the US has failed to do since The Monroe Doctrine gave the US exclusive hegemony over Latin America starting in December 1823. But much has changed since then, especially in the last two decades when the US swung towards disastrous Middle East foreign policies, much to the pleasure of Israel. The suffering endured by Arabs and Muslims was the needed break for some Latin American countries to challenge US policies in their respective countries. This period was the era in which powerhouses like Brazil rose and popular governments took the helm. US policies in Latin America are not failing because of Iranians ‘sinister’ plans, but because of something entirely different.
Demeaning Latin America as a hapless region waiting for US saviors and pinning US political stocks on Iran might serve immediate Israeli purposes, but it will certainly contribute to the growing political delusion that permeates Washington. Alas, there are little indications that Washington politicians are anywhere near waking up from Israel’s overbearing spell. Just examine the author of the anti-Iran bill: Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina’s 3rd District. He is a ‘freshman’, but has massive ambitions. He joined the Congress in 2011 and quickly learned the ropes. He knows that in order to succeed on Capitol Hill, one must win favor with the pro-Israeli lobby. He sponsored the bill on January 3, just few days before Iranian President went on a major diplomatic tour in Latin America to expand his country’s international relations. That alone was unacceptable, for Latin America has long been designated as the US ‘backyard’, per the belittling perception of US mainstream media. The trip ignited the ire of Israel, which media and officials considered a travesty at a time that Tel Aviv was tirelessly working to isolate Iran. The bill was clearly a coordinated move, as its language indicates textbook Israeli hasbara.
Duncan might have been a novice, but he is quickly catching up. On May 20, he proudly posted a statement on his House of Representative page that sharply censures his own president’s remarks on Israel, while fully supporting the political stances of the leader of another country, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He decried Obama’s siding with the “Hamas-led government”, which thus “undermined Israel’s position in the negotiation process.”
“President Obama’s statement that Israel should retreat to its impossible to defend 1967 borders breaks a promise to one of our strongest allies, threatens Israel’s security, and jeopardizes the future of democracy in the region,” he wrote. Of course, Duncan wholeheartedly agreed with Netanyahu’s right-wing policies. “(The Israeli) Prime Minister understands the hard reality of Israel’s precarious security situation and daily threats of terrorism. I agree with the Israeli Prime Minister that President Obama’s position is simply unrealistic.” He concluded with a very telling statement: “As a Christian, I ask Americans to continue lifting up the people of Israel with prayers for safety and the hope for a lasting peace.”
This strange attitude towards politics and American national security is the real threat, not Iranian embassies and water purification projects in some Latin American countries. But considering the rising religious zealotry, shrewd Israeli lobby and the numerous think tanks of catered wisdom, there is little space for pragmatic politics or sensible approach to anything that concerns Israel. Thus, Obama enacted the bill into law and funds have been secured to evaluate Iran’s growing ‘threats’ in ‘America’s backyard’ so that proper measures are taken to counter the frightening possibilities.
What Duncan doesn’t know however, is that Latin America is no longer hostage, neither to the whims of Washington, nor to his South Carolina’s 3rd District. And that the ‘Western Hemisphere’ is no longer defined by the confines of US foreign policies, which seem to be narrowing each year to meet Israeli expectations and not those of America.
Ramzy Baroud is a widely published and translated author. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com

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The Impact of Sanctions on Iranian Society

Economic sanctions are not only shattering the lives of the Iranian people but also strangling Iran’s social and cultural development. Iran is headed for a humanitarian catastrophe unless steps are taken to avert it. 

By Mehrnaz Shahabi

This article is based on a talk presented by independent researcher Mehrnaz Shahabi on November 17 at theNour Festival of Arts in London, which seeks to celebrate, explore and promote culture and arts in the Middle East and North Africa.
December 14, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – For 33 years now, since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran has been the target of US economic sanctions, which have increased in scope and severity over time. The impact of sanctions on populations is not always quantifiable and can be contradictory. Despite their negative impact in isolating and hindering Iran’s economic progress, and the tragic loss of life due to the boycott of spare parts for the aging Iranian airline, in so far as necessity is the mother of invention, sanctions in many instances have acted as an impetus for technological progress; and the experience of success and survival through adversity has infused a collective sense of empowerment and self-confidence.
When I was asked in July to talk about the impact of sanctions on Iranian society, the idea was to place some emphasis on the arts and artists. Since then, the reality of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding as a result of the economic warfare on Iran has shifted the emphasis, by necessity, from the artists to their audience, since it is inconceivable to think of arts separately from the audience at which it is directed.
The current sanctions by the US and the EU, under the pretext of a manufactured dispute over Iran’s civilian nuclear programme, are comprehensive sanctions against Iran’s economy for inflicting intentional collective punishment. The damage to the economy and the injury inflicted on the lives of the population in all respects is unambiguous and lethal.
Impact on Healthcare
These sanctions, which went into effect at the end of July 2012, target, amongst other things, Iran’s banking and export of oil. Export of oil comprises 80 percent of Iran’s foreign revenue which finances infrastructural work, social and welfare services, hospitals, schools, universities, state employees’ salaries and pensions. The value of Iranian currency has declined by 80 percent in the past year. The prices of imported machinery, medicine, and many types of foodstuff haverisen beyond the reach of ordinary people. Many factories and businesses have folded, and unemployment is mounting.
However, the most critical impact of sanctions is on the availability of drugs and the health of the population. Iran is making 97 percent of its needed drugs domestically, and pharmaceuticals are heavily subsidised. The devalued currency means that raw materials imported for drug production are now a lot more expensive. In many cases, the raw material cannot even be paid for because of the banking sanctions, particularly as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), in compliance with the EU sanctions has stopped its electronic communication services for Iranian financial institutions and transactions from Iran. As a result, even domestically-produced drugs are becoming unavailable. Two drug manufacturing companies closed this October, and pharmacies are experiencing widespreadclosures and bankruptcies.
The most advanced life saving drugs cannot be made in generic form.These include drugs for heart disease, lung problems, kidney disease and dialysis, multiple sclerosis, thalassemia, haemophilia and many forms of cancer.
All of the surgeries for thousands of haemophilic patients have been cancelled because a shortage of coagulant drugs. A15-year-old child died at the end of October due to the absence of coagulant medication. The head of Iran’s Haemophilia Society has said, “This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights. Even a few days of delay can have serious consequences like haemorrhage and disability.”
The drugs for many forms of cancer, particularly leukaemia, which is rife in Iran, cannot be imported, and this absence of drugs is happening in a context where the number of cancer patients in Iran has risen dramatically. It is predicted that by 2015 there will be a “cancer tsunami” in Iran.
In Iraq, a UNICEF survey estimated that 500,000 children under five had died, as a result of sanctions on the country, between 1991 and 1998. One can presume that by the time of the 2003 invasion, and under deteriorating conditions of poor water sanitation, malnutrition, disease, and the near absence of medication, many more would have died in the entire population. With millions of lives currently at risk in Iran, it is predicted that the death rate there could dwarf the casualties in Iraq.
I was in Iran recently and returned last Tuesday. Whilst there, this dire humanitarian situation was confirmed by medics and chemists with whom I spoke. Also, some students in medical chemistry told me that they can no longer afford the ingredients to make the drugs required for their doctorate work.
The Effect on Culture and Arts
There is no doubt about the direct or indirect detrimental effects of these sanctions on Iranian society at economic, political, social, cultural and artistic levels. I attended the re-launch of the magazine Danesh va Mardom (Science and People). The writers, poets, translators, and scientists present there were unanimously concerned about the impact of sanctions. I was told how the price of paper had multiplied more than fivefold. In fact, the publishers syndicate has recently warned that publishing is no longer viable.
The double impact of the devalued currency and financial sanctions have made it very difficult to access scientific and other academic papers to keep abreast with the most recent developments and to have effective scientific and cultural exchanges with those outside of Iran. I heard repeatedly from very bright graduates that there was no prospect for jobs and no budget for research, and that there is an unprecedented flood of “brain drain” out of the country.
An example of a visible impact on the arts is the virtual winding up of the National Symphony Orchestra, which accordingto its young conductor, Barda Kiaros, has not practiced and whose musicians have not been paid for over two months. He says that the Tehran Symphony Orchestra too does not receive the recognition it deserves and has not performed the work of great composers in concert for two years.
Abdolhossein Mokhtabaad, a famous composer and traditional singer, commented on the effects of sanctions and expressed the belief that the economic situation is not conducive to arts. He said that artists are not supported and likened artistic work in Iran to the work of a tightrope artist — always walking on a thin line.
For an insecure, debilitated, and hand-to-mouth population, artistic appreciation and artistic expression become a rare luxury, even irrelevant on the hierarchy of their people’s priorities. Not only do sanctions destroy the infrastructure for cultural and artistic development, they also create a state of economic and political siege directed at forced regime change, which is intensifying the securitization of Iranian society with dire consequences for civil and political rights, including artistic expression.
The strangulation of Iran’s rights and silencing of its voice on the international scene then finds its parallel in the strangulation and silencing of Iranians’ rights and voice, including artistic expression, at the domestic level. As in Iraq, sanctions are not only destroying the most vulnerable sections of the population but are devastating and weakening the middle class in Iran as the historical engine for creativity and scientific and cultural progress.
No one amongst the leaders or the grassroots of Iran’s legitimate domestic opposition has called for sanctions on Iran. In fact, they have warned that sanctions and war will be the biggest blow to the civil society and democratic aspirations in Iran.
Artistic expressions may defy political repression and economic poverty and find channels and forms of expression, as exemplified by the proud achievements of Iranian cinema. However, there is a tipping point when hardship does not strengthen but destroys the cultural and artistic development, in the long-term and at a societal level.
The economic sanctions on Iran are illegal under the international law and meet the UN definition of genocide. Nonetheless, US Congressman Brad Sherman has said “Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.” Similarly, Congressman Gary Ackerman said, “The goal…is to inflict crippling, unendurable economic pain over there.” These sentiments to target the population to feel the pain of the sanctions are echoed by other Western statesmen.
The UN Convention on Genocide defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such…[including] causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; [and] deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” How else are we to interpret the sanctions affecting the import of baby milk and tetanus vaccine, and the announcement by Iran’s Ministry of Health that Iran’s medical drug reserves will run out within two months?
Denis Halliday, who resigned as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq after 34 years of service for the UN in protest against the impact of economic sanctions on the people of Iraq, described the sanctions as genocidal. Another humanitarian catastrophe and another genocide is now unfolding in Iran. Iranian society and Iranian artists are being strangulated into silence and a collective silent death, unless we intervene boldly in true artistic spirit.
Update: Iran’s Ministry of Health announced on November 30 that with the Central Bank’s release of $130 million of its foreign currency reserves at a relatively cheap emergency exchange rate, the import of urgently-needed pharmaceutical drugs had begun. The Central Bank also agreed to allocate $1.5 to 2 billion from its foreign currency reserves to cover the pharmaceutical needs of the population for the next year.
The emergency health crisis, however, will only be temporarily abated. On the same day as the announcement of Iran’s Ministry of Health on November 30, the US Senate approved another round of draconian sanctions against Iran’s economy. These sanctions, which came as an amendment to the US National Defense Authorization Act, further target Iran’s ports, shipbuilding, shipping, and energy sectors. In violation of the international trade law, the sanctions also attempt to deplete Iran’s foreign currency reserve by penalizing countries who make payments of gold or other precious metals in exchange for Iran’s gas and oil, as Turkey did this year when it reportedly paid $6.4 billion in gold for Iranian natural gas.
Mehrnaz Shahabi is an anti-war activist and independent researcher. 
This article was originally posted at Fair Observer

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Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair

The film has won numerous awards and critical acclaim:

The Los Angeles Times calls Coverup “chillingly lucid and consistent.” The Chicago Tribune says It Is “calm, coherent and persuasive….” while the Denver Post calls It “a challenging piece, very much worth seeing, no matter what your politics.”

Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair is the third feature-length documentary produced by the Empowerment Project.
The shadow government of assassins, arms dealers, drug smugglers, former CIA operatives and top US military personnel who were running foreign policy unaccountable to the public, revealing the Reagan/Bush administration’s plan to use FEMA to institute martial law and ultimately suspend the Constitution. Strikingly relevant to current events.
Full Video 72 Minutes
Click on “comments” below to read or post comments

The film has won numerous awards and critical acclaim:
The Los Angeles Times calls Coverup “chillingly lucid and consistent.” The Chicago Tribune says It Is “calm.coherent and persuasive….” while the Denver Post calls It “a challenging piece, very much worth seeing, no matter what your politics.”
Coverup exposes several of the most disturbing chapters in the history of U.S. covert foreign policy. It presents a tale of politics, drugs, hostages, weapons, assassinations, covert operations and the ultimate plan to suspend the U.S.Constitution. Coverup was the first film to reveal the ‘October Surprise’ hostage deal (the Reagan/Bush campaigndeal with Iran to delay the release of the 52 American hostages until after the 1980 election), and is the only film which presents a comprehensive overview of the most important stories suppressed during the Iran Contra hearings. It is the only film that puts the entire Iran Contra affair into a meaningful political and historical context. The 1988 film is updated with information from recent court cases and events, reconfirming much of the material presented.Coverup won the American Film & Video Association, Blue Ribbon Award for Best Documentary. Social Issues;National Education Film & Video Festival, Crystal Apple for Best Documentary, Social & Political Issues; Golden HugoBest Independent Video, Chicago International Film Festival; the Prix Du Public for Best Documentary. Women’s International Film Festival (Films DC Femmes, Paris, France); Gold Award for Best Video Documentary, Philadelphia International Film Festival Int’l Assn. of Motion Pictures & TV Producers).
Coverup was released in theaters in 80 cities across the United States in 1988-89. It was the subject of 200 local radio shows and 150 newspaper articles, including reviews, news stories, and editorials. In almost every city where the film showed, the audience participated in a question and answer/discussion period following each screening, and a direct action organizing campaign. During the height of its theatrical release,Coverup was screening in 35 towns simultaneously, creating a venue for over 150 organizing meetings per week.
Coverup was released to individuals, video stores, community groups, schools, and libraries through avariety of distributors. Over 10,000 video copies are now in circulation.
In late 1990, the Central Educational Network (CEN), a regional PBS distributor, agreed to offer Coverupall local PBS affiliates during 1991. As a result, stations in the following state networks and cities haveaired, or plan to air the program during the 1990-1991 season:

  • The states of Connecticut, Nebraska and Oregon; Denver, El Paso. Fort Wayne. Flint, Indianapolis, Kansas City.Memphis, Minneapolis/St. Paul. Plainview NY, Plattsburgh NY. San Bernardino CA, San Francisco, Topeka. and the U.S.Virgin Islands. KQED in San Francisco was the first U.S. station to broadcast Coverup in May 1990. As with eachbroadcast so far, viewer response to the KQED airing was overwhelmingly positive, called “phenomenal” by the series programmer.

Coverup has also enjoyed unusual international attention. Following festival screenings in seven countries. Coverup has been broadcast in part or whole in the U.K., the Netherlands. Ireland. Algeria andGermany. Theatrical and/or educational releases have been secured in the U.K., France, Canada, AustralNew Zealand, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, French-speaking Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.
To order this film click here.

Comment section added December 06, 2012

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Video: Doomsday for Iran? US Tests EMP Bomb

Boeing has successfully tested an EMP missile that could be doomsday for Iran; media have largely ignored the development.

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

December 05, 2012 “Israel National News” — Boeing has successful tested an electro-magnetic pulse (EMPmissilethat turns “science fiction into science fact” and could be the doomsday weapon against Iran, but media have largely ignored the development.

The U.S. Air Force and Boeing demonstrated the device more than two months ago over a military site in the Utah desert, reported the VR-Zone technology website.
Boeing did not keep the test a secret, but most mainstream media and technology sites overlooked the report.
The test was codenamed CHAMP — Counter-Electronics High Power Advanced Missile Project and was the first time a real EMP missile has been tested with positive real world results.
One of the most startling developments in the research and test is that the missile system does not use any explosives, thereby limiting damage to its intended goal of directing microwave energy that can cause instant blackouts.
Keith Coleman, who serves as Boeing’s CHAMP program manager in their Phantom Works division, stated that video camera showed “images of numerous desktop computers running, and then suddenly all of them go out quickly followed by the camera going to black,” VR-Zone reported. 
“We hit every target we wanted to…  Today we made science fiction, science fact,” said Coleman.   
An Arutz Sheva opinion article in August mentioned Israel’s possible use of an EMP bomb against Iran. The report triggered a chain reaction, allegedly influencing U.S. intelligence sources who have since been quoted in several publications with doubtful assumptions that the article reflected Israel government thinking.
The London Times subsequently reported that an EMP bomb could cripple Iran by shutting down its electronics and sending the Islamic Republic “back to the Stone Age.”
EMP causes non-lethal gamma energy to react with the magnetic field and produces a powerful electromagnetic shock wave that can destroy electronic devices, especially those used in Iran’s nuclear plants.
The shock wave would knock out Iran’s power grid and communications systems for transport and financial services, leading to economic collapse.

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Video of the American Drone Captured By Iran

Video

Iran’s (IRGC) has captured a US ScanEagle drone again over the Persian Gulf waters upon its intrusion into the Iranian airspace.

IRGC Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi made the announcement on Tuesday, adding that the Iranian armed forces enjoy full intelligence command over foreign movements in the Persian Gulf region.

Referring to the captured ScanEagle drone, the Iranian commander pointed out, “Such drones are usually launched from large aircraft carriers.”

The ScanEagle drone, which has a 10ft (3m) wingspan, is a long-endurance aircraft built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.Iran has released footage of the captured drone.

Posted December -5, 2012

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Is Hamas Really a ‘Surrogate’ of Iran?

By Robert Wright
November 29, 2012 “The Atlantic” — Is Hamas a puppet of the Iranian regime? An affirmative answer to this question is, from the point of view of Bibi Netanyahu, a dual-use rhetorical technology: (1) It helps justify the recent bombardment of Gaza (since one goal of the operation was to deplete an Iranian-supplied missile stock that Iran could in theory activate against Israel in the event of war). (2) It helps justify Netanyahu’s uncompromising stance toward Iran (since, the more pervasively threatening Iran seems to Israelis, the easier it is to convince them that the Iranian regime is beyond the reach of negotiation).
The Hamas-as-Iranian-puppet narrative gets help from American media. Consider, for example, this week’s New York Times piece by David Sanger and Thom Shanker asking what the recent Israel-Gaza conflict tells us about how a possible war with Iran might play out. Referring to Netanyahu and President Obama, Sanger and Shanker write:
And one key to their war-gaming has been cutting off Iran’s ability to slip next-generation missiles into the Gaza Strip or Lebanon, where they could be launched by Iran’s surrogates, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad, during any crisis over sanctions or an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The confident assertion that Hamas is an Iranian “surrogate”–a claim Sanger and Shanker never get around to substantiating–is oddly out of touch with recent developments in the region.
It’s certainly true that Hamas had, and still has, lots of Iranian-supplied missiles, the product of a close relationship that goes back years. But this past year has seen developments that changed the relationship.
First, Hamas ended its relationship with the Syrian regime and moved its leadership out of Syria–a move that not only strained relations with Syrian ally Iran but may have deeply altered them. In March, a Hamas official said Hamas wouldnot serve as Iran’s retaliatory surrogate in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran and would not get involved in an Israel-Iran war.
Second, the sudden slack in Hamas’s relationship with Iran seems to have been taken up by Qatar, which is now bankrolling Hamas, and, in a different way, by Egypt, which is closer to Hamas under President Morsi than it was under Hosni Mubarek. This shift in Hamas’s source of support–from Iran and Syria toward Qatar and Egypt–could prove constructive in the long run, since both Qatar and Egypt are members of the global establishment and seem to want to stay that way.
None of this means Hamas’s relationship with Iran is over. Indeed, with Hamas now basking in the glow of what it’s calling a victory over Israel, gratitude for the missiles Iran sent to Gaza is on conspicuous display. Still, Hamas’s behaviorduring the conflict with Israel may say more about its relationship with Iran than any niceties emanating from Gaza afterwards. On this point it’s worth reading Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli academic of Iranian descent who teaches a course on Iranian politics. His take:
Apart from supplying weapons, Iran did not have any other influence. If it did, and Hamas was acting as its proxy, the latter would not have agreed to a cease-fire and instead done everything to force Israel to launch a land invasion in Gaza. Such an outcome would have many benefits for Iran and, in fact, this is what Iran’s military and political leaders wanted. They wanted to see Israel stuck in a quagmire in Gaza, with its economy and diplomatic standing suffering heavily while its relations with Egypt reached breaking point. Unfortunately for the Iranian regime, it did not get its wish precisely because Hamas is not its proxy, nor does it have any political influence over Hamas. Otherwise, the story would have been different.
The Hamas-as-Iran’s-surrogate motif has dramatic appeal, and journalists, like the rest of us, like drama. But dramatization often means simplification. And when the prospect of war is real–as it was with Iraq in 2002, as it is with Iran now–journalists have a particular responsibility to resist incendiary oversimplification.
Robert Wright is a senior editor at The Atlantic and the author, most recently, of The Evolution of God, a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Copyright © 2012 by The Atlantic Monthly Group.

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How Dare Iran!!!

By Steve Hynd
Two Iranian Su-25 fighter jets fired on an unarmed U.S. Air Force Predator drone in the Persian Gulf last week, CNN has learned.
The incident raises fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes.
The drone was in international airspace east of Kuwait, U.S. officials said, adding it was engaged in routine maritime surveillance.
…The drone’s still and video cameras captured the incident showing two SU-25s approaching the Predator and firing its onboard guns.
The Iranian pilots continued to fire shots that went beneath the Predator but were never successful in hitting it, according to the officials.
U.S. military intelligence analysts are still not sure if the Iranian pilots simply were unable to hit the drone due to lack of combat skill, or whether they deliberately were missing and had no intention of bringing down the drone. But as one of the officials said, “it doesn’t matter, they fired on us.”
How dare they! Don’t those pesky Iranians know that they were firing at an aircraft of the Divienely Mandated Most Exceptional Nation Ever?
Firing warning shots, from ground-attack aircraft, at an unmanned drone “conducting surveillance”. Surveillance of who and what, exactly? Iranian shipping, Iranian military vessels? The story doesn’t say.
As I say, nothing here but an excuse for some outrage.
This article was originally posted at The Agonist

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The Unfolding Human Catastrophe in Iran

Sanctions imposed on Iran’s banks and financial institutions could lead to a humanitarian crisis.
By Muhammad Sahimi & Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi 

October 30, 2012 “Al Jazeera” —  During their debate about foreign policy last Monday, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney both agreed that the crippling unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the the United States and its allies must continue, until the Islamic Republic recalibrates its nuclear ambitions.

Both seem to have also adopted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s favoured refrain that “Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear capability” and that such a capability constitutes a “red line” not to be crossed at any cost. Previously the inveterate refrain had been “Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon”.
The definition of “capability” has continued to remain vague and ill-defined, and a number of analysts have concluded that the Islamic Republic is already nuclear capable and has all the necessary components it would need in order to assemble a bomb if it so desired. Once a country has mastered enrichment technology it is generally accepted that the decision to weaponise largely becomes a political one.
Both Israeli and American intelligence continue to hold that Iran has not yet taken any such a decision. A crucial caveat is of course is that as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with all its enrichment sites subject to IAEA inspections, if it desired to make a dash for the bomb, Iran would have to withdraw from the NPT. An act that would immediately raise alarm bells across the world and most likely provoke a rapid Western military response. 
Apart from the vague and shifting red lines which continue to afflict the thick fog of Western national security rhetoric vis-a-vis Iran, not a single word was uttered by either men about the plight and suffering of the Iranian people who have had no role in the decisions made by the Islamic Republic’s leaders. But, the fact is that the sanctions, exacerbated by government incompetence, have the potential to give rise to a major human catastrophe.
‘Smart’ and ‘targeted’
The lack of sensitivity to the plight of ordinary Iranians was – at least on the President’s part – surprising, because when  his administration together with the European Union began imposing sanctions on Iran, they promised the world that the sanctions will be “smart” and “targeted”. The world was promised that the sanctions will not hurt millions of ordinary Iranians who go about their daily lives and, in fact, oppose many of their government’s policies.
But, the sanctions are now in full force, and are hurting the same people who we were told were not meant to be their target, in what is yet another case of “collateral damage” inflicted by Western policy towards Iran, and its disenfranchised people who have lost control over their destiny at both home and abroad. In fact, there are very strong indications that a human catastrophe could emerge whose scale poses as much a threat as an outright military attack.
The supposedly “smart” and “targeted” sanctions have been increasingly expanded to all areas, even if they are not part of the official sphere of sanctions. This is intentional, even if Western leaders tell us otherwise. To avoid criticisms of the type that they were confronted with after they imposed all-encompassing sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s, the US and its EU allies have imposed sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank and practically all other Iranian banks that are involved in commercial transactions with the outside world. Since these banks open lines of credit for imports, and provide financial guarantees for commerce with the outside world, it has become very difficult, if not impossible, to import vital goods and products into the country, even those that absolutely have nothing to do with the military, or oil, or the nuclear programme. In effect, this is the type of sanctions imposed on Iraq, but in a supposedly more “humanitarian” way.
An area that has been hit very hard is the pharmaceutical sector. Although Iran produces a large part of the medicines and drugs that its population needs, based on the generic versions of brand-named pharmaceuticals, it is still unable to produce the most advanced drugs that have come to the market over the past 10 to 15 years that deal with a variety of serious illnesses, simply because their generic versions are not yet available. As a result, Iran must still import a significant amount of drugs every year to address the needs of the Iranian people when dealing with such illnesses as leukaemia, AIDS, and others. 
 
Sanctions on banks
But, the sanctions imposed on Iran’s banks and financial institutions have effectively prevented Iran from importing the necessary drugs and the associated chemicals. At the same time, as Iran’s oil exports continue to decrease due to the sanctions strain on the country’s resources, it becomes increasingly difficult to pay for the expensive imported drugs, even if a way can be found for importing them. As a pharmacist in Tehran said, “The warehouses for pharmaceutics are empty because we cannot import what we need due to the sanctions, and even if we could, we do not have the resources to pay for them due to the sanctions.”
As a result, the shortage of drugs has all the makings of a human catastrophe. According to recent estimates as many as 6 million patients are currently being affected by the impact of sanctions on the import and manufacture of medications inside Iran. 
This has prompted many of Iran’s healthcare professionals to raise their voices, and begin protesting the impending danger they’re witnessing before their eyes. The board of directors of the Iranian Haemophilia Society recently informed the World Federation of Haemophilia (IFH) that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs as a consequence of international economic sanctions imposed on Iran.
According to the letter that the Society’s board sent to the IFH, while the export of drugs to Iran has not been banned, the sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medicines. Describing itself as a non-political organisation that has been active for 45 years, the Society condemned [FA] the “inhumane and immoral” US and EU sanctions and appealed to international organisations for help.
No drugs to treat illnesses
Some statistics are very telling. Tens of thousands of Iranian boys and young men are haemophilic and need certain drugs that must be imported. Many of them may need surgery for a variety of reasons, but in the absence of proper drugs for their haemophilia illness, the surgeries cannot be performed, because the bleeding could not be stopped.
Several credible reports from Iran indicate that surgeries for all haemophilic patients have been cancelled, and at least a few have already died.There are about 37,000 Iranians with MS, a debilitating disease that can be controlled only with advanced medications; otherwise, the patients will die. In fact, three members of one of our extended families in Iran are afflicted with multiple sclerosis. Furthermore, given that even under the best medical conditions 40,000 Iranians lose their lives to cancer every year, and that it has been predicted by many medical experts that Iran will have a “cancer tsunami” by 2015 as every year 70,000 to 80,000 new cases of cancer are identified in Iran, the gravity of the situation becomes even more perilous.
Fatemeh Hashemi, head of Iran’s Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, which cares for the needs of patients with life-threatening diseases, including a variety of cancers in adult patients as well as children, heart diseases, lung problems, multiple sclerosis (MS), and thalassemia, recently wrote a letter to United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The Foundation has been a highly successful nonpolitical organisation that, in addition to Iran, has also served many people in Iraq and Afghanistan, and whose work has been recognised by the UN.

In her letter Hashemi said that she leads an organisation “with 6 million patients and, hence, in contact with 30 per cent of Iran’s total population”. Emphasising the non-political nature of her organisation and her letter, Hashemi added:

“Although drugs have not been sanctioned, due to the impossibility of paying for the imported drugs through the banking system, the heavy shadow of the sanctions is felt in the health sector. Not only has importing drugs been disrupted, importing the raw chemicals [for the drugs that Iran does produce] has also been disrupted… As a human activist, I call on humanity’s conscience to pay attention to the fact that, despite the claims by those that have imposed the sanctions, their pressure is having its destructive effect on the life and health of the people.”
Hence, the supposedly “smart” and “targeted” sanctions that were not going to hurt the ordinary Iranians have been inflicting significant damage on the Iranian people. 
The net result is that shortage of drugs for patients with serious and life-threatening illnesses is becoming chronic in Iran, and is reaching hazardous levels.
 
Shortage of drugs
Meanwhile, recent reports indicate that two large plants that produce drugs for a variety of illnesses have also been closed. The reason is that it has become essentially impossible to import the chemical compounds used in the production of the drugs, due to the sanctions imposed on Iran’s financial institutions that deal with the outside world.
The world must recognise that in certain respects the path taken by the United States and its allies is eerily similar to what was done to Iraq in the 1990s. The United Nation’s UNICEF estimated that the sanctions imposed on Iraq caused the death of up to 500,000 Iraqi children. Given that Iran’s population is three times that of Iraq, if the sanctions imposed on Iran last several years – as they did with Iraq – the number of dead resulting from them could be larger than that of Iraq.
Moreover, given that Iran still imports a significant amount of wheat, rice and other food products, if the sanctions drag on, not only could hundreds of thousands of Iranians die due to shortage of drugs and medical goods, the shortage of food could also become very significant. It should also be noted, if only in passing, that sanctions did not change the policy of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Thus, after causing the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, those who had been jockeying for war with Iraq all along argued that the sanctions had failed, and “regime change” was the only alternative. As we now know Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, nor was it trying to produce them. Iran also does not have nuclear weapons yet, but Western policy has the power to change the Iranian leadership’s calculus and make it seem like the only viable option remaining with the power to guarantee regime survival.
In sum, comprehensive sanctions not only killed thousands in Iraq, but they eventually laid the path to war. One key difference in the case of Iran is of course that one of its few lifelines to the outside world is still China, which depends on Iranian energy to abet its ongoing economic expansion, hardly a commendable development for those supporting human rights and entertaining hopes of democratisation in the Islamic Republic.
The sanctions have arguably failed to meaningfully shift the stance of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who most recently emphasised that the Islamic Republic is prepared to negotiate and has in fact never left the negotiating table, but will not be cowed into submission. So, if, for instance, Iran is expected to forgo 19.75 per cent uranium enrichment and close the underground Fordow enrichment facility, two of the P5+1’s key demands at the Baghdad and Moscow talks, there must be some form of quid pro quo. Without one, there is no incentive for Iran to cooperate in an atmosphere already severely afflicted by a longstanding deficit of trust. There have been rumblings and rumours of possible sanctions relief after the US presidential election but nothing tangible as of yet. 
There are many voices within Iran that have called on the leadership to find a compromise with the West. The US and its allies can make such voices stronger and louder if they offer to lift some of the sanctions, or at least have exceptions that allow Iran’s financial system to be involved in the import of vital goods and products with no military or
nuclear applications, such as drugs and food stuffs.

It may be useless to preach to the Obama administration about the human, moral, and ethical toll of its policy toward Iran, given that the President has in many respects perpetuated the destructive Middle East policy of George W Bush, which in Iran’s case has been even tougher and more damaging to the livelihood of the Iranian people.

But, the emerging catastrophe will be an ethical and moral problem for the West for decades to come, a catastrophe that is being created simply because Western governments appear to blindly pursue crippling sanctions against Iran as an end in themselves, as opposed to a means by which to further the diplomatic process. 
Given the tragic history of the US intervention in Iran in the past, it is be prudent to rethink the consequences of such blind sanctions, and their effect on the thinking of the Iranian people about the US – a largely pro-US population in one of the most turbulent areas in the world that has been known for its hostility towards the United States and its perceived negative impact in much of the region.
Muhammad Sahimi, a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, analyses developments in Iran for the website PBS/Frontline: Tehran Bureau.
Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi, a former Iran researcher at the Oxford Research Group, is Editor of Al-Monitor’s Iran Pulse. He is also a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford.

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US sought use of British bases for war against Iran

By Peter Symonds 
27 October 2012
The British-based Guardian newspaper reported Thursday that American diplomats have been lobbying Britain for the use of its military bases on Cyprus as well as US bases on the British territories of Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in preparation for war on Iran.
The US request points to a massive military buildup against Iran. The Pentagon has already stationed two aircraft carrier battle groups in or near the Persian Gulf, along with additional minesweepers and a specialised floating base that could be used to launch special forces operations inside Iran. A squadron of advanced F-22 fighters has also been moved to the region.
Access to the bases on Cyprus, Ascension Island and Diego Garcia would significantly boost the ability of the US air force to wage round-the-clock strikes against Iran.
The British government has, to date, rebuffed the Pentagon, significantly pointing out that an unprovoked US attack on Iran could be illegal under international law, as Tehran did not currently represent “a clear and present threat”.
British officials have cited advice drafted by the attorney general’s office that has been circulated to the Prime Minister’s office, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. A senior government official told the Guardian: “The UK could be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran. It is explicit.”
Like the US-led illegal invasion of Iraq, the Obama administration is preparing to launch a war of aggression against Iran. This was the chief crime for which Nazi leaders were tried and convicted at Nuremberg following World War II.
That Iran is not “a clear and present threat” also punctures the steady buildup of propaganda in the US and international media about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran. In his bellicose speech to the UN General Assembly last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran was just months away from building a nuclear weapon.
Tehran does not have a nuclear weapon and denies plans to build one. Unlike Israel, which has a substantial arsenal of nuclear bombs, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. All of its nuclear facilities are monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency along with its stockpiles of enriched uranium, none of which is weapons-grade.
A spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed yesterday that Britain had been involved in “contingency planning” with the US, also noting, “we have in the past cooperated on the use of UK bases.” However, she declared, “The government does not believe that military action against Iran is the right option at this time, but we are not taking any option off the table.”
British officials claim that the contingency planning was “routine”, but the military buildup in the Persian Gulf is anything but usual. Nor has the British government ruled out any involvement in what would be another illegal US-led war. The British navy currently has up to 10 ships in the region, including a nuclear-powered submarine, and participated last month in the largest-ever US-led joint demining exercise in the Persian Gulf.
The Guardian article reported that “a British military delegation with a strong navy contingent” had flown to US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, for talks earlier in the northern summer on “a range of contingency plans”. The US Central Command covers the Middle East and was responsible for the invasion of Iraq.
Britain’s reluctance to commit to a new war in the Middle East reflects fears within ruling circles in Europe and the US about the dangers of such a reckless enterprise. Writing in the Financial Times on Wednesday, former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski expressed deep concern over the belligerent statements of both American presidential candidates on foreign policy, in particular towards Iran and its ally, Syria. The idea, he wrote, that the US could impose “a new order in the Middle East—through the forceful export of ‘democracy’ to both Syria and Iran—is dangerous daydreaming.”
Brzezinski warned of the catastrophic consequences of new military action in an already unstable Middle East. “In this flammable setting, an American intervention in Syria or a military strike against Iran either by Israel or the US would be likely to set off a region-wide explosion.” While Brzezinski listed Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan as vulnerable, an attack on Iran would necessarily involve US allies in the Persian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia.
The former national security adviser pointed out that “an explosive crisis in the region would also have consequences elsewhere.” These included rising oil prices that would “wreak havoc on Europe’s financial recovery”, intensified differences among European states, and closer strategic cooperation between Moscow and Beijing against Washington. The broader danger is that a war in the Persian Gulf could also draw in China and Russia, which both have substantial economic and strategic interests in the region.
Brzezinski suggested that menacing threats against Iran and Syria by President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney were a product of the heat of the election campaign that would give way to “serious and comprehensive analysis” after the poll. In fact, as the latest Guardianreport attests, the election campaign is being used as a screen behind which detailed preparations are being made for attacking Iran or Syria, or both.
The bipartisan support in Washington for these criminal ventures points to the deep-rooted character of US militarism. For two decades, successive US administrations have plunged into one war after another in a bid to use military might to offset America’s economic decline and maintain its global dominance. Iran’s nuclear programs are simply a convenient pretext to launch an unprovoked war of aggression to bolster US hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

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Syria and Iran: Exposing the Lies and Disinformation

Video
October 22, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Activists and independent analysts on the Middle East disentangle the lies of the U.S. government and corporate media to destabilize and colonize Syria and Iran.
SPEAKERS:
Ramsey Clark, Former Attorney General, Dr. Mazen Adi and Mr. Asaad Ibrahim, Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations, Lizzy Phelan, Independent Journalist and broadcaster who has reported from both Libya and Syria during the wars there, Ardeshir Ommani, American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC), Larry Hales, International Action Center, Steve Becker, ANSWER Coalition, Larry Hales, International Action Center, mediated by Eleanor Ommani, cofounder of the AIFC
Sponsoring Organizations: American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC), ANSWER COALITION, International Action Center and New York Peace Council. Endorsed by CPRmetro.org Radio, Solidarity with Iran-SI, Veterans for Peace, Chpt. 21
 

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Bringing the People of Iran to Their Knees

Sanctions and the True Intentions of the “International Community”
By Soheil Asefi
October 20, 2012 “Counterpunch” – -Berlin – The European Union agreed to new sanctions against Iran on Monday, October 15 to force Tehran to comply with international demands that it scale back its nuclear program. At the same time, violence and protest in Iran as currency drops in value was in last week’s news headlines. The new phase of widespread discontent has intensified the abeyance of the stranded people of Iran.
Disruption in drug imports is just a piece of the grave consequences of the international sanctions on Iran. Iranian media report that the country is facing shortages of medicine needed for the treatment of a number of illnesses — including life-threatening conditions like cancer and heart disease, pulmonary problems, hemophilia, and multiple sclerosis. Meanwhile, the stern sanctions which have been imposed against Iranians are going to become a hope for the so-called international community and Iranian neoliberal forces. In light of the lassitude of an unattached opposition, inevitable failure of the ruling theocracy in Iran is going to become an unmitigated tragedy.
The International Community Wants It All
Meanwhile, recent protests and clashes at the center of Tehran seeing delirium of a bunch of factotum of the U.S think-thanks is no surprise for the seasoned political observers though it could be like an alarm for progressive forces in Iran and diaspora. The forces whose voices you can barely hear in the mainstream media. Strictly speaking, the deadlock of Iran’s regime could depict a horrific familiar story of domination in the Middle East. It seems the process of “The Greater Middle East” of Newcons is fulfilled by another puppet of AIPAC and its EU allies, tragically with a Nobel peace prize in hand. It seems liberalization in the Middle East is likely to lead to privatization. Recent upheavals in Iran show us, at all costs, even bringing down the desperate people to their knees, the plan must keep going.
Furthermore, it seems part of the ruling system will have the upper hand beyond all this current hew and cry over the political exercise of Iran’s nuclear program. It seems the shoo-in is a bunch of military people that monopolise capital and power and keep it in their hands, which is little surprise for those cognizant observers who realize the nature of this regime and also the so-called international community and its insatiable interests.
The fate of the Iran negotiations with the 5 +1 group is still not clear. Behind-the-scene talks are going on and the emerging doctrine of the United States could perform a big role like a turning point in the upcoming negotiations with Iran, especially after the US election as Ahmadinejad pointed out on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” program, “Following the election, certainly the atmosphere will be much more stable, and important decisions can be made and announced.” Nevertheless Machiavellism and greed of the Western side could lead to any kind of unpredictable excitement. It is the most important part of imperialist character. They just want it all.
As a matter of fact, Iran under the mob rule regime and insatiable desire of the global capitalism is going to be crippled in the coming months and the society is on the verge of collapse as I pointed out earlier. Let’s now take a closer look at current conditions.
The IMF and recent economic crisis in Iran
The Rial exchange rate against the dollar and other foreign currencies has suddenly taken an upward turn. Ahmadinejad claimed that the impact of sanctions lies at the bottom of it. His opponents within the regime and supporters of the regime of capitalist restoration solutions in the so-called opposition, all trying to purport just the government’s inability to recognize signs of currency crises. But what is the reality?
Apart of the role of the merchants, the “Bazaaris” and the money-changers in these growing protests against an unpopular government to understand the reasons behind the collapse of the Rial policies should be put at the back. It is important at this point to show that contrary to all the agitation that is done, the most important reason behind the collapse of the Rial, tie in with the advises of the IMF. The Islamic Republic with cutting the subsidies are in force IMF’s prescriptions religiously.
Needless to say, the current regime in Iran is experiencing an economic and political crisis. To respond to the economic crisis, the solution adopted by the regime is dictated by the IMF. All of this is happening at a time when neither Ahmadinejad, nor any of his opponents, including the reformists and their cohorts (Eslah talaban) and the conservatives (Osoolgarayan)have any structured economic plans or ways out of the crisis except the prescriptions of the IMF.
One justification was that since the 3rd Development Plan the preparations were made for “targeted subsidies” [i.e. elimination of subsidies], and some sort of stabilisation and shift was planned. Here it is also necessary to recognise the roots of the specific policies of all these governments in neo-liberalism. The other pretext in favour of the government was the interpretation of Article 44 of the Constitution (dealing with ownership in macro economy) and the role of this Article in favour of the government. [With the executive order of the Islamic Supreme Leader] the 9th government [1st terms of Ahmadinejad in office] gained a solid support in terms of high military and political power, and from the clergy and also ideologically.
Therefore, it got the opportunity to implement these changes and reforms. The other reason was that the Ahmadinejad government itself was very keen on making these changes. The militarised capitalism has its own needs and necessities, one of them is the elimination of subsidies. The ultimate goal of neo-liberal and neo-conservative capitalism (which eventually is the economic model of the Ahmadinejad government) is to eliminate the subsidies, because it wants to convert labour to a commodity and release it in the market, and not taking any responsibility to protect wages and the standard living of people. These responsibilities are considered barriers for the foreign investments which the government is seeking with a staggering hunger.
We clearly see that with regard to development plans and economic studies they constantly recommend getting the approval of a foreign consultant in any way possible, even by paying extra money. In many cases they know that a foreign consultant does not even have ten percent of the information or analytical knowledge of a domestic consultant, but they insist on getting its approval. This is because they want to open the doors for foreign capital. Capitalism does not like unions and syndicates; does not like subsidies. It just wants to take advantage of cheap labour and run its business. It wants to take advantage of unemployment, and reduced wages.
The ignorance of comprehension of the society and the political system
According to reports Victoria Nuland, the US state department’s spokeswoman, was quick to attribute the rial’s recent ill fate to “the unrelenting and increasingly successful international pressure” on Iran’s economy. Earlier in the week, Israel’s finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, alleged that the sanctions were pushing the Iranian economy towards collapse and in this flagrant sequential statements in another impudently statement Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the sanctions have had an impact as well, but that could be quickly remedied if the Iranian government was willing to work with the so-called international community “ in a sincere manner.”
Just a glimpse on the recent story of the New York Times from Tehran would be adequate for seasoned political observers to estimate the Westerners’ agendas for this country. Is it the harsh punishment of the people of a historic geopolitical country in the Middle East who was the victims of political Islam which has been received during the cold war era and still paying the heavy price of this curio for plot of imperialism?
This climate is so reminiscent of the way people were treated during unrequited revolution of 1979 though there are some characteristic differences with the cold war era. The problem lies in the agenda of the Iranian New-liberal forces and a bunch of contrite leftists in the mainstream media under the name of the so-called opposition who strongly believed the only way which will stop Iran is crippling sanctions or even the so-called humanitarian intervention. They believed the only way to release and get out of this situation is succour of the so-called international community because there is no such thing as Imperialism anymore thus we have to be realistic.
The question which you cannot find in the mainstream media is about the historic notion of Iran: what is the nature of the Islamic Republic today? what is our specific stand to some in-depth topics like imperialism, domination and exploitation in today’s world? etc.
It seems there is a blanket agreement on trounce the Iranian people in order to establish domination in region and particularly Iran.
In short, despite any kind of horse-trading between the Islamic Republic and the so-called international community, a principled stand against imperialist intervention of any kind, including military intervention, sanctions, public relations war, organizing the colorful movements and so on and so forth seems like an obligation of conscience for the progressive forces around the world. Regrettably most of these mainstream activists, particularly the Iranian so-called activists in the diaspora, are unable to understand this verity that society has its own existence distinct from diverse political systems that govern it. Political systems come and go in a short period of time. What remains is society. No one should let a society be destroyed because of its government.
Soheil Asefi is an Iranian journalist in Berlin. He left Iran some years ago after a ten- year professional experience of major Iranian media outlets. He had been in prison and was released on bail. He came to Germany as the guest of the City of Nuremberg under the project ‘Writers in Exile’ funded by the German Pen Center. He is the recipient of the Hermann Kasten award in Nuremberg.
===

Carnage or Sanctions? Six Million Iranian Lives at Stake
By Ismail Salami 
October 20, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – The US-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran which directly and painfully target the population have created an inconceivable situation for those whose very lives depend on the medicine adversely affected by these barbaric sanctions.
The West is sharply aware of the devastating inhuman effects of the sanctions on the sick people. On September 4, theWashington Post published an article titled “In Iran, Sanctions Take Toll On The Sick,” which details how drug shortages are particularly affecting “cancer patients and those being treated for complex disorders such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and Thalassemia, as well as transplant and kidney dialysis patients.”
Fatemeh Hashemi, Head of Iran’s Charity Institute for Special Diseases, has voiced grave concern for the six million patients suffering from special diseases and their families who are desperately wrestling with the problems originating therefrom. In fact, the US-led sanctions are exacting their deadly toll on the terminally ailing patients.
“We feel the shortage mainly for cancer and MS drugs. Of course, Thalassemia and dialysis patients are also the targets of these hardships. All these problems stem from the sanctions the US has imposed on the banking sector and the difficulties in transferring foreign currency,” Hashemi said.
The bitter question is: Is the West taking sadistic pleasure in incurring genocidal deaths or does the West naively believe that they are achieving their fiendish goals in the Muslim country?
Bitterly exasperated by the fact that a large multitude of patients are on the brink of death on account of the US-led sanctions, Fatemeh Hashemi wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon two months ago. Part of the letter which was sent through the Iranian Foreign Ministry reads: “Although medicine is not included in the list of the sanctions, the aftermaths of the sanctions, the impossibility of transferring money through the banks as well as the appalling atmosphere created thus has cast its cumbersome shadow upon medicine and healthcare in Iran and has austerely affected the import of medicines in the country. As the head of an institute dealing with the lives of six million patients, I hereby implore you to exert all your endeavors to champion human rights in lifting the sanctions as they are political in nature and prove to the inexcusable detriment of the patients in Iran.”
Many of the Thalassemia patients in Iran are threatened by death due to the paucity of Desferrioxamine or Desferal, a medicine which helps keep their blood iron at a safe level in the body. Thalassemia patients keep having blood transfusions which cause extra iron in the body. When blood transfusions are regular, iron gathers in the body and is amassed in some organs such as the liver, the heart, and the endocrine glands. Functioning as a foreign body, the iron eventually damages the organs. One of the main drugs which helps keep the blood iron at a safe level is desferrioxamine or ‘Desferal’.
In a recent speech, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has blasted the illogical western sanctions as ‘barbaric’ and described them as a war against a nation.
“The West is angry and they have used Iran’s nuclear energy program as a pretext [to impose sanctions]. They claim that they will lift the sanctions if Iran backs down on its right to nuclear energy. They are lying. Out of spite and revenge, they decide to impose illogical sanctions against Iran.”
As the leader says, the nuclear energy program is only an excuse for the West.
To be precise, the West is well aware that Iran has never sought a nuclear weapons program nor does it ever wish to do so. However they appear to be incapable of finding a better excuse than Iran’s nuclear energy program to go ahead with their barbaric sanctions with the ultimate goal of installing a US-friendly regime in the country. A recent article by David Frum reveals how Washington uses the sanctions as a strategy to bring about regime change in Iran. He says, “The U.S. has three goals vis-a-vis Iran: minimalist, maximalist and in-between. The minimalist goal is to compel Iran to surrender its nuclear ambitions and submit fully to international monitoring. The in-between goal is more generally to moderate Iran’s obnoxious behavior, including state sponsorship of terrorist outrages such as the recent attempt to murder the Saudi ambassador to Washington. The maximalist goal is to apply enough economic pressure to incite domestic revolution and the fall of the regime.”
Apart from his naïve perception of the status quo in Iran, he touches on a very important issue which tops the US agenda: regime change in Iran. Parenthetically, Frum used to be Bush’s speech writer and was well connected to the White House. His unconscious confession to this grand delusion entertained by the US officials indicates how very removed from reality the Washington officials are and how infernally adamant they are on bringing about this change at whatever cost, even the lives of millions of people.
The sheer idea of imposing illegal sanctions against the Islamic Republic and jeopardizing the lives of millions of patients is indeed an act of brutality which runs counter to the very true spirit of humanity as well as to international humanitarian laws.
Since when has the act of endangering the lives of the ailing people become part of a dirty political game played by the West?
What a shame!
In cahoots with the US, the West is willingly or unwillingly exterminating the Iranian patients through these illegal sanctions. Indeed, they will be held accountable for the human loss they are inflicting upon the Iranian nation: surely, the eyes of God are watching them and they are held in divine abhorrence.
Dr. Ismail Salami is an internationally published author of several books and hundreds of articles. In his articles, Salami examines the historical developments that impact national relations today, and the way western people view Iran. He holds a PhD in Shakespeare Studies

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History of Iran & USA in 10 min, Every American must watch this!!

Video

A brief history of Iran and America’s relations and the facts that have led to this political gridlock. This is something that as an American you MUST WATCH!

Posted October 16, 2012
 

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Death-before-dishonor Is a Nuclear Deal With Iran Possible?

By Pat Buchanan 
October 09, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – – In diplomacy, always leave your adversary an honorable avenue of retreat.
Fifty years ago this October, to resolve a Cuban missile crisis that had brought us to the brink of nuclear war, JFK did that.
He conveyed to Nikita Khrushchev, secretly, that if the Soviet Union pulled its nuclear missiles out of Cuba, the United States would soon after pull its Jupiter missiles out of Italy and Turkey.
Is the United States willing to allow Iran an honorable avenue of retreat, if it halts enrichment of uranium to 20% and permits intrusive inspections of all its nuclear facilities? Or are U.S. sanctions designed to bring about not a negotiated settlement of the nuclear issue, but regime change, the fall of the Islamic Republic, and its replacement by a more pliable regime?
If the latter is the case, we are likely headed for war with Iran, even as our refusal to negotiate with Tokyo, whose oil we cut off in the summer of 1941, led to Pearl Harbor.
What would cause anyone to believe Iran is willing to negotiate?
There are the fatwas by the ayatollahs against nuclear weapons and the consensus by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies in 2007, reaffirmed in 2011, that Iran has no nuclear weapons program.
Even the Israelis have lately concluded that the Americans are right.
Nor has the United States or Israel discovered any site devoted to the building of nuclear weapons. The deep-underground facility at Fordow is enriching uranium to 20%. There are no reports of any enrichment to 90%, which is weapons grade.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has lately mocked the idea of Iran building a bomb in the face of a U.S. commitment to go to war to prevent it: “Let’s even imagine that we have an atomic weapon, a nuclear weapon. What would we do with it? What intelligent person would fight 5,000 American bombs with one bomb?”
Ahmadinejad did not mention that Israel has 200 to 300 nuclear weapons. He did not need to. The same logic applies.
And Tehran seems to be signaling it is ready for a deal.
According to the United Nations’ watchdog agency, Iran recently converted more than one-third of its 20% enriched uranium into U308, or uranium oxide, a powder for its medical research reactor.
The New York Times also reported Thursday that Iran had proposed to European officials a plan to suspend the enrichment of uranium in return for the lifting of sanctions. By week’s end, Iran was denying it.
Yet common sense suggests that if Iran is not determined to build a nuclear weapon, it will eventually come to the table.
Why? Because, if Iran is not seeking a weapon, no purpose is served by continuing to enrich.
Iran already has enough 20% enriched uranium for medical isotopes and more than enough 5% enriched uranium for its power plant. Further enrichment gives Iran nothing in the way of added security, but it does ensure that the severe sanctions will be sustained and perhaps tightened. And those sanctions are creating tremendous hardships on the Iranian people.
In two weeks, Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost a third of its value. It is at an all-time low against the dollar. Iran’s oil exports are down to 800,000 barrels a day, a third of what they were a year ago. The cost of food and medicine is soaring. Inflation is running officially at 25%. Foreign travel is drying up. Workers are going unpaid.
“We’re close to seeing mass unemployment in cities and queues for social handouts,” an Iranian-born economic adviser to the European Union told Reuters. “There are few alternatives for those people, and many will end up on the bread line.” Last week, merchants marched on parliament and had to be driven back by police using tear gas.
An Iranian businessman in Dubai told Reuters: “Business is drying up. Industry is collapsing. There’s zero investment.… I see it with my own eyes.”
In short, the oil embargo and economic sanctions, what Woodrow Wilson called the “peaceful, silent, deadly remedy,” are working, and Ahmadinejad — who leaves office next year — is rapidly losing support.
So a new question is now on the table. If Iran advances ideas to demonstrate convincingly that it has no weapons program, but insists on what President Obama said he supports — Iran having a peaceful nuclear program under U.N. inspection — will America accept that?
Or will we, seeing the economic crisis deepening, make demands so humiliating no Iranian government can accept them, because our true goal is and has always been regime change?
No one would weep if the Islamic Republic fell. But this is a tough crowd that will not go quietly. If we give them no way out, only a choice between national humiliation or escalation, the hard-liners in the regime and Republican Guard will likely take the death-before-dishonor course.
COPYRIGHT 2012 CREATORS.COM

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US wages economic war on Iran

6 October 2012
Even as the Obama administration continues the American military build-up in preparation for attacking Iran, the criminal character of its foreign policy is exposed by the social devastation being wrought by the sanctions regime imposed on the country. The US and its allies are already waging an economic war on Iran that is producing hyperinflation, rapidly rising unemployment and immense hardship for millions of working people.
The value of Iran’s currency, the rial, plunged by 40 percent over the past week, sending prices, including for staples, soaring. In just two days—October 1 and 2—as panic over the currency spread, the rial lost more than 25 percent of its value against the US dollar. Since the end of last year, the currency has depreciated by over 80 percent.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pointed yesterday to the “significant effects on the general population” caused by the harsh economic sanctions—which he has backed. These included “a rise in commodities and energy costs, an increase in the rate of unemployment and a shortage of necessary items, including medicine.” The lack of medicines needed to treat cancer and heart and respiratory conditions will inevitably lead to unnecessary suffering and death.
Prices for basic food items such as milk, bread, rice, yoghurt and vegetables have at least doubled since the beginning of the year. The price of meat has put it beyond the reach of many working class families. “Food, transportation, everything is up, and people are worried not only about today, but also tomorrow. People are extremely panicked about the economy,” Mehdi Khalaji from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the media.
The Obama administration reacted to the news with barely disguised glee and attempted to fuel internal opposition by blaming Tehran for the disastrous economic situation. “The Iranian state has horribly managed all aspects of their internal situation,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
There is no disguising the fact, however, that the Obama administration has set out to crash the Iranian economy. Punitive sanctions unilaterally imposed by the US and the European Union have this year halved the oil exports that constitute 80 percent of Iran’s foreign revenue. The US and the EU are preparing additional penalties in the coming weeks that will further impact Iran’s energy exports, its access to international finance, government revenue, and the living standards of ordinary working people.
Underlining its role as the mouthpiece for US gangsterism, the media have reacted to the latest economic news with complete indifference to the suffering of the Iranian people. The crippling sanctions are treated as a legitimate tool of foreign policy to force Tehran to cave in to Washington’s demands that it shut down its nuclear programs. The only issue for the various pundits is whether or not US aims will be achieved short of launching war on Iran.
The Obama administration’s accusations over Iran’s nuclear programs reek of hypocrisy and cynicism. The US has produced no evidence that Iran is building or seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Indeed, Tehran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and allows international inspections of its nuclear plants, even as Israel, America’s chief ally in the Middle East, refuses to do so and has a large, sophisticated nuclear arsenal.
Moreover, Israel and the US have repeatedly launched wars of aggression and are openly threatening to attack Iran. The primary aim of US imperialism in this escalating confrontation is to consolidate its strategic dominance over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.
While opposing the war plans of the Obama administration, the World Socialist Web Site gives no political support to the reactionary theocratic regime in Tehran or any faction of the Iranian bourgeoisie. The response of President Mahmoud Ahmadinjad to the international sanctions has been to impose the full burden on the working class and rural masses. His government has dismantled price subsidies on essential items and replaced them with handouts whose value is rapidly evaporating.
Officially, unemployment is 12 percent, but various analysts put the actual figure twice or three times higher. An estimated 500,000 to 800,000 Iranians have lost their jobs in the past year. Production in the Iranian auto industry has plunged by 30 percent over the past six months.
The Associated Press reported a petition by some 10,000 workers and trade unionists that declared, in part: “A staggering increase in prices has been biting over the past year as wages of workers have increased only 13 percent this year… Millions of workers cannot afford their monthly housing costs.”
Undoubtedly, the various rival factions of the ruling elite are seeking to exploit this widespread discontent, which erupted in protests this week in Tehran’s bazaars, for their own political purposes. Washington will attempt to do the same as it did in 2009, when it backed the so-called Green Movement based largely on Tehran’s upper-middle classes as a lever for regime-change.
None of this has halted the US preparations for a war of aggression against Iran. As in the case of Iraq, which suffered a decade of crippling international sanctions, the sanctions regime imposed on Iran is designed to politically and economically weaken the country in the lead-up to an attack. The US has just carried out a huge international de-mining exercise in the Persian Gulf, and later this month will hold joint war games with Israel designed to test anti-missile systems. These exercises are not “defensive” but are intended to strengthen the ability of the US and its military allies to counter any Iranian retaliation that will result from an American attack.
A war on Iran will have devastating consequences not only on the working class in Iran, but throughout the region and the world. The only social force capable of halting this war drive is the international working class. Workers in the US and Europe must unify with their class brothers and sisters in the Middle East and around the globe to build an independent political movement against imperialism based on the fight for socialist internationalism.
Peter Symonds

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Study: Thousands Would Die in an Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Sites

Estimating the human toll of airstrikes

By Golnaz Esfandiari
October 04, 2012 ” “rferl” — Maryam sometimes thinks about what would happen if there were a military attack on her city’s uranium-conversion facility. The plant lies on the outskirts of Isfahan, the historical city that she calls home. “It scares me, of course, even though I don’t have any information about the likely impact on people like us,” says the 55-year-old.
Now a new report is trying to answer that question. Experts believe the Isfahan uranium-conversion facility — which contains an estimated 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride — is one of the four Iranian sites likely to be targeted if Israel or the United States were to decide to take military action in an effort to delay or cripple Iran’s nuclear program. The University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics and the NGO Omid for Iran teamed up to produce a study that concludes that a military strike on the facility could have tragic consequences for Maryam and thousands of other residents of her centrally located city, which has a population of 2 million.
It’s unlikely that Maryam would die as an immediate result of such a bomb attack. But she could be among the estimated up-to-70,000 people who would be killed or injured after being exposed to toxic plumes released as the result of such strikes. They would reach the city within an hour. Such a scenario would mean that the people of Isfahan could experience a catastrophe similar to the gas leak in Bhopal or the nuclear meltdown at Chornobyl, says Khosrow Semnani, the author of the report, which is titled, “The Ayatollah’s Nuclear Gamble.”
“People’s skin could be burnt [when coming in contact with the plumes], they could become blind, their lung could be destroyed, their kidneys could be damaged, and in the future they could face other health problems such as skin cancer and [other forms] of cancer,” Semnani says. The report analyzed the impact of preemptive conventional strikes on four key nuclear sites: Isfahan’s uranium conversion facility; Natanz’s fuel-enrichment plant; Arak’s heavy-water plant; and Bushehr’s nuclear power plant. Workers at those sites — who include scientists, workers, support staff, and soldiers — would be among the first victims of a bombing campaign. The report estimates that the casualty rate at the sites would be close to 100 percent.
“According to our estimates, the number of casualties of the bombing of the four sites would be about 5,000 people,” Semnani says. “If the bombing would include more than those four sites, then the immediate casualty would be up to 10,000 people.” The report warns that the grim scenario could be magnified by the lack of readiness on the part of Iranian authorities, who have a poor record of disaster management and who lack the capacity to handle deadly radioactive fallout in the aftermath of a strike on its nuclear sites.
Afshin Molavi, an Iran expert and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, says the study fills a gaping vacuum in Western discussions about military strikes on Iran, which often ignore the human cost of such actions. “People talk very callously about the prospect of military strikes, and they frame it in the geopolitical fallout, the geo-economic fallout, what will happen to the oil price and all of these issues. But nobody has ever talked about the humanitarian consequences of a military strike on Iran,” Molavi says. “Those humanitarian consequences are grave, so I think this report fills a very important vacuum. It needs to be read by policy makers at the highest levels in Western governments; it needs to be read in Israel; it needs to be read all over the world.”
Greg Thielman, a former senior U.S. intelligence official and an expert with the Arms Control Association, says the study is a worthwhile exploration that gives color to “a very dry and bloodless discussion of what attacking Iran would be.” He does say, however, that he doesn’t think the United States or Israel would attack Bushehr, because it’s not of critical concern to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — the UN nuclear watchdog that has access to the site. “I would note also that it is against the Geneva Convention to attack civilian nuclear power plants,” Thielman says, “and that’s another reason why I think the U.S. and Israel would think twice about it, because it is clearly contrary to international law to do that.”
David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector and the president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, says he doesn’t believe that a military attack on Bushehr is likely. He says the number of casualties would depend on how the attacks are planned and conducted: “If they attack all the [conversion lines] — you have six in Isfahan and you’d expect more — they may not attack and they choose to cripple the site without trying to destroy the uranium hexafluoride.”
The human cost of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities hasn’t been ignored by Western analysts alone. It’s also not a topic of discussion in Iran, where the state media largely focus on how the country would retaliate in case of attack.
“Ninety-nine percent of these people are not even aware of the horrifying scenario” that could await them, Semnani says.
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc.

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The Currency War on Iran

A collapse in the rial, greeted with glee by some, is a cause not for celebration but for fear

By Peter Beaumont
October 04, 2012 “The Guardian” — The continuing currency crisis in Iran, which has seen the rial go into freefall, has been cited, with some celebration in certain quarters, as proving that US-led sanctions are “working” against Tehran. Increasingly shut out from international banking and struggling to sell its oil, Iran has been forced to sell more cheaply while buying raw materials at a higher cash price. This, in turn, has led to currency speculation that the government has done nothing to halt, and to sharp devaluation.
But what does “sanctions are working” actually mean? Some hawks have read it as the possible beginning of the end for Iran’s nuclear programme and the collapse of the clerical regime. For others, including those anxious to avoid conflict over Iran, it has been seized on as a suggestion that the crisis might be resolved through negotiation and non-military pressure.
The reality is that the political, economic and social impact of sanctions can produce very different results from those allegedly desired, more often than not hurting ordinary people. And there is a third scenario, in which sanctions might actually make the confrontation with Iran more dangerous still.
The increasing popularity of economic sanctions, as Britain’s former ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, has observed, is due to the perception that no other tool exists “between words and military action if you want to bring pressure upon a government”.
When three academics – Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey Scott and Kimberly Ann Elliott – examined the history of sanctions between 1914 and 1990, in Economic Sanctions Reconsidered they determined that out of 115 cases that they looked at, only a third had seen any measure of success. The US political scientist Robert Pape has challenged even this measure, claiming that of the 40, only five can be determined genuine successes for sanctions.
As Pape argued in his essay, Why Economic Sanctions Do Not Work, “The … case that we should expect sanctions to be more effective in the future is also flawed, because it relies on the expectation that economic punishment can overwhelm a state’s commitment to its important policy goals.” Rather, he argues, at times of sanctions, the opposite is often true: “Pervasive nationalism often makes states and societies willing to endure considerable punishment rather than abandon what are seen as the interests of the nation.”
Even in cases where economic sanctions are generally considered to have had a positive impact – bringing about the end of white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia – there is disagreement over how decisive sanctions alone were in effecting that change. And if there is a disagreement over the efficacy of sanctions, what is also obvious is that they can come at a high price in terms of the impact on populations, and the risk that, far from undermining the legitimacy of regimes, they can entrench power – in a short term at least – around the regime elites being targeted. For Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which lived under a sanctions regime from August 1990 until 2003, that meant a sharp increase in childhood mortality for infants under five years old, even as Saddam’s regime used money earned from avoiding sanctions to reward supporters.
There is evidence too that states under sanctions have been able to use the cover provided by them to put the heaviest burden on unpopular groups and minorities.
But one thing should be clear to all from the experience of global recession, ensuing austerity programmes, and recent global disturbances prompted by high grain prices. While it is easy to predict that people may become angry as they feel rapidly poorer, in such times of febrile politics how they will react is far harder to predict.
So to those celebrating Iranian pain, be careful what you wish for in desiring a crisis. It was hyperinflation under a regime of reparations that contributed to the collapse of the Weimar Republic. Few foresaw then what might occur. And few, now, are considering what a sanctions-triggered economic crisis might really mean for Iran and the region.
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

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