Tracy Molm, a Minneapolis-based Palestine solidarity activist, describes what happened during the recent FBI raid on her apartment in September, its aftermath, and her solidarity work for Palestinians. Her subpoena has now been reactivated by the grand jury in this assault on First Amendment rights of peace activists. Her presentation was made at the Dec. 4, 2010 People’s Thanksgiving Dinner in Chicago. For more information on the solidarity campaign: http://www.stopfbi.net.
WASHINGTON – Five senators sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama Monday warning the administration not to offer concessions in upcoming talks with Iran over its nuclear programme. If Obama takes the advice, experts say, it could sink his engagement efforts with Tehran.
The letter, first reported by Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin, calls for zero enrichment on Iranian soil as a U.S. pre- condition for any negotiated deal to end Iran’s standoff with the West over its nuclear programme.
“[G]iven the government of Iran’s patterns of deception and noncooperation, its government cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future,” said the letter. “We would strongly oppose any proposal for diplomat endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue these activities in any form.”
But the Iranians have placed a high priority on domestic enrichment, and would likely oppose a deal precluding such activity. Iran denies accusations from the West that eventual weaponisation is the goal of its nuclear programme, which is widely considered a point of Iranian national pride.
Even some U.S.-based non-proliferation experts are questioning the wisdom of taking such a hard line as the senators’ letter.
“There are mixed views in the arms control community,” said Peter Crail, a non-proliferation analyst at the Arms Control Association (ACA). “But there seems to be growing sentiment that if we’re looking at a negotiated solution, ‘zero enrichment’ is not going to be an option.”
“This attempt by congress to bind the administration would kill negotiations,” he added.
Signed by Senators Jon Kyl, Mark Kirk, Kirsten Gillibrand, Robert Casey and Joe Lieberman, with John McCain reportedly later adding his name, the letter also called on Obama to “continue ratcheting up” U.S. and international pressure on Iran.
Iran should be squeezed until it freezes enrichment and passes International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, including submitting to the Additional Protocols, an extended set of safeguards measures, the letter said.
The senators wrote that their positions are “reflective of a consensus among a broad, bipartisan majority in Congress”. Despite Peter Baker of the New York Times’s suggestion that the Senators’ letter was a show of “bipartisan support”, it appeared to instead be a threat of push-back from Congress should Obama pursue a deal that allows any Iranian enrichment.
“[T]he letter makes the point that there will be very strong opposition to any kind of proposal that allows the Iranians to keep some sort of enrichment capability,” an anonymous Senate aide, explaining the “thinking behind the letter”, wrote the Washington Post’s new neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin. “This is an extremely dangerous idea that it is important to knock down.”
But experts think the tack – pressure for strict pre- conditions to talks – could be repeating the same mistakes of recent U.S.-Iran relations, where Iran was further isolated as its nuclear programmes continued.
“This again shows that part of the problem in negotiations has been a lack of political space domestically for both sides,” said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and a Woodrow Wilson Center fellow. “Obama realises that in order to get a deal, there needs to be mutual compromises on both sides.”
“What you have now is that some members of Congress are adopting the (President George W.) Bush position, that, ‘No, we’re not going to compromise on anything, It has to be maximalist approach,” Parsi said. “That has caused problems in the past because it makes it impossible to have a real negotiation.”
The senators pressed Obama just as the first two-day round of talks between the P5+1 group, which includes the U.S., were getting underway. Little had been accomplished as the negotiations drew to a close Tuesday, but another round is expected in January. Going into the latest round, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted in an interview in Bahrain that the U.S. might be willing to accept Iranian enrichment.
“They can enrich uranium at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner in accordance with international obligations,” Clinton reportedly told the BBC.
“During the Obama period, there has been some ambiguity about whether (zero enrichment) is the American red line,” said NIAC’s Parsi, pointing to Clinton’s comments. “The position that these lawmakers are taking (in the letter) is identical with the Israeli and Bush red lines, and seems to be at odds with the Obama red line.”
Rumors are already flying that the second round of the latest talks, to be held in Turkey, could see the U.S. offer a deal whereby a fuel swap agreement – involving sending nuclear fuel to Russia for reprocessing – would allow Iran to maintain domestic enrichment.
While Iran says it has a right to domestic enrichment as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Crail of the ACA notes that the treaty only guarantees “a peaceful nuclear programme.”
“In the end, there is an implicit understanding that, yes, countries can enrich,” he said, adding, however, that he prefers that the technology not spread and all nuclear fuel production be internationalised.
But Crail emphasised that Iran, too, must be willing to make some concessions: “According to the NPT, in order for Iran to get all its rights under the NPT, Iran needs to cooperate with international inspections.”
Palestinian citizens of Israel are complaining about a string of policies, which they say are designed to drive them out of Israel.
First, a bill requiring them to pledge allegiance to a Jewish state was passed by the Israeli cabinet.
Now the Knesset is debating whether to stop Arab Israelis from living in cities where there’s a Jewish majority.
So who are Palestinian-Israelis and how did they become citizens of a state that doesn’t want them?
Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports.
A group of top NASA boffins says that current climate models predicting global warming are far too gloomy, and have failed to properly account for an important cooling factor which will come into play as CO2 levels rise.
According to Lahouari Bounoua of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and other scientists from NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), existing models fail to accurately include the effects of rising CO2 levels on green plants. As green plants breathe in CO2 in the process of photosynthesis – they also release oxygen, the only reason that there is any in the air for us to breathe – more carbon dioxide has important effects on them.
In particular, green plants can be expected to grow as they find it easier to harvest carbon from the air around them using energy from the sun: thus introducing a negative feedback into the warming/carbon process. Most current climate models don’t account for this at all, according to Bounoua. Some do, but they fail to accurately simulate the effects – they don’t allow for the fact that plants in a high-CO2 atmosphere will “down-regulate” and so use water more efficiently.
Bounoua and her colleagues write:
Increase in precipitation contributes primarily to increase evapotranspiration rather than surface runoff, consistent with observations, and results in an additional cooling effect not fully accounted for in previous simulations with elevated CO2.
The NASA and NOAA boffins used their more accurate science to model a world where CO2 levels have doubled to 780 parts per million (ppm) compared to today’s 390-odd. They say that world would actually warm up by just 1.64°C overall, and the vegetation-cooling effect would be stronger over land to boot – thus temperatures on land would would be a further 0.3°C cooler compared to the present sims.
International diplomatic efforts under UN auspices are currently devoted to keeping global warming limited to 2°C or less, which under current climate models calls for holding CO2 to 450 ppm – or less in many analyses – a target widely regarded as unachievable. Doubled carbon levels are normally viewed in the current state of enviro play as a scenario that would lead to catastrophe; that is, to warming well beyond 2°C.
It now appears, however, that the previous/current state of climate science may simply have been wrong and that there’s really no need to get in an immediate flap. If Bounoua and her colleagues are right, and CO2 levels keep on rising the way they have been lately (about 2 ppm each year), we can go a couple of centuries without any dangerous warming. There are lots of other factors in play, of course, but nonetheless the new analysis is very reassuring.
“As we learn more about how these systems react, we can learn more about how the climate will change,” says Bounoua’s colleague Forrest Hall, in a NASA statement accompanying the team’s scholarly paper. “Each year we get better and better. It’s important to get these things right.”
The NASA/NOAA boffins’ paper Quantifying the negative feedback of vegetation to greenhouse warming: A modeling approach is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (subscription required). ®
Palestinian sources reported Friday that Israeli soldiers kidnapped former Minister of Detainees, Wasfy Qabha, while heading to visit his family in Barta’a village, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. He was moved to an Israeli hospital later on due to a sharp increase in his blood sugar level.
Fuad Al Khoffash, head of the Ahrar Center for Detainees Studies and Human Rights, stated that, under an illegal Israeli military order, Qabha is not allowed into his own village, but was allowed into the village last week after his father died.
The Israeli Authorities granted him forty days, but on Friday morning Qabha was stopped at a military roadblock at the entrance of his village and the soldiers kidnapped him.
Due to his health condition, he was moved to Al Khodeira hospital, inside the 1948 territories, and a decision for his arrest was issued by the army.
His wife told the Ahrar Center that soldiers, manning the Barta’a roadblock, detained him for two hours and ordered her to leave the area.
He is currently at the Khodeira hospital, and his family was officially notified that he is “under arrest”.
Al Khuffash stated that Qabha was imprisoned by Israel for a total of seven years, and that several months ago he was released from an Israeli detention facility after spending a three-year sentence.
There are eleven elected legislators and ministers currently imprisoned by Israel.
Al Khuffash voiced an appeal to human groups and the International Red Cross to intervene and ensure the release of Qabha, especially due to his health condition.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM– UN special coordinator for the Mideast peace process Robert Serry expressed concern on Saturday over illegal Israeli court rulings to exile Arab MP Mohammed Abu Tir and other public officials from the occupied city of Jerusalem.
The court has been unjustly holding Abu Tir in detention since March 6 on grounds of illegally residing in the city of Jerusalem according to Israeli regulations.
Serry, reporting Israeli violations in Jerusalem and occupied territories, defended the right of Arab lawmakers from Jerusalem to remain in the city they were born in, calling on the Israeli government to refrain from taking any proactive steps against them.
Jerusalem MPs and one former minister, who have been sitting in at the Red Cross headquarters in Jerusalem for the 163rd straight day to protest Israeli threats to exile them, received a delegation from the UN for the fourth time during their camp-out to discuss the UN’s instability in living up to its responsibilities towards the occupied lands and their inhabitants, a failure that has caused tensions in the city to flare and encouraged Israel to increasingly break international law.
Among the delegates were Deputy Special Coordinator Maxwell, Director of Political Affairs Samer Abu Jabara, and former Director of Regional Affairs Anwar Al-Darkazalli.
The UN delegation assigned liability to Palestine’s de facto government chaired by Mahmoud Abbas in demanding the immediate convening of a UN Security Council session in coordination with the Arab League to adopt a resolution forcing Israel to back down on the ruling to exile the group of Palestinian lawmakers from Jerusalem.
Like 9/11, WikiLeaks has been singularly good for Israel.
Asked on the night of September 11, 2001 what the terrorist attacks meant for U.S.-Israel relations, Benjamin Netanyahu, the then former prime minister, tactlessly but accurately replied, “It’s very good.” And on the day after WikiLeaks’ publication of U.S. diplomatic cables, Netanyahu “strode” into a press conference at the Israeli Journalists Association, looking “undoubtedly delighted” with the group’s latest embarrassment of U.S. President Barack Obama.
“Thanks to WikiLeaks,” Aluf Benn wrote in Haaretz, “there is now no fear Washington will exert heavy pressure on Israel to freeze settlement construction or to accelerate negotiations on a withdrawal from the territories.” Instead, also courtesy of WikiLeaks, the world’s attention had been shifted exactly where a “vindicated” Netanyahu wanted it – toward Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons programme.
“Our region has been hostage to a narrative that is the result of 60 years of propaganda, which paints Israel as the greatest threat,” Netanyahu told the assembled journalists. “In reality leaders understand that that view is bankrupt. For the first time in history there is agreement that Iran is the threat.” While there is considerable dispute about the extent to which Arab leaders share Netanyahu’s understanding of “the Iranian threat,” the Arab public overwhelmingly considers Israel to be a far greater threat.
Nevertheless, according to Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit, Julian Assange “has shattered the accepted dogma on the understanding in the Middle East in the 21st century.” WikiLeaks, crowed Shavit, “proved” that the Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestine was not the main cause of instability in the Middle East. Instead, the secret cables “revealed” that “the entire Arab world” is concerned about “one problem only — Iran, Iran, Iran.” Thus, Shavit concluded, the only way to bring peace to the region was to deal with “Iran first.”
Strangely, the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange seems to accept the Israeli vision of “war is peace” in the Middle East. In an interview with Time magazine, Assange singled out Netanyahu as an example of a world leader who believed the publication of Arab leaders’ provocative privately expressed comments “will lead to some kind of increase in the peace process in the Middle East and particularly in relation to Iran.”
Even more puzzling, Assange had an op-ed piece in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian, in which he quoted something the media mogul had written in 1958: “In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win.” In choosing another pro-Israel apologist as a model of transparency, is it possible that Assange is ignorant of the key role played by Murdoch’s media empire in propagating the lies that led the New York Times to dub the war in Iraq “Mr. Murdoch’s War”?
Assange seems equally oblivious to the significant contribution made by the New York Times itself to the war whose conduct he now claims to oppose. On September 8, 2002, the paper of record led with a front-page story by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon, which falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy aluminium tubes as part of its “worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” As Michael Massing later wrote, “In the following months, the tubes would become a key prop in the administration’s case for war, and the Times played a critical part in legitimizing it.” Chosen by Assange to publish its leaked documents because it is one of “the best newspapers in the world for investigative research,” the pro-Israel Times is now busily spinning the leaks to push America into an equally unnecessary but even more disastrous war with Iran.
Given that the WikiLeaks revelations have been such an unexpected “diplomatic coup” for Israel, its American lobby appears to be strangely divided over the issue. On one side, there are those like David Frum, Jeffrey Goldberg, and Michael Ledeen who delight in being able henceforth to cloak their incessant Iran warmongering behind a specious Arab cover. “Those who suggest that it’s some ‘Israel lobby’ or Jewish cabal that is driving the confrontation with Iran” should be embarrassed by the leaks, writes Frum. “WikiLeaks confirms that the region’s Arab governments express even more anxiety than Israel about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”
Meanwhile, the most virulent attacks on WikiLeaks have come from some of Israel’s staunchest supporters. William Kristol, editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard, wants Congress to enable Obama to “Whack WikiLeaks.” Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, appear only too willing to oblige. Both senators have called for the prosecution of Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act. Feinstein is also working with Senator Charles Schumer on media legislation that would allow the prosecution of organizations like WikiLeaks.
How do we reconcile the Israel lobby’s apparently schizophrenic reaction to WikiLeaks? Could it be that Julian Assange has killed two birds for Israel with one document dump?
Thanks to WikiLeaks, the well-publicised remarks of a few Arab leaders provide much-needed cover for pro-Israelis as they relentlessly press America to whack Iran. At the same time, the disclosure of U.S. diplomatic secrets has given the likes of Joe Lieberman another excuse to “kill the internet” — to prevent Americans from ever finding out how they got into such a mess in the Middle East.
Maidhc Ó Cathail writes extensively on U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East.