The Saban Center’s prescient paper on war with Iran
In June 2009, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy published “Which Path to Persia?—Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran.” Writing in a tone strikingly reminiscent of the Project for a New American Century’s infamous pre-9/11 paper “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” the six co-authors noted that, “It seems highly unlikely that the United States would mount an invasion without any provocation or other buildup.” For a think tank specifically established by media mogul Haim Saban to protect Israel, this could prove to be a formidable obstacle impeding their desired march—of U.S. troops—to Tehran.
“In fact, if the United States were to decide that to garner greater international support, galvanize U.S. domestic support, and/or provide a legal justification for an invasion, it would be best to wait for an Iranian provocation, then the time frame for an invasion might stretch out indefinitely,” Saban’s think-tankers ruefully observed.
“With only one real exception, since the 1978 revolution, the Islamic Republic has never willingly provoked an American military response, although it certainly has taken actions that could have done so if Washington had been looking for a fight. Thus it is not impossible that Tehran might take some action that would justify an American invasion. And it is certainly the case that if Washington sought such a provocation, it could take actions that might make it more likely that Tehran would do so (although being too obvious about this could nullify the provocation). However, since it would be up to Iran to make the provocative move, which Iran has been wary of doing most times in the past, the United States would never know for sure when it would get the requisite Iranian provocation. In fact, it might never come at all.”
Seemingly undeterred by Iran’s frustrating unwillingness to provide the requisite provocation, the analysts continued to examine this option:
“As noted above, in the section on the time frame for an invasion, whether the United States decides to invade Iran with or without a provocation is a critical consideration. With provocation, the international diplomatic and domestic political requirements of an invasion would be mitigated, and the more outrageous the Iranian provocation (and the less that the United States is seen to be goading Iran), the more these challenges would be diminished. In the absence of a sufficiently horrific provocation, meeting these requirements would be daunting.”
Ruling out the likelihood of “an overt, incontrovertible, and unforgivable act of aggression—something on the order of an Iranian-backed 9/11 … given Iran’s history of avoiding such acts,” the authors went on to explore where “the question of provocation gets murky.”
“Most European, Asian, and Middle Eastern publics are dead set against any American military action against Iran derived from the current differences between Iran and the international community—let alone Iran and the United States,” they wistfully noted. “Other than a Tehran-sponsored 9/11, it is hard to imagine what would change their minds.”
Even Iran’s long-time Sunni rival in the region appeared recalcitrant to the idea. “Saudi Arabia is positively apoplectic about the Iranians’ nuclear program, as well as about their mischief making in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories,” the pro-Israeli analysts empathised. “Yet, so far, Riyadh has made clear that it will not support military operations of any kind against Iran. Certainly that could change, but it is hard to imagine what it would take.”
Would a dastardly plot to blow up King Abdullah’s “hand-picked, trusted envoy” in a D.C. restaurant suffice, perchance?
At least, the lead author of “Which Path to Persia?” seems to think so. On October 11, Kenneth Pollack opined on “Iran’s Covert War Against the United States”: “It’s shocking, but not entirely surprising to learn that the United States government has evidence that the Iranian regime was trying to kill Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir.”
Posing as a responsible sceptic regarding the ludicrous plot, Pollack concluded that the ultra-cautious regime he analysed for the Saban Center two years previously—relevant information not provided to the reader—may have changed for the worse: “But, if this incredible claim is proven true, it should remind us that Iran also is not a normal country by any stretch of the imagination, and that in a Middle East already in turmoil we now face a more aggressive, more risk-taking Iran that may be looking to stir the pot in ways that it once found imprudent.”
As Stephen M. Walt remarked about an earlier Tehran-baiting paper by the Saban Center director, “It is hard to read this piece without hearkening back to Pollack’s The Threatening Storm, the book that convinced many liberals to support the invasion of Iraq in 2003. What made that book especially persuasive was Pollack’s depiction of himself as a former dove who had oh-so-reluctantly concluded that there was no option but to go to war.”
Interestingly, The Daily Beast/Newsweek which published Pollack’s op-ed is partly owned by Jane Harman, whose service in Congress reportedly included a quid pro quo with an Israeli agent, involving political donations from billionaire Haim Saban, to lobby the Department of Justice to reduce espionage charges against two officials at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Pollack, a former member of the National Security Council, was mentioned in the indictment against Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman as one of the government officials who provided information to the two former AIPAC employees about—you guessed it—Iran.
When asked “who would want to create the impression” that the United States needs to engage in military activity against Iran, former CIA operative Michael Scheuer replied, “If I was looking at a counterintelligence operation to decide where this information came from, I’d be very interested to see if I could find an Israeli hand or a Saudi hand.”
Thanks to Kenneth Pollack, that search can now be narrowed.
Jerusalem – On 1 October, thousands of Palestinians marched in Sakhnin to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of the October 2000 uprising during which Israeli police forces murdered 13 unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel over the course of eight days. None of the slain protesters posed a threat to the life of police forces or others and most of them were shot in the upper-body at close range. The killings took place in Umm al-Fahm, Jatt, Arrabeh, Sakhnin, Nazareth, Kufr Kanna and Kufr Manda between 1-8 October 2000.
“Eleven years later, the wound is still bleeding,” Ibrahim Siyam, father of martyr Ahmad Siyam and spokesman for the martyrs’ families, told The Electronic Intifada. “Ahmad was the first martyr of the October 2000 demonstrations. He was just 18 and preparing to attend college in few days,” Siyam added.
All 13 martyrs were young men, brimming with hope and life. Amid the attempts of the Israeli propaganda machine to dehumanize Palestinians, the martyrs’ families insist on reminding everyone of the dreams and aspirations of their loved ones.
One of the most poignant images of the October 2000 uprising was that of 17-year-old Aseel Assleh from Arrabeh wearing a T-shirt that carried the logo of Seeds of Peace — a Palestinian-Jewish peace group — his head buried in an olive grove after being shot in the back of his neck at extremely close range. Aseel was a remarkably smart student who believed in non-violent resistance and whose political consciousness far exceeded his age.
In a phone interview, Aseel’s father, Hassan Assleh, said, “Aseel crackled with energy … even on his way to the demonstration in Arrabeh on 2 October, he was singing. His eyes were glistening with hope and lust for life.”
Challenging the “death-loving” myth
Hassan Assleh is particularly bothered by the stigma often ascribed to Palestinians in the mainstream Israeli and Western media as “death-loving people” who are obsessed with seeking martyrdom. “This is a simplistic and false stereotype,” he said. “Aseel had smoldering passion and he clung to life until his very last heartbeat. All Palestinians are like that. Don’t think that any of the martyrs chooses to die or put martyrdom as their goal. We are aware, however, that freedom requires great sacrifices and it is the insistent drive to freedom and justice that inspires these young women and men to sacrifice. Martyrdom is not our aim, but it’s the cost we are forced to pay to liberate our land and regain dignity.”
When I asked him whether he regrets allowing his son to join the demonstration, he heaved a deep sigh that summed up his feelings as expressively as his eloquent words. “No, even if I had known the consequences, I would have never stopped him from joining the protest. I always taught my kids to speak out and stand up to injustice; and preventing Aseel from attending the demonstration would have contravened the values his mother Jamila and I hold,” he replied.
“However, there are arduous times when I feel betrayed by our political ‘leadership’ that did very little to demand accountability. In these painfully onerous and lonely moments, I miss Aseel the most. His memory and my wife’s fortitude keep me strong, though.”
“Betrayed by the political leadership” is a feeling that is constantly expressed by the martyrs’ families. Even though it was the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel that called for mass demonstrations and public strikes on 1 October 2000 in response to Ariel Sharon’s rabble-rousing visit to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the killing of 12-year-old Mohammad Al Durra a day later in Gaza, the martyrs’ parents feel that the High Follow-Up Committee and the Palestinian parties in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) have let them down ever since.
“I think that since the establishment of the Or Commission [the commission that was set up by the government to investigate into the killings under pressure from the Palestinian minority], the High Follow-Up Committee and all the Palestinian parties did not apply any pressure,” Ibrahim Siyam said. “The Commission desperately tried to absolve the government from any responsibility and in various occasions it denied Palestinians due process and failed to abide by legal norms, but this might not have not happened had a constant pressure been exercised.”
Siyam agrees with Assleh: “With every passing year, the October 2000 uprising is pushed further to the margins. In this year, the High Follow-Up Committee did not call for a public strike and was content with staging a central march that has over the years become more of a festival.”
The victims’ families are concerned that the October 2000 uprising is turning into a folklore event that is only remembered every subsequent year on 1 October.
Protection from amnesia
“It’s important to internationalize the October 2000 massacre,” Assleh said, “But what’s more important is to protect it from amnesia inside Palestine. Just like the Kufr Qassem massacre and Land Day, October 2000 is a landmark in the struggle of Palestinian minority in Israel against the Zionist entity and every Palestinian citizen of Israel should be aware of its significance and implications.”
Keeping October 2000 a part of the local discourse is an enormous challenge, however. And while the Palestinian political representatives inside Israel bear some of the brunt, the state of Israel also attempts to control the collective memory of Palestinians by banning schools from commemorating the October 2000 killings and persecuting and terrorizing those who do. For instance, the principal of Al Battof high school in Arrabeh was summoned for a hearing at the Israeli ministry of education for holding a panel to discuss the October 2000 killings. Such steps, along with the “Nakba Law” and the censorship imposed on teaching the Palestinian narrative, make a mockery of Israel’s claim to be the “only democracy in the Middle East.”
Another damning indictment against Israel is the fact that no criminal investigation was held into the October 2000 killings, and that none of the policemen responsible for the killings was held accountable. In its final report that was published in September 2003, the Or Commission, headed by Justice Theodore Or, found that rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition were used against unarmed protesters and ordered the police investigation department Mahash to restart investigation into the cases. Two years later, Mahash concluded that there was no sufficient evidence to warrant criminal investigation into the cases, in stark contrast to the findings of the Or Commission. In his review of Mahash’s report, the then Attorney General Menachem Mazuz decided to back Mahash and closed all 13 cases in February 2008.
“We never trusted the racist state of Israel to bring us justice.” Assleh said. And he is right. In the country that boastfully appoints itself as the only democracy in the Middle East, state-sponsored crimes against Palestinians have always gone unpunished.
Ibrahim Siyam wondered: “If one Jewish citizen had been killed by the police, do you think they would have allowed the killer to escape accountability? In Israel, it seems that Palestinian lives are cheap.”
Budour Youssef Hassan, originally from Nazareth, is a Palestinian socialist activist and third-year law student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/Budouroddick.
“On July 29, 2008, my family and I were terrorized by an errant Prince George’s County SWAT team. This unit forced entry into my home without a proper warrant, executed our beloved black Labradors, Payton and Chase, and bound and interrogated my mother-in-law and me for hours, as they ransacked our belongings . . . As I was forced to kneel, bound at gunpoint on my living room floor, I recall thinking that there had been a terrible mistake. However, as I have learned more, I have to understand that what my family and I experienced is part of a growing and troubling trend where law enforcement is relying on SWAT teams to perform duties once handled by ordinary police officers.”—Maryland Mayor Cheye Calvo in testimony before the Maryland Senate
Insisting that the “damage done by drugs is felt far beyond the millions of Americans with diagnosable substance abuse or dependence problems,” President Obama has declared October 2011 to be National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. However, while drug abuse and drug-related crimes have unquestionably taken a toll on American families and communities, the government’s own War on Drugs has left indelible scars on the population.
Indeed, although the Obama administration has shied away from using the phrase “War on Drugs,” its efforts to crack down on illicit drug use—especially marijuana use—have not abated. Just consider—every 19 seconds, someone in the U.S. is arrested for violating a drug law. Every 30 seconds, someone in the U.S. is arrested for violating a marijuana law, making it the fourth most common cause of arrest in the United States.
So far this year, approximately 1,313,673 individuals have been arrested for drug-related offenses. Police arrested an estimated 858,408 persons for marijuana violations in 2009. Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent were charged with possession only. Moreover, since December 31, 1995, the U.S. prison population has grown an average of 43,266 inmates per year, with about 25 percent sentenced for drug law violations.
The foot soldiers in the government’s increasingly fanatical war on drugs, particularly marijuana, are state and local police officers dressed in SWAT gear and armed to the hilt. These SWAT teams carry out roughly 50,000 no-knock raids every year in search of illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia. As author and journalist Radley Balko reports, “The vast majority of these raids are to serve routine drug warrants, many times for crimes no more serious than possession of marijuana . . . Police have broken down doors, screamed obscenities, and held innocent people at gunpoint only to discover that what they thought were marijuana plants were really sunflowers, hibiscus, ragweed, tomatoes, or elderberry bushes. (It’s happened with all five.)”
Take the case of Philip Cobbs, an unassuming 53-year-old African-American man who cares for his blind, deaf 90-year-old mother and lives on a 39-acre tract of land that’s been in his family since the 1860s. Cobbs is the latest in a long line of Americans to find themselves swept up in the government’s zealous pursuit of marijuana. On July 26, 2011, while spraying the blueberry bushes near his Virginia house, Cobbs noticed a black helicopter circling overhead. After watching the helicopter for several moments, Cobbs went inside to check on his mother. By the time he returned outside, several unmarked police SUVs had driven onto his property, and police in flak jackets, carrying rifles and shouting unintelligibly, had exited the vehicles and were moving toward him.
Although the officers insisted they had sighted marijuana plants growing on Cobbs’ property (they claimed to find two spindly plants growing in the wreckage of a fallen oak tree), their real objective was clear—to search Cobbs’ little greenhouse, which he had used that spring to start tomato plants, cantaloupes, and watermelons, as well as asters and hollyhocks. The search of the greenhouse turned up nothing more than used tomato seedling containers. Incredibly, police had not even bothered to secure a warrant before embarking on their raid of Cobbs’ property—part of a routine sweep of the countryside in search of pot-growing operations that had to cost taxpayers upwards of $25,000, at the very least.
Thankfully for Cobbs, no one was hurt during the warrantless raid on his property. However, that is not the case for many Americans who find themselves on the wrong end of a SWAT team raid in search of marijuana. For example, on May 5, 2011, a SWAT team kicked open the door of ex-Marine Jose Guerena’s home during a drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena—23 of those bullets made contact. Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.
Tragically, Jose Guerena is far from the only innocent casualty in the government’s War on Drugs. Botched SWAT team raids have resulted in the loss of countless lives, including children and the elderly. Usually, however, the first to be shot are the family dogs. As Balko reports:
When police in Fremont, California, raided the home of medical marijuana patient Robert Filgo, they shot his pet Akita nine times. Filgo himself was never charged. Last October  police in Alabama raided a home on suspicion of marijuana possession, shot and killed both family dogs, then joked about the kill in front of the family. They seized eight grams of marijuana, equal in weight to a ketchup packet. In January  a cop en route to a drug raid in Tampa, Florida, took a short cut across a neighboring lawn and shot the neighbor’s two pooches on his way. And last May , an officer in Syracuse, New York, squeezed off several shots at a family dog during a drug raid, one of which ricocheted and struck a 13-year-old boy in the leg. The boy was handcuffed at gunpoint at the time.
Clearly, something must be done. There was a time when communities would have been up in arms over a botched SWAT team raid resulting in the loss of innocent lives. Unfortunately, today, we are increasingly coming to accept the use of SWAT teams by law enforcement agencies for routine drug policing and the high incidence of error-related casualties that accompanies these raids.
What’s more, the government is providing incentives to the SWAT teams carrying out these raids through federal grants such as the Edward Byrne memorial grants and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants. As David Borden, the Executive Director of Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet), pointed out, “The exact details on how Byrne and COPS grants are distributed has not been studied, at least not to my knowledge, but an examination of grant applications by one of my colleagues found that they overwhelmingly focus on the number of arrests made, particularly drug arrests. Byrne grants also fund the purchase of equipment for SWAT teams.”
Unfortunately, while few of these raids even make the news, they are happening more and more frequently. As Borden notes, “In 1980 there were fewer than 3,000 reported SWAT raids. Now, the number is believed to be over 50,000 per year . . . About 3/4 of these are drug raids, perhaps more by now, the vast majority of them low-level.” Balko’s research reinforces this phenomenon. Based on more than a year’s worth of research and culled only from documented SWAT team incidents, Balko cites “40 cases in which a completely innocent person was killed. There are dozens more in which nonviolent offenders (recreational pot smokers, for example . . . ) or police officers were needlessly killed. There are nearly 150 cases in which innocent families, sometimes with children, were roused from their beds at gunpoint, and subjected to the fright of being apprehended and thoroughly searched at gunpoint. There are other cases in which a SWAT team seems wholly inappropriate, such as the apprehension of medical marijuana patients, many of whom are bedridden.”
Despite the government’s current fanaticism about marijuana, America has not always been at war over the cannabis plant. In fact, in 1619, all farmers of the Jamestown colony were required to grow cannabis for rope and other military purposes. Over the next 200 years, a variety of laws required hemp harvesting. In some cases, landowners could be imprisoned for neglecting their duty to grow hemp. Oftentimes, a surplus of hemp could be used as legal tender, even for paying taxes. In 1850, there were 8,327 hemp plantations in the U.S.
It was only later, during the early 20th century, that the government embarked on an all-out assault on marijuana, largely due to corporate business considerations that favored the production of cotton over hemp and racist policies that tied Hispanics and blacks to marijuana use. For example, even though blacks only account for 15% of the drug using population (with whites making up a growing part of the market), the vast majority of drug arrests and convictions affect black drug users. Incredibly, more than 70% of prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug offenses are black or Latino.
The time has come to put an end to the government’s racially-weighted, militant war on marijuana. It is a failed, costly and misguided program that has cost the country billions. As critics rightly point out, the war on marijuana has also resulted in a massive increase in incarceration rates. According to Joe Klein, writing for Time, “We spend $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of those being corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. We spend about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5% of all drug arrests are marijuana-related.”
Worse, the government’s War on Drugs seems to have actually exacerbated the drug problems in this country, funding criminal syndicates and failing to restrict its availability or discourage its use. Indeed, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that as recently as 2005, 58% of the public found marijuana readily available, with 50% of 12 to 17 year olds declaring it easy to get.
A growing number of legal scholars, including Bruce Fein, who served as a high-ranking Justice Department official during the Reagan administration, are calling to end the prohibition on marijuana and treat it like alcohol by regulating and taxing it at the state level. Their rationale is that instead of allowing marijuana to flourish as a profitable black market crop, it should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to tobacco and alcohol, which many in the medical community believe to be far more harmful than marijuana. Not only would that lessen violent criminal activity associated with the manufacture and sale of marijuana, but it would also provide an economic boost to ailing state and federal coffers. As it now stands, marijuana is the United States’ largest cash crop (it brought in an estimated $35 billion in 2005), with a third of this production coming from California where it is the state’s largest cash crop.
Recently, over 500 economists led by Nobel Laureate George Akerlof, Daron Acemoglu of MIT, and Howard Margolis of the University of Chicago, signed an open letter to the president, Congress, state governors, and state legislatures expounding the immense economic benefits of legalization. They pointed out that if marijuana sales were taxed at the same level as cigarettes and alcohol, the government would make up to $6.2 billion annually. Additionally, a repeal of the prohibition of marijuana would save federal, state, and local governments an estimated $7.7 billion annually by ending the need for enforcement of drug laws.
Acknowledging the medical benefits of marijuana, especially for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis, 16 states as well as the District of Columbia have also legalized it for medicinal purposes. Most recently, the California Medical Association, which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, called for the legalization and regulation of the plant.
As always, the special interests have a lot to say in these matters, and it’s particularly telling that those lobbying hard to keep the prohibition on marijuana include law enforcement officials and alcoholic beverage producers. However, when the war on drugs—a.k.a. the war on the American people—becomes little more than a thinly veiled attempt to keep SWAT teams employed and special interests appeased, it’s time to revisit our drug policies and laws. As Professors Eric Blumenson and Eva Nilson recognize:
During the 25 years of its existence, the “War on Drugs” has transformed the criminal justice system, to the point where the imperatives of drug law enforcement now drive many of the broader legislative, law enforcement, and corrections policies in counterproductive ways. One significant impetus for this transformation has been the enactment of forfeiture laws which allow law enforcement agencies to keep the lion’s share of the drug-related assets they seize. Another has been the federal law enforcement aid program, revised a decade ago to focus on assisting state anti-drug efforts. Collectively these financial incentives have left many law enforcement agencies dependent on drug law enforcement to meet their budgetary requirements, at the expense of alternative goals such as the investigation and prosecution of non-drug crimes, crime prevention strategies, and drug education and treatment.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book “The Freedom Wars” (TRI Press) is available online at http://www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.
Israeli daily, Yedioth Aharonoth, quoted Israeli security officials stating that Israel will be imposing harsh restrictions on West Bank former detainees released under the prisoner-swap deal.
A total of 96 detainees from the West Bank were allowed back home and 14 others were allowed back to Jerusalem.
The detainees will be required to report to the nearest military base on a regular basis. The Israeli paper said that should any of the released detainees be late, even for an hour, harsh measures will be taken against him, including sending them back to prison to serve the remainder of their terms; if they were sentenced to life-terms before their release, they will be arrested to serve the whole sentence.
The Israeli Internal Security imposed these restrictions on nearly half of them, while some of these restrictions include preventing them from leaving their own towns for several years. Several others will have to report to the nearest military base at least once a month.
It also stated that the detainees were informed of these preconditions, and signed the affidavits before they were released, adding that the Palestinian Authority had nothing to do with the deal, but its security forces were informed of the names and residence of the freed detainees.
Furthermore, some Israeli security officials stated that, in the near future, the Palestinian Security Forces will not be arresting released Hamas former prisoners who were sent back in the West Bank, and other Hamas members, in order not to be accused of collaborating with Israel.
The officials added that security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has proven to be effective, and that they believe that this cooperation will be further boosted.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israel released 477 Palestinian detainees, as part of the first phase of the Palestinian-Israeli swap deal which includes the release of a total of 1027 Palestinian detainees in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit.
247 of the released detainees will be sent back to their homes in Gaza, 96 to the West Bank, 14 to Jerusalem, and 6, including one who lives in the Golan Heights, to their towns in the 1948 territories.
All 37 detainees, who were forced into exile as part of the Shalit swap deal Between Hamas and Israel, arrived in Syria, Qatar and Turkey, while the exiled female detainee, Ahlam Tamimi, was sent to Amman – Jordan.
10 detainees were sent to Turkey, 16 to Syria, 15 to Qatar while Tamimi was sent to Jordan. They were all airlifted from Cairo to the countries that agreed to host them.
Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, arrived back in Israel and was welcomed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, in addition to several political, military and security leaders.
In related news, U.S State Department Spokesperson, Mark Toner, said that Washington is concerned over the release of some of the detainees. He did not elaborate on the issue, but only stated that his government informed Israel of its position.
Washington claims it has uncovered an Iranian plot targeting the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. with assassination. However, the known facts about this plot go anywhere from the dubious to the outright unbelievable. Who is really behind this plot? That is, if there really was a genuine plot in the first place. And who benefits from seeing U.S.–Iranian relations go from bad to worse?
While the nation’s attention has been focused on the Occupy Wall Street movement, new dangers for this country and for the world have been created by the Obama administration. The president has made it clear that America’s interventionist path has not changed direction one bit. If anything, he has done what once would have seemed impossible, accelerating that direction more than his predecessor ever hoped.
In a period of just five months, Barack Obama has [purportedly] assassinated Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki without charge or trial. He attempted to kill Libyan president Moammar Gaddafi the same weekend of the bin Laden assassination. Ronald Reagan also tried to kill Gaddafi, but gave up after one attempt and decided not to spend any effort on regime change in Libya. Obama has out Reaganed Reagan by overthrowing Gaddafi and, along with his NATO partners, waging a war against a civilian population to place a puppet government in charge in Tripoli. Once again he has succeeded in making right wing dreams come true in ways that Republicans did not dare.
The al-Awlaki killing was all the more egregious because the victim was an American citizen. No matter. The president asserts that he has the right to decide if Americans should live or die. The constitutional law professor sees no need to even make his killings look legitimate by seeking indictments. He tells us that al-Awlaki plotted attacks or inspired attacks and we are supposed to believe it and be quiet.
Not content to act the part of the planet’s self-appointed executioner, Obama is taking actions and making statements which give the impression that he intends to take military action against Iran. Dick Cheney must be very jealous. Last week the administration claimed that yet another terror plot was being fomented on American soil before it was foiled in the nick of time by the FBI.
Of course, it was just another example of a plan which would not have existed had it not been instigated by an informant. The FBI continues in its sorry history of concocting crimes, all of them outrageous, but this has broader and more horrible implications.
By claiming that a foreign government was involved in contracting with Mexican drug dealers to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, the administration has made a clear case for war against the Iranian government. The calls for more inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and for even tighter sanctions are just the beginning. Lest we forget, the occupation of Iraq was preceded by a year long campaign for political and public support.
Already, the British government has stated its belief in this preposterous supposed plot. The foreign secretary opined, presumably with a straight face, that the alleged plot “would appear to constitute a major escalation in Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism outside its borders.”
It is monstrous that such an obviously ludicrous scenario is being treated as true by the corporate media in this country, and by America’s allies. If Obama chooses to bomb Tehran and Isfahan, Democratic as well as Republican senators and congress members, the corporate media, and pundits regarded as “serious” people will all applaud him. Supporting mass murder will become the sine qua non for any journalist who wants to keep access with the White House, or any political candidate who needs to raise a lot of money. Progressives who marched against the occupation of Iraq will find reasons to demur if Obama goes on the path of mass murder.
For many years, this commentator and many others have been warning that Iran is under threat of American intervention. We may seem like the boy who cried wolf in the old children’s story. These warnings are not created out of thin air. They arise from careful study of this nation’s history and the Obama administration’s patterns of behavior.
Should such an action take place, it must be made clear that it is a crime. There is no justification for our government, and by extension American citizens, to kill Iranians. They are no threat to us and have a right to live without fear of being killed should an American president deem it expedient.
Hopefully that country is not as weak and defenseless as Iraq and Libya. The writing is on the wall and doesn’t look pretty. Remember, the boy in the story was eventually telling the truth. The wolf did show up and it acted as wolves always do.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.com.
Waving Syrian flags and pictures of Assad, hundreds of thousands of government supporters converged in Saadallah al-Jabri Square and its sub-streets in Aleppo on Wednesday to show the level of support that the Syrian president enjoys.
They also condemned the-US backed sanctions as well as the biased Western stance towards the unrest in their country and called for national unity.
The demonstrators also voiced support for Assad’s reform program, adding that they are satisfied with the process of reforms in the country.
The mass pro-government rally in Aleppo comes one week after a similar demonstration in the capital, Damascus. The rally was organized by Aleppo Youths Gathering.
Damascus and Aleppo are the largest Syrian cities and economic powerhouses.
In the Damascus rally, demonstrators thanked Russia and China for blocking a UN Security Council resolution against their country.
They also denounced the formation of the “Syrian National Council (SNC)”, an umbrella body formally set up on October 2 in Turkey, pulling together most of the groups opposing the Syrian leader.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March and hundreds of people, including security forces, have been killed in the violence.
While the opposition and Western countries accuse security forces of being behind the killings, the government blames outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups for the deadly violence, stressing that the unrest is being orchestrated from abroad.