Lawmakers in the US Congress reached an agreement on Monday in both the House and the Senate on the proposed federal budget for 2014, which would allocate $520.5 billion for defence spending and $491.8 billion for non-defence.
The defence budget includes an increase in military aid to Israel that will be given as private aid, thus it will be in addition to the $3.1 billion dollars already given annually to Tel Aviv.
The budget is still awaiting formal approval and the exact amount of additional aid to Israel remains unclear.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee had endorsed an increase of $488 million in military aid to Israel to pay for Israel’s procurement and development of additional rocket and missile interception systems. The newspaper noted that this sum is considerably higher than previously expected.
However, Reuters news agency reported that the additional military aid to Israel would exceed $500 million after a compromise defence bill proposed on Monday agreed to boost US spending on missile defence by $358 million to $9.5 billion, mandating another homeland defence radar and increased funding for US-Israeli cooperative efforts.
Israel’s Channel 7 News reported that US President Barack Obama had originally requested $220 million of additional private military aid to Israel to buy extra Iron Dome short-range interceptor missiles and the batteries they are launched from, which was approved.
According to the Israeli media network, in addition to the above, the supplementary aid will allocate $173 million in funding for US-Israeli cooperative missile defence programs, which includes “nearly $34 million to improve the Arrow weapon system and $22 million for work on developing another, more advanced interceptor,” noting that, “The move signals further cooperation between Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).”
The new budget will also allocate $117.2 million to Israel for the “development of the David’s Sling short-range ballistic missile defence system, which is being developed jointly by Israel’s state-owned Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and the US’s Raytheon.”
Furthermore, “An additional $15 million will be directed for US co-production of Iron Dome components. Raytheon has a joint marketing agreement with Israeli state-owned manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defence Systems for the Iron Dome system.”
Both the US and Israeli media are reporting that the supplemental funds are intended to protect Israel from the increasing threats coming from Iran, Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In addition to the supplemental aid, US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel has promised Israel that the existing $3.1 billion package of military aid would remain intact, despite US spending cuts.
The final vote on the budget is expected to take place before Congress leaves for the year.
Haaretz noted that, “Despite frequent disputes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government regarding the peace process with the Palestinians and the Iranian nuclear threat, US President Barack Obama’s administration continues to be extraordinarily generous when it comes to granting military aid. Israeli defence officials see last week’s decision as further evidence of the strength of the relationship between the two countries.”
- Congress triples Obama’s request on defense cooperation with Israel (timesofisrael.com)
You could very well say that Navi Pillay was more than anyone else the person responsible for NATO’s disastrous invasion of Libya. As UN Human Rights Commissioner she chaired that fateful meeting in February, 2011 where Libyan NGO leader Soliman Bouchuiguir was allowed to repeat incredible tales about the “massacres” taking place in Libya – tales he openly admitted after the NATO invasion he had just made up. “There is no evidence,” he exclaimed when asked after the invasion to back up his claims, which were the basis of the chain of events that led to NATO bombing.
The first link in that chain was the UN Human Rights Commission hearing chaired by Pillay, where Bouchuiguir’s lies led to the suspension of Libya from that body and the referral of the Libya issue to the UN Security Council. At the hearing, Pillay took her cue from the falsifier Bouchuiguir, exclaiming that, “The Libyan leader must stop the violence now.” Eventually the Security Council passed Resolution 1973, cracking the interventionist door to Libya, which NATO very soon kicked open.
Commissioner Pillay wasted no time setting her “humanitarian interventionist” sights on another crisis just waiting for a military solution. As early as August, 2011 she began urging the International Criminal Court to take up the case against the Syrian government, which was fighting against a foreign-sponsored insurgency seeking its overthrow. Never mind the illegality of her position urging the overthrow of a sovereign state, Pillay has argued relentlessly from the beginning in favor of a Libya-style NATO invasion of Syria.
Now Pillay is back in the news, releasing an incredibly dubious “report” concluding that the Syria government is guilty of war crimes in its fight against a foreign-sponsored insurgency. Pillay’s methodology would be laughed out of any courtroom except perhaps those of Stalin’s show trials. Her “investigators” had no access to Syria, conducted no on-the-ground investigations, but instead conducted their interviews in neighboring countries or via Skype. As with her previously discredited Libya claims, there is no independent verification of her findings, no way of even knowing who she talked to in the collection of this “evidence.” In fact, she would not even reveal the names of the accused, a list of perpetrators which she claims was secretly handed to her. No, she prefers to keep her information secret in hopes that the International Criminal Court would finally take up her case against the Syrian government.
Pillay’s fanaticism and the religious fervor of her devotion to the doctrine of “humanitarian interventionism” harkens back to an earlier era where the murder of millions was justified in pursuit of the historical inevitability of utopia on earth. It is a dangerous and deadly philosophy, which justifies all manner of death and destruction. The oft-cited C.S. Lewis quote comes most often to mind when thoughts wander to the Navi Pillays of the world:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
The (interim) nuclear agreement that was signed on 24 November 2013 by Iran and the so-called P5+1 group in Geneva is questionable on a number of grounds.
The Irony and Absurdity of the Negotiations: When the Guilty Tries the Innocent
The underlying logic for the Iran nuclear negotiations was (and continues to be) altogether preposterous: on one side of the negotiating table sat major nuclear powers who are all in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires them to have either dismantled or drastically reduced their nuclear arsenal; on the other side, an NPT–compliant country (Iran) that neither possesses nor pursues nuclear weapons—a fact that is testified to both by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Yet, in an ironically perverse way, the culprits have assumed the role of the police, the prosecutor and the judge, shamelessly persecuting and prosecuting the innocent for no other reason than trying to exercise its NPT-granted right to peaceful nuclear technology.
This obviously means that Iran is essentially negotiating under duress. Largely shut out of normal international trade, and constantly threatened by economic strangulation, it is essentially negotiating with a bullet to its head. As an astute observer of the negotiations has pointed out, “Iran voluntarily agreed to the [nuclear] deal the same way that a robbery victim voluntarily agrees to give up valuable possessions” to save his/her life.
The Imbalance between what Iran Gave and what it Took
To reach the interim deal, the Iranian negotiators agreed to a number of concessions with very little reciprocity in terms of relief from sanctions. These included: limiting its enrichment of uranium to only 3-5 percent purity, from the current level of 20 percent purity; rendering unusable its existing stockpile of 20 percent fuel for further enrichment; not using its more advanced IR-M2 centrifuges for enrichment; not activating its heavy-water reactor in Arak; and consenting to highly intrusive inspections.
This means that under the deal, the Iranian negotiators have agreed to more than freezing Iran’s nuclear technology; perhaps more importantly, they have reversed and rolled back significant scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs of recent years. One can imagine the feeling of disappointment (and perhaps betrayal) on the part of the many dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians who worked so hard to bring about such scientific advances; only to see them dishonored or degraded by reversing and freezing them at a much lower level.
In return for these significant concessions, the U.S. and its allies would agree: to unfreeze less-than 7 billion dollars of Iran’s nearly 100 billion dollars of oil revenue frozen in bank accounts overseas; to consider easing sanctions banning trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and auto industry; and to suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on insurance and transportation services for the drastically reduced sale of Iran’s oil.
The most crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banks, which served as the financial facilitators of international trade, would remain intact under the proposed interim deal.
Threat to Iran’s Sovereignty
A careful reading of the interim agreement reveals that the Iranian negotiators gave up more than scaling down and freezing their country’s nuclear technology and/or knowledge. More importantly, if implemented, the deal effectively places Iran’s nuclear program (through IAEA) under total control of the United States and its allies. This is no speculation; it follows from the interim deal’s vastly invasive inspections regime, which is described under the subheading “Enhanced Monitoring”:
- Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.
- Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.
- Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.
- IAEA inspector managed access to: centrifuge assembly workshops; centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and, uranium mines and mills.
The fact that provisions of “enhanced monitoring” tend to infringe upon Iran’s national sovereignty was implicitly acknowledged by the Washington Post when it reported on the morning following the signing of the deal (24 November 2013) that, according to Western officials in Geneva, the Iranian concessions “not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran” to make any changes in its nuclear technology “without being detected.”
Another indication of Iran’s national sovereignty being threatened is the interim deal’s establishment of “a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs. . . . This channel could also enable: transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and, direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad.” Although the financial channel would be using Iran’s own money, currently frozen abroad, it would not be controlled or managed by Iranians—sadly reminiscent of Iraq’s “oil for food” neo-colonial deal under Saddam Hussein.
Did Iran Have to Give up so Much for so Little?
Deprived of more than half of its oil exports/revenue, and largely locked out of the international banking and/or trade system, the Iranian economy and its people are already gravely suffering from the ravages of economic sanctions. Additional sanctions, which are pre-packaged and frequently brandished as a Damocles’ Sword in the background of the nuclear negotiations, are bound to further depress Iran’s economy and the living conditions of its people.
Under these circumstances, Iran basically faced (or faces) two options. One option would be embarking on the path of a war economy, as it has, in effect, been subjected to a brutal economic war by the United States and its allies. This would be similar to the eight years (1980-88) of war with Iraq, when at the instigation and support of regional and global powers Saddam Hussein launched a surprise military attack against Iran. The other option would be compromising its legal and legitimate rights to peaceful nuclear technology in order to appease the global bully (the U.S.) and its minions in the hope that this may prevent a further tightening of the noose of economic sanctions around the neck of the Iranian people.
During the eight-year war with Saddam’s Iraq, not only did the Western powers and their allies in the region support the Iraqi dictator militarily but they also subjected Iran to severe economic sanctions. With its back against the wall, so to speak, Iran embarked on a revolutionary path of a war economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population. By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers further succeeded in bringing about significant economic developments. These included: extensive electrification of the countryside, expansion of transportation networks, construction of tens of thousands of schools and medical clinics all across the country, provision of foodstuffs and other basic needs for the indigent at affordable prices, and more.
Despite its record of success, this option is altogether ruled out by today’s Iranian ruling powers. There are a number of reasons for this aversion to a regimented war economy. A detailed discussion of such reasons is beyond the purview of this essay. Suffice it to say that many of the revolutionary leaders who successfully managed the 1980-88 war economy have now become business entrepreneurs and prosperous capitalists. Having effectively enriched themselves in the shadow of the public sector economy, or by virtue of the political/bureaucratic positions they held (or still hold) in various stations in the government apparatus, these folks have by now lost all appetite they once had for the radical economic measures required by a war economy. Instead, they now seem eager to strike business and investment deals with their counterparts in the West.
More than any other social strata, President Rouhani and his administration represent the interests and aspirations of this ascending capitalist–business class in Iran. Representatives of this class wield economic and political power through the highly influential Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture (ICCIMA). Ideological and/or philosophical affinity between President Rouhani and the power-brokers residing within ICCIMA is reflected in the fact that, immediately upon his election, the president appointed former head of the Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian, a U.S.-educated neoliberal economist and an advisor to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, as his chief of staff.
It was through Nahavandian and the Iran Chamber of Commerce that, in September 2013, an Iranian economic delegation accompanied President Rouhani to the United Nations in New York to negotiate (behind the scenes) potential business/investment deals with their American counterparts. The Iran Chamber of Commerce also organized a number of economic delegations that accompanied Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif to Geneva in pursuit of similar objectives in Europe.
It is understandable, therefore, why major factions within Iran’s ruling circles, especially the Rouhani administration and their allies and co-thinkers, have no stomach for a regimented, war-like economy; and why, instead, they opted for compromises over Iran’s nuclear program. The question remains, however, why did they make so many concessions in return for so little? Did they have to compromise as much as they did?
Two major reasons can be identified for why they could strike a better nuclear deal in Geneva than they actually did. For one thing, President Rouhani’s and his team of negotiators’ liaison with the P5+1 group got off on the wrong foot: they showed their hand prematurely by approaching the negotiations with a sense of desperation and an attitude of eagerness to reach a deal.
Indeed, it is fair to argue that President Rouhani condemned Iran to an unsound or flawed deal long before he was elected. He did so during his presidential campaign by pinning his chances for election on economic recovery through a nuclear deal. This was a huge mistake, as it automatically weakened Iran’s bargaining position and, by the same token, strengthened that of the United States and its allies. By exaggerating (perhaps opportunistically) the culpability of his predecessor in the escalation of economic sanctions against Iran, he committed two blunders: one downplaying the culpability of the U.S. and its allies; the other (and by the same token) placing the onus of reaching a nuclear deal largely on Iran.
Secondly, whereas the U.S. and its junior partners constantly brandished the so-called “stick” of additional sanctions in the background of the Geneva negotiations to extract more concessions from Iran, the Iranian side does not seem to have effectively used its country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region to resist the one-sided concessions. While the United States and its allies have in recent months experienced a major setback over the Syrian crisis, Iran and its allies (Russia, Syria, Hezbollah and, indirectly and minimally, China) have by the same token experienced success. And while the results of the U.S. military adventures of the past dozen years or so have been chaos and civil war in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, Iran remains a relatively stable and an ascending regional power, indeed, a power-broker—sanctions-induced economic distress notwithstanding.
It is thus altogether reasonable to argue that had the Iranian negotiators (a) not gone to Geneva with such an openly eager attitude to reach a nuclear deal, and (b) taken more effective advantage of their country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region, they could have struck a better nuclear deal than they actually did. For example, while agreeing on the freezing of their nuclear technology was (under the circumstances) unavoidable, they could more strongly argue that there was no reason for them to roll back Iran’s scientific achievements from 20 percent enrichment of uranium to 5 percent—20 percent enrichment is both NPT-sanctioned, or legal, and required for the Tehran Research Reactor, which manufactures medical isotopes.
Likewise, while agreeing to more intrusive inspections of nuclear sites was (again, under the circumstances) inescapable, Iranian negotiators could reasonably resist allowing inspectors access to and monitoring of their country’s centrifuge assembly workshops, or its uranium mines and mills. Furthermore, the Iranian team could, again quite reasonably, insist on making the elements of the “final agreement,” which is supposed to remove all of the sanctions against Iran, more specific. As they now stand, these elements are so vague, fluid and inconsistent that they seem to be crafted in order to be broken.
Regime Change From Within
Ever since the 1979 revolution in Iran, which significantly undermined the U.S. influence in Iran and elsewhere in the region, the United States has been on a “regime change” mission in that country. Its efforts in pursuit of this nefarious goal are rather well established. They range from instigating and supporting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, to training and supporting destabilizing terrorist organizations to attack Iran, to constant war and military threats, to efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and to systematic escalation of economic sanctions.
Not only have these imperialistic schemes fallen short of their goal of “regime change” in Iran, they have, in fact, driven that country to become a major power in the region, which has further thwarted the geopolitical plans of the United States in the area. While the U.S.–supported mercenary forces in Syria as well as its allies in Ankara, Cairo and Riyadh have experienced serious setbacks in their efforts to overthrow the government in Damascus, the Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah alliance has (by the same token) gained strength and prestige in recent months.
Having thus failed at its plots for “regime change” in Iran from without, the U.S. (or more precisely, a major faction of its ruling powers) now seems to have opted for regime change (or reform) from within; that is, through political and economic rapprochement with Iran. Even some of the U.S. allies such as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that have always been wary of Iran’s radical influence in the region, and who initially opposed vehemently the Iran–P5+1 nuclear agreement, are beginning to see the “moderating” or “stabilizing” benefits of the success of this tactic.
What has made this option more promising (to the U.S. and its client regimes) is the rise of an ambitious capitalist class in Iran whose chief priority seems to be the ability to do business with their counterparts in the West. These folks literally mean business, so to speak; for them, issues such as nuclear technology or national sovereignty are of secondary importance. As mentioned earlier, they are the staunchest supporters of President Rouhani and the unquestioning supporters of his lopsided concessions in the nuclear deal. Also as mentioned before, it was the representative delegations of this class of Iranian capitalists that accompanied President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif to the United States and Europe in order to negotiate business/investment deals with their counterparts in the West.
To be sure, the jingoistic factions of the U.S. ruling circles, headed by the beneficiaries of war dividends and the Israeli lobby, continue to push for direct military intervention and/or further economic strangulation of Iran. But the leaders and/or beneficiaries of non-military industries such as oil, automobile, airlines, agriculture, and the like are lobbying the Obama administration for economic and political rapprochement with Iran.
Which of these two major factions of the U.S. ruling powers (Proponents of regime change from within or from without) would succeed, depends largely on the process and/or outcome of nuclear negotiations. While making threats of additional sanctions, the hardline or militaristic faction seem to be for now sitting on the fence: if Iran continues to make more one-sided concessions, which would basically mean giving up its right to a level of uranium enrichment that is necessary for its peaceful domestic needs, they would soften their positions and gradually lower their shrill and menacing voices. On the other hand, if Iran does not relent on its legal and legitimate enrichment rights, and insists that the U.S. and its allies need to reciprocate Iran’s interim concessions by lifting the sanctions, they would further harden their positions by calling for additional sanctions and/or military intervention. Under this latter scenario, proponents of rapprochement with Iran, having failed in their tactic of regime change/reform from within, would most probably join the hardliners, thereby embarking, once again, on the long-standing policy of regime change from without—back to square one, so to speak.
So, how would all of these new developments on both the Iranian and the U.S. side affect and/or be affected by the interim nuclear deal toward a “comprehensive final step”?
Problematic and Uncertain Future of the Interim Nuclear Deal
Components of the interim agreement are so vague, inconsistent and even contradictory that it makes them subject to divergent interpretations and, therefore, potential breaches of the deal in the future. This explains why soon after the agreement was signed conflicting understandings of it began to surface. While the Iranian president and his team of negotiators have frequently declared that the agreement acknowledges the country’s right to uranium enrichment, the U.S. side, headed by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, has vigorously denied that right.
Equally vague and (potentially) problematic is the meaning of the “elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution.” According to Iran’s negotiators, the “final step” would “Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions,” as it is, indeed, stipulated as such in the interim agreement. However, the agreement immediately adds that the final step would “Involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.” And it is this ambiguous and condition-laden (“mutually defined enrichment…, mutually agreed parameters…, agreed limits on scope…, for a period to be agreed upon”) sentence in the interim deal that is frequently highlighted by the United States as governing the status of the “final step.”
This is an indication, as pointed out by Gareth Porter (among others), “of uncertain U.S. commitment to the ‘end state’ agreement.” U.S. reservations or unfaithfulness toward a clear, comprehensive and sanctions-free final deal, Gareth further points out, “came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night [23 November 2013]. The officials repeatedly . . . referred to the negotiation of the ‘comprehensive solution’ outlined in the deal . . . as an open-ended question rather than an objective of U.S. policy”. It is this ambiguous, unsure and noncommittal U.S. approach to the nuclear deal that serves as grounds for the pessimistic conclusion that the deal is facing an uncertain future.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007) and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). His latest book, titled Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis: Parasitic Finance Capital, is forthcoming from Routledge Books.
The UN General Assembly has unanimously adopted a nuclear disarmament resolution that includes proposals forwarded by Iran President Hassan Rouhani as head of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
The resolution, adopted on Thursday, calls on nuclear-power states to make more efforts to scale down and ultimately eliminate all types of nuclear arms.
In an address to the UN Disarmament Conference in New York on September 25, President Rouhani called for the “total elimination” of nuclear weapons across the world and said no one should possess such weapons.
Rouhani’s proposals included the holding of immediate negotiations on the conclusion of a comprehensive international convention on banning the production, proliferation and use of nuclear weapons; the holding of a high-level conference in 2018 on nuclear disarmament; and designating September 26 as the international day for total elimination of nuclear weapons.
The UN General Assembly’s resolution urges nuclear-weapon states to rapidly adopt the necessary measures in order to abide by their international commitments regarding disarmament. It specifically calls for the full annihilation of nuclear arsenals, transparently, irrevocably, and under international supervision.
According to the resolution, non-nuclear states should be given guarantees that they will not be threatened or attacked with nuclear weapons.
It also calls on the General Assembly to urge all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to follow up on the implementation of their obligations as agreed in the 1995, 2000 and 2010 Review Conferences.
It has been 17 years since the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) began cleaning up the Cold War-era nuclear weapons plant, Savannah River Site, in South Carolina, and at the current pace, it may be another 30 years before the work is completed.
That fact does not sit well with state officials who are now threatening to levy an enormous fine on DOE for not keeping to its original deadline of fixing the mess by 2023.
A key aspect of the project, which started in 1996, is to turn liquid radioactive bomb waste into a solid that can be safely stored for millennia while its radiation decays.
It’s important to make this conversion sooner rather than later because the toxic waste now sits in huge underground tanks (that hold anywhere from 750,000 to 1.3 million gallons each) that have been in use since the 1950s.
If the federal government takes until the 2040s to finish the remediation, it means the tanks will need to hold up for 90 years.
“I don’t know what the tanks’ design life was intended to be, but it’s not for infinity,” Catherine B. Templeton, South Carolina’s top environmental official, told The New York Times.
“We have to get that waste out of the tanks so it’s not Fukushima, so you don’t have the groundwater interacting with the waste and running off,” she added, referring to the radioactive water flowing from the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan and into the ocean.
To prod the DOE into moving faster, the state is threatening to impose $154 million in fines for failing to finish the project in nine years.
Energy officials say the slowdown couldn’t be helped, what with the budget cuts from sequestration and other decisions by Congress that reduced the amount of money flowing to the Savannah cleanup operation.
“There’s only so much to go around,” Terrel J. Spears, DOE’s assistant manager for waste disposition at the site, told the Times. “We can’t increase the budgets. Now we have to balance the budgets.”
To Learn More:
South Carolina Threatens Washington Over Cleanup (by Matthew Wald, New York Times)
Nuclear Weapons Site Reportedly Fails Security Tests (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
The Government Project that is $6 Billion Over Budget and 10 Years Late (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
You cannot negotiate with Iran. That is what they told us for years. The Iranian leadership is too fanatical, they are not rational actors, they are “not like us.” One US official even recently said that deception is part of the Iranian DNA. But just over a week ago negotiations between the five permanent UN Security Council Members plus Germany and the Iranians produced an historic agreement that may be the first step toward a new era in US relations with the Middle East.
As Middle East expert Eric Margolis pointed out this week, for Iran’s major concessions it will only receive “$7 billion – of its own money, which has been frozen abroad by US-led sanctions.” That sounds like quite a bit of compromise for such a “fanatical” country.
Earlier this summer the same people made the same arguments about Syria. You cannot negotiate with Syrian President Assad, they said. He is insane; he is another Hitler. But not only was it possible, a deal was signed ending the threat of a US strike in exchange for Syria agreeing to give up its chemical weapons and the ability to manufacture new ones. Syria upheld its end of the agreement and the chemicals were all accounted for on schedule.
Why have the interventionists, the neocons, and the special interest groups claimed for so long that negotiation and diplomacy was tantamount to surrender; that countries such as Iran and Syria “only understand force”? It is because these groups are afraid of diplomacy. They do not want a peaceful resolution to these conflicts. They see US foreign relations only in the starkest terms: do what we say and we will give you aid, disobey us and we will bomb you.
Now the warmongers who call themselves “foreign policy experts” have been exposed. The whole world sees that they are wrong. Their advice is bad. Their limited vision of how foreign affairs should be conducted is actually dangerous to the United States. It is now clear that there are workable alternatives.
As with the US threats against Syria, public opinion polls on talks with Iran demonstrate that the American people are solidly behind diplomacy and opposed to another war. According to one recent poll, Americans support the deal reached with Iran by a margin of two-to-one.
Congress, however, is once again far behind the American people. Even as US negotiators were reaching agreement with their Iranian counterparts, US representatives and Senators were drafting legislation to increase sanctions on Iran. Instead of listening to the American people, many in Congress seem attached to special interests like the Israel and Saudi lobbies, which oppose anything less than full Iranian capitulation. Israel refuses to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty yet it seeks to dictate the rules of the treaty to those who have signed it. Saudi Arabia is desperate to control the region politically and economically, and it views an Iran that is free to sell oil and other products on the open market as a threat to Saudi power.
For too long both Israel and the Saudis have benefited from a US military guarantee. It has created “moral hazard” that only encourages more belligerent behavior on both of their parts. It remains to be seen whether this six month trial period will develop into a permanent move toward normalization of relations with Iran. What if Congress refuses to give Iran its own money back? But we are moving in the right direction and we should be optimistic.
A better US relationship with Iran may signal the beginning of the end of US meddling in the region and serve as an incentive for Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Gulf States to solve their problems themselves. This would be a great boost to US national security, just as an Iran open to US business and trade would be a great boost to our economic security. Is peace finally breaking out? Let’s hope so.
The Israel Lobby likes to say (and hear members of Congress saying it as well) that there isn’t an inch of daylight between Israel and U.S. political leaders. And that’s generally so. But I’ve just read a memo produced by Aipac which diverges from the Israeli government’s absolutist approach to Iranian nukes. Netanyahu’s position is that Iran must not have any enrichment capacity. Essentially, it must renounce its entire nuclear program.
This memo takes a different view:
Now that the P5+1 has inked an initial agreement with Iran, America must not only ensure full Iranian compliance but also insist that any final deal deny Tehran a nuclear weapons capability.
…Congress has provided the leverage to spur Iran to seek talks; now it must press the administration to negotiate a verifiable agreement that will prevent Iran from ever building nuclear weapons.
Interestingly, this is precisely the Obama administration position. And the divergence between these two positions has caused no end of heartburn between Bibi and Barack. So why does Aipac take the president’s point of view on this and not Israel’s?
There are a number of reasons: first, because while Aipac may be many bad things, it isn’t stupid. It knows that polls show Americans support the Geneva agreement by a two to one margin. Though I haven’t heard of any polls of Jewish opinion, my strong suspicion is that American Jews support it in comparable numbers. So Aipac figures: why rock the boat?
They’ve just been stung by Congress and the president’s refusal to endorse military action against Syria. They don’t want to go down that road again. One thing that is very important to the Israel Lobby group is to be a winner. It hates to lose. It always wants to ensure that Israel’s “enemies” in Congress are the losers, but never Aipac itself.
Further, the group is trying to take a longer-term view. It has six months either to turn American opinion against the deal or to watch as it unravels. It must believe it’s better than even money that the signatories will find a fly in the ointment that will cause the agreement to collapse. Either the Iranians will be resistant or the French will develop a backbone and come to the rescue; or a terrorist attack will derail the process.
Of one thing you can be sure: Aipac is not in disagreement with the Israelis. Aipac wants precisely what Israel wants: not just an end to Iran’s nuclear program, but regime change. The difference between the two is that Israel doesn’t sugar-coat its position, while Aipac finely calibrates its agenda according to which way the political winds are blowing. As of now, they’re not blowing Israel’s way.
In fact, the DC Lobby organization wants to have it both ways. It wants to agree with the administration that the essential goal is stopping an Iranian bomb. But it also wants to keep in its back pocket the chance for advancing Israel’s demand for no nuclear enrichment:
The interim agreement does not require that Iran come into compliance with six mandatory U.N. Security Council resolutions, which demand Iran suspend all enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy water activity…
Here, Aipac infers that the mere fact of Iran having any enrichment capability gives it a path toward a bomb:
Any final agreement must deny Iran both uranium and plutonium paths to develop nuclear weapons.
Any final deal will likely preclude Iran from developing nukes, but it will not shut down its uranium enrichment. No pragmatic observer of this process believes this will happen. So even the intimation that you support shutting down this aspect of Iran’s program means you really support Israel’s absolutist position–you’re just too slick or frightened to say it outright.
Aipac does contradict the administration position in one significant way: it endorses ever more draconian sanctions against Iran. Though it understands this brings it into conflict with the President, it couches its position as supporting his goals: to bring Iran to the table and make it more willing to give up its supposed goal of building nukes.
This memo doesn’t mention that if the Lobby wins and sanctions worsen, the current official U.S. policy of reaching a deal with Iran will be dead. That would leave Aipac as the last man standing in the debate. A diplomatic solution will be gone and the only thing remaining will be the military option–Israel and the Lobby’s preferred course.
There are several problematic passages in the memo. Here it outright distorts the agreement:
Iran will retain all of its nuclear material and will be able to continue the research and development aspects of its program….The agreement imposes no restrictions on Iran’s nuclear weaponization efforts…
This is actually not true. Iran has a large amount of 20% enriched uranium. Under the deal, a significant portion of it would be reprocessed so that it could not be used as part of any weapons-making process. This is extremely important since Iran’s 20% enriched material is what would be needed to make a bomb. Without that, it can’t proceed toward nuclearization.
The willful misunderstanding of the Geneva protocol continues here:
Iran thus far has denied inspectors access to key facilities, such as Parchin, where the IAEA suspects nuclear weapons-related experiments have been conducted.
The deal actually gives inspectors access to Iran’s most secret facility, Fordo, and also gives them access to the heavy water reactor at Arak. These are both facilities that have been largely or wholly off-limits to the IAEA.
The US and Israel are planning to conduct a joint military drill in an effort to threaten Iran towards the end of the six-month period when an interim deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany expires.
The drill is aimed at sending a threatening message to Iran while US President Barack Obama says “we cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of conflict.”
Time magazine broke the story of the planned US-Israeli military exercise on Thursday, citing a top Israeli official who said, “The strategic decision is to continue to make noise.”
“In May there’s going to be a joint training exercise with the Americans,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s going to be big.”
The planned war game comes after the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 intensely angered Israelis.
As part of the interim deal, which was announced on November 24, Iran has agreed to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, and the United States and its allies have agreed to lift some of the economic sanctions and offer access to a portion of the revenue that Tehran has been denied through these sanctions. No additional sanctions will be imposed.
The deal infuriated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who called it “a historic blunder.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-advocacy group in the US, also called on US Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran.
Meanwhile, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll has shown that the American people support the deal over Iran’s nuclear energy program by a 2-to-1 margin.
When Barack Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later. Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obama’s war than President Bush’s. Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until “2024 and beyond.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign the deal. Here is his list of concerns. He’d like the U.S. to stop killing civilians and stop kicking in people’s doors at night. He’d like the U.S. to engage in peace negotiations. He’d like innocent Afghan prisoners freed from Guantanamo. And he’d like the U.S. not to sabotage the April 2014 Afghan elections. Whatever we think of Karzai’s legacy — my own appraisal is unprintable — these are perfectly reasonable demands.
Iran and Pakistan oppose keeping nine major U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, some of them on the borders of their nations, until the end of time. U.S. officials threaten war on Iran with great regularity, the new agreement notwithstanding. U.S. missiles already hit Pakistan in a steady stream. These two nations’ concerns seem as reasonable as Karzai’s.
The U.S. public has been telling pollsters we want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan “as soon as possible” for years and years. We’re spending $10 million per hour making ourselves less safe and more hated. The chief cause of death for U.S. troops in this mad operation is suicide.
When the U.S. troops left Iraq, it remained a living hell, as Libya is now too. But the disaster that Iraq is does not approach what it was during the occupation. Much less has Iraq grown dramatically worse post-occupation, as we were warned for years by those advocating continued warfare.
Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan — or to the entire world, for that matter, including our own country — would cost a fraction of what we spend on wars and war preparations, and would make us the most beloved nation on earth. I bet we’d favor that course if asked. We were asked on Syria, and we told pollsters we favored aid, not missiles.
We stopped the missiles. Congress members in both houses and parties said they heard from more people, more passionately, and more one-sidedly than ever before. But we didn’t stop the guns that we opposed even more than the missiles in polls. The CIA shipped the guns to the fighters without asking us or the Congress. And Syrians didn’t get the aid that we favored.
We aren’t asked about the drone strikes. We aren’t asked about most military operations. And we aren’t being asked about Afghanistan. Nor is Congress asserting its power to decide. This state of affairs suggests that we haven’t learned our lesson from the Syrian Missile Crisis. Fewer than one percent of us flooded Congress and the media with our voices, and we had a tremendous impact. The lesson we should learn is that we can do that again and again with each new war proposal.
What if two percent of us called, emailed, visited, protested, rallied, spoke-out, educated, and non-violently resisted 10 more years in Afghanistan? We’d have invented a new disease. They’d replace the Vietnam Syndrome with the Afghanistan Syndrome. Politicians would conclude that the U.S. public was just not going to stand for any more wars. Only reluctantly would they try to sneak the next one past us.
Or we could sit back and keep quiet while a Nobel Peace Prize winner drags a war he’s “ending” out for another decade, establishing that there’s very little in the way of warmaking outrages that we won’t allow them to roll right over us.
For an event that changed the course of world history, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy passed with barely a ripple. It featured the same sort of superficial solemnity and obligatory rehashing of canonical texts one expects at a religious observance.
At Easter, the clergy do not expect faithful Christians to question the absurdity of the Resurrection as they hearken unto ritualistic stories and watch the umpteenth depiction of the Crucifixion. The ritual is a time to reinforce official belief, not stimulate thoughtful discussion.
So it came to pass that the 50th commemoration of the Kennedy assassination was, like all the others, an exercise in a manipulative ritual designed solely to allow people to expiate their grief and honour a martyred saint. It consisted of the veneration of official iconography, hearkening unto personal testimonies, and paying homage to the absurdities of the Warren Commission, which concluded that Kennedy was killed from behind by a single bullet fired from the rifle of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Criticism of the report and expressions of alternative explanations are still anathematized like a religious heresy even though a dedicated subculture of journalists, servicemen and scholars have successfully proven that the commission’s report is a hamfisted cover-up. To refute the one-bullet theory, for example, all one has to do is watch the famous Zapruder film to see that a bullet struck Kennedy in the forehead, snapping his head back and causing a gaping exit wound in the back of his skull. Ballistically speaking, this could not have been caused by a sniper shooting from behind.
The disconnect between official dogma and reality over these 50 years has had the (perhaps intended) effect of trivializing the assassination, turning it into a cliché so that we have become deaf to its true political importance.
Who rerouted the motorcade at the last minute to make it slow down at Dealey Plaza so that the assassin or assassins could get a clear shot? Who stood to benefit the most from his assassination? Certainly not Oswald. A lot of theorists point to the CIA, the Israelis, or Vice-President Lyndon Johnson. Others say the military did it. Perhaps it was all of them and others. (For an excellent list, see “16 Mind-Blowing Facts About Who Really Killed JFK” by Carl Gibson of Reader Supported News.)
Ironically, the persecution and marginalization of heretics may offer the best clues because as Voltaire wrote: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” An examination of two policy areas before and after the assassination gives us a good idea who really killed Kennedy and why.
From the outset, Kennedy had to fight an insurrection within his administration from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA, which were looking for any excuse to start a war. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when medium-range ballistic missiles were spotted in Cuba, Kennedy faced almost unanimous opposition to a non-military response. Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay, the most outspoken belligerent, typified the contempt Kennedy faced: “This blockade and political action, I see leading into war. I don’t see any other solution for it. It will lead right into war. This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.”
In the end, a naval blockade and a missile trade off convinced Khrushchev to pull the missiles out, thus sparing the world the spectre of nuclear war, but despite this success Kennedy’s refusal to be stampeded into nuclear war further alienated the military-industrial complex, as President Eisenhower called it, which thought such a war inevitable and necessary. It was Kennedy’s enlightened Vietnam policy, though, that sent the warmongers over the edge and points to a motive for assassination.
In a lengthy piece to Rolling Stone, Robert Kennedy Jr, gave a candid account of that policy:
On September 2nd, 1963, in a televised interview, JFK told the American people he didn’t want to get drawn into Vietnam. ‘In the final analysis, it is their war,’ he said. ‘They are the ones who have to win or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment. We can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam.’
Exactly one month later, Kennedy told a National Security Council meeting that there would be a partial withdrawal of 1,000 military personnel by the end of 1963 and a complete withdrawal by the end of 1965, regardless of the military circumstances. The thought of pulling out of Vietnam sent the warmongers into a frothing rage. As RFK Jr. further recounts:
Journalist Richard Starnes, filing from Vietnam, gave a stark assessment in The Washington Daily News of the CIA’s unrestrained thirst for power in Vietnam. Starnes quoted high-level U.S. officials horrified by the CIA’s role in escalating the conflict. They described an insubordinate, out-of-control agency, which one top official called a ‘malignancy.’ He doubted that ‘even the White House could control it any longer.’ Another warned, ‘If the United States ever experiences a [coup], it will come from the CIA and not from the Pentagon.’ Added another, ‘[Members of the CIA] represent tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone.’
That coup was the assassination. Four days afterwards, Lyndon Johnson, promulgated National Security Action Memorandum 273, which authorized covert operations against North Vietnam, and these in turn would lead to the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which led to the widening of the war that was known to be lost before it started.
JFK abhorred nuclear weapons, and wanted to rid the world of them. He was determined to conclude a peace treaty with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, with whom he had been keeping a secret correspondence, and to implement a unilateral test ban. Most significantly, JFK refused to sell Israel nuclear weapons and demanded that Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona be completely open for inspection. On July 5, 1963, Kennedy wrote a letter to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol (né Shkol’nik) to that effect.
The request was contemptuously ignored; four months later Kennedy was dead. Johnson proceeded to turn Kennedy’s rational policy on its head and put the U.S. on the long humiliating road to becoming Israel’s bitch. As historian Laurent Guyénot wrote:
Johnson increased [aid to Israel] from 40 million [dollars] to 71 million and to 130 million the following year. While the Kennedy administration had authorized the sale of a limited number of defensive missile batteries to Israel, under Johnson more than 70% of the aid was earmarked for military equipment, including 250 tanks and 48 Skyhawk offensive aircraft. Military aid to Israel reached 92 million in 1966, more than the total of all previous years combined.
Regarding nuclear matters, Johnson turned a blind eye to Dimona and allowed Mossad agents to begin stealing 269 kg of enriched uranium from the Numec nuclear facility in Apollo, Pennsylvania.
Johnson’s support for Israel would lead to an overt act of treason on June 8, 1967, when he abetted Israel’s premeditated 75-minute assault on the intelligence-gathering ship USS Liberty that included torpedoes, rockets, napalm and 30mm gunfire fire, even at life rafts. Thirty-four servicemen died and 172 were wounded. Presidential speechwriter Grace Halsell explains the familiar motive for why Johnson sucked up to Israel:
In 1967, President Johnson felt he needed all the support he could get to ‘win’ in Vietnam. Many American Jews were liberals outspokenly opposed to the war there. Johnson was told if he gave all out support to Israel… influential Jewish Americans would stop opposing his Vietnam policies. In a memo to the president, [speechwriter Ben] Wattenberg… said flatly that if the president came out with strong support for Israel, he would win American Jewish support for the war in Vietnam. Many American Jewish leaders are ‘doves’ on Vietnam, Wattenberg wrote, but ‘hawks’ on a war with Arab states.
No investigation of the attack has ever been carried out and the lame cover story offered up by Israel—mistaken identity—is still endorsed by official Washington.
Israel also had a political motive to kill Kennedy because of his Middle East policy. He was determined to uphold international law in Occupied Palestine, and so the U.S. delegation to the UN called for the implementation of UNGA Resolution 194, by which Israel, as part of the terms of its admission to the UN, agreed to allow the 800,000 Palestinian refugees expelled from their neighborhoods and villages in 1947-48 to return. That was on Nov. 20, 1963. Kennedy was assassinated two days later.
No event in living memory altered the course of history as profoundly or as destructively as did the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. When he died, so did the idea of a just, democratic America and a world without the threat of nuclear war. In its place arose a militaristic usurper state that would be directly responsible for a half-century of wanton slaughter, despoliation, stupidity and incompetence.
Our modern corporatist police states are the offspring of the assassination, and the Military-Industrial-Zionist Complex, our political clergy, are waging total war on civilization so that we the people do not become informed, enlightened heretics and seek to reclaim our countries.
It can’t be coincidence that the 9/11 attacks followed the same script as the Kennedy assassination: an attack on American soil, a ludicrous cover story, patsies to take the blame, media propaganda, corrupt legislation to permit war on an industrial scale, a complicit White House, and censorship of dissenters. We know for certaint that warmongers in the government and pro-Israel Jews were involved in that attack. It stands to reason that they were involved in the JFK assassination. No wonder, it got such little respect.
A peaceful agreement has been reached between the P5+1 nations and Iran. As expected, the bomb-dropping idea peddlers are crying like babies:
Daniel Pipes calls peace a disaster: “Barack Obama has made many foreign policy errors in the past five years, but this is the first to rank as a disaster.”
Jennifer Rubin hopes Israel can still find a way to bomb: “Admin needs to reaffirm final deal will comply fully with UN resolutions. If not Israel should act”.
Michael Ledeen is not losing hope for war either: “this might make war more possible, life is full of surprises.”
Michael Rubin grabs for the North Korean Bogeyman: “Iran deal risks creating another North Korea.”
Jeffrey Goldberg takes a ride in the spin machine: “This is, if nothing else, an interim victory for tough sanctions.”
Jonathan Tobin plays monday morning quarterback, and wishes Obama would’ve chose differently: “Everyone knows that the sanctions are hurting, but if Iran’s oil trade was subjected to a complete embargo…Tehran could have been brought to its knees.”
In the final analysis, neocon ideas have ruined so many lives around the Earth it’s hard to even wrap your mind around it. They’ve greatly contributed to bringing about the financial bankruptcy of the US, have encouraged so much hatred around the world by getting involved in everyone’s business, have left entire countries in total ruin, and have stuck the bills to all of us to pay.
If neocons are crying about not getting another war, it means things are going in the right direction for a change. Not attacking Syria was the first good step, and a (even if temporary) rapprochement with Iran provides another step. One more, and we can call this a trend, which is very good news indeed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the US will no longer have a reason to build the long-touted missile defense shield in Europe, if Iran fulfills its obligations in the recently-signed nuclear program deal.
“If the Iran deal is put into practice, the stated reason for the construction of the defense shield will no longer apply,” Lavrov told journalists in Rome.
NATO is currently rolling out its new Europe-wide missile defense shield, which will include two interceptor bases close to the Russian border in Romania and Poland, with the first of the first ground missiles becoming operational in 2015. The bases will be able to shoot down short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Russia has long protested at the placement of such bases on its borders, but during both, the Bush era and Obama’s terms, Washington has insisted that the bases are primarily directed against a potential threat from Iran, and are too close to Russia to stop any of its nuclear warheads.
On Sunday, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for a loosening of substantial EU and US sanctions that have crippled its economy.
The initial term of the deal is six months, though both sides hope this will lead to a permanent rapprochement after a stand-off that lasted a decade, during which the West accused Iran of attempting to acquire a nuclear weapon, while Iran denied this, insisting that it was entitled to enrich uranium.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, while visiting Europe earlier this month, said that the deployment of the missile shield was not likely to be contingent on improving relations with Iran.
“Nothing has changed at this point and I don’t foresee it changing,” he said.
The current European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) missile defense system was adopted by the White House in 2009. It generally uses more established technologies than President George W. Bush’s expensive and ambitious system that first aroused Russia’s ire over five years ago. The most ambitious phase of the program, initially scheduled to begin next decade, was also canceled earlier this year.
Nonetheless, negotiations about Moscow’s potential involvement in the defense shield have broken down over a lack of trust, and the recent groundbreaking ceremony at NATO’s base in Romania was swiftly followed by an unannounced test of Russia’s newest ballistic missiles as well as international patrols by its strategic bombers.
Lavrov recently called missile defense a “burning issue” in Moscow-Washington relations, and said that Russia will soften its stance on the Eastern European bases only if NATO provides written assurances that they will never be used to shoot down Russian missiles, a request it has repeatedly rejected.
- NATO building anti-missile shield in Romania (voiceofrussia.com)