Baghdad and Moscow have agreed to renew an arms deal worth $4.2 billion that was put on ice in 2012 amid corruption allegations. Russia reportedly agreed to send four extra assault helicopters as part of the renegotiation.
It will be post-Saddam Iraq’s largest arms deal with a partner other than the US and its key allies. The agreement has not yet been formally signed, but will be soon, Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported, citing a source in the Russian arms export industry.
The trade agreement was initially signed in October 2012 during Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to Moscow. Russia agreed to supply Iraq with 48 Pantsir-S1 short-to-medium-range air defense systems and 28 Mil Mi-28NE strike helicopters, among other arms.
But the deal faced scrutiny in Iraq over corruption allegations. At the time, conflicting reports emerged over whether the contract had been scrapped entirely or subjected to renegotiation.
The situation was aggravated by turmoil in the Iraqi parliament, which saw heated debate over the national general budget for 2013. The disagreement was finally shelved in March 2013 after months of debate, as the country’s Defense Ministry was given a free hand in procuring military hardware.
A new version of the multibillion-dollar arms deal was presented in Moscow last Monday after a delegation of top Iraqi military officials visited Russia, according to Iraqi news agency Al-Mada Press.
Moscow met the corruption concerns undermining the deal by offering four extra Mi-28 attack helicopters, the source told Vedomosti. An Iraqi MP reported similar terms last week to Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Ali al-Sha’la from al-Maliki’s Rule of Law coalition said the new deal covers more advanced technology, including aircraft weapons and instruments that will beef up Iraq’s air capabilities.
Some Iraqi lawmakers have expressed resistance to signing the contract. Deputy Parliament Speaker Aref Taifour of the Kurdistan Alliance faction criticized the deal days after it was renegotiated, calling it a “waste of public funds and continuation of the corruption in the country” in a statement.
The Mil Mi-28NE ‘night hunger’ is the export version of an upgraded variant of the Mi-28 attack helicopter. Compared to the older Mil-28 helicopter, a ‘tank killer,’ it has all-weather and night combat capabilities, allowing it to strike at more targets.
The Pantsir-S1 combines surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft dual auto-cannons capable of engaging aerial targets at medium- and short-range. The Pantsir is designed to work in tandem with long-range SAM systems like Russia’s S-400 to protect critical infrastructure against air strikes.
The first batch of arms under the contract is expected to be delivered shortly after the agreement is signed later this year. Iraq is reportedly seeking to purchase other advanced Russian hardware, including Mikoyan Mig-29 fighter jets.
The comprehensive economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN Security Council in the 1990s fundamentally changed the way we think about sanctions. Sanctions had been seen as a middle route, which was nonviolent, yet more robust than diplomacy. But in Iraq, the humanitarian impact was devastating: child mortality spiked, malnutrition was widespread, the middle class disappeared, and critical infrastructure, such as electricity and water treatment, declined precipitously and never recovered. As the humanitarian crisis continued, activists, practitioners and scholars questioned the ethical legitimacy of sanctions.
The response was the development of targeted “smart” sanctions, which would ostensibly harm only the political or military leadership of the targeted state, or block prohibited goods, without impacting the civilian population. Targeted sanctions included arms embargoes, asset freezes of individual persons and companies, visa denials, and targeted trade sanctions, such as conflict diamonds. There were still unilateral measures that were patently indiscriminate, most prominently the U.S. embargo against Cuba. But by the late 1990s, the Security Council was no longer imposing new measures that were comprehensive.
In the last couple of years we have seen a return to aggressive, deeply damaging measures that are designed to cripple the target nation’s economy as a whole, particularly in the case of Iran. The U.S. sanctions on Iran have been extreme, broadly prohibiting trade, shipping, banking transactions, and investment in Iran’s energy sector. In the last few years we’ve seen the U.S. expand these prohibitions, to restrict not only American companies, but foreign banks and companies as well. The U.S. has aggressively prosecuted major global financial institutions for violations of U.S. sanctions law, and in the last two years there have been a number of cases where banks paid penalties on the order of half a billion dollars each.
Unsurprisingly, the result has been a considerable chilling effect: it is now common to see companies refusing to engage in any transactions at all with Iranian nationals, even for clearly legal purposes. For example, a Swiss organization, the GAVI Alliance, provides vaccines to developing countries. The GAVI Alliance is not subject to U.S. law, but its efforts to provide medical goods to Cuba and Sudan are hampered by U.S. restrictions on shipping companies. Canada’s TD Bank summarily closed down the accounts of Iranians residing legally in Canada. In the U.S., there are growing reports that Iranian-Americans, who in principle are permitted to send remittances to family members in Iran, cannot find any bank in the U.S. or elsewhere that will transfer the funds.
No one could plausibly claim that the U.S. sanctions on Iran are “smart” sanctions. They have crippled Iran’s ability to export oil, to buy gasoline, to import goods of all kinds, to extract and refine oil and natural gas, and to manufacture pharmaceuticals. The irony is that the UN Security Council measures on Iran are perceived to be narrowly crafted to avoid exactly this outcome. The Security Council resolutions only require member states to address cargo, technology, or financial transactions that could contribute to Iran’s nuclear program or ballistic missiles. No one would think that such a specific mandate could have humanitarian consequences—how can depriving a country of nuclear weapons affect education and food security?
But the resolutions contain “hooks” that are then invoked by U.S. allies to impose measures that mirror those of the United States, in a kind of dance of mutual deniability. The Security Council resolutions invite nations to “exercise vigilance” in their dealings with Iran, specifically with Iran’s Central Bank, and with two of its leading banks, Bank Saderat and Bank Melli. It is hard to imagine a term that is more vague and less informative than “exercise vigilance.” After all, we exercise vigilance every time we cross a street or lock a door. But a number of U.S. allies, known as the “like-minded” countries—the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, and South Korea—have invoked the call to “vigilance” as justification for imposing broad, damaging measures on Iran, approaching the blanket nature and severity of the U.S. sanctions. Last year, the EU cut off gasoline sales to Iran, and blocked Iranian access to European ports and shipping lines. SWIFT, the global hub for financial messaging critical for international commercial transactions, cut off access to Iran last year.
This disconnect between a seemingly narrow mandate and its broad application is far from a coincidence; it is a deliberate strategy that affords the international community mutual deniability. The EU and the “like-minded” countries can claim that they are not acting unilaterally; they are just being vigilant, as the Security Council has asked them to. At the same time, the Security Council can maintain that it has not imposed unreasonable measures on Iran; its sanctions only concern nuclear weapons and are meant to minimize the humanitarian damage.
In the end, the result is not so different than what we saw in Iraq two decades ago. If you cripple a nation’s access to shipping, energy, and banking, that will cripple its ability to provide health care, food security, electricity, transportation, and other basic needs of its population. The dance of mutual deniability may mean that it’s harder to see how the sanctions work. But that doesn’t mean they’re doing any less harm.
- Iran sanctions could force BP to shut down North Sea gas field (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Why Sanctions on Iran Aren’t Working (ramyabdeljabbar.wordpress.com)
- Iran’s Bank Mellat challenges UK sanctions in Britain’s Supreme Court (en.trend.az)
- US Senate unanimously passes amendment on euro loophole in Iran sanctions policy (en.trend.az)
- NIAC Report Reveals Disconnect Between Iran Sanctions’ Goals and Results (lobelog.com)
- Deutsche Bank braced for £256 mln Iran sanctions charges – report (en.trend.az)
Ankara – In the ugly panorama that is the contemporary Middle East a light hardly flickers on the horizon. Iraq has been destroyed as a unitary Arab state and jihadis unleashed in Syria are burning out another room in the Arab house. Lebanon has again been brought to the brink of implosion through the intrigues of outside governments and local proxies incapable of putting the interests of their country ahead of their sectarian and power intrigues. The Palestinians are divided between those who live under the authority of one man who has bound himself to Israel and the US and two others who have bound themselves to Egypt and Qatar. Fitna – the spreading of division and sowing of hatred amongst Muslims – is being fanned across the region by governments brazen enough to call themselves Muslim. Whether in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran, Shiism is the enemy. Ceaselessly stirring this pot from the outside are governments that feast on division in the Arab world.
There are those who loathe Bashar so much that they are willing to commit or tolerate any crime in the name of getting rid of him, including the deliberate bombings of civilians, one taking the lives of a leading Sunni Muslim scholar and 48 other worshippers in a Damascus mosque only recently and another killing 100 people, amongst them children waiting for their school bus. A country Gamal abd al Nasir once described as the ‘beating heart of Arabism’ is being destroyed. Its enemies have their hands inside the body and they intend to rip the heart out. The cooperative at work on this venture includes the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the local and foreign-born jihadis who are their tools whether they realize it or not.
That the Syrian system needs changing goes without saying. In Syria possibly no-one understands this better than the much reviled Bashar al Assad. He could go tomorrow but that would solve nothing because the system would stay the same; for those who hate him, someone worse might take his place. Bashar has made serious mistakes, including the adoption of free market policies which have enriched the merchant class while further impoverishing the peasantry, who are now said to be many of the foot soldiers of the armed groups, but Syria is an easier place than it was under his father. The abolition of the Baath as the central pillar of state and society and the multi-party elections held last year were a start to political reforms. The elections were not perfect but if anyone is looking for perfection in the Middle East, they should look somewhere else. These are threads that could have been teased out if the collective calling itself ‘The Friends of the Syrian People’ had any serious interest in the best interests of the Syrian people. A process of national dialogue has begun in Damascus but this has been ignored, too, because these ‘friends’ want nothing less than the destruction of a government which is a strategic ally of Iran and Hezbollah and forms with them the ‘resistance axis’ to US-Israeli hegemony.
The achievements of this axis need to be set against the record of collaboration of those Arab governments who are now bent on destroying it. Iran and Syria have been solid in their support for the Palestinians, hosting resistance movements and working together to provide Hamas with the weapons it needed to defend Gaza. No weapons came from the direction of Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It was Hezbollah, the non-state partner in this alliance, that finally drove Israel from occupied southern Lebanon after nearly two decades of struggle involving not just the bravery of part-time soldiers but the mastery of electronic warfare, enabling Hezbollah to penetrate Israeli communications, including drone surveillance, as was made clear when Hasan Nasrallah produced intercepted film showing that an Israeli drone had been shadowing Rafiq Hariri for three months and was overhead when he was assassinated in February, 2005. When Israel tried to take revenge in 2006 it was humiliated. Hezbollah stood firm, destroyed its supposedly invincible Merkava tanks, disabled one of its warships in a missile attack and prevented its ground forces from advancing north of the Litani river. At the time, it might be remembered, both Egypt and Saudi Arabia vilified Hasan Nasrallah for bringing on this war, as they saw it.
It was Hezbollah which scored another triumph by breaking Israel’s spy network in Lebanon, now in the public eye because of the revelations that an Australian-born Mossad agent, Ben Zygier, had provided it with the names of two of its agents. The official Israeli version of the Zygier affair is that he handed over this information with the ultimate intention of setting up the assassination of Hasan Nasrallah. However, as the case is regarded as one of the most serious threats to national security in Israel’s history, much more might be involved than the collapse of a spy network. It is hard to imagine any agent who was not in fact a double agent doing what Zygier is reported to have done. What other information he might have passed on is a matter of conjecture but Israel’s nervousness about this affair could be a sign that far darker secrets are involved than the exposure of two spies.
Both Iran and Syria have been targeted with economic sanctions because of their disobedience. Iran has been threatened with military attack ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now that the attempt to destroy the government in Damascus through armed proxies has clearly failed, if more than two years of trying qualifies as failure, the US is sending out signals that it is prepared to intervene directly despite the regional and global risks. The collapse of the Syrian National Council last year has now been followed by the disintegration of the Syrian National Coalition, with ‘president’ Mu’adh al Khatib resigning and the chief of its military wing refusing to recognize the authority of new ‘prime minister’ Ghassan al Hitto. Riad al Assad, the displaced former commander of the self-styled Free Syrian Army, has just been carried back across the border into Turkey with only one leg, the other having been blown off by a roadside car bomb. Some sources say it was only a foot but either way he is out of action for a long time to come. As the leading armed groups do not recognize the authority of Mr Assad or the squabbling coalition of which the FSA is supposed to be the military arm, his absence from the scene is not going to make a great deal of difference.
For Muadh al Khatib to be given the Syria seat at the recent summit of the Arab League in Doha is farcical in more than one respect. Al Khatib is no longer even a member of the group Qatar is trying to set up as an alternative government. The group itself is in a state of complete collapse, with al Khatib walking out and other members rejecting the appointment of Hitto, a Syrian-born American who has not visited the country of his birth for decades. That Al Khatib should demand that his ragged, motley crew be given Syria’s seat at the UN goes beyond preposterous. The government of Syria sits in Damascus, not Doha, and Bashar al Assad is still its president, not the former imam of the Umayyad mosque. Compounding this theatre of the absurd, it was the ruler of Qatar who directed that Al Khatib be given the Syrian seat at the Doha summit, underlining the degree to which the Arab League has become no more than an instrument of this gentleman’s drive for regional dominance. That King Abdullah should have stayed away from Doha is a sign of the deepening rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, especially over how to manage Syria. The determination of the ruler of Qatar to persevere with this chaotic bunch of exiles is the measure of his determination to destroy the government in Damascus.
On the ground the armed groups are taking a beating at the hands of the Syrian army but like an irresponsible trainer sending a punched-out boxer out from his corner for the next round, their outside sponsors are pouring arms into Syria to keep them on their feet. The tactics of these groups include bombings aimed at civilians that in other circumstances their backers would not hesitate to call terrorism but steadfastly refused to call terrorism when Syrians are the victims and their proxies are the perpetrators. Al Khatib’s dissatisfaction with his ramshackle coalition was possibly brought to a head by the assassination in Damascus of Sheikh Muhammad Said Ramadan al Bouti, a former colleague and a man he greatly admired. Al Bouti and close to 50 other worshippers were murdered in the Iman mosque by a suicide bomber. Two days earlier an armed group had loaded CL 17 chlorine – an ingredient normally used in swimming pool cleaner – into the warhead of a small missile and fired it at a Syrian army checkpoint, killing 26 people. Soldiers were among the dead and the army was there to look after the survivors, so the claims of activists that ‘the regime’ was responsible had even less traction than usual. Having warned of direct intervention in Syria should chemical weapons be used, the US had little to say now that such a weapon had been used, not by the Syrian army, but by the ‘rebels’ it has been supporting.
Hezbollah, Syria and Iran’s record of resistance has to be compared with the long Saudi and Qatari record of collaboration with the US and Israel. Having deserted Damascus in its hour of need, what does Khalid Mishaal think he is going to get from the ruler of Qatar besides money and somewhere to stay? What is Ismail Haniyeh expecting from Muhammad Morsi, who began his presidency by blocking off the tunnels into Gaza and confirmed where he intends to take Egypt with his letter calling Shimon Peres ‘my dear friend’? Is it forgotten already, apart from his record in violence and destruction going back to 1948, that it was Peres who authorized the attack on southern Lebanon in 1996 which took the lives of more than 100 people sheltering inside the UN compound in Qana? If the friend of my enemy is my enemy, where does that leave Haniyeh, Misha’al and Abbas?
The beneficiaries of intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria are outside and regional governments who have combined forces to reshape the Middle East in their own interests. As Ibrahim al Amin has remarked (‘Partitioning Syria at the Doha summit’, Al Akhbar English, March 25, 2013), they are fighting a global war against Syria in the name of bringing the people freedom and justice. In truth, western governments only intervene in their own interests and the people always end up being sliced and diced on the chopping board of their grand designs. There has been no exception to this rule. Civilization, liberation, freedom, democracy, the rights of the people and the responsibility to protect are the unctuous phrases that have rolled off the lips of western prime ministers, foreign ministers and presidents for two centuries. This is the rhetorical buildup to a self-assigned ‘duty’ to intervene: the only real difference between intervention in the 19th century and intervention in the 21st lies in the vastly increased killing power of western governments and the development of weapons that would have been regarded as science fiction until only recently.
As they always get away with it, there is no reason for them to stop. Iraq was a terrible crime but while the UN Security Council or the International Criminal Court points the finger at Robert Mugabe, Umar al Bashir or Saif al Islam al Gaddafi it never points the finger at western politicians whose crimes are infinitely greater. Slobodan Milosevic was a rare exception but even his crimes do not measure up to what George Bush and Tony Blair authorized in Iraq in and after 2003 – not to speak of the horrors that Bush senior, Clinton and Blair authorized through the decade of sanctions which followed the attack of 1991. Because they are protected by a world system which is highly selective about who it punishes, the politicians who follow them feel free to repeat the experience. They know that whoever suffers, whoever is bombed, whoever has to look at the faces of dead parents, children, aunts, grandfathers and neighbors being dug out of the rubble of bombed cities and towns, it is not going to be them. William Hague is perfectly comfortable in his desire to give more weapons to the ‘rebels’ because he knows that the calamitous consequences of decisions he takes are never going to bounce back on his own doorstep.
It is obvious but needs to be said anyway that the first priority of people across the Middle East should be solidarity rising above ethnic and religious divisions. No problem can be solved without it and certainly not the core issue of Palestine. In his recent Edward Said memorial lecture, Noam Chomsky drew attention to what is going on while the world’s attention is diverted by the ‘Arab spring.’ In 1967 the Jordan Valley had a Palestinian population of 300, 000. The policy of ‘purification’ pursued by the Israeli government has now reduced that population to 60,000. On a smaller scale the same policy has had the same results in Hebron and elsewhere in the occupied territories. There is nothing accidental or incidental about this. Netanyahu is no more than faithful to the racist policies set in motion by Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion. Continuing without letup for 65 years these policies are neither forgettable nor forgivable.
It is not surprising that Israel’s strongest supporters always have been similar colonial settler states. There are no exact parallels but the Zionist settlers in Palestine and the American colonists both turned on the mother state while setting out to crush the native people. Thomas Paine had much to say about the American ‘war of independence’ that is relevant to Palestine. First of all, it was an ‘independence war’ being fought on land long since inhabited by another people. The colonists wanted to be independent of the mother country, which planted them in this foreign soil in the expectation that they would maintain it as part of the king’s domains. A loyal colony was what the British also sought in Palestine but the American settlers and later the Zionists had other ideas. The war between Britain and the American colonists was brutal, generating deep hatreds on both sides, just as the Zionist war against the British did in Palestine.
Paine was writing of settler feelings towards the savagery of the mother country but the words equally apply to the people who were the victims of double colonialism in North America or, nearly two centuries later, in Palestine:
‘Men of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offences of Great Britain and still hoping for the best are still apt to call out come, come, we shall be friends against for all this. But examine the passions and feelings of mankind; bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature and then tell me whether you can hereafter love, honor and faithfully serve the power that hath carried fire and sword into your land. If you cannot do all these then you are only deceiving yourself, and by your delay bringing ruin upon posterity. Your future connections with Britain, whom you can neither love nor honor, will be forced and unnatural and being formed only on the plan of present convenience, will in a little time fall into a relapse more wretched than the first. But if you say you can still pass the violations over, then I ask hath your house been burnt? Hath your property been destroyed before your face? Are your wife and children destitute of a bed to lie on or bread to live on? Have you lost a parent or child by their hands and yourself the ruined and wretched survivor? If you have not, then you are not a judge of those who have. But if you have and can still shake hands with the murderers, then are you unworthy the name of husband, father, friend or lover; and whatever may be your rank or title in life you have the heart of a coward and the spirit of a sycophant.’
Paine was a democrat within the limitations of his time. He was writing for the settlers and had no thought of admitting the indigenous people of North America to representation in the colonies. Except for the passage of almost 250 years Paine might be a Zionist today, but the two and a half centuries make all the difference. Israel was an anomaly from the beginning, a colonial state arising at the tail end of colonialism. It would be no more possible to imagine Thomas Paine supporting an America in which native and Afro-Americans did not have the vote now than it would be to imagine him supporting a situation where a people not only did not have the right to vote but had been denied the right to live on the land where they or their forebears had been born.
In today’s world Paine could not support an Israel built on blatantly racist and discriminatory lines. Everything he says in the passage quoted above applies to Israel. The wounds it has inflicted have gone deep and far from making any attempt to heal them Israel has endlessly inflicted new wounds. The state of Israel – to be differentiated from those pockets of its citizens who oppose its brutal mindset – is not interested in any kind of genuine settlement with the Palestinians. It is not interested in them as a people. It is not interested in their stories of suffering. It is not interested in its own guilt because it is blind to its own guilt. It has no humility and would scoff at the idea of penance for crimes it refuses to admit it has committed, like the worst recidivist offender hauled before a court. It is interested in the Palestinians only as a problem to be solved and the solution is for them somehow to disappear or to be made to disappear. Hence the ‘purification’ in the Jordan Valley and the daylight oppression of the Palestinians in Hebron and the racist demographic war being waged in East Jerusalem. These are crimes against humanity.
If we substitute Israel and the Oslo process for the reconciliation proffered by the British monarch the result is the same: the policy, wrote Thomas Paine, is there ‘in order that he may accomplish by craft and subtlety in the long run what he cannot do by force and violence in the short one’. His conclusion that ‘reconciliation and ruin are nearly related’ sums up the consequences for the Palestinians of the Venus fly trap known as the ‘peace process.’ Violence works but ‘peace’ has a deadly potency of its own: whatever the means employed, the Zionist aim of reducing the Palestinians to dust that will eventually be whirled away by history has not changed in 100 years.
By themselves, however bravely they have resisted, the Palestinians have never had the power to fend off the forces arrayed against them. This has been true from the time Britain implanted the Zionist project in Palestine until the present day. Britain and the US were not just any countries but the two most powerful states of their time and with their support both Zionist success and Palestinian failure were assured. Never have the Palestinians been able to draw on anything like such sources of strength despite the immense potential in their own backyard. Israel’s dominance as a regional power is still sustained by the US while being continually replenished by Arab weakness: Arab weakness is built on chronic Arab disunity, now being promoted in sectarian form by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. As long as there is no way out of this trap the Palestinians will remain stuck in their trap.
Sectarianism is a powerful weapon but would be useless if people were not susceptible to it. A people divided are doomed to be dominated. George Antonius prefaced The Arab Awakening with a quote from Ibrahim Yaziji: ‘Arise Arabs and awake!’ That was in 1938. An Arab awakening did follow and while it would be tempting to say the Arab world has gone back to sleep, in reality what is happening is far worse than sleep. A fire is raging and it is hard to see how and when it will be put out.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
How long can media keep printing lies about the Iraq War? Today’s Washington Post (3/22/13) provides one answer, since they printed an 0p-ed by former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley where he argued this:
After Hussein was deposed, we did not find the stockpiles of WMDs that all the world’s major intelligence services, the Clinton and Bush administrations and most members of Congress thought that he had. It was less an intelligence failure than a failure of imagination. Before the war, no one conceived what seems to have been the case: that Hussein had destroyed his WMD stocks but wanted to hide this from his enemy Iran. The U.S. team charged with searching for WMDs concluded that Hussein had the intention and the means to return to WMD production had he not been brought down. (With Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, it is a good bet that he would have.)
This is complete, utter nonsense; a serious newspaper would be ashamed to print it.
Long before the war, the government had intelligence from the most famous defector from Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law Hussein Kamel. The government publicly claimed that what Kamel told them confirmed their threats about Iraq’s WMDs.
So it is 100 percent false to talk about “a failure of imagination.”
It is also false to talk about how “all the world’s major intelligence services” were in agreement on Iraq intelligence. Some remained quite skeptical about the analysis being promoted by the Bush administration. As a matter of fact, the Washington Post (3/18/03) printed an article to the effect right before the before the war started:
As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week, it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged—and in some cases disproved–by the United Nations, European governments and even U.S. intelligence reports.
So the Post is publishing something that flies in the face of what its own reporters documented at the time.
What about the idea that Iraq was hiding its absence of WMDs from Iran? If they were, they weren’t do a very good job of it. Before the war, Saddam Hussein went on CBS with Dan Rather (60 Minutes II, 2/26/03) and stated quite clearly that he had no such weapons: “I think America and the world also knows that Iraq no longer has the weapons,” he told Rather. You can watch the video here.
To top it all the off, the parenthetical at the end–which stands as a final justification for the war–is completely unsupported; there is no evidence to suggest that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Does the Post factcheck op-eds? By the looks of it, they do not. But something tells me that if you submitted a column that made completely factual observations about Iraq–saying, for example, that there was clear evidence before the war that Iraq had destroyed its WMDs, and that Iraq had done its best to make clear that it didn’t possess any–you would have little chance of getting it published. And if, by some miracle, it did make through the early editing process, someone would demand that you substantiate these accurate claims.
No such burden would appear to have been placed on Stephen Hadley, who was part of the team that told the lies that took the country into war. Thanks to the Washington Post, he is still doing so.
10 Years on
It is sad that well-known peace campaigners should drop below the radar, not just of the politicians who hate them, but of the so-called peace campaigners who idolised them when they were still there. One such man, who dedicated the last 10 years of his life to confronting the UK Parliament with their outrageous decision to invade Iraq, was Brian Haw.
As a committed Christian and a father, and angered by the sanctions the West had imposed on Iraq that resulted in the tragic and avoidable deaths of too many Iraqi children, Brian left his home and arrived in London. More particularly, he arrived in Parliament Square, where he camped at the side of the road facing the Houses of Parliament. Always, for those of us who continued to protest about the invasion of Iraq and the awful damage our actions were doing to that nation, Brian was a figurehead, an inspiration. Few of us could claim his courage, his determination and his perseverance.
For nearly ten years he stayed – night after night of sleeping on the pavement, in all weathers and with little protection. Nothing the police or Parliament did could break him and make him move. Brian’s protest caused them no end of problems as he and his anti-war placards and banners were a constant reminder of all the lies that were told in the run up to the attack on Iraq in 2003 and continued to be told to justify the invasion. Members of Parliament had to pass his huge collection of displays and peace messages every time they went in and out of the Parliament.
In their haste to be rid of this ‘turbulent priest’ of a campaigner, who harangued MPs daily with his megaphone as they went into the august halls of Westminster, reminding them of their ghastly error in backing up Tony Blair and his eagerness to invade Iraq, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett introduced the bill SOCPA (Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005) which was aimed at removing Brian by banning protests within 1 km (about half a mile) of Parliament without police permission. This came into effect on 1 August 2005. But where else should we protest for peace if not outside the place that had rubber-stamped Blair’s desire to illegally attack Iraq?
Comedian Mark Thomas headed an action to keep protest going within the legal 1 km. He wanted to demonstrate how very ludicrous this ban was. To quote Mark: “The point is simply that if one person with a banner can be deemed to be a protester by the police and they need to get a licence six days in advance to enter the designated zone, then we have reached a state of absurdity.” And it is true, if hardly believable, that one woman in Parliament Square was threatened with arrest for having an iced cake with ‘Peace’ written on it. On certain days individual protestors, who had each registered their very individual protests with the police (including, for instance, the right to jump off Westminster Bridge) held their protests within the designated zone. It made the new law look very stupid indeed.
But so hasty had Parliament’s action been in creating this law that when it was challenged, they discovered that the one person they had failed to ban was Haw himself! So he stayed — and stayed. For some time he was alone, although visited (and supported) by many well-wishers. He became a tourist attraction. MPs complained that they could not properly debate in the chamber because of the noise of his megaphone protest in the Square outside – presumably the constant traffic noise complete with police and ambulance sirens is conducive to a good debate!
In May 2006 his much-photographed display of placards and banners was reduced from 40 metres to just 3 metres by a night raid of some 78 police (which cost a staggering £27,000). Not so oddly, this happened within hours of artist Mark Wallinger showing two curators from the Tate Gallery Brian’s display and announcing he wanted to recreate it for an exhibition. Never the less, Mark had his way and the exhibition, State Britain, ran at the Tate from January to August 2007.
Brian continued to protest with his truncated display despite numerous arrests and assaults. He was on crutches for his last years in the Square – the result of the not-so-gentle arrest techniques of the famed London Bobby. He died of cancer in June 2011 and the world is a poorer place.
Brian was joined in December 2005 by Melbourne-born Barbara Tucker. While Brian had some legal authority to stay there, Barbara didn’t, which has meant that she has been arrested an astonishing 47 times while in the square, usually on a charge of ‘unauthorized demonstration’. When Brian died she nobly carried on. She has served two short spells in Holloway prison as well as suffering constant harassment from police, heritage wardens and passing rowdies.
Until January 2012 she had a tent but that was confiscated under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (PRSA). After that she sat in a chair on the pavement trying to sleep under a large green umbrella wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing. She has slept in the open for over a year now without a tent and has been treated for exposure. In the hope of getting her confiscated tent back, Barbara took the decision to go on hunger strike, starting on December 27th 2012.
While Brian managed to achieve some media recognition for his stance, Barbara has had little to none. The latest reference I can find to her hunger strike dates from January 10th. She and her colleague Neil Kerslake are no longer in the Square and have not been seen for some weeks – disappeared, tidied away perhaps, so as to make the 10th anniversary of the invasion a little less contentious.
One day maybe, when the world stops fighting needless, illegal and cruel wars, people will finally give these dedicated campaigners the recognition they deserve. I’d like to see a statue of Brian in Parliament Square, confronting Westminster and challenging its dishonesty and hypocrisy as he did for so many cold hard years. Until then, those of us who still call ourselves peace campaigners should at least make the effort to remember how much he once meant to us all. Parliament may not like dissenters – I for one do.
On the 10th anniversary of the United States’ illegal invasion of Iraq, we can expect the war’s supporters to argue that military action seemed necessary at that moment, while critics will remind us of the suffering that resulted from that tragic miscalculation.
But amid the rationalizations and critiques, we should linger on this uncomfortable term: “illegal invasion”.
No matter how much we all ignore it, here is the reality: The U.S. invasion of Iraq was unlawful. The leaders who planned and executed the war are criminals. U.S. citizens bear some responsibility for not holding those leaders accountable.
The charter of the United Nations is clear about when the use of force in international relations is legal. War must be authorized by the U.N. Security Council, and in this case the council rejected a resolution authorizing war. The only other condition under which a member state can go to war is in self-defense when attacked, a principle that is extended to the right to respond to an imminent attack, what is sometimes called “the customary right of anticipatory self-defense.”
The basic principles are uncontroversial and clearly articulated in articles 39 and 51 of the U.N. Charter, though there is debate among legal experts about interpreting terms such as “imminent” and “anticipatory.” But whatever one’s position in those debates, there is no way to stretch the facts of this invasion to justify a self-defense claim.
At this point, many people respond by dismissing international law as irrelevant. Because U.S. policymakers’ first job is to protect Americans, they argue, our leaders shouldn’t be constrained by international law—the Constitution trumps international law or treaties.
But a small problem arises: Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States” are part of “the supreme Law of the Land.” Since the United States signed the U.N. Charter (and, in fact, wrote most of it), to reject international law in this matter is to express contempt for the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution. No patriot would dare.
So, back to those uncomfortable conclusions: A decade ago, U.S. leaders launched what under the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal is called a “crime against peace.” Whether in the course of that crime, U.S. forces also committed war crimes can be debated. For example, should the deliberate bombing of the civilian infrastructure of a country be considered a war crime? What about the use of cluster munitions in ways that predictably kill civilians? I believe both are criminal, but let’s put those more complicated issues aside. The illegality of the invasion itself is not a tough question.
In my travels outside the United States, I have found that the vast majority of people agree that the U.S. invasion was unlawful. Within the United States, mentioning this worldwide consensus typically is considered idealistic and irrelevant. But while we can ignore evidence and logic, and even ignore the world, we can’t escape the implications of those choices.
The moral force of law, domestic or international, lies in the consistent application of clear standards. When laws are applied only to the poor and the rich act with impunity, for example, we understand that as a perversion of the law.
Over and over in the United States, we proclaim our commitment to the rule of law—we are a nation of laws not men. If that were the case, we would turn over to the International Court of Justice high-ranking figures from the Bush administration, which initiated the war; from the Obama administration, which continued the war; from Congress, which enabled the war; and from the military, which prosecuted the war. We would determine the amount of reparations we owe Iraq and begin to make payments. And we would apologize to the Iraqi people, and to the world.
Why is that unthinkable in our political culture? Perhaps it is because we worship power rather than respect law. Perhaps it is because we have no intention of acting on the moral principles we routinely impose on others.
Perhaps it is because we are not the people we tell ourselves we are.
Robert Jensen is a professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. His latest book is We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out (Monkey Wrench Books). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online. He can be reached at: email@example.com. Twitter: @jensenrobertw.
After a brief respite from incessant warmongering nonsense following the reelection of Barack Obama in November 2012, it appears old rhetorical devices have reemerged. With a vengeance.
Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing his minions at AIPAC via video chat on March 4, spent a bunch of his time saying supposedly scary things about “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons” and dismissing negotiations.
“I have to tell you the truth,” he told the fawning crowd. “Diplomacy has not worked. Iran ignores all these offers. It is running out the clock.” He continued:
Iran enriches more and more uranium. It installs faster and faster centrifuges. It’s still not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September. But Iran is getting closer to that line, and it’s putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.
Netanyahu deliberately ignored the fact that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium remains far from weapons-grade and that Iran has, for over a year now, been systematically converting much of its 19.75% enriched stock to fuel plates that precludes the possibility of being diverted to military purposes.
Of course, the fact that Iran has an inalienable legal right to a fully-functioning nuclear energy program – including the indigenous mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle – was not addressed at all. For Netanyahu and his acolytes, any Iranian nuclear program is synonymous with a weapons program – and not only that, but a weapons program designed to “exterminate” Israel’s “Jewish people.” Facts remain irrelevant. Hasbara reigns.
Netanyahu once again demonstrated his complete disregard for the tenets of the United Nations Charter by calling for Iran to be explicitly threatened with a military attack if it doesn’t comply with absurd Israeli demands. He insisted “with the clarity of my brain” (whatever that means) that “words alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”
Addressing the same audience, Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at length about “Iran’s dangerous nuclear weapons program,” which the U.S. intelligence community and its allies, including Israel, have long assessed doesn’t exist.
The consensus view of all 16 American intelligence agencies has maintained since 2007 that Iran ceased whatever research into nuclear weaponization it may have conducted by 2003, and has never resumed that work. The NIE has been consistently reaffirmed ever since (in 2009, 2010, and again in 2011).
In early 2012, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, stated in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “We do not know…if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.” The same day, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Ronald Burgess said that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict” and maintained that Iran’s military doctrine is defensive in nature and designed only for deterrence.
Clapper repeated this conclusion verbatim just last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Moreover, the IAEA itself continually confirms that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program and has stated it has “no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons program.”(emphasis added)
Undeterred by facts or reason, Biden continued to tell the AIPAC fanatics that “Iraq’s [sic] acquisition of a nuclear weapon not only would present an existential threat to Israel, it would present a threat to our allies and our partners — and to the United States. And it would trigger an arms race — a nuclear arms race in the region, and make the world a whole lot less stable.” Biden made sure to repeat the mantra that “all options, including military force, are on the table” when it comes to Iran.
First, Biden’s Iraq/Iran slip wasn’t merely Freudian. Since the Iraq script from a decade ago is nearly identical to the Iran script now, it’s unsurprising that Biden can’t keep his manufactured threats straight. One need only recall Biden’s claims on Meet The Press in August 2002 that Saddam Hussein constituted “a long term threat and a short term threat to our national security” and “an extreme danger to the world.” Consequently, said Biden, “We have no choice but to eliminate the threat.”
Years later, on the same program, Biden stood by his statements. When asked by Tim Russert about weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist, Biden blithely insisted that “everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them. He catalogued—they catalogued them. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream. This was, in fact, catalogued. They looked at them and catalogued. What he did with them, who knows?”
Biden was lying, of course.
International weapons inspectors had been perfectly clear about what “he did with them.” After losing the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq’s weapons programs were subject to intrusive inspections and international sanctions. By 1998, the IAEA concluded that “there is no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-useable nuclear material.” The next year, the UN Security Council affirmed that UN weapons inspectors “have been effective in uncovering and destroying many elements of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programmes,” adding, “The bulk of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated.”
In 2000, UN inspector Scott Ritter explained that “as early as 1997″ it was possible “to determine that, from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed. Iraq no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent…and the industrial means to produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent monitoring. The same was true of Iraq’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.”
In July 2002, as calls for war grew louder, Ritter wrote in the Boston Globe that “the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq’s continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness – or inability – to provide such evidence.”
When, days later, then Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden convened hearings to assess the threat posed by Iraq and implications of a potential U.S.-led attack, Ritter called the hearings a “sham” and said the Delaware Senator and “most of the Congressional leadership have pre-ordained a conclusion that seeks to remove Saddam Hussein from power regardless of the facts, and are using these hearings to provide political cover for a massive military attack on Iraq.”
Such is Joe Biden’s penchant for telling the truth. Returning to his comments at AIPAC, Biden’s recent fear-mongering hypotheticals about Iran are also wrong.
Beyond being obvious that Iran poses literally no threat to the United States, numerous Israeli military and intelligence officials openly reject the notion that a nuclear-armed Iran would “present an existential threat to Israel.” Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy recently told the UK Zionist Federation that Israel’s existence “is not in danger and shouldn’t be questioned.”
Furthermore, Biden’s axiomatic contention that an Iranian nuclear bomb would spark a regional arms race has also been rejected for years by less hysterical analysts. In fact, Biden made his comments soon after the publication of a new report by the Center for a New American Security which judged the scenario extremely unlikely.
For obvious reasons, Biden claimed that the United States is “not looking for war” and prefers “a diplomatic solution” to the impasse over Iranian nuclear program. Still, he said, the “window is closing” for a negotiated outcome, after which military action would be taken.
The window has apparently been closing for some time now and yet, incredibly, Iran never gets any closer to actually having the nuclear weapon it isn’t building and that it constantly insists it doesn’t want.
In early June 2009, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak privately told a visiting Congressional delegation in Tel Aviv that there was an estimated “window between 6 and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable.” A month later, Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen warned that the “window is closing” on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He declared that Iran was only one to three years away from successfully building a nuclear weapon and “is very focused on developing this capability.”
With history repeating itself (remember in early 2001 when the Department of Defense reported, that “Iraq would need five or more years and key foreign assistance to rebuild the infrastructure to enrich enough material for a nuclear weapon”?), it remains crucial to assess facts rather than blindly accept propaganda, to recall the lessons of the past in order to avoid future blunders and to know – unequivocally – that the implications and consequences of the pathological Iraqization of Iran inevitably lead to the commission of murderous war crimes, not merely Freudian slips.
Away from the region’s headlines and wars, plans are being methodically put in place that could redraw the strategic map of the Middle East, erasing one of the region’s key colonial-era features.
Recent moves by Iran and Iraq to press ahead with the construction of a series of new oil and gas export pipelines could be attributed to Iran’s bid to counter international sanctions. The planned pipelines could also reflect Iraq’s economic recovery or perhaps pressure from oil companies for new export routes.
There may be some truth to these explanations. But a closer look makes clear that these schemes are related.
The short-term aims are evident. They include trying to lure Jordan into the region’s “resistance” axis and reducing American influence on Iran’s eastern neighbor Pakistan.
But the long-term objective is more ambitious: to connect the Middle East by way of a web of economic ties that binds them into a regional partnership whose mainstays are Iran and Iraq.
Baghdad is making it increasingly clear where it stands in terms of its regional alignment. In recent months, it has openly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus, clashed with Ankara, reached out to Cairo, and been at odds with Riyadh and Doha.
The pipeline schemes also underscore Iraq’s chosen course. The country has opted to assume a role consistent with its historical legacy and its economic and strategic clout.
Iran Lures Pakistan
The latest move in this regard was Monday’s pipeline inauguration by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The pipeline will transport Iranian natural gas to Asian markets via Pakistani territory, providing Pakistan with desperately needed energy supplies.
Negotiations between the two countries began almost a decade ago, but were frequently stalled due to opposition from the US. Washington has long sought to thwart any scheme for transporting oil and gas from or through Iran.
During that period, Iran completed its section of the pipeline from the Pars gas field in the south of the country to the Pakistani border town of Multan. It has a capacity of 750 million cubic meters per day.
Tehran has undertaken to cover a third of the $1.5 billion cost of the 780-km Pakistani section of the pipeline, with the Pakistani government funding the rest.
Wooing Jordan and Egypt
Meanwhile, Iraq and Jordan have begun work on building parallel oil and gas pipelines connecting southern Iraq to the Red Sea port of Aqaba, with the possibility of extending the link to Egypt.
The 1,690-km line, which will take two to three years to complete, is to run from Basra to Haditha west of Baghdad then into Jordanian territory and south to Aqaba. Contracts for the Jordanian portion are to be awarded to companies on a build-operate-transfer basis, with ownership reverting to the Iraqi government after 20 years.
Under the agreement, the oil pipeline will provide Jordan with 150,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day for domestic use at preferential prices (around $20 dollars per barrel below market). Apart from putting an end to Jordan’s chronic fuel crises, the scheme is expected to benefit the country to the tune of $3 billion per year.
A planned second phase of the project envisions the building of a western spur from Haditha through Syrian territory to pump 1.25 million barrels of oil per day to the Syrian Mediterranean port of Banias.
Meanwhile, plans are being developed for a 5,000-km link to transport Iranian gas to Iraq and Syria and on into Europe, providing Iran with an export route that bypasses the Gulf.
Iran and Iraq are due to sign an agreement on the first phase of the project on 20 March. This would enable Iran to pump 25 million cubic meters of gas a day to Iraq. Proposed extensions to the line envision it supplying Jordan and Lebanon with gas.
Iran shares the Pars field – the world’s largest gas field with an estimated 14 trillion cubic meters of gas, around 8 percent of total proven world reserves – with Qatar. The emirate recently unveiled its own plans for a pipeline to carry gas through Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian and Turkish territory to Europe.
- US threatens Pakistan with sanctions over gas pipeline deal with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran-Iraq-Syria Gas Pipeline Project Agreement Finalized (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Zardari, Ahmedinijad inaugurate Pak-Iran gas pipeline project (nation.com.pk)
The Americans won the war, Iran won peace, but Turkey won the Iraqi export market. Turkey’s exports to Iraq have increased by more than 25% a year, reaching $10.8 billion in 2012.
Turkey’s decision to block US military deployment from its territory has yielded economic success. Turkey is now Iraq’s second biggest supplier, when thirty years ago its goods were banned from Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Turkey has diverted its exports from a sluggish European market and Iraq is likely to replace Germany as its number one export market by the end of the year, Turkey’s Central Governor Erdem Basci told CNBC.
“Probably this year Iraq is going to replace Germany which has been our number one export destination,” Basci said.
“Iraq will probably become number one by the end of next year.”
In 2012 Turkish exports to Iraq rose to $10.83 billion from $8.3 billion a year earlier, while German exports fell slightly to $13.13 billion from $13.95 billion.
Iraq has replaced Italy as the second biggest importer of Turkish goods, according to Basci. Around 30 percent of the Turkey’s exports currently go to Iraq and that’s likely to rise.
“Europe has been our main trading partner. As of 2010 we had 60 percent of our exports heading to Europe but now there has been a big effort to diversify our markets,” Basci said.
Ozgur Altug, an economist at BGC Partners in Istanbul, forecasts a strong symbiotic relationship between the two nations.
As Iraq begins to accumulate wealth from its oil reserves (the fourth largest in the world, estimated at over 150 billion bbl), demand for Turkish goods will increase, by more than $2 billion a year, Altug predicts.
Iraq is also expected to look to Turkey to help redevelop infrastructure after the 10 year war.
Last year, Turkish contractors secured about $3.5 billion in construction projects, according to Altug.
Calik Energy, a Turkish company, is building two gas turbine plants in the Monsul and Karbala regions, with a $800 million price tag financed by the Iraqi government.
Markets exist beyond oil and construction, ranging from services to even diapers.
Adman Altunakaya and his family run a family-owned diaper conglomerate, which accounts for two thirds of the Iraqi diaper market. Sales to Iraq are 90 percent of the company’s revenue, and have risen 50 to 60 percent in the last two years, since the US troop withdrawal.
“Our business with Iraq is increasing constantly,” Altunakaya said. “But of course it is affected by political tension.”
A huge chunk of Turkey’s success is dependent on the Kurdish region, the unofficial nation state situated between Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. The Kurdish market drives the Turkish exports, and accounts for about 70% of exports. Almost 1,000 Turkish businesses export in the northern region, including banks and hotels.
- Turkey to consider gas deal with Iraqi Kurds (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Kurdish Oil Deal Would Be Deficit Game Changer: Turkey Credit – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
Three years ago this month, I wrote a piece entitled “Who’s to Blame for the Iraq War?” to mark the seventh anniversary of the US invasion. My sole purpose in compiling a by-no-means-exhaustive list of 20 Israel partisans who played key roles in inducing America into making that disastrous strategic blunder was to help dispel the widespread confusion — some of it sown under the guise of “progressive investigative journalism” by likely crypto-Zionists – about why the United States made that fateful decision. As the tenth anniversary approaches, there is no excuse for anyone genuinely interested in the facts to deny the ultimate responsibility of Tel Aviv and its foreign agents for the quagmire in Iraq. Nevertheless, it’s an appropriate time to remind ourselves of some of the chief architects of the devastating Iraq War.
1. Ahmed Chalabi, the source of much of the false “intelligence” about Iraqi WMD, was introduced to his biggest boosters Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz by their mentor, a University of Chicago professor who had known the Iraqi con man since the 1960s. An influential Cold War hawk, Albert Wohlstetter fittingly has an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference centre named in his honor.
2. In 1982, Oded Yinon’s seminal article, “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s” was published in Kivunim, a Hebrew-language journal affiliated with the World Zionist Organization. “Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets,” advised Yinon. “Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel.”
3. “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a report prepared for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, recommended “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq—an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board during the initial years of the George W. Bush administration, was the study group leader.
4, 5. A November 1997 Weekly Standard editorial entitled “Saddam Must Go” opined: “We know it seems unthinkable to propose another ground attack to take Baghdad. But it’s time to start thinking the unthinkable.” The following year, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative group, published a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein on the pretext that he was a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil.” PNAC co-founders William Kristol and Robert Kagan also co-authored the “Saddam Must Go” editorial.
6. In Tyranny’s Ally: America’s Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, published by AEI Press in 1999, David Wurmser argued that President Clinton’s policies in Iraq were failing to contain the country and proposed that the US use its military to redraw the map of the Middle East. He would go on to serve as Mideast adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2003 to mid-2007.
7. On September 15, 2001 at Camp David, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz attempted to justify a US attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan because it was “doable.” In the lead-up to the war, he assured Americans that it was “wildly off the mark” to think hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to pacify a postwar Iraq; that the Iraqis “are going to welcome us as liberators”; and that “it is just wrong” to assume that the United States would have to fund the Iraq war.
8. On September 23, 2001, Senator Joe Lieberman, who had pushed for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there was evidence that “suggests Saddam Hussein may have had contact with bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, perhaps [was] even involved in the September 11 attack.”
9. A November 12, 2001 New York Times editorial called an alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi agent in Prague an “undisputed fact.” Celebrated for his linguistic prowess, columnist William Safire was egregiously sloppy in his use of language here.
10. A November 20, 2001 Wall Street Journal op-ed argued that the US should continue to target regimes that sponsor terrorism, claiming, “Iraq is the obvious candidate, having not only helped al Qaeda, but attacked Americans directly (including an assassination attempt against the first President Bush) and developed weapons of mass destruction.” The professor of strategic studies at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University who made these spurious claims was Eliot Cohen.
11. George W. Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union address infamously described Iraq as part of an “axis of evil.” It was David Frum, Bush’s Canadian-born speechwriter, who coined the provocative phrase.
12. In a February 2002 article entitled “How to win World War IV,” Norman Podhoretz, the longtime editor of Commentary magazine, asserted: “Yet whether or not Iraq becomes the second front in the war against terrorism, one thing is certain: there can be no victory in this war if it ends with Saddam Hussein still in power.”
13. Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board member and PNAC signatory, predicted in a February 13, 2002 Washington Post op-ed: “I believe that demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.”
14. On August 3, 2002, Charles Krauthammer, the psychiatrist-turned-Washington Post columnist, enticed Americans with this illusory carrot: “If we win the war, we are in control of Iraq, it is the single largest source of oil in the world…. We will have a bonanza, a financial one, at the other end, if the war is successful.”
15. In a September 20, 2002 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “The Case for Toppling Saddam,” current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Saddam Hussein could be hiding nuclear material “in centrifuges the size of washing machines” throughout the country.
16. “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990—it’s the threat against Israel.” Despite this candid admission to a foreign policy conference at the University of Virginia on September 10, 2002, Philip Zelikow, a member of President Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, authored the National Security Strategy of September 2002 that provided the justification for a preemptive war against Iraq.
17. According to a December 7, 2002 New York Times article, the role of convicted Iran-Contra conspirator Elliott Abrams during Colin Powell’s efforts to negotiate a resolution on Iraq at the United Nations was “to make sure that Secretary Powell did not make too many concessions to the Europeans on the resolution’s wording, pressing a hard-line view.” Abrams was senior director of Near East and North African affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.
18. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff until he was indicted for lying to federal investigators in the Valerie Plame case, helped draft Colin Powell’s fraudulent February 5, 2003 UN speech.
19. According to Julian Borger’s July 17, 2003 Guardian article entitled “The spies who pushed for war,” the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) “forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon’s office in Israel” to provide the Bush administration with alarmist reports on Saddam’s Iraq. Douglas Feith was the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy who headed the OSP.
20. Bernard Lewis, a British-born professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University whose 1990 essay “The Roots of Muslim Rage” introduced the dubious concept of a “Clash of Civilizations,” has been called “perhaps the most significant intellectual influence behind the invasion of Iraq.”
- Blair desperately tries to justify Iraq war (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Efforts to determine the health and environmental risks of depleted uranium (DU) weaponry in Iraq have been hampered by the Obama administration. DU, which makes shell and bullet casings harder and more capable of piercing armor, can contaminate the environment and contribute to health problems, including cancer and birth defects.
The Dutch peace group IKV Pax Christi complained in a new report that “Coalition Forces” (read: the United States) have refused to provide information on when and where invading forces fired DU weaponry.
Due to a “lack of transparency” by the U.S., “there is an absence of crucial information on firing coordinates, the quantities and types of DU munitions used; data gaps relating to the efforts undertaken to clean up contaminated sites and material are hindering efforts to assess risks and implement remediation work,” the report reads.
There are reportedly more than 300 sites in Iraq that were contaminated by DU weapons, many of them located in populated areas.
It is estimated that 400 tons of DU ammunition were fired in Iraq, mostly by American units, during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Although the United States continues to use depleted uranium munitions, the report notes that “over the last couple of years the US Army has invested in research into replacing DU rounds in the A-10 with tungsten alloy based munitions, as well as non-DU 105 and 120mm munitions for the M1A2 Abrams tank, referring in their rationale for this move to DU’s potential environmental impact.”
To Learn More:
In a State of Uncertainty: Impact and Implications of the Use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq (IKV Pax Christi) (pdf)
Thanks to the efforts of the indefatigable James Morris, a seeming transformation of the view of the illustrious Noam Chomsky was revealed, which, if not equivalent to the change that Saul of Tarsus underwent while on the road to Damascus, was significant nonetheless. Morris seems to have a knack for ferreting out the unknown views of the famous, as was illustrated in his 2010 email exchange with General David Petraeus, then head of U.S. Central Command, in which he was able to reveal the latter’s close relationship with neocon Max Boot and his ardent desire to propitiate the pro-Zionist Jewish community at a time when it was generally thought that Petraeus was critical of the negative effects of the intimate U.S.-Israeli relationship on America’s position in the Middle East.
The Chomsky revelation took place while the latter was a guest on Phil Tourney’s “Your Voice Counts” program on Republic Broadcasting Network from 2:00 pm to 3:00pm Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, February 24, 2013. While Chomsky is a strong and very knowledgeable critic of Israel, he also has been (at least, was before this program) a stringent critic of the idea that the neocons have any significant impact on American Middle East policy. Rather, he presents a somewhat nebulous, quasi-monolithic, corporate elite, which includes the oil interests, as determining American policy in that region—as it does everywhere else in the globe—for its own economic interests. In what has been Chomsky’s view, Israel only serves as an instrument for American imperialism; that it too might benefit from American policies is, presumably, only an incidental by-product.
Chomsky was quite impressive on the program as he demonstrated extensive knowledge of the USS Liberty issue, which is a major issue of the program, since Tourney was a seaman on that ill-fated ship that was deliberately attacked by Israeli planes and gunboats during the Six Day War in June 1967, causing the deaths of 34 U.S. seamen and wounding 171 others out of a crew of 297.
Chomsky included an injection of his standard theme that Israel became a valuable strategic asset to the United States with the 1967 war when it wrecked Nasser and secular Arab nationalism in general, thus aiding America’s conservative client states, such as Saudi Arabia.
Listener phone calls were restricted to the last 15 minutes. Consequently, James Morris wasn’t able to get on the program until the last five minutes when he tried to get Chomsky to address the issue of the connection between the neocons and Israel. Morris cited then-Secretary of State Powell’s reference to the “JINSA crowd” (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) as the primary force for the war on Iraq within the Bush Administration. Morris went on to say that the neocons were a leading element of the Israel lobby.
After Morris made these statements, Chomsky amazingly blurted out that he “agreed completely” with him regarding the importance of the neocons—describing the neocons as “tremendously important.” Chomsky acknowledged that the neoconservatives had been the “dominant force” in the Bush administration, and that they had “pushed through” the Iraq war over many objections even from within the government. What Chomsky had said about the importance of the neocons was radically different from his usual portrayal of a monolithic corporatist dominance of U.S. Middle East policy. Chomsky even seemed to agree that the neocons held positions that diverged from those of the traditional foreign policy establishment—Morris had earlier mentioned Scowcroft and Brzezinski as opponents of the neocons.
What Chomsky said pertaining to the neocons being the leading force for the Iraq war is essentially identical to my position in “The Transparent Cabal.” And it is not only the opposite of what it appeared that he used to hold but what his protégé Norman Finkelstein continues to expound, as I discuss in my article, “Norman Finkelstein and Neocon Denial.”
Finkelstein denies that the neocons were a factor in causing the U.S. to go to war—and has nothing to do with my book, describing it as conspiracist—but he does not seem to realize that his position contrasts with that of his mentor. Since the two are quite close, it would seem that Chomsky has not even expressed this new view to Finkelstein in private conversation. When Finkelstein finds out that his mentor holds that the neocons were the “dominant force” for war with Iraq, one wonders if he will then charge him with believing in a conspiracy.
Unfortunately, however, Chomsky still stops far short of the full truth. For in his response to Morris, he went on to maintain that the neocons are different from the Israel lobby—definitely implying, though not explicitly stating, that the neocons are not motivated by the interests of Israel. He quickly put forth two arguments for this contention. First, he claimed that the neocons are simply a mainstream force in American conservatism going back to the Reagan administration. Even if true, this would not necessarily preclude their being biased in favor of Israel. However, it is not true—the neocons did not just fit into existing mainstream conservatism, but altered it to fit their own goals.
As I bring out in “The Transparent Cabal” (with numerous citations from secondary sources, this being a rather conventional view), the neocon movement originated among liberal Democrats, mainly Jewish, who gravitated to the right in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In significant part, this reflected a concern that American liberalism was moving leftward in ways detrimental to Jewish interests. In foreign policy, this involved diminished support by American liberals for Israel—in line with the world left’s support for Third World movements that included the Palestinians—and the liberals’ turn against an anti-Communist foreign policy, as a reaction to the Vietnam imbroglio, at a time when the Soviet Union’s policies were exhibiting discrimination against Soviet Jewry and opposition to Israel in support of its Arab enemies. In opposing what they saw as liberalism’s move to the left, these proto-neoconservatives did not see themselves as becoming conservative, but were dubbed with the moniker “neoconservative” by left-wing social critic Michael Harrington, who intended it as a pejorative term, and the name soon stuck.
Neoconservatives basically wanted to return mainstream American liberalism to the anti-Communist Cold War positions exemplified by President Harry Truman (1945–1953), which had held sway through the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–1969). When this effort failed to achieve success, neocons would turn to Ronald Reagan in the 1980. Despite being newcomers to the conservative camp, neoconservatives were able to find significant places in the Reagan administration, especially in the national security and foreign policy areas, although at less than Cabinet-level status.
Neoconservatives, however, did not become traditional conservatives, but instead altered the content of conservatism to their liking. “The neoconservative impulse,” pro-neocon Murray Friedman maintains in his book “The Neoconservative Revolution,” “was the spontaneous response of a group of liberal intellectuals, mainly Jewish, who sought to shape a perspective of their own while standing apart from more traditional forms of conservatism.”[Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” pp. 39-40]
In domestic policy, neoconservatives supported the modern welfare state, in contrast to the traditional conservatives, who emphasized small government, states’ rights, and relatively unfettered capitalism. Most importantly, they differed significantly from the conservative position on foreign policy. Although the American conservatives of the Cold War era were anti-Communist and pro-military, they harbored a strain of isolationism. Their interventionism was limited largely to fighting Communism, but not to nation-building and the export of democracy, the expressed goals of the neocons. Nor did traditional conservatives view the United States as the policeman of the world. Most significantly, traditional conservatives had never championed Israel.
While traditional conservatives welcomed neoconservatives as allies in their fight against Soviet Communism and domestic liberalism, the neocons in effect acted as a Trojan Horse within conservatism: they managed to secure dominant positions in the conservative political and intellectual movement, and as soon as they gained power, they purged those traditional conservatives who opposed their agenda, particularly as it involved Israel. Support for Israel and its policies had become, and remains, a veritable litmus test for being a member of the multitudinous political action groups and think tanks that comprise the conservative movement.
In his 1996 book, “The Essential Neoconservative Reader,” editor Mark Gerson, a neocon himself who served on the board of directors of the Project for the New American Century, jubilantly observed: “The neoconservatives have so changed conservatism that what we now identify as conservatism is largely what was once neoconservatism. And in so doing, they have defined the way that vast numbers of Americans view their economy, their polity, and their society.” [Quoted in “Transparent Cabal”, p. 42]
While in domestic policy Gerson’s analysis might not be completely accurate, it would seem to be so in US national security policy, as illustrated by the near unanimous Republican opposition in the US Senate to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense because of his past statements critical of both US all-out support for Israel and its hardline position toward Iran (currently Israel’s foremost enemy) that might lead to war.
Now the fact that Cheney and Rumsfeld may not be motivated by a desire to aid Israel in their support for neocon Middle East policy, the Middle East policies they have supported have been formulated by those who identify with Israel. Since both of them have been closely associated with the neocons, Cheney more so than Rumsfeld, they were undoubtedly influenced by the pro-Israel neocons. Cheney even went so far as to serve on JINSA’s Advisory Board. And JINSA was set up in 1976 to put “the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship first.”
Moreover, as Vice President, Cheney specifically relied on advice from the eminent historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, a right-wing Zionist and one of the neocons’ foremost gurus, who strongly advocated war against Iraq and other Middle Eastern states. (Barton Gellman, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” p. 231) Chomsky has said that “Bernard Lewis is nothing but a vile propagandist,” and he presumably means a propagandist for Israel.
The influence of ideas per se was not the only factor that likely motivated Cheney. The fact that Cheney and his wife, Lynne, who was with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI—known as “neocon central”), had close personal and professional relations with the neocons also would have predisposed him to give his support to the neoconservatives and their agenda.
The same arguments would apply for Rumsfeld, with one additional one: a war on Iraq would give him the chance to demonstrate the value of his concept of a smaller, mobile, high tech American military. Rumsfeld held that a small, streamlined invasion force would be sufficient to defeat Iraq. As Bob Woodward writes in his book, “State of Denial”: “The Iraq war plan was the chess board on which Rumsfeld would test, develop, expand and modify his ideas about military transformation. And the driving concept was ‘less is more’ – new thinking about a lighter, swifter, smaller force that could do the job better. Rumsfeld’s blitzkrieg would vindicate his leadership of the Pentagon.”[“State of Denial,” p. 82]
For the neocons, Rumsfeld’s approach would not have the drawbacks of the conventional full-scale invasion initially sought by the military brass. The neocons feared that no neighboring country would provide the necessary bases from which to launch such a massive conventional attack, or that during the lengthy time period needed to assemble a large force, diplomacy might avert war or that peace forces in the U.S. might increase their size and political clout and do likewise. In short, it was this convergence on interests between the Rumsfeld and the neocons that made them so supportive of each other in the early years of the George W. Bush administration.
It must be acknowledged that the neocon Middle East war agenda did resonate with both Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s general positions on national security policy, but there is little reason to think that they would have come up with the specifics of the policy, including even the identification of Iraq as the target, if it had not been for their neocon associates, whose policy reflected their close identification with Israel. It should also be pointed out that in Chomsky’s usual presentation of an American foreign policy shaped by the corporate elite, the actual government officials who implemented the policy were not necessarily members of the corporate elite nor motivated by a desire to advance the interests of the corporate elite as opposed to the national interest of the United States. In order for any type of elite to be successful, it is essential that it attract significant numbers of people outside of itself, which Chomsky himself has discussed at length regarding the corporate elite. This is also the very purpose of the neoconservative network and the information that it disseminates.
Acknowledging as much as he did, it is hard to see how Chomsky can fail to discern that the neocons identify with Israel. The evidence is overwhelming. The following are a few examples of this connection.
The effort to prevent Chuck Hagel from becoming the Secretary of Defense has been spearheaded by the Emergency Committee for Israel, the creation of which in 2010 was in large part the work of leading neocon, Bill Kristol, and which claims “to provide citizens with the facts they need to be sure that their public officials are supporting a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.” As Bill Kristol states: “We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community.” Kristol had co-founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which promoted the war on Iraq. Kristol’s father, the late Irving Kristol, a godfather of neoconservatism, is noted for his identification with Israel. In 1973, he said: “Jews don’t like big military budgets. But it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States . . . American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.” [Congress Bi-Weekly (1973), published by the American Jewish Congress]
Noah Pollak, a contributor to “Commentary” magazine, is the Emergency Committee’s executive director and, while living in Israel for two years, was an assistant editor at the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center.
Eliot Cohen, a veteran neocon, was a founding signatory of the Project for the New American Century and advised the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He coined the term “World War IV” for the war on terror. During the George Bush administration, he served on the Defense Policy Board in Bush’s first term and was closely affiliated with those neocons around Vice President Cheney. He is on the International Academic Advisory Board of the Began Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Israel, which is affiliated with Bar Ilan University, and is involved in contract work for the Israeli government.
Douglas Feith, who as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in George W. Bush’s first term set up and controlled the Office of Special Plans, which spread the most specious war propaganda, was closely associated with the right-wing Zionist group, the Zionist Organization of America. In 1997, he co-founded One Jerusalem, a group whose objective was “saving a united Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.” Before entering the Bush administration, Feith ran a small Washington-based law firm, which had one international office – in Israel. And the majority of the firm’s work consisted of representing Israeli interests.
Richard Perle has had very close personal connections with Israeli government officials, and has been accused of providing classified information to that country on a number of occasions. Perle not only expounded pro-Zionist views, but was a board member of the pro-Likud “Jerusalem Post” and had worked as a lobbyist for the Israeli weapons manufacturer Soltam.
Norman Podhoretz is considered a godfather, along with Irving Kristol, of the neoconservative movement. When editor of “Commentary” magazine, he wrote that “the formative question for his politics would heretofore be, ‘Is it good for the Jews?’” (“Commentary,” February 1972) In 2007, Podhoretz received the Guardian of Zion Award, which is given to individuals for their support for Israel, from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Neocon Charles Krauthammer was the 2002 winner of the Guardian of Zion Award.
Max Singer, co-founder of the neocon Hudson Institute and its former president, who pushed for the war on Iraq, has moved to Israel, where he is a citizen and has been involved with the Institute for Zionist Strategies, which advocates the need to better infuse Zionist ideology in the Jewish people of Israel.
The neocons’ support for Israel does not necessarily mean that they were deliberately promoting the interest of Israel at the expense of the United States. Instead, as I point out in “The Transparent Cabal,” they maintained that an identity of interests existed between the two countries – Israel’s enemies being ipso facto America’s enemies. However, it is apparent from their backgrounds that the neoconservatives viewed American foreign policy in the Middle East through the lens of Israeli interest, as Israeli interest was perceived by the Likudniks.
Despite this professed view of the identity of American and Israel interests, sometimes the neocons’ actions verged on putting Israel interests above those of the United States government. For example, some leading neocons—David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith—developed the “Clean Break” proposal outlining an aggressive policy for Israel intended to enhance its geostrategic position, which they presented in 1996 to then-incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One part of the plan was to get the United States to disassociate itself from peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine and simply let Israel treat the Palestinians as it saw fit. “Israel,” stated the report, “can manage it’s own affairs. Such self-reliance will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of [US] pressure used against it in the past.” It was highly noteworthy that the neocons would devise a strategy to enable Israel to become free from adhering to the goals of their own country. [“Transparent Cabal,” p. 93]
In conclusion, while Chomsky’s change was far from being complete, his acknowledgement that the neoconservatives were the “dominant force” in driving the U.S. to the war on Iraq in 2003 is, nonetheless, very significant. Chomsky, who was voted the “world’s top public intellectual” in a 2005 poll, certainly influences many people, most particularly on the anti-war left, and his new view should make them rethink their belief that the war was all about oil. It is to be hoped that Chomsky’s words were not a one-time aberration and that he will not revert to his previous publicly-espoused position. Rather, it is to be hoped that he will now look more deeply into the neocons’ activities and thus discern their close connection to Israel.
Stephen J. Sniegoski is the author of The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel.
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