Last Saturday, the ink on the historic “interim agreement” signed in Geneva had not dried yet when the early signs of trouble with the deal and its roadmap for a comprehensive final agreement emerged in the form of US Secretary of State’s explicit denial that the deal had recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
Since then, John Kerry has repeated this claim, flatly contradicted by his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on a half dozen occasions, thus raising questions regarding US’s sincerity.
Not only that, within hours of the late night breakthrough in Geneva, the White House published a “fact sheet” about the content of the agreement, which has now been contested by Iran’s Foreign Ministry as inaccurate, misleading and “one-sided interpretation.” As expected, there is absolutely no reference in this “fact-sheet” to Iran’s nuclear rights, including the right to enrich uranium, an important step in manufacturing fuel for the country’s reactors, which is enshrined in the articles of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Indeed, one of the main problems with the US’s approach toward the Iran nuclear issue is, and always has been, its complete obliviousness toward and lack of respect for Iran’s inalienable nuclear rights, which are the centerpieces of Iran’s negotiation strategy.
Little wonder, then, that US President Barack Obama in his post-Geneva outreach to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly emphasized the “shared goals” vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program, namely, the dismantling of Iran’s “nuclear weapons capability” that stems from its uranium enrichment program.
Israel has now dispatched a technical team to Washington to coordinate the US’s effort with respect to the final status agreement with Iran. This will probably mean even less of a “tactical difference” between US and Israel in the coming months with respect to Iran.
There is now even a shared US and Israeli linguistic (and policy) emphasis on “dismantling” the Iranian nuclear program. The word “dismantle” has seeped in the public statements of John Kerry, in contrast to his earlier hints at respecting Iran’s right to enrich uranium, e.g. in Financial Times in 2009.
Case in point, in his interview with ABC network on November 24th, Kerry stated, “While we are negotiating for the dismantling, they will not grow their program.” This echoed Kerry’s earlier admission, on November 10, 2013, that the US “is aiming to get Tehran to halt further nuclear development as a first step toward a complete dismantling of the program.”
By all indications, the US is pursuing this objective through a phased “roll back strategy,” whereby the Iranian nuclear energy program would be targeted for a gradual dismantling, in light of the statement by Tony Blinken, the US Deputy National Security Adviser, that “if we could have gotten an entire freeze of their program right away in one fell swoop, we would have done that.” This recalls Kerry’s other interview, with CBS’s Face the Nation on November 24, when he responded to the question of whether the agreement calls for the dismantling of some of Iran’s programs by saying “Not yet. That’s correct. Not yet. But you don’t get everything at first step. You have to go down the process here.”
The interim agreement is thus viewed by the US as a milestone in achieving the initial objectives of this “roll-back” strategy – by destroying Iran’s 20-percent enriched uranium, halting the completion of Arak heavy water reactor and the installation of new centrifuges, freezing the number of centrifuges and imposing a low-ceiling on enrichment – according to Kerry “3.5 percent,” even though the agreement specifically says 5 percent, and subjecting Iran’s program to unprecedented intrusive inspection, including “a number of facilities we have never been in before,” to paraphrase Kerry.
Since collecting information on Iran’s nuclear energy program is a must for the “roll-back” strategy, the US hopes that the implementation of the interim agreement will prove vital, given the American persistence on keeping the “military option on the table.” Equally important is “reversing key aspects of the Iranian program” via this deal, which Kerry has been fond of repeating since co-signing the deal in Geneva.
As for the agreement’s concluding statements that refer to Iran’s enrichment program in a final agreement, Kerry has put the emphasis on the sentence that subjects this to “mutual agreement.” In other words, Iran’s NPT right is now threatened with a contractual atrophy that subjects this right to the prerogatives of a select few governments and thus shrinks and compromises it.
The full text of that important paragraph is as follows: “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.”
In addition, Kerry has repeatedly turned attention to the agreement’s reference to the UN sanctions resolutions on Iran, which call for the suspension of Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing activities. In other words, as far as the US is concerned, the inclusion of the passage on UN resolutions is yet another stab at Iran’s defense of its right to enrich.
Notwithstanding the above-said, there is very little doubt that the US’s intention of the “first step” interim agreement is to downgrade the Iranian nuclear energy program and move steadily along the path of complete dismantling and dispossession of Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle.
Another point: the agreement places some of Iran’s centrifuges in standby, i.e. spinning without enriching, which can be hazardous to the equipment after a while, causing equipment decay and failure. Both the standby and shut down options have clear consequences for the physical condition of the centrifuges, which is why it is important not to extend this agreement beyond the six months. On this account alone, the US will likely drag its feet on a final deal, hoping that Iranian centrifuge program will increasingly suffer as a result of a lengthy state of ‘limbo.’
Consequently, it is important from Iran’s vantage to correctly tabulate what a “win” for the other side entails, and whether or not the “win-win” is balanced and evenly distributed, rather than triggering a process whereby the other side’s “win” would accumulate over time at Iran’s expense. In that case, it would simply culminate in a “lose-win,” to the detriment of Iran’s interests.
Of course, this is not even to mention the “psychological warfare” behind the White House “fact-sheets” hoopla about allowing the release of measly 4.2 billion of Iran’s oil proceeds in the next six months, while keeping the rest in an escrow. Clearly, the US’s intention is to weaken not only Iran’s resolve but also the spirit of resistance and national dignity, as part and parcel of its nuclear “roll-back.”
Yet, despite all the US’s clever “smart power” maneuvers mentioned above, what is rather remarkable about Iran’s counter-strategy, based on deft, skillful negotiation strategy, is how those maneuvers are neutralized and a broader anti-sanctions, pro-Iran momentum has been generated that is bound to grow stronger and introduce greater fissures between US and its Western partners, who happen to have greater vested economic interests with Iran. And this is precisely why Iran’s “win” in this stage of the nuclear game is irrefutable.
WASHINGTON – The “first step” agreement between Iran and the United States that was sealed in Geneva over the weekend is supposed to lead to the negotiation of a “comprehensive settlement” of the nuclear issue over the next six months, though the latter has gotten little attention.
But within hours of the agreement, there are already indications from senior U.S. officials that the Barack Obama administration is not fully committed to the conclusion of a final pact, under which economic sanctions would be completely lifted.
The administration has apparently developed reservations about such an “end state” agreement despite concessions by the government of President Hassan Rouhani that were more far-reaching than could have been anticipated a few months ago.
In fact the Rouhani government’s moves to reassure the West may have spurred hopes on the part of senior officials of the Obama administration that the United States can achieve its minimum aims in reducing Iran’s breakout capacity without giving up its trump cards—the harsh sanctions on Iran’s oil expert and banking sectors.
The signs of uncertain U.S. commitment to the “end state” agreement came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night. The officials repeatedly suggested that it was a question of “whether” there could be an “end state” agreement rather than how it could be achieved.
“What we are going to explore with the Iranians and our P5+1 partners over the next six months,” said one of the officials, “is whether there can be an agreed upon comprehensive solution that assures us that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”
The same official prefaced that remark by stating, “In terms of the ‘end state’, we do not recognise a right for Iran to enrich uranium.”
Later in the briefing, a senior official repeated the same point in slightly different words. “What the next six months will determine is whether there can be an agreement that… gives us assurance that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”
Three more times during the briefing the unnamed officials referred to the negotiation of the “comprehensive solution” outlined in the deal agreed to Sunday morning as an open-ended question rather than an objective of U.S. policy.
“We’ll see whether we can achieve an end state that allows for Iran to have peaceful nuclear energy,” said one of the officials.
Those carefully formulated statements in the background briefing do not reflect difficulties in identifying what arrangements would provide the necessary assurances of a peaceful nuclear programme. Secretary of State John Kerry declared at a press appearance in Geneva, “Folks, it is not hard to prove peaceful intention if that’s what you want to do.”
The background briefing suggested that in next six months, Iran would have to “deal with” U.N. Security Council resolutions, which call for Iran to suspend all enrichment activities as well as all work on its heavy reactor in Arak.
Similarly, the unnamed officials said Iran “must come into compliance with its obligations under the NPT and its obligations to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency].”
Those statements appeared to suggest that the administration would be insisting on a complete end to all enrichment, at least temporarily, and an end to all work on Arak.
The actual text of the agreement reached on Sunday states, however, that both the six powers of the P5+1 and Iran “will be responsible for conclusion and implementation of mutual near-term measures,” apparently referring to the measures necessary to bring Security Council consideration of the Iran nuclear issue to a conclusion.
The Obama administration has yet to release an official text of the “first step” agreement, although the official Iran Fars new agency released a text over the weekend.
Iran has demonstrated its determination to achieve such an agreement by effectively freezing and even partially reversing its nuclear programme while giving the IAEA daily access to Iran’s enrichment sites.
The Washington Post story on Sunday cited Western officials in Geneva as saying that the Iranian concessions “not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon without being detected.”
But since the early secret contacts with Iran in August and September, the Obama administration has been revising its negotiating calculus in light of the apparent Iranian eagerness to get a deal.
In mid-October, Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg reported that the White House and State and Treasury departments were interested in an idea first proposed in early October by Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who had lobbied the Obama administration successfully for the sanctions aimed at cutting Iranian oil export revenues.
The Dubowitz proposal was to allow Iran access to some of its own money that was sitting in frozen accounts abroad in return for “verified concessions” that would reduce Iranian nuclear capabilities.
Meanwhile the United States and other powers would maintain the entire structure of the sanctions regime, at least in the interim period, without any change, Goldberg reported, “barring something like total capitulation” by Iran.
The scheme would give greater rewards for dismantling all but a limited number of safeguards than for lesser concessions, according to Goldberg’s report, based on information from “several officials”.
And if Iran refused, the plan would call for even more punishing sanctions against Iran’s natural gas sector.
That was essentially the policy that the Obama administration adopted in the negotiations in Geneva. In the first step agreement, Iran agreed to stop all enrichment to 20 percent, reduce the existing 20 percent-enriched stockpile to zero, convert all low enriched uranium to a form that cannot be enriched to higher level and allow IAEA inspectors daily access to enrichment sites.
In return for concessions representing many of its key negotiating chips, Iran got no relief from sanctions and less than seven billion dollars in benefits, according to the official U.S. estimate.
But the Iranian concessions will hold only for six months, and Iran has made such far-reaching concessions before in negotiations on a preliminary that anticipated a later comprehensive agreement and then resumed the activities it had suspended.
In the Paris Agreement of Nov. 15, 2004 with the foreign ministers of the UK, Germany, France, Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis, to continue and extend an existing suspension of enrichment to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities”.
That meant that Iran was giving up all work on the manufacture, assembly, installation and testing of centrifuges or their components. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was under the impression it was an open-ended suspension and initially opposed it.
Khamenei relented only after Hassan Rouhani, then the chief nuclear policy coordinator and now president, and other officials, assured him that it was a temporary measure that would endure only until an agreement was reached that legitimised Iran’s enrichment or the determination that the Europeans were not serious, according to Ambassador Hossein Mousavian’s nuclear memoirs.
After the Europeans refused to negotiate on an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive settlement in March 2005 that would have provided assurances against enrichment to weapons grade, Khamenei pulled the plug on the talks, and Iran ended its suspension of enrichment-related activities.
The United States had long depended on its dominant military power to wage “coercive diplomacy” with Tehran, with threat of an attack on Iran as its trump card. But during the George W. Bush administration, that threat begn to lose its credibility as it became clear that the U.S. military was opposed to war with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Obama administration officials are now acting as though they believe the sanctions represent a diplomatic trump card that is far more effective than the “military option” that had been lost.
Some news stories on the “first step” agreement have referred to the possibility that the negotiations on the final settlement could stall, and the status quo might continue. But the remarks by senior U.S. officials suggest the administration may be hoping for precisely such an outcome.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
US Secretary of State John Kerry appeases an infuriated Israel after Iran and six world powers seal a nuclear agreement following a marathon negotiating session in Geneva.
“The comprehensive agreement will make the world safer … and Israel safer,” Kerry told reporters in Geneva on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned Washington and its Western allies that a diplomatic deal with Tehran would be “a historic blunder.”
The hawkish premier loudly criticized the six-month deal, saying the world powers were giving up too much to the Islamic Republic.
Kerry said any differences between the United States and Israel on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program were simply a matter of “judgment” and “calculation.”
The top US diplomat added that he had kept Netanyahu apprised of the state of play in the nuclear talks, which kicked off Wednesday.
“I talk to him several times a week,” he said. “I talked to him in the last day about this very issue.”
US President Barack Obama welcomed the historic nuclear deal as “an important first step toward a comprehensive solution.”
The first step allows for “time and space” for more talks and the deal represents “a new path toward a world that is more secure,” Obama said late Saturday in Washington.
A statement released by the White House also said Iran agreed to provide “increased transparency and intrusive monitoring of its nuclear program.”
Kerry said that as part of the deal, “Iran has agreed to suspend all enrichment of uranium above 5 percent.” He also said that the Islamic Republic “will not commission or fuel the Arak reactor,” a “heavy water” plant in central Iran.
In exchange, the United States and its allies have agreed to lift some of the existing sanctions and offer access to a portion of the revenue that Tehran has been denied through these sanctions. No additional sanctions will be imposed.
According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the country will receive access to USD 4.2 billion in foreign exchange.
The recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes was one of the major sticking points in the talks.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters on Sunday that the agreement “covers several important domains, the most important of which is the recognition of the right to enrichment.”
- Iran nuclear deal ‘will make Israel safer’ – Kerry (voiceofrussia.com)
The Afghan President says he will not sign a crucial security pact with the US till after presidential elections next year. Hamid Karzai backs the deal, but does not trust the US.
“The agreement should be signed when the election is conducted, properly and with dignity,” Karzai told the Loya Jirga grand assembly that began on Thursday.
The unexpected statement comes just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry said the two sides had finalized the wording of the agreement.
Karzai said that his deferment would show America’s assurance “that we are moving on the path to security and they are accompanying us on this path.”
A spokesman for the United States Embassy in Kabul declined to comment on Karzai’s plan as it was an on-going diplomatic discussion.
President Karzai told the gathering in Kabul that President Barack Obama had sent a letter assuring him that a security pact between the two states was in Afghanistan’s best interest.
The five-day long 2,500-member national consultative council is set to debate the draft and decide whether US troops will be permitted to stay in the country post-2014.
The deal indicates that up to 15,000 US troops could remain in the country until 2024. But both sides still want final details to be clarified.
One of the main stumbling blocks in reaching the bilateral security agreement was the legal status of American troops on the ground.
On Wednesday the Afghan foreign ministry released a draft security deal, which said that US forces remaining in Afghanistan after 2014 will be under the jurisdiction of the US and not be subject to Afghan courts.
The Loya Jirga’s decision on the 25-page “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” is expected by Sunday.
The council can revise or reject any part of the draft agreement. After Loya Jirga amendments, the Afghan parliament is set to review the agreement and also make more changes before it is approved.
Despite his statement, Afghanistan’s President said he backs a security deal with the US, but at the same time he acknowledged there was little trust between the two sides.
“My trust with America is not good. I don’t trust them and they don’t trust me,” Karzai said. “During the past 10 years I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me.”
Karzai’s decision, which came as a surprise even for the closest of the President’s aides, means that the long-debated deal will not be signed before April 5, the day when the presidential election is scheduled.
“This may be misconstrued as if the president wants someone specific [to win] in the elections,” Hedayat Amin Arsala, Karzai’s former vice president, said according to The Wall Street Journal. “I hope that is not the case.”
The US had wanted the agreement signed by the end of October 2013 as it would give military planners time to prepare to keep troops in the country after the scheduled 2014 withdrawal.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the United States is “100 percent” allied with Israel, especially when it comes to negotiations over Iran’s nuclear energy program.
In an interview with MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ on Thursday, Kerry said, “What’s important here is we stand with Israel firmly – 100 percent.”
He made the comments one day after Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee stormed out of a classified meeting with Kerry, saying the briefing session was “anti-Israeli.”
Kerry held a closed-door briefing with the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday to convince Congress that any new sanctions against Iran would be viewed as “bad faith” and can “destroy the ability to” reach an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) described the briefing as “anti-Israeli,” saying “I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me.”
Meanwhile, Israel continued its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill as Israel’s Economy and Trade Minister, Naftali Bennett, pushed for new anti-Iran sanctions on Thursday and described a possible deal between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany as “catastrophic.”
This comes as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday that imposing new sanctions on Iran would be a “march to war” and that “the American people do not want a march to war.”
Speaking with reporters during a White House briefing on Thursday, US President Barack Obama also called on Congress not to impose any new sanctions on Iran.
On Friday, an unnamed top US official told Reuters that a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 is “quite possible” during the next round of talks between the two sides, which is to be held in Geneva on November 20.
After the Aug. 21 chemical weapons incident in Syria, a number of senior U.S. intelligence analysts disagreed with the Obama administration’s rush to judgment blaming the Syrian government, but their dissent on this question of war or peace was concealed from the American people.
The administration kept the dissent secret by circumventing the normal intelligence process and issuing on Aug. 30 something called a “Government Assessment,” posted at the White House press office’s Web site and fingering the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad as the guilty party.
Normally, such an important issue – a possible U.S. military engagement – would be the focus of a National Intelligence Estimate, but that would also cite the disagreements expressed within the intelligence community. By avoiding an NIE, the Obama administration was able to keep the lid on how much dissent there was over the Assad-did-it conclusion.
Once the “Government Assessment” was issued, Secretary of State John Kerry was put forward to present the case for launching a military strike against Syria, an attack that was only averted because President Barack Obama abruptly decided to ask congressional approval and then reached a diplomatic agreement, with the help of the Russian government, in which the Syrian government agreed to dispose of its chemical weapons arsenal (while still denying that it was responsible for the Aug. 21 attack).
Although war was averted, the Obama administration’s deception of the American public – by pretending that there was a government-wide consensus regarding Syrian government guilt when there wasn’t – was reminiscent of the lies and distortions used by President George W. Bush to trick the nation into war with Iraq over bogus WMD claims in 2003.
The behavior of the rest of Official Washington and the mainstream U.S. news media also shows that little has changed from a decade ago. Obvious indications of a deception were ignored and the few voices who raised the alarm were treated with the same mocking contempt that greeted skeptics of Bush’s case for invading Iraq.
Writers for Consortiumnews.com were among the few in the American media who noted the glaring flaws in the Obama administration’s case, including its refusal to release any of its supposed proof to support its conclusions and the curious absence of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper from the public presentation of the administration’s casus belli.
The reason for keeping the DNI on the sidelines was that he otherwise might have been asked if there was a consensus in the intelligence community supporting the administration’s certitude that Assad’s regime was responsible. At that point, Clapper would have had to acknowledge the disagreement from rank-and-file analysts (or face the likelihood that they would speak out).
Similarly, it appears that on-the-ground inspectors for the United Nations had their own doubts about the Syrian government’s responsibility, especially since Assad’s regime had allowed a UN team into Damascus on Aug. 18 to investigate what the regime claimed was evidence of rebels using chemical weapons.
It never made sense to some of these inspectors that Assad – just three days later – would launch a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus just a few miles from the hotel where the UN inspectors were staying. Assad would have known that the Aug. 21 incident would mean serious trouble for his government, very possibly drawing the U.S. military into the Syrian civil war on the side of the rebels.
The UN inspectors also failed to find Sarin or other chemical agents at one of the two sites that they subsequently examined near Damascus, and they inserted a qualification in their report about apparent tampering at the one area where Sarin was found.
However, instead of noting the many holes in the U.S. “Government Assessment” and the UN report, the mainstream U.S. news media simply joined the rush to judgment, hyping dubious claims from both U.S. government officials and non-governmental organizations favoring U.S. military intervention in Syria.
The New York Times and other major news outlets that swallowed Bush’s false claims about Iraq WMD a decade ago also began reporting Obama’s dubious assertions about Syria as flat fact, not as issues in serious dispute. As I wrote on Oct. 25, one typically credulous Times story accepted “as indisputable fact that the Syrian government was behind the Aug. 21 attack on a suburb of Damascus despite significant doubts among independent analysts, UN inspectors and, I’m told, U.S. intelligence analysts.”
New details of the rebellion among the intelligence analysts have just been reported by former CIA officer Philip Giraldi for the American Conservative magazine. According to Giraldi’s account, a “mass resignation of a significant number of analysts” was threatened if the Obama administration issued an NIE without acknowledging their dissent.
A “hurriedly updated” NIE had reflected the Syrian government’s suspected use of chemical weapons against rebels and civilians, “while conceding that there was no conclusive proof,” Giraldi wrote, adding:
“There was considerable dissent from even that equivocation, including by many analysts who felt that the evidence for a Syrian government role was subject to interpretation and possibly even fabricated. Some believed the complete absence of U.S. satellite intelligence on the extensive preparations that the government would have needed to make in order to mix its binary chemical system and deliver it on target was particularly disturbing.
“These concerns were reinforced by subsequent UN reports suggesting that the rebels might have access to their own chemical weapons. The White House, meanwhile, considered the somewhat ambiguous conclusion of the NIE to be unsatisfactory, resulting in considerable push-back against the senior analysts who had authored the report.”
Demands from Above
When Obama’s National Security Council demanded more corroborative evidence to establish Syrian government guilt, “Israel obligingly provided what was reported to be interceptions of telephone conversations implicating the Syrian army in the attack, but it was widely believed that the information might have been fabricated by Tel Aviv, meaning that bad intelligence was being used to confirm other suspect information, a phenomenon known to analysts as ‘circular reporting,’” Giraldi wrote.
“Other intelligence cited in passing by the White House on the trajectories and telemetry of rockets that may have been used in the attack was also somewhat conjectural and involved weapons that were not, in fact, in the Syrian arsenal, suggesting that they were actually fired by the rebels.
“Also, traces of Sarin were not found in most of the areas being investigated, nor on one of the two rockets identified. Whether the victims of the attack suffered symptoms of Sarin was also disputed, and no autopsies were performed to confirm the presence of the chemical.
“With all evidence considered, the intelligence community found itself with numerous skeptics in the ranks, leading to sharp exchanges with the Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. A number of analysts threatened to resign as a group if their strong dissent was not noted in any report released to the public, forcing both Brennan and Clapper to back down.”
The Obama administration’s “solution” to this analyst revolt was to circumvent the normal intelligence process and issue a white paper that would be called a “Government Assessment,” declaring the Syrian government’s guilt as indisputable fact and leaving out the doubts of the intelligence community.
While this subterfuge may have satisfied the institutional concerns of the intelligence community – which didn’t want another Iraq-War-style violation of its procedural protocols on how NIEs are handled – it still left the American people vulnerable to a government deception on a question of war or peace.
Yes, there was no scene comparable to the positioning of CIA Director George Tenet behind Secretary of State Colin Powell as he delivered his deceptive Iraq War speech to the UN Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003. Both Clapper and Brennan were absent from the administration’s testimony to Congress, leaving Secretary Kerry to do most of the talking with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey bracketing Kerry as mostly silent wing men.
And, yes, one could argue that the Obama administration’s hyping of its case against the Assad regime had a happy ending, the Syrian government’s agreement to eliminate its entire CW arsenal. Indeed, most of the grousing about the Syrian outcome has come from neocons who wanted to ride the rush to judgment all the way to another regime-changing war.
Dogs Not Barking
But Americans should be alarmed that a decade after they were deceived into a disastrous war in Iraq based on bogus intelligence – and the complete breakdown of Official Washington’s checks and balances – a very similar process could unfold that brought the country to the brink of another war.
Besides the disturbing fact that the Obama administration refused to release any actual evidence to support its case for war, there was the gullibility (or complicity) of leading news outlets in failing to show even a modicum of skepticism.
The New York Times and other major news organizations failed to note the dogs not barking. Why, for instance, was there no NIE? Why were the U.S. government’s top intelligence officials absent from public presentations of what amounted to an intelligence issue? It shouldn’t have required a Sherlock Holmes to sniff out the silenced intelligence analysts.
When a government leader refuses to reveal any of his supposed proof for a claim and conceals the professionals who don’t agree with his claim, any reasonably savvy person should draw the conclusion that the government leader doesn’t really have a case.
Though some Americans may cite the work of a few Web sites, like our own Consortiumnews.com, as having challenged the misguided conventional wisdom on Syria as we also did on Iraq, they should not draw too much comfort from this. After all, our readership is tiny when compared to the many sources of misinformation being disseminated to the broad American public.
The dangerous reality is that the United States remains vulnerable to the kinds of stampedes in judgment that can end up crushing people around the world.
[Here is some of our earlier reporting on the Syrian crisis: “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War”; “Murky Clues From UN’s Syria Report”; “Obama Still Withholds Syria Evidence”; “How US Pressure Bends UN Agencies.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Benyamin Netanyahu’s hyperventilated fury didn’t surprise anybody. Even before the first outlines of a possible long-term agreement between Iran and the West on Iran’s nuclear program were publicized, Israel’s Prime Minister categorically rejected any such agreement. This irrational behavior disqualifies him as a serious partner to other heads of state. His extremism goes even so far as to promote further sanctions against Iran. Netanyahu wants Iran to capitulate and abolish its entire nuclear industry. He announced that Israel does not feel bound by the agreement. Netanyahu arrogates Israel the right to override decisions by UN Security Council members.
That Western leaders should consult the leader of a tiny country before they act shows the imagined power they attribute to Netanyahu. To seek advice from Netanyahu shows how intimidated Western politicians are. By now, they should be aware of his hostility to peace, be it with Iran or the Palestinians. How submissively the United States acts, is shown by the phone call between Obama and Netanyahu and by Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to Jerusalem, as if they needed Netanyahu’s blessing for the negotiations with Iran. The best political strategy would be to ignore him.
What infuriated Netanyahu and made him go wild was John Kerry’s statement made in Bethlehem: “We consider now and have always considered the settlements to be illegitimate.” The US has finally returned to its erstwhile stance that all Israeli settlements are contrary to international law, after they have gone astray under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush junior. Netanyahu appears increasingly isolated with regard to the Iran deal. He appears willing to do anything to derail a possible agreement between the US and Iran. His last weapons are the political bull terriers of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC, and their supporters in the US Congress. But Netanyahu is increasingly a political nuisance, not only for the Obama administration but also for other powers. For the last 25 years it has been his mantra to warn that a nuclear armed Iran is just around the corner.
Netanyahu and the war party in the US will do everything in their power to prevent an agreement between Iran and the West. Netanyahu exerts not only great influence on the US Congress via AIPAC, but does so personally, as his last speech before both Houses in May 2012 has shown, during which US lawmakers outdid themselves in celebrating his reactionary speech. AIPAC could try to arrange again another such ridiculous circus. That doesn’t mean that Netanyahu would make it this time, knowing that he would jeopardize the recently improved relations with the Obama administration.
The political charade, which Netanyahu performs, has nothing to do with the imaginary Iranian nuclear threat. The Israeli political establishment knows this and fears that it would lose its hegemony over the entire Middle East and Northern Africa if Iran would go nuclear. The late Israel Shahak has pointed out in his book “Open Secrets. Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies”, that Israel’s main goal is to maintain its hegemony from India to Mauritania.
The political interests of the Western powers and Israel are not the same. The West has suffered heavy economic losses by bowing to Israeli interests; especially US soldier had to pay a high price in Iraq. Netanyahu can perhaps bamboozle the U.S. government again, but Israel’s relationship with Europe is on a downward slide. Europe, and especially Germany, can look back on an enduring friendship with Iran. This friendship should not be damaged by unregenerate politicians. Germany would do well to normalize its relations and reestablish its traditionally excellent relations with Iran, regardless of the outcome of the US-Iran negotiations.
By now, the US and the other Western countries should have understood that Netanyahu as well as former Israeli governments have been torpedoing every chance for a peace agreement with the Palestinians, because their colonial hunger for land has not yet been satisfied. The so-called peace negotiations, which are once again taking place, is likely to go nowhere because the Netanyahu government is not willing to make any real concessions that fall short of total surrender by the Palestinians.
GENEVA – US State Secretary John Kerry opposed a draft deal on Iran’s nuclear program during high-profile talks in Geneva, a source at the negotiations told RIA Novosti on Saturday.
Kerry held a snap meeting late Friday with representatives of Iran and the 5+1 group of international negotiators, which includes lower-ranking US diplomats.
Iran and the 5+1, which also comprises Russia, Britain, China, France and Germany, earlier drafted a step-by-step deal to lift sanctions against Tehran in exchange for a partial freeze of the Iranian nuclear program.
Kerry was to discuss the matter further on Saturday with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
The talks in Geneva were expected to break the lengthy stalemate on Iran’s nuclear program, whose peaceful nature is questioned by Western powers and Israel.
But the head of the French Foreign Ministry, Laurent Fabius, said Saturday that the Geneva talks may not end in a deal.
Iranian diplomats said earlier Tehran was ready for another round of talks in case the ongoing meeting yields no result.
Iran proposed last month to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent in exchange for lifting of sanctions starting with its banking industry and oil exports.
Pentagon officials have said the US nuclear arsenal needs an overhaul over the coming decade which could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
In a meeting with US lawmakers on the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Assistant Defense Secretary Madelyn Creedon said Washington has to spend at least a decade to modernize its aging nuclear weapons.
“Modernization work of this kind is expensive, but there is no doubt that the investment … is necessary,” Reuters quoted Creedon as telling US congressmen.
“There is not a cost-effective alternative that meets the military requirements and policy objectives.”
Last year, the non-partisan Stimon Center think-tank estimated that modernizing the US nuclear arsenal, including weapons, infrastructure, and delivery systems, over the next decade would cost American taxpayers up to $400 billion.
On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized that nuclear weapons form an important part of Washington’s defense doctrine.
“It ensures that a strong nuclear deterrent remains the cornerstone of US national security and that of our allies and our partners,” he said during a speech at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.
In September, US Air Force tested two nuclear-capable missiles. The first one was launched on Sep. 22, one day after the International Day of Peace, and the second one was launched on Sep. 26, the same day heads of states and foreign ministers from around the world held a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
At the UN’s high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament on Sep. 26, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed that “no nation should possess nuclear weapons.”
The US is the only country in the world that has used atomic bombs in war. US atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945.
In an unexpected twist in the NSA scandal, spy chief Keith Alexander has blamed US diplomats for ordering surveillance on EU politicians. Meanwhile, State Secretary John Kerry has admitted espionage “reached too far,” alleging it was on “automatic pilot.”
Indicating a rift between the White House and the NSA, Director of the spy organization, Keith Alexander, has accused “policy makers” and “diplomats” for dictating the targets for surveillance. In a heated exchange, former ambassador to Romania, James Carew Rosapepe, challenged Alexander to justify spying on US allies, reported the Guardian.
“We all joke that everyone is spying on everyone,” he said. “But that is not a national security justification,” said Rosapepe.
Alexander replied sharply to the question, alleging ambassadors had a hand in ordering spy activities.
“That is a great question, in fact as an ambassador you have part of the answer. Because we the intelligence agencies don’t come up with the requirements, the policymakers come up with the requirements,” Alexander said.
He added sarcastically: “One of those groups would have been, let me think, hold on, oh! – ambassadors.”
Passing the buck
As the NSA points the finger at the Obama Administration for ordering the mass surveillance of European citizens, the White House is seeking to distance itself from the scandal, intimating the NSA was acting of its own volition.
Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the accusations, that the NSA recorded millions of European citizens’ telephone calls, in a video conference to London on Thursday. Kerry conceded that US surveillance had “reached too far” and stated that the NSA had been conducting its espionage on “automatic pilot.”
“In some cases, I acknowledge to you, as has the president, that some of these actions have reached too far, and we are going to make sure that does not happen in the future,” Kerry said, stressing an inquiry is currently underway to reassess American intelligence gathering programs.
Washington came under fire this week when a delegation from the EU came to get answers over the NSA’s activities in Europe. According to the revelations released by former CIA worker, Edward Snowden, to the press, the US not only targeted regular citizens, but also businessmen and high-profile politicians.
The White House did not give many answers to the delegation, they instead sought to justify espionage in Europe as a measure to protect against terrorism.
“It is much more important for this country that we defend this nation and take the beatings than it is to give up a program that would result in us being attacked,” Alexander told the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. He went on to say that the US only collected data related to warzones in the Middle East.
PYONGYANG — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said Wednesday it would not unilaterally dismantle its nuclear deterrence unless outside nuclear threats were removed, the official KCNA news agency reported.
“As action for action remains a basic principle for finding a solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, the DPRK will not unilaterally move first,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement.
The denuclearization of the peninsula did not mean unilateral nuclear disarmament by the DPRK but a process of realizing a whole nuclear-free peninsula by removing substantial outside nuclear threats on the principle of simultaneous actions, the statement said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said early this month Washington would be open to dialogue if Pyongyang started denuclearization first.
The National Defense Commission on Oct. 12 dismissed the U.S. request as “an intolerable mockery and insult to the army and people of the DPRK.”
The statement criticized Washington for shifting responsibility to Pyongyang and urged Washington to abandon its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a press briefing Wednesday that Beijing had been “in close communication with all relevant parties of the six-party talks.”
China’s chief delegate to the six-party talks, Wu Dawei, and his Russian counterpart, Igor Morgulov, met in Beijing Monday and exchanged views on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the resumption of the six-party talks, the ministry said in a brief statement.
The refusal came after some US defense lawyers from the Federal Defenders of New York demanded to be allowed to represent al-Libi, arguing there is no legal basis for holding him “offshore” on a navy vessel.
However, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan claimed it was premature because the Libyan man has not apparently been formally arrested.
“The government denies that any federal criminal arrest has taken place, and there is no evidence to the contrary,” wrote Kaplan.
Kaplan also said even if an arrest is made, the appropriate time to assign counsel would depend on the first court appearance.
Al-Libi was abducted over his alleged involvement in the 1998 twin bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and is believed to be held in military custody and interrogated on board a navy ship, the USS Antonio, in the Mediterranean.
According to a law enforcement source, authorities in New York have not indicated when or if he might be brought to the US.
Kaplan said that the Federal Defenders have expressed concerns about the legality of the man’s detention but added that the matter is outside his jurisdiction.
Officials say al-Libi has not been Mirandized, and is facing open-ended interrogation on the ship without access to a lawyer.
Even US Secretary of State John Kerry last week defended al-Libi’s abduction as “legal” and “appropriate.”
Dr. Randy Short, an American human rights activist, who talked Thursday to Press TV on the arrest of al-Libi, said “I am just intrigued that the same government that funded al-Qaeda to destroy Libya” and “the same government [that] funds and supports al-Qaeda which is fighting and killing people in Lebanon and in Syria now goes back retroactively and attack someone who may have even been in their service”.