I’m seeing a false narrative being constructed by the media around the Iran nuclear talks which, as usual, will become repeated so often that it becomes ‘true’ by virtue of repetition, as is the case usually with most of the conventional wisdom about Iran.
According to this false narrative, Iran was engaged in nuclear “weapons-related” research which was stopped in 2003, mostly, and this was the cause of the confusion all along and the reason why the US thought Iran was making nukes and not negotiating with Iran.
And now Iran has to ‘come clean’ about this past research which misled the US into thinking that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, causing the US to impose sanctions on Iran, which then led to Iran ‘giving in’ to the sanctions and accepting talks whose ‘goal’ is to reduce or eliminate Iran’s nuclear program.
This is of course a PR spin that was invented by someone. It has the benefit of providing a nice little story line in which everyone comes out not a bad guy, and we can all just put it down to a case of miscommunication — like some sort of TV sitcom episode.
But that’s not what happened at all.
The only question is why they’re pushing this spin in the media. An optimist would say that the US side is pushing this narrative in order to portray its eventual agreement with Iran as some sort of victory, and the Iranian side may allow this face-saving move by the US if only to remove sanctions. BUT, i’m not an optimist. I think that just as the entire nuclear issue was always a red herring and distraction, just as ‘WMDs in Iraq’ was always just a pretext for an entirely different policy, I think that the presumption should be that the talks too are just pretextual and a tactic.
But we’ll see.
Anyway, everything in that narrative that the media is trying to cook and feed average Americans is complete baloney, and I could type out a book to debunk it. So just for example about the claim that Iran was involved in ‘nuke-related’ research: When the 2003 NIE came out saying that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the IAEA, whilst welcoming that conclusion, also pointed out that they had no evidence of a nuclear weapons program prior to 2003 either and NOTHING has changed since then, except that the IAEA head Elbaradei was replaced by US puppet Amano, who had sworn loyalty to the US and then started trying to give credence to the “Alleged studies” claims by renaming them ‘possible military dimensions’ and then issuing the ‘secret annex’ as part of the IAEA’s 2011 report that the previous IAEA head had dismissed as unverified claims. And to date NONE of the the claims have ever been verified, aside from anonymous claims of additional supporting information which no one has seen.
And that’s just one problem with this narrative. I could go on and on.
The point is, watch out for these false narratives and ‘conventional wisdom’ and don’t just ignore these claims in analysis pieces or reportage that proceed on such assumptions.
Aside from tha,t “nuclear related” research per se does not have to be reported by Iran to the IAEA anyway.
The Israeli military deployed a new division to the border with Syria in a move described as “a significant boost to border security and stability,” the Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.
The 210th Regional Bashan Division replaced the 36th Armor Division and the Har Dov sector, which have been stationed on the occupied Golan Heights for 40 years.
The 36th Armor Division will become “an all-purpose wartime division, designed to be sent to any combat arena, such as Lebanon or Gaza, to support other divisions,” while the 210th Regional Bashan Division, with it’s “enhanced capabilities” backed by air defense systems and intelligence operations, will also have the ability “to carry out a ground maneuver in enemy territory.”
The deployment, dubbed “historic” has been planned months in advance, spurred by the volatile events across the border in Syria particularly in terms of fears that “there is no Syrian state sovereignty in areas bordering the southern Golan Heights, and global jihadi forces are expected to get stronger in such areas,” the Jerusalem Post said, citing Israeli intelligence assessments.
“The military sources said they do not expect Syria to recover from the civil war and go back to being a sovereign state in the foreseeable future, and they described the conflict as a strategic change that will be studied in future textbooks on Middle East history. It is impossible to know how Syria will turn out,” the report said.
“The IDF’s map of territory controlled by the Assad regime and the rebels is changing continuously,” it added.
Furthermore, the Jerusalem Post report noted that the 210th Division will be assisted by “a recently created Combat Intelligence Collection battalion, active along the Syrian border, and by a new security fence complete with electro-optical surveillance means and radars.”
The 210th Division will also have the ability to conduct military operations without seeking higher approval.
Yesterday, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) MP Michel Aoun announced that he mediated between Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah, and the leader of the Future Movement (FM), former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, which coincided with the restoration of security and political channels of communication between Hezbollah and the FM.
Is Lebanon witnessing a new political scene based on a five-party alliance in the government that can manage a truce, which would in turn allow the election of a new president?
In 2005, the four-party alliance excluded the FPM which had won an unequivocal majority of the Christian vote in the parliamentary elections. The new alliance includes, in addition to Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, the FM, the FPM’s Change and Reform bloc, the Phalange Party and the Progressive Socialist Party. Based on the sectarian considerations governing Lebanese politics, the sectarian representation in this alliance appears to be complete. This five-party alliance seems to have become a reality, as an increasingly positive environment seeps out little by little.
Aoun announced yesterday that he mediated between Hezbollah and the FM, and specifically between Nasrallah and Hariri. In addition, a step was taken in the same direction yesterday, prior to Aoun’s announcement, when the head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, Wafiq Safa, visited the new Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi at his apartment in Achrafieh.
The official goal of the meeting was to offer congratulations to Rifi for his ministerial appointment, but the form the meeting took gives it additional significance. In addition to Rifi and Safa, the meeting was attended by the head of the Internal Security Force’s (ISF) Information Branch, Colonel Imad Othman and director of the ISF Operations Room, Colonel Hussam al-Tannoukhi.
According to political sources, Tannoukhi – who is on good terms with the leaders of both Hezbollah and the FM – arranged the meeting which relaunched the security and political communication back channels between the two sides. This back channel had maintained contact between both parties until Rifi’s retirement and the rising political tension between Hezbollah and the FM.
While at Rifi’s home, Safa called the new interior minister, Nohad al-Machnouk, and congratulated him on his new post. Political sources said that this “positive environment comes as a follow-up to the efforts that resulted in the formation of the new government and can be relied upon to carry the government through future political junctures such as the ministerial statement and the presidential elections.”
In a related matter, Aoun confirmed that he met both Hariri and Nasrallah, explaining: “Whoever wants to conduct mediation to bring disparate parties closer together has to talk to everyone, that is why I met both of them.”
When asked if his willingness to accept Rifi as interior minister during consultations on government formation angered Hezbollah, Aoun replied: “I was not present during the distribution of ministries and I am not the prime minister charged with assigning ministers to the various ministries. There was a difference of opinion between Hezbollah and the FM on this issue. To form the government, we suggested a kind of solution based on exchanging posts.”
Regarding concerns over the ministerial appointments of Machnouk and Rifi, especially since the Interior and Justice ministries could facilitate the work of terrorists and takfiris, Aoun argued “this issue is handled by the judiciary and the government as a whole and does not rely on the authority of one or two ministers.”
Akhbar Al-Yawm News Agency revealed that a family dinner was held Thursday evening at Aoun’s home in Rabieh and it included FPM minister Gibran Bassil and the director of the Future Movement’s presidential office, Nader Hariri. The obstacles that were still facing the formation of the government were overcome at this meeting.
In addition, information emerged in the past few days that Bassil traveled to Saudi Arabia last week where he met Saad Hariri.
Hawkish US Senator John McCain has called on the Obama administration to employ its already-devised plan of military intervention against the Syrian government.
“The only way to achieve success at Geneva is to change the balance of power on the ground,” McCain said in a statement on Saturday, referring to the failure of the so-called Syria peace talks in Geneva.
“There are options far short of an Iraq-style invasion that can, and should, be employed to change the calculation of the Syrian regime, stem the violence, and ultimately achieve a negotiated political solution,” he added.
The second round of negotiations ended on Saturday without any concrete results about the unrest in Syria.
“The second round of Syria peace talks ended today with no progress toward a negotiated political settlement to the conflict and UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi recognizing that failure is looming,” McCain said.
“After three weeks of talks, we are moving further and further away from a peaceful political solution,” he argued.
The Arizona Republican senator also criticized President Barack Obama for allowing Russia to put pressure on him.
“Russia has recently prevented the passage of a much-needed UN resolution on bringing aid to desperate Syrian civilians,” he said. “Such actions indicate that the Russian government is simply not a partner for peace in Syria and cannot be relied on to help secure a successful outcome.”
During a press conference on Friday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said there is no military solution for the crisis in Syria.
“The crisis in Syria is a crisis. The circumstances on the ground are horrific that is why we have to bring the parties together to try to compel them towards a negotiated political settlement because there isn’t a military solution here,” Carney said.
Prince Charles, the heir apparent to the British throne, is set to make a four-day official visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar later this month.
According to a statement on the British government website, released on Wednesday, the Prince of Wales is expected to begin his trip to the Middle East region from Saudi Arabia on February 17 and end it in Qatar on February 20.
He will meet King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during his trips.
In March 2013, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, also visited Saudi Arabia as part of a nine-day tour of the Middle East, with stops in Jordan, Qatar and Oman.
This comes as Britain as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are considered as major foreign supporters of the ongoing militancy in Syria.
The UK has also played a major role in fanning the flames of unrest in Syria by arming and training militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
By Cecilie Surasky | July 14, 2009
Straight out of Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry: a new Internet Fighting Team! Israeli students and demobilized soldiers get paid to pretend they are just regular folks and leave pro-Israel comments on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. The effort is meant to fight the “well-oiled machine” of “pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets… with content from the Hamas news agency.” The approach was test-marketed during Israel’s assault on Gaza, and by groups like Give Israel Your United Support, a controversial effort to use instant-access technology to crowd-source Israel advocates to fill in flash polls or vote up key articles on social networking sites.
Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?
“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”
The full article, translated by Occupation Magazine into English here:
The Foreign Ministry presents: talkbackers in the service of the State
By: Dora Kishinevski
Calcalist 5 July 2009
Translated for Occupation Magazine by George Malent
After they became an inseparable part of the service provided by public-relations companies and advertising agencies, paid Internet talkbackers are being mobilized in the service in the service of the State. The Foreign Ministry is in the process of setting up a team of students and demobilized soldiers who will work around the clock writing pro-Israeli responses on Internet websites all over the world, and on services like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The Foreign Ministry’s department for the explanation of Israeli policy* is running the project, and it will be an integral part of it. The project is described in the government budget for 2009 as the “Internet fighting team” – a name that was given to it in order to distinguish it from the existing policy-explanation team, among other reasons, so that it can receive a separate budget. Even though the budget’s size has not yet been disclosed to the public, sources in the Foreign Ministry have told Calcalist that in will be about NIS 600.000 in its first year, and it will be increased in the future. From the primary budget, about NIS 200.000 will be invested in round-the-clock activity at the micro-blogging website Twitter, which was recently featured in the headlines for the services it provided to demonstrators during the recent disturbances in Iran.
“To all intents and purposes the Internet is a theatre in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must be active in that theatre, otherwise we will lose,” Elan Shturman, deputy director of the policy-explanation department in the Foreign Ministry, and who is directly responsible for setting up the project, says in an interview with Calcalist. “Our policy-explanation achievements on the Internet today are impressive in comparison to the resources that have been invested so far, but the other side is also investing resources on the Internet. There is an endless array of pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets, rich with information and video clips that everyone can download and post on their websites. They are flooding the Internet with content from the Hamas news agency. It is a well-oiled machine. Our objective is to penetrate into the world in which these discussions are taking place, where reports and videos are published – the blogs, the social networks, the news websites of all sizes. We will introduce a pro-Israeli voice into those places. What is now going on in Iran is the proof of the need for such an operational branch,” adds Shturman. “It’s not like a group of friends is going to bring down the government with Twitter messages, but it does help to expand the struggle to vast dimensions.”
The missions: “monitoring” and “fostering discussions”
The Foreign Ministry intends to recruit youths who speak at least one foreign language and who are studying communications, political science or law, or alternatively those whose military background is in units that deal with information analysis. “It is a youthful language”, explains Shturman. “Older people do not know how to write blogs, how to act there, what the accepted norms are. The basic conditions are a high capacity for expression in English – we also have French- and Swedish-speakers – and familiarity with the online milieu. We are looking for people who are already writing blogs and circulating in Facebook”.
Members of the new unit will work at the Ministry (“They will punch a time card,” says Shturman) and enjoy the full technical support of Tahila, the government’s ISP, which is responsible for computer infrastructure and Internet services for government departments. “Their missions will be defined along the lines of the government policies that they will be required to defend on the Internet. It could be the situation in Gaza, the situation in the north or whatever is decided. We will determine which international audiences we want to reach through the Internet and the strategy we will use to reach them, and the workers will implement that on in the field. Of course they will not distribute official communiquיs; they will draft the conversations themselves. We will also activate an Internet-monitoring team – people who will follow blogs, the BBC website, the Arabic websites.”
According to Shturman the project will begin with a limited budget, but he has plans to expand the team and its missions: “the new centre will also be able to support Israel as an economic and commercial entity,” he says. “Alternative energy, for example, now interests the American public and Congress much more than the conflict in the Middle East. If through my team I can post in blogs dealing with alternative energy and push the names of Israeli companies there, I will strengthen Israel’s image as a developed state that contributes to the quality of the environment and to humanity, and along with that I may also manage to help an Israeli company get millions of dollars worth of contracts. The economic potential here is great, but for that we will require a large number of people. What is unique about the Internet is the fragmentation into different communities, every community deals with what interests it. To each of those communities you have to introduce material that is relevant to it.”
The inspiration: covert advertising on the Internet
The Foreign Ministry admits that the inspiration comes from none other than the much-reviled field of compensated commercial talkback: employees of companies and public-relations firms who post words of praise on the Internet for those who sent them there – the company that is their employer or their client. The professional responders normally identify themselves as chance readers of the article they are responding to or as “satisfied customers” of the company they are praising.
Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?
“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”
Test-firing in the Gaza War
According to Shturman, although it is only now that the project is receiving a budget and a special department in the Foreign Ministry, in practice the Ministry has been using its own responders since the last war in Gaza, when the Ministry recruited volunteer talkbackers. “During Operation Cast Lead we appealed to Jewish communities abroad and with their help we recruited a few thousand volunteers, who were joined by Israeli volunteers. We gave them background material and policy-explanation material, and we sent them to represent the Israeli point of view on news websites and in polls on the Internet,” says Shturman. “Our target audience then was the European Left, which was not friendly towards the policy of the government. For that reason we began to get involved in discussions on blogs in England, Spain and Germany, a very hostile environment.”
And how much change have you effected so far?
“It is hard to prove success in this kind of activity, but it is clear that we succeeded in bypassing the European television networks, which are very critical of Israel, and we have created direct dialogues with the public.”
What things have you done there exactly?
“For example, we sent someone to write in the website of a left-wing group in Spain. He wrote ‘it is not exactly as you say.’ Someone at the website replied to him, and we replied again, we gave arguments, pictures. Dialogue like that opens people’s eyes.”
Elon Gilad, a worker at the Foreign Ministry who coordinated the activities of the volunteer talkbackers during the war in Gaza and will coordinate the activities of the professional talkbackers in the new project, says that volunteering for talkback in defence of Israel started spontaneously: “Many times people contacted us and asked how they could help to explain Israeli policy. They mainly do it at times like the Gaza operation. People just asked for information, and afterwards we saw that the information was distributed all over the Internet. The Ministry of Absorption also started a project at that time, and they transferred to us hundreds of volunteers who speak foreign languages
and who will help to spread the information. That project too mainly spreads information on the Internet.”
“You can’t win”
While most of the net-surfers were recruited through websites like giyus.org, which was officially activated by a Jewish lobby [and has basically the same goal and modus operandi], in some cases is it was the Foreign Ministry that took the initiative to contact the surfers and asked them to post talkbacks sympathetic to the State and the government [of Israel] on the Internet and to help recruit volunteers. That’s how Michal Carmi, an active blogger and associate general manager at the high-tech placement company Tripletec, was recruited to the online policy-explanation team.
“During Operation Cast Lead the Foreign Ministry wrote to me and other bloggers and asked us to make our opinions known on the international stage as well,” Carmi tells Calcalist. “They sent us pages with ‘taking points’ and a great many video clips. I focussed my energies on Facebook, and here and there I wrote responses on blogs where words like ‘Holocaust’ and ‘murder’ were used in connection with Israel’s Gaza action. I had some very hard conversations there. Several times the Foreign Ministry also recommended that we access specific blogs and get involved in the discussions that were taking place there.”
And does it work? Does it have any effect?
“I am not sure that that strategy was correct. The Ministry did excellent work, they sent us a flood of accurate information, but it focussed on Israeli suffering and the threat of the missiles. But the view of the Europeans is one-dimensional. Israeli suffering does not seem relevant to them compared to Palestinian suffering.”
“You can never win in this struggle. All you can do is be there and express your position,” is how Gilad sums up the effectiveness so far, as well as his expectations of the operation when it begins to receive a government budget.
(*) “department for the explanation of Israeli policy” is a translation of only two words in the original Hebrew text: “mahleqet ha-hasbara” – literally, “the department of explanation”. Israeli readers require no elaboration. Henceforth in this article, “hasbara” will be translated as “policy-explanation”. It may also be translated as “public diplomacy” or “propaganda”.
The Ayatollah’s KEPT promises: on Camelia Entekhabifard’s “journalism” versus reality on Iran… again
Camelia Entekhabifard, a person of no doubt very high morals and sense of outrage and indignation at human rights abuses etc etc etc, has yet again published an article in the Huffpo proclaiming that “the mullahs” have failed to improve the living standards of Iranians as they promised. Where’s the free electricity we were promised!
But, here’s the reality: Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranians are living longer, better, healthier lives than ever, according to the UNDP.
I probably sound like a broken record repeating this over and over again.
So, this time, note something quite interesting about the three graphs for life expectancy, gross national income and education in the above linked website. Those things are the three major factors that are used to determine a country’s Human Development Index. Note that in the case of Iran, from 1980 to 2012, the education and life expectancy graphs massively improved yet the gross national income graph did not. In other words, even though not much new wealth was created, people are living much better lives. How does that happen?
Kevan Harris has an interesting explanation from his analysis of an earlier HDI report on Iran: “National wealth, especially for resource-rich countries like Iran, can often mask poor health and education. In Iran’s case, however, its improvements in health and education far outpace its economic growth, which has been sporadic over the past two decades. ‘The manner in which countries spend their wealth, not the wealth itself, is decisive,’ the new report explains.”
So, in other words, Iranians don’t live longer, better-educated lives just because the country got richer, as is the case with some other nations, since Iran didn’t get richer — rather, the improvements in health and education were the results of the manner the wealth was used: a policy of allocating limited resources to improving living standards. (which also begs the question, where were those resources going until the Revolution when the shift to improving living standards started?)
As the UNDP explains: “From a human development standpoint – during the period 1980-2012, Iran’s policy interventions were both significant and appropriate to produce improvements in human development.”
So, in the years since the Islamic Revolution, not only did Iran have the second-fastest rate of HDI improvement after China (Iran: 67%; China 70%) which was also more than double the world’s average rate of HDI improvement, and which resulted in things like a 22-year increase in lifespan in the course of a single generation (a generation is defined as 30 years) — all of this happened despite the fact that Iran did not get significantly richer in that same time period (and despite the war, the sanctions etc.)
This is an amazing fact. Of course this doesn’t mean that there aren’t other problems in Iran: While Iran is far from being Saudi Arabia or the Taliban, gender equality figures need improving (more than 6 women in Parliament!) And while absolute poverty in Iran (defined as people living on under $/2 day) is low, a sense of relative poverty is high because there’s a significant income inequality there as in the US. And that sense of relative poverty is what Ms Entekhabifard is appealing to.
But, 22 years of increased lifespan and a rate of HDI improvement that’s double the world average, still speak for themselves. The bottom line is that “the mullahs” not only improved living standards for Iranians after the revolution, but did so spectacularly, Mrs Entekhabifard. This is simply a statistical fact from the UNDP so don’t send me the hissing fits.
Israel is often viewed by Washington politicians as the most ‘stable’ ally in the Middle East. But stability from the American perspective can mean many things. Lead amongst them is that the ‘ally’ must be unconditionally loyal to the diktats of the US administration. This rule has proven to be true since the United States claimed a position of ascendency, if not complete hegemony over many regions of the world since World War II. Israel, however, remained an exception.
The rules by which US-Israeli relations are governed are perhaps the most bewildering of all foreign policies of any two countries.
An illustration of this would be to consider these comments by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon quoted in the Israeli news portal Ynetnews. “The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it’s written on,” he said, referring to efforts underway since July by American Secretary of State John Kerry, “who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor.” Kerry “cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians,” said Ya’alon.
So far, Kerry has made ten trips to the Middle East with the intention of hammering out an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Based on media reports, it seems that the potential agreement is composed in such a way that it mostly accommodates Israel’s ‘security’ whims and obsessions, including a proposal to keep eastern West Bank regions and the Jordan Valley under Israeli military control. In fact, there is growing interest in the idea of ‘land swaps” which was floated by Israel’s notorious Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman ten years ago.
“When Mr. Lieberman first proposed moving Arab-populated Israeli towns near the present border into Palestine in exchange for Jewish settlement blocs in the Palestinians’ West Bank being incorporated into Israel, he was branded a racist firebrand,” wrote the Economist on Jan. 18. “Liberals accused him of promoting the forcible ‘transfer’ plan, akin to ethnic cleansing, proclaimed by a rabbi, Meir Kahane, who vilified Arabs while calling for a pure Jewish state.”
Those days are long gone, as Israeli society drifted rightward. “Even some dovish Israeli left-wingers find such ideas reasonable.” Back then, the Americans themselves were irked, even if just publically, whenever such ideas of ‘population transfers’ and ethnic cleansing were presented by Israel’s ultra-right politicians. Now, the Americans find them malleable and a departure point for discussion. And it’s Kerry himself who is leading the American efforts to accommodate Israel’s endless list of demands – of security and racial exclusiveness even if at the expense of Palestinians. So why is Ya’alon unhappy?
The Defense Minister, who sat immediately next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Kerry, was unapologetic about his reasoning: “Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the River Jordan will endure.” It means unrelenting Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu is hardly an innocent bystander in all of this, although for diplomatic reasons he often entrusts his government minions to deliver such messages. The Prime Minister is busy issuing more orders to populate the occupied West Bank with Jewish settlements, and berating every government that rejects such insidious behavior as being anti-Israel, ‘pro-Palestinian’ or worse, anti-Semitic. This was the case again in recent days following another announcement of settlement expansion.
On Jan. 17, Netanyahu called on Europe to stop its “hypocrisy”. On the same day, Israel’s foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain, “accusing their countries of pro-Palestinian bias,” reported the BBC online. According to the ministry, the “perpetual one-sided stance” of these countries is unacceptable.
Yet, considering that Europe has supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories for decades, economically sustained the ‘Jewish state’ and its over 100 illegal Jewish settlements, and continue with its often unconditional military support of Israel, the accusations may appear strange and equally bewildering to that of Ya’alon against John Kerry.
How could a country the size of Israel have so much sway over the world’s greatest powers, where it gets what it wants and more, hurls regular insults against its sustainers, and still asks for more?
European countries found themselves in Israel’s firing line because a day earlier, the four EU countries took the rare step of summoning Israeli ambassadors to object to the Netanyahu government’s latest announcement of illegal settlement expansion (that of an additional 1,400 new homes). EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton even went to the extent of calling the settlements “an obstacle to peace”, although hardly an advanced position considering that Israel’s colonial project in Palestine has been in motion for 46 years.
But even that is too much from the Israeli point of view. “The EU calls our ambassadors in because of the construction of a few houses?” Netanyahu asked as if baffled by a seemingly foreboding act, in a Jan 16 press conference. He even had the audacity to say this: “This imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn’t advance peace,” and also this, “I think it pushes peace further away because it tells the Palestinians: ‘Basically you can do anything you want, say anything you want and you won’t be held accountable.”
There is no sense in arguing with Netanyahu’s strange logic, but the question regarding Israel’s stronghold over the US and EU remains more pressing than ever, especially when one considers the ruckus in US Congress. No, the congress is not revolting because of the unmitigated power of the Zionist lobby, but for something far more interesting.
There seems to be a level of confusion in US Congress because members of the Senate are yet to feel serious pressure by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over a bill that proposes more sanctions on Iran.
“The powerful pro-Israel lobby has not engaged in a shoe-leather lobbying campaign to woo wayward senators and push Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule a vote on the bill. While the group supports the bill — authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — it is not yet putting its political muscle behind a push for an immediate vote,” reported Politico, citing key senators and their aides.
To say the least, it is disturbing that the US Senate is completely bewildered that AIPAC, which lobbies for the interest of a foreign power, is yet to provide its guidelines regarding the behavior of America’s supposedly most respected political representatives.
“I don’t know where AIPAC is. I haven’t talked to anybody,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “I don’t know what they’re doing,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
This alone should shed some light on the seemingly bewildering question of the ‘strong bond’ and ‘stable’ alliance of Israel and the US – and to a lesser degree EU countries. This is not to suggest that Israel has complete dominance over US foreign policy in the Middle East, but to ignore Israel’s indispensable role in shaping the outlook of US foreign policy is dishonest and inconsistent with the facts, to put it mildly.
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London).
Ain el Helweh camp, Lebanon – It isn’t just the Zionist regime still occupying Palestine six decades after the Nakba; one can sense the carnivorous drooling from Tel Aviv to Amman, from Riyadh and the Gulf Kingdoms all the way to Washington DC and beyond—drooling and salivation over their project to promote tensions between the Palestinian Resistance and what is in some respects its historic offspring—Hezbollah.
The hostile forces gathered against the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah-Palestine Resistance alliance are reportedly hard at work on yet another scheme to weaken, and possibly destroy, all four. It won’t be easy, but it is a key game plan among those still seeking regime change in Syria.
Even as some of these governments deceptively play down their central goal of regime change in public, they appear to be fantasizing that by building up the Lebanese army—with a pledged $3 billion from Riyadh—that Lebanese troops can be induced to confront Hezbollah and its allies, this in what seems to be a “beat em or bleed em” strategy.
Patrick Cockburn, writing recently in the UK Independent and Counterpunch, gave a digest of anti-Shia hate propaganda being spread by Sunni religious figures, clerics financially backed by, and in some cases based in, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. Cockburn noted accurately that what is being painstaking laid is the groundwork for a sectarian civil war engulfing the entire Muslim world.
Efforts to egg on a confrontation between Palestinians and Hezbollah have increased over the past three months in Lebanon’s camps, stemming principally from some of the local Sunni and Christian power centers. Support is being seen for various “militia of the month” groups, those terrorizing the population of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Moreover, the Takfiri Al-Nusra Front leader Abou Mohammed al-Joulani insists his organization is active on Lebanese soil in order to help the Sunnis, including Palestinians, face the “injustice” of Shiite Hezbollah. “Lebanon’s Sunni are requesting that the mujahideen intervene to lift up the injustice they are suffering from at the hands of Hezbollah and similar militias,” he said recently in an interview on Al-Jazeera.
Shiite-populated areas across Lebanon have been the target of terror attacks even before Hezbollah entered the fighting on the side of the Syrian government in May 2013, but those terror attacks have intensified recently. Four car bombings have targeted southern Beirut in recent months, while a number of IED attacks have occurred in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.
The head of the Islamic Jihadist Movement in Ain al-Hilweh camp voiced fears on January 8 of a possible armed sectarian confrontation between Hezbollah and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon if the party did not revise its policies at home and in Syria. Sheikh Jamal Khattab told the Daily Star that should fighting erupt between Palestinians and Hezbollah the conflict could be even worse than the “war of the camps” (read: massacres) of the 1980s, when that conflict was not considered particularly sectarian. Today, says Sheikh Khattab, it would be different. Today it would be a Sunni vs. Shia war, with regional and international consequences, given the poisonous sea-change in sectarian relations since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In Ain al-Hilweh and other camps, posters of local men killed while fighting alongside Takfiri groups in Syria, or against U.S. troops in Iraq, are tacked up throughout the camp. Lebanese security sources claim that Palestinian Islamist groups in Ain al-Hilweh have all finalized preparations to for a possible conflict with the Hezbollah’s organized and trained “Resistance Brigades.” These organizations include Usbat al-Ansar, Jund al-Sham, Fatah al-Islam, and other Salafist groups, and supporters of the controversial fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, and rumors abound that some of these elements are being financed by certain of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states as well as some Lebanese pro-Western March 14 parties. Apparently the consideration among such groups and their sponsors is that conditions in Lebanon are ripe for an expanded war against “Shia infidels,” and reportedly plans are now in place to bring it here, with several groups that are now fighting in Syria pledging to widen the Sunni-Shia war into Lebanon.
For their part, some pro-Hezbollah groups and many Lebanese citizens are suspicious of possible Palestinian involvement in recent terror attacks in Dahiyeh and the recent bombing of the Iranian Embassy. In point of fact, one of the two suicide bombers who attacked the Iranian Embassy on November 17 was Mouin Abu Dahr, a known pro-Palestinian whose mother is a Shiite and his father a Sunni. Ain al-Hilweh of course has also been in the spotlight with the arrest of Majed al-Majed, the leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Majed is believed to have lived in the camp since 2012.
Clearly Israel and its new—as well as its longtime—allies seek a Sunni-Shia war, and the sooner the better. Also favored is a continuation of the Syria crisis for the reason that they consider Hezbollah to be squandering some of its best fighters and commanders and well as its weapons stores. Western Diplomats have spoken about US-Israeli hopes that Syria will be Hezbollah’s Achilles heel and Iran’s Vietnam, and Israeli media have commented on views by some officials that Hezbollah has shifted its attention toward Syria and away from the southern front with occupied Palestine.
Time will tell.
Hezbollah maintains it is using only five percent of its capacity to confront Israel, and according to one source close to the Resistance: Hezbollah has self-sufficiency when it comes to the missiles, strategic and non-strategic weapons. All these weapons are quite abundant. Any additional equipment will constitute a negative factor because there is no need for them. All the weapons that are manufactured by Iran or owned by Syria are also available for Hezbollah. The land forces and the Special Forces fighting in Syria have acquired a lot of practical and intelligence related experience and a force of maneuvering on the land. This experience will be used when the war with Israel begins again.
The Sunni and the Shia, just as with the Palestinians and Hezbollah, need each other for many reasons, including confronting growing Islamophobia, anti-Arab hate propaganda, and the deepening and broadening apartheid occupation of Palestine.
All must work to tamp down their differences publicly and privately while endeavoring to neutralize sectarian provocateurs, Sunni as well as Shia—domestic and regional as well as international—provocateurs that today are seeking internecine and sectarian violence in order to weaken both sects, and even all of Islam.
Ariel Sharon was a serial mass murderer, engaged in massacres of unarmed victims in four countries, of all ages and conditions. He was a “hero” for hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews who settled on land and in houses seized from Palestinians in the West Bank. He was praised by Western leaders at his funeral for his violent, lifelong opposition to Arab nationalist movements throughout the Middle East.
That he was a fanatical upholder of Jewish supremacist policies and practices did not go unnoticed by wealthy Zionist donors in the US. During his tenure as a senior official in numerous Israeli regimes, they contributed hundreds of millions of dollars for Greater Israel and extracted nearly a $100 billion more from the US Treasury. Israeli leaders praise of Sharon as a valiant, brilliant and legendary military leader is echoed in the US mass media and repeated by most Western leaders. He was, in the view of his US adulators, a powerful leader who defied world public opinion in his defense of Israel, who seized Palestinian and Syrian territory and who was willing to strike an independent policy even against Israel’s main benefactors in Europe and North America.
This essay does not simply recount Sharon’s lifelong criminal record. The story we will relate has more to do with (1) the crimes that continue to live after him; (2) the political and military context which allowed him to butcher non-Jewish populations with impunity; (3) the psychological core of Sharonist impudence and arrogance which is so deeply etched in the political psyche of all of Israel’s contemporary leaders.
This paper will critically address several issues regarding the Sharon cult (in Israel and abroad) which presents him as a fearless and successful military leader; a formidable world political statesman, who successfully imposed Israel’s will throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Genocide at the Service of Nationhood
Sharon’s record as a serial genocider is beyond dispute. As early as the ‘founding years’ of Israel in 1947 – 1948 Sharon was commander of the murderous Alexandroni and then the Golani Brigade which murdered, uprooted and terrorized thousands of lifelong Palestinian residents. He later was the commander of Unit 101, an Orwellian Death Squad, which reduced villages to rubble, blowing up homes, where mostly women and children were hiding. In October 1953, Sharon assaulted the Jordanian village of Qibya blowing up forty-five houses and killing sixty-nine civilians, the vast majority women and children. In the early 1950’s Sharon ruled over Palestinian settlements with an iron fist, murdering dissidents, arresting and torturing protestors on a mass scale. On October 29, 1956 Israeli, British and French troops invaded Egypt to seize the Suez Canal and recolonize the country. Colonel Sharon led the 202nd Paratroop Brigade which seized the Mitla Pass and covered himself with gore – murdering all the Egyptian military and civilian prisoners. The Israeli military advance was stopped cold despite its military alliance and supply from Britain and France. US President Eisenhower told the Israelis and their French and English allies to end their aggression and proceeded to cut off all military and economic aid to Israel; shut off IMF funding for England and France’s post WW II bankrupt economies. US Zionists used their leverage in the Democratic party especially over Lyndon Johnson, House Minority Leader, to block Eisenhower’s economic sanctions and to support Israel’s invasion. Eisenhower rejected Zionist pressure and went to the UN Security Council where his armistice and withdrawal proposal was vetoed by France and Britain. Eisenhower then called a special session of the General Assembly where he triumphed by a 12 to 1 margin. France, Britain and Israel were defeated and forced to retreat. No other President before or since Eisenhower ever took a forthright stand against Israeli colonial wars and territorial seizures.
During the Egyptian invasion, Sharon’s military leadership was severely questioned by his Israeli superiors. His troops suffered the highest casualties of any unit because of his order to attack heavily fortified Egyptian emplacements when Israeli air power could have done more with less.
During the so-called Six Day War (June 5 -10, 1967), Israel’s sneak attack on Jordan, Syria and Egypt, resulted in the seizure and occupation of vast areas and the conquest of millions of Palestinians. Sharon’s military achievements included the wholesale massacre of Egyptian prisoners of war. President Lyndon Johnson, totally under the thumb of his Zionist fundraisers, not only supported Israel’s war of aggression but acquiesced in Israel’s bombing of the US intelligence ship the Liberty and the killing and maiming of over 200 US sailors. In the 1973 Yom Kipper War, Sharon and the Israeli high command were on the verge of military defeat by the Egyptian and Syrian armed forces intent on liberating occupied territories, until Kissinger airlifted 22,395 tons of weapons to Israel, including scores of fighter planes, helicopters and transport planes to turn the tide.
From the Yon Kipper debacle onward, Israel never lacked for US military and political backing and diplomatic protection in its military invasions, colonial settlements and air assaults on Arab countries and inhabitants.
Upward Advance: Master of Massacres and Mediocrity
Sharon’s political career was aided by his leading role in massacring Palestinians in Lebanon and in the Occupied Territories. In Lebanon, Sharon slaughtered 2,000 women and children at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp. He certainly did not rise to political power for his mediocre performance during the Suez crises and Yon Kippur war. In fact, when Sharon faced well-trained and well-armed military forces, as was the case during the Hezbollah war in 2006, he was even less than a mediocre commander. Only against civilians and poorly trained irregulars did he “succeed”. Only where he could murder and dispossess hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians and settle Israeli Jews was he glorified as the “King of the Jews” by the Israeli settler population.
World leaders praise Sharon because of his power and usefulness in smashing nationalist Arab-dissent. Sharon’s ascent to the Pantheon of world statesman was greased by the western mass media, who to no small extent, sup at the table of his main Zionist benefactors. Sharon’s “legendary history” is media manufactured to fit the requirements of his western Zionist power brokers.
The Context of Sharon’s and Israeli Ascendancy
Israel cannot and does not wield power on the basis of its military capability or performance – it operates on borrowed power. When the US was ruled by a President who rejected Zionist influenced Congressional pressure and used available economic and political leverage, Israel retreated, surrendered captured territory and abided by UN sanctions. In other words, Israel’s war aims and its bellicose behavior, is dependent on the power of the Zionist power configuration in the US to turn Washington in its favor.
The Israeli leaders and most, especially Sharon, learned the lesson of the Eisenhower experience. The key to regional power lies in the capacity of American Zionists to control Washington’s decision-makers. In the blunt language of Sharon, in reply to Shimon Peres on Koi Yisrael radio (October 3, 2001) “Every time we do something, you (Peres) tell me, Americans will do this and that. I want to tell you something very clear. Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We the Jewish people control America and the Americans know it”.
In this, his comment on the relations of power between Israel and the United States, Sharon is also providing an insight into his own importance and influence. Sharon the “legendary military leader” is a complete artifact of the real power that the Zionists wield in the US on behalf of Israel.
Sharon is, in a sense, a “cardboard general” who has lost or nearly lost the most important battles in his career – beginning with Suez in 1956, Yom Kippur in 1973 and Lebanon in 2006. Israel has prospered economically and become a major military power largely through over $130 billion dollars transfered from the US Treasury over the past half century; plus tens of billions in favorable trade concessions; plus ‘imports’ of highly trained professionals from the US and Russia (educated by the tax payers of those countries); and more recently billions more in “venture capital” by overseas speculators. In other words, Israel is an artifact of the ‘power of extraction and transfer’ by its overseas acolytes embedded in the US political and economic power structure.
Without the influence and material privileges which have accumulated over four decades, Sharon would have ended his mediocre military career as a crabby second rate politician, barking “blood libels” at his adversaries in the Knesset.
But as circumstances dictated Sharon was not an insignificant figure. His brutal colonial policies reflected the Israel-Jewish political tradition and shaped what has become a dangerous ethno-supremacist ideology, which unfortunately has traversed across borders and entered into the consciousness of many Zionists.
It was one thing to joke, as many of us did in our university days, about the ghetto expression “Is it good for Jews?”. It is another for leaders in positions of power to apply this ethnocentric criteria to American foreign policy, personnel recruitment and professional appointments. That is the real legacy of Ariel Sharon: the legacy of an Israel -centered world built on ideology of ethno-religious supremacy which displays superiority and disdain for non-Jews. For the ethnic supremacists like Sharon, most Americans exist to pay tribute and fight wars for Israel and to keep a tight lip about it.
A Final Word on the Sharon Legacy
Let it be said, here and now, that Sharon’s presumption to speak for “the Jewish people” confused his rabid electoral supporters in Israel and blind adherents among US Zionist leaders, with a growing number of Jews and ex-Jews who detested him and scorn his legacy. His boast that “Jews control America” has dangerous implications, especially in the context of growing popular malaise in these United States. Sharon’s claim that Americans knowingly submit to a foreign tyranny, is very provocative especially if and when Americans begin to wake up— and it will be the majority of Jews, who neither abide by Sharon’s legacy nor share his naked contempt for non-Jews, who will pay a painful price.
The Sharon legacy lives on, among his epigones at the prestigious universities and with the billionaires who bankroll the Democratic Party. Sharon’s Israel First legacy lives on with the government officials who betray the trust of the American people and prostrate themselves before his present-day disciples (Klansmen with yarmulkes), the Avigdor Lieberman’s, Naftali Bennett’s and Netanyahu’s who execute the Sharon legacy of dispossession and assassination of unarmed Palestinian people. Ariel Sharon is dead but his crimes will not be buried. They live on in the policies of the Netanyahu regime but also in the collective memory of humanity in its struggle for freedom and self-determination.
Algeriepatriotique interviews Gilad Atzmon: “Dieudonné has proved to be resilient to Jewish nationalist terror”
Your fight against Zionism provokes critics against you in Israel and in the West. Your detractors conflate consciously between “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Semitism.” What is the difference between these two concepts?
Gilad Atzmon: “anti-Semitism” is a misleading notion that refers generally to criticism of Jews as ‘people’, ‘ethnicity’ or ‘race.’ Such criticism that is biologically driven hardly exists nowadays.
Anti-Zionism, is a different kind of fish — it refers broadly to criticism of the Jewish state, its politics, policies and ideology.
But the truth is that I do not fit in any of those categories. Although I criticize Israel harshly and more than often, I am actually interested in the true meaning of Jewish identity, culture, politics and ideology. I believe that as long as people operate politically under the Jewish banner we are entitled to question their motives, politics and philosophy. Israel defines itself as “The Jewish state,” hence, its Jewishness must be examined.
I am indeed critical of the Jewish state, but I am often also critical of Jewish Left and even the Jewish so-called ‘anti’-Zionists. I basically disapprove of all ‘Jews-only’ clubs, whether they are on the Left or the Right. I would argue that like Zionism and Israel, Jewish anti-Zionism is racially driven and Judeo-centric to the bone. It is primarily committed to Jewish tribal interests rather than to the Palestinian cause. In my book The Wandering Who I obviously produce enough evidence to support this claim.
Do You consider Zionists as the main cause behind the global financial crisis? How?
Not exactly, in The Wandering Who I contend that a financial bubble was created in the USA by the Federal Reserve in order to divert the attention from a military blunder in Iraq (a neocon Zionist war). But I actually argue that rather than a ‘conspiracy,’ the credit crunch was, in fact, an accident. The bubble burst unexpectedly…
We tend to believe that Zionism is limited to the colonization of Palestine in order to create a state there. Now, you say that it is “a global movement fed by a unique tribal solidarity”. What do you mean by “tribal solidarity”?
To start with, your terminology is slightly inaccurate. Zionism is not a colonial movement, in spite of the fact that many of us are using the term. Colonialism is defined as a material exchange between a mother state and a settler state. In the case of Zionism we can easily identify the ‘settler state’ but it is far more difficult to find or identify who is the ‘mummy’. Also the Jewish re-settlement in Palestine was spiritually and ideologically driven rather than being economically motivated.
However, with Jewish lobbies operating aggressively in most Western capitals (AIPAC, CFI, CRIF etc’), promoting global Zionist interests and advocating global wars against Iran and Syria, it is really impossible to avoid the fact that Zionism is now a global movement with global interests.
Tribal solidarity, in that respect, is also very easy to grasp. It refers to the vast support world Jewry lends to their national movement and tribally driven campaigns.
Could Zionism prevail creating “global conflicts,” as you say? In other words, why can’t Zionism pursue peace?
Because Jewish secular identity is defined by negation. The Godless political Jew (as opposed to the orthodox one) is defined by the animosity evoked in others. Jews need enemies and thus the continued existence of the Jewish state in the Middle East may lead to many more sectarian wars in the region in the future. But again it isn’t just Israel or Zionist politics. The Judification of the Palestinian ‘solidarity’ movement introduced us to vile witch-hunts consistent with the vile Jewish herem (excommunication) culture. In the last few years we have seen the UK PSC expelling activists and even Palestinians from its ranks. As I say above, Jewish politics is defined by negation, as such, it can only promote wars.
If Israel was created by the British capitalists to control oil production and transportation in the Middle East in the early twentieth century, how could Zionism take the West hostage several decades later? What led to this reversal of roles?
I don’t agree. Israel wasn’t created by the British Empire and oil wasn’t at all the logos behind the Balfour Declaration. This is a popular banal materialist Marxist fantasy that doesn’t hold water and is set to deceive.
Zionist lobbies managed to squeeze the Balfour declaration out of the British Empire at the peak of WWI promising to bring the USA into the war in return. Britain needed the USA to join the war effort in order to break the stalemate on the Western front. Promising Palestine to the Jews seemed a little price to pay. The Balfour Declaration in that regard was there to appease the American Germanic patriotic Jewish financial elite who were quick change their allegiance from Germany to Britain. The message is clear, the Jewish lobby in the USA was already amongst the most influential political bodies in the USA and Britain as early as 1917.
The Western media is resistant to any criticism of Zionism. Currently, Dieudonné is attacked from every possible side in France. How do you explain this relentlessness media and political onslaught against this comedian?
Dieudonné has proved to be resilient to Jewish nationalist terror. All attempts to destroy him achieved the opposite, it only helped him to refine his humour and criticism of Jewish power. By now Dieudonné has managed to expose the lethal continuum between the Jewish Lobby, the so-called Palestinian solidarity movement and the French imaginary ‘Left’ establishment. Is it really a surprise that the ‘socialist’ government that just a few weeks ago shamelessly attempted to jeopardize the negotiation with Iran in a desperate attempt to appease the Israeli government is now chasing a black comedian who refuses to subscribe to the primacy of Jewish suffering?
Unlike welded and well-organized Zionists, the anti-Zionist movements seem scattered. Why don’t the latter have a strong organization to fight this sprawling group that “kills in the name of Jewish suffering,” as you say?
The Zionification of the Palestinian solidarity movement, which I have been monitoring for more than a decade, is pretty much completed. It located Jewish tribal interests at the centre of the Palestinian struggle. Instead of caring for Palestine, solidarity organisations are now primarily concerned with the fight against ‘anti-semitism’. The Palestine solidarity movement is now operating as a controlled opposition. It is funded largely by liberal Zionists, such as George Soros and his Open Society Institute, who also funds the pro-Israeli Jstreet. The same Soros funds most Palestinian NGOs and even the BDS Movement. We are seeing the emergence of a little Palestine solidarity industry that is set to achieve nothing and is actually very good at it (achieving nothing).
But on the other hand, there are some very positive developments:
More and more people out there see the real picture. And I actually take some credit for it. More and more people are becoming sensitive to Jewish lobby activity and Zionist advocacy of global conflicts. More and more people grasp the role of the Left. They see the Guardian’s attempt to vindicate war criminal Sharon. In short, more and more people grasp that Palestine is here, in Paris, in London, in Athens and in Detroit.
As it stands, we are all Palestinians. The vast popular support of Dieudonne is a clear message to AIPAC, CRIF and CFI – beware, the party comes to an end. Enough is enough.
I would be very happy to see the Jewish lobby, both Zionist and the so-called ‘anti-’, coming to terms with the current change, but I doubt it. Being an avid reader of Jewish history and Left’s impotence, I predict that the Lobby will become more aggressive and I am really concerned with the inevitable consequences to Jews and the rest of us.
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States and we urge our readers to re-read a piece we wrote previously honoring his extraordinary insight. It is also the day on which implementation of the Joint Plan of Action that the P5+1 and Iran announced on November 24 formally commences. And, of course, two days from now, the Geneva II conference on the Syrian conflict is scheduled to take place.
In anticipation of the beginning of implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, negotiations on prospective “final” nuclear deal, and the Geneva II conference, Hillary taped an interview with Scott Horton for Pacifica Radio. It was broadcast/posted yesterday; click here to listen.
Regarding President Obama’s ongoing struggle with the Senate over Iran policy, Hillary cautions against premature claims of “victory” for the Obama administration’s efforts to avert new sanctions legislation while the Joint Plan of Action is being implemented. She points out that “the foes of the Iran nuclear deal, of any kind of peace and conflict resolution in the Middle East writ large, are still very strong and formidable. For example, the annual AIPAC policy conference—a gathering here in Washington of over 10,000 people from all over the country, where they come to lobby congressmen and senators, especially on the Iran issue—that will be taking place in very early March. There’s still a lot that can be pushed and played here.”
To be sure, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry “have put a lot of political capital on the line.” No other administration has so openly staked out its opposition to a piece of legislation or policy initiative favored by AIPAC and backed by a bipartisan majority on Capitol Hill since the 1980s, when the Reagan administration successfully defended its decision to sell AWACs planes to Saudi Arabia. But, Hillary notes, if the pro-Israel lobby is able to secure a vote on the new sanctions bill, and to sustain the promised veto of said bill by President Obama, “that would be such a dramatic blow to President Obama, and not just on his foreign policy agenda, but it would be devastating to his domestic agenda.” So Obama “has a tremendous amount to lose, and by no means is the fight anywhere near over.”
Of course, to say that Obama has put a lot of political capital on the line over the sanctions issue begs the question of whether he is really prepared to spend the far larger amounts of capital that will be required to close a final nuclear deal with Tehran. As Hillary points out, if Obama were “really trying to lead this country on a much more constructive, positive trajectory after failed wars and invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya—Libya entirely on President Obama’s watch—[he] would be doing a lot more, rather than just giving these lukewarm talks, basically trying to continue to kiss up to major pro-Israel constituencies, and then trying to bring in some of political favors” on Capitol Hill.
Compare Obama’s handling of Iran and other Middle East challenges to President Nixon’s orchestration of the American opening to China—including Nixon’s willingness to “break the crockery” of the pro-Taiwan lobby—and the inadequacy of Obama’s approach become glaringly apparent. And that, Hillary underscores, is why we wrote our book, Going to Tehran—because “we think it’s absolutely essential for President Obama to do what Nixon did and go to Tehran, as Nixon went to China,” for “the Middle East is the make-or-break point for the United States, not just in our foreign affairs but in our global economic power and what we’re able to do here at home. If we can’t get what we’re doing in the Middle East on a much better, more positive trajectory, not only will we see the loss of our power, credibility, and prestige in the Middle East, but we will see it globally.”
Getting the nuclear issue right is, arguably, just one piece of the project of realigning U.S.-Iranian relations—but it is a uniquely critical piece. As Hillary notes, in Iran, “they see reaching a nuclear deal with the United States as absolutely essential [to any prospect of broader realignment]—even though they absolutely believe it is a ‘show’ issue. For if they could get the United States to accept the Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear capability, this is the essential step to getting it to accept Iran as an independent, sovereign power.” Of course, that is something Western governments have been manifestly unwilling to do for decades, going back even decades before the 1979 Iranian Revolution. For the Iranians, “if they can get the United States to recognize their independence and sovereignty through this nuclear deal, recognizing Iran’s right to nuclear capability, that’s [how] you can open the way to go forward.”
But, “if negotiations with the United States fail, the thinking in Iran—and I was just there a couple of months ago—is that this will show both Iranians inside Iran and (this is critically important) countries like China, in other emerging markets…that Iran was the rational actor here. Iran tried its best to work within a framework of international law, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it was the United States, as it has treated key countries in the Middle East for decades, that was unwilling to work within the parameters of international law and to recognize basic sovereign and treaty rights. That’s their Plan B—if the United States can’t do the deal, they still come out ahead in terms of important actors both at home and abroad.”
On Syria, Hillary suggests that the growing Western focus on al-Qa’ida-like jihadis in opposition ranks obscures a much more important point—even if al-Qa’ida-like elements had not permeated the opposition, why does the United States think it should be supporting armed rebels to overthrow the recognized government of a UN member state? As Hillary recounts, “This didn’t work in Iraq (before al-Qa’ida was there; of course, now al-Qa’ida is there, after we said we had a dog in that fight), it didn’t work in Libya, it didn’t work in Afghanistan. The idea that when we choose to become involved in a fight, it’s going to turn out to help us is just not borne out by history, but we continue to make the mistake.”
As for an appropriate American approach to the Syrian conflict and other Middle Eastern challenges, Hillary says that the United States shouldn’t just “go home and essentially be isolationist. I believe very much in free trade, and I believe very much in diplomacy and conflict resolution. And there does need to be real conflict resolution in Syria.” In this regard,
“We have a real asset in Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy. He has worked on exactly these kinds of problems in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Somalia, in Haiti, and in Afghanistan, where I worked with him personally for about two years. And in each of those situations, he didn’t come up with a fantastic, Pollyanna government for each of these places. But he has a core formula [that] would really help to stop the destabilization and killing that we see in Syria, which is: you work with the sitting government, and you work with forces on the ground to gradually bring them into not a liberal democracy, but into a much more representative and inclusive power-sharing arrangement…You’re not going to get great ‘good governance,’ with no corruption and fantastic human rights treatment—but you will, over time, have a much more stable environment, where far fewer people are killed, and the opportunity for that country to politically reconstitute itself along its own lines, its own values, and its own position in the world.”
Hillary’s interview preceded the tragicomic antics surrounding UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s invitation to Iran to participate in Geneva II—which Ban spinelessly rescinded less than 24 hours later after tantrum-like outbursts from the Syrian National Council and (more consequentially) strategically witless (and utterly predictable) pressure from the Obama administration. Clearly, the Brahimi formula is not going to be given a chance to work in Syria anytime soon—but something like it will probably prove critical to any eventual political settlement to the conflict there.
In the interview, Hillary also discusses Iran’s internal political dynamics regarding a possible improvement in relations with the United States, the strategic incoherence of Israeli and Saudi opposition to any U.S. opening to the Islamic Republic, continuing Western mythmaking about Iran’s “nuclear weapons” program, and more.
Finally, as the Joint Plan of Action formally goes into effect, we want to call attention to two recent posts on Dan Joyner’s Arms Control Law that do an excellent job criticizing some of the more egregious distortions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and international law more generally that various American pundits have advanced in their bloviations about the Joint Plan. One, see here, lambastes Orde Kittrie’s assertion that the implementing agreement for the Joint Plan—not the Joint Plan itself, mind you, but the implementing agreement—is actually a secret treaty; the other, see here, takes on the chronically wrong Ray Takeyh. His latest missive, misrepresenting the Additional Protocol to the NPT, is co-authored by Mitchell Reiss, who appeared in advertisements publicly advocating for the MEK—many of whose advocates acknowledge receiving at least $20,000 per endorsement—while the U.S. government still designated it as a foreign terrorist organization.