A couple of days ago, I wrote about an article in The National Interest magazine by a visiting fellow at a pro-Israel think tank that argued that the United Arab Emirates may be violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act by its funding of ostensibly environmental anti-drilling films. As might be expected, Susan Schmidt’s piece entitled “Lobbying through the Silver Screen” appears to be part of a broader campaign by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to end America’s energy dependence on Israel’s recalcitrant neighbors.
On October 15, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) website published an op-ed piece by FDD senior fellow John Hannah tellingly entitled “How Oil Dependence Undermines America’s Effort to Stop the Iranian Bomb.” Citing the neocon-mentored Mitt Romney campaign promise of achieving “North American energy independence,” Hannah goes on to argue that dependence on Middle East oil not only endangers U.S. economic security but also serves as a constraint on its strategic freedom of movement in the region. “Concerns about oil prices,” claims Hannah, “have often badly distorted U.S. policy toward the Middle East.” As the title of his piece suggests, however, the “distortion” that most troubles the FDD is how this energy dependence makes Washington think twice before doing Israel’s bidding in the region:
The most acute example is the effort to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. U.S. policymakers have long known that the most effective step we could take against the mullahs is to cut off Iran’s oil sales and starve them of the enormous revenues they need to keep their repressive regime afloat. Yet for years, first President Bush and then President Obama fiercely resisted sanctioning the Islamic Republic’s petroleum sector. The reason? Because they quite legitimately feared that removing Iranian crude from the market would disrupt global supplies and trigger a devastating price shock. Only in late 2011, with Iran rapidly approaching the nuclear threshold, did Congress finally steamroll the administration by forcing through legislation that targeted Iranian oil.
Even then, implementation of the sanctions was watered down. The administration was given a six-month grace period to assess the possible impact that sanctions would have on the global oil market. And rather than demanding that customers of Iranian oil end their purchases entirely, countries were granted waivers from U.S. sanctions if they only “significantly reduced” their buy — which in practice required them to cut back between 15 and 20 percent. While the U.S. effort, together with complimentary EU sanctions, have no doubt had a major effect on Iran’s economy — reducing its oil exports by as much as 50 percent — a full embargo would have been far more impactful and the obvious course of action for Washington to pursue if not for the countervailing concern about oil markets. In the meantime, the Iranian regime continues to pocket perhaps $3 billion per month from the million or so barrels of oil that it still exports daily, all the while pressing ahead with its nuclear program.
America doesn’t have a higher national security priority than stopping the world’s most dangerous regime from going nuclear. And yet the sad reality is that our dependence on oil has for years, and to our great peril, systematically deterred us from fully deploying the most powerful tool in our arsenal — all-out sanctions on Iran’s petroleum sector — for resolving the crisis peacefully. Not surprisingly, that underlying logic applies in spades when it comes to any discussion about the possible use of force against Iran, where predictions of oil spiking to an economy-crippling $200 per barrel are commonplace.
The fact that our oil vulnerability has put such severe constraints on our freedom-of-maneuver to address the most pressing national security threat we face is deeply troubling.
Fortunately, there is a solution to the think tank’s concerns about U.S. “freedom” to address what it and other pro-Israel groups have worked so hard to convince Americans is their latest “most pressing national security threat.” As Hannah points out, “the United States is experiencing an oil and gas boom that promises to transform our energy landscape in very fundamental ways”:
Thanks to American ingenuity and technology, U.S. production is poised to increase dramatically over the next decade, after years of steep decline. As Governor Romney has correctly emphasized, through close cooperation with democratic allies in Canada and Mexico, the goal of energy self-sufficiency for North America may well be within reach — an unthinkable prospect just a few years ago, and one whose benefits in terms of job creation and economic growth could be quite profound.
Presumably more important — at least from a pro-Israel perspective — than the “potential economic windfall” for Americans is, as Hannah puts it, “how we can best exploit the coming energy boom to really enhance U.S. national security.” For him, enhancing U.S. security seems to be synonymous with going to war with Iran — notwithstanding the view of more objective analysts that this would seriously, if not fatally, exacerbate American insecurity. Nevertheless, according to the FDD fellow, the major obstacle to this supposedly security-enhancing military action are fears that it would lead to rocketing oil prices. To remove this problematic impediment in the way of another war for Israel, Hannah proposes:
It seems that what really needs to be part of the mix is a viable, bipartisan, market-driven strategy for reducing the monopoly that oil has over our transportation sector. If a sensible way could be found to begin moving some significant portion of U.S. cars and trucks to run on cheaper, domestically produced alternative fuels — natural gas, methanol, electric — it would largely eliminate the sword of Damocles that Middle Eastern tyrannies like Iran now hold over the West’s economic wellbeing and its strategic decision-making. That would put us on the path toward true energy independence, and restore to the United States a degree of flexibility, leverage, and strength to pursue its interests and values abroad, especially in the Middle East, that we have not known for at least a generation.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the task ahead, Hannah is cautiously optimistic:
Perhaps once the upcoming election is over, a new administration will be prepared to look seriously at developing a bipartisan, comprehensive energy strategy that both fully exploits America’s new oil and gas bonanza while taking meaningful steps to reduce our vulnerability to extortion by hostile, repressive dictatorships in unstable parts of the world.
And as luck would have it, there is already “one place that a new president should definitely look to mobilize ideas as well as political support.” Explains the FDD fellow:
Securing America’s Future Energy (an organization that I’m proud to advise), [...] has brought together an extraordinary group of American business and military leaders to highlight both the economic as well as national security dangers posed by our dependence on oil, and to recommend possible solutions. Co-chaired by Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx and General P.X. Kelley, former commandant of the Marine Corps, the group includes such luminaries as General Jack Keane, former vice chief of the Army; Admiral Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence; David Steiner, CEO of Waste Management; Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines; and John Lehman, former undersecretary of the Navy.
So there you have it. America’s energy dependence on the Jewish state’s regional rivals may soon by a thing of the past thanks to the ingenuity of the new environmentally-friendly Israel lobby.
- Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA (Aletho News)
Depending on the outcome of initiatives in three states, a confrontation awaits between the U.S. Department of Justice and advocates for legalizing marijuana.
On November 6, voters in Colorado, Washington and Oregon will decide whether to legalize and tax marijuana sales. If one or more of the measures passes, and President Barack Obama is reelected, expect the Justice Department to take action to stop any state from decriminalizing the popular herb.
In an outtake in a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole proclaimed that the federal government is prepared to stop any “dangers” associated with state-sanctioned recreational pot.
“We’re going to take a look at whether or not there are dangers to the community from the sale of marijuana and we’re going to go after those dangers,” Cole told the television news magazine.
A crackdown on drug legalization would follow other efforts by the Obama administration to shutdown medical marijuana dispensaries operating within state law in California and elsewhere.
If Mitt Romney wins the presidential election, he would probably take the same position as Obama, having stated that marijuana is a “gateway drug” and that he would fight legalization “tooth and nail.”
To Learn More:
Oakland Sues Obama Administration over Loss of Tax Revenue Due to Medical Marijuana Crackdown(by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Obama Administration Steps Up Attack on Legal Marijuana with Threat to Growers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
On Monday evening, the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will focus primarily on foreign policy. Needless to say, the issue of the Iranian nuclear program will feature prominently. While both the Democratic and Republicantickets are quick to employ bellicose rhetoric and myriad falsehoods regarding the issue, a quick review of the candidates’ stated positions shows a slight difference between the two parties.
Taking into account the conclusions of U.S., European and Israeli intelligence agencies, President Obama explained earlier this year that “our assessment, which is shared by the Israelis, is that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt.”
Vice President Joe Biden made the same point during his debate with Romney running mate Paul Ryan. ”The Israelis and the United States,” he said, “our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon. They are a good way away. There is no difference between our view and theirs.” Biden went on: “There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon.”
Meanwhile, both Republican candidates have repeated the claims that Iran is now closer than ever to having a nuclear weapon. On October 11, 2012, Paul Ryan declared during the vice presidential debate, ”When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material — nuclear material to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They’re racing toward a nuclear weapon. They’re four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability.”
Five days later, on October 16, 2012, Mitt Romney repeated that formulation, warning the town hall debate audience in Hempstead, Long Island, “We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb.”
This talking point will surely be repeated on Monday in Boca Raton.
It should also be remembered when the Israeli Prime Minister stood before the Knesset and declared:
“Iran is in the initial stages of an effort to acquire non-conventional capability in general, and nuclear capability in particular. Our assessment is that Iran today has the appropriate manpower and sufficient resources to acquire nuclear arms within 10 years. Together with others in the international community, we are monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity. They are not concealing the fact that the possibility that Iran will possess nuclear weapons is worrisome, and this is one of the reasons that we must take advantage of the window of opportunity and advance toward peace.”
That address was given in January 1993 by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Just as Iran didn’t have nuclear weapons ten years later, it still doesn’t as 2013 approaches.
It has been nearly two years (22 months, really) since I published “The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran’s Nuclear Program,” a timeline of constant U.S., Israeli, and European assertions regarding the supposed inevitability and immediacy of a nuclear-armed Iran – hysterical allegations that have been made repeatedly for the past thirty years, none of which has ever come true.
Subsequently, over fifty updates – cataloging new alarmist claims and predictions – have been added to the original piece (they can be read here) and a more extensive follow-up was posted in November 2011.
With a renewed spate of relentless warmongering, regurgitated propaganda by U.S. and Israeli officials, and endless talk of red lines, deadlines, end zones, zones of immunity, windows of opportunity and points of no return, it’s time for another update.
So, culled from the last eleven months, this never-ending saga continues:
Following a lengthy and thoroughly-overhyped IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program in November 2011, the media was filled with howls of imminent Iranian atomic bombs and the need to carry out an illegal, unprovoked military attack on Iran.
A Washington Post opinion piece by members of the hawkish Bipartisan Policy Center on November 7, 2011 claimed that, “if it chooses, Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in just 62 days using its existing stockpiles and current enrichment capability,” but also stated the timeline could be even shorter. “Once Iran acquires more than 150 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent — which could happen by early 2013 if Iran’s announced plans are realized,” Stephen Rademaker and Blaise Misztal wrote, “it would need only 12 days to produce enough fissile material for a bomb.”
On November 8, 2011, Simon Henderson of the AIPAC-affiliated Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) suggested “the IAEA report should serve to shift the public debate from whether Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, to how to stop it,” while career mouthpiece for the Israeli government Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote in Bloomberg View that the report offered “further proof that the Iranian regime is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.”
A November 9, 2011 editorial in The Guardian noted that, as usual, the latest “flurry of leaks” about the Iranian nuclear program “tend[s] to suggest, without being able to absolutely prove, that Tehran is working to acquire nuclear weapons capacity.” Undaunted by this absence of evidence, the British paper concluded that, not only is it “time to drop the pretence that Iran can be deflected from its nuclear path,” but that “[i]t really is time for Iran to drop the pretence that it is not on that path.”
Furthermore, editorials in both the The New York Times (“The Truth About Iran“) and The Washington Post (“Running Out of Time“) endorsed the IAEA’s insinuations without the slightest hint of skepticism or scrutiny. The Times claimed that without “a new round of even tougher sanctions…Iran will keep pushing its nuclear program forward,” while the Post, drawing conclusions that are actually rejected by the IAEA itself, stated the latest report ”ought to end serious debate about whether Tehran’s program is for peaceful purposes,” and warned that “the danger is growing, not diminishing,” suggesting Iran is “at least a year or more away from completing” a bomb.
The same day, November 9, 2011, analysts for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments stated, “Iran might have both the technology and material to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months” and recommended that “Obama should take out Iran’s nuclear program…before it’s too late.”
Columnist Carlo Strenger, also writing on November 9, 2011 in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, claimed that the IAEA report “confirmed Israel’s and the Western World’s fears: there can be no reasonable doubt that Iran is working actively towards the atomic bomb.” Even Ha’aretz‘s most rational and articulate commentator Gideon Levy fell for the hype, lamenting in his column, “Iran will apparently have an atom bomb, and that is very bad news.”
On November 10, 2011, a Ha’aretz editorial declared, “The [latest IAEA] report clearly shows that Iran carried out tests which cannot be interpreted in any way other than as signaling an intent to develop nuclear weapons,” while t he same day, The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece by then-GOP nomination hopeful Mitt Romney (though certainly written by the war-crazy cabal known as his “foreign policy team“) which stated, “Iran is making rapid headway toward its goal of obtaining nuclear weapons.”
Also on November 10, 2011, former Director of Policy Planning in the Obama State Department and current Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter opined that the IAEA report “affirms what western governments already know or believe: that for all the sanctions and diplomacy, Iran continues to make steady progress toward producing a nuclear weapon.”
On November 11, 2011, contributing columnist for The New York Times Magazine and ForeignPolicy.com James Traub lamented, “Neither Bush nor Obama has stopped Iran from pursuing a goal to which Iranian leaders are single-mindedly dedicated,” adding that “Iran has been seeking for years to develop a nuclear warhead and is continuing to do so.” Traub continued: “Iran is still enriching uranium and is now estimated to have enough to produce four bombs.”
The Wall Street Journal published its own editorial on November 14, 2011, claiming that the new IAEA report “lays to rest the fantasies that an Iranian bomb is many years off” and insisted that “[t]he serious choice now before the Administration is between military strikes and more of the same. As the IAEA report makes painfully clear, more of the same means a nuclear Iran, possibly within a year.”
In truth, as acknowledged by Greg Thielmann and Benjamin Loehrke in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:
Most analysts familiar with the report agree that there “is nothing in the report that was not previously known by the governments of the major powers” — a nuclear Iran is “neither imminent nor inevitable.” While it is clear that Iran’s continuing research on nuclear weapons is a serious concern for international security, there “has been no smoking gun when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons intentions.”
Nevertheless, Jerusalem-based right-wing conspiracy theory website DEBKAfile released a new prediction in mid-November 2011. “According to the briefing given to a closed meeting of Jewish leaders in New York…the window of opportunity for stopping Iran attaining a nuclear weapon is closing fast” and “will shut down altogether after late March 2012,” the report said. Why? Because “intelligence reaching US President Barak Obama is that by April, Iran will already have five nuclear bombs or warheads and military action then would generate a dangerous level of radioactive contamination across the Gulf region, the main source of the world’s energy.”
On November 20, 2011, CNN aired an interview in which Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Fareed Zakaria that Iran would reach a “zone of immunity” within six to nine months, at which point its nuclear infrastructure would be redundant, dispersed and protected enough to be invulnerable to an attack. Misunderstanding Barak’s allegation, Israeli media outlet Ha’aretz ran the alarming headline “Iran less than a year away from producing nuclear weapon” in anticipation of the broadcast.
Two days later, during a CNN debate between Republican presidential candidates sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation, two neoconservative bellwether organizations, AEI’s Danielle Pletka stated that “Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon” before asking whether anything short of a military assault “could stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
On December 19, 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, when asked by CBS News anchor Scott Pelley whether “Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012,” replied, “It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less,” but added a “proviso” that, “if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel,” the timeline to developing a nuclear weapon would be “on a faster track.” The Pentagon quickly walked back the assertion.
On December 31, 2011, The Wall Street Journal quoted Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti telling reporters, ”There is strong concern on the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program reaching a point of nonreturn and the strategy, which Italy agrees with, is the urgency to strengthen instruments of pressure on Iran.”
In the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, Matthew Kroenig, a former defense and Iran policy strategist for U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, published a call for the United States to launch an unprovoked and wholly illegal attack on Iran, citing Institute for Science and International Security “estimates that Iran could now produce its first nuclear weapon within six months of deciding to do so.”
On January 4 and January 6, 2012, Reuters reporter Fredrik Dahl wrote that “Western experts give different estimates of how quickly Iran could assemble a nuclear weapon if it decides to do so – ranging from as little as six months to a year or more.”
On January 8, 2012, Defense Secretary Panetta told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that the United States will take all necessary measures to make sure Iran “cannot continue to do what they’re doing,” adding, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us.”
On January 9, 2012, David Sanger of The New York Times noted, “Already Iran has produced enough fuel to manufacture about four weapons, but only if the fuel goes through further enrichment, nuclear experts say.”
The following day, January 10, 2012, the Times of London claimed that a recent Israeli security report revealed “Israel is preparing for Iran to become a nuclear power and has accepted it may happen within a year.”
On January 11, 2012, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman issued a joint press release that stated, “Despite the increased sanctions put in place over the last several years, the American people should have no illusions: time is now quickly running out to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.” The statement called upon Congress to officially rule out “containment” as a policy option “should economic and diplomatic pressure fail to force Iran to abandon its pursuit of acquiring nuclear weapons.”
On January 12, 2012, retired U.S. General Barry McCaffrey delivered a briefing to senior executives and producers at NBC News in which he determined that Iran “will not under any circumstances actually be deterred from going nuclear” and predicted that it “will achieve initial nuclear capability within 36 months.” He also concluded that, not only will Iran instigate a major war against the United States, it will acquire “a nuclear capability of dozens of weapons within 60 months with the missile and fighter delivery systems required to strike targets in Israel, the GCC states, and regional US military forces.”
On January 13, 2012, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney asserted on Fox and Friends that Iran (which she accidentally called “Iraq”) was merely “months, not years, away” from enriching enough uranium needed for a nuclear weapon.
On January 16, 2012, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal published a dazzlingly Orientalist and bloodthirsty article entitled “The Intrigues of Persia,” which praised the then-recent murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, claiming – without providing evidence, of course – he “was engaged in building a nuclear bomb in violation of four binding U.N. Security Council resolutions.” The piece also described the Iranian government as an “evil regime” and insisted “the mullahs…are building a bomb,” the success of which is now “closer than ever.”
A blockbuster article by Ronen Bergman, senior political and military analyst for the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, published in The New York Times on January 25, 2012, quotes Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon (who is also Minister of Strategic Affairs) as saying, “Our policy is that in one way or another, Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped. It is a matter of months before the Iranians will be able to attain military nuclear capability.” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak tells Bergman that “no more than one year remains to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weaponry.”
Bergman also writes, “According to latest intelligence, Iran now has some 10,000 functioning centrifuges, and they have streamlined the enrichment process. Iran today has five tons of low-grade fissile material, enough, when converted to high-grade material, to make about five to six bombs,” and adds, “It is believed that Iran’s nuclear scientists estimate that it will take them nine months, from the moment they are given the order, to assemble their first explosive device and another six months to be able to reduce it to the dimensions of a payload for their Shahab-3 missiles, which are capable of reaching Israel.”
Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, stated on January 25, 2012, “Never has it been so clear Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Now is the time to act. Tomorrow is too late. The stakes are too high. The price of inaction is too great.” Prosor also declared that “Tehran’s efforts to enrich uranium to 20 percent-levels at its reactor in Qom could serve no other plausible aim other than to develop an atomic bomb,” despite the fact that such enrichment is known to be used in the creation of medical isotopes that treat cancer patients.
On January 26, 2012, Reuters reporter Frederik Dahl wrote, “The IAEA issued a detailed report in November that laid bare a trove of intelligence suggesting Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability,” and added that “some experts say” Iran “could have the potential to build at least one nuclear device as early as next year.”
On the January 29, 2012 edition of 60 Minutes, Defense Secretary Panetta again addressed the Iranian nuclear program. “The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb,” he said, “and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon.”
At the same time, Israeli military chief Benny Gantz said he had “no doubt” Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and Defense Minister Barak warned, “We must not waste time on this matter; the Iranians continue to advance, identifying every crack and squeezing through. Time is urgently running out.”
On February 2, 2012, Director of Israeli Military Intelligence Major General Aviv Kochavi told a panel at the Herzliya Conference that “Iran is vigorously pursing military nuclear capabilities and today the intelligence community agrees with Israel on that” and assessed that “Iran has enough nuclear material for four bombs.” Kochavi said, “We have conclusive evidence that they are after nuclear weapons,” adding, “When Khamenei gives the order to produce the first nuclear weapon – it will be done, we believe, within one year.”
On February 17, 2012, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom announced on MSNBC, “Everyone now knows most of the world, if not all the world, knows the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear bomb. It’s out of the question. They have all the proof. Everyone knows the security and intelligence of the western world knows very well the Iranians are developing a nuclear bomb, and they should be stopped.”
On February 23, 2012, The Los Angeles Times‘ Ken Dilanian wrote that, although “U.S. intelligence agencies don’t believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb,” David Albright’s Institute for Science and International Security estimates Iran “could enrich uranium to sufficient purity to make a bomb in as little as six months, should it decide to do so.” The article also states that “Albright and many other experts believe that if it decides to proceed, the country has the scientific knowledge to design and build a crude working bomb in as little as a year” and that it would take three years “for Iran to build a warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile.”
On March 5, 2012, David Albright’s Institute for Science and International Security released a report claiming that “Iran is already capable of making weapon-grade uranium and a crude nuclear explosive device” and cataloging the different routes Iran might take to obtain a nuclear weapon by 2015.
On March 6, 2012, Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies wrote that “Iran already is nuclear capable” and “has everything it needs to be able to manufacture a nuclear weapon. All it would take is a political decision and time.”
The next day, on March 7, 2012, Israeli Prime Minister was interviewed on Fox News by Greta van Susteren, who asked “What’s the timeline? How much time do we have?” Netanyahu replied, “Every day that passes makes it closer and closer.” When van Susteren pressed, “Is it weeks, months, or years?,” the Israeli leader declared, “It was a lot further away 15 years ago when I started talking about it. It was a lot further away 10 years ago. It was a lot further away five years. It was a lot further away five months ago. They are getting there, and they are getting very, very close.”
On March 18, 2012, an Associated Press report noted Israeli concerns that the Iranian nuclear program may be allowed “to reach the point where there is enough enriched weapons grade material that a bomb could quickly be assembled, within a year.”
Five days later, on March 23, 2012, AP published a “Special Report” that laid bare the hysteria over the Iran nuclear program. “The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran’s nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead,” AP stated plainly. “Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.”
Nevertheless, on April 5, 2012, Ehud Barak told Fareed Zakaria on CNN that, with regard to the goal of stopping Iran’s “nuclear military program,” Israel has “limited time. We don’t have to make a decision next week and we cannot wait years.”
On May 7, 2012, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stated in an interview with CBC that Iran could “very quickly” produce a nuclear weapons if it so desired. After compiling “all the ingredients” for a bomb, Baird suggested, “they could certainly dash to the end which could be done in as few as nine or as many as 18 months.”
On May 10, 2012, career warmonger Marc Theissen insisted that “Iran is determined to obtain a nuclear weapon” and claimed that “made more progress toward this goal in the past three years under Obama than it has in the three decades since the Iranian Revolution.” He condemned the incumbent administration’s handling of the Iranian nuclear issue, claiming, “Before Obama took office, Iran needed months to make a dash to a bomb. Today, it could make that dash in a matter of weeks.” Theissen concluded that “the Iranian regime has developed a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability on President Obama’s watch” and that “Iran is closer than ever to building a nuclear bomb.”
On May 25, 2012, David Albright and his staff at ISIS calculated that Iran had already stockpiled enough 3.5% low enriched uranium that “if further enriched to weapon grade” could “make over five nuclear weapons.”
In the May/June 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, USC professor Jacques E. C. Hymans pointed out that despite the “underlying assumption” that, unless challenged violently, Iran will soon acquired nuclear weapons, “there is another possibility.” Hymans explains, “The Iranians had to work for 25 years just to start accumulating uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is not even weapons grade. The slow pace of Iranian nuclear progress to date strongly suggests that Iran could still need a very long time to actually build a bomb — or could even ultimately fail to do so.”
A veritable who’s-who of warmongering neocons including Elliott Abrams, Matthew Kroenig and Ray Takeyh published a monograph in June 2012 entitled, “Iran: The Nuclear Challenge,” which states, “Nongovernment experts believe that if Iran made the decision to enrich to a higher level today, it could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in four months. The same experts estimate that by the end of 2012 the time might be as little as one month…Extrapolating from these estimates leads to public estimates that it would take Iran about a year to produce such a nuclear weapon if it decided to do so.”
On June 15, 2012, David Albright and crew were back with a new assessment of Iran’s breakout capabilities, reporting that “Iran will have enough [19.75% low enriched uranium] by early next year, if further enriched to weapon-grade in a breakout, for a nuclear weapon,” but adding that “it could have enough…for a nuclear weapon by the end of 2012.” Albright also concludes, “Production of enough for a second nuclear weapon would take many additional months,” estimating Iran “would have enough for a second weapon in about October 2013. By November 2015, Iran would have enough for three to almost five nuclear weapons.”
In late June 2012, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying, “In my judgment…if nothing will be done about it, within several years Iran will turn nuclear.”
On July 13, 2012, the British press quoted Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, Britain’s international espionage agency, as telling a gathering of civil servants that without risks taken by his intelligence operatives, “you’d have Iran as a nuclear weapons state in 2008, rather than still being two years away in 2012.”
On August 3, 2012, RAND policy analyst Alireza Nader stated the obvious: “According to the U.S. intelligence community, the Iranian leadership hasn’t even made the decision to weaponize their program. They’ve been creating the technical know-how and the infrastructure, but they haven’t made that decision, and there is much more time than the Israelis portray there to be. I don’t think an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is inevitable or imminent.”
On August 5, 2012, Israeli daily Ynet reported that Netanyahu estimates that “Iran is a few months away from becoming nuclear,” quoting the Prime Minister as predicting, “The time frame isn’t measured in days or weeks, but not in years either.”
On August 24, 2012, The Los Angeles Times stated, “At its current pace, by next year Iran may be able produce enough fuel for a bomb within two months,” according to timeline favorite David Albright. The report continues, “Fairly soon after that, as Iran continues to add to its centrifuge capacity, the time will be reduced to one month, he said in an interview. ‘You will see much shorter breakout times coming into play early next year or late this year,’ he said, referring to the time Iran would need should it choose to rush to build a nuclear weapon. ‘You have this growing enrichment capability that starts to get the breakout down to an order of a month.’”
On September 4, 2012, former director of the CIA Michael Hayden told Ha’aretz, ““While it is probably true that the so-called ‘window’ regarding effective action is closing, there is still some time, as real decisions are to be made in 2013 or 2014.”
On September 7, 2012, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that if Iranian leaders “decide to do the dash” for nuclear weapons, it could take a s little as “four weeks to eight weeks” for Iran to acquire an atomic bomb. Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence analysts believe it would “take a little longer than that,” Rogers said. “But the problem is nobody really knows for sure.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking on CBS‘ “This Morning” on September 11, 2012, said that, were Iran to make the decision to develop a nuclear weapon, the U.S. would have “roughly about a year right now” to take action to halt such a process. “A little more than a year. And so…we think we will have the opportunity once we know that they’ve made that decision, take the action necessary to stop [them],” Panetta revealed, adding that the U.S. has “pretty good intelligence” on Iran. “We know generally what they’re up to,” he said. “And so we keep a close track on them.”
The same day, Associated Press reported, according to unnamed “diplomats,” that the IAEA “has received new and significant intelligence over the past month that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon.”
In mid-September 2012, a bipartisan report spearheaded by William Luers, Austin Long, Thomas Pickering and Colin Kahl and endorsed by over thirty former government officials and security experts, including General Anthony Zinni, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Brent Scowcroft, Dick Armitage, Leslie Gelb, Admiral James Fallon, Admiral Joe Sestak, Anne Marie Slaughter, Chuck Hagel, Paul Volcker, Lee Hamilton, Zbigniew Brezinski, Nicholas Burns, and Joe Cirincione, determined, “Conservatively, it would take Iran a year or more to build a military-grade weapon, with at least two years or more required to create a nuclear warhead that would be reliably deliverable by a missile.”
On September 14, 2012, deputy speaker of the Knesset Danny Danon wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times advocating an illegal military attack on Iran, claiming that Iran is “developing its nuclear program at an alarming rate.”
On a September 16, 2012 Sunday morning panel, ABC News reporter Brian Ross claimed that Iran was “four to six weeks away” from acquiring a nuclear weapon, “if they made the decision to do it.” Ross justified his assessment by adding, “That’s some of the intelligence.” In response, Christiane Amanpour countered, “That has been so vastly disproved. Others say that it could be a year. So, this is a guessing game that has gone on for years.”
The same day, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said on Face the Nation that, while “Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon,” there is only “perhaps six months” before it achieves that capability, leading him to predict that “2013 is going to be a year in which we’re going to have a military confrontation with Iran.”
Also that day, September 16, 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared on CNN, warning that Iran “moving very rapidly to completing the enrichment of the uranium that they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so they’ll be 90 percent of the way there.”
On September 24, 2012, Israeli UN representative Ron Prosor issued a condemnatory statement about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which read, in part, “Three thousand years of Jewish history illustrate the clear danger of ignoring fanatics like Iran’s president, especially as he inches closer to acquiring nuclear weapons.”
On September 25, 2012, PBS correspondent Margaret Warner remarked that Iran has “so much uranium they can break out in a matter of weeks or months and make a weapon.”
On September 26, 2012, Iran attack enthusiast John Bolton opined, “Tehran is perilously close to achieving nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for worldwide delivery,” stating that the nuclear program is “far too advanced” to be stopped by anything other than a military assault. “And because the world’s intelligence on Iran is imperfect,” Bolton added, “Iran may be even closer to a nuclear bomb than we think.”
The next day, September 27, 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu descended upon the United Nations General Assembly, cartoon bomb diagram in tow. He bellowed that Iran is “70 percent of the way” to stockpiling enough enriched uranium needed for a nuclear bomb. “And by next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
On October 2, 2012, Reuters‘ Frederik Dahl posted an extensive run-down of current assessments regarding the Iranian nuclear program. “Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium for several atomic bombs if refined to a high degree but it may still be a few years away from being able to build a nuclear-armed missile if it decided to go down that path,” he begins.
“I still think that we are talking about several years…before Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and certainly before they could have a deliverable nuclear weapon,” said Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Greg Jones, a senior researcher at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and world-class Iran hysteric, claimed that “Iran could refine uranium for a nuclear weapon in 10 weeks and produce the required non-nuclear components in six months or less, he said, adding this could be done simultaneously.”
An anonymous Israeli official told Reuters reporter Dan Williams, “Once Iran gets its first device, no matter how rudimentary, it’s a nuclear power and a nuclear menace. With that said, we have always noted that, from this threshold, it would take Iran another two years or so to make a deployable warhead.”
On October 4, 2012, IISS‘ Mark Fitzpatrick wrote in Canada’s Global Brief that “Iran continues to move closer to a virtual weapons status,” suggesting that “by mid-2013, Iran will have enough low-enriched uranium (LEU), if further enriched, for perhaps six weapons.” He also noted, “As of late summer 2012, Iran was still several months away from being able to make a successful dash for nuclear weapons. Producing missile-deliverable weapons would take longer.” Nevertheless, “As Iran’s stockpile of enrichment uranium increases,” Fitzpatrick hedged, “the timelines shorten.”
On October 8, 2012, David Albright issued a new report which found that it would take “at least two to four months” for Iran to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium to produce a single nuclear bomb, while Mitt Romney delivered a foreign policy stump speech at the Virginia Military Institute, in which he declared, “Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us.”
On October 11, 2012, Oxford Analytica, a global corporate and governmental consulting firm, reported that Iran had already acquired enough “enriched uranium nuclear fuel to get breakout capability but the extra steps to produce a weapon [would] take months.”
The fever-pitched predictions over just how imminent and inevitable an Iranian nuclear weapon will surely continue unabated, regardless of how many decades Iranian leaders consistently deny such intentions or how many IAEA reports affirm Iran has never diverted any nuclear material to a weapons program or even had a weapons program in the first place.
It is no wonder that a Zogby poll from late February 2012 found that 78% of Americans “believe Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons production.” Quite simply, in our current debate, facts just don’t matter.
Zionist Jews are the biggest donors that finance the US presidential election campaign of both the Democratic President Barack Obama as well as his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
The leading declared financier of US election campaigns in 2012 is casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has so far donated $34.2 million to Republican Political Action Committees that support Romney’s publicity bid to win enough votes to move to the White House, the Associated Press reported Friday.
A staunch supporter of Israel, says the report, “he also is a contributor to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which spent $920,000 since 2002 backing bills aimed at pressuring Iran and enhancing US security cooperation with Israel.”
In Israel, meanwhile, Adelson owns the widely circulated, pro-Benjamin Netanyahu free daily paper Israel Hayom.
Worth an estimated $25 billion, Adelson oversees the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which runs casino and resort interests in Las Vegas, Singapore, and Pennsylvania, and Sands China Ltd., a bunch of casinos operating in China’s Macau territory.
According to the report, the wealthy Jewish donors and others are financing this year’s US presidential election, on track to cost a whopping $2 billion, with funding of individual Democratic and Republican campaigns as well as independent, “super” political action committees working on the campaigns’ behalf.
In exchange for their financial support, these pro-Israeli donors can gain major influence, says the report. They are often invited to state dinners at the White House and other events with the US president.
These financiers may also be consulted on policy making, particularly if it impacts their financial interests. And the ranks of ambassadors, advisory panels, and other government jobs traditionally are filled with those who have made generous donations during the election campaign, the report adds.
The largest donor to Democratic Political Action Committees that support Obama’s reelection campaign is Hollywood film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has so far given nearly $2.6 million for the cause.
Other major Jewish donors that support Democratic organizations and Obama’s reelection bid are: Irwin Jacobs, founder and ex-chairman of Qualcomm, contributing $2.122 million so far; Fred Eychaner, founder of newspaper publisher Newsweb Corp, contributing $2.07 million so far; Jon Stryker, a Michigan Philanthropist, contributing $2.07 so far; and Steve Mostyn, a Houston attorney, who has so far contributed just over $2 million.
Other big Jewish donors that gave huge sums of money to Republican organization and Mitt Romney’s election campaign are: Bob Perry, a Houston real estate tycoon who has so far given $17.3 million; Harold Simmons, owner of a Dallas-based Contran Corp. who has so far given $16.5 million; Robert Rowling, head of Dallas-based TRT Holdings who has so far donated $4.1 million, and Industrialist William Koch, so far donating $4 million.
Mérida – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the 4th most popular president in the Americas, according to a new study of presidential approval ratings in the region.
The study, by Mexican polling firm Consulta Mitofsky, gives President Chavez a “high” approval rating of 64%, gaining 6 percentage points since the firm’s last study and jumping up the table of presidential popularity levels.
The findings come less than two weeks before Chavez seeks re-election on October 7 against right-wing opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski.
According to the study, which measured the approval ratings of 20 leaders in the Americas by compiling public opinion polls from their respective countries, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa is the most popular president in the Americas with an “outstanding” approval rating of 80%.
“Rafael Correa repeats his first place with 80% (a point less than his previous evaluation), maintaining the approval with which his presidency began almost five years ago,” the ‘Approval of Leaders: America and the World’ report stated.
He is followed by Maurico Funes of El Salvador and Guatemalan president Otto Perez, on 72% and 69% respectively.
Chavez and Correa are joined at the top of the popularity table by other presidents considered left or centre left, with Brazil’s Dilma Roussef on 5th with 62% approval, and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega on 7th place with a popularity of 59%.
Meanwhile, two months ahead of his re-election bid against Republican rival Mitt Romney, US President Barack Obama placed 10th in the study, receiving a “medium” approval rating of 49%. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was classed on a “very low” popularity of 37%, putting him down on 16th place.
The study highlights a north-south divide, with South American presidents enjoying an average approval of 50%, against 44% for leaders from the North of the hemisphere.
Many rightist presidents have dropped in popularity since the earlier 2012 study by Consulta Mitofsky, and find themselves on the bottom half of the table. Colombian president Juan Manual Santos still figures on the top half of the table with 54% approval, yet has dropped 13 percentage points and has lost his “high” approval rating.
Furthermore, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon placed 11th (46%), while Paraguayan President Federico Franco and Chilean President Sebastian Piñera share 17th place on 36%. Franco was came to power through an “institutional coup” in June by the Paraguayan Senate, and is less popular than deposed leftist president Fernando Lugo, who had 44% popularity in August 2011.
However, the findings aren’t all good news for South America’s “pink tide” governments, with 12th, 13th, and 14th places going to Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez (43%), Bolivia’s Evo Morales (41%) and Peru’s Ollanta Humala (40%) respectively.
The last places in the poll are occupied by the presidents of Honduras and Costa Rica, on approval ratings of 14% and 13%. The full study in Spanish can be accessed here.
- Ecuador’s Correa and El Salvador’ Funes, leaders with the highest approval-rate (en.mercopress.com)
On NBC‘s Meet the Press (9/9/12), Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and host David Gregory had a discussion about the failures of the Obama administration’s foreign policy that included this:
ROMNEY: The president has not drawn us further away from a nuclear Iran. And in fact Iran is closer to having a weapon, closer to having nuclear capability, than when he took office. This is the greatest failure, in my opinion, of his foreign policy. He ran for office saying he was going to meet with Ahmadinejad. He was going to meet with Castro, Kim Jong Il. All the world’s worst actors, without precondition, he’d meet with them in his first year.
GREGORY: President Bush said that he would stop Iran from going nuclear. So did President Obama. Neither one were able to achieve that. Correct?
ROMNEY: President Obama had a policy of engagement with Ahmadinejad. That policy has not worked and we’re closer to a nuclear weapon as a result of that.
Set aside the talk about the U.S. having a “policy of engagement” with Iran–we have a policy of sanctions. The real question is what Gregory is talking about when he talks about Iran “going nuclear,” and how Bush and Obama failed “to achieve that.”
In this context, “going nuclear” would seem to refer to producing a nuclear weapon, which nobody claims Iran has done. Gregory has mislead viewers on this before: “Iran: Will talks push that country to give up its nuclear weapons program?” he declared a few years back (10/4/09).
There is as yet no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. What we know now is that the country has a nuclear energy program, and some countries demand to know more about that program, based on the theory that Iran is hiding something. Perhaps they are, but no evidence to that effect exists.
But it is common for media to start the Iran conversation based on the assumption that there’s a weapon being built. You could see that in Bill Keller’s column in the New York Times today (9/10/12). “Negotiations aimed at preventing the dreaded Persian Bomb have resumed their desultory course,” he explained to readers–before posing what I think Keller believes is a provocative question: “Can we live with a nuclear Iran?”
Keller believes his column is adding something novel to the debate over Iran:
The prevailing view now is that a nuclear Iran cannot be safely contained. On this point both President Obama and Mitt Romney agree.
Keller then goes on: “Let’s assume, for starters, that Iran’s theocrats are determined to acquire nuclear weapons.” The rest of the column consists mostly of a “theoretical exercise” where Keller ends up opposing pre-emptive war in favor of allowing Iran to enrich uranium so long as it doesn’t pursue a weapons program. Then we could “gradually relaxes sanctions and brings this wayward country into the community of more-or-less civilized nations.”
It’s a strange argument, given that Iran says that’s what it’s doing, and the inspectors that are supposed to monitor Iran’s nuclear program are already reporting that there is no evidence any of the country’s uranium is being diverted for a weapons program. It sure doesn’t seem as if sanctions relief is right around the corner.
A truly novel media approach that Keller–or any other columnist–might want to try: Assume, for the sake of novelty, that Iran is not pursuing a weapons program. Then take every fact of the Iran showdown–the sanctions, the threats from various Israeli government officials that a military attack could be imminent–and try to reconcile them with the assumption that Iran is not developing the weapons that are the focus of so much controversy.
It’s much more difficult to rationalize U.S. policy if one explores this “theoretical exercise.” Which is likely why pundits like Keller go a different route.
The impoverishment of politics in the Age of Obama has been nothing short of amazing. This president has so suppressed every vestigial remnant of progressivism in the political discourse, that the most fundamental bread and butter issues have become taboo. I’m talking about raising the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2007, the year before the bottom fell out of the economy.
A new study shows that the Great Recession was most destructive of decent-paying jobs, the middle tier where working people earned between about $14 and $21 an hour. That’s where sixty percent of job losses occurred between 2008 and 2010, and most of those jobs have not come back. Instead, the greatest increase in jobs has come in the low-wage sector, with a median pay from $7.69 – just above the federal minimum – to $13.83 an hour. The lowest wage sector now accounts for almost 60 percent of job growth, with traditionally bad-paying jobs in food preparation and retail sales leading the way.
High unemployment, on top of the disappearance of living wage jobs. You would think that in an election year, the party that is most identified with working people and folks that need to find work would be screaming at the top of their lungs: Raise the minimum wage! But, you will hear little or nothing of that from the Democratic convention festivities in Charlotte.
It’s not that the delegates are unaware of the crying need for a higher minimum wage. The Democratic platform – for what its worth – declares that “we will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation.” However, it doesn’t say how much, or when. And that’s in deference to the party’s standard bearer, who has not said anything meaningful about the minimum wage since he was campaigning for president in 2008. Back then, Obama promised to work to raise the minimum to $9.50 by 2011. Then he got elected, and we heard nothing more about it.
When the president is mum on an issue, then the party faithful put themselves on mute. There are bills in the House and the Senate to raise the minimum wage – the best one is sponsored by Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., calling for an immediate $10 an hour minimum, tied to inflation. But, there’s no chance of these bills going anywhere without the cooperation of Democratic leadership. Ralph Nader and others have beseeched party leaders to break the silence, but they don’t dare raise the issue for fear of embarrassing their President.
Apologists for Obama will claim that pushing for a $10 minimum wage indexed to inflation – or any significant raise – would hurt his chances for re-election. But the poll numbers show differently, with huge public support for an increase, including among lots of Republicans. Even Mitt Romney says he supports linking the minimum wage to inflation – just not right now. Obama has effectively been saying “no, not now” to underpaid workers for almost four years. So, why in the hell is labor getting ready to spend tens of millions of dollars to re-elect him, instead of building a movement that will force politicians to do the right thing?
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- A Bold New Labor Call for a ‘Maximum Wage’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- STUDY: Raising The Minimum Wage Especially Benefits Women (thinkprogress.org)
Foreign Policy magazine has compiled a list of the 50 Republicans who have the greatest influence on the GOP’s foreign policy. “Politics is mostly about people — and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to foreign policy,” explains Foreign Policy in its introduction. With the U.S. presidential election looming, the magazine offers “to peel back the curtain on this rarefied part of the Establishment” to better inform American voters about “the advisers who will determine the country’s course in the world” in the event that they elect Mitt Romney. The FP 50, it says, are “all GOP partisans” from the different “ideological traditions” — namely, realism, neoconservatism, and “even” isolationism — that are “currently fighting for the soul of their party’s foreign policy.” A cursory look at the list, however, shows that a far more influential ideological tradition — Zionism — holds sway over the Republican Party.
Although only about 20% of American Jews supported the GOP in 2008, the FP 50 features as many as 20 Jewish partisans of Israel, including Weekly Standard editor William Kristol (#2), Brookings Institution senior fellow Robert Kagan (#4), and casino mogul and mega-donor Sheldon Adelson (#9) who make its top 10 most powerful Republicans on foreign policy. Also at number 8 is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the stridently pro-Israel chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, whose maternal grandfather was a “pillar” of Cuba’s Jewish community who helped found several synagogues there. More importantly, several of the most passionate Israel partisans are close advisors to the Romney team, including Kagan, Dan Senor (#13), Dov Zakheim (#27), Eliot Cohen (#29), and Elliott Abrams (#35).
Moreover, the careers of many of the non-Jewish individuals on Foreign Policy’s list have been inextricably linked to their staunch support of the Jewish state. Topping the FP 50 is Senator John McCain who not only continues the family tradition of covering up Israel’s deliberate June 8, 1967 attack on the USS Liberty but invariably leads the call — in unison with Senator Joe Lieberman — for U.S. intervention in countries surrounding the Jewish state. At number 26 is Senator Mark Kirk, “the Israel lobby’s favorite senator” whose office this year served as a conduit for an Israeli initiative to redefine Palestinian refugees out of existence. And coming in in 46th place is John Hagee, the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, which, as FP points out, “has done more than just about any other organization to make Israel a defining foreign-policy issue for evangelical Christians in the United States.”
Indeed, out of the 50 Republicans who have the greatest influence on the GOP’s foreign policy, Congressman Ron Paul — who, along with his son, Senator Rand Paul, is ranked #25 — appears to be one of the very few who could be relied upon to put U.S. interests ahead of Israel’s. Yet Foreign Policy, a division of the pro-Israel Washington Post, never explicitly refers to the decisive — and potentially catastrophic — influence Tel Aviv would have over a Romney administration. However, those familiar with the operations of the Israel lobby know that, as the magazine puts it, “the relentless lobbying and insider machinations of surprisingly few people can often end up defining the foreign policy of entire administrations.”
- The Obnoxious Foreign Policy Ideas in Romney’s Convention Speech (theamericanconservative.com)
- Romney says Israel, US ‘bound together,’ in Jerusalem speech (alethonews.wordpress.com)
According to a report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Friday, millions of American workers who lost their jobs after the Wall Street crash of 2008 have failed to find work, while millions more have gone back to work only after taking substantial wage cuts.
According to the BLS, some 12.9 million workers were displaced from their jobs between January 2009 and December 2011. The BLS study focused on those who had lost jobs they had held for at least three years, who comprised just under half the total, some 6.1 million workers.
Of these 6.1 million workers, 27 percent were still unemployed but looking for work, while 17 percent have stopped looking for work, effectively dropping out of the labor force. Of the 56 percent who had found new jobs, slightly more than half took jobs that paid less than their old jobs. For those who took new jobs with pay cuts, the majority lost 20 percent or more compared to their previous wages, on top of the loss of earnings due to part-time work or reduced overtime.
All told, only 1.1 million out of the 6.1 million workers had been rehired at full-time jobs paying as much or more as they earned before the crash. In other words, of the workers hit hardest by the slump, barely 15 percent have been able to regain a position comparable to what they lost.
There is the starkest contrast between these figures, which give a glimpse of the mass suffering and hardship in the working class, and the conditions facing corporate America, where most large companies are enjoying bumper profits, stock prices are back to the levels before the crash, and CEO salaries and perks have broken all records.
In the midst of this bonanza for profits and CEO pay, the giant corporations have stepped up the assault on working-class living standards, following the example set by the Obama administration in its bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, which slashed wages for new hires by 50 percent and imposed sharp cutbacks on health and pension benefits.
Last week Caterpillar and the International Association of Machinists pushed through a draconian deal at the company’s Joliet, Illinois plant, as the union called off a 14-week strike and engineered acceptance of a contract that cuts real wages by 20 percent over six years, even though the company is making record profits.
A second report released last week showed that median household income has fallen 4.8 percent during the three years of the “recovery” touted by the Obama administration (July 2009 through June 2012), a bigger drop than the 2.6 percent during the two years officially recorded as “recession” (July 2007 through June 2009). Median incomes have fallen most for African Americans (down 11.1 percent) and residents of the Western states, the focal point of the housing market collapse (down 8.5 percent).
Since the official start of the recession, December 2007, median household income has fall 7.2 percent. From 2000 to 2012, over three presidential terms, two of George W. Bush and one of Obama, real incomes in the United States have fallen by 8.1 percent.
This social reality is ignored by both the capitalist parties competing in the 2012 presidential election, and it will go largely unacknowledged at the convention of the Republican Party, which opens Tuesday in Tampa, Florida, and at the similar gathering of the Democrats the following week.
The Republican Party and the Mitt Romney campaign hope, of course, to profit politically from the catastrophic conditions for working people, focusing their fall campaign on key Midwestern and industrial states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Their protestations of concern for laid-off factory workers and struggling single mothers are cynical lies, given that the policies advanced by the Republican campaign involve the destruction of the social safety net on which millions of unemployed and impoverished working-class families depend.
The true attitude of the Republicans will be demonstrated behind the scenes at the convention in Tampa, where hundreds of banquets, receptions and other lucrative “private events” will be mounted by corporate and billionaire backers of the Romney campaign. Some 1,500 Romney donors—“Stars” who have raised at least $250,000 and “Stripes” who have raised at least $500,000—will get top-level special treatment.
As the New York Times noted Sunday, when the delegates arrive in Tampa, “hundreds of lobbyists, corporate executives, trade associations and donors will be waiting for them, exploiting legal loopholes – and the fun-house atmosphere – that make each party’s quadrennial conventions a gathering of money and influence unrivaled in politics.”
There are no unemployed or displaced workers among the Republican influence peddlers, nor among their equivalents at the Democratic convention when it assembles the following week in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Obama campaign is, if anything, even more cynical and false than Romney’s, because it portrays the Democratic incumbent as the defender of working people against Wall Street interests and the wealthy, when the truth is the direct opposite. Obama spearheaded the destruction of jobs and wages with the auto bailout, and helped launch the war on public education that has accounted for the largest single cut in jobs of the past three years: the wiping out of 600,000 jobs of teachers and support workers by state and local governments.
Last week, the Obama administration announced that it was extending its wage freeze for federal government workers, already two years long, for an additional six months, until April 2013, on the pretext that this would help reduce the federal budget deficit. No such considerations, of course, were allowed to affect the colossal Treasury handout of public money in the Wall Street bailout.
The capitalist politicians, like the giant corporations and banks they serve, welcome the growth of unemployment, wage cutting and poverty, because these are central components of a vast transfer of wealth from the working class—and large sections of the middle class—to the super-rich.
As the Federal Reserve Board noted in a report released in June, the real wealth of the average American household plummeted 38.9 percent from 2007 to 2010, essentially wiping out all the gains made by working people over the previous two decades.
This was not merely the result of the collapse in the housing market, which slashed the value of the only sizable asset owned by most workers. It was the direct consequence of decisions made in corporate boardrooms and in Washington to benefit the wealthy at the expense of working people.
These policies will continue and intensify regardless of whether Obama or Romney occupies the White House next year, and whether the Democrats or the Republicans control Congress. The American ruling class is waging war against the jobs, living standards and social conditions of working people, and both the official parties are enlisted on behalf of the financial aristocracy.
This truth was underscored by an interview Obama gave Saturday to the Associated Press, in which he pledged to reach agreement with the Republicans in Congress if he is reelected. “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises,” he said, including concessions that would be opposed within his party, because “the American people will have voted.”
In other words, once the election is safely over, the two parties can drop their populist phrases and their pretense of intransigent hostility and get down to business: meeting the demands of their corporate masters to slash the federal deficit by gutting programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and enacting new tax breaks for the corporations and the wealthy.
While the polls have demonstrated that America is just not taken with Romney’s choice of a youngish gentleman with both Reagan and Rand fetish, that doesn’t mean it is worthless. For one thing, it will make the coffers fill up again from a cadre of deep-pocketed yet shallow donors.
As of Tuesday morning, reporters would not be permitted to cover Ryan’s fundraiser with billionaire mega-donor Sheldon Adelson at The Venetian in Las Vegas tonight. The campaign’s agreement with the press is that events not at private residences are to be open to reporters.
Sounds familiar, because it is:
Some of Romney’s Jewish donors are flying here from the United States to attend the Jerusalem fundraiser on Monday morning, including Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has pledged to personally give tens of millions of dollars to a pro-Romney super PAC…
But Romney’s campaign announced Saturday that it would block the news media from covering the event, which will be held at the King David Hotel. The campaign’s decision to close the fundraiser to the press violates the ground rules it negotiated with news organizations in April
That Sheldon Adelson must be shy, because breaking his word is so rare for Mitt Romney — and here is Mitt’s rather hilarious explanation for this latest ban of the media.
A Romney aide told reporters that the event in Las Vegas is not a fundraiser but a “finance event,” and therefore closed to reporters. The aide would not say what the distinction is between the two, declining to say whether the campaign is collecting checks at the event.
- Romney Campaign Bars Press From Ryan, Adelson Event (buzzfeed.com)
- Foreign Cash Disqualifies Romney from Presidential Bid (alexanderhiggins.com)
The Obama re-election campaign and the Democratic Party and their backers, like the organization MoveOn, are bitterly decrying the flood of corporate money going to his opponent, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is out-fund-raising the president by an ever-increasing amount.
But there is a hollow sound to the president’s whining. Back in 2008, Obama, who had earlier said he opposed corporate funding and had promised to run his campaign using public funds only, in an agreement with his then opponent, Republican Sen. John McCain, broke that agreement and went on to accept what still remains at this point a record sum of corporate money.
By the time the 2008 election was held, Obama’s campaign had collected and spent a staggering $745 million. McCain, who had been a leader in the effort to limit corporate campaign spending, stuck with government funding and thus spent “only” $126 million on his losing general election campaign — the amount that Obama would have also been limited to had he not “opted out” of his earlier promise to use only government funds to run for the nation’s top office.
About 80% of Obama’s campaign cash came from large donors — either individuals or, in most cases, corporations. His second biggest donor, giving a total of $1,013,091, was Goldman Sachs, a company that later provided many of the leading economic and financial advisors to the Obama administration, and that, by late 2008, was already known to have been a key player in causing the 2008 financial crisis, and that also received enormous bailout funding from the government, both during the campaign, when Obama was running for office and President George W. Bush was still president, and then later, when Obama was president. The second biggest corporate contributor was software giant Microsoft, $852,167, a company which had serious anti-trust issues being pursued by the federal government. Third was Google, which gave $814,540, which had its own anti-trust and other issues, and fourth was JP Morgan & Chase, another mega-bank that both played a key role in causing the financial crisis, and which benefited mightily from the federal bailout. Both Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have subsequently played key roles in lobbying to water down any kind of serious corrective regulation of the financial industry, to block efforts to break up the too-big-to-fail banks, and to have senior banking executives criminally or even civilly prosecuted for their roles in precipitating and profiting from the global economic crisis.
As Oklahoma Republican Congressman Tom Cole correctly wrote in an opinion article in US News and World Report back in April 2011, “Barack Obama’s candidacy wasn’t just the beginning of the end of public financing. His meteoric fundraising spree rendered the system instantly extinct.”
For the president and his backers to now cry foul because Romney, a corporate executive and member of the $100-plus millionaire club himself, is raking in even more money this election season than the Obama did when he chose to forgo public funding in his first campaign and roll over his opponent who took a principled stand and limited himself to federal financing is beyond hypocritical.$16 million
Granted, Romney benefits even further by the new US Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and private individuals to secretly contribute unlimited amounts to run negative campaigns against candidates, as long as they aren’t “coordinated” with any candidate’s campaign organization, because the overwhelming among of that corrupt money is flowing to Republicans, including Romney. That is simply another example of how corrupt the US political system has become.
It is little wonder that American citizens have essentially thrown up their hands in disgust, with many just walking away from the whole thing. Both candidates are at this point owned by corporate America. There may be shades of difference based upon which industries are supporting which candidates, but that is small consolation to the average person, whose interests are for the most part diametrically opposed by those of the rich and of the companies that are buying the candidates.
In 2008, even though it was well-known that Obama was soliciting and accepting huge contributions from Wall Street ($19 million), from the health care industry ($16 million), from real estate companies ($11 million), from the media industry ($16 million) and from the high-tech industry ($9 million), a huge number of voters believed his campaign theme of “hope and change.”
Not surprisingly, though, given all that corporate cash, which amounts to legal bribes, what they got was an industry-vetted, non-reform of the financial industry, a health care “reform” that leaves health care in the hands of the insurance industry, where it was already, continued concentration of the media industry into the hands of a few large media conglomerates, and growing control over and limits on the diversity and freedom of the internet.
Arguably, things will even get worse if, as looks increasingly likely, Romney wins election, even more beholden to corporate America.
The loser is the American public, which is being effectively shut out of government and politics by big money.
Unless something dramatic is done, this election could well be the swan song of American democracy.
- Myth of the small donor (politico.com)
Standing reality on its head—at least in the eyes of most Middle Easterners—presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney declared during his recent visit to Israel that the Islamic Republic is “the most destabilizing nation in the world.” In fact, reputable surveys conducted by international and regional polling groups—see here and here—show that, by orders of magnitude, largely Sunni Arab populations see Israel and the United States as much bigger threats to their security and interests than Iran. Al Jazeera asked our colleague, Seyed Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran, to comment on Governor Romney’s remark; to see the segment, click here or on the embedded video above.
Mohammad’s observations that, given the record of American policy in the Middle East (and all the death and destruction it has caused), the United States is hardly in a position to “complain very much about Iran” and that, from an Iranian perspective, there is not a lot of difference between Romney and President Obama are well presented. His explanation why the “soft war” that the Obama Administration is currently conducting against the Islamic Republic is not that different from a “hot war” is especially eloquent. We, though, want to pick up on Mohammad’s response to the interviewer’s suggestion that it is Iranian intransigence which is blocking progress in the nuclear talks and prompting tougher sanctions:
“The Iranians have been talking. The Iranians are basically saying that ‘we are willing to negotiate.’ But the Western position is ‘you give up everything and then we’ll start talking.’ The Iranian right to enriching uranium is a right that all sovereign countries have. And the Iranian Revolution itself was partially about dignity and independence. The Iranians are not going to accept being a second-rate country. This is not the Saudi regime or the Jordanian regime. This is a country that is fiercely independent. So the Iranians will continue to enrich uranium within the framework of the NPT and international law. The United States cannot stop Iran from doing so. If the United States was reasonable and rational, if the Europeans were rational, then the Iranians would be willing to give further assurances to ease tensions. But the United States isn’t really after that, in the eyes of Iranians.”
We think that is an important statement, both of the Iranian position and of reality. We have long argued that, if Washington accepted the principle and reality of internationally safeguarded enrichment in Iran, it would become eminently possible—not to say relatively easy—to negotiate a satisfactory resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue. But the United States—even under the Obama Administration—does not want to do that, for recognizing Iran’s right to enrich implies recognizing the Islamic Republic as a legitimate political entity representing legitimate national interests. We think that is unlikely to change after the U.S. presidential election in November, regardless of whether Romney or Obama wins. … Full article
- US Sanctions Policy on a Collision Course against Iran; Increasing Tensions with China (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- How the Obama Administration Is Stalling Its Way to War with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Ron Paul: US obsessed with ‘act of war’ on Iran (presstv.ir)