From talk of “red lines” and cartoon bombs to having “all options on the table”, an undeniably delusional logic emanates from leadership in Washington and Tel Aviv regarding the alleged threat posted by Iran’s nuclear program. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu famously took to the stage of the UN General Assembly with his doodled explosive, he claimed that Iran would soon have the capability to enrich uranium to 90 percent, allowing them to construct a nuclear weapon by early-mid 2013. In his second administration, Obama, who recently said a nuclear-Iran would represent a danger to Israel and the world, appears to be seeing eye-to-eye with Netanyahu, despite previous reports of the two not being on the same page. For whatever its worth, these two world leaders have taken the conscious decision to entirely ignore evidence brought forward by the US intelligence community, as well as appeals from nuclear scientists, policy-advisers, and IAEA personnel who claim that the “threat” posed by Iran is exaggerated and politicized.
It’s common knowledge that Washington’s own National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, which reflects the intelligence assessments of America’s 16 spy agencies, confirmed that whatever nuclear weapons program Iran once had was dismantled in 2003. Mr. Netanyahu has not corrected his statements insinuating that Iran was nearing the red line of 90 percent enrichment, even when recent UN reports that show Tehran has in fact decreased its stockpiles of 20 percent fissile material, far below the enrichment level required to weaponize uranium. Hans Blix, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has challenged previous IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear activities, accusing the agency of relying on unverified intelligence from the US and Israel. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, former Washington insiders and analysts in the Clinton and Bush administrations, recently authored a book titled “Going to Tehran”, arguing that Iran is a coherent actor and that evidence for the bomb is simply not there.
Clinton Bastin, former director of US nuclear weapons production programs, has commented on the status of Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons, stating:
“The ultimate product of Iran’s gas centrifuge facilities would be highly enriched uranium hexafluoride, a gas that cannot be used to make a weapon. Converting the gas to metal, fabricating components and assembling them with high explosives using dangerous and difficult technology that has never been used in Iran would take many years after a diversion of three tons of low enriched uranium gas from fully safeguarded inventories. The resulting weapon, if intended for delivery by missile, would have a yield equivalent to that of a kiloton of conventional high explosives”.
Bastin’s assessments corroborate reports that show Iran’s nuclear program is for civilian purposes; he further emphasizes the impracticality of weaponizing the hexafluoride product of Tehran’s gas-centrifuges, as the resulting deterrent would yield a highly inefficient nuclear weapon.
The fact that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued several fatwas (a religious prohibition) against the production of nuclear weapons doesn’t seem to have helped much either. An unceasing combination of Islamophobia-propaganda, a repetitive insistence that Tehran is edging closer to the threshold, and devastatingly negligent misreporting of Iran and its pursuit of domestic nuclear power has created a situation where the country is viewed as an irrational actor. In the court of Western mainstream opinion, Iran is grouped in the same category as bellicose North Korea, despite the fact that it is a law-abiding signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that has consistently cooperated with the IAEA while publically renouncing the use of nuclear weapons. This leads to the current scenario, where Iran and its people are punished under an unethical barrage of economic sanctions for possessing a weapon that they do not possess.
The severity of economic sanctions against Iran and the fabricated allegations of it possessing nuclear weapons serve as a disturbing parallel to the invasion and destruction of Iraq during the Bush administration. From the perspective of this observer, the US does not actually want to go to war with Iran – such an ordeal would bring about an array of overwhelmingly negative ramifications that Obama would probably want to avoid. What the US does want to do however, is to dismantle the foundations of the Islamic Republic by completely destroying its economy through sanctions, prompting the population to rise up and overthrow the regime – so basically, Obama is happy to conduct war by other means. Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent proclamations of the US holding a gun to the head of the Iranian nation can only be perceived as entirely accurate.
Its easy to see why the Supreme Leader has doubts over the prospect of negotiations with the US; the deal put forward at the most recent meeting of the P5+1 essentially argued that the US would roll back sanctions that prevent Iran from trading gold and precious metals in exchange for Iran completely shutting down its uranium enrichment plant at Fordo. The substance of this offer appears like it was deliberately drafted to be rejected by the Iranian side, given the fact that it would mandate Iran to shutdown one of its main facilities while keeping in place the most punishing sanctions that have destroyed the Iranian currency and made life-saving medications unaffordable for most – its more of an insult than an offer. For the average Iranian business owner and worker, US-led sanctions and currency devaluation have affected everyday transactions that provide paychecks and economic viability for millions of people.
From urban shopkeepers to rural restaurant owners, many have been forced to close their businesses because they are unable to profit from reselling imported goods purchased with dollars. Isolation from the global banking system has made it increasingly more difficult for Iranian students studying abroad to receive money from their families. Sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank aim to devastate the Iranian export economy, affecting everyone from oil exporters to carpet weavers and pistachio cultivators. By crippling Iranian people’s livelihoods and hindering their ability to pursue education and afford necessities, the Obama administration believes such measures will erode public confidence in the government and challenge its legitimacy. It is important to recognize that these sanctions are not only aimed against Iran’s government, but at its entire population, especially to the poor and merchant population. An unnamed US intelligence source cited by the Washington Post elaborates, “In addition to the direct pressure sanctions exert on the regime’s ability to finance its priorities, another option here is that they will create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”
These sanctions, which are Obama’s throwback to ham-fisted Bush-Cheney era policies, must be seen as part of a series of measures taken to coax widespread social discontent and unrest. US sanctions have broadened their focus, targeting large swaths of the country’s industrial infrastructure, causing the domestic automobile production to plummet by 40 percent, while many essential medical treatments have more than doubled in price. Patients suffering from hemophilia, thalassemia, and cancer have been adversely affected, as the foreign-made medicines they depend on are increasingly more difficult to get ahold of. Over the past two years, general supermarket goods have seen a price hike between 100 to 300 percent. For the first time in the world, a media ban has been imposed, on PressTV, Iran’s state-funded English language international news service. Ofcom, a UK-based communications regulator linked to the British government, spearheaded the prohibition. The European Union has also imposed a travel ban on Press TV CEO Mohammad Sarafraz and eight other officials.
While editorials and commentators in the New York Times and Washington Post regularly accuse Iran of violating international law, the editors of these papers have shown no willingness to scrutinize the US and Israel by holding them accountable when they violate international law, namely, a prohibition of “the threat or use of force” in international relations unless a nation is attacked or such force is authorized by the UNSC, as embodied in the United Nations Charter. It is undeniable that by failing to question the brutal tactics meted out by Washington and Tel Aviv, these papers and the commentators affiliated with them, endorse policies that intimidate and coerce civilian populations in addition to employing terrorist tactics such as targeted cyber-strikes and extrajudicial assassinations – all of which the Iranian nation has been subjected to in utter defiance of the standards and rules of international law and their fundamental bedrock of protecting civilians.
The facts have been proven time and time again, Iran seeks economic development, technological advancement, and energy independence – it wants domestic nuclear power and the freedom to enrich uranium to 20 percent for the medical development of radiopharmaceuticals and industrial isotopes, as it is entitled to as an NPT signatory. Washington’s threats to impose “secondary” sanctions against third-country entities doing business with the Islamic Republic represents a mafia-mentality so characteristic of the unipolar reality in which the US sees itself. Washington has recently threatened energy-hungry Pakistan with sanctions over its partnership with Tehran in a $7.5-billion gas pipeline between the two nations, a project that would do infinite good by promoting regional stability and delivering energy to poverty stricken regions in Pakistan. Washington’s sanctions regime will collapse if the US Congress insists that China sharply cut its energy trade and relations with Iran. China will not adhere to such stringent foreign interference into its trade relationships, and Washington is in no position to sanction China because it buys oil from Iran.
If Beijing calls Washington’s bluff, other growth-focused non-Western economies like India, Malaysia, and South Korea will be less fearful of conducting business and buying oil from Tehran. Obama has taken some cues from the revolutionary students of 1979 and his administration has come up with a hostage crisis of its own, involving holding captive the civilian population of Iran – and Washington looks keen to let the sanctions bite until either the regime bows down, or the people rise up. One of the best examples of the perverted logic behind the US position on Iran comes from Vice President Joe Biden, who recently stated, “We have also made clear that Iran’s leaders need not sentence their people to economic deprivation”. Such a statement embodies the upside-down logic of Washington policy-makers who claim the moral high ground while enabling terrorism and engaging in unethical campaigns of economic and military warfare – the present state of affairs simply cannot continue.
Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at email@example.com
- Ever-Closing Windows and Biden Time on Iran at AIPAC (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Iran can’t covertly produce atomic bomb’ – US intelligence chief (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Massimo Calabresi’s ‘Path To War’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
What if the White House were deliberately misleading America and the world about a major foreign policy issue involving war and peace, would it not be something worth investigating? What if, on top of that, the US Congress and Senate were going along with the subterfuge, remaining silent and not questioning it in the slightest? Wouldn’t that phenomenon be remarkable?
What if the mainstream news media, both television and print, were also enabling the same White House campaign of misrepresentation? Would this not be even more shocking? Should not a free press be checking the facts, asking basic questions, instead of blindly parroting a government party line which could be little more than war propaganda?
If you guessed I am describing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, hyped at every opportunity by the Obama White House and the Congress and by the Republicans and Mitt Romney, you would be on target. The nonstop campaign of harassing and demonizing Tehran, premised upon the existential threat supposedly posed by an Iranian atomic bomb, is a determined bipartisan affair in Washington.
Every Tom, Dick and Jane has a stake in the game, the only difference being the extent to which a particular Tom, Dick and Jane is willing to proclaim his or her outrage and commit the United States to punitive action, ranging from ruinous economic sanctions to a bunker-busting military assault in tandem with our dauntless nuclearized ally[sic], Israel.
True, this scenario has been in place for years and is becoming tedious, but we now seem to have arrived at a new plateau of mass hysteria thanks to the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign. Why? In a word, leverage. The leverage to determine who gets elected in Washington and under what conditions. I am referring in part to a foreign leader who is acting in concert with his American lobbyists and financial backers.
As part of this electioneering process, extravagant commitments have been extracted from craven American officials to further the interests and expand the greater territorial ambitions of the nuclear-armed foreign entity at issue, in exchange for campaign contributions and votes. Nothing new here, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Let me dramatize the problem with a recent example. I have not spoken with John McLaughlin in over ten years, but I believe we remain on good terms. I watch his weekly Washington-based show, the McLaughlin Group, to hear in particular what Patrick Buchanan has to say about the week’s events. The Group remains informative and a partial antidote to the mainstream media. McLaughlin often wanders off the MSM reservation, but never too far.
Last Friday, September 28th, something occurred on the program which blew this fake Iranian crisis sky high. Issue One was, naturally, the interminable and largely irrelevant 2012 Presidential campaign. Issue Two was Iran and Bibi Netanyahu’s speech the day before, at the UN General Assembly, in which he explained why the world must set “red lines” to Iran’s enrichment of uranium to halt its quest for an atomic bomb.
Two days prior to Bibi’s speech, President Barack Obama had proclaimed from the same dais: “… America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy… there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited… Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained… And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Where’s the daylight between the two?
John McLaughlin turned to Mort Zuckerman for a comment. Zuckerman repeated the party line that the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb would be an existential threat to Israel which must be stopped. As in all such pronouncements, just like those of Barack and Bibi at the UN, the indisputable assumption was that the Iranians are, of course, working to build The Bomb. Then Buchanan weighed in with this bombshell:
“But John, Iran has no nuclear weapons program. There is no nuclear weapons program according to 16 United States intelligence agencies in 2007, reaffirmed in 2011. Even the Israelis are now saying we think the Americans were right. They don’t have a nuclear weapons program. The Ayatollah [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] has said nuclear weapons on Iran’s part would be immoral, unjust and un-Islamic. So why are we now considering talking about a war on a country to deprive it of weapons of mass destruction it does not have?
So I’m thinking, whoa, we have arrived at the Emperor-has-no-clothes moment. It is out in the open at last. Buchanan has challenged the undeniable: the premise that Tehran has a program underway to build The Bomb. What’s more, he has done it by pointing to the conclusions of the U.S. Government itself, as embodied in its 16 intelligence agencies. Buchanan did not rely upon his own research or idle speculation. He cited the best available conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community.
All right, this is not new information. I wrote an article about it in 2007 for Taki’s Magazine when the news first broke regarding the National Intelligence Estimate. The NIE was a true revelation back then as well as a wake-up call. It demonstrated that Dick Cheney and G.W. Bush and their Neoconservative foreign-policy brain trust were actively deceiving their fellow-Americans by attempting to entice the country into yet another war, on top of Iraq, under false premises.
It was assumed at the time that the NIE ended this deceit and that the project to smack Iran could not go forward. How could it? There were no nuclear weapons in Iran and no program underway to develop them, just like there had been no WMD in Iraq when Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched at the beginning of 2003. Now we knew. The 2007 NIE was reaffirmed in a 2011 NIE update. The Neoconservatives had a cow. Where was the threat needed to start another conflict and continue their undertaking to remake the Middle East?
Please note, however, that during the interim since Peace Prize Obama was handed the torch in 2008, no one in the Executive Branch–not Obama or Hillary Clinton, and no one on Capitol Hill–dares mention these NIE conclusions. It is as if they do not exist. Only the disinformation from misguided and suborned office-holders matters. At the end of the day, only that counts, not reality. In essence, Peace Prize Obama and the Democrats have continued, under different packaging, the same Neoconized foreign policy of Dick Cheney and the Republicans. The question you might ask yourself is, why?
What was the reaction to Buchanan’s assertions? For me, the reaction of his fellow panelists was more interesting and eye-opening than what Buchanan actually said. You could have expected the Group to react in horror at Buchanan’s denial of what everyone else in Washington was taking for granted. But no, that is not what happened. No one challenged Buchanan. No one challenged the veracity of his pronouncement.
Not Mort Zuckerman, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Zuckerman is one of the top Zionists in the country and a personal friend of Netanyahu. Not Rich Lowry, the editor of the Neoconservative outlet, National Review, which competes with the Weekly Standard and Commentary for warmongering and American exceptionalism. And not the liberal columnist and professional Democrat, Eleanor Clift, who idolizes Obama. And not the former Jesuit priest and host, John McLaughlin.
All of them simply ignored what Buchanan had said, did not address it, even though its implications blew the legs out from under long-standing U.S. foreign policy and reduced the speeches of Barack and Bibi at the UN to nonsense.
The only reason I can think of why Zuckerman, Lowry, Clift and McLaughlin did not confront Buchanan is that they knew what Buchanan had said was the truth. To enter into a discussion with Buchanan would be to acknowledge the possibility that his view might be correct. This would reveal that a colossal con game was underway in which both political parties and the press were enablers.
The principal con man in this game would be the President of the United States, followed by his Secretary of State. The victims of the con game would be the American people, just like they were under Bush and Cheney. And of course the Iranians, who now must cope with crippling economic sanctions for no legitimate reason. The larger question remains, why is this happening? Why is the deception continuing from one Administration to the next? Cui bono?
PATRICK FOY is an essayist and short story writer as well as a former altar boy. He graduated from Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut and from Columbia University in New York City, where he studied English literature, European history and American diplomatic history. His work can be found at www.PatrickFoyDossier.com.
- The Amazing Msm (theburningplatform.com)
Israeli defense minister misrepresents U.S. intelligence to bolster the case for war
It should surprise no one to learn that when intelligence agencies talk to other intelligence agencies as part of a liaison relationship there are certain rules in place, even though they are frequently unspoken. During the Cold War the most productive such relationship that the United States had was not with obvious candidates like the British or Germans. It was with the Norwegians, who ran a chain of listening posts that were able to pick up signals and other valuable information drawn from the heart of the Soviet nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The U.S. knew all about the latest Russian technical developments, and both Washington and Oslo kept quiet about what they were up to.
But sometimes the temptation to use highly sensitive classified intelligence obtained from a friend is overwhelming? On August 9, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed Israeli media reports that a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) from the United States on the Iranian nuclear program had “included new and alarming intelligence” that had led to the judgment that “Iran has made surprising, notable progress in the research and development of key components of the military nuclear program.” He described the source as an intelligence report “being passed around senior offices.” Barak concluded that the new report means that Israel and the United States now have the same view of developments in Iran, meaning that both now believe that the country’s nuclear program has a military component which makes Iran unambiguously a threat.
“Militarization” has become something of a buzzword in the debate over Tehran’s intentions. It can mean a couple of things, most obviously that some research or development is taking place that can plausibly only be linked to creation of a nuclear weapon. Or it could mean that certain developments in the nuclear area have been linked to corresponding advances in ballistic missile engineering, meaning that there might be a program to work clandestinely on a bomb while simultaneously upgrading Iran’s missiles to provide a mechanism to deliver the weapon on target as soon as it is available.
Barak’s remarks sparked considerable commentary worldwide, suggesting that Israel and the United States, who appear to have been seeking a casus belli for attacking Iran, at last have found their smoking pistol enabling them to do so. But there were some serious problems with the story, and the CIA and Office of National Intelligence initiated some immediate pushback over Barak’s apparent exposure of classified information provided to Israel by Washington.
Intelligence insiders noted immediately that there has not, in fact, been a new NIE on Iran. Barak apparently intentionally called the report he had seen an NIE to heighten the impact and veracity of what he was saying. An NIE is the consensus product of the entire U.S. intelligence community and the views contained in it are endorsed by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. Barak clearly felt that he needed the gravitas of an NIE because there have been two previous NIEs, in 2007 and 2011, that have concluded that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and has not made the political decision to initiate one.
So it became clear that Ehud Barak was talking about something else. It turns out that the CIA routinely shares what is referred to as finished intelligence with Israel, and among those reports there have been several examining possible advances in Iranian missile development, to include an examination of intelligence suggesting that there might be some engineering of a warhead that might be capable of carrying a small nuclear device, if such a weapon were ultimately to become available [emphasis Aletho News]. Finished intelligence consists of reports that are produced in great quantity addressing a variety of issues. They are not unlike the types of reports generated by the various think tanks in Washington and at major universities, being generally academic in tone though carefully drafted to avoid any revelation of the sources and methods contributing to the document. Finished intelligence is frequently passed by CIA to friendly intelligence liaison services and is generally classified “Secret.”
So Barak was quite possibly misrepresenting a U.S. intelligence-generated report to serve his own purposes, and he was also leaking information that had been given to him in confidence with the understanding that he would only use it to guide internal Israel deliberations, not to discuss it with the media. The CIA was reportedly furious over the leak and, in an unusual move, the White House quickly gave a green light for the National Security Council to actually rebuke Israel, with an NSC spokesman commenting that “We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon.”
So Israel was saying that the Iranian threat had been demonstrated based on U.S. intelligence while Washington claimed the contrary. It all might have ended there, but intelligence leaks have a tendency to spill over and turn out to be difficult to contain. The Obama White House felt compelled to assuage Israeli fears over Iran’s alleged nukes. On Friday press spokesman Jay Carney told the media (and the Israelis) that the U.S. “would know if and when Iran made” a decision to build a weapon. “We have eyes–we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made what’s called a breakout move towards acquiring a weapon.”
Carney’s unnecessary elaboration of United States intelligence capabilities vis-à-vis Iran caused the intel community to go ballistic for a second time in two days. If there is one thing that an intelligence organization never does it is to reveal what it can and cannot do. Now Iran, which already knew that it was being monitored closely, probably has a pretty good idea where its vulnerabilities lie because the White House has told them where to look. Marc Ambinder, a national security specialist who writes for The Atlantic, explains how it works: “the CIA’s ops arm, the National Clandestine Service, along with the US military, are devoting thousands of person-hours per day working along the periphery of the country, scrutinizing and seizing cargo shipments bound for Iran, tapping the black market for nuclear supplies and buying up spare parts, and maximizing the collection of Iranian signal traffic … it has a high-definition picture of the current state of the nuclear program and would be able to much more quickly identify if, say, scientists began to create the material needed to manufacture the lens and tamper system that would induce the fission in a bomb. What’s most valuable here is the US mastery of obscure but vital types of intelligence collection that spooks call ‘MASINT’—or measurement and signature intelligence. MASINT sensors on satellites, drones, and on the ground can detect everything from the electromagnetic signatures created by testing conventional missile systems to disturbances in the soil and geography around a hidden nuclear facility to streams of radioactive particles that are byproducts of the uranium enrichment process. Put together, the US has a good handle on the nuclear supply chain; it knows what Iran has and doesn’t have; it has a good handle on who needs to be where in order for certain things to happen; it knows, probably through National Security Agency signals collection, a lot about the daily lives and stresses of Iran’s nuclear scientists.”
If Marc Ambinder has figured out in some detail how the U.S. collects its most sensitive intelligence on Iran, the Iranians have almost certainly come to the same conclusions. Which means that they can move to address their vulnerabilities and can work harder to shield their intentions if they actually are developing a weapon, possibly doing so with outside technical help from the sophisticated friendly foreign intelligence services of Russia and China. As for the Israelis, a foolish attempt to use U.S.-provided intelligence to further demonize a country that has already been effectively blackened will prove counter-productive. Israel and its friends in Congress have long been demanding that CIA and NSA provide them with raw instead of finished intelligence. Raw intelligence is information that comes in as it is collected, indicating the sources and methods used. It is extremely valuable because it is transparent and not subject to analysis, but it is also highly vulnerable to disruption if it is in any way exposed. The resistance within the intelligence community to providing the Israelis anything of that nature has just hardened, with credit going to Ehud Barak for leaking information in an attempt to obtain some political mileage to bolster his country’s incessant arguments in favor of war.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.
- Points of No Return, Zones of Immunity, & Windows of Opportunity: The Constant Israeli Hype Over Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)