NAZARETH — Hebrew media sources have revealed that an atmosphere of pessimism prevailed in the meeting of US Vice-president Joe Biden with Egyptian president Husni Mubarak in Sharm e-Sheikh due to the failure of the steel barrier strategy in tightening the grip on the besieged Gaza Strip.
Military and security consultants from both countries were profoundly disappointed after “Hamas engineers” in the Gaza Strip succeeded in penetrating the barrier, the sources added.
The sources also disclosed that reports received by Biden alleged that “Hamas engineers” succeeded in excavating 18 meters under the ground and in planting burning materials in the way of the steel slabs that melted the foundations of the barrier and made them of no effect.
Furthermore, the sources said that that the USA decided to abandon the project and stopped financing it, and started to pull out all American military engineers participating in and supervising the project.
The US-Egypt plan was meant to destroy all tunnels along the Gaza Strip borders with Egypt in a bid to complete the Israeli siege and suffocate the 1.6 million Palestinians living in the Strip.
Venezuela ‘has world’s second biggest oil reserves’
Venezuela is now the world’s second biggest holder of proved oil reserves, overtaking the Gulf producers Iran, Iraq and Kuwait.
In the 2010 edition of its benchmark Statistical Review of World Energy, which was published last week, BP has made substantial upwards revisions to its estimates of Venezuela’s oil reserves for both last year and 2008.
It appears to have included in its latest tally about 73 billion barrels of heavy crude reserves for which the South American country has long sought recognition from Opec. That has boosted the company’s estimate of Venezuelan oil reserves by more than 73%, following a smaller revision last year.
According to BP, the Middle East’s share of global oil reserves has shrunk by almost 10 percentage points in the past two decades, as producers in South America, Eurasia and Africa have established more commercially viable deposits of the world’s leading fuel. Those countries now officially include Venezuela. BP has set at 56.6% its estimate of the proportion of the world’s proved oil reserves that are located in the Middle East. That is down from 65.7% in 1989.
- Despite the region’s diminished standing as a source of future crude supply, Middle Eastern oil reserves have increased by 14% in the past 20 years to 754 billion barrels, according to BP.
Over the same period, however, the world’s total proved oil reserves have expanded more than twice as fast, swelling by nearly a third to 1.33 trillion barrels by the end of last year from 1 trillion barrels two decades earlier. The world’s top six holders of oil reserves, according to the latest BP league table, are now, in descending order, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE, all of which are OPEC members.
Russia was last year’s top oil producer, pumping more than 10 million barrels per day, followed by Saudi Arabia and the US. Russia and Saudi Arabia were also the world’s leading oil exporters. Unlike those countries, the US is a net importer of oil. The review ranked the UAE as the eighth most prolific oil producer last year. The nation’s output, averaging 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd), narrowly exceeded those of Iraq and Kuwait, which each pumped 2.48 million bpd of crude.
Venezuela’s oil output averaged 2.44 million bpd, putting the South American state within range of overtaking every Gulf oil producer except Saudi Arabia and Iran.
As OPEC’s biggest western hemisphere oil producer and a founding member of the group, Venezuela has been pushing for a higher OPEC production quota based on recognition of its large reserves of “unconventional” heavy crude. Venezuela can still develop those deposits while honouring its commitment to OPEC because the group’s production quotas exclude unconventional oil. Formal recognition of the reserves and a higher quota, however, would give Venezuela the country more flexibility to raise its output of lighter crude, which is usually more profitable to produce.
Another landmark emerging from BP’s latest data is that Brazil’s oil production has for the first time exceeded 2 million bpd. Brazil pumped almost as much crude as Nigeria last year and surpassed the output of five other OPEC producers. Brazilian production rose by 7.1% to 2.03 million bpd, cementing the country’s position as South America’s second biggest oil producer.
US oil output, which had fallen in 2008, rebounded last year by 7% to 7.12 million bpd. The 462,000 bpd increase was “by far” the world’s biggest and came mainly from the Gulf of Mexico, said Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP.
The Middle East remained the world’s top oil producing region last year, accounting for more than 34% of the global total. It was followed by Europe/Eurasia and North America.
In terms of gas, the biggest change from last year, according to BP’s data, was a 13.9% increase in Venezuela’s reserves.
Last September, the Spanish oil and gas group Repsol announced it had struck a giant gasfield off the coast of Venezuela. Hailing the discovery, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said his country would soon become “one of the five giants in the world of gas.”
On the basis of their proved reserves, the reigning monarchs of the gas world are Russia, Iran and Qatar, which between them hold nearly 3.5 quadrillion cubic feet of reserves representing 53% of the global total. Venezuela’s gas reserves, at 200 trillion cubic feet, are now the eighth largest in the world. The UAE has 227 trillion cubic feet of reserves, putting it in seventh place.
Gas reserves in Russia and Saudi Arabia also increased last year. Russian reserves grew by 2.5% to 1.57 quadrillion cubic feet. Those of Saudi Arabia swelled by 4.6% to 280 trillion cubic feet.
Global gas reserves have increased 53% in the past 20 years, outpacing oil. The Middle East’s share has expanded to 40.6 from 30.9%, largely due to development of the world’s biggest gasfield, which is shared by Qatar and Iran.
Solidarity activists protest outside Caterpillar’s annual shareholder meeting in Chicago, 9 June. (Kristin Szremski)
While pro-Palestinian activists and supporters of Israel lined opposite sides of South LaSalle Street outside the Northern Trust Building in Chicago on 9 June, James Owens, the outgoing CEO and Chairman of Caterpillar Inc., told a room full of shareholders the company was not responsible for the way Israel uses the bulldozers the company manufactures in the United States.
Owens made his remarks at the end of the annual shareholders meeting, which had been disrupted 14 times by individual protestors who stood up one by one and loudly proclaimed that the Israeli military uses Caterpillar’s D9 bulldozer to raze farmland, uproot olive groves and demolish homes, sometimes crushing people inside. As each activist stood, as many as five plain-clothed security personnel descended upon the speaker and physically escorted him or her from the room.
At one point, the audience started chanting, “Out, out, out” as activists were lead away.
Initially Owens stopped speaking with each outburst. But he attempted to speak over the twelfth protestor, Sandra Tamari, a Palestinian American activist from St. Louis. Undaunted, Tamari continued to talk until right before she was taken from the room; she turned and pointed a finger at Owens and at the board of directors seated to his right. The room fell silent as she said with charged emotion, “You should be ashamed! You should be ashamed. People are dying.”
“It is not the D9 that is killing people,” Owens said after the end of the business meeting, during the question and answer session. “People are dying in the Middle East and we’re sorry about that. We can’t help that.”
Owens maintained the company “can’t manage the four million pieces of equipment out there,” adding that if Caterpillar did not sell the machines to Israel, the bulldozers still could be purchased off the Internet.
In addition, Owens hid behind the US Foreign Military Sales program, which handles the sales of the CAT machines to Israel. “We’re not in the business of international relations. You need to take it up with Washington,” Owens said.
Several humanitarian organizations contend that since the D9 is sold through the FMS program the bulldozers qualify as weapons and as such Israel’s use of them to illegally demolish homes and target civilians violates the US Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which prohibits the use of military aid against civilians, according to a 2004 University of Wisconsin document on its investments in trust funds.
The D9 is no ordinary earthmover: it is more than 13 feet tall and 26 feet wide, weighs more than 60 tons with its armored plating, and can raze houses in a matter of minutes, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. The CCR is one of the organizations that helped Cindy and Craig Corrie bring lawsuits against Caterpillar and the State of Israel for the 2003 death of their daughter, Rachel.
An Israeli soldier driving a CAT bulldozer crushed Rachel as she was defending a home in Gaza, targeted for illegal demolition. The case against CAT was dismissed but a civil trial began in Tel Aviv in March.
In addition to being retrofitted to hold heavy machine guns and in some cases grenade launchers, many D9 bulldozers are now driverless and can be operated by remote control, according to a March 2009 article in The Jerusalem Post.
“The unmanned D9 performed remarkably during Operation Cast Lead,” a commander was quoted as saying in the article. The Israeli military also used the driverless vehicle, dubbed “Black Thunder,” in the 2006 war on Lebanon. The commander was not named in the article.
Israel has demolished some 24,000 homes using the D9 since it illegally occupied the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem in 1967, according to Joel Finkel of Jewish Voice for Peace, who introduced a shareholder proposal requesting a review of CAT’s global corporate standards.
“This means that Israel has intentionally made hundreds of thousands of people homeless. … For decades, its primary tool to accomplish this has been the D9 bulldozer, which our company builds and services solely to help Israel cleanse Palestine of its non-Jewish inhabitants by destroying their homes,” he said.
In 2003, Caterpillar’s sales and revenue totaled $22.8 billion, with more than half of that coming from overseas markets. This year, the company projects sales and revenues to reach as high as $42 billion, with a goal of $100 billion by the year 2020. Dividend payouts have increased 125 percent since 2003, according to the Quarter 1 2010 analyst conference call, filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. While CAT executives point to emerging markets such as Latin America for the company’s recent growth, revenues were down by about 22 percent in the first quarter of 2010 in the Europe, Africa and Middle East sector compared to the same period in 2009.
The shareholder proposal asked Caterpillar to amend its current policy, the “Worldwide Code of Conduct” — which does not include language pertaining to international human rights — to conform with international human rights and humanitarian standards, according to the proxy statement filed with the US Security and Exchange Commission in April.
Shareholders have been submitting proposals to the annual shareholders meeting since 2004, when members of the Catholic organizations Sisters of Loretto and the Ursuline Sisters submitted a proposal in 2004 asking CAT to probe how Israel used the bulldozers. Then, the proposal was supported by a mere four percent of shareholders; 20 percent supported the current proposal Wednesday.
That the Israeli military uses the bulldozers has been well-established. Now, however, the military is taking things a step further. The Israeli military is now conscripting Caterpillar mechanics as “reservist soldiers” so they can maintain the machines on the front lines in an Israeli military operation, according to a November 2009 article in the Israeli daily Haaretz.
“During Operation Cast Lead and before, during the Second Lebanon War, our staff essentially volunteered, and were nearly at the front in order to care for the equipment. Sometimes they risked their lives,” Yossi Smira, director of Zoko Shiluvim, which owns the Israeli company that supplies the armored bulldozer, said in the article.
When a reporter asked Owens during the question and answer session whether he was personally affected by stories that mechanics are being conscripted as soldiers or that disabled people were crushed to death when bulldozers collapsed their homes around them, he said, “Absolutely. It’s tragic. But we can’t manage four million pieces of equipment out there.”
Meanwhile, the expelled activists were convened in an alley near a back door, waiting to receive their cell phones and other electronic items, which had to be checked prior to the meeting. They waited for more than two hours. And when a guard finally brought their items, he brought them from the fifth floor — one at a time.
The group of 14 was convened by Matt Gaines of Chicagoans Against Apartheid in Palestine. Activists travelled from Boston, St. Louis and Louisville to attend the shareholders meeting.
The only ticketed offense during the day came when Jeff Pickert of Chicago was cited by Chicago police for “incitement” after a pro-Zionist protestor punched him in the chest. Pickert was not allowed to file a complaint against the man who hit him, he said.
Kristin Szremski is the director of media and communications for American Muslims for Palestine. She is also a freelance journalist based near Chicago.
“We’d like to know where he is; we’d like his cooperation in this,” one U.S. official said of Assange.
Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.
The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.
American officials said Pentagon investigators are convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Department cables leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist, Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now in custody in Kuwait.
And given the contents of the cables, the feds have good reason to be concerned.
As The Daily Beast reported June 8, Manning, while posted in Iraq, apparently had special access to cables prepared by diplomats and State Department officials throughout the Middle East, regarding the workings of Arab governments and their leaders, according to an American diplomat.
The cables, which date back over several years, went out over interagency computer networks available to the Army and contained information related to American diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, the diplomat said.
American officials would not discuss the methods being used to find Assange, nor would they say if they had information to suggest where he is now. “We’d like to know where he is; we’d like his cooperation in this,” one U.S. official said of Assange.
Assange, who first gained notoriety as a computer hacker, is as secretive as his website and has no permanent home.
He was scheduled to speak Friday in Las Vegas at an International Reporters and Editors conference. But the group’s executive director, Mark Horvit, tells The Daily Beast that Assange canceled the appearance—he was on a panel to discuss anonymous sources—within the last several days as a result of unspecificed “security concerns.” Horvit said he communicated with Assange through email and did not know where he might be.
Last week, Assange was scheduled to join famed Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg for a talk at New York’s Personal Democracy Forum. Assange appeared via Skype from Australia instead, saying lawyers recommended he not return to the United States.
Julian Assange, in April 2010, discussing confidential sources in the digital age
Assange was in the United States as recently as several weeks ago, when he gave press interviews to promote the website’s release of an explosive 2007 video of an American helicopter attack in Baghdad that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the news agency Reuters.
Wikileaks has not replied directly to email messages from The Daily Beast.
However, in cryptic messages he sent this week via Twitter, Wikileaks referred to an earlier Daily Beast article on the investigation of Manning and said that it “looks like we’re about to be attacked by everything the U.S. has.”
In an earlier post, the site said that allegations that “we have been sent 260,000 classified U.S. embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”
This morning, a new Wikileaks tweet went out: “Any signs of unacceptable behavior by the Pentagon or its agents towards this press will be viewed dimly.”
Pentagon investigators say that particular post may have been an effort by Wikileaks to throw them—and news organizations—off the track as the site prepared the library of State Department cables for release, officials said.
“It looks like they’re playing some sort of semantic games,” one American official said of Wikileaks. “They may not have 260,000 cables, but they’ve probably got enough cables to make trouble.”
• Philip Shenon: The State Dept.’s Worst NightmareIn another cryptic Twitter message, the site said that while the State Department might be alarmed about the prospect of the release of classified cables, “we have not been contacted.”
American officials were unwilling to say what would happen if Assange is tracked down, although they suggested they would have many more legal options available to them if he were still somewhere in the United States.
Manning has reportedly admitted that he downloaded 260,000 diplomatic cables and provided them to Wikileaks. In Internet chat logs first revealed by Wired magazine, Manning also took credit for leaking the 2007 video to the website.
“Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available,” Manning wrote of the diplomatic cables, according to Wired.
Wikileaks has not confirmed that Manning is a source of any information posted on the site. “We do not know if Mr. Manning is our source, but the U.S. military is claiming he is, so we will defend him,” Wikileaks said in another Twitter message.
Manning was turned in to the Pentagon by a former computer hacker based in California, Adrian Lamo, after Manning approached Lamo for counsel. Manning is believed to have contacted Lamo after reading a recent profile of him in Wired.
In the chat log revealed by Wired, Manning bragged to Lamo about having downloaded a huge library of State Department cables, as well as the 2007 video of the helicopter attack, and having provided the material to Wikileaks.
Manning took credit for having leaked a classified diplomatic cable that has already appeared on the site—a memo prepared by the United States embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland, that described a meeting there between American and Icelandic officials over that country’s banking meltdown.
The January 2010 memo may have been of special interest to Wikileaks given the site’s close ties to Iceland, where Assange has based himself at times and where he worked with local lawmakers to draft free-speech laws that give broad freedom to journalists to protect their sources.
A profile this week in The New Yorker magazine depicted Assange feverishly at work with Icelandic colleagues in Reykjavik in March as he organized the release of the 2007 video of the helicopter attack. The edited video was given the title Collateral Murder, and its release infuriated officials at the Defense Department.
With its network of whistleblowers, Wikileaks has published documents and videos on its site that have outraged other foreign governments. To protect the site from attack by intelligence agencies, Assange has placed Wikileaks on several Internet servers, making it all but impossible for any government to shut down the site entirely.
Philip Shenon, a former investigative reporter at The New York Times, is the author of The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation.
The Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla that resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American has led Israel and its supporters to argue that the Turkish government and a prominent Turkish humanitarian organization are “terrorist” sympathizers with ill intentions toward Israel and the United States. In a series of articles, the U.S. corporate press has joined in.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that IHH, the Turkish aid group involved with the flotilla that attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, has a “dual message of aid and confrontation.” Their evidence for the confrontational attitude of IHH? A banner on the side of their building that reads, “Israel, murderers, hands off our boats!” Don’t pay attention to the fact that IHH was attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and that it was Israel that confronted and killed people on the ship.
The Post goes on to report claims that IHH has links to Al-Qaeda, citing a 2006 report by “U.S. terrorism investigator” Evan Kohlmann. But two paragraphs down, the Post quotes a “think tank with ties to Israel’s Defense Ministry, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center,” that states there is “no known evidence of current links between IHH and ‘global jihad elements.'”
What’s not mentioned in the Post article is that no government besides Israel considers IHH a terrorist organization. In fact, IHH delivered humanitarian aid to Haiti in the aftermath of the January earthquake at a time when the United States military took a leading role in directing relief efforts there. Would the U.S. have allowed a terrorist organization into Haiti? IHH has also helped out in New Orleans.
Marsha B. Cohen, an expert on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, has already debunked IHH’s “terror ties” here at Mondoweiss and cast doubt on the credentials of Evan Kohlmann, pointing to a Spinwatch.org article on Kohlmann that thoroughly details his lack of expertise. Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, noted that Kohlmann assisted in the prosecution of Osama bin Laden’s former driver by producing a film that was “pure propaganda,” raking in $45,000 for the film and his testimony as an “expert witness” in the much criticized trial.
But be scared! According to the Post:
In the group’s two-story headquarters, IHH members — mostly men in their 30s and 40s dressed in jeans or casual business attire — oversee operations in dozens of countries. The group provides humanitarian aid such as freshwater wells and medical care, as well as Islamic services such as training for prayer leaders. A world map on one wall depicted Palestine, but not Israel.
At a recent protest in San Francisco, Zionists hurled insults at peace activists and also issued threats such as this:
You’re all being identified, every last one of you…we will find out where you live. We’re going to make your lives difficult..we will disrupt your families…
It would appear that there are Zionists in Austin, Texas, who share the same sentiment and have decided to enlist the services of the FBI in order to pursue their political agenda.
What other plausible explanation can there be as to why the FBI came to question the mother of five shown in this video? She is a part-time registered nurse and part-time peace activist whose only form of “suspicious” behavior is that she has participated in protests calling for justice in Palestine.
Aletho News adds:
Israel is (as usual) taking revenge on the Palestinian relatives of activists onboard. Those who seek to non violently oppose Zionist policies of Apartheid violence are having loved ones interrogated by the Shabak. – Link
Poster Boy for “Dual Loyalties”
Israel appears to be in more serious trouble diplomatically than at any time in its history following the botched attack by an “elite” commando squad on the Mavi Marmara that left at least nine dead and scores wounded. Thanks to Al-Jazeera and Iran’s PressTV, whose reporters were aboard the ship, much of the world was able to watch the attack unfold on its TV and computer screens and the result has been an avalanche of outrage and ongoing protests against the Jewish state. Within Israel this has led to finger-pointing and calls for resignations while its hasbara machinery has gone rapidly into damage-control and disinformation mode.
Lest we forget, the first U.S. official to give Israel’s bloody assault a thumbs up sign was Vice President Joe Biden. The former Delaware senator has been a key part of Israel’s hasbara branch, American section, since entering the Senate in 1973 and on the Wednesday following the Israeli attack, he appeared on the Charlie Rose Show where he showed no hesitation in defending Israel’s handling of the raid, something that President Obama had been reluctant to do.
On the following morning, Jerusalem Post Editor David Horvitz speaking for 45 minutes to Congressional staffers and AIPAC members on a conference call praised Biden’s performance. “It is not entirely clear in Israel where America stands,” he said, but “Israel was very pleased with what Joe Biden had to say.”
But isn’t that why Joe was picked for the job? Was it not to get the vote and the money from those Jews who were afraid that Barack Obama –who they suspected of being a closet Muslim—was no true friend of Israel?
Obama picked Biden “who is about as close to the pro-Israel community as any member of either house,” observed MJ Rosenberg, a former AIPAC staffer, on TPM Café, just after Biden’s selection. “Biden is rated 100 per cent by AIPAC … When he goes to the synagogues in Florida, he goes not as a visitor but as ‘mishpocha’ [family]. The Jews simply love the guy.”
“Bottom line,” concluded Rosenberg, “the Biden choice pretty much eliminated Obama’s ‘Jewish problem.’” That was then and now it doesn’t seem to matter what position Obama takes, Biden seems to answer to his real boss. And it ain’t Barack.
Appearing on the Charlie Rose show was but the latest assignment for Biden in his long career of serving Israel, the first 35 years of which he was drawing salary and gaining political clout as a US Senator for a state whose population is only slightly larger than that of San Francisco (783,600 to 776,733).
“Look,” Biden told Rose in a rambling monologue in which he confused Ehud Barak with Ariel Sharon, “you can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not … but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know — they’re at war with Hamas — has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in. And up to now, Charlie, what’s happened? They’ve said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza.’ So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight — 3,000 rockets on my people.’ ”
No big deal, Joe, at least nine dead, or four less than the number of Israelis killed since the first Palestinian rocket was fired from Gaza. And notice how easily he says “my” and pretends that rockets are still being fired from Gaza.
That “my” was not a Freudian slip. Like scores of other US politicians who have traded their political souls for access to the seemingly bottomless checking accounts of Israel’s American supporters, Biden has become a poster boy for “dual loyalty.” Given that he has done this as a member of Congress and continues to do so while now a heartbeat from the White House should probably qualify him for a treason trial and a cell next to Jonathan Pollard.
Back in 2007, on one of his many visits to Israel, he told a Shalom TV interviewer that the Jewish state was “the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East.” Going beyond the standard AIPAC scripted boilerplate, Biden stated, “When I was a young senator, I used to say, ‘If I were a Jew I’d be a Zionist.’ I am a Zionist,” he said. “You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.”
Asked about his prospective cell neighbor, sentenced to life-imprisonment in 1985 for turning over mounds of top secret information to Israel, Biden spoke of leniency for Pollard but not a pardon.
“There’s a rationale, in my view, why Pollard should be given leniency,” said Biden. “But there is not a rationale to say, ‘What happened did not happen and should be pardoned.'” In other words, should Biden become president, it is likely that Pollard would be freed.
Looking at Biden’s track record, it would seem that he has not just been a key cheerleader for Israel; he has aspired to be a member of its coaching staff.
Speaking to an AIPAC meeting in 1992, he was quoted by the organization’s Near East Report as saying that it was time to “tell the American people straight out that it’s in our naked self-interest to see to it that the moral commitment and political commitment is kept with regard to Israel and that Israel is not the cause of our problem, but the essence of the solution.” This was in response to President George H.W. Bush’s second refusal to support Israel’s demand for $10 billion in loan guarantees. Which of America’s problems Israel was able to solve Biden didn’t mention.
In December, 1995, two years after Oslo, he spoke at an AIPAC meeting in San Francisco and told a lunchtime audience that included most of the Bay Area’s public officials that they needed to spend more time educating new members of Congress about the wonders of Israel and its strategic value to the US:
“Be prepared to both convert and be prepared to deal with those who are not converted….
“Israel is taking more chances on her security today than any time in her history…. Arabs make peace with Israel only when they realize that they can’t drive a wedge between the US and Israel. We cannot afford to publicly criticize Israel.” This past March, back in Israel on a “fence-mending” assignment, just before he was blindsided by the announcement of Israel’s plan to build 1600 new Jewish housing units in East Jerusalem, Biden had modified his “can’t drive a wedge” to read “there is no space between.”
At that time Biden gave his San Francisco speech, he had taken in over $100,000 from pro-Israel PACs which was small change compared to what he had received in individual donations. By far the largest of these came in 1988, when he made his first bid for the presidency. It was a $1.5 million gift from San Francisco financial real estate magnate Walter Shorenstein, who was, by no coincidence, AIPAC’s main man in California as well a major player in the state’s Democratic Party. It turned out to be a poor investment since that was the year that Biden was caught plagiarizing a speech by British Labor leader Neil Kinnock and had to withdraw from the race.
In 2007, true to form, Biden took the lead in the Senate in rejecting the Iraq Study Group’s conclusion that the United States would not be able to achieve its goals in Iraq unless it “deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict,” a view taken more recently by Gen. David Petraeus.
“I do not accept the notion of linkage between Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Biden said during his opening remarks at a January 17, 2007, Senate hearing. “Arab-Israeli peace is worth pursuing vigorously on its own merits, but even if a peace treaty were signed tomorrow, it would not end the civil war in Iraq.” It was not that the study group said that it would but it was convenient straw man for Biden.
It was not his first comment on Iraq. It may be recalled that on May 1, 2006, Biden had co-authored an op-ed piece for the NY Times with his guru, Leslie Gelb, a former Times columnist and president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, that called for Iraq to be divided into three confessional states. It was starkly similar to what had been written in a policy paper back in 1982 by Oded Yinon, a senior Israeli foreign affairs official, in which he wrote that, “To dissolve Iraq is even more important for us than dissolving Syria. In the short term, it’s Iraqi power that constitutes the greatest threat to Israel.” Gelb had first raised the issue in an op-ed in the Times in November, 2003.
During the 2008 election campaign Biden was outraged to find his loyalty to Israel being questioned by what he reportedly thought was AIPAC but which turned out to be the Republican Jewish Coalition. The RJC had accused him of not towing the AIPAC line on one or two occasions which caused Biden to defend his willingness to oppose AIPAC on some pieces of legislation.
In a 20-minute conference call with members of the Jewish media that September, Biden said it was up to the Israelis to make decisions about war and peace, including whether to launch a strike aimed at disrupting Iran’s nuclear program.
“This is not a question for us to tell the Israelis what they can and cannot do,” said the Democratic vice presidential candidate. “”Israel has the right to defend itself and it doesn’t have to ask, just as any other free and independent country. I have faith in the democracy of Israel. They will arrive at the right decision that they view as being in their own interests.” That as vice-president his job would be to protect US interests and not Israel’s and that an attack on Iran might jeopardize American interests either had not occurred to him or was of no concern.
In the interview, Biden tried to position himself as being even more pro-Israel than AIPAC, vigorously defending his record of occasionally breaking ranks with the pro-Israel lobby. “AIPAC does not speak for the entire American Jewish community,” he said. “There’s other organizations as strong and as consequential.”
Moreover, Biden insisted, “I will take a back seat to no one, and again, no one in AIPAC or any other organization, in terms of questioning my support of the State of Israel.”
“Insiders at the lobby were more bemused than offended by the outburst” wrote the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Ron Kampeas, “saying they regarded Biden as essentially pro-Israel. Sources familiar with the situation said the Obama camp’s explanation was that Biden had mistakenly thought it was AIPAC who had criticized him, as opposed to the RJC.”
Upset at the RJC’s questioning of Biden’s pro-Israel credentials The New Republic’s Marty Peretz, entered the lists in his behalf. Wrote Peretz in TNR and the Jerusalem Post in September,2008:
“If ever there was a true friend of Israel in the United States Senate it is Joe Biden. Oh yes, there were also Owen Brewster, Republican from Maine, and Guy Gillette, Democrat from Iowa. But that goes back to the very founding of the state.
“This is not hyperbole about Biden. It is true. And it is so not just on a philosophical basis but in deeds, too. Biden is a true friend on both a higher and a deeper level, and he has been that for three and a half decades. It is reckless for Jews to trifle with such allies. We have, as I’ve said, many friends. But what we do not have is many such allies – formidable, expert, truly passionate.”
Following the election and now, as vice-president, Biden continued to merit Peretz’s confidence. Speaking at AIPAC’s 2009 policy conference in Washington, he began by describing how he had been warmly welcomed on a visit to Israel in 1973 as a freshman senator by Prime Minister Golda Meir and befriended by Yitzhak Rabin. Then, to loud rounds of applause, he told his audience:
“[W]e have to pursue every opportunity for progress while standing up for one core principle: First, Israel’s security is non-negotiable. Period. Period. [sic]Our commitment is unshakable. We will continue to provide Israel with the assistance that it needs. We will continue to defend Israel’s right to defend itself and make its own judgments about what it needs to do to defend itself.”
Toward the end of his speech, Biden timorously advanced a position that has long been official US policy. “You’re not going to like my saying this,” he said, but [do]not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts, and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement.” There was no applause.
In 1994, Biden was a key player in one of the ugliest episodes in American political history and one that characterizes the subservience of Washington to Israel in its way much as did the cover-up of Israel ‘s attack on the USS Liberty 53 years ago on June 8th.
It featured a star chamber recantation before a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Biden, of Strobe Talbott, former Soviet affairs analyst for Time, of an article he had written, following his nomination as Deputy Secretary of State by Bill Clinton. Talbott was facing the inquisition as a result of a major article he had written for the magazine in 1981, “What to do about Israel” (9/7/81). In it, Talbott had advocated a new policy towards Israel-US relations that would “rescue that relationship… starting with the delusion that Israel is, or ever has been, primarily a strategic ally.”
While expressing the obligatory degree of affection for Israel, Talbott had not been equivocal. Referring to problems that had been created for the Reagan administration by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Talbott wrote in words, especially pertinent today, “His country does need the US for its survival, but the sad fact is that Israel is well on its way to becoming not just a dubious asset but an outright liability to American security interests, both in the Middle East and worldwide.”
Talbott was referring to Israel’s destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak and a deadly bombing raid over Beirut that killed over 100 people and wounded 600 more, most of them civilians. Talbott had advised that, “If Israel continues to take international law into its own hands as violently—and as embarrassingly to the US—as it did in Baghdad and Beirut, then the next display of US displeasure ought to be more sustained and less symbolic. It might include severe cutbacks in American military aid, which is $1.2 billion for fiscal ’81 alone.[It is now officially $3 billion].
Pressed to recant, Talbott uttered the required response. As reported by the New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse,
“‘I do want to set the record straight on the question of my view of Israel as a strategic asset,’ he said, sounding chastened and contrite. ‘On that I have simply changed my opinion.’
“On the other hand, straining to reassure supporters of Israel, Mr. Talbott said, ‘I have always believed that the US-Israeli relationship is unshakable. Second, I have always believed that a strong Israel is in America’s interest because it serves the cause of peace and stability in the region…’
“During his 21 years at Time, Mr. Talbott often criticized Israel. Today he took a markedly different tone, portraying himself as a friend of Israel.”
In the article Talbott, had written that “Begin recognized that American Jews wield influence far beyond their numbers, but he also knew that there is considerable pent-up irritation in the US with the power of the pro-Israel lobby (which includes, of course, many non-Jews).” It was clearly his own opinion, as well.
Biden, according to the NY Times, jumped on that statement, calling it,“totally inappropriate,” to which Talbott, “asserting that no slight was intended,” noted that this “was simply a statement of fact,” and turned to Sen. Bernard Metzenbaum from his home state of Ohio for confirmation. Metzenbaum said that he was “satisfied” with Talbott’s remarks, but, “Maybe, in retrospect, he might have changed some phrases or some paragraphs.”
Mind you, Talbott had questioned Israel’s strategic value to the US in 1981, in the heart of the Cold War when he was considered one of the main stream media’s ranking Soviet experts. Before going before the Senate, he had become a senior adviser on the former Soviet Union to the Clinton White House. By 1994, with the Soviet bloc no longer in the picture, it was generally agreed, even in Tel Aviv, that Israel’s value to the US had been severely diminished.
Biden went on, citing the same article, noted that Talbott also had written: “Israel has been a credit to itself and its American backers.”
Playing the role of Torquemada, he asked Talbott, “Do you believe that?”
“Yes, senator, I do,” he obediently replied.
His “conversion” process having been completed, Talbott received the senator’s and subsequently the Senate’s approval.
The reader should not be left with the impression that Joe Biden’s prime passions are limited to the love of Israel.
While in the Senate, he was a key supporter of the credit card industry, much of which is based in Delaware thanks to its cozy industry friendly tax laws and he was a key beneficiary of its campaign contributions. In return, he became a leading supporter of the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005” which, despite its title, made it harder for consumers to get protection under bankruptcy.
Biden was one of the first Democratic supporters of the bill and voted for it four times until it finally passed in March, 2005. Twisting the truth, a spokesman for Sen. Obama told the NY Times, “Senator Biden took on entrenched interests and succeeded in improving the bill for low-income workers, women and children.”
But even the Times wasn’t buying that. Biden, the paper noted, was one of only five Democrats who voted against a proposal that would require credit card companies to provide more effective warnings to consumers about the consequences of paying only the minimum amount due each month. Obama had voted for it.
Biden differed with Obama again when he helped to defeat amendments which would have strengthened protections for people forced into bankruptcy who have large medical debts or are in the military. He was also one of four Democrats who sided with Republicans to defeat an effort, supported by Obama, to shift responsibility in certain cases from debtors to the predatory lenders who helped push them into bankruptcy.
So why did Obama pick Biden for his running mate? We already know the answer.
Jeffrey Blankfort can be contacted at email@example.com
Whether wittingly or witlessly, President Barack Obama is pursuing a neocon-charted path on Iran that parallels the one that George W. Bush took to war with Iraq – ratcheting up sanctions against the “enemy,” refusing to tolerate more peaceful options, and swaggering along with the propagandistic tough-guy-ism of the major U.S. news media.
The Obama administration is celebrating its victory in getting the UN Security Council on Wednesday to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran. Obama also is expected to sign on to even more draconian penalties that should soon sail through Congress.
Obama may be thinking that his UN diplomatic achievement will buy him some credibility – and some time – with American neocons and Israel’s Likud government, which favor a showdown with Iran over its nuclear program.
However, the end result of the new sanctions may well be a greater likelihood that the debate within the Iranian government will tilt toward a decision to proceed with ever-higher-level enrichment of uranium and possibly construction of a nuclear bomb as the only means of self-defense.
That may be the opposite of what Obama seeks, but it is what the neocons and Likud would cite as justification for another Middle East war.
Just as the neocons and Israel wanted “regime change” in Iraq, they have long hungered for “regime change” in Iran, too. A favorite neocon joke at the time of the Iraq War was to speculate on which direction to go next, to Syria or Iran, with the punch-line, “Real men to go Tehran!”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that he considers the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon an “existential threat” to Israel, one that would justify a military strike. While Israel’s powerful air force would likely inflict the first blows, national security analysts believe that the U.S. military would be pulled in to finish off Iran’s military capabilities.
The neocon/Likud hope would be that these military attacks would embolden Iran’s internal opposition to rise up and overthrow the Islamic system that has governed Iran since 1979, in other words, “regime change.” Much like the neocon/Likud thinking about Iraq, however, these grandiose plans often end up with unpredictable and bloody outcomes.
Many war-gamers believe the economic, geo-political and military consequences of an attack on Iran are impossible to gauge, though some in the U.S. military fear that such a conflict could ignite a regional war and cause serious strategic damage to the United States. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Bomb-Bomb-Iran Parlor Game.”]
Whether President Obama comprehends these risks – or may invite them – is unclear. What is known is that he staffed his administration with a number of hardliners on Iran, from Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State to Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff. Voices of moderation, if there are any, have been noticeably silent.
Some analysts believe that the President is a relative “dove” on Iran, citing his private letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that encouraged Brazil and Turkey to work out a deal to get Iran to transfer about half its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for more highly enriched uranium that could only be used for peaceful medical purposes.
However, after Lula da Silva and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan got Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to agree to that deal, the arrangement was denounced by Secretary of State Clinton and was ridiculed by the major U.S. news media, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Even after Brazil released Obama’s supportive letter, the President would not publicly defend his position. Instead, his administration pressed ahead with the new round of sanctions.
What is also clear is that tough-guy-ism is running strong, much like it was in the months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
A New York Times editorial on Thursday praised the new round of anti-Iran sanctions, but complained they “do not go far enough.” Still, the Times took encouragement from the hope that the United States and European countries might impose much harsher sanctions on their own.
The Times also took another mocking swipe at Brazil and Turkey, which voted against the new sanctions from their temporary seats on the Security Council.
“The day’s most disturbing development was the two no votes in the Security Council from Turkey and Brazil,” the Times wrote. “Both are disappointed that their efforts to broker a nuclear deal with Iran didn’t go far. Like pretty much everyone else, they were played by Tehran.”
Though this Times point of view fits with neocon orthodoxy – that any reasonable move toward peace and away from confrontation is a sign of naivete and weakness – the fact is that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal was torpedoed by the United States, after Obama had encouraged it. This wasn’t a case of the two countries being “played by Tehran.”
The Real Agenda
The Times star columnist Thomas L. Friedman has more explicitly laid out the real goal regarding Iran, not nuclear safeguards, but “regime change.” In a May 26 column, Friedman wrote that the United States should do whatever it can to help Iran’s internal opposition overthrow President Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Islamic-directed government.
“In my view, the ‘Green Revolution’ in Iran is the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades,” Friedman wrote.
“It has been suppressed, but it is not going away, and, ultimately, its success — not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics — is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal.”
Friedman’s argument again tracks with the neocon case for war with Iran – as he earlier was onboard for war with Iraq – claiming that “regime change” was the only acceptable outcome.
As an institution, the New York Times also played a key role in making war with Iraq inevitable, with bogus reporting about Iraq getting aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges. Similarly, in the case of Iran, the Times and other leading U.S. news outlets have promoted the propaganda line that Iran’s presidential election last June was “fraudulent” or “rigged.”
However, an analysis by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes found that there was little evidence to support allegations of fraud or to conclude that most Iranians viewed Ahmadinejad’s reelection as illegitimate.
Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA – whether before or after the June 12 election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran – showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed the much-touted Green Movement’s candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi ahead or even close.
“These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. “But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over It!”]
Nevertheless, President Obama has refused to contest Washington’s conventional wisdom on the Iranian election or to buck the neocon-favored trend toward a heightened confrontation with Iran.
Having let his administration rebuff the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal in favor of more UN sanctions and soon even tougher U.S. sanctions, Obama has let his foreign policy either drift – or be piloted – toward a worsening crisis.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.
NATO is facing war of attrition in Afghanistan as four US occupation soldiers were killed Wednesday when Taliban militants shot down a NATO helicopter bringing to 23 the number of occupation soldiers killed in escalating violence since Sunday, and to 253 troops killed in the occupied country so far this year. This toll is scaring NATO countries, with the British Prime Minister David Cameron saying his country would not send more troops to Afghanistan.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helicopter came down in Helmand province. “The helicopter was brought down by hostile fire,” a military spokesman said, announcing the toll. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Breasseale confirmed that the killed soldiers were American.
Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, telephoned AFP from an undisclosed location to claim responsibility, saying: “We brought it down with a rocket. It crashed in the Sangin district bazaar.”
“It’s been a tough week,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington, adding it was too early to say whether the downing of the helicopter, the first by hostile fire in nearly a year, marked a change in insurgent tactics or weaponry.
The crash brought to five the number of NATO soldiers killed in the south on Wednesday, after London said a British soldier had died in an explosion elsewhere in Helmand.
Twenty-three NATO soldiers have died since Sunday, including 10 on Monday, the deadliest day in combat for US-led forces in Afghanistan in two years, with seven Americans, two Australians and a French soldier killed. According to an AFP tally based on the casualties.org website, 253 occupation soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year. Last year was the deadliest yet, with 520 killed.
In his first official visit to Afghanistan since he was declared as a PM, David Cameron told the news conference: “the issue of more troops is not remotely on the UK agenda”.
Cameron, whose visit was not announced ahead of time for security reasons, held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the heavily guarded palace in Kabul before the two leaders held a joint news conference. Earlier, he declared Afghanistan “the most important foreign policy issue, the most important national security issue for my country”.
Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the south, as part of a 46-nation force. It is the second-biggest contributor to the NATO-led mission after the United States. A total of 294 British occupation personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.
Cameron’s new government has faced questions over whether it will follow the same strategy as his predecessor Gordon Brown and increasing public support for troops to come home.
An Independent on Sunday/ComRes survey in April found that 77 percent of those questioned now supported a phased withdrawal and the end of operations within a year, up six percent in five months. British Defense Secretary Liam Fox, who visited Afghanistan shortly after the new government took power last month, caused controversy by telling the Times newspaper that he would like British troops to “come back as soon as possible”.
Jerusalem – A Palestinian man from Jerusalem was shot and killed by Israeli border guards on Friday, after he reportedly failed to stop at a checkpoint in the Wadi Joz neighborhood.
Witnesses said he was in serious condition as he was taken to hospital, with Israeli news sites reporting that the man died en route to hospital.
Officials identified the man as 38 year old Ziad Al-Julani, and later confirmed he was killed in the incident.
Following the shooting, clashes erupted in the area, with Palestinian residents angered at what they said was a day of oppression and violence enforced by Israeli soldiers. Two women, a man, a senior citizen and a child in a nearby car were said to have been injured in the shouting that erupted after the shooting, with Israeli forces using rubber-coated bullets against the crowd. The four were transferred the Al-Maqasid Hospital for treatment.
Israeli forces sealed off the area as clashes continued.
An Israeli border guard spokesman said Al-Julani drove his car at two border guards manning a checkpoint, installed as part of heavy security deployed throughout the city to restrict Palestinian movement following Friday prayers, and was shot in his vehicle. The spokesman said the two soldiers were lightly injured by the driver.