Belgian journalist and filmmaker Chris den Hond has released a brief documentary about the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The video explains the justifications for consumer and academic boycott and features stunning footage of non-violent confrontational actions taken by French solidarity activists. It also discusses the repression activists face in France for their activities and the government’s efforts to criminalize Palestine solidarity.
Comments: Ramin Mazaheri
Production: Chris Den Hond
TEHRAN – Parliamentary sources revealed on Saturday that Iran’s legislature is due to discuss the country’s withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general released a biased report against Iran.
Vice-Chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Mohammad Kowsari told FNA on Saturday that his commission would “study Iran’s withdrawal from the NPT” after a relevant demand by a major political faction of the Iranian university students.
His remarks alluded to a relevant demand raised earlier today by the Iranian students’ Office for Consolidating Unity (Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat), asking the Iranian officials to review the country’s membership in the IAEA.
Kowsari underlined the “unreal” nature of the IAEA report on Iran which has been issued under the pressures of the US and Israel, and said the UN nuclear watchdog should not be turned into a place for the US false claims and allegations against other countries as it will impair the Agency’s dignity and credibility.
IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano released a US-dictated report on Iran earlier this week, in a move seen by many, even in the West, as part of Washington and Israel’s efforts to find a new pretext for intensifying pressure on Tehran.
The western diplomats and sources had informed around a month ago that the new report would contain allegations on the basis of some copied documents which have been presented to the IAEA by certain western countries to show that Iran is pursuing a military drive in its nuclear program.
Once the report was released, not only Iran, but also many world states, including Russia, China and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states, strongly rejected it and blasted the UN nuclear watchdog chief for acting as a White House proxy.
Iran also said that it would not budge “an iota” from its peaceful atomic activities.
Israel and its close ally the United States accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Both Washington and Tel Aviv possess advanced weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warheads.
Syrian protesters have stormed the Saudi and Qatari embassies in Damascus to voice their outrage at an Arab League’s decision to suspend Syria’s membership in the Pan-Arab body.
The incident occurred late on Saturday when thousands of people poured into the streets of Damascus to stage protest rallies in front of the Qatari, Saudi, Turkish and US embassies.
Demonstrations were also held in Syria’s major cities of Aleppo, Raqqa, Lattakia, Tartous, Hasaka and Sweida.
In Damascus, some protesters broke into the Saudi embassy while some accessed the rooftop of the Qatari embassy building and raised the Syrian national flag.
Others pelted the Qatari facility with tomatoes and eggs to protest against Doha for heading the Arab League emergency session, where the suspension was announced earlier in the day.
Chanting slogans in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the protesters then gathered in front of the Turkish and US embassies, condemning the Arab bloc for acting out a plot they said had been hatched by the United States.
A similar protest was held against the Saudi-based Al-Arabiya and the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channels in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
The angry protesters tried to break into the buildings of news channels, which they blamed for following a US and Israeli agenda against Syria.
The Arab League voted “to suspend Syrian delegations’ activities in its meetings” until the peace plan proposed by the body is implemented by the Syrian government.
It also urged Arab countries to recall their ambassadors from Damascus and called for the imposition of economic and political sanctions on Syria.
The announcement of Syria’s membership suspension came during an emergency meeting at the League’s headquarters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
Syria has been experiencing a deadly unrest since mid-March and according to the United Nations, over 3,500 people have been killed in the violence. Hundreds of Syrian security forces are among the dead.
While the Syrian opposition accuses the security forces of cracking down on what it calls anti-government protesters, Damascus blames the violence on outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups sponsored by foreign countries.
Israel is trying to exploit the international community’s uncertainty about how to respond to this week’s report by the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program to justify a possible military strike against Iran. The IAEA’s report indicated Iran has secretly worked for years on developing a nuclear warhead and might still be doing so.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s report is certain to lead to demands by the US and Europe for stiffer sanctions on the Iranian regime. Russia and China, meanwhile, have urged dialogue and cooperation with Iran.
Amid the divisions, British government officials said this week that Israel was preparing to launch a military attack on Iran’s suspected nuclear sites within the next two months, probably with logistical support from the United States.
An unnamed senior official at the Foreign Office told the Daily Mail newspaper: “We’re expecting something as early as Christmas, or very early in the new year.”
Similarly anonymous US military officials have been ringing alarm bells in the US media that Israel might launch an attack. The Pentagon, CNN reported, was “increasingly vigilant” for military activity between Israel and Iran.
The warnings followed a fortnight of reports in the Israeli media of bitter feuds within the Israeli government, as well as with Israel’s security chiefs, about plans to initiate such a strike.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, are said to be strongly in favour of an attack. The balance in the inner cabinet apparently tipped in their favour last week when they recruited the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to their cause.
Further reports suggest that Netanyahu and Barak have recently moved from discussing a strike to the stage of “implementation.” In what looked like an additional intimidatory move, Israel test-launched last week the Jericho III, a long-range missile capable of reaching Iran.
Lined up against Netanyahu and Barak, according to the Israeli media, are both the current and recently retired heads of all the main military and intelligence services. They appear to be using the country’s military affairs correspondents to pass on dire warnings of the folly being prepared by Netanyahu.
The only one who has gone public so far is Meir Dagan, who departed as head of the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, nearly a year ago. He incurred Netanyahu’s wrath early this year by stating that an attack on Iran was the “stupidest thing I have ever heard.”
He undermined Netanyahu’s public position again last month, arguing that Iran could not develop a nuclear bomb for at least another three years and, apparently contradicting the IAEA report, suggested there was no evidence Tehran has yet decided to develop military uses.
That position accords with the 2007 estimate of 16 US intelligence agencies, which found no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons programme. An updated estimate this year has so far been kept under wraps by the White House, apparently because it confirms the earlier assessment.
Iran has long claimed it is only seeking to establish a civilian nuclear energy programme, as it is entitled to do as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has been receiving help chiefly from Russia.
However, some experts believe Iran is also secretly trying to become a “nuclear threshold state”: that is, to get close to developing a warhead so that, should Tehran be threatened – possibly with a US invasion, as happened to neighboring Iraq – it can quickly produce a nuclear bomb as a deterrence.
Dagan and other Israeli security officials are reported to believe that an Israeli attack on Iran would be futile and dangerous. It would fail to disable most of the nuclear production sites, which are dispersed and hidden underground, and would only intensify the pressure on Tehran to develop the technology.
Israel’s security establishment also fears that a strike would lead to severe retaliation not only from Iran but also potentially from Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas; rally Iranians behind their regime; threaten reprisals against the US in Iraq; and bring international condemnation on Israel’s head.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, underlined that point today when he said any attack by either Israel or the US would provoke “regional war.”
Similarly, Iranian leaders have warned that, if attacked, they would hit back against both Israel and the US. “We would make them regret such a mistake and would severely punish them,” said Hassan Firouzabadi, the Iranian chief of staff, this month.
Nonetheless, the Israeli public appears to be supportive of an attack. In May, 71 percent of Israelis backed the US launching a strike against Iran. A poll this month showed 41 behind a lone Israeli operation, with a further 20 percent undecided. Support among Israeli Jews is almost certainly higher, as the survey included the fifth of the Israeli population who are Palestinian and are generally opposed to military action.
The very public display of division in Israel’s political and military establishments on a matter of such importance to national security is almost unprecedented, leading Dan Meridor, a deputy prime minister, to call the debate “insane” and a “scandal.”
Israel is believed to have twice launched attacks on Arab states to prevent what it claims were secret efforts towards making a nuclear warhead. In 1981 it bombed Iraq’s Osirak experimental reactor, while it was under construction; and Israel is widely assumed to have been responsible for a strike in 2007 on a suspected nuclear site in Syria.
Both attacks were carried out without warning.
Israel’s true intentions in this case are hard to decipher.
Israel has been warning of the dangers of an Iranian bomb for nearly two decades, regularly claiming over that period that Tehran is only years or months from building a warhead.
However, in recent years Israel has won backing in the form of a series of increasingly stringent sanctions on Iran, imposed by the UN Security Council, to dissuade it from pursuing even a nuclear energy programme.
But most in the Israeli leadership are known to be skeptical that sanctions alone can stop Tehran from getting the bomb. They argue that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to world peace and suggest that Israel would be first to be targeted.
Netanyahu has been especially vociferous in promoting this threat, calling Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the “new Hitler” and warning that Israel faces a “Holocaust from the ayatollahs” – comparing Israel’s position to that of the Jewish community in Germany in 1938.
Israel’s real concerns, however, are rather different from the doomsday rhetoric.
In fact, the leadership is chiefly fearful of the domestic and geo-political implications of Tehran developing a warhead, believing it would severely weaken both Israel’s regional superpower status and its tight alliance with Washington.
Israel has its own nuclear arsenal – estimated at between 200 and 400 warheads – which it developed secretly with assistance from Britain and France, and against US wishes, in the late 1960s.
Commentators have noted that one of Israel’s chief aims in developing a warhead was to blackmail the US and force it into a military alliance for fear that otherwise Israel might use the bomb in a confrontation with a neighboring state.
Francis Perrin, head of the French Atomic Energy Agency during the period when France helped Israel to develop a nuclear weapon, said: “We thought the Israeli bomb was aimed against the Americans… to say ‘if you don’t want to help us in a critical situation we will require you to help us, otherwise we will use our nuclear bomb.”
Just such a moment occurred a few years later, in 1973, when the US was forced massively to rearm Israel as it faced defeat at the hands of neighboring Arab states.
At the regional level, Israel’s current fear is that an Iranian bomb would unravel these gains. Israeli analysts were clear on this point as far back as the early 1990s, when Iran was trying to get European oversight for a nuclear energy programme.
Aluf Benn, an analyst for Haaretz, wrote in 1994, for example, that Israel regarded Iran as the number one military priority because it “could aspire to regional hegemony and ruin the peace process by virtue of having nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.”
In this assessment, were Tehran to become a military rival to Israel, it would be able to bolster its position with the Arab states, force Israel to make major concessions to the Palestinians and compete for influence in Washington.
None of these prospects is easy for Israel to live with.
In addition, there are also fears that a nuclear Iran would pose a “demographic threat” domestically for Israel, making Israeli Jews consider emigrating and Jews in the diaspora unwilling to immigrate. Given Israel’s desire to ensure the Jewish population outnumbers the Palestinians at all times, such issues are taken seriously.
In 2006 Ephraim Sneh, at the time the deputy defense minister to Barak, revealed that Israel was not primarily concerned that Iran might fire a nuclear missile.
The danger of an Iranian bomb, he warned, was that “most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with families, and Israelis who can live abroad will.” He added: “I am afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That’s why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.”
But while there is no doubt these threats are taken extremely seriously by Israel’s security establishment, there is much less clarity about what action can feasibly be taken.
Dagan is credited with a series of exploits – including assassinating Iranian scientists, introducing computer viruses into the software being used in Iran’s nuclear programme, and setting up shell companies to sell faulty equipment to Tehran – that are believed to have slowed Iranian progress.
According to a confidential US embassy cable released by WikiLeaks last year, Dagan told US officials that covert action, including helping minority groups topple the regime, could contain Iran’s nuclear programme for the forseeable future.
There has been fevered speculation about why Israeli officials have gone public with their dispute about military action.
The disagreement has made Israel look weak and indecisive, fuelling fears that Netanyahu and Barak are sincere about wanting a military strike, even if they have to go against US wishes.
More likely, however, Dagan and others in the intelligence establishment are concerned that, while Netanyahu’s belligerent posturing towards Iran is a bluff, it might escalate into a dangerous confrontation. Haaretz’s military correspondent, Amos Harel, said there was a danger in Netanyahu’s behaviour of “a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
That concern is shared by Russia. Its foreign minister, Dmitry Medvedev, said today that Israel was using “dangerous rhetoric” that could lead to “a major war.”
Certainly, there is little evidence that Netanyahu’s threats are likely to dissuade Tehran from developing a weapon, if that is what Ahmedinejad’s regime is really trying to do. In fact, menacing Iran may simply firm up its resolve to protect itself by building a warhead.
The real audience of Netanyahu’s threat of military action, it seems, is the White House and the international community.
According to Israeli analysts, the US alone has the military muscle to take out Iran’s nuclear sites. Netanyahu appears to hope that Washington can be goaded into carrying out a strike of its own to avoid the threat of an unsuccessful Israeli operation.
At the very least, he may hope, Obama will be assisted in trying to win over China and Russia to “crippling sanctions,” as Lieberman demanded this week.
Even intensified sanctions might be used to try to bring Iran to its knees, as occurred in Iraq. That is the fear of Russia. Its deputy foreign minister, Genady Gatilov, warned this week that more sanctions would be seen as “an instrument of regime change in Tehran”.
The question is how Obama responds to the pressure. He is facing a presidential election year, and can expect to come under enormous arm-twisting not only from Israel but also from its supporters in the Congress and among Washington’s lobby groups.
How credible the report is is already open to doubt. Yaacov Katz, a Jerusalem Post analyst, noted that Israeli intelligence had provided “critical information used in the report.” That may have included information that Iran had recruited a Russian scientist, Vyacheslav Danilenko, to help in developing its nuclear programme. Almost immediately, evidence surfaced indicating that Danilenko had no nuclear expertise.
In a sign that the White House might fight a rearguard action to try to stop Israel cornering it into military action, US defence secretary Leon Panetta warned today that such an attack should be a “last resort,” and would make little impact on an Iranian programme but would have unintended consequences, including for US forces in the region.
The annex of the recent IAEA report on Iran claims that Iran, up to 2003, had an active nuclear weapon program and, based on a few hints also claims that such a program “MAY” have continued after 2003. (Only 4 out of 65 paragraphs in the annex point to some post-2003 work).
The IAEA accusations about the alleged pre-2003 work relies on two major pillars of “evidence” plus some “corroborating” information from open and dubious secret sources. The report is based on “1,000 pages of research” claims the IAEA, pretending that volume can make up for quality.
The first pillar of evidence are issues related to the work of the Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko in Iran. The second pillar is a set of papers in electronic form known as the “alleged studies” which were collected on the “Laptop of Death” and which some secret “western” agency years ago pushed onto the IAEA. It is from a combination of selected parts of those two sets of alleged “evidence” and some additional hearsay, anecdotes and innuendo that the IAEA report draws its conclusions.
My analysis of the work of Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko showed that his known expertise is the production of nanodiamonds through detonations and not nuclear weapons production. Danilenko’s work is about precise explosions that push a concentrated detonation wave onto carbon atoms which then, under maximum pressure, form into small diamond crystals. These are useful in many industrial fields for example for high quality polishing of optics and computer hard disk surfaces.
I also demonstrated that Iran has a very active nanotechnology program and that its scientists have published various papers about their progress in this field. Danilenko himself categorically denies having worked on anything other than civil applications of his knowledge with Iran. While some of the technologies used in creating nanodiamonds can also be applied towards nuclear weapons, the IAEA report shows no proof that Iran has done this. That someone uses a screwdriver to fix a car does not provide that s/he plans to stab the neighbor.
This now has some officials in a twist and they are racing to reclaim the lost credibility of the IAEA allegations by throwing more chaff around:
[D]iplomats — who asked for anonymity because their information was privileged — said Danilenko’s son-in-law has further implicated the scientist, telling the agency the expert also helped Iran build a related project, a large steel chamber to contain the force of the blast set off by such explosives testing.Diplomats first told the AP last week that the IAEA had evidence of such a chamber, set up at Iran’s Parchin military complex. The confidential IAEA report obtained by the AP on Wednesday confirmed their statements.
Of course, did Danilenko help Iran build an explosion chamber? He has a patent [USSR Patent No. SU 181329 A3, Priority May 12 (1991)] for these and has built one for his son-in-law’s company Elit which has a picture of it on its website. He himself does not talk about it. Likely because he has the usual confidentiality/non-disclosure clause in his contracts with Iran like all consultants all over the world have in theirs. But the building of a detonation chamber does not prove anything nefarious. Indeed one needs such a chamber if one wants to create nanodiamonds. There is nothing in the IAEA report that proves that the chamber has been used for anything related to nuclear work.
These anonymous diplomats (American? Israeli?) also come up with another “new” “conspicuous” issue. Notice the innuendo that is involved here:
The diplomats said some of those at the meeting also expressed their concerns about indications that nearly 20 kilograms — about 45 pounds — of a component used to arm nuclear warheads was unaccounted for in Iran.The IAEA has long known that Iran has drawings of how to form uranium metal into the fissile core of warheads. But the diplomats pointed to an inconspicuous section of Wednesday’s report — near the end, under “Other Matters” — revealing that an IAEA inspection in August came up 19.8 kilograms, or 43.56 pounds, short of what Iran says it had stored.
See how “fissile core of warheads” is put next to a few kilograms of allegedly missing unidentified stuff implying that this stuff has made it into such a warhead. A simple look into the IAEA report (page 9) tells us that this stuff is nothing usable:
In August 2011, the Agency carried out a PIV at the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory (JHL) to verify, inter alia, nuclear material, in the form of natural uranium metal and process waste, related to the conversion experiments carried out by Iran between 1995 and 2002. The Agency’s measurement of this material was 19.8 kg less than the operator’s declaration of 270.7 kg. In a letter dated 2 November 2011, Iran provided additional information on this matter. The Agency is working with Iran to try to resolve this discrepancy.
So there is a 7% discrepancy in weighing the stored WASTE and natural, not-enriched Uranium from quite old experiments. Are we to believe that Iran can now make a “fissile core for warheads” from old process waste? Or is it more likely that this is one of the simple discrepancies of byproduct measurement that seem to occur in every second IAEA report and is usually explained in the following one?
Onto the second pillar of the IAEA “evidence”.
The 2005 “laptop of death” “alleged studies” documents focus on three areas: the so-called “green salt project” to provide a source of uranium, high-explosives testing and re-engineering a Shahab-3 missile load chamber to fit a nuclear warhead. One wonders how papers, reportedly written in English, from three very distinct technical fields, have made it onto one laptop which then miraculously ended up in the hands of the “western” secret service that provided it to the IAEA.
Robert Kelley is an American nuclear engineer and former IAEA inspector who now works on non-proliferation at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). As an IAEA inspector he personally reviewed the “alleged studies” papers when those were handed to the IAEA and he does not believe that they are reliable evidence:
“The first is the issue of forgeries. There is nothing to tell that those documents are real,” says Kelley, whose experience includes inspections from as far afield as Iraq and Libya, to South Africa in 1993.”My sense when I went through the documents years ago was that there was possibly a lot of stuff in there that was genuine, [though] it was kind of junk,” says Kelly. “And there were a few rather high-quality things” like the green salt document: “That was two or three pages that wasn’t related to anything else in the package, it was on a different topic, and you just wondered, was this salted in there for someone to find?”
It would not be the first time that data was planted. He recalls 1993 and 1994, when the IAEA received “very complex forgeries” on Iraq that slowed down nuclear investigations there by a couple of years.
So we have Danilenko’s work, the first set of the IAEA’s “evidence”, precise detonations, hemispherical formed sets of explosives and a detonation chamber, all of which is plausibly explained through his cooperation with Iran’s work on nanodiamonds. While these technologies could eventually also be used in nuclear weapon research there is nothing in the IAEA report annex that proves that Iran has actually applied them towards anything nuclear.
We also have some stuff from the “laptop of death” which Robert Kelley regards as possible forgeries and planted evidence. Kelley as well as Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project at SIPRI are unconvinced that all the above adds up to a clear case against Iran:
“Yes, Iran is making progress, they’ve covered the waterfront in terms of the main technical areas that you need to develop a nuclear weapon,” says Mr. Kile. “But there is no evidence they have a dedicated program under way. It’s not like they are driving toward nuclear weapons; it’s like they’re meandering toward capability.”
For Kelley, formerly with the IAEA, the current Iran report is a “real mish-mash” that includes some “amateurish analysis.”Among several technical points, Kelley notes the report’s discussion of Iran’s “exploding bridge-wire detonators,” or EBWs. The IAEA report said it recognizes that “there exist non-nuclear applications, albeit few,” and point to a likely weapons connection for Iran.
“The Agency is wrong. There are lots of applications for EBWs,” says Kelley. “To be wrong on this point, and then to try to misdirect opinion shows a bias towards their desired outcome…. That is unprofessional.”
Both pillars of the IAEA Report Annex that are supposed to prove work on nuclear weapons in Iran are very weak. Unless something proves that Danilenko’s work in Iran was not for civilian purposes and that the “alleged studies” “evidence” is not just forgery it is impossible to accept the IAEA’s report annex as something that would stand up in a trial and could support a case for punishment.
It is no wonder that the former director of the IAEA El Baradei rejected the publishing of such a report. It took the more pliable new IAEA director Amano, installed with U.S. help, to discredit the IAEA by publishing a report which the former inspector Kelley calls “unprofessional” “mish-mash”.
Based on this weak report the U.S. is pressing for more sanctions on Iran but as Russia, China and many other states do not buy the case the IAEA tried to make there is little chance for that to happen.
We can thereby expect more dirt to be thrown at Iran by anonymous “diplomats” in the hope that the media will stay as uncritical towards their claims as they so far have been. It may be that believable evidence of a nuclear weapon program in Iran may emerge one future day. So far it has not.
A bill introduced in the United States Congress last month would require the State Department to investigate “The sources of any logistical, technical, or financial support for the Gaza flotilla ships, including the Audacity of Hope, that were set to set sail from Greece on July 1, 2011.”
The Audacity of Hope is the name of the ship, operated by US Boat to Gaza, on which Alice Walker, Hedy Epstein and dozens of others attempted to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza before being stopped by Greece last summer.
The bill, which contains numerous inflammatory and unsubstantiated claims from an Israeli “anti-terrorism” organization, would further criminalize American citizens’ solidarity with Palestinians.
House Resolution 3131 is sponsored by Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and is co-sponsored by 12 other members of Congress from both parties including notorious anti-Palestinian campaigners, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).
Defamation and falsehoods
The bill asserts, turning reality on its head, that “Recent past history has suggested that the sole intent of the flotillas is to provoke an Israeli military response in the international waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea.”
It also claims, amid a laundry list of other dubious recitations, that “Since the beginning of 2010, Israel has provided over 100,000 tons of aid to the people living in Gaza.”
In fact, Israel does not provide any “aid” to Palestinians. Rather, Israel allows limited quantities of aid supplied by the United Nations and other countries into Gaza according to arbitrary restrictions as part of its siege.
Israel has deliberately restricted food supplies to the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza using “mathematical formulas” designed to keep the population on the edge of hunger without attracting too much international attention, as the Israeli human rights organization Gisha discovered from an examination of Israeli defense ministry documents.
Claims of “terrorist ties” based on Israeli propaganda outfit
Reproducing unsubstianted Israeli propaganda and allegations, the bill accuses the Turkish humanitarian organization IHH, which was involved in earlier flotillas, of ties to terrorism:
The Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of the Treasury have determined that flotilla organizers Free Gaza and the Insan Hak ve Hurriyetleri ve Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), an Islamic nongovernmental organization (known in English as the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief), have known terrorist ties.
In 2010, IHH organized a flotilla that included the ship Mavi Marmara carrying 40 IHH members, including Fatima Mahmadi, Ken O’Keefe, Hassan Iynasi, Hussein Urosh, Ahmad Umimon, and others with known links to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations who were armed with 100 metal rods, 200 knives, 150 military self-defense vests, 50 wooden clubs, gas masks, and a telescopic sight for a gun.
But the bill provides no evidence to back up these sensational and propagandistic claims. IHH is in fact not designated as a “terrorist” organization by any US government agencies. The claims in the bill are not based on US government or intelligence reports, but appear to come directly from unsubstantiated claims published by an Israeli propaganda and advocacy outfit calling itself the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. This group is closely connected with Israel’s military and intelligence establishments, the main sources for sometimes laughable anti-flotilla incitement and propaganda.
Laying grounds to prosecute Americans
The bill appears to be a transparent attempt to criminalize solidarity with Palestinians and opposition to US policy supporting Israel’s siege of Gaza. It would effectively further erode First Amendment rights in order to intimidate and suppress criticism of Israel. It demands,
Not later than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report on whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189).
No concern for Americans
HR 3131 reads like a manifesto of the most extremist pro-Israel organizations. Fair enough, if that’s how members of Congress think they should be spending their time. But in addition to the bill’s utter disregard for facts and its dehumanizing contempt for Palestinians is the notable lack of any concern for US citizens and their lives, especially Furkan Dogan an American teenager who was murdered execution-style by Israeli soldiers aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.
The bill is currently in committee.
Pro-Israel Groups Outline U.S. Options to Assist Syrian Opposition
On November 8, the Foreign Policy Initiative and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies jointly issued a discussion paper that outlines “policy options for the United States and like-minded nations to further assist the anti-regime Syrian opposition.” Entitled “Towards a Post-Assad Syria,” the paper advocates imposing “crippling sanctions” on the Assad government, providing assistance to Syrian opposition groups, and imposing no-fly/no-go zones in Syria.
Founded in 2009, the Foreign Policy Initiative is the successor organisation to the Project for the New American Century, a neoconservative advocacy group that relentlessly pushed for war with Iraq from its inception in 1997. FPI’s board of directors consists of PNAC co-founders, Robert Kagan and William Kristol; Dan Senor, a former intern at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; and Eric Edelman, a Paul Wolfowitz protégé at the Pentagon who, thanks to support from Richard Perle, succeeded the scandal-ridden Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith in 2005. In a 2004 article entitled “Serving Two Flags,” Stephen Green named Wolfowitz, Perle and Feith as “the principals” in a pro-Israel neocon network who had “demonstrated, in their previous government service, a willingness to sacrifice U.S. national security interests for those of another country.”
Established shortly after the 9/11 attacks to advocate for an aggressive “war on terror,” the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has also demonstrated a preeminent concern for Israel’s security interests. Among its more notable funders are Edgar M. Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress from 1979 to 2007; Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, co-founders of Taglit Birthright which offers free trips to Israel for young Jewish adults as an inducement to go on its pro-Israel indoctrination programme; media mogul Haim Saban, who pledged $13 million to the Brookings Institution in 2002 to found the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in order to influence U.S. politics in a pro-Israel direction; Jennifer Mizrahi, director of The Israel Project; and Dalck Feith, father of the aforementioned “security risk” Douglas Feith. “With the disclosure of its donor rolls,” Eli Clifton wrote in a July 19 report, “it becomes increasingly apparent that FDD’s advocacy of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, its hawkish stance against Iran, and its defense of right-wing Israeli policy is consistent with its donors’ interests in ‘pro-Israel’ advocacy.”
While Israel’s longstanding interest in destabilising Syria goes unmentioned, the FPI/FDD discussion paper stresses two of the groups’ well-worn themes: fighting terrorism and protecting human rights. “Long a sponsor of terrorism beyond its borders,” the paper asserts, “the Syrian government is now waging an internal war against its own people.”
Acknowledging that the U.N. Security Council is “unlikely to act anytime soon” due to what they decry as “gridlock” imposed by Russia and China, the FPI and FDD take it upon themselves to propose what options they think the United States has for responding to “the Assad regime’s provocations.” Citing a paper by Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, which suggests the “military options” of an air campaign, a maritime operation to enforce strong sanctions, a no-fly and no-go zone, and even an invasion to carry out regime change, they propose keeping those options “on the table” while exploring some additional “intermediate steps.”
Critical of the Obama administration’s slow response to the Syrian crisis, the FPI/FDD paper urges the President and Congress to “work to quickly pass legislation for harsher U.S. sanctions on Syria.” As examples of relevant pending bills, the paper cites the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011, originally introduced by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Joe Lieberman and Mark Kirk; and the Syria Freedom Support Act, originally introduced by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Eliot Engel. While few members of Congress can afford to cross the Israel lobby, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to lobby-watchers to hear that Gillibrand, Lieberman, Kirk, Ros-Lehtinen and Engel were the ones to “introduce” what was almost certainly AIPAC-crafted legislation.
To bolster their case for no-fly and no-go zones in Syria, FPI and FDD point out that “leading lawmakers are now discussing the possibility.” Senator Joe Lieberman, they note, “first suggested looking at military options to protect Syrian civilians in March 2011, and returned to the idea of no-fly and no-go zones in October 2011.” They also refer to Senator John McCain’s October 23 speech before a World Economic Forum meeting in Jordan, when he ventured, “Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria.” As those familiar with the careers of Lieberman and McCain well know, they are certainly “leading lawmakers” when it comes to putting Israel’s interests ahead of America’s.
If the “humanitarians” at the Foreign Policy Initiative and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies succeed in getting the Obama administration to adopt their “options” to assist the anti-regime Syrian opposition, Bill Kristol will soon be celebrating the sixth “war of Muslim liberation” that he and his pro-Israel cronies have induced the United States to wage — with little thought for all the “shed blood and expended treasure.” Unless the Syrian people want their country to be added to Kristol’s dubious roster of “the liberated” — Kuwait, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — they had better make it loud and clear that they have no desire whatsoever for the kind of “assistance” offered by pro-Israel groups.