Last week, I made fun of an advisory that appeared in the Greater Kashmir newspaper, describing steps people could take to protect themselves during a nuclear attack. I noted the similarities with the fallout shelter schemes and “duck and cover” drills promoted in the US in the 1950s. With the Oslo conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons only a few weeks away, with an entire panel given over to a critical examination of preparedness and response, I got to wondering what, if anything, the US had done to update its own nuclear civil defense plans in recent times.
What I found was a 40-page inter-agency document called “Nuclear Detonation Preparedness: Communicating in the Immediate Aftermath,” which was approved for “interim use” in September 2010. The document draws upon the combined resources of 13 federal agencies and the American Red Cross to provide a set of messages that can be delivered by local, state, and national authorities in the event of a nuclear explosion. The premise is that this explosion will be an act of nuclear terrorism (sidestepping the fact that the US has thousands of nuclear weapons and a declared willingness to use them). While the document is not presented as an operational nuclear disaster response plan, what it says (and, more important, what it does not say) reveals a lot about the futility of any such plan.
Although I’m a hearty proponent of ridicule when dealing with the ridiculous, and certainly used it in my previous piece, I can’t quite bring myself to treat this document sarcastically. There are two reasons.
First, when you strip away all the boilerplate rhetoric and redundancy, the document is really about only one aspect of response: providing information and guidance about radiation to outlying populations, and suggesting how to minimize exposure if they were not among those killed or seriously injured by the blast and thermal effects of the explosion. While Chernobyl and Fukushima exposed the limitations of managing even this narrow a response on a large scale, there are measures that would help some people protect themselves from exposure to large amounts of radiation, and one can’t fault disaster response agencies for taking this on as a responsibility.
Second, the language in this document is simultaneously earnest, wishful, and evasive. Behind all the bureaucratic jargon and public relations spin, I hear the voices of people who are trained to help, who want to believe they could help even when helpless, and who can’t bring themselves to say what they know to be true (or, more likely, were prevented from saying it).
That doesn’t mean I have anything positive to say about the handful of messages that are recycled through a question and answer format (often, the same blocks of formulaic text are copied and pasted from page to page):
- “Find the nearest building, preferably built of brick or concrete, and go inside.”
- “Radiation levels are extremely dangerous after a nuclear detonation but the levels reduce rapidly, in just hours to a few days.”
- “When evacuating is in your best interest, you will be instructed to do so.”
- “Please follow instructions.”
- “Stay tuned because instructions may change.”
- “Wash your hands with soap and water before handling any food.“
- “We are doing everything possible to identify those responsible for this malicious, tragic event.”
- “We, as a city and a nation, will recover from this tragedy. This process will not occur overnight. We need everyone to work together to support those in need and rebuild what we have lost.”
Stay calm. Stay inside. Wash your clothes and your food. Follow instructions. Let us do our jobs as best we can. Take care of those around you. There’s some “stiff upper lip” rhetoric and several pages of generalities about radiation (including misleading diversions about “background radiation”) and its health effects, and not much else.
There is not one meaningful word about what has happened to—or what can be done for—those in the areas of greatest devastation. The prepared response to the questions “how many people have died?” and “how many have been injured?” is “we don’t want to speculate on the specific number.” The answer to the question “what is being done in response?” is “responders are working to save lives as close to the impacted area as possible.”
But then comes a crucial acknowledgement: that “as close as possible” is not nearly close enough (remember Fukushima). “This nuclear detonation has created some areas where the destruction is so devastating and levels of radiation are too high for responders go into at this time (sic).” In anticipation of the question “when will things return to normal?,” comes the closest thing to a moment of real honesty that you’ll find in these 40 pages:
“…[N]ormal after the attack may not look like normal before the attack,” and, further on, “it may be years before the most contaminated areas are reoccupied.”
This, gentle reader, is a tacit admission that no meaningful disaster response to a nuclear detonation can be organized, other than providing updates about fallout and decontamination advice to those at some distance from the physical effects of the explosion.
(The closest thing to a moment of real dishonesty? Q: “Will shelters be available for people instructed to evacuate?” A: “Yes, designated shelters will be available.”)
Unfortunately, reality provides all the evidence needed to come to the opposite conclusion. The most responsible thing the authors of this document could say is that everything they know how to do in the face of a hurricane, or an earthquake, or an industrial disaster, would be useless in the event of another Hiroshima or Nagasaki. An inter-agency report with that kind of message might lead to a different question from a concerned public: “When, exactly, do you plan to get rid of the weapons that could do this to us? Or to anyone?”
- End the Nuclear Lobby (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A week ago, Israeli newspaper Maariv published an article titled “Kibbutz Lands Over Lebanese Border.” The story indicated that the management of the Misgav-Am kibbutz, a settlement located across from the Lebanese town of Adaisseh, “was informed by the Israeli interior ministry that a part of [the colony] falls on sovereign Lebanese territory.”
The ministry’s statement came in response to the kibbutz’s request to re-zone certain plots of land from agricultural to residential. The ministry said that the request would be considered following “the withdrawal towards Israeli borders and amending the Blue Line.”
It seems the enemy admitted that Adaisseh was confiscated by the occupation – with the collusion of the UN – when the Blue Line was demarcated following the liberation of South Lebanon in 2000.
This is the land where Israeli bulldozers uprooted what became known as the “Adaisseh tree.” That incident in the summer of 2010 led to a battle between the Lebanese army and its Israeli counterpart where soldiers Abdullah Tufaili and Robert al-Ashi, and Al-Akhbar’s correspondent Assaf Abu Rahhal were killed by Israeli fire.
The Lebanese state should raise the issue of occupied lands and reiterate the points of reservation during the drawing of the Blue Line, especially following this latest Israeli admission. This the least of what is expected of the state.
All the while, Israel, which today admits that the land where its soldiers are deployed belongs to Lebanon, recently protested at the UN a plot of flowers adjacent to the army point where the Adaisseh operation was launched, claiming it falls inside the Blue Line.
Adaisseh mayor Khalil Rammal took us on a long tour of occupied lands and the Blue Line. From the borders at Hounin and Markaba in the south, to Kfar Kila northwards, the enemy has stolen around 2,500 dunams (1 dunam = 1,000 square meters) of property since before the 1948 nakba in Palestine.
The mayor says that every time a demarcation was made, the town lost more of its land, beginning with the demarcation based on the the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1920, to the international demarcation of the borders between Lebanon and Occupied Palestine in the armistice agreement in 1949, and finally during the drawing of the Blue Line in 2000.
Rammal recounts the history of settlements since 1908, when the wooden settlement of Kfar Giladi was set up at the Adaisseh borders near the point now occupied by the Indonesian contingency of the UNIFIL.
Misgav-Am was set up in 1945 on a hill called al-Tayyara. Later, a military road was built and more land appropriated between al-Thughra and Abl al-Qamh and into Khalleh, Arabsalim, Dabsh al-Awjeh, al-Marj al-Faouqani, and Mussaisah, up until the 1978 Israeli invasion.
Rammal mentions that his father, who was mayor then, went to the governor of South Lebanon, Halim Fayyad, to complain about Israeli violations of Adaisseh, including tens of dunams with title deeds.
Fayyad relayed the message to the Lebanese government, which sent a complaint against Israel in Adaisseh’s name to the UN Security Council. He says his father told him that the Israeli ambassador in the Security Council claimed that “the appropriation of land is a precautionary measure. When Palestinian fighters withdraw, we will leave the land.”
Rammal says that the occupied territories amount to 2,000 dunams taken in 1948 and a further 1,200 in 1948. As for the Blue Line, Rammal maintains that the demarcation committee ignored Adaisseh and did not ask for the statement of the mayor or the inhabitants.
In this respect, a security source indicates that the borders at Adaisseh and Shebaa Farms are under reservation by the Lebanese government, which rejected the demarcation proposed by the enemy and UN Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen. He maintained that they were sovereign Lebanese territories.
What can owners of lands that Israel admitted to be Lebanese do?
Rammal says that the mission of the Lebanese government today should be to ask the UN to return the land, especially since the foreign ministry had requested from landowners, following liberation, to provide it with the deeds to send to the UN.
But the owners were never informed officially of the status of the dossier. One of them is Salim Hassoun, who inherited 15,000 dunams of land from his father, Abdul-Rahman Hassoun, who had in turn inherited it from his own father.
The grandfather had bought the land from Shaker Said through a deed registered at the Marjayoun Department in 1953. Hassoun says that the barbed wire and the Blue Line cut off his land, whose deed indicates the borders with Palestine.
Based on this, he will be using the Israeli admission to file a complaint against Israel to return his land, either to the UN or to Israeli courts.
However, informed sources say that Israel would never abandon the Misgav-Am hill. It’s one of the tallest along the southern border and Israel has installed long-range surveillance cameras looking into Lebanon and five military posts.
It should be noted that many of the lands liberated in 2000 are still not free of UNIFIL and Lebanese army roadblocks. These are agricultural lands whose owners have been prohibited from visiting since 1968 due to security concerns and the presence of mines – even though demining operations were completed three years ago.
In his essay “A Hanging,” George Orwell recounts, in great detail, the events he witnessed leading up to the execution of a man. It is important to note that before becoming an outspoken critic of the hypocrisy of Governments, George Orwell worked for one. He was a member of the Indian Imperial Police, having served in Burma, a British colony at the time.
The condemned was a small Hindu man who, while apparently resigned to his fate, none the less had irritated the jail superintendent by the fact that he was still alive at 8:00 o’clock in the morning. “The man ought to have been dead by this time” the superintendent said irritably. The slow pace of the execution was disrupting the smooth functioning of the prison, since the other prisoners couldn’t be fed their breakfast until the sentence had been carried out.
We are given a vivid description of how the man walked awkwardly, encumbered by the chains that restrained him, but steadily, to his fate. When the execution party was about forty yards from the hangman’s gallows, Orwell tells us that a most curious thing occurred. The prisoner, in the last few remaining minutes of his life, made the slight effort to step aside as he was walking so as to avoid a puddle that was in his path.
This event shocked Orwell, who candidly reveals to us that until that moment, he had never truly realized what it meant to kill another human being. It took the insignificant act of a man not wanting to get his feet wet on the way to his own execution to make Orwell understand, for the first time in his life, “what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man” and of the “unspeakable wrongness” involved in executing someone.
The US, as part of its “War on Terror,” a war which, conveniently enough, was undeclared and has no expiration date, has been using drones for at least a decade now. And 2013 appears to have gotten off to a spectacular start, with 7 attacks in the first 10 days of January in Pakistan alone. This compares to an average of less than one a week in 2012. One report has as many as 11 civilians being killed so far this year. This figure is, of course, being disputed by U.S. officials. Unfortunately, they declined to provide a figure of their own.
And while their use has grown, President Obama assures us that, “Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties” and that missile launches have been “very precise precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates, and we have been very careful about how it’s been applied.”
In a direct rebuke to his critics, the President argues, “There’s this perception that we’re just sending a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly. This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans.”
One would be forgiven for disagreeing.
On October 14, 2011, a 16-year-old boy, and American citizen, named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed in a deliberate drone strike in Yemen (8 other people were also killed). He shared the same fate as his father, Anwar al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, who was killed in a targeted drone strike 2 weeks prior.
And the boy’s crime? According to Obama senior campaign adviser, and former White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, it was to have the unfortunate luck of being born to a “radical” Muslim cleric.
In an interview with We Are Change, a self proclaimed non-partisan media organization, Mr. Gibbs tells us that the boy “should have [had] a far more responsible father.” It is not clear if by “responsible father” Mr. Gibbs meant someone with a Nobel Peace Prize, a “kill list” and a fleet of armed attack drones at his disposal.
In defense of the dead boy, it should be noted that his father, an accused member of al-Qaeda who was allegedly plotting to blow up US airliners and poison US citizens, had an honor not given to many radical Muslim clerics.
He had the distinct pleasure of being an invited guest at the Pentagon, dining there in the days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This is a privilege that not even your faithful correspondent’s father has enjoyed.
But surely the killing of children (even children with horrible fathers or children who were not fortunate enough to have been born American citizens) through drone strikes is something that we can all agree is reprehensible and indefensible, isn’t it?
Not according to Mr. Joe Klein, political columnist for Time Magazine. In comments made on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe” on October 23, 2012, Mr. Klein presents us with the thought provoking question of, “Whose four year old gets killed?” He then goes on to advocate the indiscriminate killing of innocent people in the Middle East and Africa with drone attacks (Mr. Klein’s original question implies that he prefers the people killed be four year children), defending his point by stating, “What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”
To find a similar argument, logic or thought process, I believe, you would have to go back to one of the most morally bankrupt and reprehensible regimes in all of history.
(Author’s Note: while your faithful correspondent is neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, if your thoughts should ever take you to a place where you find yourself justifying the murder of innocent 4 year old children, I suggest you seek the care of a mental health professional immediately)
But all this talk of killed children is surely a moot point, isn’t it? The US government, once more, assures us that drones are used in a responsible manner, and therefore, rarely kill civilians, let alone children. Unfortunately, a study by the Brookings Institute leads us to believe the contrary. It argues that for every “insurgent” killed, there are, on average, 10 civilians killed as well. And the New American Foundation has found that the US government has the habit of repeatedly under-reporting the number of civilians killed and wounded in drone attacks. More troubling still, a study done jointly by Stanford Law School and the NYU School of Law claims that the US government, as a matter of policy, habitually under-reports the number of civilians killed and wounded in drone attacks.
The US is entering its 12th year of war in Afghanistan (longer than the Soviet Union’s campaign). A key component of US strategy in the region is targeted drone strikes. America’s drone policy has reportedly killed between 474 and 881 civilians in the region, including 176 children.
Further compounding all of this is the controversial US policy called the “double tap.” This involves striking an initial target and then, as people arrive to give aid to the original victims, following up with repeated attacks on the same site. It has been reported that, as a result of this policy, innocent bystanders and non-combatants have been intentionally killed. There are also disturbing reports that funerals have been deliberately hit by targeted drone strikes as well. In almost any other case these events would be labelled as war crimes or terrorism. But somehow, in the US, they only raise “contentious legal questions” according to the New York Times.
If we consider ourselves as being part of a just and correct society, Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter should give us reason to pause. It expressly prohibits the threat or use of force by one state against another.
Some proponents of drone attacks have argued that Article 2(4) doesn’t apply, since these attacks are mostly being carried out on militants and insurgents in regions where the rule of law has broken down. Therefore, the phrase “state” doesn’t apply, nullifying that section of the Charter.
This argument is dubious at best. If it were China, Russia, or Iran engaging in this type of behavior closer to US shores, say in the remote regions of Central or South America, there is no doubt that the US government would be in an uproar over the legality, and the morality, of attack drones.
There is also no doubt that we would finally be able to recognize what the killing of innocent men, women and children with drones really is.
Tom McNamara is an Assistant Professor at the ESC Rennes School of Business, France, and a Visiting Lecturer at the French National Military Academy at Saint-Cyr, Coëtquidan, France.
“A Hanging” by George Orwell, 1931
“Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s birth certificate” The Washington Post. Accessed at:
“Anwar al-Awlaki” October 19, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“Anwar al-Awlaki killing sparks US travel alert” October 1, 2011, BBC. Accessed at:
“CIA ‘revives attacks on rescuers’ in Pakistan” by Chris Woods, June 4th, 2012, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Accessed at:
“Critics of US drone programme angered by John Brennan’s nomination to CIA” by Paul Harris, January 10, 2013, The Guardian. Accessed at:
“Do Targeted Killings Work?” by Daniel L. Byman, Senior Fellow Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, July 14, 2009, The Brookings Institute. Accessed at:
“Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes” by Cora Currier, January 11, 2013, ProPublica. Accessed at:
“George Orwell” BBC History. Accessed at:
“Get the Data: Obama’s terror drones” by Chris Woods, February 4, 2012, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Accessed at:
“Joe Klein’s sociopathic defense of drone killings of children” by Glenn Greenwald, October 23, 2012, The Guardian. Accessed at:
“Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan” the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Law School) and the Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law), September 2012. Accessed at:
“Morning Joe: Scarborough: Drone program is going to cause US problems in future” MSNBC, Accessed at:
“Obama Defends Drone Use” by Carol E. Lee and Adam Entous, with a contribution from Jared Favole, January 31, 2012, The Wall Street Journal. Accessed at:
“Obama Top Adviser Robert Gibbs Justifies Murder of 16 Year Old American Citizen” WeAreChange.org, video published October 23, 2012. Accessed at:
“Qaeda-Linked Imam Dined at Pentagon after 9/11” By Bob Orr, October 21, 2010, CBSNews /
CBS. Accessed at:
“Robert Gibbs Says Anwar al-Awlaki’s Son, Killed By Drone Strike, Needs ‘Far More Responsible Father’” by ryan Grim, October 24, 2012, The Huffington Post. Accessed at:
“The Charter of the United Nations” June 26, 1945. Accessed at:
“The Moral Case for Drones” by Scott Shane, July 14, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
‘The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2012’ The New American Foundation. Accessed at:
“U.S. airstrike that killed American teen in Yemen raises legal, ethical questions” by Craig Whitlock, October 22, 2011, The Washington Post, Accessed at:
“U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan on rise for 2013” by Greg Miller, January 11, 2013, The Washington Post. Accessed at:
Though Washington tries to engineer Middle Eastern politics by influencing economies, Iran has never given in to such pressure, Middle East experts Hillary and Flynt Leverett told RT. Iran’s concerns deserve fair consideration, they argue.
The Leveretts acted as analysts in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and are two of America’s most informed Middle East experts. Their new book, ‘Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran,’ offers a way out of the current diplomatic crisis facing the two countries.
RT: Washington seems to be very happy with the sanctions. They are crippling the Iranian economy. Why should they change policies now? Why should they come to terms with Iran?
Hillary Leverett: Sanctions are not going to work. Sanctions have not worked. We’ve seen sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran for 32 years. We saw crippling sanctions imposed on Iran during their 8 year war on Iraq from 1980 to 1988. We saw at that time half their GDP was erased, half of it. And still the Islamic Republic of Iran did not surrender to hostile foreign powers. The idea that now the sanctions are going to force the Islamic Republic of Iran to surrender to what it sees as hostile foreign powers and their demands, there’s no basis for that in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And, frankly, there’s no basis for that anywhere. The United States imposed crippling sanctions, for example, on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq for over a decade, killing over a million people, half of them children, and even then Saddam Hussein’s government did not implode and it did not concede to the demands of hostile foreign powers. It took a massive US land invasion to do that.
RT: The ability to stand in the other side’s shoes, to show that you can do it is key to diplomacy, I think you would agree with that. But everything the US has done so far showed Iran the opposite of that, starting from the US helping to get rid of their democratically elected leader in the fifties, putting the Shah in power, a much hated figure in Iran. What can the US do now to show Iran, that they respect their national interests?
Flynt Leverett: The first thing that has to happen is this basic acceptance – acceptance of the Islamic Republic as a legitimate and rational actor. This is the model which Nixon and Kissinger used to pursue the diplomatic opening with China in the early 1970’s. It’s not their achievement, it was not that they started talking to Beijing. The United States had been talking to Beijing for years, but it was this very narrow kind of dialogue very focused on grievance – American grievances towards China and what China was going to need to do to bring itself in line with American preferences. Nixon and Kissinger flipped that on its head. They said alright, we are going to convey to the Chinese both in words and in actions that we accept the People’s Republic of China and on that basis the rest of these issues can be taken care of. That’s what enabled this dramatic turn in American diplomacy toward China, that’s what we need to do toward the Islamic Republic of Iran – to accept it and then to back that up with concrete actions in terms of rolling back covert action programs, in terms of stopping economic warfare against Iran.
RT: But what are the chances for diplomacy? I mean Iran is surrounded by US military bases, by NATO Patriot missiles. They have the sanctions that are crippling the Iranian economy. It seems there’s more ground for blackmail now than for diplomacy.
HL: Unfortunately, I think that is the American hope that we can still force, coerce outcomes. That’s what the United States has been doing really since the end of the Cold War. We have focused on coercing outcomes by, as Flynt said, projecting enormous amounts of conventional military force into the Middle East to coerce political outcomes. Before 1991 we were somewhat restrained in doing that because of the Cold War. If we put in too many troops we were afraid the Soviet Union would. So, in a sense, that constrained us, forced the United States to really rely more on soft power, more on having a narrative. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, we, I think, left that out, we put that under the table. We focused entirely on trying to force political outcomes. And what we’ve done in Iraq and Afghanistan has underscored the very important limits of that. And I would add Libya. We were able to take out Muammar Gaddafi but what were we able to put in instead?
RT: What if everything fails? What is your worst case scenario?
FL: I think that my worst case scenario is that the United States starts another war in the Middle East to disarm another Middle Eastern country of weapons of mass destruction that it does not have. And that the damage, that the backlash this does to the American position in the Middle East makes how much damage was done to the American position by the invasion of Iraq look quite trivial by comparison. That’s my worst case.
RT: I want to ask you about the new face of the Pentagon Chuck Hagel. He allowed himself to say outright attacking Iran is a stupid idea. And I believe he also called for direct negotiations. Do you think we can see direct negotiations any time soon with Chuck Hagel’s administration?
HL: I think that former senator Hagel has taken the greatest positions on Iran and a range of issues. And I admire them and respect them. The concern I have is that he’s been nominated for the wrong job to carry out those positions. As Defense Secretary, if he is approved as Defense Secretary, he will not be the person in charge of creating or implementing strategy vis-a-vis Iran or any other foreign policy issue. He will be at the Defense Department doing quintessentially Defense Secretary things in this environment, which is to cut the budget and try to keep the United States out of another war. Now that piece – trying to keep the United States out of another war – could have impact here, but the problem is he could potentially try to keep the United States out of another war without being able to offer a vision to deal with this challenge. The Islamic Republic poses a real challenge to the United States and a real challenge to Israel. That challenge significantly constrains both the United States’ and Israel’s preferred strategies for the region – just to project force whenever, wherever and to whatever degree we want unilaterally. The Islamic Republic of Iran challenges that not with tanks, not that they go and park their tanks in other people’s countries, they challenge that with their narrative. They oppose that viscerally at its core.
RT: Chuck Hagel said some very unflattering things about the Israeli lobby. That they are “intimidating a lot of people in Washington”. He also said American interests should trump Israeli interests if they conflict. And that’s a subversive thing to say here in Washington, could be a career killer. Can you name some key points where US and Israeli interests conflict?
FL: I think it is very much in America’s interests, it’s not a favor to Iran, it is in America’s interests to come to terms with the Islamic Republic, to accept safeguarded enrichment of uranium as the basis for a deal on the nuclear issue. Israel’s ability to impose its hegemony in Gaza or Southern Lebanon is not an American interest. It may be an Israeli preference, it’s not an American interest. I think American interests would be much better served by a kind of rational political settlement of the Palestinian issue, that Palestinians and other Middle Easterners will see as legitimate. There’s no way that open-ended Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands will ever be seen that way. And I think that’s very much against American interests.
HL: It’s very difficult for the way Israel is structured politically for it to accept and buy into and support what I think would be in American interests, which is that all of the states in the Middle East be able to have much more participatory political orders. Israel does not accept that in its own political order, because it does not allow the Palestinians under its occupation to vote or have a say in their governance. And essentially it cannot support it even more broadly beyond its borders, because of countries like Egypt, which I think the Israelis see today as very much of a threat in terms of how it’s developing. If it becomes any more reflective of its population’s preferences, history, interests, religion, it’s going to become by definition less interested in being OK with the policies that Israel has developed to use force coercively whenever wherever it wants along its borders or within its borders on the Palestinian population under its control.
RT: At the same time the US calls for democracy in all those countries.
HL: And that’s what rings hollow for the Arab and Muslim population, is that it’s not a real call by the United States for democratization. What the United States is trying to do is sow chaos and civil war like we are doing in Syria. We are not really trying to get democratization or political participation in Syria. It’s sowing chaos and destruction. I think that’s how many people see it and that’s how it is unfolding.
RT: What do you think Israel is going to do next? What is their strategy towards Iran?
FL: I think they have more or less come into position that if Iran is going to be struck, it’s the United States that’s going to need to do it and so I fully anticipate over the next year or so that Prime Minister Netanyahu, he and his government, will be putting a lot of pressure on the Obama administration, that Iran is approaching whatever red line Netanyahu draws, that it’s time for the United States to step up to the plate and deal with this problem in a decisive way. And even if they don’t succeed initially in persuading Obama of this, they’ll leverage it to get more sanctions on Iran, to get other kind of pressure on Iran. They will try and keep Iran in a box.
RT: Do you think President Obama appointed Chuck Hagel as a message to Israel?
FL: That’s difficult to say. We’ll see, but I’m skeptical that Obama really is out to redefine the American relationship with Israel.
HL: In addition to the Hagel appointment we have the appointment of John Brennan, the CIA, who I think the Israelis are just fine with, who will continue many of the covert programs, of course our drone program, but many of the covert programs will be under his authority at the CIA. That will be very much to Israel’s liking. That will serve to undermine any attempts, any possibilities for real rapprochement or coming to terms with Islamic Republic of Iran.
RT: There is an argument often made in Washington, that Bashar Assad’s fall would be a strategic victory against Iran. What can you say about an approach like that?
FL: First of all, at this point Iran’s most important Arab ally is no longer Syria, it’s Iraq, thanks in no small part to the United States. Iran’s most important strategic ally in the Arab world is Iraq. Even if Syria Bashar Assad is still there. I don’t think his downfall is imminent. Even if he reaches a point where he might feel like he needs to abandon Damascus, or something like this, we are going to still have a big chance of Syria that far effectively under the control of his government, under his security apparatus. Syria might at that point start to look more and more like a kind of a failing state with different regional warlords in different parts of the country. But that is not a situation which is good for American interests, first of all, or a situation in which Iran doesn’t have influence or an ability to act in ways to protect its interests in this situation.
HL: The idea that somehow we can just have these short term marriages of convenience to arm, train and fund the Sunni Islamist Jihadist groups in Syria against the Islamic Republic of Iran… just this time it will work.
FL: And if somehow secular democrats are going to come to power…
HL: Yes, if liberal secular pro-American democrats will come to power. But it didn’t work in Afghanistan and it’s not going to work in Syria.
- The Real Obstacles to Successful Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran Lie in Washington, Not Tehran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US probes Swiss medicine giant for trade with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Iran has quickly found ways to circumvent the EU sanctions imposed on its oil trade in July. After dipping sharply in summer of 2012, Iranian crude oil exports rose again by the end of the year.
So far, Iran’s December crude oil sales were the highest recorded since the sanctions were first imposed. Iran exported 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, compared to less than 900,000 bpd in September. Pre-sanctions oil exports stood at 2.2 million bpd in late 2011.
EU sanctions, introduced in January 2012 and put into effect in July, aimed to curb Iran’s ambitious nuclear program, which Tehran has insisted is only for peaceful purposes. The Iranian economy is heavily dependent on oil sales – the cuts in production lead to billions of dollars in lost revenue and a plunge in the value of the national currency.
Analysts believe that sales to Asia and the expansion of Iran’s tanker fleet helped the Islamic Republic circumvent the sanctions. In countries like China, India and Japan, Iranian oil constitutes more than 10 percent of the total crude supply – and demand from Asia is only growing.
“China is saying let’s up the numbers because no-one is doing anything about it and it looks like Obama has made a political decision not to go to war with Iran,” a senior source at a large independent trading house told Reuters.
Iran is also improving its delivery channels, despite the numerous bans and restrictions imposed by the international community.
“Iran bought a number of tankers from China and can now do more deliveries. It’s taken some pressure off Iran and facilitated tanker traffic and we are seeing higher exports to China,” analyst Salar Moradi at oil and gas consulting firm FGE told Reuters.
Meanwhile, a fresh round of US sanctions looms for Iran. Starting on February 6, US law will prevent the Islamic republic from repatriating earnings from its oil export trade. The ban is in addition to the already-existing restrictions, including the country’s removal from the SWIFT global financial service and an indefinite international asset freeze.
The new sanctions are expected to reduce export volumes to around 1 million barrels per day, the International Energy Agency predicted. However, analysts believe that further sanctions will not stop Iran from selling oil or pursuing its nuclear goals.
“What we have seen is that when Iran is pushed to a do or die situation, they have looked for creative solutions to get around sanctions,” oil and gas analyst Elena McGovern of Business Monitor International told Reuters. “The system will always find a way to cope.”
The international community has been failing to engage in constructive dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program. The so-called ‘sixtet’ of ‘5+1’ states – Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany – met three times last year with little to no results. The next round of talks has been stalled until a venue for the meeting is agreed upon.
“Some of our partners in the six powers and the Iranian side cannot come to an agreement about where to meet, behaving like little children,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. He stressed that Russian mediators “are willing to meet at any location.”
While the West has demanded that Iran abandon its nuclear aspirations, Iran refuses to back down: Tehran has seized every opportunity to advance its nuclear capabilities. On Thursday, Iranian officials informed the UN nuclear agency of its plan to use more modern centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
- China defying sanctions imposed on Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US probes Swiss medicine giant for trade with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In a film that was produced by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and was banned from being officially published, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, is seen standing and speaking in various areas of Jerusalem, including in front of the Dome Of The Rock, where in the film, it disappears and is replaced by Jewish temple.
The film, “The Fact About Jerusalem”, is meant, from an Israeli point view, to encourage tourism and portray harmony, but at the same time is meant to show the sole Jewish history of the holy city, while Ayalon also claims that the film “is about freedom of religion of the three faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The Israeli source, Yedioth Aharonoth, said that the film includes provocative content and was not published due to fear of causing anger among the Muslims, not only in Palestine, but around the world.
Ayalon “stars” in the movie by appearing at different areas of occupied Jerusalem, showing its history, advanced technology, public transportation systems, and also appears standing in front of the Dome of the Rock before it disappears and is digitally transformed into a temple.
Yet, he talks about “diversity” and “harmony” in the Holy City, “in a Jerusalem that is shared not divided”.
The Foreign Ministry said that the film is about “facts”, different “facts” from its point of view about Jerusalem, the West Bank and the peace process.
The film was also translated to various languages attracting attention of millions of viewers around the world.
Despite the fact that the film was banned from being officially published, Ayalon uploaded it onto his own YouTube Channel.
Ayalon said that the film is about history and about what he called religious freedom, describing it as being produced to show what he described as the “freedom of religion to followers of the three faiths in the region”.
Palestinians denounced the film dubbing it as part of the ongoing Israeli attempts to void the Arab and Islamic history, culture and archeology.
Despite his claims of diversity and sharing the city of “the united not divided” Jerusalem, Israel prevents millions of Arab Muslims and Christians, from entering the city to pray at their holy sites or to tour the city.
- Knesset candidate calls for bombing Aqsa Mosque’s Dome of the Rock (alethonews.wordpress.com)
BEIRUT — The Hamas Movement categorically denied some news reports claiming that the head of its political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, had asked the Jordanian monarch to tell the US administration that Hamas accepts the two-state solution with Israel.
“We, in Hamas, affirm that such allegations are untrue,” its information office stated in a press release.
It added that during his meeting last Monday with king Abdullah in Amman Mashaal did not table at all the issue of the two-state solution.
According to the press release, Mashaal discussed with the Jordanian king the Palestinian situation in general as well as the national reconciliation and the events in the region.
Mashaal also reiterated his Movement’s keenness on Palestinian unity and its refusal of all plans about the alternative homeland.
A UN human rights inquiry has called on Israel to remove all Jewish settlers from the West Bank and cease expansion. The report said the settlements violate international law, and are an attempt to drive out Palestinians through intimidation.
”Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” the report read, adding that Israel must immediately begin to withdraw all settlers from the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).
The inquiry prompted a strong reaction from Israel who slammed the report as biased.
“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that,” said spokesman Yigal Palmor in a statement.
The 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of a civilian population into an occupied area – such an act could constitute war crimes if brought before the International Criminal Court. Following the UN’s de facto recognition of Palestine last December, Israel announced plans to build thousands of homes in the OPT.
In response, Palestine wrote to the UN warning that Israel’s planned expansion into the occupied territories would lead to more war crimes being committed.
The UN investigators interviewed over 50 people who were driven from their homes. They described how their livelihoods were destroyed and their land was confiscated, and how they were subjected to continuous violence from Jewish settlers.
“The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand,” said the report.
The report has the potential to significantly worsen the UN’s already-strained relationship with Israel, particularly after Israeli representatives failed to appear at a UN human rights review two days ago.
The Israeli government has repeatedly ignored international condemnations of its settlements in the occupied territories, and continues to bar the entry of a Human Rights Council probe to assess the impact of the settlements. Israel has insisted that the organization is biased in favor of the Palestinians, and claimed that historic and biblical ties justify its claim to the territories.
The Zionist entity’s aircraft attacked a scientific research center in Jamraya, near the capital Damascus, killing two people and injuring five others.
“The Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research center in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense,” the Syrian Army said in a statement on Wednesday.
This is the first Israeli aggression of its kind since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria, and was preceded by Israeli hints of fear from transfer of strategic-value weapons to the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.
Military sources told Al-Manar TV that the aggression was carried out by four warplanes which dropped nine rockets.
The Army command also said in its statement that the attack was carried out against the center after terrorist groups made several failed attempts in the past months to take control of the site. The statement said the Israeli planes had flown below radar range and destroyed the building. It denied that a convoy had been hit near the border with Lebanon, calling the reports “baseless.”
A Western official and a former Lebanese security official said earlier Wednesday that ‘Israel’ had attacked inside Syria along the border with Lebanon, and the former Lebanese official said an unmanned aircraft had hit a truck carrying weapons.
The Zionist entity declined to comment, as did U.S. officials, who deferred to Israel. It claimed earlier that it had targeted a convoy of chemical weapons in Syria.
Hezbollah denounced on Thursday the Israeli strike which targeted a scientific research center in Syria a day earlier, saying the raid aimed to negate Damascus’ role in the path of resistance.
In a statement released by Hezbollah Media Relations, the party considered the strike as a “savage attack that carries out the Zionist entity’s policy which aims at preventing any Arab and Muslim state from developing its technological and military capabilities.”
“As Hezbollah firmly condemns the new Zionist attack against Syria, it sees that the assault blatantly uncovers the reality of what’s coming on in Syria since two years ago.”
The party noted that the strike “discloses the criminal attempts aimed at negating Syria’s role in the resistance path, in a bid to pass the chapters of the conspiracy against Damascus and our Arab and Muslim people.”
Hezbollah urged the international community along the Arab and Muslim countries to condemn the attack, but said “we were used to the silence of this community,” in front of such attacks, “especially when the Zionist entity is the attacker.”
“As Hezbollah voices solidarity with Syria, its leadership, army and people, it stresses the importance of realizing the gravity that Syria is being targeted,” the statement said.
The party also considered the raid “an opportunity for some sides to review their stances and adopt the dialogue as the only solution to stop the bloodshed” in Syria.
… Dr. Ali Mohamad, editor-in-chief of the Syria Tribune news website, believes the fears of chemical weapons was a pretext to destroy Syria’s military research centers and ensure that Damascus is unable to produce arms for its military or regional allies.
Syrians know that “this is not at all about chemical weapons,” Dr. Mohamad told RT. “It’s about stopping the Syrian scientists’ military research projects.”
“It finally makes sense because the rebels or as they like to call themselves the revolutionaries, they have been attacking air defense bases near Damascus for the past seven months,” Dr. Mohamad said. “They’ve managed to attack the S-200 base and over four other surface-to-air missile bases. Now this followed by an airstrike from Israel. So it all adds up, it makes sense. It only shows that Israel has a great interest in the instability in Syria and that it is being helped by groups of armed rebels in Syria.”
“Military research centers are responsible for developing weapons, in particular land-to-land long range missiles,” and Israel wants to stop this research process, Dr. Mohamed explained. “Of course Israel will claim that this is connected to a chemical weapons arsenal, but this is of course not true because nobody stores chemical weapons in a research center.”
“Let’s remember that the Syrian official who was responsible for all military research projects has been assassinated in Damascus by the rebels,” he said. “Let’s also remember that the person who orchestrated the Syrian long-range missile project colonel Dawoud Rajiha was also assassinated in Damascus. This is about stopping the Syrian scientific military research projects and is about breaking the link that will help [Israel] overcome the Lebanese resistance and the Palestinian resistance.”
Syria will likely retaliate, but not in the form of a direct attack on Israel. Instead, Damascus will seek to arm Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance, Dr. Mohamed said.
Media Influences Public Opinion on Venezuela But Not So Much Governments
In writing about the media’s ongoing hate-fest for Hugo Chávez, I pointed out that the major media’s reporting had been effective, in that it has convinced most consumers of the Western media – especially in the Western Hemisphere and Europe – that Venezuela suffers from a dictatorship that has ruined the country.
But there is an important sense in which it has failed. Of course it has failed to convince Venezuelans that they would be better off under a neoliberal regime, and that is one reason why Chávez and his party have won 13 of 14 elections and referenda since he was first elected in 1998. Perhaps of equal importance, it has also failed to persuade other governments that President Chávez is motivated by some kind of irrational hatred of the U.S. – as the media generally reports it. Most foreign ministries have some research capacity, and although they are influenced by major media, at the higher levels they have better information and make their own evaluations.
That is why Chávez has been able to play a significant role in the growing independence and regional integration of Latin America, despite his vilification in the media, and years of effort by the U.S. government to isolate Venezuela from its neighbors. For example, the governments that decided to form the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – a new hemispheric organization including all countries other than the U.S. and Canada – don’t care whether the media dismisses it as “Chavez’s project.” When Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay decided to admit Venezuela as a full member of the trading bloc Mercosur, they didn’t care what the media in any of their respective countries would say about it.
Of course the left governments of Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Uruguay and others have been quite sympathetic to Chávez and see him as a very important ally. But the region has changed so much in the last 10 or 15 years that it is not only the left governments who appreciate him. Here is what one of the only remaining right-wing presidents in South America, Sebastián Piñera of Chile, said on Sunday about Chávez, in Santiago:
I want to acknowledge a President who is not with us today, but whose vision, tenacity and strength has had a profound impact on the creation of the CELAC. I refer to President Hugo Chávez, the father of this regional group that welcomes all nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, 33 in all, and which excludes only two countries on the continent: the United States and Canada. We are all hoping for you to win this battle, perhaps the toughest battle of your life, which you are doing with the same strength and courage as always, and that you regain your health and that you can return in full capacity as President of Venezuela.
Back in 2006, the New York Times ran a front-page news article with a large-type headline: “Seeking United Latin America, Chávez is a Divider.” The thesis was being pushed by the Bush State Department, and was echoed by the anti- Chávez sources cited in the article.
How completely wrong they turned out to be.
- CELAC Strengthened by Second Annual Summit (venezuelanalysis.com)
- Cuba takes over presidency of regional group Celac (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Venezuela wants best of relations with the US based on ‘mutual absolute respect’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Iraqi nationals have called for a probe into alleged acts of brutality by the UK military during the Iraq war. Reports of beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation, some involving women and children, were turned over to the UK High Court.
A group of lawyers representing 192 Iraqi citizens handed the 82-page report to the UK High Court on Tuesday, and asked for an independent inquiry into detention practices between 2003 and 2008. During the next three days of the hearing, the Court will rule whether the abuses were systematic and whether the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) is impartial enough to head an investigation.
In addition to the 192 Iraqi nationals currently being represented in the High Court, another 800 are taking legal action against the UK military.
The MOD currently opposes an independent probe into the abuse reports, and argues that a wide-ranging public inquiry would be “premature and disproportionate.” The MOD created an official body, the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), to examine the cases.
The lawyers representing the Iraqis have insisted that the investigation must be carried out by an independent body because the IHAT is incapable of a balanced inquiry.
“Enough is enough. There must be a public inquiry in relation to the credible and prima facie cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the British military in Iraq from 2003 to 2009,” QC Michael Fordham told reporters outside London’s High Court.
The cases of torture documented by the report handed over to the High Court describe beatings, hooding, sleep deprivation and the sexual humiliation of detainees. The report also claimed that women, the elderly and some children were among those killed in attacks on civilians.
Lawyers said that the abuse included unlawful detention, death in custody as well as threats of rape against Iraqis and their wives.
Phil Shiner, one of the lawyers representing the Iraqis, told reporters outside the High Court that there were “hundreds and hundreds” of Iraqis with “tens of thousands” of allegations of mistreatment.
“Some of the cases are truly shocking,” he said. “A 62-year-old grandmother who is led away alive, she is seen by her husband and her son alive, then found a few hours later in a British body bag very much dead, with signs of torture.”
Another case documented in the report tells of a tribal chief who was “utterly humiliated” in front of his family when soldiers broke into his home, arrested him, and then forced him to expose his genitals to his family, including the women.
“The military can’t investigate themselves, we need an independent judicial process here in London,” Shiner said.
MOD lawyers have assured the High Court that comprehensive steps are being taken to ensure that lessons are learned from the mistakes made in Iraq.
However, the MOD seems intent on glossing over its past failings: in December, the ministry paid over $22 million (£14 million) in compensation to hundreds of Iraqi citizens who claimed to have been illegally detained and abused by British forces posted in the country.
“In particular… a significant amount of work has already been done to ensure that MOD policies and training on tactical questioning and interrogation are lawful and fit for purpose,” MOD lawyers said.
Most of the 227 who received compensation were men who claimed to have been tortured in custody. The allegations included beatings, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation.