Iran’s mission to the United Nations has dismissed allegations of the Iranian government being behind cyber attacks on the US banking system.
The mission said in a statement on Thursday that the Islamic Republic condemns any use of malware that target important service-providing institutes by violating the national sovereignty of states.
“Unlike the United States, which has, per reports in the media, given itself the license to engage in illegal cyber-warfare against Iran, Iran respects the international law and refrains from targeting other nations’ economic or financial institutions,” the statement said.
The US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has claimed that Iran has orchestrated cyber attacks on US financial institutions.
“We believe that raising such groundless accusations are aimed at sullying Iran’s image and fabricating pretexts to push ahead with and step up illegal actions against the Iranian nation and government,” the Iranian mission’s statement noted.
- Iran is guilty because… we say so (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The U.S. is ramping up pressure on the American public to accept an attack on Iran, with not one but two stories in today’s news. It wasn’t enough to accuse Iran of producing nuclear weapons based on no evidence, now we’re throwing into the mix accusations of cyberattacks and hostage taking as well.In perhaps the more serious charge, an AP story accuses Iran of holding retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in 2007 on an Iranian island. Iran has repeatedly denied holding Levinson, which would seem reasonable on two counts — one, they never denied holding the three American hikers, nor journalist Roxanna Saberi; why would they deny holding Levinson? And two, considering they have made no demands for a “spy swap” or anything of the sort, to what end would they be holding him?
Logic, of course, doesn’t deter the U.S. authorities who planted this story. And what exactly is their “evidence”? “The tradecraft used to send those items [videos and pictures of the hostage] was too good, indicating professional spies were behind them.” An example of that “professional tradecraft”? They used a cybercafe to send the video and never used that email address again! Oh, the amazing professionalism! The wondrous “tradecraft” of anyone who could pull off such a daring feat! Yes, you read right, this is the evidence on which “the U.S. government’s best intelligence analysis” says that Iran is holding Levinson.
The second story comes with an equal lack of significant evidence. The U.S. government (through the accommodating auspices of the New York Times) is accusing Iran of being behind recent DDoS attacks on American online banking sites. And here comes the “evidence”:
American officials have not offered any technical evidence to back up their claims, but computer security experts say the recent attacks showed a level of sophistication far beyond that of amateur hackers. Also, the hackers chose to pursue disruption, not money: another earmark of state-sponsored attacks, the experts said.
Again, two things. One, amateur hackers are pretty much capable of doing anything these days. And two, many amateur hacking attacks, probably most of them, are done for the purpose of disruption, not money.The most interesting aspect of this story is actually this admission:
American intelligence officials…claim Iran is waging the attacks in retaliation for Western economic sanctions and for a series of cyberattacks on its own systems.
Needless to say, Iran would be perfectly justified in doing so, given that the U.S. is waging an all-out non-military war against Iran. It’s no accident that sanctions are referred to as “tightening the noose.” U.S. “officials” even admit that the sanctions are “designed to…threaten the country with economic collapse.” This is war, and Iran would be perfectly justified in retaliating by a lot more serious means than these cyberattacks. That said, it must be noted again that the “evidence” that Iran is behind these attacks borders on the laughable.But the U.S. government is not laughing. It is deadly serious in its intent to bring down the Iranian government, and remove from the world one more pole of independence from imperialism.
European Union lawmakers are hoping to pressure internet giants such as Facebook and Google, to boost personal security controls and limit the collection of data without users consent.
A German MEP has proposed modifications to the 1995 Data Protection Act, suggesting legislation that would limit corporations’ ability to use and sell data, such as browsing habits, especially when users are unaware of the practice.
“Users must be informed about what happens with their data,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green Party MEP. “And they must be able to consciously agree to data processing – or reject it.”
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding noted that she is “glad to see that the European Parliament rapporteurs are supporting the Commission’s aim to strengthen Europe’s data protection rules, which currently date back to 1995 – pre-Internet age.”
“A strong, clear and uniform legal framework will help unleashing the potential of the Digital Single Market and foster economic growth, innovation and job creation in Europe,” she added.
The report by the German MEP adds to a proposal for tougher data protection announced by the European Commission last January. The European Parliament, the European Commission and the bloc’s 27 nations say they will seek an agreement on the rules in the coming months.
Google and Facebook – who were among the first corporations to profit from user data – have been lobbying against any such moves in the European Union. The Internet goliaths have warned legislators that such laws may hamper innovation and harm business.
“We are concerned that some aspects of the report do not support a flourishing European digital single market and the reality of innovation on the Internet,” Erika Mann, head of EU policy for Facebook, said.
Meanwhile, the Industry Coalition for Data Protection, an ICT lobby group, stated that Albrecht had “missed an opportunity to reconcile effective privacy safeguards with rules protecting the conduct of business — both fundamental rights under the EU charter.”
The European Union frequently raises the issue of privacy controls, causing standoffs with major American corporations.
In September, in another standoff over privacy issues, Facebook was forced to remove its facial recognition software from the social network in Europe in order to comply with European data protection laws. This followed an investigation by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland.
- Facebook, Google May Face More Data-Use Limits, EU Lawmaker Says (bloomberg.com)
- EU Seeks More Privacy Pressure On Google, Facebook (eurasiareview.com)
- Facebook and Google may be forced to ask permission to use personal data (guardian.co.uk)
I guess it goes to show you how limited the debate over warmaking is when politicians whose records are mostly pro-war can be portrayed as war skeptics.
That’s what is happening with Barack Obama’s new cabinet picks: Sen. John Kerry for secretary of State and former Sen. Chuck Hagel as Defense secretary. In today’s New York Times (1/9/12), Elisabeth Bumiller has a piece headlined, “For Two Nominees, Vietnam Bred Doubts on War,” where she claims:
Between them, Senator John Kerry and Chuck Hagel have five Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in Vietnam, shared a harrowing combat experience in the Mekong Delta and responded in different ways to the conflict that tore their generation apart.
But in nominating one as secretary of State and the other as Defense secretary, President Obama hopes to bring to his administration two veterans with the same sensibility about the futilities of war.
Bumiller goes on to report that Hagel and Kerry supporters say their Vietnam experiences means they “question the price of American involvement overseas.” That would make a certain kind of sense. But their actual records do very little to support this claim.
After quoting Hagel’s criticism of the ongoing Afghan War, Bumiller writes:
Like Mr. Kerry, Mr. Hagel voted for the resolution authorizing the invasion of Iraq but became an early opponent of the Bush administration’s execution of the war.
So both of them voted to authorize the Iraq War, and supported the invasion of Afghanistan. Kerry supported the Panama invasion and NATO’s war in Serbia. And during his presidential campaign in 2004 he talked about possibly increasing the number of troops in Iraq.
Hagel’s record, as I noted already, has been more supportive of U.S. warmaking than not. If anything, their records suggest they are willing to criticize U.S. wars after they’ve voted to support them. This might be in line with the White House’s thinking, but it shouldn’t be confused with an overall skepticism towards U.S. wars and their “futilities.”
Elsewhere in the paper, David Sanger argues that Kerry and Hagel would be part of a “new national security team deeply suspicious of the wisdom of American military interventions around the world.” They “bear the scars of a war that ended when the president was a teenager,” and–along with Obama’s CIA pick John Brennan–”have sounded dismissive of attempts to send thousands of troops to rewire foreign nations as wasteful and ill-conceived.”
True–except when they haven’t.
Ben Armbruster, national security editor for ThinkProgress, wrote yesterday that neoconservative pundits and politicians have resorted to promoting Iranian rhetoric in their zealous campaign to discredit and derail President Barack Obama’s nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.
He pointed to the eager promotion by many right-wingers of an article with a misleading headline from CBS News reporting that Obama’s pick has been applauded by the Iranian government while “causing jitters in Israel.” The CBS News piece notes a statement made at a press conference by Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, presumably in response to the Hagel nomination, that was first reported by Iran’s IRIB news service and then picked up by Reuters. Here’s the statement:
“We hope there will be practical changes in American foreign policy and that Washington becomes respectful of the rights of nations.”
Based on the hysterical reaction of the anti-Hagel echo chamber, Armbruster concluded, “[I]t’s sad the neocons have become so desperate in their anti-Hagel smear campaign that they’re now promoting anti-American propaganda from Iran’s foreign ministry to make their case.”
Yes, Armbruster apparently believes that a boilerplate comment made by an Iranian official is “anti-American propaganda.”
While the Iranian Foreign Ministry surely engages in its fair share of propaganda, just like any government does, this particular statement can’t possibly be classified as such, especially when Obama’s selection of Hagel has been widely interpreted as potentially heralding in a “policy shift on Iran.” Even Ploughshares Fund president Joseph Cirincione suggested today that, with Hagel and Kerry in his Cabinet, Obama “is positioning himself to make the dramatic change in national security policy.”
Nevertheless, it seems that, for Armbruster, any criticism whatsoever of U.S. foreign policy is “anti-American propaganda,” at least when it comes from the mouths of Iranians.
Yet, for anyone paying even moderate attention to history and facts, that U.S. foreign policy – especially with regard to Iran and the wider Middle East – has been aggressive, imperialistic, often times illegal, and incontrovertibly violent and counterproductive is hardly controversial.
A year ago, Suzanne Maloney – a former U.S. State Department policy adviser and currently a Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution – argued in Foreign Affairs that Obama’s sanctions policy has cornered his administration into a pointless regime change posture with no chance for successful diplomacy. She wrote, “Indeed, the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy,” thereby putting its stated goals fundamentally at odds with its tactics.
“What needs to be addressed is the disturbing reality that the Obama administration’s approach offers no viable endgame for dealing with Iran’s current leadership,” Maloney warned, concluding that “American policy is now effectively predicated on achieving political change in Tehran” which “will likely prove even more elusive than productive talks.”
So, here we have an establishment scholar and analyst calling American policy toward Iran “counterproductive” and “disturbing.” Does Armbruster believe Maloney is trafficking in “anti-American propaganda”?
Just yesterday, it was reported that a former Obama counter-terrorism adviser has described the president’s drone policy as counter-productive and ineffective in a forthcoming study for the Chatham House journal International Affairs. Michael Boyle, who was part of Obama’s counter-terrorism team during his 2008 election campaign, writes that the administration’s increased reliance on drone killing is “encouraging a new arms race that will empower current and future rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent” and has “adverse strategic effects that have not been properly weighed against the tactical gains associated with killing terrorists.”
Boyle also calls for greater transparency of the government’s actions, as most Americans are still “unaware of the scale of the drone programme…and the destruction it has caused in their name.” Whereas Obama, during his first presidential run, pledged to end the so-called “war on terror” and restore respect for the domestic and international law, Boyle explains that Obama “has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor” and far more secretive, lethal and unaccountable.
Naturally, with conclusions like these, Armbruster must believe Boyle is just spouting “anti-American propaganda,” right? Was retired war criminal General Stanley McChrystal also spewing propaganda when he recently spoke out about Obama’s policy of robot murder, noting that such policy creates “resentment,” is “hated on a visceral level,” and that it perpetuates the “perception of American arrogance.” And that’s coming from the guy who, reacting to the rampant killing of Afghan civilians by U.S. troops at checkpoints, said in 2010, “We’ve shot an amazing number of people…and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat.”
Surely, Armbruster will take McChrystal to task for his anti-American nonsense in a future post.
Furthermore, returning to the comments of Mehmanparast, that the victim of drone surveillance, terrorist attacks, cyber-warfare, industrial sabotage, collective punishment of a civilian population and the latest target for Western-imposed regime change might believe American foreign policy could use some “practical changes” is natural and obvious.
That the United States has bullied international organizations into adopting policies that either abrogate or dismiss international law is beyond doubt. That Iran’s inalienable right to enrich uranium as part of a monitored and safeguarded civilian nuclear program is being actively denied is also not up for debate.
These are facts.
But Ben Armbruster seems not to care about facts. As a dutiful ThinkProgress employee, he seems to care about defending the Obama administration, justifying its policies, and taking down its detractors. He also appears to adhere strictly to the mainstream script that anything Iran does or says is inherently dubious and usually nefarious, regardless of how true or uncontroversial it may be.
When asked about his strange classification of Mehmanparast’s statement, Armbruster explained that the suggestion that the United States might not be “respectful of the rights of nations” qualifies, by his criteria, as “anti-American propaganda.” When asked whether he honestly believed the United States to be respectful of the rights of foreign countries, Armbruster doubled-down. “Yes I do,” he replied. “Now that doesn’t mean the US is perfect. But in this case, yes, Iran is attacking the US.”
By Armbruster’s standards, stating unequivocal facts, raising doubts over America’s benevolence, questioning its respect for international law and the sovereignty of other nations, and criticizing decades of imperialism, war, occupation, bullying and threats is tantamount to an “attack” in the form of “anti-American propaganda.”
But, of course, Mehmanparast hardly said any of that. His comments were non-specific and, quite frankly, tame. But, hey, they were probably uttered in the Persian language, so that’s enough for Armbruster to dismiss and delegitimize them as a blustery rant. Ironically, in so doing – by labeling a reasonable critique of U.S. foreign policy as “anti-American propaganda” – Armbruster has become a propagandist himself, shilling for American exceptionalism, hypocrisy and overall obliviousness.
Russia and China, which share many of the same international concerns, are looking to fortify their strategic partnership.
At a time when the neighboring countries are beginning to feel the heat of the US military, it seems only natural that Moscow and Beijing are beginning to plant the seeds of a long-term strategic relationship.
Xi Jinping, the secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party, underlined his country’s commitment to a Russian partnership when he noted that he and President Vladimir Putin “came to the unanimous conclusion” that a “comprehensive strategic partnership” between Moscow and Beijing remains the “top priority of their foreign policy.”
The comments were made on Tuesday during a visit to Beijing by Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev, who is participating in the eighth round of Russian-Chinese consultations on strategic security.
Xi Jingping, 59, who was sworn as the highest-ranking Communist official in November, echoed the sentiments of the Russian president, who noted at his recent Q&A session with international media that Russo-Chinese relations “have become one of the most important factors in the (realm of) international affairs.”
Given the geopolitical realities of the region, it should come as no surprise that Moscow and Beijing are looking to forge a strategic partnership.
Whereas China, traditionally an isolationist country that shuns bilateral alliances, rarely reveals its political hand, Russia made a leap of faith when it attempted to forge a so-called reset in relations with Washington. Today, the reset is in shambles, while many in Moscow accuse Washington of allowing the partnership to deteriorate.
Indeed, much of the blame for the Russia-US fallout is due to Washington’s plans to place a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, just miles from the Russian border. NATO, originally declaring its intention to cooperate with Russia on the project, remains intransigent, while even refusing to provide Moscow with a legal guarantee that the system will never be aimed at Russian territory.
Moscow rightly warned its Western partners that without Russia’s participation in the system the strategic balance would be upset and there would be another arms race. Still, US and NATO officials have been reluctant to bring Russia on board, and this refusal has played havoc with Moscow’s and Washington’s efforts to nurture a reset between the former Cold War enemies.
In fact, given the current stalemate, the reset itself seems to have been merely a ploy to win Russia’s trust at the same time that a threatening military technology was being introduced courtesy of the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, China, which recently celebrated the launch of its first aircraft carrier (the US Navy already has six carriers assigned to the Pacific), is witnessing a growing US naval presence in the Pacific.
The US military brass announced in June that up to 60 per cent of the Navy’s fleet will be deployed to the Pacific by 2020.
At the same time, Moscow and Beijing hold similar positions on a variety of other international issues, including the situation in Syria, where militants are attempting to force President Bashar Assad from power. Russian and Chinese diplomats have called for a general ceasefire followed by negotiations, whereas the United States has thrown its weight behind the opposition.
“Moscow and Beijing both hold similar positions on the global hotspots, including in Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran,” Evgeny Bazhanov, president of the Diplomatic Academy of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, told RT in an earlier interview. “They are also both deeply suspicious of the US missile defense system.”
Finally, the China-Russia relationship is motivated by other factors aside from their increasing wariness of American geopolitical intentions.
For example, considering China’s exploding economy, Beijing requires a reliable flow of oil and gas. Russia, meanwhile, welcomes the opportunity to diversify its ample supply of natural resources.
Interstate consultations on strategic issues between Russia and China were launched in 2005.