The USS Jacksonville, a large nuclear submarine, has broken its periscope after colliding with a vessel which escaped unscathed. This is the latest collision to involve a US vessel in the busy and tense oil choke point of the Strait of Hormuz.
The American sub was performing a routine pre-dawn patrol when seamen heard a “thump”, according to a Navy source who spoke to several news agencies. The crew tried to ascertain the damage by looking into its periscope, only to realize it was no longer working. The other periscope on the submarine revealed that the first one had been “sheared off”.
It appears the ‘fishing trawler’ that collided with the 7,000-tonne submarine was not only undamaged, but barely noticed the accident.
“The vessel continued on a consistent course and speed, offering no indication of distress or acknowledgement of a collision,” says an official statement published on the US Navy website.
Authorities insist that USS Jacksonville is in no immediate danger.
“The reactor remains in a safe condition, there was no damage to the propulsion plant systems and there is no concern regarding watertight integrity,” they said.
The cost of repairing the damaged periscope are as yet unclear, but the discontinued Los Angeles-class submarines, to which USS Jacksonville belongs, would cost over $1 billion to build in today’s money (the sub was launched in 1978).
USS Jacksonville has now returned to Bahrain, where its damage will be assessed.
The Strait of Hormuz, by far the world’s busiest oil choke point and less than 40km across at its narrowest, has been a scene of several collisions since tension has risen between Iran and the US over the past two years.
The latest spiral of tension in the waterway, which is controlled by Iran on the north side, and US allies Oman and the United Arab Emirates on south, started with the gradual imposition of sanctions on the export of Iranian oil to most Western countries over the last two years.
In response, Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the strait, which transits a third of the world’s sea-borne oil, through ‘asymmetrical’ measures such as laying extensive minefields.
To counter the threat, the US and its allies have deployed what UK media has reported is the biggest concentrated naval force since World War II.
In the crowded passageway, with distrustful captains from dozens of nations operating at cross-purposes, collisions are inevitable.
Most notably, in August last year a Japanese oil tanker left a 3-meter-wide hole in the side of Navy destroyer USS Porter.
It’s not all about Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Since Iranians removed from power the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who carried the accolade of the closest ally of the White House in the Persian Gulf region, the first flames of hostility between Tehran and Washington were fanned.
It’s been more than three decades that Iran and the United States have failed to sit at a negotiation table and settle their disputes and come to a comprehensive agreement over forgetting grievances and starting a new era of reconciliation, mutual understanding and rapprochement. The Iranians every year storm into the streets to chant “Death to America,” and the United States every year intensifies the anti-Iranian sanctions, funds terrorist groups to assassinate Iranian politicians and scientists and ratifies plans to advance “pro-democracy” movements in Iran. We are not here to give a value judgment on which party is doing the right thing, but one thing is for sure, which is that the Iranian people are the only victims of this inexplicable hostility and animosity between Tehran and Washington.
It’s almost 33 years that Iran has been under the hard-hitting sanctions imposed by consecutive U.S. administrations which are renewed and built up every single year. The first set of economic sanctions against Iran were approved by President Jimmy Carter who issued the Executive Order 12170 on November 14, 1979, 10 days after a group of Iranian students captured the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in protest at the U.S. support for the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took a total of 52 Americans working at the embassy as hostage: “I, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, find that the situation in Iran constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
“I hereby order blocked all property and interests in property of the Government of Iran, its instrumentalities and controlled entities and the Central Bank of Iran which are or become subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or which are in or come within the possession or control of persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” President Carter ordered.
The sanctions were not lifted after Iran released all the hostages on January 20, 1981, and following the invasion of Iran by Iraq which was spearheaded and supported by the United States and its European allies, the United States astonishingly tightened the grip of sanctions on Iran, exacerbating the life of innocent civilians at a critical time when Saddam Hussein, armed to the teeth, was pounding and bombing Iranian cities on a daily basis. In 1984, a new set of sanctions were adopted which prohibited the sales of arms and provision of military or financial assistance to Iran during the war with Iraq, and on October 29, 1987, President Ronald Reagan issued the Executive Order 12613 by which all kinds of financial transactions with Iran were declared illegal and forbidden.
The tensions between the two arch-foes continued until a time when a remarkable event transformed the political atmosphere of Iran. When Iranians elected Seyed Mohammad Khatami in 1997 as the president, everybody expected that Washington may alter its attitude toward Iran, because President Khatami was a pro-reform figure whose foreign policy was based on détente and reconciliation with the West and the United States. However, Bill Clinton didn’t ease the sanctions and hostilities continued, even though President Khatami used every opportunity to reach out to the United States despite the pressure he was facing from the conservatives in Iran who didn’t favor dialogue with the U.S.
With George W. Bush’s coming to power in 2001, Iran’s nuclear program became a central theme in the U.S. foreign policy, and Iran was branded as a part of the so-called Axis of Evil. The sanctions were toughened and an international campaign for isolating Iran gradually began to take shape under the leadership of the Bush administration. Bush penalized many of his fellow citizens for doing business with Iran, and blocked the properties of hundreds of Iranian companies and individuals. He threatened Iran with the use of force and warned it repeatedly against a possible military strike on its nuclear facilities and even a regime change in Tehran, which he was not ashamed of openly bragging about. In 2007, ABC news reported that President Bush had authorized a $400 million bill for covert operations to create unrest in Iran. It was during his tenure that the Congress passed a law and allocated $120 million for anti-Iranian media propaganda. Oddly enough, the sanctions even encompassed scientific cooperation between the Iranian academicians and American universities and scientific institutions. For instance, in 2002 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) deprived its Iranian members of different advantages and benefits, including the use of IEEE logo for promotional activities, electronic access to publications and access to job listings. In 2004, the U.S. Department of the Treasury ruled that editing or publishing scientific manuscripts from Iran violates the trade embargo on the country and thus several U.S. scientific publications started to refuse articles and research papers by Iranian academicians.
The legacy of confrontation with Iran as a “rogue state” was inherited by President Obama who came to the Oval Office with a shining motto of “change.” Many Iranians had expected that he would practically realize the changes he had promised, and especially revise the course of Bush’s adventurous foreign policy. But after a while, it transpired that he is not that much different from his predecessor as he renewed the U.S. economic sanctions against Iran only one year after he came to office.
“The actions and policies of the government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and pose a continuing and unusual and extraordinary threat,” said Obama in a message to the U.S. Congress after renewing the annual sanctions against Iran in March 2009. In 2012 and with the escalation of conflicts with Iran over its nuclear program, the United States hardened the sanctions and somewhat forced Iran’s major trade partners in the European Union, Asia and Africa to stop doing business with and buying oil from Iran. As a result of the U.S. pressures, the EU imposed an oil embargo against Iran and stopped buying its crude since July 1, 2012. Subsequently, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland also adopted unilateral sanctions against Iran and the oil-rich country was literally targeted with all-out economic warfare launched by the United States and its allies. As a result of these backbreaking sanctions, Iran’s currency, rial, dropped to its lowest value against dollar in the late 2012 and according to economists, lost almost 70% of its value. The country also began to experience a staggering hyperinflation with the price of consumer goods increasing twofold and threefold every single day.
Now, aside from the oil embargo, a variety foodstuff, agricultural corps, medicines and medical equipment, computer devices, gold, clothes and humanitarian goods are considered banned goods for Iran and this is what makes daily life more difficult every day. To add insult to the injury, consider the number of civilians killed every year in Iran in deadly air crashes, a direct result of the U.S. embargo that makes it impossible for Iran to buy new and modern aircraft and refresh its aging, outdated fleet.
But is Iran capable of maintaining its economy in the face of these overwhelming sanctions? What will happen to the lives of the Iranian people? Won’t these sanctions decimate the chances of a possible reconciliation between Iran and the United States? Aren’t these sanctions some kind of violation of human rights? In order to find compelling answers for these questions, I contacted some renowned Iranian experts whom I knew had interesting things to say about the sanctions.
Richard Javad Heydarian, a foreign affairs analyst and Asia Times contributor says, “Although touted as ‘targeted’ measures against Iran’s nuclear and ballistic programs, the transatlantic sanctions, beginning in late-2011 and coming into full force on July 2012, are ruthlessly eroding the very foundations of Iran’s entire civilian economy, upon which almost 75 million Iranians depend for daily survival.”
“In the language of international law, we are arguably speaking of ‘collective punishment,’ because they directly hit Iran’s main exports, namely oil and gas, and shut out Iran’s major financial institutions, including the Iranian Central Bank from mainstream global financial channels, so it comes as no surprise that they are affecting Iranians of all walks of life, especially the poor and the majority lower-middle class population,” he added.
Analyzing the economic impacts of the sanctions, Heydarian notes, “Oil revenues are down by almost 50 percent, the fiscal deficit is widening to a decade-high, inflation has passed the 25% threshold, and the currency has lost almost 70% of its value… With a 40% merchandise-to-GDP ratio (the total value of merchandize trade in dollar terms), Iran is indeed vulnerable to the massive currency fluctuations. The IMF and IIF are estimating about 3 percent GDP contraction this year, so the sanctions are disruptive and hurting the whole country.”
According to Richard Javad Heydarian, the sanctions have deprived Iran of the opportunity to meet its most rudimentary needs: “due to the sanctions, Iran is finding it increasingly difficult to access international markets for purchase of even the most basic commodities, from food to clothing and medicine, as it struggles to process multi-billion oil deals in foreign currencies. It is already forced to engage in barter deals with countries such as India and China, which are crowding out Iran’s large domestic industrial base.”
This political analyst believes that Iran is losing its trade partners as a result of the sanctions: “Due to financial sanctions and growing American pressure, even regional trading partners such as the UAE and Oman have increasingly denied Iranian traders short-term loans, credit financing, and banking access, while more liquid traders are forced to rely on unscrupulous financial intermediaries and/or highly expensive payment schemes to conduct trade transactions.”
So, what will happen in the future? Where is the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program headed? Are the sanctions going to remain in place and make daily life painful for Iranians? Heydarian responds:
“Not only has the West refused to show significant flexibility in three consecutive high-level talks, namely the Istanbul, Baghdad, and Moscow negotiations this [last] year, between Iran and the world powers, the so-called P5+1, but its incessant push on the sanctions regime is undercutting negotiations – given the dearth of an atmosphere of mutual-compromise and trust. In absence of West’s flexibility on the sanctions, I do not think that Iran will consider unilateral concessions.”
Abolghasem Bayyenat, an independent political analyst and a Ph.D. candidate at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University also believes that the sanctions are not “targeted” and “smart” as claimed by the West, and only serve to punish and penalize the ordinary citizens:
“It should be evident that the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran lack any sound moral and legal justifications and are contrary to international human rights standards as well as what has publicly been advertised by Western politicians themselves. The sanctions are not targeted and ‘smart’, as initially claimed by Western politicians, but are indiscriminate and ‘dumb’ in nature, in that they hurt the whole civilian population of Iran and impose collective punishment on them.”
“Funding nuclear activities constitute a tiny fraction of Iran’s public budget and, as such, trying to deprive a nation of its entire public revenues to only deny it funding sources for its IAEA-monitored nuclear program is not only absurd and illogical but is also hypocritical,” he added.
This political commentator believes that the sanctions will increase the government’s legitimacy and create solidarity among the people instead of pushing them to revolt. He also says that the sanctions undermine the spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue between Iran and the world powers: “The current Western strategy to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran is detrimental to the prospects of peacefully resolving Iran’s nuclear issue and is not likely to meet its stated goal of bringing drastic change in Iran’s nuclear position.”
“Economic hardships do not automatically and mechanically produce public revolt against the government in Iran. What is more important than the scope of objective economic hardships is how they are perceived by the general public in Iran. The general public in Iran tend to sympathize with the official narrative that economic hardships are the price that they need to pay for safeguarding their political independence,” he said. Bayyenat says that the impact of the West’s sanctions on Iran can be felt in two ways: “The first impact is effected through fueling rampant inflation in Iran. The sharp rise in the price of commodities and other consumer goods aggravated by the partly sanctions-induced currency depreciation has eroded the general welfare of ordinary Iranians and is likely to create further economic hardships for them, if not mitigated.” “Second, the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran gradually undermine the capacity of the government of Iran to provide public welfare programs and other social services to its people by cutting its revenues and hindering its capacity to engage in financial transactions with foreign countries to import necessary foodstuffs and medicine. The sick, the elderly, children and the working class in general suffer the most as a result of the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran,” he adds.
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, a Reader in Comparative Politics and International Relations and Chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS, University of London opines that domestic mismanagement coupled with the economic sanctions of the United States and its European allies have made daily life in Iran increasingly breathtaking:
“The sanctions hit Iran’s embattled civil society which is caught between a largely incompetent state and a predatory international community that is taking every advantage out of the domestic situation in the country and the crisis of politics that ensued in the last couple of years.”
“The sanctions have made it harder for Iranian families to access drugs and medication including for cancer and blood disorders such as hemophilia. The negative impact on Iran’s aging civilian planes is well known. The sanctions have also made it gruelingly difficult to transfer money into and from Iran, and so many students studying abroad are short of funds from their family members. None of this really has a political dividend or bothers the Iranian state. It is Iranian society that is bearing the brunt of an intolerable situation,” Adib-Moghaddam noted.
This university professor admits that the sanctions are inhumane and unjustifiable, but he also argues that the government has played its own role in the emergence of the current crisis: “There is no doubt that these kinds of sanctions are a war by other means. The hypocrisy is obvious to anyone with a hint of political intelligence. But here as well, Iranians are targeted from two sides: the sanctions regime enforced by the United States and the systematic violation of human dignity by influential sections of the Iranian state. The inability of the current government of President Ahmadinejad to navigate the nation out of either crisis is testimony to its political failure.”
Canadian-Iranian freelance political analyst, Shahir Shahid Saless, whose writings have appeared in the Guardian, Al-Monitor and Asia Times traces the roots of current tensions between Iran and the United States in a historical mistrust that started when Iranians toppled the U.S.-backed Shah in a popular revolution in 1979:
“Iran and the U.S. are locked in a cold war relationship which, while not unprecedented, is almost unique for its pattern of non-communication (or inconsistent and failing communications) and non-compromise. This state of relations has lasted three decades. Even during the Cold War the U.S. not only would negotiate with its adversaries but also had diplomatic and economic relations with them. [The] U.S.-Iran relationship is an abnormality where the two governments simply cannot talk to each other in a meaningful way. Accumulation of decades of perceived betrayals, which has resulted in the formation of profound mutual mistrust, is largely responsible for the failure of the formation of a negotiation process between the two states.”
“It is a sound contention that when the Islamic Republic came to exist, seeds of mistrust between the two states had already been planted. The admitted role of the U.S. in the 1953 coup d’état and the overthrow of Mossadegh, Iran’s popular and democratically-elected Prime Minister, is central to and the beginning of the debate of mistrust between Iran and the U.S. The seizure of the American embassy in 1979 and the disclosure of espionage documents taken from the embassy escalated the Iranian regime’s mistrust of the U.S. in an already unsteady relationship. Since then the fear of regime change has acted as a barrier to the restoration of the relations. The hostage crisis created a cycle of mistrust that has not been addressed, let alone broken to this date,” he stressed.
Shahid Saless believes that Iran’s nuclear program further heightened the wall of mistrust and with the imposition of sanctions on Iran by the United States, the two countries are now literally entangled in a diplomatic stalemate:
“Sanctions, ostensibly, heightens mistrust. Interestingly, this is acknowledged by experts such as Ray Takeyh and Kenneth Pollack, who are consulted by the U.S. government and are advocates of draconian sanctions. You don’t need to be a genius to understand that extreme mistrust will continue to block the formation of negotiation process let alone a negotiated solution.”
There are few wise and decent people in the world who endorse the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran. First of all, there’s no convincing evidence that Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension and so there’s no reason to punish Iran with such unbridled sanctions, and most importantly, these sanctions are paralyzing the daily life of the Iranian citizens who want to live a peaceful and untroubled life aside from the political differences and conflicts their government has had with the Western states.
The United States has regularly chastised Iran for its alleged violations of human rights, but it seems that it’s taking the lead in violating the most fundamental rights of the Iranian people, equally human beings, in an atrocious manner by imposing these stringent sanctions with their huge humanitarian impact.
Although some progress was made in last year’s dialogues between Iran and the six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program, it seems that the only key to resolving the erosive conflict over Iran’s nuclear program is lasting bilateral talks between Iran and the United States; the two adversaries which can bring peace and stability to the Middle East by putting aside the acrimony and moving toward reconciliation which will be an all-out diplomatic breakthrough for the whole international community.
Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, media correspondent and peace activist. He was born on April 27, 1990, in the northern Iranian city of Rasht.Articles and interviews by Kourosh Ziabari have been published in a variety of international newspapers, magazines, journals and news websites including Press TV, Tehran Times, Counter Punch, Fars News Agency, The Nation (Pakistan), Rebelion, Middle East Online, Intrepid Report, Dissident Voice, Mehr News Agency, Info Palestine, and many others. Visit his website www.kouroshziabari.com
- US renews war on Iranian media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US imposes fresh sanctions on Tehran, including ban on Iranian media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
On 8 January the Financial Times published an article by James Blitz, entitled ‘Fears raised over Syria uranium stockpile’, premised primarily on the ‘fears’ and otherwise subjective ruminations of unnamed ‘official’ and ‘expert’ sources, one the two named sources being former weapons inspector David Albright (discussed further below).
The claims of Blitz’s sources rest on the argument that, because we lack proof that something is false, it must be true (an ad ignorantiam argument). For example, Blitz states that, ‘Three satellite pictures of the Marj al-Sultan site taken in October, November and December of 2012 and shown to the FT […] appear to show the gradual clearance of a large orchard there, for no apparent reason’. And so, the clearance has triggered fears that (a) the site is ‘a secret uranium conversion facility’, and (b) that tonnes of uranium have been transferred to the site. Because we do not have proof that the orchard has not been cleared for the transfer of uranium, this is cause for concern that this may be the case, according to the article.
Blitz’s sources claim that they have legitimate concerns about a uranium stockpile in Syria, enough uranium they say ‘to provide weapons-grade fuel for five atomic devices’, which could then be transferred ‘from Syria to Iran by air’.
The overarching concern of the article is that Iran would be provided with ‘a “vital resource” [which could] possibly be used to build a bomb’. This depends on a series of speculative claims made by Blitz’s sources turning out to be simultaneously true, with the addition of Iran ‘attempt[ing] to build another secret uranium plant’ (Blitz doesn’t expand on the meaning of ‘another’). To reach this conclusion, the following must all occur:
1. Syria must be in possession of 50 tonnes of unenriched uranium. (Blitz plainly states, in the opening paragraph, that cause for concern lies with ‘up to 50 tonnes of unenriched uranium’ – the implication being that such a thing actually exists – before later backtracking to suggest uncertainty with the inclusion of the clause ‘if it exists’ in reference to the uranium.)
2. The Marj al-Sultan site must actually be a uranium conversion facility. (The report notes that such claims are alleged: ‘what [the experts] allege is a secret uranium conversion facility that the Syrian regime built at the town of Marj al-Sultan near Damascus’.)
3. The uranium must be at the site. (‘Whether the uranium is at the site is unclear, the officials conceded’.)
4. Iran must be trying to ‘seize’ the uranium. (‘Iran, which is closely allied to the Syrian regime and urgently needs uranium for its nuclear programme, might be trying to seize such a stockpile’.)
Given that the above scenarios are at best uncertain and at worst hypothetical, the credibility given to the argument that this might result in Iran ‘building the bomb’ is questionable.
One of Blitz’s two named sources is David Albright, former weapons inspector and head of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). Put forward as a ‘leading expert’ on the Iranian nuclear programme, he is quoted as having concerns about the ‘whereabouts of this uranium’, which Blitz concedes may or may not exist. Albright’s past speculations on states he supposed had been hiding nuclear weapons is worth considering. In August 2002, eight months before the US-led invasion of Iraq, he was interviewed by The Guardian in an article entitled ‘Does Iraq have a nuclear weapon?’ Below are three quotes from the article, which highlight to some degree the lack of substance to his arguments:
‘People have argued that you could find nuclear facilities quickly as they are big, but Iraq knows how to make them small…The clock is ticking’.
‘You would think that if Iraq had a nuclear weapon, it would have done something to show it. But then you can’t be certain’.
‘Once it gets the gas-centrifuge programme, you have to assume that it could make [a bomb] in half a year’.
More recently, Albright has been the co-author of a report from ISIS entitled ‘New Satellite Image Shows Activity at Parchin Site in Iran’. The introduction to the report discusses a satellite image which ‘shows what appears to be a stream of water that emanates from or near the building’ that ‘raises concerns that Iran may have been washing inside the building, or perhaps washing the items outside the building’. This and other activities at the Parchin site that have been seen in the last year on satellite images, such as the movement of lorries, and the demolishing of a building, provide the sole basis for Albright’s argument that there has been a nuclear cover-up. In the Financial Times article, Blitz’s reference to ‘the gradual clearance of a large orchard’ is in a similar vein to the speculations that ISIS have made in the past about Iran.
As Albright’s targets are generally the official ‘enemies’ of the west, he receives respectful attention from the UK media, despite an absence of any factual substance to his work.
The ‘concerns’ Blitz reports on belong to his sources, so it is their judgement, and not just his, which is premised on fallacy. Blitz, however, has based his entire argument, without criticism, on the opinions of these officials, and has further developed them into a foretelling narrative, one which doesn’t stand up to even the slightest scrutiny.
Lynne Stewart is a New York attorney who is serving a 10-year sentence in the federal penitentiary for being a supporter of terrorism.
Two years after the 9/11 attacks, she read the following message from her client, convicted terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman, at a press conference in New York City:
“I [Omar Abdel-Rahmn] am not withdrawing my support of the cease-fire, I am merely questioning it and I am urging you, who are on the ground there to discuss it and to include everyone in your discussions as we always have done.”
What’s criminal about that message?
The U.S. federal courts construed the message as exhorting the members of Abdel-Rahmn’s Islamic organization in Egypt, which U.S. officials had labeled a terrorist organization, to use violence to overthrow the Egyptian government. They said that made Stewart a supporter of terrorism.
The case is fascinating on several levels, not the least of which was that many Egyptian citizens were of the mindset that the Egyptian government was one of the most brutal, tyrannical military dictatorships in the world, one that had long oppressed the Egyptian people. It was, in fact, that deep-seated discontent among the Egyptian citizenry that ultimately led to the ouster of Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
So, why is that important?
It’s always been a belief of Americans that people everywhere have a right to use violence to overthrow tyranny. Stewart was convicted for going one step further and actually exhorting the Egyptians to use force to overthrow the tyrannical regime under which they had long suffered.
Let’s assume, hypothetically, that what Stewart did at that press conference was stand up and read the Declaration of Independence, specifically the following section:
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
If she had done that, there is no way that the federal courts could have convicted her. After all, the Declaration of Independence is part of America’s heritage of freedom. It’s not against the law to read it in public.
Suppose she had added the following sentence: “The principles of the Declaration are not limited to Americans. They apply to people in every nation on earth who are suffering from tyranny.”
Could she then have been convicted? Again, I think that it would have been very difficult to convict her for supporting terrorism by simply extending the principles of the Declaration to people everywhere.”
Where Stewart crossed the line was in exhorting Egyptians to actually do what the Declaration says they have a right to do — use force to overthrow the Egyptian government.
So, why is that against the law? After all, one could rationally think that under principles of free speech, a person should be free to exhort people to do anything they want. After all, this is America, not Russia under Vladimir Putin, where people are being convicted for saying the wrong things.
There is one big reason why Stewart is in jail today for exhorting Egyptians to violently overthrow their government: The Egyptian government was a longtime ally and partner of the U.S. government and, therefore, wasn’t considered by U.S. officials to be a tyrannical regime that would trigger the right that Jefferson enunciated in the Declaration. Any American (or Egyptian) who would use violence to overthrow a non-tyrannical, pro-U.S. regime or exhort others to violently overthrow that regime is considered to be a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism.
Among the things that the Egyptian people hated most about Mubarak’s military dictatorship were the “emergency” powers enforced by Mubarak and his military, police, and intelligence forces. Such powers had come into existence some 30 years before, when Egypt’s president, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated. The “emergency” enabled Mubarak, who was a military man, to use the Egyptian military to arrest people without warrants on suspicion of being terrorists, incarcerate them, torture them, and execute them — all without due process of trial or trial by jury.
These extraordinary powers were supposed to be temporary. They were to expire when the “emergency” arising from the assassination had expired. But some 30 years later, they were still in existence. And they were employed brutally against the Egyptian people, especially those who dared to challenge Egypt’s military dictatorship, military supremacy over the civilian population, and Egypt’s military dictator himself, Hosni Mubarak. Most Egyptians learned to just keep their mouths shut.
Not surprisingly, the Egyptians considered the exercise of such powers to be the hallmarks of a tyrannical regime. Indeed, such powers have long been the most distinguishing characteristic of a tyrannical regime. It was mainly the exercise of those “temporary, emergency” powers that drove Egyptians into the streets, risking their lives at the hands of the military dictatorship to bring fundamental change to their society.
In fact, one of the principal demands of the protestors throughout the protests was that Mubarak relinquish those “temporary, emergency” powers that came into existence 30 years before. Mubarak refused to do so, arguing that his temporary, extraordinary powers were more necessary than ever, especially given the global war on terrorism that came into existence on 9/11.
For those entire 30 years, the U.S. government took the side of Mubarak and his military dictatorship. Those temporary, emergency powers weren’t tyrannical, U.S. officials believed. They were instead the essential prerequisite for protecting Egypt’s “national security” and for maintaining “order and stability” in the Middle East.
After all, don’t forget that immediately after 9/11, President Bush did precisely what Mubarak had done during Egypt’s terrorist emergency some 30 years before. Bush decreed that the terrorist emergency that America was now facing meant that Bush, as commander in chief, now wielded those same extraordinary powers — the powers to arrest people as suspected terrorists without judicially issued warrants, torture them, incarcerate them indefinitely, and even execute them, perhaps have some sort of kangaroo military tribunal. Later, President Obama would expand those powers with a widespread assassination program.
Thus, how could U.S. officials look upon the Mubarak dictatorship as a tyrannical regime, since it was a loyal, pro-U.S. regime that was doing nothing more than what U.S. officials would do in similar circumstances?
It goes without saying, of course, that throughout those 30 years, U.S. officials continued plowing billions of dollars in cash and armaments into the coffers of the Egyptian military dictatorship, helping build it up and fortify its omnipotent military control over the Egyptian people. In fact, it came as no surprise when the U.S. government made the Egyptian military dictatorship one of its principal rendition-torture partners in its global war on terrorism.
Throughout the Mubarak dictatorship, if anyone called for the violent overthrow of the Egyptian government, the Egyptian government, not surprisingly, considered him a “bad guy” — i.e., a terrorist. But as Lynn Stewart found out, so did the U.S. government.
Now, one might point to Syria, where U.S. officials are doing precisely what Stewart got convicted of — exhorting the Syrian citizenry to violently overthrow the Syrian dictatorship.
Ah, but they would be missing an important point. Syria is no longer a partner and ally of the U.S. government. It used to be — i.e., when President Bush and the CIA entered into a secret torture partnership by which the Assad regime agreed to torture Canadian citizen Maher Arar for the U.S. government. But once that partnership was dissolved, it became okay for U.S. officials to exhort Syrians to violently overthrow the tyranny under which they have long suffered.
For exhorting the Egyptian people to violently overthrow their tyrannical regime, Stewart got sentenced to serve 28 months in jail, a fairly lengthy term for a 73-year-old woman suffering from breast cancer. Unfortunately for Stewart, however, in a public statement to the press after her sentencing, she scoffed at her sentence, declaring that she could serve it “standing on her head.” Her statement garnered the wrath of federal prosecutors and federal judges and earned her a resentencing, one that sent her away for 10 years instead of 28 months.
I wonder if Stewart has learned her lesson, one that the Egyptian people learned during the 30 years of the Mubarak dictatorship. In the age of the national-security state and never-ending emergencies, it pays to keep your mouth shut.
France’s President Francois Hollande says French troops have started military intervention in Mali to help the Malian government repel the rebels that control the northern part of the West African country.
“I have agreed to Mali’s demand, which means French forces have provided support to Mali this afternoon…. This operation will last as long as is necessary,” Hollande said on Friday.
He added that French forces had arrived in the capital, Bamako, hours earlier.
Malian officials say troops from Nigeria and Senegal have already arrived on the ground to support government forces in their battle against the militants.
“Today, we have partners from Nigeria, Senegal…and more on the ground, to give us some assistance,” Oumar Dao, chief of operations at the Mali Defense Ministry, said earlier in the day.
“Our operational team will define what kind of aid they will provide,” Dao added.
The reports of the deployment of foreign troops in Mali come just a day after militants seized the central town of Konna.
In December 2012, the United Nations Security Council approved the deployment of foreign military forces in Mali to help the African government battle the militants.
The 15-member Security Council authorized an initial one-year deployment of African Union forces in the country. The resolution, drafted by France, also authorized all European Union member states to help rebuild Mali’s security forces.
Chaos broke out in the West African country after Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was toppled in a military coup on March 22, 2012. The coup leaders said they had mounted the coup in response to the government’s inability to contain the two-month Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country.
PSCC | January 11th, 2013
Bab Alshams, Occupied Palestine – 250 men and women from across Palestine establish this morning a new Palestinian village named “Bab Alshams” (Gate of the Sun). Tents were built in what Israel refers to as area E1 and equipment for long-term living was brought.
The group released the following statement:
We, the sons and daughters of Palestine from all throughout the land, announce the establishment of Bab Alshams Village (Gate of the Sun). We the people, without permits from the occupation, without permission from anyone, sit here today because this is our land and it is our right to inhabit it.
A few months ago the Israeli government announced its intention to build about 4000 settlement housing units in the area Israel refers to as E1. E1 block is an area of about 13 prayer in Bab AlShamssquare km that falls on confiscated Palestinian land East of Jerusalem between Ma’ale Adumim settlement, which lies on occupied West Bank Palestinian land, and Jerusalem. We will not remain silent as settlement expansion and confiscation of our land continues. Therefore we hereby establish the village of Bab Alshams to proclaim our faith in direct action and popular resistance. We declare that the village will stand steadfast until the owners of this land will get their right to build on their land.
The village’s name is taken from the novel, “Bab Alshams,” by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury. The book depicts the history of Palestine through a love story between a Palestinian man, Younis, and his wife Nahila. Younis leaves his wife to join the Palestinian resistance in Lebanon while Nahila remains steadfast in what remains of their village in the Galilee. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Younis smuggles through Lebanon and back to the Galilee to meet his wife in the “Bab Alshams” cave, where she gives birth to their children. Younis returns to the resistance in Lebanon as his wife remains in Bab Al Shams.
Bab Alshams is the gate to our freedom and steadfastness. Bab Alshams is our gate to Jerusalem. Bab Alshams is the gate to our to our return.
For decades, Israel has established facts on the ground as the International community remained silent in response to these violations. The time has come now to change the rules of the game, for us to establish facts on the ground – our own land. This action involving women and men from the north to the south is a form of popular resistance. In the coming days we will hold various discussion groups, educational and artistic presentations, as well as film screenings on the lands of this village. The residents of Bab Al Shams invite all the sons and daughters of our people to participate and join the village in supporting our resilience.
Ask your governments and EMPs to suspend EU-Israel Association Agreement and stand up for human rights in 2013!
A call urging citizens of the European Union to tell their representatives to suspend the EU’s trade agreements with Israel, until Israel complies with international law, has been issued by grassroots networks and organizations from across Palestine.
The call has been endorsed by numerous European solidarity networks and organizations.
Join the action. Send letters to your representatives now by clicking on your country below:
BELGIUM (DUTCH / FRENCH)
SPAIN (CASTILIAN / CATALAN)
For the full text click here.
After a year and a half of bungled work and plenty of criticism, the Obama administration decided to close down its review of mortgage fraud this week and order banks to pay a sum that consumer advocates say falls short of what’s fair.
The Independent Foreclosure Review was established 18 months ago to vet how banks handled home foreclosures and to compensate Americans for any wrongdoing.
In the end, federal regulators decided on an $8.5 billion settlement that banks must pay. But of this total, only $3.3 billion is actual cash, while another $5.2 billion represents “credits” that financial institutions will receive for avoiding future foreclosure.
The $3.3 billion in funds will be distributed to about 3.8 million borrowers who were eligible to have their foreclosures reviewed. That amounts to approximately $870 per homeowner.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of the federal regulators that managed the review and negotiated the new settlement, would not reveal to the media how it decided on the $3.3 billion figure.
As for the review itself, the process was wrought with problems, starting with the fact that banks were allowed to hire “independent” consultants to review mortgage files—consultants who often turned out to have business relationships with the banks they were reviewing, thus creating potential conflicts of interest.
On December 28, US President Barack Obama enacted the so-called “Countering Iran in Western Hemisphere Act” which seeks to undermine Iran´s growing relations with Latin America, a region that has traditionally seen by the United States as its backyard and sphere of influence.
The Act, passed by congressmen earlier this year, requires the US Department of State to develop a strategy within 180 days to “address Iran´s growing hostile presence and activity” in Latin America. The Act points out that “Iran´s business and diplomatic ties are a threat to US national security”. It is seen, however, as another anti-Iranian move fabricated by the Zionist lobby in the US.
Shortly before, in July 2011, Robert F. Noriega – former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, former US ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) and current Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, one of the main neoconservatives -controlled entities in the US – said in a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence that Iran was carrying out “an offensive strategy” in Latin America.
The Iranian presence in the Latin America has also been harshly attacked by the pro-Israeli hawk Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman and self-appointed bulwark against the alleged “Islamo-Boliviarian threat” to US security. She was co-star of a so-called “documentary” entitled “La amenaza iraní” (The Iranian Threat), in which she said, without blushing, that the US should attack Iran in order to “avert bomb explosions in various Latin American capitals”. The film was aired by Univision, a US broadcast network, which is owned by someone who has hosted galas in honour of the occupying Israeli army.
In 2009, another ridiculous “documentary” released by Univision involved the Venezuelan consul in Miami, Livia Acosta, in an absurd cyber-plot against the US allegedly promoted by “Iranian diplomats and Mexican computer hackers”. This was the pretext used for expelling her from the United States in a move that was widely seen as an American political revenge for Venezuela´s independent foreign policy.
Actually, the US Act rudely violates Latin American countries´ sovereignty and contains some stupid claims such as that the opening of Iranian embassies or cultural centers is to “spread terrorism”. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also echoed those views by claiming, in a recent visit to Colombia, that Iranian attempts to expand its influence in South America amounted to expanding terrorism. Of course, no real evidence has ever been shown to support that laughable allegation.
“The paranoid nature of these estimations, and the scant evidence presented for them, are eerily reminiscent of the kind of broad-strokes, hawkish fear-mongering on display in the lead up to the war in Iraq. The testimony comes from a group bent on hyping security threats and, as Noriega admitted in the testimony, is not even in agreement with the State Department or intelligence agencies”, wrote John Glaser in a recent report.
The US accusations against Iran are also a way of targeting and casting suspicion on Latin American Muslims. In the Act, Washington speaks of “isolating Iran and its allies” and US officials accuse Iran or other pro-Iranian forces of “establishing mosques or Islamic centers throughout the region” in order to advance violent jihad “on our doorstep”.
US declining influence in Latin America
However, Latin American people know well that for over a hundred years it was the United States, and not another country, which wrought terror, war, poverty and repression throughout Latin America in the form of CIA-orchestrated military coups and support of paramilitary crimes, terrorism and dictatorial regimes. Military personnel found guilty of the worst violations of human rights in Latin American countries were trained in the notoriously famous School of Americans by US officers.
Actually, the Act is more evidence that US influence in Latin America is rapidly waning. Latin American countries have developed their own policies and set up independent blocks -ALBA, UNASUR and CELAC- while the Organization of American States, which includes the US and Canada, has been declining due to its submission to US policies on issues such as Cuba´s participation in its summits.
Iran has been seeking to increase its relations with Latin America in a bilateral way and in the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement and other international organizations. This has irritated Washington, which still seems to consider Latin American countries as vassals not having the right to pursue an independent foreign policy or seek its own friends and partners. Any agreement between Latin American states and Iran –or Russia and China- always arouses suspicion in the US.
Several Latin American countries have enhanced their diplomatic and trade ties with Iran in recent years, while their relations with the US have been downgraded amid popular demands for an end to dependence on Washington. Although the United States is still the largest economic partner of many Latin American countries, its economic and financial crisis has adversely affected them. This has led some nations, such as Mexico, to announce their intention to diversify their commercial partners in the next years.
As an international partner, the Islamic Republic is one of the best positioned to help Latin American countries develop their economies and their scientific and technological skills in many fields. The Iranian industry is highly developed. It has remarkable expertise in oil and gas exploitation and other sectors including health, defence, agriculture and space technology.
Iran has helped Venezuela build unmanned drone aircraft as part of their military cooperation. Referring to a Spanish media report that US prosecutors were investigating drone production in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said: “Of course we are doing it, and we have the right to. We are a free and independent country.”
In a televised speech to military officers at Venezuela´s Defense Ministry, Chavez said the aircraft only had a camera and was exclusively for defensive purposes. He said that Venezuela planned to soon begin exporting the unmanned drone. Moreover, Iran and Venezuela have mutual investments of about $ 5 billion in factories to make cement, satellites and tractors and the Iranians have helped the Latin American country build 14,000 houses.
Tehran has forged significant economic and political relations with the government of Evo Morales in Bolivia and with that of Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Iran´s links with Argentina, where Zionist circles have unsuccessfully tried to blame Iran for the AMIA attack in 1994, are also rapidly improving, as the government of President Cristina Fernandez is promoting a more conciliatory line towards Tehran.
Latin American countries, especially those that follow an independent foreign policy, trust Iran because they know that the Iranians cannot be pressured into betraying an agreement that disturbs the US or its allies. This is a main reason of Iran´s rising popularity in Latin America despite the propaganda of Zionist-owned media outlets and the US political and diplomatic actions.
HispanTV, the Spanish-language channel similar to the English-language Press TV channel, is also feared by the US establishment and Zionist circles because it is giving Latin American audiences accurate information about the Middle East and international developments that exposes the lies of Zionist-controlled agencies and media. The recent expulsion of Hispan TV from the Spanish-owned Hispasat channel is, in this sense, a desperate attempt to prevent the channel from reaching mass audiences. However, this move, as other similar ones in the past, is doomed to failure.
Therefore, Latin American nations won´t allow the US to dictate their foreign policy on the issue of their relations with Iran or any other country. In fact, Washington has already had a sign of this when it tried to pressure these countries to vote against Palestine’s bid to gain the status of a non-member state at the United Nations. Only one country, Panama, whose government has strong links with the Zionist entity and the local Zionist lobby voted against it.
- US, Israel instill fears over Iran’s growing influence in Latin America (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Ecuador to maintain foreign policy, ties with Iran: FM (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has reaffirmed his country’s determination to maintain its foreign policy and continue bilateral ties with Iran and other friendly countries despite disagreements by the US.
Recent US legislation aimed at countering the Iran-Latin America ties will not affect Ecuador’s relationship with Iran, Prensa Latina news agency quoted Patino as saying in an interview on Thursday.
On December 28, 2012, US President Barack Obama enacted the law to counter Iran’s growing relations with Latin American countries. The Countering Iran in Western Hemisphere Act requires the US Department of State to develop a strategy within 180 days to “address Iran’s growing hostile presence and activity” in Latin America.
The Ecuadorian minister decried the US legislation and said Washington believes that when it breaks off relations with a country, the rest must also follow suit.
He emphasized that Quito would proceed with its relations with Iran, China, Russia, Middle East, Africa and all the countries with which it has traditionally maintained ties.
He expressed hope that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) would support Ecuador’s stance during their next meeting.
Patino added that the new US law seeks to affect countries in Latin America that have good relations with Iran as in the case of Ecuador.
This law refers only to the US interests and not the global peace, he said, emphasizing that we should not maintain the interests of the power elites.
Major Latin American nations have enhanced their diplomatic and trade ties with Iran in recent years. The promotion of all-out cooperation with Latin American countries has been among the top priorities of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy over the past few years.
Washington considers Latin America as its strategic backyard, a term used to refer to the USA’s traditional areas of dominance.
- US, Israel instill fears over Iran’s growing influence in Latin America (alethonews.wordpress.com)