Aletho News


Sagan’s baloney detection rules

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | November 9, 2014

On this 80th anniversary of Carl Sagan’s birthday.

Brain Pickings has a good post The Baloney Detection Kit:  Carl Sagan’s Rules for Bullshit-Busting and Critical Thinking. Subtitle: Necessary cognitive fortification against propaganda, pseudoscience, and general falsehood. Excerpts:

In The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Sagan shares his secret to upholding the rites of reason, even in the face of society’s most shameless untruths and outrageous propaganda.

In a chapter titled “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection,” Sagan reflects on the many types of deception to which we’re susceptible — from psychics to religious zealotry to paid product endorsements by scientists, which he held in especially low regard, noting that they “betray contempt for the intelligence of their customers” and “introduce an insidious corruption of popular attitudes about scientific objectivity.”

Through their training, scientists are equipped with what Sagan calls a “baloney detection kit” — a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods. Sagan shares nine of these tools:

  1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense.  In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action.

Examples include ad hominem, argument from authority, argument from adverse consequences, appeal to ignorance, special pleading, begging the question, etc.

JC reflections

These ‘rules’ are useful commonsense reminders for evaluating any sort of claim. Too often serious baloney detection is ignored by scientists in the interests of careerism and advocacy.  Carl Sagan’s birth 80 years ago is a fitting occasion to remind ourselves of these principles.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | | Comments Off on Sagan’s baloney detection rules

British Spying Is Our Problem, Too

By Alex Sinha | ACLU | November 10, 2014

The chilling effect of surveillance may be spreading across the Atlantic.

We learned last week that GCHQ – the U.K. equivalent of the NSA – permits its employees to target the communications of journalists and lawyers. That revelation has serious implications for the work of both groups.

American surveillance is already impacting the work of U.S.-based journalists and lawyers. As the ACLU and Human Rights Watch documented in a recent report, the effects are not pretty. National security and intelligence journalists have been struggling to develop and maintain relationships with increasingly skittish sources, and lawyers are losing the freedom to communicate with clients, co-counsel, and witnesses without exposing confidential information to the government.

We depend on the press to keep us informed, helping ensure the government’s accountability to the governed. But when journalists are vulnerable to surveillance, that accountability suffers.

Attorneys are also indispensable, and their right to communicate privately with clients has long been recognized both in domestic and international law. When attorneys can’t communicate freely with clients, they can’t build trust or develop strategy. That weakens important due process rights and diminishes our confidence in the verdicts issued by our justice system.

Like the United States, the U.K. conducts significant surveillance, including tapping fiber-optic cables to gain access to enormous volumes of Internet traffic. The revelations from last week show not only that the communications of journalists and lawyers get caught up in the U.K.’s dragnet, but also that this may happen by design.

The breadth and poor regulation of the U.K.’s surveillance practices are a problem for everyone – including Americans. Here’s why.

The United States has extensive intelligence-sharing arrangements with key allies like the U.K., and through them has access to information that it can’t legally collect on its own. Sharing flows both ways, so the U.K. also has unfettered access to much “raw” or unfiltered U.S. surveillance data.

As far as we know, nothing stops the United States from accessing information from GCHQ that is derived from targeting journalists or lawyers. In fact, we’ve seen this movie before. Last February, we learned that an Australian intelligence agency gave the NSA privileged communications between a U.S.-based law firm and its clients. We’d be foolish to assume anything different happens between the United States and the U.K. – which, like Australia, is one of the NSA’s “Five Eyes” surveillance partners.

What happens in Britain reaches us, too, and U.K. surveillance programs almost certainly collect many Americans’ communications. But we also don’t want our government targeting U.K. journalists and lawyers by proxy.

Considering the extensive intelligence cooperation between our two countries, we should all be concerned about the United States outsourcing practices we would reject at home.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

We press ahead with independence efforts: Catalonia president

Press TV – November 10, 2014

Catalonia’s government has pledged to increase its secession efforts after more than two million people voted in a symbolic independence referendum despite opposition from Spain’s central government.

Artur Mas, the president of the nationalist government of Catalonia, on Sunday hailed the vote “a total success” and noted that the referendum “made it very clear that we want to govern ourselves.”

He further said that his government would make efforts to hold an official referendum and would seek international support to help persuade the Spanish government to let it happen.

“We deserve to vote in a legal and binding referendum and this is what we are going to try to do,” Mas added.

Catalan Vice President Joana Ortega said early on Monday that with approximately all votes counted, 80.72 percent of the Catalans have said yes-yes to two questions about the region’s independence.

Voters were asked to respond to two questions. “Do you want Catalonia to become a state?” and “If so, do you want Catalonia to be an independent state?”

Over 10 percent of the voters said Yes to the statehood and No to its independence, and 4.55 percent voted neither for the statehood of the region nor for its independence.

The “Yes” in the non-binding vote will not automatically lead to the secession of the region, but only gives the Catalan president the mandate to negotiate independence with the Spanish administration.

Spanish Justice Minister Rafael Catala, meanwhile, denounced the vote as “fruitless and useless.

“The government considers this to be a day of political propaganda organized by pro-independence forces and devoid of any kind of democratic validity,” he added in a statement in the Spanish government’s first reaction to the polls held on Sunday.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Bin Laden legends ‘made in USA’

By Kevin Barrett – Press TV – November 10, 2014

The continuing controversy over which Navy Seal supposedly killed Osama Bin Laden, and the allegedly ISIL-linked killings of two Canadian soldiers, are the latest media stunts designed to prop up the illusion of a “global war on terror” (GWOT) against radical Islam.

The GWOT master narrative features two master villains. Indeed, it is a legend with two legendary anti-heroes: The villain of Act One, Osama Bin Laden; and the villain of the present Act Two, “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In folklore and mythology studies, the word “legend” means “fantastic story that may or may not be true.” In espionage, the same word means: “A spy’s claimed background or biography, usually supported by documents and memorized details.” (Source:

Among the most fantastic stories of our time are the legends of two larger-than-life terrorists: Osama Bin Laden of al-Qaeda, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIL.

Both of these amazing individuals have accomplished near-miraculous feats: Bin Laden caused three skyscrapers to disappear at free-fall acceleration into the path of most resistance, while also making America’s air defenses disappear for two hours so he could bomb the Pentagon, the best-defended building on the planet; while Baghdadi and a ragtag bunch of amateur extremists have somehow seized control of a large swathe of oil-rich and geo-strategically important territory against the opposition of the entire world.

Both accomplishments seem, to say the least, highly improbable.

The amazing successes of both the 9/11 attacks and “Islamic State” have been amazingly counterproductive (from an anti-imperialist Muslim point of view).

Though both al-Qaeda and ISIL have claimed to be fighting to liberate Muslims from their imperialist and Zionist enemies, the two terror groups are actually doing tremendous harm to the Muslim cause.

9/11 allowed Israel to crush Palestine and revive its failing economy with anti-terror start-ups. It also demonized Islam and gave American hawks an excuse to attack, invade, occupy, destabilize, and otherwise harm Muslim countries.

ISIL is even worse. Baghdadi’s terror group has spent most of its time, energy and money attacking its fellow Muslims, spreading chaos and internecine hatred through the House of Islam. It has also slaughtered countless innocent people and broadcast its atrocities to the world, thereby defaming Islam and Muslims in the eyes of the global public.

As Mr. Spock of Star Trek would say, the legends of al-Qaeda and ISIL are illogical. They do not compute.

To understand who or what is really behind these two spectacularly successful and spectacularly counterproductive terror groups, we must begin with a simple question: Who benefits? The answer, of course, is that the beneficiaries of 9/11 and ISIL are the very people al-Qaeda and ISIL claim to be fighting: the Zionists and imperialists.

Which raises the question: Could the legends of Bin Laden and Baghdadi also be “legends” in the espionage sense, meaning false biographies crafted by an intelligence agency?

One of the odd commonalities linking Bin Laden’s and Baghdadi’s biographies is that both alleged anti-American fanatics spent a lot of time in the company of the American military. During the 1980s, while fundraising for the Afghan Resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Bin Laden toured US military bases under the code name “Tim Osman” and helped procure Stinger missiles for the Afghan resistance fighters.

Osama Bin Laden’s close association with Americans linked to military and intelligence agencies continued long after he had issued his famous “death to Americans” proclamation in 1998 – the same year the CIA, through its agent Sgt. Ali Mohamed, bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and blamed the carnage on Bin Laden.

Whistle-blowing FBI translator Sibel Edmonds says that the US maintained ‘intimate relations’ with Bin Laden
“all the way through September 11th.” These “intimate relations,” Edmonds explains, consisted of using Bin Laden’s fighters as a proxy terrorist army to attack America’s competitors including Russia and China.

In July 2001 – at precisely the same time New York Zionist mafia figures Larry Silverstein, Frank Lowy, and Lewis Eisenberg were privatizing and over-insuring the condemned-for-asbestos World Trade Center – Bin Laden was being treated for kidney failure at the American Hospital in Dubai by a US intelligence linked specialist, Dr. Terry Callaway.

Dubai CIA station chief Larry Mitchell, as well as the head of Saudi intelligence, visited Bin Laden at the hospital.

On September 11th, 2001, Bin Laden was back in the hospital. This time he was getting dialysis treatment at the Pakistani military hospital in Rawalpindi, right under the noses of US military advisors.

Why didn’t the US simply ask its client governments in Dubai and Pakistan to arrest Bin Laden, then the world’s most wanted terrorist, while he was immobilized in the hospital on dialysis? The answer, of course, is that Bin Laden was a protected US intelligence asset.

Obviously the story of Osama Bin Laden the anti-American terrorist mastermind is a “legend” in both of that word’s meanings: It is a fantastic tale; and it is the concoction of one or more intelligence agencies.

The story of Bin Laden’s supposed death in May 2011 is as fishy as the story of his life. Even the New York Times admits: “It may never be possible to say exactly who fired the fatal shot or shots, with multiple armed men wearing night-vision goggles moving quickly through the Qaeda leader’s hide-out. No autopsy was performed and no video has emerged of the shooting. The military never released a photograph of Bin Laden after he was killed and said that his body had been buried at sea.”

Actually, the military said Bin Laden was buried at sea “according to Muslim custom.” Apparently they expect us to believe that Muslims customarily throw their dead into the ocean. That is no less absurd than the notion that they would simply kill an alleged terrorist mastermind, rather than make every effort to capture him alive and interrogate him. The “fish story” of Bin Laden’s assassination is an insult to the world’s intelligence.

The legend of “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, like that of Osama Bin Laden, is highly suspicious. Like Bin Laden, Baghdadi was a long-term guest of the American military – at a US base in Iraq rather than US bases in America. And as in the case of Bin Laden, the US military has emitted transparently false statements aimed at hiding or minimizing its relationship with Baghdadi, its supposed worst enemy.

The US says it held Baghdadi in the “terrorist training wing” of Camp Bucca for less than one year. But both American and Iraqi witnesses say it was more than five years. In any case, it would appear that the self-styled caliph was groomed for his future role while in US custody.

After his release, Baghdadi and his ISIL commanders received further training, as well as weapons and funds, at a secret CIA base in Jordan. The US worked through its regional proxies to create a formidable ISIL army aimed at overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It seems likely that the US and its proxies also provided the intelligence that allowed ISIL to overrun the Iraqi army – which the US had intentionally disarmed – and seize oil-rich parts of Iraq.

And yet the American people are still being told that Baghdadi is their worst enemy. Like the tale of the “anti-US terrorist mastermind” Bin Laden, the story of the latest bogeyman Baghdadi is a transparently absurd legend.

If the American people ever discover how badly they have been lied to, and for what purposes their Constitution has been shredded and their economy bankrupted, they are going to be exceedingly irate.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Veterans’ Day Through a Maureen Dowd Flashback

By JERRY LEMBCKE | CounterPunch | November 10, 2014

Unbelievable—an overused word, for sure. But it is what came to mind as I read Maureen Dowd’s November 1, New York Times column. Unbelievable that she would begin “A Cup of Joe: Making every day Veterans Day” with her own flashback to the war in Vietnam. “When I close my eyes,” she writes, “I can easily flash back to a time when it was cool to call people in uniform ‘pigs’ and ‘baby killers.’” Really? I mean really, she really wrote that.

It can’t be that she doesn’t know better because the world of journalism in which she lives surely does. When Barack Obama trafficked in the same imagery for his 2012 Memorial Day speech, Los Angeles Times editor Michael McGough said the President’s words recalled the stories of veterans spat-on by war protesters. He called the stories an “edifying myth,” but a myth nevertheless. McGough pointed readers to a 2007 article in which news critic Jack Shafer upbraided reporters for repeatedly lending credibility to the spat-on veteran stories.

There are plenty of stories but no evidence that anyone spat on Vietnam veterans, and only scant evidence that anyone at the time claimed it to be happening. There are also stories that G.I.s were met at airports by radicals holding placards reading, “Baby Killer.” But planes with returning troops landed at military airbases to which protesters did not have access, and despite thousands of troops returning with PX-purchased cameras slung around their necks, there are no photographs, that I’ve seen, of those signs in airport settings or anywhere else.

And “pigs”? Veterans? I’ve never heard that one. Is she referring to demonstrators calling police officers pigs? This is a Veterans Day column about veterans—who would believe she is not slurring images to imply that was baby-killing veterans who were called pigs? Unbelievable.

Dowd’s “flashback” was just a set-up for writing about Starbuck’s chief Howard Schultz’s mission to “celebrate soldiers.” On a crusade to get “’more skin in the game’” from Americans, Schultz has put former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the Starbucks board, and pledged to hire veterans. He is organizing a Veterans Day Concert for Valor on the Capitol Mall that will feature the stars Rihanna, Eminem, and Bruce Springsteen.

Set against the backdrop of veteran disparagement drawn by Dowd, his efforts are made to appear even more righteous than they otherwise might. Schultz himself, as cast by Dowd, cuts a contrasting figure to the alleged traitors who scorned the Vietnam fighters. “My [draft lottery] number was 332,” he remembers, “so I didn’t go. But I would have.” Belief that the nation itself failed to adequately support the men and women sent to Vietnam, or even betrayed the military mission there, is essential to the mantra that we “must not let that happen again”—words that motivate Schultz but which make sense only if the real history of the war years is forgotten.

The scenes imagined by Dowd of antiwar-movement hostility to returning G.I.s took root during the 1970s as a political antidote to the uncomfortable truth that activists recruited veterans to their ranks, and thousands of returnees joined the war to end the war. By the end of the Reagan years, though, fantasies like the one spun by Dowd had displaced reality in American memory. With the help of Hollywood and the mental health establishment, the image of Vietnam veterans empowered and politicized by their wartime experience, was made-over into one of “damaged goods,” men traumatized by combat and the rejection they encountered upon coming home who now suffer the hidden effects of “unseen wounds.”

The damaged-goods narrative carried over from the post-Vietnam era to the news coverage of units returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; within months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, had displace almost all else from the coming-home story. Dowd follows the script, credentialing Schultz’s concern that “many vets he talked to had lost `a sense of core purpose’.” She strings together her own set of clichés about lack of public support for the war (read in that the lack of appreciation for veterans), the high rate of PTSD among veterans, and a supposed “PTSD bias among employers.”

The coda for that package can’t be Schultz’s own struggle with war trauma (recall that lottery number). So trot out another trope: the World War II veteran, his father, so shaken by combat in the South Pacific that, well, he never talked about it.

Unbelievable. Not so much the details in what Dowd wrote (okay, I don’t believe the “baby killer” part—because there is no evidence for it) but that American journalism at its highest levels continues to recycle a meme-laced narrative from the post-Vietnam War years. (The reticent World War II veteran appears most often, as a strange apparition, in PTSD-themed stories of Vietnam veterans.) It is a story-line that casts a shadow over the antiwar movement, and obscures the political agency of veterans with images of their dependency and dysfunction. Most importantly, it diverts attention from the very neo-colonial foreign policy that puts all of us at risk, and feeds fantasies of perfidious enemies at home and abroad—fantasies with their own vengeful imperatives.

Veterans Day this year, the country may be moving beyond the platitudes of “Welcome Home” and “Thank You for your service,” expressions that found resonance in the mythical world of spat-upon veterans visited by Maureen Dowd in her flashbacks.

Just as some veterans have begun to publically shun the shallowness of the welcome-home rhetoric, more are likely to take offense at their use as props in corporate PR campaigns like Howard Schultz’s. Engaged thoughtfully on the matter, still others will see the danger inherent in America’s growing sense of itself as a defeated and declining super power in search of redemption and vengeance that is cued to exploit victim-veteran imagery for revanchist militarist purposes.

This year’s Veterans Day is a good time to take the spotlight off veterans, while yet privileging the special perspective they have, to begin a national conversation with them about the meaning of our wars and the importance of the way we remember them.

Jerry Lembcke is Associate Professor Emeritus of Sociology at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. He is the author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory and the Legacy of Vietnam and  Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal. His newest book is PTSD: Diagnosis or Identity in Post-empire America? He can be reached at

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Comments Off on Veterans’ Day Through a Maureen Dowd Flashback

Reclaim Armistice Day and Honor the Real Heroes

By Arnold Oliver | Peace Voice | November 10, 2014

More than a few veterans, Veterans For Peace among them, are troubled by the way Americans observe Veterans Day on November 11th. It was originally called Armistice Day, and established by Congress in 1926 to “perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations, (and later) a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.” For years, many churches rang their bells on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the time that the guns fell silent on the Western Front by which time 16 million had died.

To put it bluntly, in 1954 Armistice Day was hijacked by a militaristic congress, and today few Americans understand the original purpose of the occasion, or even remember it. The message of peace seeking has vanished. Now known as Veterans Day, it has devolved into a hyper-nationalistic worship ceremony for war and the putatively valiant warriors who wage it.

Here is a news flash. Most of what goes on during wartime is decidedly unheroic, and heroes in war are few and far between.

I have to tell you that when I was in Vietnam, I was no hero, and I didn’t witness any heroism during the year I spent there, first as a U.S. Army private and then as a sergeant.

Yes, there was heroism in the Vietnam War. On both sides of the conflict there were notable acts of self-sacrifice and bravery. Troops in my unit wondered how the North Vietnamese troops could persevere for years in the face of daunting U.S. firepower. U.S. medical corpsmen performed incredible acts of valor rescuing the wounded under fire.

But I also witnessed a considerable amount of bad behavior, some of it my own. There were widespread incidents of disrespect and abuse of Vietnamese civilians including many war crimes. Further, all units had, and still have, their share of criminals, con artists and thugs. Most unheroic of all were the U.S. military and civilian leaders who planned, orchestrated, and profited greatly from that utterly avoidable war.

The cold truth is that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Vietnam had nothing to do with protecting American peace and freedom. On the contrary, the Vietnam War bitterly divided the United States, and was fought to forestall Vietnamese independence, not defend it.

Unfortunately, Vietnam wasn’t an isolated example. Many American wars — including the 1846 Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War in 1898, and the Iraq War (this list is by no means exhaustive) — were waged under false pretexts against countries that didn’t threaten the United States. It’s hard to see how, if a war is unjust, it can be heroic to wage it.

But if the vast majority of wars are not fought for noble reasons, and few soldiers are heroic, have there been any actual heroes out there defending peace and freedom? And if so, who are they?

Well, there are many, from Jesus down to the present. I’d put Gandhi, Tolstoy, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the list along with many Quakers and Mennonites. And don’t forget General Smedley Butler, who wrote that “War is a Racket”, and even, sort of, Robert McNamara, who came around in the very end.

In Vietnam, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson stopped the My Lai massacre from being even worse.

Another candidate is former U.S. Army specialist Josh Stieber who sent this message to the people of Iraq: “Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.” Ponder a million Iraqi deaths. Chelsea Manning sits behind bars for exposing those and other truths.

The real heroes are those who resist war and militarism, often at great personal cost.

Because militarism has been around for such a long time, at least since Gilgamesh came up with his protection racket in Sumeria going on 5,000 years ago, people argue that it will always be with us. But many also thought that slavery and the subjugation of women would last forever, and they’re being proven wrong. We understand that while militarism will not disappear overnight, disappear it must if we are to avoid economic as well as moral bankruptcy.

As Civil War General W.T. Sherman said at West Point, “I confess without shame that I am tired and sick of war.” We’re with you, bro.

This year on November 11th, Veterans For Peace will bring back the original Armistice Day traditions. Join them and let those bells ring out.

Arnold “Skip” Oliver is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. A Vietnam veteran, he belongs to Veterans For Peace, and can be reached at

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Comments Off on Reclaim Armistice Day and Honor the Real Heroes

Iran slams EU’s fresh bans against Iranian institutions, companies

Press TV – November 9, 2014

Iran has strongly condemned the European Union’s latest move to impose fresh sanctions on a number of Iranian institutions and companies despite the ongoing negotiations between representatives of Iran, the US and the EU in the Omani capital, Muscat.

“Under the circumstances that the nuclear negotiations are going on and efforts by the negotiating parties are underway to reach an acceptable agreement, this move by the European Union is questionable and contradicts the purpose of talks and the opposite side’s commitments,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Sunday.

She added that the EU’s move to impose bans on a number of Iranian entities was a sign of “unusual insistence” on the EU’s past policies and an “astonishing move” at the current juncture.

Iran has voiced objection to the European Union through its embassy in Brussels.

Afkham’s remarks came after the Council of the European Union announced on November 7 that the bloc has imposed sanctions on Iran’s Sina Bank, Power Plants’ Equipment Manufacturing Company, Naftiran Intertrade Company (a.k.a. Naftiran Trade Company) (NICO), and Naftiran Intertrade Company Srl.

It added that an Iranian businessman, Sorinet Commercial Trust Bankers, and Sharif University of Technology should be included again on the list of persons and entities subject to restrictive measures on the basis of a new statement of reasons.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, US Secretary of State John Kerry and the EU’s representative, Catherine Ashton, kicked off trilateral talks in the Omani capital, Muscat, on Sunday to exchange views on the outstanding issues hindering a final deal on Tehran’s civilian nuclear work.

Sources close to the Iranian negotiating team say the main stumbling block in the way of resolving the Western dispute over Iran’s nuclear energy program remains to be the removal of all the bans imposed on the country, and not the number of centrifuges or the level of uranium enrichment.

Tehran wants the sanctions entirely lifted while Washington, under pressure from the pro-Israeli lobby, insists that at least the UN-imposed sanctions should remain in place.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Comments Off on Iran slams EU’s fresh bans against Iranian institutions, companies

Iran and the Expanding World Enrichment Programs

By Kaveh L. Afrasiabi | Iran Review | November 10, 2014

One of the ironies of the current nuclear negotiations between Iran and the “5+1” nations is that the latter are united in their demand from Iran to curtail its uranium enrichment program precisely at a time when they themselves are expanding their own programs, reflecting a broader trend in the world profile of uranium enrichment plant operations driven by commercial and economic interests.

This, of course, makes a perfect case for legal discrimination against Iran, which has a comparatively small enrichment program under full-scope IAEA inspections, which has repeatedly, including in its latest November 2014 Safeguard Report on Iran, confirmed the absence of any evidence of diversion from peaceful nuclear work.

The lame excuse for this discrimination is an extra-legal and arbitrary benchmark known as “breakout potential” that has been invented outside the framework of non-proliferation regime (NPT) and is based on equally problematic notion of the “dash time” to weapons-grade uranium if Iran ever wished to reconfigure its existing centrifuge cascades for military purposes, in other words a wholly projective and hypothetical scenario, irrespective of the fact that with its robust monitoring, the IAEA would quickly detect any such diversions.

The list of countries that possess the uranium enrichment technology has been on the rise and includes the following: Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, England, United States, Israel and South Africa. Both Israel and North Korea are reported to have clandestine enrichment programs and are non-NPT states, and Australia is currently pursuing a new laser enrichment process known SILEX. Some of these countries, such as Argentina, have reactivated their programs in order to establish themselves as an ‘enrichment supplier country’. Others, such as Japan or Brazil, have been expanding their programs in line with their expanding nuclear energy programs. Case in point, Japan’s enrichment facility at Rokkasho is planned to be 1.5 million SWU (Separative Work Unit) per year; SWU is the output measurement in nuclear terminology. In Brazil, only one of its enrichment plants has a full capacity of 120,000 SWU/year, its total capacity is projected to rise to 250,000 SWU/year by 2015.

In case of France, whose officials routinely question Iran’s “nuclear needs,” the enrichment company Eurodif, which is partially owned by Iran since the pre- revolutionary era, has a total capacity of 10.8 million SWU/year and is not even subject to IAEA safeguards. Another facility, known as Georges Besse II, built in cooperation with the Dutch company URENCO, has a total capacity of 7.5 million SWU/year. In addition to France, URENCO operates in Netherlands, Germany, UK, and the US. URENCO’s enrichment facility in New Mexico, US, is expected to reach 5.7 million SWU/year in 2015. Yet, a clue to “Iran exceptionalism,” the proponents of “breakout” theory are rarely if ever heard expressing concerns about the breakout potential of other countries, some of whom are non-nuclear-weapons states. Without doubt, if this theory is ever applied to the others, we would hear the loud cries of a “flawed benchmark” and “false parameter” — for good reasons, since the nonproliferation standards are simply not incorporated in this theory and it operates in a vacuum of legal norms and standards. Irrespective, somehow it has become the central benchmark for negotiations with Iran! The other irony is that compared to the other countries mentioned above, who enjoy the right to enrich uranium without the slightest backlashes by the international community, Iran has a relatively small enrichment program, i.e., the Natanz facility by the time of the November 2013 Geneva agreement had over 9000 SWU/year operating capacity, even though it is designed for approximately 50,000 centrifuges and an estimated total capacity of 250,000 SWU/year. Both this and the much smaller facility at Fordo, which has a capacity for around 3000 centrifuges, are overseen by the IAEA, which as stated above, has repeatedly certified to the peaceful nature of their work.

The big question is, of course, if the time has come to end the Western discrimination against Iran and the hypocritical double standard of those nations that give themselves and their allies the license for full enjoyment of a nuclear right, which they seek to either deny to Iran or severely limit it? Iran’s Supreme Leader has recently stated that Iran’s enrichment capacity needs to expand to upwards of 190,000 SWU/year. This clearly serves as the clear guideline for Iran’s negotiators, in light of the recent statement of Mr. Abbas Araghchi on the eve of the negotiation round in Oman. This simply means that if Iran agrees to anything less it would be purely temporary and simply as a measure of Iran’s good faith to reassure the world community of its peaceful nuclear intention. But, the world must recognize that the era of discrimination against Iran is over and Iran is fully entitled to partake in the world’s expanding enrichment program under just and equitable conditions.


Kaveh Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of several books on Iran’s foreign policy. His writings have appeared on several online and print publications, including UN Chronicle, New York Times, Der Tagesspiegel, Middle East Journal, Harvard International Review, Brown’s Journal of World Affairs, Guardian, Russia Today, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Mediterranean Affairs, Nation, Telos, Der Tageszeit, Hamdard Islamicus, Iranian Journal of International Affairs, and Global Dialogue.

November 10, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Comments Off on Iran and the Expanding World Enrichment Programs