If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the U.S. government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about “aggression,” “criminality,” “madness,” and “behavior not fitting the Twenty-first Century.”
But when the newspapers are American – the New York Times and the Washington Post – and the target country is Iran, no one in the U.S. government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles – these incitements to murder and violation of international law – are considered just normal discussion in the Land of Exceptionalism.
On Thursday, the New York Times printed an op-ed that urged the bombing of Iran as an alternative to reaching a diplomatic agreement that would sharply curtail Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it was used only for peaceful purposes. The Post published a similar “we-must-bomb-Iran” op-ed two weeks ago.
The Times’ article by John Bolton, a neocon scholar from the American Enterprise Institute, was entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” It followed the Post’s op-ed by Joshua Muravchik, formerly at AEI and now a fellow at the neocon-dominated School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins. [For more on that piece, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocon Admits Plan to Bomb Iran.”]
Both articles called on the United States to mount a sustained bombing campaign against Iran to destroy its nuclear facilities and to promote “regime change” in Tehran. Ironically, these “scholars” rationalized their calls for unprovoked aggression against Iran under the theory that Iran is an aggressive state, although Iran has not invaded another country for centuries.
Bolton, who served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, based his call for war on the possibility that if Iran did develop a nuclear bomb – which Iran denies seeking and which the U.S. intelligence community agrees Iran is not building – such a hypothetical event could touch off an arms race in the Middle East.
Curiously, Bolton acknowledged that Israel already has developed an undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal outside international controls, but he didn’t call for bombing Israel. He wrote blithely that “Ironically perhaps, Israel’s nuclear weapons have not triggered an arms race. Other states in the region understood — even if they couldn’t admit it publicly — that Israel’s nukes were intended as a deterrent, not as an offensive measure.”
How Bolton manages to read the minds of Israel’s neighbors who have been at the receiving end of Israeli invasions and other cross-border attacks is not explained. Nor does he address the possibility that Israel’s possession of some 200 nuclear bombs might be at the back of the minds of Iran’s leaders if they do press ahead for a nuclear weapon.
Nor does Bolton explain his assumption that if Iran were to build one or two bombs that it would use them aggressively, rather than hold them as a deterrent. He simply asserts: “Iran is a different story. Extensive progress in uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing reveal its ambitions.”
Pulling Back on Refinement
But is that correct? In its refinement of uranium, Iran has not progressed toward the level required for a nuclear weapon since its 2013 interim agreement with the global powers known as “the p-5 plus one” – for the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Instead, Iran has dialed back the level of refinement to below 5 percent (what’s needed for generating electricity) from its earlier level of 20 percent (needed for medical research) — compared with the 90-plus percent purity to build a nuclear weapon.
In other words, rather than challenging the “red line” of uranium refinement that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew during a United Nations speech in 2012, the Iranians have gone in the opposite direction – and they have agreed to continue those constraints if a permanent agreement is reached with the p-5-plus-1.
However, instead of supporting such an agreement, American neocons – echoing Israeli hardliners – are demanding war, followed by U.S. subversion of Iran’s government through the financing of an internal opposition for a coup or a “colored revolution.”
Bolton wrote: “An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.”
But one should remember that neocon schemes – drawn up at their think tanks and laid out on op-ed pages – don’t always unfold as planned. Since the 1990s, the neocons have maintained a list of countries considered troublesome for Israel and thus targeted for “regime change,” including Iraq, Syria and Iran. In 2003, the neocons got their chance to invade Iraq, but the easy victory that they predicted didn’t exactly pan out.
Still, the neocons never revise their hit list. They just keep coming up with more plans that, in total, have thrown much of the Middle East, northern Africa and now Ukraine into bloodshed and chaos. In effect, the neocons have joined Israel in its de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia for a Sunni sectarian conflict against the Shiites and their allies. Much like the Saudis, Israeli officials rant against the so-called “Shiite crescent” from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Congress Cheers Netanyahu’s Hatred of Iran.”]
Since Iran is considered the most powerful Shiite nation and is allied with Syria, which is governed by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, both countries have remained in the neocons’ crosshairs. But the neocons don’t actually pull the trigger themselves. Their main role is to provide the emotional and political arguments to get the American people to hand over their tax money and their children to fight these wars.
The neocons are so confident in their skills at manipulating the U.S. decision-making process that some have gone so far as to suggest Americans should side with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria or the even more brutal Islamic State, because those groups love killing Shiites and thus are considered the most effective fighters against Iran’s allies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Secret Saudi Ties to Terrorism.”]
The New York Times’ star neocon columnist Thomas L. Friedman ventured to the edge of madness as he floated the idea of the U.S. arming the head-chopping Islamic State, writing this month: “Now I despise ISIS as much as anyone, but let me just toss out a different question: Should we be arming ISIS?”
I realize the New York Times and Washington Post are protected by the First Amendment and can theoretically publish whatever they want. But the truth is that the newspapers are extremely restrictive in what they print. Their op-ed pages are not just free-for-alls for all sorts of opinions.
For instance, neither newspaper would publish a story that urged the United States to launch a bombing campaign to destroy Israel’s actual nuclear arsenal as a step toward creating a nuclear-free Middle East. That would be considered outside responsible thought and reasonable debate.
However, when it comes to advocating a bombing campaign against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program, the two newspapers are quite happy to publish such advocacy. The Times doesn’t even blush when one of its most celebrated columnists mulls over the idea of sending weapons to the terrorists in ISIS – all presumably because Israel has identified “the Shiite crescent” as its current chief enemy and the Islamic State is on the other side.
But beyond the hypocrisy and, arguably, the criminality of these propaganda pieces, there is also the neocon record of miscalculation. Remember how the invasion of Iraq was supposed to end with Iraqis tossing rose petals at the American soldiers instead of planting “improvised explosive devices” – and how the new Iraq was to become a model pluralistic democracy?
Well, why does one assume that the same geniuses who were so wrong about Iraq will end up being right about Iran? What if the bombing and the subversion don’t lead to nirvana in Iran? Isn’t it just as likely, if not more so, that Iran would react to this aggression by deciding that it needed nuclear bombs to deter further aggression and to protect its sovereignty and its people?
In other words, might the scheming by Bolton and Muravchik — as published by the New York Times and the Washington Post — produce exactly the result that they say they want to prevent? But don’t worry. If the neocons’ new schemes don’t pan out, they’ll just come up with more.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
When the United States began its so-called ‘war on ISIS’ back in August of 2014, I immediately inferred that the campaign was completely fraudulent.
In an August 2014 article titled “ISIS, Israel and US duplicity,” I posited that US airstrikes against the terrorist outfit in Iraq and Syria would be deliberately ineffective. I even opined that Washington would aim some of its bombs at Iraqi government and aligned forces fighting against ISIS and then claim these incidents are accidental – a duplicitous but prototypical US strategy of playing both sides against the middle. I asked:
How do we really know what the US is doing in Iraq at the moment? How do we know that they really are carrying out strikes against ISIS? How do US forces know who is ISIS and who isn’t? Do ISIS members wear bright pink uniforms so that they stand out in a crowd and can thus be precision targeted by American fighter jets? For all we know, these air strikes could be targeting Iraqi army and police forces that are fighting against ISIS militants. Maybe the plan is to covertly help ISIS fragment and destabilize Iraq and exacerbate the country’s misery.
Recent occurrences prove me right.
In the middle of this month, 22 Iraqi soldiers were killed by a US airstrike in the western province of Anbar. Russia Today reported: “The soldiers were killed … when an airplane bombed the HQ of an army company near Ramadi, a city in central Iraq, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad.”
Middle East expert Kevork Almassian told RT that the US is deliberately targeting Iraqi forces to slow their advance against ISIS. “If the Iraqi forces succeeded in crushing and eliminat[ing] these terrorist elements from that area, the Iraqi government will empower its position and the Iranians will empower their position in the Middle East,” Almassian said, suggesting that the US seeks to undermine the burgeoning Iraqi-Iranian alliance.
The Americans killed another nine Shiite militiamen in a recent airstrike in Tikrit, prompting a boycott of continued US involvement in the campaign by thousands of Iraqi fighters. The New York Times reported: “Thousands of Shiite militiamen boycotted the fight, others threatened to attack any Americans they found, and Iraqi officials said nine of their fighters had been accidentally killed in an airstrike.”
The NYT quoted Nujabaa Brigade Commander Akram al-Kabi who said “we are going to target the American-led coalition in Tikrit and their creation, ISIS.” NYT also quoted Moktada al-Sadr, the leader of a powerful Shiite militia, who similarly observed that, “The participation of the so-called international alliance is to protect ISIS on the one hand, and to confiscate the achievements of the Iraqis on the other hand.” Another militia leader Naeem al-Uboudi told the Times that the Americans could not be trusted because “[i]n the past, they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake.”
Many are doubting that these US airstikes that have killed Shiite militiamen and Iraqi soldiers, as well as airdrops of weapons that have been picked up by ISIS, were a “mistake” at all. In fact, Iraqi political and military leaders have been saying all along that the Americans and their coalition partners are not seriously trying to combat ISIS, but are clandestinely supporting the group against the Iran-aligned regime in Baghdad.
A March 18 Fars News Agency report unveiled that the Iraqis had wiretapped ISIS communications, and discovered direct contact between ISIS and the Americans. The intercepted correspondences proved previous reports that the US has been purposely airdropping weapons and food supplies to ISIS fighters in many Iraqi provinces.
“The wiretapped ISIL communications by Iraqi popular forces have revealed that the US planes have been dropping weapons and foodstuff for the Takfiri terrorist group,” the Commander of Iraq’s Ali Akbar Battalion told FNA. The FNA report noted that Hakem al-Zameli, the head of Iraqi Parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee, “also disclosed that the anti-ISIL coalition’s planes have dropped weapons and foodstuff for the ISIL in Salahuddin, Al-Anbar and Diyala provinces.” Numerous other Iraqi officials are on-the-record accusing US and coalition forces of aiding and abetting ISIS, and are quoted at length in the FNA report.
Washington’s overarching game-plan seems to be to contain the Shiite ascendancy in the region, which recently spread to Yemen where Shiite Houthi militias deposed the American/Saudi puppet regime in Sanaa in February. In response to that small victory, America’s Gulf puppets led by Saudi Arabia have launched an air offensive against the Houthis, proving once again that the US and its regional stooges are the principal problem, and must be completely ejected from power if justice is to prevail.
Copyright 2015 Non-Aligned Media
The United States has to make an “extraordinary climb-down” on the issue of sanctions in order to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear energy program, an American investigative journalist says.
Gareth Porter, a historian, journalist, author and policy analyst specializing in US national security policy, made the remarks in his article, titled “Sanctions and the Fate of the Nuclear Talks,” published on Friday by Middle East Eye, an online news portal covering events in the Middle East.
“The Obama administration won’t get the signed agreement that it is seeking with the quantitative limits to which Iran has agreed if a detailed agreement on lifting sanctions is not reached as well,” said the author of the Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
“And that won’t happen unless the P5+1 makes an extraordinary climb-down from its starting position on the issue,” he added.
Iran and the P5+1 – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – are engaged in intense negotiations to work out a comprehensive agreement aimed at ending the longstanding dispute over the Islamic Republic’s civilian nuclear work as a July 1 deadline draws closer.
Sources close to the Iranian negotiating team say the main stumbling block to resolving the Western dispute over Iran’s nuclear issue is the timetable for the lifting of anti-Iran sanctions.
Iran and the US have reported progress in the negotiations but have said that they are not rushing to reach the deal just for the sake of beating the self-imposed end-March deadline for a framework agreement.
Porter said that the fate of the talks hangs on closing the gap between the two sides on removing sanctions imposed against Iran.
He stated that the issues related to Iran’s civilian nuclear program have now been more or less resolved, but the issue of sanctions relief is still very much there.
Porter wrote that “all the evidence indicates that the two sides have not advanced beyond where they were last November, when they were very far apart.”
He said that the Obama administration wrongly believes that Iran is negotiating with the P5+1 because sanctions are seriously hurting its economy.
Porter wrote that Washington “fails to grasp the depth of Iranian commitment to removing the sanctions as a matter of national pride as well as to be able to achieve a higher level of economic development.”
He said the “myopic perspective” of the US and its allies is part of the problem, adding that they “intend to maintain the ‘sanctions architecture’ in place for many years after the implementation of the agreement has begun.”
In adopting such a policy, the investigative journalist said, “the Obama administration is following precisely the course outlined by Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), the neoconservative think tank whose outputs align completely with Israeli interests.”
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies
He revealed that Dubowitz designed the anti-Iran sanctions which were approved by Congress in late 2011 and he “strongly influenced the administration’s sanctions policy for the entire Joint Plan of Action period.”
The recent revelation that the Israelis had obtained classified information relating to the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program should not really surprise anyone. Israel has invested a great deal of political capital in confronting Iran and convincing the American public that it poses a genuine threat. So, it would be a given that its intelligence service, Mossad, would be tasked with finding out what information is not being shared by the White House.
But the truly intriguing back-story to this development is, “how did the Israelis do it and with whom exactly did they share their information?” The information obtained was described by the White House as “eavesdropping,” which would suggest some sort of electronic interception. But as the meetings undoubtedly took place in a technically secured room, which means that it was electronically “swept” before, during, and after meetings, the conversations could not be picked up either from bugs planted inside — which would be detected — or from penetration techniques originating outside, which is possible but would require a major deployment of high-tech gear close to the target.
Eliminating a “sigint” source suggests that the intelligence was either obtained from careless conversations on unsecured phones (possible but unlikely given the tightened security in response to recent flaps over such use), or through a spy in the room feeding the information to the Israelis. A spy is, regrettably, more likely and one has to wonder if the leaker was/is part of the American delegation because the information appears to be of such a nature as to come from US sources. This would mean that the American negotiating team has been penetrated by the Israelis.
And the other issue is, of course, the question of who in Congress received the stolen information during the regular briefings that Israeli embassy staff, including intelligence officers, give to legislators on Capitol Hill. Did they know or suspect that what they were being told was obtained through Israeli espionage? Did it occur to them that the Israeli narrative on what was taking place differed in detail from what they were hearing from the White House, suggesting that something was afoot? Deference to Israeli interests is normal in many in Congress, perhaps all too normal, but a lack of awareness of the American interests at stake in the game constitutes malfeasance at a much higher level.
Moscow has slammed Washington for taking “no practical steps” to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – despite countless promises to do so – and consequently preventing the important international treaty from going into force.
“The main load of responsibility that the CTBT has not entered into force so far lies on the eight remaining countries from the so-called ‘list of 44′ whose ratification documents are needed to launch the treaty,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry stressed that “first of all, this refers to the US, a country that positions itself as a leader in the sphere of strengthening the regime of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.”
“Unfortunately, despite the repeated statements on the plans to ratify the Treaty, the US has yet taken no practical steps in this direction,” the statement said.
Moscow also praised Angola for ratifying the CTBT on March 20. The African nation was the 164th country to confirm the treaty.
“Such a decision of Luanda (Angola’s capital) certainly brings the CTBT closer to a universal status and contributes to its turning into a valid international-legal tool,” the ministry said.
The statement stressed that Russia’s “continuous commitment to the CTBT and the readiness to secure its speedy entry into legal force.”
“We once again call on all the states that have not yet signed or not ratified the Treaty to do it without delay or preconditions,” it said.
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a multilateral agreement banning all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes.
The CTBT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 1996. However, nearly two decades later, it has not entered into force due to non-ratification by eight countries.
The US, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel have signed the deal, but not ratified it. North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the treaty.
Bibi’s re-election makes the prospect of a third intifada more likely than ever. And when it does come it would take a surfeit of optimism to believe that it won’t be as widely supported among the Palestinians as the First Intifada (1987-1991) or as violent as the Second Intifada (2000-2005).
The so-called international community, consisting of Washington and its European allies, has failed the Palestinian people miserably over many years by now. Its unfailing and ignoble pandering to Israel that informs the West’s entire policy with regard to the Middle East has only succeeded in creating a monster in the shape of the intransigent, rejectionist, and brutal political culture that now holds sway there. It is a culture underpinned by a flagrant disregard for international law and the human rights of some 3 million people in the occupied West Bank and 1.8 million in Gaza, which at time of writing remains a pile of rubble after Israel’s summer 2014 air, land, and sea assault in which 2100 Palestinians were slaughtered – around 500 of them children – and up to 9000 injured or maimed, many of those permanently.
Gaza remains under siege, hermetically sealed from the outside world, its people and their suffering a symbol of the hypocrisy and indifference of an international order in which Palestinian blood is not only cheap it is worthless. Israel’s exceptionalism, meanwhile, remains sacrosanct.
Nobody should be fooled by talk of a rupture between the Obama administration and Netanyahu. The President, the world knows by now, holds Bibi somewhere between disdain and disgust in his feelings towards him. The studied insult delivered to the president by the Israeli Prime Minister when he addressed the US Congress a few weeks ago, where Netanyahu attempted to undermine talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Switzerland, couldn’t have been more wounding. It undermined both the President’s authority in Washington and his influence overseas.
The Israeli election that followed was marked by the new low Netanyahu went to in order to scoop up enough votes to win. Scaremongering, apocalyptic rhetoric, and out and out racism issued from his lips in the lead up to the polls, leaving no doubt that along with the so-called Islamic State, Benjamin Netanyahu poses the gravest threat to the stability of the region.
Yet despite this – despite the phone conversation reported to have taken place between Obama and Netanyahu after the Israeli Prime Minister’s re-election, during which Obama told him that he would have to “reassess” his administration’s policy towards Israel in the wake of Netanyahu’s pre-election statements negating the prospects of a two state solution, US policy towards Israel isn’t about to undergo any meaningful reorientation anytime soon.
During an interview with the Huffington Post, Obama confirmed that despite his differences with Mr Netanyahu, US aid to Israel to the tune of £3 billion a year will not be affected. And therein lies the rub, for until there is willingness in Washington to punish Netanyahu’s and the Israeli right’s rejectionist policy with the threat to suspend aid, the chances of a shift in said policy are less than zero.
The impotence of the Obama administration has been laid bare over these past couple of weeks. The anti-Obama coalition comprising Congressional Republicans and the Likud Party knows that the worst-case scenario involves waiting out the remaining year of the first black president’s tenure. The best-case scenario, which is far more likely, will see Obama cave just as he’s caved when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. Whether on settlements expansion, the continuing annexation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, or meaningful steps towards the realization of a two state solution, the president has been played like a violin by Netanyahu these past few years.
That said, the much vaunted two state solution is but a canard. There is no possibility of a two state solution, as Netanyahu knows full well. The idea of anything approaching a viable Palestinian state comprising what is left of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza is an insult to the collective intelligence of the Palestinian people. What we have now is a de facto single state in which 4.8 million people living in it are regarded and treated as Helots. As such, it is only when Israel is forced to comply with international law and human rights that any meaningful progress can hope to be made. That force must take the form of economic sanctions.
The only issue over which Obama will likely defeat the Israeli leader at present is Iran. The recent talks in Switzerland look to have made significant progress, which in conjunction with the unanimous aversion to the deployment of hard power against Tehran by the other nations involved in those talks, this has left Netanyahu and his Washington allies increasingly isolated as yesterday’s men.
This still leaves the Palestinians, who cannot be expected to continue to endure the injustice that defines their existence for much longer without there being an explosion. Yes, the international boycott campaign grows and has scored some notable successes over the past year, but nonetheless at this stage the Palestinians could be forgiven for considering themselves more or less abandoned to their fate.
A third intifada is heading down the track as a consequence – and when it comes neither Washington nor its allies should be in any doubt that it arrived as a direct result of their weakness, double standards, and perfidy.
The cause of the Palestinian people remains the cause of humanity in our time. All else is embroidery.
John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1
Israel has been accused of feeding secret information on the Iran 5+1 nuclear talks to senior US lawmakers in an effort to scupper the negotiations, a new report says. The accusation was met with sharp denial in Tel Aviv.
The allegations were revealed in a Wall Street Journal investigation, and come from dozens of interviews with officials past and present, who are familiar with the nuclear discussions.
Israel, for its part, claims that this was not accompanied by any official accusations by the White House, according to Haaretz.
According to the sources, it came as no surprise to the White House that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was continuing on his mission to derail a much sought-after agreement with Iran, as Tel Aviv remains implacably opposed to a nuclear Tehran, and has in recent past tried to involve the US Congress to impede a diplomatic solution offered by the 5+1 talks.
However, it came as a surprise to Washington that Tel Aviv would feed the secret information to US lawmakers to drain support from a deal with Tehran. Washington and Tel Aviv have vastly different notions on how to deal with Tehran and how regional peace is to be secured.
“It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy,” a top US official close to the situation told WSJ.
Israel’s alleged role in passing on information to US lawmakers emerged after US intelligence was snooping on the Israelis and heard information they claimed could only have come from the closed-door talks.
Tel Aviv denied this, saying that they had acquired the information by different means, such as routine spying on communications with Iran.
“These allegations are utterly false,” Netanyahu’s office told reporters. “The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.”
WSJ’s sources said that Israel tops the list of close US allies trying to spy on it, and that more US counterintelligence resources are spent on Israel than any other partner.
Netanyahu has been trying to drum up support against the Obama administration’s push for rapprochement with Tehran from within the US government, as well as trying to sway US lawmakers.
The fresh allegations of meddling by Israel could alienate US officials, many of whom are expected to be around after Obama’s term finishes.
Last month, Obama’s cabinet accused Israel of “selective sharing of information” and “cherry-picking” as it publicly voiced its discontent with the ongoing talks. “Not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate depiction of the talks,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
On the same day, The New York Times revealed that Obama had warned his European partners in the 5+1 talks (France, Germany and the UK) not to share too much information with Israel, “because whatever we say may be used in a selective way.”
Two weeks ago, Netanyahu attempted to cancel a briefing for of a delegation of six US senators, Netanyahu’s idea of involving Congress in the matter would all but derail any deal with Iran. Eventually, Netanyahu had to back down and allow the briefing to take place.
Tensions between Tel Aviv and Washington are already running high after Netanyahu delivered a controversial address to the US Congress, organized with Republican lawmakers but not the White House or the US State Department, in which he struck out at Iran, but, in Obama’s opinion, offered few alternatives to his previous line of aggressive engagement.
The rift deepened further after Netanyahu said in his re-election campaign that Palestinian statehood would never happen on his watch.
The White House said shortly afterward: “We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made, or that they don’t raise questions about the prime minister’s commitment to achieving peace through direct negotiations.”
Relations cooled with Tel Aviv in 2012, when Obama decided to talk to Iran without Israel’s involvement – something Netanyahu reportedly did not appreciate.
With these latest allegations of Israeli meddling in US politics, “people feel personally sold out,” one US official said.
Israel appeared to be counting on a handful of Democrats in Congress to block the deal with Iran, the WSJ source said. “[T]hat’s where the Israelis really better be careful, because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possible the next one as well,” the US official said.
A delegation of Israeli officials, including Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, has traveled to France in a bid to hamper a deal on Iran’s nuclear program as marathon talks on the issue are entering a critical juncture.
The delegation, includes the Israeli intelligence minster, Yossi Cohen, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and some other senior figures in Israel’s Foreign Ministry and intelligence community.
The Israeli officials are scheduled to hold talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and members of the French negotiating team in the talks on Iran’s nuclear program on Monday.
Steinitz was “on a mission from Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] for a short visit to Europe in an attempt to influence the details of the emerging agreement on the Iran nuclear issue,” a statement by Eyal Basson, an spokesman for the Israeli Intelligence Ministry said.
Netanyahu delivered an anti-Iran speech at the US Congress on March 3, where he called on Washington not to negotiate “a very bad deal” with Tehran.
In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers have ruffled the feathers of one aggressive and occupying regime, whose existence hinges on belligerence.
“The regime, which has been after atomic weapons, has already produced nuclear bombs and stockpiled a large number of the bombs in defiance of international law and unseen by international observers as it does not allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to oversee its nuclear facilities by refraining from signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” Rouhani said.
The latest round of nuclear negotiations ended in the Swiss city of Lausanne on Friday after six days of intense and serious discussions among representatives of Iran, the United States and the European Union. The talks will resume on March 25.
Talks between the US and Iran are part of broader negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group -the US, Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China – to reach a comprehensive agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program as a deadline slated for July 1 draws closer.
On February 8, Netanyahu turned up the rhetoric against Iran, saying Tel Aviv will do everything to prevent a “bad and dangerous” nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1. Addressing a weekly cabinet meeting, he said Iran and the six major powers “are galloping toward an agreement” which would pose a danger to Israel….” “We will do everything and will take any action to foil this bad and dangerous agreement,” Netanyahu said.
Similarly, in an address at the UN General Assembly in September 2012, the Israeli premier claimed that Iran had reached 70 percent of the way to completing “plans to build a nuclear weapon.” “By next spring (2013), at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move[d] on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb,” Netanyahu alleged at the time.
With the situation in the Middle East seemingly spinning out of control, many political observers are left wondering what it all means. The war in Syria has been at the forefront of the news since 2011, and rightly so, as Syria has become the epicenter of a larger regional conflict, particularly with the ascendance of ISIS in the last year.
Undoubtedly, the mainstream acceptance of the ISIS threat has changed the strategic calculus vis-à-vis Syria, as the US prepares to launch yet another open-ended war, ostensibly to defeat it. And, while many in the West are willing to buy the ISIS narrative and pretext for war, they do so with little understanding or recognition of the larger geopolitical contours of this conflict. Essentially, almost everyone ignores the fact that ISIS and Syria-Iraq is only one theater of conflict in the broader regional war being waged by the US-NATO-GCC-Israel axis. Also of vital importance is an understanding of the proxy war against Iran (and all Shia in the region), being fomented by the very same terror and finance networks that have spread the ISIS disease in Syria.
In attempting to unravel the complex web of relations between the terror groups operating throughout the region, important commonalities begin to emerge. Not only are many of these groups directly or tangentially related to each other, their shadowy connections to western intelligence bring into stark relief an intricate mosaic of terror that is part of a broader strategy of sectarianism designed to destroy the “Axis of Resistance” which unites Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. In so doing, these terror groups and their patrons hope to internationalize the war in Syria, and its destructive consequences.
Terrorism as a Weapon in Syria and Iraq
In order to understand how these seemingly disparate groups fit into the regional destabilization, one must first recognize how they are connected both in terms of ideology and shared relationships. On the one hand you have the well known terror outfits operating in the Syria-Iraq theater of this conflict. These would include the ubiquitous ISIS, along with its Al Qaeda-affiliated ally Jabhat Al-Nusra.
However, often left out of the western narrative is the fact that the so called “moderate rebels,” such as the Al Farouq Brigade and other similar groups affiliated with the “Free Syrian Army,” are also linked through various associations with a number of jihadi organizations in Syria and beyond. These alleged “moderates” have been documented as having committed a number of egregious war crimes including mutilation of their victims, and cross-border indiscriminate shelling. And these are the same “moderates” that the Obama Administration spent the last three years touting as allies, as groups worthy of US weapons, to say nothing of the recent revelations of cooperation with US air power. But of course US cooperation with these extremist elements is only the tip of the iceberg.
A recent UN report further corroborated the allegations that Israeli military and/or Mossad is cooperating with, and likely helping to organize, the Jabhat al-Nusra organization in and around the Golan Heights. Such claims of course dovetail with the reports from Israeli media that militant extremists fighting the Syrian government have been treated in Israeli medical facilities. Naturally, these clandestine activities carried out by Israel should be combined with the overt attacks on Syria carried out by Tel Aviv, including recent airstrikes, which despite the inaction of the UN and international community, undeniably constitute a war crime.
Beyond the US and Israel however, other key regional actors have taken part in the destabilization and war on Syria. Turkey has provided safe haven for terrorists streaming into Syria to wage war against the legally recognized government of President Assad. In cooperation with the CIA and other agencies, Turkey has worked diligently to foment civil war in Syria in hopes of toppling the Assad government, thereby allowing Ankara to elevate itself to a regional hegemon, or so the thinking of Erdogan and Davutoglu goes. Likewise, Jordan has provided training facilities for terrorists under the guidance and tutelage of “instructors” from the US, UK, and France.
But why rehash all these well-documented aspects of the destabilization and war on Syria? Simple. In order to fully grasp the regional dimension and global implications of this conflict, one must place the Syria war in its broader geopolitical context, and understand it as one part of a broader war on the “Axis of Resistance.” For, while Hezbollah and certain Iranian elements have been involved in the fighting and logistical support in Syria, another insidious threat has emerged – a renewed terror war against Iran in its Sistan and Baluchestan province in the east.
Rekindling the Proxy War against Iran
As the world’s attention has been understandably fixed upon the horrors of Syria, Iraq, and Libya, a new theater in the regional conflict has come to the forefront – Iran; specifically, Iran’s eastern Sistan and Baluchestan province, long a hotbed of separatism and anti-Shia terror, where a variety of terror groups have operated with the covert, and often overt, backing of western and Israeli intelligence agencies.
Just in the last year, there have been numerous attacks on Iranian military and non-military targets in the Sistan and Baluchestan region, attacks carried out by a variety of groups. Perhaps the most well known instance occurred in March 2014 when five Iranian border guards were kidnapped – one was later executed – by Jaish al-Adl which, according to the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium is:
an extremist Salafi group that has since its foundation claimed responsibility for a series of operations against Iran’s domestic security forces and Revolutionary Guards operating in Sistan and Balochistan province, including the detonation of mines [link added] against Revolutionary Guards vehicles and convoys, kidnapping of Iranian border guards and attacks against military bases… Jaish al-Adl is also opposed to the Iranian Government’s active support of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which they regard as an attack on Sunni muslims… Jaish ul-Adl executes cross border operations between the border of Iran and Pakistan and is based in the Baluchistan province in Pakistan.
It is important to note the centrality of Iran’s support for Syria and the Syrian Arab Army (and of course Hezbollah) in the ideological framework of a group like Jaish al-Adl. Essentially, this terror group sees their war against the Iranian government as an adjunct of the war against Assad and Syria – a new front in a larger war. Of course, the sectarian aspect should not be diminished as this group, like its many terrorist cousins, makes no distinction between political and religious/sectarian divisions. A war on Iran is a war on Shia, and both are just, both are legitimate.
Similarly, the last 18 months have seen the establishment of yet another terror group known as Ansar al-Furqan – a fusion of the Balochi Harakat Ansar and Pashto Hizb al-Furqan, both of which had been operating along Iran’s eastern border with Pakistan. According to the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium:
They characterize themselves as Mujahideen aginst [sic] the Shia government in Iran and are linked to Katibat al Asad Al ‘Ilamiya; Al-Farooq activists; al Nursra Front (JN), Nosrat Deen Allah, Jaysh Muhammad, Jaysh al ‘Adal; and though it was denied for some time, appears to have at least personal relationships with Jundallah… The stated mission of Ansar al Furqan is “to topple the Iranian regime…”
Like its terrorist cousin Jaish al-Adl, Ansar al-Furqan has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against the Iranian Government, including a May 2014 IED attack on a freight train belonging to government forces. While such attacks may not make a major splash in terms of international attention, they undoubtedly send a message heard loud and clear in Tehran: these terrorists and their sponsors will stop at nothing to destroy the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Two inescapable facts immediately come to the fore when examining these groups. On the one hand, they are Sunni extremists whose ultimate goal is the destruction of the Iranian state and all vestiges of Shia dominance, political, military or otherwise. On the other hand, these groups see their war against Iran as part and parcel of the terror wars on Syria and Iraq.
And then of course there’s Jundallah, the notorious terror organization lead for decades by the Rigi family. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of the group is undoubtedly aware of its long-standing ties to both US and Israeli intelligence. As Foreign Policy magazine reported in 2012, Israeli Mossad and US CIA operatives essentially competed with one another for control of the Jundallah network for years. This information of course directly links these agencies with the covert war against Iran going back years, to say nothing of the now well-known role of Israeli intelligence in everything from assassinations of Iranian scientists to the use of cyberweapons such as Stuxnet and Flame. These and other attacks by Israel and the US against Iranian interests constitute a major part of the dirty war against Iran – a war in which terror groups figure prominently.
It should be noted that a number of other terror outfits have been used through the decades in the ongoing “low-intensity” war against Iran, including the infamous Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a terrorist group hailed as heroes by the US neocon establishment. Thanks to Wikileaks, it is also now documented fact that Israel has long since attempted to use Kurdish groups such as PJAK (Iraqi Kurdish terror group) to wage continued terror war against Iran for the purposes of destabilization of the government. Additionally, there was a decades-long campaign of Arab separatism in Iran’s western Khuzestan region spearheaded by British intelligence. As Dr. Kaveh Farrokh and Mahan Abedin wrote in 2005, “there is a mass of evidence that connects the British secret state to Arab separatism in Iran.”
These and other groups, too numerous to name here, represent a part of the voluminous history of subversion against Iran. But why now? What is the ultimate strategy behind these seemingly disparate geopolitical machinations?
Encircling the Resistance in Order to Break It
To see the obvious strategic gambit by the US-NATO-GCC-Israel axis, one need only look at a map of the major conflicts mentioned above. Syria has been infiltrated by countless terrorist groups that have waged a brutal war against the Syrian government and people. They have used Turkey in the North, Jordan in the South, and to a lesser degree Lebanon and, indirectly, Israel in the West. Working in tandem with the ISIS forces originating in Iraq, Syria has been squeezed from all sides in hopes that military defeat and/or the internal collapse of the Syrian government would be enough to destroy the country.
Naturally, this strategy has necessarily drawn Hezbollah into the war as it is allied with Syria and, for more practical reasons, cannot allow a defeated and broken Syria to come to fruition as Hezbollah would then be cut off from their allies in Iran. And so, Hezbollah and Syria have been forced to fight on no less than two fronts, fighting for the survival of the Resistance in the Levant.
Simultaneously, the regional power Iran has made itself into a central player in the war in Syria, recognizing correctly that the war could prove disastrous to its own security and regional ambitions. However, Tehran cannot simply put all its energy into supporting and defending Syria and Hezbollah as it faces its own terror threat in the East. The groups seeking to topple the Iranian government may not be able to compete militarily with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, but they can certainly create enough destabilization through terrorism to make it more difficult for Tehran to effectively aid in the fight in Syria.
The US-NATO-GCC-Israel alliance has not needed to put its own boots on the ground to achieve its strategic objectives. Instead, it is relying on irregular warfare, proxy terror wars, and small-scale destabilizations to achieve by stealth what it cannot achieve with military might alone.
But it remains paramount for all those interested in peace to make these connections, to understand the broad outlines of this vast covert war taking place. To see a war in Syria in isolation is to misunderstand its very nature. To see ISIS alone as the problem is to completely misread the essence of the conflict. This is a battle for regional hegemony, and in order to attain it, the Empire is employing every tool in the imperial toolkit, with terrorism being one of the most effective.
An annual security report submitted recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, removed both Iran and Hezbollah from the list of terrorism threats to the United States for the first time in years.
The unclassified version of the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities” dated 26 February, noted Iran’s efforts to fight “Sunni extremists”, including elements affiliated with the Islamic State group who were perceived to constitute the “preeminent terrorist threat to American interests worldwide”.
Last year’s report described the global terrorist activity of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah group to have increased in recent years to “a level we have not seen since the 1990s”, however this year’s report mentioned the group only once saying it faces a threat from ISIS and Al-Nusra Front near Lebanon’s orders.
Meanwhile, despite removing Tehran from the list, the report described it as source of cyber-attacks and a regional threat to the United States because of its support for Syrian regime President Bashar Al-Assad and its hostile policies against Israel.
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (left), Senator Ted Cruz (center) and Senator John Cornyn
A petition to the White House demanding treason charges against 47 Republican senators who attempted to sabotage US President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach a nuclear accord with Iran has garnered more than 260,000 signatures.
The petition, on whitehouse.gov, was filed on Monday and had 263,312 signatures as of early Friday morning, well above the threshold of 100,000, which requires the White House to respond.
In an unprecedented move on Monday, a group of Republican senators ignored protocol and sent a letter to Iran, warning that whatever agreement reached with Obama would be a “mere executive agreement” that could be revoked “with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
The letter appears at a time when US negotiators are preparing to return to Switzerland to participate in the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany, which have entered a sensitive final stage.
According to the petition, the 47 Republican lawmakers “committed a treasonous offense when they decided to violate the Logan Act, a 1799 law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.”
The US federal law prohibits unauthorized American citizens from interfering in relations between the United States and foreign governments. Violation of the Logan Act is a felony.
“At a time when the United States government is attempting to reach a potential nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, 47 Senators saw fit to instead issue a condescending letter to the Iranian government stating that any agreement brokered by our President would not be upheld once the president leaves office,” the petition states.
“This is a clear violation of federal law. In attempting to undermine our own nation, these 47 senators have committed treason,” it adds.
In an interview with Press TV on Wednesday, Mark Dankof, former US Senate candidate, said, “The 47 Republican senators in all likelihood had violated the Logan Act, which, if understood properly, would suggest very strongly that there may be a legal case against these Republican senators in regard to having committed treason.”
Tom Cotton, a freshman senator from Arkansas, drafted the much-criticized letter. He claimed that the letter has more support in the US Congress than the Republican senators who have signed it.
On Tuesday, the New York Daily News denounced the 47 Republican senators as “traitors” for writing the letter to Iran. The Manhattan-based newspaper used its front page to condemn the Republicans for sending the letter to Iran’s leaders.
The tabloid’s front page prominently featured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Rand Paul.
Here are the names of 47 Republican senators who signed the Iran letter:
Richard Shelby (Ala.)
Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
Dan Sullivan (Alaska)
John McCain (Ariz.)
John Boozman (Ark.)
Tom Cotton (Ark.)
Cory Gardner (Colo.)
Marco Rubio (Fla.)
Johnny Isakson (Ga.)
David Perdue (Ga.)
Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Jim Risch (Idaho)
Mark Kirk (Ill.)
Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
Joni Ernst (Iowa)
Pat Roberts (Kansas)
Jerry Moran (Kansas)
Mitch McConnell (Ky.)
Rand Paul (Ky.)
David Vitter (La.)
Bill Cassidy (La.)
Roger Wicker (Miss.)
Roy Blunt (Mo.)
Steve Daines (Mont.)
Deb Fischer (Neb.)
Ben Sasse (Neb.)
Dean Heller (Nev.)
Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)
Richard Burr (N.C.)
Thom Tillis (N.C.)
John Hoeven (N.D.)
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Jim Inhofe (Okla.)
James Lankford (Okla.)
Pat Toomey (Pa.)
Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
Tim Scott (S.C.)
John Thune (S.D.)
Mike Rounds (S.D.)
John Cornyn (Texas)
Ted Cruz (Texas)
Orin Hatch (Utah)
Mike Lee (Utah)
Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.)
Ron Johnson (Wis.)
Mike Enzi (Wyo.)
John Barrasso (Wyo.)
The Times of Israel reports that an Israeli op-ed writer has advocated the nuclear annihilation of both Iran and Germany.
In an article written in Hebrew for Israel National News, Chen Ben-Eliyahu advocates the use of 20 or 30 nuclear bombs against Germany in revenge for the holocaust and also against Iran which the author suggests is an existential threat to Israel.
“Twenty, thirty atomic bombs on Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Dresden, Dortmund and so on to assure the job gets done. And the land will be quiet for a thousand years,” he wrote.
“To an existential threat we must respond with an existential threat,” he wrote, “not with speeches in Congress. We must make it clear to the Iranians that Israel will wipe out their nuclear program and Tehran and Isfahan as well.”