Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iran’s foreign minister says the country refuses to recognize a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court, which authorizes the transfer of around USD two billion of frozen Iranian assets to the families of the victims of a 1983 bombing in Beirut.
Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks on Thursday in New York, where he has been staying since Monday to attend a UN debate on Sustainable Development Goals and the signing ceremony of the Paris climate change agreement as well as to meet foreign officials.
“As we [already] said, we do not recognize the court’s ruling and the US government knows this well,” he said, adding, “The US knows this well too that whatever action it takes with respect to Iran’s assets will make it accountable in the future and it should return these assets to Iran.”
On Wednesday, the tribunal ordered the sum be paid to the families of the victims of the explosion, which targeted a US Marine Corps barracks in the Lebanese capital, and other attacks blamed on Iran.
The assets belong to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which have been blocked under US sanctions.
“The ruling has mocked [international] law,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said earlier in the day, adding that it “amounts to appropriation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s property” in the US.
Asked whether the matter will be brought up during a planned meeting between Zarif and his American counterpart, John Kerry, on Friday, the top Iranian diplomat said the meeting would only address Iran’s July 2015 nuclear agreement with the P5+1 countries and its proper implementation.
The historical nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed on July 14, 2015 following over two years of intensive talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China – plus Germany.
“Our discussion at the meeting will follow up on previous negotiations over JCPOA. It has been agreed that the American side consider the points brought up by us during the previous meeting regarding the proper implementation of JCPOA and provide us with answers.”
The two officials held a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
The US Supreme Court has upheld Congress and President Barack Obama’s actions to hold Iran financially responsible for the 1983 bombing that killed 241 Marines at their barracks in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut.
The 6-2 ruling on Wednesday allowed the families of the Marines and victims of other attacks that courts have linked to Iran to seize some $2 billion in assets held in New York’s Citibank, belonging to Bank Markazi, the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), which has been blocked under US sanctions.
The Supreme Court determined that a law passed by Congress did not dictate to the courts how to handle the dispute despite appeals by the CBI.
In 2012, Congress passed a law that specifically directed the American bank to turn over the Iranian assets to victims’ families. Obama also entered the battle in an effort to force the payments on Iran.
Iran, however, argued that Obama and Congress were intruding into the business of federal courts, a practice banned by the US Constitution.
“The US judicial apparatus, with the support of the country’s administration and Congress, has been issuing and enacting rulings against the Islamic Republic of Iran for years, violating basic principles of international law with recourse to unsubstantiated and baseless allegations,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in December last year.
Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected the view on Wednesday, saying the legislation “does not transgress restraints placed on Congress and the president by the Constitution.”
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, with Roberts stating that “the authority of the political branches is sufficient; they have no need to seize ours.”
The case involves over 1,300 plaintiffs, who have demanded compensation over several attacks, namely the Beirut bombing, and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.
With the decades-long Azeri-Armenian conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region burning out of control for four intense, blood-soaked days at the beginning of this month, questions have emerged over the secretive role played by Israel in the conflict.
Late last week, commenting on the recent escalation of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman blamed Armenia for provoking four days of clashes which left over a hundred dead and dozens wounded.
Azerbaijan, Lieberman said, had “no reasons for escalating the conflict,” despite extensive reports confirming that Azerbaijan was the party that launched offensive operations to regain control of territory in the Armenia-backed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
For its part, the Azeri Defense Ministry called the operation, which resulted in the taking of several strategic heights and settlements, a successful ‘counteroffensive’ launched in response to Armenian shelling.
Lieberman’s words would be echoed by retired Israel Defense Forces general Ephraim Sneh, who emphasized in a Friday op-ed for Al-Monitor that Azerbaijan is Israel’s “strategic ally,” and that at the moment, Baku “needs all the diplomatic help [Israel] can muster.”
Sneh slammed Tel Aviv for “staying silent” in Baku’s hour of need, explaining that Azerbaijan is one of Israel’s only friends in the Islamic world, and adding that Israel needs Azerbaijan to ensure its energy security, with Baku providing the Jewish State with some 40% of its oil.
Russia’s mediation of the conflict, Sneh suggested, has been disastrous for Baku, with the “status quo” that emerged in 1994 following the six-year war which began in the late 1980s “convenient for everyone, except for Azerbaijan.”
Blaming Armenia for violations of the ceasefire (and absolving the Azeris of their own violations), Sneh candidly admitted that Baku started the latest bloodshed, and suggested that Azerbaijan’s challenging of the status quo may actually work in its favor.
Saying that the current Moscow-brokered ceasefire, is “tenuous at best and not expected to last long,” the general says that he is hopeful that “now that Azerbaijan has proved its military superiority, there is a chance for real diplomatic negotiations that could lead to an agreement between the two countries,” i.e. for the ethnically Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh Republic to give its territory. In this sense, Sneh says, the Azeris could take a lesson from Tel Aviv and negotiate according to a formula of “land for peace,” which Israel used in the late 1970s in negotiations with Egypt to return the Sinai Peninsula.
This time, Sneh argues, the Azeris should do the same, but in reverse, promising Armenia peace in exchange for Nagorno-Karabakh. “Armenia’s weak economy could stand to benefit from such an agreement.” Moreover, “improved economic relations with Turkey are just one important economic benefit that Armenia can be assured of as soon as it withdraws from the occupied Azeri territories.””Meanwhile, Azerbaijan needs much more robust diplomatic support than it is receiving today.” Unfortunately, Sneh complains, Baku hasn’t been getting it from Israel.
But just how silent has Tel Aviv actually been?
To begin with, hints of the extensive military cooperation between the two countries emerged in the first days of the conflict, indicating that Israeli ‘suicide drones’ were being used by Azeri forces in the course of their offensive. The Harop unmanned aerial vehicle, which acts as a ‘kamikaze’ capable of destroying targets by ramming into them, is produced by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI).
According to French intelligence newsletter Intelligence Online, in addition to drones, Israel also provides Baku with advanced radar systems, control and command posts, and other intelligence-collection equipment, and has even entered a bid to provide Baku with a $150 million observation satellite.
Israel has refused to confirm or deny its sale of drones, or other weaponry, to Azerbaijan. However, Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Galon came out publicly warning that Israel intends to send more drones to Baku. In a letter addressed to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Galon urged that the Israeli government should stop weapons deliveries to the Azeris until it could be assured that Baku would halt the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.
At the same time, Israeli security and intelligence specialist Yossi Melman says that Israel has a massive, but highly secretive, defense footprint in Azerbaijan.
In his analysis for The Jerusalem Post, Melman explained that Israel and Azerbaijan enjoy annual trade which is “$5 billion larger than between Israel and France.” Moreover, he said, “most of the content remains confidential, and consists of Azeri oil sold to Israel and Israeli weapons and intelligence technologies purchased by Azerbaijan.”
From modest beginnings in the early 1990s, Azerbaijan has grown to become “the second-biggest market in Asia, after India, for Israeli weapons,” with Israeli defense companies enjoying literally billions of dollars in sales in the Caucasian state. At the same time, Melman indicates, “the best promoters of the military sales and ties are Israeli ministers and officials who visit the Caucasian nation.”
“This week,” the analyst recalls, “The Washington Post enabled the world to have a peeping window into the secret relations [between the two countries] when it published a photo of an Israeli-made ‘suicidal drone’ exploding itself on a bus leading Armenian combatants to the front lines. Seven people were killed, and the Armenian government protested to Israel.”
“A few days after the incident, military journalists visited Israeli Aerospace Industries facilities and were briefed on the various products, from drones to satellites, which the company has to offer. An IAI spokeswoman was asked if the company was behind the Washington Post revelation. She refused to answer but openly smiled when one reporter commented that such a photo is good for business and promotes sales of products that can be labeled ‘battle proven’.”
In addition to military ties, Melman notes that the two countries also have strong intelligence ties, with Mossad given permission to set up a large station in Azerbaijan, taking advantage of the region’s geography to run operations throughout the North Caucasus.
Both Russian and Iranian officials have previously accused Azerbaijan of allowing Mossad to use their territory for espionage activities, the latter indicating that the Israeli missions included everything from “recruiting and planting agents,” to “communication interception and aerial reconnaissance,” Melman explained. Moreover, he added, “more than a year ago Iran claimed to have shot down an Israeli-made drone,” claims which Israeli officials have refused to comment on.
Pointing to the secretive nature of political, defense and intelligence cooperation between the two countries, the analyst noted that “it was [Azeri President Ilham] Alieyev himself who was quoted in a WikiLeaks cable sent from the US Embassy in Baku [saying] that ‘bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Israel are like an iceberg. Nine-tenths are below the surface.'”
Ultimately, Melmen notes, “seemingly, Israel and Azerbaijan are an odd couple, not meant to be with each other,” with the Caucasian nation not really serving as a model of Western democracy, being run by the same family since 1991, and facing issues including corruption and the suppression of free media. “On the other hand, Israel is not too selective in choosing friends when it comes to weapons sales and national interests. A quick look at the map,” showing that Azerbaijan borders Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy, “can explain Israeli priorities.”
If there were any doubts that Hillary Clinton favors a neoconservative foreign policy, her performance at Thursday’s debate should have laid them to rest. In every meaningful sense, she is a neocon and – if she becomes President – Americans should expect more global tensions and conflicts in pursuit of the neocons’ signature goal of “regime change” in countries that get in their way.
Beyond sharing this neocon “regime change” obsession, former Secretary of State Clinton also talks like a neocon. One of their trademark skills is to use propaganda or “perception management” to demonize their targets and to romanticize their allies, what is called “gluing white hats” on their side and “gluing black hats” on the other.
So, in defending her role in the Libyan “regime change,” Clinton called the slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi “genocidal” though that is a gross exaggeration of Gaddafi’s efforts to beat back Islamic militants in 2011. But her approach fits with what the neocons do. They realize that almost no one will dare challenge such a characterization because to do so opens you to accusations of being a “Gaddafi apologist.”
Similarly, before the Iraq War, the neocons knew that they could level pretty much any charge against Saddam Hussein no matter how false or absurd, knowing that it would go uncontested in mainstream political and media circles. No one wanted to be a “Saddam apologist.”
Clinton, like the neocons, also shows selective humanitarian outrage. For instance, she laments the suffering of Israelis under crude (almost never lethal) rocket fire from Gaza but shows next to no sympathy for Palestinians being slaughtered by sophisticated (highly lethal) Israeli missiles and bombs.
She talks about the need for “safe zones” or “no-fly zones” for Syrians opposed to another demonized enemy, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, but not for the people of Gaza who face the wrath of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Yes, I do still support a no-fly zone [in Syria] because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and have some place that they can be safe,” Clinton said. But she showed no such empathy for Palestinians defenseless against Israel’s “mowing the grass” operations against men, women and children trapped in Gaza.
In Clinton’s (and the neocons’) worldview, the Israelis are the aggrieved victims and the Palestinians the heartless aggressors. Referring to the Gaza rocket fire, she said: “I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. …
“So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist attack, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself.”
Clinton ignored the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which dates back to the 1940s when Israeli terrorist organizations engaged in massacres to drive Palestinians from their ancestral lands and murdered British officials who were responsible for governing the territory. Israeli encroachment on Palestinian lands has continued to the present day.
But Clinton framed the conflict entirely along the propaganda lines of the Israeli government: “Remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people. And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza. So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.”
So, Clinton made clear – both at the debate and in her recent AIPAC speech – that she is fully in line with the neocon reverence for Israel and eager to take out any government or group that Israel puts on its enemies list. While waxing rhapsodic about the U.S.-Israeli relationship – promising to take it “to the next level” – Clinton vows to challenge Syria, Iran, Russia and other countries that have resisted or obstructed the neocon/Israeli “wish list” for “regime change.”
In response to Clinton’s Israel-pandering, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who once worked on an Israeli kibbutz as a young man, did the unthinkable in American politics. He called out Clinton for her double standards on Israel-Palestine and suggested that Netanyahu may not be the greatest man on earth.
“You gave a major speech to AIPAC,” Sanders said, “and you barely mentioned the Palestinians. … All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue. … There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
But in Hillary Clinton’s mind, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is essentially one-sided. During her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last month, she depicted Israel as entirely an innocent victim in the Mideast conflicts.
“As we gather here, three evolving threats — Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage — are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever,” she declared.
“The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values. … This is especially true at a time when Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home. Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear.”
Yet, Clinton made no reference to Palestinian parents who worry about their children walking down the street or playing on a beach and facing the possibility of sudden death from an Israeli drone or warplane. Instead, she scolded Palestinian adults. “Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families,” she said.
Then, Clinton promised to put her future administration at the service of the Israeli government. Clinton said, “One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House. And I will send a delegation from the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs to Israel for early consultations. Let’s also expand our collaboration beyond security.”
In selling her neocon policies to the American public, Clinton puts the military aspects in pleasing phrases, like “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.” Yet, what she means by that is that as President she will invade Syria and push “regime change,” following much the same course that she used to persuade a reluctant President Obama to invade Libya in 2011.
The Libyan operation was sold as a “humanitarian” mission to protect innocent civilians though Gaddafi was targeting Islamic militants much as he claimed at the time and was not engaging in any mass slaughter of civilians. Clinton also knew that the European allies, such as France, had less than noble motives in wanting to take out Gaddafi.
As Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal explained to her, the French were concerned that Gaddafi was working to develop a pan-African currency which would have given Francophone African countries greater freedom from their former colonial master and would undermine French economic dominance of those ex-colonies.
In an April 2, 2011 email, Blumenthal informed Clinton that sources close to one of Gaddafi sons reported that Gaddafi’s government had accumulated 143 tons of gold and a similar amount of silver that “was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency” that would be an alternative to the French franc.
Blumenthal added that “this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya.” Sarkozy also wanted a greater share of Libya’s oil production and to increase French influence in North Africa, Blumenthal wrote.
But few Americans would rally to a war fought to keep North Africa under France’s thumb. So, the winning approach was to demonize Gaddafi with salacious rumors about him giving Viagra to his troops so they could rape more, a ludicrous allegation that was raised by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who also claimed that Gaddafi’s snipers were intentionally shooting children.
With Americans fed a steady diet of such crude propaganda, there was little serious debate about the wisdom of Clinton’s Libyan “regime change.” Meanwhile, other emails show that Clinton’s advisers were contemplating how to exploit Gaddafi’s overthrow as the dramatic moment to declare a “Clinton Doctrine” built on using “smart power.”
On Oct. 20, 2011, when U.S.-backed rebels captured Gaddafi, sodomized him with a knife and then murdered him, Secretary of State Clinton couldn’t contain her glee. Paraphrasing a famous Julius Caesar quote, she declared about Gaddafi, “we came, we saw, he died.”
But this U.S.-organized “regime change” quickly turned sour as old tribal rivalries, which Gaddafi had contained, were unleashed. Plus, it turned out that Gaddafi’s warnings that many of the rebels were Islamic militants turned out to be true. On Sept. 11, 2012, one extremist militia overran the U.S. consulate in Benghazi killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Soon, Libya slid into anarchy and Western nations abandoned their embassies in Tripoli. President Obama now terms the Libyan fiasco the biggest mistake of his presidency. But Clinton refuses to be chastened by the debacle, much as she appeared to learn nothing from her support for the Iraq invasion in 2003.
The Libyan Mirage
During Thursday’s debate – instead of joining Obama in recognition of the Libyan failure – Clinton acted as if she had overseen some glowing success: “Well, let me say I think we did a great deal to help the Libyan people after Gaddafi’s demise. … We helped them hold two successful elections, something that is not easy, which they did very well because they had a pent-up desire to try to chart their own future after 42 years of dictatorship. I was very proud of that. …
“We also worked to help them set up their government. We sent a lot of American experts there. We offered to help them secure their borders, to train a new military. They, at the end, when it came to security issues, … did not want troops from any other country, not just us, European or other countries, in Libya.
“And so we were caught in a very difficult position. They could not provide security on their own, which we could see and we told them that, but they didn’t want to have others helping to provide that security. And the result has been a clash between different parts of the country, terrorists taking up some locations in the country.”
But that is exactly the point. Like the earlier neocon-driven “regime change” in Iraq, the “regime change” obsession blinds the neocons from recognizing that not only are these operations violations of basic international law regarding sovereignty of other nations but the invasions unleash powerful internal rivalries that neocons, who know little about the inner workings of these countries, soon find they can’t control.
Yet, America’s neocons are so arrogant and so influential that they simply move from one catastrophe to the next like a swarm of locust spreading chaos and death around the globe. They also adapt readily to changes in the political climate.
That’s why some savvy neocons, such as the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan, have endorsed Clinton, who The New York Times reported has become “the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes.”
Kagan told the Times, “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy. If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”
Now with Clinton’s election seemingly within reach, the neocons are even more excited about how they can get back to work achieving Syrian “regime change,” overturning Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, and – what is becoming their ultimate goal – destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia and seeking “regime change” in Moscow.
After all, by helping Assad bring some stability to Syria and assisting Obama in securing the Iranian nuclear deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin has become what the neocons view as the linchpin of resistance to their “regime change” goals. Pull Putin down, the thinking goes, and the neocons can resume checking off their to-do list of Israel’s adversaries: Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.
And what could possibly go wrong by destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia and forcing some disruptive “regime change”?
By making Russia’s economy scream and instigating a Maidan-style revolt in Moscow’s Red Square, the neocons see their geopolitical path being cleared, but what they don’t take into account is that the likely successor to Putin would not be some malleable drunk like the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin but, far more likely, a hardline nationalist who might be a lot more careless with the nuclear codes than Putin.
But, hey, when has a neocon “regime change” scheme veered off into a dangerous and unanticipated direction?
A Neocon True-Believer
In Thursday’s debate, Hillary Clinton showed how much she has become a neocon true-believer. Despite the catastrophic “regime changes” in Iraq and Libya, she vowed to invade Syria, although she dresses up that reality in pretty phrases like “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.” She also revived the idea of increasing the flow of weapons to “moderate” rebels although they, in reality, mostly fight under the command umbrella of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
Clinton also suggested that the Syria mess can be blamed on President Obama’s rejection of her recommendations in 2011 to authorize a more direct U.S. military intervention. “Nobody stood up to Assad and removed him,” Clinton said, “and we have had a far greater disaster in Syria than we are currently dealing with right now in Libya.”
In other words, Clinton still harbors the “regime change” goal in Syria. But the problem always was that the anti-Assad forces were penetrated by Al Qaeda and what is now called the Islamic State. The more likely result from Clinton’s goal of removing Assad would be the collapse of the Syrian security forces and a victory for Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or the Islamic State.
If that were to happen, the horrific situation in Syria would become cataclysmic. Millions of Syrians – Alawites, Shiites, Christians, secularists and other “infidels” – would have to flee the beheading swords of these terror groups. That might well force a full-scale U.S. and European invasion of Syria with the bloody outcome probably similar to the disastrous Iraq War.
The only reasonable hope for Syria is for the Assad regime and the less radical Sunni oppositionists to work out some power-sharing agreement, stabilize most of the country, neutralize to some degree the jihadists, and then hold elections, letting the Syrian people decide whether “Assad must go!” – not the U.S. government. But that’s not what Clinton wants.
Perhaps even more dangerous, Clinton’s bellicose rhetoric suggests that she would eagerly move into a dangerous Cold War confrontation with Russia under the upside-down propaganda theme blaming tensions in Eastern Europe on “Russian aggression,” not NATO’s expansion up to Russia’s borders and the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 which ousted an elected president and touched off a civil war.
That coup, which followed neocon fury at Putin for his helping Obama avert U.S. bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran, was largely orchestrated by neocons associated with the U.S. government, including Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s wife), Sen. John McCain and National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman.
After the violent coup, when the people of Crimea voted by 96 percent to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, the U.S. government and Western media deemed that a “Russian invasion” and when ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine rose up in resistance to the new authorities in Kiev that became “Russian aggression.”
NATO on the Move
Though President Obama should know better – and I’m told that he does know better – he has succumbed this time to pressure to go along with what he calls the Washington “playbook” of saber-rattling and militarism. NATO is moving more and more combat troops up to the Russian border while Washington has organized punishing economic sanctions aimed at disrupting the Russian economy.
Hillary Clinton appears fully onboard with the neocon goal of grabbing the Big Enchilada, “regime change” in Moscow. Rather than seeing the world as it is, she continues to look through the wrong end of the telescope in line with all the anti-Russian propaganda and the demonization of Putin, whom Clinton has compared to Hitler.
Supporting NATO’s military buildup on Russia’s border, Clinton said, “With Russia being more aggressive, making all kinds of intimidating moves toward the Baltic countries, we’ve seen what they’ve done in eastern Ukraine, we know how they want to rewrite the map of Europe, it is not in our interests [to reduce U.S. support for NATO]. Think of how much it would cost if Russia’s aggression were not deterred because NATO was there on the front lines making it clear they could not move forward.”
Though Clinton’s anti-Russian delusions are shared by many powerful people in Official Washington, they are no more accurate than the other claims about Iraq’s WMD, Gaddafi passing out Viagra to his troops, the humanitarian need to invade Syria, the craziness about Iran being the principal source of terrorism (when it is the Saudis, the Qataris, the Turks and other Sunni powers that have bred Al Qaeda and the Islamic State), and the notion that the Palestinians are the ones picking on the Israelis, not the other way around.
However, Clinton’s buying into the neocon propaganda about Russia may be the most dangerous – arguably existential – threat that a Clinton presidency would present to the world. Yes, she may launch U.S. military strikes against the Syrian government (which could open the gates of Damascus to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State); yes, she might push Iran into renouncing the nuclear agreement (and putting the Israeli/neocon goal to bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran back on the table); yes, she might make Obama’s progressive critics long for his more temperate presidency.
But Clinton’s potential escalation of the new Cold War with Russia could be both the most costly and conceivably the most suicidal feature of a Clinton-45 presidency. Unlike her times as Secretary of State, when Obama could block her militaristic schemes, there will be no one to stop her if she is elected President, surrounded by likeminded neocon advisers.
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).
America’s history shows trustworthiness isn’t its long suit, treaties and other deals agreed to systematically violated – culpability ignored or counterparties wrongfully blamed for its breaches.
After last year’s nuclear deal was consummated, Obama lied, saying “(h)istory shows that America must lead not just with our might, but with our principles. It shows we are stronger not when we are alone, but when we bring the world together.”
According to a complaint filed last August with the IAEA, Iran said Washington breached nuclear deal principles straightaway – three days after the deal was reached.
At the time, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “(t)he military option… remain(s) on the table…enhanced because we’ve been spending (past) years gathering significantly more (intelligence) about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Tehran said this threat to use military force preemptively without just cause constitutes a “material breach of the commitments just undertaken.”
The agreement was never meant to be a vehicle to facilitate US spying on the Islamic Republic.
Iran “(r)ecall(ed) past instances, in which highly confidential information provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Agency inspectors had been leaked, posing a grave threat to the national security of Iran… it is absolutely essential and imperative for the Agency to take immediate and urgent action to reject such flagrant abuses,” a statement said.
Washington used the nuclear deal to justify expanding its regional military footprint, increase aid to Israel and sell billions of dollars more weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
On Friday, Iranian central bank head Valiollah Seif accused US-led Western countries of locking Tehran out of the international financial system, another flagrant deal breach with likely more coming.
According to Seif, Western nuclear deal counterparties have done “almost nothing” to live up to provisions agreed on.
“(W)e are not able to use our frozen funds abroad.” Unless resolved, the deal “breaks up on its own terms,” he said without further elaboration.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest lied, claiming “(t)he United States, along with the rest of the international community, is committed to living up to our end of the bargain” – at the same time saying Washington has no intention of giving Tehran access to America’s financial system.
State Department spokesman admiral John Kirby compounded the Big Lie, claiming Washington fulfilled its part of the deal.
“There is no need to do more when we have met all of our commitments,” he disingenuously claimed.
It’s well known Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful with no military component and no known intention to have one.
Washington’s concerns otherwise were and remain red herring cover for its real aim – regime change, replacing Iran’s sovereign independence with puppet governance it controls.
Longstanding US hostility persists. Normalization remains unattainable as long as neocons infesting Washington, Israel and AIPAC reject it.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
From left to right a raucous chorus has emerged to denounce Republican Presidential primary frontrunner Donald Trump as a ‘fascist’. They cite his campaign promises to build an Israeli-style wall along the US border; his threats to expel eleven million undocumented immigrants; and to restrict foreign Muslims from entering the US, as well as the way his pugnacious face and arm resemble those of Benito Mussolini (‘he juts out his chin, he raises his arm’). They decry his extreme nationalism as ‘resembling Hitler’s policy’, by which they mean his opposition to detrimental free trade agreements and his slogan to “Make America Great… Again.”
In this article I will critically address the current cartoonish image of fascism with fascism’s historical reality, and then proceed to analyze the so-called “lesser evil” politics behind the re-invention of an American fascist in the guise of billionaire Donald Trump.
Fascism: Fact and Fiction
Historically, fascist politics involved organized mass movements, armed militia and paramilitary groups who assaulted political opponents and violently censored critical speech and suppressed the right to assemble. Fascists scapegoated minorities, especially Roma and Jews, and burned trade unions and leftist headquarters, assassinating their leaders and beating their members. Programmatically, they attacked pacifists and defended overseas wars and empires in the name of ‘living space’. Evoking a past imperial glory, they were not ‘isolationists’.
Candidate Trump has not organized anything resembling a mass movement, let alone an armed militia. There are no ‘Trumpeting Brown Shirts’. At most, the police and a handful of his (often elderly) white supporters have punched a few KKK-dressed provocateurs who have physically disrupted and threatened Trump’s public meetings and his exercise of free speech. In fact, the ‘fascist’ disruption of democratic freedoms seems to be mostly organized and practiced by his political rivals.
Trump, far from scapegoating the powerful Jewish minority in this country, gave a shamelessly Israel-centric speech and received a standing ovation from nearly 18,000 mostly prominent Jews at the March 2016 meeting of the major pro-Israel lobby (AIPAC).
His rhetoric, concerning the expulsion of 11 million undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America and the building of a border wall, is a far cry from the practice of imprisoning and violently expelling over two million undocumented Latinos under the Clinton-Bush-Obama/Clinton regimes. At its worst, Trump promises to continue the existing federal policy on immigration and not create a ‘fascist’ rupture with past administrations. Is a ‘rhetorical cement wall’ worse than the real wall of armed border police, helicopters and armed carriers that have operated under the Presidencies of Clinton – Bush – Obama/Clinton with its hundreds of migrant deaths in the desert? Are declarations of a repressive immigration policy more ‘fascist’ coming from Trump’s loud mouth than the actual official practice of violently seizing undocumented workers from their homes and workplaces with long-term imprisonment and expulsion? Expelling youth, raised and educated in this country, or violently splitting up productive, well-integrated families and imprisoning their main breadwinners for lack of documents…that’s the official policy of the current and past three administrations.
There is far less of the truly fascist embrace of pre-emptive war and invasion in Trump’s speeches than in the actual policies pursued by the Clinton-Bush-Obama/Clinton regimes. In fact, among Trump’s numerous critics, especially his Republican rivals and the Hillary Clinton camp, we hear the loudest denunciations of his non-interventionist foreign policy (isolationism), which is “out of line” with the interventionist, overseas wars of current and past Republican and Democratic administrations. Trump’s critics and media pundits are ‘horror-struck’ at his apparent willingness to co-operate with Russian President Putin against common enemies, such as ISIS. Is his pragmatic regard of Russia more or less fascist than his rivals’ support for the Ukrainian putsch, orchestrated by the Obama regime in alliance with bona fide armed anti-Semitic Ukrainian fascists? His calls to dump NATO as an expensive drain on US treasure and manpower have the elite howling in outrage!
The propagandists, who paint Trump as a modern American fascist, cite his crude sexist remarks as ‘examples of a misogynist totalitarian’ while pointing favorably to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as potentially the ‘first feminist President’. In regard to his alleged misogyny, ‘the Donald’ pointed to Madame First Lady, Senator and Secretary Clinton’s promotion and critical role in US wars against Libya, Iraq and Syria where well over one million women have been rendered refugees, raped, injured or killed. Which is worse, one may ask: Crude locker room jokes or millions of orphaned boys and girls denied parents, homes, education and any future in the Middle East and North Africa? That is the world Midwife Hillary Clinton had helped to deliver.
Misogyny is the in the eye of the deceiver.
Are Trump’s verbal attacks on the practice of US multi-nationals relocating abroad to avoid US taxes and Wall Street financial houses hiding billions of the US elites’ obscene wealth in offshore tax shelters, more detrimental to ‘American values’ (as charged) than Hillary Clinton’s pandering to Wall Street while pocketing over $300,000 for each 45 minute sycophantic performance (marketed as her ‘policy lectures’), or her decades of actively promoting globalization – including the US job-destroying NAFTA?
Clearly Trump currently lacks program, organization and practice that define a fascist politician. At the very worst, he parrots the general line of attack against immigrants and Muslims. So far he would just bar them from the US but not bomb them ‘to the stone-age’. This should be contrasted with the actual policies carried out by the war-criminals Clinton/Bush/Obama-Clinton. It would be hard for Donald to ‘trump’ Hillary when she threatened to ‘obliterate Iran’ and its scores of millions of citizens because of Iran’s fictitious ‘nuclear program’.
On the other hand, Trump’s own meetings and rallies have been the victim of repeated disruption by organized groups acting like fascist thugs. Role reversal in real life: Trump, the target of rabid sustained mass media attacks, is pronounced the fascist …
Bashing Trump: Backdoor Backing of Hillary the Militarist Psychopath
If the objective case for labeling Trump ‘a fascist’ is weak or non-existent, why do so many prestigious academics and journalists play this stupid game of name-calling?
The commonsense explanation of their ruffled bluster is because they are setting up ‘Trump-the-Straw-Dragon’ in order to promote the poisonous Madame Secretary Hillary Clinton as the ‘lesser evil candidate’ for President of the United States.
No serious observer minimally aware of Clinton’s carnal embrace of multiple simultaneous disastrous and destructive wars in Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Libya, could possibly support her – unless if they are convinced that a greater danger looms on the horizon and “we have to defeat fascist Trump at all cost”? No serious democrat or wage and salaried employee can ignore Madame Clinton’s role as Wall Street’s most shameless pimp unless they ‘believe’ that a loud-mouth New York ‘fascist is worse than Wall Street’.
The phony scaremongering about Trump’s “fascism” just serves to cover up Clinton’s most servile promotion of traitorous wars for the benefit of Israel. One should envision the thousands of desperate Syrian refugees clinging to decrepit boats in the Mediterranean when reading excerpts of Clinton’s private e-mails: According to WikiLeaks, Hillary declared that “the best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability (sic) is to help (sic) the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. … The fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between the Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies”. Not a bad thing for Israel – but a cruel and criminal policy against a sovereign nation and multi-ethnic society. Madame Clinton followed through with these demented pronouncements, which can only be viewed as genocidal! Clinton promoted the most violent proxy war, uprooting over half of the civilian population of Syria and killing hundreds of thousands, while shredding a sovereign nation. She thus pandered to her Israeli mentors and Pluto-Zionist funders.
To justify backing a serial war monger, a US Secretary of State who has served Israel’s interests, and a politician who has carnalized her ‘feminist principles’ with Wall Street billionaires, Hillary Clinton’s smarmy supporters have had to invent an opponent who is even worse: Creating and then denouncing “Trump the Fascist” serves as a backdoor justification for supporting a proven political psychopath!
White House Nowruz, 2015
This week, Michelle Obama hosted the second annual White House Nowruz, a celebration of the Iranian New Year. Though a relatively apolitical affair, the placement of the reception’s traditional haft-sîn, however, should have raised some eyebrows.
Nowruz, which literally means “new day” in Farsi, is an ancient festival of new beginnings, deeply rooted in Zoroastrianism, celebrating the first day of Spring and the Persian calendar.
Of the myriad traditions and festivities associated with Nowruz, the most universally recognizable may be that of the haft-sîn (هفت سین), a table arrangement decorated with seven (haft) items – each beginning with the Persian letter S (sîn) – and symbolizing renewal, reconciliation, good luck, and prosperity.
The shindig, MC’ed by comedian Maz Jobrani and catered by renowned Persian chef Najmieh Batmanglij, was held on April 6 – a few days after the official holiday season (which lasts roughly 13 days) had actually ended.
The White House, naturally, had its own haft-sîn on display at its Nowruz party. However, its location in the East Room, where the celebration has been held both years, was a bit curious and (probably) unintentionally laden with symbolism all its own.
The table containing such traditional items as wheat grass (sabzeh), garlic (sīr), vinegar (serkeh), apple (seeb), wheat germ pudding (samanu), sumac berries (somaq), and dried fruit (senjed) was placed – as it was last year as well – right beneath John Singer Sargent’s 1903 presidential portrait of Theodore Roosevelt.
A haft-sîn in the White House’s East Room, on April 6, 2016.
One of the principal promoters of American imperialism at the end of the 19th century and in the first decade of the 20th, Roosevelt once wrote, “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one.” It is said he carried around a list of six target nations on three continents.
In December 1904, Roosevelt issued his official Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, declaring that the United States would not hesitate to use what he called its “international police power” to destroy and replace regimes deemed hostile to American interests. Though initially used to justify military intervention, invasion and occupation of Western Hemisphere nations such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, Roosevelt sent a similar message to the entire world in late 1907, when he deployed the nation’s Great White Fleet to circumnavigate the globe in a show of power. The fleet consisted of 16 battleships and support vessels, crewed by 14,000 sailors. It sailed for 14 months, covering over 43,000 miles and made twenty port calls on six different continents.
Just as it is common practice today for U.S. presidents to deliver Nowruz remarks to the people, and sometimes leaders, of Iran, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries “American presidents were encouraged to exchange telegrams with the Shah of Iran on the occasion of the Persian New Year’s Day.”
“In 1902,” note scholars Kamran Scot Aghaie and Afshin Marashi, “President Theodore Roosevelt even presented the Shah of Iran, Muzaffar al-Din, and his brother, Zill al-Sultan, with a copy of his book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, recognizing that hunting was a favorite pastime of the Persian royal family as well.”
At the time, Iranian leaders saw the United States – which had no imperial presence in the Middle East at that point – as a potential non-interventionist ally against persistent Russian and British encroachment on Iranian sovereignty. Following the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1906, Russia and Britain both occupied Iran in 1907 in an effort to dissolve the parliament and prop up the waning Qajar dynasty, dividing the country between them until 1911. Roosevelt remained neutral, however, a position subsequently maintained by Taft and all successive U.S. administrations through World War II, when Russia and the United Kingdom again invaded and occupied Iran to secure wartime supply routes for the Allied Powers and replaced the then Shah, Reza Pahlavi, with his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
On August 19, 1953, Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown in a military coup planned and orchestrated by the United States and Britain after nationalizing Iran’s oil industry. Pro-Shah riots were staged, hundreds were killed, newspapers supportive of Mossadegh were ransacked and shuttered, and the prime minister was arrested and tried for treason.
The main architect of the coup, executed at the behest of British petroleum interests and under the guise of pro-active anti-communism, was the chief of the CIA’s Near East and Africa division, Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. – grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt.
The ouster of Mossadegh, and the reinstallation of the Shah, by American intelligence operatives is a seminal moment in Iranian history and political consciousness, setting the stage for a quarter-century of tyrannical dictatorship propped up by torture, corruption and U.S. military aid, as well as establishing the United States as an interventionist power in the region. Popular backlash against the Shah, and his American backers, culminated in his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution, and the establishment of an Islamic Republic in 1979.
By honoring Iranian culture with a haft-sîn table set under the watchful gaze of Teddy Roosevelt – the godfather of American military intervention and the grandfather of the man responsible for Operation Ajax in 1953 – the White House is unwittingly sending a message of continued hostility and imperial hubris toward Iran.
In his annual Nowruz message, delivered right before his historic trip to Cuba, President Obama said that, “even after decades of mistrust, it is possible for old adversaries to start down a new path.” At a time when Iran is fully upholding its end of the nuclear accord, while the residual effects of U.S. sanctions continue to cause problems for Iranians, optics remain important.
One possible step on the path to better relations would be to move the haft-sîn to the other side of the room.
Israel lobby group We Believe in Israel (WBII) is calling on Prince Charles to reconsider an upcoming visit to Iran, which it accuses of anti-Semitism.
The grassroots pro-Israel group started an online petition in response to reports the Prince of Wales is planning to visit Iran in autumn. The trip would be the first official visit of a UK royal to the Islamic Republic in over 40 years.
The Foreign Office and Clarence House are discussing a tour with Tehran, the Sunday Times reported last month.
The visit follows an international deal struck in 2015 after years of talks, which saw Western sanctions against Iran lifted in exchange for it abandoning its nuclear ambitions.
Prince Charles’ visit would mark a significant thaw in relations, and could lead to new trade ties.
WBII however has unequivocally called on the Foreign Office and Clarence House to abandon the plans.
“We do not consider it appropriate for a member of the Royal Family to visit Iran and give credibility to the Iranian regime,” the WBII petition reads.
WBII Director Luke Akehurst said he is “disturbed” by the prospect of a royal visit to Iran, noting the regime’s alleged ties to terror groups, its senior figures’ denial of the Holocaust and calls for the destruction of Israel.
“We find the proposed visit particularly strange as there has never been an official Royal visit to Israel, the only democracy in the region,” said Akehurst, the Jewish Chronicle reports.
In 2004, Prince Charles made an unofficial visit to the city of Bam in southeastern Iran in his capacity as president of the British Red Cross after an earthquake killed 40,000 people in the region.
Queen Elizabeth II paid the last official royal visit to Iran in 1974, five years before the Islamic Revolution deposed Shah Reza Pahlavi and installed a theocratic government.
An official in Iran’s government has downplayed a Saudi ban to keep Iranian airliners off Saudi Arabia’s skies, saying the country’s air carriers have no need for the KSA airspace.
Ebrahim Moradi, head of air traffic control of Iran Airports and Air Navigation Company (IAANC), told the official IRNA news agency on Tuesday that following the recent cut in bilateral diplomatic ties, no Iranian airline company has scheduled flights to Saudi cities.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran on January 3 following demonstrations held in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry protesters censuring the Al Saud regime for the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Riyadh a day earlier.
Moradi pointed to the recent Saudi ban on Iran’s Mahan Air company, saying Riyadh’s decision will not impact the Iranian airline as the company currently operates no flights to African nations via the Persian Gulf Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said Monday that Mahan Air was banned due to violations of local safety rules.
The GACA said in a statement that several violations related to airline safety had been committed by Mahan Air, “prompting the suspension of licenses granted to the company.”
“This decision comes in the context of the GACA (regarding) the safety of passengers and to preserve their lives,” Reuters reported.
Trade between Iran and Saudi Arabia has mostly been small and each year only Iranian pilgrims travel to the kingdom for the hajj pilgrimage.
Several countries, including Pakistan, Russia and China, have so far voiced readiness to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia to ease up their tensions.
Russia has rejected a US claim that the sales of Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to Iran were prohibited under a United Nation Security Council resolution.
On Tuesday, the US Department of State Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon said Washington would use its veto power in the Security Council to block the possible sales of the fighter jets to Iran.
“The sale of Su-30 fighter aircraft is prohibited under UNSCR 2231 without the approval of the UN Security Council and we would block the approval of any sale of fighter aircraft under the restrictions,” Shannon said, referring to the UN resolution.
Head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for non-proliferation and arms control, Mikhail Ulyanov, dismissed the claim.
“Such deliveries are not prohibited, they are allowed, and this follows from the text of the resolution,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
Resolution 2231, adopted by the Security Council on July 20, 2015, endorsed a nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group, comprising Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany.
Shannon claimed that under the resolution, such weapon deliveries “require the submission of relevant notification to the Security Council and this notification’s endorsement by the Security Council.”
Ulyanov said Moscow has not forwarded such a notification to the Security Council so far.
Political analysts say Resolution 2231 does not prohibit Iran from buying fighter jets, and its language is not legally binding and cannot be enforced with punitive measures.
Su-30 is a multirole advanced fighter aircraft for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.
Iran and the P5+1 finalized the nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria, in July last year. They started to implement the JCPOA on January 16, 2016.
On Tuesday, a senior Russian diplomat also said Moscow would begin the first shipment of its S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran in the coming days.
“I don’t know if this will happen today, but they (S-300 missiles) will be loaded (for shipment to Iran),” Interfax quoted Zamir Kabulov, a department chief at the Foreign Ministry, as saying.
The United States would use its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to block the sale of Russian Ru-30 fighter jets to Iran, the State Department says.
Department of State Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon made the announcement on Tuesday during a congressional hearing on Iran. “We would block the approval of fighter aircraft.”
Shannon told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that any such sale of fighter jets would have to be approved by the UN Security Council.
Su-30 is a multirole advanced fighter aircraft for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.
“The sale of Su-30 fighter aircraft is prohibited under UNSCR 2231 without the approval of the UN Security Council and we would block the approval of any sale of fighter aircraft under the restrictions,” Shannon said.
Shannon was referring to the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted by the Security Council on July 20, 2015, which endorsed the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group – Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany.
The UN resolution calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.
But according to diplomats, resolution 2231 does not prohibit Iran from buying fight jets, and the language of 2231 is not legally binding and cannot be enforced with punitive measures.
Iran and the P5+1 finalized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015. They started to implement the JCPOA on January 16, 2016.
Under the agreement, limits are put on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for, among other things, the removal of all nuclear-related economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iranian exports excluding oil trade have exceeded imports for the first time in 37 years, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday.
“The government has tried to step by step reduce dependence on oil revenues, and for the first time in the history of post-revolutionary Iran [after 1979], in 2015-2016, our export revenues exceeded import spending without taking into account oil trade,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the IRINN broadcaster.
Rouhani added that Iran’s oil exports continue to grow, reaching two million barrels per day, and Iran will continue to seek to increase this figure.
Iran has been boosting its oil sales after a deal with the P5+1 group of world powers — including Russia, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom plus Germany — in July to monitor and limit Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions.
In February, the head of the National Iranian Oil Company said that the country aims to raise its daily oil exports to 4.7 million barrels.