When Jeb Bush (Jon Ellis Bush – J.E.B.) announced that, like his dimwitted and bloodthirsty brother, he too would have invaded Iraq had he been president at the time, ire was drawn in virtually all corners of the American populace with the exception, of course, of the typical warmongering Neo-Con segments.
After all, how could anyone suggest that he would have also invaded Iraq despite the fact that there were never any weapons of mass destruction (a term that itself was created by Western governments and their media mouthpieces), that Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda, and that the weakened country posed absolutely no threat to the US? How could anyone suggest that the Iraq invasion was legitimate 12 years on with American forces still involved and the situation on the ground millions of times worse?
The answer is simple – Jeb Bush had always wanted to invade Iraq. A staunch and longstanding member of the Neo-Con network, Jeb had taken his stand in favor of American imperialism when he signed on to the Project For A New American Century’s Statement of Principles in 1997.
Although the Statement of Principles did not specifically advocate for an attack on Iraq, it did argue against the perceived “cuts,” “inattention,” and bad “leadership” of the previous administration despite the fact that Bill Clinton acted as a complete tool of the very same network that encompasses the PNAC. This statement did, however, clearly state that America must “challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values,” a position that would become realized in an even more obvious and direct manner in the years following its publication.
Perhaps most notably, however, is the PNAC document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” a piece published by the organization in 1999 expressing the desire to destroy regimes in the Middle East that were hostile toward America’s ambitions abroad. The document was also seen as more-than-coincidentally prophetic of 9/11, a “new Pearl Harbor” style event that was alluded to in the document.
Rebuilding America’s Defenses reads,
Any serious effort at transformation must occur within the larger framework of U.S. national security strategy, military missions and defense budgets. The United States cannot simply declare a “strategic pause” while experimenting with new technologies and operational concepts. Nor can it choose to pursue a transformation strategy that would decouple American and allied interests. A transformation strategy that solely pursued capabilities for projecting force from the United States, for example, and sacrificed forward basing and presence, would be at odds with larger American Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century 51 policy goals and would trouble American allies. Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
Notably, in this document, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea are listed as the most important targets of the “transformed” US military. It is no coincidence that four of these listed countries were also listed by General Wesley Clark as slated for destruction per classified information he received on a visit to the Pentagon.
In 1996, a policy document prepared for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was written by Richard Perle and entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” In this document Perle, a notorious Neo-Con and fellow member of PNAC with Jeb Bush, described the strategic importance of removing Saddam Hussein from power as well as the necessity to weaken Syria.
Perle wrote that “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
PNAC also sent an open letter to President Bill Clinton after a Clinton administration and Western media propaganda campaign presenting Hussein as uncooperative in weapons inspections, calling for Hussein’s removal from power.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, PNAC sent a letter to President George W. Bush demanding an immediate attack on Iraq, regardless of whether or not there was any evidence linking Hussein to the attacks or al-Qaeda. The letter stated that,
We agree with Secretary of State Powell’s recent statement that Saddam Hussein “is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth….” It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism. The United States must therefore provide full military and financial support to the Iraqi opposition. American military force should be used to provide a “safe zone” in Iraq from which the opposition can operate. And American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means.
With Jeb Bush’s ties to PNAC and with his public signature on the organization’s “Statement of Principles,” there can be no doubt that Bush would have invaded Iraq had he been president at the time. There is also no doubt that he is part of the same Neo-Con network that brought us that war, the war in Afghanistan, 9/11, destabilizations, a crippled economy, and a shredded Constitution. A Jeb Bush presidency will no doubt bring about a continuation of those policies witnessed under his brother and those subsequently built upon by Barack Obama.
A senior Iranian official has described as “successful” negotiations on the delivery of Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.
“Negotiations on the delivery of the S-300 [missile system] to Iran has been successful”, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Monday during a press conference after a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in the Russian capital, Moscow.
Amir-Abdollahian also stressed that all issues surrounding the delivery of the system to Iran are progressing well.
He further noted that the delivery of S-300 to Iran will happen at the soonest opportunity possible.
On April 13, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a presidential decree paving the way for the long-overdue delivery of the missile system to Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
The decision to deliver the missile system came after Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – reached a mutual understanding on Tehran’s nuclear program in the Swiss city of Lausanne on April 2.
Moscow had banned the delivery of the S-300 system to Tehran in 2010 under the pretext that the agreement it signed with Iran in 2007 was covered by the fourth round of the Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The resolution bars hi-tech weapons sales to the Islamic Republic.
The Russian president defended Moscow’s decision on S-300 supply to Iran, saying the system is meant for deterrence amid ongoing developments in war-torn Yemen.
The UN says since March, nearly 2,000 people have been killed and 7,330 others injured due to the conflict in Yemen. However, according to Yemen’s Freedom House Foundation, the Saudi airstrikes have claimed the lives of about 4,000 Yemeni people.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Russia over its decision to lift the ban on the delivery of S-300 missile system to Iran, saying Tel Aviv sees the plan with “utmost gravity.”
Press TV has interviewed two journalists and political commentators Hafsa Kara-Mustapha from London and Maxine Dovere from New York, to discuss the United States’ rejection of a proposal made by Arab countries to establish a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.
I recently returned from a six-week trip to Iran. While the primary purpose of my trip was to visit family and friends, I also made some general enquiries into the state of the country’s stagnant economy. These included informal discussions with various strata of economic agents or market players: manufacturers, bankers, shopkeepers, miners, farmers, livestock breeders, workers, teachers, and more.
Sadly, most of these economic actors painted pictures of pessimism and distrust of the country’s economic conditions. The economy is mired in a protracted stagflation, with no government plan or macroeconomic policy for recovery. While the Rouhani administration boasts of having contained or slowed down the inflation, the Iranian people do not cherish that tempering of inflation as it has come about at the expense of deepened recession; that is, at the expense of heightened unemployment and weakened purchasing power. As a retired school teacher, who now works as a taxi driver, put it, lowering inflation by worsening recession is no cause for celebration (paraphrased).
And what is the major culprit behind the depressing recession? The common answer of the overwhelming majority of the economic actors I spoke with was, in a nutshell, uncertainty—uncertainty of the constantly shifting outcome of the unending nuclear negotiations. There is a clear consensus that while onerous economic sanctions against Iran are obviously damaging, the perilous effects of the protracted and uncertain outcome of the negotiations are even more devastating. Equally devastating is the current administration’s neoliberal policies of austerity economics, which have further aggravated the recession by cutting social/public spending while not offering any industrial or developmental program or planning.
Market uncertainty, combined with a regrettable lack of protection by the government of the nation’s infant industries against the more mature industries abroad, has led to an unwillingness of the country’s entrepreneurs to invest in long-term production projects. By the same token, the major bulk of the nation’s finance capital is devoted to short-term, parasitically high-yielding but unproductive investments such as buying and selling of real estate.
The largely unregulated financial sector has led to a mushrooming growth of shadow banks—known as moasesat-e etebari, or credit institutions. While there are a handful of conventional or bona fide commercial banks, the number of dubious moasesat-e etebari has in recent years skyrocketed to over 900!
There is undeniable evidence that, using the influence of corrupt and rent-seeking authorities, many of these shadow banks borrowed huge sums of money from government banks at below-market interest rates, often under the pretext of wanting to invest in job-creating or manufacturing enterprises, but in fact used the monies thus obtained for speculative purposes. In other words, most of these shadow banks came to existence not through the investment of monies owned by their founders but through that of public money!
Worse yet, many of the oligarchic borrowers and/or founders of these shadow banks now refuse to pay the monies they borrowed! And the government does not or cannot do anything about it because there is an incestuous business relationship between the two sides. Parasitic growth of these speculative shadow banks has reached unsustainably dangerous levels of an imminent implosion of the financial sector—similar to what happened in the US nearly seven years ago, which has since been transmitted to a number of European countries. It is regrettable that President Rouhani and his economic team do not seem to have learned any lessons from the disastrous experiences of the unregulated financial markets in many of the core capitalist countries.
The US and its allies are obviously aware of the fact that continued uncertainty resulting from prolonged nuclear negotiations is wreaking havoc on the Iranian economy. Perhaps this helps explain why they intend to extend the negotiations for a long time: 10, 15 or even 25 years. There are speculations that this policy is designed to help bring about regime change from within, that is, by instigating a social upheaval through an economic collapse.
Not only has the Rouhani administration thus thrown the private sector into confusion and uncertainty, it has also largely abandoned traditional public sector responsibilities in terms of macroeconomic guidance and infrastructural developments. The administration’s rudderless economic outlook is reflected (among other places) in its latest (1394, Iranian calendar) budget priorities.
“The Budget Bill, which has been produced by the newly‑revived Organization of Management and Planning, offers no explicit conceptual framework within which the budget is formulated, nor is it based on any “planning” for the economy. . . . It also does not begin with a discussion of the nation’s economic development pre-requisites nor give any indication of its trajectories.
“The key concept behind the budget is a twisted “neoliberal” model. . . . The proponents of the neoliberal economic policy support extensive economic liberalization, free trade, and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the free market, individual and private sectors in the economy” .
The priorities of the budget bill are so warped and irrational that they tend to harm both the supply and demand sides of the economy. On the supply-side,
“[T]he budget neglects the productive sectors, infrastructure and the environment. Development funds have been increased by a nominal 16 percent; in real terms that will mean a reduction. Agriculture receives an increase, but its share is minimal relative to the sector’s need. Manufacturing remains cash-hungry given the tight-money policy and a 22 percent interest rate. R&D’s share in the GNP remains at about 0.06 percent and industry-driven R&D is almost non‑existent. Infrastructure, including transportation and urban development, is equally under-budgeted” .
On the demand side, except for health care spending, real or inflation-adjusted funding for most social programs has been cut. Subsidies for housing, education, food, and fuel have been reduced when the inflation rate is accounted for. The budget also fails to devote funds for the repayment of the government’s growing debt to the social security and retirement funds.
“The preference for muddling through and preserving the status quo of zero growth is evident in the uses of the budget. Thus, while the supply side of the economy is neglected, the demand side is depressed through the use of contractionary fiscal and monetary policies. The budget also disregards growth-friendly educational, industrial and trade policies while it only gives lip service to construction and infrastructure. Most significantly, the sanctions-crippled Iranian economy needs serious popular mobilization and attention to social justice, but the elite-centered budget is equally oblivious to these requirements” .
Since the public sector has traditionally played a major role in the building of the country’s industrialization/developmental infrastructures, the Rouhani administration’s shirking that responsibility, that is, of drastically reducing public spending on infrastructure building, has significantly contributed to the deepening of economic recession and/or the rising of unemployment.
While in light of the ongoing economic recession, this curtailment of public/social spending is certainly irrational from an objective macroeconomic standpoint (as it would aggravate the recession), it is quite rational from the standpoint of the neoliberal austerity economics, to which Mr. Rouhani and most of his economic team seem to subscribe. According to neoliberal school of economic thought, a recession must be created in order to (a) fight inflation, and (b) create conditions (in the fashion of an economic shock therapy) for a subsequent economic recovery. Such conditions would include lowering labor cost by heightening unemployment, expanding deregulation of business activities, shrinking the public sector in order to make more room for the private sector, diluting environmental and workplace safety standards, expanding privatization of public property and services, including of education and health services, and the like.
This neoliberal/austerity/supply-side prescription has since the late 1970s and early 1980s replaced the Keynesian/New Deal/Social-Democratic prescription of the previous period of nearly three decades (from mid-1940s to mid-1970s), which often relied on public-sector spending in pursuit of economic recovery. The historic switch from the New Deal to neoliberal economic paradigm took place largely in the 1980s—under the formal stewardship of President Ronald Reagan in the United States and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain.
The supply-side doctrine, epitomizing the dominance of economic policy-making by big business, has since the 1980s been pursued vigorously in country after country, including now in many European countries. Having thus become the dominant economic strategy in the core capitalist countries, with devastating consequences for the overwhelming majority of the people (the so-called 99%), austerity economics has now arrived in a number of the less-developed countries, including Iran—a development which catapulted Mr. Rouhani to the seat of the country’s presidency as its messenger.
President Rouhani’s subscription to neoliberal economic doctrine is evident from his many speeches and statements, as well as from his book, National Security and Economic System of Iran [امنیت ملّی و نظام اقتصادی ایران]. In his book, Mr. Rouhani deplores Iran’s “very oppressive” labor laws to business. He argues that the minimum wage must be slashed and restrictions on the laying off of workers eliminated if Iran’s “owners of capital” are to have the “freedom” to create prosperity. “One of the main challenges that employers and our factories face,” he writes, “is the existence of labor unions. Workers should be more pliant toward the demands of job-creators” .
Not surprisingly, Mr. Rouhani’s economic outlook is essentially devoid of any specific development plan or industrialization project as he and most of his economic advisors subscribe to an economic doctrine that frowns upon government intervention in economic affairs—unless such interventions help “pave the way” for unfettered market operations. According to this doctrine, solutions to economic stagnation, poverty and under-development lie in unhindered market mechanism and unreserved integration into world capitalist system. Recessions, joblessness and economic hardship in many less-developed countries are not so much due to economic mismanagement or the nature of global capitalism as they are because of government intervention and/or exclusion from world capitalist markets.
This explains why Mr. Rouhani has made the solution to Iran’s economic problems contingent upon a political détente or friendly relations with the United States and its allies. The administration’s perception (or delusion) that the mere establishment of relations with the U.S. would serve as a panacea to Iran’s economic woes has essentially made Iran’s economy hostage to the unforeseeable outcome of its negotiations with the United State and, therefore, hostage to the endless, and increasingly futile, nuclear negotiations.
This also explains Mr. Rouhani’s and his nuclear negotiators’ dilemma: they have essentially trapped themselves into an illusion, the illusion that a combination of charm offensives, smiley faces and diplomatic niceties would suffice to change imperialist policies toward Iran. In reality, however, the U.S. policy toward Iran (or any other country, for that matter) is based on an agenda—an imperialistic agenda that consists of a series of demands and expectations, not on diplomatic decorum, or the type of language its leaders use.
One would expect that the market uncertainty created by nuclear negotiations may have led Iran’s producers of industrial and agricultural products to be eagerly looking forward to a breakthrough in the negotiations and a lifting of the brutal sanctions against their economy. My discussions with a number of manufacturers and farmers revealed, however, that while they certainly suffer from the oppressive economic sanctions, they are also concerned that, in light of President Rouhani’s neoliberal free trade policies, a relief from sanctions that may result from such a breakthrough may, in fact, end up driving them out of business by further opening the domestic market to an unbridled deluge of foreign products.
For example, Mahmoud Sedaqat, vice president of the Association of UPVC Window & Door Profiles Manufacturers, bitterly complained that while domestic production capacity of this petrochemical is more than twice as much as domestic needs, the government recently reduced import tariffs for this product from 30% to 15%, thereby paving the way for the substitution of imports for domestic products. Sedaqat further pointed out that government’s careless trade policy and a lack of protection for domestic producers has led to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty among domestic producers, which is contributing to further aggravation of the ongoing economic stagnation .
Mohammed Reza A’le Sara, a representative of domestic producers of automobile tires, likewise complained about a glaring lack of protection of his industry against the unrestrained imports of similar, indeed substitutable, products from abroad. A’le Sara also pointed out that, despite the comparable quality of domestically-produced tires, 50% of domestic demand is currently supplied by imports. A careful or calculated government support for domestic producers, he further argued, could gradually but certainly make Iran self-sufficient in this industry .
Mohammed Serfi, an economics analyst, recently pointed out that the degree of import-substitution in Iran could be as high as 70%; meaning that as much as 70% of Iran’s imports could be substituted by domestically produced goods. Yet, due to the Rouhani administration’s warped open-door/free-trade policy, the crucially important industrialization strategy of import-substitution—pursued by all the currently more developed countries at earlier stages of their development—is ignored. .
Complaining about the administration’s lack of an economic strategy, Gholam-Hosein Shafe-ei, Chairman of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, also argued that while relief from economic sanctions is obviously necessary it is not sufficient; perhaps more importantly are government-championed macroeconomic objectives and carefully-guided ways or plans to achieve those objectives. In the absence of clearly defined economic objectives and the concomitant strategies of import-substitution and export-promotion, Shafe-ei reasoned, Iran could become a heaven for foreign producers while many of domestic producers would be driven out of business.
Under President Rouhani, farmers have suffered even more than manufacturers. Since he was elected nearly two years ago, his administration has raised the energy/utilities bill by anywhere between 50% and 80%. This has drastically heightened the cost of agricultural production, as it has of industrial production. Additionally, the government has in recent years changed both the provision and distribution structure of fertilizers, increasingly shifting those responsibilities from the public to the private sector. This has further added to the cost of production. The government has also failed to establish a meaningful policy of crop insurance or financial assistance in the face of various natural disasters such as floods, drought and other climate fluctuations. Combined with the administration’s misguided free trade policy, which has greatly facilitated the import of many agricultural products, these ill-advised policies have effectively driven many farmers out of business, thereby plunging the agricultural sector into a deep recession.
Prior to the Rouhani administration’s pursuit of neoliberal economic policies, Iran viewed economic sanctions as an (unsolicited) opportunity to become self-reliant: to rely on domestic talents and resources in order to become self-sufficient by producing as many of the consumer goods and other industrial products as possible. And it did, indeed, make considerable progress in scientific research, technological know-how and manufacturing industries.
For example, prior to the recent rise of neoliberal economic policies, which have greatly undermined Iran’s manufacturing and agricultural capabilities, Iran had become self-sufficient in producing many of its industrial products such as home and electric appliances (television sets, washers and dryers, refrigerators, washing machines, and the like), textiles, leather products, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, processed food, and beverage products (including refined sugar and vegetable oil). The country had also made considerable progress in manufacturing steel, copper products, paper, rubber products, telecommunications equipment, cement, and industrial machinery.
None of the oppressive economic sanctions in retaliation for the 1979 revolution deterred Iran from forging ahead with its economic development and industrialization plans. The Rouhani administration’s misguided and haphazard switch from that tradition of inward-looking strategy of self-relying economic development to the ill-conceived outward-looking strategy has thrown tens of thousands of small and medium-sized industrial and agricultural producers into a market atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty. As has already been pointed out, the uncertainty stems from two major sources: (1) a glaring lack of protection of domestic producers against the more competitive foreign producers, and (2) a regrettable linkage or tying of any macroeconomic policy to the unending, unpredictable and, ultimately, futile results of the nuclear negotiations.
The inordinately high priority given to the dubious nuclear negotiations, which has sadly taken most of the Rouhani administration’s time and energy at the expense of everything else, has place the urgently needed macroeconomic policies on hold. The sooner such unduly delayed policies are delinked from the fraudulent imperialist game of nuclear negotiations the better.
More fundamentally, the sooner the nuclear talks are seen (or acknowledged) for what they really are—a pretext or a ploy on the part of the US and its allies, both inside and outside Iran, to adapt the country into another “client state”—and dealt with accordingly, the better. So far, Iran’s negotiating team has successfully concealed many of the gratuitous concessions they have made during the negotiations—essentially suspending the nation’s hard-earned nuclear science and technology while having gained no meaningful relief from sanctions—from the Iranian people. Whether they will succeed in continuing to sell a fraudulent deal to the Iranian people, or whether they may face a harsh backlash when the people learn of the deceitful nature or substance of the deal remains to be seen.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.
 Hooshang Amirahmadi, “Iran’s Neoliberal Austerity-Security Budget”
 As excerpted by Keith Jones, “Iranian president declares country ‘open for business’”
 Mahmood Sedaqat, “کاهش تعرفه پروفیل «یوپیویسی» ضربه دولت به تولید داخلی است,” Kayhan, Mordad 25, 1393 (August 16, 2014).
. Interview with A’le Sara, in Farsi: واردات بیش از 50 درصد لاستیک علیرغم توان تولید داخلی
 Mohammed Serfi, “Gentlemen, the Party is Over,” in Farsi: آقایان! ضیافت تمام شد!(یادداشت روز)
TEHRAN – Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Gholam Ali Khoshrou lashed out at Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for raising the possibility of using atomic weapons against Iran, and asked the UN Security Council to condemn the remarks as a threat against the international peace and innocent civilians.
“Moshe Ya’alon’s recent remarks and the Zionist official’s implied reference to the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the Islamic Republic like what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and also his threats against the Lebanese civilians, including the women and children, shows more than ever the regime’s aggressive nature,” Khoshrou said in a letter on Wednesday to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, whose country holds the rotating UN Security council presidency this month.
He underlined that the Israeli minister’s comments are evidence showing that the regime possesses atomic weapons and isn’t afraid of using them against other countries.
“The impudent remarks have challenged the primary principles ruling the armed conflicts and the international humanitarian rights and weaken the international peace and security and therefore, the UNSC is expected to condemn these irresponsible remarks and clear threats of using nuclear bomb and massacre of civilians,” the letter added.
Khoshrou also called on the UNSC president to release the letter as the Council’s document.
Ya’alon claimed last week that Israel would attack entire civilian neighborhoods during any future assault on Gaza or Lebanon.
Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem, Ya’alon threatened that “we are going to hurt Lebanese civilians to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion … we did it then, we did it in [the] Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.”
The Israeli official also appeared to threaten to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran, although he said “we are not there yet.”
In response to a question about Iran, Ya’alon said that “in certain cases” when “we feel like we don’t have the answer by surgical operations” Israel might take “certain steps” such as the Americans did in “Nagasaki and Hiroshima, causing at the end the fatalities of 200,000.”
Washington has threatened “not to sign” a final nuclear agreement with Tehran unless the Iranian government gives access to its possible military dimension-related sites and nuclear scientists.
“If we don’t get the assurances we need on the access to possible military dimension-related sites or activities, that’s going to be a problem for us,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington on Wednesday.
“We and Iran have agreed that we will undertake a process to address possible military dimensions (of past nuclear work), and part of that includes access,” Harf said. “Under the Additional Protocol … which Iran will implement and has said they will implement as part of this deal, the IAEA does get access.”
“If we cannot agree in the final instance to something that meets our bottom line for what we need in terms of access, we’re not going to sign a final deal. And that’s just something we’ve been very, very clear about,” she added.
The remarks were made after Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said that Iran would not allow inspection of its military sites.
Iran says the United States is making fresh demands in the nuclear negotiations.
“They are making new comments in the negotiations. Regarding the inspections, we have said that we will not allow foreigners to carry out inspections of any military sites,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on Wednesday.
“The enemies should know that the Iranian nation and officials will, by no means, give in to excessive demands and bullying,” the Leader underlined.
The US and its negotiating partners reached a framework nuclear agreement with Iran in Switzerland on April 2.
Tehran and the P5+1 group – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – are currently working to draw up a final accord by the end of June.
Iran has repeatedly stressed that it will not allow inspections of its military facilities and insists that the nuclear deal must only include nuclear issues.
“Iran will brook no excessive demands. The agreed parameters are those confirmed by the two sides in Lausanne and these parameters need to be stipulated in a written agreement by Iran and the P5+1,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said earlier this month.
In a decree, issued by his office, the US president said that “global economic conditions, increased oil production by certain countries, and the level of (oil) spare capacity” had allowed him to take the decision.
Saudi Arabia, a key US ally in the Middle East, has ramped up production leading to a crash in crude prices.
“I determine … that there is a sufficient supply of petroleum and petroleum products from countries other than Iran to permit a significant reduction in the volume of petroleum and petroleum products purchased from Iran by or through foreign financial institutions,” Obama said in his statement.
The statement also referred to a US measure which forbids transactions with Iran.
Under the measure, foreign companies are cut off from the US financial system and face sanctions if they engage in transactions with Iran’s financial institutions.
However, a preliminary agreement reached in Nov. 2013 allows Iran to sell around 1 million barrels per day of crude oil.
The US restrictions fly in the face of that agreement under which no new sanctions should be imposed on the Islamic Republic.
Washington contends the agreement does not include renewal of the previous restrictions.
The US and five other countries are currently discussing a possible final agreement with Iran by the end of June.
Iran says any deal should envisage immediate removal of all sanctions, with the US saying they should be lifted gradually.
An Israeli oil company has been ordered by a Swiss court to pay $1.1 billion to Iran in compensation in a long-standing legal battle related to a joint venture before the Islamic Revolution, the IRNA news agency says.
Citing an “informed source” at Iran’s Presidential Center for Legal Affairs, IRNA said the ruling relates to the Israeli company’s sale of Iranian oil and withholding the money.
Iran has been conducting three arbitration suits against Israel at French and Swiss courts in a legal tussle estimated worth several billion dollars.
The case relates to a joint venture established in 1968 under the defunct shah of Iran to ship the country’s oil to the Israeli port of Eilat in the Mediterranean for export to Europe.
Iran cancelled the contract after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 because the country doesn’t recognize Israel.
Tel Aviv, instead, expropriated Iran’s assets and launched its own litigation offensive against the Islamic Republic, which has been dismissed at international courts.
According to IRNA, the latest ruling pertains to a case related to the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC)’s delivery of 14.75 million cubic meters of crude oil worth $450 million to Israel’s Trans-Asiatic Oil Ltd. or TAO.
In 1989, the Swiss court initially ordered TAO to pay $500 million to Fimarco Anstalt, a company registered before the revolution in Lichtenstein by NIOC.
The court put off proceedings for interest claims then, issuing a final ruling only this month, which ordered TAO to pay $1.1 billion in addition to $7 million in legal fees, IRNA quoted the source as saying.
The source said Iran has also launched a case against TAO in Panama’s courts for implementation of the ruling and original claims against the Israeli firm.
Switzerland’s Federal Supreme Court has reportedly allowed Iranian clients to file an arbitration claim for $7 billion against Israel.
The original claim is related to Iran’s shares in the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co. (EAPC), as well as two oil ports and storage facilities, and a fleet of tankers which have been expropriated by Israel.
The Tel Aviv regime has issued a secrecy order under which any information about the company’s operations and news of arbitration is subject to military censorship.
The EAPC, part of TAO, is one of the most secretive companies in Israel, operating under a special legal force since 1968.
The company enjoys immunity from public control and regime supervision including its comptroller as well as the Knesset and the media.
The Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Co. was built in the aftermath of the Sinai operation of 1956 against Arab armies.
During the years that Israel controlled Sinai, Israel stole pumps and pipes from Italian and Belgian firms operating oil fields in the peninsula and built the pipeline from Eilat.
In summer 1980, Iraq’s wily president Saddam Hussein saw opportunities in the chaos sweeping the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Islamic revolution had terrified the Saudi princes and other Arab royalty who feared uprisings against their own corrupt life styles. Saddam’s help was sought, too, by CIA-backed Iranian exiles who wanted a base to challenge the fundamentalist regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And as always, the Western powers were worried about the Middle East oil fields.
So because of geography and his formidable Soviet-supplied army, Saddam was suddenly a popular fellow.
On Aug. 5, 1980, the Saudi rulers welcomed Saddam to Riyadh for his first state visit to Saudi Arabia, the first for any Iraqi president. The Saudis, of course, wanted something. At those fateful meetings, amid the luxury of the ornate palaces, the Saudis would encourage Saddam to invade Iran. The Saudis also would claim to pass on a secret message about President Jimmy Carter’s geo-political desires.
During that summer of 1980, President Carter was facing his own crisis. His failure to free 52 American hostages held in Iran was threatening his political survival. As he wrote in his memoirs, Keeping Faith, “The election might also be riding on their freedom.” Equally alarming, President Carter had begun receiving reports that the Republicans were making back-channel contacts with Iran about the hostage crisis, as he would state in a letter to a journalist nearly a decade later.
Though it was unclear then, this multi-sided political intrigue would shape the history from 1980 to the present day. Iraq’s invasion of Iran in September 1980 would deteriorate into eight years of bloody trench warfare that did little more than kill and maim an estimated one million people. What little more the war did was to generate billions of dollars in profits for well-connected arms merchants — and spawn a series of national security scandals.
In 1986-87, the Iran-Contra Affair peeled back some of the layers of secrecy, but bipartisan investigations dumped the blame mostly on White House aide Oliver North and a few low-level “men of zeal.” Later inquiries into Iraqgate allegations of secret U.S. military support for Saddam Hussein also ended inconclusively. The missing billions from the sleazy Bank of Credit and Commerce International disappeared into the mist of complex charge and counter-charge, too. So did evidence implicating the CIA and Nicaraguan Contra rebels in cocaine trafficking.
A similar fate befell the October Surprise story and President Carter’s old suspicion of Republican interference in the 1980 hostage crisis. A special House task force concluded in 1993 that it could find “no credible evidence” to support the October Surprise charges.
Haig’s Talking Points
Still, I gained access to documents from that investigation, including papers marked “secret” and “top secret” which apparently had been left behind by accident in a remote Capitol Hill storage room. Those papers filled in a number of the era’s missing pieces and established that there was more to the reports that President Carter heard in 1980 than the task force publicly acknowledged.
But besides undermining the task force’s October Surprise debunking, the papers clarified President Reagan’s early strategy for a clandestine foreign policy hidden from Congress and the American people. One such document was a two-page “Talking Points” prepared by Secretary of State Alexander Haig for a briefing of President Reagan. Marked “top secret/sensitive,” the paper recounted Haig’s first trip to the Middle East in April 1981.
In the report, Haig wrote that he was impressed with “bits of useful intelligence” that he had learned. “Both [Egypt’s Anwar] Sadat and [Saudi Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel.” This fact might have been less surprising to President Reagan, whose intermediaries allegedly collaborated with Israeli officials in 1980 to smuggle weapons to Iran behind President Carter’s back.
But Haig followed that comment with another stunning assertion: “It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd.” In other words, according to Haig’s information, Saudi Prince Fahd (later King Fahd) claimed that President Carter, apparently hoping to strengthen the U.S. hand in the Middle East and desperate to pressure Iran over the stalled hostage talks, gave clearance to Saddam’s invasion of Iran. If true, Jimmy Carter, the peacemaker, had encouraged a war.
Haig’s written report contained no other details about the “green light,” and Haig declined my request for an interview about the Talking Points. But the paper represented the first documented corroboration of Iran’s long-held belief that the United States backed Iraq’s 1980 invasion.
In 1980, President Carter termed Iranian charges of U.S. complicity “patently false.” He mentioned Iraq’s invasion only briefly in his memoirs, in the context of an unexpected mid-September hostage initiative from a Khomeini in-law, Sadeq Tabatabai.
“Exploratory conversations [in Germany] were quite encouraging,” President Carter wrote about that approach, but he added: “As fate would have it, the Iraqis chose the day of [Tabatabai’s] scheduled arrival in Iran, September 22, to invade Iran and to bomb the Tehran airport. Typically, the Iranians accused me of planning and supporting the invasion.”
The Iraqi invasion did make Iran more desperate to get U.S. spare parts for its air and ground forces. Yet the Carter administration continued to demand that the American hostages be freed before military shipments could resume. But according to House task force documents that I found in the storage room, the Republicans were more accommodating.
Secret FBI wiretaps revealed that an Iranian banker, the late Cyrus Hashemi, who supposedly was helping President Carter on the hostage talks, was assisting Republicans with arms shipments to Iran and peculiar money transfers in fall 1980. Hashemi’s older brother, Jamshid, testified that the Iran arms shipments, via Israel, resulted from secret meetings in Madrid between the GOP campaign director, William J. Casey, and a radical Islamic mullah named Mehdi Karrubi.
For whatever reasons, on Election Day 1980, President Carter still had failed to free the hostages and Ronald Reagan won in a landslide.
A ‘Private Channel’
Within minutes of President Reagan’s Inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, the hostages finally were freed. In the following weeks, the new administration put in place discreet channels to Middle East powers, as Haig flew to the region for a round of high-level consultations.
The trim silver-haired former four-star general met with Iraq’s chief allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and with Israel, which was continuing to support Iran as a counter-weight to Iraq and the Arab states.
On April 8, 1981, Haig ended his first round of meetings in Riyadh and issued a diplomatic statement lauding Saudi Arabia’s “dedication to building a better world and the wisdom of your leaders.” More to the point, he announced that “the foundation has been laid during this trip for the strengthening of U.S.-Saudi relations.”
After Haig’s return to Washington, his top secret Talking Points fleshed out for President Reagan the actual agreements that were reached at the private sessions in Saudi Arabia, as well as at other meetings in Egypt and Israel.
“As we discussed before my Middle East trip,” Haig explained to President Reagan, “I proposed to President Sadat, [Israel’s] Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin and Crown Prince Fahd that we establish a private channel for the consideration of particularly sensitive matters of concern to you. Each of the three picked up on the proposal and asked for early meetings.”
Haig wrote that on his return, he immediately dispatched his counselor, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, to Cairo and Riyadh to formalize those channels. “He held extremely useful meetings with both Sadat and Fahd,” Haig boasted. “In fact, Sadat kept Ed Muskie [President Carter’s secretary of state] waiting for an hour and a half while he [Sadat] extended the meeting.”
These early contacts with Fahd, Sadat and Begin solidified their three countries as the cornerstones of the administration’s clandestine foreign policy of the 1980s: the Saudis as the moneymen, the Israelis as the middlemen, and the Egyptians as a ready source for Soviet-made equipment.
Although President Carter had brokered a historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Sadat, Begin and Fahd had all been alarmed at signs of U.S. weakness, especially Washington’s inability to protect the Shah of Iran from ouster in 1979. Haig’s Talking Points captured that relief at President Carter’s removal from office.
“It is clear that your policies of firmness toward the Soviets has restored Saudi and Egyptian confidence in the leadership of the U.S.,” Haig wrote for the presentation to his boss. “Both [Fahd and Sadat] went much further than ever before in offering to be supportive.”
Haig said “Sadat offered to host a forward headquarters for the Rapid Deployment Force, including a full-time presence of U.S military personnel.” Sadat also outlined his strategy for invading Libya to disrupt Moammar Khadafy’s intervention in Chad. “Frankly,” observed Haig, “I believe he [Sadat] could easily get overextended in such an undertaking and [I] will try to moderate his ambitions on this score.”
‘Special Status,’ Money and Guns
Haig reported that Prince Fahd was “also very enthusiastic” about President Reagan’s foreign policy. Fahd had agreed “in principle to fund arms sales to the Pakistanis and other states in the region,” Haig wrote. The Saudi leader was promising, too, to help the U.S. economy by committing his oil-rich nation to a position of “no drop in production” of petroleum.
“These channels promise to be extremely useful in forging compatible policies with the Saudis and Egyptians,” Haig continued. “Both men value the ‘special status’ you have conferred on them and both value confidentiality. I will follow up with [Defense Secretary] Cap Weinberger and [CIA Director] Bill Casey. …The larger message emerging from these exchanges, however, is that your policies are correct and are already eliciting the enthusiastic support of important leaders abroad.”
In the following years, the Reagan administration would exploit the “special status” with all three countries to skirt Constitutional restrictions on Executive war-making powers. Secretly, the administration would tilt back and forth in the Iran-Iraq war, between aiding the Iranians with missiles and spare parts and helping the Iraqis with intelligence and indirect military shipments.
When the Soviets shot down an Israeli-leased Argentine plane carrying U.S. military supplies to Iran on July 18, 1981, the State Department showed it, too, valued confidentiality. At the time, State denied U.S. knowledge. But in a later interview, Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Veliotes said “it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment.”
According to a sworn affidavit by former Reagan national security staffer Howard Teicher, the administration enlisted the Egyptians in a secret “Bear Spares” program that gave the United States access to Soviet-designed military equipment. Teicher asserted that the Reagan administration funneled some of those weapons to Iraq and also arranged other shipments of devastating cluster bombs that Saddam’s air force dropped on Iranians troops.
In 1984, facing congressional rejection of continued CIA funding of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, President Reagan exploited the “special status” again. He tapped into the Saudi slush funds for money to support the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in their war in Central America. The President also authorized secret weapons shipments to Iran in another arms-for-hostages scheme, with the profits going to “off-the-shelf” intelligence operations. That gambit, like the others, was protected by walls of “deniability” and outright lies.
Some of those lies collapsed in the Iran-Contra scandal, but the administration quickly constructed new stonewalls that were never breached. Republicans fiercely defended the secrets and Democrats lacked the nerve to fight for the truth. The Washington media also lost interest because the scandals were complex and official sources steered the press in other directions.
When I interviewed Haig several years ago, I asked him if he was troubled by the pattern of deceit that had become the norm among international players in the 1980s. “Oh, no, no, no, no,” he boomed, shaking his head. “On that kind of thing? No. Come on. Jesus! God! You know, you’d better get out and read Machiavelli or somebody else because I think you’re living in a dream world! People do what their national interest tells them to do and if it means lying to a friendly nation, they’re going to lie through their teeth.”
But sometimes the game-playing did have unintended consequences. In 1990, a decade after Iraq’s messy invasion of Iran, an embittered Saddam Hussein was looking for pay-back from the sheikhdoms that he felt had egged him into war. Saddam was especially furious with Kuwait for slant drilling into Iraq’s oil fields and refusing to extend more credit. Again, Saddam was looking for a signal from the U.S. president, this time George H.W. Bush.
When Saddam explained his confrontation with Kuwait to U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, he received an ambiguous reply, a reaction he apparently perceived as another “green light.” Eight days later, Saddam unleashed his army into Kuwait, an invasion that required 500,000 U.S. troops and thousands more dead to reverse.
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).
By recently releasing a redacted version of top secret “talking points” that Secretary of State Alexander Haig used to brief President Ronald Reagan about Mideast developments in spring 1981, the U.S. government has inadvertently revealed what it still wants to hide from the public some 34 years later – because I found the full version in congressional files in late 1994 and first wrote about it in early 1996.
The key points that the U.S. government still doesn’t want you to know include that in early 1981 Israel already was supplying U.S. military equipment to Iran for its war with Iraq; that the Saudis had conveyed a “green light” supposedly from President Jimmy Carter to Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980; and that the Saudis agreed to finance arms sales to Pakistan and other states in the region.
All three points have relevance today because they reveal the early seeds of policies that have grown over the past three decades into the twisted vines of today’s bloody conflicts. The still-hidden sections of Haig’s “talking points” also could cause some embarrassment to the nations mentioned.
For instance, the Israelis like to present their current hostility toward Iran as derived from a principled opposition to the supposed extremism of the Islamic state, so the revelation that they were supplying U.S. military hardware to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s government, which had held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days, suggests that less noble motivations were driving Israel’s decisions.
Though ex-President Carter has denied encouraging Iraq to invade Iran in September 1980 – at the height of the hostage crisis which was destroying his reelection bid – the Saudis’ “green light” assertion at least indicates that they led Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to believe that his invasion had U.S. backing.
Whether the Saudis deceived Hussein about the “green light” or not, their instigation of the war exposes the origins of the modern Sunni-Shiite conflict, though now the Saudis are accusing the Iranians of regional aggression. The Haig “talking points” reveal that the first blow in the revival of this ancient fight was thrown not by the Shiites of Iran but by the Sunnis of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime with Saudi backing and encouragement.
The Saudi agreement to pay for arms purchases by Pakistan and other regional government sheds light on another aspect of today’s Mideast crisis. Saudi financial help to Pakistan in the 1980s became a key element in the expansion of a radical Sunni jihadist movement that coalesced along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to carry on the CIA-backed war against the Soviet army and secular Afghan forces.
That war – with the United States and Saudi Arabia each eventually pouring in $500 million a year – led to the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the collapse of the modernist, leftist regime in Kabul to be replaced by the ultra-fundamentalist Taliban which, in turn, gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda led by a wealthy Saudi, Osama bin Laden.
Thus, the outlines of today’s violent chaos across the Middle East were sketched in those years, albeit with many subsequent twists and turns.
The Persian Gulf War
After the Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988 – with both countries financially drained – Saddam Hussein turned on his suddenly stingy Sunni benefactors who began refusing further credit and demanding repayment of wartime loans. In reaction, Hussein – after consulting with U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie and thinking he had another “green light” – invaded Kuwait. That, in turn, prompted a U.S.-led deployment to both defend Saudi Arabia and drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
Although Hussein soon signaled a readiness to withdraw his troops, President George H.W. Bush rebuffed those overtures and insisted on a bloody ground war both to demonstrate the qualitative superiority of the modern U.S. military and to excite the American people about a military victory – and thus to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome.” [See Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
Bush’s military offensive succeeded in those goals but also provoked bin Laden’s outrage over the placement of U.S. troops near Islamic holy sites. The United States became the new target of Al-Qaeda’s terrorist revenge. And, for Official Washington’s emerging neoconservatives, the need to finally and completely destroy Saddam Hussein – then Israel’s bête noire – became an article of faith.
The Persian Gulf War’s demonstration of U.S. military prowess – combined with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – also encouraged the neocons to envision a strategy of “regime changes” for any government that showed hostility toward Israel. Iraq was listed as target number one, but Syria also was high on the hit list.
By the early 1990s, Israel had grown alienated from cash-strapped Iran, which had withdrawn from the lucrative arms bazaar that Israel had been running for that Shiite government through the 1980s. Gradually, Israel began to realign itself with the Sunnis bankrolled by Saudi Arabia.
The 9/11 attacks in 2001 were an expression of the anti-U.S. outrage among Sunni fundamentalists, who were funded by the Saudis and other Persian Gulf oil states, but the intricate realities of the Middle East were then little known to the American people who didn’t much know the difference between Sunni and Shiite and who lacked knowledge about the hostilities between secularists like Hussein and fundamentalists like bin Laden.
President George W. Bush and his administration exploited that ignorance to rally the public behind an invasion of Iraq in 2003 out of unrealistic fears that Saddam Hussein would share weapons of mass destruction with Osama bin Laden. Beyond the false claims about Iraq having WMDs and about a connection between Hussein and bin Laden, there was little appreciation even within the higher levels of the Bush administration about how the ouster and killing of Hussein would shatter the fragile equilibrium between Sunnis and Shiites.
With Hussein removed, the Shiite majority gained control of Iraq, distressing the Saudis who had, in many ways, launched the modern Sunni-Shiite war by pushing Iraq’s invasion of Iran in 1980 but who now saw Iran’s allies gaining control of Iraq. The Saudis and other Gulf sheiks began financing Sunni extremists who flooded into Iraq to fight the Shiites and their enablers, the U.S. military.
The Saudis also built a behind-the-scenes alliance with Israel, which saw its financial and geopolitical interests advanced by this secret collaboration. Soon, the Israelis were identifying their old arms-trading partners, the Iranians, as an “existential threat” to Israel and pushing the United States into a more direct confrontation with Iran. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Did Money Seal Israel-Saudi Alliance?”]
The battlefront in the Sunni-Shiite conflict moved to Syria, where Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Sunni states joined in supporting a rebellion to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. As that conflict grew bloodier and bloodier, Assad’s relatively secular regime became the protector of Christians, Shiites, Alawites and other minorities against the Sunni forces led by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the hyper-brutal Islamic State.
In 2014, pressed by President Barack Obama, the Saudis joined an alliance against the Islamic State, although Saudi participation was tepid at best. Saudi Arabia’s true enthusiasm was to push a series of regional proxy wars against Iran and any Shiite-related movements, such as the Houthis in Yemen and the Alawites in Syria. If that helped Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, so be it, was the Saudi view.
Though the two redacted paragraphs from Haig’s “talking points” from 34 years ago might seem to be ancient history no longer worthy of the secrecy stamp, the U.S. government still insists on shielding that information from the American people, not letting them know too much about how these entangling alliances took shape and who was responsible for them.
The primary sources for Haig were Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Saudi Prince Fahd (later King Fahd), both of whom are dead, as are several other principals in these events, including Reagan, Hussein and Haig. The two redacted paragraphs – that Haig used in his presentation to Reagan – read as follows, with underlined sections in the original “talking points”:
”Fahd was also very enthusiastic toward your policies. As a measure of his good faith, he intends to insist on a common oil policy at a forthcoming meeting of his Arab colleagues which will include a single price and a commitment to no drop in production. Also of importance was Fahd’s agreement in principle to fund arms sales to the Pakistanis and other states in the area.
“Both Sadat and Fahd provided other bits of useful intelligence (e.g. Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel). It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd.”
The redacted version – with those two paragraphs blacked out – was released by the George H.W. Bush presidential library after the “talking points” went through a declassification process. The release was in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that I had filed in connection with the so-called October Surprise affair, in which the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 was alleged to have conspired with Iranian officials and Israeli intelligence officers to delay the release of the 52 American hostages held in Iran to ensure President Carter’s reelection defeat.
In 1991, Congress began an investigation into the 1980 issue, suspecting that it may have been a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal which had involved Reagan’s secret arms-for-hostage deals with Iran in 1985-86 (also with Israeli help). The George H.W. Bush administration collected documents possibly related to the 1980 events and shared some with the congressional investigation, including the Haig “talking points.”
But Bush’s operatives – trying to protect his reelection chances in 1991-92 – engaged in delays and obstructions of the congressional inquiry, which finally agreed after Bush’s defeat by Bill Clinton in November 1992 to say that it could find “no credible evidence” that Reagan and Bush had orchestrated a delay in Iran’s release of the hostages. The hostages were finally freed on Jan. 20, 1981, immediately after Reagan was sworn in as president.
Subsequent disclosures of evidence, however, buttressed the long-held suspicions of a Republican-Iranian deal, including documents that the Bush-41 White House had withheld from Congress as well as other documents that the congressional investigation possessed but ignored. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Second Thoughts on October Surprise” or, for more details, Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]
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).
Earlier this week, Kayvon Afshari, communications director for the American Iranian Council, appeared on Another Thing with veteran broadcaster Larry Mendte to discuss the state of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and the prospect, in the face of powerful opposition, of a final deal being reached in the coming weeks.
While Afshari’s pro-diplomacy optimism was backed up by important facts not often heard in the media, Mendte made a number of comments that betrayed his role as an ostensibly objective and informed interviewer.
Right off the bat, for instance, Mendte describes the ongoing talks as a negotiation about an “Iranian nuclear arms deal.” That’s a bizarre – albeit revealing – way to begin, namely because that’s not what this is. If anything, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a nuclear arms deal, one signed back in 1968 by Iran and ratified two year later, as it proscribes all non-nuclear weapons signatories to forever forgo the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
What Iran is negotiating with six world powers about is accepting verifiable limits and constraints on its peaceful, civilian, non-weaponized, non-military, safeguarded nuclear energy program in exchange for the lifting of international and unilateral sanctions and the normalization of its nuclear dossier.
This is not an “arms deal,” as Iran has no “arms” to give up. The United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran doesn’t even have a nuclear weapons program, let alone nuclear weapons. Iranian officials, for decades, have consistently maintained they will never pursue such weapons on religious, strategic, political, moral and legal grounds. The IAEA has found no credible evidence that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program.
As the conversation gets underway, Mendte repeats the tired claim that Iran is just biding its time under intense and intrusive scrutiny until – years from now – when it will suddenly emerge with a deadly nuclear arsenal manufactured out of thin air:
The way I understand the deal, and I think some of the people that are critical of it, is that there’d be a decade-long moratorium and then, the president has admitted in an article, in an interview, that after that decade-long moratorium, Iran could start up a nuclear program just like that. As a matter fact, they could advance the program during that decade and then be able to start up, for 10 years. This just puts off the inevitable. Is that fair?
Obviously this is not “fair” and Mendte’s understanding of the deal, or anything having to do with Iran or its nuclear program for that matter, is effectively nonexistent.
Afshari rightly points out to Mendte that Iran already has a nuclear program, one that is legal and guaranteed under the NPT, also noting, “It’s not as though there’s going to be no inspections after ten years. There’s still going to be strict inspections, but they’ll be loosened after that initial ten years.”
Mendte is quick to jump in. “We had strict inspections in Iraq. That didn’t turn out really well,” he patronizingly tells Afshari, continuing, “The reason we went into Iraq, people forget, in the first place, is because the inspectors were thrown out and not allowed in. [There were] supposed to be UN inspections and he [Saddam Hussein] didn’t allow it.”
When Afshari replies that the analogy is a stretch as Iran has never kicked out inspectors and that Iraq’s nuclear program was very different than Iran’s, Mendte is undeterred, insisting on playing out his analogy. “There was a nuclear arms deal in place” before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he says, “and what I’m saying is that lead to the Iraq War. I mean, I know there [were] other factors including 9/11, including President Bush wanting to go after Iraq, but that was the catalyst: the fact that they left out UN inspectors, if you remember at the time.”
While Afshari is a gracious guest and tries to steer the conversation back on track, he really shouldn’t have been so accommodating to Mendte’s version of history. Basically, he should have told him was flat-out wrong. Beyond the fact that Mendte seems to have forgotten that Bush administration claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were false (and that there was no “nuclear arms deal in place” with Iraq), his claim about international inspectors is also completely and totally bogus. How so, you ask?
Saddam never kicked inspectors out of Iraq.
This claim is a canard, a wholesale myth, a straight-up falsehood. It was built up by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq and dutifully reinforced by the mainstream media. In fact, between late November 2002 and mid-March 2003, weapons inspectors from the IAEA and the U.N. Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) conducted more than 750 inspections at 550 sites in Iraq.
In January 2003, UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix told reporters that inspectors had been “covering the country in ever wider sweeps” for months but “haven’t found any smoking guns.” An Associated Press dispatch from the time noted, “In almost two months of surprise visits across Iraq, U.N. arms monitors have inspected 13 sites identified by U.S. and British intelligence agencies as major ‘facilities of concern,’ and reported no signs of revived weapons building.”
IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei delivered a report to the U.N. Security Council on March 7, 2003, during which he spoke of increased Iraqi cooperation with international inspections and thoroughly dismantled Bush administration claims about aluminum tubes, high-strength magnets, and importing yellowcake from Niger. ElBaradei concluded, “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq” and clearly stated the intention “to continue our inspection activities.”
Inspections ended abruptly eleven days later, on March 18, 2003, for one reason: the United States was about to start dropping bombs all over the place.
“In early March,” Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” blog wrote in 2011, Blix “began getting warnings from senior U.S. and British officials about the safety of the inspectors. Then the company that supplied helicopters for the teams withdrew its equipment from Iraq.”
News reports at the time leave no doubt as to what really happened.
“In the clearest sign yet that war with Iraq is imminent, the United States has advised U.N. weapons inspectors to begin pulling out of Baghdad, the U.N. nuclear agency chief said Monday,” reported the Associated Press on March 17, 2003. The article continued:
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the recommendation was given late Sunday night both to his Vienna-based agency hunting for atomic weaponry and to the New York-based teams looking for biological and chemical weapons.”
“Late last night… I was advised by the U.S. government to pull out our inspectors from Baghdad,” ElBaradei told the IAEA’s board of governors.
Within hours, the evacuation began. “U.N. weapons inspectors climbed aboard a plane and pulled out of Iraq on Tuesday after President Bush issued a final ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to step down or face war,” AP reported the next day. “U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday ordered all U.N. inspectors and support staff, humanitarian workers and U.N. observers along the Iraq-Kuwait border to evacuate Iraq after U.S. threats to launch war.”
“[A]t no time did Iraq throw out the inspectors,” wrote Kessler, in an attempt to forever put these talking points to rest. “[I]nspectors voluntarily ended their mission because of the threat of military action by the United States and its allies.
Larry Mendte’s regurgitation of Rumsfeldian propaganda – 13 years after the illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq – should cast doubt on his credibility as a broadcaster. Let’s hope a correction and mea culpa are forthcoming – not to mention an apology to Afshari.
May 10, 2015 – I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by Larry Mendte’s inability to grasp basic facts. A quick look at some of his past rants on Iran makes clear he’s long bought into the most bellicose and alarmist propaganda pushed by Iran hawks and is incapable of any semblance of critical thought. He sees the U.S. invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as warnings to other nations, not as lessons to be learned about jingoism, faulty intelligence, war crimes, and imperial adventurism. He thinks Iran has a “nuclear weapons program.” He thinks sanctions “brought Iran to the negotiating table.” He says he knows that Iran wants a nuclear bomb.
Larry Mendte bloviates like he’s in a Darrell Hammond sketch. With one exception: he should be taken far less seriously.
An Iranian man sits on the beach in the port city of Chabahar, southeastern Iran, on March 7, 2015 [Xinhua]
As New Delhi aims to take advantage of a thaw in Tehran’s relations with world powers, India and Iran have reached a deal on Wednesday to develop a strategic port in southeast Iran.
Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi, Iranian Minister for Transport and Urban Development and his Indian counterpart Nitin Gadkari signed an inter-Governmental Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding India’s participation in the development of the Chabahar Port in Iran.
“With the signing of this MoU, Indian and Iranian commercial entities will now be in a position to commence negotiations towards finalisation of a commercial contract under which Indian firms will lease two existing berths at the port and operationalise them as container and multi-purpose cargo terminals,” the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Richard Verma, US Ambassador in India, cautioned against “rushing in” with the deal saying there is no guarantee that a final deal will be secured with Tehran by a June 30 deadline.
India intends to lease two berths at Chabahar for 10 years. The port will be developed through a special purpose vehicle (SPV) which will invest $85.21 million to convert the berths into a container terminal and a multi-purpose cargo terminal.
The port of Chabahar in southeast Iran is central to India’s efforts to open up a route to landlocked Afghanistan where it has developed close security ties and economic interests.
“The availability of a functional container and multipurpose cargo terminal at Chabahar Port would provide Afghanistan’s garland road network system alternate access to a sea port, significantly enhancing Afghanistan’s overall connectivity to regional and global markets, and providing a fillip to the ongoing reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in the country,” said the Indian Foreign Ministry late on Wednesday evening.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in his meeting with the Indian Minister in Tehran said, “Resumption of Iran-India cooperation in the southeastern Iranian port city of Chabahar would lead to a new chapter in relations of two countries.”
Meanwhile, India’s fellow BRICS member, South Africa is sending a delegation headed by its Foreign Minister for talks with Iranian leaders.
South Africa hopes to restore energy ties with Iran, its energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said on Sunday.