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Is the North Korea Deal a Stalking Horse for Trump’s Mid-East Makeover?

By Alastair CROOKE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 22.03.2018

Clearly Donald Trump’s Presidency is entering a new phase. He is feeling his oats: he now has successes under his belt, and seems emboldened, and ready to pursue his impulsive, instinctive personal style, which he believes, took him to the Presidency. Things are about to get ‘interesting’ (in the Chinese sense). He is throwing off his restraints (Tillerson on JCPOA; and Cohn on tariffs). And other conventionalist ‘impedimenta’ (i.e. McMaster) may go, too, in coming days. General Mattis will cut a somewhat lonely figure in the future, perhaps.

Tillerson, last October said: “The president is a very unconventional person, as we all know, in terms of how he communicates, how he likes to create action-forcing events. And so, the President often takes steps to force an action when he feels things are just not moving.” So, it seems that Trump is forcing ‘action’ now. But with what end in mind? And, more importantly, is that end realistic, or will it take us to disaster – even to war?

Trump relishes risk, and elevating the stakes, sky-high. And his choices for replacements to this week’s dismissals reflect this: David Stockman describes Larry Kudlow as being “off the very (deep) deep-end for years, on the more important matters of deficits, tax-cut magic, Fed money-printing, wild-eyed economic growth rates, and, above all else, incorrigible cheerleading for Wall Street’s serial financial bubbles.” In short, Trump is casting aside Cohn’s conventional banker’s caution, in order to double-down on ‘supply-side’ economics (a big risk when government debt already stands at 105% of nominal GDP, and the US has a three trillion plus borrowing requirement already baked in, for the next three years ).

And he has just cast overboard, Tillerson’s old-style, courteous and conventional diplomacy, for that of a polarizing ‘hawk’ – Mike Pompeo. Not just any old hawk, but an North Korea hawk, as well as an Iran hawk; and a Russia hawk too. And, is, just to round off the picture, an Islamophobe (as extensively documented by Jim Lobe), and – like Trump – a partisan, Israeli loyalist.

“Just two days before he was named Rex Tillerson’s successor as secretary of state”, Uri Friedman has noted in The Atlantic : “CIA Director Mike Pompeo … an unsparing critic of the nuclear agreement with Iran, vowed to not repeat Barack Obama’s mistakes. What he promised was breathtaking: that President Trump would secure a better deal with North Korea … than his predecessor did with Iran, which had yet to acquire nuclear weapons.” Friedman continues: “The previous administration was negotiating from a position of weakness. This administration will be negotiating from a position of enormous strength”… The administration’s plan for the talks, [Pompeo] explained, is to maintain and increase economic pressure on North Korea while aiming for the “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of North Korea … [unlike Obama, who left] “the Iranians with a breakout capacity” to produce nuclear weapons, Pompeo noted. The “human capital and enrichment capacity” behind Iran’s nuclear-weapons program “continues to remain in place” despite its pause in testing, he cautioned – and “President Trump is determined to prevent that from happening in North Korea.”

Friedman comments: “What made Pompeo’s comments remarkable wasn’t just his assertion that the United States could compel North Korea to do what most experts believe North Korea never will: fully give up its nuclear weapons. It was also how confidently he made the claim, given what he’s said in the past about North Korea.”

Not surprisingly, the American and European press is replete with questions about whether Trump, by making Pompeo Secretary of State, finally has fully succumbed to the neo-cons (especially as John Bolton appears to be being considered for a senior position in Trump’s Administration, too). It has prompted serious and cool-headed commentators to predict that Pompeo’s appointment, plus Bolton hovering in the wings, suggest that we are heading for war with Iran and Russia.

The latter may well be right, but perhaps we should try to unpack this a little further. The ‘anti Trump, covert US state’, and its collaborators amongst Europeans and ‘globalist’ European intelligence services, evidently is ratchetting-up the pressure on Russia at every point – hoping to push President Putin into some ill-judged over-reaction, that would compel Trump to take some irreversible, rupturing action against Russia. They hope to corner Trump into burning his bridges with Putin, for good. But Trump bends a bit under the extreme force of these winds, but stays afoot – and the Russian President does the same, despite the heat of severe provocations.

Does Trump seek war with Russia? No. But the covert state does; and will try everything to get it. Trump does want war with Russia. In fact, he wants President Putin to help him make peace in the Middle East.

Tillerson is cast aside not because Trump wants nuclear war, but as a result of the mismatch between Trump’s mode of negotiation – as expressed in the Art of the Deal – and the conventional diplomacy of building good relations and a rapport with one’s counter-parties, as conducted by Tillerson. Trump simply does not believe that Tillerson’s way works. The latter clearly is not Trump’s way. He does not believe in it. He demands leverage. He insists to show strength. He hikes his threats to Armageddon levels; pushes the stakes sky-high, and just when it seems that tensions inexorably will explode, he tries to secure a deal.

This is the point of Pompeo, I suggest: He is the ‘enabler’ to push the stakes to the very limit; the ‘hawk’ that makes everyone fear – and come to believe – that conflict is inevitable; but who – at one minute before midnight – offers a deal. It is a process wholly different to the laboured, incremental, step-by-step approach of conventional diplomacy. Could Tillerson really have made such a bluff – of imminent war, of ‘fire and fury’ – credible? He is perhaps, too nice.

So, what is going on? Trump, it seems, is emboldened sufficiently to try to unfold his ‘plan’ for Middle East peace. It is not so much a ‘plan’ in a conceptual sense, but rather a series of transactional steps that he seems to have in mind. But key to this sequencing, is the ‘seed’ planted by Mark Dubowitz and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), which is funded primarily by right-wing supporters of Israel, including billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is a long standing advocate for war on Iran.

Politico describes Dubowitz as “a key outside adviser to the Trump Administration on Iran”. And the point on which Dubowitz has been insisting with Trump, is that any North Korean nuclear deal is intimately interconnected with the Iranian JCPOA – and that both ultimately connect to making peace in the Middle East.

The FDD thesis is that “the Iran-North Korea axis dates back more than 30 years. The two regimes have exchanged nuclear expertise, cooperated widely on missile technologies, and run similar playbooks against Western negotiators. The fear: Tehran is using Pyongyang for work no longer permitted under the 2015 nuclear deal [i.e on nuclear warheads] while [Iran is] perfecting North Korean-derived missile delivery systems, back home [which are not covered by the JCPOA]”. Or, in other words, that Pyongyang has sub-contracted to itself the development of an ICBM capable nuclear warhead, whilst Tehran – on the other hand – is focused on developing missile capability. And this presumption of a division of labour between North Korea and Iran essentially is at the root of Trump’s demand that the Europeans must get Iran to relinquish the so-called ‘sunset clauses’, and the Iranian missile programme – lest Iran enable North Korea to achieve the capability to land a nuclear bomb on the US.

Is there really this conspiracy? There may have been some co-operation years ago, in the era of Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan, but the FDD thesis is more speculation, than substance. North Korea’s and Iran’s aims differ: North Korea wants inter-continental missiles that can reach America. Iran doesn’t. It wants short and medium range missiles for self-defence.

Be that as it may: there are grounds to believe that Trump’s working hypothesis is based on the FDD theory. And further, that ending this supposed interplay between Iran and North Korea constitutes the pillar on which Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ for the Middle East rests.

So, Pompeo’s job is to convince Kim Il Jung that he faces utter destruction unless he takes the path of divesting the state of its nuclear programme; and to do something similar to Iran in respect to its (hypothetical break-out capacity), and its missile programme: i.e. Pompeo must achieve double de-nuclearisation by escalating the stakes sky-high to the point that everyone fears war – in the expectation that North Korea and Iran will be the ones to back down (The Art of the Deal).

And this ‘double de-nuclearisation’ – this line of thinking goes – will make Israel and Saudi Arabia feel safer: Saudi can normalise with Israel, and the latter can then do something for the Palestinians (according to this White House optic). With the final part to this construct being the quiet understanding that Russia will restrain Iran, Syria and Hizbullah; and Trump will commit to restrain Israel … Peace in our time?

Maybe. But just to be clear, this is a highly risky project, which may well lead, instead, to war. North Korea may call Trump and Pompeo’s ‘fire and fury’ bluff (leaving Washington without any ‘off ramp’, except the very military action which the bluff is supposed to obviate). Iran may elect to ignore Pompeo too; it has learned to distrust America’s word. Israel may fear Iran’s conventional weapons as much – or more so – than Iran’s nonexistent nuclear warheads, and seek to entangle the US in a war to destroy Iran, and thus preserve Israel’s regional hegemony.

And, then there is the question of whether America is at present ‘agreement capable’? The unitive US state is fragmented. For whom or what does Trump speak? Can Trump give either North Korea or Iran any credible security guarantees, in the event of some agreement? Would Congress co-operate? Would the covert state co-operate? Will super-hawk Pompeo remain loyal to Trump’s vision? Will the neo-cons manipulate this process towards the conflicts that they seek to ignite?

Eliot Cohen in The Atlantic has written of Pompeo:

“He is sometimes described as a Trump loyalist, but that is nonsense: No one is loyal to Trump—he is too indecent a human being to attract such normal personal attachments. The administration is not divided into people who are loyal to Trump and those who are not. Rather, it is divided between those who know how to manipulate his vanity, his hatreds, his sensitivities, and those who do not.”

Trump may discover that the intransigence of his presumed opponents is not his biggest problem, but taking Washington – and all its burning hatreds – with him, represents the bigger challenge.

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Israel is Lying, What They Bombed in 2007 Wasn’t a Nuclear Facility’ – Analyst

Sputnik – March 22, 2018

Israel’s Defense Forces stated that four Israeli jets destroyed a nuclear facility in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor in 2007. Sputnik discussed the reasons why this announcement has been made now with Dr. Taleb Ibrahim, a Syrian political analyst and deputy director of the Damascus Centre for Strategic Studies.

Sputnik: Why has this information been disclosed only now, after eleven years?

Dr. Taleb Ibrahim: I think that Israel, the Israelis are lying because what they bombed in 2007 was not a nuclear facility because it is very well known that Syria doesn’t have such kinds of facilities and actually there isn’t any nuclear program in Syria. They targeted a certain military base in Syria under the pretext of attacking a nuclear facility, so because of that at the present time they are revealing that to send a signal to Iran that they are ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities and the Israeli air force is able to reach any place in the region; I think this is only a message of deterrence against Iran or physiological deterrence against Iran, not any more.

Sputnik: Do you think Israel is able to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, does it have the capability?

Dr. Taleb Ibrahim: No, never, because let us be realistic here, Iranian nuclear facilities are buried in the depth of the ground in remote places, this is first, because when Israel bombed the Iraqi [civilian] nuclear reactor in 1982 and when they bombed Syria’s [military] facility, that attack gave a message to the Iranian leadership that something might happen in Iran.

Sputnik: How will this announcement affect Israeli-Syria relations? What impact would it have on the already tense situation in the region now?

Dr. Taleb Ibrahim: I think that the revelation about bombing the Syrian facility will add more and more tension to the explosive situation between Syria and Israel. I think Syria will finally respond to all Israeli attacks on Syrian territory that [have transpired] from 2007 until the present time, and I think the shooting down of the Israeli aircraft a few weeks ago was a message to Israel that everything is changing, the rules of the game have changed, and now Syria is much stronger than at any time in its history, it enjoys an active Russian military presence and active Russian support and active Iranian support. So I think Syria will bomb but when and how I’m not sure about that but, of course, there will be a response, and the Middle East should be stable until a permanent and just peace changes the situation between Syria and Israel.

Sputnik: What are your hopes and wishes for the future moving forward for relations between Israel and Syria? What can you advise both leaders in terms of the best advice?

Dr. Taleb Ibrahim: I think that the most important advice and the most important vital issue is to make peace between the two countries. I’ve read an article by Uri Sagi who was Director of the Israeli Military Intelligence years ago, and he said we’ve lost a very great chance when we couldn’t reach peace between Syria and Israel in the era of ex-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. So making peace between the two countries will stabilize the Middle East, and at that point there will be no tension even between Israel and Iran and no tension between Israel and Lebanon. I think that a permanent and complete peace in all of the region can be reached by regaining the Golan Heights and by giving the Palestinians their own state, this is something that will normalize the situation for all populations living in the area.

March 22, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran official warns Europe against playing US-Israeli game

Press TV – March 17, 2018

A senior Iranian official has warned European countries against playing into the hands of the United States and the Israeli regime as European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal propose fresh sanctions against Tehran under the pressure of Washington.

“Defense capabilities, particularly the missile program, of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which have a deterrent nature, will firmly be continued based on national security necessities,” Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani said in a meeting with Oman’s Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi in Tehran on Saturday.

“Political and media propaganda will have no impact on their development,” he added.

Britain, France and Germany have proposed new EU sanctions on Iran over its missile program and its regional role, a confidential document said on Friday.

The joint paper was sent to the EU capitals to sound out support for such sanctions as they would need the backing of all 28 member states of the bloc, Reuters quoted two people familiar with the matter as saying.

The proposal is allegedly part of an EU strategy to appease US President Donald Trump and preserve the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed between Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries in 2015 amid constant US threats to withdraw from it.

Shamkhani said US failure to fulfill its obligations and its illegal approach to the JCPOA as well as Europe’s passivity with regard to Washington’s approaches clearly show that regional countries need to focus on finding a solution to the ongoing issues and crises in the region by themselves.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will give a proper and due response to the US constant violations of its commitments under the JCPOA and will accept no change, interpretation or new measure that would limit the JCPOA,” the SNSC secretary said.

His comments came a day after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned the US against the “painful mistake” of pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

“Considering what has been envisaged in the JCPOA in the field of research and development and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s continued measures to develop its peaceful nuclear capability, if the US makes the mistake of exiting the JCPOA, it will definitely be a painful mistake for the Americans,” Zarif told reporters.

Elsewhere in his comments, Shamkhani said growing deep relations between Iran and Oman had led to consensus on regional issues.

“The development of constructive and all-out relations with neighbors based on common interests is the top priority of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign policy,” he added.

The senior Iranian official lashed out at certain regional countries for adopting “a hasty and arrogant attitude and statements” which have posed serious challenges to the handling of regional crises.

He expressed his concern about the killing of Yemeni women and children in airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as the catastrophic conditions of the oppressed Yemeni people.

“The shared view of Iran and Oman on the Yemeni crisis is based on putting an immediate end to war, establishing ceasefire, lifting the blockade, dispatching humanitarian aid and holding Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue to form new political structures based on the Yemeni people’s demands and vote,” Shamkhani pointed out.

He emphasized that the Yemeni crisis cannot be settled through military approaches and urged a political initiative in this regard.

About 14,000 people have been killed since the onset of Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen in March 2015. Much of the Arabian Peninsula country’s infrastructure, including hospitals, schools and factories, has been reduced to rubble due to the war.

The United Nations says a record 22.2 million people are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

The UN Security Council on March 15 warned about the worsening humanitarian situation in war-battered Yemen, stating the status quo is having a “devastating” impact on the lives of civilians in the impoverished Arab country.

“The Security Council expresses its grave concern at the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen, and the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict on civilians,” it said in a statement.

Oman urges dialogue instead of military approaches

The Omani foreign minister, for his part, criticized military approaches to regional issues and urged the path of dialogue and understanding instead.

He added that Oman regards Iran as a trustworthy neighboring country and commended the Islamic Republic’s role in establishing stability and security in the region.

Bin Alawi arrived in Tehran Friday night on a two-day visit to hold talks with senior Iranian officials about mutual and regional issues.

Iran rejects speculations about bin Alawi’s visit

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Saturday rejected speculation about a link between the Omani minister’s visit to Tehran and US Defense Secretary James Mattis’s recent travel to Muscat and said bin Alawi’s trip was taking place with the purpose of strengthening mutual relations.

“Although Oman has very good relations with many countries in the world, Mr. Yusuf bin Alawi’s trip to Tehran has nothing to do with Mattis’s visit to this country,” Qassemi said.

He strongly rejected any link between bin Alawi’s visit to Tehran and US policies on the JCPOA.

The Iranian spokesperson said, “Iran and Oman are cooperating with each other on a wide range of issues and the two sides seek to use the two countries’ existing capacities to further deepen economic, commercial, banking and financial cooperation.”

March 17, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Wishes for Nowruz

Iranians Prepare to Celebrate the Persian New Year, Netanyahu Is Sounding the Drums of War

By Miko Peled | American Herald Tribune | March 17, 2108

As millions of Iranians prepare to celebrate the Persian new year, Nowruz, we should extend our wishes for peace and prosperity to our Iranian brothers and sisters. However, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is once again sounding the drums of war and his target is once again Iran. It seems that when the going gets tough Netanyahu goes for Iran. He has done it several times in the past and most recently during his latest visit to Washington, DC. Netanyahu – arguably in an effort to divert attention from his impending indictment – insisted that “Iran, Iran, Iran” is a threat. And although all who visit Iran talk about the richness of its culture, the beauty of its landscapes and the kindness of its people, according to Netanyahu “Darkness is descending on our region,” and that darkness is caused by Iran. “Iran,” a country that has never attacked or occupied anyone, “is building an aggressive empire” which includes, “Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen” and “more to come.”

It is no coincidence that Netanyahu specifically mentioned Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen. The message that he sends is clear: the destruction of Iraq and Syria must go on because of Iran; the destabilization of Lebanon and the demonizing of Hezbollah must go on, the genocide in Gaza too will go on, not because of Zionist genocidal tendencies but because of Iranian influence and finally, in a message of support to Mohammad Bin Salman, Netanyahu gave his blessing to the ongoing Saudi bombing in Yemen. It so happens that during his recent visit to the UK, Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia just sealed a deal to receive billions of pounds worth of weapons to be used in the ongoing slaughter in Yemen. Netanyahu explained that these are the arms of the “Iranian empire” and even though the lion’s share of the killing in the Middle East is done by the US, Israel and their cronies, Iran is the problem. “More to come” Netanyahu added presumably as a threat that Israel is keeping open the possibility that still other countries may see destruction.

Though he did not mention it specifically, at the center of Netanyahu’s speech is the new vision for the Middle East- sewn together by Israel, The United States and the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman. What has been named “The Deal of the Century” in English and Safkat El Kurn in Arabic (the Arabic name being less ambitious as it means the deal of the decade) is a vision of an “open” and “moderate” Saudi Arabia which like Jordan and Egypt will have diplomatic relations with Israel ignoring the Palestinian people’s struggle against Zionist oppression. In return Saudi Arabia will be permitted to continue its own genocide in Yemen and receive Western support in its ongoing feud with Iran. It will also be spared, like Egypt and Jordan, “Israel’s longtime peace partners,” the lectures on human rights violations. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are all reactionary dictatorships with leaders who have no regard for human rights and who sold their Palestinian brothers in return for billions of dollars. The message for Arab regimes is clear – collaborate with Israel and the West and you will be allowed to oppress your people and line your pockets with cash, or stand with the Palestinians and find yourself in ruins like Iraq and Syria or under constant threat like Iran. Clearly, Mohammad Bin Salman made his choice clear.

“The force behind so much of what is bad is this radical tyranny in Tehran. If I have a message for you today, it’s a very simple one: We must stop Iran. We will stop Iran.”

Stop Iran from doing what? Stop Iran from supporting the Palestinian struggle for freedom. Stop Iran from calling to remove the racist Zionist regime from Palestine and to allow for a democracy to emerge. How is Iran a dangerous radical tyranny more than Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia? The difference is that the latter are happy to collaborate with Israel.

Netanyahu is accustomed to receiving political gifts from the U.S. and particularly from Donald Trump. These are gifts that solidify his power at home, and this time he received the following: “The President has also made it clear that if the fatal flaws of the nuclear deal are not fixed, he will walk away from the deal and restore sanctions.” The United States walking away from the Iran agreement will suit Israel fine, and will show Bin Salman that when it comes to the US, Israel can deliver. While other Israeli politicians run around the like children, with few achievements to show Netanyahu is a serious player on national and international issues.

The troubling partnership between Bin Salman, Netanyahu and Trump (through his son-in-law Jared Kushner) will inevitably crash and burn. Both Bin Salman and Netanyahu represent regimes that have no legitimacy and the Kushner-Trump foreign policy is founded on Zionist mythology and grand ambitions that disregard the will of the people of the region. It is an irony that Netanyahu could not resist calling Iran dishonest, “I warned that Iran’s regime had repeatedly lied to the international community, that it could not be trusted,” and then add the biggest lie of them all, “Israel remains committed to achieving peace with all our neighbors, including the Palestinians.”

Hard as it may be to believe, Netanyahu’s obsession with Iran has nothing to do with Iran and it has nothing to do with any real or perceived threat by Iran. Netanyahu discovered that Iran is a perfect target to use each time he needs a smoke screen. As Palestinians die a slow agonizing death due to his policies, thirsty for water, desperate for urgent medical care and fighting for their freedom, killed in the streets and held in Israeli torture chambers, Netanyahu the magician is terrifying the world with a smoke screen intended to turning the world’s attention to a threat that does not exist. Still, one may safely assume some seventy-five million Iranians are concerned for their country and their lives.

As Nowruz approaches, I wish all Iranians inner strength, peace, prosperity and Nowruz Mobarak.

Miko Peled is a writer and human rights activist. He is an international speaker and the author of “The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine”.

March 17, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US in Afghanistan to Influence Russia, Iran, China – Russian Foreign Ministry

Sputnik – March 14, 2108

The United States retains its presence in Afghanistan to exert influence on neighboring countries and regional rivals – namely, Russia, Iran and China, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“In our opinion, the United States is in Afghanistan primarily with the aim of controlling and influencing the political processes in its neighboring countries, and also demonstrating its power to its regional competitors, primarily China, Russia and Iran. The United States is clearly trying to achieve destabilization of Central Asia and later transfer it to Russia in order to subsequently present itself as the only defender against potential and emerging threats in the region,” Kabulov said.

According to the diplomat, Russia and other countries neighboring with Afghanistan have questions about the true goals and time frame of the US military presence in the Central Asian country.

“If the United States and its NATO allies intend to continue their destructive policy in Afghanistan, this will mean that the West is heading toward the revival of the Cold War era in this part of the world. We closely monitor the developments and are ready to respond in cooperation with our partners and other like-minded people,” Kabulov noted.

The diplomat pointed out that Washington still failed to understand that the Afghan conflict could not be resolved solely by military means, stressing that it was impossible to defeat the Taliban by force.

Moscow is puzzled by the attempts of the United States and NATO to persuade Afghanistan to replace Russian weapons and military equipment, such move leads to reduction of Afghan’s military potential, Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“The course taken by the United States and NATO to persuade Kabul to replace Russia-made small arms and aircraft is surprising, as it will inevitably lead to a decrease in the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces and further deterioration of the situation,” Kabulov said.

The diplomat reminded that a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on Russia’s defense industry assistance to Afghanistan had entered into force in November 2016, adding that the document created the legal framework for Russian assistance in arming and equipping the Afghan security forces.

“At the moment, negotiations are underway on repairs and supplies of spare parts for the Afghan Air Force’s helicopters for various purposes, produced in Russia (the Soviet Union),” Kabulov added.

Afghanistan Parliamentary Election

The parliamentary election in Afghanistan is unlikely to take place in July in the current circumstances, Kabulov said.

“I do not think that the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan will be held in July this year as scheduled. The Taliban continue to control about half of the country’s territory, engage in hostilities, organize and carry out terrorist attacks in large cities, and, apparently, are not going to make compromises and reconciliation with the Afghan government,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) is also unlikely to accomplish all the necessary procedures before the date set for the vote, given that the commission has announced earlier that the registration of voters will complete only by early August, the diplomat noted.

Furthermore, disagreements between the presidential administration and its political opposition regarding the parameters of the upcoming elections still remain unresolved, the official noted.

“In my opinion, if elections are conducted in the current circumstances, their results will not improve the political situation in the country and confidence in the current government, will not force the armed opposition to cooperate with the government,” Kabulov added.

The diplomat also noted that the Daesh terror group posed a serious threat to holding the election.

“The Daesh jihadists pose a serious threat to the security of the conduct of elections, especially in the north and a number of eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Some polling stations in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab and Ghazni are the most problematic in terms of security, according to the IEC data. I think that, in fact, the list of problematic areas in terms of organization of voting is much longer,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan Reconciliation Talks

Russia considers the so-called Moscow format of talks an optimal platform for the promotion of national reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov noted.

“Unfortunately, the existence of a large number of international formats on the Afghan issue has not significantly contributed to the involvement of the Taliban in peace negotiations. In this regard, we consider the Moscow format of consultations launched by us in early 2017 as the optimal platform for substantive negotiations to promote national reconciliation and establish a constructive dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” Kabulov said.

Kabulov also noted that Moscow considered the format of talks in the Afghan capital as one approach toward achieving a collective solution to the problems surrounding Afghan settlement.

“A signal of international support for the resolution of the intra-Afghan conflict through political dialogue with the government of Afghanistan has been sent to the Taliban. The Taliban ignored the recent meeting of the ‘Kabul process’ in the Afghan capital, insisting on direct talks with the United States,” the diplomat added.

In February 2017, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan came together in Moscow for talks to promote the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan through regional cooperation with Kabul in the leading role. Apart from the aforementioned states, the latest round in April gathered five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The United States refused to take part in the meeting.

Afghanistan has long suffered political, social and security-related instability because of the simmering insurgency, including that of the Taliban, but also because of the actions of the Daesh terror group.

The United States has been in Afghanistan for almost 17 years following the 9/11 attacks. Before his election, Trump slammed sending US troops and resources to the Central Asian country.

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Retired US Colonel: Israel Is Dragging the United States Into World War III

By Darius Shahtahmasebi | Mint Press News | March 12, 2018

Israel is in the process of plunging America into a war with Iran that could destroy what’s left of the Middle East and ignite a third world war, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, warned in Washington approximately a week ago.

Wilkerson, a retired army colonel who now teaches at Washington-area universities, didn’t hold back in his critique of where the status quo is leading the United States via its client state, Israel.

At the annual Israel lobby conference at the National Press Club, sponsored by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, Wilkerson explained that Israel is headed toward “a massive confrontation with the various powers arrayed against it, a confrontation that will suck America in and perhaps terminate the experiment that is Israel and do irreparable damage to the empire that America has become.”

One of the principal antagonists begging for a war with Iran that Wilkerson identified was none other than Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Russian-born Defense Minister. Wilkerson stated:

Lieberman will speak in April in New York City at the annual conference of the Jerusalem Post. The title is, ‘The New War with Iran.’ It is clear that he’s [at] the forefront of promoting this war.

And nowhere does my concern about such a war focus more acutely at the moment than Syria. As [the] president of France Emmanuel Macron described it recently, ‘The current rhetoric of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Israel is pushing the region toward conflict with Iran.’”

Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s incessant denigrations of Iran, including claiming the greatest danger facing the Jewish state is the Islamic republic — a country he accuses of fanning the flames of anti-Semitism — Wilkerson blew these accusations out of the park using simple logic. He said:

This antisemitism bit, of course, as we’ve heard today, is almost always a weapon of choice for Israeli politicians under stress hurled, in this case, at the country whose Jewish population — by the way, the largest in the Middle East outside of Turkey and Israel — lives in Iran in reasonable peace.”

He continued:

And don’t forget that these words were uttered by the man who, as we’ve heard today, is doing everything he can to expel dark-skinned African refugees largely from Eritrea and Sudan from Israel, where most have come as legitimate refugees.”

Wilkerson highlighted the hypocrisy of Netanyahu and his cohorts in more ways than one. For example, Wilkerson referred to Netanyahu’s grandiose speech at the Munich Security Conference in which he directly challenged Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif while holding remnants of a drone allegedly downed over Israeli airspace. Israel claimed the drone was Iranian-manufactured. Wilkerson noted that in response, Iran found itself being rescued by Lebanon’s Defense Minister, who said he had an Israeli drone over his head virtually 24 hours a day.

Further, the mainstream media and the governments that benefit from their narratives pay close to zero attention to the fact that Israel routinely violates Lebanese airspace with its sophisticated aircraft. Rather, Iran is constantly painted as the major threat and violator of international law.

“Of late of course,” Wilkerson continued, “Tel Aviv is increasingly using Iran’s presence in Syria, its support for Bashar al-Assad, and its alleged drive– and I love this one, and my military comrades love it, too– for a Shia corridor from Tehran to Aden, as the hoary beast that must not be at any cost, including of course America’s treasure and lives, as his probable cause and existential prompt for action.”

But why is there a danger that the U.S. will be dragged into this war, and why does Israel need America’s help? As Wilkerson explains:

I believe the answer is fairly clear once you push aside the cobwebs that surround it. The legitimacy of great power is what I call it. And that is precisely what Netanyahu and Lieberman desire.

“It’s also what Riyadh desires, especially with the new boy king Mohammed bin Salman, now an erstwhile ally of Israel.

“In short, the IDF could defend Israel but it could not attack Iran. Not successfully, anyway. And were it to do so, it would be damned internationally and thus isolated even more than it already is today, perhaps devastatingly so.”

Last year, a top Israeli general tasked with writing his country’s defense policy admitted that Israel cannot take on Iran’s military alone if the day should come that the regional powers face off in a direct military confrontation, saying they would need to rely on the U.S. for assistance

According to a Politico report, during the Obama years, Israel drew up a military strike option but never really used it. Deep down, Israel knew its effectiveness lied in its ability to pressure the U.S. government into taking further action of its own lest it be dragged into a catastrophic war with Iran that it may or may not be prepared to fight. From the Politico report:

They [the Israelis] ordered the Israel Defense Forces and the intelligence arms to prepare for a huge operation: an all-out air attack in the heart of Iran. Some $2 billion was spent on preparations for the attack and for what the Israelis believed would take place the day after – a counterattack either by Iranian warplanes and missiles or by its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. The latter could use either the 50,000 missiles it had stockpiled (by 2018, Israeli intelligence estimated the number had increased to 100,000), or it could activate its terror cells abroad, with the assistance of Iranian intelligence, to strike at Israeli or Jewish targets. This is what it did in 1992 and 1994 when it responded to Israeli attacks in Lebanon by blowing up the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the Jewish community center AMIA in that city, with a massive number of casualties in both attacks.”

The strike plan never took place, of course, but according to Politico, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to use it to put pressure on the U.S. government to achieve its anti-Iranian objectives. Every day, the likelihood that a war might erupt between Israel and Iran, in turn involving the United States, which has sworn to come to Israel’s defense if attacked by Iran, continues to inch that much closer to reality.

Watch | Is the US Ramping Up Its Military Presence in Syria and Planning to Attack Iran for Israel?

Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and national security advisor during the Reagan administration. Wilkerson is an outspoken critic of the current US foreign policy.

Darius Shahtahmasebi is a practicing attorney with an interest in human rights, international law, and journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Otago, where he obtained degrees in Law and Japanese. Follow him on Twitter at @TVsLeaking.

March 12, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Iran to Open $3Bln Credit Line to Iraq for Post-War Reconstruction

Sputnik – 11.03.2018

Tehran will loan $3 billion to help Baghdad with the restoration of its infrastructure after the defeat of the Daesh terrorist group in the country, Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri said on Sunday.

“Iran is ready to provide Iraq with a credit line of $3 billion in order to increase the presence of Iran’s private sector in the restoration of Iraq,” Jahangiri said, as quoted by the Tasnim news agency.

Both Iran and Iraq aim to further strengthen their bilateral political and economic ties, according to the official.

Jahangiri also said that it is necessary to connect the railway systems of both countries and the sides are planning to construct a bridge and a 30-kilometer section of the railway.

“By doing this, Iraq will be able to get access to Central Asia and China, and the Iranian railways will reach the Mediterranean [region],” the first vice-president added, as quoted by the agency.

Jahangiri is currently on a visit to Baghdad to hold talks with the country’s officials.

In December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared an end of the country’s fight against Daesh as Iraqi troops re-established complete control over the country’s Syrian border. This came after years of violent fighting, that brought significant damage to the country’s infrastructure.

The Kuwait International Conference of Iraq Reconstruction and Development, which was held in February, managed to raise $30 billion in direct aid, loans and investments for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq’s economy, according to Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Al Salim Sabah.

March 11, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Aiding Zionist Group’s Push to Oust McMaster

Sputnik – March 8, 2108

US National Security Adviser HR McMaster is reportedly down to his last few weeks in the White House, which, perhaps coincidentally, aligns with a long-standing effort by the oldest Zionist organization in the country to seek McMaster’s ouster.

“General McMaster should not maintain a position where he can continue to undermine President Trump’s policies on Iran, Israel and the fight against ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ — a term that General McMaster believes should not even be used,” the Zionist Organization of America said in a statement last fall.

The ZOA urged “Trump to remove General McMaster from his current position and reassign him to another position,” the statement reads.

The Mint Press News’ Whitney Webb reported March 6 that the organization’s “efforts to axe McMaster as national security adviser gained considerable momentum after securing the support of Zionist billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson.”

​”NBC first reported not that long ago that McMaster was likely to be fired probably within the month,” Webb said during a Wednesday interview with Radio Sputnik’s Fault Lines, “and that this was being orchestrated by John Kelly and James Mattis, and that it was — allegedly, according to NBC, CNN and the mainstream outlets — related to McMaster’s personal beef with Trump.”

“McMaster allegedly called Trump an ‘idiot,'” at one point, the journalist told hosts Lee Stranahan and Garland Nixon.

“But what’s been glossed over is that there’s been this really strong effort by the Zionist Organization of America, which is funded in part by Sheldon Adelson, the big Republican Zionist billionaire donor, who has a lot of control in the Republican Party.”

​”At first Adelson tried to separate himself from this [the ZOA], but then he talked to Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle — the big tech company that’s also a government contractor,” Webb noted.

“In leaked emails, Catz enlightened him as to what McMaster was really all about. And then Adelson decided, ‘oh, I emailed the Zionist Organization of America and support your efforts to have McMaster removed,'” Webb continued.

According to CNN, Catz is among those under consideration to replace McMaster as NSA.

March 8, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , | 6 Comments

Iran no threat to any country, says President Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C) talks during a cabinet session in Tehran on March 7, 2017. (Photo by
Press TV – March 7, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the Israeli regime is in no position to call Iran a threat to the Middle East, stressing the development of the country’s missile program is aimed at safeguarding peace and security.

“Those who have over the past 70 years created tension, launched wars and caused destruction in the region and have committed genocide and caused [the] Sabra and Shatila [massacre] are in no position to portray Iran as a threat,” Rouhani said during a cabinet session on Wednesday.

“Iran is no threat to anyone. Iran is [the pillar] of stability and security for the entire region. But of course it will strongly defend its rights,” he added.

The Iranian president made the remarks a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Iran was responsible for “darkness descending” on the Middle East and said Israel faced threats from the Islamic Republic.

In a hawkish address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington on Tuesday, Netanyahu also alleged that Iran was increasing its influence in the Middle East and sought to dominate regional countries.

Rouhani criticized attempts by certain nations of the region to promote Iranophobia, saying Iran had never invaded and would not invade any country.

“History shows that the Iranian nation has never… occupied any country. We have never bombarded our neighbors or piled up pressure on regional nations. Not only haven’t we driven people out of their countries, but we have welcomed refugees,” he noted.

Iran seeks the progress and prosperity of all regional countries, Rouhani said, stressing Iran’s economic, political and military power was for deterrence not attacking other countries.

“Our weapons are meant to promote peace, strengthen stability and security, and to prevent others from thinking about invading our country. Therefore, no one should be concerned about Iran’s weapons, missiles or strengthening of its defense might,” Rouhani stressed.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Iranian scholar Mohammad Marandi banned from BBC debate at American University of Beirut

Press TV – March 3, 2018

An Iranian scholar has been banned from taking part in a BBC debate about Iran and Saudi Arabia at an American University in Lebanon.

In an interview with Press TV on Saturday, Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, suggested that the decision has been politically motivated.

“I really do not know what is behind this decision but obviously the US government and the Saudi regime and other such antagonists have always been putting pressure on governments and academic institutions and as well as other institutions to toe the line. Whatever reason behind this ban I find it completely unacceptable,” Professor Marandi said. ” I think it discredits the American University of Beirut and it discredits the image that the United States wishes to promote about itself. Also, I believe that the BBC must refuse to hold the debate at this venue, whether I am included in the discussion or not. AUB must not be allowed to dictate the terms of the debate.”

The Iranian scholar had been invited to speak at the English-speaking panel, but the AUB’s administration informed BBC on Saturday that he will not be permitted to take part in the debate on its campus.

“If one cannot speak freely for a few minutes at a university which is controlled by Americans and which all the academics are hired by Americans, if they do not have the self-confidence to allow an alternative voice to speak at such a debate with five other people on the panel, including hardline opponents of Iran, if they do not have that sort of confidence, then it shows that the narrative that the Americans, American institutions, the American government, and the American mainstream media are promoting is weak and lacking in reason and logic,” he added.

Iran has been a staunch critic of Saudi Arabia’s hostile policies including attempts to destabilize the region namely through incessant bombardment of impoverished Yemen as well as support for Takfiri militants across the region.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 3 Comments

How ‘Operation Merlin’ Poisoned U.S. Intelligence on Iran

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse on Jan. 26, 2016 with his wife Holly, center, and attorney Barry Pollack. Photo: Kevin Wolf/AP
By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | March 3, 2018

Jeffrey Sterling, the case officer for the CIA’s covert “Operation Merlin,” who was convicted in May 2015 for allegedly revealing details of that operation to James Risen of the New York Times, was released from prison in January after serving more than two years of a 42-month sentence. He had been tried and convicted on the premise that the revelation of the operation had harmed U.S. security.

The entire case against him assumed a solid intelligence case that Iran had indeed been working on a nuclear weapon that justified that covert operation.

But the accumulated evidence shows that the intelligence not only did not support the need for Operation Merlin, but that the existence of the CIA’s planned covert operation itself had a profound distorting impact on intelligence assessment of the issue. The very first U.S. national intelligence estimate on the subject in 2001 that Iran had a nuclear weapons program was the result of a heavy-handed intervention by Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt that was arguably more serious than the efforts by Vice-President Dick Cheney to influence the CIA’s 2002 estimate on WMD in Iraq.

The full story of the interaction between the CIA operation and intelligence analysis, shows, moreover, that Pavitt had previously fabricated an alarmist intelligence analysis for the Clinton White House on Iran’s nuclear program in late 1999 in order to get Clinton’s approval for Operation Merlin.

Pavitt Plans Operation Merlin

The story of Operation Merlin and the suppression of crucial intelligence on Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be understood apart from the close friendship between Pavitt and CIA Director George Tenet. Pavitt’s rise in the Operations Directorate had been so closely linked to his friendship with Tenet that the day after Tenet announced his retirement from the CIA on June 3, 2004, Pavitt announced his own retirement.

Soon after he was assigned to the CIA’s Non-Proliferation Center (NPC) in 1993 Pavitt got the idea of creating a new component within the Directorate of Operations to work solely on proliferation, as former CIA officials recounted for Valerie Plame Wilson’s memoir, Fair Game. Pavitt proposed that the new proliferation division would have the authority not only to collect intelligence but also to carry out covert operations related to proliferation, using its own clandestine case officers working under non-official cover.

Immediately after Tenet was named Deputy Director of the CIA in 1995, Pavitt got the new organization within the operations directorate called the Counter-Proliferation Division, or CPD. Pavitt immediately began the planning for a major operation targeting Iran. According to a CIA cable declassified for the Sterling trial, as early as March 1996 CPD’s “Office of Special Projects” had already devised a scheme to convey to the Iranians a copy of the Russian TBA-486 “fireset” – a system for multiple simultaneous high explosive detonations to set off a nuclear explosion. The trick was that it had built-in flaws that would make it unworkable.

A January 1997 declassified cable described a plan for using a Russian émigré’ former Soviet nuclear weapons engineer recruited in 1996 to gain “operational access” to an Iranian “target.” The cable suggested that it would be for the purpose of intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program, in the light of the fact that the agency had not issued a finding that Iran was working on nuclear weapons.

But in mid-March 1997 the language used by CPD to describe its proposed covert operation suddenly changed. Another declassified CPD cable from May 1997 said the ultimate goal was “to plant this substantial piece of deception information on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.” That shift in language apparently reflected Tenet’s realization that the CIA would need to justify the proposed covert operation to the White House, as required by legislation.

With his ambitious plan for a covert operation against Iran in his pocket, Pavitt was promoted to Associate Deputy Director of Operations in July 1997. On February 2, 1998, CPD announced to other CIA offices, according to the declassified cable, that a technical team from one of the national laboratories had finished building the detonation device that would include “multiple nested flaws,” including a “final fatal flaw” ensuring “that it will not detonate a nuclear weapon.”

An official statement from the national lab certifying that fact was a legal requirement for the CIA to obtain the official Presidential “finding” for any covert operation required by legislation passed in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair.

Pavitt obtained the letter from the national laboratory in mid-1999 a few weeks after it was announced he would be named Deputy Director of the CIA for Operations.

But that left a final political obstacle to a presidential finding: the official position of the CIA’ s Intelligence Directorate remained that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program. The language of the CIA’s report to Congress for the first half of 1999, which was delivered to Congress in early 2000, contained formulations that showed signs of having been negotiated between those who believed Iran just have a nuclear weapons program and those who did not.

The report referred to nuclear-related projects that “will help Iran augment its nuclear technology infrastructure, which in turn would be useful in supporting nuclear weapons research and development.” The shift from “will” to “would” clearly suggested that nuclear weapons work was not yet an established fact.

A second sentence said, “expertise and technology gained, along with the commercial channels and contacts established-even from cooperation that appears strictly civilian in nature-could be used to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons research and developmental program.” That seemed to hint that maybe Iran already had such a nuclear weapons program.

That was not sufficient for Tenet and Pavitt to justify a covert nuclear weapons program involving handing over a fake nuclear detonation device. So the dynamic duo came up with another way around that obstacle. A new intelligence assessment, reported in a front page article by James Risen and Judith Miller in the New York Times on January 17, 2000, said the CIA could no longer rule out the possibility that Iran now had the capability to build a bomb – or even that it may have actually succeeded in building one.

Risen and Miller reported that Tenet had begun briefings for Clinton administration officials on the new CIA assessment in December 1999 shortly after the document was completed, citing “several U.S. officials” familiar with it. The Tenet briefings made no mention of any evidence of a bomb-making program, according to the sources cited by the Times. It was based instead on the alleged inability of U.S. intelligence to track adequately Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology and materials from the black market.

But the new assessment had evidently not come from the Intelligence Directorate. John McLaughlin, then Deputy Director for Intelligence, said in e-mail response to a query that he did not recall the assessment. And when this writer asked him whether it was possible that he would not remember or would not have known about an intelligence assessment on such a high profile issue, McLaughlin did not respond. Pavitt and Tenet had obviously gone outside the normal procedure for an intelligence assessment in order to get around the problem of lack of support for their thesis from the analysts.

A declassified CIA cable dated November 18, 1999 instructed the Russian émigré to prepare for a possible trip to Vienna in early 2000, indicating that Tenet hoped to get the finding within a few weeks. Clinton apparently did give the necessary finding in early 2000; in the first days of March 2000 the Russian émigré dropped the falsified fireset plans into the mail chute of the Iranian mission to the United Nations in Vienna.

Pavitt Suppresses Unwelcome Iran Nuclear Intelligence

Pavitt’s CPD was also managing a group of covert operatives who recruited spies to provide information on weapons of mass destruction in Iran and Iraq. CPD not only controlled the targeting of the operatives working on those accounts but the distribution of their reports. CPD’s dual role thus represented a serious conflict of interest, because the CPD had a vested interest in an intelligence estimate that showed Iran had an active nuclear weapons program, and it could prevent intelligence analysts from getting information that conflicted with that interest.

That is exactly what happened in 2001. One especially valuable CPD operative, who was fluent in both Farsi and Arabic, had begun recruiting agents to provide intelligence on both Iran and Iraq since 1995. His talents had been recognized by the CPD and by higher levels of the Operations Directorate: by 2001 he had been promised an intelligence medal and a promotion to GS14 – the second highest grade level in the civil service.

But that same year the operative reported very important intelligence on the Iran nuclear issue that would have caused serious problems for Pavitt and CPD and led ultimately to his being taken out of the field and being fired.

In a November 2005 court filing in a lawsuit against Pavitt, the unnamed head of CPD and then CIA Director Porter Goss, the operative, identified only as “Doe” in court records, said that one of his most highly valued “human assets” – the CIA term for recruited spies – had given him very important intelligence in 2001. That information was the subject of three crucial lines of the key paragraph in the operative’s complaint that were redacted at the demand of the CIA. For years “Doe” sought to declassify the language of that had been redacted, but the CIA had fought it.

It was assumed in press accounts at the time that the redacted lines were related to Iraq. But the lawyer who handled the lawsuit for “Doe,” Roy Krieger, revealed to this writer in interviews that the redacted lines revealed that the CIA “human asset” in question was an Iranian, and that he had told “Doe” that the Iranian government had no intention of “weaponizing” the uranium that it was planning to enrich.

It was the first intelligence from a “highly-valued” U.S. spy – one who was known to be in a position to know he claimed to know – on Iran’s intentions regarding nuclear weapons to become available to the U.S. intelligence community. “Doe” reported what the spy had said to his supervisor at CPD, according to the court filing, and the supervisor immediately met with Pavitt and the head of CPD. After that meeting the CPD supervisor ordered “Doe” not to prepare any written report on the matter and assured him that Pavitt and the head of the CPD would personally brief President Bush on the intelligence.

But “Doe” soon learned from his own contacts at CIA headquarters that no such briefing ever took place. And “Doe” was soon instructed to terminate his relationship with the asset. After another incident involving intelligence he had reported on WMD in Iraq that had also conflicted with the line desired by the Bush administration, CIA management took “Doe” out of the field, put him in a headquarters job and denied him the intelligence medal and promotion to GS-14 that he had been promised, according to his court filing. The CIA fired “Doe” without specifying a reason in 2005.

Pavitt did not respond to requests for an interview for this story both at the Scowcroft Group and, after he retired, at his home in McLean, Virginia.

The intervention by Pavitt to prevent the intelligence from Doe’s Iranian asset from circulating within the U.S. government came as the intelligence community was working on the 2001 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iranian nuclear program. That NIE concluded that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon, but the finding was far from being clear-cut. Paul Pillar, the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, who was involved in the 2001 NIE, recalled that the intelligence community had no direct evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. “We’re talking about things that are a matter of inference, not direct evidence,” Pillar said in an interview with this writer.

Furthermore he recalls that there was a deep divide in the intelligence community between the technical analysts, who tended to believe that evidence of uranium enrichment was evidence of a weapons program, and the Iran specialists, including Pillar himself, who believed Iran had adopted a “hedging strategy” and had made no decision in favor or a nuclear weapon. The technical analysts at the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC), were given the advantage of writing the first draft not only on Iranian technical capabilities but on Iranian intentions – a subject on which it had no real expertise – as well, according to Pillar.

The introduction of the intelligence from a highly credible Iranian intelligence asset indicating no intention to convert its enriched uranium into nuclear weapons would arguably have changed the dynamic of the estimate dramatically. It would have meant that one side could cite hard intelligence from a valued source in support of its position, while the other side could cite only their own predisposition.

Pillar confirmed that no such intelligence report was made available to the analysts for the 2001 NIE. He noted just how rarely the kind of intelligence that had been obtained by “Doe” was available for an intelligence estimate. “Analysts deal with a range of stuff,” he said, “from a tidbit from technical intelligence to the goldmine well-placed source with an absolutely credible account,“ but the latter kind of intelligence “almost never comes up.”

After reading this account of the intelligence obtained by the CPD operative, Pillar said he is not in a position to judge the value of the intelligence from the Iranian asset, but that the information from the CPD Iranian asset “should have been considered by the NIE team in conjunction with other sources of information.”

That lead to a series of estimates that assumed Iran had a nuclear weapons program.

In 2004, a large cache of purported Iranian documents showing alleged Iranian research related to nuclear weapons was turned over to German intelligence, which the Bush administration claimed came from the laptop of an Iranian scientist or engineer. But former senior German Foreign Official Karsten Voigt later revealed to this writer that the whole story was a fabrication, because the documents had been given those documents by the Mujahedin-E Khalq, the Iranian opposition group that was known to have publicized anti-Iran information fed to it by Israel’s Mossad.

Those documents led directly to another CIA estimate in 2005 asserting the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, which in turn paved the way for all the subsequent estimates – all of which were adopted despite the absence of new evidence of such a program. The CIA swallowed the ruse repeatedly, because it had already been manipulated by Pavitt.

Operation Merlin is the perfect example of powerful bureaucratic interests running amok and creating the intelligence necessary to justify their operations. The net result is that Jeffrey Sterling was unjustly imprisoned and that the United States has gone down a path of Iran policy that poses serious – and unnecessary – threats to American security.

Gareth Porter is an independent journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of numerous books, including Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (Just World Books, 2014).

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What the Russian veto on Yemeni war signifies

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | March 1, 2018

The Russian veto in the United Nations Security Council on Monday to block a Western-backed resolution to condemn Iran for its alleged violations of international sanctions and its fueling of the conflict in Yemen was a landmark event.

This is the first time Russia has shot down a US-led move in the Security Council regarding a regional conflict in which it is not directly involved. Moscow did not block the Western moves over Iraq in 2003 or over Libya in 2011, although Russian interests were involved. Nor did Moscow block Kosovo’s admission to the UN as a sovereign state, piloted by the West, in 2008, although it was a bitter pill to swallow in every sense.

In Syria, of course, Russia has exercised its veto power repeatedly both in self-interest and in the interests of its ally. But in the Yemen conflict, Russia is neither a participant nor a protagonist, nor has it any legitimate reason to take sides.

Suffice to say the Russian veto on Monday falls into a category by itself as a manifestation of the Russian-American standoff for global influence. It therefore becomes a turning point in the post-Cold War era of big-power politics.

On its broadest plane, Russia has signaled that the US and its Western allies can no longer dominate the international system and Russia will oppose US hegemony as a matter of principle. This has serious implications for regional and international security.

Indeed, what Russia has done is shoot down an unprincipled Western attempt to isolate Iran from a geopolitical perspective. The West has adopted a cynical position over the conflict in Yemen. The US has been a virtual participant in the conflict by providing military assistance to the Saudi forces and identifying for them targets for their brutal air attacks on Yemen.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has not cared to provide any empirical evidence that the Houthis are dependent on Iran’s support. UN and other experts refuse to accept the US allegation that Iran supplied the Houthis with the missiles that targeted Saudi Arabia. The Barack Obama administration was frank enough to admit that while the Houthis could be “pro-Iran,” there was no alliance as such between the two.

In reality, Zaidi Shiite Muslims are more closely aligned to Sunni Islam than to the Shiism practiced in Iran.

The Russian stance took exception to the British-drafted text (supported by the US and France) containing a condemnation of Iran predicated on “unconfirmed conclusions and reports that should be double-checked and discussed by the sanctions committee,” as Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, put it.

Nebenzya noted that the Russian side offered “more than one compromising formulation” but those ideas had been dismissed. He said Russia “is fundamentally against a technical extension of sanctions committees’ export groups being politicized and used for solving not technical and expert tasks, but geopolitical ones.”

Significantly, the aborted British text not only contained condemnations against Tehran on illegal supplies of weapons to Houthis but also stated an intention to assume further measures in response to those violations. Conceivably, Moscow suspected the US intentions in the downstream, given the Trump administration’s hostile strategy toward Iran – scrapping the nuclear deal, imposing more sanctions, rolling back Iran’s missile capability and pushing back at Iran’s surge as a regional power.

In a clear rebuff to Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday in Moscow that “it is necessary to fully implement the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [Iran nuclear deal]. If there is a desire to discuss some other issues concerning Iran in this format or in another format, this should be done with Iran’s voluntary participation and on the basis of consensus rather than through ultimatums.”

Interestingly, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir telephoned Lavrov on Monday just hours before the Security Council vote. According to the Russian readout, they “exchanged views on a number of issues on the bilateral and Middle East agendas, including in the context of the drafting of a new UN Security Council resolution on Yemen.”

Evidently, if the Trump administration had sought to leverage Saudi-Russian relations, it didn’t work. Moscow has in effect “de-hyphenated” its relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Russia has displayed its unique credentials to play an influential role in ending the conflict in Yemen and in facilitating a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement. Interestingly, Riyadh did not criticize Moscow’s veto on Monday and it was left to the US, Britain, France and Germany to issue a joint statement.

Of course, what emerges, in the final analysis, is the resilience of the Russian-Iranian alliance in Middle East politics. The Western thesis that an “assertive” Iran inevitably grates against Russian “expansionism” in the Middle East stands exposed as an overblown notion.

Ironically, Monday’s event will have a salutary effect on Russian-Iranian coordination in Syria, especially as the two powers prepare for a trilateral summit with Turkey in Istanbul in April.

March 1, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments