Almost a month after Iran saw a series of nuclear-related economic sanctions lifted, new indications show certain segments of the Iranian economy still remain shut out in what could be a violation of the nuclear deal that the country reached with the P5+1 last summer.
The US Treasury Department is reportedly warning European countries and companies to shut out a leading sanctioned Iranian airline – Mahan Air – or risk US retaliation.
“Treasury is engaging closely with stakeholders around the world, including our partners in Europe, regarding our sanctions targeting Iran,” a Treasury official told Al-Monitor. “Regarding Mahan Air specifically, we are doing this by working with our partners to prevent Mahan Air from acquiring aircraft and aircraft parts and software, preventing the opening of new routes and working to get existing routes canceled.”
Certain economic sanctions against Iran were lifted in mid-January when a deal that the country had reached with the P5+1 – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was implemented.
A central sector that saw the sanctions lifted was Iran’s aviation industry and a lucrative contract that the country later signed with Airbus over the purchase of planes clearly testified to that.
Even before the JCPOA was implemented, US President Barack Obama ordered to lift a decades-long ban on the sales of planes to Iran.
The Treasury official – who has not been named by Al-Monitor – has emphasized that the JCPOA “does not preclude us from designating any entities that support Mahan Air or facilitate its activities.”
Iranian officials are yet to react to this.
Mahan Air, which isn’t sanctioned by the European Union, currently operates flights to Milan, Athens, the German cities of Dusseldorf and Munich, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and several other destinations in the Middle East and Asia. Mahan Air had announced that flights to Copenhagen, Denmark, were to start next month but the route opening was discreetly delayed last month.
pakistan-army_140093kPakistan has become an intermediary between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran against the background of increasing fears that a prolonged bilateral confrontation could potentially have serious consequences for the entire region. With a view to resolving the conflict, the civil and military leadership of Pakistan visited Riyadh and Tehran in January 2016. Both capitals responded favorably to the visits of the high-level guests, the tone of the Iranian leaders changed, the world stood still in anticipation of the detente… but no miracle happened. A few days later Riyadh firmly rejected both the mediatory role of Islamabad and the possibility of a dialogue.
Iran-Saudi tensions were escalating throughout 2015. Riyadh’s irritation grew after diplomatic missions of the Kingdom in Iran were raided, as well as in connection with the lifting of sanctions against Tehran by the United States and the European Union on January 16, 2016, which immediately promised to supply considerable stocks of crude oil to the world market to restore the status of the main hydrocarbon competitor of the KSA.
The mediatory role of Islamabad was quite understandable. Firstly, its concern was caused by the request of the Foreign Ministry of the KSA for the military establishment in Pakistan not only to send land forces into the zone of a potential conflict, but also to use nuclear weapons, the development of which had been actively financed by Riyadh for many years. In the past, Islamabad repeatedly declared the inadmissibility of a military intervention in a conflict on the side of any state within the Muslim Ummah.
Secondly, it was caused by Iran’s reaction to the establishment of an anti-terrorist alliance under the leadership of the KSA in December 2015. Islamabad was registered as its member, but it learned about it from statements of officials in Riyadh. The list included 34 more states, with the exception of Iraq, Iran and Syria. As the Saudi authorities explained later on, these countries had not been invited because of a lack of confidence in them.
Thirdly, Islamabad feared another surge of Sunni-Shiite massacres in its country, especially after the wave of protests that swept neighbouring Iran in early January 2016 in connection with the execution of the well-known Saudi Shiite preacher Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr by the leadership of the KSA on January 2, 2016.
Pakistan demonstrated impartiality during the growing tension between the two countries. It did not openly condemn the actions of Iran in connection with the attack on the diplomatic mission of the KSA, but it did not sever diplomatic relations with it either, as did a number of countries of the Persian Gulf; it stressed its neutrality even during the visit of the Foreign Minister of the KSA to Islamabad in mid-January this year.
Riyadh’s request to send several thousand Pakistani soldiers at the disposal of the authorities of the KSA changed the subsequent course of events. Islamabad immediately canceled a visit of the civilian Defense Minister H. Asif to Tehran in mid-January this year. In a short time, the Pakistani military and, in particular, the Army Chief of Staff General R. Sharif, initiated a project of mediation in the Iran-Saudi conflict.
On January 18 this year, two Sharifs (the namesakes – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff General R. Sharif) visited Riyadh with a mission to settle disputes by peaceful means in the interest of the unity of the Muslims in these difficult times. The leadership of the KSA was sympathetic to the mission of Islamabad and handed over a list of items to the Pakistani delegation to be further discussed with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, assuring the guests from Islamabad that if the Islamic Republic of Iran showed positive signs, diplomatic relations could be restored.
The next day, on January 19, the civil and military leadership of Pakistan arrived in Tehran. It is fair to say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the first world leader who visited Iran after the lifting of sanctions. As reported by the Pakistani media, he managed to obtain a positive response from the Iranian leadership in respect of initiating the Iran-Saudi dialogue and regulating the issue of coordinators, whose mission, as planned, was to maintain business contacts with officials of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The mediation of Pakistan yielded positive results. On January 20, 2016, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publicly condemned the attack on the embassy of the KSA in Tehran for the first time.
It seems that Riyadh and Iran heard each other thanks to the efforts of the intermediary. But instead of a triumph, Islamabad’s diplomacy failed once again. On January 25, 2016, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the KSA Adel Al Dzhubeir said that Tehran was pursuing a hostile policy towards the Arab world, and interfered in the internal affairs of foreign countries inciting religious strife and supporting terrorism. Of course, the efforts of Islamabad turned out to be useless against this background.
Riyadh’s refusal of Islamabad’s services in the development of dialogue with Tehran is due to several factors: the change in the overall political and military situation in the Middle East, the intensification of the military cooperation of the KSA with the United States and India (Indian military and, consequently, their arms are taking up the positions of Pakistani military trainers stationed in Riyadh under the previous agreements) and Islamabad’s repeated refusal to send land forces at the disposal of the KSA. We should recall that in late March 2015, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised the Saudis to send his troops at the disposal of Riyadh, but in early April the parliamentarians, under pressure of the generals, refused to send their troops to fight against the Huthis in Yemen.
The mediation failure of the civil and military leadership of Pakistan to establish Iran-Saudi dialogue means that this time Riyadh excluded Islamabad from the list of its allies for a long time, and it will greatly reduce the amount of financial assistance and expand trade and economic, military and other contacts with its old rival – New Delhi.
The domestic policy of Pakistan is also in anticipation of change …The issue of the extension of the term of office of the Chief of Army Staff General R.Sharif (official retirement in late November this year), that has long been discussed in the country, has already been decided. On his return from a tour of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif refused to extend General R.Sharif’s term of office. The army commander had nothing to do but to publicly declare his refusal to continue service and his retirement upon reaching the retirement age. The generals of Pakistan are one of the strongest and most masterful government institutions and have seized power in the country four times; the Army Chief of Staff is the de facto first person in the state. Thus, the completion of the anti-terrorist campaign initiated by General R.Sharif delivered has been jeopardized.
A chilling remark from a House of Lords debate just caught my eye.
Hansard 4 Nov 2015 : Column GC355
Lord Mendelsohn: We welcome the appointment of the former British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, who will have a key role in cybersecurity inside the Cabinet Office — a very useful and important position.
Sure enough, the UK Government’s website confirms that Gould is now Director of Cyber Security and Information Assurance at the Cabinet Office. “He and his team are focussed on keeping Britain safe from cyber attack, through delivering the UK’s Cyber Security Strategy.”
They must think we have very short memories. Gould was the first Jew ever to hold the post of Britain’s ambassador to Israel. He describes himself as a “passionate” Zionist and whilst in Tel Aviv was instrumental in setting up the UK-Israel Tech Hub. In the words of MATIMOP (the Israeli Industry Center for R&D), the Hub was established “to promote partnerships in technology and innovation between Israel and the UK, and is the first initiative of its kind for the British Government and for an embassy in Israel. The Hub’s creation followed an agreement between Prime Ministers David Cameron and Benjamin Netanyahu to build a UK-Israel partnership in technology.”
Three years ago Cameron appointed venture capitalist Saul Klein as the UK Tech Envoy to Israel with the task of promoting the partnership, leading UK tech missions to Israel, bringing Israeli start-ups to Britain, and hosting tech events in both countries.
MATIMOP quotes Britain’s National Health Service as an example of successful UK-Israel tech collaboration. The NHS “has now formed strong collaborations with Israeli life sciences companies conducting clinical trials in the UK. The cooperation was made as part of the burgeoning partnership between Israel and Britain’s life sciences industries initiated by the UK-Israel Tech Hub.”
Four years ago Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, argued that British policy was being driven in an underhanded fashion by the Israel lobby. He linked Gould with the Fox-Werritty scandal and raised questions about meetings between disgraced former Defence Minister Liam Fox and Fox’s friend/adviser Adam Werritty (who was backed financially by Israel lobbyists but had no security clearance and therefore no authorized role) and Gould.
Former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox and his bestman Adam Werritty.
Murray wrote to Gould asking when he first met Werritty, how many times he had met him, and how many communications of every kind had passed between them. He was told these questions would be answered in Cabinet Secretary O’Donnell’s investigation. “But Gus O’Donnell’s report answered none of these questions,” wrote Murray. “It only mentioned two meetings at which Fox, Gould and Werritty were all three present…”
This prompted Murray to dig further. “There were at least six Fox-Werritty-Gould meetings, not the two given by O’Donnell…. Matthew Gould was the only British Ambassador who Fox and Werrity met together. They met him six times. Why?”
Did Fox and Werritty meet 6 times with ambassador to Israel to plan ‘secret agenda for war’ with Iran?
Murray, with many useful sources from his days as an ambassador, claimed to have serious evidence connecting Gould with a secret plan to attack Iran, but the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Secretary blocked questions. Murray published his story ‘Matthew Gould and the plot to attack Iran’ here.
In it he pointed out that “Matthew Gould does not see his race or religion as irrelevant. He has chosen to give numerous interviews to both British and Israeli media on the subject of being a jewish ambassador, and has been at pains to be photographed by the Israeli media participating in jewish religious festivals. Israeli newspaper Haaretz described him as ‘Not just an ambassador who is jewish, but a jewish ambassador’. That rather peculiar phrase appears directly to indicate that the potential conflict of interest for a British ambassador in Israel has indeed arisen.”
He went on to say that Gould stood suspected of long term participation with Fox and Werritty “in a scheme to forward war with Iran, in cooperation with Israel”. The stonewalling by O’Donnell and the FCO led Murray to conclude that “something very important is being hidden right at the heart of government”.
Labour MP Paul Flynn remarked that no previous ambassadors to Israel had been Jewish so as to avoid conflict of interest and accusations of going native. He immediately came under intense flak. Flynn too asked about meetings between Werritty and Gould, as some reports suggested that Gould, Werritty and Fox discussed a potential military strike on Iran with Mossad. “I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories,” said Flynn, “but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran.”
Fox had earlier made the idiotic claim: “Israel’s enemies are our enemies” and “in the battle for the values that we stand for… Israel’s enemies are our enemies and this is a battle in which we all stand together”. The Jewish Chronicle hailed him as “a champion of Israel within the government”. Furthermore Fox continually rattled the sabre against Iran which, of course, was no threat to Britain but is regarded by Israel as a bitter enemy. Iraq too was Israel’s enemy, not ours. Yet Fox, according to the theyworkforyou.com, voted “very strongly” for the Iraq war. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Afghanistan.
Given that Fox so eagerly waved the flag of a foreign military power and was a man with dangerous beliefs and demonstrably weak judgement, how could those who appointed him not see that he was unemployable as a Minister of the British Crown – unless they were similarly tainted?
When the Werrity relationship came to light Fox jumped before being flung from the battlements. But the good people of North Somerset, in their wisdom, re-elected him at the general election last May. He’s already on the road to political rehabilitation among the Conservative high command.
Gould’s new job as head of The Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance (OCSIA) involves giving strategic direction to cyber security and information assurance for the UK. This includes e-crime, working with private sector partners on exchanging information, and engaging with international partners in improving the security of cyberspace and information security. Does it seem right for such a person to be in charge of crucial security matters at the heart of our government? What was in fellow Zionist David Cameron’s mind when he appointed him?
Well, here’s a possible clue. In March of this year Francis Maude, the previous Cabinet Office minister responsible for cyber security, announced three UK-Israel academic collaboration ventures with cyber research funding, the partnerships being University of Bristol/Bar Ilan University, University College London/Bar Ilan University and University of Kent/University of Haifa. They’ll be working together on six specific areas of research:
- identity management
- governance: regulating cyber security
- privacy assurance and perceptions
- mobile and cloud security
- human aspects of security or usable security
This builds on existing UK-Israel cooperation. Both parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding on digital co-operation in March 2014.
Still sitting comfortably? Only this week the Cameron government was lecturing us on threats to national security and announcing plans to trawl through our personal emails and web browsers in order to “keep us safe”.
Question is, who trawls Gould’s private emails?
In Part I, Erdogan’s mounting dilemmas—ISIS terrorism, Kurdish resistance, Assad’s Syria alive and well—showed how his bid for regional hegemony has gone awry. His pact with the ISIS devil, as long as they target Kurds, just made things worse. Davutoglu’s dream of a “common history and a common future” for the Middle East under Turkish guidance is now in history’s dustbin. The Turkish plan for a “global, political, economic and cultural new order” in the Middle East remains in the hands of the US and, of course, Israel.
Israel has been noncommittal about Syria since the uprising in 2011, not joining the western chorus for Assad’s head. Israeli indifference to the outcome can be explained easily enough. First, Israeli public support for anyone would be a kiss of death for the beloved. On the other hand, the Assads have been the biggest thorn in Israel’s side since 1971 when Hafiz Assad consolidated power, and Israel would be delighted to see the last of Bashar. But Israel was worried about what might emerge from a post-Assad Islamic state.
With Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s bold call for an independent Kurdish state, a radical new claim for regional hegemony is unfolding, not by a neo-Ottoman Turkey, but by the Jewish state. “We must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel,” Shaked told the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv. This sounds novel, but it really only reflects age-old plans for a Jewish state to control the Middle East which have been on the drawing board since Lord Shaftesbury first made it a British imperial objective in 1839. 1948 got the project off to a savage start, 1967 added the entire Holy Land to the map, and let the settler state move into high gear.
The Yinon Doctrine of 1980 set out how to consolidate Israel’s theft, by playing various ethnic and religious forces among its Arab neighbors against each other—Maronite and Orthodox Christian, Sunni and Shia Muslim, Druze, etc—in order to undermine Arab nationalism, and keep the Middle East weak and unstable. In Syria, that even meant quietly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood during its ill-fated uprising in 1981, not because Israel wanted an Islamist Syria, but to keep the Syrian government off-balance.
Syria and Egypt fought a war with Israel in 1967. These secular nationalist governments were the big threat, and it was only natural to try and cripple them, even if that meant working with Islamists. After Egypt made peace with Israel in 1978, it had only Iraq, Syria and Iran as its main enemies—the Arab nationalism of the first two and the Persian nationalism in Iran had proved immune to Israeli intrigues.
Israeli ‘friendship’ with the Kurds is merely the ethnic variable in the Yinon formula. There have always been contacts with Iraqi Kurds, which went into high gear in 1991 when northern Iraq was made a ‘no-fly’ zone, allowing Israeli agents relative freedom. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 fit the bill, though bungled by the dismantling of the Iraqi army, creating a bit too much Yinon for comfort.
Middle East borders, as reimagined by Lt. Col. (ret.) Ralph Peters (2006)
US-Israeli Plan B
When Israeli fears about what a post-Assad Syria might look like were proven justified, it was ready with plan B: a new, improved Yinon Doctrine, featuring the creation of a pro-Israeli Kurdish state, keeping Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and—what the hell—Iran off-base?
This has been plan B for US-Israel since at least 2006, when a plan for restructuring the Middle East published in the Armed Forces Journal in 2006 stated, “Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately” creating a “Free Kurdistan” carved out of Turkey, Iran and Iraq, which “would be the most pro-western state between Bulgaria and Japan.” The Saban Center for Middle East Policy issued a similar policy recommendation in 2007, and in 2008, Joseph Biden, Obama’s future vice president, also called for the partition of Iraq into three autonomous regions.
Israel gets it right (for the wrong reasons)
ISIS and Turkey came to the rescue with their own wild schemes, leaving the Kurds as “the only ones fighting ISIS as their highest priority,” as Yadlin told the Israeli security conference. “We Kurds and Jews have a long history. The 20 million Kurds who didn’t get a state [at the Treaty of Versailles], and nobody takes care about them. They are the only ones fighting ISIS as their highest priority.”
Every one of Erdogan’s moves has backfired. He flip-flopped on Libya and Syria. He turned a blind eye on ISIS. He stubbornly continues a policy of oppression against the Kurds. He abruptly broke relations with Israel in 2011 over Israel’s killing of nine Turkish peace activists. But it’s better to at least speak with your enemy. Israel wouldn’t have been quite so bold about advocating a Kurdish state if it realized that it would forfeit a working relationship with Turkey. But there is nothing to lose now.
Like Turkey these days, Israel is also running out of friends, and this call for an independent Kurdistan is really a rather far-fetched plan to establish at least one Muslim ally for the Jews. The travail of Turkish Kurds (20 million, 20% of the population) is well known. They are not allowed to speak Kurdish or have Kurdish names, let alone Kurdish language education.
In comparison, Iraqi Kurds (7 million, 20%) live a privileged life, with the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the autonomous government tilting towards Saudi Arabia, and its key rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), supporting the Iranian-led camp.
Kurds are culturally and linguistically so closely related to the Iranians, they are sometimes classified as an Iranian people. Of the more than 6 million Iranian Kurds (9% of the population), a significant portion are Shia. There are tensions in Iran, as the majority of Kurds are Sunni, but the strong Iranian roots of Kurds culturally and linguistically, and the lack of the suppression of their culture, language and political rights, mean there is no strong movement for independence.
There is a silver lining in the Israeli chutzpah in reviving Plan B. No major Kurdish faction calls for the Yinon plan for independence, even among Iraqi Kurds. Why bother when you already have virtual independence now? Syrian Kurds also have de facto autonomy as a result of western bungling. They won’t be stuffed back into a one-size-fits-all Syria. Iranian Kurds are just getting on with life. Turkish Kurds would love to just have basic human rights in their Turkish state. Erdogan could undercut Israel’s latest wild plan easily by using his still robust political power to push for a genuine peace deal with his Kurds.
A curious reality about Official Washington is that to have “credibility” you must accept the dominant “group thinks” whether they have any truth to them or not, a rule that applies to both the mainstream news media and the political world, even to people who deviate from the pack on other topics.
For instance, Sen. Bernie Sanders may proudly declare himself a “democratic socialist” – far outside the acceptable Washington norm – but he will still echo the typical propaganda about Syria, Russia, Iran and other “designated villains.” Like other progressives who spend years in Washington, he gets what you might called “Senate-ized,” adopting that institution’s conventional wisdom about “enemies” even if he may differ on whether to bomb them or not.
That pattern goes in spades for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other consciously “centrist” politicians as well as media stars, like NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and Lester Holt, who were the moderators of Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate. They know what they know based on what “everybody who’s important” says, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof.
So, you had Mitchell and Holt framing questions based on Official Washington’s “group thinks” – and Sanders and Clinton responding accordingly.
Regarding Iran, Sanders may have gone as far as would be considered safe in this political environment, welcoming the implementation of the agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program but accepting the “group think” about Iran’s “terrorism” and hesitant to call for resumption of diplomatic relations.
“Understanding that Iran’s behavior in so many ways is something that we disagree with; their support of terrorism, the anti-American rhetoric that we’re hearing from their leadership is something that is not acceptable,” Sanders said. “Can I tell you that we should open an embassy in Tehran tomorrow? No, I don’t think we should.”
In her response, Clinton settled safely behind the Israeli-preferred position – to lambaste Iran for supposedly fomenting the trouble in the Middle East, though more objective observers might say that the U.S. government and its “allies” – including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – have wreaked much more regional havoc than Iran has.
“We have to go after them [the Iranians] on a lot of their other bad behavior in the region which is causing enormous problems in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere,” Clinton said.
Yet, how exactly Iran is responsible for “enormous problems” across the region doesn’t get explained. Everybody just “knows” it to be true, since the claim is asserted by Israel’s right-wing government and repeated by U.S. pols and pundits endlessly.
Yet, in Iraq, the chaos was not caused by Iran, but by the U.S. government’s invasion in 2003, which then-Sen. Clinton supported (while Sen. Sanders opposed it). In Yemen, it is the Saudis and their Sunni coalition that has created a humanitarian disaster by bombing the impoverished country after wildly exaggerating Iran’s support for Houthi rebels.
In Syria, the core reason for the bloodshed is not Iran, but decisions of the Bush-43 administration last decade and the Obama administration this decade to seek another “regime change,” ousting President Bashar al-Assad.
Supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers, this U.S.-backed “covert” intervention instigated both political unrest and terrorist violence inside Syria, including arming jihadist forces such as Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its close ally, Ahrar al-Sham and – to a lesser degree – Al Qaeda’s spinoff, the Islamic State. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.“]
The desire of these Sunni powers — along with Israel and America’s neoconservatives — was to shatter the so-called “Shiite crescent” that they saw reaching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Since Assad is an Alawite, a branch of Shiite Islam, he had to be removed even though he was regarded as the principal protector of Syria’s Christian, Shiite and Alawite minorities. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Did Money Seal Saudi-Israeli Alliance?’]
However, while Israel and the Sunni powers get a pass for their role in the carnage, Iran is blamed for its assistance to the Syrian military in battling these jihadist groups. Official Washington’s version of this tragedy is that the culprits are Assad, the Iranians and now the Russians, who also intervened to help the Syrian government resist the jihadists, both the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s various friends and associates. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Climbing into Bed with Al Qaeda.”]
Official Washington also accepts as undeniably true that Assad is responsible for all 250,000 deaths in the Syrian civil war – even those inflicted by the Sunni jihadists against the Syrian military and Syrian civilians – a logic that would have accused President Abraham Lincoln of slaughtering all 750,000 or so people – North and South – who died in the U.S. Civil War.
The “group think” also holds that Assad was behind the sarin gas attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, despite growing evidence that it was a jihadist group, possibly with the help of Turkish intelligence, that staged the outrage as a provocation to draw the U.S. military into the conflict against Syria’s military by creating the appearance that Assad had crossed Obama’s “red line” on using chemical weapons.
Mitchell cited Assad’s presumed guilt in the sarin attack in asking Clinton: “Should the President have stuck to his red line once he drew it?”
Trying to defend President Obama in South Carolina where he is popular especially with the black community, Clinton dodged the implicit criticism of Obama but accepted Mitchell’s premise.
“I know from my own experience as Secretary of State that we were deeply worried about Assad’s forces using chemical weapons because it would have had not only a horrific effect on people in Syria, but it could very well have affected the surrounding states, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey. …
“If there is any blame to be spread around, it starts with the prime minister of Iraq, who sectarianized his military, setting Shia against Sunni. It is amplified by Assad, who has waged one of the bloodiest, most terrible attacks on his own people: 250,000-plus dead, millions fleeing. Causing this vacuum that has been filled unfortunately, by terrorist groups, including ISIS.”
Clinton’s account – which ignores the central role that the U.S. invasion of Iraq and outside support for the jihadists in Syria played in creating ISIS – represents a thoroughly twisted account of how the Mideast crisis evolved, But Sanders seconded Clinton’s recitation of the “group think” on Syria, saying:
“I agree with most of what she said. … And we all know, no argument, the Secretary is absolutely right, Assad is a butcher of his own people, man using chemical weapons against his own people. This is beyond disgusting. But I think in terms of our priorities in the region, our first priority must be the destruction of ISIS. Our second priority must be getting rid of Assad, through some political settlement, working with Iran, working with Russia.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes.”]
Sanders also repeated his talking point that Saudi Arabia and Qatar must “start putting some skin in the game” – ignoring the fact that the Saudis and Qataris have been principal supporters of the Sunni jihadists inflicting much of the carnage in Syria. Those two rich countries have put plenty of “skin in the game” except it comes in the slaughter of Syrian Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other religious minorities.
NBC anchor Lester Holt then recited the “group think” about “Russian aggression” in Ukraine – ignoring the U.S. role in instigating the Feb. 22, 2014 coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Holt also asserted Moscow’s guilt in the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 despite the lack of any solid evidence to support that claim.
Holt asked: “Secretary Clinton, you famously handed Russia’s foreign minister a reset button in 2009. Since then, Russia has annexed Crimea, fomented a war in Ukraine, provided weapons that downed an airliner and launched operations, as we just did discuss, to support Assad in Syria. As president, would you hand Vladimir Putin a reset button?”
While noting some positive achievements from the Russian “reset” such as a new nuclear weapons treaty, help resupplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan and assistance in the nuclear deal with Iran, Clinton quickly returned to Official Washington’s bash-Putin imperative:
“When Putin came back in the fall of 2011, it was very clear he came back with a mission. And I began speaking out as soon as that happened because there were some fraudulent elections held, and Russians poured out into the streets to demand their freedom, and he cracked down. And in fact, accused me of fomenting it. So we now know that he has a mixed record to say the least and we have to figure out how to deal with him. …
“And I know that he’s someone that you have to continuingly stand up to because, like many bullies, he is somebody who will take as much as he possibly can unless you do. And we need to get the Europeans to be more willing to stand up, I was pleased they put sanctions on after Crimea and eastern Ukraine and the downing of the airliner, but we’ve got to be more united in preventing Putin from taking a more aggressive stance in Europe and the Middle East.”
In such situations, with millions of Americans watching, no one in Official Washington would think to challenge the premises behind these “group thinks,” not even Bernie Sanders. No one would note that the U.S. government hasn’t provided a single verifiable fact to support its claims blaming Assad for the sarin attack or Putin for the plane shoot-down. No one would dare question the absurdity of blaming Assad for every death in Syria’s civil war or Putin for all the tensions in Ukraine. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “MH-17’s Unnecessary Mystery.”]
Those dubious “group thinks” are simply accepted as true regardless of the absence of evidence or the presence of significant counter-evidence.
The two possibilities for such behavior are both scary: either these people, including prospective presidents, believe the propaganda or that they are so cynical and cowardly that they won’t demand proof of serious charges that could lead the United States and the world into more war and devastation.
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).
As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified over the weekend that Iran has completed the measures necessary to comply with the nuclear deal reached last July with the P5+1 governments, the New York Times Editorial Board proclaimed “the world is now safer for this.” They lauded the deal as a “testament to patient diplomacy” and President Barack Obama’s “visionary determination to pursue a negotiated solution to the nuclear threat.”
The Editorial Board takes for granted that Iran presents a threat. Iran has always maintained it has never intended to build nuclear weapons, and that it’s nuclear program was strictly meant to use nuclear technology as a source of energy production. In fact, in 1957 the United States government itself provided Iran with its first nuclear reactor while the country was ruled by U.S. ally – and murderous dictator – Shah Reza Pahlavi. Iran would later sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968 and ratify it two years later.
Several years ago Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that “(w)e believe that nuclear weapons (in the world) must be obliterated, and we do not intend to make nuclear weapons.” Previously he had said making nuclear weapons was a “sin.”
But regardless of their professed intentions, the New York Times is skeptical the Iranian government can be trusted. They claim that there still exist “daunting challenges ahead” as the other parties to the agreement need to ensure “the deal is strictly adhered to.” The New York Times’s skepticism is unsurprising. While the Times certainly will not repeat George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” language, they internalize the same ideological framework.
Is the Times’s skepticism warranted by the Iranian government’s record? That would be hard to argue, as the revolutionary regime in power since 1979 has never invaded another country. Unstated and assumed to be self-evident is the idea that Iran is dangerous and unable to be trusted because it is not aligned with Washington. Rather, it exercises its own independent foreign policy outside of American control.
If there were not a double standard in play, the Times would treat the United States government with the same skepticism as Iran. After all, the United States, which possesses at least 7,200 nuclear warheads, is the only country in history to have used nuclear weapons – twice, against a country seeking for months to negotiate a conditional surrender.
Unlike Iran, the United States is not complying with the NPT. As a state already in possession of nuclear weapons, the United States has a responsibility under its treaty obligations to pursue disarmament. The Times itself detailed the U.S. government’s own modernization of its nuclear weapons in a front-page article on January 11.
The article by William J. Broad and David E. Sanger notes that Obama promised to work towards nuclear disarmament early in his presidency, saying he would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.”
However, the $1 trillion plan that later emerged called for the modernization of current nuclear weapons by redesigning and improving them. The Times quotes a critical report developed by two former national security officials as saying Obama’s plan could be seen “as violating the administration’s pledge not to develop or deploy” new nuclear weapons. Neither the report nor the Times questions whether this is also a violation of the government’s obligations under the NPT.
The Times shows a graphic depiction of the enhancements, including a steerable fins, a navigation system and safety features. “The result is a bomb that can make more accurate nuclear strikes and a warhead whose destructive power can be adjusted to minimize collateral damage and radioactive fallout,” the caption reads. This may make them “more tempting to use,” according to critics.
The title of the article, “As U.S. Modernizes Nuclear Weapons, ‘Smaller’ Leaves Some Uneasy,” is evidence that the debate around the Obama administration’s plan is seen as a matter of strategy and cost efficiency, rather than as a violation of international law and a threat to peace. The people left “uneasy” are all close to the national security establishment. Their concerns don’t have to do with the program’s contravention of the U.S. government’s responsibilities under the NPT. The debate is merely one of philosophical differences between policy makers.
Despite Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement (their continued compliance with the NPT is not even mentioned), the Times Editorial Board states that this doesn’t mean they “should not be subject to criticism or new sanctions for violation of other United Nations resolutions or American laws.” Indeed, they had previously called the Obama administration’s plans to impose new sanctions for Iran’s ballistic missile tests “wise.”
Aside from the dubious position that the U.S. government should unilaterally impose sanctions related to UN resolutions, they claim that Iran should be subject to the extraterritorial application of American laws. Under international law, no state is bound to respect the domestic laws of another state. The U.S. Supreme Court declared “the laws of no nation can justly extend beyond its own territories except so far as regards its own citizens. They can have no force to control the sovereignty or rights of any other nation within its own jurisdiction.”
The Times does not call for any legal or economic repercussions against the United States. The U.S. government’s $1 trillion program to upgrade its nuclear weapons is not in any way presented as a grave threat that affects the rest of the world. They don’t demand controls by outside powers the U.S. must strictly adhere to, as they do for Iran. Their framing of the story and absence of any editorial condemnation makes it clear the paper views the actions of the U.S. government as unquestionably beyond reproach.
The paper’s calls for the strict enforcement of the nuclear deal and application of new sanctions on the Iranian government are not grounded in any moral or legal principles. They are a reflection of the Times‘s acceptance of the U.S. government’s patronizing doctrine that threats to peace only emanate from countries outside of American control, who must be dealt with using coercion and punishment that the U.S. itself is always exempt from.
Is the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, a RINO — a revolutionary in name only?
So they must be muttering around the barracks of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps today.
For while American hawks are saying we gave away the store to Tehran, consider what ayatollah agreed to.
Last week, he gave his blessing to the return of 10 U.S. sailors who intruded into Iranian waters within hours of capture. He turned loose four Americans convicted of spying. And he gave final approval to a nuclear deal that is a national humiliation.
Ordered by the U.S. and Security Council to prove Iran was not lying when it said it had no nuclear weapons program — an assertion supported by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies “with high confidence” in 2007 — the ayatollah had to submit to the following demands:
Decommission 12,000 Iranian centrifuges, including all the advanced ones at Fordow, ship out of the country 98 percent of its enriched uranium, remove the core of its heavy-water reactor in Arak and fill it with concrete, and allow U.N. inspectors to crawl all over Iran’s nuclear facilities for years to come.
Iran is being treated by the great powers like an ex-con on parole who must be monitored and fitted with an ankle bracelet.
Why did the ayatollah capitulate to these demands?
Comes the reply: To get $100 billion. But the money Iran is getting back belongs to Iran. It is not foreign aid. The funds had been frozen until Iran accepted our conditions. The sanctions worked.
There is another reason Tehran may have submitted.
When Iran said it did not have a nuclear bomb program, it was telling the truth. Indeed, it is Iran’s accusers, many from the same crowd that misled and lied to us when they said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, whose credibility is in question today.
Iran’s accusers should produce their evidence, if any, that Iran had, or still has, a nuclear bomb program.
Otherwise, they should shut up with the lying and goading the U.S. into another war that will leave us with another trillion-dollar debt, ashes in our mouths, and thousands more dead and wounded warriors.
Yet, if Iran does not have a nuclear bomb program, we must ask: Why not? And the answer suggests itself: Because Iran concluded, years ago, that an atom bomb would make it less not more secure.
For, as soon as Iran tested a bomb, a nuclear arms race would be on in the Mideast with Saudis, Turks and Egyptians all in competition.
The Israelis would put their nuclear arsenal on a hair trigger. And most dangerous for Iran, she would find herself confronting the USA.
Yet, no matter how much the mullahs may hate us, they are not stupid, and they know a war with America would leave their country, as it left Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, smashed and broken.
Iraq is today splintered into Sunni, Shiite, Kurd and Arab. And Iran, after a war with the USA, could decompose into a tribalized land of warring Persians, Arabs, Baluch, Kurds and Azeris.
Yet, if a war with America would be a disaster for Iran, detente with America might bring a time of peace that could enable this largest nation on the Persian Gulf, with 80 million people, and an ally now of its old rival Iraq, to achieve hegemony in the Gulf.
Which brings us back to the ayatollah.
From his actions, he appears to have blessed Iran’s taking the same road on which Deng Xiaoping set out some four decades ago.
After Mao’s death, Deng found China with a backward economy in a booming world led by Reagan’s America and a Japan on the march.
To save Communism, Deng decided to embrace state capitalism.
And as there is nothing new under the sun, Deng had a model.
In 1921, in the wake of Russia’s crushing defeat in the Great War and bloodletting in the Civil War between “Reds” and “Whites,” Lenin saw his regime imperiled by a rising revolution against the Bolsheviks.
He dumped “war Communism” for a New Economic Policy, opened Russia to Western investors, while assuring the comrades that the capitalists “will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”
Similarly, Iran’s regime seems to have concluded that the path to power and permanence of the regime lies not in conflict with the United States, but in avoiding conflict — and taking the China road.
President Hassan Rouhani, who also sees Iran’s future as best assured by resolving the nuclear issue and reengaging with the West, described his triumph to the Iranian parliament:
“All are happy except Zionists, warmongers, sowers of discord among Islamic nations and extremists in the U.S. The rest are happy.”
If this deal is truly in the interests of the United States and Iran, whose interests would be served by scuttling it? Who seeks to do so?
And why would they want a return to confrontation and perhaps war?
Copyright 2016 Creators.com.
Most people around the globe are relieved by the prospect of peace following the lifting the embargo against Iran. Two groups, however, are not so happy. The Saudis and the Jews. The Saudi unease is based on geopolitical terms: Sunni/Shia conflict, oil market competition, and so on. However, it is puzzling that NY Jewish leaders are pretty upset by the prospect of putting this never ending conflict to sleep.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC), a body that claims to represent American Jews, reacted to the nuclear deal with a statement that it should not mean a return to “business as usual.”
“We call on governments to make it clear – to their countries’ business sector – that the JCPOA does not represent a return to ‘business as usual’ with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. A range of tough US sanctions, which AJC supports, remains in effect; Iran’s non-nuclear activities, which are ongoing and destabilizing, are subject to continued – and likely escalating – sanctions,” read a statement by AJC on Sunday.
The AJC and the ADL are apparently concerned with ‘human rights’ issues. Both pointed to “Iran’s on going human rights abuses and expansionism in the Middle East, in part through proxies like Hezbollah.” One would actually expect these Jewish organisations to deal first with the inhumanity of their Jewish State that’s a leading force in abuse of human rights, brutal racism and expansionism.
AIPAC declared that the lifting of sanctions is a “dangerous moment for America and our allies.” The group called on policymakers to confront “regional proxies” while taking “firm action to support our allies, especially Israel.”
B’nai B’rith, yet another Jewish American institution, said the US decision to slap sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile tests last October and December reinforced their skepticism about Iran’s willingness to go forward in compliance with the JCPOA. Seemingly American Jewish institutions are collectively distressed by the resolution of the conflict with Iran. Peace and reconciliation must be foreign to their lexicon. Perhaps someone should take a second and explain to these intrusive foreign lobbies that for America and the West, Iran is the last hope for stability in the region. Iran is the only regional power that can help to reverse the disaster created by the Jewish State and its lobby. But then it is not surprising to find Jewish lobbies locating themselves at the forefront of the pro war camp. As I have been saying for years, shalom doesn’t mean peace, it means security for the Jews.
American Jewish lobbies such as AJC, AIPAC, ADL and B’nai B’rith appear convinced that America fighting Iran is good for the Jews. However, it seems that, contrary to the wisdom of its Jewish lobbies, the American administration eventually gathered that peace is patriotic.
Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan says the Islamic Republic will unveil new domestically-designed and manufactured missiles in the near future in defiance of new US sanctions against the country over its missile program.
“[Any] attempt to impose new sanctions [against Iran] under irrelevant pretexts is indicative of the continued US hostile policy and acrimony toward the Iranian nation, and a futile effort to undermine Iran’s defense might,” Dehqan said on Monday.
He added that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile industry is fully domestically-manufactured and anchored in science and expertise of the country’s defense sector.
“Hence, sanctions against [certain] people and companies will have no impact on the development of the industry, and we will actually demonstrate [their ineffectiveness] by displaying new missiles,” he added.
Earlier on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the country will continue to enhance its missile capabilities in defiance of the “destructive” US sanctions over the Islamic Republic’s missile program.
“We will respond to such propaganda stunts and disruptive measures by more robustly pursuing our lawful missile program and promoting our defense capabilities and national security,” the statement added.
It further noted that Iran’s missiles serve defensive and deterrent purposes and have not been designed to carry nuclear warheads.
“The Iranian missile program has by no means been designed to carry nuclear weapons and is not in contravention of any international principle,” the statement pointed out.
The US Department of the Treasury said in a statement on Sunday that it has imposed new sanctions on several individuals and firms over Iran’s ballistic missile program, claiming that the program “poses a significant threat to regional and global security.”
The statement said five Iranian citizens and a network of companies based in the United Arab Emirates and China were added to a US blacklist.
On October 11, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) successfully test-fired its first guided ballistic missile dubbed Emad. Washington slammed the test, claiming the projectile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. It vowed to respond with more sanctions.
In recent years, Iran has made great achievements in its defense sector and attained self-sufficiency in producing essential military equipment and systems.
The Islamic Republic has repeatedly said its military might poses no threat to other countries, reiterating that its defense doctrine is based on deterrence.
The US Department of State has no comment on the recent accusation of Tehran on the “illegal” nature of the new US sanctions against entities involved in ballistic missile procurement for Iran, the Office of Press Relations told Sputnik on Monday.
Earlier on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Hossein Jaberi Ansari stated the US sanctions have “no legal or moral legitimacy.” Moreover, the country’s foreign ministry said that Tehran will reply on the sanctions by a more robust approach to the national ballistic missile program and its national defense and security capabilities.
“We have no comment on this,” the press relations office said, highlighting the country’s President Barack Obama’s Sunday statement on Iran.
On Sunday, Obama stated that the nuclear agreement reached by Iran and world powers in July proved possibilities of US diplomacy.
On the same day, the US Treasury Department sanctioned 11 entities and individuals, including six Iranians and one Chinese citizen, over their involvement in procurement on behalf of Iran’s ballistic missile program.
In November, media reported that Iran allegedly tested a surface-to-surface Emad (Pillar) missile in violation of a UN Security Council resolution.
The United States has earlier weakened sanctions targeting Iran as global nuclear watchdog IAEA verified on Saturday Tehran’s compliance with a nuclear agreement reached last July.
This has been the most dramatic week in US/Iranian relations since 1979.
Last weekend ten US Navy personnel were caught in Iranian waters, as the Pentagon kept changing its story on how they got there. It could have been a disaster for President Obama’s big gamble on diplomacy over conflict with Iran. But after several rounds of telephone diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Iranian leadership – which we are told by the neocons is too irrational to even talk to – did a most rational thing: weighing the costs and benefits they decided it made more sense not to belabor the question of what an armed US Naval vessel was doing just miles from an Iranian military base. Instead of escalating, the Iranian government fed the sailors and sent them back to their base in Bahrain.
Then on Saturday, the Iranians released four Iranian-Americans from prison, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. On the US side, seven Iranians held in US prisons, including six who were dual citizens, were granted clemency. The seven were in prison for seeking to trade with Iran in violation of the decades-old US economic sanctions.
This mutual release came just hours before the United Nations certified that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear treaty signed last summer and that, accordingly, US and international sanctions would be lifted against the country.
How did the “irrational” Iranians celebrate being allowed back into the international community? They immediately announced a massive purchase of more than 100 passenger planes from the European Airbus company, and that they would also purchase spare parts from Seattle-based Boeing. Additionally, US oil executives have been in Tehran negotiating trade deals to be finalized as soon as it is legal to do so. The jobs created by this peaceful trade will be beneficial to all parties concerned. The only jobs that should be lost are the Washington advocates of re-introducing sanctions on Iran.
Events this week have dealt a harsh blow to Washington’s neocons, who for decades have been warning against any engagement with Iran. These true isolationists were determined that only regime change and a puppet government in Tehran could produce peaceful relations between the US and Iran. Instead, engagement has worked to the benefit of the US and Iran.
Proven wrong, however, we should not expect the neocons to apologize or even pause to reflect on their failed ideology. Instead, they will continue to call for new sanctions on any pretext. They even found a way to complain about the release of the US sailors – they should have never been confronted in the first place even if they were in Iranian waters. And they even found a way to complain about the return of the four Iranian-Americans to their families and loved ones – the US should have never negotiated with the Iranians to coordinate the release of prisoners, they grumbled. It was a show of weakness to negotiate! Tell that to the families on both sides who can now enjoy the company of their loved ones once again!
I have often said that the neocons’ greatest fear is for peace to break out. Their well-paid jobs are dependent on conflict, sanctions, and pre-emptive war. They grow wealthy on conflict, which only drains our economy. Let’s hope that this new opening with Iran will allow many other productive Americans to grow wealthy through trade and business ties. Let’s hope many new productive jobs will be created on both sides. Peace is prosperous!
Saudi Arabia pledged the Somali government USD 50 million in aid on the same day Mogadishu declared it had severed ties with Iran, a report says.
According to a document from the Saudi embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, to the embassy of Somalia there, the regime in Riyadh pledged USD 20 million in budget support to Mogadishu and USD 30 million for investment in the African country, Reuters reported Sunday.
The news agency quoted diplomats as saying that the financial support is “the latest sign of patronage used by the kingdom to shore up regional support against Iran.”
“The Saudis currently manage to rally countries behind them both on financial grounds and the argument of non-interference,” a diplomat said. Iran has repeatedly denied the Saudi allegations of interference in the affairs of other countries.
On January 2, Saudi Arabia announced the execution of prominent cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 other people. Nimr was a critic of Riyadh. After that, protesters gathered outside the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital, Tehran, and the consulate building in the city of Mashhad. Some people attacked the Saudi diplomatic missions during the protests. Iranian authorities strongly condemned the attacks and some 60 people were detained.
Riyadh severed its ties with Tehran on January 3.
Somalia was among those countries that declared they were cutting diplomatic relations with Iran. Bahrain, Sudan, Djibouti and Comoros also have severed ties with Iran. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates recalled ambassadors.
The Somali government has not confirmed or denied the pledge, but Mogadishu claims the Saudi support for Somalia, which has been long-running, is not related to the decision to break diplomatic ties with Iran. The Saudi Foreign Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.