Addressing Congress in the style of a State of the Union speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won 41 rounds of applause as U.S. lawmakers eagerly enlisted in the Israeli-Saudi conflict against Iran and its allies – an enthusiasm that may well entangle the U.S. military in more wars in the Middle East.
Speaking to a joint session of Congress for the third time – tying British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for the record – Netanyahu went far beyond excoriating President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran to restrict but not eliminate its nuclear program. He portrayed Iran as a dangerous enemy whose regional influence must be stopped and reversed, a position shared by Israel’s new ally, Saudi Arabia.
Netanyahu declared: “In the Middle East, Iran now dominates four Arab capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. And if Iran’s aggression is left unchecked, more will surely follow. So, at a time when many hope that Iran will join the community of nations, Iran is busy gobbling up the nations. We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”
Netanyahu’s reference to “Iran’s aggression” was curious since Iran has not invaded another country for centuries. In 1980, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – at the urging of Saudi Arabia – invaded Iran. During that bloody eight-year war, Israel – far from being an enemy of Iran – became Iran’s principal arms supplier. Israel drew in the Reagan administration, which approved some of the Israeli-brokered arms deals, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal in 1986.
In other words, Israel was aiding Iran after the Islamic revolution overthrew the Shah in 1979 and during the time when Netanyahu blamed Iran for the attack on the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and various acts of terrorism allegedly committed by Hezbollah, a Shiite militia in Lebanon. Israel only shifted toward hostility against Shiite-ruled Iran in the 1990s as Israel gradually developed a de facto alliance with Sunni-ruled and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which views Iran as its chief regional rival.
Netanyahu’s choice of Arab cities supposedly conquered by Iran was strange, too. Baghdad is the capital of Iraq where the U.S. military invaded in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated government — on Netanyahu’s recommendation. After the invasion, President George W. Bush installed a Shiite-dominated government. So, whatever influence Iran has in Baghdad is the result of a U.S. invasion that Netanyahu personally encouraged.
More recently, Iran has supported the embattled Iraqi government in its struggle against the murderous Islamic State militants who seized large swaths of Iraqi territory last summer. Indeed, Iraqi officials have credited Iran with playing a crucial role in blunting the Islamic State, the terrorists whom President Obama has identified as one of the top security threats facing the United States.
Netanyahu cited Damascus, too, where Iran has helped the Syrian government in its struggle against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. In other words, Iran is assisting the internationally recognized government of Syria hold off two major terrorist organizations. But Netanyahu portrays that as Iran “gobbling up” a nation.
The Israeli prime minister also mentioned Beirut, Lebanon, and Sanaa, Yemen, but those were rather bizarre references, too, since Lebanon is governed by a multi-ethnic arrangement that includes a number of religious and political factions. Hezbollah is one and it has close ties to Iran, but it is stretching the truth to say that Iran “dominates” Beirut or Lebanon.
Similarly, in Sanaa, the Houthis, a Shiite-related sect, have taken control of Yemen’s capital and have reportedly received some help from Iran, but the Houthis deny those reports and are clearly far from under Iranian control. The Houthis also have vowed to work with the Americans to carry on the fight against Yemen’s Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Leading the Battle
Indeed, Iran and these various Shiite-linked movements have been among the most effective in battling Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, while Israel’s Saudi friends have been repeatedly linked to funding and supporting these Sunni terrorist organizations. In effect, what Netanyahu asked the Congress to do – and apparently successfully – was to join Saudi Arabia and Israel in identifying Iran, not Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as America’s chief enemy in the Middle East.
That would put the U.S.-Iranian cooperation in combating Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in jeopardy. It could lead to victories by these Sunni terrorists in Syria and possibly even Iraq, a situation that almost surely would force the U.S. military to return in force to the region. No U.S. president could politically accept Damascus or Baghdad in the hands of openly terrorist organizations vowing to carry the fight to Europe and the United States.
Yet, that was the logic — or lack thereof — in Netanyahu’s appeal to Congress. As he put it, “when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.” He also argued that Iran was a greater threat than the Islamic State, a position that Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has expressed, too.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime [in Syria] as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in a 2013 interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran” – even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.
In June 2014, then speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.
Netanyahu made a similar point: “The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.”
Of course, Iran has disavowed any interest in developing a nuclear bomb — and both the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities agree that Iran has not been working on a bomb. Further, the negotiated agreement between Iran and leading world powers would impose strict oversight on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, leaving little opportunity to cheat.
Instead, Netanyahu wants the United States to lead an aggressive campaign to further strangle Iran’s economy with the goal of forcing some future “regime change.” […]
Shared Israeli Interests
The Israelis also have found themselves on the side of these Sunni militants in Syria because the Israelis share the Saudi view that Iran and the so-called “Shiite crescent” – reaching from Tehran to Beirut – is the greatest threat to their interests.
That attitude of favoring Sunni militants over Assad has taken a tactical form with Israeli forces launching attacks inside Syria that benefit Nusra Front. For instance, on Jan. 18, 2015, Israel attacked Lebanese-Iranian advisers assisting Assad’s government in Syria, killing several members of Hezbollah and an Iranian general. These military advisers were engaged in operations against Nusra Front.
Meanwhile, Israel has refrained from attacking Nusra militants who have seized Syrian territory near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. One source familiar with U.S. intelligence information on Syria told me that Israel has a “non-aggression pact” with Nusra forces, who have even received medical treatment at Israeli hospitals.
Israel and Saudi Arabia have found themselves on the same side in other regional struggles, including support for the military’s ouster of the elected Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, but most importantly they have joined forces in their hostility toward Shiite-ruled Iran.
I first reported on the growing relationship between Israel and Saudi Arabia in August 2013 in an article entitled “The Saudi-Israeli Superpower,” noting that the complementary strengths of the two countries made their alliance a potentially powerful influence in the world. Israel wields enormous political and media clout — and possesses nuclear weapons — while the Saudis use their oil, money and investments. [For more details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Saudis Said to Aid Israeli Plan to Bomb Iran.”]
What the world saw in Netanyahu’s bravura performance on Tuesday before the wildly applauding members of the U.S. Congress was him proving his value to his Saudi cohorts, demonstrating how he can make some of America’s most powerful politicians behave like trained seals, bouncing up and down to cheer him even when he openly seeks to undermine the sitting U.S. President.
Some of the loudest applause came when Netanyahu told the Congress, “My friends, for over a year, we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”
Netanyahu’s enthusiastic reception signaled to President Obama that he has little political support for a negotiated agreement with Iran and signaled to Iran that all their concessions are unlikely to lead to any meaningful easing of sanctions from the U.S. Congress.
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).
The New York Times is reporting that most Republican voters as well as quite a few Democrats are leaning in favor of American soldiers intervening directly in Syria and Iraq. Republican politicians are paying attention, sounding more bellicose than ever, demanding “boots on the ground” and even suggesting that a John Bolton presidential run is a real possibility.
Apparently the widely noted war fatigue resulting from all the unsuccessful military engagements after 9/11 has worn off. ISIS and Russia are, of course the enemies du jour, but there is also a frequently expressed hankering to go after the Mullahs in Iran if they don’t completely cede their sovereignty tout suite. And there is always the “Red Menace” from China if all else fails. So many enemies, so little time to defeat them all.
How did all this come about as the United States has almost no actual interests compelling getting involved in the Middle East or Eastern Europe yet again? It is not as if a new foray into realms that we Yanks know little or nothing about is likely to be any more successful than the last couple of misadventures. To be sure, a series of sickening atrocities by ISIS has gotten the juices flowing, but the White House’s desire to obtain blanket authority to initiate and deepen an open ended conflict that presumably will go on forever is just about as poorly defined and prone to failure as was the Bushite global war on terror that it replaces.
Part of the problem is undoubtedly an ignorant public. Foreign news coverage is superficial and tends to follow a preordained groupthink that is set by the engaged punditry in Washington and New York City. Putin is always evil and the Iranians are always perfidious. Americans remain ignorant because they are fed a steady diet of untruths and are rarely allowed to hear or read alternative viewpoints. The journalists who write the lies for the leading newspapers and who interview Senator John McCain repeatedly on Sunday mornings are far worse than Brian Williams, who only embellished his stories. The Judy Millers of this world go far beyond that in selling a complete set of bogus goods carefully packaged into prefabricated arguments, which, in the case of Iraq, led to an unnecessary and ultimately disastrous war.
The media has a responsibility to challenge such dishonesty but it rarely does so. A recent puff piece in the Washington Post on Republican President wannabe Mike Huckabee’s acting as a tour guide to Israel was astonishing in terms of what it forgot to mention. Huckabee clearly thumped his belief that God and Israel and the United States are all joined at the hip, but along the way he also revealed that he believes that the Palestinian people do not actually exist, denying them any kind of historical claim to their own land. The article also quoted Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who was accompanying Huckabee, as saying “there’s really no such thing as the ‘Palestinians’.”
The author of the piece, the Post’s Israel correspondent William Booth, did not point out that the claim is ridiculous and un-historical, that Palestine has been settled for thousands of years with an indigenous population that was initially pagan and Jewish, then mostly Christian, and finally mostly Muslim. If roots define national legitimacy then the Palestinian Arabs have more claim to the land that now makes up Israel than do the recent Jewish settlers who came from Europe, America and elsewhere in the Middle East. But a casual reader knowing none of that would not be enlightened by Mr. Booth and might quite possibly leave the article with the impression that there are no Palestinians.
The Post’s editorial policy is relentlessly neocon under the tutelage of Fred Hiatt, whom, hopefully, Jeff Bezos will be firing when he finally gets around to shaking up the paper’s senior staff. There has been a steady drumbeat to take military action against Russia and Syria while sniping relentlessly against any possible agreement with Iran.
Gems that have appeared recently in connection with the upcoming visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu include Dennis Ross’s February 22 nd op-ed on “How to ease Israel’s concerns.” Ross, once described as “Israel’s lawyer,” is inevitably most concerned with making Israel comfortable and proposes legislation mandating a military strike by the U.S. if Iran were perceived to be moving towards weapons grade production of uranium. Of course Ross ignores the evidence that such a perception can be engineered through fake intelligence or by political interests seeking to start a war. The IAEA recently determined that much of the case for Iran having an alleged weapons program in the first place was derived from intelligence fabricated by the United States and also Israel. Ross’s advice would create a trip wire and place the decision whether the U.S. should go to war with Iran in Israel’s hands.
A day later there was a triple whammy. The Post printed a letter from one Robert Tropp claiming that Iran is “developing a nuclear weapon” and “wants to destroy Israel.” Neither assertion is true but the editorial staff apparently felt the letter made a significant contribution to the discussion. On the facing page appeared two articles, one by Hiatt himself, entitled “A credibility gap: Obama’s challenge in selling and Iran deal” and the second by former Senator Joe Lieberman entitled “Hear out Israel’s leader.”
Hiatt argues that President Barack Obama should have sought to “eradicate[e] Iran’s nuclear weapons potential” and points out that the president has backed off from previous foreign policy commitments, including what to do about Iraq, Syria, and Russia. One might note that Hiatt’s desire to “eradicate” a “potential” could be interpreted to mean almost anything that Iran does that the Washington Post does not like.
Because Iran is a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory whose facilities are open to inspection it has a perfect right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. All of which means that Hiatt is essentially saying that Iran’s rights under international law should be abrogated because they make Israel nervous, though he does not, of course, mention Israel. Nor for that matter does he bother to explain exactly how Iran threatens the United States.
Israel, of course, is central to Hiatt’s argument. It has an estimated secret arsenal that includes two hundred nuclear weapons and multiple delivery systems, which Hiatt does not find disturbing, presumably because Benjamin Netanyahu is such a solid individual. Hiatt concludes by expressing his desire to see Congress as a partner in any agreement with Iran. As the Republican majority in Congress is hostile to any deal he is basically calling for a solution that can only fail.
Lieberman on the other hand does not hide his deep regard for Israel and all its works. He encourages all Congressmen to attend the Netanyahu speech on March 3 rd. For Joe, the former “conscience of the Senate,” it is all about hearing Bibi explain how “best to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons” and also because everyone should be a “strong supporter of America’s alliance with Israel.” In addition Congressmen have to be informed by experts like Netanyahu because some day down the road they might have to raise armies and declare war as Iran is not just threatening Israel. Those mad Mullahs are developing nukes and long range missiles that can strike America. And nuclear proliferation by Iran is particularly bad because it might encourage Arab neighbors to do the same.
Joe then returns to his oft repeated meme that “Israel is one of our closest and most steadfast allies” before concluding that Iran “remains the greatest threat to the security of America and the world.” The op-ed is so bad that one suspects Joe wrote it himself, though possibly with a little help from AIPAC. Every single point made is wrong or misleading, most particularly the double assertion that Israel is a wonderful ally. It is not an ally at all and never has been. And if there is an out of control secret nuclear proliferator in the Middle East whose paranoid behavior might well produce a nuclear World War 3 it is Israel, which ex-Senator Lieberman fails to grasp.
If I could I would like to send a message to the mainstream media. It might go something like this: “Please tell your readers the truth for a change. The only thing exceptional about America at the present time is our hubris. We helped create al-Qaeda by attacking the Soviets in Afghanistan. Iraq is a basket case because we invaded it without cause. Syria is in chaos because we have never seriously sought a peaceful solution with Bashar al-Assad. What we have done in Iraq and Syria taken together has produced ISIS. Libya is a toxic mess because we overthrew its government on phony humanitarian grounds. Afghanistan is about to copy Iraq because we have occupied it for thirteen years without a clue how to get out. We started the troubles in Ukraine and with Russia when we broke our promise by expanding NATO and then worked to overthrow an elected government. And finally there is Israel. Israel is not an ally and is the source of many of the problems in the Middle East. American and Israeli interests do not coincide, frequently quite the contrary.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry has reminded American officials that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is against a nuclear deal with Iran, was also in the US in 2002 to push for the invasion of Iraq.
Netanyahu is set to use his next week’s address to a joint session of Congress to condemn a potential nuclear agreement with Iran.
During a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on Wednesday, Kerry warned Congress about the controversial speech.
“The prime minister, as you will recall, was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision,” Kerry said.
The top US diplomat was referring to testimony on the Middle East that Netanyahu delivered to Congress on Sept. 12, 2002.
During his speech, Netanyahu expressed strong support for Washington to oust former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Six months later, the US military bombarded the country.
“I think the choice of Iraq is a good choice, it’s the right choice,” Netanyahu said in 2002. “If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”
Kerry also said on Wednesday that Netanyahu was wrong about Iran too because he had been “extremely outspoken about how bad the interim agreement was, calling it the ‘deal of the century for Iran.’”
The March 3 speech by Netanyahu has made the Obama administration furious as it comes ahead of crucial nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany that are working hard to reach a comprehensive nuclear accord.
Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the speech has “injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it’s destructive of the fabric of the relationship.”
Netanyahu, who is trying to put pressure on US officials to stop a final deal, once again defended his trip to Washington on Tuesday, saying he would do everything to prevent the agreement.
“It is my obligation as prime minister to do everything that I can to prevent this agreement. Therefore, I will go to Washington… because the American Congress is likely to be the final brake before the agreement,” he said.
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and John Kerry would not meet with the Israeli leader during his trip.
A number of Democrats announced that they would skip the speech.
GMP product photo
The latest NCRI revelations of a new “Lavizan 3″ facility has been sent to the right wing and pro-war media and has been playing in the US non-stop. The group claims it has photo of a “steel door” designed to prevent radiation leaks. (Washington Post).
The report feature only one singular picture as proof, they say was taken from an underground bunker that is “anti nuclear radiation”. But the picture is from an Iranian safe company GMP It’s a product shot for their “explosive resistant” door.
Page 10 of NCRI Report, Feb 24, 2015
The NCRI is a front organization controlled by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a violent terrorist organization at war with Iran. It has targeted and killed many civilians including American citizens since the 1960’s. The group was listed as a terrorist organization until 2012 in the United States.
The cult-like group has also perpetrated human rights abuses against its own members. But in the post-Iraq invasion era, it has become a vocal supporter of military action by US and Israel. MEK participated in assassination of Iranian scientists and has an established relationship with Israel. Read this National Interest article for some of the details.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 statement at the UN, in which he warned the world of Iran being too close to making a nuclear bomb, allegedly contradicted his country’s intelligence assessments, according to leaked spy documents.
Netanyahu famously declared to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2012 that Iran was 70 percent of the way to completing its “plans to build a nuclear weapon,” and drew another “red line” at 90 percent, claiming Tehran’s first bomb would be ready “by next spring, at most by next summer.”
However, leaked Mossad documents suggest the country was much further from such development.
According to Spy Cables – a cache of hundreds of leaked secret intelligence papers from all over the world, published by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit in collaboration with the Guardian newspaper – at the time of Netanyahu’s statement, Israel’s intelligence service concluded that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons,” estimating that Iran had 100 kilograms of uranium enriched to a level of 20 percent.
“Even though Iran has accumulated enough 5 percent enriched uranium for several bombs, and has enriched some of it to 20 percent, it does not appear to be ready to enrich it to higher levels. It is allocating some of it to produce nuclear fuel for the TRR [Tehran Research Reactor], and the amount of 20 percent enriched uranium is therefore not increasing,” said the secret report, which Mossad shared with South Africa’s State Security Agency a few weeks after the prime minister’s UN speech.
With world leaders worried by a possible nuclear threat, a series of political decisions led to Iran’s consent to neutralize or destroy its enriched uranium under an agreement with the US, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany – the so-called P5+1 group.
Talks between world leaders on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and uranium enrichment capacity have taken place since sanctions were imposed on Tehran in 2012.
Iran insists it has no nuclear weapons ambitions and seeks enrichment capabilities to develop reactor fuel, and for other peaceful purposes. However, the West believes Tehran has been using its civilian atomic energy program as a cover for developing a bomb.
Since the parties failed to reach a conclusion by the previous deadline of November last year, Iran’s nuclear talks with the six world powers carry on. Iran and P5+1 countries are expected to reach a basic framework agreement by the end of March, with a final accord due by June 30. Netanyahu plans to address the US Congress next month to once again warn against a nuclear compromise with Tehran.
The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program contains much that is worth emphasizing. Iran is continuing to account for all its declared nuclear material (and the agency appears to have no reason to suspect the existence of undeclared nuclear material). Iran is also continuing to comply fully with the commitments it made to the United States and others on November 24, 2013 and which it has renewed since.
Much of the commentary on the report on Iran will inevitably highlight Iran’s continuing failure to resolve two concerns the IAEA raised in May 2014. I, however, am surprised, that the IAEA director general omits all mention of two Iranian attempts, since the last IAEA report in mid-November, to address those and some other allegations that the IAEA is investigating.
On December 2, Reuters reported that in a statement to the IAEA Iran had rejected accusations that it was stonewalling IAEA investigations. Instead, Iran had affirmed that it had given the IAEA “pieces of evidence” indicating that documents adduced by the IAEA as reasons for concern were “full of mistakes and contain fake names with specific pronunciations which only point towards a certain IAEA member as their forger.” (The member Iran probably had in mind was Israel).
Yet there is no mention whatsoever of this Iranian rebuttal in the latest report, still less any detailed IAEA rebuttal of the rebuttal. Instead, the director general resorts to an exceptionally bland (and in the circumstances misleading) phrase: “Iran has not provided any explanations that enable the Agency to clarify the two outstanding practical measures [concerns].”
In effect Iran is being asked to prove its innocence. But when it tries to do so, the evidence it submits is rejected out of hand because it calls into question the evidence that is being used to justify the suspicion of guilt. Is that consistent with due process?
Also surprising is the omission of any mention of Iran’s offer of access to a suspected nuclear site at Marivan, reported by Reuters on December 11. A controversial annex to the IAEA’s November 2011 report referred to one member state having informed the agency that major high-explosives tests were conducted at Marivan in the first part of the last decade.
Since the IAEA has not taken Iran up on the offer, it presumably believes that a visit to Marivan would serve no useful purpose. If that is the case, do they not owe it to Iran to withdraw the November 2011 charge relating to Marivan? If the agency isn’t arranging a site visit, it should explain to IAEA member states that it considers the information provided by “a member state” to have been unreliable or irrelevant.
I raise these questions not to criticise the IAEA secretariat, which continues to do a first-class job in Iran, as professional and objective as ever. Rather, I want to offset the hue and cry that opponents of a nuclear deal will raise over the reference in the latest report to Iran’s failure to provide explanations. I’m suggesting that there is more to this than meets the eye.
Turning back to the positive, Iran is continuing to allow exceptional access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops, and storage facilities. This access has enabled the IAEA to conclude that centrifuge rotor manufacturing and assembly are consistent with Iran’s replacement program for failed centrifuges. In other words, Iran is not manufacturing and diverting rotors to some clandestine enrichment facility.
This is highly significant. Amid the endless furor over the number of centrifuges that Iran should retain under a comprehensive agreement, the public could be forgiven for failing to appreciate that, theoretically, Iran is far more likely to “sneak out”—using a clandestine enrichment facility—than to “break out” under the eyes of IAEA inspectors, using the centrifuges it wants to retain.
I inserted “theoretically” to emphasize that at this point there is no evidence that Iran intends either to break out or to sneak out. And as long as the IAEA retains access to Iran’s rotor manufacturing, assembly, and storage facilities—which it will lose if the opponents of a deal have their way—we can all feel confident of a continuing absence of intention.
In essence, the latest IAEA report contains nothing that would justify the United States and its allies declining to close a deal with Iran in the course of the coming four weeks. I, for one, am rooting for their success.
Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years, following studies at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard. He served in Vienna (twice), Washington, Paris, Brasilia and Geneva. He specialized in global economic and security issues. His last assignment (2001-06) was that of UK Ambassador to the IAEA and UN (Vienna).
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The head of Russian state defense conglomerate Rostec says Moscow has offered Iran its latest Antey-2500 missile defense systems after a deal to supply less powerful S-300 missiles was scrapped under Western pressure.
Tehran is now considering the offer, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Sergei Chemezov as saying on Monday.
“As far as Iran is concerned, we offered Antey-2500 instead of S-300. They are thinking. No decision has been made yet,” Chemezov said.
There was no immediate response to Chemezov’s comments from Iran.
Under a contract signed in 2007, Russia was obliged to provide Iran with at least five S-300 defense systems.
However, Moscow refused to deliver the system to Iran under the pretext that it is covered by the fourth round of the United Nations Security Council sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.
Following Moscow’s failure to deliver the systems, Iran filed a complaint against the Russian arms firm Rosoboronexport with the International Court of Arbitration in Geneva.
The Antey-2500 was developed from the 1980s-generation S-300V system (SA-12A Gladiator and SA-12B Giant). It can engage missiles travelling at 4,500 meters per second, with a range of 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles), according to the company that makes it, Almaz-Antey.
The S-300 missiles have a 125-mile (200-kilometers) range.
Doctored blueprints for nuclear weapon components supplied to Iran by the CIA 15 years ago could force the IAEA to review its conclusions on Iran’s atomic program, which was potentially based on misleading intelligence, Bloomberg reports.
The details of the Central Intelligence Agency operation back in 2000 were made public as part of a judicial hearing into a case involving Jeffrey Sterling, an agent convicted of leaking classified information on CIA spying against Iran.
“The goal is to plant this substantial piece of deception information on the Iranian nuclear-weapons program, sending them down blind alleys, wasting their time and money,” a May 1997 CIA cable submitted to the court reads.
The intelligence in question pertains to fake designs of atomic components that were transferred to Iran in February 2000.
Now it turns out the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could be forced to reassess their earlier conclusions regarding Iran’s atomic program, the publication quoted two anonymous Western diplomats as saying. Part of the IAEA’s suspicions about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program relies on information provided by multiple intelligence agencies.
“This story suggests a possibility that hostile intelligence agencies could decide to plant a ‘smoking gun’ in Iran for the IAEA to find,” Peter Jenkins, the UK’s former envoy to the Vienna-based agency told Bloomberg. “That looks like a big problem.”
In the latest quarterly report, the atomic watchdog said that the team of experts is still concerned about Iran’s nuclear intentions, prompting an immediate reaction from Israel.
“The agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile,” it reads.
Whether or not the revealed CIA secret will change this assessment remains to be seen, but Tehran has always insisted that its atomic energy program is peaceful.
“This revelation highlights the dangers of reliance by the IAEA upon evidence concerning Iran provided to it by third party states whose political agendas are antithetical to Iran,” Dan Joyner, a law professor at the University of Alabama told Bloomberg.
In response to the news, the IAEA told the publication that it conducts thorough assessments of the information it receives and uses. The CIA has so far failed to comment.
In 2013, Iran agreed to an interim deal with Russia, the United States, China, France, Great Britain and Germany under which Tehran would promise to flat-line its nuclear program, in exchange for a loosening of the severe banking and oil sanction earlier imposed by the West.
Iran has refrained from expanding tests of more efficient models of a centrifuge used to refine uranium under a nuclear agreement with six world powers, a UN report showed, allaying concerns it might be violating the accord.
An interim accord in 2013 between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia stipulated Tehran could continue its “current enrichment R&D (research and development) practices,” implying they should not be stepped up.
But a UN nuclear agency report in November said Iran had been feeding one of several new models under development, the so-called IR-5 centrifuge, with uranium gas, prompting a debate among analysts on whether this may have been a violation.
A confidential document by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), distributed among its member states on Thursday and obtained by Reuters, showed the IR-5 had been disconnected.
“The disconnection reflects Iran addressing concerns about its enrichment (of uranium),” said the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which closely tracks Iran’s nuclear program.
“The disconnection provides additional confidence that Iran is abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action,” it said, referring to the 2013 agreement.
International talks have been resumed in Geneva on Friday with the aim of narrowing remaining gaps in negotiations to end Iran’s 12-year standoff with the six powers.
Washington suspects Iran’s nuclear program is designed to develop nuclear weapons; Iran denies this, saying it is for peaceful purposes.
The deal sought by the powers would have Iran accept limits to its uranium enrichment capacity and open up to unfettered IAEA inspections.
In return, Iran would see a lifting of international trade and financial sanctions that hobbled its oil-based economy.
The IAEA document about the UN inquiry, which has run parallel to the big power talks, was issued to IAEA member states only weeks before a deadline in late March for a framework agreement between Iran and the powers.
They have set themselves a deadline for a final deal at the end of June. Two deadlines for a permanent agreement have already been missed since the November 2013 interim deal.
Negotiators are now working toward reaching a political framework by March 31, with the final technical details to be laid out in a comprehensive accord by June 30.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed that his country would resist global sanctions imposed over its nuclear program, saying that Iran might respond to international pressure by cutting back gas exports.
“If sanctions are to be the way, the Iranian nation can also do it. A big collection of the world’s oil and gas is in Iran, so Iran if necessary can hold back on the gas that Europe and the world is so dependent on,” Khamenei said.
Disagreements in the talks between Iran and P5+1 center on the extent of nuclear activities Iran would be allowed to continue and the timetable for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear efforts.
Dennis Ross calls for law mandating US war on Iran if deal “violated” to “address Israel’s concerns”
A former US presidential aide says Washington should pass a law mandating military action against Iran if the Islamic Republic violates the terms of a final deal over its nuclear program.
Speaking at the annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Dennis Ross said the US must be clear what the consequences would be for any possible Iranian violations of the deal in any agreement over Tehran’s nuclear work.
“You cannot wait until you face the violations, and decide what it (the consequence), will be,” he said. “You actually should work that out now.”
Ross, who from 2009 to 2011 was a key White House official dealing with Iran, said this is an area where the US administration and Congress can cooperate and agree in advance what the price of violations will be.
If Iran is found to have been engaged in a non-civilian nuclear work despite a nuclear agreement, said Ross, then the consequence should be the use of American military force.
“There should be legislation, worked out with the [Capitol] Hill in advance, which says if we catch them with the following kinds of violations, then the implication is that we are going to take out those facilities,” he added.
He said a law that would authorize military action if Iran violates the deal, could also address Israel’s concerns.
Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany – are seeking to reach a high-level political agreement by April 1 and to confirm the full technical details of the accord by July 1.
Since an interim deal was sealed in the Swiss city of Geneva in November 2013, the negotiating sides have missed two self-imposed deadlines to ink a final comprehensive agreement over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has in numerous times confirmed Iran has been abiding by its commitments to the Geneva deal.
The Agency that is supervising Tehran’s nuclear program, has never reported any deviation in Iran’s nuclear program toward militarism.
When I was in college back in the 1960s a Jewish friend and I got into a discussion after Israel’s overwhelming victory in the June 1967 “Six day war.” I observed that many of the Jewish students who were exulting over kicking the crap out of the Arabs were at the same time leaders of the anti-war movement on campus, which opposed the Vietnam War. Admittedly media coverage of Vietnam was already becoming negative and the press descriptions of what had gone on in the Middle East falsely represented a beleaguered Israeli David by sheer grit and valor defeating an overwhelming Arab Goliath, so it was possible to distinguish in practical terms between the two conflicts. One was defense and the other was American imperialism, or so it could be construed by those who chose to see it that way.
As I knew that I was soon to be drafted I tried to rationalize within my own mind Vietnam, convincing myself that it was a war to stop the spread of communism, which at the time appeared to represent an existential threat directed against the United States. But I was still bothered by folks who claimed to oppose Vietnam on principle cheering on another war apparently based on their own ethnic affinity. My friend responded to my concerns by acknowledging the emotional tug represented by Israel but adding that the United States would always be much more important to him. It didn’t really answer the question but it came from a friend and it was good enough.
Well, that was then and this is now. Since the 1960s what Norman Finkelstein has described as the “Holocaust industry” has burgeoned, much of it used as an excuse to exonerate Israeli bad behavior. The Israel Lobby has also grown enormously in support of only one objective, which is binding Israel to the United States in such a fashion as to make Americans the enablers and uncritical supporters of Tel Aviv’s foreign and security policies.
Many American Jews, to their credit, have become weary of the tie that binds to Israel as they recognize that it is bad for both parties involved and enables an endless occupation of Arab land that is both cruel and immoral while fostering internal developments in Israel that might reasonably be described as fascistic. Other Jews have, however, gone in another direction, making the immunizing of Israel from any and all criticism while demonizing her enemies their life’s goal. In that they have largely succeeded, with Benjamin Netanyahu an honored guest of the U.S. Congress, a wannabe presidential candidate incorrectly describing Israel as a “most cherished ally,” and two Jewish billionaires openly lining up to be principal supporters of the upcoming Republican and Democratic presidential candidates as measured by their support of Israel.
Indeed, many supporters of Israel do not seem at all ashamed of openly putting Israel ahead of the United States, which is where I have a problem because, apart from enabling the skewing of America’s foreign policy, it raises the issue of where one has basic loyalty. Loyalty to a nation might well be passé in this day and age but it can have significant consequences when groups that are powerful promote detrimental policies that impact on everyone.
All of which brings me to the Super Bowl. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is a passionate supporter of Israel and all its works, to include its increasingly right wing governments over the past decades. He has visited the country more than 50 times. When his team won the Lombardi trophy in 2005 he personally carried it to Israel and presented it to then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. To be sure Kraft appears to be a decent, well liked man who has funded institutes that foster better Christian-Jewish relations, but his bottom line always appears to be Israel.
Kraft’s recently deceased wife Myra once told the Jerusalem Post that if one of her sons wanted to join the Israeli Army “I would go with him. I always wanted to live here. As for joining the army, over Vietnam, I would have had an issue, because I didn’t believe in it. The same goes for the war in Iraq. I don’t know why we’re there. I would hate to have one of my sons fighting there. Iran’s the problem, not Iraq. But, as far as fighting for Israel is concerned, there is no problem.” For Myra Kraft even if one were serving to maintain an illegal occupation, Israel was always the “good war” while America’s wars were debatable. For what it’s worth, none of her four sons has ever been in anyone’s uniform. Nor has their father.
The Kraft family passion for the Israel Defense Forces extends to Robert’s recent writing of a personal letter to the family of Israeli-American soldier Max Steinberg. Steinberg was killed during Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza, in which 2,310 Palestinians, 500 of whom were children, died compared to 71 Israelis, 66 of whom were soldiers.
Kraft wrote “It is with a heavy heart that I write to you after having learned about your dear son and distinguished member of the Israel Defense Forces, Max. Although I didn’t have the privilege of knowing your son Max personally, I have taken the liberty of reaching out to you since I noticed him wearing a New England Patriots cap in one of the broadcasted photos. He represents the consummate patriot and I am forever grateful for the sacrifices he made to keep our beloved Israel safe. His dedication and loyalty to Israel have not gone unnoticed and I am sure he has left behind a legacy of which you and your family can be proud.”
Why is all this important? It is important because Robert Kraft is a rich, powerful and politically well-connected man. What he says and does and the example he sets matter. Insofar as I could determine he has never written a letter to a fallen American soldier from either Boston or Massachusetts. Like his wife, he perhaps unintentionally sees something special in service to Israel that he does not find in service to the United States. And as for those who might perversely argue as Myra Kraft did that America’s wars are suspect while Israel’s conflicts are righteous self-defense, one might well note that Washington’s disastrous invasion of Iraq was intertwined with Israeli interests while Tel Aviv’s urging yet another war against Iran serves no U.S. national interest at all. Arguing in favor of Israel’s use of its armed forces as somehow more ethical than that of the United States is ridiculous, particularly as Tel Aviv’s military is mostly engaged in supporting an illegal and brutal occupation of Palestinian territory.
The bottom line is that celebrating Israel’s apartheid regime and its wars is bad for both Israel the United States and it behooves moderate leaders like Robert Kraft to recognize that fact and state it openly.
This type of blinkered Israel-centric thinking leads to other extraordinary behavior, far beyond anything done by Kraft. The controversial impending visit by Benjamin Netanyahu to address the U.S. Congress has brought the Lobby out in full force. Israeli former parliamentarian and journalist Yossi Sarid, who writes for Haaretz, notes how Republican Jewish organizations have “launched a campaign of intimidation against those lawmakers who have already announced the intent to skip the joint session.” He observes that “Netanyahu is determined to show the president once and for all who really rules in Washington, who is the landlord both here and there.” He cites Matthew Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who reportedly said “We will commit whatever resources we need to make sure that people are aware of the facts, that given the choice to stand with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu in opposition to a nuclear Iran, they chose partisan interests and to stand with President Obama.” Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America added “We will, of course, be publicly condemning any Democrats who don’t show up for the speech, unless they have a doctor’s note.”
Sarid concludes somewhat hyperbolically with an observation that no American newspaper would ever dare print: “In these very moments, the protocols are being rewritten. Rich Jews are writing them in their own handwriting. They, in their wealth, are confirming with their own signatures what anti-Semites used to slander them with in days gone by: We, the elders of Zion, pull the strings of Congress, and the congressmen are nothing but marionettes who do our will. If they don’t understand our words, they’ll understand our threats. And if in the past, we ran the show from behind the scenes, now we’re doing it openly, from center stage. And if you forget our donations, the wellspring will run dry.”
Benjamin Netanyahu has ignored demands that he alter the agenda of his visit to make it less confrontational. He recently said that he will be the “representative of the entire Jewish people” when he addresses Congress, an assertion that has made many American Jews very uncomfortable. He will also be speaking at the annual AIPAC summit and will attend a gala reception hosted by the Emergency Committee for Israel, headed by Bill Kristol. Kristol welcomes the visit of Netanyahu because “Obama left a few things out of SOTU. Bibi can help out by filling in some blanks–al Qaeda, radical Islam, Iran’s sponsorship of terror, etc.” In other words, Americans should be grateful for Netanyahu’s telling us how ignorant we all are.
And obsession with defending Israel also can lead to turning a blind eye to the celebration of the cruel deaths of Americans who do not share that infatuation. Debbie Schlussel, a popular talk radio host who describes herself as a “lifelong conservative Republican activist,” does not find the recent killing by ISIS of American aid worker Kayla Mueller a tragedy. Schlussel, who claims to be highly educated, describes Mueller as a “Jew hating, anti-Israel bitch,” and “an anti-Israel piece of crap who worked with HAMAS and helped Palestinians harass Israeli soldiers and block them from doing their job of keeping Islamic terrorists out of Israel.” Another advocate for Israel calls Mueller a “useful idiot” and “terrorist supporter.” That the rabid Schlussel is borderline mainstream in terms of her audience and access is astonishing and the comments on her website suggest, unfortunately, that she is not alone in her vitriolic hatred of anyone even vaguely perceived as being not friendly enough to Israel.
As Allan Brownfeld has argued very persuasively Judaism is a religion and the United States and Israel are both sovereign countries having different interests, which is something that Robert Kraft, Bill Kristol, Matthew Brooks, Debbie Schlussel and Mortimer Klein should just occasionally bear in mind. Ultimately, if you are being honest with yourself you can only be loyal to one country and if you are born, living and working in the United States that should be your default choice. If your religion, tribal solidarity or ethnic affinity makes you defer to the interests of Israel or indeed any other country, by all means move there.
Indeed, American citizens can have affection for as many countries as they choose but loyalty involves the responsibilities of citizenships and doing what is right for one’s own country which makes it quite a different issue. It is not a rhetorical conceit that the oath new American citizens take requires them to abjure any prior allegiances. No one is suggesting that American Jews should not be charitable to and express concern regarding the well-being of their co-religionists worldwide, but that charity and empathy should not extend to promoting the pernicious interests of a foreign government.
Our first President George Washington, whose birthday we celebrate this week, called such ties “passionate attachments” that create “the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists.”To my mind, it would not be possible to describe the lopsided special relationship between Israel and the United States, engineered by a powerful domestic lobby, any better than that.