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Despite a Tougher IAEA Report, It’s Business as Usual on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Posted by alanmirs on November 19, 2011


Posted by  Friday, November 18, 2011 at 11:46 am
The Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali Asghar Soltanieh (R) reviews documents before the opening of the board of governors conference at the agency headquarters in Vienna on November 18, 2011. The UN atomic watchdog’s board was expected to pass a resolution of “deep and increasing concern” about Iran’s nuclear activities after a damning new report from the Vienna-based body. (Photo: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Getty Images)

The Washington spin on the IAEA resolution agreed Thursday is that it “sharply criticizes” Iran — or, more accurately, expresses “deep and increasing concern about the unresolved issues” about the nuclear program Tehran insists is purely peaceful, but which the UN nuclear watchdog has alleged may have have included research work, particularly before 2003, into warhead design. But the IAEA resolution doesn’t even refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, meaning that it won’t lead at this stage to any new U.N. sanctions. Measured against the pre-release hype suggesting that the report would be a game-changer, forcing nations skeptical of the U.S.-led effort to isolate Iran to join Washington’s cause, the IAEA resolution is something of a damp squib. Far from the “game changer” promised by some officials ahead of the report’s release, the resolution taking shape at the IAEA actually confirms that the “game” remains very much unchanged despite the latest report.

In the face of strong opposition led by China and Russia — and supported by much of the developing world — to turning up the heat on Tehran, the IAEA resolution avoids referring the issue to the U.N. Security Council. Moscow and Beijing had made clear they would block any meaningful new sanctions at the Council, but it appears that the Western nations aligned with the U.S. are unable to muster the necessary support at the IAEA for even referring the matter there right now.

While Russia, China, Turkey and others will certainly press Iran to “behave responsibly” (as Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu put it Thursday), cooperate with the IAEA and refrain from using its nuclear program to pursue strategic weapons, they remain skeptical. Indeed, Moscow and Beijing have both publicly expressed skepticism over the new IAEA report, implying that political pressure from the U.S. camp played a role in shaping its conclusions — a narrative loudly proclaimed by Iran. And they’ve strongly opposed further sanctions, which they believe will not help break the stalemate. Indeed, Moscow has also taken the lead in pressing for a new approach to dealing with Iran that involves a progressive easing of sanctions as Iran increases cooperation with the IAEA. Russia insists Iran is ready for a negotiated solution to the standoff, and sees the sanctions push as counterproductive.

Moscow’s position is diametrically opposed to that of Washington, whose approach is premised on the idea that escalating economic pressure, and maintaining the proverbial “all options on the table” stance (code for the threat of military action), are essential to force Iran to back down and accept a deal. Israel has weighed in behind the U.S. position, partly through statements but more importantly through a sharp uptick in recent saber-rattling — the familiar ritual of threatening to take unilateral military action against Iran designed to cajole the skeptics into adopting tougher sanctions as the lesser evil in comparison to the havoc that could be unleashed by open hostilities. But nobody is taking the saber-rattling seriously enough to change their position: The Iranians remain defiant; the Russians and most of those outside the U.S.-led Western camp remain opposed to further sanctions.

So, business-as-usual, then. The U.S. and Europeans will try and find more unilateral sanctions measures they can approve, but stop short of those on Iran’s central bank or oil exports and gasoline imports that could trigger a breakdown in the (albeit limited) international consensus on Iran, or a confrontation with Tehran that could adversely effect global oil prices during an especially fragile moment for the world economy. (Oil prices this week rose above the $100 a barrel mark for the first time since July, simply on anxiety over the Iran standoff.)

There’s no reason to doubt, given their own interests, that the Russians, Chinese, Turks and others who oppose new sanctions share the goal of dissuading Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But they have made clear they believe that success requires changing Tehran’s perception of it threat environment — persuading the regime, through political engagement and a normalization of relations, that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons in order to guarantee its own survival. And those countries got some (inadvertent) help this week from an unexpected quarter: Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who when asked by U.S. TV host Charlie Rose whether, if he were in Iran’s shoes, he would also seek nuclear weapons, answered “Probably, probably.” Explaining, he added, “I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They look around, they see the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear … not to mention the Russians.” He also referred to the secret program maintained by Iran’s arch enemy, Saddam Hussein, and also, coyly, to Israel’s unacknowledged but generally assumed capability.

By suggesting that pursuing nuclear weapons might be a rational defensive responses by Tehran to its geopolitical environment, Barak inadvertently reinforced the point made by sanctions-skeptics that resolving the standoff requires changing Iran’s perceptions of the threats it faces. The Defense Minister certainly sounded out of step with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s narrative that Iran’s nuclear pursuits are driven by a suicidal religious-fanatical determination to eliminate Israel.

No surprise, then, that Netanyahu responded by ordering his ministers to cease addressing the Iran issue in public.

Read more: http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2011/11/18/despite-a-tougher-iaea-report-its-business-as-usual-on-irans-nuclear-program/#ixzz1e89efLlq

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‘Attack Iran’ and AIPAC’s infamous chutzpah

Posted by alanmirs on November 6, 2011


Lobbying for a US war with Iran, AIPAC is pushing a bill that would prohibit diplomacy between the two nations

 

Israel’s threatened attack on Iran may be a ploy to gain further international support [GALLO/GETTY]

Wasting no time after its success in getting the administration to oppose Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, and still celebrating the UNESCO funding cutoff, AIPAC has returned to its number one priority: Pushing for war with Iran.

The Israelis have, of course, played their own part in the big show. In the past few weeks, Israel has been sending outsignals that it is getting ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities (and embroil the United States in its most calamitous Middle East war yet).

But most observers do not believe an Israeli attack is imminent. (If it were, would Israel telegraph it in advance?) The point of the Israeli threats is to get the United States and the world community to increase pressure on Iran with the justification that unless it does, Israel will attack.

Naturally, the United States Congress, which gets its marching orders on Middle East policy from the lobby – which, in turn, gets its marching orders from Binyamin Netanyahu – is rushing to do what it is told. If only Congress addressed joblessness at home with the same alacrity.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee hurriedly convened this week to consider a new “crippling sanctions” bill that seems less designed to deter an Iranian nuclear weapon than to lay the groundwork for war.

The clearest evidence that war is the intention of the bill’s supporters comes in Section 601:

(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT – No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that –
(1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and
(2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organisations.

(d) WAIVER – The president may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the president determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.

Preventing diplomacy

So what does this mean? It means that neither the president, the secretary of state, nor any US diplomat or emissary may engage in negotiations or diplomacy of any kind unless the president convinces the “appropriate congressional committees” (most significantly, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is an AIPAC fiefdom) that not permitting the contacts would pose an “extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States”.

To call this unprecedented is an understatement. At no time in our history has the White House or State Department been restricted from dealing with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime.

If President Roosevelt wanted to meet with Hitler, he could have, and, of course, he did repeatedly meet with Stalin. During the Cold War, US diplomats maintained continuous contact with the Soviets, a regime that murdered tens of millions, and later with the Chinese regime, which murdered even more. And they did so without needing permission from Congress. (President Nixon was only able to normalise relations with China by means of secret negotiations, which, had they been exposed, would have been torpedoed by the Republican right.)

But all the rules of normal statecraft are dropped when it comes to Iran, which may or may not be working on developing a nuclear capacity. Of course, if it is, it is obviously even more critical that US government officials speak to their Iranian counterparts.

But preventing diplomacy is precisely what Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Howard Berman (D-CA), leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that set out this bill, seek. They and others who back the measure want another war and the best way to get it is to ban diplomacy (which exists, of course, to prevent war).

Think back, for example, to the Cuban missile crisis. The United States and the monstrous, nuclear-armed Soviet regime were on the brink of war over Cuba, a war that might have destroyed the planet.

Neither President Kennedy nor Premier Khrushchev knew how to end the crisis, especially because both were being pushed by their respective militaries not to back down.

An essential latitude

Then, at the darkest moment of the crisis, when war seemed inevitable, an ABC correspondent named John Scali secretly met with a Soviet official in New York who described a way to end the crisis that would satisfy his bosses. That meeting was followed by another secret meeting between the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F Kennedy, and a Soviet official in Washington. Those meetings led to a plan that ended the crisis and, perhaps, saved the world.

Needless to say, Kennedy did not ask for the permission of the House Foreign Affairs Committee either to conduct secret negotiations or to implement the terms of the deal. In fact, it was decades before the details of the deal were revealed.

It is this latitude to conduct diplomacy that the lobby and its cutouts on Capitol Hill want to take away from the White House. And it’s latitude that is especially essential if it is determined that Iran is trying to assemble a nuclear arsenal.

Writing in the Washington Post  last week, Fareed Zakaria explained that the best way to approach Iran was not to ban diplomacy but to intensify it, nukes or no nukes.

Obama should return to his original approach and test the Iranians to see if there is any room for dialogue and agreement. Engaging with Iran, putting its nuclear program under some kind of supervision and finding areas of common interest (such as Afghanistan) would all be important goals.

Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 1980s. Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilisation to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold.

In other words, it is time for more diplomacy, not less – even if that means offending a powerful lobby that is hell-bent for war.

MJ Rosenberg is a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/11/2011114635741836.html

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Fareed’s Take: Time to re-engage Iran

Posted by alanmirs on October 30, 2011


http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/30/time-to-re-engage-iran/

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Regular GPS watchers and readers will know that I was in Tehran last week to interview President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. You can watch excerpts of the interview here. But being in Iran made me think about our policy towards that country, which strikes me as stuck in a time warp.

You will remember that early in the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama signaled that he was going to have a different foreign policy than George Bush – and he chose as his example, Iran. He argued that simply pressuring the country was not a policy and Obama offered to talk to Iran’s leaders. Well, two years into his presidency, Obama’s Iran policy looks a lot like George W. Bush’s – pressure and more pressure.

The punitive tactics have paid off in some measure. Iran faces economic problems. But they are also having a perverse impact on the country, as I witnessed last week. The sanctions are stifling growth, though not as much as one might imagine. So the basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state – the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country. By some estimates, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – the hard-line element of the armed forces, supported by the supreme leader – now controls 40% of the economy.

Is that the goal of our policy?

In fact, what is our goal? Is it to overthrow the Iranian regime? Is it to make it bleed until it gives up its nuclear program? A wholesale revolution continues to strike me as a distant prospect. The regime still has some domestic support, and it uses a mix of religious authority, patronage and force quite effectively.

And we keep forgetting the inconvenient fact that, even if the regime changed, the nuclear energy program – which is popular as an expression of Iranian nationalism and power – will continue. Even the leaders of the Green movement strongly support that program.

Obama should return to his original approach and test the Iranians to see if there is any room for dialogue and agreement. Engaging with Iran, putting its nuclear program under some kind of supervision and finding areas of common interest (such as Afghanistan) would all be important goals.

It might not work – the Iranian regime is divided and often paralyzed itself – but it’s worth trying. Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 80s.

Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilization to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold.

For more on this, read my column in The Washington Post. For more of my thoughts throughout the week, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and to bookmark the Global Public Square. Also, for more of my takes, click here.

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Obama Administration Escalates Confrontation with Iran: Why?

Posted by alanmirs on October 29, 2011


by Mark Weisbrot

The Obama Administration announced two weeks ago that a bumbling Iranian-American used car salesman had conspired with a U.S. government agent posing as a representative of Mexican drug cartels to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.  This broughthighly skeptical reactions from experts here across the political spectrum.

But even if some of this tale turns out to be true, the handling of such accusations is inherently political.  For example, the U.S. government’s 9/11 commission investigated the links between the attackers and the Saudi ruling family, but refused to make public the results of that investigation.  The reason is obvious: There is dirt there and Washington doesn’t want to create friction with a key ally.  And keep in mind that this is about complicity with an attack on American soil that killed 3,000 people.

By contrast, the Obama Administration seized upon the rather dubious speculation that “the highest levels of the Iranian government” were involved in this alleged plot.  President Obama announced that “all options are on the table,” which is well-known code for possible military action.  This is extremist and dangerous rhetoric.

University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, a leading Mideast scholar, offered that Obama may be “wagging the dog” — looking for a military confrontation to help his re-election in the face of a stagnant economy and high unemployment.  This is certainly possible.  Recall that George W. Bushused the build-up to the Iraq war to secure both houses of Congress in the 2002 election.  He didn’t even have to go to war.  The run-up to war worked perfectly to achieve his main goal: all of the issues that most voters cared about and were threatening to cost Republicans one or both chambers of Congress — the jobless recovery, Social Security, corporate scandals — disappeared from the news during the election season between August and November.  President Obama’s advisers certainly understand these things.

Of course the latest saber-rattling could also just be part of a long-term preparation for war with Iran, just as President Clinton spent years preparing the ground for the Iraq war launched by Bush.  Once this is done, war is difficult to stop; and once these wars are launched, they are even more difficult to end, as 10 years of useless, bloody war in Afghanistan show.

That is why international initiatives to roll back the march toward war, such as the nuclear fuel-swap proposal brought forth by Brazil and Turkey in May 2010, are so important.  The Iranian government has recently offered to stop enriching uranium if the United States would provide uranium for Iran’s medical research reactor — which it needs for hundreds of thousands of cancer patients.  This uranium would not be usable for weapons.  The proposal was endorsed by leaders of the American Federation of Scientists.

Brazil is one of the few countries with the international stature, independence, neutrality and respect to help defuse this confrontation.  We can only hope that it will make further attempts to save the world from another horrible war.


Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C.  He is also president of Just Foreign Policy.  This article was first published by CEPR on 27 October 2011 under a Creative Commons license.  Em Português.

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/weisbrot281011.html

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At the Metropolitan Museum, A New Wing, A New Vista

Posted by alanmirs on October 28, 2011


On Tuesday, after eight years of renovation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will open its new Islamic wing — the Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Below, a tour of some of the collection’s highlights, including smaller images of artworks from other parts of the world, made at the same time. Related Article»

 

Start

On Tuesday, after eight years of renovation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will open its new Islamic wing — the Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Below, a tour of some of the collection’s highlights, including smaller images of artworks from other parts of the world, made at the same time. Related Article»

The Moroccan Court

Reporter, Randy Kennedy

Nick Harbaugh/The New York Times

Based on 14th and 15th century Moroccan and Spanish architectureThe court was built from scratch by a group of skilled artisans from Fez, Morocco. The intricate tile work is based on patterns from the Alhambra palace in Spain.

Artistic parallel from France

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Stained-glass window, from the abbey church of Saint-Ouen, Rouen, France, about 1325

Illuminated Manuscripts

Reporter, Randy Kennedy

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“The Night Journey of Muhammed (the Mi’raj),” illustrated in present-day Uzbekistan, about 1530-35

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To deal with Iran’s nuclear future, go back to 2008

Posted by alanmirs on October 27, 2011


Fareed Zakaria

By , Thursday, October 27, 4:12 AM

Early in the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama signaled that he was going to break with the Bush administration’s Manichean foreign policy. The topic was Iran. He explained repeatedly that the Bush policy of simply pressuring Iran was not working and that he would be willing to talk to the country’s leaders to find ways to reduce tensions and dangers. Two years into his presidency, Obama’s Iran policy looks a lot like George W. Bush’s — with some of the same problems that candidate Obama pointed out two years ago.

To be fair, the administration started out in 2009 by making overtures to Iran, which were rebuffed by its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Then it watched as the Green movement rattled the regime. But the result is that the administration has lapsed into a policy of pressure, pressure and more pressure.

The punitive tactics have paid off in some measure. Iran faces economic problems. But the tactics are also having a perverse impact on the country, as I saw during a brief visit to Tehran last week. The sanctions are stifling growth, though not as much as one might imagine because Iran has oil money and a large internal market. Their basic effect has been to weaken civil society and strengthen the state — the opposite of what we should be trying to do in that country.

“If you need to import anything, it has to be smuggled, which means you have to be in cahoots with the regime. I won’t do that, but many thugs will,” said one businessman to me.

By some estimates, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard — the hard-line element of the armed forces, supported by the supreme leader — controls 40 percent of the economy. Recall Iraq, where decades of sanctions created a country of gangs and mafia-capitalism, and allowed the regime to create an ever-tighter grasp on the society.

Is that the goal of our policy? In fact, what is our goal? Is it to overthrow the Iranian regime? Is it to make it cry uncle and give up its nuclear program?

A wholesale revolution continues to strike me as a distant prospect. The regime still has some domestic support, and it uses a mix of religious authority, patronage and force quite effectively. Sanctions have made people somewhat resentful of the West for hurting them more than the regime.

And we keep forgetting the inconvenient fact that, even if the regime changed, the nuclear program — which is popular as an expression of Iranian nationalism and power — will continue. The leaders of the Green movement strongly support that program and have repeatedly criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for making too-generous offers to the West. (All Iranian officials repeat constantly that they would never develop nuclear weapons. And in a recent interview with Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said he had never “seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials.”)

Within the context of Iranian politics, Ahmadinejad is the pragmatist. He has been trying to clip the wings of the clergy. His chief of staff has openly mused about having better relations with Israel. And over the years Ahmadinejad has made several moves on the nuclear front that, while imperfect, are serious opening bids for a negotiation. He proposed the creation of an international consortium to enrich uranium, he accepted a Turkish-Brazilian deal to have the Russians enrich uranium for Iran, and he has made an offer that would cap Iran’s enrichment at the 5 percent level.

Obama should return to his original approach and test the Iranians to see if there is any room for dialogue and agreement. Engaging with Iran, putting its nuclear program under some kind of supervision and finding areas of common interest (such as Afghanistan) would all be important goals.

This might not be possible. Iran has its own deep divisions, and many in the regime feel threatened by any opening to the West. But that is precisely why the administration should keep searching for ways to create that opening.

Strategic engagement with an adversary can go hand in hand with a policy that encourages change in that country. That’s how Washington dealt with the Soviet Union and China in the 1970s and 1980s. Iran is a country of 80 million people, educated and dynamic. It sits astride a crucial part of the world. It cannot be sanctioned and pressed down forever. It is the last great civilization to sit outside the global order. We need a strategy that combines pressure with a path to bring Iran in from the cold.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/to-deal-with-irans-nuclear-future-go-back-to-2008/2011/10/26/gIQADQyEKM_story.html

 

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Behind the Iran ‘plot’

Posted by alanmirs on October 26, 2011


Aijaz Zaka Syed
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Who’s behind the Iran ‘plot’ and who stands to gain if the Middle East were to witness another conflagration?
http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=74435&Cat=9
Recently the alleged Iranian plot targeting Saudi ambassador amid US warnings and threats to Tehran created a sensation. We all know there’s no love lost between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And it’s not just between Riyadh and Tehran. There has always been an invisible, uneasy gulf between the Persians and Arabs and it goes way back – long before the Iranian revolution and even before the dawn of Islam.

The 1979 Iranian revolution did not help matters, what with the ayatollahs talking of sowing the winds of change across the region and beyond.

With the recent Iranian preoccupation with nuclear power amid the constant US-Israel chorus raising the spectre of “a nuclear armed Iran” threatening the region, the Arabs have been understandably nervous about the Islamic republic. Tehran’s growing clout in Iraq and its support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the only force to have successfully humbled and drove Israel out, is another apparent reason for concern.

Nonetheless, I still don’t get why Iran would be so foolish as to target the envoy of a country, which is not just its big, next door neighbour but is also regarded by the world’s Muslims as the home of Islam and its most revered shrines. That too, by assigning the job to the Mexican drug mafia through a washed out junky and failed car salesman!

Come on, you may not care for Ahmadinejad’s grandstanding and his Holocaust theories but give the Iranians some credit. They can’t be that dumb. More important, what would the Islamic republic, or whoever is behind it, gain with this so-called plot? Given the total isolation Tehran already finds itself in, increasingly facing the threat of a US-Israel attack as it does, Iran’s leaders would have to be really stupid and stark, raving mad to attempt something like this.

So what’s the reality of this plot or who’s behind it? I have no idea but we will know the truth sooner or later. What I know for certain though is this: This is a plot that directly helps the enemies of Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Writing in The Guardian, Julian Borger argues that the Washington plot would have triggered another devastating war in the Middle East. I couldn’t agree more with Borger. Indeed, I believe it could have set the whole region on fire. The region has already witnessed so much bloodshed and destruction over the past few decades.

The Middle East has been on the edge over the potential US-Israel strike on Iran and possibly a full-fledged war. Against this backdrop, a plot against Saudi Arabia with finger pointing at Iran would have guaranteed a mutually destructive encounter between the two leading Muslim nations and the world’s biggest oil producers, to be followed by the inevitable US involvement sending the Middle East up in blazes.

This nightmare scenario would, however, have been a dream come true for one country. If Saudi Arabia and Iran went to war, splitting the whole of Muslim world down in the middle, who would benefit the most? Yes, you don’t have to be an Einstein to know the answer. The Arabs and Iranians would tear each other apart without Israel having to fire a single shot.

Our colonial masters have repeatedly and successfully used this formula to see their enemies annihilate each other. We saw it used between Iran and Iraq and then Iraq and Kuwait. And when Saddam Hussein was past his sell-by date, he was squashed like an insect.

It’s hardly a secret the Zionists played a critical role in plotting the destruction of Iraq. The neighbourhood bully, with the blessings of his protectors, isn’t prepared to brook the slightest independence of spirit and tiniest of threat – real or imagined.

No wonder most independent observers, including those in the US, have been sceptical about the Iranian plot. They see the Mossad fingerprints all over it.

Indeed, the old fashioned assassination is a stratagem of Israel’s foreign policy and it has repeatedly used it. It didn’t begin and end with Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and commander Mahmoud Al Mabhouh. Indeed, the Mossad hand is seen even in the mysterious illness and death of Yasser Arafat, the most charismatic Palestinian leader ever.

What makes this an Israeli plot is the fact that the same gang of American Zionists and neocons, who built the case against Iraq with their propaganda blitz and lies about Saddam’s nonexistent WMD arsenal and his ties to 9/11, have stepped up their offensive urging Obama to hit Iran.

And the ‘change we can’ president, desperate for re-election next year, seems to have recruited himself to the cause. The latest round of US sanctions could break Iran’s financial back as they target its central bank. Meanwhile the chorus for military action gathers momentum.

These are clearly perilous times for not just Iran but the whole Islamic world. If potential victims do not huddle together and act, the Zionists could very well succeed in their machinations.

Iran is a sitting duck because of its audacity to confront Israel and the west. But others aren’t safe either. Every Muslim country with a streak of independence or resources is in Israel’s sights – and those of its friends.

Yesterday it was Iraq; today it’s Iran and tomorrow it could be Pakistan – or Saudi Arabia, for that matter. Those who fail to learn from recent history will be condemned to repeat it.

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When it comes to the Iranian assassination plot, where’s the motivation?

Posted by alanmirs on October 22, 2011


ASK THIS | October 21, 2011

A former CIA station chief points out that Iran had little reason to hatch such a crazy plan; while advocates of a more hostile approach to Iran are the big winners from its exposure.

 

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By Haviland Smith
twopond@comcast.net

Iran’s shadowy Quds Force is being accused of having initiated an assassination attempt against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington.  The press, with a few exceptions, appears to have accepted this story on face value, without asking enough questions.

The most important question, when it comes to assessing the likelihood of such a story, is who are the winners and losers?

We are being asked to believe that the Iranians, a people with a long and varied history of nasty but effective intelligence operations, virtually all of which have been in their national interest to carry out, set up what is clearly a sloppy, bush league operation.

But what could conceivably have prompted them to undertake such an operation?  The risks were obvious. Such a Keystone Kops operation, when publicly uncovered —  just as it has been — was bound to redound to the deeply embarrassed disadvantage of the Iranians.

By contrast, there is no plausible advantage to the Iranians in this operation, even if it were to succeed.  And even if they had sought the death of an ambassador, they could have easily killed one in any number of places far better suited, for the Iranians, to that sort of operation.

The Iranians would appear to have had nothing to gain if this plot succeeded, and everything to lose if it failed. Of course, Iranians can’t be totally ruled out since the evidence, while shaky, does point to them. But the press and others would do well to put aside Iranian clumsiness or internal dirty tricks in this mystery, and ask: Who outside Iran benefited from this alleged plot’s exposure?

Who, by contrast, benefited from this alleged plot’s exposure? If the purpose of the exercise was to get the United States to be more bellicose with Iran, which appears already to have happened, then we might look to those American interests, in and outside of Washington, who would like us to be at war with Iran. We might also look at Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states, who deeply fear Iran, with its growing hegemony in the Gulf and its nuclear program.  Or we might look at the Israelis, who have already tried on a number of occasions to stiffen our back against the Iranians either by endorsing their attack on Iran or doing it ourselves.  Or we might look at the FBI itself, looking for a public victory against would-be terrorists.

And who loses? Any and all people, groups and nations that would like to see America and Iran reach some sort of understanding without engaging in hostilities. That includes a lot of folks.

http://niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=00534

 
Haviland Smith is a retired CIA Station Chief who served in Eastern and Western Europe and the Middle East, as Chief of the Counterterrorism Staff, and as Executive Assistant in the Director’s office. 
E-mail: twopond@comcast.net
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2 charged in Saudi plot; Iran rejects allegations

Posted by alanmirs on October 21, 2011


A mug shot of Manssor Arbabsiar from a 2001 arrest in Texas. Arbabsiar is charged in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Oct. 11, 2011.A mug shot of Manssor Arbabsiar from a 2001 arrest in Texas. Arbabsiar is charged in a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Oct. 11, 2011. (CBS News)

 

(AP)

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s intelligence chief said Thursday there are holes in the U.S. allegations that Iranian agents plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, and dismissed the American claims as a “foolish plot” nobody will believe.

 

Two men, including an alleged member of Iran’s special foreign actions unit known as the Quds Force, have been charged in New York federal court with conspiring to kill the Saudi diplomat, Adel Al-Jubeir. Tehran has strongly denied any link to the alleged plot, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused Washington of using the case to divert attention from its economic woes and the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.

 

On Thursday, Iran’s intelligence minister, Heidar Moslehi, dismissed the American allegations, saying no professional intelligence agency would issue orders to an agent in a foreign country over the phone or transfer money to drug cartels through a New York bank.

 

“When you probe the allegations from an intelligence perspective, you find major contradictions and shortcomings and you can’t believe a government like the U.S. … has ended up in a situation where it designs a foolish plot,” he said on state TV.

 

The Iranian government has denied any connection to Manssor Arbabsiar, the man arrested in the alleged plot, and derided the claims, saying U.S. officials have offered no proof.

 

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“Which court of law can accept such absurd claims as evidence?” Moslehi asked.

 

Arbabsiar is a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who also had an Iranian passport. In May 2011, the criminal complaint says, he approached someone he believed to be a member of the vicious Mexican narco-terror group, Los Zetas, for help with an attack on Al-Jubeir. The man he approached turned out to be an informant for U.S. drug agents, it says.

 

The U.S. government charges that Arbabsiar had been told by his cousin Abdul Reza Shahlai, a high-ranking member of the Quds Force, to recruit a drug trafficker because drug gangs have a reputation for assassinations.

 

Moslehi said Arbabsiar, based on the U.S. judge’s bill, made a telephone call to the alleged Quds force member from an FBI office after his arrest and the Americans’ claim they eavesdropped the conversation.

 

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“What intelligence agency or officer will direct an agent stationed in a rival’s territory by telephone? Or orders an assassination on the phone? Or assigns the restaurant — the venue of the planned assassination — and bargains over the price on the phone?” he asked.

 

Moslehi said even the weakest intelligence agencies in the world wouldn’t hire a man with Arbabsiar background let alone assign him to an operation on U.S. soil.

 

The intelligence minister alleged instead that Arbabsiar, who acquired U.S. citizenship eight months ago, likely agreed to cooperate with American intelligence agencies in return for his residency permit.

 

Moslehi said Iran doesn’t need to resort to such terror plots and that Tehran would not benefit from killing a Saudi diplomat.

 

Moslehi claimed that Iran’s security services have notched successes in an ongoing intelligence battle with the U.S., and said Washington now wants to tarnish Iran’s image by attributing a “clumsy” plot to Tehran.

 

He cited Iran’s success in the arrest last year of Abdulmalik Rigi, leader of the Sunni militant group Jundallah. Jundallah, which has claimed responsibility for bombings that have killed dozens in recent years, was behind an insurgency in Iran’s southeast near the border with Pakistan.

 

Rigi was arrested alive by Iran’s intelligence agents when he was flying over the Persian Gulf en route from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan. He was later tried and executed.

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Beyond Ahmadinejad: the Iranians’ democratic potential

Posted by alanmirs on October 21, 2011


Gradually through the years, European and American foreign policies have managed to construct a Western vision of Iran that associated the country with the so-called “axis of evil” states and al-Qaeda. But the Iranian government actually desired cooperation with the U.S. on terrorism. However, the Bush administration did little to foster dialogue. As a result,  hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President in 2005, ushering in an era of renewed anti-Americanism.

Despite this unsavory situation, the history of Iran and its recent popular outcry still suggest that a diplomatic partnership can be established. Before developments can be made on this front, however, it is essential for the United States to understand that Iran knows what democracy is and that its people are able to convert to one.

For close to a century, the Middle East has been under constant foreign pressure. Iran’s oil resources, in particular, drove both foreign and domestic powers to gain as much authority in the country as possible. Yet, Iran seems to have developed a resource that goes far beyond the economic power of oil—people.

During the 20th century, as authority passed from Britain and Russia into the hands of the Iranian Shah, the Iranian population began to speak out. The Iranian people finally demanded a say in their government, and the government rightfully demanded a say in the allocation of the country’s resources. Since then, however, foreign infiltration, the Cold War, and internal military conflict encouraged the formation of a semi-authoritarian government and anti-Western sentiment. However, the Iranian people continually refuse to be silent—the struggle is not yet over.

Over the past few years, we have seen protests in major European cities by Iranian citizens. The Iranian embassy in London is now famous for being constantly under siege by Iranian immigrants. One year ago, a large rally was organized in the streets of Berlin to show solidarity with the Iranian people.

More importantly, however, after the controversial victory of Ahmadinejad in the 2009 elections, the people of Tehran began to protest. Iranian youth flooded the streets, clashed with the police, and chanted anti-government slogans for several days. Many lost their lives. The reason for the uprising was that the government had once again ignored their voices. Without wanting to mythicize the revolts, it is clear that the new generation is supported by a strong democratic history.

The Western response to Ahmadinejad’s autocratic regime has been sanctions, criticism, and judgment. The political authorities in America and Europe fail to understand the importance of pointing out that Iran’s problems go beyond Ahmadinejad. Iran itself is not evil. Iran has been a victim of past international relations, domestic autocracy, and popular suppression. Iran still has explosive democratic potential and active generational progress which must be recognized.

How do you think Ahmadinejad feels when Bill O’Reilly says on national television that “in a sane world every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the Earth” since “that would be the sane thing to do?” Such a statement does not ultimately harm him. Iran has endless chances to kindle anti-American sentiment in the Middle East. It is because of chances like this that the Iranian population, in particular, the rebelling youth, is isolated. The Western world, which should be the main foreign promoter of democracy and cultural understanding, is now suggesting Iran should be destroyed. No one benefits from this situation. No one except for the Iranian regime.

American and European foreign policies should focus more on the difference between the oppressive regime and the thriving population. The West should emphasize a separation between Iranian authorities and Iranian popular sentiment. To continue with simplistic condemnations and sanctions is not an option. It is clear that there is potential for Iranian democracy to return in the future, and the West has the chance to play a fundamental role in the transformation. Perhaps, one day the Iranian state will represent the population and its rights rather than the current authority. In the meantime, awareness should be raised, and the people of Iran must be peacefully supported and understood.

http://georgetownvoice.com/2011/10/20/beyond-ahmadinejad-the-iranians%E2%80%99-democratic-potential/

 

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