[also: "Iran Threat Reduction Act Actually Enhances Threat of War"- from StephenZunes.org; I'm not just running to replace Gibson-- am also running to stop seeming bipartisan lurch to war vs. Iran; if you're as tired of Blue Dogs running our party as I am, donate online-- http://www.JoelforCongress.org !]
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New (posted online just today)-- at http://www.CommonDreams.org ...[call Obama: (202) 456-1111!]
Published on Saturday, December 31, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
Urging Obama to Stop Rush to Iran War
A torrent of war propaganda against Iran is flooding the American political scene as U.S. neocons and Israeli hardliners see an opening for another war in the Middle East
by Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray
President Obama needs to put an abrupt halt to the game of Persian Roulette about to spin out of control in the Persian Gulf. If we were still on active duty at the CIA, this is what we would tell him:
This informal memorandum addresses the escalating game of chicken playing out in the waters off Iran and the more general issue of what can be done to put the exaggerated threat from Iran in some kind of perspective.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in 2009
In keeping with the informality of this memo and our ethos of speaking truth to power, we may at times be rather blunt. If we bring you up short, consider it a measure of the seriousness with which we view the unfolding of yet another tragic mistake.
The stakes are quite high, and as former intelligence analysts with no axes to grind, we want to make sure you understand how fragile and volatile the situation in the Gulf has become.
We know you are briefed regularly on the play by play, and we will not attempt to replicate that. Your repeated use of the bromide that "everything is on the table," however, gives us pause and makes us wonder whether you and your advisers fully recognize the implications, if hostilities with Iran spin out of control.
You have the power to stop the madness, and we give you some recommendations on how to lessen the likelihood of a war that would be to the advantage of no one but the arms merchants.
If your advisers have persuaded you that hostilities with Iran would bring benefit to Israel, they are badly mistaken. In our view, war with Iran is just as likely in the longer term to bring the destruction of Israel, as well as vast areas of Iran - not even to mention the disastrous consequences for the world economy, of which you must be aware.
Incendiary (but false) claims about how near Iran is to having a nuclear weapon are coming "fast and furious," (and are as irresponsible as that ill-fated project of giving weapons to Mexican drug dealers).
In our view, the endless string of such claims now threaten to migrate from rhetoric to armed clashes to attempted "regime change," as was the case nine years ago on Iraq. You know, we hope, that influential - but myopic - forces abound who are willing to take great risk because they believe such events would redound to the benefit of Israel. We make reference, of course, to the reckless Likud government in Israel and its equally reckless single-issue supporters here at home.
Judging by recent performance, your foreign policy and military advisers, including the top generals now in place, appear unable to act as sensible counterweights to those who think that, by beginning hostilities with Iran, they will help Israel do away with a key regional rival.
You are not stuck with such advisers. You're the President; you deserve better. You need some people close to you who know a lot more about the outside world.
You may wish to think also about how the recent remarks of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, during an interview with the Washington Post's Greg Jaffe, reflect on the chairman's acumen in the strategic matters in which he has been immersed for decades.
In the interview with Jaffe, Dempsey referred to his 20-year involvement with Iraq (where he made his mark) and, according to Jaffe, Dempsey acknowledged that "he and his Army did not fully understand the nature of the conflict they were fighting."
Jaffe quotes a particularly telling lament by Dempsey: "People say, 'For God's sakes, you were a two-star general. How could you say you didn't understand?' I don't know how I can say it, but I lived it. And I mean it."
Suffice it to say that there are serious questions as to how much Gen. Dempsey understands about Iran and whether his meteoric rise to Chairman of the JCS is due more to the crisp salute with which he greets any idea voiced by those above him.
Discussing last week the possibility of military action against Iran, Dempsey said, "The options we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable, if necessary." He added that his "biggest worry is that (Iranians) will miscalculate our resolve."
That's not our biggest worry. Rather it is that Dempsey and you will miscalculate Iran's resolve. We haven't a clue as to what, if anything, the Chairman is telling you on that key issue. Our distinct impression, however, is that you cannot look to him for the kind of stand-up advice you got from his predecessor, Adm. Mike Mullen.
The consummate military professional, Mullen pointed to the military and strategic realities - and the immense costs - associated with a war with Iran, which in turn buttressed those who successfully withstood pressure from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war with Iran.
Dempsey = No Mullen
During the Bush administration, Mullen argued strongly that there would be no way a "preventive war" against Iran would be worth the horrendous cost. He did all he could to scuttle the idea.
Mullen was among those senior officials who forced Bush and Cheney to publish the unclassified Key Judgments of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program - the NIE that judged "with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."
As Bush and Vice President Cheney have since acknowledged, that drove an iron rod through the wheels of the juggernaut then rolling off to war with Iran. And, as you know, that judgment still stands despite Herculean efforts to fudge it.
In his memoir, Decision Points, Bush, complains bitterly that, rather than being relieved by the surprising news that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003, he was angry that the news "tied my hands on the military side."
In January 2008, Bush flew to Israel to commiserate with senior Israeli officials who were similarly bitter at the abrupt removal of a casus belli. Tellingly, in his book Bush added this lament:
"But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?"
Israel's Last Chance, Until Now
The new estimate on Iran did not stop the Israelis from trying. And in mid-2008, they seemed to be contemplating one more try at provoking hostilities with Iran before Bush and Cheney left office.
This time, with Bush's (but not Cheney's) support, Mullen flew to Israel to tell Israeli leaders to disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if they somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.
According to the Israeli press, Mullen went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident at sea like the deliberate Israeli attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, which left 34 American crew killed and more than 170 wounded.
Never before had a senior U.S. official braced Israel so blatantly about the Liberty incident, which was covered up by the Johnson administration, the Congress, and Mullen's Navy itself. The lesson the Israelis had taken away from the Liberty incident was that they could get away with murder, literally, and walk free because of political realities in the United States. Not this time, said Mullen. He could not have raised a more neuralgic issue.
As long as he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mike Mullen kept worrying, often publicly, over what he termed "the unintended consequences of any sort of military action against Iran."
We assume that before he retired last fall he shared that concern with you, just as we tried to warn your predecessor of "the unintended consequences" that could flow from an attack on Iraq.
The Israelis, for their part, would not relent. In February of this year, Mullen returned with sweaty palms from a visit to Israel. On arrival there, he had warned publicly that an attack on Iran would be "a big, big, big problem for all of us."
When Mullen got back to Washington, he lacked the confident tone he had after reading the Israelis the riot act in mid-2008. It became quickly clear that Mullen feared that, this time, Israel's leaders did not seem to take his warnings seriously.
Lest he leave a trace of ambiguity regarding his professional view, upon his return Mullen drove it home at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22, 2011: "For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive."
In 2008, right after Mullen was able, in late June, to get the Israelis to put aside, for the nonce, their pre-emptive plans vis-à-vis Iran, he moved to put a structure in place that could short-circuit military escalation. Specifically, he thought through ways to prevent unintended (or, for that matter, deliberately provoked) incidents in the crowded Persian Gulf that could lead to wider hostilities.
In a widely unnoticed remark, Adm. Mullen conceded to the press that Iran could shut down the Strait of Hormuz, but quickly added de rigueur assurance that the U.S. could open it up again (whereas the Admiral knows better than virtually anyone that this would be no easy task).
Mullen sent up an interesting trial balloon at a July 2, 2008, press conference, when he suggested that military-to-military dialogue could "add to a better understanding" between the U.S. and Iran. But nothing more was heard of this overture, probably because Cheney ordered him to drop it. We think it is high time to give this excellent idea new life. (See below under Recommendations.)
The dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz were still on Mullen's mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the United States and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:
"Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. We are not talking to Iran. So we don't understand each other. If something happens, it's virtually assured that we won't get it right, that there will be miscalculations."
Playing with fire: With the macho game of chicken currently under way between Iranian and U.S. naval forces in the area of the Strait of Hormuz, the potential for an incident has increased markedly.
An accident, or provocation, could spiral out of control quickly, with all sides - Iran, the U.S. and Israel making hurried decisions with, you guessed it, "unintended consequences."
or Intended Consequences?
With your campaign for the presidency in full swing during the summer of 2008, you may have missed a troubling disclosure in July by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
He reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the Vice President's office in the wake of the January 2008 incident between Iranian patrol boats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.
HERSH: There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don't we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.
And it was rejected because you can't have Americans killing Americans. That's the kind of - that's the level of stuff we're talking about. Provocation.
Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. You know, we're into it.
Look, is it high school? Yeah. Are we playing high school with you know 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal? Yeah we are. We're playing, you know, who's the first guy to run off the highway with us and Iran.
and Now Iran's Responsibility for 9/11!
On the chance you missed it, this time your government is getting "incriminating" information from Iranian, not Iraqi, "defectors." Iranian "defectors" have persuaded Manhattan Federal Judge George Daniels to sign an order accusing Iran and Hezbollah - along with al-Qaeda - of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.
On Dec. 15, in response to a lawsuit brought by family members of 9/11 victims, Daniels claimed that Iran provided material support to al-Qaeda and has assessed Iran $100 billion in damages
Watching the blackening of Iranians on virtually all parts of the U.S. body politic, it is no surprise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, enjoying the strong support of our Congress, our largely pro-Israel media, and our courts as well. He sees himself in the catbird seat - particularly during the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election.
We know that you have said you have to deal with Netanyahu every day. But for those of us who have not had the pleasure, never did his attitude toward Washington come through so clearly as in a video taped nine years ago and shown on Israeli TV.
In it Netanyahu brags about how he deceived President Bill Clinton into believing he (Netanyahu) was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them. The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward - and wonderment at - a malleable America so easily influenced by Israel.
Netanyahu says it right out: "America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. They won't get in our way Eighty percent of the Americans support us. It's absurd."
Israeli columnist Gideon Levy has written that the video shows Netanyahu to be "a con artist who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes," adding that such behavior "does not change over the years."
On Dec. 29, the strongly pro-Israel Washington Times ran an unsigned editorial, "Tehran's moment of truth: The mullahs are playing with fire in Strait of Hormuz." After a fulsome paragraph of bragging about how the U.S. Navy capabilities dwarf those of Iran's, the Washington Times editors inadvertently give the game away:
"A theater-wide response to the strait closure would involve air strikes on military and leadership targets throughout the country, and the crisis could be a useful pretext for international action against Iran's nuclear program."
Hopefully, pointing out Israel's overarching objective will strike you as gratuitous. No doubt your advisers have told you that "regime change" (what we used to call overthrowing a government) is Israel's ultimate goal. Just so you know.
We hope that, when we assume you wish to thwart Israel and any other party who might want to get the U.S. involved in hostilities with Iran, we are not assuming too much. With that as our premise, we recommend that you:
1. Make public, as soon as possible, a declassified version of the key judgments of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear development program, with whatever updating is necessary. You know that the Herculean efforts of U.S. intelligence to find evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iran have found nothing.
Do not insult Americans with Rumsfeldian nostrums like: "The absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence." Rather, be up-front with the American people. Tell them the truth about the conclusions of our intelligence community.
Bush was helped to launch the aggressive war on Iraq by a deliberately dishonest National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction there. Let yourself be fortified by an honest NIE on Iran, and stand up to the inevitable criticism from Israelis and their influential surrogates.
2. Pick up on Adm. Mike Mullen's suggestion at his press conference on July 2, 2008, that military-to-military dialogue could "add to a better understanding" between the U.S. and Iran. If there were ever a time when our navies need to be able to communicate with each other, it is now.
It was a good idea in 2008; it is an even better idea now. Indeed, it seems likely that a kind of vestigial Cheneyism, as well as pressure from the Likud Lobby, account for the fact that the danger of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation in the crowded Persian Gulf has still not been addressed in direct talks.
Cheney and those of his mini-National Security Staff who actually looked forward to such confrontations are gone from the scene. If the ones who remain persist in thwarting time-tested structural ways of preventing accidents, miscalculation and covert false-flag attacks, please consider suggesting that they retire early.
Order the negotiation of the kind of bilateral "incidents-at-sea" agreement concluded with the Russians in May 1972, which, together with direct communications, played an essential role in heading off escalation neither side wanted, when surface or submarine ships go bump in the night.
3. Get yourself some advisers who know more about the real world than the ones you have now, and make sure they owe allegiance solely to the United States.
4. Issue a formal statement that your administration will not support an Israeli military attack on Iran. Make it clear that even though, after Dec. 31, the U.S. may not be technically responsible for defending Iraqi airspace, you have ordered U.S. Air Force units in the area to down any intruders.
5. Sit back and look toward a New Year with a reasonable prospect of less, not more, tension in the Persian Gulf.
Happy New Year.
This article first appeared at Consortiumnews.com
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and briefed the President's Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
[recall below sent out to this list earlier by yours truly (Dec. 4th to be exact) re: Iran]
Sy Hersh/Iran-- IAEA report "political document"; "no evidence of facility to build bomb"...
Fact: In Seymour Hersh's November 18th article for The New Yorker blog, titled "Iran and the IAEA," Hersh argued that the recent U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency report is a "political document," not a scientific study. "They Joint Special Operations Command found nothing. Nothing. No evidence of any weaponization. In other words, no evidence of a facility to build the bomb. They have facilities to enrich, but not separate facilities to build the bomb. This is simply a fact." [from recent Democracy Now]
[Seymour Hersh: Propaganda Used Ahead of Iraq War Is Now Being Reused over Iran's Nuke Program:
Nov. 21st: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/21/seymour_hersh_propaganda_used_ahead_of ]
[also see : "Iran and the I.A.E.A." by Seymour Hersh-- published @ NewYorker.com Nov. 18th:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2011/11/iran-and-the-iaea.html ; fwd all this widely!]
[reminder here why I'm running for Congress; too few GOP/Dems willing to stop sabre-rattling re: Iran; I sent the Hersh links here out to this list a while ago-- but here's a bet-- parties' power structure ignoring]
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From http://www.CommonDreams.org ...
Published on Saturday, December 31, 2011 by Eric Margolis
Seize the Chance to End the Craziness in North Korea
by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK - You've got to hand it to the North Koreans, they certainly know how to throw a funeral.
I stayed up until two am watching the mammoth funeral of the "Dear Leader," Kim Jong-il, live on TV from North Korea's eerie, snowy capitol, Pyongyang. Giant floats and goose-stepping soldiers made this old Cold Warrior nostalgic for the 1970's
Kim Jong-un, the youngest and previously least-known son of Kim Jong-il, was declared to be the next leader of North Korea following the death of his father on Dec. 17, 2011.
What next for the Hermit Kingdom? Kim 3 - Kim Jong-un - has successfully made the transition. The 1.1-million armed forces, the Party, and security organs remain the power behind his leadership.
So far, a power struggle between these groups that could have led to the collapse of the North Korean state has not happened, avoiding South Korea's greatest fear, "unexpected reunification" - a human tsunami of millions of starving northerners flooding south.
North Korea is branded a dangerous rogue state that threatens the entire world. This is certainly the common view in the United States.
However, the advent to power of "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong-un presents North Korea's uneasy neighbors and the United States with an opportunity to defuse many of the peninsula's dangerous tensions and even begin a process of opening the isolated Stalinist state to the outside world.
North Korea's eccentric, occasionally violent behavior is driven by paranoia, fear of invasion, and hunger caused by crop failures. The north follows the credo of "Juche," or total self-reliance and independence. Pyongyang routinely brands prosperous South Korea an American vassal state, and its leaders "traitors."
North Korea is in a state of war with South Korea and the United States six decades after the Korean War. Having just revisited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating them, I felt the crackling tensions there that could erupt any time into full-scale war.
North Korea's heavy guns dug into the DMZ have half of Seoul in their range. Kim Jong-il and father Kim Il -sung threatened to turn Seoul "into a sea of fire."
The US has hinted it will consider using tactical nuclear weapons against North Korea in the event of war. Nearly 30,000 US troops garrison South Korea; 70,000 more could swiftly intervene there along with powerful US naval and air units.
North Korea keeps asking the US to sign a non-aggression pact in which Washington pledges not to attack the North. The North's modest nuclear program is mainly to deter a US attack by threatening a counter-strike on South Korea, Japan and Okinawa.
Washington has long refused such a pact. Instead, it has ringed North Korea with military forces and imposing a punishing trade embargo that has played a major role in keeping the North in dire poverty. The US says North Korea's regime is brutal, illegitimate despotism with which it will only deal with the greatest reluctance and disgust.
Yet the US supports many nasty dictatorships around the globe, such as Uzbekistan and Ethiopia. If the US really wants to end North Korea's nuclear program, the solution is to sign a non-aggression pact and end US trade sanctions.
Both the US and South Korea should end their provocative military war games on North Korea's borders. Such posturing led to last year's military clashes.
North Korea will have to end its nuclear program, agree to cease threats against neighbors that are a form of financial blackmail, reduce the size of its huge armed forces, move them away from the DMZ, and divert resources to feeding its people.
The hard right in the US will try to block such steps to peace. America's neocons worry that North Korea will supply nuclear and other weapons to Israel's enemies and wants it crushed. South Korea's Christian Evangelical hard right won't end its hostility to Communism.
Even so, Kim Jong-un has a major opportunity to begin defusing 60-years of severe tensions and to also begin building up a modern nation with help from China. He will have to battle entrenched military and party lobbies, and also assure Beijing that North Korea will not fall into the US sphere of influence.
South Korea toiled its way out of dire poverty four decades ago, creating an economic miracle. Equally industrious, determined North Koreans could do the same today, if given half a chance.
© 2011 Eric Margolis
Columnist and author Eric Margolis is a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain's Sky News TV as "the man who got it right" in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq. His latest book is American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World
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From http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/12/04 ...(Reuters headline today):
Published on Sunday, December 4, 2011 by Reuters
Iran Military Shoots Down US Drone: State TV
by Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN -- Iran's military has shot down a U.S. reconnaissance drone aircraft in eastern Iran and has threatened to respond to the violation of Iranian airspace, a military source told state television Sunday.
"Iran's military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network quoted the unnamed source as saying.
"The spy drone, which has been downed with little damage, was seized by the Iranian armed forces."
Iran shot down the drone at a time when it is trying to contain foreign reaction to the storming of the British embassy in Tehran Tuesday, shortly after London announced that it would impose sanctions on Iran's central bank in connection with Iran's controversial nuclear enrichment program.
Britain evacuated its diplomatic staff from Iran and expelled Iranian diplomats in London in retaliation, and several other EU members recalled their ambassadors from Tehran.
The attack dragged Iran's relations with Europe to a long-time low.
"The Iranian military's response to the American spy drone's violation of our airspace will not be limited to Iran's borders," the military source said, without elaborating.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear facilities if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear dispute.
Iran has dismissed reports of possible U.S. or Israeli plans to strike Iran, warning that it would respond to any such assault by attacking U.S. interests in the Gulf and Israel.
Analysts say Tehran could retaliate by launching hit-and-run strikes in the Gulf and by closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of all traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic waterway.
Iran said in July it had shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane over the holy city of Qom, near its Fordu nuclear site.
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From http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/21/seymour_hersh_propaganda_used_ahead_of ...
November 21, 2011
Seymour Hersh: Propaganda Used Ahead of Iraq War Is Now Being Reused over Iran's Nuke Program
While the United States, Britain and Canada are planning to announce a coordinated set of sanctions against Iran's oil and petrochemical industry today, longtime investigative journalist Seymour Hersh questions the growing consensus on Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. International pressure has been mounting on Iran since the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency revealed in a report the "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear activities, citing "credible" evidence that "indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." In his latest article for The New Yorker blog, titled "Iran and the IAEA," Hersh argues the recent report is a "political document," not a scientific study. "They [JSOC] found nothing. Nothing. No evidence of any weaponization," Hersh says. "In other words, no evidence of a facility to build the bomb. They have facilities to enrich, but not separate facilities to build the bomb. This is simply a fact."
AMY GOODMAN: Today the United States, Britain and Canada plan to announce a coordinated set of sanctions against Iran. ABC News and the Wall Street Journal report the sanctions will target Iran's oil and petrochemical industry. Last weekend, President Obama warned no options were being taken off the table.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The sanctions have enormous bite and enormous scope, and we're building off the platform that has already been established. The question is, are there additional measures that we can take? And we're going to explore every avenue to see if we can solve this issue diplomatically. I have said repeatedly, and I will say today, we are not taking any options off the table.
AMY GOODMAN: International pressure has been mounting on Iran since the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency revealed in a report the, quote, "possible military dimensions" to its nuclear activities. The IAEA said "credible" evidence, quote, "indicates [that] Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." The IAEA passed a resolution Friday expressing, quote, "increasing concern" about Iran's nuclear program following the report's findings.
The speaker of Iran's parliament said yesterday Iran would review its relations with the IAEA following the report. Ali Larijani indicated it may be difficult for Iran to continue to cooperate with the nuclear watchdog.
ALI LARIJANI: [translated] If the agency acts within the framework of the Charter, we accept that we are a member of it and will carry out our responsibilities. But if the agency wants to deviate from its responsibilities, then it should not expect the other's cooperation.
AMY GOODMAN: Iranian parliamentary speaker. Meanwhile, some Iranians have expressed the desire for increased cooperation with the IAEA.
SAID BAHRAMI: [translated] Considering the fact that the government has made plenty of clarifications, it would be better for it to expand its cooperation with the IAEA and let them see for themselves, close up, so there would be no pretext for the superpowers.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, the Pentagon confirmed it has received massive new bunker-busting bombs capable of destroying underground sites, including Iran's nuclear facilities. The 30,000-pound bombs are six times the size of the Air Force's current arsenal of bunker busters.
The new sanctions against Iran also follow last month's allegations by the United States that Iranian officials were involved in a thwarted plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington. The U.S. is expected to announce today that Iran's financial sector is of "primary money-laundering concern." This phrase activates a section of the USA PATRIOT Act that warns European, Asian and Latin American companies they could be prevented from doing business with the United States if they continue to work with Iran.
Well, to talk more about the sanctions and the implications of the IAEA report, we go to Washington, D.C., to speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. He's been reporting on Iran and the bomb for the past decade. His latest piece is titled "Iran and the IAEA." It's in The New Yorker.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sy. Talk about what you feel should be understood about what's happening in Iran right now in regards to its nuclear power sector.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, you mention, going in-by the way, the piece was in the blog. It wasn't in the magazine; it was on the web page.
But you mentioned Iraq. It's just this-almost the same sort of-I don't know if you want to call it a "psychosis," but it's some sort of a fantasy land being built up here, as it was with Iraq, the same sort of-no lessons learned, obviously. Look, I have been reporting about Iran, and I could tell you that since '04, under George Bush, and particularly the Vice President, Mr. Cheney, we were-Cheney was particularly concerned there were secret facilities for building a weapon, which are much different than the enrichment. We have enrichment in Iran. They've acknowledged it. They have inspectors there. There are cameras there, etc. This is all-Iran's a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Nobody is accusing them of any cheating. In fact, the latest report that everybody's so agog about also says that, once again, we find no evidence that Iran has diverted any uranium that it's enriching. And it's also enriching essentially at very low levels for peaceful purposes, so they say, 3.8 percent. And so, there is a small percentage being enriched to 20 percent for medical use, but that's quite small, also under cameras, under inspection.
What you have is, in those days, in '04, '05, '06, '07, even until the end of their term in office, Cheney kept on having the Joint Special Operations Force Command, JSOC-they would send teams inside Iran. They would work with various dissident groups-the Azeris, the Kurds, even Jundallah, which is a very fanatic Sunni opposition group-and they would do everything they could to try and find evidence of an undeclared underground facility. We monitored everything. We have incredible surveillance. In those days, what we did then, we can even do better now. And some of the stuff is very technical, very classified, but I can tell you, there's not much you can do in Iran right now without us finding out something about it. They found nothing. Nothing. No evidence of any weaponization. In other words, no evidence of a facility to build the bomb. They have facilities to enrich, but not separate facilities for building a bomb. This is simply a fact. We haven't found it, if it does exist. It's still a fantasy. We still want to think-many people do think-it does.
The big change was, in the last few weeks, the IAEA came out with a new report. And it's not a scientific report, it's a political document. It takes a lot of the old allegations that had been made over the years, that were looked at by the IAEA, under the regime or the directorship of Mohamed ElBaradei, who ran the IAEA for 12 years, the Egyptian-he won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work-somebody who was very skeptical of Iran in the beginning and became less so as Iran went-was more and more open. But the new director of the IAEA, a Japanese official named Amano, an old sort of-from the center-right party in Japan-I'm sure he's an honorable guy, he believes what he believes. But we happen to have a series of WikiLeak documents from the American embassy in Vienna, one of the embassies in Vienna, reporting on how great it was to get Amano there. This is last year. These documents were released by Julian Assange's group and are quite important, because what the documents say is that Amano has pledged his fealty to America. I understand he was elected as a-he was a marginal candidate. We supported him very much. Six ballots. He was considered weak by everybody, but we pushed to get him in. We did get him in. He responded by thanking us and saying he shares our views. He shares our views on Iran. He's going to be-he's basically-it was just an expression of love. He's going to do what we wanted.
This new report has nothing new in it. This isn't me talking. This is-in the piece I did for the New Yorker blog, it's different for the blog because it has more reporting in it. I talked to former inspectors. They're different voices than you read in the New York Times and the Washington Post. There are other people that don't get reported who are much more skeptical of this report, and you just don't see it in the coverage. So what we're getting is a very small slice in the newspaper mainstream press here of analysis of this report. There's a completely different analysis, which is, very little new.
And the way it works, Amy, is, over the years, a report will show up in a London newspaper, that will turn out to be spurious, turn out to be propaganda, whether started by us or a European intelligence agency-it's not clear. This all happened, if you remember the Ahmed Chalabi stuff, during the buildup to the war in [Iraq], all about, you know, the great arsenals that existed inside [Iraq]. The same sort of propaganda is being used now-pardon me, I have a slight cold-that shows up over the years, over the last decade, in various newspapers. The IAEA would look at it, rule it not to be-be a fabrication, or certainly not to be supportable by anything they know. All of these old reports, with the exception of, I think, in a new study that was put out by the IAEA-there were maybe 30 or 40 old items, with only three things past 2008, all of which are-they-many people inside the IAEA believe to be spurious, not very reliable fabrications. So there you are.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Sy Hersh, you're saying that it's not new information. It's a new head of the IAEA that's making the difference here. Can you talk more about U.S. infiltration of Iran, JSOC in Iran, surveillance, as well, in Iran?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Sure. I mean, the kind of stuff they did. I could tell you stuff that was secret eight, nine years ago. We would-for example, we developed-if there was an underground facility we thought was-where we saw some digging, let's say, in a mountain area, we would line the road, when there were trucks going up and down the road, we would line the road with what seemed to be pebbles. In fact, they were sensors that could measure the weight of trucks going in and out. If a truck would go in light and come out with heavy, we could assume it was coming out with dirt, they were doing digging. We did that kind of monitoring.
We also put all sorts of passive counters, measures, of radioactivity. Uranium, even plutonium-most of the stuff that's being done there is enriched uranium. They're not making plutonium. But you can track. At a certain point, you have to move it. Once you take it out and start moving it around, you can track it. You can find Geiger counters, if you will, to use that old-fashioned term. You can measure radioactivity and see increases. We would go into a building, our troops, sometimes even with Americans, go into a building in Tehran, where we thought there was something fishy going on, start a disturbance down the street, take out a few bricks, slam in another section of brick with a Geiger counter, if you will, or a measuring device to see if, in that building, they were doing some enrichment we didn't know about.
And we also have incredible competence at looking for air holes from the air, from satellites. If you're building an underground facility, you have to vent it. You have to get air into it. You have to find a way to remove bad air and put in fresh air. And so, we have guys that are experts, tremendous people in the community. Some of them retired and set up a private company to do this. They would monitor all of the aerial surveillance to look for air holes, so we could find a pattern, try to find a pattern, of an underground facility. Nada.We came up with nothing.
And the most important thing is, we also-and the IA-even this new report also says-let me emphasize this: if you're not diverting uranium, if you're not taking uranium out of the count and smuggling it someplace so that you can build a bomb-and that, the IAEA is absolutely categorical on-everything that they are enriching, whatever percentage they enrich to, is under camera inspection, and under inspection of inspections. It's all open, under the treaty, the safeguard treaty. Nobody is accusing Iran of violating the treaty. They're just accusing them of cheating on the side, or some evidence they are. And there's been no evidence of a diversion. So if you're going to make a bomb, you're going to have to bring it in from someplace else. And given the kind of surveillance we have, that's going to be hard to do, to import it from a third country, bring in uranium and enrich it, or enriched uranium. It's just a long shot.
And what you have is-as I said, it's some sort of a hysteria that we had over Iraq that's coming up again in Iran. And this isn't a plea for Iran. There's a lot of things that the Iranians do that is objectionable, the way they treat dissent, etc., etc. So I'm just speaking within the context of the hullabaloo that's up now. And as far as sanctions are concerned, you know, excuse me, we've been sanctioning Cuba for 60 years, and Castro is-you know, he may be ill, but he's still there. Sanctions are not going to work. This is a country that produces oil and gas-less and less, but still plenty of it. And they have customers in the Far East, the Iranians. They have customers for their energy. We're the losers in this.
AMY GOODMAN: How would you compare the Obama administration to the Bush administration when it comes to Iran?
SEYMOUR HERSH: I can't find a comparison. Same-a little less bellicose, but the same thing. I do think-I have every reason to believe that, unlike Mr. Bush, President Obama really is worried about an attack. He doesn't want to see the Israelis bomb Iran. That's the kind of talk we've been getting in the press lately.
And there's new-as you mentioned, the 30,000-pound bombs built by Boeing, I think. The problem is that most of Iran's facilities, the ones that we know about, the declared facilities under camera inspection, a place called Natanz, is about 80, 75 to 80 feet underground. And you'd have to do a hell of a lot of bombing to do much damage to it. You could certainly do damage to it, but the cost internationally would be stupendous. The argument for going and bombing is so vague and so nil.
There's been studies done showing-technical studies, MIT and other places, and the Israeli government also has had its scientists participate in these studies, showing it would be really hard to do a significant amount of damage, given how deep the underground facilities are. But you hear this talk about it.
And there's-you know, look, this president has said nothing about what's going on in Tahrir Square again. We're mute. He's been mute on this kind of bellicosity. But my understanding is that, purely from inside information, is that he does understand the issues more. I think it's right now a political game being played by him to look tough. You know, everybody's chasing, you know, the independent vote. I don't know why-what's so important to go after people that can't decide whether they're Democrats or Republicans, but that seems to be the name of the game.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's turn to the response in Israel to the IAEA report. Yesterday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with CNN the time has come to deal with Iran. When asked specifically whether Israel would attack Iran, this is how he responded.
DEFENSE MINISTER EHUD BARAK: I don't think that that's a subject for public discussion. But I can tell you that the IAEA report has a sobering impact on many in the world, leaders as well the publics. And people understand that the time had come. Amano told straightly what he found, unlike Baradei. And it became a major issue, that I think, duly so, becomes a major issue for sanctions, for intensive diplomacy, with urgency. People understand now that Iran is determined to reach nuclear weapons. No other possible or conceivable explanation for what they had been actually doing. And that should be stopped.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak. Sy, your response?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, what makes me nervous is Barak and Bibi, Bibi Netanyahu, are together on this. They're not always together on many things. They both agree, and that's worrisome because, again, it's a political issue there. Everybody-the country is moving quickly to the right, Israel is, obviously. And I can just tell you that I've also talked-unfortunately, the ground rules are so lousy in Israel, I can't write it, but I've talked to very senior intelligence people in Iran-in Israel, rather. If you notice, you don't hear that much about it, but the former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, who left-who was the guy that orchestrated the attempted assassinations in Dubai, etc.-no dove-has been vehement about the foolishness of attempting to go after Iran, on the grounds that it's not clear what they have. They're certainly far away from a bomb. Israel has been saying for 20 years they're, you know, six months away from making a bomb.
But I can tell you that I've talked to senior Israeli officers in Israel who have told me, A, they know that Iran, as the American intelligence community reported-I think it was in '07-there was a National Intelligence Estimate that became public that said, essentially, Iran did look at a bomb. They had an eight-year war with Iraq, a terrible war, 1980 to 1988. And we, by the way, the United States, sided with Iraq, Saddam Hussein at that time. Iran then, in the years after that, they began to worry about Iraq's talk about building a nuclear weapon, so they did look, in that period, let's say '87 to-'97 to 2003, no question. The American NIE said in '07-it was augmented in 2011. I wrote about it a year ago in The New Yorker. It said, yes, they did look at a bomb, but not-they knew that they couldn't-there was no way they could make a bomb to deter America or Israel. They're not fools. This Persian society has been around for a couple thousand years. They can't deter us. We have too many bombs. They thought maybe they could deter Iraq. After we went in and took down Iraq in '03, they stopped. So they had done some studies. We're talking about computer modeling, etc., no building. They-no question, they looked at the idea of getting a bomb or getting to the point where maybe they could make one. They did do that, but they stopped in '03.
That's still the American consensus. The Israelis will tell you privately, "Yes, we agree." They stopped most of their planning, even their studies, in '03. The Israeli position is they stopped not because they saw what we did to Iraq, but they thought that we could-we destroyed Iraq-I had a general tell me this-we destroyed Iraq in-it took them-we did in three weeks what they couldn't do in eight years.
They thought they would be next. But the consensus was, yes, they stopped. And also, if you asked serious, smart, wise Israelis in the intelligence business - and there are many - "Do you really think, if they got a bomb-and they don't have one now-they would hit Tel Aviv?" and the answer was, "Do you think they're crazy? We would incinerate them. Of course not. They've been around 2,000 years. That's not going to happen." Their fear was they would give a bomb to somebody else, etc.
But there's an element rationality in the Israeli intelligence community that's not being expressed by the political leadership. It's the same madness we have here. There's an element of rationality in our intelligence community which says, in '07, and it has said it again last year, they don't have the bomb.
They're not making it. It's at NIE, 16 agencies agreed, 16 to nothing, in an internal vote, before that-they did an update in 2011 on the '07 study and came to the same place. It's just not there. That doesn't mean they don't have dreams. It doesn't mean scientists don't do computer studies. It doesn't mean that physicists at the University of Tehran don't do what physicists like to do, write papers and do studies. But there's just no evidence of any systematic effort to go from enriching uranium to making a bomb. It's a huge, difficult process. You have to take a very hot gas and convert it into a metal and then convert it into a core. And you have to do that by remote control, because you can't get near that stuff. It'll kill you. So radioactive.
I mean, so, look, I'm a lone voice. And you know how careful The New Yorker is, even on a blog item. This piece was checked and rechecked. And I quote people-Joe Cirincione, an American who's been involved in disarmament many years. These are different voices than you're seeing in the papers. I sometimes get offended by the same voices we see in the New York Times and Washington Post. We don't see people with different points of view. There are, inside the-not only the American intelligence community, but also inside the IAEA in Vienna. There are many people who cannot stand what Amano is doing, and many people who basically-I get emails-and this piece came out, was put up, I think, over the weekend. And I get emails, like crazy, from people on the inside saying, "Way to go." I'm talking about inside the IAEA. It's an organization that doesn't deal with the press, but internally, they're very bothered by the direction Amano is taking them.
It's not a scientific study, Amy. It's a political document. And it's a political document in which he's playing our game. And it's the same game the Israelis are picking up on, and those who don't like Iran. And I wish we could separate our feelings about Iran and the mullahs and what happened with the students from 1979, into the reality, which is that I think there's a very serious chance the Iranians would certainly give us the kind of inspections we want, in return for a little love-an end to sanctions and a respect that they insist that they want to get from us. And it's not happening from this administration.
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, I want to thank you very much for being with us. His latest piece is on the blog at The New Yorker. It's called "Iran and the IAEA." Seymour Hersh won the Pulitzer Prize. His piece, you can see at The New Yorker's website.
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From http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2011/11/iran-and-the-iaea.html ...
November 18, 2011
Iran and the I.A.E.A.
Posted by Seymour M. Hersh
The first question in last Saturday night's Republican debate on foreign policy dealt with Iran, and a newly published report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The report, which raised renewed concern about the "possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material in Iran," struck a darker tone than previous assessments. But it was carefully hedged. On the debate platform, however, any ambiguity was lost. One of the moderators said that the I.A.E.A. report had provided "additional credible evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon" and asked what various candidates, upon winning the Presidency, would do to stop Iran. Herman Cain said he would assist those who are trying to overthrow the government. Newt Gingrich said he would coordinate with the Israeli government and maximize covert operations to block the Iranian weapons program. Mitt Romney called the state of Iran's nuclear program Obama's "greatest failing, from a foreign-policy standpoint" and added, "Look, one thing you can know and that is if we re-elect Barack Obama Iran will have a nuclear weapon." The Iranian bomb was a sure thing Saturday night.
I've been reporting on Iran and the bomb for The New Yorker for the past decade, with a focus on the repeated inability of the best and the brightest of the Joint Special Operations Command to find definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons production program in Iran. The goal of the high-risk American covert operations was to find something physical-a "smoking calutron," as a knowledgeable official once told me-to show the world that Iran was working on warheads at an undisclosed site, to make the evidence public, and then to attack and destroy the site.
The Times reported, in its lead story the day after the report came out, that I.A.E.A. investigators "have amassed a trove of new evidence that, they say, makes a 'credible' case" that Iran may be carrying out nuclear-weapons activities. The newspaper quoted a Western diplomat as declaring that "the level of detail is unbelievable. The report describes virtually all the steps to make a nuclear warhead and the progress Iran has achieved in each of those steps. It reads likes a menu." The Times set the tone for much of the coverage. (A second Times story that day on the I.A.E.A. report noted, more cautiously, that "it is true that the basic allegations in the report are not substantially new, and have been discussed by experts for years.")
But how definitive, or transformative, were the findings? The I.A.E.A. said it had continued in recent years "to receive, collect and evaluate information relevant to possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program" and, as a result, it has been able "to refine its analysis." The net effect has been to create "more concern." But Robert Kelley, a retired I.A.E.A. director and nuclear engineer who previously spent more than thirty years with the Department of Energy's nuclear-weapons program, told me that he could find very little new information in the I.A.E.A. report. He noted that hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a single source: a laptop computer, allegedly supplied to the I.A.E.A. by a Western intelligence agency, whose provenance could not be established. Those materials, and others, "were old news," Kelley said, and known to many journalists. "I wonder why this same stuff is now considered 'new information' by the same reporters."
A nuanced assessment of the I.A.E.A. report was published by the Arms Control Association (A.C.A.), a nonprofit whose mission is to encourage public support for effective arms control. The A.C.A. noted that the I.A.E.A. did "reinforce what the nonproliferation community has recognized for some times: that Iran engaged in various nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, then stopped many of them, but continued others." (The American intelligence community reached the same conclusion in a still classified 2007 estimate.) The I.A.E.A.'s report "suggests," the A.C.A. paper said, that Iran "is working to shorten the timeframe to build the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it remains apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable." Greg Thielmann, a former State Department and Senate Intelligence Committee analyst who was one of the authors of the A.C.A. assessment, told me, "There is troubling evidence suggesting that studies are still going on, but there is nothing that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb." He added, "Those who want to drum up support for a bombing attack on Iran sort of aggressively misrepresented the report."
Joseph Cirincione, the president of the Ploughshare Fund, a disarmament group, who serves on Hillary Clinton's International Security Advisory Board, said, "I was briefed on most of this stuff several years ago at the I.A.E.A. headquarters in Vienna. There's little new in the report. Most of this information is well known to experts who follow the issue." Cirincione noted that "post-2003, the report only cites computer modelling and a few other experiments." (A senior I.A.E.A. official similarly told me, "I was underwhelmed by the information.")
The report did note that its on-site camera inspection process of Iran's civilian nuclear enrichment facilities-mandated under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory-"continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material." In other words, all of the low enriched uranium now known to be produced inside Iran is accounted for; if highly enriched uranium is being used for the manufacture of a bomb, it would have to have another, unknown source.
The shift in tone at the I.A.E.A. seems linked to a change at the top. The I.A.E.A.'s report had extra weight because the Agency has had a reputation for years as a reliable arbiter on Iran. Mohammed ElBaradei, who retired as the I.A.E.A.'s Director General two years ago, was viewed internationally, although not always in Washington, as an honest broker-a view that lead to the awarding of a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. ElBaradei's replacement is Yukiya Amano of Japan.
Late last year, a classified U.S. Embassy cable from Vienna, the site of the I.A.E.A. headquarters, described Amano as being "ready for prime time." According to the cable, which was obtained by WikiLeaks, in a meeting in September, 2009, with Glyn Davies, the American permanent representative to the I.A.E.A., said, "Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77 [the group of developing countries], which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program." The cable added that Amano's "willingness to speak candidly with U.S. interlocutors on his strategy bodes well for our future relationship."
It is possible, of course, that Iran has simply circumvented the reconnaissance efforts of America and the I.A.E.A., perhaps even building Dick Cheney's nightmare: a hidden underground nuclear-weapons fabrication facility. Iran's track record with the I.A.E.A. has been far from good: its leadership began construction of its initial uranium facilities in the nineteen-eighties without informing the Agency, in violation of the nonproliferation treaty. Over the next decade and a half, under prodding from ElBaradei and the West, the Iranians began acknowledging their deceit and opened their enrichment facilities, and their records, to I.A.E.A. inspectors.
The new report, therefore, leaves us where we've been since 2002, when George Bush declared Iran to be a member of the Axis of Evil-with lots of belligerent talk but no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.
FINALLY then...another more current one-- from http://www.CommonDreams.org ...
[this is currently the fifth most popular one @ C-Dreams]
Published on Thursday, December 29, 2011 by The Guardian/UK
United States as a Global Power: New World Disorder
The US is struggling with a paradox: while its military power retains global reach, its role as world leader is gradually ending
The Guardian Editorial
The time has long since past when it became fashionable to talk about a new world order. The collapse of the Soviet Union provided an opportunity to fashion one. But instead of using that opportunity to create a new security architecture in Europe, Nato expanded eastwards as the military anchor for democracy promotion. Not content to have seen off one global military competitor in the Soviet Union, the western military industrial complex and the think-tanks they funded scurried around for a worthy replacement. When 11 September happened, they thought they were in business again. For a brief moment, al-Qaida seemed to fulfil some of the characteristics of communism: it could pop up anywhere in the world; it was an existential enemy, driven ideologically and uncontainable through negotiation; and it was potentially voluminous. Neither the doctrines of the pre-emptive strike, nor attacking a foreign country abroad to ensure security at home, were new. Swap the domino theory of the Vietnam era for the crescent of crisis of the Bush and Obama eras, and you had the same formula for a foe that hopscotched across the globe.
But here's the curious thing. Al-Qaida failed, not by being bombed out of the tribal areas of Pakistan or by losing its video-hugging leader. It failed as an ideological alternative, in its own terms and for its own people. It failed in Egypt, the country that mattered most to its chief thinker, the Egyptian-born doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri. When the opportunity arose for millions of Muslims to shed their brutal Arab yoke (this was supposed to be the fourth phase in the construction of the Caliphate, to be accompanied by physical attacks against oil suppliers and cyber ones on the US economy), nothing of the sort happened. Islam is indeed winning the day, but it is political rather than military. It seeks alliances with the apostate and says it is committed to democratic partnership and the rule of law.
Al-Qaida's failure was all the more significant because the western response, the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, also failed. Not because the enemy was especially daunting, but because the mission was impossible to start with. Mission creep started with democracy promotion, continued as state-building, and ended with withdrawal at any cost, by the appointed date. The quality of life in the country US combat troops left behind - most likely one that in Iraq will break up into a loose federation on sectarian lines - became less important than the fact of departure itself. Military ceremonies proclaiming victory in the war in Iraq had as much sense of reality as Kim Jong-il's funeral. This is the next feature of the world we live in. It is an age of the self-defeating intervention. The quests through military means to build stable states out of a dictatorship in Iraq or a failed state in Afghanistan did not and are not failing at the hands of a conventional enemy. They implode. They self-destruct.
Military overreach and serial economic crises have bequeathed us a generation of small leaders who battle with events that outsize them. They have stopped trying to fashion them, but appeal instead to a defensive desire. Protectionism not internationalism rules the day. The Middle East has been transformed from a zone of allies to one in which Washington has been reduced to the role of spectator.
It is now largely a taker of Middle Eastern policy, not one of its makers. There are other parts of the globe where US power projection finds natural allies, such as the Pacific, where China's rise is feared. So the paradox is that while US military power retains global reach (it is working on supersonic cruise missiles, and long-range drones) its stewardship as world leader, as a generator of the next big idea, is gradually ending. There may come a time when international institutions are rebuilt to fill this vacuum. But that time is not yet. Until then, a new world disorder would be nearer the mark.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011
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From http://www.StephenZunes.org ...
Professor of Politics and Chair of Mid-Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco
Iran Threat Reduction Act Actually Enhances Threat of War
Posted: 11/14/11 01:25 PM ET
Congress is taking up dangerous legislation which appears to be designed to pave the way for war by taking the unprecedented step of effectively preventing any kind of U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran.
The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905), sponsored by the right-wing chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, contains a provision (Section 601, subsection (c)) which would put into law a restriction whereby
"No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that. . . is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran;"
Never in the history of this country has Congress ever restricted the right of the White House or State Department to meet with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime. If this measure passes, it will establish a dangerous precedent whereby Congress would likely follow with similar legislation effectively forbidding any contact with Palestinians, Cubans and others.
Despite not having formal diplomatic ties since 1979, there has been frequent low-level contact between the two governments on such issues as combatting drug smuggling and Salafi terrorists.
Recent examples include talks which facilitated cooperation in suppressing the Taliban and freeing three American hikers held in an Iranian prison. Such contacts would no longer be possible under this bill.
More seriously, the legislation appears to be designed to push the country toward a military conflict with Iran. History has shown that governments that refuse to even talk with each other are far more likely to go to war.
The bill passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week and, with 349 co-sponsors from both parties, is almost certain to pass the House of Representatives as a whole.
As is often the case with legislation dealing with foreign affairs that puts limits on executive behavior, there is clause allowing for a presidential waiver. It is very limited, however, allowing the White House to waive the requirement only
". . . 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."
The problem is that diplomatic encounters -- particularly with countries with which the United States has tense relations -- often need to be arranged in less than a 15-day period. The entire Cuban missile crisis lasted only 13 days, for example. In the event of a crisis that threatens a military confrontation between the United States and Iran, the Obama administration would have to wait more than two weeks before having any contact with any Iranian officials, which by then could be too late.
Another problem is that meetings with governments with which the United States has no diplomatic relations are usually arranged secretly through back channels. Unfortunately, the odds that none of the 26 Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would leak news of such a meeting to Fox News or some other media outlet are rather slim. The relatively moderate elements within Iran's factious regime would presumably not want to risk any meetings with Americans becoming known to hard-liners. Indeed, their personal safety could be at risk if found out. Similarly, to avoid attacks from Republicans prior to elections, the Obama administration would presumably want to avoid making such meetings public as well.
Fortunately, senior diplomats and intelligence officials are speaking out against this push for war. As veteran CIA analyst and Georgetown University professor Paul Pillar put it, "This legislation is another illustration of the tendency to think of diplomacy as some kind of reward for the other guy, rather than what it really is: a tool for our side."
Similarly, veteran diplomats Thomas Pickering and William Luers observed, "Besides raising serious constitutional issues over the separation of powers, this preposterous law would make it illegal for the U.S. to know its enemy," a principle which has been understood by strategic planners since first articulated by Sun Tzu in The Art of War in the 6th century B.C.
Another problematic clause in the bill, contained in the same sub-section, states that
"No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that... presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations."
Not only could what constitutes a "threat" to the United States or an "affiliate" with a "terrorist organization" be interpreted rather broadly, it could restrict investigation of possible terrorist attacks. It would have made illegal the recent sting operation that foiled the alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador, for example.
The march to war with Iran appears to have the support a sizable number of liberal Democrats. Indeed, more than 40 members of the so-called "Progressive Caucus" have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, including: Karen Bass, Robert Brady, Corrine Brown, Yvette Clark, William Clay, Emmanuel Cleaver, David Cicilline, Steve Cohen, Elijah Cummings, Peter DeFazio, Rosa DeLauro, Sam Farr, Chaka Fattah, Bob Filner, Barney Frank, Janice Hahn, Mazie Hirono, Michael Honda, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Hank Johnson, Marcy Kaptur, John Lewis, David Loebsack, Ben Ray Lujan, Carolyn Maloney, Ed Markey, Jerrold Nadler, Frank Pallone, Jared Polis, Charles Rangel, Laura Richardson, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sanchez, Jan Schakowsky, Louise Slaughter, Peter Welch, and Frederica Wilson.
It should be noted that these clauses were added to the bill by committee chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen at the end of October, subsequent to some of the co-sponsors signing on, yet so far no one has withdrawn their co-sponsorship. Unless the public mobilizes against this legislation, then, it will be passed and the risks of a disastrous war will be markedly increased.