Please let us know as soon as possible if you can join our Real Majority Project (hopefully with folks from DutchessPeace.org coalition) this Friday Mar. 2nd at 4:30 pm-- for our Rally To Stop War with Iran in front of Rep. Nan Hayworth's Fishkill office just off Rt. 52 (2 Summit Court, Suite 103)!...
[no. Dutchess folks: let us know if you can join us for similar rally soon at Gibson's Red Hook Rt. 9 office; see: http://www.dutchessdemocracy.blogspot.com/2012/02/iran-update-new-pipa-poll-even-65-of.html ]
Need more reason to come out Fri.?...Check out these seven brand-new ones just off the net-- read/fwd:
[let your fingers do the walkin'!...White House-- (202) 456-1111; Capitol Switchboard-- (202) 224-3121]
1. NYTimes yesterday: "US Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build Bomb" (James Risen/Mark Mazzetti)
2. "Need to Talk Sense to Netanyahu" by Leah Bolger, President of http://www.VeteransforPeace.org
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/23-6 [THIS ONE'S MUST READ FOLKS(!) from Thurs.]
3. "U.S. Spies See No Evidence of Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program" [Common Dreams yesterday]
4. "Despite War Drums, Experts Insist Iran Nuclear Deal Possible" by Jim Lobe [Friday]
5. "The Slide Toward War" by Conn Hallinan [Thursday]
6. "Drumbeat of War with Iran Has a Familiar Ring" by Simon Tisdall
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/24-9 [Friday's Guardian/UK]
7. "Squeezing Iran on Nuclear Developments" by Arun Elhance [yesterday]
And-- recall op-ed piece from the New York Times Jan. 15th [many in media/gov. ignore these polls]:
["Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully" by Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull]
From http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/16/opinion/preventing-a-nuclear-iran-peacefully.html ...
"When asked whether it would be better for both Israel and Iran to have the bomb, or for neither to have it, 65 percent of Israeli Jews said neither. And a remarkable 64 percent favored the idea of a nuclear-free zone, even when it was explained that this would mean Israel giving up its nuclear weapons. Despite all the talk of an "existential threat," less than half of Israelis support a strike on Iran. According to our November poll, carried out in cooperation with the Dahaf Institute in Israel, only 43 percent of Israeli Jews support a military strike on Iran - even though 90 percent of them think that Iran will eventually acquire nuclear weapons. The Israeli public also seems willing to move away from a secretive nuclear policy toward greater openness about Israel's nuclear facilities. Sixty percent of respondents favored "a system of full international inspections" of all nuclear facilities, including Israel's and Iran's, as a step toward regional disarmament. And a 2007 poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that the Iranian people would favor such a deal."
[more re: poll see: http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/dec11/IsraeliMENFZ_Dec11_quaire.pdf ]
[see FAIR Action Alert: "NYTimes Lets Unnamed Officials Smear Critics as 'Terrorists'":
Recall as well these other nine must-read's re: Iran of uncommon common sense/sanity in Middle East:
1. "Iran: Willing to Deal" by Richard Javad Heydarian [posted up online yesterday]
2. "Iran: Outgunned in the Gulf" by Rex Wingerter [from last Thursday]
3. "Iran Uses Terror to Target Civilians, and So Does Israel" by Gideon Levy [Haaretz (Israel) Sunday]
4. "Another March to War?" by Matt Taibbi [2/18/12 Rolling Stone]
5. "Iran Tensions Rise with Diplomat Bombings, Scientist Killings, Nuke Claims, Media Warmongering"
[Glenn Greenwald of Salon & Reza Marashi of National Iranian American Council last Thurs.-- D- Now]
6. "We've Seen the Threats Against Iran Before" by Phyllis Bennis [posted online Friday]
7. "Iran Nuclear Coverage Echoes Iraq War Media Frenzy" [posted to CommonDreams Friday]
8. "Cables Hold Clues to U.S.-Iran Mysteries" by Robert Parry [12/31/11]
9. My last blog post Feb. 2nd on all this (re: stopping sabre-rattling towards war w/Iran)
[pass it on]
[help us speak truth to power; send $ to Joel for Congress 324 Browns Pond Rd. Staatsburg, NY 12580]
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/23-6 ...
Published on Thursday, February 23, 2012 by ConsortiumNews.com
Need to Talk Sense to Netanyahu
by Leah Bolger
Recalling President George Washington's farewell advice against tying the United States too closely to any foreign nation, Veterans for Peace urges President Obama to publicly warn Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu against attacking Iran with the expectation of U.S. military support.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veterans for Peace
SUBJECT: You Need to Talk Sense to Netanyahu
We members of Veterans for Peace have served in every war since WW II. We know war. And we know when it smells like war. It smells that way now, with drums beating loudly for attacking Iran.
Information offered by the media to "prove" Iran a threat bears an eerie resemblance to the "evidence" ginned up to "justify" war on Iraq - evidence later described by the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a five-year committee investigation, as "unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent."
The good news this time around is that sane policy toward Israel and Iran can find support in a principled U.S. intelligence community, which has rebuffed attempts to force it to serve up doctored "evidence" to justify war. U.S. intelligence continues to adhere to the unanimous, "high-confidence" judgment, set forth in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007 that Iran stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003.
(It may be of more than incidental interest to you that both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have openly admitted that the 2007 NIE put the kibosh on U.S.-Israeli plans to strike Iran in 2008.)
We hope you have been adequately briefed on the findings of the November 2011 report on Iran by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Those findings are consistent with the key judgments of the U.S. intelligence community expressed four years earlier. The IAEA report contained no evidence that Iran has yet decided to build nuclear weapons, despite widespread media hype to the contrary.
Needed: Presidential Action
We believe that you have the power to nip the current warmongering in the bud by taking essentially two key steps:
1-Announce publicly that you will not allow the United States to be drawn into war if Israel attacks Iran or provokes hostilities in some other way.
In threatening and planning such attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters are assuming you would have no option other than to commit U.S. forces in support of Israel. To assume automatic support from the world's sole remaining superpower is a heady thing and an invitation to adventurism.
We are aware that you have dispatched emissary after emissary to ask the Israelis please not to start a war. We mean no offense to those messengers, but there is very little reason to believe that they are taken seriously.
We are convinced that only a strong public demurral from you personally would have much chance of disabusing Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders of the notion that they can expect full American support, no matter how hostilities with Iran begin.
The Risks of Silence
A public statement now could pre-empt a catastrophic war. Conversely, the Israeli leaders are likely to interpret unwillingness on your part to speak out clearly as a sign that you will find it politically impossible to deny Israel military support once it is engaged in hostilities with Iran.
What we find surprising (and the Israelis presumably find reassuring) is the nonchalance with which Official Washington and the media discuss the possible outbreak of war. From officials and pundits alike, the notion has gained currency that an attack on Iran is an acceptable option, and that the only remaining questions are if and when the Israelis will choose to attack.
Little heed is paid to the fact that, absent an immediate threat to Israel, such an attack would be a war of aggression as defined and condemned at the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey's anemic remark on Sunday that an Israeli attack on Iran would be "not prudent" is precisely the kind of understatement to give Netanyahu the impression that he essentially has carte blanche to start hostilities with Iran, anticipating a mere tap on the knuckles - if that - from Washington.
2-Announce to the people of the United States and the world that Iran presents no immediate threat to Israel, much less the U.S.
That Iran is no threat to America is clear. Your secretary of state has acknowledged this publicly. For example, speaking in Qatar on Feb. 14, 2010, Secretary Clinton said that, were Iran to pursue a nuclear weapon, this would "not directly threaten the United States," but would pose a threat to our "partners here in this region."
Secretary Clinton has made it clear that the partner she has uppermost in mind is Israel. She and the Israeli leaders have used the media to hype this "threat," even though it is widely recognized that it would be suicidal for Iran to use such a weapon against Israel - armed as it is with hundreds of nuclear weapons.
The media have drummed into us that a nuclear weapon in Iran's hands would pose an "existential" threat to Israel, a claim that is difficult to challenge - that is, until one gives it careful thought. Now is the time to challenge it. Indeed, the whole notion is such a stretch that even some very senior Israeli officials have begun to challenge it in public, as we shall point out later in this memorandum.
Chirac Spoof on the "Threat"
Former French President Jacques Chirac is perhaps the best-known Western statesman to ridicule the notion that Israel, with at least 200 to 300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, would consider Iran's possession of a nuclear bomb or two an existential threat.
In a recorded interview with the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, and Le Nouvel Observateur, on Jan. 29, 2007, Chirac put it this way: "Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel? It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed." Chirac concluded that Iran's possession of a nuclear bomb would not be "very dangerous."
Oddly, Chirac's logic has found more receptivity among some of Netanyahu's top officials than with your own strongly pro-Israel advisers, which now include CIA chief David Petraeus. You may be unaware that Petraeus repeatedly raised the "existential-threat-to-Israel" shibboleth in his recent testimony to Congress.
Petraeus: An "Existentialist"?
At the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Jan. 31, Petraeus said he had talked just days before with his Israeli counterpart, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, who was visiting Washington. Is it conceivable that Petraeus's staff had not briefed him on Pardo's dismissive remarks on the supposed "existential threat" just weeks before?
According to Israeli press reports, on Dec. 27, 2011, Pardo complained to an audience of about 100 Israeli ambassadors: "The term 'existential threat' is used too freely If one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an 'existential threat,' that would mean we would have to close up shop and go home. That's not the situation."
One of the ambassadors in the audience told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Pardo's remarks "clearly implied that he doesn't think a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel." This did not stop Petraeus from repeatedly hyping the "existential threat" in his congressional testimony on Jan. 31.
As if in response to Petraeus, on Feb. 8, Pardo's immediate predecessor as head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, stated publicly that he does not think Israel faces an "existential threat" from Iran.
You may wish to make a point of asking Petraeus why he professes to be more concerned about an "existential threat" to Israel than Mossad - and CIA analysts themselves - seem to be.
Logically, at least, the Pardo/Dagan approach would certainly seem to have the upper hand, if there continues to be no hard evidence that Iran is trying to create a nuclear weapon. It bears repeating; essentially nothing has changed since the intelligence community's finding of November 2007: "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."
Defense Ministers Provide Context
Even authoritative statements by top U.S. and Israeli officials have failed to prevent media hype charging that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his counterpart, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, have publicly stated (on Jan. 8 and Jan. 18 respectively) that Iran is not doing so.
On Face the Nation, Panetta asked himself: "Are they [the Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon?" and immediately answered his own question: "No." Ehud Barak followed suit ten days later. He added that only if Iran expelled the U.N. inspectors would there be "definite proof that time is running out" and that "harsher sanctions or other action against Iran" might then be in order.
It is no secret that the Israeli cabinet is divided on whether to attack Iran, with Netanyahu leading the hawks in pushing for early action. How the Israeli leaders interpret similar differences and mixed signals in Washington will be crucial factors in whether Israel decides to move toward war with Iran. Unfortunately, Netanyahu and other hawkish leaders probably feel supported by your remarks before the Super Bowl game on Feb. 5.
We found what you said on Israel and Iran highly disturbing. You told over a hundred million TV viewers: "My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States, but also the security of Israel."
The two are not necessarily the same and, in our view, need to be separated by more than a comma. Publicly equating the security of the U.S. with that of Israel as your "number one priority" can lead to all kinds of mischief, including war.
For a variety of reasons, mostly Israeli reluctance, there is no mutual defense treaty between the United States and Israel. With no treaty to trigger the supremacy clause in the U.S. Constitution there is no legal obligation for our country to defend Israel. And, as we hope you will agree, there is no moral obligation either, if Israel is the side initiating/provoking hostilities.
We respectfully suggest you make all this clear to Netanyahu when he visits you on March 5. Better still, to be on the safe side, tell him publicly - now.
In proudly serving in our country's armed forces, we took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. We still take that oath with the utmost seriousness, the more so since it bears no expiration date.
We did not swear to bear arms if ordered, without due process, to defend Israel or any other country. Nor did the brave men and women now serving on active duty.
In all candor, we see it as your duty to protect our successor comrades in arms from the consequences of what President George Washington called the kind of "passionate attachment" to another country that brings all manner of evil in its wake.
The first President of the United States was born 280 years ago today. Thus, it seems all the more appropriate that we end this memorandum with a highly relevant paragraph from Washington's Farewell Address. But before setting that down as a sharp reminder of what is at stake here, we want to urge you again to issue two statements like the ones we suggest above, which are so much in the spirit of our first President's very prescient warning.
In present circumstances, we believe this would be the best way for you to honor the wise insight of George Washington, and to be true to your own oath to defend the Constitution. As veterans of the armed forces, we claim a special right to urge you strongly to make it 100 percent clear that the number one priority of your presidency is the security of the United States, and thus prevent another totally unnecessary war.
From Washington's Farewell Address (1796):
"So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.
"It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.
"And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity..."
© 2012 Consortiumnews.com
Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander. She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the President of Veterans For Peace.
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From http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/02/25 ...
US Spies See No Evidence of Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program
Published on Saturday, February 25, 2012 by Common Dreams
- Common Dreams staff
US intelligence agencies believe there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb, The New York Times reports in today's edition.
[NYTimes yesterday: "US Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build Bomb" by James Risen/Mark Mazzetti
The Times said there was no dispute among American, Israeli and European intelligence officials that Iran had been enriching nuclear fuel and developing infrastructure to become a nuclear power.
But the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies believe that Iran has yet to decide whether to resume a parallel program to design a nuclear warhead -- a program they believe was essentially halted in 2003, the paper noted.
* * *
From the New York Times report Saturday:
Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America's 16 intelligence agencies. [...]
Yet some intelligence officials and outside analysts believe there is another possible explanation for Iran's enrichment activity, besides a headlong race to build a bomb as quickly as possible. They say that Iran could be seeking to enhance its influence in the region by creating what some analysts call "strategic ambiguity." Rather than building a bomb now, Iran may want to increase its power by sowing doubt among other nations about its nuclear ambitions. Some point to the examples of Pakistan and India, both of which had clandestine nuclear weapons programs for decades before they actually decided to build bombs and test their weapons in 1998.
"I think the Iranians want the capability, but not a stockpile," said Kenneth C. Brill, a former United States ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency who also served as director of the intelligence community's National Counterproliferation Center from 2005 until 2009. Added a former intelligence official: "The Indians were a screwdriver turn away from having a bomb for many years. The Iranians are not that close."
Amid the ugly aftermath of the botched Iraq intelligence assessments, American spy agencies in 2006 put new analytical procedures in place to avoid repeating the failures. Analysts now have access to raw information about the sources behind intelligence reports, to help better determine the credibility of the sources and prevent another episode like the one in which the C.I.A. based much of its conclusions about Iraq's purported biological weapons on an Iraqi exile who turned out to be lying.
Analysts are also required to include in their reports more information about the chain of logic that has led them to their conclusions, and differing judgments are featured prominently in classified reports, rather than buried in footnotes.
When an unclassified summary of the 2007 intelligence estimate on Iran's nuclear program was made public, stating that it had abandoned work on a bomb, it stunned the Bush administration and the world. It represented a sharp reversal from the intelligence community's 2005 estimate, and drew criticism of the C.I.A. from European and Israeli officials, as well as conservative pundits. They argued that it was part of a larger effort by the C.I.A. to prevent American military action against Iran.
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/24 ...
Published on Friday, February 24, 2012 by Inter Press Service
Despite War Drums, Experts Insist Iran Nuclear Deal Possible
by Jim Lobe
Amid the persistent beating of war drums, an influential international conflict prevention group is insisting that a deal between Western countries and Iran on Tehran's controversial nuclear programme can still be reached.
In a new report released Thursday, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said such a deal would include Tehran's acceptance of full-scope international safeguards to ensure the programme could not be diverted to military use.
It would also entail Iran's full co-operation in clearing up outstanding questions regarding alleged pre- 2003 nuclear weaponisation research and experimentation, and an exchange of its current stockpile of twenty percent enriched uranium for fuel rods from abroad.
In exchange, the so-called P5+1 countries (the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - plus Germany) would freeze implementation of tough new U.S. and European Union (EU) sanctions, recognise Iran's "right to enrich" uranium up to five percent and lift existing sanctions in stages.
The 45-page report, "In Heavy Waters: Iran's Nuclear Program, the Risk of War and Lessons from Turkey", called on the United States and the EU to take their cue from Ankara's approach of full engagement with Iran, instead of isolation, sanctions, sabotage and threats of war on which they have mainly relied to date.
"(A) world community in desperate need of fresh thinking could do worse than learn from Turkey's experience and test its assumptions," the report noted, suggesting that Iran be engaged at all levels and "that those engaging it include a larger variety of countries, including emerging powers with which it feels greater affinity".
"Economic pressure is at best futile, at worse counter-productive," it added, and "Tehran ought to be presented with a realistic proposal."
"If it is either sanctions, whose success is hard to imagine, or military action, whose consequences are terrifying to contemplate, that is not a choice," it said. "It is an abject failure."
The report comes amid continuing speculation about a possible Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
The administration of President Barack Obama is also under growing pressure by pro-Israel lawmakers in Congress to impose new sanctions against Iran and take concrete steps, including dispatching more naval forces to the Gulf, to enhance the threat of U.S. military action against Tehran if it does not agree to abandon its nuclear programme.
It also comes in the wake of two visits to Tehran by high-level delegations from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) whose requests to visit a facility on a military base suspected of having been used to test triggering devices for nuclear weapons were reportedly rebuffed.
The delegation and its hosts also failed to agree on an agenda for clearing up outstanding questions regarding Tehran's past research that Western nations believe may have been part of a weaponization programme.
Despite the IAEA's apparent lack of progress, Iran's acceptance last week of a long-standing request from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on behalf of the P5+1 to resume negotiations, stalled for over a year, makes it likely that a new round of talks will take place in late March or April, probably in Istanbul, according to analysts here.
Anticipation of those talks, as well as the rapid escalation of tensions over the last two months, particularly between Israel and Iran, has provoked a flurry of proposals to revive the dormant diplomatic track, if only to calm a situation threatening to spin out of control.
Those proposals contain the same or similar recommendations to those included in the ICG report.
Early this month, for example, two former top-ranking U.S. diplomats, ICG Chair Thomas Pickering and William Luers, called in a "New York Times" op-ed for the IAEA and the U.N. Security Council to accept a Iranian nuclear programme with certain conditions attached.
The programme would include uranium enrichment to no more than five percent "in return for Iran's agreeing to grant inspectors full access to that programme to assure that Iran did not build a nuclear weapons".
Such a bargain - part of a broader initiative to build confidence and co-operation between the U.S. and Iran on a range of issues of common interest, including Afghanistan and Iraq - would result in the progressive reduction of U.N. sanctions against Iran once the inspection regime was in place.
That proposal was strongly endorsed by the president emeritus of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, Leslie Gelb.
"For sure, neither I nor anyone else knows whether Iran will accept this time. But I do know this: if we don't at least try the negotiating track, a war of untold uncertainties and dangers can come upon us," he wrote in the Daily Beast.
The same basic bargain was also endorsed by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, an Iranian diplomat currently at Princeton University, who served as spokesman for Iran's nuclear negotiating team, in a column for Bloomberg News in mid- February.
Iran should accept the maximum level of transparency with the IAEA, limit enrichment activities to less than five percent, and clear up its nuclear file with the IAEA, he argued, while the West should recognise Tehran's right to enrich and ease sections as part of a "step-by-step plan" proposed by Russia last year.
Perhaps the most intriguing contribution was from Dennis Ross, formerly Obama's chief Iran aide and long considered a hawk on the nuclear issue.
In a Times op-ed, he suggested that the administration was ready to accept a deal that combined intrusive inspections with limits on uranium enrichment and he cited Moscow's step-by-step approach favourably, although he did not address when and how existing sanctions could be eased.
The new ICG report notes that Turkey, which has ruled out military action against Iran, has "useful experience" in dealing with Iran's nuclear issue, primarily through its efforts with Brazil in 2010 to work out a confidence-building deal - much of which incorporated the basic elements of the Crisis Group proposal - acceptable to both the P5+1 and Iran.
While the deal was summarily rejected by the U.S. and the EU at the time, Ankara has since worked closely with the Obama administration on a range of major issues during the so-called Arab Spring.
Indeed, Obama has come to consider Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan one of his favourite foreign leaders.
Adding to Ankara's credibility has been its opposition to broad sanctions and its support for dialogue with Iran - positions similar to the views of Russia and China, the report noted.
"This is not to say that Turkey is amenable to a nuclear-armed Iran," the report said.
"But it is far more sympathetic to the view that the West cannot dictate who can have a nuclear capacity and who cannot; is less alarmist when it comes to the status of Iran's program; and believes that the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is both distant and unsure."
Copyright © 2012 IPS-Inter Press Service
Jim Lobe has served as Washington DC correspondent and chief of the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service (IPS), an international news agency specializing in coverage of issues and events of interest to developing countries, from 1980 to 1985, and again from 1989 to the present.
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From http://www.fpif.org/articles/the_slide_toward_war ...
The Slide Toward War
By Conn Hallinan, February 23, 2012
Wars are fought because some people decide it is in their interests to fight them. World War I was not started over the Archduke Ferdinand's assassination, nor was it triggered by the alliance system. An "incident" may set the stage for war, but no one keeps shooting unless they think it's a good idea. The Great War started because the countries involved decided they would profit by it, delusional as that conclusion was.
It is useful to keep this idea in mind when trying to figure out whether the United States or Israel will go to war with Iran. In short, what are the interests of the protagonists, and are they important enough for those nations to take the fateful step into the chaos of battle?
Israel's Political Problem
According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran is building nuclear weapons that pose an "existential" threat to Israel. But virtually no one believes this, including the bulk of Tel Aviv's military and intelligence communities. As former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said recently, Iran "is not an existential" threat to Israel. There is no evidence that Iran is building a bomb, and all its facilities are currently under a 24-hour United Nations inspection regime.
So from a strictly security perspective, Israel has little reason to go to war with Iran. But Israel does have an interest in keeping the Middle East a fragmented place, riven by sectarian divisions and dominated by authoritarian governments and feudal monarchies. If there is one lesson Israel has learned from its former British overlords, it is "divide and conquer." Among its closest allies were the former dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia. It now finds itself on the same page as the reactionary monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman.
Iran is not a military threat to Israel, but it is a political problem: Tel Aviv sees Tehran's fierce nationalism and independence from the West as a wildcard. Iran is also allied to Israel's major regional enemy, Syria-with which Israel is still officially at war-as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq.
In the Netanyahu government's analysis, beating up on Iran would weaken Israel's local enemies at little cost. Tel Aviv's scenario features a shock-and-awe attack followed by a UN-mandated ceasefire, with a maximum of 500 Israeli casualties. The Iranians have little capacity to strike back, and if they did attack Israeli civilian centers or tried to close the Strait of Hormuz, it would bring in the Americans.
Of course, that rose-colored scenario is little more than wishful thinking. Iran is not likely to agree to a rapid ceasefire; it fought for eight long years against Iraq, and war has a habit of derailing the best-laid plans. A war between Israel and Iran would be long and bloody and might well spread to the entire region.
Iran's leaders dispense a lot of bombast about punishing Israel if it attacks, but in the short run there is not a lot they could do, particularly given the red lines Washington has drawn. The Iranian air force is obsolete, and the Israelis have the technology to blank out most of Tehran's radar and anti-aircraft sites. Iran could do little to stop Tel Aviv's mixture of air attacks, submarine-fired cruise missiles, and Jericho ballistic missiles.
The United States and Its Allies
For all its talk about how "all options are on the table," the Obama administration appears to be trying to avoid a war. But with the 2012 elections looming, could Washington remain on the sidelines? Polls indicate that Americans would not look with favor on a new Middle East war, but a united front of Republicans, neoconservatives, and the American Israeli Political Action Committee is pressing for a confrontation with Iran.
Israeli sources suggest that Netanyahu may calculate that an election-season Israeli attack might force the Obama administration to back a war and/or damage Obama's re-election chances. It is no secret that there is no love lost between the two leaders.
But the United States also has a dog in this fight. American hostility to Iran dates back to Tehran's seizure of its oil assets from Britain in 1951. The CIA helped overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953 and install the dictatorial Shah. The United States also backed Saddam Hussein's war on Iran, has had a longstanding antagonistic relationship with Syria, and will not talk with Hezbollah or Hamas. Tel Aviv's local enemies are Washington's local enemies.
When the Gulf monarchs formed the GCC in 1981, its primary purpose was to oppose Iranian influence in the Middle East. Using religious division as a wedge, the GCC has encouraged Sunni fundamentalists to fight Shiites in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, and largely blocked the spread of the "Arab Spring" to its own turf. When Shiites in Bahrain began protesting over a lack of democracy and low wages, the GCC invaded and crushed the demonstrations. The GCC does not see eye-to-eye with the United States and Israel on the Palestinians-although it is careful not to annoy Washington and Tel Aviv-but the GCC is on the same page as both capitals concerning Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.
The European Union (EU) has joined the sanctions, although France and Germany have explicitly rejected the use of force. Motivations in the EU range from France's desire to reclaim its former influence in Lebanon to Europe's need to keep its finger on the world's energy jugular.
Setting the Stage for Tragedy
In brief, it isn't all about oil and gas, but a whole lot of it is - and, as CounterPunch's Alexander Cockburn points out, oil companies would like to see production cut and prices rise. Another war in the Persian Gulf would accomplish both.
Iran will be the victim here, but elements within the regime will take advantage of any war to consolidate their power. An attack would unify the country around what is now a rather unpopular government. It would allow the Revolutionary Guard to crush its opposition and give cover to the Ahmadinejad government's drive to cut subsidies for transportation, housing, and food. A war would cement the power of the most reactionary elements of the current regime.
There are other actors in this drama-China, Russia, India, Turkey, and Pakistan for starters, none of whom supports a war-but whether they can influence events is an open question. In the end, Israel may just decide that its interests are best served by starting a war and that the United States will go along.
Or maybe this is all sound and fury signifying nothing?
Israel, the West, and the Gulf Cooperation Council share many of the same interests. Unfortunately, they also share the belief that force is an effective way to achieve one's goals.
On such illusions are tragedies built.
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/24-9 ...
Published on Friday, February 24, 2012 by The Guardian/UK
Drumbeat of War with Iran Has a Familiar Ring
Impetus towards war with Iran can only be explained in terms of a western desire for Iraq-style regime change
by Simon Tisdall
The drumbeat of war with Iran grows steadily more intense. Each day brings more defiant rhetoric from Tehran, another failed UN nuclear inspection, reports of western military preparations, an assassination, a missile test, or a dire warning that, once again, the world is sliding towards catastrophe. If this all feels familiar, that's because it is. For Iran, read Iraq in the countdown to the 2003 invasion.
As with Iraq in 2003, the sense that war is inevitable is being encouraged by hardliners on all sides.
A decisive moment may arrive when Barack Obama meets Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, in Washington on 5 March. "The meeting will be definitive," said Ari Shavit in Haaretz. "If the US president wants to prevent a disaster, he must give Netanyahu iron-clad guarantees the US will stop Iran in any way necessary and at any price after the 2012 [US] elections. If Obama doesn't do this, he will obligate Netanyahu to act before the 2012 elections."
If accurate, this is not much of a choice. It suggests military action by the US or Israel or both is unavoidable, the only question being one of timing. Objectively speaking, this is not actually the position. All concerned still have choices. The case against Iran's nuclear programme is far from proven. It is widely agreed that limited military strikes will not work; a more extensive, longer-lasting campaign would be required. And Obama in particular, having striven to end the Iraq and Afghan wars, is loath to start another.
But as with Iraq in 2003, the sense that war is inevitable and unstoppable is being energetically encouraged by political hardliners and their media accomplices on all sides, producing a momentum that even the un-bellicose Obama may find hard to resist.
A recent analysis of US public opinion revealed deeply ambivalent attitudes on Iran, with the majority of Americans apparently favouring diplomatic solutions. Yet as Republican presidential candidates exploit the issue, as the Israelis lobby America, and as Iranian factions manoeuvre ahead of parliamentary polls, the likelihood grows that doves and doubters will again be either converted or ignored.
In some key respects, the Iran crisis is distinctly different from that over Iraq in 2002-03. As matters stand, similarly strident warmongering surrounding Iran is thus hard to understand or explain - unless the ultimate, unstated objective is not to curb Iran's nuclear programme but, as in Iraq, to overthrow its rulers.
George Bush and Tony Blair claimed a moral imperative in toppling the "monstrous" dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. But the much vilified Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, is no Saddam, and neither is the country's bumbling Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Iranian regime is repressive and sporadically brutal, but so too are many developing world governments. Unlike Saddam's Ba'athists, it has significant democratic and ideological underpinning. As a bogeyman whose depredations might justify international intervention, Ahmadinejad is a flop.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Saddam, notoriously, had no deployable or usable WMD, but his overthrow was primarily justified by the mistaken belief that he did. The present western consensus is that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability, but does not have an atomic bomb and is not currently trying to build one. Khamenei said this week that nuclear weapons were "useless and harmful" and that possessing them was sinful . Netanyahu's belief that Israel faces an imminent, existential threat is visceral rather than fact-based. Israel's refusal to acknowledge its own nuclear arsenal, let alone contemplate its reduction, further undermines the case for action.
Plenty of evidence exists that Iran supports, or has supported, armed militants, jihadis, and anti-Israeli and anti-western armed groups in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, providing financial and political backing, arms and training. In this respect, its behaviour is more threatening to western interests than was that of Saddam's secular regime, no friend to Islamists. But limited or even protracted attacks on Iran's nuclear and/or military facilities would not end these links, unless there was a shift of political direction in Tehran.
Iraq was considered important for its strategic position at the heart of the Arab Middle East and its economic potential, especially its oil reserves. Similarly, there can be no doubt the US and Britain would like to see energy-rich Iran return to the western camp, as in the pre-revolution days of the Shah. Conversely, Iran's military is more powerful and more committed to the defence of the status quo, from which it benefits greatly, than was Iraq's. The potential disruption to oil supplies and western economies, not to mention the impact of asymmetric Iranian counter-attacks, makes a resort to war contingent on producing lasting dividends.
In contrast to the splits over Iraq, the main western powers are united in their determination to bring Iran to heel. As well as Netanyahu, David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama have all declared an Iranian bomb unacceptable. Their inflexibility thus makes war more rather than less likely should Iran refuse to back down. "Having made the case for urgency and concerted action, it would be difficult for Obama to tell the world 'never mind' and shift to a strategy that accepts Iranian membership in the nuclear club," said Michael Gerson in the Washington Post.
In short, the Iranian crisis differs from that over Iraq in 2003 in key respects. But the current impetus towards war can only be explained in terms of a western desire for Iraq-style regime change - because only regime change may achieve the de-nuclearisation the west insists upon.
© 2012 The Guardian
Simon Tisdall is an assistant editor of the Guardian and a foreign affairs columnist. He was previously a foreign leader writer for the paper and has also served as its foreign editor and its US editor, based in Washington DC. He was the Observer's foreign editor from 1996-98
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From http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/25-1 ...
Published on Saturday, February 25, 2012 by Common Dreams
Squeezing Iran on Nuclear Developments
by Arun Elhance
As of this moment no one knows for sure if the Iranian leadership really intends to build a nuclear weapon. What we do know is that Israel and the US are leading a well-orchestrated fight against Iran's nuclear development program. They have roped in some of their friends in Western Europe-mainly Britain and France--to support their own machinations in that regard by collectively imposing sanctions of all types against the leaders and citizens of Iran. It must be noted outright that all of the members of this "coalition of the willing" are themselves armed to the hilt with nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that can deliver those weapons of mass destruction anywhere on earth. Do they have any moral right to squeeze Iran to prevent it from developing and deploying similar weapons that they themselves keep developing and deploying with impunity, and with complete disregard for majority world-opinion that these weapons should be eliminated all together?
There are no permanent friends when it comes to international relations, only convenient bed-fellows, as a wise sage once said. The one you consider as a friend during the night can easily turn into a deadly enemy in the morning. So, let us look at Iran's genuine fears and security concerns vis-à-vis the so-called "civilized" and "peaceful" nations of Israel, the US and some other counties in Asia and Europe.
Iran shares a long and highly porous border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are remotely-controlled American "drones" in those countries killing the alleged Taliban leaders and fighters, and many more civilians besides. Who knows if the Americans have not stationed some drones, nukes and missiles in their many military bases in those countries to take care of Iran if and when the need arises? One thing we know for sure is that there are American ships and submarines floating everywhere around the world with nuclear weapons and missiles: cruise missiles being just a lesser category of the weapons of mass destruction that have already been used in Sudan and Afghanistan, among other places.
Pakistan is rapidly becoming a failed state with an arsenal of nuclear weapons. What happens if there is a regime change in the country? Will the new Pakistani rulers and their intelligence operators in the ISI and other spy agencies love Iran or nuke it when they feel like it?
Beyond Pakistan is India, another "peaceful" country with nuclear weapons as well as missiles that can deliver them over long distances: Iran is just next door really. Then there is China with its own atom and hydrogen bombs that can rein down on Iran any day if the Chinese communist leaders so decide. Let us also not forget North Korea with its arsenal of nukes and missiles. And, who is to say if there are not American nuclear weapons and missiles stationed in South Korea? The same goes for Japan even though the Americans and the Japanese political leaders and militaries deny this vehemently. For that matter, does Taiwan also host some nuclear weapons just in case China decided to take over the island some day as its leaders have repeatedly stated?
There is Russia also with its huge arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles, with no love lost for its own Muslim population. And, it is still developing new nuclear weapons to match the stock-piles the US and her friends currently have and are still developing.
Finally, there is Israel. We all know, or should know by now, about its growing stock-pile of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that can strike Iran at any time. Israelis are also alleged to be killing Iranian nuclear scientist over the last few years in Teheran and elsewhere against all norms of human rights and diplomacy. Israel is also a country that has been repeatedly imprisoning and allegedly torturing, at least psychologically, one of its own citizens, Mordechai Vannunu, since 1986 when he first revealed some details about Israel's nuclear weapons program to the international community. Are we really supposed to believe that the Israelis leaders are any saner or less ominous than the leaders of Iran. Can we be sure?
So let us seriously ponder if the leaders of Iran are crazy to be paranoid about the potential dangers they face from all the nuclear-crazies that surround them and can annihilate them from near or far at short notice? They must also be looking at how no established nuclear power in the world today has ever been really punished for developing and deploying these ominous weapons of mass destruction: India, Israel, North Korea and Pakistan are just the latest examples of this crazy state of affairs. If the leaders of the US, Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia can be trusted with managing their nuclear weapons in any kind of an enlightened way, there is no reason whatsoever not to extend the same courtesy to the much-maligned Iranian leaders.
Nothing short of an immediate global movement for Destroying All Nuclear Weapons Now (DAWN) can save us. That is the only sane choice we have in this nuclear-crazy world of ours. Iran is just the latest example of our collective madness.
Arun P. Elhance is a writer and social commentator living in Nairobi, Kenya
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Recall-- from http://consortiumnews.com/2011/12/31/cables-hold-clues-to-u-s-iran-mysteries ...
[pertinent excerpt here]
"Cables Hold Clues to U.S.-Iran Mysteries" by Robert Parry [12/31/11]
"By early 2010, both China and Russia had agreed not to exercise their UN Security Council vetoes to stop new sanctions against Iran. A January 2010 cable reported that a Russian official had "indicated Russia's willingness to move to the pressure track." Meanwhile, Iran's internal dissension had complicated an agreement on a low-enriched uranium swap. Though the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embraced the idea in fall 2009, agreeing to give up about half of Iran's low-enriched uranium to get nuclear isotopes for medical research, some of his political opponents - favored by the West - attacked the proposed deal.
When Ahmadinejad's government sought some modifications on how the uranium would be transferred, the Obama administration dismissed any changes and the major U.S. news media jumped on Ahmadinejad for supposedly reneging on the original agreement. The leaked cables, however, shed new light on what was actually occurring. The Obama administration wasn't really committed to the swap idea as much as it was using the appearance of negotiations to set the stage for a new round of sanctions. The moves by Iran's internal opposition to torpedo the deal also look different in this context, as possibly a tactic to help the West isolate Ahmadinejad's government.
In spring 2010, Ahmadinejad agreed to another version of the uranium swap proposed by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey, with the apparent backing of President Obama. However, that arrangement came under fierce attack by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, considered a hawk on Iran, and was mocked by leading U.S. news outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.
The ridicule of Brazil and Turkey - as bumbling understudies on the world stage - continued even after Brazil released Obama's private letter to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva encouraging Brazil and Turkey to work out the deal. Despite the letter's release, Obama didn't publicly defend the swap and instead joined in scuttling the deal. Much like during the run-up to war with Iraq, opinion leaders at the New York Times and Washington Post eagerly beat the drums for another confrontation."