Sunday, December 26, 2010

How to stop imperialism


Sustained efforts with clear explanations can change behavior. One-time or occasional efforts, especially if interpretation of those efforts is left to parties hostile to those making the efforts, are very ineffective at changing behavior.

Efforts can be violent or non-violent. In a lot of situations it is easier to sustain non-violent efforts, and easier to issue explanations of non-violent behavior.

On the other hand if non-violent efforts are closed off, violent efforts are, of course, more effective than no efforts at all.

I’m not being sentimental in writing this. Gandhi is one example, there are others, violent and non-violent. You will not find an example of imperialistic behavior changing without a sustained and continuous campaign against it, aimed at parties that are necessary for its continuation but that are not the direct beneficiaries of that imperialistic behavior.

9/11, for example, would not change US behavior in the Middle East because it only happened once. If some group was to have the capacity to orchestrate a 9/11 every month and was able to explain clearly what behaviors it was intending to stop – not vaguely “get out of the Middle East” but specifically “stop giving military and intelligence support to subject dictatorships in these countries and opposing the rights of the Palestinians including the refugees” – then that group would ultimately get the US to meet its demands.

But that capacity is very difficult to attain.

If a group could non-violently stage protests that slow transportation in the downtown area of major US cities every month that group, with the same specific explanations of what it wants, that group also would ultimately get the US to meet its demands.

I don’t think violent or non-violent efforts against Israel itself would change Israel’s behavior. Israel believes the historic fate of Jews depends on there being a Jewish state, on the refugees never being able to return and on the region being ruled permanently by pro-Zionist stooges as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE are today or sanctioned and punished as Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran are today as pressure on those areas to accept stooge leadership.

US policy in the Middle East is much more important to Israel than it is to the US.

About war, that would probably ultimately work also – if the US during the war were getting the message that the reason Iran is killing US soldiers is because Iran will not accept the kind of stooge dictatorship the US has imposed on its colonies in the region on Israel’s behalf. If that message is not transmitted at least somewhat effectively, the US could lose a war and still not change its imperialistic behavior. Especially in the Middle East because war would not directly address the ability of Jewish Americans, the US’ most wealthy ethnic group, to shape US policy in Israel’s favor.

But war, if it works to change US imperialistic behavior, is a really expensive way to accomplish that. Many, many more Iranians will die than Americans. War is not something to want. If the objective is to get the US to accept independent nations in Israel’s region then that objective can only be accomplished with sustained violent or non-violent action accompanied by clearly stated specific demands. War is just one example, and not the best example, of sustained violent or non-violent actions toward that end.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Glimpses into the Wikileaks release process


We can get bits and pieces of how these cables are being released from various sources. Together they paint a picture of a process under the relatively firm control of the US government and parties sympathetic with the foreign policy objectives of the US government.

The British organization the Guardian, one of the first four recipients of the full wikileaks archive of over 250,000 cables shared that archive with the New York Times out of fear of legal consequences if it had not.
David Leigh, The Guardian's investigations executive editor, told The Cutline in an email that "we got the cables from WL"—meaning WikiLeaks—and "we gave a copy to the NYT."

It's not everyday that a newspaper gives valuable source material to a competitor. But Leigh explained in a second email that British law "might have stopped us through injunctions [gag orders] if we were on our own."
The four original news organizations, from UK, France, Germany and Spain, have along with the New York Times come up with a process that involves US government oversight of the release process.
In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and "representations" were invited in return. These were considered. Details of "redactions" were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard.
Documents and portions of documents that are withheld from public release are not withheld according to any set of rules that could be explained, criticized and defended, but rather by the cable-by-cable judgment of the releasing news organizations.
The Times has taken care to exclude, in its articles and in supplementary material, in print and online, information that would endanger confidential informants or compromise national security. The Times’s redactions were shared with other news organizations and communicated to WikiLeaks, in the hope that they would similarly edit the documents they planned to post online.

After its own redactions, The Times sent Obama administration officials the cables it planned to post and invited them to challenge publication of any information that, in the official view, would harm the national interest. After reviewing the cables, the officials — while making clear they condemn the publication of secret material — suggested additional redactions. The Times agreed to some, but not all. The Times is forwarding the administration’s concerns to other news organizations and, at the suggestion of the State Department, to WikiLeaks itself. In all, The Times plans to post on its Web site the text of about 100 cables — some edited, some in full — that illuminate aspects of American foreign policy.

The question of dealing with classified information is rarely easy, and never to be taken lightly. Editors try to balance the value of the material to public understanding against potential dangers to the national interest. As a general rule we withhold secret information that would expose confidential sources to reprisals or that would reveal operational intelligence that might be useful to adversaries in war. We excise material that might lead terrorists to unsecured weapons material, compromise intelligence-gathering programs aimed at hostile countries, or disclose information about the capabilities of American weapons that could be helpful to an enemy.

On the other hand, we are less likely to censor candid remarks simply because they might cause a diplomatic controversy or embarrass officials.
Wikileaks is not releasing documents independently.
Julian Assange:

The cables we have release correspond to stories released by our main stream media partners and ourselves. They have been redacted by the journalists working on the stories, as these people must know the material well in order to write about it. The redactions are then reviewed by at least one other journalist or editor, and we review samples supplied by the other organisations to make sure the process is working.
What we are left with is a process that appears to be a release of 250,000 documents but actually is the major Western news organizations, led by the New York Times, releasing small numbers of documents that they select in coordination with the US government and using the wikileaks name to generate interest.

Wikileaks: Assange has been maneuvered into being a US press agent


On the wikileaks matter I’m primarily guided, I think, by a sense in following the Middle East for a while that the New York Times especially and Western news organizations generally are not trustworthy sources for information about the Middle East or about US relations with the global South. For me, given my interests, this is completely and obviously clear. For Assange, with a different set of interests, this may not be as clear or as important.

So having the New York Times lead Western news organizations in releasing 250,000 documents strikes me as only superficially different from having the US government do it itself. There is no reason to expect Assange to agree with me on this, but if he followed the Middle East as closely as I do, and was impartial or objective, he’d probably reach that conclusion himself.

Now the US did not release these cables on purpose. I disagree with people who think segments of US intelligence released these cables. There are a lot easier ways to prevent war with Iran than this. And in fact, the parties of the US government that do not want war are doing a very effective job preventing it right now and have been since 2006 at the very latest.

But once the cables were released, I’m sure at least one team in the US government was assigned to minimize the damage. And in this case, much more than previous cases, this team has done an excellent job. One reason is likely that the US government or at least those given this job, like me but unlike Assange maybe until now, understood that the New York Times can be, for the most part, trusted by the US to minimize any damage to US foreign policy objectives.

How it works is that Assange has been convinced that cables cannot be released unedited, and he does not have the resources to edit them himself. Assange, for his own reasons seems to have tried to avoid the Times, giving the cables to foreign (but very friendly – Britain, Germany and Spain) press.

The US state department seems to have through steps convinced Guardian that it is not legally safe to release the cables without following the lead of … the New York Times.

And what we have now is a New York Times-led process. The arguments that convinced Guardian to follow the NY Time’s lead were at least attempted in the cases of the other papers. It isn’t clear to what degree of success, except that all of the organizations have agreed to coordinate with each other with this slow release process.

Here is my issue. If the New York Times says it looked through 250,000 cables and found 100 that say Saudi Arabia wants the US to bomb Iran, I believe them. I don’t have to read the cables. I'm also completely unimpressed. The story still may or may not be true. It isn’t even fair to ask any independent party to refute that story looking only at the cables the Times released and not the 250,000 the Times looked at and did not release.

When will an independent parties be able to look at what the New York Times looked at? Never. Some at least segments of the documents the New York Times examines are determined to be too damaging to US interests to release. We’ll never find out who makes that determination or on what basis, but I don’t trust the Times, even if the decision was not made in consultation with the US government, which it is.

But at the current pace, wikileaks will be finished releasing the documents it decides to release more than five years from now. There is no reason to believe the current pace will be maintained though. Over these five years, at least, the US government and New York Times have a head-start in shaping the stories that come from these cables.

Another example is that it seems that someone has found a document where a Shell executive claims to have spies throughout the Nigerian government. This is a passing story for Guardian, but why can Lagos publications not look though all of the documents related to Nigeria to make their own determination of which documents are important, to get as full an understanding as Guardian or New York Times can get?

That is the true travesty that Assange was maneuvered into submitting to. It repeats itself in probably hundreds of ways, most of which will remain unknown for years if they are ever released.

This slow release may be keeping the story in the headlines, but it is keeping important stories out of Nigerian newspapers and others and it is causing the pressure on Assange to grow steadily.

The slow release is a terrible idea all around. Assange would be well served I think to have the ACLU hire a private law firm to go through the documents removing names based on transparent and publicly explained basis and releasing the rest of the documents immediately.

A process like that is what was done for previous large releases from the same source. I can’t explain why Assange or wikileaks switched to such an inferior process for this one, but it represents a victory for the US government at applying pressure on the organizations Assange trusted to release the cables.

The process renders the leaks of minimal value. We are seeing a skewed sample of the documents and while there are nuggets of valuable or exciting information, we and all independent parties, unlike the New York Times and US government, cannot see the other documents that would establish a context for this information, can’t see the environment where the information came from or where it led.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

So, when is the US going to attack Iran?


I've come across some commentators who believe the US is not imminently going to attack Iran, but is preparing to do so now. I essentially agree with that view, except that "preparing" has a stronger implication of the an attack eventually and even unconditionally happening than I think is warranted.

By the phrase “preparing for war”, a commentator argues that the US plans, over time, to degrade Iran’s defensive capabilities while increasing its offensive capabilities until it can attack with less harm to US interests.

I think that is the race. Can the US degrade Iran’s defensive capabilities while increasing its offensive capabilities to the point that it is comfortable attacking. The US is giving that a shot because it has nothing to lose in doing so.

If Obama wakes up tomorrow and has a report that surprisingly Iran’s retaliatory options have evaporated, he will order an attack tomorrow. I think, and disagree with some people who believe Iran prevents a US attack by its cooperation with the IAEA or public relations efforts to make its case to the world, that the state of Iran’s defensive capabilities is almost the only factor at this point in determining whether or not a US president attacks Iran.

But while the US has a risk-free gamble that Iran will one day be weak enough to attack, and the US is taking that gamble, I don’t expect it to pay off. The US is preparing to attack Iran but will never be prepared. Once Iran’s ability to have US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan killed is reduced, Iran is likely have other ways to kill US soldiers, based in UAE and Kuwait.

I also want to write that I still think the ability to kill US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are Iran’s main deterrent. US generals have seemed confident that they could keep the shipping routes reasonably clear in a war and the US has a strategic reserve of oil that it would use to pressure other countries if the flow is disrupted.

By the time the US is out of Iraq and Afghanistan, then there one of three possibilities will happen: 1) Iran will have developed a credible threat to kill US soldiers in bases other than Iraq and Afghanistan 2) Iran will have developed nuclear weapons and a credible way to deliver them either to Israel or US bases 3) Iran will be attacked.

I think 1) and 2) together, are more likely than 3). So I don’t predict an attack.

About an attack. The US does not think an attack could prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons, but instead could delay it for the amount of time it would take to build more centrifuges and set them up and make new fissile material.

The US would take a delay in Iran’s nuclear program if there was no cost. The US does not attack Iran today because it values the US lives it would lose more than it values what it publicly calculates as a two or three year setback in Iran’s nuclear program.

I don’t think the delay would actually be two or three years, especially if LEU is partially recoverable after an attack which seems plausible. And certainly if Iran has enough notice of an attack to put its already enriched LEU somewhere secure. But whatever the delay is, now, when Iran would kill US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in response, it is not worth it.

Once the soldiers are gone, the US could attack Iran for free. It would have a chance of harming Iran’s nuclear program and even if it doesn’t work, the US would not have lost anything. “Free” gambles characterizes the US approach to Iran’s nuclear program. The sanctions, aiming for preventing nuclear capability, killing scientists, the color revolution, these are all things that are unlikely to work, but trying them has no consequence for the US so it does.

These no-cost attacks on Iran will continue until Iran can develop and communicate immediate consequences for US actions. Until Iran establishes that the US has something to lose.

I think that over the medium term, Iran can deter a US attack if it establishes a way to kill US soldiers in the region even after the US leaves Iraq and Afghanistan. If not, those who argue that the US will eventually attack Iran are right. Not necessarily to end Iran’s program or even to delay it, but as a no-cost gamble where if it hurts Iran, good and if it does not, the US has not lost anything.

I still do not see an attack while there are substantial US troops in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Robert Gates says the US is never leaving Afghanistan


Before we even start, let's look at Obama appointee and close confidante Rahm Emanuel
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel privately refers to the war as "political flypaper" and the veteran of sharp-elbowed Chicago politics once got so frustrated with Karzai that he considered sending him "the equivalent of a dead fish with an imperial wrapping," writes Woodward. Emanuel's threat -- "Tell him we're going to put our own governors in if we have to" -- was ignored by the president during a meeting with military brass.
This is the United States. This is what it costs to keep the Middle East safe for Israel and the string of pro-US, relatively pro-Zionist colonial holdings the US maintains in the region on Israel's behalf.

But the Obama administration as a typical 19th century colonialist regime is just an open secret. The new information we get from the Huffington Post recently is that the administration is beginning to test openly expressing its desire to hold a permanent presence in Afghanistan.
During a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May, Gates reminded the group that he still feels guilty for his role in the first President Bush's decision to pull out of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, according to Bob Woodward's new book, "Obama's Wars." And to express his commitment to not letting down the country again, he emphasized:

"We're not leaving Afghanistan prematurely," Gates finally said. "In fact, we're not ever leaving at all."

Woodward notes that the group was shocked by the blunt comment: "At least one stunned participant put down his fork. Another wrote it down, verbatim, in his notes."

The definitive statement seems to clash with President Obama's assertion that he does not want to leave the war to his successor. Though he has emphasized that the U.S. will stay in Afghanistan "until the job is done," he wants almost all the US troops out before the end of his first term in January 2013, leaving in place a small contingency force.
A reminder of why the US is in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not the only or most lawless place in the world. Afghanistan is the an essentially lawless place that is also Muslim, at a time when the US has a single fundamental dispute with most Muslims in the world which is over the legitimacy of Israel as a politically Jewish state.

Without that dispute, Afghanistan would not pose a threat as a staging ground for attacks, like 9/11, on US interests including the US mainland. Neither would anyone else in the Muslim world. There'd be no necessity or even rationale for a US occupation of Afghanistan (or Iraq) for one day, much less forever.

Obama had never even publicly said there would be a permanent "small contingency force" in Afghanistan. The US acts as if it hopes to accomplish permanent military presences in both Iraq and Afghanistan that it can use as leverage over these Muslim countries despite its claims of the opposite.

It is not clear how much the US is willing to pay for these presences, but the US, using the Woodward book and to a smaller degree the Huffington Post as its mouthpiece, is now beginning to publicly state its intention to do so.

Listen, assholes. Japan has nuclear capability. Israel has nuclear weapons.


I see this fairly often over the past few years, from sources supportive of Israel like CNN's editors:
"You should make it clear that what is your aim of negotiations, friendship or hostility? Do you want to follow logic or law or issue resolution and make threat?" the semi-official Iran Student's News Agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. He added that Western powers should also pressure Israel over its undeclared but widely-suspected nuclear capability, ISNA said.

Of course Ahmadinejad didn't speak of Israel's "nuclear capability", nor did he describe it as "undeclared but widely suspected".

We're observing a deliberate attempt to blur the distinction between "nuclear weapon" and "nuclear capability". It is a form of lying, as it is deliberately deceptive.

It is also easy to counter in contexts where there is an opportunity to respond. The question that would defeat the attempted lie would be "are you claiming Israel is widely suspected of having the capability to make a weapon, which is what Japan and Brazil have, or is Israel widely suspected of having weapons, like what the US and Pakistan have?"

This question: "do you mean capability, like Canada and Romania, or do you mean weapon, like India and the China?" can and probably should be asked every time a Western source attempts to confuse the two concepts, which is very often - more directly concerning Iran's program than as here when referring to Israel's program.

Israel is widely suspected of having weapons. The US, including the Barack Obama administration has decided that they oppose Iran having capability - having what Japan and Brazil have. They are different concepts, as different as the nuclear programs of Japan and Pakistan. They have different moral and legal ramifications. Conflating the two disinforms rather than informs, but I see this fairly often recently.

It is a petty lie. It is an insult to the intelligence of its readers, and it is taking advantage of the naivete and ignorance of readers who do not follow the subject closely.

We should not expect more. There are people willing to die for the proposition that there must be a Jewish state, including a former US President. How much less to ask a supporter of Israel to confuse CNN's readers on help prevent Iran from getting legal capabilities that would reduce Israel's regional advantage? Those who care about accurately reporting the truth will have to be vigilant.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nasrallah's and Ahmadinejad's speeches in Lebanon


Lebanon Now has published the full text of both Nasrallah's and Ahmadinejad's major speeches. Neither is unexpected, both express opposition to Zionism itself, neither, when read in full, validate the demonization that supporters of Zionism seek to apply to Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad.

Nasrallah:

“I direct this brief word on behalf of you all to welcome Lebanon’s great and dear guest. Your Excellency the president, I welcome you in the name of the leaders and members of the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, in the name of all the departed Imam Moussa al-Sadr’s children, in the name of those who love the sacred Imam al-Khomeini, in the name of the secretaries general and members of the Lebanese parties present among us, who have welcomed this visit. I welcome you in the name of the victorious holy fighters, in the name of the men, women, and children – in the name of these people that resisted and fought in the [2006] July War and achieved a miraculous victory. I welcome you in the name of the most honorable and purest of people.

I bear witness as one of those who have an old relationship with the decision-makers in Iran. I say honestly and without flattery that what Iran wants in Palestine is that which the Palestinians want [themselves]: That the Islamic and Christian holy places return, that the land return from the sea to the river, and that these oppressed people live in their [own] state on independent land liberated by blood. This is Palestine’s project, and Iran’s project for Palestine. This is the project of Imam al-Khomeini and the decision of Imam al-Khamenei. This president’s guilt is that he expresses this with transparency and honesty, in the UN and wherever he goes. The West has set itself against him because he says that Israel is an illegitimate state and must disappear.

I want to bear testament before God and on your behalf because it is a duty upon my shoulders toward the Iranian leadership. There are those in Lebanon, Palestine, and our Arab region who speak about an Iranian project. They speak about an Iranian project for Palestine, Lebanon, and the region. They make assumptions about the appearance and content of this project from a negative position, and they work to make governments and peoples afraid of it.

In Lebanon Iran wants what the Lebanese people want: That it be an independent and sovereign people, present in the regional balance. There is no other Iranian project.

In my [position of] responsibility in Hezbollah, I bear witness before you that Iran, which has always supported us and still does, has never demanded of me that I take a [particular] stance. It has never issued a command and never expected thanks from us, although we take pride in our deep faith in the guardianship of the just, wise, and courageous jurisprudent.

Iran has no special project. Its project in Lebanon is that of the Lebanese, and likewise in Palestine and the Arab region. What Iran is doing in our region is its divine duty and is harmonious with our creed and religion.

There are those who continually spread [the idea] that Iran is a source of strife and strives to tear apart the ranks. Here we must testify that the Iranian Islamic Republic is one of the greatest guarantees for an end to wars and the support of the peoples in our Islamic world today.

When the American pastor said a while ago that he was going to burn the Quran, Imam al-Khamenei issued a historic statement [in which] he warned the Muslims and Christians that there are those who wish to incite [strife] among them. [Khamenei] said that it is impermissible for us to commit similar acts against Christian sacred [objects], and thereby dealt strife a heavy blow.

Some weeks ago, when a Shia unknown to the Shias gave a speech in London insulting [the Prophet’s wife] Aisha and some of the Prophet’s companions, and some of the strife-sowing Arab satellite channels broadcast this speech, Imam al-Khamenei issued [a statement] saying that this [kind of speech] about the Prophet’s wives is forbidden, and thereby dealt strife a heavy blow.

The conclusion that Iran affirms is that if a Muslim errs, all Muslims are not held accountable, and if a Christian or Sunni errs, [neither] are the Christians or Sunnis all held accountable. So why do we run so quickly toward the strife that America wants?

Iran is a guarantee for unity, Resistance, and the oppressed, from [its] stance of wisdom, responsibility, and historical [consciousness].

This [Iranian] republic in its leadership, people, and government is a grace from God for you. Take advantage of it and thank God for it. Do not listen to the Satans America and Israel, from whom we only see war and destruction.

The final word is a word of thanks to Iran. Your Excellency the president, we thank you for your visit and your love. We thank you for your courage and wisdom, for your tremendous humility and your service to your people and the affairs of our [Islamic] community. We thank you for your support amid all difficulties. You do not ask for thanks, [but] we thank you for your presence on the land of the Dahiyeh, on the land of Resistance and steadfastness.”

Ahmadinejad:

“I thank God Most High and Exalted and I praise Him unceasingly for blessing me with this visit with you, dear Lebanese people. Lebanon is the cradle of the worshippers and the free, a green oasis flourishing with flowers from which emanates the perfume of varied religions, sects, and denominations.

Lebanon is the school of Resistance and perseverance against the tyrants of this world. It is the streaming banner of glory and independence, and the brilliant pearl at the edge of this region.

The [Lebanese] people’s purity of thought, transcendence of spirit, and purity of soul matches the beauty of its home, and has grown into a fabric without equal.

Dear ones, visiting lofty Lebanon and meeting its fine people and their officials is for me a pure and beautiful vision.

I come from the land of Imam al-Khomeini, may God be pleased with him, carrying the finest salutations and the love of the Iranian people and their guiding leadership, dear and beloved ones.

May the peace and blessings of God most Mighty and Exalted be upon the Lebanese people and all its varied religions and sects.

May the peace and blessings of God most Mighty and Exalted be upon [Lebanon’s] religious scholars, cultural figures, and innnovators, and especially the Lebanese youth that has defended and continually defends Lebanon and its independence.

Dear ones, our world stands today on the threshold of a great change which began to take shape in our very own region.

You know well and the arrogant dominators have made use of material force, distortion, and violence for dozens – nay, for hundreds – of years in order to establish their control. They made of our region a platform for their subjugation of the entire world.

These [arrogant ones] did not stop at any limit, and they were not satisfied with anything less than bending the region to their will.

While they placed others in the position of debtor, they placed themselves in the position of accountant and creditor. Peoples’ souls, resources, capacities, dignity, and cultures – especially with our peoples – did not enjoy any sanctity before these [arrogant ones].

From the perspective of these [arrogant ones], the Muslim, Christian, and Jew, and every true monotheist calling for justice is considered equally and is looked upon as an enemy.

Their materialist ideas themselves contradict the divinely-given instinct that lifts humans toward the truth, exactly as ignorance and darkness contradict the light.

The truth is that the former colonialists and enslavers, after they met with bitter defeat, tried to change their skin and color their slogans. However, the objectives remain as they were.

Whereas justice, liberty, and care for the rights of others are captive in the hearts of the peoples, these [arrogant ones] clothed their immoral behavior in lustrous garments. Here I want to mention that first, through a pre-meditated plan, without regard for the region’s peoples and under the pretext of compensating for the losses of the world war, they occupied Palestine by force. They killed thousands and made millions homeless. They created a constant and continual threat to all the peoples and states of the world. Wherever they wanted hegemony they unleashed the indiscriminate and profligate force of this entity.

Look carefully. Do you find anything in Zionism’s record besides crimes? You see yourselves the murder of men, women and children in Palestine, the use of banned weapons and open assassinations. [You see yourselves] attacks on civilians and aid convoys in international waters, and war crimes in Lebanon and Palestine. All these ugly acts have become normal affairs and the daily bread of these people.

The Zionist entity is documentation expressing the insidiousness of the capitalist system and materialist ideas and embodying them. The obvious evidence for this is the consensus of the arrogant states in presenting absolute support to [it]. All these states consider this state to be an agent of their unity and a tool for their control over the world. Therefore they supplied it with nuclear weapons.

The protectors of this entity have delighted in insulting [God], the Prophets, and the holy places. As for resistance to aggressions and standing against the imposition of the Zionist enemy, this is an unforgivable crime in their opinion.

As for the grass in another place, the people in the West are offended by the idea of Zionism. If not for pressure and constraint, they would have expressed their opinion. Through divine generosity and the steadfastness of the region’s peoples, human waves have appeared against this aggressive entity through this world. These are worshipers of God who have united around faith in Him.

Secondly, [the arrogant ones’ crimes include] creating divisions in our region. In Lebanon, we find that the sinful hand of treachery has reached a dear friend and a personality zealous for its nation. Then we see how news is fabricated to direct accusations at the remaining friends in an effort to reach worthless aims by sowing seeds of division.

They want to divide peoples composed of varied religions and sects that have lived together in love. They want to harm brotherly relations among peoples, such as the relationship between the Lebanese and Syrian peoples.

My dear ones, look! Whenever the enemies occupy a country or conquer a people, they play the strings of sectarian sensitivity and denominational tension.

Creating division is the open style used by the regimes of hegemony. The enemies did not and do not want the people of this region to be united, independent, and developed. However, thanks to the peoples’ consciousness, these enemies’ divisive plans have been exposed. The region’s peoples know well that the symbol of might is unity. They are completely aware of the essence of the dividers and will cause the enemies to miss the mark.

Thirdly, they found in the painful September 11 a pretext to conquer Palestine, then they conquered Iraq with other excuses. They murdered and made homeless hundreds of thousands of people, and destroyed all the infrastructure.

When we look at the dimensions of what the occupiers have done in Afghanistan, Iraq, and recently in Pakistan, we realize well that their goal is not to discover who executed the September 11 events. Rather, these events were merely a pretext for presence in the region and pursuing colonial goals. Knowing the truth of what happened on September 11 and examining the black box [of the airplanes] for this purpose is the solution to many problems.

From here, I announce that the formation of an independent and neutral team to examine the facts and discover the truth of the September 11 events is the demand of all the peoples of the region and the world.

Let the American politicians and their allies note that relying on this matter forms a suitable exit for them as well, and every kind of opposition to this humanitarian demand makes clear that these events were executed through premeditated planning for the sake of expansionist goals.

I advise that the best exit for the occupiers of Afghanistan and Iraq is to leave the region, apologize to [its] peoples, and compensate for losses.

If they do not pay heed to this advice, the hand of these peoples will expel them from the region in a humiliating way and will place the criminals in the grip of justice.

Fourthly, there are free people from Palestine and all the other peoples who have been kidnapped in a cowardly way and yet we do not hear a voice raised in their defense. There are believing women and courageous youth whose wives and fathers the agents of Zionism kidnapped during their occupation of Lebanon. Hussein Moussawi and other Iranian diplomats are individuals of knowledge and love for humanity, truly committed to security and peace. They were present in Lebanon legally and are today illegally prisoners of the Zionist entity.

Based on confirmed documents and information, these diplomats are still alive and are prisoners in the sinful hand of the Zionist entity. The Zionist entity is responsible for their safety and most permit the delegates of the Red Cross to meet them as soon as possible and prepare for their exit along with all of the detainees.

Fifthly, the economic crisis, atmospheric pollution, and climate change. These factors cause poverty, backwardness, and many other problems for many peoples. They are also one of the results of the system of capitalism, which only aims to maximize profits without paying attention to moral values.

We would need hours to present a list of the destructive steps of the capitalist regime, but the facts are today plainly visible to people’s eyes.

This right which in 1982 occupied vast swathes of Lebanon until it reached Beirut in three stages, especially during the [2006] July [war], met with a bitter defeat. It was expelled through the zeal of the Lebanese people and its Resistance, and the heroic confrontations that the Lebanese army entered. The butchery of the Gazan people and their resistance made the weakness of this entity clearer than ever.

With the launch of the promise to return a small piece of the Palestinian lands without the return of the refugees and under the harshest conditions, they talk about peace. This at a time in which expansion and aggression continue without commitment to any of the international resolutions. All should know that the existence of this entity in any form, even on one inch of Palestinian land, gives opportunities to this entity. All should know that the Jewish state means a racist state. What is the way to solve this issue?

The only way to solve the Palestinian matter and establish peace rooted in the region is to admit the sovereign right of Palestine and the departure of all the occupiers to their original countries. It is in the interest of the Zionist entity’s leaders to return Palestine to its original owners. If not, then the wrath of the Palestinian people and the rest of the free peoples will leave little trace of them.

Here I ask some of the region’s countries to permit the people to express their opinions freely regarding these hegemonic powers and the crimes of the Zionist entity, and to permit people to present support to the oppressed Palestinian people. No doubt any country or person who in any way seeks to recognize the Zionist entity and give it an opportunity to renew its power will be ostracized and condemned by the region’s peoples.

If they feel indebted to Zionism then they should try to pay this debt from their pockets. No doubt the Palestinian people can practice its national sovereignty itself.

To the UN, I say: Enough negligence. The time has come to prove that it is an organization of united nations in reality, and not an organization of hegemonic states. Rather than recognizing occupation, let them recognize the legitimacy and right of the Palestinian people to practice its sovereignty. Let them compel Zionism to bow before the truth and the law. This is what the region’s peoples want.

The Resistance front formed in Palestine and in Lebanon, in Syria and Turkey, in Iraq and Iran and all of the region. I say with trust that the Zionist entity is headed for collapse and there is no power able to save it.

Dear Lebanese people, Lebanon is the homeland of the monotheists and the pure. However, the Satans do not delight in unity and harmony because from these the peoples draw power. Therefore they continually work to confuse. However, I say with trust that you are a symbol of victory and a word of unity. You have put despair in the hearts of the Satans.

Lebanese brothers and sisters, your affairs and the affairs of the Iranian people are one. Therefore we are present with you in one front. The glory and development of Lebanon is for us as well. We will always stay together and at each other’s side through thick and thin. During meetings with respected Lebanese officials we together laid down solid bases for development in brotherly relations in multiple fields.

No doubt the implementation of these agreements will bring benefit to each people. Here I can only extend great thanks to his Excellency President Michel Sleiman, and his Excellency Speaker Nabih Berri, and his Excellency Prime Minister Saad Hariri. I especially thank and appreciate the dear warrior and scholar [Hezbollah Secretary General] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. I also thank all the Lebanese officials and the Lebanese youth.

I also say loudly that the coming global system must be comprehensive and just, in order for peace and security to be rooted in a basis of love and justice in all parts of the world. Every state and people must be able to participate in the administration of this world’s affairs in a safe atmosphere, in order for human dignity to be allowed to crystallize in the shade of true justice and the essence of humanity. This is a divine promise and this promise will be fulfilled.

I would like to thank those in attendance and all the dignitaries and officials, the ministers and MPs, and the respected spiritual personalities.

Peace and salutations to human dignity and justice. Peace and salutations to lofty Lebanon. Peace to Palestine and Iran. The future is yours and there is no doubt that the enemies have no place in this bright future.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So, is Bushehr really about to start?


My take on Bushehr is that it is subject to delays until it is on line, connected to Iran's power system and is fueled to the degree agreed. I hope it comes on line in September as scheduled but has some skepticism.

If a US/Russian agreement to give Iran Bushehr in exchange for the sanctions and possibly for the S-300s was made, I think Bushehr may be better for Iran than the sanctions are harmful. The US fairly clearly does have enough leverage over Russia that the steps that have been taken recently would not have been taken against US objections. However, it is not clear that we've seen the US drop all objections to the project, rather than hoping to intensify the pressure by having the reactor nearly but not fully operational.

Bushehr operational, if it happens, will put a new perspective on Iran's nuclear program and make demands that it halt enrichment less credible. Iran's aim that the sanctions kind of fade into meaninglessness over time will be advanced by Iran having an operational reactor and ongoing enrichment without event and years turn to decades.

I'm cautiously happy about this event.

During campaign, Barack Obama stated position that Iran must not be allowed to enrich uranium


Over at raceforiran, commenter Richard Hack has dug up specific statements from the Barack Obama campaign and from Obama himself that he would be committed to depriving Iran of any enrichment.
Mr. Obama, the candidate who has expressed far more willingness to sit down and negotiate with the Iranians, said in an e-mail message passed on by an aide that in any final deal he would not allow Iran to produce uranium on Iranian soil, the same hard-line view enunciated by the Bush administration.
and
Mr. Obama’s position is closer to the zero-tolerance approach adopted by the Bush administration. “I do not believe Iran should be enriching uranium or keeping centrifuges,” he said in an e-mail message passed on by aides.

Mr. Obama does seem more willing to dangle in front of the Iranians a “grand bargain” that would spell out benefits — diplomatic recognition, an end to sanctions — as a reward for halting its enrichment of uranium and allowing full inspections of the country. Richard J. Danzig, considered a candidate to be secretary of defense in an Obama administration, said Mr. Obama was willing to “put out a more positive side to the agenda to lead the Iranians toward making the right choices here.”

But Mr. Obama has also been more specific in describing the kind of sanctions he might reach for if the Iranians continue on the current path. “If we can prevent them from importing the gasoline that they need, and the refined petroleum products, that starts changing their cost-benefit analysis,” he said.

Some experts have counseled caution about such an approach, one that the Bush administration has stopped short of taking. A blockade, however, could constitute an act of war, and most experts believe Iran could respond in kind by cutting off oil exports, increasing prices and leading to shortages.
Any expectations that the Obama administration would be in any important way better than the Bush administration were unfounded and have turned out to be false.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Sorry for posting so little lately


This is really a case of writer's block. Recently I've been participating in comments discussions at RaceForIran.com, but mostly writing things I've already written here.

Generally, the way Zionism has given colonialism a second wind is a very interesting subject. How the relationship the US has with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE is really unlike its relationships anywhere else in the world and identical to Imperial Britain's relationship with those countries and others when that relationship was openly and congratulatorily described as colonial.

My thoughts on this haven't firmed up into anything worthy of an article, beyond the articles I've already written.

Anyway, as always I remain open for suggestions for articles or questions.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In 2002 Bill Clinton volunteered to die for Israel


I wonder if Barack Obama would do the same.
"The Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die," Mr. Clinton told the crowd at a fund-raising event for a Toronto Jewish charity Monday.
Does anything need to be said?

Israel is not Taiwan: Why the US cannot tolerate a powerful Iran the way it accepts China


Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, while he didn’t leave the throne to his son, (and that by itself puts him into a class above most Arab leaders of his time and now) did not establish for Egypt a competitive political process essentially independent of foreign influence the way Khomeini and Mao did.

The absence of such a process created room for a later dictator to attain power in Egypt who need not be aligned with Egyptian nationalism or any other ideology. The later dictators Sadat and Mubarak, who sold their position in Egypt's political system to the United States in exchange for personal favors, are in an important way a result of this failure of Nasser.

The foreign policy community in the United States has become very comfortable with the products of that failure. So much so that they hope it can be replicated in Iran. We see this most recently in Hillary Mann Leverett's piece where, as her husband did last year, she sings the praises of Sadat and imagines how wonderful it would be for the US and Israel if the same process occurs with respect to Iran.

But Khomeini did something the Nasser did not. Something Mao did. Something that apparently and unfortunately Fidel Castro has not. Khomeini created a political system that can produce leaders based on their political talent and that is insulated from foreign interference. The gap that the Leveretts congratulate the United States and Israel for exploiting in post-Nasser Egypt and hope to exploit regarding Iran, does not exist. So even if Rafsanjani or Mousavi would be willing to be Iranian Sadats and Mubaraks, Iran is just not in that position.

The Leveretts and the American foreign policy community think Sadat and Mubarak are normal. They, like many Americans, seem to have convinced themselves that the reason Mubarak assists the blockade of Gaza is not because the US threatens to withdraw support in the form of direct payments and US hostility to Egyptian democratic impulses. Any efforts to extend that model to Iran, which does not need a US Congressional allowance for its leader and can withstand US “democracy promotion”, will fail.

I've written about this before, but the Leveretts also present China as a model. The United States resolved its differences with China and formed an informal and rough alliance with China to contain the USSR under Mao and Nixon. This rapprochement also opened China's economy to US participation and marked the end to US hostility and opposition to Chinese technological and strategic advances.

In some ways, China is a better model for US relations with Iran than Egypt. China is independent of the US in a way that Egypt and Jordan are not – even if China is not a participatory democracy. If we draw an analogue between Iran and China, Taiwan provides a useful stand-in for Israel, as a country in the region whose legitimacy is the basis of a profound disagreement with the US.

But Taiwan has the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan is defensible and will be for the foreseeable future because the defensive side has such a huge advantage in operations across significant bodies of water and the US has a large lead in naval forces. Even if China was to become as powerful as the United States, Russia was able to make a US military conquest of Cuba infeasible from a far weaker position. Defended islands are difficult to disrupt severely enough to threaten their political systems.

For this reason, Taiwan has an important difference with Israel, one that is ultimately fatal to the hopes of the Leveretts that the US can ally with Iran while it remains committed to Israel's five million or so Jewish people having a political majority state.

Because Israel does not have the Taiwan strait. Israel requires that no power be both interested and able to disrupt the colonial structure the US maintains among Israel's neighbors. Saudi Arabia’s king has to fear the CIA, and worry that US doubts of his usefulness could cost him his throne, but cannot fear anyone else. If not, Saudi Arabia, which has more money to spend on arms than Iran does, and is geographically in a more crucial position would be far more of a threat to Israel than Iran is today.

Egypt and Jordan are similar. Their leaders have to fear Israel and/or the US and nobody else. Not their own people, but also not any alternative regional power. If Egypt and Jordan leave the US colonial structure Israel again becomes strategically vulnerable. And it is not like an alternative power would have to recruit a stooge dictator as the US or its imperial predecessor Britain did. One person one vote is enough to turn any of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or the other colonies into reliable members of the “resistance” faction. (As we’re seeing in Iraq.)

Hostile combinations of Egypt, Jordan and/or Arabia, combined with at least factions and probably a majority of Palestinians, are a true strategic threat to Israel. Far more than China is a threat to Taiwan. The Palestinians combined with the resources of their neighbors could disrupt national life in Israel in many ways to the extent that it would not remain viable as a Jewish state. China, across water, cannot do that to Taiwan.

China, even as it acquires a world-class economy and a modern industrial and technological base, cannot threaten Taiwan as long as the US offers a modicum of support. As Iran modernizes and makes industrial and technological advances, it gains the capability to disrupt the US colonial structure that is necessary for Israel's continued existence as a majority Jewish state. Taiwan does have a comparable need.

If China could relatively easily render Taiwan non-viable as a separate and independent state, it would. If Taiwan did not have this natural defense and the US was committed to Taiwan being viable and independent contrary to the sensibilities of China's society and leadership, then the United States would be forced to oppose, by any means possible, China's acquisition of resources and strategic advantages. That is an important difference between the situation that prevailed when the US mended relations with China in the 1970s and US relations with Iran today.

So what this means is that finding an Iranian Sadat won’t work. Rapprochement with an Iranian Mao won’t work. If the US wants to remain committed to there being a Jewish state, it has no better choice than to try to prolong the status quo.

If that is the decision the US is to make, I'll continue to point out aspects of the cost of that commitment that are not widely acknowledged in the United States.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Western newspaper claims Saudi Arabia will assist in Israeli attack on Iran


This is what colonialism looks like in 2010.
“The Saudis have given their permission for the Israelis to pass over and they will look the other way,” said a US defence source in the area. “They have already done tests to make sure their own jets aren’t scrambled and no one gets shot down. This has all been done with the agreement of the [US] State Department.”

Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.
The Saudi regime is an absolute disgrace to humanity, to the Islamic religion and the Arab world.

What prevents a US/Israeli attack on Iran has never been Saudi opposition, but the reprisals Iran would be able to conduct in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Gulf and other places. Barack Obama's new emphasis on increasing hostility with Iran increases the necessity, for defensive purposes, that Iran strengthen its options for reprisal.

Iran spent many years ruled by the Shah on behalf of the United States. A lot of countries have been in colonial relationships like the one Saudi Arabia has with the United States, and if maintaining this relationship was not necessary for about five million Jewish people in Palestine to have a secure state, Saudi Arabia and Jordan would likely have become independent with most of the rest of the colonized world in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

A democratic Arabia would certainly build its own capacity for nuclear power and would have no interest in maintaining Israel's regional monopoly. Saudi Arabia is not threatened by Iran having a modicum of nuclear weapons capability. However, what indirect colonial monarchs do is provide a local face and a knowledge of local symbolism and sensibilities. If Arabia was ruled by a US administrator it would be willing to participate directly in any attack, but the cost would be that the people of the country would be more likely to revolt. It would be more offensive to the people ruled.

The monarchy is a way to strike a balance between obeying US instructions while not inciting localist passions. The Saudi government, according to the Times, has practiced not shooting Israeli planes as they flew over Saudi territory, but does so unofficially, while maintaining symbolic and non-effective opposition to Israel.

The nearly 30 million people who live under this US-dependent monarch pay the price for there to be a Jewish majority state for five million Jews in Palestine just as the 1.5 million people under siege in Gaza, the over 60 million Egyptians who live under dictatorship and the over 70 million Iranians who are under economic attack by the West.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And now we see the rest of the TRR deal


I've been participating in the comments section at raceforiran a lot recently, maybe to the detriment of this blog. The following is adopted from comments I've left there.

The United States has given a letter to the IAEA explaining why it does not accept the agreement Turkey and Brazil negotiated with Iran. We can see that the basic reason is that the deal produced in May does not leave the US with flexibility to keep Iran's uranium without delivering reactor fuel, and therefore does not provide the US with leverage to force Iran to suspend enrichment.

This was clear, reading between the lines, since November. But now it is confirmed. Here is the letter as released by Reuters:
The timeline for the full delivery of the fuel assemblies to Iran is unrealistic. The IAEA’s Project and Supply Agreement called for initial delivery of fuel within about one year to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the TRR, with remaining fuel to be delivered at a later date. The JD calls for all the fuel to be delivered in one year, which we are confident would be impossible to meet.

The JD indicates that, if Iran decided unilaterally that the provisions of the arrangement were not being respected, Turkey would be obliged, upon the request of Iran, to “return swiftly and unconditionally Iran’s LEU to Iran.” Under the previous “escrow” proposal, the return of LEU would be justified if the parties failed to deliver fuel assemblies to Iran as agreed.
First, the May deal obliged Turkey to return the fuel. The November proposal had no obligation at all, but apparently there is a condition in which the return would be “justified”. More interesting, the return would be justified, not obligatory, if the parties failed to deliver fuel as agreed. But the fuel is to be delivered “at a later date”. It is impossible to fail to deliver fuel by “a later date”.

Also this US claim happens to just be a lie. It does not take a matter of years to produce 120 kgs of reactor fuel. France told Turkey it could be made in 10 months, which was why Turkey agreed to a one year deadline. But “later date” means the West isn’t even willing to commit to a two year deadline. The point is for the delivery to be held over Iran’s head forever – kind of like a suspension “until confidence is restored”. Here is Erdogan explaining in a separate article.
In our previous contacts, they had said they can give the (highly enriched) uranium to Iran in 10 months... We put a clause of one year, securing an advantage of two extra months.

Now they are saying these 120 kilogrammes (of uranium) cannot be made before two years... Mr. Sarkozy says so. It is impossible to understand that.
Now back to the the West's letter to the IAEA:
The JD does not account for Iran’s accumulation of LEU since the IAEA first proposed the TRR deal. Removal of 1,200 kg at present would leave Iran substantial stocks, decreasing the confidence-building value of the original proposal. The JD provides no alternative means of ensuring that the confidence-building element of the arrangement would be maintained.”
Iran has not significantly changed its rate of LEU production since September. If fuel had been shipped in December by the November terms, the confidence building element would already not be maintained. This is where the US and France, by the terms of the November proposal, could say unless Iran exports more uranium and/or stops enriching, the necessary confidence building component is not being met, which will indefinitely delay the fuel delivery.

Of course since it is only a delay, but the fuel is still to be delivered “at a later date” the return of the original fuel is not justified. Oh, and the fuel was to be no longer Iranian property by that point:
The JD states that Iran’s LEU would be the “property” of Iran while in Turkey. The IAEA proposal stated the IAEA would maintain “custody” of the LEU throughout the process.
The November proposal was designed to leave the US with leverage to use the return of medical fuel to pressure Iran to hold its uranium stock, either through a suspension or further exports at the “confidence building” level of less than one ton. The May deal does not leave the US with that leverage, so the US no longer supports it – exactly for that reason.

For the US, the deal was an opportunity at best to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment and at worst, to just take 1200 kgs of uranium and give very little, if anything, in return. It was clear that this is how the deal worked and Iran reasonably did not agree until explicit guarantees were added that would prevent that. Now that guarantees have been added, the US has no interest in the deal.

This was not a communication problem. The shortcomings were intentional. The US does not now, and never did intend to deliver TRR fuel without an Iranian suspension. The mistake the US made was pretending to Turkey and Brazil that it was interested in a trade if some technical issues (that didn’t even make sense – for example if the fuel is actually delivered it does not make a difference if the fuel had been stored until that point at Natanz, Kish or Turkey) are resolved. Turkey and Brazil were fooled by Obama as much as anyone else and now, accidentally to tell the truth, have exposed his position so that one does not have be be as skeptical of US motives as I am to see clearly that the TRR deal presented by the US was designed to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment and would deliver fuel only as a side effect of that.

Iran went public with its problems with the deal. There were no guarantees that it would get fuel. Obama, Clinton, Samore, Mullen, Gates, unnamed administration officials, people in private sector who are close to the administration all said, repeatedly, that it was a good deal as presented who terms were not subject to negotiation.

Iran did not present a take-it or leave-it offer. The US did. This was openly the US position. The only difference between November and now is that the US has been forced to clearly state the conditions it would have preferred remain secret. The US position seems more reasonable if its conditions are not known.

If the US can say the Iranians have to be paranoid to believe the fuel will not be delivered, it would prefer to do that. Now the US objects to measures honest third parties agreed to provide guarantees, it can only be because the US never did intend to deliver the fuel.

Nine true statements about the conflict over Iran's nuclear program


We've reached the point that everything I write about Iran's nuclear issue is just a restatement or elaboration of one of the following:

1) The US wants to keep Iran from having a Japan option, which is the capability if it was to need to, to leave the NPT and build a nuclear weapon relatively quickly.

2) A Japan option is legal, it was built into the NPT by the acknowledgment that states have an inherent right to nuclear technology, without discrimination and by the mechanism provided to leave the treaty and be free from its bounds after 90 days of notice.

3) A Japan option has immense strategic value. If Iraq had had a Japan option, it would have avoided the calamity of the 2003 US invasion.

4) The US motive in preventing Iran from having a Japan option is Israel’s unique strategic fragility, which US and Israeli strategists believe can only be compensated for by a regional monopoly not only in nuclear weapons, but in nuclear capability.

5) The IAEA board’s procedures and findings as well as those of the UN Security Council have been warped and distorted, primarily led by the US, in the service of this strategic goal.

6) Iran is morally right to oppose the US program of using the IAEA and UNSC to achieve this political/strategic goal neither was intended for.

7) Iran has effectively reached a position that the US program of misusing the non-proliferation system will not be successful, in other words, Iran cannot be prevented, despite the IAEA and UNSC, from achieving the legal status of nuclear capable - having a Japan option.

8) Given that Iran having a Japan option cannot be prevented, it is better from the standpoint of US strategic interests for the US to be less hostile with a nuclear capable Iran instead of more hostile.

9) Obama is not independent enough of pressures, especially from pro-Israel factions of his administration to chart the better course for the US.

I don't think any of these eight points can be reasonably disputed, but unless something changes that I do not expect I can only predict that one or another of these eight points will continue to be the core of every post on Iran's nuclear program from now on.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Limits to Israeli influence over the United States


The New York Times has produced an article describes the repeated cancellations of Israeli/Chinese arms deals that has diminished China's perception of Israel as a country that can influence the United States:
How much they value the relationship with the United States was underscored in 2000, when under American pressure Israel canceled a $1 billion arms deal, years in the making, to sell China an advanced airborne tracking system. Even though Israel later agreed to pay a $350 million penalty, the diplomatic damage was immense — and then compounded in 2005, when Washington blocked another Israeli arms deal with Beijing involving drone aircraft.

“After that, the Chinese realized the Jewish lobby does not control the White House and they started to treat us like a younger brother of the United States,” said Yitzhak Shichor, a professor of Asian Studies at Haifa University. “We have been cut down to size. We may make a lot of noise, but we’re the size of a medium-sized Chinese city.”
...
In an assessment echoed by several other government-affiliated academics, Yin Gang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Society Sciences in Beijing, said its interests in the Arab world would continue to drive Beijing’s foreign policy. “China will try to achieve a basic balance in the Middle East but Israel cannot give China much help on the international political stage,” he said. “The truth is, it is just a very small country.”
The truth is that US Middle East policy is bizarrely contorted in favor of Israel. But the US military, which plays the ultimate role in the United States as the custodian of US strategic interests, is willing and able, when it chooses, to counteract pro-Israel influence on US political decision-making.

One thing this indicates is that the US military likely signed off on both the recent sanctions resolution against Iran, and more broadly on an increase in hostility in the face of more vigorous US efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. This can only indicate a US calculation that Afghanistan descending to the intolerable situation of Iraq in 2006 and early 2007 can be prevented in the face of the actions Iran may be expected to take after the resolution.

Is the military right? Is the military taking a gamble whose results we will see over the coming months, but whose consequences even in the worst case can be managed before going out of control?

Either way, this article reminds us that the present resurgence of hostility between the United States and Iran is not only caused by pro-Israel factions in the US government.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Another round of sanctions


Under Bush, the US said, in line with the UN Security Council resolutions that it wrote, that a suspension was a precondition for talks.

Under Obama, the US says, in line with the Security Council resolutions that it wrote, as well as though the Bush administration wrote, that a suspension and an effective US veto over Iran’s resumption of enrichment is necessarily the outcome of talks.

Talks about a suspension, talks about what mechanism to use to subject Iran’s enrichment and nuclear program to a US veto aren’t worth having. If the US was to change its policy and end its demand that Iran stop enriching, that message could be communicated publicly or privately, but without that talks would serve no purpose.

Well, anyway a suspension is not going to happen. Obama is going to have to decide how the US will relate with Iran in the absence of a suspension. Obama is choosing increased hostility. US soldiers in Afghanistan will pay for this choice as Iran’s civilians pay for it.

I’ll note again though, that by late 2007, Bush had chosen an agreement to disagree along with cooperation in other areas. Obama’s actions in 2010 are a step backwards. As of today, it is not possible to say Obama is following a less provocative course in its relations with Iran than Bush was at the end of his term.

The TRR deal could just be a trade of LEU for medical fuel. The US now openly says that it is to be used as leverage to accomplish a “comprehensive” deal – one in which the Iran comes to an agreement with the US about whether or not Iran suspends enrichment. We can see that the Brazil, Turkey deal is unacceptable to the US because it does not give the US leverage in a push push for a comprehensive agreement. Any proposal the US made in November must have if the US supported it.

If the US can buy Russian cooperation with sanctions in exchange for slowing its development of missile defense and Chinese cooperation by tolerating a wider range of Chinese currency management, then honestly I can’t fault Russia or China for taking advantage of their security council veto to advance their strategic interests. Even if Iran ensures that they endure some cost for their cooperation with the US, they are not the engines of these sanctions.

This sanctions policy is good for Israel because the principle that countries that oppose Israel are punished is being enforced. And Israel is not the country that has troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. This policy is bad for the US because US objectives in the region are becoming more difficult to achieve.

The dream that Barack Obama might be the president who could disentangle US interests from Israel’s has crashed against the reality the the United States has a political system that makes it impossible for a person who could do that to rise to power.

Monday, June 07, 2010

The kidnapping of Shahram Amiri


An Iranian scientist who disappeared during a religious pilgrimage in June 2009 has sent a message that he was abducted by the United States and Saudi Arabia.
I am Shahram Amiri, a lecturer at Malek Ashtar University, and at the moment I am in the town of Tucson in the US state of Arizona. I was abducted on the 13th of Khordad 1388 in a joint operation by terror and kidnap teams from the US intelligence service CIA and Saudi Arabia's Istikhbarat. I was kidnapped from the holy city of Medina
The story the United States tells is that he was enticed to leave. If he says in his own voice that it is not true, it is impossible to credit the US version.
Shahram Amiri's wife and other family members reportedly protested outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran last fall, claiming that Amiri had been taken against his will. She said she had last spoken to him on June 3, while he was in Saudi Arabia, when he called her from Medina. She told the Iranian news agency ISNA that Amiri reported that he had been questioned by police in Saudi Arabia. She also denied that Amiri worked for the nuclear program.

According to the people briefed on the intelligence operation, Amiri's disappearance was part of a long-planned CIA operation to get him to defect. The CIA reportedly approached the scientist in Iran through an intermediary who made an offer of resettlement on behalf of the United States.
In an episode like this, disgrace just comes from all directions. It is difficult to even measure. We can look at the United States first. Barack Obama's administration seized the assets of a mosque. I think to kidnap a believer while making the Hajj is more shameful than that. When we realize that Barack Obama represents the highest amount of respect for the religion of Islam that the United States' political system can produce in a President we see in tangible form that US antipathy against Islam is not based on personality but is a structural component of the reality of power in Washington DC.

There are many African Americans with intimate familiarity with Islam who, if told of a plan to kidnap a scientist from Arabia during a Hajj would fire the person who made the suggestion. None of those people could have become President of the United States. In a similar vein, there are many Egyptians who would not think to help Israel "put Palestinians on a diet" by laying siege to 1.5 million civilians. But none of those Egyptians could have become President of Egypt. There are many Palestinians who would have respected the democratic rights of the Palestinian voters and disobeyed US/Israeli orders to disregard the results of the election. Any Palestinian who had demonstrated personal strength or allegiance principle would have been blocked in Palestinian politics by the United States and Israel.

We see that the American political system has found the American black man with a Muslim middle name who is the most willing to commit affronts against that religion and installed him to power. There is a sense in which it is not really his fault. In a similar case, United States has found a weak Egyptian and maneuvered him to power. If Mubarak had been strong, someone else would have been president of Egypt.

I'm going to write later about why the son of a weak stooge dictator makes an ideal replacement because of the emotional and psychological issues. For Gamal Mubarak to break from the United States would be to admit that his own father was weak. Even though it is true, and it is obvious, the fact that it would be painful to acknowledge for Gamal makes Gamal perhaps the most reliable person in Egypt to continue the relationship his father forged. In addition his father has likely trained him, both consciously and subconsciously to subvert any sense of independence.

Barack Obama is familiar with Islam the same way Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are familiar with Islam. The way current king Abdullah and has father Hussein of Jordan were familiar with Islam. He was selected from a fairly large population specifically for his characteristics of weakness and subservience.

And this discussion of course leads us back to the ruling family of Saudi Arabia. The religion of Islam, as I understand it, holds that if a person follows the pillars of the religion then another person cannot question the authenticity of his religious belief. Only God can question the Saudi royal family's commitment to Islam - even if they help the United States kidnap a believer while performing a pilgrimage. Even if the reason the United States is interested in kidnapping the person is because Israel calculates that its political hold of territory taken by force depends on being able to threaten its neighbors, and even threaten Mecca itself, with nuclear attack and on Israel's threats being unanswerable.

In deference to my understanding of Islam, I will not call the ruling family of Saudi Arabia false Muslims. I've read Saudi sympathizers with its royal family questioning the Islam of others, but if the religion reserves that judgment for God, I will not make that judgment myself.

Assuming the Saudi royal family consists of true Muslims, they are likely nearly the weakest and most easily manipulated Muslims in the country - which is why Britain at its colonial height allied with them and not another family. Today Saudi Arabia is ruled by people who grew up in homes led by colonial puppets. People who think of their father, their earliest psychological symbol of male strength and see, in their mind's eye, a person whose job was to bow to the Queen of England or the President of the United States.

But the truth seems to have emerged. The United States should be ashamed. The President of the United States probably is not ashamed, but it is now even more difficult to look at him with any respect. If Gaza was the first clue, this abduction seals the case. But the type of person who could feel shame, who has standards for his behavior, could never have been elevated in the US political system. The problem is not the personality but the system.

The same is true for Saudi Arabia. They helped abduct a scientist making a pilgrimage to Mecca. Did so to strengthen the strategic position of Israel as Israel annexes more territory and pushes more Muslims from their homes. If we look to the beginning of the Saud dynasty's colonial relationship with the West, we will find the explanation.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Is Congress forcing the US to push for UN sanctions?


The US nuclear policy community seems to be telling the story these days that the US Congress has threatened to pass a unilateral sanctions law against Iran that would have much more than enough support to override any veto by Obama. To prevent this law from passing, according to this story, Obama is forced to push sanctions through, even in the wake of the diplomatic breakthrough reached by Turkey, Brazil and Iran.

On the face of it, its a plausible explanation. But more deeply, even if it is an explanation, it paints a worse picture of the situation, not a better one. The US Congress is the branch of the US government most susceptible to Israeli pressure. To the degree that US foreign policy cannot be conducted independent of the US Congress, Israel has a veto on US foreign policy initiatives.

If that is the case, if apologists for the Obama administration's spastic acceleration of the sanctions drive when news was released of the deal struck by Turkey and Brazil are correct, then the United States is committed to support Israel at whatever cost is necessary unless or until it breaks under the strain.

Russia so far has traded support for sanctions for postponing missile defense in Eastern Europe. China seems to have averted US pressure over its currency policies. (I find the US denial of this unconvincing.) The United States may continue to sacrifice its own interests for the principle that about 5 million Jewish people in Palestine should have a majority state.

Overall Russia, China and others getting concessions may be a good thing. Russia and China will make their own decisions about what they how they can use their security council vetos to their advantage with respect to the United States on this issue. In the calculation will be that this will damage their relations with Iran but the United States has resources adequate to compensate these countries for that.

Whether forced by Congress or not, a sanctions bill will increase hostility with Iran and most directly reduce cooperation and thereby make the US positions more difficult in Iraq and especially Afghanistan. Can the US Congress order the President of the United States to sacrifice the lives of US troops to the principle that none of Israel's neighbors can have the type of nuclear program Brazil, Japan, Germany and Canada have? Obama's supporters say the answer is yes. That answer does not reflect well on either the US or its ability to negotiate in good faith with Iran or anyone else on any issue related to Israel.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Mubarak opens Rafah?


This is a surprising and very welcome development as far as it goes. I expect the border to be reclosed shortly. I can only guess that Egypt makes this announcement to decrease the contrast between its cooperation with Israel's blockade and Turkey's - a full NATO member - confrontation against the blockade. While Mubarak is not accountable to the Egyptian people, he still has to look in the mirror. This can be an important effect.
CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday ordered the opening of the Rafah crossing with Ghaza, only crossing point uncontrolled by Israel, for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the passage of patients, said the Egypttian agency MENA.
Hopefully we will soon be hearing accounts of people crossing the border and bringing at least food, if not construction materials.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Barack Obama's options in the wake of Israel killing peace activists


Boarding the flotilla and killing activists was a really be move by Israel. So far the dead do not have names, but we'll learn their identities and stories over the next week and their names will be connected to the morally indefensible siege Israel is laying on Gaza. Their names will also connect to the Egypt's morally indefensible cooperation with the siege that the US Congress purchases from Hosni Mubarak on Israel's behalf.

I'd like to believe that this episode will have the galvanizing and symbolic effect the Sharpeville massacre had in building the anti-Apartheid movement around 30 years before that institution fell, or the Soweto uprising about 15 years before the end of Apartheid. It is too early to tell, and my own inclinations probably lead me to overestimate the historical impact an event like this will have. However there certainly is potential for this to mark the beginning of an era. If it does not, it will at least guide perceptions of the United States for some time to come.

A large proportion of the good will Barack Obama has gained with the Muslim world since becoming president now hangs in the balance. Barack Obama is different than George W. Bush because there was a plausible narrative that Bush was unusually hostile towards Muslims for a US president. With Obama having the opposite narrative, that he is as understanding of the Muslim world as any US president could be, a bad response on Obama's part will have a longer and stronger impact on the Muslim image of the United States than Bush could have.

Obama's first response was absolutely terrible. It is worse than I would have considered plausible before I saw it.
This morning between 10:00 and 10:15 AM CDT, the President spoke by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said he understood the Prime Minister's decision to return immediately to Israel to deal with today's events. They agreed to reschedule their meeting at the first opportunity. The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today's incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.
"Many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals"? What is that?

It seems most likely that Obama will strike a tone in this that is primarily supportive of Israel and the US image in the Middle East is going to sink, nearly permanently, in the Middle East as a result of this episode. Obama could take an anti-Israel tone, express outrage that the boat was boarded violently and, while confirming that he will not abandon Israel, express that the US considers this unacceptable and that there will be some consequence for it. If he was to do so he would be furthering the idea of US independence from Israel and make it easier for those inclined to cooperate with the United States to make public gestures to that end. Unfortunately, it seems Obama is unable to do so.

The primary issue that prevents Obama from matching the outrage of nearly every non-Jewish person in the region is that Obama has bought into the idea of that the Gaza siege is a good thing. It is not defensible, and Obama rarely talks about it publicly, but Obama's vision of Abbas accepting what are essentially the Bantustans Nelson Mandela rejected on behalf the the Palestinians depends on Abbas' opposition being weakened, and the siege is, in Obama's mind, a way to weaken Hamas.

It is a disgusting way to think. The people going hungry and the medical complications this hunger causes will be worth it if they lead to the Palestinians accepting a Jewish state. Yes, it is a war crime to punish civilians even for executing war against Israel, much less for voting for a party that does not accept that there must be a state with a Jewish political majority, but Obama believes his vision of two states requires this. This is, with no exaggeration, exactly what Obama means when he says the United States is committed to steering the situation toward "justice" in the Middle East.

The United States pays heavy costs for assuming the responsibility of keeping the Middle East safe for there to be a majority Jewish state for the 5 or so million Jews currently in Palestine. The costs the US is forced to pay, from cooperation in isolating Iran, to cooperation in administering Iraq to the price the US colonial clients in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt demand increase when there Israel commits atrocities as it did this morning.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iran and lessons from Iraq in 2002


I think some Westerners have learned the wrong lesson from Iraq before the US invasion. In one sentence, WMD was just a pretext in the case of Iraq. The US military did not seriously believe Iraq may have had nuclear weapons. It did not believe Iraq may have had chemical weapons. The United States invaded Iraq because it believed that a pliable puppet state in Iraq would advance US interests and the US believed that it could successfully install a puppet state there.

If Iraq could have convinced the United States that any attempt to install a puppet would be unsuccessful, the attack would have been averted. If Iraq could have convinced the United States that an attack would be tremendously expensive, far in excess of anything it could consider itself to have gained, then an attack would have been averted.

If Iraq convinced the United States that it really did not have weapons of mass destruction, that would not have averted the attack. This is a very important point. Weapons of mass destruction were a pretext. Iraq was hostile to both Israel and the structure of pro-US colonial monarchies in its region. The United States was in conflict with Iraq because of the hostility to Israel and the colonies - the weapons of mass destruction was a false concern from the beginning, pursued only to justify the US acting on its pre-existing hostility.

I at times read statements such as "why does Iran not just answer the IAEA's questions" and I wonder if the asker is serious. The two answers are first that there is an unlimited number of questions the US can invent, if we establish that everytime the US invents a question, Iran either has to suspend its nuclear program or will endure additional sanctions until that question is answered. Slightly less important but still a consideration is the fact that if the US was to attack Iran's nuclear program, answers to some questions would make such a US attack more harmful against Iranian interests.

The questions are a pretext. Iran cannot avoid sanctions or US opposition to its nuclear program by answering questions any more than Iraq avoided an invasion by its truthful 12,000 page declaration in December 2002 that it had no chemical biological or nuclear weapons program.
Before Iraq submitted the document, the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, noted several times that omissions in the declaration would constitute a violation of United Nations Resolution 1441. But now, Mr. Bush and his national security team — which has often been divided on how much support to give United Nations inspectors and whether to build an international coalition to strike Iraq — face what officials describe as three major choices.

The first, which has not been seriously considered in the White House, is to demand that Iraq answer specific questions about specific weapons programs. "We gave them that chance," one senior official said today. "They knew what issues were outstanding in 1998. They blew it."
If Iraq had produced 12,000 pages explaining how the US would face an insurgency that would be beyond its ability to contain, end up losing thousands of lives and be left with an Iraq that is still fundamentally hostile to the US regional colonial structure - the United States would probably have taken such a document seriously enough to at least ask questions about supposed omissions.

Iran can deter US sanctions and attack by making sure the US expects there to be a cost in US interests for such activities. Playing along with the pretext, just as was the case with Iraq, has no impact on US policy, at least no positive effect from Iran's point of view. US policy is not now nor has it ever been motivated by those pretexts.