Sunday, January 29, 2012

M. Ali from RaceForIran points out the Western double-standard on martyrdom

A pretty brilliant comment. Not much I could add.
M. Ali says:
January 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm

To the western racist, an Iranian, facing certain death & yet facing his enemy in the Iraq War, is considered insane, worshiping death, and desiring suicide. Yet, the same act would be considered heroic in the west. Both historical references & pop culture shows that the west values self-sacrifice greatly, if done by the western individual or group.

Tons of examples can be found in their pop culture. Will Smith, drove his airplane, straight into the alien ship in “Independence Day”, saving the world through his act of sacrifice, a suicide attack. I don’t remember any review of the film claiming that the hero of that film was a dangerous religious fanatic, or that its ending affecting its mainstream appeal.

Even in western political slogans, we see a strong emphasis on self-death. “Give me freedom or give me death”and “it is better to die on one’s feet than live while on your knees”shows that the west also believes that life, just for the sake of being alive, is not worth much.

Therefore, this double standard exists. If a western man, gives his life for the greater good, he is a hero. If the Iranian holds the same belief, he is an Islamist fanatic, martyring himself for 72 virgins (when was the last time, you have heard any Muslim talk about the 72 virgins?), and loving death.

Speaking of double standards, “the hidden imam” is not unique to Islam or Shiaism. The Messiah is supposed to return in almost all religions (even non-Abrahamic ones) at the end of days, and it is one, they all look forward to. Yet it is shown as unique to Iran.

Two state solution: Lies for Americans

The benefit of the two state solution is not that it is feasible, but that it exists as an ideal to help, especially Americans, find comfort in supporting an ethnic state nearly identical to the state Apartheid advocates hoped to accomplish with offers - rejected by Nelson Mandela, the ANC and the broader anti-Apartheid movement - to create separate subordinate Bantu-stans which would have diverted enough non-White potential voters to make an enforced White political majority state viable.

Obama claims now that he opposed Apartheid when US activists were demonstrating against it. I believe him for the most part, except that it is difficult to reconcile that previous position with Obama's 2012 State of the Union address which contained nothing Ronald Reagan might not have said.

So for Barack Hussein Obama, a person with Muslims in his direct family, Bantu-stans were unacceptable for Black South Africans, but an admirable goal for Palestinians. That part is easy to explain: Barack Obama is now the most spectacular Uncle Tom in human history.

But over at Informed Comment, we see a guest editorial by more authors who have arrived at the conclusion that the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank that would be necessary for a two state solution is not feasible.
To counter this argument, critics may point to the withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza in 2005. That example, however, actually supports our argument. In order to remove 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza, an easily isolated region of no religious significance to Jews, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a military hero idolized by both the settlers and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had to deploy the entire man and woman power of all of Israel’s security forces. Moreover, the Gaza withdrawal was not done in agreement with the Palestinians, or in order to facilitate peace with them. It was done unilaterally, in order to make Israel’s control of Gaza more efficient. Judging by this example, removing 100,000 settlers from the West Bank, in order to enable the establishment of a Palestinian state, would be an impossible task.
This article misses the point that the purpose of the two state solution is not to actually happen, but to provide a moral illusion that the permanent subjugation of the Palestinian people is temporary.

Is it genuine naivete or cynical deception of self and others? I’m not sure, but Barack Obama will tell you, and tells audiences continuously, that the United States supports Palestinians being under the military control of Israel only as a temporary measure. It will end when two states are agreed upon, which is right around corner.

From all indications, Barack Obama would feel - or at least claim to feel - morally justified in his support for Zionism if this two state solution was "around the corner" forever.

Westerners sometimes support this illusion with deliberately misleading polls asking Arab and Muslim populations if they would accept Israel if Israel met conditions that left and right wing Israeli officials repeatedly announce that they will never meet. These are efforts to deceive audiences, primarily Western and especially American audiences, to believe the day will (soon!) come when the Arab and Muslim worlds will happily accept the US and Zionist effective colonial control over their region that is necessary for Israel to be viable as an enforced Jewish political majority state.

We’ve reached and gone far past the point that US support for a two state solution is a just typical Western lie, not much different from US claims of support for democracy as it effectively maintains colonies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others.

Will Egypt escape American colonialism in 2012?

Egypt, which is currently the key story of the Middle East, has answered one question by demonstrating that religiously aligned parties are in a position to control Egypt's civilian government. A second question - will Egypt's constitution carve control of policies important to the United States outside of civilian control - has not yet been answered.

Protesters are currently in Tahrir Square in Egypt advocating for full civilian control of policy and for it to be attained earlier than the June date the military dictatorship claims is its schedule. Of the two, the date of transfer and the fullness of the transfer, the fullness of the transfer is the more important. That question will be determined by who sits on the committee to write the post-Mubarak Egyptian constitution and what the constitution ends up saying.

A struggle is certainly occurring behind the scenes. In public advocates of US policy such as Juan Cole are lying by suggesting that Egypt's Islamic parties are on the side of the military and the US in pursuing the US' objective of preventing civilian control of Egypt's foreign policy.
Elbaradei is reportedly afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will like having its parliamentary majority so much, and will like having the opportunity to shape the new Egyptian constitution, that they will strike a deal with the military to let them do as they please.
In public, left-wing US president Jimmy Carter has come out explicitly favoring an arrangement like that colonial Great Britain presented Egypt in 1922.

Colonial Great Britain in 1922:
The unprecedented movement of Egyptians all across the country that ensued from those early demonstrations quickly overwhelmed British expectations. When at last the combined forces of the occupying army and the Interior Ministry were able to quell months of strikes and protests, the British were compelled to reconsider their position towards Egypt. The eventual outcome of that process was the unilateral decision in March 1922 to grant Egypt a qualified independence. Although the country would be governed thereafter as a constitutional monarchy, the British retained the right to intervene in any matters seen to affect the security of imperial communications, the interests and safety of foreigners on Egyptian soil, the threat of foreign invasion, or the status of Egypt's relationship with the Sudan.
Jimmy Carter in 2012:
“ ‘Full civilian control’ is a little excessive, I think,” Mr. Carter said, after describing a meeting he had Tuesday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF. “I don’t think the SCAF is going to turn over full responsibility to the civilian government. There are going to be some privileges of the military that would probably be protected.”


“If the civilian leadership decided to give the SCAF immunity from prosecution, say, for the death of the people in Tahrir Square over the last few months, I would have no objection to that,” Mr. Carter said. Protecting the military budget from full civilian scrutiny might be another point where civilian political leaders could compromise, he said.
This brings up the interesting question of what exactly is in the secret military budget that the pro-US military dictatorship and US officials are so adamant must remain outside of view of the people of Egypt and their representatives.

A plausible guess is that the United States has long term commitments of direct cash payments to members of Egypt's military, not only to Tantawi but in different amounts to Egyptian military officials at even relatively low ranks. So that US leverage over Egypt partly takes the form of direct, possibly even monthly, payments to various Egyptian officers directly from US military and intelligence services.

One thing 2011 has proven beyond any question regarding Egypt, is that there are people in the country who want all of Egypt's policies, including foreign policies, to reflect the values, perceptions and sensibilities of the people of Egypt. Those people have important assets in their struggle against the United States and what is effectively a colonial dictatorship that currently rules their country. It is possible but it is not a safe bet to expect the advocates of accountable government for Egypt to lose.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A European diplomat would be satisfied with Iran having Japan's capabilities

I'm actually surprised to see this in the New York Times:
While the United States and Israel have not taken military options off the table, pursuing them is unpalatable, at least for now. Several American and European officials say privately that the most attainable outcome for the West could be for Iran to maintain the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon while stopping short of doing so. That would allow it to assert its sovereignty and save face after years of diplomatic tensions.

While that might seem to be a big concession on the part of the United States, Iran would first have to make even bigger ones: demonstrate that it could be trusted and drop its veil of secrecy so that inspectors could verify that its nuclear work was peaceful, steps Iran has resisted.

In other words, Iran would have to become a country like Japan, which has the capability to become an atomic power virtually overnight, if need be, but has rejected taking the final steps to possessing nuclear weapons. “If you’re asking whether we would be satisfied with Iran becoming Japan, then the answer is a qualified yes,” a senior European diplomat said. “But it would have to be verifiable, and we are a long ways away from trusting the regime.”
I'm sure the diplomat has qualifications in mind that were not stated. Most likely the qualification is that Iran can, according to him, gain legal nuclear weapons capabilities after proving to the US' satisfaction that its program is peaceful. What that would mean is just that the US would never be satisfied, so in effect, it would be the same permanent suspension of Iran's nuclear program that the West has been trying to achieve since 2005.

If "demonstrate that it can be trusted" means to accept an indefinite suspension to be lifted when the US gives permission, then Iran is never going to "demonstrate that it can be trusted."

I have to say, the West has all of these euphemisms, misleading and distortive statements about its position regarding Iran's nuclear program that it does become tedious. "Fulfill its obligations" means suspend enrichment. "Enter serious negotiations" means suspend enrichment before negotiations can begin as described in the UNSC resolutions.

However, if the West has a semi-reasonable set of verification measures, such as the Additional Protocols and increased monitoring regimens, then it can present its set and this dispute is over, because verification that Iran was not building an actual weapon has never been the issue of dispute in this conflict.

Stratfor, George Friedman argue that a resolution between the US and Iran may be possible

Gary Sick was earlier. Here George Friedman of Stratfor presents an argument that it may be possible for the Obama administration and Iran to reach some agreement that reduces tensions. Again I disagree, but I'll be wrong when I see an indication that the US is willing to abandon its policy that Iran must not be able to acquire legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Japan, Brazil and many other countries have.

For structural reasons, I don't think that is possible. It would be very difficult for Iran to both have legal nuclear weapons capabilities and to be a weak enough power to fit into the US' objective for a balance of artificially weak powers in the region.

George Friedman presents a scenario where the US wants three things regarding the Persian Gulf: 1) that the US does not have to directly intervene 2) that there is no disruption to the flow of oil 3) that Iran not become more powerful.

Iran wants three things: 1) Reduction in the US presence in the Persian Gulf, 2) Recognition as a major power in the region 3) An arrangement of some sort that shifts more Gulf oil revenues to Iran.

For Friedman, the nuclear issue in itself is not important while negotiations somehow or other can resolve the US' differences with Iran over their differences.

If Friedman was right and these were the US' and Iran's primary objectives, then other than the US' third, these objectives are complementary. All the US has to do to ensure free flow of oil is stop increasing tension with Iran. The US could accommodate all three of Friedman's supposed Iranian objections without harming its own objectives if it papers over the objective of Iran not becoming more powerful.

It is not clear from Friedman why Iran not being powerful would be a first order objective for the US.

What Friedman misses is that the constraint the US' commitment to Israel puts on US policy in its region. I've talked about why the US' commitment to Israel led to the US' intervention in Iraq.
A balance of powers could have been accomplished without an invasion of Iraq. A balance of powers could be accomplished without the expensive current attempt to economically isolate Iran.

A balance of very weak powers. Subject to the constraint that none of the powers is strong enough to threaten Israel is much more expensive to emplace and maintain. The US does it for emotional reasons, but will stop when the costs become too high. But the cost of maintaining that constraint is part of the cost of US support for Israel.

US policy in the Middle East is driven by oil and the strategic implications of a large amount of that resource that is concentrated in the region. But the US has accepted, for reasons that have nothing to do with pure strategy, a strategic priority in protecting Israel's status as a Jewish state that imposes heavy and costly constraints on that policy.
In short, balance of power is easy. Balance of power where none of the balanced powers prevents Israel from being viable as an enforced Jewish political majority state is much more difficult.

That difficulty alone explains why it is a US objective that Iran not be powerful.

As an aside, many Westerners have convinced themselves that the Arab world is prepared to accept Israel in the context of a two-state solution. I've talked about this before, but it is interesting to discuss the polls that supposedly support this idea. Western pollsters like to go to Arab and Muslim populations and ask: "If Israel retreats to the 1967 borders, accepts the Palestinian refugees and resolves other issues to the Palestinians' satisfaction, would you accept Israel?"

That's a complicated question, huh? Not the simpler, more relevant and more direct "Do you consider Israel a legitimate country". Readers Digest asked that question of Iranians in 2006. But I guess Western pollsters have learned their lesson. I've never seen the results of that poll question asked of a Middle Eastern population publicly released since. Populations that, unlike Iran's, are Arab and majority Sunni can be presumed to be even less likely to consider Israel legitimate.

Question 18: Level of Agreement - The state of Israel is illegitimate and should not exist
Strong disagreement: 3.9%
Mild disagreement: 4.6% (Total disagree, 8.5%)
Neutral: 21.1%
Mild agreement: 14.6%
Strong agreement: 51.9% (Total agree, 66.5%)
But Israel has never offered to retreat to the 1967 borders or accept the Palestinian refugees. What the Arab populations that are being polled are being asked is an impossible and irrelevant hypothetical. When Israel's actual conditions, that Israel keep some of the territory and that the right of refugees to return be limited, are added, even the supposed majority that supports two states always disappears. But what this question does is allows Westerners to continue to feel justified in terms of their own moral systems as they support Zionism, which is the whole point. Westerners fooling other Westerners who willingly go along. I guess interesting to observe, nothing to actually take seriously.

So anyway, Friedman seriously underestimates the deepness of the dispute between the United States and Iran. Iran cannot agree to remain a weak enough state to fit into the US weak balance of power that Israel requires to remain viable. Until the US removes that constraint on its regional policy, it will be in opposition to Iran and to any and every independent, which is to say non-colonial, state in the region.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Congratulations Egypt on an important tangible step toward representative accountable government

There are good days and bad days. Today is a good day.

In Egypt, the power to set and execute policy has not been taken from the pro-US military dictatorship, but a process has begun that has a fair chance of ultimately producing that outcome. The elections, after delays did happen and they were a solid victory for the people of Egypt against the dictatorship and its supporters in Washington DC.

Of course I wanted to have seen the pro-US military dictatorship fully removed from Egypt's political system by now. And of course the United States has been working to prevent civilian control of those aspects of policy the US considers most important. But while complete victory for Egyptian democracy and complete defeat for modern US colonialism has not been achieved, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Egypt on Monday January 23 has one sitting body of political power that reflects an honest attempt to represent the views, sensibilities and positions of the Egyptian people.

One of the jobs of Egypt's People's Assembly will now be to attain the political power that it legitimately deserves. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose aligned parties won the most seats, has issued a magnanimous statement, saying that it is working toward an orderly transfer of power and that representatives should look beyond their narrowly defined electoral constituencies toward all people of Egypt:
What happened is a major step in the march of the revolution. After just one day, full legislative powers will be transferred from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to the People’s Assembly elected by nearly 30 million Egyptians. This Assembly is the first institution to be established in a democratic way after the revolution. Those who wish to rush things should ponder and appreciate and give this event its due, and protect the democratic process with all the people who look forward to the day they recover full sovereignty, freedom and free-will by completing the transfer of executive power to the elected civilian authority and the drafting of a new permanent constitution.

Everyone should gather around major goals that achieve the greater good of the homeland and the people, their interests and priorities. Those who enter parliament should realize that they are not representatives of their own respective parties only, nor of their respective districts only, but representatives of the Egyptian people, the full spectrum of sectors, communities and leanings, with all their hopes and aspirations and their revolution ambitions, and join those endeavoring to replace corrupt, rough laws-of-the-forest with fair and good and balanced legislation, and to monitor the executive branch, so it stays on the straight and narrow.
I am ecstatic. I am as happy today as I was the day Mubarak left power. Like on that day, there is a lot of work that remains for the Egyptians to do. Like on that day, those who believe Egypt's policy should be set by Egyptians have adversaries, like Barack Obama, who would like to continue secret foreign control of Egyptian policy. But like that day, an important step has been taken toward Egyptian independence.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Is a breakthrough possible on Iran's nuclear issue?

The US' dispute with Iran over Iran's nuclear program is really not difficult to understand. Signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty can have legal nuclear weapons capabilities as long as they do not build actual nuclear weapons. Japan has legal nuclear weapons capabilities, Brazil does, many other countries do. If a country with legal nuclear weapons capabilities is provoked, it is free - under the terms of the NPT - to leave the treaty and build nuclear weapons in response.

Israel believes that it should have not only a monopoly of nuclear weapons in its region, but also no other country in its region should have the capability to make nuclear weapons. If Japan was in Israel's region, its nuclear program would be unacceptable to Israel and therefore to the United States. The United States today would be whipping up a more intense blizzard of lies, evasions, distortions and exaggerations about Japan's nuclear program than it is now about Iran's far more modest nuclear capabilities.

Gary Sick has recently suggested that possibly the United States is signaling flexibility with Iran that may lead to a breakthrough on the nuclear dispute. There is not much room for hope on that score unless and until the United States abandons its position that legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Japan, Canada, Brazil and many other countries have must be prohibited at all costs from non-Jewish countries in Israel's region.
That kind of three-dimensional chess is not only complicated; it is not normally regarded as a U.S. strong suit. Naturally, you cannot conduct major negotiations with Iran without attracting public attention, whether in the United States, in Israel, in the Arab Middle East states, or elsewhere. But if you throw enough anti-Iran dust in the air, you may defuse any concerted attack – figuratively or otherwise.

The new sanctions go into effect in six months, just before the political nominating conventions. President Obama will have to have something positive to show before that time if he is to justify putting the sanctions on hold. This is the diplomatic equivalent of a two-minute drill in football. It is a thing a beauty when it works, but it is not for the faint of heart.
Barack Obama recently gave an interview with Time Magazine. Looking at the interview, there is more that says Sick is wrong than that he is right. I want to look more closely at the three questions Obama was asked involving Iran and Obama's responses.
Romney says if you are re-elected, Iran will get a nuclear weapon, and if he is elected, it won’t. Will you make a categorical statement like that: If you are re-elected, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon?

I have made myself clear since I began running for the presidency that we will take every step available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. What I’ve also said is that our efforts are going to be … Excuse me. When I came into office, what we had was a situation in which the world was divided, Iran was unified, it was on the move in the region. And because of effective diplomacy, unprecedented pressure with respect to sanctions, our ability to get countries like Russia and China — that had previously balked at any serious pressure on Iran — to work with us, Iran now faces a unified world community, Iran is isolated, its standing in the region is diminished. It is feeling enormous economic pressure.

And we are in a position where, even as we apply that pressure, we’re also saying to them, There is an avenue to resolve this, which is a diplomatic path where they forego nuclear weapons, abide by international rules and can have peaceful nuclear power as other countries do, subject to the restrictions of the [Nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty.
It was once interesting that Barack Obama has a special definition of "peaceful nuclear power" for Israel's region that there and only there excludes the legal nuclear weapons capabilities that countries like Japan have. Now it is just old and boring.

Obama made concessions to at least Russia and likely also to China that Bush was not willing to make in exchange for cooperation on Iran. Russia's leaders are responsible for the strategic interests of Russia, the same for China. One could not ask Russia to turn down a delay the expansion of the US missile defense system on Iran's behalf, nor should China's government not accept leniency on its currency manipulation.

The United States, if it is willing to pay, can get stronger sanctions against Iran. The United States, if it wants, can go to war with Iran. Nobody has ever doubted this. Obama may be overly proud of himself for demonstrating something that was never in question. But the United States, no more than it did when Obama came to office, has no plausible way to prevent Iran from at least acquiring legal nuclear weapons capabilities.

What a US president is one day going to have to do, which we are not seeing in Obama, is tell Israel that its desire for a regional monopoly on nuclear capabilities just is not deliverable by the US. Seeing even a hint of that will indicate progress on the nuclear issue.

I also wonder if people forget that Obama is not staking new ground when he says that he accepts Iran's right to nuclear power. George Bush's position was identical. Iran can have nuclear power as long as it does not enrich uranium - which is to say as long as it does not acquire or attempt to acquire legal nuclear weapons capabilities. When Obama says that it is not a concession or an indication of flexibility.
But the way, the Iranians might see it as that they have made proposals — the Brazilian-Turkish proposal — and that they never go anywhere. They aren’t the basis of negotiations.

Yes, I think if you take a look at the track record, the Iranians have simply not engaged in serious negotiations on these issues.

We actually put forward a very serious proposal that would have allowed them to display good faith. They need medical isotopes; there was a way to take out some of their low-enriched uranium so that they could not — so that there was clarity that they were not stockpiling that to try to upgrade to weapons-grade uranium. In exchange, the international community would provide the medical isotopes that they needed for their research facility. And they delayed and they delayed, and they hemmed and they hawed, and then when finally the Brazilian-Indian proposal was put forward, it was at a point where they were now declaring that they were about to move forward on 20% enriched uranium, which would defeat the whole purpose of showing good faith that they weren’t stockpiling uranium that could be transformed into weapons-grade.

So, not to get too bogged down in the details, the point is that the Iranians have a very clear path where they say, We’re not going to produce weapons, we won’t stockpile material that can be used for weapons. The international community then says, We will work with you to develop your peaceful nuclear energy capacity, subject to the kinds of inspections that other countries have agreed to in the past. This is not difficult to do. What makes it difficult is Iran’s insistence that it is not subject to the same rules that everybody else is subject to.
The original US offer to Iran, that it trade 3.5% low enriched uranium for 20% LEU in a form usable for Iran's research reactor to make medical isotopes was, on paper, a giveaway to Iran. It would have been the kind of gesture that would have marked a drastic change in the US' approach to Iran and certainly would have built at least good feelings from Iran if not confidence.

The question Iran faced was is this a goodwill gesture, or is it a trap? Will Iran export its LEU and get reactor fuel in return or will it export its LEU and be told that it has to indefinitely suspend enrichment to ever get reactor fuel? The United States is pretty open now that it had been a trap. The United States did not intend then and does not intend now to ever give Iran reactor fuel unless Iran accepts conditions that Iran has already rejected in the strongest possible terms consistently since at least 2006.

Yes, Obama is lying to describe the offer as a "very serious proposal".

Also stockpiling low enriched uranium is legal and is peaceful, at least outside of Israel's region.

But Obama's most outrageous lie is that he has a way of getting carried away and claiming Iran does not want to follow the same rules as everybody else. That is the type of lie that rightfully inspires deep doubts about a person's moral make-up. If Obama is able to repeatedly describe Iran's refusal to accept conditions only imposed on non-Jewish countries in Israel's region as "Iran’s insistence that it is not subject to the same rules that everybody else is subject to", then he is unusually unselfconscious about dishonesty.

If Gary Sick was right, and the US was expressing flexibility to resolve the dispute, then Obama would have left out the part about stockpiling material that could be used for a weapon. Iran has today about 5 tons of LEU. Very roughly, the US' goal in the original TRR offer was to lower Iran's stock to less than one ton. I can't speak for Iran, but it strikes me as very unlikely that Iran will submit to the condition that Obama reiterates when he says that.
Suppose that with all this pressure you have been able to put on Iran, and the economic pressure, suppose the consequence is that the price of oil keeps rising, but Iran does not make any significant concession. Won’t it be fair to say the policy will have failed?

It is fair to say that this isn’t an easy problem, and anybody who claims otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Obviously, Iran sits in a volatile region during a volatile period of time, and their own internal conflicts makes it that much more difficult, I think, for them to make big strategic decisions. Having said that, our goal consistently has been to combine pressure with an opportunity for them to make good decisions and to mobilize the international community to maximize that pressure.

Can we guarantee that Iran takes the smarter path? No. Which is why I have repeatedly said we don’t take any options off the table in preventing them from getting a nuclear weapon. But what I can confidently say, based on discussions that I’ve had across this government and with governments around the world, is that of all the various difficult options available to us, we’ve taken the one that is most likely to accomplish our goal and one that is most consistent with America’s security interest.
An implication of Obama's last statement is that the US' current policy of sanctions is the most likely to accomplish the goal of preventing Iran from attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities. What makes that interesting is that sanctions are unlikely to prevent Iran from attaining those capabilities, so Obama is very indirectly but correctly saying that a military strike is even more unlikely to prevent Iran from at least attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities.

What Obama or a future US leader is going to have to say is: "We tried and it didn't work, so Israel is going to have to live with it." When Obama or a later US president gives an indication that he is ready to face that reality, then that indication will be a sign that a breakthrough over Iran's nuclear dispute is possible.

So far, contrary to Gary Sick, I don't see a good sign of that.

Netanyahu's office official statement: Iran is the greatest threat to Israel

This is what effective colonialism looks like in 2012.
The Prime Minister's Office released a statement Thursday rejecting the claims. According to the statement, Netanyahu told the foreign affairs committee of the Dutch parliament during a visit to the Netherlands that he never called the two newspapers enemies of Israel, and that it was in fact Iran and its extensions that were the country's greatest adversaries.
One might wonder why Saudi Arabia, which has much more oil revenue than Iran, spends more than twice as much on weapons as Iran and Israel combined and has a population even more vehemently anti-Zionist than Iran's is not a greater threat to Israel - according to the official position of Israel's Prime Minister - than Iran.

Oh yes, Saudi Arabia still has a subject colonial-style dictatorship and is more accountable to its patron the United States than to the people of its country.
Few analysts believe Riyadh, the world's top oil exporter and a key ally for the United States, is likely to embark upon a weapons programme in defiance of U.S. calls for restraint.
The same can be said for other effective US colonies such as Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, UAE and others. Would Israel as an enforced Jewish majority state be viable if the US was not able to direct the foreign policies of these states on Israel's behalf?

One thing we can say that it is at very least questionable that Israel could survive in the region if Saudi Arabia and the other effective US colonies in the region, were, like Iran, independent enough to pursue foreign policies reflective of the views and values of their people.

The second thing we can say is that popular control of foreign policy for non-Jews in Israel's region is a chance Barack Obama, Juan Cole, MJ Rosenberg, Jimmy Carter and other supporters of effective US colonialism on Israel's behalf are not willing to take. Some of these supporters of pro-Israel effective colonialism are more honest in their opposition to popular control of policy by people who are not Jewish in Israel's region than others.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Movies and the US' historical support for Zionism

I clearly remember a piece on, probably more than ten years ago which gave background information about the US' relation to Israel. It pointed to a poll that showed that in 1947 or 1948, people in the United States favored people as opposed to Arabs by a margin of about two to one. 28% to 13% if memory serves. I have not seen a link to that since but one day it likely will re-emerge and I'll have a place, here, to put it so I'll be able to find it subsequently.

I often read that the United States did not favor Israel until 1967. This is not true and it was not perceived in the region to be true at the time. The United States may have taken the role of Israel's primary patron from Britain and France around that period, but come on, if the USSR had been supposedly relatively neutral, but Israel's primary patrons had been Poland and East Germany, the people of the region would very understandably have been far better disposed to the US than to the USSR.

But what brings this up is two interesting comments over at RaceforIran, one by Fiorangela, one by Richard Steven Hack.

Fioangela's (January 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm):
The skewed values that are seeded in Anglo-American culture were planted there by emotional media — religious liturgies, entertainment, quasi-religious fiction and fictionalized and valorized history. Norman Finkelstein observed in a videod conference titled The Coming Break-up of American Zionism, that what most people understand about Israel they learned from the movie “Exodus.” Then he hummed the iconic theme song.
Hack's (January 19, 2012 at 10:33 pm):
And I was initially conditioned toward Israel decades ago by the movie, “Cast a Giant Shadow”, with Kirk Douglas. That movie promoted the myth that the poor Jews were being attacked by an overwhelming Arab force, abandoned by everyone internationally (except John Wayne!), and that they had no weapons, no armor, no planes, no nothing but the will to survive. And all Arabs were cowardly, stupid subhumans…

Then, of course, eventually I read Wikipedia… Which revealed all of that was so much total ruminant evacuation… The Jews had more men, better trained men, better arms, and had been using terrorism against the Brits and Arabs for decades in order to force the native Palestinians off their own lands so they could form a colonialist, imperialist, terrorist, rogue Zionist state without any justification whatsoever other than that they were “God’s Chosen People”.

And we’re supposed to think the mullahs are crazy…
Today most people in the United States have in their heads preposterously fictional ideas of what Israel and Zionism represent. The pro-US commenters in this blog may well generally be more guilty of that than most. It is interesting to read from people in the United States exactly how these false ideas were born.

Israel is a UN member state

I see this statement made often, just saw it recently made over at raceforiran so I thought I'd write a quick response.

At the time Israel became a UN member state, the UN also determined that Congo should be a Belgian colony (along with many other such as Vietnam and Algeria for France and India for Great Britain), Apartheid South Africa was a UN member state. The UN was at the time an openly racist, openly Western colonialist institution.

The statement I see often is true. Israel is a UN member state. I've never been sure what argument that statement was ever meant to advance.

Israel will still be a UN member state after it accepts non-Jewish refugees and their descendants, no longer has an enforced Jewish political majority, changes its flag and changes its name.

If Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait and other current effective US colonies were free to pursue foreign policies set by those countries' voters, we would see post-Zionist Israel this decade. Much faster than the eight years between US sanctions on Apartheid South Africa and the installation of that country's first Black prime minister.

The United States is expending a tremendous amount of resources preventing fewer than six million Jewish people from suffering the indignity that befell South Africa's White population. South Africa's Whites live under a majority-Black government but US policy is that Israel's Jews must, at any cost, - especially any cost to the non-Jewish people of the region - never live under a majority non-Jewish government.

The question of Israel is how long the US will be able and willing to pay the cost of subjugating over 400 million non-Jews in Israel's region on behalf of those fewer than six million Jews.

The fact that Israel as an enforced Jewish political majority state is a UN member could not be less relevant.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Juan Cole's intellectual dishonesty regarding Egyptian democracy

MJ Rosenberg, a far-left liberal Zionist, has at times been open about his opposition to democracy for Israel's far more populous neighbors if that might lead to Israeli Jewish people, as happened to South African White people decades ago, suffering the indignity of losing their enforced political majority state and living under non-Jewish rule.
I think that a democratic Egypt could very well repudiate the peace treaty with Israel leading to war, major Israeli (and potentially American) losses and even the end of the Jewish state.

Sorry, that is too high a price to pay.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has recently reached that level of honesty, at least when describing his behavior as president and the policies of his successors up to and including Barack Obama.
Many Egyptians, he said, now complain that for three decades the United States supported a dictatorship at odds with its values to preserve peace with Israel.

“I think that is true, we were,” he said. “And I can’t say I wasn’t doing that as well.”
Juan Cole has not reached that level of honesty. He presents efforts by the pro-US military dictatorship to retain power after a civilian government sits as necessary to protect the rights of women and Copts. (When has the pro-US military dictatorship of Egypt ever protected the rights of women or Copts?)

Cole also has a theory that he'll peddle to anyone naive enough to believe it, that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is conspiring with the pro-US Egyptian military dictatorship to leave the pro-US dictatorship in control of those areas of policy most important to the United States.
Elbaradei is reportedly afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will like having its parliamentary majority so much, and will like having the opportunity to shape the new Egptian constitution, that they will strike a deal with the military to let them do as they please.
The problem is that this blames the Muslim Brotherhood and not the US. That is a cop-out for a person who votes in US government elections but does not have any influence over the Muslim Brotherhood.

Jimmy Carter, for example, and of course in coordination with the Obama administration, recently met with Egypt's military dictatorship and left endorsing its plan to withhold political power from the civilian government.
“ ‘Full civilian control’ is a little excessive, I think,” Mr. Carter said, after describing a meeting he had Tuesday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF. “I don’t think the SCAF is going to turn over full responsibility to the civilian government. There are going to be some privileges of the military that would probably be protected.”
Has any Muslim Brother ever called civilian control of the military excessive?

Who has at least a 30 year record of efforts in coordination with the military dictatorship to deny power to Egyptian civilians, the Muslim Brotherhood or the US government?

Cole claims ElBaradei is reportedly afraid of collusion between Egypt's pro-US military dictatorship and the Muslim Brotherhood. I have not seen that report. Cole has never linked to such a report on his website. Maybe such a report exists, but we cannot say so for sure. On the other hand, ElBaradei is actually on record expressly deriding secret collusion between the Egyptian military and the US government.
Speaking to the Iranian semi-official Fars news agency on Tuesday, Elbaradiei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency head, indicated that the future of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt was at the center of a recent and secret round of talks between U.S. officials and members of the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

"The negotiations were completely secret and confidential," ElBaradei told Fars, adding that what the ruling military indicated "said was that the talks were about bilateral and mutual relations, but I believe that Americans wanted to ensure that the deals signed between Egypt and Israel will remain intact if Islamists ascend to power."
The US and the military dictatorship have nothing to talk about regarding post-transfer policy unless the military maintains control of foreign policy, so coordinating these issues with them is at the very least tacit collaboration by the US with the military's efforts to limit democracy.

I have not seen comparable tangible evidence of Muslim Brotherhood collaboration with the military government, nor have I seen a convincing argument that they have a motive to limit their own power in a future government.

What Juan Cole is doing is both providing academic cover for and deflecting attention away from US anti-democratic efforts in Egypt currently being being made by the Barack Obama administration. What he is doing sharply contradicts US professed democratic values, so he lies to himself first, then to us next, but United States' policy is fundamentally anti-democratic in its policy in Israel's region.

Cole's arguments that Egypt's pro-US military dictatorship is protecting political rights for women and Copts, as well as his speculations that the Muslim Brotherhood is conspiring to reduce the amount of political power it will have may not be coherent, but they are supportive of US anti-democratic policy. Unlike Rosenberg and Carter, Cole finds himself unable to be honest about his opposition to democracy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

False flag operations: How independent of the United States is Israel?

A story is emerging that United States intelligence services are aware of and angry about members of Israel's intelligence services impersonating US agents to orchestrate terrorist actions in Iran. This is the report of Mark Perry's recent article in Foreign Policy Magazine.

I think there are three broad messages advanced by the article. 1) The audience of the article is to believe that the United States is actually sincere in its opposition to terrorism in general, and not opportunistically opposed to terrorism against some targets while favoring it against others. 2) The audience is to believe that Israel operates, and is therefore capable of operating outside of US control. 3) The audience is also to believe that this Israeli program has introduced some degree of tension to the US/Israeli relationship.

In a practical sense, I don't believe any of these three messages are true.

But while the intended implications of the article are probably false, the details I'd guess are likely true. The amount of coordinated lying that would be necessary to get a professional journalist to publish an article in one of the US' most mainstream foreign policy periodicals sourced by recently retired and active high-level US intelligence officials is implausible.

If an Israeli agent was to contact a Muslim anywhere in the world, why would he not claim to be American, or maybe European? Why introduce the additional issues involved with representing the government that occupies Jerusalem when instead one can just claim to represent a different government? I've always assumed that would be Israel's way of operating ever since Israel's inception.

I think we can assume the base of the story is true and I imagine it is also true that there has been some discussion of Israel's practice of impersonating Americans in Washington to some degree. It is also true that Americans are not necessarily happy with or supportive of this Israeli practice.

The story is basically true, but let's look at the false implications:

Ideally the United States opposes terrorism. Ideally the United States believes humans have an inherent right to government that makes policies that reflect their values. There are today well over 100 million people living in pro-US dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE and others. Israel would not be viable without these dictatorships. The one quasi-moral proposition in the Middle East that the United States effectively supports is that there must be an enforced Jewish majority state.

The United States continuously demonstrates that it is willing, and in fact eager, on behalf of Israel to compromise on the ideal that representative institutions should be empowered to make policy. Most recently in former US President Jimmy Carter's statement that Egyptian democratic control of Egyptian policy currently made by the pro-US military dictatorship would be "a little excessive". Democracy is literally the United States' founding value. I can't imagine there being any question that no matter how defined, the United States would compromise its much more recent opposition to terrorism on Israel's behalf.

More interesting is the question of how independent Israel is of the United States. A point to bear in mind is that the amount of leverage the US has over Israel is immeasurable. Israel cannot survive as a Jewish state vigorous without US assistance. If the United States threatens to withhold that assistance, Israel has no choice but to do whatever the US tells it to do. There is nothing the United States could want Israel to do that Israel could refuse to do.

This point is not well understood, so I want to spend some more time here. It is instructive to look at the fall of Apartheid in South Africa. The US formally approved sanctions over-riding Ronald Reagan's veto in 1986. Eight years later in 1994, the flag and national language had changed, a majority Black government was in place and the enforced White political majority state was over.

Israel as an enforced Jewish political majority state is in a more, not less, vulnerable position than South Africa as an enforced White political majority state. Apartheid South Africa never had potentially hostile neighbors whose military expenditures compared to South Africa's. South Africa had a regional nuclear monopoly and a far greater gap in industrialization from its potential adversaries. South Africa also had natural river and desert barriers separating its most important population and industrial centers from any form of external attack.

The Whites of South Africa accepted the indignity of living under the rule of non-Whites while facing much less of an imminent physical threat to their country than Israel would face the day after the US hypothetically withdrew its support.

Saudi Arabia spends more than 2.5 times what Israel spends on its military. Saudi Arabia does not militarily dominate Israel because it follows the orders not to issued by the United States. The Saudi government expends a tremendous amount of resources both bribing and punishing its own people to maintain this relationship with the United States that keeps it militarily subordinate to Israel.

Similar, if less extreme stories can be told about all of the US' colonies in Israel's region, including Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and others.

In order to prevent Iran from achieving legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Japan, Brazil and many other countries have, the United States seems to have slowed the development of missile defense against the US' own primary nuclear rival Russia. That's probably a good thing for Russia and maybe for the world, but that is a very expensive concession the United States has made for the sake of maintaining Israel's regional nuclear monopoly. The United States has withdrawn threats to act on concerns regarding China's currency policies for Chinese cooperation over Iran. Again probably good for China and for the world, but another compromise of US core interests.

Keeping Israel viable as an enforced Jewish majority state is an excruciatingly expensive proposition for the United States.

The threat by the US to stop making these expenditures would mean that there could not be an Israel. There is no Israeli policy that any Israeli government could maintain in the face of such a threat.

But like South Africa, Israel has a nuclear monopoly. Some people think Israel has a "Samson Option" in which it could destroy its region or even attack the United States if its enforced Jewish majority political system was threatened. Israel using nuclear weapons likely would not ultimately result in the extinction of both Israel as an enforced Jewish political majority state and Judaism as a religion and ethnic group, but that would be a serious risk, especially long-term. As hostile as Israel's strategic situation could ever be, an Israel nuclear attack on anyone could only ever make it worse.

It is unthinkable that any Israeli or Jewish leadership would prefer to make their strategic environment worse while also risking the future of Judaism as an ethnic group and religion rather than, like White South Africans, suffer the indignity of losing their enforced political majority and living under non-Jewish rule. There is no "Samson Option". Israel depends for its existence on a host of expensive actions by the United States, such as maintaining a structure of colonies on its behalf, and without those actions, Israel is not viable with or without nuclear weapons.

Israel is a US supplicant. It cannot act in opposition to US will and continue to exist as an enforced Jewish political majority state.

That leads to the last false implication of the Perry article, that there is tension between the United States and Israel over the false flag or any issue. The United States, for domestic political reasons, structurally bends its foreign policy in favor of Israel. As long as that is the case, in practical terms it does not make sense to speak of tension. The US domestic political system would not allow the US to effectively express any tension, so in any meaningful sense, such tension could not exist.

Israel has the ability to reject what the US claims to request only to the degree that the United States is incapable, for domestic political reasons, of imposing consequences for that rejection. False flag operations are in this case no different from settlements in the occupied territories. In practical terms they do not cause tension because in practical terms they do not impact the US' foreign policy alignment on Israel's behalf. Actions that the United States must, for political reason, act as if it supports, in practical terms it supports.

So the Perry article is somewhat interesting. It exonerates the US of committing certain actions that the US admits are crimes against Iran, but does not do so in a convincing or practically meaningful way.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jimmy Carter: Democracy for Egypt is "excessive"

Jimmy Carter says he expects that Egypt's military will retain control over Egyptian policy after civilian political institutions are in place. We read a New York Times article entitled: "Carter Says Egypt’s Military Is Likely to Retain Some Political Powers".

There are so many interesting things about this article. The first is the stance Carter takes. He is presenting himself not as an advocate of limiting democracy, but as an observer. So in Carter's private meeting with Egypt's military dictator, we are to believe Carter himself didn't advocate a position on this issue.

Juan Cole takes this position also. He claims he is not endorsing the military's bid to limit the scope of the control Egypt's voters have over Egyptian policy. He is merely reporting a trend he observes. One might ask at that point, well do you approve or disapprove of this anti-democratic trend you're observing? That's the point where comments stop making it past Cole's moderation filter. Cole refuses to answer.

Jimmy Carter does not refuse to answer that question. Like MJ Rosenberg in 2006, Carter now openly admits he has opposed democracy in Egypt for Israel's sake ever since the Camp David agreements.
But he also acknowledged that in retrospect the Egyptian revolution had cast a new light on the alliance he helped forge with Egypt’s military-backed strongmen, first President Anwar el-Sadat and then his successor, Mr. Mubarak. Many Egyptians, he said, now complain that for three decades the United States supported a dictatorship at odds with its values to preserve peace with Israel.

“I think that is true, we were,” he said. “And I can’t say I wasn’t doing that as well.”
This is accurate except for the verb tense problem. He admits he can't say he wasn't doing it. He also can't say he isn't doing it right now.
“ ‘Full civilian control’ is a little excessive, I think,” Mr. Carter said, after describing a meeting he had Tuesday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF. “I don’t think the SCAF is going to turn over full responsibility to the civilian government. There are going to be some privileges of the military that would probably be protected.”
Excessive? Carter was president of a country with full civilian control over its military. Carter is saying that there is a different standard for majority non-Jewish countries in Israel's region.

Carter, Cole, Obama and Tantawi may not get their wish. The people of Egypt may well reject this updated version of the limited sovereignty the British empire offered Egypt in 1922. But it is clear in what direction US policy in pressuring the Egyptian dictatorship. Any American who claims to support Egyptian democracy is part of a fringe taking a position at odds with the mainstream US liberal and conservative foreign policy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Questions for Westerners (especially in the US) about democracy in the Middle East (especially Egypt)

Well this blog has gotten some passionate defenders of the US' agenda in the Middle East. These readers and commenters can be helpful because they can explain the US motivations in the Middle East in their own words.

So far, I'll mention George Carty, Dermot Maloney (who has answered the first), noname7364, Quemo Jones and Cowboy. I'd also like to encourage all Westerners, especially those generally supportive of US policies regarding the Middle East to answer these questions.

US policy has been very clear for decades in providing the answers to these questions. It will be interesting to see how the answers of questions by supporters of US policy match actual US policy.

Here are the questions:

1) Assuming Egypt's voters want Egypt to be as hostile against Israel as Iran is, would you oppose that democratic outcome for Egypt?

2) If Egypt was to become as hostile against Israel as Iran is, how do you think the US should respond to Egypt in that case? Should the US work to prevent Egypt from attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities like those Japan, Brazil and other countries have? How?

3) Assuming Egypt's voters want to be as generous in supplying arms and materials to Palestinians as US voters are in supplying Israel, should the US just watch this happen? What, if anything, should the US do to prevent that?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Glenn Greenwald: US pro-democratic propaganda in the Middle East has been lies all along

Over at RaceForIran, Richard Steven Hack posted a link to a Salon article by Glen Greenwald. I'm quoting the first two and then the last paragraphs of it. In the body is an example of the New York Times euphemistically encouraging US opposition to Egyptian policy being set by Egyptian voters. It is an extremely well written piece about US policy in the Middle East.
Media coverage of the Arab Spring somehow depicted the U.S. as sympathetic to and supportive of the democratic protesters notwithstanding the nation’s decades-long financial and military support for most of the targeted despots. That’s because a central staple of American domestic propaganda about its foreign policy is that the nation is “pro-democracy” — that’s the banner under which Americans wars are typically prettified — even though “democracy” in this regard really means “a government which serves American interests regardless of how their power is acquired,” while “despot” means “a government which defies American orders even if they’re democratically elected.”

It’s always preferable when pretenses of this sort are dropped — the ugly truth is better than pretty lies — and the events in the Arab world have forced the explicit relinquishment of this pro-democracy conceit. That’s because one of the prime aims of America’s support for Arab dictators has been to ensure that the actual views and beliefs of those nations’ populations remain suppressed, because those views are often so antithetical to the perceived national interests of the U.S. government. The last thing the U.S. government has wanted (or wants now) is actual democracy in the Arab world, in large part because democracy will enable the populations’ beliefs — driven by high levels of anti-American sentiment and opposition to Israeli actions – to be empowered rather than ignored.


The Post explains that Iran has now “opened six new missions there — in Colombia, Nicaragua, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay and Bolivia — and has expanded embassies in Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela”; Iran’s President, the article informs us, is now embarking on a trip to Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Nicaragua. Other than Cuba, all of those nations are governed by democratically elected leaders. But many of them periodically defy American dictates and act against American interests; they are thus magically transformed into “despots.” By contrast, try to find any high-level American official using such a term to describe, say, America’s close friends ruling Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. That is what is meant by “democracy” and “freedom” and “despots” when used in establishment American foreign policy discussions.
There is not much I could add to the piece itself. I strongly suggest reading it in full. Instead I'll try to place Greenwald in context of the US policy opinion spectrum.

Greenwald is part of the anti-colonialist fringe of the US political spectrum. The pro-colonialist mainstream right and the pro-colonialist mainstream left of the US political spectrum are united in their pursuit of the policies as well as the deceptions in support of those policies that Greenwald describes. Barack Obama is far closer to George W. Bush than he is to Glenn Greenwald. Juan Cole and MJ Rosenberg are far closer to Jeffrey Goldberg and Caroline Glick than they are to Greenwald.

To a person outside of the US pro-colonialist mainstream, Obama, Bush, Cole, Rosenberg, Goldberg and Glick are not substantially different from each other in their agendas, their objectives or their methods. The United States is a far more profoundly colonialist - and also profoundly racist - country than anyone with limited experience with the country might guess.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Panetta: No. Iran is not trying to develop a nuclear weapon

United States officials have typically gone back and forth when discussing Iran's nuclear program between saying the US will not accept Iran building a nuclear weapon and saying the US will not accept Iran having the capabilities to build a weapon.

George W. Bush showed us one example of this in October 2007:
"If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it’d be a dangerous threat to world peace," Mr. Bush said. "So I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

"I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously," he said.
You'll notice Bush not drawing a distinction between the knowledge necessary to build a weapon - which is part of legal nuclear weapons capabilities that many NPT non-weapons states have - and deployed nuclear weapons.

What is dishonest about Bush's position is that he is blithely confounding two very different concepts. A weapon is very different from the knowledge necessary to make a weapon, and preventing a country like Iran from acquiring what he describes as the knowledge necessary to make a weapon would be a much more difficult task. Also a task the directly opposes both the letter and the spirit of the non-proliferation treaty which guarantees access to nuclear technology to all signatories "without discrimination".

Barack Obama in April 2010 made a similar statement.
All the evidence indicates that the Iranians are trying to develop the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. They might decide that, once they have that capacity that they'd hold off right at the edge -- in order not to incur -- more sanctions. But, if they've got nuclear weapons-building capacity -- and they are flouting international resolutions, that creates huge destabilizing effects in the region and will trigger an arms race in the Middle East that is bad for U.S. national security but is also bad for the entire world.
Again, the US objective is to prevent Iran from attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities.

Aside. I've meant to mention something about this idea of an arms race. Saudi Arabia is not an independent country. If it was, it would have entered the nuclear arms race when Israel, the country most Arab people consider their biggest threat acquired nuclear weapons. The US has ordered Saudi Arabia not to acquire even legal nuclear weapons capabilities and Saudi Arabia follows US orders. Iran having the legal nuclear weapons capabilities would not make Saudi Arabia any more independent than it is today.

The sources of the UK's Daily Mail confirm this.
Few analysts believe Riyadh, the world's top oil exporter and a key ally for the United States, is likely to embark upon a weapons programme in defiance of U.S. calls for restraint. But Turki's remarks signal the extent of concern over non-Arab Iran's military ambitions among Arab Gulf countries.
The Daily Mail is right. Saudi Arabia, under its current government is not independent enough that its possible responses merit consideration. Egypt, so far, is the same - a subject non-independent client state. But if Egypt becomes independent, which may well begin as a process in 2012, it would not build its nuclear program because of Iran, but because of Israel. Turkey has never expressed concern with Iran attaining legal nuclear weapons capabilities and in the 2010 Tehran declaration proposing that Iran export enriched uranium for TRR fuel Turkey has officially expressed agreement with Iran's right to enrich uranium domestically.

The idea of Iranian legal nuclear weapons capabilities fueling an arms race has always been a lie and Barack Obama knew it was false in 2010 when he said it. His concern with Iran having legal nuclear weapons capabilities has always been that it might limit Israel's ability to invade its neighbors as Jeffrey Goldberg has described.

But US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this year has said something that may be slightly different:
I think the international strategy here, and this really has been an international strategy to apply sanctions, to apply diplomatic pressure on them, to try to convince Iran that if, you know, they want to do what's right, they need to join the international family of nations and act in a responsible way. I think the pressure of the sanctions, I think the pressure of diplomatic pressures from everywhere -- Europe, United States, elsewhere-- is working to put pressure on them, to make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they're doing. Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.
So Panetta says Iran cannot continue to do what it's doing, but what Iran is doing is not building a nuclear weapon. But Panetta has separated actually building a weapon into a different category. Building a weapon is a red line. What Iran is doing, building what outside of Israel's region would be legal nuclear weapons capabilities does not cross a red line.

The United States does not have any plausible options that would prevent Iran from acquiring legal nuclear weapons capabilities. Sanctions will not do it. A military attack would not do it. The incentives the US is able to offer - constrained by the US commitment to prevent any country in Israel's region from becoming powerful enough to threaten it - are not enough to get Iran to voluntarily accept US demands to indefinitely limit its nuclear program.

The US would like to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities, but it does not have resources that would enable it to deliver that desire. The most likely scenario from here is that the US presses for sanctions, possibly enough to put Iran into a war footing. Iranians are harmed, US troops are harmed, US interests are harmed, and ten years from now Iran's government is just as solidly in place and its nuclear program has developed just as much as if the US had not bothered.

The US has the option of literally making sacrifices for nothing. Or the US can begin acknowledging that having legal capabilities to make a nuclear weapon is a concept separate from deploying actual nuclear weapons. While the US would rather Iran not have those capabilities, it may be approaching the point that it cannot commit to preventing Iran from acquiring them.

The US, according to Panetta, now has two separate objectives regarding Iran's nuclear program. One is preventing Iran from acquiring legal nuclear weapons capabilities. That objective is a concern. The other is preventing Iran from deploying an actual nuclear weapon. That is a red line.

I'm often overly optimistic. But depending on how flexible the US is willing to be about its concern, not its red line, it is possible that both the US and Iran can benefit from avoiding further escalation. An important question remains: Is the United States psychologically capable of admitting that its powers are limited? That there are things the US can be concerned about but that it cannot prevent.

Panetta possibly is taking a step in that direction. If the US goes further in that direction a large amount of pointless loss of lives and resources can be avoided.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

A guide for non-Westerners to understand Western concerns about theocracy

Westerners say they are concerned with theocracy but they really are not. It is a lie and it is understandable that someone might believe that lie because they say it so often. But you'll understand the Western position on governments in the Middle East much better once you see past it.

To Westerners both "theocracy" and "like Iran" mean hostile to Israel, and because the US is committed to Israel, for Westerners that necessarily implies hostile to the US.

Saudi Arabia, for example, is a real theocracy. You'll very rarely, almost never, see an expression of concern about Saudi Arabia's internal policies in Western commentary.

Westerners are simply not concerned about whether Egyptians are ruled by Sharia law, much less whether or not there is a bill of rights in Egypt. We've seen the Mubarak dictatorship that Juan Cole a year ago described as "unproblematic for the US". Westerners are concerned that Egypt will pose a threat to Israel.

If it does, Westerners are prepared to call Egypt a repressive dictatorship no matter how fair its elections actually are or what freedoms are afforded to its citizens.

The United States and the West will oppose Egypt if and only if Egypt develops into a threat to Israel. Then they will lie and say this opposition is based on "theocracy" or "rights" or "repression".

Westerners cannot just say "we oppose any government of any type that does not accept Israel" because that statement would contradict deeply held core Western ideals. But that statement is true, so Westerners lie, first to themselves and then to non-Westerners.

Hezbollah, for example, barely has a veto in a Lebanese political process that is heavily weighted against Shiites. Westerners present Lebanon, Lebanon, as a repressive dictatorship. While ignoring, for example, Jordan.

It's a game. You can play if you want. But if you don't want to play, it is very safe to ignore any Western feigned concern for "sharia" or "theocracy" or "rights" in the greater Middle East.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Juan Cole and the tension of liberal colonialism

Juan Cole has listed 5 foreign policy challenges for the US in 2012, number 3 being Syria and number 2 being Egypt. One might be charitable and describe Cole as neutral on the issue of states in the Middle East being independent and accountable to their populations rather than to Cole's country, the United States. But one must admit that he expresses comfort and reassurance at the idea that the foreign policies at least of these countries are not determined locally.

My comment posted there did not pass the moderation filter, but I'll leave it here.
The Muslim Brotherhood is making it clear that they want to submit the 1979 Camp David Peace treaty to a national referendum. A Muslim Brotherhood prime minister or president is most unlikely to be willing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or to continue to help impose a blockade on the Palestinian civilians of Gaza. The Egyptian military is still ultimately in control, and it does not want hostilities with Israel, so that this change is unlikely to go beyond producing tensions.

What makes you write, in the context of a future with a sitting parliament and an Islamist post-Mubarak prime minister, that the Egyptian military is still ultimately in control? The constitution of post-Mubarak Egypt has not been written or at least not released to the public.

Have you heard indications of this behind the scenes from Obama administration officials?

You also present it as a reassuring thing, which raises the question, do you approve of Egypt’s voters not being sovereign over Egypt’s foreign policy but that instead Egypt’s foreign policy should remain accountable to the United States?

In any case, rising Egyptian-Israeli tensions for the first time since the early 1970s present a severe challenge to US policy, which attempts to maintain good relations with both.

That’s an interesting way to put that. Would you describe the US’ relationship with Iran under the Shah as an “attempt to maintain good relations” with Iran? The Shah, like Mubarak and Tantawi, was a dictator over whom the United States held tremendous leverage and over whom his own people had no leverage until at least hundreds were dying in the streets in protest. Is that your idea of good relations?

The crisis in Syria remains grave. It can only end in one of three ways: The regime succeeds in repressing the reform movement, 2) the reform movement comes to power, or 3) the regime makes enough changes to allow a slow transition away from one-party authoritarianism.

I don’t remember ever reading you characterize Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or UAE as authoritarian.

Last year the phrase you used to describe the Mubarak dictatorship was “unproblematic for the US”. No mention of authoritarianism there either.

And of course, you’ve referred in agreement to Freedom House describing Morocco and Kuwait as “partly free”.

Do you give passes to pro-US authoritarian dictatorships in the Middle East? If so, why?
Cole came to prominence as a critic of the George W. Bush administration. I once thought he was far more liberal than he actually is. Cole's only criticism of Mubarak, of Iran's Shah, and if he's consistent also his only criticism of the British indirect rule of parts of India and Great Britain's control of the colonies that are now called UAE is that those examples of colonialism may not effectively hold those countries under control.

If Western countries are actually able to hold non-Western countries effectively, Cole's language indicates that he favors colonial-style relations. That puts him in agreement with Barack Obama no more or less than it does with Winston Churchill and Cecil Rhodes.