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Dozens in Mexican city ill with suspected avian flu

Dandelion Salad

Global Research, September 28, 2007

Raises concerns over international implications of epidemic

Dozens of people in a Mexican city are gravely ill with what is being treated as a possible outbreak of avian flu, according to a new report from a Spanish-language website.

According to El Universal, authorities in a neighborhood in Guanajuato say 45 patients have been given medical attention at the area’s hospital after they reported symptoms including extreme headaches, stomachaches, vomiting and diarrhea.

The cases have developed over the last two weeks and “feel [like] death,” according to Silvia Villalobos, one of the victims who spoke to El Universal correspondent Xochitl Alvarez in Spanish.

A spokesman for the regional general hospital, Ernesto Castle, said he does not know the cause of the problems, but officials are looking at an avian flu virus, which is transmitted by birds and is similar to botulism, as a source.

He reported at least 45 patients have been given emergency room medical attention, while others went to their private physicians for help.

One man reported his wife was hospitalized after the symptoms hit, waking her with fever and chills, before she fainted.

Guadalupe Gomez, a resident of the area, said her concern was that the epidemic was being carried by flies attracted by leather processed in the tanning industry, which includes leathers from other nations.

City spokesman Jose Eusebio Olague said officials have directed that barricades be set up so the sick do not spread the infections even further.

Traditional causes for fever and chills essentially have been ruled out by various tests, officials said. Sources in the air, water and other industries have been eliminated as a cause, officials said.

This type of threat was addressed at the recent Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America summit in Canada, where officials released a plan that establishes U.N. law along with regulations by the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization as supreme over U.S. law during a pandemic. It also sets the stage for militarizing the management of continental health emergencies.

The “North American Plan for Avian & Pandemic Influenza” was finalized at the SPP summit last month in Montebello, Quebec.

At the same time, the U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, has created a webpage dedicated to avian flu and has been running exercises in preparation for the possible use of U.S. military forces in a continental domestic emergency involving avian flu or pandemic influenza.

With virtually no media attention, in 2005 President Bush shifted U.S. policy on avian flu and pandemic influenza, placing the country under international guidelines not specifically determined by domestic agencies.

The policy shift was formalized Sept. 14, 2005, when Bush announced a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza to a High-Level Plenary Meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, in New York.

The new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza was designed to supersede an earlier November 2005 Homeland Security report that called for a U.S. national strategy that would be coordinated by the Departments of Homeland Security, Health and Agriculture.

The 2005 plan, operative until Bush announced the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, directed the State Department to work with the WHO and U.N., but it does not mention that international health controls are to be considered controlling over relevant U.S. statutes or authorities.

Under the International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza, Bush agreed the U.S. would work through the U.N. system influenza coordinator to develop a continental emergency response plan operating through authorities under the WTO, North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The SPP plan for avian and pandemic influenza announced at the Canadian summit last month embraces the international control principles Bush first announced to the U.N. in his 2005 International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza declaration. David Nabarro is new U.N. system influenza coordinator

In Sept. 2005, Dr. David Nabarro was appointed the first U.N. system influenza coordinator, a position which also places him as a senior policy adviser to the U.N. director-general.

Nabarro soon after fueled the global fear that an epidemic was virtually inevitable.

In response to a question about the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that killed approximately 40 million people worldwide, Nabarro commented, “I am certain there will be another pandemic sometime.”

Nabarro stressed at the press conference that he saw as inevitable a worldwide pandemic influenza coming soon that would kill millions.

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h/t: lorie

The Mega-Lie Called the “War on Terror”: A Masterpiece of Propaganda By Richard W. Behan

Dandelion Salad

By Richard W. Behan
Posted September 27, 2007

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the state can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie … The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.” –Joseph Goebbels, minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany, 1933-1945

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the administration of George W. Bush has told and repeated a lie that is “big enough” to confirm Joseph Goebbels’ testimony. It is a mega-lie, and the American people have come to believe it. It is the “War on Terror.”

The Bush administration endlessly recites its mantra of deceit:

The War on Terror was launched in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It is intended to enhance our national security at home and to spread democracy in the Middle East.

This is the struggle of our lifetime; we are defending our way of life from an enemy intent on destroying our freedoms. We must fight the enemy in the Middle East, or we will fight him in our cities.

This is classic propaganda. In Goebbels’ terms, it is the “state” speaking its lie, but the political, economic, and military consequences of the Bush administration lie are coming into view, and they are all catastrophic. If truth is the enemy of both the lie and George Bush’s “state,” then the American people need to know the truth.

The military incursions into Afghanistan and Iraq were not done in retaliation for 9/11. The Bush administration had them clearly in mind upon taking office, and they were set in motion as early as Feb. 3, 2001. That was seven months prior to the attacks on the Trade Towers and the Pentagon, and the objectives of the wars had nothing to do with terrorism.

This is beyond dispute. The mainstream press has ignored the story, but the administration’s congenital belligerence is fully documented in book-length treatments and in the limitless information pool of the internet. (See my earlier work, for example.)

Invading a sovereign nation unprovoked, however, directly violates the charter of the United Nations. It is an international crime. Before the Bush administration could attack either Afghanistan or Iraq, it would need a politically and diplomatically credible reason for doing so.

The terrorist violence of Sept. 11, 2001, provided a spectacular opportunity. In the cacophony of outrage and confusion, the administration could conceal its intentions, disguise the true nature of its premeditated wars, and launch them. The opportunity was exploited in a heartbeat.

Within hours of the attacks, President Bush declared the United States “… would take the fight directly to the terrorists,” and “… he announced to the world the United States would make no distinction between the terrorists and the states that harbor them.” Thus the “War on Terror” was born.

The fraudulence of the “War on Terror,” however, is clearly revealed in the pattern of subsequent facts:

  • In Afghanistan the state was overthrown instead of apprehending the terrorist. Offers by the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden were ignored, and he remains at large to this day.
  • In Iraq, when the United States invaded, there were no al Qaeda terrorists at all.
  • Both states have been supplied with puppet governments, and both are dotted with permanent U.S. military bases in strategic proximity to their hydrocarbon assets.
  • The U.S. embassy nearing completion in Baghdad is comprised of 21 multistory buildings on 104 acres of land. It will house 5,500 diplomats, staff and families. It is ten times larger than any other U.S. embassy in the world, but we have yet to be told why.
  • A 2006 National Intelligence Estimate shows the war in Iraq has exacerbated, not diminished, the threat of terrorism since 9/11. If the “War on Terror” is not a deception, it is a disastrously counterproductive failure.
  • Today two American and two British oil companies are poised to claim immense profits from 81 percent of Iraq’s undeveloped crude oil reserves. They cannot proceed, however, until the Iraqi Parliament enacts a statute known as the “hydrocarbon framework law.”
  • The features of postwar oil policy so heavily favoring the oil companies were crafted by the Bush administration State Department in 2002, a year before the invasion.
  • Drafting of the law itself was begun during Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority, with the invited participation of a number of major oil companies. The law was written in English and translated into Arabic only when it was due for Iraqi approval.
  • President Bush made passage of the hydrocarbon law a mandatory “benchmark” when he announced the troop surge in January of 2007.

When it took office, the Bush administration brushed aside warnings about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Their anxiety to attack both Afghanistan and Iraq was based on other factors.


The Iraqi war was conceived in 1992, during the first Bush administration, in a 46-page document entitled Draft Defense Planning Guidance.

The document advocated the concept of preemptive war to assure the military and diplomatic dominance of the world by the United States. It asserted the need for “… access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil.” It warned of “… proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” And it spoke of “… threats to U.S. citizens from terrorism.” It was the template for today’s war in Iraq.

The Draft Defense Planning Guidance was signed by the secretary of defense, Richard Cheney. It was prepared by three top staffers: Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Zalmay Khalilzad-all of whom would fill high-level positions in the administration of George W. Bush, nine years in the future.

In proposing global dominance and preemptive war, it was a radical departure from the traditional U.S. policy of multilateral realism, and it was an early statement of the emerging ideology of “neoconservatism.”

The document was too extreme. President George H.W. Bush publicly denounced it and immediately retracted it. Many in his administration referred to its authors as “the crazies.”

But the ideology survived. Five years later William Kristol and Robert Kagan created a neoconservative organization to advocate preemptive war and U.S. global dominion to achieve, in their words, a “benevolent global hegemony.” It was called the Project for the New American Century, quickly abbreviated as PNAC. Among the founding members were Richard Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Zalmay Khalilzad, Donald Rumsfeld and Jeb Bush.

In a letter to President Clinton on Jan. 26, 1998, the Project for the New American Century once more urged the military overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime.

President Clinton ignored the letter, apparently viewing this iteration of the proposal as no less crazy than the original.

As the presidential campaign of 2000 drew to a close, the PNAC produced yet another proposal for U.S. world dominion, preemptive war and the invasion of Iraq. It was a document called “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources For a New Century” (PDF).

Weeks later, in January of 2001, 29 members of the Project for the New American Century joined the administration of George W. Bush. Their ideology of world dominion and preemptive war would dominate the Bush administration’s foreign and defense policies.

Within 10 days of his inauguration, President Bush convened his National Security Council. The PNAC people triumphed when the invasion of Iraq was placed at the top of the agenda for Mideast foreign policy. Reconciling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long the top priority, was dropped from consideration.

The neoconservative dream of invading Iraq was a tragic anachronism, an ideological fantasy of retrograde imperialism. A related and far more pragmatic reason for the invasion, however, would surface soon.

No administration in memory had been more closely aligned with the oil industry. President Bush and Vice President Cheney were intimately tied to it, and so was National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice. So were eight cabinet secretaries and 32 other high-level appointees.

By early February, Vice President Cheney’s “Energy Task Force” was at work. Federal agency people were joined by executives and lobbyists from the Enron, Exxon-Mobil, Conoco-Phillips, Shell and BP America corporations.

Soon the task force was poring over detailed maps of the Iraqi oil fields, pipelines, tanker terminals, refineries and the undeveloped oil exploration blocks. It studied two pages of “foreign suitors for Iraqi oil field contracts” — foreign companies negotiating with Saddam Hussein’s regime, none of which was a major American or British oil company.

The intent to invade Iraq and the keen interest in Iraqi oil would soon converge in a top secret memo of Feb. 3, 2001, from a “high level National Security Council official.” The memo: “… directed the NSC staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the ‘melding’ of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: ‘the review of operational policies toward rogue states’ such as Iraq and ‘actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields.'”

As early as Feb. 3, 2001, the Bush administration was committed to invading Iraq, with the oil fields clearly in mind.

The terrorist attacks on Washington and New York were still seven months in the future.


The issue in Afghanistan was the strategically valuable location for a pipeline to connect the immense oil and gas resources of the Caspian Basin to the richest markets. Whoever built the pipeline would control the Basin, and in the 1990s the contest to build it was spirited.

American interests in the region were promoted by an organization called the Foreign Oil Companies Group. Among its most active members were Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state but now an advisor to the Unocal Corp.; Alexander Haig, another former secretary of state but now a lobbyist for Turkmenistan; and Richard Cheney, a former secretary of defense, but now the CEO of the Halliburton Corp.

Late in 1996, however, the Bridas Corp. of Argentina finally signed contracts with the Taliban and with Gen. Dostum of the Northern Alliance to build the pipeline.

One American company in particular, Unocal, found that intolerable and fought back vigorously, hiring a number of consultants in addition to Kissinger: Hamid Karzai, Richard Armitage, and Zalmay Khalilzad. (Armitage and Khalilzad would join the George W. Bush administration in 2001.)

Unocal wooed Taliban officials at its headquarters in Texas and in Washington, D.C., seeking to have the Bridas contract voided, but the Taliban refused. Finally, in February of 1998, John J. Maresca, a Unocal vice president, asked in a congressional hearing to have the Taliban replaced by a more stable regime.

The Clinton administration, having recently refused the PNAC request to invade Iraq, was not any more interested in a military overthrow of the Taliban. President Clinton did, however, shoot a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan, after the al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa. And he issued an executive order forbidding further trade transactions with the Taliban.

Maresca was thus twice disappointed: The Taliban would not be replaced very soon, and Unocal would have to cease its pleadings with the regime.

Unocal’s prospects rocketed when George W. Bush entered the White House, and the Project for the New American Century ideology of global dominance took hold.

The Bush administration itself took up active negotiations with the Taliban in January of 2001, seeking secure access to the Caspian Basin for American companies. The Enron Corp. also was eyeing a pipeline to feed its proposed power plant in India.) The administration offered a package of foreign aid as an inducement, and the parties met in Washington, Berlin and Islamabad. The Bridas contract might still be voided.

But the Taliban would not yield.

Anticipating this in the spring of 2001, the State Department had sought and gained the concurrence of India and Pakistan to take military action if necessary. The PNAC people were not timid about using force.

At the final meeting with the Taliban, on Aug. 2, 2001, State Department negotiator Christine Rocca, clarified the options: “Either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs.” With the futility of negotiations apparent, “President Bush promptly informed Pakistan and India the U.S. would launch a military mission into Afghanistan before the end of October.”

This was five weeks before the events of 9/11.

Sept. 11, 2001

A tectonic groundswell of skepticism, doubt and suspicion has emerged about the Bush administration’s official explanation of 9/11. Some claim the administration orchestrated the attacks. Others see complicity. Still others find criminal negligence. The cases they make are neither extreme nor trivial.

Whatever the truth about 9/11, the Bush administration now had a fortuitous, spectacular opportunity to proceed with its premeditated attacks.

The administration would have to play its hand skillfully, however.

Other nations have suffered criminal acts of terrorism, but there is no precedent for conflating the terrorists with the states that harbor them, declaring a “war” and seeking with military force to overthrow a sovereign government. Victimized nations have always relied successfully on international law enforcement and police action to bring terrorists to justice.

But the Bush administration needed more than this. War plans were in the files. They needed to justify invasions. Only by targeting the “harboring states,” as well as the terrorists, did they stand a chance of doing so.

The administration played its hand brilliantly. It compared the terrorist attacks immediately to Pearl Harbor, and in the smoke and rage of 9/11 the comparison was superficially attractive. But Pearl Harbor was the violent expression of hostile intent by a formidably armed nation, and it introduced four years of full-scale land, sea and airborne combat. 9/11 was al Qaeda’s violent expression of hostility: 19 fanatics armed with box cutters. Yes, extraordinary destruction and loss of life, but the physical security of our entire nation was simply not at stake.

Though the comparison was specious, the “War on Terror” was born, and it has proven to be an exquisite smokescreen. But labeling the preplanned invasions as a “War on Terror” was the mega-lie, dwarfing all the untruths that followed. The mega-lie would be the centerpiece of a masterful propaganda blitz that continues to this day.

The wars

On Oct. 7, 2001, the carpet of bombs is unleashed over Afghanistan.

Soon, with the Taliban overthrown, the Bush administration installed Hamid Karzai as head of an interim government. Karzai had been a Unocal consultant.

The first ambassador to Karzai’s government was John J. Maresca, a vice president of Unocal.

The next ambassador to Afghanistan was Zalmay Khalilzad, another Unocal consultant.

Four months after the carpet of bombs, President Karzai and President Musharraf of Pakistan signed an agreement for a new pipeline. The Bridas contract was moot. The way was open for Unocal.

In February of 2003 an oil industry trade journal reported the Bush administration was ready to finance the pipeline across Afghanistan and to protect it with a permanent military presence. Osama bin Laden remained at large.

The mega-lie, the fabricated “War on Terror” was an easy sell in the Afghanistan adventure. The shock of 9/11 was immense, Osama bin Laden was operating from Afghanistan and the “state,” the Taliban, was at least sympathetic to his organization. And the signature secrecy of the Bush Administration had kept from public view its eight months of negotiating with the Taliban. The first premeditated war was largely unopposed.

Selling the Iraq invasion to the American people and to the Congress would be far more difficult.

With the Trade Towers and the Pentagon still smoldering, President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered their staffs to find Saddam Hussein’s complicity in the attacks. Of course they could not, so there would need to be a sustained and persuasive selling job — a professionally orchestrated campaign of propaganda.

Soon after 9/11, fear-mongering propagandizing became the modus operandi of the Bush Administration. It began in earnest with the president’s “axis of evil” State of the Union address in 2002, full of terrorism and fear. “The United States of America,” the president said, “will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

No regime anywhere was in fact threatening anyone with anything, but Bush appointed a 10-person “White House Iraq Group” in August of 2002. Chaired by Karl Rove, its members were trusted partisans and communications experts skilled in perception management. Their role was explicitly to market the need to invade Iraq. The group operated in strict secrecy, sifting intelligence, writing position papers and speeches, creating “talking points,” planning strategy and timing, and feeding information to the media. This was the nerve center, where the campaign of propaganda was orchestrated and promulgated.

The group chose to trumpet nearly exclusively the most frightening threat-nuclear weapons. Rice soon introduced the litany of the smoking gun and the mushroom cloud, Cheney said hundreds of thousands of Americans might die, and Bush claimed Saddam was “six months away from developing a weapon.”

In the 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush uttered the infamous “sixteen words”: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” This was typical of White House Iraq Group work: The CIA knew and had said the information was bogus.

The propaganda campaign was ultimately successful, not least because of the axiomatic trust American people extend to their presidents: Nobody could have anticipated the range, intensity and magnitude of the expertly crafted deception. And the campaign was aided by a compliant mainstream press that swallowed and regurgitated the talking points.

The Congress was persuaded sufficiently to authorize the use of military force. The American people were persuaded sufficiently to accept the war and to send Mr. Bush to the White House for a second term. But no other war in the country’s history had to be so consciously and comprehensively sold.

Much of the deception, distortion and lies was eventually exposed. The link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, the weapons of mass destruction, the aluminum tubes, the mobile laboratories, the yellowcake from Niger: none of it true. Only the mega-lie, the “War on Terror,” survives.

On Feb. 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the Security Council, waving the vial of simulated anthrax and claiming “there is no doubt in my mind” Saddam Hussein was working to produce nuclear weapons.

But the Security Council, not so easily propagandized, refused to authorize American force.

On March 14, 2003, President Bush met in the Azores with Prime Ministers Blair of the United Kingdom and Aznar of Spain. They abandoned the effort for U.N. authorization, claimed the right to proceed without it and a week later launched the war.

Four years of violence. Nearly 4,000 young Americans dead. Seven times that many maimed. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead. Millions fleeing as refugees, their economy and infrastructure in ruins. A raging civil war. Half a trillion dollars and counting.

Stopping the madness

And for what? Neither face of the war has come remotely close to success. The “War on Terrorism” has not suppressed terrorism but has encouraged it instead. The premeditated war — for ideological dreams of world dominion and the pragmatic capture of hydrocarbon assets — is a colossus of failure.

The Afghan pipeline is a dead issue. As the warlords and the poppy growers in Afghanistan thrive, and as the Taliban regroups and regains dominance, the country tilts ominously into chaos once more.

The Iraqi hydrocarbon law — the clever disguise for capturing the oil fields — is fatally wounded, its true purpose becoming more widely known. Organized resistance is growing quickly, both in Iraq and in the United States. And the factions who need to agree on the law are otherwise engaged in killing each other.

The Iraqi war has not resulted, either, in the global dominance sought by the Project for the New American Century people, but in global repugnance for what their pathetic ideology has wrought.

Clearly the involvement of the U.S. military in the Mideast must cease. Pouring more lives and dollars into the quagmire may keep alive the warped dreams of the Bush administration, but those dreams are illegitimate, indeed criminal.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney reject any alteration in their course. They ask instead for more time, more money and even — in threatening Iran — for more targets.

There is no apparent way to the stop madness, to end the hemorrhaging of blood and treasure, but to impeach these men and, if found guilty, to remove them from office.

The integrity of the Constitution and the rule of law are at stake as well, but the Congress continues its indifference to impeachment, effectively condoning the administration’s behavior. Should this continue, thinking Americans will discard the last crumbs of respect for the incumbent legislature — polling shows there’s not much left — and punish its members, Republican and Democrat alike, in next year’s election.

Impeachment will expose the fraudulence of the “War on Terror” and liberate us from the pall of fear the Bush administration has deliberately cast upon the country. Both political parties will be free to speak the truth: Terrorism is real and a cause for concern, but it is not a reason for abject fear.

We need only compare the hazard of al Qaeda to the threat posed by the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. On the one hand is a wretched group of sad fanatics — perhaps 50,000 in all — clever enough to commandeer airliners with box cutters. On the other was a nation of 140 million people, a powerful economy, a standing army of hundreds of divisions, a formidable navy and air force and thousands of nuclear tipped intercontinental missiles pre-aimed at American targets.

We were a vigilant but poised and confident people then, not a nation commanded to cower in fear. We can and must regain that strength and self-assurance.

Ending the nightmare will take far less courage than the Bush people exhibited in beginning it. Taking a nation to war on distortion, deception and lies is enormously risky in many respects: in lives and in treasure, certainly, but also in a nation’s prestige abroad and in the trust and support of its people. The Bush administration risked all this and more, and it has lost.

We risk far less by embracing the truth and acting on it. Our nation cherishes honesty: the fraudulence must end. But Bush and Cheney have shown themselves incapable of honesty, and we also cherish justice. They must be impeached.

Richard W. Behan’s last book was Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands (Island Press, 2001). He is currently working on a more broadly rendered critique, To Provide Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America’s Derelict Democracy. He can be reached by email at rwbehan@rockisland.com.

h/t: ICH

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Signatures required to get Dennis Kucinich on the ballot!

Dandelion Salad

Signatures required to get Dennis Kucinich on the ballot!

11 states require signatures.
Pass the word along to those supporters in the states below!

They are:

State number filing deadline
Illinois 5000 11/03/07
Virginia 10000 12/14/07
New York 5000 12/06/07
Arkansas 5000 12/17/07
Texas 5000 01/02/08
New Mexico 5000 01/02/08
SC 3000 12/14/07
Tennessee 2500 12/04/07
New Jersey 1,000 12/10/07
Vermont 1000 01/14/08
Alabama 500 12/07/07

Anita Stewart





Deputy Director of Virtual Outreach
Kucinich for President 2008, Inc.

h/t: Dennis 4 President in 2008!

If Bill O’Reilly was a rapper (video)

Dandelion Salad

donovonc Great stuff!!!
Hilarious video blog …

Great stuff!!!
Hilarious video blog by Jay Smooth


Iran ready to work with US on Iraq By Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr

Dandelion Salad

By Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Published: September 30 2007 19:05

Iran is ready to help the US stabilise Iraq if Washington presents a timetable for a withdrawal of its troops, Tehran’s top security official said on Sunday.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Ali Larijani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, which answers to Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, rejected Washington’s accusations that Tehran is providing weapons to Iraqi militias, insisting the trouble with Iraq was that the US administration was pursuing a “dead-end strategy”.

Mr Larijani maintained it was time world powers realised Iran’s nuclear progress could not be reversed and that they should enter into negotiations with Tehran without preconditions.

Pledging to continue co­operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, he made clear, however, that Iran would not suspend its ­uranium enrichment programme – a key Security Council demand. But he said he was open to “ideas being put on the table” in forthcoming talks with Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, to resolve the nuclear stand-off.


h/t: ICH

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The Victor? By Peter W. Galbraith

The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran & the US (video link; transcript)

US trains Gulf air forces for war with Iran By Tim Shipman

The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran & the US (video link; transcript)

Dandelion Salad

Democracy Now!
September 25th, 2007

In a speech at Columbia University, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended Iran’s right to nuclear power but denied Iran was seeking to build nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad’s appearance sparked widespread protests at Columbia. We speak with Trita Parsi, author of “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States” and Baruch professor Ervand Abrahamian, co-author of “Targeting Iran.”

  • Ervand Abrahamian, Iran expert and CUNY Distinguished Professor of History at Baruch College, City University of New York. He is the author of several books on Iran and the co-author of a new book from City Lights called “Targeting Iran.”
  • Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest Iranian-American organization in the US. He is the author of “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States.”

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AMY GOODMAN: For more on Ahmadinejad’s visit, we’re joined by two guests. Ervand Abrahamian is an Iran expert and CUNY Distinguished Professor of History at Baruch College here at the City University of New York. He’s the author of several books on Iran, co-author of a new book from City Lights called Targeting Iran. And joining me from Washington, D.C. is Trita Parsi. He’s the president of the National Iranian American Council, the largest Iranian American organization in the United States, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States.

First, Ervand Abrahamian, can you talk about the president’s visit? Did anything he said — this is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — surprise you?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Well, I was surprised because he didn’t really use the opportunity to try to lower the tempo, the serious problem we have now, which is we’re at the abyss of war, basically. And there are people pushing for war in the next few months. And this would have been a very good opportunity to try to smooth things over, try to calm the tempo down.

And it’s not just he who missed the opportunity. I think Bollinger missed the opportunity. In fact, Bollinger’s speech was like a drumbeat for war. And most of the questions from the audience missed the opportunity. They dealt basically with important identity questions, but they didn’t really deal with the issue that we are really on the abyss of war. And this is a far more serious issue than, you know, either ethnic or gender issues.

And he, actually, I think — although he made some statements about Iran is not interested in nuclear weapons, he could have been more forthright and more categorical about the policies of Iran in terms of the nuclear project.

AMY GOODMAN: Does this remind you of Saddam Hussein before the war?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: It does. In fact, Ahmadinejad didn’t say it last night — yesterday, but his policy is that there is no likelihood of war, because no one in their right senses would think of invading or attacking Iran. And that’s the premise he works on, which is, I think, a completely wrong premise, because he doesn’t seem to understand American politics, the same people who gave us the war on Iraq, the same people who are running foreign policy now. But he begins from the premise that no one in their right senses would think of attacking Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, you have written a very interesting book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States. Can you take us back in time and talk about the relationship, the secret dealings, between these three countries?

TRITA PARSI: Israel has for a very long time been a critical factor in America’s formulation of a policy vis-à-vis Iran. But what’s really interesting is that the influence of Israel has gone in completely different directions, if we just go back fifteen years. During the 1980s, in spite of the Iranian Revolution, in spite of Ayatollah Khomeini’s many, many harsh remarks about Israel, far, far worse than what anything Ahmadinejad has said so far, Israel at the time was the country that was lobbying the United States to open up talks with Iran to try to rebuild the US-Iran relations, because of strategic imperatives that Israel had. Israel needed Iran, because it was fearing the Arab world and a potential war with the Arabs.

After 1991, ’92, that’s when you see the real shift in Israeli-Iranian relations, because that’s when the entire geopolitical map of the Middle East is redrawn. The Soviet Union collapses. The last standing army of the Arabs, that of Saddam Hussein, is defeated in the Persian Gulf War. And you have an entirely new security environment in the Middle East, in which the two factors, the Soviets and the Arabs, that had pushed Iran and Israel closer together suddenly evaporate. But as their security environment improves, they also start to realize that they may be ending up in a situation in which they can become potential threats to each other. And that’s when you see how the Israelis shift 180 degrees. Now the Israeli argument was that the United States should not talk to Iran, because there is no such thing as Iranian moderates.

And ever since, the Israelis and the pro-Israel interest in the United States have lobbied to make sure that there is no dialogue or there’s no rapprochement between the United States and Iran. And the Iranians have done similar things. They have undermined every US foreign policy initiative in the Middle East that they feared would be beneficial to Israel. So the real shift in Israeli-Iranian relations come after the Cold War, not with the revolution in 1979.

AMY GOODMAN: But I also do want you to go right back to 1948 and talk about that period up to 1991. What were the secret relationships?

TRITA PARSI: Well, immediately after Israel was founded, Iran was actually one of the states on the committee at the UN who was preparing a plan, and they were against the partition. They were against the idea of creating two states. And Iran, at the time, said that this would lead to several decades of crisis. But once Israel was a fact, the Iranian government felt that because it was facing a hostile Arab world, as well as a very hostile Arab ideology, Pan-Arabism, Israel was a potential ally for the Iranians, particularly as Israel started to shift closer and closer to the Western camp and the United States. So throughout the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, the Iranians and the Israelis were working very, very closely together, had a very robust alliance.

They tried to keep it secret. It wasn’t necessarily very secret, but Iran never recognized Israel de jure. They recognized it de facto. They had an Israeli mission in Tehran, but they never permitted it to be called an embassy. They had an Israeli envoy to Tehran, but they never called him an ambassador. When the Israeli planes were landing at the Tehran airport, they created — they built a specific tarmac off the airport for Israeli planes to land, so that no one would really see that there are so many El Al planes flying to Tehran. And the reason why the Iranians were doing this is because, on the one hand, they needed Israel as an ally because they were fearful of the Arab world, and, on the other hand, they felt that if they got too close to Israel, they would only fuel Arab anger towards Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, you have a number of revelations in your book. One of them is that the Iranian prime minister asked Israel permission to assassinate Khomeini. Describe the circumstance.

TRITA PARSI: Circumstances was right before the revolution, in which the Israelis were very, very concerned. They were fearful that the new regime would be very hostile to Israel, and they weren’t certain that they would be able to build the same type of secret relations with Iran as they had during the time of the Shah. It later on turned out that they actually did have that ability, not to the same extent, but they still could do it.

But the Iranian prime minister was eager to be able to get rid of Khomeini, fearing — thinking that by Khomeini being eliminated, the revolution would be able to move in a different direction. And he asked the Israelis if they could do it, because Khomeini at the time was in Paris; the Iranians did not have the ability to do anything, but they thought that perhaps the Israelis would. The Israeli answer was apparently that this is not Israel’s job and that Israel is not the policemen of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Israel reaching out to Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War?

TRITA PARSI: After the first Persian Gulf War, there was a thinking in Israel at the time that Saddam had now been weakened, he was no longer a real threat, and at the end of the day the real potential threat in the future, the rising power, was Iran. So the Israelis were trying to find different ways of being able to find some sort of a modus vivendi with Saddam Hussein.

This significantly angered the Clinton administration, that was pursuing a policy of isolating both Iran and Iraq at the same time, and they were very annoyed that the Israelis were trying to find some sort of a relationship with Saddam in the midst of all of that.

Now, the Israeli initiative didn’t go anywhere, but it was guided by the thinking that Iran was going to be the major threat. And even though Iran at the time really was not a threat to Israel, Israel already at that time treated it as an actual threat.

AMY GOODMAN: The United States foiling Iran’s plan to withdraw support from Hamas and Hezbollah.

TRITA PARSI: We talked about that before, that there was a 2003 proposal that the Iranians sent over to the United States trying to find a larger accommodation between the United States and Iran, in which they basically put all the different issues on the table, including an offer, within the framework of the negotiations, to disarm Hezbollah and turn it into a mere political organization — had that happened, there would probably not have been a war last year between Israel and Lebanon — secondly, to end all support for Islamic jihad and Hamas and encourage the Palestinians to go a political route, rather than military route, in their dealings with Israel.

But what’s revealed in the book, as well, that has not been out in the media a lot is that prior to giving this proposal to the United States, the Iranians were fishing it around in Europe, trying to create some support for it. And, most importantly, they went to places that they knew Israelis were going to be. And they were presenting the framework, the concept of this grand bargain, and they wanted to make sure that the Israelis felt that this would not be something that would come at their expense, because they were concerned that the Israelis would try to undermine it. So they were basically sending a signal: Look, if we can have this accommodation with the United States, we will disentangle and basically not be so involved in the Israeli-Palestinian issue anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi is author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States. Our guest also, Ervand Abrahamian, Iran expert, Distinguished Professor at Baruch College. I wanted, Professor Abrahamian, to read from Juan Cole’s piece, who says, talking about Ahmadinejad, “He has been depicted as a Hitler figure intent on killing Israeli Jews, even though he is not commander in chief of the Iranian armed forces, has never invaded any other country, denies he is an anti-Semite, has never called for any Israeli civilians to be killed, and allows Iran’s 20,000 Jews to have representation in Parliament,” that Khamenei is the one with the real power.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: He is right on target, yes. I think Juan Cole sums it up. And the question is, then, why is basically in American politics so much focused on Ahmadinejad? I think he serves the function that Saddam Hussein played. He’s an easy person to demonize. And yesterday’s Bollinger’s introduction, when he described him as a dictator, I think, shows how little people like Bollinger really know about the Iranian political system. One can call Ahmadinejad many things, but a dictator he is by no means. He can’t even — he doesn’t even have the power to appoint his own cabinet ministers. It’s a presidency with very limited power. And to claim that he is in a position to threaten the United States or Israel is just bizarre, frankly. I think someone like Bollinger should know more about Iran before they sling around smears like terms such as “dictator.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about Khamenei, then, if he is the one with real power.

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Here, again, he is, you can say, the Supreme Leader, but the Iranian system is actually very sort of a collective leadership. The foreign policy is made in a council, where the Supreme Leader appoints those members, but there are very different views there. And Ahmadinejad does not run that committee. Someone like Rafsanjani has a great deal of influence. The former President Khatami has a great deal of influence. And they are much more willing to negotiate.

In fact, they were, I think, the people who offered this grand bargain in 2003 to settle all the issues with the United States. And for reasons that are not clear, the White House just basically brushed it aside. They were not interested in pursuing this. And this is why it leads me to think that this administration is adamant in resolving the nuclear problem by military force, because if it was interested in resolving it through diplomacy, there were offers made to them to follow that route, and they have very consciously decided not follow the diplomatic routes. So if you don’t follow the diplomatic route, the only other route there is is the military route. And, of course, it’s only a question of time when they decide on air strikes.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Trita Parsi, about this Newsweek magazine report that says that Vice President Cheney considered provoking an exchange of military strikes between Iran and Israel in order to give the US a pretext to attack Iran. A few months before he quit, the Middle East Adviser to Cheney, David Wurmser, told a small group of people that Cheney had been mulling the idea of pushing for limited Israeli missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz and perhaps other sites, in order to provoke Tehran into lashing out. Citing two knowledgeable sources, Newsweek put out this report. Your response?

TRITA PARSI: I think it’s definitely a plausible scenario, because one thing that we know for certain, with great certainty, is that the Israelis lack the military capability to take out Iran’s nuclear program. They can attack it, but they cannot destroy it. And the only thing that it would result to is some sort of Iranian retaliation, which would then suck the United States right into the conflict, because the United States would not be able to stand without it — outside of it, and obviously many elements in the White House would probably prefer to immediately get into it.

One of the things that I describe in the book that I think is extremely important is that when you take a look at how Iran has made its decisions vis-à-vis Israel, it’s actually been geopolitical and strategic factors that have been driving their decisions. It’s not been ideology. And I think this is a critical point, because right now you have a metaphor being presented by Bibi Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud Party, in which he’s saying that it’s 1938 and Iran is Germany. And then he goes on to imply that Ahmadinejad is Hitler. If we accept that premise, that it is 1938, that Iran is Germany and Ahmadinejad is Hitler, then who, which leader, in his or her right mind, would want to play the role of Neville Chamberlain? It’s a metaphor whose premise basically puts us in a situation in which conflict is completely inevitable. And there’s no other way, because negotiations and diplomacy simply cannot be pursued.

Fortunately, this is a false premise. Iran and Israel and the United States and Israel are not engaged in an ideological zero-sum game battle. This is a strategic rivalry. It is solvable, but it requires a tremendous amount of diplomacy to be able to find a way out of it. And unfortunately, right now, diplomacy is the last thing that one can describe the foreign policies of these countries, particularly the Bush administration.

AMY GOODMAN: I interviewed exiled Iranian activist Azar Derakhshan earlier this summer. She’s the editor of the Women of March 8 magazine and helped organize the 2006 European march against anti-women laws in Iran. I just want to play an excerpt from my conversation with her. This is Azar Derakhshan.

AZAR DERAKHSHAN: I have seen a portrait in the media, Western media. In the media, there is two sides. There is the United States and government of Iran. There are clashes. And the people, the voice of people is absent completely. And the opinion of — foreigner opinion, they think that this thing, the future of Iran is going to be decided by these two powers. I try to tell to the people in foreigner countries, in European countries, it’s not true, this portrait. There is another fact, very important. The people of Iran, the movement, they are going to take the future. They are not forced to choose between neither the United States, neither the government of Iran. There is another force in Iran. If really somebody wants to prevent the war, the clashes, should be support this movement, this movement for equality, for freedom.

We don’t need United States to liberate us. First of all, we are here, and this is our legitimate to liberate ourselves. We want to decide about our future ourselves. We want to fight our native enemy by ourselves. We don’t need — that’s first. Second one, we already have seen, because Afghanistan and Iraq, they are neighbor of Iran. And the women of Iran, they can see it. Maybe before, not, but right now it’s really — it’s enough to know what kind of program they have for the people of Iran.

AMY GOODMAN: Iranian dissident, Azar Derakhshan. Professor Abrahamian, your response?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Well, I think she’s right in that there are — Iran is a very complicated society. There are very different political movements. And the idea that somehow it’s a frozen system, that it’s not going to change, already precludes any type of possibility of negotiations and changes. In fact, the Iranian system has an electoral system — is and electoral system. We are going to come up with elections very soon. There is no guarantee that Ahmadinejad would be re-elected again. It’s very possible that reformers, liberals, would get in into power again.

AMY GOODMAN: When is the election?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: In less than two years’ time. And the base, in fact, of Ahmadinejad’s — I would say the core base — is very similar to Bush’s core base. It’s about 25%. For him to get re-elected, he has to stretch out and find independents and others, and this is going to be very hard. If the reformers can actually rally around one candidate, as they did in the 1990s, they could have landslide victories, in which over 70% of the electorate was voting for liberals and reformers.

AMY GOODMAN: And what direction would a US attack on Iran push the election?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Oh, it would play right into the hands of Ahmadinejad, because you would have a national emergency. He would declare, basically, the country’s in danger. Everyone would have to rally around the flag. People who disliked him would keep their mouth shut. At a time of when the existence of the state is in question, you don’t mess around with the leaders. He would basically be able to act as a much more of a strongman national leader.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, you’ve had unusual access to US decision makers, Israeli decision makers, Iranian leaders. What is your sense of a strike, the US or Israel, on Iran? Is it imminent?

TRITA PARSI: Well, I don’t think an Israeli strike is imminent, unless there is some sort of coordination with the United States with the aim of being able to draw the US into the conflict. I do believe that some sort of a conflict between the United States and Iran is quite probable right now, mindful of the lack of diplomacy that is taking place.

And I also do believe that this is not necessarily something that will go away automatically just because there’s going to be a change of government in the United States within the next two years. Many of the decisions that are made right now have the impact of limiting the maneuverability of future administrations. We’re making it more and more difficult, not only for this administration, but also for future administrations, to pursue diplomacy.

And what we’re seeing in the Middle East right now is not necessarily just a conflict over what’s going on in Iraq or about Iran’s nuclear program. This is a conflict that, at the end of the day, is about two powerhouses in the region, and it’s a conflict about hegemony, for lack of a better word.

And these type of shifts, with the United States currently declining and finding itself in a more and more difficult situation in Iraq and with Iran finding itself in a stronger position and acting very, very confidently, these type of shifts historically do not take place peacefully, unless there is a tremendous amount of diplomacy. And again, we’re not seeing that right now.

And I’m very concerned that even if we manage to avoid war for the next two years, the next US administration may find itself in a position in which its maneuverability is so limited that the military option once again becomes a very viable one for them.

AMY GOODMAN: Could Ahmadinejad be playing a game like Saddam Hussein, where if it is clear he doesn’t have nuclear weapons, he’s weaker, the US would be more likely to attack? He looks at the example of North Korea, where they do have nuclear weapons, and now the US is just pursuing a diplomatic option?

TRITA PARSI: I think there’s a combination of two. On the one hand, I think a lot of his statements and his behavior is aimed to be a deterrent against the United States. He’s acting confident, and he’s talking about the United States not being able to attack. This is a way of saying that the US can’t do it, and if you do it, you will face a tremendously difficult situation. So he’s doing this partly, too, as a deterrence. It has the negative impact of scaring the daylights out of a lot of people, including a lot of Iran’s neighbors that are now gravitating towards the United States’s position, because they are very fearful of what Ahmadinejad may be capable of doing.

At the same time, I do believe that, to a certain extent, but not fully, he has actually convinced himself that Iran is in such a strong position, the United States is in such a weak position, that it can’t do it. But I think it’s a combination of these two. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that most of the belligerence that he’s doing is probably for the purpose of deterrence, not necessarily as an offensive strategy.

AMY GOODMAN: Iran’s role in Iraq?


AMY GOODMAN: Iran’s role in Iraq?

TRITA PARSI: I think the Iranians have played a game in Iraq in which they basically have invested in every potential faction in Iraq, making sure that whoever comes up on top is going to be a player who has strong relations with Iran, because it’s in Iran’s hardcore national interest to make sure that Iraq never again becomes a hostile state, so they never have to experience the eight-year war that they had with Iraq in the 1980s. So, again, I think we’re seeing a policy by the Iranian government there that is quite independent of whether Ahmadinejad is in power or not. It’s probably something that another Iranian government would be pursuing, as well, at least under this regime that we’re having in Iran right now.

And I think the only way for the United States to be able to find a way out of Iraq is not only to talk to the Iranians, but really include all of the other neighbors of Iraq into the process, giving these neighbors not only a stake in the outcome, but also a stake in the process itself. We have a tremendous amount of problems with what the Saudis are doing in Iraq and also what the Jordanians are doing. We’re not talking about that at all. On the contrary, we’re just focusing on Iran’s role.

AMY GOODMAN: Saudi’s role, very briefly?

TRITA PARSI: Saudi’s role — well, a military report just came out about two months ago — it was leaked in the LA Times — that showed that about 45% of all the suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudi nationals. We’ve known for quite some time that there’s a lot of money flowing into Iraq from Saudi Arabia that is going to the Sunni insurgents, because their belief is that they’re fighting a war against Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq. We’re not talking about that.

On the contrary, Saudi Arabia got praised by Ambassador Crocker during his testimony. And I think it’s a very one-sided way of looking at the problems we’re facing in Iraq. And as long as we pursue a very political perspective on the Iraqi situation, then I fear that we will continue to be in a rather difficult mess over there.

AMY GOODMAN: Trita Parsi, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

TRITA PARSI: Thank you so much for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Your book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States. And a final question for Professor Abrahamian: Are you afraid for your people? Are you afraid for the people of Iran?

ERVAND ABRAHAMIAN: Yes. I’m very much concerned that in the next few months there will be air strikes. I think what we saw before with Iraq, we are having a rerun of that, very much the same rhetoric. The same type of people are pushing for war and using even the same sort of arguments that often — unsubstantiated arguments blown out of proportion. For instance, the constant drumbeat that Iran is actually supplying weaponry to the insurgents that are killing Americans, this is basically saying that Iran has already declared war on the United States. When you try to actually pin down what is the evidence for that, it boils down to the yellowcake stories and the stuff about Saddam Hussein being behind al-Qaeda. Until the United States actually gets real evidence that Iran is providing lethal weapons to the insurgents, I would not accept any of those arguments at face value.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Abrahamian, thank you, as well, for being with us. Ervand Abrahamian is author of the book Targeting Iran.

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.


The Victor? By Peter W. Galbraith

The Crash is a Good Thing? By Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Dandelion Salad

By Dale Allen Pfeiffer
Speaking Truth to Power
Monday, 01 October 2007

“If people don’t start thinking for themselves and preparing, then we will follow the scenario our leaders have mapped out for us.”–Dale Allen Pfeiffer


Since Bernanke cut interest rates last Tuesday (Sept. 25th), the already weak dollar has gone into a tail spin. Bernanke’s banker friends complained that they did not have enough money to cover their obligations and Bernanke responded by revving up the presses and printing up a slew of fresh funny money. In doing this he ignored the rest of the world, which was hoping that he would show some backbone and stand firm in support of the dollar. So now, everywhere you look, the dollar is losing its value against other currencies.

The Saudi’s unpegged their currency from the dollar for the first time since the oil dollar was established. They had no choice; it would have been suicide for them to follow Bernanke’s move. And elsewhere, other countries will have to follow suit or the US will drag them down. Japan is scrambling for shore.

Not long after the cut in interest rates, the dollar passed a key point against the Euro when it surpassed 1.41 dollars to one Euro. Since then the value of the dollar has continued to drop. The US dollar has been dropping against the Euro since January 2003. It now worth less than 59% of the value it had four years ago. At this point a dollar crash is nearly inevitable. US dollars may soon have as little value as confederate dollars.

For many years we have depended on foreign investors to support our economy by stockpiling our currency. These foreign investors cannot hold onto their dollars for much longer. Already they have lost over 40% of their investment. They will have to cut their losses and divest. This has already started to happen, and as the sell-off accelerates the dollar will find itself in a freefall which will quickly leave it a worthless currency. A massive sell-out could see the dollar losing as much as 90% of its value within days.

Snake Oil

You would not know any of this from the major news networks. They are trying to tell us that the drop in the dollar is actually a good thing. They reason that foreign consumers will flock to the US to buy devalued goods. This is a load of crap, and they know it.

US goods will not devalue. There are very few goods that are wholly US-made today. Most are at least partially manufactured offshore. Because of that, US goods will not devalue, they will simply go up in price. Soon, US consumers will find that their dollars can only purchase half of what they currently buy. And this ratio will worsen as the dollar continues to plunge. Once this crash is complete, US consumers will learn that they have lost everything. They will find that their salaries, their pensions, their health insurance coverage, everything is worthless.

So why is the media trying to sell us this lie? Simply to keep up consumer confidence. If US consumers understood what was really happening, there would be a panic. The truth could cause a run on the banks. Along with foreign investment, consumer spending is the only other pillar supporting the US economy. Consumer spending has already become sluggish. If the reality of our situation were understood, US consumer spending would quickly crumble.

The smart money is already fleeing the US market. It is diversifying into precious metals and a host of other currencies. It is quietly moving outside of the US. This migration has been going on for years, but now it is beginning to speed up. Yet, while this flight is going on, they want the general public to remain unalarmed. The smart money is trying to make its exit before a stampede blocks the fire doors. There were only so many lifeboats on the Titanic and the first class passengers were evacuated before anyone else was allowed out of steerage.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Jonathan Cook – Blood and Religion: Unmasking the Jewish and Israeli State (video)

Dandelion Salad

1 hr 5 min – Feb 27, 2007

Jonathan Cook is a British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He has regularly published articles on the Middle East in international newspapers, English-language Arab publications and specialist magazines since 2001. This interview took place in Nazareth, Israel, on December 28th, 2006. To order a DVD copy of this program, please contact pdxjustice Media Productions at pdxjustice@riseup.net.

h/t: ICH


Why did Israel attack Syria? by Jonathan Cook

US trains Gulf air forces for war with Iran By Tim Shipman

Dandelion Salad

By Tim Shipman in Washington
09/30/07 “

The American air force is working with military leaders from the Gulf to train and prepare Arab air forces for a possible war with Iran

An air warfare conference in Washington last week was told how American air chiefs have helped to co-ordinate intelligence-sharing with Gulf Arab nations and organise combined exercises designed to make it easier to fight together.

Gen Michael Mosley, the US Air Force chief of staff, used the conference to seek closer links with allies whose support America might need if President George W Bush chooses to bomb Iran.

Pentagon air chiefs have helped set up an air warfare centre in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where Gulf nations are training their fighter pilots and America has big bases. It is modelled on the US Air Force warfare centre at Nellis air force base in Nevada.

Jordan and the UAE have both taken part in combined exercises designed to make sure their air forces can fly, and fight, together and with American jets.

The conference was long-planned to discuss developments in air warfare technology, but the question of possible hostilities involving Iran was discussed.

Bruce Lemkin, the American air force deputy under-secretary for international affairs, said: “We need friends and partners with the capabilities to take care of their own security and stability in their regions and, through the relationship, the inter-operability and the will to join us in coalitions when appropriate…

“On its most basic level, it’s about flying together, operating together and training together so, if we have to, we can fight together.”

While it is unlikely that America’s Gulf allies would join any US air strike against suspected nuclear targets in Iran, their co-operation might be required to allow passage of warplanes though their airspace. American defence officials are also keen that Iran’s Arab neighbours prepare to deal with any Iranian attempt to target them in return.

Lt Gen Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein, who is special assistant to the chief of staff of the Jordanian armed forces, said “concern at Iran’s attempt to establish itself as a regional superpower” had led to greater co-operation, “not just at the inter-service level but also at the political level”.

He said the new air warfare centre had allowed them to “exchange information and exercise together”.

But Air Chief Marshal Sir Glen Torpy, the head of the RAF, voiced the fear of many British officials that America is too devoted to military solutions. He said: “In an environment like this, we always focus on the part that the military can play in solving security and foreign policy problems, but the military will rarely, if ever, be the solution.”

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.


The Administration’s plan for Iran By Seymour M. Hersh

The Victor? By Peter W. Galbraith

The Victor? By Peter W. Galbraith

Dandelion Salad

By Peter W. Galbraith
Posted 09/29/07 — “NYREV

Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States
by Trita Parsi – Yale University Press, 361 pp., $28.00


In his continuing effort to bolster support for the Iraq war, President Bush traveled to Reno, Nevada, on August 28 to speak to the annual convention of the American Legion. He emphatically warned of the Iranian threat should the United States withdraw from Iraq. Said the President, “For all those who ask whether the fight in Iraq is worth it, imagine an Iraq where militia groups backed by Iran control large parts of the country.”

On the same day, in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala, the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, battled government security forces around the shrine of Imam Hussein, one of Shiite Islam’s holiest places. A million pilgrims were in the city and fifty-one died.

The US did not directly intervene, but American jets flew overhead in support of the government security forces. As elsewhere in the south, those Iraqi forces are dominated by the Badr Organization, a militia founded, trained, armed, and financed by Iran. When US forces ousted Saddam’s regime from the south in early April 2003, the Badr Organization infiltrated from Iran to fill the void left by the Bush administration’s failure to plan for security and governance in post-invasion Iraq.

In the months that followed, the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) appointed Badr Organization leaders to key positions in Iraq’s American-created army and police. At the same time, L. Paul Bremer’s CPA appointed party officials from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) to be governors and serve on governorate councils throughout southern Iraq. SCIRI, recently renamed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), was founded at the Ayatollah Khomeini’s direction in Tehran in 1982. The Badr Organization is the militia associated with SCIRI. In the January 2005 elections, SCIRI became the most important component of Iraq’s ruling Shiite coalition. In exchange for not taking the prime minister’s slot, SCIRI won the right to name key ministers, including the minister of the interior. From that ministry, SCIRI placed Badr militiamen throughout Iraq’s national police.

In short, George W. Bush had from the first facilitated the very event he warned would be a disastrous consequence of a US withdrawal from Iraq: the takeover of a large part of the country by an Iranian-backed militia. And while the President contrasts the promise of democracy in Iraq with the tyranny in Iran, there is now substantially more personal freedom in Iran than in southern Iraq.

Iran’s role in Iraq is pervasive, but also subtle. When Iraq drafted its permanent constitution in 2005, the American ambassador energetically engaged in all parts of the process. But behind the scenes, the Iranian ambassador intervened to block provisions that Tehran did not like. As it happened, both the Americans and the Iranians wanted to strengthen Iraq’s central government. While the Bush administration clung to the mirage of a single Iraqi people, Tehran worked to give its proxies, the pro-Iranian Iraqis it supported—by then established as the government of Iraq—as much power as possible. (Thanks to Kurdish obstinacy, neither the US nor Iran succeeded in its goal, but even now both the US and Iran want to see the central government strengthened.)

Since 2005, Iraq’s Shiite-led government has concluded numerous economic, political, and military agreements with Iran. The most important would link the two countries’ strategic oil reserves by building a pipeline from southern Iraq to Iran, while another commits Iran to providing extensive military assistance to the Iraqi government. According to a senior official in Iraq’s Oil Ministry, smugglers divert at least 150,000 barrels of Iraq’s daily oil exports through Iran, a figure that approaches 10 percent of Iraq’s production. Iran has yet to provide the military support it promised to the Iraqi army. With the US supplying 160,000 troops and hundreds of billions of dollars to support a pro-Iranian Iraqi government, Iran has no reason to invest its own resources.

Of all the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, Iran’s strategic victory is the most far-reaching. In establishing the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire in 1639, the Treaty of Qasr-i-Shirin demarcated the boundary between Sunni-ruled lands and Shiite-ruled lands. For eight years of brutal warfare in the 1980s, Iran tried to breach that line but could not. (At the time, the Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein precisely because it feared the strategic consequences of an Iraq dominated by Iran’s allies.) The 2003 US invasion of Iraq accomplished what Khomeini’s army could not. Today, the Shiite-controlled lands extend to the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain, a Persian Gulf kingdom with a Shiite majority and a Sunni monarch, is most affected by these developments; but so is Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which is home to most of the kingdom’s Shiites. (They may even be a majority in the province but this is unknown as Saudi Arabia has not dared to conduct a census.) The US Navy has its most important Persian Gulf base in Bahrain while most of Saudi Arabia’s oil is under the Eastern Province.

America’s Iraq quagmire has given new life to Iran’s Syrian ally, Bashir Assad. In 2003, the Syrian Baathist regime seemed an anachronism unable to survive the region’s political and economic changes. Today, Assad appears firmly in control, having even recovered from the opprobrium of having his regime caught red-handed in the assassination of former Leb-anese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In Lebanon, Hezbollah enjoys greatly enhanced stature for having held off the Israelis in the 2006 war. As Hezbollah’s sponsor and source of arms, Iran now has an influence both in the Levant and in the Arab–Israeli conflict that it never before had.

The scale of the American miscalculation is striking. Before the Iraq war began, its neoconservative architects argued that conferring power on Iraq’s Shiites would serve to undermine Iran because Iraq’s Shiites, controlling the faith’s two holiest cities, would, in the words of then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, be “an independent source of authority for the Shia religion emerging in a country that is democratic and pro-Western.” Further, they argued, Iran could never dominate Iraq, because the Iraqi Shiites are Arabs and the Iranian Shiites Persian. It was a theory that, unfortunately, had no connection to reality.

Iran’s bond with the Iraqi Shiites goes far beyond the support Iran gave Shiite leaders in their struggle with Saddam Hussein. Decades of oppression have made their religious identity more important to Iraqi Shiites than their Arab ethnic identity. (Also, many Iraqi Shiites have Turcoman, Persian, or Kurdish ancestors.) While Sunnis identify with the Arab world, Iraqi Shiites identify with the Shiite world, and for many this means Iran.

There is also the legacy of February 15, 1991, when President George H.W. Bush called on the Iraqi people to rise up against Saddam Hussein. Two weeks later, the Shiites in southern Iraq did just that. When Saddam’s Republican Guards moved south to crush the rebellion, President Bush went fishing and no help was given. Only Iran showed sympathy. Hundreds of thousands died and no Iraqi Shiite I know thinks this failure of US support was anything but intentional. In assessing the loyalty of the Iraqi Shiites before the war, the war’s architects often stressed how Iraqi Shiite conscripts fought loyally for Iraq in the Iran–Iraq War. They never mentioned the 1991 betrayal. This was understandable: at the end of the 1991 war, Wolfowitz was the number-three man at the Pentagon, Dick Cheney was the defense secretary, and, of course, Bush’s father was the president.

Iran and its Iraqi allies control, respectively, the Middle East’s third- and second-largest oil reserves. Iran’s influence now extends to the borders of the Saudi province that holds the world’s largest oil reserves. President Bush has responded to these strategic changes wrought by his own policies by strongly supporting a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and by arming and training the most pro-Iranian elements in the Iraqi military and police.


Beginning with his 2002 State of the Union speech, President Bush has articulated two main US goals for Iran: (1) the replacement of Iran’s theocratic regime with a liberal democracy, and (2) preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Since events in Iraq took a bad turn, he has added a third objective: gaining Iranian cooperation in Iraq.

The administration’s track record is not impressive. The prospects for liberal democracy in Iran took a severe blow when reform-minded President Mohammad Khatami was replaced by the hard-line—and somewhat erratic —Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August 2005. (Khatami had won two landslide elections which were a vote to soften the ruling theocracy; he was then prevented by the conservative clerics from accomplishing much.) At the time President Bush first proclaimed his intention to keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands, Iran had no means of making fissile material. Since then, however, Iran has defied the IAEA and the UN Security Council to assemble and use the centrifuges needed to enrich uranium. In Iraq, the administration accuses Iran of supplying particularly potent roadside bombs to Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents.

To coerce Iran into ceasing its uranium enrichment program, the Bush administration has relied on UN sanctions, the efforts of a European negotiating team, and stern presidential warnings. The mismanaged Iraq war has undercut all these efforts. After seeing the US go to the United Nations with allegedly irrefutable evidence that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and had a covert nuclear program, foreign governments and publics are understandably skeptical about the veracity of Bush administration statements on Iran. The Iraq experience makes many countries reluctant to support meaningful sanctions not only because they doubt administration statements but because they are afraid President Bush will interpret any Security Council resolution condemning Iran as an authorization for war.

With so much of the US military tied up in Iraq, the Iranians do not believe the US has the resources to attack them and then deal with the consequences. They know that a US attack on Iran would have little support in the US—it is doubtful that Congress would authorize it—and none internationally. Not even the British would go along with a military strike on Iran. President Bush’s warnings count for little with Tehran because he now has a long record of tough language unmatched by action. As long as the Iranians believe the United States has no military option, they have limited incentives to reach an agreement, especially with the Europeans.

The administration’s efforts to change Iran’s regime have been feeble or feckless. President Bush’s freedom rhetoric is supported by Radio Farda, a US-sponsored Persian language radio station, and a $75 million appropriation to finance Iranian opposition activities including satellite broadcasts by Los Angeles–based exiles. If only regime change was so easily accomplished!

The identity of Iranian recipients of US funding is secret but the administration’s neoconservative allies have loudly promoted US military and financial support for Iranian opposition groups as diverse as the son of the late Shah, Iranian Kurdish separatists, and the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which is on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Some of the Los Angeles exiles now being funded are associated with the son of the Shah but it is unlikely that either the MEK or the Kurdish separatists would receive any of the $75 million. US secrecy—and that the administration treats the MEK differently from other terrorist organizations—has roused Iranian suspicions that the US is supporting these groups either through the democracy program or a separate covert action.

None of these groups is a plausible agent for regime change. The Shah’s son represents a discredited monarchy and corrupt family. Iranian Kurdistan is seething with discontent, and Iranian security forces have suppressed large anti-regime demonstrations there. Kurdish nationalism on the margins of Iran, however, does not weaken the Iranian regime at the center. (While the US State Department has placed the PKK—a Kurdish rebel movement in Turkey—on its list of terrorist organizations, Pejak, the PKK’s Iranian branch, is not on the list and its leaders even visit the US.)

The Mujahideen-e-Khalq is one of the oldest—and nastiest—of the Iranian opposition groups. After originally supporting the Iranian revolution, the MEK broke with Khomeini and relocated to Iraq in the early stages of the Iran–Iraq War. It was so closely connected to Saddam that MEK fighters not only assisted the Iraqis in the Iran– Iraq War but also helped Saddam put down the 1991 Kurdish uprising. While claiming to be democratic and pro-Western, the MEK closely resembles a cult. In April 2003, when I visited Camp Ashraf, its main base northeast of Baghdad, I found robotlike hero worship of the MEK’s leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi; the fighters I met parroted a revolutionary party line, and there were transparently crude efforts at propaganda. To emphasize its being a modern organization as distinct from the Tehran theocrats, the MEK appointed a woman as Camp Ashraf’s nominal commander and maintained a women’s tank battalion. The commander was clearly not in command and the women mechanics supposedly working on tank engines all had spotless uniforms.

Both the US State Department and Iran view the MEK as a terrorist group. The US government, however, does not always act as if the MEK were one. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US military dropped a single bomb on Camp Ashraf. It struck the women’s barracks at a time of day when the soldiers were not there. When I visited two weeks later with an ABC camera crew, we filmed the MEK bringing a scavenged Iraqi tank into their base. US forces drove in and out of Camp Ashraf, making no effort to detain the supposed terrorists or to stop them from collecting Iraqi heavy weapons. Since Iran had its agents in Iraq from the time Saddam fell (and may have been doing its own scavenging of weapons), one can presume that this behavior did not go unnoticed. Subsequently, the US military did disarm the MEK, but in spite of hostility from both the Shiites and Kurds who now jointly dominate Iraq’s government, its fighters are still at Camp Ashraf. Rightly or wrongly, many Iranians conclude from this that the US is supporting a terrorist organization that is fomenting violence inside Iran.

In fact, halting Iran’s nuclear program and changing its regime are incompatible objectives. Iran is highly unlikely to agree to a negotiated solution with the US (or the Europeans) while the US is trying to overthrow its government. Air strikes may destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities but they will rally popular support for the regime and give it a further pretext to crack down on the opposition.

From the perspective of US national security strategy, the choice should be easy. Iran’s most prominent democrats have stated publicly that they do not want US support. In a recent open letter to be sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji criticizes both the Iranian regime and US hypocrisy. “Far from helping the development of democracy,” he writes, “US policy over the past 50 years has consistently been to the detriment of the proponents of freedom and democracy in Iran…. The Bush Administration, for its part, by approving a fund for democracy assistance in Iran, which is in fact being largely spent on official institutions and media affiliated with the US government, has made it easy for the Iranian regime to describe its opponents as mercenaries of the US and to crush them with impunity.”

Even though they can’t accomplish it, the Bush administration leaders have been unwilling to abandon regime change as a goal. Its advocates compare their efforts to the support the US gave democrats behind the Iron Curtain over many decades. But there is a crucial difference. The Soviet and East European dissidents wanted US support, which was sometimes personally costly but politically welcome. But this is immaterial to administration ideologues. They are, to borrow Jeane Kirkpatrick’s phrase, deeply committed to policies that feel good rather than do good. If Congress wants to help the Iranian opposition, it should cut off funding for Iranian democracy programs.

Right now, the US is in the worst possible position. It is identified with the most discredited part of the Iranian opposition and unwanted by the reformers who have the most appeal to Iranians. Many Iranians believe that the US is fomenting violence inside their country, and this becomes a pretext for attacks on US troops in Iraq. And for its pains, the US accomplishes nothing.


For eighteen years, Iran had a secret program aimed at acquiring the technology that could make nuclear weapons. A.Q. Khan, the supposedly rogue head of Pakistan’s nuclear program, provided centrifuges to enrich uranium and bomb designs. When the Khan network was exposed, Iran declared in October 2003 its enrichment program to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), provided an accounting (perhaps not complete) of its nuclear activities, and agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment. Following the election of Ahmadinejad as president in 2005, Iran announced it would resume its uranium enrichment activities. During the last two years, it has assembled cascades of centrifuges and apparently enriched a small amount of uranium to the 5 percent level required for certain types of nuclear power reactors (weapons require 80 to 90 percent enrichment but this is not technically very difficult once the initial enrichment processes are mastered).

The United States has two options for dealing with Iran’s nuclear facilities: military strikes to destroy them or negotiations to neutralize them. The first is risky and the second may not produce results. So far, the Bush administration has not pursued either option, preferring UN sanctions (which, so far, have been more symbolic than punitive) and relying on Europeans to take the lead in negotiations. But neither sanctions nor the European initiative is likely to work. As long as Iran’s primary concern is the United States, it is unlikely to settle for a deal that involves only Europe.

Sustained air strikes probably could halt Iran’s nuclear program. While some Iranian facilities may be hidden and others protected deep underground, the locations of major facilities are known. Even if it is not possible to destroy all the facilities, Iran’s scientists, engineers, and construction crews are unlikely to show up for work at places that are subject to ongoing bombing.

But the risks from air strikes are great. Many of the potential targets are in populated places, endangering civilians both from errant bombs and the possible dispersal of radioactive material. The rest of the world would condemn the attacks and there would likely be a virulent anti-US reaction in the Islamic world. In retaliation, Iran could wreak havoc on the world economy (and its own) by withholding oil from the global market and by military action to close the Persian Gulf shipping lanes.

The main risk to the US comes in Iraq. Faced with choosing between the US and Iran, Iraq’s government may not choose its liberator. And even if the Iraqi government did not openly cooperate with the Iranians, pro-Iranian elements in the US-armed military and police almost certainly would facilitate attacks on US troops by pro-Iranian Iraqi militia or by Iranian forces infiltrated across Iraq’s porous border. A few days after Bush’s August 28 speech, Iranian General Rahim Yahya Safavi underscored Iran’s ability to retaliate, saying of US troops in the region: “We have accurately identified all their camps.” Unless he chooses to act with reckless disregard for the safety of US troops in Iraq, President Bush has effectively denied himself a military option for dealing with the Iranian nuclear program.

A diplomatic solution to the crisis created by Iran’s nuclear program is clearly preferable, but not necessarily achievable. Broadly speaking, states want nuclear weapons for two reasons: security and prestige. Under the Shah, Iran had a nuclear program but Khomeini disbanded it after the revolution on the grounds that nuclear weapons were un-Islamic. When the program resumed covertly in the mid-1980s, Iran’s primary security concern was Iraq. At that time, Iraq had its own covert nuclear program; more immediately, it had threatened Iran with chemical weapons attacks on its cities. An Iranian nuclear weapon could serve as a deterrent to both Iraqi chemical and nuclear weapons.

With Iraq’s defeat in the first Gulf War, the Iraqi threat greatly diminished. And of course it vanished after Iran’s allies took power in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion. Today, Iran sees the United States as the main threat to its security. American military forces surround Iran—in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Asia, and on the Persian Gulf. President Bush and his top aides repeatedly express solidarity with the Iranian people against their government while the US finances programs aimed at the government’s ouster. The American and international press are full of speculation that Vice President Cheney wants Bush to attack Iran before his term ends. From an Iranian perspective, all this smoke could indicate a fire.

In 2003, as Trita Parsi’s Treacherous Alliance shows, there was enough common ground for a deal. In May 2003, the Iranian authorities sent a proposal through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, for negotiations on a package deal in which Iran would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for an end to US hostility. The Iranian paper offered “full transparency for security that there are no Iranian endeavors to develop or possess WMD [and] full cooperation with the IAEA based on Iranian adoption of all relevant instruments.” The Iranians also offered support for “the establishment of democratic institutions and a non-religious government” in Iraq; full cooperation against terrorists (including “above all, al-Qaeda”); and an end to material support to Palestinian groups like Hamas. In return, the Iranians asked that their country not be on the terrorism list or designated part of the “axis of evil”; that all sanctions end; that the US support Iran’s claims for reparations for the Iran–Iraq War as part of the overall settlement of the Iraqi debt; that they have access to peaceful nuclear technology; and that the US pursue anti-Iranian terrorists, including “above all” the MEK. MEK members should, the Iranians said, be repatriated to Iran.

Basking in the glory of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, the Bush administration dismissed the Iranian offer and criticized Guldimann for even presenting it. Several years later, the Bush administration’s abrupt rejection of the Iranian offer began to look blatantly foolish and the administration moved to suppress the story. Flynt Leverett, who had handled Iran in 2003 for the National Security Council, tried to write about it in The New York Times and found his Op-Ed crudely censored by the NSC, which had to clear it. Guldimann, however, had given the Iranian paper to Ohio Republican Congressman Bob Ney, now remembered both for renaming House cafeteria food and for larceny. (As chairman of the House Administration Committee he renamed French fries “freedom fries” and is now in federal prison for bribery.) I was surprised to learn that Ney had a serious side. He had lived in Iran before the revolution, spoke Farsi, and wanted better relations between the two countries. Trita Parsi, Ney’s staffer in 2003, describes in detail the Iranian offer and the Bush administration’s high-handed rejection of it in his wonderfully informative account of the triangular relationship among the US, Iran, and Israel, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States.

Four years later, Iran holds a much stronger hand while the mismanagement of the Iraq occupation has made the US position incomparably weaker. While the 2003 proposal could not have been presented without support from the clerics who really run Iran, Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made uranium enrichment the centerpiece of his administration and the embodiment of Iranian nationalism. Even though Ahmadinejad does not make decisions about Iran’s nuclear program (and his finger would never be on the button if Iran had a bomb), he has made it politically very difficult for the clerics to come back to the 2003 paper.

Nonetheless, the 2003 Iranian paper could provide a starting point for a US–Iran deal. In recent years, various ideas have emerged that could accommodate both Iran’s insistence on its right to nuclear technology and the international community’s desire for iron-clad assurances that Iran will not divert the technology into weapons. These include a Russian proposal that Iran enrich uranium on Russian territory and also an idea floated by US and Iranian experts to have a European consortium conduct the enrichment in Iran under international supervision. Iran rejected the Russian proposal, but if hostility between Iran and the US were to be reduced, it might be revived. (The consortium idea has no official standing at this point.) While there are good reasons to doubt Iranian statements that its program is entirely peaceful, Iran remains a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its leaders, including Ahmadinejad, insist it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. As long as this is the case, Iran could make a deal to limit its nuclear program without losing face.

From the inception of Iran’s nuclear program under the Shah, prestige and the desire for recognition have been motivating factors. Iranians want the world, and especially the US, to see Iran as they do themselves—as a populous, powerful, and responsible country that is heir to a great empire and home to a 2,500-year-old civilization. In Iranian eyes, the US has behaved in a way that continually diminishes their country. Many Iranians still seethe over the US involvement in the 1953 coup that overthrew the government of democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and reinstated the Shah. Being designated a terrorist state and part of an “axis of evil” grates on the Iranians in the same way. In some ways, the 1979–1981 hostage crisis and Iran’s nuclear program were different strategies to compel US respect for Iran. A diplomatic overture toward Iran might include ways to show respect for Iranian civilization (which is different from approval of its leaders) and could include an open apology for the US role in the 1953 coup, which, as it turned out, was a horrible mistake for US interests.

While President Bush insists that time is not on America’s side, the process of negotiation—and even an interim agreement—might provide time for more moderate Iranians to assert themselves. So far as Iran’s security is concerned, possession of nuclear weapons is more a liability than an asset. Iran’s size—and the certainty of strong resistance—is sufficient deterrent to any US invasion, which, even at the height of the administration’s post-Saddam euphoria, was never seriously considered. Developing nuclear weapons would provide Iran with no additional deterrent to a US invasion but could invite an attack.

Should al-Qaeda or another terrorist organization succeed in detonating a nuclear weapon in a US city, any US president will look to the country that supplied the weapon as a place to retaliate. If the origin of the bomb were unknown, a nuclear Iran—a designated state sponsor of terrorism—would find itself a likely target, even though it is extremely unlikely to supply such a weapon to al-Qaeda, a Sunni fundamentalist organization. With its allies now largely running the government in Baghdad, Iran does not need a nuclear weapon to deter a hostile Iraq. An Iranian bomb, however, likely would cause Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons, thus canceling Iran’s considerable manpower advantage over its Gulf rival. More pragmatic leaders, such as former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, may understand this. Rafsanjani, who lost the 2005 presidential elections to Ahmadinejad, is making a comeback, defeating a hard-liner to become chairman of Iran’s Assembly of Experts for the Leadership (Majles-e Khobrgran Rahbari), which appoints and can dismiss the Supreme Leader.

At this stage, neither the US nor Iran seems willing to talk directly about bilateral issues apart from Iraq. Even if the two sides did talk, there is no guarantee that an agreement could be reached. And if an agreement were reached, it would certainly be short of what the US might want. But the test of a US–Iran negotiation is not how it measures up against an ideal arrangement but how it measures up against the alternatives of bombing or doing nothing.


US pre-war intelligence on Iraq was horrifically wrong on the key question of Iraq’s possession of WMDs, and President Bush ignored the intelligence to assert falsely a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11. This alone is sufficient reason to be skeptical of the Bush administration’s statements on Iran.

Some of the administration’s charges against Iran defy common sense. In his Reno speech, President Bush accused Iran of arming the Taliban in Afghanistan while his administration has, at various times, accused Iran of giving weapons to both Sunni and Shiite insurgents in Iraq. The Taliban are Salafi jihadis, Sunni fundamentalists who consider Shiites apostates deserving of death. In power, the Taliban brutally repressed Afghanistan’s Shiites and nearly provoked a war with Iran when they murdered Iranian diplomats inside the Iranian consulate in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Iraq’s Sunni insurgents are either Salafi jihadis or Baathists, the political party that started the Iran–Iraq War.

The Iranian regime may believe it has a strategic interest in keeping US forces tied down in the Iraqi quagmire since this, in the Iranian view, makes an attack on Iran unlikely. US clashes with the Mahdi Army complicate the American military effort in Iraq and it is plausible that Iran might pro-vide some weapons—including armor-penetrating IEDs—to the Mahdi Army and its splinter factions. Overall, however, Iran has no interest in the success of the Mahdi Army. Moqtada al-Sadr has made Iraqi nationalism his political platform. He has attacked the SIIC for its pro-Iranian leanings and challenged Iraq’s most important religious figure, Ayatollah Sistani, himself an Iranian citizen. Asked about charges that Iran was organizing Iraqi insurgents, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told the Financial Times on May 10, “The whole idea is unreasonable. Why should we do that? Why should we undermine a government in Iraq that we support more than anybody else?”

The United States cannot now undo President Bush’s strategic gift to Iran. But importantly, the most pro-Iranian Shiite political party is the one least hostile to the United States. In the battle now underway between the SIIC and Moqtada al-Sadr for control of southern Iraq and of the central government in Baghdad, the United States and Iran are on the same side. The US has good reason to worry about Iran’s activities in Iraq. But contrary to the Bush administration’s allegations—supported by both General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker in their recent congressional testimony—Iran does not oppose Iraq’s new political order. In fact, Iran is the major beneficiary of the American-induced changes in Iraq since 2003.

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Seymour Hersch Interview Part I & II (videos; updated)

Dandelion Salad




The Administration’s plan for Iran By Seymour M. Hersh

The Administration’s plan for Iran By Seymour M. Hersh

Dandelion Salad

By Seymour M. Hersh
09/30/07 “The New Yorker
October 8, 2007

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

The President’s position, and its corollary—that, if many of America’s problems in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to confront the Iranians—have taken firm hold in the Administration. This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.

During a secure videoconference that took place early this summer, the President told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, that he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British “were on board.” At that point, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice interjected that there was a need to proceed carefully, because of the ongoing diplomatic track. Bush ended by instructing Crocker to tell Iran to stop interfering in Iraq or it would face American retribution.

At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “The President has made it clear that the United States government remains committed to a diplomatic solution with respect to Iran. The State Department is working diligently along with the international community to address our broad range of concerns.” (The White House declined to comment.)

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its operational components.”)

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.”

In a speech at the United Nations last week, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was defiant. He referred to America as an “aggressor” state, and said, “How can the incompetents who cannot even manage and control themselves rule humanity and arrange its affairs? Unfortunately, they have put themselves in the position of God.” (The day before, at Columbia, he suggested that the facts of the Holocaust still needed to be determined.)

“A lot depends on how stupid the Iranians will be,” Brzezinski told me. “Will they cool off Ahmadinejad and tone down their language?” The Bush Administration, by charging that Iran was interfering in Iraq, was aiming “to paint it as ‘We’re responding to what is an intolerable situation,’ ” Brzezinski said. “This time, unlike the attack in Iraq, we’re going to play the victim. The name of our game seems to be to get the Iranians to overplay their hand.”

General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, in his report to Congress in September, buttressed the Administration’s case against Iran. “None of us, earlier this year, appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern,” he said. Iran, Petraeus said, was fighting “a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”

Iran has had a presence in Iraq for decades; the extent and the purpose of its current activities there are in dispute, however. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, when the Sunni-dominated Baath Party brutally oppressed the majority Shiites, Iran supported them. Many in the present Iraqi Shiite leadership, including prominent members of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, spent years in exile in Iran; last week, at the Council on Foreign Relations, Maliki said, according to the Washington Post, that Iraq’s relations with the Iranians had “improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs.” Iran is so entrenched in Iraqi Shiite circles that any “proxy war” could be as much through the Iraqi state as against it. The crux of the Bush Administration’s strategic dilemma is that its decision to back a Shiite-led government after the fall of Saddam has empowered Iran, and made it impossible to exclude Iran from the Iraqi political scene.

Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, who is an expert on Iran and Shiism, told me, “Between 2003 and 2006, the Iranians thought they were closest to the United States on the issue of Iraq.” The Iraqi Shia religious leadership encouraged Shiites to avoid confrontation with American soldiers and to participate in elections—believing that a one-man, one-vote election process could only result in a Shia-dominated government. Initially, the insurgency was mainly Sunni, especially Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Nasr told me that Iran’s policy since 2003 has been to provide funding, arms, and aid to several Shiite factions—including some in Maliki’s coalition. The problem, Nasr said, is that “once you put the arms on the ground you cannot control how they’re used later.”

In the Shiite view, the White House “only looks at Iran’s ties to Iraq in terms of security,” Nasr said. “Last year, over one million Iranians travelled to Iraq on pilgrimages, and there is more than a billion dollars a year in trading between the two countries. But the Americans act as if every Iranian inside Iraq were there to import weapons.”

Many of those who support the President’s policy argue that Iran poses an imminent threat. In a recent essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz depicted President Ahmadinejad as a revolutionary, “like Hitler . . . whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it . . . with a new order dominated by Iran. . . . [T]he plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force.” Podhoretz concluded, “I pray with all my heart” that President Bush “will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel.” Podhoretz recently told politico.com that he had met with the President for about forty-five minutes to urge him to take military action against Iran, and believed that “Bush is going to hit” Iran before leaving office. (Podhoretz, one of the founders of neoconservatism, is a strong backer of Rudolph Giuliani’s Presidential campaign, and his son-in-law, Elliott Abrams, is a senior adviser to President Bush on national security.)

In early August, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Times about an increase in attacks involving explosively formed penetrators, a type of lethal bomb that discharges a semi-molten copper slug that can rip through the armor of Humvees. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence and technical analyses indicated that Shiite militias had obtained the bombs from Iran. Odierno said that Iranians had been “surging support” over the past three or four months.

Questions remain, however, about the provenance of weapons in Iraq, especially given the rampant black market in arms. David Kay, a former C.I.A. adviser and the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations, told me that his inspection team was astonished, in the aftermath of both Iraq wars, by “the huge amounts of arms” it found circulating among civilians and military personnel throughout the country. He recalled seeing stockpiles of explosively formed penetrators, as well as charges that had been recovered from unexploded American cluster bombs. Arms had also been supplied years ago by the Iranians to their Shiite allies in southern Iraq who had been persecuted by the Baath Party.

“I thought Petraeus went way beyond what Iran is doing inside Iraq today,” Kay said. “When the White House started its anti-Iran campaign, six months ago, I thought it was all craziness. Now it does look like there is some selective smuggling by Iran, but much of it has been in response to American pressure and American threats—more a ‘shot across the bow’ sort of thing, to let Washington know that it was not going to get away with its threats so freely. Iran is not giving the Iraqis the good stuff—the anti-aircraft missiles that can shoot down American planes and its advanced anti-tank weapons.”

Another element of the Administration’s case against Iran is the presence of Iranian agents in Iraq. General Petraeus, testifying before Congress, said that a commando faction of the Revolutionary Guards was seeking to turn its allies inside Iraq into a “Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests.” In August, Army Major General Rick Lynch, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, told reporters in Baghdad that his troops were tracking some fifty Iranian men sent by the Revolutionary Guards who were training Shiite insurgents south of Baghdad. “We know they’re here and we target them as well,” he said.

Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me that “there are a lot of Iranians at any time inside Iraq, including those doing intelligence work and those doing humanitarian missions. It would be prudent for the Administration to produce more evidence of direct military training—or produce fighters captured in Iraq who had been trained in Iran.” He added, “It will be important for the Iraqi government to be able to state that they were unaware of this activity”; otherwise, given the intense relationship between the Iraqi Shiite leadership and Tehran, the Iranians could say that “they had been asked by the Iraqi government to train these people.” (In late August, American troops raided a Baghdad hotel and arrested a group of Iranians. They were a delegation from Iran’s energy ministry, and had been invited to Iraq by the Maliki government; they were later released.)

“If you want to attack, you have to prepare the groundwork, and you have to be prepared to show the evidence,” Clawson said. Adding to the complexity, he said, is a question that seems almost counterintuitive: “What is the attitude of Iraq going to be if we hit Iran? Such an attack could put a strain on the Iraqi government.”

A senior European diplomat, who works closely with American intelligence, told me that there is evidence that Iran has been making extensive preparation for an American bombing attack. “We know that the Iranians are strengthening their air-defense capabilities,” he said, “and we believe they will react asymmetrically—hitting targets in Europe and in Latin America.” There is also specific intelligence suggesting that Iran will be aided in these attacks by Hezbollah. “Hezbollah is capable, and they can do it,” the diplomat said.

In interviews with current and former officials, there were repeated complaints about the paucity of reliable information. A former high-level C.I.A. official said that the intelligence about who is doing what inside Iran “is so thin that nobody even wants his name on it. This is the problem.”

The difficulty of determining who is responsible for the chaos in Iraq can be seen in Basra, in the Shiite south, where British forces had earlier presided over a relatively secure area. Over the course of this year, however, the region became increasingly ungovernable, and by fall the British had retreated to fixed bases. A European official who has access to current intelligence told me that “there is a firm belief inside the American and U.K. intelligence community that Iran is supporting many of the groups in southern Iraq that are responsible for the deaths of British and American soldiers. Weapons and money are getting in from Iran. They have been able to penetrate many groups”—primarily the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias.

A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that Basra’s renewed instability was mainly the result of “the systematic abuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias.” The report added that leading Iraqi politicians and officials “routinely invoke the threat of outside interference”—from bordering Iran—“to justify their behavior or evade responsibility for their failures.”

Earlier this year, before the surge in U.S. troops, the American command in Baghdad changed what had been a confrontational policy in western Iraq, the Sunni heartland (and the base of the Baathist regime), and began working with the Sunni tribes, including some tied to the insurgency. Tribal leaders are now getting combat support as well as money, intelligence, and arms, ostensibly to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Empowering Sunni forces may undermine efforts toward national reconciliation, however. Already, tens of thousands of Shiites have fled Anbar Province, many to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, while Sunnis have been forced from their homes in Shiite communities. Vali Nasr, of Tufts, called the internal displacement of communities in Iraq a form of “ethnic cleansing.”

“The American policy of supporting the Sunnis in western Iraq is making the Shia leadership very nervous,” Nasr said. “The White House makes it seem as if the Shia were afraid only of Al Qaeda—but they are afraid of the Sunni tribesmen we are arming. The Shia attitude is ‘So what if you’re getting rid of Al Qaeda?’ The problem of Sunni resistance is still there. The Americans believe they can distinguish between good and bad insurgents, but the Shia don’t share that distinction. For the Shia, they are all one adversary.”

Nasr went on, “The United States is trying to fight on all sides—Sunni and Shia—and be friends with all sides.” In the Shiite view, “It’s clear that the United States cannot bring security to Iraq, because it is not doing everything necessary to bring stability. If they did, they would talk to anybody to achieve it—even Iran and Syria,” Nasr said. (Such engagement was a major recommendation of the Iraq Study Group.) “America cannot bring stability in Iraq by fighting Iran in Iraq.”

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.

“Cheney’s option is now for a fast in and out—for surgical strikes,” the former senior American intelligence official told me. The Joint Chiefs have turned to the Navy, he said, which had been chafing over its role in the Air Force-dominated air war in Iraq. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need—even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” There are also plans to hit Iran’s anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites. “We’ve got to get a path in and a path out,” the former official said.

A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called “short, sharp incursions” by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, “Cheney is devoted to this, no question.”

A limited bombing attack of this sort “only makes sense if the intelligence is good,” the consultant said. If the targets are not clearly defined, the bombing “will start as limited, but then there will be an ‘escalation special.’ Planners will say that we have to deal with Hezbollah here and Syria there. The goal will be to hit the cue ball one time and have all the balls go in the pocket. But add-ons are always there in strike planning.”

The surgical-strike plan has been shared with some of America’s allies, who have had mixed reactions to it. Israel’s military and political leaders were alarmed, believing, the consultant said, that it didn’t sufficiently target Iran’s nuclear facilities. The White House has been reassuring the Israeli government, the former senior official told me, that the more limited target list would still serve the goal of counter-proliferation by decapitating the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who are believed to have direct control over the nuclear-research program. “Our theory is that if we do the attacks as planned it will accomplish two things,” the former senior official said.

An Israeli official said, “Our main focus has been the Iranian nuclear facilities, not because other things aren’t important. We’ve worked on missile technology and terrorism, but we see the Iranian nuclear issue as one that cuts across everything.” Iran, he added, does not need to develop an actual warhead to be a threat. “Our problems begin when they learn and master the nuclear fuel cycle and when they have the nuclear materials,” he said. There was, for example, the possibility of a “dirty bomb,” or of Iran’s passing materials to terrorist groups. “There is still time for diplomacy to have an impact, but not a lot,” the Israeli official said. “We believe the technological timetable is moving faster than the diplomatic timetable. And if diplomacy doesn’t work, as they say, all options are on the table.”

The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. A senior European official told me, “The British perception is that the Iranians are not making the progress they want to see in their nuclear-enrichment processing. All the intelligence community agree that Iran is providing critical assistance, training, and technology to a surprising number of terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, through Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, too.”

There were four possible responses to this Iranian activity, the European official said: to do nothing (“There would be no retaliation to the Iranians for their attacks; this would be sending the wrong signal”); to publicize the Iranian actions (“There is one great difficulty with this option—the widespread lack of faith in American intelligence assessments”); to attack the Iranians operating inside Iraq (“We’ve been taking action since last December, and it does have an effect”); or, finally, to attack inside Iran.

The European official continued, “A major air strike against Iran could well lead to a rallying around the flag there, but a very careful targeting of terrorist training camps might not.” His view, he said, was that “once the Iranians get a bloody nose they rethink things.” For example, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, two of Iran’s most influential political figures, “might go to the Supreme Leader and say, ‘The hard-line policies have got us into this mess. We must change our approach for the sake of the regime.’ ”

A retired American four-star general with close ties to the British military told me that there was another reason for Britain’s interest—shame over the failure of the Royal Navy to protect the sailors and Royal Marines who were seized by Iran on March 23rd, in the Persian Gulf. “The professional guys are saying that British honor is at stake, and if there’s another event like that in the water off Iran the British will hit back,” he said.

The revised bombing plan “could work—if it’s in response to an Iranian attack,” the retired four-star general said. “The British may want to do it to get even, but the more reasonable people are saying, ‘Let’s do it if the Iranians stage a cross-border attack inside Iraq.’ It’s got to be ten dead American soldiers and four burned trucks.” There is, he added, “a widespread belief in London that Tony Blair’s government was sold a bill of goods by the White House in the buildup to the war against Iraq. So if somebody comes into Gordon Brown’s office and says, ‘We have this intelligence from America,’ Brown will ask, ‘Where did it come from? Have we verified it?’ The burden of proof is high.”

The French government shares the Administration’s sense of urgency about Iran’s nuclear program, and believes that Iran will be able to produce a warhead within two years. France’s newly elected President, Nicolas Sarkozy, created a stir in late August when he warned that Iran could be attacked if it did not halt is nuclear program. Nonetheless, France has indicated to the White House that it has doubts about a limited strike, the former senior intelligence official told me. Many in the French government have concluded that the Bush Administration has exaggerated the extent of Iranian meddling inside Iraq; they believe, according to a European diplomat, that “the American problems in Iraq are due to their own mistakes, and now the Americans are trying to show some teeth. An American bombing will show only that the Bush Administration has its own agenda toward Iran.”

A European intelligence official made a similar point. “If you attack Iran,” he told me, “and do not label it as being against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it will strengthen the regime, and help to make the Islamic air in the Middle East thicker.”

Ahmadinejad, in his speech at the United Nations, said that Iran considered the dispute over its nuclear program “closed.” Iran would deal with it only through the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said, and had decided to “disregard unlawful and political impositions of the arrogant powers.” He added, in a press conference after the speech, “the decisions of the United States and France are not important.”

The director general of the I.A.E.A., Mohamed ElBaradei, has for years been in an often bitter public dispute with the Bush Administration; the agency’s most recent report found that Iran was far less proficient in enriching uranium than expected. A diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. is based, said, “The Iranians are years away from making a bomb, as ElBaradei has said all along. Running three thousand centrifuges does not make a bomb.” The diplomat added, referring to hawks in the Bush Administration, “They don’t like ElBaradei, because they are in a state of denial. And now their negotiating policy has failed, and Iran is still enriching uranium and still making progress.”

The diplomat expressed the bitterness that has marked the I.A.E.A.’s dealings with the Bush Administration since the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “The White House’s claims were all a pack of lies, and Mohamed is dismissive of those lies,” the diplomat said.

Hans Blix, a former head of the I.A.E.A., questioned the Bush Administration’s commitment to diplomacy. “There are important cards that Washington could play; instead, they have three aircraft carriers sitting in the Persian Gulf,” he said. Speaking of Iran’s role in Iraq, Blix added, “My impression is that the United States has been trying to push up the accusations against Iran as a basis for a possible attack—as an excuse for jumping on them.”

The Iranian leadership is feeling the pressure. In the press conference after his U.N. speech, Ahmadinejad was asked about a possible attack. “They want to hurt us,” he said, “but, with the will of God, they won’t be able to do it.” According to a former State Department adviser on Iran, the Iranians complained, in diplomatic meetings in Baghdad with Ambassador Crocker, about a refusal by the Bush Administration to take advantage of their knowledge of the Iraqi political scene. The former adviser said, “They’ve been trying to convey to the United States that ‘We can help you in Iraq. Nobody knows Iraq better than us.’ ” Instead, the Iranians are preparing for an American attack.

The adviser said that he had heard from a source in Iran that the Revolutionary Guards have been telling religious leaders that they can stand up to an American attack. “The Guards are claiming that they can infiltrate American security,” the adviser said. “They are bragging that they have spray-painted an American warship—to signal the Americans that they can get close to them.” (I was told by the former senior intelligence official that there was an unexplained incident, this spring, in which an American warship was spray-painted with a bull’s-eye while docked in Qatar, which may have been the source of the boasts.)

“Do you think those crazies in Tehran are going to say, ‘Uncle Sam is here! We’d better stand down’? ” the former senior intelligence official said. “The reality is an attack will make things ten times warmer.”

Another recent incident, in Afghanistan, reflects the tension over intelligence. In July, the London Telegraph reported that what appeared to be an SA-7 shoulder-launched missile was fired at an American C-130 Hercules aircraft. The missile missed its mark. Months earlier, British commandos had intercepted a few truckloads of weapons, including one containing a working SA-7 missile, coming across the Iranian border. But there was no way of determining whether the missile fired at the C-130 had come from Iran—especially since SA-7s are available through black-market arms dealers.

Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. officer who has worked closely with his counterparts in Britain, added to the story: “The Brits told me that they were afraid at first to tell us about the incident—in fear that Cheney would use it as a reason to attack Iran.” The intelligence subsequently was forwarded, he said.

The retired four-star general confirmed that British intelligence “was worried” about passing the information along. “The Brits don’t trust the Iranians,” the retired general said, “but they also don’t trust Bush and Cheney.” ♦

by Seymour M. Hersh

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

UN General Assembly meets under shadow of US threats against Iran By Peter Symonds

Dandelion Salad

By Peter Symonds
24 September 2007

The UN General Assembly meets this week under the shadow of menacing demands by the US and its allies for tough new UN sanctions against Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons programs. The Bush administration’s “diplomacy”, in which the French government has been playing a very visible role, is aimed in the first instance at bullying Russia and China into line by threatening to impose US and EU penalties on Tehran. In the background, the rising drumbeat of war is unmistakable.

The tensions flared into the open during a meeting in Moscow between the French and Russian foreign ministers last week. Since coming to office in May, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has adopted a more belligerent stance toward Iran, aligning his government more closely with the Bush administration. Just days before arriving in Moscow, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned on French TV that it was “necessary to prepare for the worst… and the worst is war.”

In his joint press conference with Kouchner, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov publicly repudiated the suggestion of war. “We are convinced that no modern problem has a military solution, and that applies to the Iranian nuclear program as well,” he said. “We are seriously concerned about increasingly frequent reports that military action against Iran is being considered.”

Lavrov also criticised French efforts to press for unilateral EU sanctions outside of any agreement in the UN Security Council. “If we decided to act collectively on the basis of consensual decisions in the UN Security Council, what good does it do to take unilateral decisions?” he exclaimed.

Behind this pathetic appeal for a return to UN consensus, Lavrov obviously feels double-crossed, particularly by France, which Moscow had previously counted upon to help rein in Washington. Far from playing down the differences, Kouchner responded by declaring: “Contrary to my friend Sergei, I believe that we must work on sanctions, on precise sanctions, to show that we are serious. If there is no third resolution in the UN, we will maybe be forced to use them.”

By the standards of international diplomacy, the tone of the press conference was decidedly frosty. Both sides are well aware that the turn by the EU to join the US in imposing unilateral economic sanctions on Tehran opens up the prospect of joint military action against Iran. In the course of last week, Kouchner toned down his warnings of war, declaring that “everything should be done to avoid war”. But this formula is not markedly different from that of the Bush administration, which declares that it supports “diplomacy”, while refusing to negotiate directly with Iran and insisting that all options, including the military one, are “on the table”.

President Sarkozy delivered a similar message last Thursday when he flatly declared Iran’s efforts “to obtain an atomic bomb” were “unacceptable”. While declaring that France “does not want war”, Sarkozy did not rule it out. The developing alignment was on display in Washington the following day. At the joint press conference after talks with Kouchner, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice commented: “I think there’s essentially no difference in the way that we see the situation in Iran and what the international community must do.”

Efforts by the UN Security Council permanent members—the US, France, Britain, Russia and China—plus Germany to agree to new sanctions against Iran have been floundering for months. The previous UN resolution mandated the end of May as the deadline for Iran to shut down its nuclear facilities—in particular, its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Tehran has repeatedly declared that it is not engaged in building nuclear weapons and insisted on its right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium to provide fuel for its planned nuclear power reactors.

Russia and China have both opposed demands for any immediate new sanctions and supported an agreement reached last month between the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) and Iran to resolve outstanding questions about its nuclear programs. The Bush administration has bitterly opposed the deal and publicly castigated IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, accusing him last week of “muddying the message” to Iran by not including a halt to uranium enrichment in the agreement. For his part, ElBaradei warned once again of the dangers of war, telling the Associated Press: “I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons.”

As in the case of Iraq, the US claim that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons is based on a flimsy concoction of supposition, half-truths and outright lies. The Bush administration’s objections to the IAEA-Iran agreement are completely hypocritical. Its justification for demanding that Iran freeze uranium enrichment—a legitimate activity under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—was that Tehran had previously covered up its nuclear activities and failed to fully satisfy the IAEA on all of its activities. Now that Iran has agreed to clarify the IAEA on outstanding issues by the end of the year, the US opposes the process for wasting time. Washington’s unwillingness to wait simply confirms that it is working to its own agenda and timetable, which includes the “option” of military strikes on Iran while Bush still holds office.

Senior officials of the UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany met on Friday in an effort to bridge the schism in their ranks. A terse statement by US Undersecretary of State Nicolas Burns described the talks as “serious and constructive” but gave no details. In the course of this week, the six powers are due to hold further discussions, with a meeting of foreign ministers to be held on Friday. But with no signs of any agreement, the US and France are pressing ahead with unilateral sanctions. Britain, the Netherlands and Italy have already indicated support for imposing EU penalties on Iran. And while there have been indications of German opposition to new sanctions, German officials have downplayed any divisions between the major EU powers.

Underscoring Russia’s opposition to the US-led campaign to isolate Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to visit Tehran on October 16—his first to Iran—as part of a summit of Caspian states. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki visited Moscow last week and a meeting of the Iran-Russia Joint Economic Commission has been scheduled. Iranian and Russian officials have also held talks during the past week over the completion of Iran’s nuclear power reactor at Bushehr. Moscow has previously delayed the provision of fuel for the reactor, in large part to indicate its support for UN Security Council measures against Tehran.

Behind the conflicts between the major powers over Iran, fundamental economic and strategic interests are at stake. Russia, China and the European powers all have a major economic stake in Iran. Last year Germany was Iran’s largest trade partner, exporting $5.7 billion worth of goods to the country. But under pressure from Washington, Berlin has scaled back its provision of export credits. German exports to Iran in the first half of this year slumped by 17 percent. According to the International Herald Tribune last week, German exporters are concerned that China, which has rapidly expanded its trade with Iran, will fill the void.

France’s shift toward Washington highlights the mercenary considerations at stake. In 2003, the French government opposed the US invasion of Iraq and refused to support a UN resolution sanctioning the war. Its posturing quickly proved shallow as France joined other UN Security Council members in providing a veneer of legitimacy to the occupation after the event. Now, however, France under Sarkozy is actively drumming up support in Europe for the Bush administration’s campaign against Iran.

The new orientation is clearly motivated by an understanding that France will share in the spoils of US military adventures in the Middle East. Last month, the US oil giant Chevron signed a deal with Total of France to prospect and develop the huge Majnoun oilfield in southeast Iraq, near the Iranian border. Majnoun is estimated to be Iraq’s fourth largest oil field, with reserves of more than 12 billion barrels. Rights over the field had previously been awarded by Saddam Hussein to the French energy company Elf, but the contract was nullified by the US occupation.

As for the US, after nearly three decades of economic sanctions, its trade and investment with Iran is negligible. If the standoff over Iran’s nuclear programs were peacefully resolved and Tehran established normal relations with the rest of the world, the major losers would be American corporations, which have been compelled to watch on the sidelines as their European and Asian rivals established footholds in Iran over the past decade. The Bush administration’s escalating denunciations of Iran and preparations for war are a desperate attempt to once again use military muscle to establish untrammeled American strategic and economic dominance in this key resource-rich region.

h/t: Global Research

See Also:
On eve of UN general assembly, US military arrests Iranian official in Iraq
[22 September 2007]
Israel’s air raid on Syria: another threat to Iran
[18 September 2007]
Israeli air raid in Syria heightens Middle East tensions
[17 September 2007]
Bush administration consolidates plans for war against Iran
[17 September 2007]

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

The Whores of War By Neil Mackay

Dandelion Salad

By Neil Mackay
09/29/07 “Sunday Herald

America’s hired guns in Iraq have been called ‘the coalition of the billing’, but Blackwater mercenaries are accused of more than just taking the money. Investigations Editor Neil Mackay examines the links between the security firm and the US political elite.

EVEN FOR Blackwater, it was an atrocity too far. If an Iraqi government report is to be believed, Blackwater, a US mercenary company which is unofficially the world’s largest “for hire” private army, indiscriminately and without provocation opened fire earlier this month on civilians in a Baghdad street, killing at least 20 people.

Iraq immediately revoked the firm’s licence to operate in the country and moved to expel its staff and prosecute those responsible for the shootings, but Blackwater’s activities have since resumed.

This coincides with the release of a US Embassy report on the September 16 shooting, obtained by the Washington Post and described by a State Department official as a “first blush” account. It details the events, as given by Blackwater guards, and has stirred controversy in Iraq and Washington and prompted an inquiry into the role of Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq.

According to Blackwater, its mercenaries, known as mercs, were guarding a diplomatic convoy when it came under fire. The Iraqi government, however, insists there was no ambush and that Blackwater troops fired at a car when it failed to stop.

“There was no shooting against the convoy,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman. “There was no fire from anyone.” Dabbagh said that after opening fire on a couple and a child in a car the guards “started shooting randomly”. The family were incinerated in the car.

It is not the first time Blackwater has been at the centre of controversy. But what is Blackwater? Who owns it? And why would the former soldiers working for it think they could get away with murder in broad daylight?

Despite being implicated in several controversial killings, the company is the Pentagon’s most favoured contractor and has effective diplomatic immunity in Iraq. Referred to as “the most powerful mercenary army in the world”, both the US ambassador to Iraq and the army’s top generals hold it in regard.

On Christmas Eve last year, a Blackwater employee allegedly shot dead the bodyguard of one of Iraq’s vice-presidents, Adel Abdul Mahdi. The Blackwater employee had been drinking heavily in the Green Zone and tried to enter an area where Iraqi officials lived. After the killing, he left Iraq without facing prosecution. In May this year, a Blackwater employee shot dead an Iraqi civilian who was said to be driving too close to a security convoy. The company insisted the guard acted lawfully.

The company, based near the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, was co-founded by Erik Prince, a billionaire right-wing fundamentalist. At its HQ, Blackwater has trained more than 20,000 mercenaries to operate as freelancers in wars around the world. Prince is a big bankroller of the Republican Party – giving a total of around $275,550 – and was a young intern in the White House of George Bush Sr. Under George Bush Jr, Blackwater received lucrative no-bid contracts for work in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. His firm has pulled down contracts worth at least $320 million in Iraq alone.

Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the book Blackwater: The Rise Of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, says when Bush was re-elected in 2004, one company boss sent this email to staff: “Bush Wins, Four More Years!! Hooyah!!”

One Blackwater employment policy is to hire ex-administration big-hitters into key positions. It hired Cofer Black, a former State Department co-ordinator for counter-terrorism and former head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre, as vice-chairman. Robert Richer, a former CIA divisional head, joined Blackwater as vice-president of intelligence in 2005.

Scahill says the firm is “the front line in what the Bush administration views as the necessary revolution in military affairs” – privatisation of as many roles as possible. Senator John Warner, former head of the Senate armed services committee, once called Blackwater the “silent partner in the global war on terror”.

Scahill went on to call Prince a “neo-crusader, a Christian supremacist, who has been given hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts this is a man who espouses Christian supremacy, and he has been allowed to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world. He refers to Blackwater as the FedEx of the Pentagon. He says if you really want a package to get somewhere, do you go with the postal service or do you go with FedEx? This is how these people view themselves.”

Although the company was set up in 1996, it wasn’t until 2004 that the world really took notice of it. On March 31 that year, four Blackwater mercs foolishly drove through Fallujah – an insurgent stronghold. They were shot, hauled from their cars, burned, mutilated, dragged through the streets and bits of their bodies were hung from a bridge (dubbed the Blackwater Bridge).

At least 22 Blackwater mercs have died in Iraq. To date more than 428 contractors working for more than two dozen firms have died there.

In January this year, five Blackwater mercs died when one of the firm’s helicopters (Blackwater has a private fleet of 20 planes and helicopter gunships) was shot down in Baghdad. It later emerged that four of the five crew were found with execution-style bullet wounds to the head. On April 21, 2005, seven Blackwater mercs died in two separate attacks in Baghdad and Ramadi.

The Fallujah murders turned Blackwater into a kind of patriotic poster boy, with the war lobby portraying its mercs as heroes fighting for America in the face of bloodthirsty killers. By the end of 2004, Blackwater had grown by 600%.

PRESIDENT Bush said the killings, which helped pave the way for the bloody siege and capture of Fallujah by US marines in late 2004, were “a challenge to America’s resolve”. That admiration for Blackwater doesn’t quite tally, however, with the feelings of the families of the four dead mercenaries.

Katy Helvenston, whose 38-year-old son Scott was killed, said: “Blackwater sent my son and the other three into Fallujah knowing there was a very good possibility this could happen. Iraqis did it, and it doesn’t get any more horrible than what they did to my son. But I hold Blackwater responsible 1000%.”

Her lawyer, Daniel Callahan, who is suing the firm on behalf of the families, said: “What we have is something worse than the wild, wild west going on in Iraq. Blackwater is able to operate over there free from any oversight that would typically exist in a civilised society.”

Blackwater is accused of “doing things on the cheap”. Rather than three men to a vehicle – a driver, a navigator and a rear gunner – there were only two in the Fallujah incident; the cars were “soft-skinned”, not armoured. “They were sitting ducks,” said Callahan.

The four men didn’t have a detailed map, so they drove through the centre of Fallujah, and there had been no adequate risk assessment before the journey. Helvenston wasn’t even supposed to be on that mission – he was meant to be guarding top-level US diplomats.

Lawyers say the four “would be alive today” had they not gone unprepared into the mission. After the deaths, the families asked for paperwork about what happened. They were told if they wanted the documents, they’d have to sue. Katy Helvenston said: “Blackwater seems to understand money. That’s the only thing they understand. They have no values, they have no morals. They’re the whores of war.”

Blackwater counter-sued the families, saying they breached contract by blaming the company for the deaths of their loved ones. Blackwater wants $10m. The company also hired lawyer Fred F Fielding, currently counsel to the US president, to represent it. It then took on Joseph E Schmitz, former inspector general at the Pentagon, as its in-house counsel. Later, Ken Starr came on board – the prosecutor of Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Blackwater has exploited the Bush presidency’s desire to out-source government functions. Dan Guttman, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University and a consultant on private security firms for the Centre for Public Integrity, says firms like Blackwater are now “part and parcel of Pentagon operations … performing what citizens consider the stuff of government: planning, policy writing, budgeting, intelligence gathering, nation building”. How taxpayers’ money is being spent, however, seems to have been overlooked.

Blackwater has also hired at least 60 Chilean commandos trained under the Pinochet regime. The irony for the US army is that many of its best soldiers leave to join organisations like Blackwater where the pay is as high as $1000 a day. This then puts more pressure on the government to use private contractors due to military staff shortages.

Blackwater – like other military contractors – currently has the same immunity from prosecution in Iraq as America’s conventional armed forces and diplomats. However, the Iraqi authorities are now set to repeal the immunity laws. Blackwater’s “troops” can shoot to kill and there are plenty of allegations of wrongful killings against merc firms in Iraq.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also ordered a review board to visit Iraq this week to assess US diplomatic security practices there following the Baghdad shooting. It is expected to present an interim report by Friday.

But the firm’s standing in the eyes of the US administration remains high because of incidents such as the attack on a US government compound in Najaf which saw eight Blackwater staff fight off a heavy assault by insurgents without the support of conventional forces.

Blackwater’s government contracts were awarded under the State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Service programme. An audit found the company tried to inflate its profits. The government has so far paid $100m more to Blackwater than was budgeted for. Former assistant defence secretary Philip Coyle says the privatisation of security is “insidious”, but the State Department says there is a need for such services as the government is “unable to provide protective services on a long-term basis”.

Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute, an expert on mercenary firms, describes the use of Blackwater and other private military companies as “the coalition of the billing”. Sometimes, though, it seems the rank-and-file mercs might be shortchanged. There have been allegations by Colombian counter-insurgency troops that Blackwater promised them $4000 a month but they only earned $1000 a month.

Colonel Thomas X Hammes, a senior fellow at the National Defence University, says Blackwater “made enemies everywhere”, and a congressional committee is looking at whether Blackwater “illegally smuggled weapons into Iraq”.

During the recent temporary suspension of Blackwater’s operations in Iraq, America cancelled all diplomatic movement outside the Green Zone – evidence of how integral the firm is to American operations, and how serious a suspension of its licence would be for the US. The travel cancellation came despite claims by America that attacks in Iraq have declined due to this year’s troop surge. Blackwater insists its men “did their job to defend human life”.

US officials went into overdrive in a bid to persuade the Iraqis not to throw Blackwater out. With 30,000 mercs working for 28 firms contracted by the US government in Iraq, the Blackwater incident could have wide-reaching ramifications.

Iraq is now moving towards scrapping Order 17, established by the US under Iraq administrator Paul Bremer, which exempts foreign contractors from Iraqi law. But Abdul Sattar Ghafour Bairaqdar, of Iraq’s Supreme Judiciary Council, said the guards could stand trial, regardless.

Brigadier General Abdul Kareen Khalaf, of the interior ministry, said: “Blackwater committed a crime. They carried out a flagrant assault.” Mowaffak Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser, said the shootings were a “golden opportunity” for the government to “radically review” the laws surrounding foreign mercenaries.

©2007 newsquest (sunday herald) limited.

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