Published: Monday 5 November 2012
“Existing political/economic structures that serve not the people are in decay, a new world order based on universal principles of goodness: justice, equality, unity and freedom Is the call of many around the world.”

 

Living at this time is to bear witness to a world in acute turmoil Noam Chomsky describes the current climate, saying, “we are living in an era of irrationality, deception, confusion, anger, and unfocused fear an ominous combination, with few precedents.” Existing political/economic structures that serve not the people are in decay, a new world order based on universal principles of goodness: justice, equality, unity and freedom Is the call of many around the world.  

 

“Human beings are members of a whole, in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain.” These startling words spoken not by a Greek philosopher or renowned Indian spiritual Master were uttered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran during his final address to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) on 26th September.

 

Free from the usual confrontational rhetoric and overflowing with uncharacteristic inspiring language the message, whilst open to criticism and shouts of hypocrisy is beyond political clichés and, consonant with an army of reasonable voices calling for change throughout the world. The content is remarkable, indeed one wonders from whence such a stream of righteousness arose – out of the blue it seems. Love was repeatedly spoken of, the ‘L’ word being mentioned no less than 13 times, justice was repeated 15 times and peace 12 in his half hour an hour at the podium. 

 

A poetical rant from an unpredictable, and among many at home and abroad unpopular politician approaching the home straight to be dismissed, or something more significant and in tune with the times. The speaker as stunned as the listener, giving voice to a unifying vision of change that on many counts has the ring of truth about it would ...

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
Published: Monday 13 August 2012
The US-led campaign to squeeze Iran economically is an effort to pressure the Iranian public to make their country’s leaders shut down a completely legal effort to develop a domestic nuclear fuel enrichment program.

 

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright should be a happy camper: Another campaign of sanctions and embargoes by the US is about to start killing children, this time in Iran.

Albright, as President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, when interviewed on CBS’s news magazine program “60 Minutes” back in 2000, was asked by reporter Lesley Stahl about reports that US sanctions on Iraq had led to the deaths of some 500,000 Iraqi children because of shortages of medicine and things like chlorine for treating water supplies. Stahl asked Albright if such a dreadful toll was “worth it.” Albright famously responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.”

Albright must be happy then that apparently the same kind of heartless logic is at work once more, this time orchestrated by the Obama administration and the current Secretary of State, It Takes a Village author and self-styled child advocate Hillary Clinton.

According to a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon by the head of Iran’s Charity Foundation for Special Diseases, the current US-led sanctions campaign against Iranian financial institutions and efforts to prevent western banks from doing business with Iran have made it next to impossible for Iranian doctors and hospitals to obtain medicines from abroad for such relatively rare but serious diseases as hemophilia, Multiple sclerosis (MS), various cancers, kidney failure and thalassemia.

The tightening of international screws on Iranian financial transactions has also made it hard for domestic makers of some of these medicines in Iran to obtain the raw materials needed to manufacture needed medicines locally, according to the letter.

Fatemeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, the author of the ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
Is Mitt doing more than honoring our national legacy of shrewd thrift, plus fierce resistance to centralized authority? 

Full disclosure: rest assured nothing in this tax defense of the grievously-assaulted GOP entrant reflects my father’s 40 year CPA career. I did however, inherit, his honest tax credo: declare all income (certainly with paper trails), only deduct what's defensible by logic or statute, and hire the best tax wizards you can afford. Ask Mitt Romney, who’s mastered the art of spending a few hundred thousand dollars on good advice to save multimillions – perhaps all above board, as far as we know. Sure. I put aside whether fewer, highly-suspicious tax technicalities, even millions buried offshore, wouldn’t have better served Mitt’s thin presidential resume. No one's perfect and wealth outlasts losing.    

  

Nevertheless, let us not throw the not quite born candidate out with the tax water, as Harry Reid’s outlandish, obvious charade attempts. Is Mitt doing more than honoring our national legacy of shrewd thrift, plus fierce resistance to centralized authority?  That belief system arrived with our Pilgrim Parents, then cemented by that most frugal spendthrift-Founding Father, Ben Franklin. He codified that unquenchable Yankee credo: a hard-earned coin saved (that is, from gov’mint takeover) is twice as good as any money earned (especially if taxable).  

  

Tax Avoidance: Double Winner 

 

First, the owner freely spends it all, doubtlessly founding an array of job-creating enterprises. Second, that infamous carryover from prehistoric times, the government, can’t give it away fast enough to the wastrels, equal to tossing dollars down the toilet. If any of us committed that literal federal crime (destroying money), we’d not only have wet, grimy, sullied greenbacks in inaccessible piping, but a huge plumbing bill and screaming ...

Published: Friday 10 August 2012
“Obama came to power when both the US and the world economy were in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”

 

 

Public-opinion polls in the United States indicate a close presidential election in November. While President Barack Obama outpolls the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, on foreign policy, slow economic growth and high unemployment – issues that are far more salient in US elections – favor Romney. And, even on foreign policy, Obama’s critics complain that he has failed to implement the transformational initiatives that he promised four years ago. Are they right?

 

Obama came to power when both the US and the world economy were in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Indeed, some of Obama’s economic advisers counseled him that unless urgent steps were taken to stimulate the economy, there was a one-in-three chance of entering a full-scale depression.

 

Thus, although Obama also inherited two ongoing wars, nuclear-proliferation threats from Iran and North Korea, and the continuing problem of Al Qaeda’s terrorism, his early months in office were devoted to addressing the economic crisis at home and abroad. His efforts were not a complete success, but he managed to stave off the worst outcome.

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Joseph S. Nye, click here.

 

Obama’s rhetoric during his 2008 campaign and the first months of his presidency was both inspirational in style and transformational in objective. His first year in office included a speech in Prague in which he established the goal of a nuclear-free world; a speech in ...

Published: Tuesday 31 July 2012
“If the allegations are true, Iran and Hezbollah have crossed a dangerous line with their first strike in Europe in more than 15 years.”

 

After a decade in which al Qaeda dominated the world stage, the global terror threat from Iran has escalated sharply, generating a swarm of recent plots from Delhi to Mombasa to Washington and signaling an aggressive new strategy, counterterror officials say.

 

But there were meager results until this month. On July 18, a suspected suicide bomber killed six people and wounded 30 aboard an Israeli tourist bus in a coastal town in Bulgaria. Israel quickly accused Hezbollah ...

Published: Sunday 29 July 2012
Published: Friday 13 July 2012
The Treasury Department said it was blacklisting 11 companies and several individuals associated with Iran’s defense ministry, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as Iran’s national shipping line.

 

In the latest ratcheting up of pressure on Iran, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday imposed new financial sanctions against Iranian and other companies whose operations allegedly support the country’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

The Treasury Department said it was blacklisting 11 companies and several individuals associated with Iran’s defense ministry, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as Iran’s national shipping line.

It also blacklisted several companies in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Malaysia, as well as the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), which the treasury alleged have been used by the national oil company to evade existing sanctions against Iranian oil experts.

“Iran today is under intense, multilateral sanctions pressure, and we will continue to ratchet up the pressure so long as Iran refuses to address the international community’s well-founded questions about its nuclear program,” said treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen.

“Today’s actions are the next step on that path, taking direct aim at disrupting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as its deceptive efforts to use front companies to sell and move its oil,” he added.

While the new sanctions were described by the State Department as part of the administration’s “dual-track approach” to both increase pressure on Tehran and engage it diplomatically, a number of observers said the latest escalation carried risks.

“The question is how much escalation can be tolerated before the whole diplomatic process falls apart, and, if it falls apart, what comes next,” noted Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the author of two ...

Published: Monday 9 July 2012
Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“Instead, three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, his successor continues to insist that Iran surrender to Washington’s diktats or face attack.”


Since talks with Iran over its nuclear development started up again in April, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that Tehran will not be allowed to “play for time” in the negotiations.  In fact, it is the Obama administration that is playing for time.

Some suggest that President Obama is trying to use diplomacy to manage the nuclear issue and forestall an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets through the U.S. presidential election.  In reality, his administration is “buying time” for a more pernicious agenda: time for covert action to sabotage Tehran’s nuclear program; time for sanctions to set the stage for regime change in Iran; and time for the United States, its European and Sunni Arab partners, and Turkey to weaken the Islamic Republic by overthrowing the Assad government in Syria.

Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, Antony J. Blinken, hinted at this in February, explaining that the administration’s Iran policy is aimed at “buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that -- strange things can happen in the interim.”  Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy -- now out of government and advising Obama’s reelection campaign -- told an Israeli audience this month that, in the administration’s view, it is also important to go through the diplomatic motions before attacking Iran so as not to “

Published: Saturday 16 June 2012
President Obama’s “red line” on Iran -- the point at which his administration would consider taking military action against the country -- has been the reactionary regime’s actual procurement of nuclear weapons.

 

In another resolution apparently designed to prepare for war against Iran, the U.S. House of Representatives, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 401-11 vote, has passed a resolution (HR 568) urging the president to oppose any policy toward Iran "that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat."

With its earlier decision to pass a bill that effectively sought to ban any negotiations between the United States and Iran, a huge bipartisan majority of Congress has essentially told the president that nothing short of war or the threat of war is an acceptable policy. Indeed, the rush to pass this bill appears to have been designed to undermine the ongoing international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. According to Iranian-American analyst Jamal Abdi, a prominent critic of both the Iranian regime and U.S. policy, the motivation for the resolution may be to "poison those talks by signaling to Iran that the President is weak, domestically isolated, and unable to deliver at the negotiating table because a hawkish Congress will overrule him."

President Obama's "red line" on Iran -- the point at which his administration would consider taking military action against the country -- has been the reactionary regime's actual procurement of nuclear weapons. The language of this resolution, however, significantly lowers the bar by declaring it unacceptable for Iran simply to have "nuclear weapons capability" -- not necessarily any actual weapons or an active nuclear weapons program. Some members ...

Published: Saturday 9 June 2012
Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
A think tank close to the administration of President Obama suggests attacking Tehran to prevent nuclear development would be counter-productive.

While a nuclear-armed Iran would pose significant new challenges to the United States and Israel, a military attack by either country to prevent Tehran from developing a weapon could well prove counter-productive, according to a major new report released here Wednesday by a think tank close to the administration of President Barack Obama.

And while preventive military action should remain on the table, it should only be considered if Iran “has made a clear move toward weaponization”, and there is a “reasonable expectation” that such a strike would set back Iran's programme “significantly”, among other conditions, according to the 55-page report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). 

The report, “Risk and Rivalry: Iran, Israel and the Bomb,” also argues that both the U.S. and Israel should avoid taking any steps that limit prospects for a negotiated agreement designed to dissuade Tehran from “weaponising” its nuclear programme. 

In particular, they should not insist - as Israel and its backers in the U.S. Congress are doing - that Tehran end all uranium enrichment on its own territory as a condition of any negotiated settlement since such a stance “would most likely result in no deal at all”, according to ...

Published: Saturday 2 June 2012
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged last month that government hackers had attacked Al Qaeda propaganda sites in Yemen, changing information in ads that talked about killing Americans to show how many Yemenis had died in Al Qaeda attacks.

 

This morning, The New York Times published a report detailing how the Bush and Obama administrations created the cyber weapon known as Stuxnet and used it to disrupt Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

Much has been written about Stuxnet, which, as ProPublica recently reported, remains a threat beyond Iran. But the Times account, based on interviews with unnamed U.S. and Israeli officials, is the most extensive account to date of U.S. cyberwarfare capabilities. Here’s our cheat sheet on what’s new and the fallout:

·       Because of Stuxnet’s complexity, cybersecurity analysts have long suspected it was a U.S.-Israeli effort. The Times story confirms this for the first time, disclosing that the project was code-named “Olympic Games.”

·       Olympic Games began under the Bush administration, and during development, it was known as “the bug.”

·       President Obama has repeatedly expressed concern that if the U.S. acknowledges it is behind Stuxnet, it would give terrorists and enemy states a justification for their own attacks.

·       Stuxnet was introduced into Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz by an unwitting Iranian. “It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand," a source told the Times.

·       To test the bug in secret Department of Energy labs, the U.S. used aging centrifuges handed over in 2003 by Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, making them into ...

Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
Fearful that the U.S. and the other members of the so-called P5+1 will strike an interim accord with Tehran under which it would agree to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent, neo-conservatives and other hawks argued that Iran should instead be forced to comply with a 2006 U.N. Security resolution calling for it to stop enriching altogether.

As at least two days of talks on the future of Iran's nuclear program got underway in Baghdad Wednesday, neo-conservatives and other hawks escalated their campaign against any compromise agreement, particularly one that would permit Tehran to continue enriching uranium on its territory.

Fearful that the U.S. and the other members of the so-called P5+1 (Britain, France, Russia, China, plus Germany) will strike an interim accord with Tehran under which it would agree to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent, they argued that Iran should instead be forced to comply with a 2006 U.N. Security resolution calling for it to stop enriching altogether – a position that most Iran experts here believe is certain to kill any prospect for progress. 

"Given the Iranian regime's long-standing pattern of deceptive and illicit conduct, we believe that it cannot be trusted to maintain enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future – at least until the international community has been fully convinced that Iran has decided to abandon any nuclear- weapons ambitions," wrote three prominent pro-Israel senators in the Wall Street Journal Thursday. 

"We are very far from that point," according to Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham and independent Democrat Joseph Lieberman, the so-called "Three Amigos", who often travel overseas together and have long argued that U.S. military action will likely be the only way to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. 

At the same time, two fellows at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) published an op-ed in the Washington Post warning against any agreement by the P5+1 that would permit Iran to enrich uranium up to five percent on its own territory rather than suspend all enrichment indefinitely. 

Such a deal, according to FDD's executive director Mark Dubowitz and former ...

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
Published: Tuesday 1 May 2012
Fears of a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran this year have clearly receded, especially since all sides left the last P5+1 meeting in Istanbul Apr. 14 seemingly satisfied with the seriousness of the exchanges and guardedly optimistic that a diplomatic solution could yet be achieved.

The threat of a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities this year appears to have substantially subsided over the past several weeks as a result of several developments, including the biting criticisms voiced recently by former top national security figures of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak.



That a war seems significantly more remote than during the winter months, when tensions reached an all-time high, was confirmed to some extent Monday when the U.S. "newspaper of record", the New York Times, ran a front-page article entitled 'Experts Believe Iran Conflict is Less Likely' . 
 

But, judging by actual bets placed on the on-line trading exchange, Intrade, the chances that the U.S. or Israel will indeed conduct air strikes against Iran before the end of the year have fallen by more than half since the high reached in mid-February – from just over 60 percent to about 28 percent as of Monday. 
 

That's still a substantial percentage – about twice what it was before the latest round of Israeli sabre-rattling was launched in November. 
 

And it's difficult to find any close observer of U.S.-Israeli-Iran relations who believes that war clouds could not suddenly reappear, particularly if the next meeting of the so-called P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, and France – plus Germany) with Iran scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad should break down or be delayed. 
 

For its part, the administration of President Barack Obama shown little inclination to reduce pressure – and the threat of military action – on Tehran. 
 

Not only has it moved more minesweepers and F-15 fighter jets into the Gulf region, but the Air Force announced Friday that it has deployed an undisclosed ...

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
With North Korea, the provocations continue to come thick and fast. Understandings are reached, only to be immediately broken, as with the North’s agreement in February, in return for US food aid, to accept International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, suspend uranium enrichment, and halt missile and weapons tests.

 

Perhaps it is going too far to say, as someone did after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill two years ago, that most Americans want a president who is cool, calm, and collected in a crisis – except when there is a crisis. But of all the charges thrown at President Barack Obama by his domestic political opponents, the hardest for most outsiders to accept is that he is too emotionally disengaged: all brain cells and no red-blood cells.Certainly in defense and foreign policy, a cool and measured response to the extreme provocations that often come with that territory is what the world wants, and needs, from the leader of its reigning superpower. Nowhere is that need greater than in the cases of North Korea and Iran, owing to the destructive potential of the weapons that they have or may be developing.

With North Korea, the provocations continue to come thick and fast. Understandings are reached, only to be immediately broken, as with the North’s agreement in February, in return for US food aid, to accept International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, suspend uranium enrichment, and halt missile and weapons tests. Within little more than a month, a “satellite rocket” is launched, albeit spectacularly misfiring, and all bets are off.

With the North’s new leader Kim Jong-un feeling the heat of that technical humiliation, there is now every reason to be concerned that another nuclear-weapon test, or some other chest-beating military antic, is imminent. China seems unable or unwilling to moderate its neighbor’s behavior. Nerves in South Korea, and especially Japan, are raw.

The Obama administration has been right not to appear too spooked by all of this. The tone of the American response has been firm, giving appropriate reassurance to its allies and making clear that gamesmanship will not be tolerated, but not raising the ...

Published: Friday 13 April 2012
The United States is already effectively embroiled in an economic war against Iran. The Obama administration has subjected the Islamic Republic to the most crippling economic sanctions applied to any country since Iraq was reduced to fourth-world status in the 1990s.

It’s a policy fierce enough to cause great suffering among Iranians -- and possibly in the long run among Americans, too.  It might, in the end, even deeply harm the global economy and yet, history tells us, it will fail on its own.  Economic war led by Washington (and encouraged by Israel) will not take down the Iranian government or bring it to the bargaining table on its knees ready to surrender its nuclear program.  It might, however, lead to actual armed conflict with incalculable consequences.   

The United States is already effectively embroiled in an economic war against Iran.  The Obama administration has subjected the Islamic Republic to the most crippling economic sanctions applied to any country since Iraq was reduced to fourth-world status in the 1990s.  And worse is on the horizon.  A financial blockade is being imposed that seeks to prevent Tehran from selling petroleum, its most valuable commodity, as a way of dissuading the regime from pursuing its nuclear enrichment program. 

Historical memory has never been an American strong point and so few today remember that a global embargo on Iranian petroleum is hardly a new tactic in Western geopolitics; nor do many recall that the last time it was applied with such stringency, in the 1950s, it led to the overthrow of the government with disastrous long-term blowback on the United States.  The tactic is just as dangerous today.

Iran’s supreme theocrat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly condemned the atom bomb and nuclear weapons of all sorts as tools of the devil, weaponry that cannot be used without killing massive numbers of civilian noncombatants.  In the most emphatic terms, he has, in fact, pronounced them forbidden according to Islamic law.  Based on the latest U.S. intelligence, Secretary of Defense Leon ...

Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
“Iran hasn’t always been deemed a ‘nuclear threat’ by U.S. policymakers.”

Iran’s alleged "nuclear threat" has taken center stage among diplomats, military men, and politicians in Washington, Tel Aviv, and the West at-large.

Despite the fact that investigative journalists Seymour Hersh, Gareth Porter and others have meticulously documented the fact that Iran, in fact, poses no nuclear threat at all, the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress have laid down multiple rounds of harsh sanctions as a means to "deter" Iran from reaching its "nuclear capacity."

The most recent round featured a call to boycott Iran’s oil industry by President Obama.

While rhetorical attention remains focused on Iran’s "threat", there is an "elephant in the room": Kazakhstan’s booming uranium mining and expanding nuclear industry -- a massive effort involving U.S. multinational corporations and an authoritarian regime increasingly tied to Washington.

Double standards have long reigned supreme in U.S. foreign policy. Few examples illustrate that better than the contrast between Washington’s stance toward the nuclear ambitions of Iran and Kazakhstan.

The Seoul, Korea Dog and Pony Show

 

The alleged Iranian "threat" was a central concern at the Nuclear Security Summit, which occurred in Seoul, South Korea between March 26-27.

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group and that the Obama administration knew about the training.

Journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed that the Bush administration secretly trained an Iranian opposition group on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorists. Hersh reports the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command trained operatives from Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, at a secret site in Nevada beginning in 2005. According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site up until President Obama took office. TheMEK has been listed as a foreign terrorist groups since 1997 and is linked to a number of attacks, spanning from the murders of six U.S. citizens in the 1970s to the recent wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists. Hersh also discusses the role of Israeli intelligence and notes the Obama administration knew about the training, "because they have access to what was going on in the previous administration in this area, in terms of the  READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 5 April 2012
Faced with the specter of a catastrophic war, groups like CODEPINK are putting pressure on politicians—and their wives—to use diplomacy.

On Friday, March 30, First Lady Michelle Obamareceived an unusual request at her San Francisco fundraiser. Instead of “Can I have a picture with you?,” one major donor asked, “Will you use your leadership to prevent an attack on Iran?”  Kristin Hull hand delivered to Ms. Obama a petition against war on Iranthat was signed by prominent women including Gloria Steinem, Alice Walker, and Eve Ensler, and over 20,000 American women and allies. Hull implored the First Lady to think ofthe military families and veterans who have paid the price of war.  Ms. Obama has championed veterans’ issues while in office and for this reason, in addition to her obvious proximity to the President, women’s groups have made her a focus of their peace efforts.  

Ms. Obama thanked Hull for her advocacy and said, “Keep up the great work.”  As Hull was walking away after her photo with the First Lady, Michelle Obama grabbed her hand, squeezed it and said, “We really need you.”

The petition implores three powerful American female politicians—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice and First Lady Michelle Obama—to use their influence topush for diplomacy, not bombing, in US relations with Iran.  The next step will be to hand-deliver the petition to Clinton.  CODEPINK launched this petition online on March 20th, the9th anniversary ...

Published: Tuesday 3 April 2012
“Bahrain has been a key ally and supporter of U.S. security interests in this region of the world.”

Last year, as the government of Bahrain violently suppressed an Arab Spring protest movement, an unlikely champion of the small Gulf nation emerged on Capitol Hill in Washington: Democratic Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, the delegate from American Samoa.

 

Faleomavaega, who has been a non-voting delegate in Congress since 1989 and is now the third-ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, typically focuses on more local matters: the tuna industry, Pacific Islands affairs and securing federal funding for American Samoa.

 

But this week he is taking a trip to Bahrain, his second in the past year, both paid by the Bahraini government. It's part of a year-long friendship the congressman has developed with the Gulf nation.

 

In March 2011, just weeks into the crisis, Faleomavaega emerged seemingly out of nowhere — he has no history of commenting on Middle East affairs — to enter a 2,500-word statement into the Congressional Record that closely echoed the Bahraini government's spin. "Bahrain is under attack," he said, painting protesters as violent, Iran-backed vandals representing "the worst kind of seditious infiltration from a foreign enemy." He praised the Crown Prince for supposedly meeting protesters' demands for democratic reforms.

 

"Mr. Speaker," Faleomavaega said. "I have to ask why the demonstrators returned to protesting again, even after all their demands were agreed to."

 

Just days before, the government had torn down the iconic Pearl Monument at the center of the protests, and Saudi Arabian tanks had rolled into Bahrain to back the government crackdown.

 

So, why is the delegate from American Samoa so interested in supporting Bahrain? Faleomavaega told ProPublica it's because "Bahrain has been a key ally and supporter of U.S. security interests in this region of the ...

Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.”

 

Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.

No other conclusion can be drawn from parsing the candidates’ public remarks. Paul, of course, is basically an isolationist who believes it is none of our business if Iran wants to build nuclear weapons. He questions even the use of sanctions, such as those now in force. But Paul has about as much chance of winning the GOP nomination as I do.Mitt RomneyRick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all sought to portrayPresident Obama READ FULL POST 17 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power,” declared McCain, whose strategy was swiftly endorsed by his two hawkish fellow-travelers, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

This week was supposed to be all about Iran – at least, that's how Israel and its powerful U.S. lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), had planned it - and why the U.S. should prepare to bomb it very, very soon if its leadership doesn't cave into Western demands to abandon its nuclear programme.

 

By week's end, however, the most urgent foreign policy issue with which U.S. policy-makers – and their media camp followers – were grappling was whether to bomb Syria first instead.

 

Remarkably, the sudden deviation was triggered by Tuesday's dramatic call on the floor of the Senate by Republican Sen. John McCain for the U.S. to provide decisive support to rebels battling to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

 

"The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power," declared McCain, whose strategy was swiftly endorsed by his two hawkish fellow-travellers, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham and independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

 

"The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centres in Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad's forces," he declared, touching off a vigorous new debate ...

Published: Monday 5 March 2012
“Iran's leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

President Barack Obama insisted Sunday he'd call for military action to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon, even as he urged Israel and its supporters to refrain from "loose talk of war" and allow diplomacy and "crippling sanctions" to work.

Speaking a day before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama told the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee that he's got "Israel's back" and is unalterably opposed to Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

"Iran's leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said, securing his biggest round of applause before a crowd that greeted him warmly, but with restraint. "I've made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."

Israel is afraid that Iran — which says its nuclear program is for domestic reasons — could reach what the Israeli Defense Minister calls a "zone of immunity" where Israel would be unable to take out Iran's nuclear program. Obama argued there is time for diplomacy, "backed by pressure," to work — a call that met with little applause.

"Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved ...

Published: Saturday 3 March 2012
“Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect.”

The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option,” by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.

The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression – thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law.

As tensions escalate, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Feverish U.S. ...

Published: Friday 2 March 2012
“We do not see any glory, pride or power in the nuclear weapons—quite the opposite,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday in summarizing the ayatollah’s views.

Given my own deep prejudice toward religious zealotry, it has not been difficult for me to accept the conventional American view that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme theocratic ruler of Iran, is a dangerous madman never to be trusted with a nuclear weapon. How then to explain his recent seemingly logical and humane religious proclamations on the immorality of nuclear weapons? His statement challenges the acceptance of nuclear war-fighting as an option by every U.S. president since Harry Truman, who, in 1945, ordered the deaths of 185,000 mostly innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.She is right that Iran’s resistance to inspection “is hardly illustrative of a commitment to nuclear disarmament,” but such a remark is grotesquely hypocritical coming from the representative of a nation that has produced more than half of the world’s nuclear arsenal under the most severe conditions of secrecy. It is also true that U.S. acceptance of nuclear weapons in Israel and Pakistan, both of which have been recipients of American military aid despite breaking international nonproliferation codes to which U.S. presidents have long subscribed, is hardly a sign of consistency on this issue.

It is obvious, in a week when the U.S. welcomed North Korea’s renewed commitment to inspections, that even the most recalcitrant of nations can be induced to reason. The treatment of Iran is complicated by this being a U.S. election season, during which the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, have been beating the war drums over what they claim is Iran’s nuclear threat. In no way has the GOP’s zeal for military ...

Published: Thursday 1 March 2012
‘”There’s been real blowback from the burning of the Quran, but there has also been real blowback from the killings from continued drone strikes,’ says Ann Wright, a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel who stood trial this week for protesting US drone attacks.”

“Three major investigations were under way on Wednesday into the Koran burning at Bagram Air Base by the American military last week, the event that plunged Afghanistan into days of deadly protests…” So begins a New York Times report.     To read the New York Times you’d think the only American offense that truly riles people up after ten years of war is book burning. It’s certainly the only offense that’s so far merited “three major investigations.”     "There's been real blowback from the burning of the Quran, but there has also been real blowback from the killings from continued drone strikes,” says Ann Wright, a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel who stood trial this week for protesting US drone attacks.     Wright’s riled up. So is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan. Just last week, Hasan warned Britain to stop the American “Drone Wars” that, he said, are slaughtering hundreds of its innocent civilians, or else the nuclear power “has the means” to retaliate. The British Sun quoted Hasan as saying that his country’s relations with America are at their lowest ebb.     A nuclear power threatening retaliation unless US robo-killings cease? “Three major investigations” into drone attacks might not be too much.     The CIA ...

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“Human rights’ advocates rightly point out that solitary confinement is designed to break down people mentally. Because of that, prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture.”

Today US Army Private Bradley Manning is to be formally charged with numerous crimes at Fort Meade, Maryland.   Manning, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Icelandic Parliament, is charged with releasing hundreds of thousands of documents exposing secrets of the US government to the whistleblower website Wikileaks. These documents exposed lies, corruption and crimes by the US and other countries.  The Bradley Manning defense team points out accurately that much of what was published by Wikileaks was either not actually secret or should not have been secret.

The Manning prosecution is a tragic miscarriage of justice.  US officials are highly embarrassed by what Manning exposed and are shooting the messenger.  As Glen Greenwald, the terrific Salon writer, has observed, President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers for espionage than all other presidents combined.

One of the most outrageous parts of the treatment of Bradley Manning is that the US kept him in illegal and torturous solitary confinement conditions for months at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia.  Keeping Manning in solitary confinement sparked challenges from many groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times. 

Human rights’ advocates rightly point out that solitary confinement is designed to break down people mentally.  Because of that, prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture.  The conditions and practices of isolation are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention against Torture, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination.

Medical experts say that after 60 days in solidary peoples’ mental state begins to break down.  That means a person will start to experience panic, anxiety, confusion, ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“Are you ready for Gulf War III? If not, the only choice is to continue with diplomacy and sanctions.”

We’ve heard this quickening drumbeat before. Last time, it led to the tragic invasion and occupation of Iraq. This time, if we let the drummers provoke us into war with Iran, the consequences will likely be far worse.

Rat-ta-tat-tat. Weapons of mass destruction. Boom-shakka-boom. A madman in charge. Thump-thump-thump. Mushroom clouds.

Tune out the anxiety-inducing percussion and think for a minute. Yes, there are good reasons to be concerned about the Iranian nuclear program. But it doesn’t follow that launching a military attack — or providing support for an attack by Israel — would necessarily be effective, let alone wise. The evidence suggests it would be neither.

Obviously, Iranian officials are lying when they say that their nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes. But it is clear that Iran does not yet have the ability to build a nuclear weapon — and unclear whether the Iranian government, if and when it does achieve that capability, will take that final provocative step.

Covert operations believed to have been carried out by Israeli intelligence agents, perhaps with U.S. assistance — a diabolically clever computer virus that crippled many of Iran’s enrichment centrifuges, along with the targeted assassinations of key Iranian scientists — have significantly slowed Iran’s progress toward being able to make a bomb. It is reasonable to assume that such actions, and their effectiveness, will continue.

But let’s ...

Published: Saturday 18 February 2012
If Tehran accedes to certain requests that it denied the delegation in its last visit, confidence will be enhanced, U.S. officials said.

After weeks of rapidly escalating tensions, particularly between Israel and Iran, signs emerged this week both here and in Tehran that serious negotiations over Tehran's controversial nuclear program may soon get underway.

The most concrete step was a long-awaited positive RSVP from Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalali, to an invitation extended last October by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to meet with the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany) for a new round of talks.

"We voice our readiness for dialogue on a spectrum of various issues, which can provide grounds for constructive and forward-looking co- operation," Jalali wrote in his letter.

In response, both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ashton herself emerged from a meeting here Friday expressing cautious optimism about prospects for a resumption of negotiations, which have been effectively suspended for more than a year.

"…(W)e think this is an important step and we welcome the letter," Clinton told reporters, adding that Jalili's letter "appeared to acknowledge and accept" a Western condition that Iran has previously resisted: that any talks "begin with a discussion of (Iran's) nuclear program".

A formal response by the P5+1, whose members are still consulting with each other, may not, however, be forthcoming until after the scheduled visit next week by a high-level delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the second in the past month. If Tehran accedes to certain requests that it denied the delegation in its last visit, confidence will be enhanced, U.S. officials said.

The latest developments come after several months of escalating tensions, the most recent spiral of which began in late December with the adoption of "crippling" sanctions by Washington and the EU and threats by some Iranian officials to close the ...

Published: Tuesday 7 February 2012
“The sanctions, part of a years-long effort to force Iran to comply with global nuclear-weapons rules, were issued in a White House executive order.”

The Obama administration announced tough new targeted sanctions Monday against the Central Bank of Iran, ratcheting up economic pain on Tehran in a move intended to drive it into new international negotiations over its nuclear program, but one that could prove a trigger point for conflict.

The sanctions, part of a years-long effort to force Iran to comply with global nuclear-weapons rules, were issued in a White House executive order. They comply with amendments to a sweeping defense bill that Congress passed late last year.

The sanctions require any U.S. person or corporation to freeze property or interests that belong to the government of Iran, its Central Bank or any other Iranian financial institution. Most of these sanctions already had been in place on all major Iranian banks, but targeting Iran's Central Bank is unusual.

The action attempts to disrupt operations in which a third-country bank is acting on behalf of Iran's Central Bank or other Iranian banks. This is happening in Afghanistan and possibly other Iranian neighbors.

In a letter to lawmakers, President Barack Obama said additional sanctions were necessary "in light of the deceptive practices of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks to conceal transactions of sanctioned parties, the deficiencies in Iran's anti-money laundering regime and the weaknesses in its implementation, and the continuing and unacceptable risk posed to the international financial system "

To reinforce the measures, the Treasury Department announced that Daniel Glaser, the assistant secretary for terrorist financing, was being dispatched to Oman, Qatar and Russia this week for high-level meetings on Iran.

This happens amid mounting concerns that Israel soon might launch a pre-emptive attack on presumed Iranian nuclear weapons-development sites. That would inflame tensions across the Middle East, a region in turmoil over the past year that analysts view as ...

Published: Saturday 4 February 2012
“Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered the fiery, nationally broadcast sermon at Friday prayers at Tehran University amid rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran contends is producing uranium fuel for civilian nuclear reactors and the United States and other powers charge is secretly developing a nuclear warhead.”

Dismissing economic sanctions that are beginning to bite, Iran's supreme leader said Friday that his country wouldn't bow to Western demands that it stop enriching uranium and warned that a war over its nuclear program would be "10 times more harmful" to the United States.

"The Americans and others should, and do, know that we have our own threats to confront the military threats and oil sanctions and when necessary. We will make use of them at the right time," declared Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to an English transcript of his remarks posted on his official website.

Khamenei delivered the fiery, nationally broadcast sermon at Friday prayers at Tehran University amid rising tensions over Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran contends is producing uranium fuel for civilian nuclear reactors and the United States and other powers charge is secretly developing a nuclear warhead.

The Obama administration is growing increasingly concerned that Israel — dubious that sanctions will force Iran to halt its program before it attains the ability to build a bomb — will strike Iranian nuclear facilities in the coming months. The White House also has repeatedly refused to rule out U.S. military action as a last resort.

While Khamenei's speech may have been designed to warn off the United States and Israel, his harsh tone may primarily have been aimed at rallying domestic support for his unpopular regime, especially as Iran marks the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution. The country also is heading into parliamentary elections next month with the sanctions stoking inflation, choking off hard currency supplies and forcing a devaluation of the Iranian rial.

Moreover, nothing that Khamenei said dampened expectations among U.S. and European officials and experts that Tehran may soon accept an invitation to renew international negotiations on its nuclear program — something that ...

Published: Wednesday 1 February 2012
“Why Closure of the Strait of Hormuz Could Ignite a War and a Global Depression”

Ever since December 27th, war clouds have been gathering over the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow body of water connecting the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean and the seas beyond.  On that day, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that Tehran would block the strait and create havoc in international oil markets if the West placed new economic sanctions on his country.

“If they impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports,” Rahimi declared, “then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz.”  Claiming that such a move would constitute an assault on America’s vital interests, President Obama reportedly informed Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Washington would use force to keep the strait open.  To back up their threats, both sides have been bolstering their forces in the area and each has conducted a series of provocative military exercises.

All of a sudden, the ...

Published: Monday 30 January 2012
“Just as a small exercise to restore some sense of proportion, stop for a moment the next time you hear of American or Israeli plans for the further destabilization of Iran and think: what would we do if the Iranians were planning something similar for us?”

Exclusive: New Iranian Commando Team Operating Near U.S.

(Tehran, FNA) The Fars News Agency has confirmed with the Republican Guard’s North American Operations Command that a new elite Iranian commando team is operating in the U.S.-Mexican border region. The primary day-to-day mission of the team, known as the Joint Special Operations Gulf of Mexico Task Force, or JSOG-MTF, is to mentor Mexican military units in the border areas in their war with the deadly drug cartels.  The task force provides “highly trained personnel that excel in uncertain environments,” Maj. Amir Arastoo, a spokesman for Republican Guard special operations forces in North America, tells Fars, and “seeks to confront irregular threats...”

The unit began its existence in mid-2009 -- around the time that Washington rejected the Iranian leadership’s wish for a new diplomatic dialogue. But whatever the task force does about the United States -- or might do in the future -- is a sensitive subject with the Republican Guard.  “It would be inappropriate to ...

Published: Saturday 28 January 2012
“[W]hile the U.S. has the ability to mount a campaign, it could only serve as a short-term fix.”

Like the imminent prospect of one's hanging, to paraphrase the 18th century British essayist Dr. (Samuel) Johnson, the suddenly looming possibility of war can concentrate the mind wonderfully.

If that aphorism didn't apply in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq 10 years ago, it appears to be the case now for key sectors of the U.S. foreign-policy elite - notably, liberal hawks who supported the Iraq war - with regard to the sharp rise in tensions between Iran and both the U.S. and Israel earlier this month.

Amid a crescendo of threats by senior Israeli officials to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, the murder, presumably by Mossad, of a fifth Iranian nuclear scientist in the past several years, and a sharp escalation of Western economic sanctions designed to "cripple" Iran's economy, Tehran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz brought the until-then hypothetical possibility of war - whether by design, provocation or accident - sharply into view.

The hawkish declarations by Republican presidential candidates eager to prove their love for Israel to Christian fundamentalists and Jewish voters and donors didn't help, nor did a renewed and intensified drumbeat for "regime change" by some of the same neo- conservatives from institutions like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) that led the drive to war in Iraq.

Adding to the sense that war was suddenly a very real possibility, these events more or less coincided with the publication by the influential Foreign Affairs journal of an article entitled "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike is the Least Bad Option''. It advocated a limited and carefully calibrated U.S. aerial attack on Iran's air defenses and nuclear sites, and was authored by an academic, Matthew Kroenig, who had just completed a one-year stint as a strategic analyst in the office of the secretary of ...

Published: Tuesday 24 January 2012
“The real debate, the debate raised by the Occupy movement about inequality, corporate malfeasance, the destruction of the ecosystem, and the security and surveillance state, is the only debate that matters.”

I spent Friday morning sitting on a wooden bench in a fourth-floor courtroom in the New York Criminal Court in Manhattan. I was waiting to be sentenced for “disturbing the peace” and “refusing to obey a lawful order” during an Occupy demonstration in front of Goldman Sachs in November.

Those sentenced before me constituted the usual fare of the court. They were poor people of color accused of mostly petty crimes—drug possession, thefts, shoplifting, trespassing because they were homeless and needed a place to sleep, inappropriate touching, grand larceny and violation of probation. They were escorted out of a backroom by a police officer, stood meekly before the judge with their hands cuffed behind them, were hastily defended by a lawyer clutching a few folders, and were sentenced. Ten days in jail. Sixty days in jail. Six months in jail. A steady stream of convictions.  My sentence, by comparison, was slight. I was given an ACD, or “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal,” which means that if I am not arrested in the next six months my case is dismissed. If I am arrested during this period of informal probation the old charge will be added to the new one before I am sentenced.

The country’s most egregious criminals, the ones who had stripped some of those being sentenced of their homes, their right to a decent education and health care, their jobs, their dignity and their hope, those wallowing in tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, those who had gamed the system to enrich themselves at our expense, were doing the dirty business of speculation in the tall office towers a few blocks away. They were making money. A few of these wealthy plutocrats were with the president, who was in New York that day to attend four fundraisers that took in an estimated $3 million. For $15,000 you could have joined Barack Obama at ...

Published: Friday 20 January 2012
China is the largest importer of Iranian oil and has openly dismissed the US sanctions.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012, during the morning rush hour in northern Tehran, nuclear scientist Mostaf Ahmadi-Roshan was assassinated. It is said by Iranian officials that two men on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the car of 32-year-old nuclear scientist, Ahmadi-Roshan, killing him and his bodyguard. Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was a chemistry expert who worked as a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant which is suspected to play a key role in Iran’s nuclear program. This is the fourth attempted assassination, three of them now having been successful, on Iran’s nuclear scientists in the past two years and appears to be part of an undeclared campaign to target top Iranian scientists to delay or derail the Iranian nuclear program.

Iranian government officials say, despite the assassinations, that the nuclear research will continue unabated. Iranian officials also are looking to place blame upon Israel and the United States, which have both been vocal in their objections to Iran’s nuclear program. The United States, however, has denied any affiliation with any of the attacks, and Israel has upped its national security.

Despite many doubts by westernized countries, Iran continues to insist that its nuclear research is not for nuclear weapons as many countries, including the U.S. fear, but to move Iran beyond its dependency on oil alone as a major energy source.

This successful assassination only further fuels the fire between Iran and the many other countries that wish to halt Iran’s nuclear research and development. Since New Year's Eve, President Barack Obama has signed laws denying Iran trade and access to U.S. dollars which ultimately aims to cripple Iran's oil sales. Because oil is one of the largest exports of Iran, it’s expected this boycott will continue until Iran gives ground on the nuclear research and development issue. The U.S. is targeting Iran’s oil because oil accounts ...

Published: Thursday 19 January 2012
“While the Obama administration has repeatedly called Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon ‘unacceptable’, senior officials have also stressed the potential downsides of a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran.”

A former senior adviser on the Middle East to the last four U.S. presidents says that "the negatives far outweigh the positives" of war with Iran and the United States should augment Israel's nuclear weapons delivery systems to dissuade it from attacking the Islamic Republic.

 

Bruce Riedel, who served on the White House National Security Council and dealt extensively with both Israel and Iran, told an audience Tuesday at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, that while an Iran with nuclear weapons would be a significant strategic setback for the United States and Israel, deterrence and containment were preferable to military force.

 

He criticized those, including all but one Republican presidential candidate, who discuss an attack on Iran's nuclear installations as though it would be "over in an afternoon or a couple of weeks".

 

"I don't use the term 'military strike,' " Riedel said. "We will be at war with Iran. Once we begin it, the determination of when it ends will not be a unilateral one… This could become another ground war in Asia."

 

The global economy would suffer a huge blow from spiking oil prices, and U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan would be likely targets of Iranian retaliation, Riedel said.

 

The consequences would be especially dire for Afghanistan because Iran could become a second sanctuary, after Pakistan, for Taliban militants. In

that event, "the chances of success in Afghanistan on the timeline the (Barack Obama) administration has laid out is virtually nil," he said.

 

While the U.S. military and intelligence establishment appears solidly against a war with Iran, Israel's attitude has been ambivalent. A major concern for U.S. policymakers is that Israel might attack Iran without giving the United States warning – and thus ...

Published: Wednesday 18 January 2012
“Following the Money in the Iran Crisis”

Let's start with red lines. Here it is, Washington’s ultimate red line, straight from the lion’s mouth.  Only last week Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said of the Iranians, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.”

How strange, the way those red lines continue to retreat.  Once upon a time, the red line for Washington was “enrichment” of uranium. Now, it’s evidently an actual nuclear weapon that can be brandished. Keep in mind that, since 2005, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has stressed that his country is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon. The most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran from the U.S. Intelligence Community has similarly stressed that Iran is not, in fact, developing a nuclear weapon (as opposed to the breakout capacity to build one someday).

What if, however, there is no “red line,” but something completely different? Call it the ...

Published: Saturday 14 January 2012
“The latest assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist comes as Iran and Western countries, through contacts via Turkey, are on the verge of restarting long-stalled talks on Iran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes but the West contends, with some supporting evidence, is aimed at weapons production.”

According to a report in Foreign Policy, agents with Israel’s Mossad spy agency posed as CIA operatives as they tried to recruit members of the Pakistan-based Sunni terrorist network Jundallah to launch attacks against Iran. The alleged revelations come at the tail end of a week where an apparent covert war against Iran’s nuclear program made headlines when a bombing in Tehran killed an Iranian nuclear scientist, the fourth such assassination in two years.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 11 January 2012
“The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era”

Welcome to an edgy world where a single incident at an energy “chokepoint” could set a region aflame, provoking bloody encounters, boosting oil prices, and putting the global economy at risk.  With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch -- the Geo-Energy Era -- in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs.  In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world.

Take the Strait of Hormuz, already making headlines and shaking energy markets as 2012 begins.  Connecting the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, it lacks imposing geographical features like the Rock of Gibraltar or the Golden Gate Bridge.  In an energy-conscious world, however, it may possess greater strategic significance than any passageway on the planet.  Every day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankers carrying some 17 million barrels of oil -- representing 20% of the world’s daily supply -- pass through this vital artery. 

So last month, when a senior Iranian official threatened to block the strait in response to Washington’s tough new economic sanctions, oil prices instantly soared. While the U.S. military has vowed to keep the strait open, doubts about the safety of future oil shipments and worries about a potentially unending, nerve-jangling crisis involving ...

Published: Monday 9 January 2012
“Turkey is engaged in an intricate effort to preserve its old relationship with the West while building new ties with its Muslim neighbors.”

Turkey has over the past few weeks become the spearhead of a joint Western-Arab-Turkish policy aimed at forcing President Bashar al-Assad to cede power in Syria. This is quite a turnaround in Turkish policy, because over the past two years the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had gone out of its way to cultivate good relations with neighboring Syria, with whom it shares a long land border.

This change of course on Syria has also cost Turkey a great deal in terms of its relations with Iran, the principal supporter of Assad’s regime, which Turkey had also cultivated as part of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy.

Given these new strains, it is worth recalling that a only few months ago many American leaders were livid at what they perceived to be Turkey’s betrayal. In their view, Turkey had re-oriented its foreign policy toward the Muslim Middle East and away from the West – a shift supposedly reflected in the country’s deteriorating relations with Israel and improving ties with Iran and Syria.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Mohammed Ayoob, click here."

Many American policymakers and publicists, unable or unwilling to distinguish Turkish-Israeli relations from Turkish-American relations, interpreted Erdoğan’s condemnation of Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a bid to cozy up to his Arab neighbors at the expense of Turkey’s relations with not only Israel but with the West in general. Turkey’s attempt to mediate between the major Western powers and Iran concerning the Islamic Republic’s uranium stockpile went ...

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
“While there is always a chance for miscalculation in the crowded waters of the Gulf, a clash of words is more useful to Tehran than actual hostilities.”

 The recent escalation in Iranian threats to blockade oil shipments and attack U.S. Navy vessels are meant to push up the price of oil and divert domestic opinion from an economic crisis but are not likely to lead to a war in the Persian Gulf, in the view of Iran experts.
 

Should Iran retaliate for impending new sanctions against its oil exports, it is more apt to target oil production in its neighbor, Iraq, than foreign tankers in the Gulf. 
 

"We've seen this movie before," Cliff Kupchan, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, told IPS on Wednesday, referring to Iran's defiant rhetoric and firm U.S. response. "Neither side wants a war. A lot of this rhetoric is overstated." 
 

While there is always a chance for miscalculation in the crowded waters of the Gulf, a clash of words is more useful to Tehran than actual hostilities. 
 

On Tuesday, after Iranian armed forces commander Gen. Ataollah Salehi warned that a U.S. aircraft carrier that left the Gulf last week should not return, the price of oil jumped four percent. 
 

The United States has also benefited from the tensions, recently concluding deals to sell Saudi Arabia 30 billion dollars in advanced weaponry and 3.5 billion dollars in arms to the United Arab Emirates. 
 

Despite threats last week to close the Strait of Hormuz, the choke point between Iran and Oman for much of the world's tanker-borne oil, Iran is not in a position to keep the waterway closed. 
 

During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Iran used mines and small boats to attack 190 ships from 31 nations, killing at least 63 sailors, according to David Crist, who wrote a history of naval encounters in the Gulf for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2009. However, the U.S. and allied navies kept the Gulf open for tanker traffic and Iran suffered significant ...

Published: Wednesday 4 January 2012
Iran finds itself squeezed as never before, with the European Union preparing to sanction Iranian oil and new U.S. congressional sanctions passed late last year threatening to hit its central bank, which handles much of the financing for Iran’s oil transactions.

The possibility of a confrontation between the United States and Iran appeared to rise Tuesday after the Obama administration declared it would disregard an Iranian warning against moving a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group into the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

The potential for a crisis that could disrupt Gulf tanker traffic that carries some 40 per cent of the world’s seaborne oil sent international petroleum prices soaring more than $4 a barrel, a potential threat to the struggling U.S. and global economies.

The rise in tensions comes as the Iranian economy is beginning to suffer serious impacts from a raft of U.S. and European sanctions imposed on Tehran for rejecting repeated UN demands to halt a nuclear program. Iran is widely believed to be secretly developing nuclear weapons, but Tehran denies the charge.

The Iranian currency, the rial, plunged to a record low against the U.S. dollar, reportedly triggering a run on banks by Iranians anxious to protect their savings by buying the American currency before the exchange rate worsened.

READ FULL POST 12 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 19 December 2011
The enmity between Saudi Arabia and Iraq is just one of the many fissures in the Middle East that have widened in the almost nine years since the U.S. toppled Saddam.

More than five years have passed since Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah last received Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al Maliki. The Saudi monarch views Maliki as untrustworthy and, even worse, "an Iranian agent."

 

Saudi Arabia doesn't allow direct flights between its capital, Riyadh, and Baghdad, and it doesn't permit direct trade between the two countries. The kingdom is building a fence along the closed 500-mile border.

 

This, too, is a legacy of the U.S. invasion of Iraq as U.S. troops complete their withdrawal: a bitter enmity between two close U.S. allies, with an underlay of sectarian animosity, that the United States cannot seem to ameliorate.

 

It is an irony, because the U.S. first sent troops to the region in part to protect Saudi Arabia in the wake of Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Thirteen years later, however, when the U.S. invaded Iraq to topple Saddam, Saudi rulers were highly critical. And they have remained opposed to or offended by almost everything that has happened since.

 

Saudi Arabia refuses to set up an embassy in Baghdad, and while it has allowed Iraq to set up a mission in Riyadh, its officials receive Iraqi government officials only as private individuals.

 

The Saudis charge that Iraq has come under the sway of Saudi archrival Iran. But they themselves have also tried to affect Iraqi internal politics: they've thrown their support and funds behind Ayad Allawi, Maliki's main political rival, who's blocked the appointment of top security officials in the Iraqi government.

 

"We're trying to contain them ... it's a sectarian government," said an adviser to the Saudi government who agreed to discuss the delicate Saudi-Iraqi relations anonymously because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

 

For its part, Iraq charges that insurgents are ...

Published: Thursday 15 December 2011
Federal prosecutors Tuesday charged Ayman Joumaa of smuggling tons of U.S.-bound cocaine and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars with the Zetas cartel of Mexico.

U.S. authorities are building a politically explosive case that Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, finances itself through a vast drug-smuggling network that links a Lebanese bank, a violent Mexican cartel and U.S. cocaine users.

Federal prosecutors Tuesday charged Ayman Joumaa, an accused Lebanese drug kingpin and Hezbollah financier, of smuggling tons of U.S.-bound cocaine and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars with the Zetas cartel of Mexico.

“Ayman Joumaa is one of top guys in the world at what he does: international drug trafficking and money laundering,” a U.S. anti-drug official said. “He has interaction with Hezbollah. There’s no indication that it’s ideological. It’s business.”

The indictment in Virginia results from a continuing investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration targeting Hezbollah, which has a bloody history of terror attacks against the United States and Israel.

Now a powerful partner in Lebanon's government, Hezbollah presents itself as a legitimate political party and rejects allegations of terrorism. But Tuesday's case reflects increasing concern that Hezbollah and its ally, Iran's intelligence service, are expanding their presence in Latin America as conflict with the West intensifies over Iran's nuclear program.

Hezbollah allegedly uses the cocaine trade to develop revenue and build foreign networks, according to U.S., European and Israeli officials. In October, the Justice Department charged an Iranian-American resident of Texas and two Iranian intelligence officers with plotting to hire Mexican cartel gunmen to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Acting in February under the Patriot Act, the U.S. Treasury Department publicly identified the Lebanese Canadian National bank ...

Published: Tuesday 6 December 2011
“Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the top countries to fight climate change, but experts said they could not award any country with the top three rankings, as no nation was doing enough to prevent climate change.”

Sweden, the United Kingdom and Germany are the top countries to fight climate change, according to the 2012 Climate Change Performance Index, whose results were published at the United Nations climate change summit today.
 

Sweden, the country with the lowest emission levels of 50,600 tons of CO2 emissions, according to the latest data from the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), and good emission trends worldwide, was ranked 4th. 
 

Experts said they could not award any country with the top three rankings, as no nation was doing enough to prevent climate change. 
 

The three lowest-ranking countries are Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Iran. The index is compiled each year by environmental lobby organization Germanwatch and the Climate Action Network (CAN), which evaluate and compare the climate protection performance of the 58 countries worldwide which are together responsible for more than 90 percent of global energy-related CO2-emissions
 

"This year’s results signify that although globally emissions are still growing, none of the big emitters make the real shifts that are needed," said CAN Europe director Wendel Trio. "None of them is considered as doing enough." 
 

Sweden’s climate policy was not ambitious enough, while the UK, ranked 5th, had recently shown worrying signs. It had failed to tighten up its carbon budgets, while Germany’s emission levels remained too high for a placement higher than rank 6. 
 

"The average grades for the national and international policies are weak," said Germanwatch researcher Jan Burck, one of the authors of the ...

Published: Tuesday 29 November 2011
“It is only a matter of time until Iran’s neighbors and the international community will confront a fateful choice: either accept Iran as a nuclear power, or decide that the mere prospect is leading to war.”

While Europe remains preoccupied with its own slow-motion crisis, and other global powers continue to be mesmerized by the bizarre spectacle of European officials’ myriad efforts to rescue the euro (and thus the global financial system), clouds of war are massing over Iran once more.

For years, Iran has been pursuing both a nuclear program and the development of long-range missiles, which points to only one conclusion: the country’s leaders are intent on building nuclear weapons, or at least on reaching the technological threshold beyond which only a single political decision is required to achieve that end.

The latter course would arguably keep Iran within the scope of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory. But there can be no reasonable doubt about the Iranian leadership’s intentions. Otherwise, Iran’s nuclear and missile programs would be a pointless waste of money. After all, Iran does not need uranium-enrichment technology. The country has only one civilian nuclear reactor, with fuel rods supplied by Russia, and the Iranian technology now being developed cannot be used in it.

But uranium enrichment makes a lot of sense if you want a nuclear weapon; indeed, for that purpose, enrichment is indispensable. Moreover, Iran is building a heavy-water reactor, supposedly for research purposes, but which is also needed to build a plutonium bomb.

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Iran has, in violation of the NPT, hidden substantial parts of this program. The country has also spent millions of dollars on illegal purchases of enrichment ...

Published: Thursday 24 November 2011
New legislation would make all diplomatic contact with Iran illegal.

Though most of our history books, as well as contemporary journalism, tend to focus on violence between peoples and nations, the vast majority of conflicts have been settled peacefully.  For centuries, it has been forbidden to “kill the messenger,” thereby enabling diplomacy between governments. Even in cases where countries have not had formal diplomatic relations, quiet negotiations – often initially clandestine and between low-level officials – have prevented cold conflicts from becoming hot ones.  Even war itself has generally not prevented ongoing diplomatic contact, which has often prevented escalation, limited civilian casualties, and made possible a speedier end to the conflict.

With the advent of air travel and instantaneous long-distance communication, the ease with which representatives of adversarial governments can meet has made diplomatic contact more timely and frequent. Meanwhile, advances in the study of negotiation and conflict resolution has made it more effective. Indeed, the improved quantity and quality of diplomatic contact has been a major factor in the dramatic reduction in inter-state wars over the past sixty years.

Unfortunately, Congress is taking up dangerous legislation which appears to be designed to make the risk of war more likely. The bill takes the unprecedented step of effectively preventing any kind of U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran. The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905), sponsored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the right-wing chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, is a far-reaching sanctions bill which contains a provision (Section 601, subsection (c)) which would put into law a restriction whereby

"No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that. . . is an agent, ...

Published: Tuesday 15 November 2011
New legislation is looking to cause serious threats between the U.S. and Iran.

Congress is taking up dangerous legislation which appears to be designed to pave the way for war by taking the unprecedented step of effectively preventing any kind of U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran. The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 (H.R. 1905), sponsored by the right-wing chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, contains a provision (Section 601, subsection (c)) which would put into law a restriction whereby

“No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that. . . is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran;”

Never in the history of this country has Congress ever restricted the right of the White House or State Department to meet with representatives of a foreign state, even in wartime. If this measure passes, it will establish a dangerous precedent whereby Congress would likely follow with similar ...

Published: Sunday 13 November 2011
“Painting the Islamic Republic as an irrational actor, as was done to Saddam Hussein in 2003, serves to reinforce the case for war as a last resort.”

Much of the U.S. media, with instigation from hawkish voices in IsraelFrance, the U.K. and the U.S., has been whipped into an anti-Iran frenzy over the last week surrounding the release of a much-ballyhooed report from the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report, which expresses the Director General’s “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program,” has been dismissed by Iranian leaders as politically biased in favor of the U.S. administration, and lacking in any direct evidence of a weapons program.

Published: Saturday 12 November 2011
As a delayed response to the bloodshed in Syria, The Arab League suspended Syria's participation.

After months of indecision on a response to the bloodshed in Syria, the Arab League on Saturday suspended Syria’s participation and sought other extraordinary censures that reflect the shifting powers in the region after this year’s Arab uprisings.

The decision to freeze Syrian delegates’ activities stopped just short of full membership suspension. In addition, the Arab League warned of political and economic sanctions, urged Arab states to withdraw their envoys from Damascus, and called on Syrian forces to reject orders to fire on the protesters revolting against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian rule.

“We were criticized for taking a long time, but this was out of our concern for Syria,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al Thani, who led the committee on Syria, told reporters in Cairo. “We needed to have a majority to approve those decisions.”

The 22-member, Cairo-based Arab League surprised political observers with Saturday’s measures, which went well beyond what anyone had expected from a body that’s been long regarded as calcified and toothless. Analysts used words such as “watershed” and “historic” as they parsed the announcement on Twitter.

The Arab League also invited the main Syrian opposition umbrella group to Cairo to hold talks. "We are calling all Syrian opposition parties to a meeting at the Arab League headquarters to agree a unified vision for the transitional period," Thani said.

Few predict a chastened response from the defiant Assad, whose ...

Published: Thursday 10 November 2011
“If a ramped-up sanctions regime ‘doesn’t work, the other option is military force’, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham said Tuesday after the report was released.”

A significant gap between the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama and staunchly pro-Israel majorities in both houses of Congress appears to have emerged over what to do in reaction to Tuesday's report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on possible military applications of Iran's nuclear program.

 

Staunchly pro-Israel lawmakers on Capitol Hill are demanding the imposition, unilaterally if necessary, of "crippling sanctions" against Tehran – targeted initially against Iran's central bank and the foreign banks that do business with it. If those fail to bring Iran to heel, some are calling on the administration to prepare for air strikes against Tehran's nuclear facilities and other targets.

 

If a ramped-up sanctions regime doesn't "doesn't work, the other option is military force", Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham told the widely read Cable blog on foreignpolicy.com Tuesday after the report was released.

 

The administration's reaction has been more cautious. Speaking mainly on background, senior officials have told reporters that neither option is being seriously considered at the moment. Instead, the administration hopes to work with its allies in imposing some new "targeted" sanctions and closing loopholes in existing ones.

 

It also hopes to persuade China and Russia to go along with a new round of sanctions against Iran at the U.N. Security Council, to which it hopes the IAEA's governing board will formally refer the report when it meets in Vienna late next week. Since 2006, the Council has approved four rounds of sanctions against Tehran.

 

"(W)hat we've been working towards is reinforcing (existing sanctions), working with countries around the world to make sure that ...

Published: Wednesday 9 November 2011
Published: Tuesday 8 November 2011
“Democracy Now! speaks to journalist Lina Atallah who was on the Canadian boat named ‘Tahrir’ in the flotilla and was deported to Egypt yesterday.”

Israeli forces intercepted two Gaza-bound boats in international waters on Friday to prevent the boats from breaking the naval blockade of Gaza. The Canadian and Irish boats made up the "Freedom Waves to Gaza" flotilla. Israel detained the 27 activists on board, as well as all of the journalists — including Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz. According to flotilla organizers, 21 people remain in Israeli custody, including Hafiz. The flotilla marked the latest failed attempt by international activists to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. Democracy Now! speaks to journalist Lina Atallah who was on the Canadian boat named "Tahrir" in the flotilla and was deported to Egypt yesterday. She is the managing editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition, an independent news website. The Israeli navy "cornered our boats from all sides. We were all equally put at gunpoint. Even before they boarded our boat, everyone was put at gunpoint from Israeli ships," Atallah says. "Although we were clearly showing that we were journalists, Jihan Hafiz, for example, who is a Democracy Now! journalist, had her press card out and clear, but she was one of the first people asked to lean on her knees and to raise her hands." Atallah said some passengers were tasered.

Published: Tuesday 8 November 2011
“For now, the public, preoccupied with the dismal state of the economy, seems more relieved than worried by the planned withdrawal, as Kagan and other hawks have admitted.”

Two weeks after President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of all remaining U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of next month, a familiar clutch of neo-conservative hawks and prominent Republicans are blaming the president for "losing" the Middle Eastern country to its neighbour and long-time Washington nemesis, Iran.

But their effort is failing to gain traction, in part due to the public's war fatigue, as well as some pushback by critics who argue that the withdrawal could work to Washington's long-term strategic advantage.

Nonetheless, the hawks' fury over Obama's decision has been unrelenting since the day he announced it last month. Obama reportedly made the decision when it became clear after months of negotiations that the Iraqi parliament would not agree to provide immunity to the 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops Washington wanted to retain as "trainers" for the Iraqi armed forces.

"Iran has just defeated the United States in Iraq," declared Fred and Kimberly Kagan, of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Institute for the Study of War, respectively, immediately after Obama's announcement in what soon became a mantra of mainly Republican hawks.

"In a year that also saw the 'Arab Spring,' it will ultimately be Iran that emerges ascendant in Iraq and throughout the Middle East," the husband-and-wife team wrote in the Los Angeles Times.

"Henceforth, Iranian proxy militias are likely to expand their training bases in southern Iraq and use them as staging areas for operations throughout the Persian Gulf," they predicted.

"I think it's an absolute disaster," Gen. Jack Keane (ret.), one of the architects, along with the Kagans, of the U.S. ...

Published: Monday 24 October 2011
“Deliberately sticking his finger in America’s eye, the ever-bombastic President Ahmadinejad of Iran suggested that Tehran is willing, and soon, to provide military training to Iraqi forces.”

Just days after President Obama acceded to Iraq’s wishes and announced that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by Jan. 1, Michele Bachmann has already pivoted to slamming the George W. Bush-installed pro-Tehran government in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Obama administration, too, is telling Iran: “We’re ready for ya.”

Bachmann, a know-nothing on foreign policy, allowed herself this outburst:

“We are there [in Iraq] as the nation that liberated these people. And that’s the thanks that the United States is getting after 4,400 lives were expended and over $800 billion? And so on the way out, we’re being kicked out of the country?”

Not that the United States is abandoning Iraq. From President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and Secretary of Defense Panetta on down, U.S. officials are unanimous in declaring that they intend to go back to the negotiating table to make sure that the United States can send some military trainers and equipment specialists to Iraq in 2012, to help Iraq learn how to use the high-tech weapons Washington hopes to sell to ...

Published: Thursday 20 October 2011
“In the cases of Muslim terrorists, we search their religious views and political indoctrination. But when looking at other Americans who commit outrages not overtly tied to some creed, we tend to focus on their inner turmoil rather than their big-picture resentments.”

When trying to make sense of terrorists, we examine their "causes." In the cases of Muslim terrorists, we search their religious views and political indoctrination. But when looking at other Americans who commit outrages not overtly tied to some creed, we tend to focus on their inner turmoil rather than their big-picture resentments.

And so we pinpoint lost jobs, failed marriages, rejecting lovers and child custody battles as reasons why someone might shoot up a workplace or shopping mall — or, to be more accurate, as stresses that might push an unbalanced individual over the edge. A recent tragedy in the normally tranquil town of Seal Beach, Calif., follows this pattern: Bitter over his divorce, a man killed eight and wounded others in the hair salon where his former wife worked. We shudder at these rampages but regard the slayers as people who cracked.

But could personal and mental problems be a main factor in what we usually call "a religious or politically inspired terrorist attack"? Suppose Muslim terrorists are using radical Islam as a cover for mental imbalance and perceived failures — just as Timothy McVeigh blamed an allegedly abusive government for his decision to blow up a building in Oklahoma City.

Most immigrants must cope with the tensions of cultural dislocation. A man raised in a very male-dominated country whose wife walks out on him — and after he failed as a provider — experiences deep humiliation. But are his frustrations all that different from those of the native-born bankrupt, enraged over losing the kids, who opens fire at a hamburger joint?

Consider Mansour Arbabsiar, the suspect in an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat ...

Published: Thursday 13 October 2011
Several U.S. intelligence experts expressed skepticism about the expertise of the DEA in evaluating such a sensitive case.

U.S. Justice Department charges that elements of Iran's government were behind a foiled plot on the life of Saudi Arabia's U.S. ambassador have boggled the minds of many Americans knowledgeable about both Iran and terrorism.

The alleged target and modus operandi – employing a Mexican drug cartel to blow up Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir at a Washington restaurant – are unusual, to say the least, for a government that has focused on political dissidents and theatres of war closer to home.

"Fishy, fishy, fishy,'' Bruce Riedel, a CIA veteran who was formerly in charge of the Near East and South Asia on the White House National Security Council, told IPS. "That Iran engages in assassinations is old news. That it would use a Mexican drug cartel would be new."

Iran has not been behind a political assassination in the United States since a year after the 1979 revolution, when an African-American convert to Islam, Daoud Salahuddin, killed the former press attaché at the Iranian Embassy, Ali Akbar Tabatabai, in a Washington suburb.

Iran was also responsible for assassinations of Iranian dissidents in Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s but used its own agents or members of Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite organization that Iran helped create following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Hezbollah is believed responsible for the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and a spate of other bombings and abductions in Lebanon.

More recently, Iran has allegedly backed local proxies responsible for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. experts on Iranian spy agencies and tradecraft say the hare-brained scheme ...

Published: Tuesday 4 October 2011
According to Bloomberg's analysis of French court documents, Koch failed to hold higher-level officials accountable for the bribery payments.

Bloomberg has published an in-depth investigation into business practices at Koch Industries, run by politically influential brothers Charles and David Koch. The story lays out what it suggests is a decades-long pattern of illegal and unethical behavior at Koch.

Both Bloomberg's story and Koch's official response are long and full of complicated details, and it's not easy to untangle it all. Here's our guide to what seem to be the newest, most significant allegations.

Undisputed: Koch's subsidiaries in Europe got contracts through bribes in at least six countries.

In 2008, in the wake of a $1.6 billion settlement by the German engineering giant Siemens for bribing officials around the world, Koch conducted an internal investigation of its own payment practices. The company found that its France-based affiliate, Koch-Glitsch, had paid illegal bribes to secure contracts in India, Africa and the Middle East, including bribes to government officials, a practice banned by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In response, Koch fired several employees and sales agents, including the business director of Koch-Glitsch France.

Disputed: Was Koch's response sufficient?

According to Bloomberg's analysis of French court ...

Published: Sunday 25 September 2011
Diplomatic cable shows the participants in a high-level military-diplomatic meeting between the two countries discussing the “upcoming delivery” of the bombs and vowing to keep a lid on the transaction.

On Friday, journalist Eli Lake published a story about the Obama administration’s sale of so-called bunker-busting bombs to Israel. According to Lake’s reporting, the Bush administration had put off the sale in order to avoid the perception that delivery of the 55 GBU-28 bombs represented a “green light” for an Israeli strike on Iran:

James Cartwright, the Marine Corps general who served until August as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Newsweek the military chiefs had no objections to the sale. Rather, Cartwright said, 

Published: Monday 29 August 2011
“President Obama is not President Bush, and I don't think that for a moment that Obama is seeking excuses to bomb and invade Middle East countries, as Bush was.”

Muammar Gaddafi is (pretty much) gone, and right on cue there’s increasing talk about applying the Libya “model” to Syria. Meanwhile, I’m more worried that eventually they’ll get around to applying that “model” to Iran.

 
The New York Times carries a piece titled: “U.S. Tactics in Libya May Be a Model for Other Efforts.” By model, of course, they mean the mobilization of lethal force, including coordinated bombing attacks and precision missile strikes, tied closely to rebel military tactics, jointly run by the United States and NATO. In it, President Obama’s advisers – including Ben Rhodes, the humanitarian interventionist hawk who supported the U.S. war in Libya – suggest that the Libyan action might easily be applied elsewhere. “How much we translate to Syria remains to be seen,” says one adviser, anonymously. And the Times notes:

 
“The very fact that the administration has joined with the same allies that it banded with on Libya to call for Mr. Assad to go and to impose penalties on his regime could take the United States one step closer to applying the Libya model toward Syria.”


Meanwhile, the Washington Post 

Published: Wednesday 3 August 2011
"Americans have yet to grapple with what it means to have a “special” force this large, this active, and this secret -- and they are unlikely to begin to do so until more information is available."

Somewhere on this planet an American commando is carrying out a mission.  Now, say that 70 times and you’re done... for the day.  Without the knowledge of the American public, a secret force within the U.S. military is undertaking operations in a majority of the world’s countries.  This new Pentagon power elite is waging a global war whose size and scope has never been revealed, until now.

After a U.S. Navy SEAL put a bullet in Osama bin Laden’s chest and another in his head, one of the most secretive black-ops units in the American military suddenly found its mission in the public spotlight.  It was atypical.  While it’s well known that U.S. Special Operations forces are deployed in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it’s increasingly apparent that such units operate in murkier conflict zones like Yemen and Somalia, the full extent of their worldwide war has remained deeply in the shadows.

Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency.  By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120.  “We do a lot of traveling -- a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said ...

Published: Thursday 14 July 2011
Washington has opened the way for Iran’s influence in Iraq to eventually become predominant.

The time for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is coming closer. In December of 2008 the Iraqi parliament approved the negotiated Status of Forces Agreement that set a deadline of the end of 2011 for all American troops to leave the country. However, just like someone who starts to beg off a promise when the time for action approaches, U.S. officials are now expressing second thoughts.

Back on May 24th outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he “favored extending the American presence, noting that the Iraqi military will need help with logistics, intelligence and defending its airspace and that a continued U.S. military presence will send a ‘powerful signal that we’re not leaving, that we will continue to play a part.’” We will continue to pursue “our role in the region.” Considering that we have known for some time that the Iraq war was waged for false, contrived reasons and thus constitutes the same sort of criminal behavior (the waging of illicit and unnecessary war) that was prosecuted at Nuremberg after World War II, it is difficult to know just how Gates defines “our role.” To date in Iraq, that role has equaled the removal of one dictator (who we once supported) at  READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

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