Iran ‘More Willing’ to Attack US Depending on How Threatened It Feels, US Spy Chief Testifies
WASHINGTON (January 31, 2012) — Al-Qaida is in decline around the world but is still a leading threat to the United States, joined by others like Iran, the top US intelligence official said Tuesday in an annual report to Congress on threats facing America. Iran’s leaders seem prepared to attack US interests overseas, particularly if they feel threatened by possible US action, Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Indeed, that threat from Iran could extend to the United States homeland.
Citing last year’s thwarted Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington, “some Iranian officials — probably including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei … are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived US actions that threaten the regime,” Clapper said. â€œWe are also concerned about Iranian plotting against US or allied interests overseas.”
But Clapper, CIA chief David Petraeus and others reasserted their stance that Iran is not building nuclear weapons, in contrast to Israeli officials’ statements that Iran could have nuclear capability within a year. Petraeus said he met with the head of Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, last week to discuss Israel’s concerns, but he did not say whether Israel agreed with the US assessment that Iran had not yet decided to make a nuclear weapon.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week that Iran is proceeding toward nuclear weapons capability and time is “urgently running out.”
Al-Qaida and Iran are part of a mosaic of interconnected enemies the US faces, including terrorists, criminals and foreign powers, who may try to strike via nuclear weapons or cyberspace, Clapper and the others said.
Al-Qaida still aspires to strike the US, but it will likely have to go for “smaller, simpler attacks” as its ranks are thinned by continued pressure from US drone strikes and special operations raids since Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of Navy SEALs in Pakistan last year, Clapper predicted.
“When you take one two and three out in a single year,” that weakens the force, added Petraeus. The CIA chief pointed out that “four of the top 20 in a single week were captured or killed,” last year, leaving the leadership struggling to replace itself.
The intelligence chiefs predicted al-Qaida’s regional affiliates will try to pick up the slack for the beleaguered core group in Pakistan — from the Yemeni offshoot al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to Somalia’s al-Shabaab. If they can’t reach the US homeland, they’ll try to attack western targets in their geographic areas, they said, and the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida remains the most likely affiliate to try to attack the US homeland.
The US continues to put pressure on the Yemeni offshoot, and on Monday mounted airstrikes targeting al-Qaida leaders there, killing at least four suspected militants, according to Yemeni and military officials.
US officials also said there’s been no decision on whether to trade five dangerous Taliban prisoners now being held in Guantanamo, as part of nascent peace talks with the Taliban.
Clapper said the White House would first have to determine where they would be held, and how they would be watched after being released to make sure they did not return to militancy.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said the five men the Taliban have named are considered too dangerous to release by US counterterrorist authorities, but Petraeus said his agency had run several possible scenarios to figure out how best to free them.
Just below al-Qaida on the list of threats comes the possibility of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, from chemical and biological, to nuclear and radiological. The intelligence community does not believe states that possess them have supplied them to terror groups, but that remains a risk.
Iran has the technical ability to build a nuclear weapon, Clapper said. If Iran moves to enrich uranium beyond the current level of 20 percent, to a weapons grade level, it would be a sign Iran had decided to move ahead, Petreaus added.
The North Korean nuclear weapons program is a continued threat to global security, though the program is intended for self-defense, his assessment states: “We judge that North Korea would consider using nuclear weapons only under narrow circumstances” and “probably would not attempt to use nuclear weapons against US forces or territory, unless it perceived its regime to be on the verge of military defeat and risked an irretrievable loss of control.”
China and Russia remain the key threats to the US in cyber-space, with “entities” in both countries “responsible for extensive illicit intrusions into US computer networks and theft of US intellectual property,” though Iran is also a player, Clapper said.
He warned of growing cyber-espionage by foreign governments against US government and businesses, and said many such intrusions are not being detected.
“They seem most interested in our technology,” he said. “If they can steal it from us, that works to their benefit” so they don’t have to spend their own money on research.
Insider threats are another category of risk, in which disgruntled employees like accused Army soldier Bradley Manning allegedly leak information to the public or sell it to competing corporations or nations.
The annual threat assessment looked further afield to places like Afghanistan, where it assessed the Afghan government’s progress as fragile, and the Taliban as “resilient.” The group is less able to intimidate the Afghan population that last year, especially in areas where NATO forces are concentrated, but its leaders continue to direct the insurgency from their safe haven in Pakistan, the report said.
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Israeli Officials: Attack on Iran Must Come ‘By Summer’ Attack Would Start a Big War, But Would It Damage Iran’s Nuclear Program? Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 30, 2012) — There is of course never really any discussion of whether or not an Israeli attack on Iran is justified on the basis of Iran’s legal civilian nuclear program. Rather, the questions center around just how bad the inevitable retaliation would be, and how much damage Israel could theoretically do to the program.
The second of these questions appears to be coming to a head, as Israeli officials are warning that by summer so much of Iran’s nuclear program will have been relocated underground (a consequence of decades of Israeli threats) that such an attack will be entirely impossible to carry out.
Tel Aviv University’s Yiftah Shapir argues that the attack would require “a series of massive assaults for two to three weeks, a month, something like that” to destroy Iran’s existing enrichment facilities.
Others argue that the facilities are so durable (again designed in an era when threats of attack are a form of punctuation in the West) even this might not work, and would only do superficial damage. The general agreement among them however is that if the attack doesn’t come by summer it won’t happen at all.
If such an attack does happen, it of course starts a massive regional war, one that is almost certain to suck the United States in. Retaliation against Israel would be significant, given that Iran has been stocking up on conventional missiles as a hedge against this threat since the Reagan Administration.
And of course, Iran’s nuclear program is entirely civilian in nature. This may not matter rhetorically, but even the speculation about Iran having a weapons program alleges it is entirely separate from the IAEA-supervised civilian program, so attacking the known sites is of no real strategic value.
It is possible, then, that Israel’s far-right government is using these constant threats to attack Iran to press the international community into imposing more and more sanctions against their key regional rival. Unfortunately, reasonableness has not been a key virtue of many of the top Israeli officials, and starting a war just for its own sake would not be unprecedented in the nation’s history.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Iran-IAEA Nuclear Negotiations “Constructive” Deutsche Presse-Agentur
TEHRAN (January 31, 2012) — The three-day negotiations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team with Iran was ‘constructive,’ Fars semi-official news agency reported Tuesday. The negotiations between the two sides were held in a positive and constructive atmosphere,’ Fars quoted sources in the Iranian Atomic Energy as saying.
Fars further said that the two sides also agreed to hold further meetings in the future. The report gave no further details. The IAEA officials are to leave Iran late Tuesday after three days of talks with Iranian officials, all held behind closed doors.
It remains unclear precisely what the two sides discussed and whether the IAEA team had inspected any nuclear sites.
The ISNA news agency on Sunday reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi had granted the six IAEA officials permission to inspect all nuclear sites and offered to let them stay longer than three days.
IAEA chief inspector Herman Nackaerts and his team were reported to have met Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saedi Jalili and atomic chief Fereydoun Abbasi to discuss the alleged military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme.
Iran has for the past 15 years constantly rejected charges by the West that it is developing a covert nuclear weapons programme. The visit by the IAEA team is widely seen as the last chance for diplomacy in the nuclear dispute.
The IAEA mission will clarify whether the nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers — Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States — can resume.
Jalili will reportedly send EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads the nuclear negotiations, a letter about a date and venue for the next round of talks.
Iran has said it is ready to resume the talks but the world powers want a clear agenda and that Iran temporarily suspends uranium enrichment until it can prove that it is not developing a nuclear bomb. Those conditions have been rejected by Iran.
Iran: US ‘Bullied’ Europe for Resolution Al Jazeera
VIENNA (March 10, 2004) — Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna says a draft nuclear resolution on Tehran was the result of US “bullying” and European nations should have done more to stand up to Washington. The United States said a resolution on Wednesday circulating among the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board members would tell Iran it would be punished if it defied the watchdog. But it stopped short of reporting Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
“The three European countries tried their best. We expected more from our European colleagues,” Ambassador Pirooz Hosseini told reporters, describing the US approach to discussions in the governing board as an “act of bullying. We think that a lot of bullying is involved by the Americans to subdue a healthy process here,” Hosseini said.
The IAEA is holding a meeting on Iran in Vienna, at which the United States had insisted that Iran be declared in breach of its international agreements, including uranium enrichment and plutonium processing. US officials allege that those activities point to a nuclear weapons agenda, allegations Iran categorically denies.
In the draft, the United States compromised with Britain, France and Germany to tone down criticism of Iran’s continued nuclear secrecy and give some praise of Tehran’s willingness to open its programmes to outside inspection.
The preliminary draft is still being revised by co-authors Australia and Canada. Last month, the EU’s “big three” told Iran they would try to block any resolution on Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for Iran’s promise to suspend everything related to its uranium enrichment programme. But they later agreed to back a resolution that did not report Iran to the council.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Tehran will resume uranium enrichment once its problems with the IAEA are resolved and warned European partners it could end nuclear cooperation if they fail to support Tehran. “It’s our legitimate right to enrich uranium,” Kharrazi told reporters on Wednesday after a cabinet meeting.
But IAEA director general Muhammad al-Baradai urged Tehran not to resume its uranium enrichment activities as a confidence-building measure. Kharrazi also warned that Iran could end nuclear cooperation and called on its European partners to resist US pressure at the Vienna meeting. “We recommend the three European countries to remain committed to their obligations (toward Tehran) and resist US pressures if they want the project of cooperation between Iran and them to lead to results,” he said.
Halt in Cooperation
The Iranian foreign minister also warned that Iran would stop cooperating with the three nations if they fail to support Iran. “Cooperation is a two way street. If they don’t fulfil their obligations, there is no reason for us to cooperate,” he said.
Iran says it wants the West to provide it with nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, an obligation nuclear-capable powers agreed to when they signed up to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But the West claims the oil-rich country is not in need of nuclear energy and suspects it of developing weapons.
An IAEA report last month accused Iran of trying to hide evidence of nuclear experiments and mentioned finding traces of polonium, a radioactive element that can be used in nuclear weapons.
Hypocrisy and Israel
It also expressed concerns about the discovery of a previously undisclosed advanced P-2 uranium centrifuge system, a find IAEA director-general Muhammad al-Baradai described as “a setback to Iran’s stated policy of transparency.”
International arms control expert Dan Plesch said the US pressure on Iran exposed the hypocrisy of nuclear powers. “America operates a rigorous double standard with respect to nuclear issues, rather like confirmed alcoholics complaining about teenage drinking. Between them the US and Russia have more than 10,000 nuclear weapons yet there is no discussion on their removal,” said Plesch, senior research fellow at London University’s Birkbeck College.
US strong-arming also exposed the limits of a process that tackled non-proliferation without the inseparable issue of disarmament.
“There are two deals in the NPT. States that didn’t go for the bomb got a clause saying they would get help with civil programmes,” said Plesch. “The second was that nuclear states would get rid of their nuclear weapons. Of course that hasn’t happened, so they are in breach of their obligations.”
The US was also keen to curtail Iran’s power vis-a-vis its main regional rival, Israel, the Middle East’s biggest nuclear power. But, he added, the international community should not expect Tehran not to pursue nuclear arms while Israel continued to possess them.
“In the same way that Iran, Iraq, Libya issues are being resolved, there is no justification for not addressing the Israel issue. One has to address the issue in a regional arms context,” said Plesch. “It’s vastly more practical than people realise if you look at the treaties drawn up at the end of the Cold war. If you could get a deal between Soviets and Reagan, there can be no reason that you cannot get a deal in the Middle East.”
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Iraqi Govt. Slams US Over Constant Drone Surveillance Jason Ditz / ANtiWar.com
(January 29, 2012) — Another irksome aspect of the lingering American presence beyond its military withdrawal, the US State Department has fielded a whole fleet of surveillance drones to fly over Iraq. They say the flights are meant to protect the city-sized US Embassy on the outskirts of Baghdad.
For the Iraqi government, however, the unwelcome overflights amount to a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, and they have a point. It is hard to imagine the US would give unfettered access to the whole of its airspace to any other nation’s surveillance drones, no matter how big its embassy was.
The State Department’s Diplomatic Security branch hasn’t exactly been keeping the drones a secret, but it hasn’t broadcast them very loudly either. Their mention is a single paragraph buried near the back of its recent annual report.
BAGHDAD (January 29, 2012) — A month after the last American troops left Iraq, the State Department is operating a small fleet of surveillance drones here to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel. Some senior Iraqi officials expressed outrage at the program, saying the unarmed aircraft are an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.
The program was described by the department’s diplomatic security branch in a little-noticed section of its most recent annual report and outlined in broad terms in a two-page online prospectus [See the Department of State’s bidding invitation below] for companies that might bid on a contract to manage the program. It foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.
American contractors say they have been told that the State Department is considering to field unarmed surveillance drones in the future in a handful of other potentially “high-threat” countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan after the bulk of American troops leave in the next two years. State Department officials say that no decisions have been made beyond the drone operations in Iraq.
The drones are the latest example of the State Department’s efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy’s 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.
When embassy personnel move throughout the country, small helicopters buzz over the convoys to provide support in case of an attack. Often, two contractors armed with machine guns are tethered to the outside of the helicopters. The State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis, and stepped up their use after the last American troops left Iraq in December, taking the military drones with them.
The United States, which will soon begin taking bids to manage drone operations in Iraq over the next five years, needs formal approval from the Iraqi government to use such aircraft here, Iraqi officials said. Such approval may be untenable given the political tensions between the two countries. Now that the troops are gone, Iraqi politicians often denounce the United States in an effort to rally support from their followers.
A senior American official said that negotiations were under way to obtain authorization for the current drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh; and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all said in interviews that they had not been consulted by the Americans.
Mr. Asadi said that he opposed the drone program: “Our sky is our sky, not the USA’s sky.”
The Pentagon and C.I.A. have been stepping up their use of armed Predator and Reaper drones to conduct strikes against militants in places like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. More recently, the United States has expanded drone bases in Ethiopia, the Seychelles and a secret location in the Arabian Peninsula.
The State Department drones, by contrast, carry no weapons and are meant to provide data and images of possible hazards, like public protests or roadblocks, to security personnel on the ground, American officials said. They are much smaller than armed drones, with wingspans as short as 18 inches, compared with 55 feet for the Predators.
The State Department has about two-dozen drones in Iraq, but many are used only for spare parts, the officials said.
The United States Embassy in Baghdad referred all questions about the drones to the State Department in Washington.
The State Department confirmed the existence of the program, calling the devices unmanned aerial vehicles, but it declined to provide details. “The department does have a UAV program,” it said in a statement without referring specifically to Iraq. “The UAV’s being utilized by the State Department are not armed, nor are they capable of being armed.”
When the American military was still in Iraq, white blimps equipped with sensors hovered over many cities, providing the Americans with surveillance abilities beyond the dozens of armed and unarmed drones used by the military. But the blimps came down at the end of last year as the military completed its withdrawal. Anticipating this, the State Department began developing its own drone operations.
According to the most recent annual report of the department’s diplomatic security branch, issued last June, the branch worked with the Pentagon and other agencies in 2010 to research the use of low-altitude, long-endurance unmanned drones “in high-threat locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The document said that the program was tested in Iraq in December 2010. “The program will watch over State Department facilities and personnel and assist regional security officers with high-threat mission planning and execution,” the document said.
In the online prospectus, called a “presolicitation notice,” the State Department last September outlined a broad requirement to provide “worldwide Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) support services.” American officials said this was to formalize the initial program.
The program’s goal is “to provide real-time surveillance of fixed installations, proposed movement routes and movement operations,” referring to American convoy movements. In addition, the program’s mission is “improving security in high-threat or potentially high-threat environments.”
The document does not identify specific countries, but contracting specialists familiar with the program say that it focuses initially on operations in Iraq. That is “where the need is greatest,” said one contracting official who spoke on condition of anonymity, because the contract is still in its early phase.
In the next few weeks, the department is expected to issue a more detailed proposal, requesting bids from private contractors to operate the drones. That document, the department said Friday, will describe the scope of the program, including the overall cost and other specifics.
While the preliminary proposal has drawn interest from more than a dozen companies, some independent specialists who are familiar with drone operations expressed skepticism about the State Department’s ability to manage such a complicated and potentially risky enterprise.
“The State Department needs to get through its head that it is not an agency adept at running military-style operations,” said Peter W. Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Wired for War,” a book about military robotics.
The American plans to use drones in the air over Iraq have also created yet another tricky issue for the two countries, as Iraq continues to assert its sovereignty after the nearly nine-year occupation. Many Iraqis remain deeply skeptical of the United States, feelings that were reinforced last week when the Marine who was the so-called ringleader of the 2005 massacre of 24 Iraqis in the village of Haditha avoided prison time and was sentenced to a reduction in rank.
“If they are afraid about their diplomats being attacked in Iraq, then they can take them out of the country,” said Mohammed Ghaleb Nasser, 57, an engineer from the northern city of Mosul.
Hisham Mohammed Salah, 37, an Internet cafe owner in Mosul, said he did not differentiate between surveillance drones and the ones that fire missiles. “We hear from time to time that drone aircraft have killed half a village in Pakistan and Afghanistan under the pretext of pursuing terrorists,” Mr. Salah said. “Our fear is that will happen in Iraq under a different pretext.”
Still, Ghanem Owaid Nizar Qaisi, 45, a teacher from Diyala, said that he doubted that the Iraqi government would stop the United States from using the drones. “I believe that Iraqi politicians will accept it, because they are weak,” he said.
Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Michael S. Schmidt from Baghdad.
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A Glance at the Way the US Military-Industrial Complex Works
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Support Services FedBizOps.Gov
Solicitation Number: SAQMMA11R0358
Agency: U.S. Department of State
Office: Office of Logistics Management
Location: Acquisition Management
Notice Type: Presolicitation
This notice is made in accordance with FAR Part 5.203 and will account for the 15 day pre-solicitation issuance requirement. The anticipated release date for the solicitation is November 1, 2011.
The Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), Office of Security Technology (ST), has a requirement for a qualified contractor to provide worldwide Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) support services. The mission of the UAV program is to provide real-time air surveillance of fixed installations, proposed movement routes and movement operations, and special events thereby improving security in high threat or potentially high threat environments.
The UAV program shall provide the capability to:
â€¢ Achieve and maintain situational awareness.
â€¢ Automatically generate and disseminate high quality video imaging.
â€¢ Respond to a security incident at locations remote from the core of operations.
â€¢ Disseminate threat information for use in route planning.
â€¢ Receive, view, and analyze in route activity.
The contractor shall provide Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for Tier I and Tier II/Tier II+ as classified by the United States Air Force appropriate for the missions and flight services specified. The contractor shall also provide a logistics service package to include but not limited to systems management, staffing, operation, maintenance, repair, tools, parts, supply and reporting activities at levels adequate to meet or exceed the requirements of the solicitation.
The anticipated period of performance is one base year and four, one-year options. This requirement will be solicited under full and open competition and the contract type is to be determined. The Government reserves the right to issue Firm Fixed Price (FFP) Task Orders for specific tasks approved by the Contracting Officer. Contractor performance will be measured in accordance with the metrics specified in Quality Assurance and Surveillance Plan (QASP).
The contract will be awarded utilizing the best value trade-off source selection methodology. For this requirement, all evaluation factors other than cost or price, when combined, are significantly more important than cost or price. As technical merit of the offeror’s proposals become more equal, the evaluated cost or price may become the determining factor.
The National American Individual Classification Standard (NAICS) code for procurement is 541690, Other Scientific and Technical Consulting Services (Security Consulting Services). The contractor will be required to possess a TOP SECRET Facility Clearance at the time of proposal submission.
After the solicitation has been posted, a date will be set for vendor questions to be proposed in writing to the Contract Specialist. Proposals are due 30 days after the solicitation has been posted. The contract will be awarded within approximately 45 days after proposal submission.
All announcements and amendments made to the solicitation will be posted on FedBizOpps. To receive updates, click on “Register to Receive Notification. This pre-solicitation announcement is for notification purpose only. Do not submit any information in response. Official questions will be taken after the solicitation notice has been posted. All prospective contractors must be registered in the Central Contractors Registry (CCR) in order to be eligible for award.
A pre-proposal conference for all interested vendors is anticipated. The date, time and location of the conference will be announced through a posting on FedBizOpps.
Iranian Aircraft Carriers in the Gulf of Mexico [Satire]
On @ 11:00 pm In Uncategorized | 8 Comments
TEHRAN, FNA (January 29, 2012) — 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 US-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 threatsâ€¦.”
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 discuss operational plans regarding any particular nation,” Arastoo says about the US.
WASHINGTON, DC (January 29, 2012) — Okay, so I made that up. Sue me. But first admit that, a line or two in, you knew it was fiction. After all, despite the talk about American decline, we are still on a one-way imperial planet.
Yes, there is a new US special operations team known as Joint Special Operations Task Force-Gulf Cooperation Council, or JSOTF-GCC, at work near Iran and, according to Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, we really don’t quite know what it’s tasked with doing (other than helping train the forces of such allies as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia).
And yes, the quotes are perfectly real, just out of the mouth of a US “spokesman for special-operations forces in the Mideast,” not a representative of Iran’s Republican Guard. And yes, most Americans, if they were to read about the existence of the new special ops team, wouldn’t think it strange that US forces were edging up to (if not across) the Iranian border, not when our “safety” was at stake.
Reverse the story, though, and it immediately becomes a malign, if unimaginable, fairy tale. Of course, no Iranian elite forces will ever operate along the US border. Not in this world. Washington wouldn’t live with it and it remains the military giant of giants on this planet. By comparison, Iran is, in military terms, a minor power.
Any Iranian forces on the Mexican border would represent a crossing of one of those “red lines” that US officials are always talking about and so an international abomination to be dealt with severely. More than that, their presence would undoubtedly be treated as an act of war. It would make screaming headlines here. The Republican candidates for the presidency would go wild. You know the rest. Think about the reaction when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that an Iranian-American used-car salesman from Texas had contacted a Mexican drug cartel as part of a bizarre plot supposedly hatched by senior members of the elite Iranian Quds Force to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a Washington restaurant and possibly bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies as well.
Though doubts were soon raised about the likelihood of such an Iranian plot, the outrage in the US was palpable. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that it “crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for.” The Wall Street Journal labeled it “arguably an act of war,” as did Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Speaker of the House John Boehner termed it “a very serious breach of international behavior,” while House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers swore that it crossed “a very dangerous threshold” and called for “unprecedented” action by the Obama administration.
On the other hand, no one here would claim that a US special operations team edging up to the Iranian border was anything out of the ordinary or that it potentially crossed any lines, red or otherwise, or was a step beyond what the international community accepts. In fact, the news, such as it was, caused no headlines in the press, no comments on editorial pages, nothing. After all, everyone knows that Iranians would be the equivalent of fish out of water in Mexico, but that Americans are at home away from home in the Persian Gulf (as in most other places on Earth).
The Iranian “War” Against America
Nonetheless, just for the heck of it, let’s suspend the laws of political and military gravity and pile up a few more fairy-tale-ish details.
Imagine that, in late 2007, Iran’s ruling mullahs and their military advisers had decided to upgrade already significant covert activities against Washington, including cross-border operations, and so launched an intensification of its secret campaign to “destabilize” the country’s leadership — call it a covert war if you will — funded by hundreds of millions of dollars of oil money; that they (or their allies) supported armed oppositional groups hostile to Washington;
that they flew advanced robot drones on surveillance missions in the country’s airspace; that they imposed ever escalating sanctions, which over the years caused increased suffering among the American people, in order to force Washington to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and give up the nuclear program (military and peaceful) that it had been pursuing since 1943;
that they and an ally developed and launched a computer worm meant to destroy American centrifuges and introduced sabotaged parts into its nuclear supply chain;
that they encouraged American nuclear scientists to defect;
that one of their allies launched an assassination program against American nuclear scientists and engineers, killing five of them on the streets of American cities;
that they launched a global campaign to force the world not to buy key American products, including Hollywood movies, iPhones, iPods, and iPads, and weaponry of any sort by essentially embargoing American banking transactions.
Imagine as well that an embattled American president declared the Gulf of Mexico to be off-limits to Iranian aircraft carriers and threatened any entering its waters with dire consequences. In response, the Iranians promptly sent their aircraft carrier, the Mossadegh, and its battle group of accompanying ships directly into Gulf waters not far from Florida and then stationed a second carrier, the Khomeini, and its task force in the nearby Caribbean as support. (Okay, the Iranians don’t have aircraft carriers, but just for a moment, suspend disbelief.)
And keep in mind that, in this outlandish scenario, all of the above would only be what we knew about or suspected. You would have to assume that there were also still-unknown aspects to their in-the-shadows campaign of regime change against Washington.
Now, pinned to Iran, that list looks absurd. Were such things to have happened (even in a far more limited fashion), they would have been seen across the American political spectrum as an abomination (and rightly so), a morass of illegal, illegitimate, and immoral acts and programs that would have to be opposed at all costs.
As you also know perfectly well, it is a description of just what we do know or suspect that the US has done, alone or in concert with its ally Israel, or what, in the case of the assassination operations against nuclear scientists (and possibly an explosion that destroyed much of an Iranian missile base, killing a major general and 16 others), Israel has evidently done on its own, but possibly with the covert agreement of Washington.
And yet you can search the mainstream news far and wide without seeing words like “illegal,” “illegitimate,” or “immoral” or even “a very serious breach of international behavior” applied to them, though you can certainly find sunny reports on our potential power to loose destruction in the region, the sorts of articles that, if they were in the state-controlled Iranian press, we would consider propaganda.
While the other three presidential candidates were baying for Iranian blood at a recent Republican debate, it was left to Ron Paul, the ultimate outsider, to point out the obvious: that the latest round of oil sanctions being imposed by Washington and just agreed to by the European Union, meant to prohibit the sale of Iranian oil on the international market, was essentially an “act of war,” and that it preceded recent Iranian threats (an unlikely prospect, by the way) to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the planet’s oil flows.
And keep in mind, the covert war against Iran is ostensibly aimed at a nuclear weapon that does not exist, that the country’s leaders claim they are not building, that the best work of the American intelligence community in 2007 and 2010 indicated was not yet on the horizon. (At the moment, at worst, the Iranians are believed to be working toward “possible breakout capacity” — that is, the ability to relatively “quickly” build a nuclear weapon, if the decision were made.)
As for nuclear weapons, we have 5,113 warheads that we don’t doubt are necessary for our safety and the safety of the planet. These are weapons that we implicitly trust ourselves to have, even though the United States remains the only country ever to use nuclear weapons, obliterating two Japanese cities at the cost of perhaps 200,000 civilian deaths. Similarly, we have no doubt that the world is safe with Israel possessing up to 200 nuclear weapons, a near civilization-destroying (undeclared) arsenal. But it is our conviction that an Iranian bomb, even one, would end life as we know it.
Added to that fear is the oft-cited fact that Iran is run by a mullahtariat that oppresses any opposition. That, however, only puts it in league with US allies in the region like Bahrain, whose monarchy has shot down, beaten up, and jailed its opposition, and the Saudis, who have fiercely repressed their own dissidents. Nor, in terms of harm to its people, is Iran faintly in a league with past US allies like Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile, who launched a US-backed military coup against a democratically elected government on Sept. 11, 1973, killing more than died in the 9/11 attacks of 2001, or the Indonesian autocrat Suharto on whom the deaths of at least half a million of his people are usually pinned.
Washington at Home in the World
Here, then, is a little necessary context for the latest round of Iran-mania in the US: Washington has declared the world its oyster and garrisons the planet in a historically unique way — without direct colonies but with approximately 1,000 bases worldwide (not including those in war zones or ones the Pentagon prefers not to acknowledge). That we do so, unique as it may be in the records of empire, strikes us as anything but odd and so is little discussed here.
One of the reasons is simple enough. What’s called our “safety” and “security” has been made a planetary issue. It is, in fact, the planetary standard for action, though one only we (or our closest allies) can invoke. Others are held to far more limiting rules of behavior.
As a result, a US president can now send drones and special operations forces just about anywhere to kill just about anyone he designates as a threat to our security. Since we are everywhere, and everywhere at home, and everywhere have “interests,” we may indeed be threatened anywhere. Wherever we’ve settled in — and in the Persian Gulf, as an example, we’re deeply entrenched — new “red lines” have been created that others are prohibited from crossing. No one, after all, can infringe on our safety.
In support of our interests — which, speaking truthfully, are also the interests of oil — we could covertly overthrow an Iranian government in 1953 (starting the whole train of events that led to this crisis moment in the Persian Gulf), and we can again work to overthrow an Iranian government in 2012. The only issue seriously discussed in this country is: How exactly can we do it, or can we do it at all (without causing ourselves irreparably greater harm)? Effectiveness, not legality or morality, is the only measurement.
Few in our world (and who else matters?) question our right to do so, though obviously the right of any other state to do something similar to us or one of our allies, or to retaliate or even to threaten to retaliate, should we do so, is considered shocking and beyond all norms, beyond every red line when it comes to how nations (except us) should behave.
This mindset, and the acts that have gone with it, have blown what is, at worst, a modest-sized global problem up into an existential threat, a life-and-death matter. Iran as a global monster now nearly fills what screen-space there is for foreign enemies in the present American moment. Yet, despite its enormous energy reserves, it is a shaky regional power, ruled by a faction-ridden set of fundamentalists (but not madmen), the most hardline of whom seem at the moment ascendant (in no small part due to American and Israeli policies).
The country has a relatively modest military budget, and no recent history of invading other states. It has been under intense pressure of every sort for years now and the strains are showing. The kind of pressure the US and its allies have been exerting creates the basis for madness — or for terrible miscalculation followed by inevitable tragedy.
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?
It’s one small way to begin, individually, to imagine a planet on which everyone might experience some sense of security. And here’s the oddest thing, given the blowback that could come from a blowup in the Persian Gulf, it might even make us all safer.
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs The Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published.
Note: The initial “Iranian” news article in this piece was taken, with a few small changes, from “New US Commando Team Operating Near Iran,” a post by the intrepid Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room blog, an important place to keep up on all things military. Let me offer a bow as well to Antiwar.com, Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, and Paul Woodward’s The War in Context. I don’t know what I’d do without them when it comes to keeping up.]
Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
300+ were arrested, corralled below the YMCA @ 23rd and Broadway.
The only announcement that was made was one I’ve never heard before: You are under arrest. Submit to your arrest.”
Occupy Oakland: Police Use Flashbangs and Tear-gas against Protesters Russia Today TV
Occupy Oakland Responds to Oakland Police Repression, Demands Accounting of Brutal Tactics, and End to Disinformation Occupy Oakland.org
OAKLAND, California (January 30, 2012) — Occupy Oakland’s building occupation, an act of civil disobedience, was disrupted by a brutal police response yesterday. Protesters were met with baton strikes, shot with rubber bullets, and exposed to tear gas along the route. Police immediately issued denials that tear gas was used; however, as many victims can attest, it was used freely and without regard to safety of the diverse crowd, which included families and children.
Later, in a subsequent attempt to Occupy an abandoned building in downtown Oakland, Oakland police arrested hundreds of demonstrators. Many were reported injured as police used batons to herd protesters into a kettle in front of the YMCA.
The OPD and City have issued several false claims that need to be rebutted. OPD claim that there was no tear gas used, a fabrication easily refuted by video shot by protesters. Police also claim that several officers were injured by protestersâ€”again, there is absolutely no evidence of this claim, which is made at every demonstration and subsequently proven to be baseless. Protesters kettled in front of the YMCA, fled into the building, aided, at first by employees there. They did so to escape police, herding protesters against the walls of the building with baton-strikes. As always, police justify their actions by claiming that protesters attacked them or are a danger to others. But there are no reported injuries to police from protesters; a wedding party felt so unthreatened by Occupy Oakland, that it continued to have a reception in an art gallery in the plaza throughout the night.
City Administrator Deanna Santana and Police Chief Howard Jordan have made their intentions clear in the press statement released on Friday night. They intend to manipulate the law to intimidate protesters, implying that acts of civil disobedience and freedom of assembly are criminal, and targeting assumed leaders regularly with unannounced warrants for invented charges.
These actions from the OPD come at a time when the city of Oakland is laying off hundreds of workers, and following millions of wasted dollars in similar brutal police actions.
Residents of Oakland will not continue to stand for this behavior and Occupy Oakland is undeterred by such repression. We will continue the Sunday portion of its festival at Oscar Grant Plaza at 12pm on Sunday. Please join us.
Police Arrest over 300 Protesters at Occupy Oakland Russia Today TV
(January 29, 2012) — Short version — The mass arrests at Occupy Oakland occurred 4 hours after the violent incidents ended. The arrests occurred during a march, which had no protester violence, and the arrests were conducted unlawfully. Protesters marching on a public street were kettled by police after receiving no dispersal order. After the arrests, more incidents occurred back at the main plaza.
The media justifies the mass arrest by using a minority of the protesters actions at different times and places. In reality, the flag-burning, street battle, and City-Hall trespassing are legally separate incidents. The 2:30pm street battle became the justification for calling the 5pm march a ‘riot’, even though the 5pm march had different people, a different purpose, and no incidents of protester aggression. Protesters were charged under CA Penal Code 409, which reads:
Every person remaining present at the place of any riot… after the same has been lawfully warned to disperse… is guilty of a misdemeanor.
This was an illegal mass arrest because no “lawful warning to disperse” was given. In order for it to be lawful, the warning must be loud, repeated, location-specific, cite the penal code, and identify the direction to disperse in.
This march was simply stopped with a kettle, and the only police announcement stated, “You are under arrest. Submit to that arrest.” The police cannot arrest a mass group of people for the actions of a minority at a different time and place! This post is not about Occupy, it is about the First Amendment!….
Please spread the fact that the mass arrest of 300+ was ILLEGAL — no dispersal order was given, nor was an unlawful assembly declared at the arrest location. The media and OPD are flat-out lying about that detail. This is the most important point, in terms of our rights as citizens and OPD breaking their own protest policy.
The 300+ were NOT arrested while attempting to occupy a building, they were arrested for marching on public streets a few hours later. The late-night incident at city hall was a response to the mass arrest, occurring while police resources were tied-up at the arrest site.
Please remember you do not know me, and should not make assumptions. I do not endorse many of the things I saw. This post is meant to provide a first-hand report of yesterday’s events, not as a sweeping endorsement or justification for OO’s tactics.
I feel for the people of Oakland who support occupy’s ideals, but are firmly against aggressive protest tactics and police provocations on their streets. However, I am young and able-bodied, and therefore have a duty to show up at these incidents and report the truth.
BEGIN For the internet, here’s a first-hand account of Occupy Oakland on 1/28/2012, because the news never tells the full story. I’ll tell you about the street battle, the 300+ arrests, the vandalism, the flag burning, all in the context of my experience today. This is deeper than the headlines. No major news source can do that for you, but Reddit can.
The stated goal for the day was to “move-in” to a large, abandoned, building to turn it into a social and political center. It is a long vacant convention center — the only people ever near there are the homeless who use the space outside the building as a bed. The building occupation also draws attention to the large number of abandoned and unused buildings in Oakland. The day started with a rally and a march to the proposed building.
The police knew which building was the target, surrounded it, and used highly mobile units to try and divert the protest. After avoiding police lines, the group made it to one side of the building. Now, this is a very large building, and we were on a road with construction fences on both sides, and a large ditch separating us from the cops. The police fired smoke grenades into the crowd as the group neared a small path around the ditch, towards the building.
They declared an unlawful assembly, and this is when the crowd broke down the construction fence. A few people broke fences to escape the situation, others because they were pissed. A couple more fences were taken down than necessary, but no valuable equipment was destroyed. They only things broken were the fences.
The crowd decided to continue moving, and walked up the block to a more regular street. We decided to turn left up the street, and a police line formed to stop the march. They again declared an unlawful assembly. The protesters challenged the line, marching towards the police with our own shields in front. You can see the shields in the earlier-linked visual, some small and black and a few large metal sheets.
The police fired tear-gas as the group approached, and shot less-than-lethal rounds at the crowd. The protesters returned one volley of firecrackers, small projectiles, and funny things like balloons. A very weak attack, 3 officers may have been hit by something but none of them got injured. Tear gas forced many people back. The protesters quickly regrouped, and pressed the line again. This time the police opened fire with flash-grenades, tear gas, paint-filled beanbag shotguns, and rubber bullets.
After the police fired heavily on the protesters, they pushed their line forward and made a few arrests. The protesters regrouped down the block and began to march the other way (followed by police), back to Oscar Grant Plaza.
All of this occurred during the day, but it was that street battle that set the tone for the police response later in the evening. After taking a break in Oscar Grant Plaza, feeding everyone and resting, the group headed out for their evening march. Around 5pm, the group took to the street at 14th and Broadway and began a First-amendment sanctioned march around the city. The police response was very aggressive.
About 15 minutes into the march, the police attempted to kettle the protesters. This march was entirely non-violent; nobody threw shit at the cops and an unlawful assembly was never declared. This is a very important detail. The march was 1000+ strong, conservatively. The police were very mobile, using 25+ rented 10-seater vans to bring the ‘troops’ to the march.
For their first attempt at a kettle, the cops charged the group with police lines from the front and back. They ran towards us aggressively. Us being 1000+ peaceful, marching protesters. The group was forced to move up a side street. The police moved quickly to surround the entire area; they formed a line on every street that the side street connected to. Police state status: very efficient. They kettled almost the entire protest in the park near the Fox theater.
AFTERWARDS, as in after they surrounded everyone, they declared it to be an unlawful assembly BUT OFFERED NO EXIT ROUTE. Gas was used (didn’t hit me, could have been tear or smoke gas. If I say tear gas, like earlier, I felt it and know 100%.).
The crowd then broke down a fence that was on one side of the kettle, and 1000 people ran across a field escaping a police kettle and embarrassing the entire police force. It was literally a massive jailbreak from a kettle. The group re-took telegraph ave. and left the police way behind.
At this point, I was on edge because I knew the police were not fucking around tonight. Because of the incident earlier in the day, I realized they were effectively treating the peaceful march as a riot. There was not rioting, or intentions to riot, just dancing, optimism, hope, and walking. But clearly the police thought differently, and I knew they would try to trap us again without warning. From the moment I saw riot police running towards our march from both directions, I knew the constitution would not apply in Oakland tonight. The police made that very clear. My friends thought differently, thinking that they would not be arrested for marching. They are currently in jail.
The second, and successful, kettle occurred as the protest was headed back up Broadway, at Broadway and 24th. Again, the police appeared quickly in front of the crowd, as well as a line behind the crowd. This time there was no side street. A few people attempted to escape into the YMCA; some misinfonformed news reports claim that the YMCA got ‘occupied’.
Around 300 people were trapped, mostly young people. At this point I had fallen behind the line of riot police in back of the crowd, and when the kettle was sprung I was on the other side of the police line. I have a policy of avoiding arrest, but I feel like I’ve been striped of some dignity. I’ve seen some shit go down in oaktown, but I’ve always avoided arrest because it was easy.
Most mass arrests occur when people choose to break the law (ie occupying Bank of America in SF with a tent to send a statement to UC Regent Monica Lozano). At ‘unlawful assemblies’, people are usually extracted by a quick attack of 5+ cops, and they’re often ‘targets’ (previously-identified and profiled protesters). If the crowd is too large, they use tear-gas.
Tonight was different. When I fell behind the group, I feared they were about to arrest a very large number of peaceful protesters without declaring an unlawful assembly at the location. And then they did. I thought this shit was reserved for G20’s and WTO meetings. I felt shame for being intimidated away from my rights. ‘Unlawful assemblies’ feel like a boot stomp on the first amendment, but this was like them wiping their ass with the constitution and force feeding it to me.
300+ were arrested, corralled below the YMCA @ 23rd and Broadway. The only announcement that was made was one I’ve never heard before: “You are under arrest. Submit to your arrest.”
The 300 protesters were then arrested, one by one. They were ziptied and sat in rows while they waited to be processed. OPD set up an entire processing station behind police lines, where they searched and identified every protester. They were slowly loaded onto buses, including local public AC transit buses. This took about 4 or 5 hours.
Outside the police lines, things were still happening. A group that escaped the trap decided to head back to Oscar Grant Plaza. I do not know how, but they opened the front door to city hall and occupied the building. Opened, as in no window smashing. The move was not meant to be an occupation but more of a show of solidarity to the 300 arrested protesters down the street. When all the people being arrested heard the news, they let out a big cheer…
..At this point I ran to Oscar Grant Plaza. When I arrived there were only 8 riot cops guarding the open front door, but more arrived very quickly. No one was inside the building anymore, but many had gathered in the Plaza. Someone burned an American Flag in front of city hall. I’ve seen the same guy do it before; frankly he’s weird and it’s kind of his thing.
One thing to note is the police arrested to wrong part of the protest. Most people arrested were young peaceful types. Aggressive protesters, and anyone with a record, are usually very good at avoiding arrest. Point being, back at the plaza opportunists began their work. I saw some young ‘jugalos’ spray-painting a wall with “jugalos for life” shit and then take photos next to it. They were just young and stupid kids; some good protesters cleaned it up later in the night.
Some CBS and FOX news crews forced to leave the scene, with people spanking their van. They had already gotten the footage of someone burning an American Flag in front of city hall, so their work was done.
The crowd was angry about what happened, and milling around the plaza and downtown area. At one point, the first of the 9 busloads of protesters drove past 14th and Broadway. People cheered for the ones inside, and chased it down, slamming on the sides of the bus. None of the other buses came past the plaza.
There is about 30 police in the immediate area, 20 in front of city hall and 10 near 14th and broadway. Clearly they were stretched thin, and did not expect the city hall incident. Mutual aid been called it; I saw cops from Oakland, Alameda County Sheriff, Pleasanton, and Berkeley.
I walked back down to the 300 arrests in progress to try and get some information or spot my friends, but all I could do was wait and watch from behind the police line. My phone died. Not much happened, a lot of waiting and talking with people who also had friends on the other side.
People included one French women who talked about how in France this would never be tolerated, and a teacher of one of Oakland’s 10 schools being closed who was out on his birthday ‘for the kids’. Eventually, I decided I needed to charge my phone, get on the internet, and figure out where and when my friends will be released. Siting down on BART was great after a long day of walking.
I got home and viewed OakfoSho and PunkboyinSf on Ustream to stay posted. OakFoSho filmed the entire arrest from above, I was able to look for my friends from his stream. All props to that guy. I saw that with the new development at Oscar Grant Plaza, they had to call in mutual aid from San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo. They declared the 14th and Broadway an unlawful assembly and slowly dispersed the dwindling crowd. No tear gas this time!
Now that this incident is on-record, I’m gonna get a little sleep, then go pick up my friends from jail.
If you only remember one detail be it this: Tonight’s mass arrest occurred without a dispersal order. No law was broken. The only order given was: “You are under arrest. Submit to your arrest.” 300 peaceful protesters walking down a street were trapped and arrested unlawfully.
A note about police militarization: I saw some big guns and scary gear tonight. Alameda County Sheriff seems to have an endless budget for that shit. But tonight I saw something much scarier, that I’ve never seen before. First, I saw that the police have a printed profile books of protesters. I saw a cop flipping through pictures with descriptions, talking about who on their list they’ve seen today.
When resting in Oscar Grant Plaza, a cop was filming the plaza from a rooftop in an adjacent building. They’re always filming, some have cameras on their bodies now, but this was clear spying and sophisticated intelligence gathering and analysis.
Second, a very large tank on wheels, with a water cannon on top, rolled on scene. Someone said it was called a “grizzly”, but I can’t find a photo anywhere. help? It was massive, and I stood right next to it before they brought it behind police lines. It was a hardcore, modern urban tank. The police are funded and prepared to use a water cannon on protesters, if need be. Know that.
The thing about Occupy, and especially Occupy Oakland, is it refuses to exclude. We are the 99%, and we mean it. The homeless and disenfranchised were welcome in the camp from day 1. The crime rate in Downtown Oakland went down, and some people finally had a safe place to sleep. Idealistic youth, google techies, students, teachers, parents, children, poor, homeless, workers, all coming together. It rekindled hope for a lot of people. Occupy changed the conversation. The idea is more important than any one protest.
An idea cannot be stopped. It is no longer about occupations; instead, it’s about bringing people together. The 99%, all with their own problems and concerns, have brought their collective attention to the root of the forces preventing them from making a better world.
A lot of the people arrested today were my peers…a lot of young people and students. For us, the occupy movement can’t be diminished or co-opted…it’s bigger than occupy. I will seek the changes I marched for tonight until I win or die. It is the task of my generation, worldwide, to return power to the people. Governments around the world are quickly realizing that our generation will not back down. This is bigger than ‘occupy’, this is bigger than one country, one problem, or one protest. The people want their world back. We are fighting for our future, and we are winning.
IAEA Inspectors Begin Three Day Visit Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 29, 2012) — The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has dispatched a team of inspectors to Iran this weekend, and they began an intensive three-day inspection visit today under growing threats of an Israeli attack against Iran’s civilian nuclear sites.
The visit was being loudly welcomed by top Iranian officials, with their nuclear chief saying that the inspection would finally end international allegations that the program was anything but a legal, civilian program. Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi added that the IAEA inspectors would be given free and full access to any nuclear sites they requested.
The inspection team includes weapons experts, with the expectation that they will grill Iran over the alleged military ambitions of their program. Previous inspections have failed to uncover any solid evidence that there is any military program at all, which has only fueled further accusations from Western nations that Iran is hiding them. The IAEA’s current chief Amano Yukiya, has mostly gone along with these allegations, issuing a report warning that they couldn’t prove Iran didn’t secretly have a weapons program.
This time, however, the fear that Israel might start a massive regional war over the accusations is likely going to color any official IAEA statements coming out of the visit. Unfortunately any statement could theoretically be used as an excuse for a war, as Israel’s current government could spin any allegation as the “last straw” or present a lack of accusations as proof that the international community will never attack Iran and that they must do so unilaterally.
Salehi: IAEA Allowed to Inspect all Aites; No Hormuz Blockade
Jan 29, 2012) — Tehran — Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could inspect all nuclear sites during their visit to Iran, said Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi on Sunday in Ethiopia, where he is attending an annual African Union summit.
Salehi also said that Iran would not close the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, which is a vital route for global oil transfer. ‘The IAEA officials will be allowed to inspect any nuclear site they request from us,’ the official IRNA news agency quoted Salehi as saying in a press conference in Addis Ababa.
He also played down threats by Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi and several generals of the Revolutionary Guards to close down the Strait of Hormuz if oil sanctions were imposed on Iran. The ban was finalized by the European Union last week.
‘The Strait of Hormuz is an important route not only for us and the regional states but also for the whole world and we therefore consider ourselves fully responsible for the security of the Strait so that it will benefit all countries,’ Salehi said.
IAEA officials started talks Sunday with Iranian officials over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme. Both sides have so far kept silent on the exact agenda of the talks, but the IAEA team, led by chief inspector Herman Nackaerts, is expected to meet with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saedi Jalili, and atomic chief Fereydoun Abbasi.
Salehi said that as world powers and the IAEA refrained from providing Iran with the 20-per-cent enriched uranium necessary for Tehran’s medical reactor, Iran would within one month provide the reactor with its own home-made fuel. Iran had succeeded in making both the 20-per-cent enrichment as well as the fuel rods for the Tehran reactor, he said.
No information has yet been released on the first day of the IAEA visit. Upon arrival early Sunday, the six inspectors were transferred to the city through one of the rear exits of Tehran airport, avoiding contact with local and foreign reporters. It is also unclear whether the IAEA team would inspect nuclear sites or only discuss with Iranian officials the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran has for the past 15 years constantly rejected charges by the West that it is developing a covert nuclear weapons programme.
Earlier Sunday, Salehi told the ISNA news agency, ‘We have coordinated everything in advance, including inspection of nuclear sites, and are generally very optimistic about the outcome of the IAEA mission.’ He said his optimism was based on the fact that Iran’s nuclear programme was transparent and the country ‘had nothing to hide.’ Salehi said that Jalili would soon write a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to fix a date and venue for the next round of nuclear talks.
Iran wants the resumption of the talks with the 3+3 group — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. But Ashton and world powers want a clear agenda prior to the talks, and Iran’s agreement to a temporary suspension of its uranium-enrichment programme, until there is certainty that Tehran is not working on a secret weapons programme.
Observers believe that the holding of the next nuclear negotiations depend on the report by the IAEA team. One of the sites that might be inspected by the IAEA team is the new Fordo uranium enrichment facility, 160 kilometres south of the capital Tehran, which will become operational next month and is capable of enrichment at 20 percent.
Nuclear experts, however, believe that inspections of nuclear sites will neither help the UN agency nor Iran as all the sites are under the IAEA auspices and equipped with cameras, which are also to be installed in Fordo.
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MOSCOW (January 27, 2012) — With harsh US rhetoric and tensions around Iran’s nuclear program snowballing by the hour, American polls nonetheless show that most Americans think a war with Tehran would be a grave mistake. But do the leaders care?
Despite Iran’s recent consent to return to negotiations over its atomic work, the Obama administration says war with Tehran is still on the table. Even harsher statements come from some of Washington’s hawks like Newt Gingrich, who spoke of breaking the Iranian regime within a year.
The calls however appear to find little support with the ordinary people. Online and telephone surveys by one of the country’s online companion polls show the majority of Americans do not back the government’s talk of war against Iran.
The residents of one American city went even further and took the matter to their City Council. The legislative body of Charlottesville in Virginia passed a resolution, believed to be a first in the country, opposing the launching of a war on Iran, as well as calling for an end to current ground and drone wars engaged in by the US.
“The popular will has always been against wars, unless pushed and dragged by a very manipulative propaganda,” David Swanson, co-author of the resolution told RT. “And they have been trying — those who want war on Iran — have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get the American people onboard.”
RT’s Gayane Chichakyan went out on the streets of Washington to see how many people she met who want the US to attack Iran.
The result was — just one, out of more than a dozen.
And it’s not just ordinary US people, but many experts in the security field, who warn against starting a war with Iran. One of these is a former acting director of the CIA.
“People keep saying that the military option is still on the table. I think it would be a very bad option…. One of the big problems with Iran is that if you get into an open confrontation, a military confrontation, you risk a cycle of retaliation and response with great difficulty seeing where the end point is,” John E. McLaughlin says.
A natural question here is, how can Washington continue talking war, with so many Americans against it?
“I have a hard time thinking of any example of any issue on which the conduct of our government in Washington corresponds with majority opinion. War is not some kind of exception. The public is against bailouts for bankers, the public is against subsidies for energy companies, the public is against wars, the public is against just about every decision made on important issues in Washington,” David Swanson laments to RT.
But does the government care?
Many sense that the rift between what Americans want, and what the leaders do in the name of the American people, is not narrowing.
In fact, it is getting wider.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
WASHINGTON, DC (January 27, 2012) — The EU oil embargo recently slapped on Iran and the threats voiced by the US and other Western countries to come up with further sanctions against the country led watchers to conclude that an armed conflict between Iran and the West finally became imminent.
The first potential scenario in the context is that the current standoff would eventually escalate into a war. The US forces in the Gulf area currently number 40,000, plus 90,000 are deployed in Afghanistan, just east of Iran, and several thousands of support troops are deployed in various Asian countries.
That adds up to a considerable military potential which may still fall short of what it takes to keep a lid on everything if armed hostilities break out. For example, Colin H. Kahl argues in a recent paper in Foreign Affairs that, even though “there is no doubt that Washington will win in the narrow operational sense” (1), the US would have to take a vast array of pertinent problems into account.
At the moment, maintaining the status quo is not in the US interests, holds Stratfor, a US-based global intelligence agency: “If al Assad survives and if the situation in Iraq proceeds as it has been proceeding, then Iran is creating a reality that will define the region. The United States does not have a broad and effective coalition, and certainly not one that would rally in the event of war. It has only Israel …” (2)
If the conflict with Iran takes the shape of a protracted bombing campaign and comes as a prologue to the occupation of the country, the US will need to strengthen its positions in adjacent regions, meaning that Washington will be trying to draw the Caucasian republics (Georgia, Azerbaijan) and those of Central Asia into the orbit of its policy and thus tightening the “Anaconda loop” around Russia.
As for Iran, the oil blockade can cause its annual budget to contract by $15-20b, which generally should not be critical but, as the country’s parliamentary elections and the 2013 presidential poll are drawing closer and the West actively props up its domestic opposition, outbreaks of unrest in Iran would quite possibly ensue. Tehran has already made it clear it would make a serious effort to find buyers for its oil export elsewhere.
China and India, Iran’s respective number one and number three clients, brushed off the idea of the US-led sanctions momentarily. Japan pledged support for Washington over the matter but did not post any specific plans to reduce the volumes of oil it imports from Iran. Japan, by the way, was badly hit in 1973 when Wall Street provoked an oil crisis and the US guarantees turned hollow.
Consequently, Tokyo can be expected to approach Washington’s sanction suggestions with utmost caution and to ask the US for unequivocal guarantees that the White House will be unable to provide. Right now the US is courting South Korea with the aim of having it cut off the import of oil from Iran.
The opposition mounted to the plans underlying the military scenario by China, Russia, and India seems to hold the promise of an alliance of countries seeking to tame the US hegemony and raging unilateralism. Stratfor analysts have a point saying that time is not on the US side, considering that the BRICs countries have some opportunities to influence the situation in the potential conflict zone by launching joint anti-terrorism and anti-piracy maneuvers in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf etc.
Inducing the regime change in Iran, which is Washington’s end goal, still takes a pretext. The US has long been eying various factions in Iran in the hope to capitalize on the country’s existing domestic rivalries parallel to the employment of tested color revolution techniques such as the support for the Green Movement or the establishment of a virtual embassy for Iran.
Richard Sanders, a vocal critic of the US foreign policy, opined that, at least since the invasion of Mexico in the late XIX century, the US permanently relied on the mechanism of war pretext incidents to compile justifications for its military interventions (4).
US arch-conservative Patrick J. Buchanan cited in his opinion piece titled “Did FDR Provoke Pearl Harbor?” the fairly common view that the US financial circles knowingly provoked the Pearl Harbor attack to drag the US into a war with the remote goal of ensuring the dollar empire’s global primacy (5).
The lesson to be learned from the history of the Vietnam War, namely the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which USS Maddox entered Vietnam’s territorial waters and opened fire on the boats of its navy, is that the initial conflict was similarly ignited by the US intelligence community, the result being that the US Congress authorized LBJ to militarily engage Vietnam (by the way, no retribution followed in June 1967 when the Israelis attacked USS Liberty, killing 34 and wounding 172). The morally charged concepts of humanitarian interventions and war on terror had just as well been invoked to legitimize downright aggressions against Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Speaking of the current developments around the Persian Gulf, Washington’s choice of pretexts for an aggression comprises at least three options, namely (1) Iran’s nuclear dossier; (2) an engineered escalation in the Strait of Hormuz; (3) allegations that Iran supports international terrorism. The US objective behind the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program — to make everybody in the world accept Washington’s rules of the game — has never been deeply hidden.
The abundant alarmist talk is intended to deflect attention from the simple truth that building a nuclear arsenal with the help of civilian nuclear technologies is absolutely impossible, but Matthew H. Kroenig from the Council on Foreign Relations recently went so far as to warn that Iran would some day pass its nuclear technologies to Venezuela (6). The motivation must be to somehow bundle all critics of the US foreign policy.
The Strait of Hormuz, which is the maritime chokepoint of the Persian Gulf, is regarded as the epicenter of the coming new war. It serves as the avenue for oil supplies from Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, the Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and is therefore being closely monitored by all likely parties to the conflict.
According to the US Department of Energy, the 2011 oil transit via the Strait of Hormuz totaled 17 billion barrels, or roughly 20% of the world’s total (7). Oil prices are projected to increase by 50% if anything disquieting happens in the Strait of Hormuz (8).
Passing through the Strait of Hormuz takes navigation across the territorial waters of Iran and Oman. Iran grants as a courtesy the right to sail across its waters based on the UN Treaty on Maritime Goods Transportation. It must be understood in connection with Washington’s recurrent statements concerning the Strait of Hormuz that in this regard the US and Iran have the same legal status as countries which penned but did not ratify the treaty, and thus the US has no moral right to references to the international law.
Iran’s administration stressed recently after consultations with the national legislation that Tehran would possibly subject to a revision the regulations under which foreign vessels are admitted to the Iranian territorial waters (9).
Navies are also supposed to observe certain international laws, in particular, those defining the minimal distance to be maintained to vessels of other countries. It constantly pops up in the US media that Iranian boats come riskily close to US vessels but, as watchers note, provocateurs like the CIA-sponsored separatists from Iran’s Baluchistan could in some cases be pulling off the tricks in disguise.
Chances are that a part of the oil embargo plan is to make the West encounter oil supply problems and start constructing pipelines across Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Qatar, and Iraq as alternative routes reaching the shores of the Arabian, Red, and Mediterranean Seas. A few of these projects, the Hashan-Fujairah pipeline, for instance, are as of today in the process of being implemented.
If that is the idea, the explanation behind Washington’s tendency to convince its allies to create a “safer” pipeline infrastructure is straightforward. Geopolitics being an inescapable reality, it does have to be taken into account, though, that the region’s countries remain locked in a variety of conflicts and, due to geographic reasons, Tehran would be a key player even if the pipelines are launched.
Since the new US military strategy implies focusing on two regions — the Greater Middle East and South East Asia — the issue of the Strait of Hormuz appears coupled to that of the Strait of Malacca which offers the shortest route for the oil supply from the Indian Ocean to China, Japan, South Korea, and the rest of South East Asia. The arrangement implicitly factors into the Asian countries’ decision-making related to Iran.
The precedent of “the war on terror” — a campaign during which the US occupied under dubious pretexts Iraq and Afghanistan at the costs of thousands of lives — must also be kept in mind. Ages ago, the White House sanctioned subversive activities against various parts of the the Iranian administration, including the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.
Former CIA operative Phillip Giraldi writes that the US and Israeli agents have been active in Iran for quite some time and are responsible for the epidemic of the Stuxnet virus and the series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear physicists.
The groups within Iran which aligned themselves with the country’s foes are the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, the Baluchistan-based separatist Jundallah whose leader Abdolmajid Rigi was arrested in February, 2010 by the Iranian security forces and admitted to cooperating with the CIA, and the Kurdish Free Life of Kurdistan (10).
In essence, a war against Iran — up to date a secret war — is underway. The problem the parties involved are trying to resolve is to find a way of prevailing without entering the “hot” phase of the conflict.
(1) Colin H. Kahl. Not Time to Attack Iran. January 17, 2012.
(2) Iran, the U.S. and the Strait of Hormuz Crisis. January 17, 2012. http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/iran-us-and-strait-hormuz-crisis?utm_source=freelist f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20120117&utm_term=gweekly&utm_content=readmore&elq=b90cfbef7b1a402ea2f1fc384080fa15
(3) La UE acuerda vetar las importaciones de petroleo de Iran. 23.01.2012 http://www.lavanguardia.com/internacional/20120123/54245752767/ue-vetar-importaciones-petroleo-iran.html
(4) Richard Sanders. How to Start a War: The American Use of War Pretext Incidents. Global Research, January 9, 2012. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28554
(6) Recent Events in Iran and the Progress of Its Nuclear Program. January 17, 2012. http://www.cfr.org/iran/recent-events-iran-progress-its-nuclear-program/p27090?cid=nlc-public-the_world_this_week-link5-20120120
(8) Michael T. Klare. Danger Waters. January 10, 2012. http://aep.typepad.com/american_empire_project/2012/01/danger-waters.html#more
(9) Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. The Geo-Politics of the Strait of Hormuz: Could the U.S. Navy be defeated by Iran in the Persian Gulf? Global Research, January 8, 2012. www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28516
(10) Philip Giraldi. Washingtonâ€™s Secret Wars. 08 December 2011. http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org/news/opinion-a-analysis/item/1236-washington%E2%80%99s-secret-wars
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(January 21, 2012) — The best book I’ve read in a very long time is a new one: The End of War by John Horgan. Its conclusions will be vigorously resisted by many and yet, in a certain light, considered perfectly obvious to some others. The central conclusion — that ending the institution of war is entirely up to us to choose — was, arguably, reached by (among many others before and since) John Paul Sartre sitting in a cafe utilizing exactly no research.
Horgan is a writer for Scientific American, and approaches the question of whether war can be ended as a scientist. It’s all about research. He concludes that war can be ended, has in various times and places been ended, and is in the process (an entirely reversible process) of being ended on the earth right now.
The war abolitionists of the 1920s Outlawry movement would have loved this book, would have seen it as a proper extension of the ongoing campaign to rid the world of war. But it is a different book from theirs. It does not preach the immorality of war. That idea, although proved truer than ever by the two world wars, failed to prevent the two world wars.
When an idea’s time has come and also gone, it becomes necessary to prove to people that the idea wasn’t rendered impossible or naÃ¯ve by “human nature” or grand forces of history or any other specter. Horgan, in exactly the approach required, preaches the scientific observation of the success (albeit incomplete as yet) of preaching the immorality of war.
The evidence, Horgan argues, shows that war is a cultural contagion, a meme that serves its own ends, not ours (except for certain profiteers perhaps). Wars happen because of their cultural acceptance and are avoided by their cultural rejection. Wars are not created by genes or avoided by eugenics or oxytocin, driven by an ever-present minority of sociopaths or avoided by controlling them, made inevitable by resource scarcity or inequality or prevented by prosperity and shared wealth, or determined by the weaponry available.
All such factors, Horgan finds, can play parts in wars, but the decisive factor is a militaristic culture, a culture that glorifies war or even just accepts it, a culture that fails to renounce war as something as barbaric as cannibalism. War spreads as other memes spread, culturally. The abolition of war does the same.
Those who believe that war is in our genes or mandated by overpopulation or for whatever other reason simply unavoidable or even desirable will not be attracted to Horgan’s book. But they should read it. It is written for them and carefully argued and documented.
Those who, in contrast, believe it is as obvious as breathing air that we can choose to end war tomorrow will find a little sad comedy in the fact that the way we get people to choose to end a long-established institution is by rigorously persuading them that such choices have been made before and are already well underway. Yet, that is exactly what people need to hear, especially those who are on the edge between “War is in DNA” and “War is over if you want it.”
Most human cultures never produced nuclear bombs or genetically engineered corn or Youtube. Many cultures have produced peace. But what if they hadn’t? How in the world would that prevent us from producing it?
Evidence of lethal group violence does not go back through our species’ millions of years but only through the past 10,000 to 13,000. Even chimpanzees’ supposed innate war spirit is not established. We are not the only primates who seem able to learn either war or peace. Annual war-related casualties have dropped more than ten-fold since the first half of the twentieth century.
Democracy is no guarantee of peace, but it is allowing people to say no to war. Of course, democracy is not all or nothing. Some democracies, like ours in the United States, can be very weak, and weaker still on the question of war. What allows nations’ leaders to take countries into war, Horgan shows, is not people’s aggressiveness but their docility, their obedience, their willingness to follow and even to believe what authorities tell them.
Mistaken theories about the causes of war create the self-fulfilling expectation that war will always be with us. Predicting that climate change will produce world war may actually fail to inspire people to buy solar panels, inspiring them instead to support military spending and to stock up at home on guns and emergency supplies.
I wish Horgan had looked more at the motivations of those in power who choose war, some of whom do profit from it in various ways. I also think he understates the importance of the military industrial complex, whose influence Eisenhower accurately predicted would be total and even spiritual. It’s harder to work for the abolition of war when the war industry is behind your job. I think this book could benefit from recognition of the U.N. Charter’s limitations as compared with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, in its acceptance of wars that are either “defensive” or authorized by the United Nations.
I think Horgan’s view of the Arab Spring and the Libyan War is confused, as he thinks in terms of intervention in countries where the United States had already long been intervened, and he frames the choices as war or nothing. I think the final chapter on free will is rather silly, confusing the philosophical point of physical determinism with how things look from our perspective, a confusion that David Hume straightened out quite a while ago.
But Horgan makes a key point in that last chapter, pointing to a study that found that when people were exposed to the idea that they had no free will they behaved less morally, choosing to behave badly, of course, with the very same free will they nonetheless maintained. Being free to choose, we can in fact choose things that most of us never dare imagine. Here’s John Horgan’s perfect prescription:
“We could start by slashing our bloated military, abolishing arms sales to other countries, and getting rid of our nuclear arsenal. These steps, rather than empty rhetoric, will encourage other countries to demilitarize as well.”
Or as Jean Paul Sartre put it — (Look, ma, no research!) — “To say that the for-itself has to be what it is, to say that it is what it is not while not being what it is, to say that in it existence precedes and conditions essence or inversely according to Hegel, that for it ‘Wesen ist was gewesen ist’ — all this is to say one and the same thing: to be aware that man is free.”
David Swanson is the author of When the World Outlawed War, War Is A Lie and Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union. He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online activist organization http://rootsaction.org
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.