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May 24, 2011 - The past few days have seen a flurry of furious fear-mongering and lies about Iran - none of them new, all of them ridiculous.
As two War Criminals/Pathological Liars/Men of Peace™ (one who presides over two endless occupations, the illegal assault on Libya, and authorizes illegal drone strikes on civilians in numerous countries; the other a racist ethnosupremacist presiding over continued ethnic cleansing, occupation, land theft, colonization, apartheid, and collective punishment) did the rounds at Washington D.C. podiums - from the State Department to AIPAC to the halls of Congress - nearly every tired, tried and true Iran talking point was trotted out in one of the most absurd propaganda bonanza offensives seen in recent memory - aimed not only at raising the levels of the trusty Iran Spookometer, but also to make sure Palestinians will never know a day without injustice, oppression, and humiliation.
On May 19, Barack Obama delivered a major policy speech about the Middle East and North Africa during which he decried "Iran's intolerance and Iran's repressive measures," as well as "its support of terror" and what he deemed Iran's support for Syria's recent crackdown on dissent with "assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression." Naturally, although Obama spoke of Iranian hypocrisy, he didn't mention the U.S.-made tear gas canisters that blind, maim, and kill both American and Palestinian unarmed protesters in the West Bank or the U.S.-made aircraft and missiles that bombard the imprisoned residents of Gaza on a regular basis. He also claimed that "Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil" in Bahrain, despite the fact that there is literally no evidence for such a charge.
Notably, though, Obama mentioned his administration's opposition to what he called Iran's "illicit nuclear program," though he didn't take the time to explain what about the IAEA-monitored program was "illicit." He did, however, state that the United States "will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations." Apparently, he meant all universal rights except the "inalienable" one that affirms Iran's right to "develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination." According to a recent RAND Corporation survey, 87% of Iranians strongly favor the "Iranian development of nuclear energy for civilian use," while a whopping 98% believe that the "possession of nuclear energy is a national right." Obama didn't make it clear when he would start insisting on that particular Iranian right.
Instead, during a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister the following day, Obama noted that he and Netanyahu "continue to share our deep concerns about Iran, not only the threat that it poses to Israel but also the threat that it poses to the region and the world if it were to develop a nuclear weapon."
Two days later, speaking in front of the densest concentration of Zionist war-mongers this side of Herzliya, the American President easily won a bet by weaving about ten different hasbara talking points into a single sentence, declaring,
"When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map -- face of the Earth."Chances are, Netanyahu has already had this quote printed on t-shirts.
Obama then assured the AIPAC audience that his government is determined "to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons" and soon thereafter repeated himself. "So let me be absolutely clear," he said, in case anyone in the room doubted his resolve to disregard international law or bomb another Muslim country, "we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons." He continued (going for another talking point record),
"Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and we will stand up to groups like Hezbollah, who exercise political assassination and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs."Obama's follow-up comments on the 2006 Israeli devastation of Lebanon, in which the IDF killed over 1,180 people (about a third of whom were children), wounded over 4,050, and displaced about 970,000 others as direct result of the more than 7,000 air attacks by the Israeli Air Force and an additional 2,500 bombardments by the Israeli Navy in the short span of a month, seem to have been cut due to time constraints. Additionally, Obama managed not to mention the long-standing Israeli policy of targeted assassinations, including the recent motorcycle and car bombs which killed Iranian scientists in Tehran.
On May 24, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made his way to the Capitol to address a joint session of the fawning and obsequious United States Congress. As he repeated the same fear-mongering lies as always, bellowing that "a nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East" (but, shhhh, don't mention Israel's 400 nukes) and that "the threat to my country cannot be overstated...Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran's leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state," then commended the United States for "condemn[ing] the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims."
Netanyahu also stated, "When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons." That he did. Nearly fifteen years ago, on July 10, 1996, the newly-elected Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress and used the same formulation is fear-mongering about a phantom Iranian nuclear weapons program. He warned that if Iran, which he described as the "most dangerous" combination of "cruel despotism" and "fanatic militancy," were allowed to "acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind." He elaborated:
"I believe the international community must reinvigorate its efforts to isolate these regimes [Iran and Iraq], and prevent them from acquiring atomic power. The United States and Israel have been at the forefront of this effort, but we can and must do much more. Europe and the countries of Asia must be made to understand that it is folly, nothing short of folly, to pursue short-time material gain while creating a long-term existential danger for all of us.Extremely close, he said, a decade and a half ago. And what now, Netanyahu?
"Only the United States can lead this vital international effort to stop the nuclearization of terrorist states. But the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close."
"Now time is running out," the Israeli Prime Minister warned Congress today, "and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons."
At this rate, the world may have to wait another fifteen years until Netanyahu's third term as PM for Iran to "be getting pretty dang close" to obtaining all those dreaded nuclear bombs with Hitler mustaches drawn on them. In addition to claiming that there is no four-plus-decade old Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Netanyahu also made sure to ask the government of the United States, as he has done in the past, to explicitly violate the United Nations Charter by threatening Iran with a military attack and reiterated his belief that non-white people can only understand and respond to the language of force:
"Yet the Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.What Netanyahu meant to say was "when we say never again, we mean never again...for Israeli Jews only." And when he spoke of Israel's "right to defend itself," he naturally meant the ability to commit horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity with complete impunity and diplomatic cover from the United States.
"As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself."
Netanyahu's speech to Congress occurred the same day Reuters reported that "a lethal explosion at an Iranian oil refinery" in Abadan, close to the Iraqi border. Although the blast happened "during a visit by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," it "left the president unhurt but delivered an embarrassing blow to his drive to increase gasoline output and foil international sanctions."
The explosion killed one person and a "plane was sent to evacuate the injured -- suffering burns and smoke and gas inhalation -- to a Tehran hospital." Reuters also reported, "The semi-official Mehr news agency, which initially put the death toll at two, said a gas leak had caused the blast, giving no source for its information. Iranian media did not speculate on the possibility of sabotage or an attack on the president."
Reuters also reported today that, according to a confidential report, the IAEA "has received new information about possible military aspects to Iran's atomic activities, adding to concerns it may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile."
"The new information covered alleged work in Iran 'until rather recently,' including in 2010, said an official with knowledge of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation, declining to give details," Reuters reported, continuing,
"The findings may provide additional arguments for the United States and its European allies in seeking to further isolate Tehran over work they suspect is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity.According to the report, "IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano sent a letter to the head of Iran's atomic energy agency on May 6 'reiterating the agency's concern about the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program,' requesting that Iran "give prompt access to relevant locations, equipment, documentation and people to help clarify outstanding issues," and noting the IAEA's continued concern "about possible past or current undisclosed nuclear-linked work involving military related organizations, including activities 'related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.'"
"Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said the report showed that Iran's nuclear activities were continuing, 'under the agency's supervision with full success and without any interruptions,' the official IRNA news agency reported.
"But he also criticized what he called 'baseless accusations' and said they would harm the agency's scientific and professional reputation."
Despite the worrying language used in the Reuters report, the report referred to is actually the IAEA's latest Safeguards Report on the Iranian nuclear program. As it routinely does, the IAEA reaffirmed that it "continues to conduct verification activities under Iran's Safeguards Agreement" and "continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities."
The report, as those before it, also notes that "Iran is not implementing a number of its obligations, including: implementation of the provisions of its Additional Protocol; implementation of the modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part to its Safeguards Agreement; suspension of enrichment related activities; suspension of heavy water related activities; and clarification of the remaining outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme," and states that because "Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
This is old news. As I have written previously, only by implementing the IAEA's Additional Protocols (which it did voluntarily for nearly two years) could Iran dispel all concerns. But Iran is not alone in this regard, as anti-Iran hysterics would have you believe. Iran, along with 72 other countries, has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA, but has not implemented the Additional Protocols suggested by the IAEA. The demands of implementing the Additional Protocol is a boilerplate recommendation for all countries that do not have one in place, not just Iran.
Reporting on the latest IAEA findings, New York Times war-mongers David Sanger and William Broad filed an article entitled, "Watchdog Finds Evidence That Iran Worked on Nuclear Triggers," in which they state that the IAEA "possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon."
"The agency did not say where the evidence came from, nor did it provide many details about the allegations," they note. Nevertheless, Sanger and Broad continue undaunted, writing, "The official American and Israeli estimates suggest Iran is still at least a year, and most likely several years, from being able to produce a bomb."
With this in mind, it is instructive to remember what former IAEA chief Mohammed El Baradei told The Hindu's Siddharth Varadarajan in October 2009:
"The only time we found Iran in breach of its obligations not to use undeclared nuclear material was when they had experimented in 2003 and 2004 at Kalaye. Those were experiments. And I have been making it very clear that with regard to these alleged studies, we have not seen any use of nuclear material, we have not received any information that Iran has manufactured any part of a nuclear weapon or component. That’s why I say, to present the Iran threat as imminent is hype."Clearly, the hype no only continues, it is consistently escalated. The "alleged studies" referred to by El Baradei have long been found to be fraudulent.
Nevertheless, at the behest of their Israeli and AIPAC overlords, members of Congress continue to fear-monger about the Iranian nuclear program and introduce harsher and harsher sanctions on Iran. Last week, Congressional representatives re-introduced a bill that would, in the words of ThinkProgress's Ali Gharib, "green-light an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program." The resolution seeks to authorize Israel "to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within reasonable time to protect against such an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel."
Last September, Washington imposed a new round of unilateral sanctions against Iran, specifically targeting Iranian officials it accused of directly or indirectly abusing the rights of citizens detained in Iranian prisons, who Hillary Clinton said "have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed, and killed."
On May 23, both the European Union and the White House unveiled new, stricter sanctions.
The same day, the New York Times reported that the United States Supreme Court ruled that "conditions in California’s overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment" and ordered "the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates." Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy "described a prison system that failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems and produced “needless suffering and death.” The Times also noted that "a lower court in the case said it was 'an uncontested fact' that 'an inmate in one of California’s prisons needlessly dies every six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies.'"
In March 2011, journalist Scott Horton wrote in Harper's of the rampant sexual abuse suffered by American prisoners at the hands of correction staff and "the shocking failure of the U.S. government to discipline prison guards who mistreat inmates." He quoted at length from a recent essay in the New York Review of Books by David Kaiser and Lovisa Stannow:
"According to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), a branch of the Department of Justice, there were only 7,444 official allegations of sexual abuse in detention in 2008, and of those, only 931 were substantiated. These are absurdly low figures. But perhaps more shocking is that even when authorities confirmed that corrections staff had sexually abused inmates in their care, only 42 percent of those officers had their cases referred to prosecution; only 23 percent were arrested, and only 3 percent charged, indicted, or convicted. Fifteen percent were actually allowed to keep their jobs."Naturally, this does not even address the human rights abuses suffered by detainees in Guantanamo, Bagram, or Abu Ghraib or the ongoing violations of international and humanitarian law with regard to the never-ending occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, or the illegal bombing of Libya.
In response to U.S. duplicity, Reuters reports, "Iran is considering imposing sanctions on U.S. officials for 'human rights violations,' attempting to turn the tables after years of sanctions imposed by the West."