Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back on Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton

I once again had the pleasure of being interviewed by Scott Horton on Antiwar Radio about some of my recent articles about Iran, namely those dealing with the "Iranian weapons in Iraq" propaganda, the manufactured nuclear threat, and the escalating rhetoric about an Israeli attack on Iran.

During our 25-minute discussion, Scott and I addressed "the summer surge of 'blame Iran' talking points – the marketing strategy to sell Obama's seventh war to Americans; how Iran’s nonchalant response to threats of an Israeli solo attack ruffles feathers in Washington and Tel Aviv; and how the US justifies an extended Iraq stay by pointing to increased Iranian influence (without acknowledging that the US destroyed Saddam's Sunni government and helped install the current pro-Iran Shia regime)."

The full audio of our conversation is below. Enjoy.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nightmare in Norway

This pretty much sums it up.

MacLeod Cartoons

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This Time on "What White People Think About Iran"...!
Iran Nuclear Scare Timeline Update XLVIII

During Bloggingheads' latest installment of "What Do White, Jewish Zionist Think-Tankers in Washington D.C. Think the U.S. Should Do About Iran?" [*], former AIPAC operative Josh Block, now a fellow at the bizarrely-named Progressive Policy Institute (given its penchant for espousing hawkish foreign policy views, especially on Iran), gave a veritable tutorial on how to cram every long-debunked fear-mongering talking point about the Islamic Republic into a mere 50-minute conversation. Block, who is a proud protégé of the reptilian Lanny Davis, also made it perfectly clear how much he loves the sound of his own voice. (Unsurprisingly, in the above picture, Block is the one on the right.)

In the course of his discussion with Joel Rubin, Director of Policy and Government Affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, Block repeated (among other things) the false claim that Obama "exposed" a secret Iranian nuclear enrichment at Fordow in September 2009, insisted that Iran seeks hegemony over the Middle East and is violently involved in Iraq, advocated forcefully for regime change (though he called it "democratic change", and was oh so sincere about it), was adamant about Iran's headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons (any other perspective, like one based on evidence for example, was "nonsense"), said that the IAEA itself has said Iran has a nuclear weapons program (literally not true, as evidenced by IAEA head Yukiya Amano's statement to Der Spiegel in January: "Despite all unanswered questions, we cannot say that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program."), and even added a new mathematical assessment of Iran's nuclear progress. He said that Iran's mere capacity to enrich uranium up to 20% is "90%, if not more, of the ability to get to the fuel you need for a nuclear weapon." This kind of algebra would make even Muhammad Al-Khowârizmi blush (but then again, he was Persian and therefore, in Block's expert estimation, is most likely a terrorist and liar).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fleitz of Fancy & A New Diehl on Iran:
Iran Nuclear Scare Timeline Update XLVII

Alarmist editorializing about Iran, its regional influence, and its nuclear energy program have picked up considerably in the past few weeks. Despite the latest IAEA report this past Spring which revealed no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, a hefty Sy Hersh article confirming that all 16 American intelligence agencies still stand by their 2007 assessment that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and the potential for a large-scale U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at the end of the year, career fear-mongers have been hard at work trying to raise the Iranian threat level from mild khaki to frantic crimson.

An opinion piece published last night in the Wall Street Journal is a perfect example of the heightened hysteria. The article, entitled "America's Intelligence Denial on Iran", was written by former CIA agent Fred Fleitz, a neoconservative Bomb Iran-er who served as John Bolton's State Department chief of staff and is currently a columnist for the right-wing outlet Newsmax.

Fleitz is intent on discrediting the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which has repeatedly found that Iran's nuclear program is, at best, totally benign and, at worst, not an imminent threat to anyone. He leads with this:

Mounting evidence over the last few years has convinced most experts that Iran has an active program to develop and construct nuclear weapons. Amazingly, however, these experts do not include the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community. They are unwilling to conduct a proper assessment of the Iranian nuclear issue - and so they remain at variance with the Obama White House, U.S. allies, and even the United Nations.
Fleitz writes that, "according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control," Iran currently has enough "low-enriched uranium" for "four nuclear weapons if enriched to weapons grade" and repeats the propaganda line about "an item recently posted to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps website [which] mused about the day after an Iranian nuclear test (saying, in a kind of taunt, that it would be a 'normal day')." Fleitz claims that the "message marked the first time any official Iranian comment suggested the country's nuclear program is not entirely peaceful."

Beyond demonstrating a severe lack of understanding about what the IAEA has actually reported and his willful omission of the huge difference between low-enriched uranium and weapons grade material, Fleitz tips his hand by relying on the over-hyped "Nuclear Test" post on the Iranian Gerdab website last month for his nuclear scare propaganda.

Fleitz writes that the latest NIE assessment is just as "politicized" and "poorly written" as its 2007 predecessor and similarly downplays the "true account of the Iranian threat" due to what Fleitz claims is the U.S. intelligence community's apparent aversion to providing "provocative analytic conclusions, and any analysis that could be used to justify military action against rogue states like Iran [sic]." He accuses the 2011 NIE of "poorly structured arguments and cavalier manipulation of intelligence", all the while boasting of his own objections, which he says were routinely ignored and rebuffed by the report's supervisors. He lays blame on what he determines is the NIE's reliance on "former senior intelligence officers, liberal professors and scholars from liberal think tanks."

He concludes:
It is unacceptable that Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists. One can't underestimate the dangers posed to our country by a U.S. intelligence community that is unable to provide timely and objective analysis of such major threats to U.S. national security - or to make appropriate adjustments when it is proven wrong.

If U.S. intelligence agencies cannot or will not get this one right, what else are they missing?
Reading this, one might be forgiven for wondering why, rather than merely attacking the credentials of NIE sources, Fleitz doesn't introduce any evidence for his declaration that "Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon." Oh right, never mind.

This sort of "analysis" from Fleitz is far from unexpected. Back in August 2006, Fleitz - then a House Intelligence Committee staffer - was the primary author of a Congressional report entitled, "Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States", which served as a veritable catalog of false assertions about Iran's nuclear program and, just like his Wall Street Journal piece, assailed the U.S. intelligence community for not sufficiently fear-mongering about the so-called Iranian threat. Among other exaggerations and outright lies, the report accused Iran of "enriching uranium to weapons grade" and stated that the IAEA had removed a senior safeguards inspector from Iran for "allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program and concluding that the purposed of Iran's nuclear programme is to construct weapons" and for "not having adhered to an unstated IAEA policy baring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear program."

The report contained so many misrepresentations and false allegations regarding the Iranian nuclear program, in fact, that the IAEA's Director of External Relations and Policy Coordination Vilmos Cserveny wrote a letter to the Chairman of House Committee, Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), challenging the report's "incorrect" assertions and criticizing it for promoting "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated information."

Additionally, Cserveny described Fleitz's accusations about the safeguards inspector as "outrageous and dishonest" and noted that "Iran has accepted the designation of more than 200 Agency safeguards inspectors, which number is similar to that accepted by the majority of non-nuclear-weapon States that have concluded safeguards agreements pursuant to the NPT."

It appears that, five years later, Fleitz still chooses fantasy over facts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Herman Cain, Israel, Iran, and the "Clinton Doctrine"

The Washington Times has reported that pizza magnate, raging Islamophobe, blithering know-nothing, and Republican presidential aspirant Herman Cain has declared "he would attack Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons or to respond to aggression against Israel."

Responding to a question posed by the paper about whether he agreed with perennial push-broom soup-strainer and Bomb Iran enthusiast John Bolton's ever-urgent warnings about attacking Iran before it theoretically acquired a nuclear weapon to hypothetically destroy Israel, "Cain said that, as commander-in-chief, he would 'make it crystal clear [that] if you mess with Israel, you're messing with the United States of America,' but stressed that his 'Cain Doctrine' would not be a 'blank check' for Israeli military action." The report continued:

"There will be a set of conditions and circumstances that I will work with Israel on for them to understand that they cannot abuse that doctrine," said Mr. Cain, a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.

However, if Israel is ever attacked first by Iran, he said he is "not going to sit back and get a vote from the United Nations as to what we ought to do."

"If they [Iran] start lobbing rockets and stuff over at Israel, then we’re going to shoot back with Israel," he said.

Mr. Cain dismissed the notion that an attack on Iran is unrealistic: "First of all, we have the most capable military power in the world," he said. "Air, ground — although we won’t have to use ground for this — submarines, ships, that would be strategically placed in that part of the world."
While this caught the attention of some in the progressive blogosphere as yet one more example of aggressive Republican warmongering and militarism, it should be remembered that, in fact, threatening Iran is non-partisan. That Cain’s comments have gained any traction (and apparent condemnation) is fascinating considering that the current U.S. Secretary of State said essentially the exact same thing when she was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

While on the campaign trail in April 2008, Hillary Clinton was asked about a potential response to a hypothetical Iranian first-strike on Israel (hilarious in itself considering Iran has never threatened as much, whereas nuclear-armed Israel has repeatedly threatened Iran with an attack, conducted war games planning for such an operation, and has often boasted of its ability to carry out such an attack), and she replied:
"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran [if it attacks Israel]…In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them." (emphasis added)
Clearly realizing how truly demented such a statement was, she continued, "That's a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic."

Not the kind of recklessless or foolishness it would take or tragedy it would be to, oh, I don’t know, totally obliterate an entire country of over 70 million people.

A couple of weeks later, when Clinton was asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos whether she regretted making that statement, she doubled down:
"Why would I have any regrets? I am asked a question about what I would do if Iran attacked our ally, a country that many of us have a great deal of, you know, connection with and feeling for.

"I think we have to be very clear about what we would do. I don’t think it is time to equivocate about what we would do. I sure want to make it abundantly clear to them that they would face a tremendous cost if they did such a thing."
So, should there really be any fuss over the idiocy of the "Cain Doctrine", when we've known about the genocidal "Clinton Doctrine" for over three years now?


Monday, July 18, 2011

Jeffrey Goldberg vs. The Truth

Former IDF prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg has an updated post on supporting the boycott of Netanyahu here in the US. It includes this tidbit:

"...all I can say is this: Since 1948, Israel has been a besieged state that nevertheless has, with rare exceptions, defended the right of people to say whatever they have wanted to say. This is why Israel has the freest press in the world[*], and why Arab members of Knesset can scream down the prime minister and not get shot. Israel's defense of freedom of speech, even in wartime, is one of the many reasons to be proud of it. (emphasis added)
Okay, beyond the weirdness of the sentiment (an elected government official not getting shot in a country's parliament for opposing occupation, ethnic cleansing, and discrimination is cause for celebration?!...calling all strawmen!), is this inconvenient fact, from Ha'aretz today:
Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zuabi will be stripped of her right to address the Knesset and to participate in committee votes until the end of this parliamentary season, the Knesset Ethics Committee ruled on Monday.

The decision to penalize Zuabi, a lawmaker from the Balad party, comes in the wake of her participation in the Gaza-bound flotilla last year. Zuabi, who sailed on the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, had already had certain parliamentary rights revoked by Knesset last July.
The rights previously revoked are "her diplomatic passport, entitlement to financial assistance for legal assistance and the right to visit countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic ties."

Last week, "Zuabi was being ushered out of the parliamentary session after interrupting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech and after being called to order three times by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin."

It's true that "being ushered out" is not the same as not getting shot. But it's also true that physically preventing a Knesset member from voicing her views is certainly not an example of what Goldberg describes as Israel's defense of "the right of people to say whatever they have wanted to say". Apparently, for Goldberg, anything short of murdering a Palestinian in cold-blood is grounds for lauding Israel's democratic character...unless, of course, you count Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Golan, or the past.



It should also be pointed out that, while Goldberg writes that "Israel has the freest press in the world," the largest press freedom organization in the world, Reporters Without Borders (RSF - Reporters sans frontieres) disagrees. It ranks Israel as having the 86th freest press in the world, nestled snugly between Serbia and the United Arab Emirates.

This is unsurprising considering how much power the Israel's "Chief Military Censor" wields. During Israel's devastation of Lebanon in 2006, the censor, Col. Sima Vaknin, speaking with the Associated Press, boasted, "I can, for example, publish an order that no material can be published. I can close a newspaper or shut down a station. I can do almost anything."

Now read Goldberg again: "Israel's defense of freedom of speech, even in wartime, is one of the many reasons to be proud of it."


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The "Iranian Weapons in Iraq" Carousel:
Around and Around It Goes

The official Status of Forces Agreement, agreed to by the United States and Iraq in 2008, states, "All U.S. forces are to withdraw from all Iraqi territory, water and airspace no later than the 31st of December of 2011." Now, as the withdrawal deadline looms on the horizon, U.S. allegations of Iranian-sponsored Iraqi resistance to the eight-year occupation have resurfaced.

In her latest IPS report, Barbara Slavin addresses the recent "chorus of U.S. officials [accusing] Iran of providing lethal weapons to Iraqi Shiite militias that have targeted U.S. soldiers and caused a spike in U.S. death tolls," noting that, "[s]imilar charges have been made against Iran in the past."

These allegations are often reported verbatim in the mainstream press, as I noted last month in a post entitled "The Uncritical Stenography of Beltway Reportage".

Slavin points out that both the former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his recent replacement Leon Panetta, along with other officials, have repeated these accusations of late. Earlier this month, General Lloyd Austin told reporters that new weapons "are coming in from Iran, we're certain of that." Later the same day, The Washington Post reported that U.S. ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey said that "fresh forensic testing on weapons used in the latest deadly attacks in the country bolsters assertions by U.S. officials that Iran is supporting Iraqi insurgents with new weapons and training." In an interview with the Post Jeffrey said, "We’re not talking about a smoking pistol. There is no doubt this is Iranian," adding, "We're seeing more lethal weapons, more accurate weapons, more longer-range weapons. And we're seeing more sophisticated mobile and other deployment options, and we're seeing better-trained people."

During a Washington briefing on July 8, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, "Iran is very directly supporting extremist troops which are killing our troops."

Responding directly to Mullen's statement, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Danaeifar, told Iranian press outlets, "These comments are repetitious and display the United States' trouble in earning the attention of the Iraqi parliament and government for extending its presence in Iraq," continuing, "These remarks are a lie and aim to put the blame on the other countries."

"I believe the Americans are trying to make excuses, create Iranophobia, and cause doubt and anxiety among Iraqi officials and society. The Americans are trying to suggest that if they leave Iraq, Iraq will be threatened by Iran," he added.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

This is Imperial Privilege

Operation Phantom Fury.
Fallujah, November 8 - December 23, 2004.
At least 2,000 Iraqis killed by the U.S. military, including hundreds of women and children; thousands injured; 300,000 displaced.

Operation Cast Lead.
Gaza, December 27, 2008- January 18, 2009.
At least 1,385 - 1,417 Palestinians, including hundreds of women and children, killed by Israeli forces; 5,500 injured; more than 50,896 displaced.

Independence Day.
New York City, July 4, 2011.
2 teenage American boys killed in fireworks-related accidents; approximately 1,900 injured countrywide.

Glory, glory, hallelujah.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

The "Deplorable" Acts: The ‘Quartet’ Comments on Gaza

Provided always, That if any goods, wares or merchandise, shall be laden or put off from, or discharged or landed upon, any other place than the quays, wharfs, or places, so to be appointed, the same, together with the ships, boats, and other vessels employed therein, and the horses, or other cattle and carriages used to convey the same, and the person or persons concerned or assisting therein, or to whose hands the same shall knowingly come, shall suffer all the forfeitures and penalties imposed by this or any other Act on the illegal shipping or landing of goods.

- Boston Port Act of 1774 (14 Geo. III. c. 19)

On March 30, 1774, in response to the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament enacted the Boston Port Act, effectively shutting down all commerce and travel in and out of Massachusetts colony. The law, known as one of the Intolerable Acts, was enforced by a British naval blockade of Boston harbor. These punitive acts, which collectively punished an entire colony for the acts of resistance and frustration of a few, served to unite the disparate colonies in their fight for self-determination, sovereignty, and natural and constitutional rights. Colonies as far away as South Carolina sent relief supplies to their compatriots in Massachusetts. As a result of British imperial overreach, the First Continental Congress was convened on September 5, 1774. The Congress, in turn, established the Continental Association, a solidarity pact among the colonies to boycott all British goods and, in the event of continued British aggression, to stand as one in their fight for independence.

237 years later...

The so-called "Middle East Quartet" - that is, the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia - has issued a "Statement on the Situation in Gaza" today.

It is a brief and unsurprising document. No mention of a "siege" or "blockade," of course. While it states that the "conditions facing the civilian population in Gaza" are "unsustainable," it provides absolutely no indication of the extent of the humanitarian crisis (i.e. 80% aid dependency, 95% of water is undrinkable, a mere 20% is food secure, 36% unemployment - 47% among Gaza's youth - and 38% living below the poverty line).

The statement ignores all of this. Instead, it "notes that efforts have improved conditions over the last year, including a marked increase in the range and scope of goods and materials moving into Gaza, an increase in international project activity, and the facilitation of some exports."

Yet, these "improved conditions" are illusory. For instance, a recent report found that while, since June 2010, there has been "improved access to formerly restricted goods, including some raw materials, the increased imports of construction materials (cement, gravel and steel bar) through the tunnels from Egypt, and the improved volume of imports of construction materials for PA-approved projects implemented by international and UN organizations helped reactivate the local economy in Gaza," this "[e]conomic growth has not translated into poverty reduction."

More importantly, "Israeli restrictions on access to markets (imports on a range of raw materials and exports) and access to natural resources (land and water), as well as the increasing transport costs due the closure of Karni crossing" make it virtually impossible for real economic sustainability - through private sector growth - to occur. Furthermore,
The recent decrease in unemployment in the Gaza Strip is mainly linked to the construction and agricultural sectors which have some of the lowest wages and employ mainly unskilled/casual laborers. The new access regime allowed for an increasing number of construction projects under the UN or international umbrella, but failed to trickle down the benefits to the private sector. The latter is still relying on tunnels for the supply of construction materials. The agricultural sector is seasonal and more than half of the labor force is composed of unpaid family members.


Ongoing restrictions on the movement of goods and artificially-inflated food prices and transport costs continue to impact the economy even after the new access regime, and thereby the June 2010 decision failed to impact the viability of the tunnel economy.


The new access regime did not translate into a tangible relaxation of exports despite the 8 December 2010 cabinet decision by the GoI [Government of Israel], and the consecutive agreement with the Quartet Representative in February 2011. The blockade is still in place. Apart from a very low rate of cash crops exported, no other goods have been exported out of the Gaza Strip under the new access regime. The unpredictability of the crossing, frequent power cuts, as well as increased transportation costs do not ensure sustained exports of agricultural goods. Moreover, the exports are cut from their market of origin.
Nevertheless, the Quartet Statement commends Israel for the recent approval of $100 million in construction material to be allowed into Gaza and used to build 18 schools and 1,200 houses. Distraction accomplished.

But then things get even more ridiculous.