Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Tribalism & Latent Racism of Jeremy Ben-Ami:
Hugs for Israel, Sanctions for Iran

"Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core."


- Hannah Arendt

J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami disavowed support for Peter Beinart's recent settlement boycott call in an interview with American Jewish establishment bouncer Jeffrey Goldberg just days before Beinart's official book release event at J Street's annual conference.

In addition to admitting, with Goldberg's agreement, that Green Line Israel and Occupying Israel are literally inseparable, Ben-Ami stated that J Street does not support the BDS call to hold Israel accountable to international law and to grant equal civil and human rights to Palestinians in their own homeland.  When Goldberg asked Ben-Ami why he disagrees with Beinart's call "for a boycott of products made in settlements," the J Street head explained:
Because I don't think that it makes any sense to put negative pressure on people whose behavior you hope to change. I think that the way that Israelis will feel comfortable making the compromises and the sacrifices--and Israel as a whole, not just the settlers --is when they really feel that not only American Jews, but the United States, is going to be there for them. I think if you begin to do things that say, "We're not really with you, we're against you, we're putting pressure on you," I think that causes people to pull more into a shell and pull back.
Ben-Ami added that when the "Jewish people" feel "under pressure, under criticism, under attack," they will "get defensive" and respond stubbornly and aggressively to such pressure.  "Rather than it making you more inclined to do something, it actually makes you less inclined," Ben-Ami says.

So, according to the so-called "liberal" wing of the Zionist community in the United States, Jews don't respond well to "negative pressure" over the continued Israeli ethnic cleansing, occupation and colonization of Palestine.  In fact, the rights-based approach of the BDS movement, in Ben-Ami's opinion, will only cause Israel and its Jewish supporters here in the U.S. to become less amenable to the basic tenets of non-discrimination, human rights, self-determination and the rule of law.

Yet, when Ben-Ami claims to believe it is counter-productive and self-defeating "to put negative pressure on people whose behavior you hope to change," his opinion doesn't appear to apply to all people, but only to Jews.  Such a quirk of human nature certainly doesn't extend to Iranians.  If it did, one would assume Ben-Ami wouldn't so strongly advocate for and support the multiple rounds of sanctions implemented on the Islamic Republic.

Of course, thirty years of increasingly draconian sanctions against Iran is a textbook definition of "negative pressure," and this kind of pressure - when the target is Iran, not Israel - is the kind Jeremy Ben-Ami has no qualms encouraging.  But, even more importantly, let's all be clear: Israeli settlement of Palestine is illegal in the extreme; not a single government or international organization on the planet other than the offender itself recognizes such colonization as legitimate or lawful.  Iran's nuclear energy program, however, is fully legal, constantly monitored and inspected, and is not weaponized.  While BDS calls for Israel to respect international law, sanctions against Iran explicitly abrogate it.

In a statement released October 16, 2009 regarding the latest "Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act," Ben-Ami himself declared that, if coercive "engagement" over Iran's nuclear energy program (read: Iran kowtowing to Western diktat) fails to produce the "desired result," then "the United States should seek hard-hitting multilateral sanctions" followed by "[t]he imposition of unilateral sanctions, without UN approval or the support of allies."  He also reiterated that, while his organization encourages "diplomatic engagement and multilateral action" with regard to Iran, "J Street does not oppose the imposition of sanctions per se."

Two months later, when asked why J Street supported new sanctions on Iran, Ben-Ami claimed that Congressional bill "gives the president this tool, this additional tool, to work with in trying to convince the Iranians that there's no time."  Perhaps he believes that Iranians, by virtue of not being Israeli, consider sanctions to be positive pressure.  But probably not, considering Ben-Ami, in the same interview said, "Well, there's no question that the sanctions ultimately does hurt people," adding, "This is also important in putting a real squeeze on the government."

Apparently Ben-Ami believes that the time Iranians have to capitulate to Western demands to give up its sovereign, national rights is short, while the Israelis have plenty more time to decide to stop their century of colonization and "pressure" might make them more dismissive of the Geneva Conventions, Nuremberg Principles, United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Threats, Bullying, and Ultimata:
The Policy Prescriptions of Meir Javedanfar


Meir Javedanfar

Writing today in The Diplomat, Iranian-born Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar opined on how the West - namely the United States - can best strong-arm the Iranian leadership into accepting Western demands and the illegal abrogation of its inalienable national rights.

In order to force Iran to curb its IAEA-inspected program - a program that has never been found to have diverted nuclear material from peaceful purposes to weaponization - Javedanfar suggests an ultimatum is in order: that the West issue "a clear message to Iran's supreme leader that even if he does build a bomb, or just reaches a breakout capability, the sanctions and isolation won't end. In fact, the opposite should be true: they will continue or even get worst [sic]."

While admitting that "Western intelligence agencies have suggested that Khamenei hasn't actually made the decision to make a bomb," Javedanfar somehow thinks "the price that he's already paying for the nuclear program seems to suggest that he wants to reserve this option. Otherwise, why go through all this pain?," he wonders.

The idea of national sovereignty and international law never enters Javedanfar conception of why Iran might not accept illegal demands on its own domestic energy program and policies.  Furthermore, Javedanfar studiously ignores numerous Iranian offers to curb and cap its own enrichment program and open up its program to international cooperation - actions that would certifiably preclude any weaponization breakout capacity - as long as its right to enrich under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is duly acknowledged and accepted, something the United States refuses to do.  Ignored as well are Iran's recent moves to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by converting the material into fuel plates, a process that makes it virtually impossible to further enrich to weapons-grade levels.

Despite these facts, Javedanfar continues his train of thought:
[Khamenei's] calculation appears to be that Iran can continue along its current path, paying a price for doing so, but that the costs of its continued defiance will end once he has made his decision and the country produces a bomb. After all, why would sanctions aimed at deterrence continue once Iran has secured a bomb?
He also claims that "by making clear that sanctions will be continued even if Iran manages to build a bomb, the West will be sending a message to Iran’s leader that the sooner he reaches a deal with the West, the lower the economic cost will be," continuing, "Similarly, if he decides to continue, the longer he waits, the more the country’s economy will pay. The regime can’t continue with the economic status quo indefinitely. If the economy collapses, nothing will be able to save it or stave off the regime-threatening instability that would come with it."

What Javedanfar seems not to understand is that sanctions can not simply be magically lifted once Iran does what the United States wants it to do on Israel's behalf and that, as Yousaf Butt and others have clearly articulated in the past, sanctions (which are effectively enforced by an AIPAC-controlled Congress) will remain in place regardless of what happens with Iran's enrichment program.  The point is regime change, not a nascent nuclear program.

"The best outcome for the West and Israel would be to get Khamenei himself to change his current nuclear policy," Javedanfar writes.  But considering the IAEA has never once found Iran to have diverted any nuclear material to a military program and Iran has never once been found to have violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (a compact never signed by nuclear-armed Israel, Javedanfar's home country), one has to wonder what "change" in Iran's "current nuclear policy" is being called for.

In fact, the entire premise of Javedanfar's article rests upon a simple assumption he makes and never questions: that Iran is, without question, actively attempting to acquire the ability to build a nuclear weapon with the undeniable goal of future weaponization.  For Javedanfar, this is a matter of faith. The fact that there is no evidence to support this claim is irrelevant to him.

Nevertheless, in order to "facilitate a compromise," Javedanfar suggests the West "offer Khamenei something."  What is his advice? "Allowing Iran to enrich uranium on its soil up to the 5 percent level would seem possible, under the condition that Iran answers all International Atomic Energy Agency questions, and opens its sites for strict inspection by the agency at all times."

At least Mr. Javedanfar's position is clear. He is expressly stating his belief that Iran does not have the same inalienable rights to nuclear energy, research and development and enrichment as virtually every single other country on the planet and should be threatened and bullied into giving up its national rights by countries that currently have huge nuclear arsenals.  He also seems to think that the only reason for a country to assert its rights in the face of extremely aggressive opposition and attempted abrogation by the world's most militaristic and imperial powers is so that it can build weaponry that it has repeatedly declared to be "useless," "inhumane" and "evil."

Furthermore, Javedanfar advocates that the United States continue to collectively punish the Islamic Republic - its government and citizens alike - in order to destroy the country's economy and turn public opinion against the regime, a tactic he should know has virtually no chance of succeeding given that the vast majority of Iranians support their domestic, civilian nuclear program and aren't interested in another revolution (especially not one pushed by the United States and Israel).  If that's not enough, he continues to accept that the sanctions against Iran are actually about "the nuclear issue" and that, with that stand-off resolved (and by "resolved" he means "ending with Iran acquiescing to illegal Western diktat"), Iran will no longer face economic warfare, military threats, and the constant barrage of propaganda that currently make up Western policy with regard to Iran.  With regime change so clearly the goal of three decades of pressure against Iran, this suggestion is borderline absurd.

While Javedanfar is clearly opposed to a military conflict at this time, his policy proposals leave something to be desired, namely due to their reliance on false narratives and conventional assumptions that don't stand up to scrutiny.  For instance, Mr. Javedanfar's suggestion that the West "offer" Iran, and Khamenei specifically, a way to "save face," ignores the plain fact that Iran has the right to enrichment, research and development of civilian nuclear energy regardless of what the West "offers."

Iran's program is not, under any circumstances, subject to the beneficence, generosity, or acquiescence of any other state, government or world body.  Furthermore, and more importantly than repeating matters of international law and national rights, the "offer" which Mr. Javedanfar suggests be put forth is not new at all.  In fact, it looks nearly identical to what the Iranian government has been officially suggesting for quite some time now; notably, that - following the West's official acknowledgement of Iran's right to enrichment et al. and a framework established whereby sanctions would be systematically lifted and nullified - Iran would reinstate the IAEA's Additional Protocol for an extended period of time.

As Hossein Mousavian, former spokesman for the Iranian nuclear negotiation team, has repeatedly confirmed, when IAEA representatives - led by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts - visited Iran in October 2011, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani "offered a blank check to the IAEA, granting full transparency, openness to inspections, and cooperation with the IAEA. He also informed Nackaerts of Iran's receptiveness to putting the country's nuclear program under 'full IAEA supervision,' including implementing the Additional Protocol for five years, provided that sanctions against Iran were lifted."

During that same visit, the IAEA team was admitted to "Iran's heavy water facilities and centrifuge production and R&D centers," a voluntary initiative that "goes even beyond the Additional Protocol."

Also, though Mr. Javedanfar doesn't mention it, Iran has already - repeatedly - offered to stop enriching uranium to nearly 20% (thereby limiting its enrichment to 5%, as he suggests might be part of a Western "offer") if it were able to purchase fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor.  Ahmadinejad, in September 2011, told The New York Times and The Washington Post (and later other media outlets both in the West and Iran), "If they give us the 20% enriched uranium this very week, we will cease the domestic enrichment of uranium of up to 20 percent this very week. We only want the 20% enrichment for our domestic consumption. If they give it to us according to international law, according to IAEA laws, without preconditions, we will cease domestic enrichment [to 20%]."

With this in mind, it's clear that Iran's position has long been precisely what Mr. Javedanfar believes the West should "offer," with one notable exception: he believes this offer should be advanced as an ultimatum with the threat of increased sanctions, the deliberate collapse of the Iranian economy and compounded hardship for the people of Iran if the Iranian government does not comply with Western demands.  As is always the case with such aggressive economic warfare, military action is surely waiting in the wings.

Is the suggestion that the West repackage a long-held and often-stated Iranian proposal back to the Iranians under the guise of a new generous "offer" and advanced by the threat of continuing and increased sanctions if Khamenei doesn't "change [his] current nuclear policies"?  Considering the IAEA has full access to all safeguarded facilities and material, and both U.S. and Israeli intelligence establishments are confident that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, what "nuclear policies" is Javedanfar referring to?  One would think that, with an honest assessment of existing evidence and information, those of us who hope to stave off violence and aggression against Iran by nuclear-armed, highly-militarized states with a penchant for invading and occupying Middle Eastern countries would suggest the West stop issuing threats, demands, and ultimatums first and foremost.

In other words, what Javedanfar advocates is pretty much the same thing that the Obama administration has long been demanding from Iran.  Such analysis is therefore meaningless, redundant, unoriginal, unchallenging and wholly unremarkable.  As such, his work is virtually indistinguishable from establishment groupthink (replete with unfortunate fealty to Zionist hasbara and the whitewashing of Israeli war crimes, in his case coming directly from a somewhat paranoid Israeli perspective).

For example, Javedanfar was wary of the consequences of the Egyptian revolution that deposed the U.S.-puppet, Israel-friendly dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.  Writing in Foreign Policy in early 2011, he warned, "Mubarak's fall would be very bad news for Israel as a whole."

He also appears not to support the immediate establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East due to his own country's stockpile of hundreds of undeclared, non-safeguarded, unmonitored nuclear warheads and the military deterrence he believes they provide.

In the 2007 book he co-authored with Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, Javedanfar writes that when Egyptian-born Mohammad ElBaradei became head of the IAEA, "His nationality and ethnicity lead Israeli decision makers, especially the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, to fear that he is anti-Israel."  Beyond the overt racism and bigotry of this sentiment, "His tireless work to promote a nuclear-free world, and especially his extensive efforts to establish a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, didn't win him friends in Israel."  Javedanfar and Melman continue:
The Jewish state, in theory, is ready to accept a NWFZ in the Middle East, but only after all its Arab and Muslim enemies recognize Israel's right to exist and confirm that with peace treaties and security arrangements. Until then, Israel won't even discuss the idea.
While such a statement certainly appears objective - a simple report of how the Israeli government establish thinks - this belief doesn't not appear to be challenged in Javedanfar's own writing.  While constantly suggesting curbs, limitations, and red lines be placed on Iran's non-weaponized nuclear program, Javedanfar remains silent about Israel's refusal to join the NPT or acknowledge (let alone dismantle) its nuclear arsenal.  Chances are, his own feelings about Israel's nukes track closely those of both Tel Aviv and Washington: Israeli hegemony, exceptionalism and double standards control the discourse. [Update: Yes, Javedanfar's own views appear to match that of the Israeli establishment (1/4/13)]

To read Javedanfar's suggestions, then, one might as well be tuning into a State Department briefing or White House press conference.  Basically, he brings absolutely nothing new to the table in the discourse over Western relations with Iran: demands, advanced by threats and punitive sanctions for non-compliance and the assumption that Iranian national rights are subject to abrogation and dismissal.  His prolific writing and ubiquity in mainstream commentary is a testament to the reinforcement of common misconceptions and false narratives within the foreign policy community.

It is therefore no surprise then that, in the introduction to his 2007 book - touted by the authors and publisher as a biography of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Javedanfar demonstrates his devotion to even the most misinformed and alarmist propaganda points regarding Iran, its political power structure, its president and its nuclear program.  Due to what they call Ahmadinejad's "inflammatory rhetoric," the authors (Javedanfar and Melman) claim that "fear is growing that in the near future he who called to wipe Israel off the map may have his finger on the nuclear button." (page ix)

They wrote this despite the fact that the propagandized, misquoted, misinterpreted "wipe off the map" allegation and its hysterical exploitation had already been exposed and debunked many times and the fact that the Iranian president wields no control over the nation's military, foreign policy or nuclear program.  The so-called "nuclear button" upon which Ahmadinejad might have his finger was therefore pure fantasy; a figment of a fear-mongering imagination.

Also, that a native Persian speaker and proud polyglot like Javedanfar would repeat (or approve of Melman repeating) the "wipe off the map" lie when that idiom doesn't even exist in the Persian language and the meaning of the statement is clearly about ending occupation, colonization and apartheid in Israel/Palestine and not nuclear annihilation speaks volumes about Javedanfar's priorities: promoting alarmist propaganda instead of sticking to the facts and championing truth.

Javedanfar's consistent adherence to mainstream Western talking points about Iran is impressive, blaming Iran for "provocations" like the 1979-80 hostage crisis without ever mentioning the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh or the Shah's decades of torture, oppression and corruption.  He never questions accusations over Iran's responsibility for bombings in Beirut, Buenos Aires, and Saudi Arabia or even the recent absurd allegation about a bipolar Iranian car dealer in Texas plotting the assassination of a Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. at the behest of Iranian agents, instead regurgitating groundless government hysteria with confidence.

That said, while Javedanfar is certainly an alarmist when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program - assuming the worst at every turn, regardless of well-documented facts - he is not a warmonger.  He openly abhors Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and other far-right Israeli factions.  In this way, he is a "liberal," but in the narrow Israeli sense, in that he still holds out hope for a two-solution that will never happen.

He has consistently spoken out against a military strike on Iran, especially one conducted by the Israeli air force only.  However, as an Israeli writing in mainstream Western media, his reasons for opposing such aggression seem to have nothing to do with the illegality or immorality of such action; in fact, everything he writes seems to try and answer the question, "What's best for Israel?"  He rarely, if ever, mentions the devastating humanitarian consequences of an American or Israeli assault, except when he warns about the blowback Americans or Israelis might face.  Iranian civilians - the would-be victims of U.S./Israeli war crimes - don't often get the same consideration.

Javedanfar's warnings about the negative effects of attacking Iran remain well within the realm of acceptable Beltway discourse, never straying out too far to challenge accepted orthodoxies about the so-called Iranian threat or the clear criminality of such a strike.  Rather, he cites economic repercussions and "spike in oil prices", potential retaliatory actions by Iran on American soldiers or interests in the Middle East and Hezbollah and Hamas on Israel, and the potential political and diplomatic fallout of U.S.-Israeli relations if Israel were to launch an attack without its patron's permission.  He is wary of any Israeli actions that may jeopardize the billions of dollars in military aid it gets every year, as well as the unflinching support granted by AIPAC and the diplomatic cover it receives in international fora, perpetually shielding his country from condemnation and war crimes tribunals.  These possible results are what dissuades him from endorsing military action, not international law or human lives.

One could conclude that, if Javedanfar believed an attack on Iran could achieve the results he seeks (most notably, Israeli security and the empowerment of internal opposition to pursue regime change in Iran), he might not be so opposed to the idea.  Perhaps this is not true at all - hopefully not. Javedanfar may simply tailor his commentary to the prevailing perspectives and proclivities of his target audience - a readership that may not believe that tenets of international law or the deaths of tens of thousands of Iranians are automatic deal-breakers.

Just last September, in an article co-written by Matt Duss for Foreign Policy, Javedanfar accurately noted, "True naiveté is believing that the [West's] problem [with Iran's nuclear program] can be adequately addressed through mere rhetorical bluster and threats of force, and continuing to shout at Iran across a chasm as the U.S. has done for the last 30 years."

Sadly, with his new article, Javedanfar seems to have reversed course, calling for more threats and sanctions in the hope that this will force Iran to relinquish its civilian nuclear program; a prescription doomed to fail and sure to invite another thirty years of myopic, blustery Western policy.

Unfortunately, commentary like this, if heeded, ensures more of the same for perpetuity.

*****

UPDATE:

June 27, 2012 - Much of what Javedanfar writes relies on the conventional AIPAC/establishment wisdom that Iran's economy is on the verge of total collapse and therefore its leadership will soon be forced to capitulate to Western demands over its nuclear program.  This is a canard.

Writing in The National Interest yesterday, former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hussein Mousavian and editor of the Iranian Review of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Ali Shabani explain:
Consider the Iranian economy, which is nowhere near collapse. The reality is not that "Iran is on the verge of a choice between having a nuclear program or an economy," as Cliff Kupchan, a senior analyst on the Middle East at the Eurasia Group, insists. To put things into perspective, the Islamic Republic has lost some 40 percent of its expected oil income this year, according to the International Energy Agency. The European Union embargo on Iranian oil, due to go into full effect on July 1, has practically already been implemented. Moreover, the Obama administration has already given six-month waivers from sanctions to most other countries purchasing Iranian crude. Assuming even an annualized 60 percent loss—which cannot be taken as absolute truth due to the opaque nature of Iran's crude exports—the Islamic Republic will still rake in an estimated $40 billion from oil this year. That’s roughly twice as much as when Mohammad Khatami was president a decade ago. It is no coincidence that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dubbed this Persian year "the year of national production, supporting Iranian labor and investment."

*****

UPDATE II:

October 31, 2012 - Javedanfar has again penned an article, this time for Al-Monitor, wherein he applauds the devastating effects of economic and trade sanctions on Iran and suggests that, due to rising domestic suffering and pressure, "it is highly likely that Khamenei will be forced to make a new set of compromises...within two to three years, at most."

In response to Javedanfar, Reza Sanati, a research fellow and PhD candidate at Florida International University's Middle East Studies Center, writes, "Unfortunately, like so much of the conventional thinking among proponents of sanctions and 'pressure,' his argument is built upon a series of fallacies that taken together, present an inaccurate picture of the troubled relationship between Iran and the West, and ultimately makes escalation toward conflict far more likely."

One by one, Sanati eviscerates Javedanfar's points and reaches this conclusion:
Rather than a compromise, as Javedanfar predicts, if the current sanctions on Iran persist, a more likely outcome could instead be Iran withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and preparing for a conflict that is being imposed on it no matter what it does with its nuclear program.
The fundamental problem that divides the US from Iran is not whether the latter has a nuclear program. It is that Iran's role in regional security and global affairs has been denied since the Iranian Revolution, creating a sense in Tehran of strategic vulnerability. It is this insecurity that drives much of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, begetting reciprocal US animosity and thus exacerbating the immense mutual mistrust of each other’s intentions. As long as this underlying problem is not addressed, a peaceful resolution to Iran’s nuclear program and other issues will remain elusive.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

*****

Sunday, March 11, 2012

American Morlocks:
Another Civilian Massacre and the Savagery of Our Soldiers

The bodies of Afghan civilians loaded into the back of a truck in Alkozai village of Panjwayi district of Kandahar (AFP)
"Great shapes like big machines rose out of the dimness, and cast grotesque black shadows, in which dim spectral Morlocks sheltered from the glare...there was an altogether new element in the sickening quality of the Morlocks — a something inhuman and malign...I wondered vaguely what foul villainy it might be that the Morlocks did under the new moon."

- H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, 1895

Nearly eight years ago, on April 1, 2004, former speech writer and Special Assistant to Ronald Reagan, Peggy Noonan wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal, where she was a contributing editor. It began like this (emphasis in original):
The world is used to bad news and always has been, but now and then there occurs something so brutal, so outside the normal limits of what used to be called man's inhumanity to man, that you have to look away. Then you force yourself to look and see and only one thought is possible: This must stop now. You wonder, how can we do it? And your mind says, immediately: Whatever it takes.
The brutal, inhuman event she was referring to was the killing in the Iraqi city of Fallujah of four American civilian contractors, whose SUV was ambushed by rocket-propelled grenades the day before.  The four men, all employees of the infamous mercenary outfit Blackwater, were shot, their bodies burned, mutilated, and dragged through the streets in celebration.  The charred corpses of two of those killed that day were strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates River.  The news, and accompanying photographs, sent shockwaves of horror and disgust through the United States and prompted endless editorials from coast to coast.

Noonan described "the brutalization of their corpses" as "savage, primitive, unacceptable" and decried that the "terrible glee of the young men in the crowds, and the sadism they evinced, reminds us of the special power of the ignorant to impede the good." She wrote that the Iraqis responsible for such gruesome actions "take pleasure in evil, and they were not shy to show it. They are arrogant. They think barbarity is their right."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan condemned the killings as "despicable, horrific attacks" and "cowardly, hateful acts," saying, "it was inexcusable the way those individuals were treated." He called those responsible for the deaths "terrorists" and "a collection of killers" and vowed that "America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins."

A few days later in the San Diego Union-Tribune, editor wrote of the "grisly horror," the "shocking slaughter," the "barbarism" and "butchery," the "homicidal hatred," and insisted that "if we permit atrocities like the one in Fallujah to drive the U.S.-led coalition into retreat and premature withdrawal" and "[i]f we falter in Iraq, we let the mob in Fallujah win."  Similarly, Noonan suggested,
It would be good not only for elemental justice but for Iraq and its future if a large force of coalition troops led by U.S. Marines would go into Fallujah, find the young men, arrest them or kill them, and, to make sure the point isn't lost on them, blow up the bridge.
Whatever the long-term impact of the charred bodies the short term response must be a message to Fallujah and to all the young men of Iraq: the violent and unlawful will be broken. Savagery is yesterday; it left with Saddam.
In fact, in retaliation, savagery returned with a vengeance as United States Marines immediately bombarded Fallujah, killing over 600 Iraqis, most of them women, children, and the elderly in the very first week of the assault in early April 2004, eleven months after George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished."  By the end of the year, after two massive assaults on the city by the U.S. military, over 2,000 Iraqis, including hundreds of women and children, had been killed by American soldiers, thousands more injured and at least 300,000 displaced. The assault was nicknamed "Operation Phantom Fury."

Such is the American capacity for blood-thirsty revenge.

Nowhere has this vengeance been more tragically demonstrated than Afghanistan and upon an innocent and terrorized civilian population that bears absolutely no responsibility for the events that led the United States to invade and occupy the country over a decade ago.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

ISIS's David Albright: Career Alarmist Extraordinaire


David Albright has never been content simply delivering alarmist soundbites to every Beltway reporter that has him on speed-dial (which seems to be most of them); rather, he seems worried that all the recent airtime and column space finally occupied by rational advocates of dialogue and diplomacy (as opposed to cheerleading bomb threats, international terrorism, and economic warfare) might just influence the American public not to support an illegal assault on another foreign country that doesn't eagerly kowtow to American and Israeli demands.

That establishment officials and journalists from Michael Cohen to Robert Kelley, Hans Blix, Thomas Ricks, Leslie Gelb to Paul Pillar, Adam B. Lowther to Dan Drezner, Stephen Walt to Barry Posen, Colin Kahl to Roger Cohen, Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro to William Luers and Thomas Pickering, Leon Panetta, James Clapper, Ronald Burgess, and even Barack Obama to a certain extent have all been challenging the neocon and AIPAC narrative of an Iran "hell-bent" on nuclear weapons seems to really be ruffling Albright's feathers.

A fear-mongering ISIS report from January 18, 2012 (spookily entitled "Reality Check: Shorter and Shorter Timeframe if Iran Decides to Make Nuclear Weapons") introduced a new fabulously Orwellian term: "nuclear hedging."  How ominous!

Albright and crew wrote that "Iran's strategy of 'nuclear hedging,' or developing the capability to rapidly build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, is laid out in the evidence of work on nuclear weaponization, particularly efforts to make specific nuclear components, contained in the November 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards report on Iran."

While there is no need to rehash all the back-and-forth over the actual conclusions and implications of the widely-discussed (and undoubtedly politicized) IAEA report which Albright himself leaked to the public in November, it is important to note every one is his assertions is speculative and is not actually backed up by real evidence, other than cryptic documents from a mysterious laptop of dubious origin and authenticity, unveiled years ago through a collaboration of the United States, Israel and their terror-cult allies in the MEK.

Albright's claim that Iran has gone to great lengths to "both conceal major elements of its enrichment program, such as the originally undeclared Natanz, Kalaye Electric, and Fordow enrichment facilities, and establish controversial capabilities, such as its 19.75 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) production program" is dishonest.

In February 2003, after Iran announced officially the existence of the Natanz facility (which it did within the timeframe mandated by Iran's Safeguard Agreement with the IAEA, specifically, no later than 180 days before the site becomes operational), a spokeswoman for the IAEA confirmed, "This comes as no surprise to us, as we have been aware of this uranium exploration project for several years now. In fact, a senior IAEA official visited this mine in 1992. And the Iranians announced to us officially in September their plans to develop an ambitious nuclear power program that would include the entire nuclear fuel cycle."

Furthermore, much ado was made about Iran's Fordow facility near Qom, which was supposedly "revealed" to the world by Barack Obama last September. In reality, though, Iran had already announced this site to the IAEA earlier that week. IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire said, "I can confirm that on 21 September, Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country." Obama's revelatory press conference was held on September 25th.

Albright knows full well that the establishment of 19.75% LEU production for medical isotopes has been conducted under a full IAEA safeguards regime.  Nevertheless, he calls these activities - under 24-hour surveillance and subject to surprise inspections - "controversial."  What's so "controversial" about a country seeking self-sufficiency and technological progress in the face of constant obstruction and denial of open-market resources by NPT signatories who are legally bound to aid Iran's nuclear program, not sabotage it, escapes me.

And now, coinciding with the heightened bellicosity and shameless propaganda of last week's AIPAC Conference, Albright and pals released their latest assessment on March 5, 2012.  It is outlandishly called "Preventing Iran From Getting Nuclear Weapons: Constraining Its Future Nuclear Options" and is utterly filled to the brim with speculative absurdities based in nothing more than pure fantasy.

Here's how the report begins: "Without past negotiated outcomes, international pressure, sanctions, and intelligence operations, Iran would likely have nuclear weapons by now."  Well, not if they haven't been trying to build nuclear weapons, that is - a possibility (consistent with every single shred of existing evidence and backed up by all available Western intelligence) that never seems to dawn on Albright and his minions.  The report constantly states things like this:

Iran is already capable of making weapon-grade uranium and a crude nuclear explosive device. Nonetheless, Iran is unlikely to break out in 2012, in large part because it will remain deterred from doing so and limited in its options for quickly making enough weapon-grade uranium.

There are endless mentions of the "complex set of international actions that constrain its nuclear options" and "heightening barriers against Iran achieving its nuclear objectives."  The "options" and "objectives" are assumed to be a nuclear bomb - again, a claim unsupported by fact.

The report describes efforts focused on "delaying Iran’s ability to make nuclear weapons and creating significant deterrence against it building nuclear weapons today," warns of "a wide range of future options that Iran may use during the next several years to build nuclear weapons," suggests that "Iran could develop more options to acquire nuclear weapons in the coming years unless it is further constrained or the probabilities of these futures occurring are lowered further," and concludes that "despite the existing constraints, however, Iran may decide that at some point obtaining nuclear weapons is worth the risks."

Albright insists that "the United States and its allies should reject any Iranian effort to trade interim measures for a reduction in sanctions or commitments not to add national or regional sanctions," declaring further that "the international community must be prepared to signal for years if necessary that an Iran that seeks nuclear weapons will never be integrated. It must not acquiesce to Iran’s current trajectory or give up on sanctions and other measures while accepting the current level of ambiguity over Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations."

Albright's obsession and agenda is evident in his organization's publication of roughly 170 reports, analysis and articles on the Iran since 1992.  In about the same time, ISIS has produced only four reports on Israel's unmonitored nuclear infrastructure and stockpile of hundreds of nuclear weapons.

All in all, this new ISIS report is just like the rest: a giant piece of propaganda masquerading as disinterested and objective analysis.  It is anything but.  Albright is once again proving himself to be a career warmonger and nuclear alarmist, endless quoted in the mainstream press in order to lend a bogus air of credibility to the push for more and more sanctions, threats, and violence against Iran.

Here's a quick review of some of Albright's Iraq alarmism:

On September 10, 2002, David Albright and his ISIS colleague Corey Hinderstein wrote that "[h]igh-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq's al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility (Unit-340), located in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border" and determined, "Unless inspectors go to the site and investigate all activities, the international community cannot exclude the possibility that Iraq is secretly producing a stockpile of uranium in violation of its commitments under Security Council resolutions. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort."

On October 5, 2002, Albright wondered on CNN, "In terms of the chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has those now. How many, how could they deliver them? I mean, these are the big questions."

On April 20, 2003, David Albright of ISIS, despite being a source of many of the pre-invasion claims about Iraq's nuclear program, told the Los Angeles Times, "If there are no weapons of mass destruction, I'll be mad as hell. I certainly accepted the administration claims on chemical and biological weapons. I figured they were telling the truth. If there is no [unconventional weapons program], I will feel taken, because they asserted these things with such assurance."

Albright's Iraq projections having been dashed, he appeared in October 2003 to have become a bit more skeptical, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, with regard to new reports about a possible Iranian nuclear weapons program revealed by the MEK, "We should be very suspicious about what our leaders or the exile groups say about Iran's nuclear capacity." He continued, "There is a drumbeat of allegations, but there's not a whole lot of solid information. It may be that Iran has not made the decision to build nuclear weapons. We have to be very careful not to overstate the intelligence."

Nevertheless, Albright was soon back to his old ways.  He was quoted in The Australian on September 26, 2011 as saying, "We believe if Iran broke out now they could have a bomb in six months," adding, "They've done this right in front of our faces."

With this latest report, Albright's agenda is clear and his hysteria transparent.

*****

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hurting, Hanging, Suffocating & Starving:
The Inhumanity of Iran Threat Rhetoric

"You can't kill and talk at the same time."

- William Luers,
former U.S. Ambassador & senior State Dept. official

In 2006, after Palestinians democratically elected Hamas to the shock and chagrin of both Israel and the United States (who had insisted on the elections in the first place), a devastating economic siege was imposed on the 1.5 million residents of Gaza by Israel as punishment for the crime of Palestinian self-determination. As Dov Weisglass, adviser to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said with a chuckle, "It's like an appointment with a dietitian. The Palestinians in Gaza will get a lot thinner, but won't die."

What's so obviously funny about Weisglass' statement is that, due to the brutal blockade that has deliberately strangled Gaza for six years, at least 61% of Palestinians in the territory are "food insecure," of which "65% are children under 18 years;" the level of anemia in infants is as high as 65.5%, about 70% of Palestinians in Gaza live on less than $1 a day, over 80% rely on food aid, and 60% have no daily access to water, 95% of which is undrinkable anyway.

And now, apparently, Israeli officials are hoping the West will duplicate this hilarity by similarly depriving Iranians of their own means to survive.

An article published this week in Yediot Ahronot was headlined, "Israeli officials: Starve Iranians to stop nukes," and reported, "Iran's citizens should be starved in order to curb Tehran's nuclear program, officials in Jerusalem said Wednesday ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming trip to Washington." The article quoted an unnamed official as saying, "Suffocating sanctions could lead to a grave economic situation in Iran and to a shortage of food. This would force the regime to consider whether the nuclear adventure is worthwhile, while the Persian people have nothing to eat and may rise up as was the case in Syria, Tunisia and other Arab states."

The official urged, "The Western world led by the United States must implement stifling sanctions at this time...[i]n order to suffocate Iran economically and diplomatically and lead the regime there to a hopeless situation, this must be done now, without delay."

Encouraging the willful, foreign creation of a humanitarian crisis upon a nation of 74 million human beings in the form of collective punishment with the intention of fomenting regime change is not only appalling, its prescription is criminal under international law. It goes without saying that, were anyone to suggest that Israel itself be targeted with such destructive tactics for any reason whatsoever, the mere idea would elicit accusations of utterly insane, genocidal anti-Semitism. But, of course, to Israeli officials pushing the starvation of a mostly Muslim civilian population, Iranian lives are as expendable as Palestinian lives.

How can such talk be discussed so flippantly? The answer, sadly, is obvious.

Iranians, over the past three decades, have been so dehumanized by Western politicians and media that talk of economic "strangulation" and "crippling" sanctions are not only routine but, at this point, mundane.  Just last week, conservative pundit Tucker Carlson stated on Fox News that "Iran should be annihilated."  Rhetoric like this is nothing new.