Monday, April 29, 2013

New Israeli Math and the Return of the Holocaust Analogy:
Steinitz: Iran "Equal to 30 Nuclear North Koreas."

Yuval Steinitz and Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in 2011
( Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images)

At the second annual Jerusalem Post Conference, held in New York City on Sunday April 28, a number of former and current Israeli officials offered new estimates about Iran's nuclear progress, issued threats of war and pretended Israel is more powerful and militarily capable than it really is.

In other words, it was just another day of shameless and shameful Israeli propaganda; pathetic, jingoistic bluster meant to appeal to hawkish American donors, puff up Israel's inflated sense of self, and attempt to boost its already non-existent credibility.

Former IDF intel chief Amos Yadlin said, "Even though Iran is on the way to crossing the line of Netanyahu, that doesn't mean that they have the bomb," which might be the most tediously self-evident comment made in recent memory, despite also relying on fact-free speculation. He also said that Israel could weather the consequences of a potential unilateral military assault on the Islamic Republic, but that, before that happens, "we must give more time for the other strategies that nobody takes credit for," an apparent reference to Israeli-led covert murder operations and cyberwar.

Meanwhile, former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi also told the mouth-breathing attendees that Israel can effectively attack Iran and sustain the inevitable blowback. "We cannot allow this regime to have the bomb," he said, before insisting that a recent multi-billion dollar U.S. arms sale to Israel "sends a signal" to Iran about Israel's military capabilities and intentions.

The best comments of the day, however, were made by Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz. Calling an Iran with an atomic arsenal "equal to 30 nuclear North Koreas," Steinitz's stand-up routine didn't disappoint. Not only was a "nuclear Iran" an "existential threat" to Israel, he said, it would also pose a "terrible threat" to all of the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica would apparently be spared the devastating scourge, however.

"Iran is problem number one of our generation," Steinitz declared. He then launched into an embarrassingly repetitive rant about how Iran is the new Nazi Germany, an analogy so stupid and played out that even its most ardent champion Netanyahu hasn't used it in a while. After praising Winston Churchill for his actions in the 1930s (which garnered a healthy round of applause from the crowd), Steinitz implicitly condemned other powers and political leaders for their past follies and failures, evoking the tired bromide equating diplomacy with appeasement.

"We shouldn't repeat the same mistakes again," he said, continuing:
This was Nazi Germany, a secular regime with a fanatical ideology. And here we are speaking about the Shiite Ayatollahs of Iran. Totally [religious] fanatical regime. There it was Europe, here it's Iran. The Nazis spoke about the final solution for the Jewish people in Europe. They [Iranian leaders] are speaking about destroying the Jewish State in the Middle East. There are some differences. We have to learn from history. And so it never repeats itself exactly. And if there's a lesson to learn from history, it's not to repeat the same mistake again. And not to allow, come what may, the nuclearization of Iran.
He wasn't finished.

Once at full capacity, the Iranian nuclear program, he claimed, will be able to produce 20 to 30 nuclear bombs each year and somehow decided that, "if Iran gets the first few bombs, in a decade or so they will have 100 nuclear bombs."

This was "not an intelligence estimate," he was quick to note, but rather was based on statements by the Islamic Republic itself, which makes literally no sense since Iran has never once stated any intention to build or acquire a single nuclear weapon.

For good measure, Steinitz also tossed around phrases like “global ambitions" and "a new era of Islamic hegemony," because things like that - regardless of their sheer stupidity - play well with ignorant, racist audiences like the one assembled Sunday at the Times Square Marriott.

Dismissing sanctions as insufficient "to achieve our goal," Steinitz demanded that "a very clear military threat" be made to Iran (ignoring, of course, that this is an undeniable violation of the UN Charter), "a credible threat that will make it crystal clear that they are paying something for nothing."

"If there is a chance to resolve this problem without military action,” he said, it will only be because opponents of Tehran's nuclear program "choose a big enough stick and wave it in their faces," appealing to the Orientalist conception that Middle Eastern leaders only understand the language of force and will only kowtow to Western and Israeli demands when sufficiently fearful of potential violence.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who also spoke at the conference, tried to temper such alarmist rhetoric and dispel the notion that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, one worthy of constant hysteria and attention.

"I think that we have exaggerated, for a long time, the potential threat of Iran possessing nuclear power," he told the crowd.

Predictably, Olmert's comments did not receive a positive reception; instead, he was heckled and booed.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Guardian's Bad Facts:
Error-Filled Article Needed More Editorial Inspection

As if to balance out the always informed and substantive commentary of its regular columnist Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian published an article this past week that provided a glimpse at the consistently sloppy and dishonest narratives promoted by mainstream media when it comes to Iran and its nuclear program.

Published on April 21 in The Guardian's Business section, an article by Rupert Neale reported on the supposed sanctions-evading trade between Iran's Atomic Energy Organization and the massive British commodities broker Glencore.  Since its was first posted to The Guardian website, the article has gone through a number of revisions since, apparently, the newspaper's editors only work in retrospect.

The headline and text originally referenced an "Iranian nuclear weapons programme," for instance, and elsewhere in the body of the article allusions were made to international efforts to "prevent Iran's nuclear armament ambitions," surely a brazenly speculative contention that has no place in a news report. Considering international intelligence assessments consistently affirm that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, referring to such a non-existent program is in rather poor - and factually incorrect - taste.

These errors have since been corrected, though the entire thrust of the piece, whose accusatory tone betrays its political agenda, has been left unchallenged.

Another factual error, however, remains.

In the twelfth paragraph, Neale writes, "Iran insists its enriched material is for peaceful use, not for nuclear weapons, but it has refused to allow IAEA inspectors into several of its atomic facilities."

At no point, has Iran ever - ever - refused IAEA inspectors admission to any of its "atomic facilities." In fact, Iran's nuclear sites and facilities are under video surveillance by the IAEA, are readily accessible to IAEA inspectorsopen to regular inspection, and are subject to material seals application by the Agency.

The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which often takes a rather cynical, suspicious, and skeptical - if not outright hawkish - view of the Iranian nuclear program, even notes, "The agency inspects all of the enrichment facilities at least twice a month. An additional two unannounced inspections are conducted every month at Fordow and at the pilot enrichment plant at Natanz, where up to 20% enrichment also takes place. Any attempt to further enrich uranium to weapons grade at these facilities would be detected."

Nuclear expert Mark Hibbs has explained on the Arms Control Wonk blog, "There are IAEA safeguards personnel in Iran 24/7/365. They are there to carry out safeguards inspections at 16 declared facilities plus, if deemed necessary, at nine hospitals in Iran that hold nuclear material."  He adds:
The IAEA spends quite a bit of time visiting all three sites. Inspectors are not in the plants all the time, but they enter them frequently and routinely. At Fordow and Natanz, the IAEA carries out two kinds of inspections: "announced inspections" and "short-notice announced inspections." At Esfahan and all other sites the IAEA carries out only "announced inspections."
For active enrichment sites like Fordow and Natanz, IAEA inspectors may conduct "announced inspections" with only "24-hour notification" given to Iran.  Hibbs also states that "Iran's subsidiary arrangements in fact permit the IAEA to conduct a short-notice inspection upon two hours' notice."

Furthermore, former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, now a lecturer at Princeton University, has pointed out, "Since 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has implemented the most robust inspections in its history with more than 100 unannounced and over 4000 man-day inspections in Iran."

No diversion of nuclear material has ever - ever - be found.

In May 2007, the IAEA even felt compelled to publicly deny reports about Iran hampering inspections of its nuclear facilities. "There is no truth to media reports claiming that the IAEA was not able to get access," IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire told reporters. "We have not been denied access at any time, including in the past few weeks." He added, “Normally we do not comment on such reports but this time we felt we had to clarify the matter.”

On top of this, IAEA inspectors have consistently had open access to the gas conversion facility at Esfahan and have also monitored the heavy water production plant at Arak, despite these facilities not being explicitly covered by Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.

Obviously, by alluding to restricted inspections, Neale is referring to the technical dispute over open IAEA access to the Iranian military complex at Parchin. To put it simply, Parchin is not an "atomic facility." Iran even granted IAEA inspectors access to the site - which is not legally subject to IAEA Safeguards - twice in 2005. The unnecessary obsession with Parchin by some has been well-documented by nuclear experts such as Yousaf Butt and Robert Kelley.

Regardless, Parchin does not fall under the umbrella term that Neale uses: "atomic facilities."  Also, it is clear the intention of such a claim, without any further explanation or documentation, is meant to disingenuously paint Iran as intransigent and secretive, and therefore duplicitous and sinister.

Speaking of Parchin, former IAEA chief Hans Blix has said, "Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site," adding that "the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be."

Robert Kelley, a former IAEA inspector, wrote earlier this year that "the basis for the IAEA's requests [to visit Parchin] continues to be opaque. The timeline for the alleged experiments is also highly suspect, with claims that massive experimental facilities had been fabricated even before they had been designed, according to the available information. The IAEA work to date, including the mischaracterization of satellite images of Parchin, is more consistent with an IAEA agenda to target Iran than of technical analysis."

Besides Parchin, the IAEA is seeking access to no other nuclear (where it has full access) or non-nuclear site (where it legally can't inspect or monitor). The claim that Iran won't grant access to "several" facilities, therefore, compounds the original error and demonstrates both a true lack of knowledge on the part of the writer as well as a deliberate intention to present Iran as intransigent and deceptive.

As has occurred with the other erroneous and speculative statements in Neale's article, will The Guardian's editors correct this one as well?


Friday, April 26, 2013

War Criminal Gets New Library as Violence Flares in Iraq

Residents carry a coffin during the funeral of an Iraqi soldier who was killed in clashes with Sunni Islamist militants in Baghdad April 25, 2013.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/Wissm al-Okili)

On Thursday, the media's attention was focused squarely on the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria and the potential for a new American military adventure triggered by such claims, not to mention the dedication of a multi-million dollar presidential library designed to burnish the legacy of a unrepentant torturer-in-chief and war criminal. At the ceremony in Dallas, Texas, hardly any mention was made of Iraq, the second country George W. Bush invaded, occupied, dismantled and destroyed, and where continuing bloodshed and corruption is Bush’s real legacy.

The very same day, April 25, 2013, as Bush was fĂȘted by four past and present American presidents, Reuters journalist Suadad al-Salhy reported from Baghdad, "Nearly 50 people were killed in clashes on Thursday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, sources said, on the third day of the most widespread violence in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011."

The report continued:
More than 100 people have been killed in fighting since Tuesday, when troops stormed a Sunni protest camp, triggering clashes that quickly spread to other Sunni areas in western and northern provinces…
Violence, including bomb attacks that have killed dozens of people at a time, has increased across Iraq this year. Provisional figures from rights group Iraq Body Count indicate about 1,365 people have been killed so far in 2013.
Gunmen attacked Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, on Wednesday night and took control of western parts of the city after using a mosque loudspeaker to rally Sunnis to join the battle.
Military sources said federal police and the army regained control after surrounding a police headquarters occupied by militants, who were holding 17 hostages. The federal police chief said 31 militants had been killed in the fighting.
Militants also assaulted a federal police headquarters in Fallujah and a car bomb in Najaf killed three people.

One can only wonder what hors d'oeuvres they were serving in Dallas.


Originally posted at Muftah.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Decades of Threats and the Delusions of Shimon Peres

Chuck Hagel meets with Shimon Peres at the Israeli President's office in Jerusalem on April 22, 2013
(Photo Credit: UPI/Menahem Kahana/Pool)

Iran's Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said today that American and Israeli "threats have no value and at the same time, show their aggressive nature, and reveal their deceitful and misleading claims," adding that any Israeli strike on Iran would be the regime's "last mistake."

Iranian officials, including Vahidi himself, have made similar declarations in the past, insisting they are fully prepared to respond to any act of aggression against Iran while also reaffirming Iran's military posture as defensive and reactive.  That Iran maintains a national security doctrine of self-defense and retaliation has been routinely confirmed by U.S. intelligence assessments.

Vahidi's latest statement follows U.S. Secretary of State Chuck Hagel's recent visit to Israel, during which he cemented a massive arms deal - including missiles, radar, and aircraft - that he said should send a "very clear signal" to Iran. This past weekend, Hagel claimed that the United States and Israel see "exactly the same" threat from Iran and followed up such rhetoric the next day alongside his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya'alon by declaring, "All military options and every option must remain on the table in dealing with Iran."

Despite the admission of U.S. Director of National Intelligence that sanctions on Iran have not affected nuclear policy shifts in Iran (which include the continuing, non-militarized civilian nature of its nuclear program), Hagel insisted, "The sanctions on Iran are as potent and deep and wide a set of international sanctions that we have ever seen on any country. And those will continue to increase."

As for the potency of sanctions, Hagel is praising the negative impact such collective punishment is having on lives and livelihoods of the people of Iran, while promising more.

"Whether it leads to an outcome that we desire remains to be seen...and as I said, the military option is always an option," Hagel reiterated.

But remember, we're still supposed to believe Iranian officials are the ones issuing bellicose threats apropos of nothing.

With this in mind, take note of statements made by Israeli President Shimon Peres during a joint media event with Hagel on April 22.

In the context of alleging, as he often does, that Iran is somehow a "threat to Israel," Peres stated, "By the way, you know [we] have nothing against the Iranian people...Iran doesn't have a single enemy. Nobody threatened Iran. Why did their leaders decide to become a threat to others?"

Wait, what? "Nobody threatened Iran?"

Apparently, Peres is unaware of the decades of military threats waged against Iran.  Or, perhaps, he never happens to be paying attention when his own Prime Minister, senior military officials and others have repeatedly called for the United States to issue a "credible military threat" against Iran.  He also must not know much about the covert operationscyberwar, industrial sabotage, and murder campaigns leveled against Iran in recent years.

Back in October 2010, Peres himself committed Israel to being an integral part of an "anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East," suggesting that the primary reason "to stop the secondary conflict between us and the Palestinians" is to allow the United States to focus more military attention and coercive energy on Iran.

In November 2011, Peres made the bogus claim that "Iran is getting closer to having nuclear weapons" and that "[i]ntelligence services of all countries understand that time is running out and they are warning their leaders." He added at the time:
In the time that remains, we must urge the other nations of the world to act, and tell them that it is time to stand behind the promise that was made to us, to fulfill their responsibility, whether that means serious sanctions or whether it means a military operation.
In fact, no intelligence agencies claim that Iran is close to having a nuclear weapon as the international consensus (including that of Israel itself) has long been that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. Threatening an unprovoked attack on Iran is unquestionably a violation of the United Nations Charter.

Peres' absurd formulation is nothing new. In early 1996, in an interview on French television, he scolded European nations for their economic ties to Tehran. "You must really stop flirting with the Iranians, "he said before striking a more aggressive and hysterical posture. "Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion... [and] is in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option."

A decade later, he was still at it. In 2006, Peres - who was instrumental in Israel's own clandestine development of nuclear weapons - said that "Israel is not threatening Iran, Iran is threatening Israel." Just last month, in a lie-filled speech before the European Parliament, Peres stated, "Nobody threatens Iran. Iran threatens others," in addition to spouting a pathetic litany of propaganda talking points with no basis in fact, including claiming Iran has an "imperial appetite," has "call[ed] for another Holocaust," and that Iranian leaders "are aiming to build a nuclear weapon and they deny it." (Incredibly, Peres - the president of Israel - also lambasted the Iranian government for "violating the charter of the United Nations which condemns the violation of human rights and aggression against other nations.")

In his recent comments with Chuck Hagel, Peres trod this same ground. "Israelis understand that Iran is not just a threat to Israel," he opined, "It's really a threat to the peace in the world, for no reason whatsoever. The world doesn't threaten Iran."

Actually, Peres is correct about one thing. "The world" - namely the 120 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement in addition to China, Russia and many others - "doesn't threaten Iran."

But the countries that both Peres himself and his honored guest Chuck Hagel represent certainly do.


A slightly different version of this piece was originally posted here.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Hysterical Predictions of Israel's Former Military Intel Chief

Amos Yadlin, former director of Israeli Military Intelligence, January 2012.
(Photo Credit: Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

Former Israeli Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who is currently the Director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, declared today that Iran is rapidly approaching the so-called "red line" of nuclear weapons capability and would reach the breakout point within two months.

Speaking at an INSS event, Yadlin stated that Iran has already enriched enough uranium for "six bombs," yet apparently failed to point out not a single atom of such material has been enriched to anything close to weapons-grade and all of which remains under the safeguard, seal and surveillance of the IAEA.

"We are heading toward a collision course by the end of the year," Yadlin said, insisting that "Israel will, in fact, be the first to have to reach a decision. It is not party to the negotiations. At the Iranians' current rate of production, even to those who today are saying they won't cross the red line – there is no doubt that by the summer they will cross it."

Of course, there is not one intelligence agency on the planet that has assessed Iran has an active nuclear weapons program. Just last week, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reaffirmed the long-held conclusion that no decision has even been made by the Iranian government to pursue the development of a nuclear bomb and that any such move would be immediately detectable to IAEA inspectors and the international community.

Such alarmist nonsense is unsurprising, especially when considering the source. Yadlin has a history of making things up.

In March 2009, shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a U.S. Congressional delegation that Israeli "experts" estimated Iran was "probably only one or two years away" from achieving nuclear weapons capability, Yadlin - then the IDF's Military Intelligence Director - told cabinet ministers that Iran had already "crossed the technological threshold" needed to "achieve the capability to manufacture a nuclear bomb."

In early 2010, in a statement before the Knesset's Defense Committee, Yadlin said Iran would likely be able to build a single nuclear device that very year. He was wrong.

After leaving the IDF, Yadlin took up a fellowship position at the hawkish Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an AIPAC-affiliated think tank, before returning to Israel to head INSS.

Roughly a month and a half ago, on February 4, 2013, Yadlin unveiled another prediction. "Iran is currently four to six months away from nuclear breakout stage, if an order is given to reach that phase now," he declared, according to reports in the Israeli and international press. The estimate came on the heels of news that Iran was planning to substantially upgrade its enrichment technology with more efficient equipment.

At the time, Yadlin also said that a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue was preferable that resorting to military means and envisaged an agreement that respected Iran's continued ability to enrich uranium domestically through the possession of 1,200 centrifuges. If Iran's enrichment capacity were slowed, limited and regulated, thereby - in his estimation - enabling "a couple of years [to] separate Iran from nuclear breakout, that would be a better solution than a military attack."

Now that another couple rounds of negotiations have come and gone, with no discernible progress made, Yadlin believes a military confrontation is inevitable. Israelis now only have until the summer "to sleep soundly," he said, referring to the upcoming Iranian presidential elections set for June. The election, according to Yadlin's infinite wisdom, will determine whether Iran will decide to weaponize its civilian nuclear program.

At the same INSS event, a Russian analyst suggested it would take Iran at least seven years to build an actual nuclear bomb.

No doubt, we can all safely doze off for a few more weeks until Yadlin returns with yet another prediction from his crystal ball.



A report in the Jerusalem Post contains a quote from Yadlin's presentation at the INSS conference which tempers somewhat the hysteria of his "two month" timeline, while simultaneously making it even more irrelevant and meaningless.

"By the summer, Iran will be a month or two away from a decision about the bomb," Yadlin is quoted as saying.  So, rather than the initial reports claiming that Yadlin's timeline had to do with crossing a "red line" of stockpiled uranium, it appears he that his reasoning is actually more convoluted.

The Iranian presidential election is slated for mid-June.  After that, Yadlin says, a "decision about the bomb" will be made within two months.  Uh, okay.  Why?  Who knows!?

So, nearly two months from now Iran will elect its next president. Then, one or two months after that the Iranian leadership will make a determination about whether or not to start the process of building a nuclear weapon.  Even if this weren't completely nonsensical speculation unsupported by any facts, why this is interesting or useful information is unclear.

Beyond this, Yadlin also claimed Iran has stockpiled enough 3.5% enriched uranium for six bombs and nearly enough 20% enriched uranium for one bomb. As stated above, none of this is weapons-grade and can only be used - without further enrichment detectable by the IAEA and Western intelligence agencies - for energy production and medical research.

"They have no problem reverting back what they allegedly turned to nuclear fuel. Within a week it could be turned into nuclear material for a bomb," Yadlin stated, even though it appears no honest nuclear expert would back this claim up.  Quite the contrary, manufacturing fuel plates from 19.75% enriched uranium, as Iran has done, virtually precludes its reconstitution as uranium gas to be further enriched.  The process is not so simple and, again, would be easily detectable.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Iran Remains Committed to NPT, Despite Bluster from MPs, While U.S. Ignores Treaty Obligations

 Bilateral meeting between Iranian Delegation and IAEA Directorate, July 12, 2011
(Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA)

On April 8, 2013, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, an Iranian parliamentarian who heads the Majlis Security and Foreign Policy committee, said, "It's not acceptable that Iran respects NPT [the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] but the U.S. and the West ignore NPT's Article 6 — reducing nuclear weapons — and Article 4 — right to enrichment. Therefore, there is no reason for Iran to remain an NPT member under such circumstances."

Alaeddin Boroujerdi
Such a statement is nothing new from Iranian lawmakers, often occurring after frustrating and fruitless negotiations or in anticipation of illegal sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.

Nevertheless, despite such rhetoric from parliamentarians, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has again affirmed its continued commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and it safeguard agreement with the IAEA.

In response to a recent statement by the five permanent, nuclear-armed members of the United Nations Security Council which claimed the Iranian nuclear program constituted a "serious challenge" to the treaty and called for the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, on Saturday April 20, 2013, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast reiterated Iran's role as a steadfast signatory of NPT.

He said, "Iran has continued its completely peaceful nuclear program under the permanent monitoring of the IAEA inspectors," adding, "We are a committed member of the agency. We were one of the countries which signed the NPT first. We comply with our commitments under the treaty."

"The Iranian foreign ministry official also noted that the country will continue its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," reported the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

During his annual Nowruz speech last month in Mashhad, Iranian leader Ali Khamenei reiterated that Iran has "never [been] opposed to the supervision and regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency."  Indeed, Iran has never been found to have violated the NPT.

Additionally, on Monday April 22, 2013, Iran and the 119 other members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) urged the total elimination of nuclear weapons, under the auspices of the NPT and its attendant obligations.  Similar statements have been routinely made by the organization, which represents the vast majority of the world's nations.

In a statement delivered by Mohammad-Reza Sajjadi, Iran's UN envoy to Geneva, NAM - which is currently chaired by Iran - "described Israel and its nuclear program as the main threat to regional peace and security and condemned Tel Aviv's move to develop its arsenals. It also urged a ban on nuclear cooperation with the regime," according to Iran's PressTV.  The United States, while at times paying lip-service to the notion of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, has constantly condemned and blocked any move in that direction, solely in order to protect Israel's hegemonic nuclear monopoly in the region.

"The statement said that possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons all violated the UN Charter and international law, adding total elimination of nukes was the only guarantee against the use or threat to use such arms," and also stressed NAM's support for "talks on the conclusion of a global, binding, unconditional, unbiased and irrevocable convention that would compel nuclear-armed countries to give assurances to non-nuclear states that they would not use or threat to use such weapons against them."

In a clear rebuke to the attempts to abrogate the inalienable national right to a civilian nuclear energy program, the statement also "backed the development of peaceful nuclear activities and the countries' right to use civilian nuclear technology."

The same day, Thomas Countryman, U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, accused Iran's wholly legal, monitored and safeguarded nuclear program of being the single greatest threat to the legitimacy of the NPT the world has ever known.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) reported that the "Obama administration will propose a deep cut in funding for nuclear nonproliferation programs at the Energy Department largely so it can boost the department's spending to modernize its stockpile of nuclear weapons."

Under Obama's new budget, nuclear weapons funding is being "both accelerated and expanded," and includes a 7% increase (roughly $500 million) is spending on explicitly military capabilities, including "modernization efforts for bomber-based and missile-based warheads."  Meanwhile, funding for non-proliferation and nuclear weapons reduction is being slashed by 20%.

"The new weapons-related spending would expand efforts to upgrade the W76, W88, W78, and B-61 warheads," reported CPI, efforts that explicitly contradict Obama's own pledges to move towards total global disarmament of nuclear weapons.

The Guardian's Julian Borger detailed the plan yesterday, explaining that "nearly 200 B61 gravity bombs stockpiled in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey would be given new tail fins that would turn them into guided weapons that could be delivered by stealth F35 fighter-bombers."

"This will be a significant upgrade of the US nuclear capability in Europe," Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of Nuclear Scientists, told Borger. "It flies directly in the face of the pledges Obama made in 2010 that he would not deploy new weapons."

In its Nuclear Posture Review in 2010," The Guardian adds, the United States "undertook to do reduce the role and numbers of its nuclear weapons, in part by not developing new nuclear warheads, and pledging it would not 'support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities'."

Not only this, but the very same Nuclear Posture Review also stated clearly that a nuclear first-strike against Iran, a non-nuclear weapons state, would not be ruled out. Such a statement directly contravenes both the spirit and letter of the NPT itself.

In October 2009, during his very first year in office, Barack Obama was inexplicably awarded the Nobel Peace Prize primarily for his "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."  Clearly, while Obama and his envoys continue to make a big show of saving the world from Iran's non-existent nuclear arsenal, the U.S. not only protects Israel's massive stockpile of atomic warheads but continues to upgrade and threaten the world with its own.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hey, Remember That Iran War the U.S. Never Fought? Well, Newsday Does.

The latest entry in the media's frequent confusion between Iraq and Iran, the Long Island-based newspaper Newsday posted the above headline today.  Ok, fine, it's just a typo.

The article, which reports on the reaction of American veterans of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan to the tragic and gruesome injuries suffered by victims of Monday's Boston Marathon bombing, never refers to Iraq accidentally as Iran, making clear that the error was an editorial one when headlining and posting the piece.  Odd, though, that such a clear and obvious error was not immediately corrected.  Hours after it's posting, the headline remains intact.

The URL for the article similarly contains the word "Iran" instead of "Iraq."



April 23, 2013 - After about a day and a half, Newsday has finally corrected their Iraq/Iran typo, noting:
A previous version of this story mistakenly referred to Iran, instead of Iraq, in the headline.
The article's URL has also been updated.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Mourning With America from Boston to Baghdad

“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963

Nearly 50 years to the day after Dr. King wrote his passionate plea for unity, justice and nonviolence from his prison cell in Alabama, on the afternoon of Monday April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blasts murdered three people – including an eight-year-old boy – and injured at least 150 more.

The very same day, a "wave of bombings across Iraq…killed at least 33 people and wounded more than 160 others," reported Al Jazeera, the most deadly of which occurred in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Kirkuk. A suicide bomber killed another 32 people in a popular Baghdad internet cafe today. A number of car bomb attacks also took place in Somalia, Pakistan, and Bahrain this week.

“Dear our brothers and sisters in Boston, sorry for what happened
 to you. Violence is killing our children wherever it happens,” reads
the caption for this photo. It is signed “Redha & Omar, Children
of Iraq.” (Sami Rasouli/Facebook)
The news of the Boston bombing spread around the world within minutes. Condemnation of the appalling act was immediate, sympathy and solidarity ubiquitous. Meanwhile, hardly anyone heard about the attacks, let alone the myriad deaths, in Iraq and elsewhere.

By Tuesday, a remarkable and arresting photo emerged online, posted first by the Facebook group "America Loves Iraq." The photo, provided by the peace and human rights organization, Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT), shows two young Iraqi boys holding a handwritten sign reading "We Mourn With Boston" in both English and Arabic. A similarly powerful photograph was posted the same day by MTC founder and director Sami Rasouli.

In response, Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake's Dissenter blog wrote, "The two boys understand far too well what it is like in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack," noting the countless "acts of violence" their country has experienced in their young lifetimes "as a result of terrorism and US forces waging war and occupation." He adds:
The boys not only stand in solidarity with the victims of the Boston explosions, but they also empathize because this is what they’ve experienced. Part of this message is being shared with Americans because they want them to know they understand the pain Americans are going through.
Associated Press reporter Laura Jakes, who served as the wire service's Baghdad bureau chief from 2009 to 2012, wrote this week that "the blood-splattered streets and frantic screams of confused bystanders could have been in Baghdad on any given day. But it was Boston, in an affluent area surrounded by world-class security forces, where deadly roadside bombings aren't supposed to happen."

"In Iraq," Jakes explained, "roadside bombs are a near-daily way of life. They are heartbreaking, scary, and devastating" and "have sucked the confidence and hope from Iraqis who never know when it is safe to go out."

Gosztola points out that it is now, in the wake of the tragedy on Boylston Street, "in the moment when people are most paying attention," that we all must remember "that there are other people around the world, who suffer from violence daily," oftentimes committed by the U.S. government itself.

The photos of these beautiful Iraqi children, victims themselves of the consequences of American Empire, stand as a testament to the boundless human capacity for compassion, dignity, forgiveness and solidarity.

"We are all citizens of the world and our pain can bring us together," concludes Gosztola, and so should we all.


Originally posted at Muftah.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Clapper: Iran Still Not Building a Nuclear Weapon; Purpose of Sanctions is to Foster Unrest

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, April 18, 2013
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today and reiterated the same assessment regarding Iran as was delivered in March 2013.

The exact same statements - verbatim - were included in Clapper's unclassified report, including the assessment that "Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."

Of course, as Clapper notes, Iran's ability to potentially manufacture the components is inherent to its advanced nuclear infrastructure and is not an indication of an active nuclear weapons program, which all U.S. intelligence agencies agree Iran does not have.

As such, Clapper again reported to the Senate Committee, "Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so."

In his testimony, Clapper stated that, were the decision to weaponize its nuclear energy program to be made by Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran could theoretically reach a "breakout" point within "months, not years." His report repeats the assessment, though, that "[d]espite this progress, we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered."

Again, undermining the bogus claims that Iran is an irrational and reckless actor, Clapper maintained the judgment that "Iran's nuclear decisionmaking is guided by a cost-benefit approach," balancing its own domestic interests with "the international political and security environment."  Iran also has a defensive - not aggressive - military posture, one based on "its strategy to deter - and if necessary retaliate against - forces in the region, including US forces" were an attack on Iran to occur.

During questioning from Senators following his prepared remarks, Clapper admitted - as a number of recent independent reports have shown - that the increasingly harsh sanctions levied upon Iran have had no effect on the decision-making process of the Iranian leadership, yet has produced considerable damage to the Iranian economy and resulted in increased "inflation, unemployment, [and the] unavailability of commodities" for the Iranian people.

This, he said, is entirely the point.  Responding to Maine Senator Angus King, who asked about the impact sanctions have on the Iranian government, Clapper explained that the intent of sanctions is to spark dissent and unrest in the Iranian population, effectively stating that Obama administration's continued collective punishment of the Iranian people is a deliberate (and embarrassingly futile) tactic employed to the foment regime change.

"What they do worry about though is sufficient restiveness in the street that would actually jeopardize the regime. I think they are concerned about that," Clapper said of the Iranian leadership.  It is no wonder, then, why Clapper refers in his own official report to the economic warfare waged against Iran as "regime threatening sanctions."

Not mentioned in the session, of course, are the decades of repeated affirmations by senior Iranian officials that Iran rejects nuclear weapons on strategic, moral and religious grounds.  Within the past six weeks, this position has been reiterated by Iran's envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh, President Ahmadinejad, and Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

Just two days ago, for instance, during a three-day diplomatic visit to Africa, Ahmadinejad declared, "The era of the atomic bomb is over. Atomic bombs are no longer useful and have no effect on political equations. Atomic bombs belong to the last century, and anyone who thinks he can rule the world by atomic bombs is a political fool," according to a report by Iran's state-run PressTV. He also pushed back the constant conflation in Western discourse of nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. "Nuclear energy is one thing and an atomic bomb is another. This useful energy must belong to all nations," he stated.

Furthermore, reports that Iran has continued converting its stockpiled 19.75% enriched uranium into fuel plates for its cancer-treating medical research reactor gained absolutely no traction within the Committee or Clapper's comments. For Congress, Iran is a threat simply by virtue of having independent political considerations, inalienable national rights and refusing to accept American hegemony over its own security interests.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who spends most of his time advocating for new, illegal military adventures in the Middle East, presented this wholly disingenuous and misleading question to Clapper: "Over the last six months, as we've been imposing sanctions and been negotiating with the P5+1 regime, [does Iran] have more or less enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb?"

None of Iran's enriched uranium is "for a nuclear bomb" insofar as it is all far from weapons-grade and under the safeguard and seal of the IAEA. Iran's enriched uranium is no more "for a nuclear bomb" than Graham's fanciest set of steak knives are for throat-slitting.

"Can I just say it's more?," Graham proffered, revealing that he already knew the answer he wanted to hear, at which point Clapper chimed in. "Not highly-enriched," he said, "but up to the 20% level." Graham was undeterred from his propagandizing and grandstanding. "Well, they're marching in the wrong direction," he said. "We talk, they enrich." AIPAC poetry at its finest.

Shortly before ending the session, in response to questions from Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, Clapper stated that the relationship between the American and Israeli intelligence communities - especially on the Iranian nuclear program - has "never been closer or more pervasive," citing unprecedented levels of "intimacy."

While each state continues to maintain its own unique sources for intelligence gathering, Clapper said, "generally speaking," the United States and Israel are "on the same page" when it comes to Iran.

Pressing the issue on behalf of his AIPAC backers, Blumenthal asked whether all information is shared between the two nuclear-armed nations, at which point Clapper declined to agree completely.

"Pretty much," he replied.

Why was Clapper being so cagey?  An Associated Press report from last July seems to provide an answer:
Despite inarguable ties between the U.S. and its closest ally in the Middle East and despite statements from U.S. politicians trumpeting the friendship, U.S. national security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat.
In fact, the AP states, "The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat" in the Middle East, meaning that the agency "believes that U.S. national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel." This is unsurprising, of course, as "Israel's foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, and its FBI equivalent, the Shin Bet, both considered among the best in the world, have been suspected of recruiting U.S. officials and trying to steal American secrets."

Did any of that make it into Clapper's "Worldwide Threat Assessment" today? No, of course not. Israel was only mentioned as a victim and an ally. One might think an untrustworthy, nuclear-armed serial aggressor, constantly threatening to drag the United States into an unprovoked military conflict with inevitable devastating consequences, all with the allegiance and blessing of Congress, would rank rather high on potential security threats to the United States.

But James Clapper isn't allowed to say that.


Cross-posted at


Monday, April 15, 2013

The "Constructive Engagement" of Liberal Zionists

(Credit: BDS South Africa)
"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."
- South African President Nelson Mandela, December 4, 1997
"The issue of a principled commitment to justice lies at the heart of responses to the suffering of the Palestinian people and it is the absence of such a commitment that enables many to turn a blind eye to it."
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, September 26, 2010

During the 1980s Ronald Reagan's anti-boycott policy toward South Africa was known as "Constructive Engagement," which claimed the positive influence of U.S. corporate participation in South Africa would be more effective towards ending apartheid than direct pressure on the regime. Writing in November 1985, MIT Finance professor John E. Parsons articulated a critique of this approach widely held in the anti-apartheid movement saying that failure to divest from apartheid was tantamount to supporting it:
US corporations continue to operate in South Africa because it is profitable. Apartheid makes it very profitable. These corporations pay millions of dollars in taxes which pay for the police, prisons, weapons, and armaments that maintain the apartheid system. They sell the government its armored personnel carriers, its computers and communications technologies. Westinghouse has sold South Africa several licenses for the manufacture of nuclear power facilities.

And every US industrial facility is integrated into the civil defense plans of the South African government...includ[ing] turning over its facilities for military production at the direction of the South African government.

That's "constructive engagement."

Perhaps we should try disinvestment.
That same year, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who also supported a "constructive engagement approach", directly addressed issue of boycotting South Africa in an interview with CBS television. Her argument will seem familiar to anti-BDS arguments today:
I think a policy of sanctions would harm the very people in South Africa you are trying to help...I agree with a policy of trying to influence South Africa by other means. The present Government is moving forward in the direction we wish them to go, faster than any other. Sanctions will harm, not help.
It is now commonly accepted that her view (and Reagan's, of course) was wrong, both morally and strategically. Apartheid was hugely profitable then, just as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is immensely profitable now. The United States, Britain and Israel all maintained lucrative economic and military relationships with the Apartheid regime long after the rest of the international community heeded the call to boycott and divest. Barak Ravid pointed out in Ha'aretz last year that, by 1987, "Israel was the only Western nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa" and was one of the last countries to join the international boycott campaign.

A few years ago, Archbishop Desmond Tutu noted the absurdity of opposing boycotts under the banner of solidarity with the victims of apartheid. Countless universities around the world, which have since honored him with honorary degrees, had previously punished their own faculty members for anti-Apartheid political activities and "refused to divest from South Africa because 'it will hurt the blacks' (investing in apartheid South Africa was not seen as a political act; divesting was)," Tutu wrote in South Africa's Times.  "Let this inconsistency please not be the case with support for the Palestinians in their struggle against occupation," he pleaded.

The South African boycott movement had long appealed to the British government to support its goals and tactics.  As early as December 1959, just six months after the founding of the movement, the leaders of the African National Congress, South African Indian Congress, and Liberal Party of South Africa proposed "a limited boycott of South African produce in Britain for a period of one month."  The purpose of the boycott, they wrote, "is a protest against apartheid, the removal of political rights, the colour bar in industry, the extension of passes to African women and the low wages paid to Non-White workers. In the towns and cities of South Africa over half the African families live below the breadline."  The statement continued:
It has been argued that Non-White people will be the first to be hit by external boycotts. This may be so, but every organisation which commands any important Non-White support in South Africa is in favour of them. The alternative to the use of these weapons is the continuation of the status quo and a bleak prospect of unending discrimination. Economic boycott is one way in which the world at large can bring home to the South African authorities that they must either mend their ways or suffer for them.
This appeal is therefore directed to the people of Great Britain to strike a blow for freedom and justice in South Africa and for those whom the State would keep in continuing subjection in the Union.
In her staunch opposition to joining the boycott campaign, Thatcher argued against effectively punishing the culprits of severe discrimination and oppression for fear that such actions would backfire and stem chances for positive change. She was against the international arms embargo on South Africa, claiming in 1964 that such sanctions would have "far reaching adverse effects." In late 1977, Thatcher declared, "In my view, isolation will lead only to an increasingly negative and intransigent attitude in the part of white South Africa."

These exact sentiments are now echoed in the liberal Zionist community with respect to even the most timid and selective application of BDS. In March 2012, J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami provided the same reasoning behind his own opposition to the boycott of settlement goods during a conversation with discourse gatekeeper Jeffrey Goldberg:
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...Rather than it making you more inclined to do something, it actually makes you less inclined. can't use boycotts, you can't threaten aid, you can't use these kinds of forms of negative pressure. I think you're right to extrapolate. It is all of a piece that these negative approaches to trying to get people to do something you want them to do, we've lumped them all together for four years and said, this doesn't work.

What you need to do, I often call it positive pressure instead of negative pressure. Positive pressure means actually giving people hope and something to believe in again.
Ben-Ami's "positive pressure" is the new "constructive engagement," reinforcing the current power dynamics of occupier and occupied, bending over backwards to assuage the bigoted fears of Israeli Jews, fomented and internalized by decades of propaganda and privilege, while ignoring the call of solidarity with the real victims of ethnic, religious and racial oppression. Just as it was with South African whites, liberal Zionists need to understand that "security" and "peace" doesn't spring from separation, militarization and mutual concessions by two vastly unequal parties, but rather from the repudiation of ethnocracy in favor of equal rights and the acknowledgement of wrongdoing in order to begin rectification and reconciliation. Ben-Ami seems to think the occupation will end simply by hugging Jewish Israelis - including settlers - tightly enough.

Beyond this, as I've noted in the past, Ben-Ami's opposition to "negative pressure" only extends to his own tribe; Iranians, of course, don't get such a compassionate plea for positive reinforcement when it comes to their nuclear program, which doesn't violate international law, as opposed to Israeli colonization of Palestine, which does.

As per the apartheid analogy, it may also be interesting to note that such a correlation between South Africa and Israel was made by a British Parliamentarian - and one of Thatcher's fellow Conservatives, no less - back in June 1984. MP Tony Marlow tried to point out the hypocrisy of the liberal Labor party's outcry over Apartheid and its silence on Israel (the point, no doubt, was supposed to be to get them to shut up about Apartheid, not the other way around.)

On the floor of the House of Commons, on June 5, 1984, Marlow wondered, "Is there not something bogus about the hue and cry from the Opposition about the visit of Mr. Botha when not a whisper was raised against the visit of the President of Israel? In moral and physical terms, there is very little to choose between those two regimes."

Thatcher contested his analogy and affirmed her support for "constructive engagement." She confidently stood her ground on the wrong side of history. Nearly two decades later, liberal Zionists who oppose BDS are standing alongside her.


Originally posted at Mondoweiss.


Friday, April 12, 2013

The Lonely & Lovely “Look” of Iranian Photographer Newsha Tavakolian

A photo from Newsha Tavakolian’s “Look” series

A new photography exhibition, which opened Thursday April 11, 2013 at the Thomas Erben Gallery in New York City, showcases the talent of world-renowned, award-winning Iranian artist Newsha Tavakolian.

Her latest series, entitled “Look” (and a sort of a sequel to her previous project “Listen”), in the words of the exhibition’s press release, “consists of staged large-scale photographs in which lone subjects are framed against a window view of high-rise buildings. All shot at the same evening hour, the images are permeated with a cold bluish note, giving them a richly cinematic quality. Seen together, the individual photographs form a collective." Describing the "mood and a condition" of the photo series, Tavakolian says:
Look began with my desire to look deeply into the lives of people around me whom I have known for over ten years, and who live in my building. I wanted to bring to life the story of a nation of middle class youths who are constantly battling with themselves, their isolated conformed society, their lack of hope for the future and each of their individual stories. Over a period of six months, at 8 pm, I fixed my camera on a tripod in front of the window where I had watched the same view of the city for ten years. I tried to capture a moment of each of their stories, within the frame of a window looking out onto the cold concrete buildings which surround us daily.
Born in Tehran in 1981, Tavakolian “started her career as a self-taught photojournalist at the age of 16,” working for five years as a photographer for Iranian media outlets, including the now-banned women’s magazine, Zan. She “has covered wars and natural disasters, and produced photo documentaries in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Yemen. One of few female photographers in this context, she gained international success with work published in magazines and newspapers such as Time, Newsweek, Stern, Le Figaro, New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and National Geographic.”

In recent years, Tavakolian “developed several art projects – still maintaining a largely documentary style – focusing particularly on women’s issues, through projects such as Mother of Martyrs (2006) and The Day I Became a Woman (2010).”

Her work has been exhibited all over the world: Tehran, London, Vienna, Dubai, Rome, New York, Turin, Moscow, Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Oslo, Berlin, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.

In a recent interview with the online journal Roads and Kingdoms, Tavakolian – who lives and works in Tehran – describes how “Look” depicts “a mix of universal anxieties and a depressed feeling specific to Iran because of the sanctions and mismanagement.”

“It’s not about protests,” she explains, “but about feelings.”

When asked how she thinks the American audience will respond to the series and “seeing the emotional afterlife of their sanctions on Iran,” Tavakolian replies:
Naturally the sanctions are hurting people, as they add to their feelings of isolation. But while making this project, sanctions were not the main thing on my mind. LOOK deals with emotions that, in my view, are shared by people all over the world: loneliness, uncertainty, guilt, suspicion and so on. When you also feel isolated, such feelings become even more powerful.
Newsha Tavakolian’s “Look” will be shown at the Thomas Erben Gallery through May 11, 2013.

Below is Tavakolian’s two-minute teaser film for “Look.


Originally posted at Muftah.


Monday, April 8, 2013

The Ironic Lady: Margaret Thatcher, Supposed Champion of Freedom and Democracy, and Her Dictator Friends

Margaret Thatcher in a British tank during a visit to British forces in Fallingbostel, Germany, September 17, 1986

Margaret Thatcher died Monday, April 8, 2013, at the age of 87. Predictably, there is no dearth of hagiographic profiles of the former British Prime Minister in the mainstream press and scathing vitriol elsewhere. But while The Economist hails Thatcher for her "willingness to stand up to tyranny" and Barack Obama calls her "one of the great champions of freedom and liberty," it should be remembered that, throughout her career, Thatcher was a staunch supporter of many of the world's most brutal regimes, propping up and arming war criminals and dictators in service to Western imperialism, anti-Communism and neoliberal hegemony.

Throughout the 1980s, Thatcher's government backed Iraq during its war against Iran, funneling weapons and equipment to Saddam Hussein in contravention of both international law and British policy, all the way up until Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. She even sent Christmas cards to both Saddam and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 1981.

When she was in power, Thatcher also publicly supported Pol Pot's then-exiled Khmer Rouge, which was responsible for the deaths of nearly two million Cambodians. This, despite the fact that she decried their "open savagery" in 1975, before she was Prime Minister. During her leadership, Britain's elite Special Air Service (SAS) trained Khmer fighters in Thailand. As late as 1988, Thatcher was still convinced that "the more reasonable ones in the Khmer Rouge will have to play some part in the future government [of Cambodia]."

During her first trip to Israel in 1965, less than two decades after the Nakba and while Palestinians still lived under martial law, Thatcher spoke highly of Israelis for "their sense of purpose and complete dedication, their pioneer spirit, and their realism." She later advocated that Palestinian self-determination be realized within the context of "some kind of federation with Jordan," which she deemed "the best and most acceptable solution."

In 1986, Thatcher said of Golda Meir, who not only denied the Palestinian right of return but also the existence of Palestinians in general, "I greatly admired her. I greatly admired her as a war leader. I greatly admired her tremendous courage. I greatly admired her as a pioneer. I greatly admired her as a great human being, warm, thoughtful, kind, for all her fellow citizens and for human kind in the world as a whole."

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here's a review of some of her other pals...

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, The Shah of Iran

The Shah of Iran and Margaret Thatcher, 1978

In April 1978, prior to her ascension to Prime Minister, Thatcher visited the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in Tehran where she praised him as "one of the world's most far-sighted statesmen, whose experience is unrivaled."

Despite the popular protests against the Shah occurring across Iran with increasing frequency, Thatcher said of her host, "No other world leader has given his country more dynamic leadership. He is leading Iran through a twentieth century renaissance." Exactly one month before her visit, street protests in over 55 Iranian cities resulted in the killing of more than 100 civilians, when police opened fire on the crowds.

Iran "holds a key strategic position in the defence of the Western World," Thatcher continued, "Her strength and resolve are vital to our future." She added, "Iran has been the West's most resolute and stalwart ally in this crucial region."

Upon his overthrow the following February, the Shah expressed his desire to seek asylum in England at his lavish country estate in Surrey. While the British government at the time wound up secretly helping the Shah make his way from Morocco to the Bahamas, it rejected his request to enter the UK.

Thatcher, who became Prime Minister soon thereafter, respected the decision of her predecessor for political reasons, but was "deeply unhappy" that Britain could not offer sanctuary to Pahlavi, whom she called a "firm and helpful friend."

Hosni Mubarak

Thatcher and Hosni Mubarak, 1981

A longtime supporter of the Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, Thatcher once received a memo from the UK Foreign Office referring to Mubarak as "no intellectual but...always friendly and cheerful," noting that while "apt to express simplistic views, he has become an experienced and accomplished political operator." The brief continued, "His affable exterior evidently conceals a degree of ruthlessness since it seems likely that he has conducted some successful political infighting to maintain his position" having "succeeded in ousting or at least surviving all other prominent figures in the government or armed forces."

"Nevertheless his reputation is free of any taint of corruption or malpractice and he is not thought to have made many enemies," the memo said of Mubarak, adding that he was "eager to improve relations with the Royal Air Force and to buy British [military] equipment."

Thatcher was only too happy to oblige.

Over the years of her leadership, Thatcher routinely commended Mubarak for his "courage" and "strength." In 1985, at a banquet in Cairo, she said she "admire[d] particularly, Mr. President, the leadership which you personally...have shown." Five years later, while hosting Mubarak and his wife at No. 10 Downing Street, Thatcher declared, "You are among our very favourite visitors because we all know you as particularly good and close friends of this country, as we are of Egypt," and once again
expressed her admiration for the Egyptian president, this time for his "incredible energy."

"You are as full of beans as ever," she said. Unfortunately for the Egyptian people over the next 11 years, thanks largely to American and British largesse, she was right.

Augusto Pinochet

Thatcher and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet

Thatcher was a steadfast defender of Augusto Pinochet, whose unspeakably brutal dictatorship of torture and repression terrorized Chile from 1973 to 1990. She visited Pinochet in 1999 during his house arrest in England, saying that her country "owed" him "a great debt" of gratitude for his help during the 1982 Falklands War.

Without any sense of irony, Thatcher added, "I'm also very much aware that it is you who brought democracy to Chile."

Never one to mention his appalling human rights record, Thatcher expressed her "outrage at the callous and unjust treatment" of Pinochet during a speech that October at the Conservative Party Conference, called him "this country's only political prisoner," and hailed him as Britain's "staunch, true friend in our time of need" and "who stopped the communists taking Chile."

The next year, upon his release and return to Chile, for which she fought tirelessly, Thatcher sent Pinochet a silver Armada dish as a gift, condemned his detention in England as "a great injustice" and wished the deposed dictator and his family "all good wishes for a peaceful and secure future."

When Pinochet died six years later, Thatcher said she was "deeply saddened" by his passing.

Subsequently, Robin Harris, a former official in Thatcher's administration, wrote in The Telegraph that Thatcher "took a positive view of Pinochet's 17 years in power" and "would not have spoken up for him if she had believed him a monster. She could not judge the merits of every allegation. But, clearly, the legal case against him was weak and the motivation of those involved suspect."

Harris similarly praised Pinochet for "[leaving] behind a stable democracy," concluding that "Margaret Thatcher has nothing to be ashamed of in defending Augusto Pinochet, when others refused to do so" and that Pinochet "was lucky to find such a champion."

The House of Saud

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and Thatcher, March 25, 1987

In March 1987, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, visited Thatcher. Beforehand, Thatcher said in an interview, "Relations between Saudi Arabia and Britain are excellent. We have common interests in peace and stability in the Middle East. The Al Yamamah Project for the sale of Tornado and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia has done much to focus Saudi attention on Britain and British attention on Saudi Arabia."
The Al Yamamah arms deal, signed a year and a half earlier, was "the biggest export transaction in British history, estimated by a British Aerospace executive in 2005 to be worth £83 billion in past and future sales to Saudi Arabia of military hardware including aircraft ranging from Tornado fighters and Hawk trainer jets to Eurofighter Typhoons," in addition to a wide range of arms, naval vessels, radar, spare parts, and a pilot-training program.

Thatcher with King Khalid
of Saudi Arabia, 1981
The deal was largely the result of Thatcher's own lobbying initiative on behalf of the British defense industry and weapons manufacturers and, ever since its signing, allegations of corruption, fraud and bribery have abounded.

In 1993, in a speech to a Chatham House Conference on Saudi Arabia after leaving office, Thatcher maintained that "[o]ne of Al Yamamah's achievements has been the training and equipping of the Royal Saudi Air Force by Britain. Both training and aircraft were put to the test of wartime combat far sooner than anyone expected. As we now know, both the aircraft and their RSAF pilots performed superbly in Operation Desert Storm." She continued, "The Al Yamamah programme has continued steadily since the conflict. When this year's new order of a further 48 Tornado aircraft for the RSAF has been executed it will be safe to say that Saudi Arabia will have one of the strongest and most effective Air Forces in the world."

Beyond this, Thatcher described the kingdom as "a peace loving nation" and a "modern miracle," touting its "domestic achievements" and the "stable framework" and "solid rock of a well established and respected monarchy." Thatcher called herself "a great admirer of Saudi Arabia and the leadership of King Fahd," which she declared was "a strong force for moderation and stability."

"We are strong partners in trade and defence. We share great strategic interests," she said.

Regarding Saudi Arabia's human rights record, Thatcher was silent. "I have no intention of meddling in that country's internal affairs," she insisted. "It is one of my firmest beliefs that although there are certain basic standards and goals we should expect from every member of the international community, the precise pace and approach must reflect different societies' cultural, social, economic and historical backgrounds. And Saudi Arabia, in particular, is a complex society which Westerners do not often fully comprehend."

Again, without even the slightest hint of irony, Thatcher - in the very same speech - noted, "It is the surest signal to other dictators that the West lacks the resolve to defend justice. We have yet to see its full consequences — our lack of effective action will return to haunt us." She was talking about Bosnia.

P.W. Botha

P.W. Botha and Thatcher, 1984

While Thatcher maintained throughout her political career that she "loathe[d] apartheid and everything connected with it," she referred to Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, as "a typical terrorist organization" and refused, alongside Ronald Reagan, to back sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. "In my view, isolation will lead only to an increasingly negative and intransigent attitude in the part of white South African," she said in December 1977.

In 1984, Thatcher invited South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha to visit London, the first such visit in 23 years, sparking understandable outrage in the anti-Apartheid movement. Botha, in his former role as South Africa's Defense Minister, presided over the country's massive militarization and, in an effort to maintain Apartheid policies, implemented the brutal repression and aggression campaign called the "Total Strategy." Between 1981 and 1983, he "poured ever-increasing numbers of troops into African townships to stop unrest" and used the army "to enforce compliance on every one of the country's neighbours," writes Apartheid expert Padraig O'Malley.

Botha waged aggressive military campaigns in Angola and Mozambique and sent "commando units across the borders into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho to attack and bomb South African refugees." Under his leadership, the detention and execution of political activists increased.

A year after Botha's visit, the Associated Press reported that Thatcher "rejected demands by the opposition Labor Party that she meet with Oliver Tambo, leader of the African National Congress guerrilla movement, who is visiting Britain...on grounds he espouses violence."

"I do not accept that apartheid is the root of violence... nor do most other people," Thatcher insisted and, during a speech before Parliament, stated that Botha's "South African government has taken more steps to start dismantling apartheid than any of their predecessors."

"I can see little point in sanctions creating more unemployment in this country only to create more unemployment in South Africa...It seems to me a ridiculous policy that would not work,'' she added.

Five years later, during the last gasps of Apartheid, Thatcher was still opposing sanctions. In 2006, Tory leader (and now British Prime Minister) David Cameron apologized for Thatcher's actions.

In response to her death today, Oliver Tambo's son Dali told the press, "My gut reaction now is what it was at the time when she said my father was the leader of a terrorist organisation. I don't think she ever got it that every day she opposed sanctions, more people were dying, and that the best thing for the assets she wanted to protect was democracy," adding, "It's a shame that we could never call her one of the champions of the liberation struggle. Normally we say that when one of us goes, the ANC ancestors will meet them at the pearly gates and give them a standing ovation. I think it's quite likely that when Margaret Thatcher reaches the pearly gates, the ANC will boycott the occasion."

Zia Ul-Haq

Thatcher and Zia-Ul-Haq, 1981

After deposing Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and imposing martial law, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq retained power in Pakistan for a decade. Supported by the United Kingdom, United States and Saudi Arabia, as well as cultivating ties with both Israel and India, Zia-ul-Haq served as an anti-Communist bulwark against Soviet expansion after the occupation of Afghanistan, he presided over Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear weapons and promoted the spread of Islamist militancy.

TIME's Ishaan Tharoor writes, "Lost in a Cold War fog," Thatcher supported Zia-ul-Haq's "military government...helping prop up a South Asian generalissimo now seen as one of the chief architects of the Islamist radicalization of his country," and adds, "under his watch, the Afghan mujahedin bloomed and the seeds of a new era of terrorist militancy were planted." His rule was consistently consolidated and dissent silenced through torture and public executions.

During a visit to Pakistan in 1981, Thatcher hailed the dictator's "courage and skill" and said she and other Western states "admire and support" his commitment to affirm "the right of the Afghan people to choose their own form of government in peace." Clearly, since Pakistan wasn't occupied by Soviets, Thatcher didn't care much for the Pakistani peoples' own rights to self-determination.

She pledged that Britain and Pakistan would "maintain a close and friendly relationship," with her government "giving Pakistan practical support, and toasted the "health and happiness of His Excellency."

Six years later, soon after the general had lifted martial law and granted himself even more presidential powers, Thatcher hosted him in London. She hailed "with great pleasure" the "remarkable strides" Pakistan had made under his rule, praised his "generosity" with regard to Afghan refugees, and wished Zia "every success in your great endeavours."

"I believe that your courage, your strength and your persistence will have their reward and your example will be a lesson to the world," Thatcher said. "[W]e are your friends and you are our friends." She raised a glass to his health and "to the success of democracy in Pakistan and to the continuing and abiding friendship between our two countries."

The very next year, Zia dissolved Pakistan's National Assembly and dismissed his appointed Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo for signing the Geneva Accords and not sufficiently supporting his continued Islamization projects.


Thatcher and Suharto, 1985

In the midst of the bloody Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Thatcher visited genocidal Indonesian dictator General Suharto, praised Indonesia's "agricultural and industrial development" and, although East Timorese had been killed, starved, disappeared and herded into "resettlement camps" as part of Suharto's "encirclement and annihilation" campaign, dismissed allegations of human rights abuses, explaining that East Timor was none of Britain's business and that Suharto himself has "assured me that the International Red Cross not only had access to East Timor, but was very welcome there."

She told the press, "Trade brings us together and identifies our interests, and I am sure that trade between Indonesia and Britain will increase as a result of the very friendly and warm atmosphere created by my visit here. We are clearly the best of friends and there is no sounder basis on which to construct future collaboration."

In 2008, veteran journalist John Pilger recalled that Thatcher referred to Suharto as, "One of our very best and most valuable friends," and how, "[f]or three decades the south-east Asian department of the Foreign Office worked tirelessly to minimise the crimes of Suharto's gestapo, known as Kopassus, who gunned down people with British-supplied Heckler & Koch machine guns from British-supplied Tactica 'riot control' vehicles."

"A Foreign Office speciality was smearing witnesses to the bombing of East Timorese villages by British-supplied Hawk aircraft - until Robin Cook was forced to admit it was true. Almost a billion pounds in export credit guarantees financed the sale of the Hawks, paid for by the British taxpayer while the arms industry reaped the profit," Pilger adds.

With this kind of record, it is clear that Thatcher's constantly pledged support for "freedom and democracy" was really a violent, imperial campaign waged for free markets and domination.