zaterdag 14 augustus 2010

Israel as a Rogue State 86

Israeli Generals and Intel Officials Oppose Attack on Iran

Washington - Pro-Israeli journalist Jeffrey Goldberg's article in "The Atlantic" magazine was evidently aimed at showing why the Barack Obama administration should worry that it risks an attack by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran in the coming months unless it takes a much more menacing line toward Iran's nuclear programme.
But the article provides new evidence that senior figures in the Israeli intelligence and military leadership oppose such a strike against Iran and believe that Netanyahu's apocalyptic rhetoric about an Iranian nuclear threat as an "existential threat" is unnecessary and self-defeating.
Although not reported by Goldberg, Israeli military and intelligence figures began to express their opposition to such rhetoric on Iran in the early 1990s, and Netanyahu acted to end such talk when he became prime minister in 1996.
The Goldberg article also reveals extreme Israeli sensitivity to any move by Obama to publicly demand that Israel desist from such a strike, reflecting the reality that the Israeli government could not go ahead with any strike without being assured of U.S. direct involvement in the war with Iran.
Goldberg argues that a likely scenario some months in the future is that Israeli officials will call their U.S. counterparts to inform them that Israeli planes are already on their way to bomb Iranian nuclear sites.
The Israelis would explain that they had "no choice", he writes, because "a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people."
He claims the "consensus" among present and past Israeli leaders is that the chances are better than 50/50 that Israel "will launch a strike by next July", based on interviews with 40 such Israeli decision-makers.
Goldberg is best known for hewing to the neoconservative line in his reporting on Iraq, particularly in his insistence that that Saddam Hussein had extensive ties with al Qaeda.
Goldberg quotes an Israeli official familiar with Netanyahu's thinking as saying, "In World War II, the Jews had no power to stop Hitler from annihilating us. Six million were slaughtered. Today, six million Jews live in Israel, and someone is threatening them with annihilation."
In his interview with Goldberg for this article, however, Netanyahu does not argue that Iran might use nuclear weapons against Israel. Instead he argues that Hezbollah and Hamas would be able to "fire rockets and engage in other terror activities while enjoying a nuclear umbrella".
But Israel relies on conventional forces - not nuclear deterrence - against Hezbollah and Hamas, making that argument entirely specious.
Goldberg reports that other Israeli leaders, including defence minister Ehud Barack, acknowledge the real problem with the possibility of a nuclear Iran is that it would gradually erode Israel's ability to retain its most talented people.
But that problem is mostly self-inflicted. Goldberg concedes that Israeli generals with whom he talked "worry that talk of an 'existential threat' is itself a kind of existential threat to the Zionist project, which was meant to preclude such threats against the Jewish people."
A number of sources told Goldberg, moreover, that Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli army chief of staff, doubts "the usefulness of an attack".
Top Israeli intelligence officials and others responsible for policy toward Iran have long argued, in fact, that the kind of apocalyptic rhetoric that Netanyahu has embraced in recent years is self-defeating.
Security correspondent Ronen Bergman reported in Yediot Ahronot, Israel's most popular newspaper, in July 2009 that former chief of military intelligence Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash said the Israeli public perception of the Iranian nuclear threat had been "distorted".
Farkash and other military intelligence and Mossad officials believe Iran's main motive for seeking a nuclear weapons capability was not to threaten Israel but to "deter U.S. intervention and efforts at regime change", according to Bergman.
The use of blatantly distorted rhetoric about Iran as a threat to Israel - and Israeli intelligence officials' disagreement with it - goes back to the early 1990s, when the Labour Party government in Israel began a campaign to portray Iran's missile and nuclear programmes as an "existential threat" to Israel, as Trita Parsi revealed in his 2007 book "Treacherous Alliance".
An internal Israeli inter-ministerial committee formed in 1994 to make recommendations on dealing with Iran concluded that Israeli rhetoric had been "self-defeating", because it had actually made Iran more afraid of Israel, and more hostile toward it, Parsi writes.
Ironically, it was Netanyahu who decided to stop using such rhetoric after becoming prime minister the first time in mid-1996. Mossad director of intelligence Uzi Arad convinced him that Israel had a choice between making itself Iran's enemy or allowing Iran to focus on threats from other states.
Netanyahu even sought Kazakh and Russian mediation between Iran and Israel.
But he reversed that policy when he became convinced that Tehran was seeking a rapprochement with Washington, which Israeli leaders feared would result in reduced U.S. support for Israel, according to Parsi's account. As a result, Netanyahu reverted to the extreme rhetoric of his predecessors.
That episode suggests that Netanyahu is perfectly capable of grasping the intelligence community's more nuanced analysis of Iran, contrary to his public stance that the Iranian threat is the same as that from Hitler's Germany.
Netanyahu administration officials used Goldberg to convey the message to the Americans that they didn't believe Obama would launch an attack on Iran, and therefore Israel would have to do so.
But Israel clearly cannot afford to risk a war with Iran without the assurance that the United States being committed to participate in it. That is why the Israeli lobby in Washington and its allies argue that Obama should support an Israeli strike, which would mean that he would have to attack Iran with full force if it retaliates against such an Israeli strike.
The knowledge that Israel could not attack Iran without U.S. consent makes Israeli officials extremely sensitive about the possibility that Obama would explicitly reject an Israeli strike
Goldberg reports that "several Israeli officials" told him they were worried that U.S. intelligence might learn about Israeli plans to strike Iran "hours" before the scheduled launch.
The officials told Goldberg that if Obama were to say, "We know what you're doing. Stop immediately," Israel might have to back down.
Goldberg alludes only vaguely to the possibility that the threat of an attack on Iran is a strategy designed to manipulate both Iran and the United States. In a March 2009 article in The Atlantic online, however, he was more straightforward, conceding that the Netanyahu threat to strike Iran if the United States failed to stop the Iranian nuclear programme could be a "tremendous bluff".
Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.

The Empire 629

Information Clearing House Newsletter
News You Won't Find On CNN
August 12, 2010
"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.": - Thomas Friedman
"Every 10 years or so, the US needs to pick up some small, crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.": - Michael Ledeen
All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it's here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster. - Barack Obama, speech, Apr. 3, 2006

Number of U.S. Military Personnel Sacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In America's War On Iraq:  4,
Number Of  International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 1,995
Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan
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The Jewish Lobby 4

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic published a lengthy piece this week arguing that war with Iran was essentially unavoidable, the only question is whether Israel or the US will initiate it.

Rather than a critical analysis of Israeli thinking on this matter, Goldberg’s article comes across as the first salvo in a long-term campaign that is just as much geared towards starting war as it is to push Obama out of the White House.

In the piece below, published by today, I offer my thoughts on this matter.
Why the pro-Israel crowd is hyping the Iran threatBy Trita Parsi <>

Aug 13, 2010

Obama administration officials, as well as U.S. lawmakers and European diplomats passionately made the argument this spring that tough sanctions on Iran were necessary to avoid war. But contrary to their predictions, the drumbeat for war -- particularly from Israel – has only increased since the UN Security Council adopted a new resolution against Tehran in June.
The latest in this crescendo of voices is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic, "Point of No Return. <> " As the title suggests, it essentially makes the case (though in an uncharacteristically subtle manner by neoconservative standards) that there are no choices left -- war is a fait accompli, and the only question is whether it will be initiated by Israel or by the United States.
"If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Obama will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack," Goldberg writes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Goldberg’s description, is a man whose back is against the wall. He cannot accommodate the Obama administration on the Palestinian issue because that would upset his 100-year old father, and he cannot afford to have faith in Obama’s strategy to prevent a nuclear Iran through peaceful means because the threat from Iran is "existential."
Goldberg interviewed roughly 40 former and current Israeli officials for his piece. Although his access to Israeli officials certainly doesn't seem to be lacking, the same cannot be said about his treatment of the assumptions behind the Israeli talking points.

The most critical assumption that Israeli officials have presented publicly for the past 18 years -- long before the firebrand Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped on the scene -- is that the Iranian government is irrational and that Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel.

These departing points in the Israeli analysis eliminate all options on Iran with the exception of preventive military action. An adversary who isn’t rational cannot be deterred nor contained, because such an actor -- by definition -- does not make decisions based on a cost-benefit analysis. In addition, if the foe is presented as an existential threat, then preventive action is the sole rational response. These Israeli assumptions short-cut the entire policy process and skip all the steps that normally are taken before a state determines that force is necessary.
Judging by Israel’s rhetoric, it is easy to conclude that these beliefs are genuinely held as undisputable truths by the Israeli security apparatus.
But if judged by its actions rather than its rhetoric, a very different image emerges -- one that shows an astute Israeli appreciation for the complexity of Iran’s security calculations and decision-making processes, and a recognition that conventional arguments are insufficient to convince Washington to view Iran from an Israeli lens.
Goldberg mentions in his article that the Jewish people and the Iranians have a long and common history. It is a history that has been overwhelmingly positive until recently. Iran is still home to the largest population of Jews in the Middle East outside of Israel itself, and the Jewish community’s impact on Iranian culture, politics and society runs deep.
In modern times, a strong security relationship developed between these two non-Arab states due to their sense of common threats -- primarily strong Arab nationalist states such as Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, as well as the Soviet Union (which, besides its own designs on the region, was the military backer of these Arab powers).
From the Israeli perspective, this relationship was strategic. The periphery doctrine put in place by David Ben Gurion dictated that Israel’s security was best achieved by creating alliances with the non-Arab states in the region’s periphery to balance the Arab states in Israel’s vicinity. Iran was the most important periphery power, due to its strength and its coveted energy resources.
For the Shah of Iran, however, the relationship was at best a marriage of convenience. An alliance with Israel was needed to balance the Arabs, but only until Iran was strong enough to befriend the Arabs from a position of strength. "If Iran becomes strong enough to be able to deal with the situation [in the region] all by itself, and its relationship with the United States becomes so solidified so that you won’t need [Israel], then strategically the direction was to gravitate to the Arabs," Gholam-Reza Afkhami, a former advisor to the Shah, told me in 2004.
In spite of the different value that Iran and Israel ascribed to their relationship, geopolitical factors ensured that it was kept in tact -- even after the Islamic fundamentalists took power in Iran through the 1979 revolution.
Goldberg’s lengthy essay fails to recognize that throughout the 1980s, in spite of the Iranian government’s venomous rhetoric against Israel and its anti-Israeli ideology, the Jewish state sought to retain relations with Iran and actively aided Iran in the Iraq-Iran war. Only three days after Iraqi troops entered Iranian territory, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan interrupted a private visit to Vienna to hold a press conference to urge the United States -- in the middle of the hostage crisis -- to forget the past and help Iran keep up its defenses.
From Israel’s perspective, an Iraqi victory would have been disastrous due to the boost it would give the Arab bloc against Israel. By aiding Iran, Israel hoped to prove to the new rulers in Iran the strategic utility of continuing the Iranian-Israeli security collaboration.
Key to this was convincing Washington to engage with Iran. This desire eventually climaxed in the Iran-Contra scandal -- an Israeli initiative led by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin aimed at bringing the U.S. and Israel into a "broader strategic relationship with Iran." American neoconservatives at the time aided the Israeli effort to lobby the U.S. to talk to Iran, to sell arms to Iran, and to ignore Iran’s venomous rhetoric against the Jewish state.
In 1982, Ariel Sharon (then Israel’s defense minister) proudly announced on NBC that Israel would continue to sell arms to Iran -- in spite of an American ban on such sales. This occurred while Iran routinely introduced resolutions to expel Israel from the United Nations -- to which the Israelis responded by selling more arms to the Khomeini regime.
With the end of the Cold War came the end of Israeli overtures to Iran. The defeat of Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union eliminated the two common threats that had formed the basis for any Israeli-Iranian collaboration. Though this improved the security environments of both Iran and Israel, it also left both states unchecked. Without Iraq balancing Iran, Tehran could now become a threat, Israeli strategists began to argue. Combined with efforts to define a new order for the region, Iran and Israel were thrown into a strategic rivalry that has continued and intensified till today.
It was at this time, in late 1992, that Israeli Labor Party officials began to publicly depict Iran as an existential threat. Rhetoric reflected intentions and, having been freed from the chains of Iraq, Iran was acquiring the capacity to turn intentions into policy, they argued. The charge was led, incidentally, by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, who only five years earlier had advised Washington to disregard the rhetoric of the mullahs and view Iran as an opportunity rather than a threat. "Death is at our doorstep," Rabin concluded in 1993 of the Iranian threat, though only five years earlier he had maintained that Iran was a strategic ally.
But it wasn’t new Iranian capabilities or a sudden discovery of Iran’s anti-Israeli rhetoric that prompted the depiction of Iran as an existential threat. Rather, it was the fear that in the new post-Cold War environment in which Israel had lost much of its strategic significance to Washington, improved relations between the US and Iran could come at the expense of Israeli security interests. Iran would become emboldened and the U.S. would no longer seek to contain its growth. The balance of power would shift from Israel towards Iran and the Jewish state would no longer be able rely on Washington to control Tehran. "The Great Satan will make up with Iran and forget about Israel," Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University in Israel told me during a visit to Jerusalem.
While this Israeli fear of abandonment was poorly understood in Washington at the time and believed to be exaggerated, the rationale for Israel’s concerns has grown significantly over the years due to disagreements with the U.S. on what the ultimate American red line on Iran’s nuclear program should be.
During the Bush administration, no daylight could be detected between Washington and Tel Aviv’s positions -- enrichment in Iran was not acceptable, period. The Obama administration has been much more ambiguous on this point, however, fueling fears in Israel that America would ultimately -- within a larger settlement with Tehran -- accept enrichment on Iranian soil under strict international inspections.
This has, understandably, fueled more Israeli wariness of Obama’s engagement policy with Iran, leaving the Jewish state fearing the success of diplomacy more than its failure, since success by American standards would not qualify as success by Israeli standards.
Two days after President Obama’s election victory in November 2008, then-Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni
 expressed her categorical opposition to U.S. engagement with Iran.  "We live in a neighborhood in which sometimes dialogue -- in a situation where you have brought sanctions, and you then shift to dialogue -- is liable to be interpreted as weakness," Livni told Israel Radio. Asked if she supported any U.S. dialogue with Iran, Livni replied in no uncertain terms: "The answer is no."
A year later, on the eve of sensitive negotiations with the Iranians in Geneva on a fuel swap aimed at removing 1,200 kilograms of low enriched uranium from Iran, Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed his fears that anything less than a total halt to uranium enrichment would still leave the possibility of Iran making bomb material. "Not only should enriched material be removed, but enrichment must be stopped in Iran," Barak said. He added that diplomacy must be given only a "short and defined" time before "serious and immediate" sanctions are imposed on Iran.
The Obama administration was angered by Barak’s statement, according to Israeli papers, but it also revealed the real fear of the Israelis -- that successful diplomacy would lead to an agreement between the U.S. and Iran that would limit but not end Iran’s nuclear program while leaving Israel alone in facing the Iranian challenge. Iran’s strengthened position in the region would be recognized by Washington, legitimizing the shift in the balance of power in Iran’s favor and ending American efforts to reverse that shift.
Even an Iran that doesn't have nuclear weapons but that can build them would damage Israel's ability to deter militant Palestinian and Lebanese organizations. It would damage the image of Israel as the sole nuclear-armed state in the region and undercut the myth of its invincibility. Gone would be the days when Israel's military supremacy would enable it to dictate the parameters of peace and pursue unilateral peace plans.
This could force Israel to accept territorial compromises with its neighbors in order to deprive Iran of points of hostility that it could use against the Jewish state. Israel simply would not be able to afford a nuclear rivalry with Iran and continued territorial disputes with the Arabs at the same time.
However problematic this scenario would be for Israel, it does not constitute an existential threat. Presenting it as such may have the benefit of pressuring the U.S. not to engage with Iran in the first place, or at a minimum create hurdles to ensure that diplomacy doesn’t lead to any U.S.-Iran agreement. But that is not the same as declaring that the Israelis truly believe Iran to be an existential threat, as Goldberg argues.
In fact, several senior Israeli officials have rejected that claim and pointed out the risks it puts Israel under. For instance, Barak told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth in September 2009 that "I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel."  A few years earlier, Haaretz revealed that in internal discussions, then-Foreign Minister Livni argued against the idea that a nuclear Iran would constitute an existential threat to Israel. This past summer in Israel, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevi told me the same thing and pointed out that speaking of Iran as an existential threat exaggerates Iran’s power and leaves the false -- and dangerous -- impression that Israel is helpless and vulnerable.
This echoed what Halevi told <>  the Washington Post’s David Ignatius in 2007. "[Iran] is not an existential threat. It is not within the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel -- at best it can cause Israel grievous damage. Israel is indestructible," he said.
Rather than a factual, critical presentation of where Israel currently stands on Iran and why, Goldberg’s article is perhaps better understood as the starting salvo in a long-term campaign to create the necessary conditions for a future war with Iran.
Whether characterizing it as "mainstreaming war with Iran <> " or "making aggression respectable <> ," Goldberg’s article serves to create a false narrative that claims that the two failed meetings held between the U.S. and Iran last October constitute an exhaustion of diplomacy, that deems the Obama administration’s crippling, indiscriminate sanctions on Iran a failure only weeks after they've been imposed, and that then leaves only one option remaining on the table: an American or Israeli military strike. And on top of that, if President Obama doesn’t green light a bombing campaign, Israel will have no choice but to bomb itself, even though it isn’t well-equipped to do so, according to Goldberg.
It is important to note that the aim of this unfolding campaign may not be to pressure Obama into military action. It could just as much serve to portray Obama as weak and indecisive on national security issues that are of grave concern to the U.S. and that are of existential nature to Israel. This portrayal will give the Republicans valuable ammunition for the November congressional elections as well as for the 2012 presidential race.
Indeed, the likely political motivation for this unfolding campaign should not be underestimated. Just as much that the building blocks of the Iraq war were put into place under the Clinton years -- most importantly with the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 -- serious preparation for selling an Iran war to the American public under a Republican president (Palin?) in 2013 must be undertaken now, both to establish the narrative for that sell and to use the narrative to remove any obstacles in the White House along the way.
What is lost in this shadow discussion that only pays lip service to the repercussions of war is the impact any military campaign -- or the mere constant speculation of military strikes -- will have for the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy and human rights.
Iranian activists have warned that even raising the specter of war undercuts the opposition in Iran. In the words of the prominent Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji <> , "Since Iranians, in particular opposition groups, do not want to see a repeat of Afghanistan or Iraq in Iran, they've actually had to scale back their opposition to the government [during the Bush administration] in order not to encourage an invasion [by the U.S.]"
The Obama administration's less bellicose approach to Iran provided space to the pro-democracy movement that Iranian activists were quick to seize upon in 2009. "The mere fact that Obama didn't make military threats made the Green Movement possible," Ganji said. "A military attack would destroy all of that <> ."
If Goldberg’s article is the starting salvo of a campaign that does not take into consideration the existential threat this constitutes to the Iranian pro-democracy movement, and that aims to push out Obama and push in a Republican president amenable to a U.S. war against Iran for the sake of avoiding an Israeli war against Iran, then the risk of war in the short term may not be as great as Goldberg claims.
But the long-term risk of a war that is boldly framed as a test of an American president’s commitment to Israel should not be easily dismissed.
Dr. Trita Parsi is the author of "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States" and recipient of the Council on Foreign Relation's 2008 Arthur Ross Silver Medallion and the 2010 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. More Trita Parsi <

The Zionist Lobby

Get the Palestinians Out of Washington?

by: Allen McDuffee, t r u t h o u t | Report

Aaron David Miller. (Photo: New America Foundation / Flickr)
As the U.S struggles to bring Israelis and Palestinians together at the negotiation table, some in the U.S. are debating whether or not a Palestinian delegation should even be allowed in Washington.
Over the last few weeks since the State Department announced it was upgrading diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, a controversy was ignited in Washington and elsewhere over whether the Obama administration had gone too far or not far enough.
On July 20, the State Department sent a letter to Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat, the Chief of the PLO Mission to the United States, stating that the U.S. had granted the upgrade to a "general delegation." The U.S. does not allow a full embassy because it does not recognize a Palestinian state.
Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said much of the media coverage overstated the move because "The news stories reporting that the United States has upgraded the Palestinian Authority office in Washington are in error, for there is no PA office."
He explained, "There is a PLO office, one which requires a waiver twice each year to exist because of the PLO's past links to terrorism."
Abrams, often credited as one of Washington's most powerful neoconservatives, pointed out that, according to the United Nations, the PLO is "the 'sole legitimate voice of the Palestinian people,' but (even just considering the support for Hamas) it is clear that that is untrue."
Abrams suggests that, instead, "The PLO represents the ghost of Yasser Arafat plus the salaries of a whole bunch of his cronies."
In something of a provocative proposal, Abrams suggested that it would "be better to close the PLO office than to upgrade it, and substitute a PA office, for any current and future Palestinian political development - the newly trained police, the elections, the improved finances - will take place through the PA."
But Aaron David Miller, a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, said the State Department is on the wrong path, yet again.
"Who cares?" said Miller, a former negotiator on Israeli-Palestinian peace for the State Department.
"Neither closing the PLO mission in Washington nor upgrading it would make the slightest bit of difference in shaping, let alone determining the future or fate of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations or American interests in the Middle East," according to Miller, the author of The Much Too Promised Land; America's Elusive Search For Arab-Israeli Peace.
"Once again, we're getting sidetracked by procedural, diplomatic issues that really don't matter," said Miller.
"If you want to worry about something important," said Miller, "worry about how you can have a serious peace process when you have a Palestinian national movement which is a Hamas-Abbas Palestinian humpty dumpty; how you're going to relocate tens of thousands of unhappy, angry Israeli settlers from the West Bank; or solve the galactically complex problem of Jerusalem."
Despite multiple attempts to obtain a statement from the Palestinian mission, none was made available to Truthout.
As for the State Department, it appeared to downplay the significance of the move almost as quickly as the decision was made.
Speaking to a group of reporters, State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley said, "There has been no change in the status of the Palestinian mission here in Washington."
He further insisted that the Palestinian mission has no "diplomatic privileges or immunities" and that the U.S. decision was the result of a direct request from the Palestinian mission.
Crowley did admit, however, the decision was in direct relation to "the improvement in the relations between the United States and Palestinians."
The Obama administration has struggled with how to encourage the Palestinians with improved diplomatic relations and financial incentives, while also appearing to remain faithful to its special relationship with Israel.
According to Crowley, the primary results of the U.S. decision has been to fly the Palestinian flag and permission to call themselves the General Delegation of the PLO - "A name that conforms to how they describe their missions in Europe, Canada, and several Latin American countries."
Crowley went so far as to say that these moves are only of "symbolic value" and not substantive value for the Palestinians. Ultimately, "their status as a mission has not changed."
Not all U.S. responses have tiptoed around the difficult position, however.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, strongly objected to the State Department's decision.
In an issued statement, Ros-Lehtinen suggested it was well overdue that the State Department expel the Palestinian mission from the U.S., saying the "U.S. rewards [the] corrupt, autocratic PLO with more symbols of legitimacy, treating it like a sovereign state."
Ros-Lehtinen further said, "Instead of giving more undeserved gifts to the PLO, it's time for us to kick the PLO out of the U.S. once and for all, and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it belongs."
Ros-Lehtinen was the author of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which conditioned U.S. assistance to the Palestinian leadership upon compliance that it renounce and combat violent extremism, abide by its existing agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
With Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Ros-Lehtinen has also sponsored the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act (H.R. 3412), which would recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel; express that all Israeli citizens should have the right to reside anywhere in Jerusalem; and require the U.S. Embassy in Israel to be relocated to Jerusalem by January 1, 2012.
As ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ros-Lehtinen stands to become the Chair of the committee, if the Republicans pick up enough seats in the November elections and is expected to pass the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, if she becomes the chair.

vrijdag 13 augustus 2010

The Empire 628

Ignorance, apathy, parochialism and the US national psyche

The cases of Omar Khadr and Bradley Manning

By Lawrence Davidson

13 August 2010

Lawrence Davidson shows how popular apathy and parochialism, combined with control of the information flow by the US government and its allied mass media, has led to a situation whereby the American public views injustice and illegality with complete indifference.

At present there are two men sitting in prison who have never met but are nonetheless intimately connected. One is 23 year old Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was with a group of Afghan resistance fighters attacked by US troops in 2002 (when he was 15). The second is Private First Class Bradley Manning, the man who blew the whistle on the barbaric tactics used by the US in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is their different forms of resistance to a war sold to the US public as "necessary" and defensive that binds their fate.

Omar Khadr – child prisoner

Omar Khadr was taken prisoner in 2002. The United States claimed he was a member of Al-Qaeda and said he met Osama bin Laden when he was 10. This made him an "intelligence treasure trove". Al-Qaeda obliged the US by describing Omar as a "lion cub" defender of the faith. In truth, neither claim is real evidence of any definite organizational connection. The number of distinct resistance groups in Afghanistan runs into the dozens and Al-Qaeda will breezily claim every one of them. According to General James Jones, who served as President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, the number of actual Al-Qaeda operatives at any one time in Afghanistan is under 100 individuals. The assertion that 15-year-old Omar was one them is problematic. But it was enough for the American government that he was with the resistance. Having complete power over both him and his media image, he could be made into anything the American government wanted. For instance, he is accused of throwing a grenade at American troops despite the fact that the reports of the 2002 action are confused and contradictory. There is no eyewitness evidence of Khadir’s actions during the fighting. Nonetheless, one American soldier died at the time and Omar Khadr has been charged with his "murder".
“...[Omar Khadr] was 15 years old at the time of his capture. That made him legally a child and international law requires that child soldiers be treated as victims of an environment beyond their control, and not as an adult making a conscious choice to participate in a war.”
I think it is safe to say that Omar Khadr was a participant in the resistance to American invaders in Afghanistan. However, and this is the seminal point, no one contests the fact that he was 15 years old at the time of his capture. That made him legally a child and international law requires that child soldiers be treated as victims of an environment beyond their control, and not as an adult making a conscious choice to participate in a war. In other words, using a phrase that President Obama is fond of, according to international law this was not a "war of choice" for Omar. The Bush administration did not care for international law in general and so, to get around this particular one, among others, it quite arbitrarily proclaimed that the fighters resisting US troops in Afghanistan were not part of an "real" army and therefore not "real" soldiers. As nonsensical as this was, it allowed the US military to deny Omar Khadr all legal rights and lock him away for eight years while they interrogated, threatened, tortured and abused him incessantly. Not surprisingly they got a "confession" out of Omar using these tactics and a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay decided that the "confession" is admissible as evidence. President Obama has made no objection to this situation. Nor, for that matter, has the Canadian government, whose conservative majority has essentially abandoned one of its own citizens to his fate within a lawless system. In this case, at least, the old saying that military justice is a contradiction in terms is certainly correct.

Bradley Manning – witness to "incredible things, awful things"

Bradley Manning was an army intelligence analyst with US forces in the Middle East who became deeply disturbed by what his job revealed to him. Essentially, it made him a front row witness to what he described as "incredible things, awful things". This primarily entailed the careless killing of innocent civilians. As an act of conscience he gave the website Wikileaksover 200,000 classified documents and a number of videos showing attacks on Iraqi and Afghan civilians. Unfortunately, he confided in another American hacker who turned him into the government. He is presently in solitary confinement at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, and charged with, among other things, "transmitting classified information to an unauthorized third party". If convicted, and there seems little doubt that the military will have it any other way, he faces 52 years in prison.
“Those who have only now learned what the US is doing should be appalled. Those who knew all along ought to have already been appalled.”
The breech of security in this case was significant enough to draw comment from US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates who asserted that what Manning had done was "grievously harmful". Why so? Because, "the battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous to our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that part of the world". This was followed up by at least one Republican congressman, Mike Rogers of Michigan, asserting that Manning is traitor and should be executed. On the other hand, Defence Department and administration spokesmen have been trying to minimize the effect of Manning’s action by asserting that the information he made public was "nothing new". Just old data. It is hard to see how the government can have it both ways. But there can be little doubt that Gates was right about one thing. The information will "damage ... our reputation in that part of the world" and elsewhere too. Those who have only now learned what the US is doing should be appalled. Those who knew all along ought to have already been appalled.

Some observations

“The government leaders who have accused both Omar Khadr and Bradley Manning of egregious crimes would themselves be judged criminal in a world where they did not control the flow of information.”
A. The government leaders who have accused both Omar Khadr and Bradley Manning of egregious crimes would themselves be judged criminal in a world where they did not control the flow of information. As the human rights lawyer Francis Boyle has pointed out, the war in Afghanistan, as the one in Iraq, is illegal under international law. "Congress never declared war. The UN Security Council never authorized it under Article 51. And the Taliban never attacked the United States or authorized or approved such an attack." As Stephen Lendman tells us in a fine piece on Manning published on 7 August 2010, "FBI Director Robert Mueller, and CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin admitted finding no link between the Taliban and 9/11".
So what the heck are we doing in Afghanistan? What national interest is so mortally important that it has brought Khadr and Manning to the brink of destruction for resisting and exposing the actions of the United States? What is it that makes this a "war of necessity" according to President Obama? Here are some of the reasons that are tossed around:

1. Somehow, despite having nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, the Taliban are now among those "who are plotting to do so again". According to the president, "if left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which Al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans". Yet, after 9/11 the Taliban proved willing to negotiate the removal of Bin Laden from its territory. It was Bush Junior. who rejected that process. The present connection between the Taliban (which is not a monolithic organization) and Al-Qaeda is often tenuous. Yet, surely the present war with the Taliban only encourages what connection these fighters might have with Al-Qaeda. Thus, a good argument can be made that Al-Qaeda can be more readily combated by negotiating with the Taliban rather than trying, futilely, to destroy what is essentially an Afghan liberation movement.
“... a good argument can be made that Al-Qaeda can be more readily combated by negotiating with the Taliban rather than trying, futilely, to destroy what is essentially an Afghan liberation movement.”
2. It is all about oil and control of pipelines, etc. No doubt this has something to do with our actions, but one can compete for control of these things through commercial channels which is cheaper and far less lethal than making war in a country that has never been truly conquered and controlled.

3. It is those meddling pro-Israeli lobbies stirring up the pot. This too has some credence, especially given our special interest politics. But the Zionists are probably only minor players in the formulation of policy for Afghanistan. The invasion of Iraq is another issue altogether.

Having thought about this, it seems to me that the process of policy formulation that landed us up to our necks in both the Afghan and Iraq quagmires was much more improvised than carefully thought through. My feeling is that you had people, none of whom gave a fig for international law, running around Washington for decades making policy in the Middle East from multiple angles: Cold War ideology, economic advantage, pro-Israeli enthusiasm and religiously driven anti-Muslim fanaticism as well. Collectively, this produced a 60-plus year pattern of policies that put us in bed with multiple dictators and earned us the enmity of increasingly determined resistance movements. Finally, we got the 9/11 attacks. This, however, did not lead to any rethinking of our behaviour in the Middle East. Rather, it led to a feeling of release. The US was now justified in what almost appeared to be (at least for those in the White House) a joyful lashing out. This was accompanied by an exercise in sheer fantasy about what military might could accomplish in that part of the world.
“...decisions made about [US] policy in the Middle East are ... most often made by people who know nothing about the region and do not care about justice, rights and law either domestic or international.”
If this is accurate, it is a mistake to believe that decisions made about policy in the Middle East are coherent, logical and long term. They are more improvised and opportunistic. They are most often made by people who know nothing about the region and do not care about justice, rights and law either domestic or international. In short, the entire process which has brought the United States to its present plight is horribly short term, myopic and certainly unprincipled.

Conclusion – does the public care?

Both Omar Khadr and Bradley Manning, as well as those who have rallied to their support, are betting that they can arouse public sentiment in their favour. In a letter to his Canadian lawyer, Khadr said that he wants to "show the world how unfair the system is ... and show that the US will eventually convict child soldiers". Manning’s supporters have created a"Bradley Manning Support Network" to "Harness the outrage felt by millions" and to "raise awareness about his arrest, charges and court-martial". The key question is, do most Americans, much less the world, really care?

The answer to this question is almost certainly a combination of (a) no, most Americans do not care and (b) yes they do care but want these two men either put against the wall and shot or sent to prison for the rest of their lives. On the assumption that most people are locally focused and apolitical I conclude that all but a minority are unaware or unconcerned about these cases because they do not seem to touch their lives. And, on the assumption that the government and its allied mass media control the information flow, I conclude that most of the minority who are aware and concerned share the official view that these men are dangerous enemies.

That leaves a minority of the minority who are aware of the greater implications for justice and rights involved in both cases; who are aware of the broader contextual circumstances that led to each man’s actions and the implications for future US security implicit in those circumstances. That minority of a minority might total "millions" as Lendman suggests but it is probably still far less than is needed to either obtain justice for Khadr and Manning or save the US from its own blundering and criminal policies.

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University. He is the author of numerous books, including Islamic Fundamentalism and America's Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood.

donderdag 12 augustus 2010

The Empire 627

he decline of America's middle class can be charted directly. In the three decades after World War II, the median wage (smack in the middle) grew rapidly, right along with productivity gains. Even as late as 1980, the richest 1 percent of Americans received only about 9 percent of the nation's total income.
But starting in the 1980s - and increasingly since then - the economy has made the rich far richer without doing squat for the vast middle. The median hourly wage has barely grown, if you take inflation into account. Indeed, it dropped in the last so-called "recovery" between 2001 and 2007. And health-care and pension benefits have declined; we've gone from defined-benefit pensions to do-it-yourself pensions, while health insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-payments have skyrocketed.
Meanwhile, the rich have been getting a larger and larger portion of total income. From 9 percent in 1980, the top 1 percent's take has increased to 23.5 percent in 2007. CEOs who in the 1970s took home 40 times the compensation of average workers now rake in 350 times. Financiers who forty years ago made only modest fortunes today, even after the Great Recession they helped bring on, routinely earn seven and eight-figures. In 2009, when most of the nation's middle class was deep in recession, the 25 best-paid hedge-fund managers took in an average of $1 billion each. (Their marginal income tax, by the way, was barely over 17 percent, while the typical family paid a marginal tax far higher.)
What happened? It wasn't just greed. It was also the systematic and ever cleverer manipulation of laws and rules by those able to pay lobbyists, legislators, lawyers, accountants to do their bidding. As income and wealth have risen to the top, so has the power to manipulate the system in order to acquire even more money and more influence.
To be sure, globalization and technological change have bestowed gains disproportionately on those with the education and connections to benefit most from them, while burdening Americans without the education and connections most needed.
But instead of enlarging the circle of prosperity so that the vast middle class could come out winners as well - instead of strengthening trade unions, improving public education, deepening public investments, enlarging safety nets, and making the tax system more progressive - the nation took direction from those at the top, and did the opposite.
It is not surprising America's middle class is increasingly frustrated and are venting their anger - at politicians, the leaders of big business and Wall Street, as well as global traders, immigrants, and others who are easy targets of resentment.
A politics of audacious hope has turned into a politics of fear - meaner spirited than at any time in recent memory.
I'm not a class warrior. Call me a class worrier.
Our choice in the years ahead is either demagoguery that turns Americans further against one another and the rest of the world, or genuine reform that enlarges shared prosperity. It is the responsibility of all of us to fight the former and work toward the latter. (Pause for commercial announcement: In my forthcoming book, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future," I discuss this choice in detail.)

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet," and his most recent book, "Supercapitalism." His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on and iTunes.

Israel as a Rogue State 85

Let op, dit is bekend over de schrijver van dit artikel Jeffrey Goldberg: 


In "The Great Terror", the article that Goldberg wrote for the New Yorker in 2002 during the run-up to the Iraq war, Goldberg argues that the threat posed to America by Saddam Hussein is significant. The article opens with a vivid description of Hussein's Al-Anfal Campaign, including his regime's use of poison gas at Halabja.[10] Goldberg goes on to relate detailed allegations of a close relationship betweenHussein and Al Qaeda, which Goldberg claims he "later checked with experts on the region."[10] Goldberg argues that: "If these charges are true, it would mean that the relationship between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda is far closer than previously thought."[10] Goldberg concludes his article with allegations about Hussein's supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction:
Saddam Hussein never gave up his hope of turning Iraq into a nuclear power ... There is some debate among arms-control experts about exactly when Saddam will have nuclear capabilities. But there is no disagreement that Iraq, if unchecked, will have them soon ... There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his stocks of biological and chemical weapons.[10]
In a late 2002 debate in Slate, Goldberg described Hussein as "uniquely evil" and advocated an invasion on a moral basis:
There is consensus belief now that Saddam could have an atomic bomb within months of acquiring fissile material. ... The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.[23]

En nu het artikel dat desalniettemin interessant blijft al was het maar omdat de joodse lobby in de VS pleit voor een aanval op Iran. Het officiele argument is dat Iran de 'Joodse staat' wil vernietigen. De werkelijke reden is dat zodra Iran een nucleair wapen bezit Israel zijn buurlanden niet meer kan chanteren met zijn eigen nucleaire wapens en Israel dus niet de hegemonie in het Midden Oosten in handen krijgt. Dit hegemonistisch streven wordt gesteund door de zionistische lobbys buiten Israel.

The Point of No Return

For the Obama administration, the prospect of a nuclearized Iran is dismal to contemplate— it would create major new national-security challenges and crush the president’s dream of ending nuclear proliferation. But the view from Jerusalem is still more dire: a nuclearized Iran represents, among other things, a threat to Israel’s very existence. In the gap between Washington’s and Jerusalem’s views of Iran lies the question: who, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how? As Washington and Jerusalem study each other intensely, here’s an inside look at the strategic calculations on both sides—and at how, if things remain on the current course, an Israeli air strike will unfold.


IT IS POSSIBLE that at some point in the next 12 months, the imposition of devastating economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran will persuade its leaders to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It is also possible that Iran’s reform-minded Green Movement will somehow replace the mullah-led regime, or at least discover the means to temper the regime’s ideological extremism. It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way. It is also possible that President Obama, who has said on more than a few occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” will order a military strike against the country’s main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities.
But none of these things—least of all the notion that Barack Obama, for whom initiating new wars in the Middle East is not a foreign-policy goal, will soon order the American military into action against Iran—seems, at this moment, terribly likely. What is more likely, then, is that one day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—possibly by crossing Saudi Arabia, possibly by threading the border between Syria and Turkey, and possibly by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)
In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.

VIDEO: Jeffrey Goldberg asks Christopher Hitchens to put himself in the shoes of the Israeli prime minister.
More from this series: Hitchens discusses anti-Semitism, religion, and cancer with Goldberg and novelist Martin Amis.

When the Israelis begin to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the formerly secret enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and possibly even the Bushehr reactor, along with the other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program, a short while after they depart en masse from their bases across Israel—regardless of whether they succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, or whether they fail miserably to even make a dent in Iran’s nuclear program—they stand a good chance of changing the Middle East forever; of sparking lethal reprisals, and even a full-blown regional war that could lead to the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Iranians, and possibly Arabs and Americans as well; of creating a crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of placing communities across the Jewish diaspora in mortal danger, by making them targets of Iranian-sponsored terror attacks, as they have been in the past, in a limited though already lethal way; and of accelerating Israel’s conversion from a once-admired refuge for a persecuted people into a leper among nations.
If a strike does succeed in crippling the Iranian nuclear program, however, Israel, in addition to possibly generating some combination of the various catastrophes outlined above, will have removed from its list of existential worries the immediate specter of nuclear-weaponized, theologically driven, eliminationist anti-Semitism; it may derive for itself the secret thanks (though the public condemnation) of the Middle East’s moderate Arab regimes, all of which fear an Iranian bomb with an intensity that in some instances matches Israel’s; and it will have succeeded in countering, in militant fashion, the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which is, not irrelevantly, a prime goal of the enthusiastic counter-proliferator who currently occupies the White House.
I AM NOT ENGAGING in a thought exercise, or a one-man war game, when I discuss the plausibility and potential consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran. Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.
I have been exploring the possibility that such a strike will eventually occur for more than seven years, since my first visit to Tehran, where I attempted to understand both the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons and the regime’s theologically motivated desire to see the Jewish state purged from the Middle East, and especially since March of 2009, when I had an extended discussion about the Iranian nuclear program with Benjamin Netanyahu, hours before he was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister. In the months since then, I have interviewed roughly 40 current and past Israeli decision makers about a military strike, as well as many American and Arab officials. In most of these interviews, I have asked a simple question: what is the percentage chance that Israel will attack the Iranian nuclear program in the near future? Not everyone would answer this question, but a consensus emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. But I tested the consensus by speaking to multiple sources both in and out of government, and of different political parties. Citing the extraordinary sensitivity of the subject, most spoke only reluctantly, and on condition of anonymity. They were not part of some public-relations campaign.) The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability (often understood to be the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device within about three months of deciding to do so). The Iranian regime, by its own statements and actions, has made itself Israel’s most zealous foe; and the most crucial component of Israeli national-security doctrine, a tenet that dates back to the 1960s, when Israel developed its own nuclear capability as a response to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, is that no regional adversary should be allowed to achieve nuclear parity with the reborn and still-besieged Jewish state.
In our conversation before his swearing-in, Netanyahu would not frame the issue in terms of nuclear parity—the Israeli policy of amimut, or opacity, prohibits acknowledging the existence of the country’s nuclear arsenal, which consists of more than 100 weapons, mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine (two of which are said by intelligence sources to be currently positioned in the Persian Gulf). Instead, he framed the Iranian program as a threat not only to Israel but to all of Western civilization.
“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” he said. “When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the world should start worrying, and that’s what is happening in Iran.” Israel, Netanyahu told me, is worried about an entire complex of problems, not only that Iran, or one of its proxies, would destroy Tel Aviv; like most Israeli leaders, he believes that if Iran gains possession of a nuclear weapon, it will use its new leverage to buttress its terrorist proxies in their attempts to make life difficult and dangerous; and he fears that Israel’s status as a haven for Jews would be forever undermined, and with it, the entire raison d’être of the 100-year-old Zionist experiment.

ISRAEL. BURNING CHILDREN ALIVE Syrian Girl  @Partisangirl Israel burning children alive in refugee tent in Rafah. Thi...