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‘Illegal’ Spanish protests to face huge €600,000 euro fines

RT | November 20, 2013

Unauthorized demonstrations near the Spanish Parliament could see participants being fined €600,000 ($810,000) under a new Citizen Security bill being introduced by Spain’s ruling rightist Popular Party, local media reported.

Under the legislation, which will likely soon be approved in parliament, “social uproar” leading to harassment or insults of officials is to be made a criminal offense. Masked disorderly conduct could also incur charges. The legislation will likely be drafted by the Cabinet next Friday.

Unsanctioned protests outside political offices will be outlawed, alongside disorderly conduct by people hindering any means of identification, while people offering sexual services in the vicinity of children’s play areas will also be made illegal, according to Spanish newspaper 20minutos.es.

Other offenses deemed serious are to include publishing images or personal data of policemen, interrupting public events, possession of illegal drugs, vandalism of public property and drinking alcohol in the street.

The fines will vary between €1,000 and €30,000 ($1350 – $40,000) for more minor offences. However, just insulting a policeman could see a citizen landed with a €30,000 fine.

“We’re not looking to punish [people] more, just to reduce the discretionary margin for illicit conduct and not stumble into judicial limbo for ‘new’ acts like the escraches,” Spain’s Huffington Post quoted the Interior Ministry as saying.

“Escraches,” a kind of demonstration popular in Spain and Latin America, where protesters lobby outside the homes or offices of officials, have escalated this year, most notably those staged by the Movement of Mortgage Victims. The group lobbied outside politicians’ homes to protest the repossession of homes.

The law will first have to pass through the commission of undersecretaries, then analyzed in the Council of Ministers, followed by a State Council opinion and the General Council of the Judiciary, before being sent back to be discussed as organic law in the courts.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obamacare is Doomed by Its Internal Logic

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by  Glen Ford | November 20, 2013

Obamacare is unraveling, not because the administration is particularly incompetent or unlucky, and certainly not as a result of the Republicans’ unrelenting hostility to the Obama health insurance plan. Indeed, ever since the bill’s passage in early 2010, the GOP’s holy war against Obamacare has served to solidify reflexive Democratic support for what has always been a Republican-inspired bill.

The truth is, the Affordable Health Care Act is coming undone because of its own, tortured internal logic. At root, it is a fraud on the public: a scheme to subsidize and more deeply embed a private insurance system that can only make profits by denying sick and vulnerable people health care, and playing different demographics of Americans against each other. As every other industrialized country in the world has already learned, it is impossible to build a genuine, universal healthcare system on a cut-throat capitalist foundation. Private insurers make money by betting against the health interests of their customers. Obama served his corporate masters by conspiring to make tens of millions more Americans into customers of private insurers. He tried to dress up one of the greatest corporate subsidies in history as if it were a solemn national mission, a rebirth of the social compact between the American people. But of course, Obamacare is no such thing; it is a racket to prop up private insurers with public money, while allowing the profiteers to continue to run the show.

You can’t hide a truth that big. The Obamacare website has suffered from terminal complexity because white collar crime is usually quite complex. The web site attempts to reconcile the profit margins and various products of a universe of private insurance corporations, while at the same time pretending to serve the health needs of the people at an affordable cost. Obamacare claims to be in the business of serving both the public and corporate stockholders. But that’s mission impossible. If Obamacare is based on making profits for private corporations – if that is what keeps the system going – then the public’s health care needs will always be an afterthought. And, that will be obvious in the way that the website is organized as a sales platform that matches federal subsidies with corporate products, rather than matching people with the medical resources they need to survive and thrive.

Website complexity and failures aside, Obamacare can never become part of a national social compact, something of which all Americans can be proud. That’s because, by definition, corporate insurance schemes divide people into “winners” and “losers” – although, of course, the big winner is always the corporation. Young, healthy people know they are the fatted calves of the insurance business, and they are avoiding Obamacare like the plague. If this were really a national health care program, like Medicare for All, then most young people would join in the national health care mission. But this is just Obama working a scam for the insurance companies, and young folks know it. Anybody who manages to get access to the web site knows it.

The fatal flaw in Obamacare can’t be fixed. The best thing that could happen would be a quick and total collapse. Large majorities of Americans still support Medicare for All, but Obamacare stands in the way of a real national health plan – just as the Republican right-wingers that invented Obamacare back in 1989 intended.

Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Great Corporate Tax Shift-Part 1

By Jack Rasmus | November 19, 2013

The great corporate myth-making machine has been hard at work of late, attempting to create the false impression that US corporations are increasingly uncompetitive with their foreign rivals due to the fact they pay much higher corporate taxes in the US and abroad than their capitalist counterparts. But that is one of the great myths perpetrated by corporate apologists, pundits and their politician friends. The myth is high in the pantheon of conscious falsifications their marketing machines feed the American public, right up there along with such other false notions that ‘business tax cuts create jobs’, ‘free trade benefits everyone’, ‘income inequality is due to a worker’s own low productivity contribution’, ‘overpaid public workers are the cause of states’ budget deficits’, or that ‘social security and medicare are going broke’.

If corporate America can create and sell the idea that they pay more taxes than their offshore capitalist cousins, then they are half way home to getting their paid politicians to provide them still more corporate tax cuts—a proposal by the way that both Republicans and Obama are on record for, in their joint proposal to reduce the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 28% (Obama) or 25% (Republicans).

The message of too high corporate taxes is appearing more frequently nowadays, since actual legislation for big corporate tax cuts is now working its way through Congress. Driving the legislation are Teaparty favorites in the House of Representatives, like David Camp, head of the Ways & Means Committee, and Max Baucus, Democrat in the Senate, who is set to retire in 2014 and wants to give his business buddies yet another big cash freebie (you know Max, the guy who rode herd on that Health Insurance Corporation subsidy bill called Obamacare?).

So it’s time to debunk the ‘US Corporations Pay Too Much Taxes’ (and thus need another tax cut) myth. What follows is the first segment of a longer essay—with tables and graphs—on the same topic that will appear shortly in the December issue of ‘Z’ magazine. More segments of that essay will follow.

US corporations don’t pay the nominal corporate tax rate of 35% today; they pay an effective (i.e. actual) rate of only 12%. The additional effective state-wide corporate income tax they pay amounts to only a 2% or so—not the 10% they claim. And the effective corporate tax on offshore earnings is only another 2.2% or so—not the 20% average they’ll complain. So the total US tax for US corporations is barely 16%–not the 35% plus 10% (state) plus 20% (offshore) nominal tax rate. And however you cut it, the story is the same: US corporations’ share of total federal tax revenues have been in freefall for decades. The share of corporate taxes as a percent of GDP and national income has halved over the decades. And corporations since 2008 have realized record level profits during the ‘Obama Recovery’—while their taxes as a percent of profits since 2008 is half that of the average paid as recently as 1987-2007. Okay, more detail on all that in parts 2 and 3 to follow.
For the moment, what all the corporate tax cutting to date has produced is a mountain of corporate cash.

US Corporations today in fact are sitting on more than $10 TRILLION in cash!

For example, even the US business press admits today that US multinational corporations have diverted more than $2 trillion to their offshore subsidiaries, to avoid paying the U.S. Corporate Income Tax. (watch for parts 2 and 3 of to follow for how they do this).

In addition to the $2 trillion now diverted by US multinational corporations offshore, after having paid federal taxes another $1 trillion is now held as cash on hand by the 1,000 largest nonfinancial companies based in the U.S. as of mid-2013, an increase of 61% in the past five years, according to a study by the REL Consulting Group.

For financial companies, deposits in US banks are currently at a record $10.6 trillion, while bank loans outstanding have been declining since 2008 and are now at a record low of $7.58 trillion—thus leaving US banks sitting on a cash hoard of nearly $3 trillion according to the Wall St. Journal. That’s a total approaching $7 trillion so far.

This record after-tax cash exists despite corporations having bought back their stock and paid dividends worth trillions more since 2008. Corporate buybacks of stock since 2009 passed the $1 trillion mark in 2012, according to a survey by Rosenblatt Securities—with projections to increase at an even faster rate of $400-$500 billion more in 2013. Corporate dividend payouts equaled another $282 billion in 2012 alone, perhaps at least that amount in years prior, and are today projected to exceed $300 billion in 2013. That’s another $2.5 trillion.

Include hundreds of thousands of US corporations and businesses that are not part of the largest 1000 or who don’t operate offshore—plus cash socked away in depreciation funds and other special funds for all the above—and that comes to at least another $500 billion.

That $10 trillion corporate total, moreover, doesn’t include still further additional dollars that have been spent by US corporations abroad. While business investment in the US has been declining, total US corporate foreign direct investment is estimated at $4.4 trillion in 2012, up from $3 trillion in 2007 and from $1.3 trillion in 2000. So that’s another roughly $1.4 trillion in corporate income committed offshore since the official ‘end’ of the recession in June 2009.

Add all that up and its well more than $10 trillion in buybacks, payouts, and hoarded cash (onshore and offshore) by US corporations since 2009—i.e. during the sub-par economic recovery (for the rest of us) of the past four years. That’s corporate income and cash that has been diverted, hoarded, or otherwise not committed to US real investment, and therefore never contributing to jobs, income creation and consumption in the US. No wonder consumption (70% of the US economy) for the bottom 80% households in the US has been stagnating, stalling, or declining in the US in recent years. No wonder all the US economy can do is create low wage, contingent, service jobs, while more than 20 million are still unemployed and uncounted millions more have left the US labor force altogether. No consumption recovery follows declining US investment, while tens of trillions of dollars go elsewhere or sit on the sidelines.

To summarize, at least as much as $10 trillion—and perhaps approaching $12 trillion—has been taken out, redirected, diverted, or otherwise hoarded by US corporations since the 2008 crash. Keep all that in mind when you next hear politicians from the two wings of the one party system in America—Republicans and Democrats—and their friends in mainstream media trying to justify proposals for still more corporate tax cuts.

Jack is the author of the 2012 book, ‘Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few’ (Pluto press), and host of the weekly radio show, Alternative Visions, on the Progressive Radio Network. His website is http://www.kyklosproductions and blog, jackrasmus.com. His twitter handle, @drjackrasmus.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Me, I’m a Liberal!

By Kevin Carson | Center for a Stateless Society | November 18, 2013

obamas-daddy1Nothing like starting out your day with a laugh — and today I have Matthew Lynch (“12 Reasons Why Obama is One of the Greatest Presidents Ever,” Huffington Post, November 15) to thank for it.

About half of Lynch’s points boil down to, “Obama is for x, because he makes speeches talking about x all the time.” He starts out with the best one of all:

“Unlike the many presidents who preceded him, he cares about what is best for the greater good. He truly does represent The People. His actions have always been motivated by a sincere desire to do what is best for the majority, even if it meant losing ground with the wealthy, influential or powerful minority.”

Um, yeah. That’s why he adopted a Republican “universal healthcare” proposal to require everybody to buy private health insurance — and give taxpayer money to the ones who can’t afford it. That should be popular with “The People,” all right — at least those who own stock in insurance companies. That’s why he quietly promised the drug companies he wouldn’t use Medicare’s bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices. That’s why Joe Biden conducts copyright enforcement policy out of Disney’s corporate headquarters and the administration backs draconian copyright legislation dictated in secret by proprietary content industries.

Among my favorite other howlers:

“2. He is for civil rights. He has consistently spoken on behalf of the disenfranchised, the underdog and the most controversial members of society …”

Yeah, I know he said a lot of stuff about gay marriage and ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But he refused to actually stop prosecuting gays in the military before the law was repealed, or to put enforcement on the back burner, even when he was fully capable of using his executive authority to do so.

And notice Lynch doesn’t say “civil liberties.” Obama said a lot of stuff about them, too — back in 2008. Since then he’s expanded unconstitutional wiretapping, run interference for the telecoms that help out with it and given amnesty to people who systematically ordered and engaged in torture. Holding war criminals accountable would be “divisive,” you see. He owes the late Nuremberg defendants an apology — they were only following orders, too.

4. Healthcare. I think we already covered that.

“5. He is for the middle class. Here are just a few of the comments made by President Barack Obama in recent months …”

A lot of presidents were for a lot of stuff, if you stick to reading their collected speeches. In practice, Obama’s farm policies are written by ADM and Monsanto, and the office of Secretary of the Treasury is permanently reserved for Goldman-Sachs alumni, just as under his predecessors.

Obama’s actual economic policy is classic Hamiltonianism: Responding to technologies of abundance that reduce the need for capital and labor by using Rube Goldberg mechanisms to artificially prop up the demand for those inputs — even if it means giving people tax breaks for throwing stuff away and replacing it. The stomach-churning irony is that most of the same greenwashed Whole Foods liberals who applaud this also condemn planned obsolescence and the Military-Industrial Complex, which were designed to accomplish exactly the same result. The proper approach to technologies of abundance is to make sure their benefits are fully internalized by workers and consumers, by ceasing to enforce monopolies, artificial scarcities and rents of all kind. If it takes only fifteen hours of labor a week to produce our standard of living, it should only take fifteen hours of labor to enjoy that standard of living. But that would annoy Obama’s Big Business friends.

My favorite, though, is this:

“10. He is for peace. Let us never forget that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 …”

Yeah, he uses that Peace Prize as a paperweight to hold down his drone kill list. Obama didn’t end the war in Afghanistan — he  transformed it into a remote-control video game war in which wedding parties can be massacred at the push of a button. And of course, Lynch can’t resist throwing in a mention of the Zero Dark Thirty crap about killing Bin Laden.

I can’t help picturing someone fifty years ago breathlessly gushing “I love JFK because he’s the Peace President” — while ignoring the Bay of Pigs, the Diem assassination and Green Berets in Vietnam.

Lynch’s points, edited for substance, are basically on the same level as a guy in a bar decked out in Full Cleveland thirty years ago saying “I feel comfortable with Reagan.”  Obama’s the Reagan of moderate center-left NPR liberals who shop at Whole Foods. If you’re satisfied with the image of peace and social justice, while government in substance continues to serve the same powerful interests, keep right on voting — that’s what it’ll get you.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bernard Henri-Levy and the Destruction of Libya

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | November 20, 2013

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “the world’s most influential Jew”, Bernard Henri Levy is number 45, according to an article published in the Israeli rightwing newspaper the Jerusalem Post, on May 21, 2010.

Levy, per the Post’s standards, came only two spots behind Irving Moskowitz, a “Florida-based tycoon (who) is considered the leading supporter of Jewish construction in east Jerusalem and hands out a prize for Zionism to settler leaders.”

To claim that at best Levy is an intellectual fraud is to miss a clear logic that seems to unite much of the man’s activities, work and writings. He seems to be obsessed with ‘liberating’ Muslims from Bosnia to Pakistan, to Libya and elsewhere. However, it is not the kind that one could qualify as a healthy obsession, stemming from for instance, overt love and fascination of their religion, culture and myriad ways of life. It is unhealthy obsession. Throughout his oddly defined career, he has done so much harm, as he at times served the role of lackey for those in power, and at others, seemed to lead his own crusades. He is a big fan of military intervention, and his profile is dotted with references to Muslim countries and military intervention from Afghanistan to Sudan … and finally to Libya.

Writing in the New York Magazine on Dec 26, 2011, Benjamin Wallace-Wells spoke of the French ‘philosopher’ as if he were referencing a messiah that was not afraid to promote violence for the greater good of mankind. In “European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator,” Wallace-Wells wrote of the “philosopher (who) managed to goad the world into vanquishing an evil villain.” The ‘evil villain’ in question is, of course, Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan leader who was ousted and brutally murdered after reportedly being sodomized by rebels following his capture in October 2011. The detailed analysis by Global Post of the sexual assault of the leader of one of Africa’s most prominent countries was published in CBS news and other media. Cases of rape have sharply increased in Libya as 1,700 militia (per BBC estimation) groups now operate in that shattered Arab country.

Levy, who at times appeared to be the West’s most visible war-on-Libya advocate, has largely disappeared from view within the Libyan context. He is perhaps off stirring trouble in some other place in the name of his dubious philosophy. His mission in Libya, which is now in a much worse state than it has ever reached during the reign of Qaddafi, has been accomplished. ‘The evil dictator’ has been defeated, and that’s that. Never mind that the country is now divided between tribes and militias, and that the ‘post-democracy’ Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was recently kidnapped by one unruly militia to be freed by another.

In March 2011, Levy took it upon himself to fly to Benghazi to ‘engage’ Libya’s insurgents. It was a defining moment, for it was that type of mediation that empowered armed groups to transform a regional uprising into an all-out war involving NATO. Armed with what was a willful misinterpretation of UN resolution 1973, of March 17, 2011, NATO led a major military offensive on a country armed with primitive air-defensives and a poorly equipped army. Western countries channeled massive shipments of weapons to Libyan groups in the name of preventing massacres allegedly about to be carried out by Qaddafi’s loyalists. Massacres were indeed carried out but not in the way western ‘humanitarian interventionists’ suggested. The last of which was merely days ago (Nov 15) when 31 people were reportedly killed and 235 were wounded as trigger happy militiamen opened fire on peaceful protesters in Tripoli that were simply demanding Misrata militants leave their city.

These are the very people that Levy and his ilk spent numerous hours lobbying in support of. One of Levy’s greatest achievements in Libya was to muster international recognition of the National Transitional Council (NTC). France and other countries lead a campaign to promote the NTC as an alternative to Qaddafi’s state institution, which NATO had systematically destroyed.

In his New York Magazine interview, Levy was quoted as saying “sometimes you are inhabited by intuitions that are not clear to you.” The statement was sourced in reference to the supposed epiphany the ‘philosopher’ had on Feb 23, 2011, watching TV images of Qaddafi’s forces threatening to drown Benghazi with ‘rivers of blood.’

Far from unclear intuitions, Levy’s agenda is that of the calculated politician-ideologue, more like a French version of the US’s neoconservatives who packaged their country’s devastating war on Iraq with all sorts of moral, philosophical and other fraudulent reasoning. For them, it was first and foremost a war for Israel’s ‘security’, with supposed other practical perks, little of which has actualized. Levy’s legacy is indeed loaded with unmistakable references to that same agenda.

Israel’s right-wingers are fascinated with Levy. The Post’s celebration of his global influence was summed up in this quote: “A French philosopher and one of the leaders of the Nouvelle Philosophie movement who said that Jews ought to provide a unique moral voice in the world.” But morality has nothing to do with it. The man’s philosophical exploits seem to exclusively target Muslims and their cultures. “The veil is an invitation to rape”, he told the Jewish Chronicle in 2006.

Philosophy for Levy seems to be perfectly tailored to fit a political agenda promoting military interventions. His advocacy helped destroy Libya, but still didn’t stop him from writing a book on Libya’s ‘spring.’ He spoke of the veil as an invitation for rape, while saying nothing of the numerous cases of rape reported in Libya after the NATO war. In May 2011, he was one of few people who defended IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, when the latter was accused of raping a chambermaid in New York City. It was a ‘conspiracy’ he said, in which the maid was taking part.

One could perhaps understand Levy’s hate for dictators and war criminals; after all, Qaddafi was no human rights champion. But Levy is no philosopher. A fundamental element of any genuine philosophy is moral consistency. Levy has none. A week after the Jerusalem Post celebrated Levy’s world influence, the Israeli daily Haaretz wrote of his support of the Israeli army.

“Bernard Henri Levy: I have never seen an army as democratic as the IDF” was the title of an article on May 30, 2010, reporting on the “Democracy and Its Challenges” Conference in Tel Aviv. “I have never seen such a democratic army, which asks itself so many moral questions. There is something unusually vital about Israeli democracy.” Considering the wars and massacres conducted by the Israeli army against Gaza in 2008-9 and 2012, one cannot find appropriate phrases to describe Levy’s moral blindness and misguided philosophy. In fact, it is safe to argue that neither morality nor philosophy has much to do with Levy and his unending quest for war.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s War with Iran – the unabridged version

By James Petras :: December 28, 2005

Israel Bombs Iran: The US Suffers the Consequences

Israel’s political and military leadership have repeatedly and openly declared their preparation to militarily attack Iran in the immediate future. Their influential supporters in the US have made Israel’s war policy the number one priority in their efforts to secure Presidential and Congressional backing. The arguments put forth by the Israeli government and echoed by their followers in the US regarding Iran’s nuclear threat are without substance or fact and have aroused opposition and misgivings throughout the world, among European governments, international agencies, among most US military leaders and the public, the world oil industry and even among sectors of the Bush Administration.

An Israeli air and commando attack on Iran will have catastrophic military consequences for US forces and severe loss of human life in Iraq, most likely ignite political and military violence against pro-US Arab-Muslim regimes, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, perhaps leading to their overthrow.

Without a doubt Israeli war preparations are the greatest immediate threat to world peace and political stability.

Israel’s War Preparations

Never has an imminent war been so loudly and publicly advertised as Israel’s forthcoming military attack against Iran. When the Israeli Military Chief of Staff, Daniel Halutz, was asked how far Israel was ready to go to stop Iran’s nuclear energy program, he said “Two thousand kilometers” – the distance of an air assault (Financial Times (FT) Dec 12, 2005). More specifically Israeli military sources reveal that Israel’s current and probably next Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered Israel’s armed forces to prepare for air strikes on uranium enrichment sites in Iran (London Times), Dec 11, 2005). According to the London Times the order to prepare for attack went through the Israeli defense ministry to the Chief of Staff. During the first week in December, “… sources inside the special forces command confirmed that ‘G’ readiness – the highest state – for an operation was announced” (Times, Dec. 11, 2005).

On December 9, Israeli Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz, affirmed that in view of Teheran’s nuclear plans, Tel Aviv should “not count on diplomatic negotiations but prepare other solutions.” (La Jornada, Dec. 10, 2005) In early December, Ahron Zoevi Farkash, the Israeli military intelligence chief told the Israeli parliament (Knesset) that “if by the end of March, the international community is unable to refer the Iranian issue to the United Nations Security Council, then we can say that the international effort has run its course” (Times, Dec. 11, 2005).

In plain Hebrew, if international diplomatic negotiations fail to comply with Israel’s timetable, Israel will unilaterally, militarily attack Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party and candidate for Prime Minister stated that if Sharon did not act against Iran, “then when I form the new Israeli government (after the March 2006 elections) we’ll do what we did in the past against Saddam’s reactor.” (Times Dec 11, 2005). In June 1981 Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. Even the pro-Labor newspaper, Haaretz, while disagreeing with the time and place of Netanyahu’s pronouncements, agreed with its substance. Haaretz criticized “(those who) publicly recommend an Israeli military option…” because it “presents Israel as pushing (via powerful pro-Israel organizations in the US) the United States into a major war.” However, Haaretz adds… “Israel must go about making its preparations quietly and securely – not at election rallies.” (Haaretz, Dec 6, 2005) Haaretz’s position, like that of the Labor Party, is that Israel not advocate war against Iran before multi-lateral negotiations are over and the International Atomic Energy Agency makes a decision.

In other words, the Israeli “debate” among the elite is not over whether to go to war but over the place to discuss war plans and the timing to launch war. Implicitly Haaretz recognizes the role played by pro-Israeli organizations in “pushing the US into the Iraq war”, perhaps a word of caution, resulting from increased US opposition to the activities of the Israel First campaigners in Congress (see below).

Israeli public opinion apparently does not share the political elite’s plans for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program. A survey in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, reported by Reuters (Dec. 16, 2005) shows that 58% of the Israelis polled believed the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program should be handled diplomatically while only 36% said its reactors should be destroyed in a military strike.

Israel’s War Deadline

All top Israeli officials have pronounced the end of March as the deadline for launching a military assault on Iran. The thinking behind this date is to heighten the pressure on the US to force the sanctions issue in the Security Council. The tactic is to blackmail Washington with the “war or else” threat, into pressuring Europe (namely Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia) into approving sanctions. Israel knows that its acts of war will endanger thousands of American soldiers in Iraq, and it knows that Washington (and Europe) cannot afford a third war at this time. The end of March date also coincides with the IAEA report to the UN on Iran’s nuclear energy program. Israeli policymakers believe that their threats may influence the report, or at least force the kind of ambiguities, which can be exploited by its overseas supporters to promote Security Council sanctions or justify Israeli military action. Fixing a March date also intensifies the political activities of the pro-Israel organizations in the United States. The major pro-Israel lobbies have lined up a majority in the US Congress and Senate to push for the UN Security Council to implement economic sanctions against Iran or, failing that, endorse Israeli “defensive” action. Thousands of pro-Israel national, local and community groups and individuals have been mobilized to promote the Israeli agenda via the mass media and visits to US Congressional representatives. The war agenda also plays on exploiting the tactical disputes among the civilian militarists within the White House, between Cheney, Bolton and Abrams on one side and Rice and Rumsfeld on the other. The Cheney line has always supported an Israeli military attack, while Rice promotes the tactic of “forced failure” of the European diplomatic route before taking decisive action. Rumsfeld, under tremendous pressure from practically all of the top professional military officials, fears that an Israeli war will further accelerate US military losses. The pro-Israel lobby would like to replace the ultra-militarist Rumsfeld with the ultra-militarist Senator Joseph Lieberman, an unconditional Israel First Zealot.

US-Israeli Disagreements on an Iran War

As Israel marches inexorably toward war with Iran, disputes with Washington have surfaced. The conflicts and mutual attacks extend throughout the state institutions, and into the public discourse. Supporters and opponents of Israel’s war policy represent powerful segments of state institutions and civil society. On the side of the Israeli war policy are practically all the major and most influential Jewish organizations, the pro-Israeli lobbies, their political action committees, a sector of the White House, a majority of subsidized Congressional representatives and state, local and party leaders. On the other side are sectors of the Pentagon, State Department, a minority of Congressional members, a majority of public opinion, a minority of American Jews (Union of Reform Judaism) and the majority of active and retired military commanders who have served or are serving in Iraq.

Most of the discussion and debate in the US on Israel’s war agenda has been dominated by the pro-Israeli organizations that transmit the Israeli state positions. The Jewish weekly newspaper, Forward, has reported a number of Israeli attacks on the Bush Administration for not acting more aggressively on behalf of Israel’s policy. According to the Forward, “Jerusalem is increasingly concerned that the Bush Administration is not doing enough to block Teheran from acquiring nuclear weapons…” (Dec. 9, 2005). Further stark differences occurred during the semi-annual strategic dialog between Israeli and US security officials, in which the Israelis opposed a US push for regime change in Syria, fearing a possible, more radical Islamic regime. The Israeli officials also criticized the US for forcing Israel to agree to open the Rafah border crossing and upsetting their stranglehold on the economy in Gaza.

Predictably the biggest Jewish organization in the US, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CPMAJO) immediately echoed the Israeli state line as it has since its founding. Malcolm Hoenlan, President of the CPMAJO lambasted Washington for a “failure of leadership on Iran” and “contracting the issue to Europe” (Forward, Dec. 9, 2005). He went on to attack the Bush Administration for not following Israel’s demands by delaying referring Iran to the UN Security Council for sanction. The leader of the CPMAJO then turned on French, German and British negotiators accusing them of “appeasement and weakness”, and of not having a “game plan for decisive action” – presumably for not following Israel’s ‘sanction or bomb them’ game plan.

The role of AIPAC, the CPMAJO and other pro-Israeli organizations as transmission belts for Israel’s bellicose war plans was evident in their November 28, 2005 condemnation of the Bush Administration agreement to give Russia a chance to negotiate a plan under which Iran would be allowed to enrich uranium under international supervision to ensure that its enriched uranium would not be used for military purposes. AIPAC’s rejection of negotiations and demands for an immediate confrontation were based on the specious argument that it would “facilitate Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons” – an argument which flies in the face of all known intelligence data (including Israel’s) which says Iran is at least 3 to 10 years away from even approaching nuclear weaponry. AIPAC’s unconditional and uncritical transmission of Israeli demands and criticism is usually clothed in the rhetoric of US interests or security in order to manipulate US policy. AIPAC chastised the Bush regime for endangering US security. By relying on negotiations, AIPAC accused the Bush Administration of “giving Iran yet another chance to manipulate (sic) the international community” and “pose a severe danger to the United States” (Forward, Dec. 9, 2005).

Leading US spokesmen for Israel opposed President Bush’s instructing his Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khaklilzad, to open a dialog with Iran’s Ambassador to Iraq. In addition, Israel’s official ‘restrained’ reaction to Russia’s sale to Teheran of more than a billion dollars worth of defensive anti-aircraft missiles, which might protect Iran from an Israeli air strike, was predictably echoed by the major Jewish organizations in the US. No doubt an important reason for Israel’s setting an early deadline for its military assault on Iran is to act before Iran establishes a new satellite surveillance system and installs its new missile defense system.

Pushing the US into a confrontation with Iran, via economic sanctions and military attack has been a top priority for Israel and its supporters in the US for more than a decade (Jewish Times/ Jewish Telegraph Agency, Dec. 6, 2005). The AIPAC believes the Islamic Republic poses a grave threat to Israel’s supremacy in the Middle East. In line with its policy of forcing a US confrontation with Iran, AIPAC, the Israeli PACs (political action committees) and the CPMAJO have successfully lined up a majority of Congress people to challenge what they describe as the “appeasement” of Iran. According to the Jewish Times (12/6/05), “If it comes down to a political battle, signs are that AIPAC could muster strong support in Congress to press the White House to demand sanctions on Iran.” Representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who has the dubious distinction of being a collaborator with Cuban exile terrorist groups and unconditional backer of Israel’s war policy, is chairwoman of the highly influential US House of Representative Middle East subcommittee. From that platform she has echoed the CPMAJO line about “European appeasement and arming the terrorist regime in Teheran” (Jewish Times 12/6/05). The Cuban-American Zionist boasted that her Iran sanctions bill has the support of 75% of the members of Congress and that she is lining up additional so-sponsors.

The pro-Israel lobby’s power, which includes AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, the PACs and hundreds of local formal and informal organizations, is magnified by their influence and hegemony over Congress, the mass media, financial institutions, pension funds and fundamentalist Christian organizations. Within the executive branch their influence in these institutions amplifies their power far beyond their number and direct control and representation in strategic public and private institutions (which itself is formidable). AIPAC’s “Progress and Policy Report for 2005” – published on its website – lists, among its accomplishments, getting Congress to approve 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives, $3 billion in direct aid and more than $10 billion in guaranteed loans, transfer of the most advanced military technology to Israel’s multi-billion dollar arms export corporations, and the lining up by a 410 to 1 vote in the House of Representative committing the US to Israel’s security – as it is defined by Israel.

The conflict between the Israeli elite and the Bush Administration has to be located in a broader context. Despite pro-Israeli attacks on US policy for its ‘weakness’ on Iran, Washington has moved as aggressively as circumstances permit. Facing European opposition to an immediate confrontation (as AIPAC and Israeli politicians demand) Washington supports European negotiations but imposes extremely limiting conditions, namely a rejection of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes. The European “compromise” of forcing Iran to turn over the enrichment process to a foreign country (Russia), is not only a violation of its sovereignty, but is a policy that no other country using nuclear energy practices. Given this transparently unacceptable “mandate”, it is clear that Washington’s ‘support for negotiations’ is a propaganda devise to provoke an Iranian rejection, and a means of securing Europe’s support for a Security Council referral for international sanctions. Washington has absolutely no precedent to object to Russia’s sale of defensive ground to air missiles to Iran, since it is standard in the arms export business. As for as the Ambassadorial meetings in Iraq, the US has had great success in securing Iranian co-operation on stabilizing its Iraqi Shiite client regime. Iran has recognized the regime, has signed trade agreements, supported the dubious elections and provided the US with intelligence against the Sunni resistance. Given their common interests in the region, it was logical for Washington to seek to bend Iran into further co-operation via diplomatic discussions. In other words, as the US seeks to withdraw its troops from a losing war in Iraq (largely supported by AIPAC and its organizational partners), pro-Israel organizations are pushing hard to put the US into a new war with Iran. It is no surprise that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) invited the most bellicose of US Middle East warmongers, UN Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, to be its keynote speaker at its annual awards dinner (ZOA Press Release, Dec. 11, 2005). The ZOA has loyally followed all the zigzags of Israeli policy since the foundation of the State.

Despite the near unanimous support and widespread influence of the major Jewish organizations, 20% of American Jews do not support Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. Even more significantly, 61% of Jews almost never talk about Israel or defend Israel in conversation with Goyim (non-Jews) (Jerusalem Post, Dec 1, 2005). Only 29% of Jews are active promoters of Israel. In other words, it is important to note that the Israel First crowd represents less than a third of the Jewish community and hence their claim to speak for ‘all’ US Jews is false and a misrepresentation. In fact, there is more opposition to Israel among Jews than there is in the US Congress. Having said that, however, most Jewish critics of Israel are not influential in the big Jewish organizations and the Israel lobby, excluded from the mass media and mostly intimidated from speaking out, especially on Israel’s war preparations against Iran. The minority Jewish critics cannot match the five to eight million dollars spent in buying Congressional votes each year by the pro-Israel lobbies.

The Myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat

The Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Daniel Halutz, has categorically denied that Iran represents an immediate nuclear threat to Israel, let along the United States. According to Haaretz (12/14/05), Halutz stated that it would take Iran time to be able to produce a nuclear bomb – which he estimated might happen between 2008 and 2015.

Israel’s Labor Party officials do not believe that Iran represents an immediate nuclear threat and that the Sharon government and the Likud war propaganda is an electoral ploy. According to Haaretz, “Labor Party officials… accused Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and other defense officials of using the Iran issue in their election campaigns in an effort to divert public debate from social issues” (Dec. 14, 2005). In a message directed at the Israeli Right but equally applicable to AIPAC and the ‘Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations in the US, Labor member of the Knesset, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer rejected electoral warmongering: “I hope the upcoming elections won’t motivate the prime minister and defense minister to stray from government policy and place Israel on the frontlines of confrontation with Iran. The nuclear issue is an international issue and there is no reason for Israel to play a major role in it” (Haaretz, Dec. 14, 2005). Unfortunately the Israel lobby is making it a US issue and putting Washington on the frontlines…

Iran’s Nuclear Threat Fabrication

Israeli intelligence has determined that Iran has neither the enriched uranium nor the capability to produce an atomic weapon now or in the immediate future, in contrast to the hysterical claims publicized by the US pro-Israel lobbies. Mohammed El Baradei, head of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has inspected Iran for several years, has pointed out that the IAEA has found no proof that Iran is trying to construct nuclear weapons. He criticized Israeli and US war plans indirectly by warning that a “military solution would be completely un-productive” (Financial Times, Dec. 10/11, 2005).

More recently, Iran, in a clear move to clarify the issue of the future use of enriched uranium, “opened the door for US help in building a nuclear power plant” (USA Today, Dec. 11, 2005). Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hamid Reza Asefi, speaking at a press conference, stated “America can take part in the international bidding for the construction of Iran’s nuclear power plant if they observe the basic standards and quality” (USA Today, Dec. 11, 2005). Iran also plans to build several other nuclear power plants with foreign help. The Iranian call for foreign assistance is hardly the strategy of a country trying to conduct a covert atomic bomb program, especially one directed at involving one of its principal accusers.

The Iranians are at an elementary stage in the processing of uranium, not even reaching the point of uranium enrichment, which in turn will take still a number of years, and overcoming many complex technical problems before it can build a bomb. There is no factual basis for arguing that Iran represents a nuclear threat to Israel or to the US forces in the Middle East.

Israel’s war preparations and AIPAC’s efforts to push the US in the same direction based on falsified data is reminiscent of the fabricated evidence which was channeled to the White House through the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans led by Abram Shumsky and directed by Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz, both long-time supporters of the Likud Party. Israel’s war preparations are not over any present or future Iranian nuclear threat. The issue is over future enrichment of uranium, which is legal under the Non-Proliferation Treaty as is its use in producing electrical power. Iran currently is only in a uranium conversion phase, which is prior to enrichment. Scores of countries with nuclear reactors by necessity use enriched uranium. The Iranian decision to advance to processing enriched uranium is its sovereign right as it is for all countries, which possess nuclear reactors in Europe, Asia and North America.

Israel and AIPAC’s resort to the vague formulation of Iran’s potential nuclear capacity is so open-ended that it could apply to scores of countries with a minimum scientific infrastructure.

The European Quartet has raised a bogus issue by evading the issue of whether or not Iran has atomic weapons or is manufacturing them and focused on attacking Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear energy – namely the production of enriched uranium. The Quartet has conflated enriched uranium with a nuclear threat and nuclear potential with the danger of an imminent nuclear attack on Western countries, troops and Israel. The Europeans, especially Great Britain, have two options in mind: To impose an Iranian acceptance of limits on its sovereignty, more specifically on its energy policy and capacity to control the deadly air pollution of its major cities with cleaner sources of energy; or to force Iran to reject the arbitrary addendum to the Non-Proliferation Agreement and then to propagandize the rejection as an indication of Iran’s evil intention to create atomic bombs and target pro-Western countries. The Western media would echo the US and European governments position that Iran was responsible for the breakdown of negotiations. The Europeans would then convince their public that since “reason” failed, the only recourse it to follow the US to take the issue to the Security Council and approve international sanctions against Iran.

The US then would attempt to pressure Russia and China to vote in favor of sanctions or to abstain. There is reason to doubt that either or both countries would agree giving the importance of the multi-billion dollar oil, arms, nuclear and trade deals between Iran and these two countries. Having tried and failed in the Security Council, the US and Israel are likely to move toward a military attack. An air attack on suspected Iranian nuclear facilities will entail the bombing of heavily populated as well as remote regions leading to large-scale loss of life.

The principal result will be a massive escalation of war throughout the Middle East. Iran, a country of 70 million, with several times the military forces that Iraq possessed and with highly motivated and committed military and paramilitary forces can be expected to cross into Iraq. Iraqi Shiites sympathetic to or allied with Iran would most likely break their ties with Washington and go into combat. US military bases, troops and clients would be under tremendous attack. US military casualties would multiply. All troop withdrawal plans would be disrupted. The ‘Iraqization’ strategy would disintegrate, as the US ‘loyal’ Shia armed forces would turn against their American officers. Beyond Iraq, there would likely be major military-civilian uprisings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Pakistan. The conflagration would spread beyond the Middle East, as the Israel-US attack on an Islamic country would ignite mass protests throughout Asia. Most likely new terrorist incidents would occur in Western Europe, North America, and Australia and against US multinationals. A bitter prolonged war would ensue; pitting 70 million unified Iranian nationals, millions of Muslims in Asia and Africa against an isolated US accompanied by its European allies facing mass popular protests at home.

Sanctions on Iran will not work, because oil is a scarce and essential commodity. China, India and other fast-growing Asian countries will balk at a boycott. Turkey and other Muslim countries will not cooperate. Numerous Western oil companies will work through intermediaries. The sanction policy is predestined to failure; its only result will be to raise the price of oil even higher. An Israeli or US military attack will cause severe political instability and increase the risk to oil producers, shippers and buyers, raising the price of oil to astronomical heights, likely over $100 a barrel, destabilizing the world economy and provoking a major world recession or worse.

Conclusion

The only possible beneficiary of a US or Israeli military attack on Iran or economic sanctions will be Israel: it will seem to eliminate a military adversary in the Middle East, and consolidate its military supremacy in the Middle East. Even this outcome is problematic because it fails to take account of the fact that Iran’s challenge to Israel is political, not its non-existent nuclear potential. The first target of the millions of Muslims protesting Israeli aggression will be the Arab regimes closest to Israel. An Israeli attack would be a pyrrhic victory, if a predictable political conflagration unseats the rulers of Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The consequences would be even worse if the US attacks: major oil wells burning, US troops in Iraq surrounded, long-term relations with Arab regimes undermined, increased oil prices and troop casualties inflaming domestic public opinion. An attack on Iran will not be a cleanly executed ‘surgical’ strike – it will be a deep jagged wound leading to gangrene.

No doubt AIPAC will celebrate “another success” for Israel in their yearly self-congratulatory report of missions accomplished. The Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations in America will thank their obedient and loyal congressional followers for approving the destruction of an ‘anti-Semitic and anti-American nuclear threat to all of humanity’ or some similar rubbish.

The big losers of a US-Israeli military attack are the US soldiers in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries who will be killed and maimed, the US public which will pay in blood and bloated deficits, the oil companies which will see their oil supplies disrupted, their new multi-billion dollar joint oil exploitation contracts undermined, the Palestinians who will suffer the consequences of greater repression and massive displacement, the Lebanese people who will be forcible entangled in a new border war, and the Europeans who will face terrorist retaliations.

Except for the Israeli lobby in the US and its grass root Jewish American supporters and allies among the Presidents of the Major Jewish organizations there are no other organized lobbies pressuring for or against this war. The ritualistic denunciations of “Big Oil” whenever there is a Middle East conflict involving the US is in this instance a totally bogus issue, lacking any substance. All the evidence is to the contrary – big oil is opposed to any conflicts, which will upset their first major entry into Middle Eastern oil fields since they were nationalized in the 1970’s.

The only identifiable organized political force, which has successfully made deep inroads in the US Congress and in sectors of the Executive Branch, are the pro-Israel lobbies and PAC’s. The major proponents of a confrontationist policy in the Executive Branch are led by pro-Israel neo-conservative National Security Council member (and Presidentially pardoned felon) Elliott Abrams, in charge of Middle East policy, and Vice President Cheney. The principle opposition is found in the major military services, among commanders, who clearly see the disastrous strategic consequences for the US military forces and sectors of the State Department and CIA, who are certainly aware of the disastrous consequences for the US of supporting Israel’s quest for uncontested regional supremacy.

The problem is there is no political leadership to oppose the pro-Israel war lobby within congress or even in civil society. There are few if any influential organized lobbies challenging the pro-war Israel lobby either from the perspective of working for coexistence in the Middle East or even in defending US national interests when they diverge from Israel. Although numerous former diplomats, generals, intelligence officials, Reformed Jews, retired National Security advisers and State Department professionals have publicly denounced the Iran war agenda and even criticized the Israel First lobbies, their newspaper ads and media interviews have not been backed by any national political organization that can compete for influence in the White House and Congress. As we draw closer to a major confrontation with Iran and Israeli officials set short term deadlines for igniting a Middle East conflagration, it seems that we are doomed to learn from future catastrophic losses that Americans must organize to defeat political lobbies based on overseas allegiances.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia Concerned at US Plans for Bases in Afghanistan

RIA Novosti | November 20, 2013

MOSCOW – A senior Russian diplomat has voiced concerns over US plans to retain nine military bases in Afghanistan after their planned withdrawal from the country.

Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, told RIA Novosti in an interview Wednesday that the bases would “exert a serious influence on the whole vast Asian region and become a powerful foothold for any large-scale military operation.”

Kabulov said Russia has many questions about the purpose of the bases.

The United States earlier said they would be used to train top brass of Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry and General Staff, which is estimated to count up to 400 people.

“Aren’t [400 people] too few for nine military bases?” Kabulov said. “Besides, what is the purpose of hiding the infrastructure of the Camp Shorabak training camp underground, which is moreover equipped with a three-kilometer runway?”

Kabulov said that while he accepted that Afghanistan was free to sign military agreements with any state, he hoped that Kabul’s authorization of foreign military bases would not result in security threats to third states, including Russia.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, which is currently estimated to comprise 100,000 servicemen, is to be largely pulled out of the country by the end of 2014.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Deal or No Deal, Iran’s Stock Keeps Rising

By Sharmine Narwani | Al-Akhbar | 2013-11-20

The recent high-drama nuclear negotiations in Geneva were riveting, to be sure. Old foes shuttled between conference rooms, chatted amiably in corridors, colluded to guard the sensitive details of their discussions from an eager global media.

Every utterance from officials, every smile, grimace and gesture made its way onto the twitter feeds of foreign policy wonks and commentators, mostly frustrated by the lack of substance to report.

When a deal did not materialize between Iran and the P5+1, off went the pundits to dig up further minutiae. Who scuttled the agreement? What were the terms of the agreement on the table? Why are the Saudis, Israelis, Congress and the French being such spoilsports?

Hang. On. One. Minute.

For any dedicated critic of western policies in the Middle East, this last bit was just mind-boggling. For a change, nobody was blaming the Iranians for anything much. Instead, an atypical set of people and parties were being held accountable as “spoilers.”

Really, in that moment, the world turned a fraction faster. Brought us into the future, it did.

Because here’s the actual deal: deal or no deal at the negotiating table in Geneva, we have entered a new era in the Middle East. Iran is the center of all things important to all the parties that count. Today, nothing of consequence can be done in any of the major military and political theaters in the region without the cooperation of the Islamic Republic.

Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain… If Washington is keen to exit from its myriad of Mideast entanglements without leaving behind more chaos, it will need an able local intermediary with the clout to promote stability. None of its allies can do this job – not its economically distressed western partners, not a war-wary NATO, not an isolated Israel, not a sectarian Saudi Arabia, not a politically diminished Turkey, and not an Egypt in turmoil.

Deal or no deal, phase 1 in Geneva was already a success. It set the scene for what-comes-next quite effectively. Whether you noticed it or not, your view of good-guys and bad-guys in the Middle East changed in a Swiss conference room. Your perceptions shifted while you were cheering on a historical agreement with Iran, while you watched world-class foreign ministers sweep into town in deference to the importance of this moment, while you rolled your eyes at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s protestations and suspected France of trading “peace” for Saudi cash.

And nobody corrected you much on this perception shift in the days to follow.

No Deal in Geneva

On the sidelines of the Iran nuclear negotiations early this month, the talk was already about Syria and other regional matters. These weren’t distractions – they are the real goals of this Geneva made-for-television showcase.

Washington and Tehran – the two main poles in this 30+ year standoff – have already figured out that they will both have to put enough on the table to satisfy each other’s most difficult constituencies and walk away with a few victories.

If there are spoilers – and there are plenty out there with interest in undermining a historic rapprochement – a deal may not get done, but a new set of understandings will nevertheless exist between the US and Iran that will allow them to move ahead and tackle regional dangers critical to both.

Iran can live with sanctions for a while longer. International tolerance for unilateral sanctions has plateaued anyway, with courts turning back some, and Iran’s trading partners finding innovative ways to bypass others. If there’s no Geneva deal, the US Department of Treasury can also soft-peddle its responses to sanctions violations at the will of the White House – even if Congress remains belligerent.

Washington can live with Iran’s nuclear program for a while longer too. The Geneva talks spawned a measure of public confidence in Iranian goodwill – and Iran seized this momentum by striking further agreements with the IAEA on nuclear transparencies.

The US and Iran have bigger fish to fry. Deal or no deal, the attention has shifted to new arenas.

Fixing some big problems

As hesitant as the US has been over direct military engagement in Syria for the duration of that country’s 32-month conflict, it played the “strike” card in September – and lost.

Washington blinked because it couldn’t predict the “outcome” of military strikes. The only option left after that escalation was an “exit” which was quickly pursued with the Russian-brokered proposal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

But in the works was a much more important strategic shift in regional priorities and alliances:

Despite a decade-long “war on terror,” there has never been a greater threat of extremism than in the Middle East today. Arab uprisings produced power vacuums that were rapidly filled by aggressively competing interests – and increasingly, by the kinds of Islamist militants who thrive in chaos.

There are jihadists in every state touched by uprisings, and they are crossing borders to destabilize neighbors with impunity. While a certain amount of “controlled instability” has always been a favored western lever to keep client states and adversaries in check, the regional landscape has suddenly moved into an “uncontrolled” and highly unpredictable zone.

And the US’s traditional regional partners are in no position to help reverse that trend. Israel views itself as a beneficiary of Arab instability – it believes that conflict will weaken and divide its neighbors, leaving Arabs unable to challenge Israel’s political and economic hegemony in the region.

Saudi Arabia is a primary financier and promoter of the Salafist extremist groups and networks engaged in terror and destabilization activities. The Saudis have aggressively sought to militarize various conflicts in the region to roll back revolts against friendly regimes and unseat unfriendly ones. And they are pursuing these policies with a single-mindedness that Washington has been unable to impact or reverse.

To the US’s endless frustration, the Israelis and Saudis have also sought to draw Washington into fronting their Mideast agendas at a time when Americans are keen to exit the region and focus on matters closer to home.

But who in the region shares these new Washington priorities? Which country in the Mideast is willing and able to take on militant jihadists, to promote stability, to provide a security blanket in the strategic Levant and Persian Gulf areas?

Bordering Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and the Gulf states, Iran straddles the danger zone and extends its influence into Syria and Lebanon, two other hot spots. Arguably one of the more advanced and stable democracies in the region, many US analysts point to the Iranian leadership as pragmatic, opportunistic, rational and shrewd in their political calculations. In the past two years, Iran has also come under the protective umbrella of Russia, China and other BRICS states, the former two states also proactively concerned about the rise in influence and presence of Salafi terror networks in their own regions.

Together with its newest regional ally Iraq, Iran is set to become the Mideast’s main energy hub, which is already of paramount strategic interest to countries emerging as the next-generation global economic powerhouses.

Hostilities aside, Washington and Tehran have cooperated in Afghanistan and even in Iraq when interests occasionally converged. The US is also intimately familiar with the disastrous consequences of going up against the Islamic Republic in those arenas. But today, Iran can help the US exit landlocked-Afghanistan by its 2014 year-end target date – and can play a role in maintaining stability on borders and in pockets within the country. In Iraq, where the Islamic Republic wields significant influence, Iran can be an able partner in defusing sectarian tensions, tackling political violence and mediating disputes.

The Iranians are also capable of brokering political solutions inside Syria and Lebanon, leveraging Turkish clout when “Sunni” solutions are required, thwarting the rogue behaviors of an increasingly belligerent Saudi Arabia, checking Qatari delusions of grandeur, mediating with and for the Kurds, de-escalating the battle in Yemen, guaranteeing the security of the Persian Gulf, and wielding a necessary “stick” to deter Israel’s regional aggressions.

In short, there is simply no other Mideast state as well positioned as Iran to troubleshoot, mediate, cajole and push its neighbors into action – to lead the way, as it were.

And Washington is out of “useful” allies right now. Like it or not, its primary regional adversary Iran is its only solution to a wide range of problems.

Not out of the woods yet

Last week, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned that the region could head to war if a US-Iran deal is not struck. If that sounds too dramatic, think again. The Mideast is a tinderbox at this moment – any constellation of events could set off a conflagration in multiple countries, and there are parties now gunning for this outcome.

We had a taste of this in Beirut on Tuesday – on the eve of Iran nuclear talks in Geneva – when a massive suicide bombing attack outside the Iranian embassy threatened to raise the temperature in the Levant/Persian Gulf yet again.

The US is uncomfortably aware that its closest regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia would like nothing better than a last-ditch war to try to turn the tide back in their favor. Both nations eagerly pushed Washington to the brink in Syria two months ago.

The fact is that even if phase 1 of the Geneva deal goes through, there’s a good six months in which spoilers can try to sabotage a final agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. And let’s not kid ourselves here: the west and Iran have little in common after decades of hostilities – just a few urgent mutual interests and much room to exploit differences.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking on regional dangers – and the US, Russians and Iranians want to get down to business to thwart these.

Yes, an agreement over the Iranian nuclear file will help smooth the way, but the new priorities and tentative alliances have already been cast far away from Swiss conference rooms. The verdict? Iran is a necessary partner in the Middle East today. At the next round of talks in Geneva this week – deal or no deal – that reality will define the way forward.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nablus woman injured in hit and run vehicular assault by Jewish settler

IMEMC & Agencies | November 20, 2013

Palestinian medical sources have reported that a Palestinian woman was wounded after being rammed by a speeding vehicle of an Israeli settler, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday.

The sources said that Shamsa Sharif, 60 years of age, was moved to the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, suffering moderate but stable injuries.

Sharif is from Huwwara village, south of Nablus. The settler fled the scene after the incident.

There have been numerous similar hit-and-run incidents in different parts of the occupied West Bank, mainly in the Hebron district in the southern portion of the West Bank.

On November 19, 2013, a young woman identified as Zeina Omar Awad, 21, was injured after being rammed by a settler’s vehicle at the main entrance of Beit Ummar. She suffered cuts and bruises, while the settler fled the scene.

On October 16, 2013, an elderly Palestinian man was seriously injured after being hit by a settler’s vehicle in Al-Fondoq village, east of Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank.

On September 29, 2013, a Palestinian worker was injured after being rammed by a settler’s vehicle, near Husan town, west of the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

On September 20, a Palestinian man was injured in a similar accident with an Israeli settler who fled the scene.

A week before the incident took place, Palestinian child was severely injured after being hit by a settlers’ vehicle as she was walking home from school in Teqoua’ village, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The child Hayat Mohammad Suleiman, 8 years of age, was walking back home from school on the main road that is also utilized by Israeli settlers living in illegal Israeli settlements in the region.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Israeli forces destroy water tank, agricultural facility in West Bank village

Al-Akhbar | November 20, 2013

Israeli forces demolished a water tank and an agricultural structure in a West Bank village near Nablus on Wednesday, a local official said.

Deputy mayor of Aqraba Bilal Abdul-Hadi told Ma’an news agency that three bulldozers escorted by seven military vehicles stormed the neighborhood of al-Taweel and began demolishing the structures, claiming they were built without authorization.

Shaddad Attili, who heads the Palestinian Water Authority, said the World Bank, the United Nations and other international organizations have issued reports condemning Israel’s attacks on Palestinian water rights.

“Israel controls all the water resources in the occupied West Bank. It exploits these resources for near exclusive Israeli use, allocating a mere fraction of the available water supply to Palestinians,” Ma’an quoted Attili as saying. “While Israelis enjoy some of the highest water consumption rates in the world, Palestinians continue to face a series of crippling water shortages artificially engineered by Israel as a matter of policy.”

mainThe official added that Israel used water to target vulnerable Palestinian communities.

Israel has destroyed more than 558 Palestinian properties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the beginning of this year, displacing 919 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Between 2009 and 2011, Israel’s military destroyed 173 water, sanitation and hygiene structures in the West Bank including 40 wells, 57 rainwater collection cisterns and at least 20 toilets and sinks, OCHA reported.

A 2012 report by the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene group slammed Israel’s policies towards water and sanitation facilities in the West Bank, saying their extensive destruction was in contravention of international law.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment