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Three Lebanese Cleared of Nigeria Terror Charges

Al-Manar | November 29, 2013

Three Lebanese were cleared of terrorism charges in Nigeria on Friday.

“The Nigerian authorities released Mustapha Fawaz and Abdallah Thahini, while Talal Ahmad Roda’s trial is still ongoing for possessing weapons,” Lebanese charge d’affaires in Nigeria told FM Adnan Mansour.

Federal High Court Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola said Hezbollah “is not an international terrorist organisation in Nigeria” and therefore membership is not criminal.

He said there was “no evidence” that the group was planning an attack or had received “terrorism training” as the prosecution alleged.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Islamic charities, the domestic victims of the war on terror

By Dr. Sarah Marusek | MEMO | November 29, 2013

It has now been five years since the sentencing of the Holy Land Five: Muslim-American humanitarians who were falsely convicted of providing “material support for terrorism” because of their charitable work in Palestine. To mark the occasion, the daughters of the Holy Land Five have produced a powerful video message featuring the families of those imprisoned, as well as people around the world, expressing solidarity with the innocent men.

Alas the overtly politicised case against the Holy Land Five is only one among many. Since 11 September 2001, there have been numerous legal efforts to criminalise compassion in the US, ultimately denying Muslim-Americans of the right to freely practice their religion.

Founded in 1989, the Holy Land Foundation was once the largest Islamic charity in the US. The Texas-based foundation helped to raise funds for people misplaced by both natural and man-made disasters, focusing primarily on Palestinian refugees living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as in the neighbouring countries, but also helping both American and international victims of tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. The Foundation even assisted the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

However three months after the 11/9 attacks, the US government suddenly designated the Holy Land Foundation as a terrorist organisation, closing down the charity and seizing all its assets. Federal prosecutors accused the foundation and its members of providing financial assistance to individuals and organisations linked to Hamas, claiming that this constituted “material support for terrorism” as stipulated in the USA PATRIOT Act. The government based its case on the twisted logic that the money the foundation was sending to zakat associations in Gaza to build hospitals and feed the poor relieved the social organisations affiliated with Hamas of carrying out this responsibility.

None of the zakat associations were listed as “Specially Designated Nationals” (SDNs) at the time of the alleged offence. The US Treasury Department considers SDNs to be criminal actors and thus “their assets are blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.” But it did not matter because the government has consistently adopted a loose interpretation of the material support clause to target Muslim-Americans, often using ex post facto relationships to prove that suspects are, according to President George W. Bush’s Executive Order 13224 of September 24, 2001, “otherwise associated with” terrorists.

While the US government does indeed classify Hamas as an SDN, the Islamist movement is not at all connected to Al-Qaeda or the attacks on 11/9 which precipitated the closure of the Holy Land Foundation. After all, the Foundation had been operating since 1989, so why else would the government wait twelve years to target the charity except to conflate all Muslims with terrorism after 11/9, creating a climate of fear that would lead Americans to support the so-called war on terror and the US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush even called the closure of the Foundation “another step in the war on terrorism”.

Leading up to the trial, the government amassed an amazing 197 counts against six members of the Holy Land Foundation, many of them trumped up criminal charges. However, in 2007 the case ended in mistrial for five of the defendants, with one defendant being found not guilty of all but one charge against him, for which the jury was deadlocked.

Nevertheless, the government refused to drop its case, and a retrial was ordered in late 2008 against the Holy Land Five: Ghassan Elashi, co-founder and chairman of the board; Shukri Abu-Baker, president and CEO; Mohammad El-Mezain, co-founder and the California office representative; Mufid Abdulqader, volunteer fundraiser and Abdulrahman Odeh, the New Jersey office representative.

For the 2008 retrial, the government dropped almost half of the original charges and called an anonymous Israeli intelligence expert as a witness, who according to Mondoweiss testified that he knew the defendants had ties to Hamas because he “could smell Hamas”. Several lawyers have noted that the use of an anonymous witness was a legal first, and clearly violates the defendants’ sixth amendment right to face their accusers in court.

Needless to say, in the second trial the Holy Land Five were found guilty of every criminal charge that was brought against them. They were given draconian sentences of between 15 and 65 years in prison, a devastating punishment for them and their families.

In addition to putting the Holy Land Five in jail for what could possibly be the rest of their lives, according to the New York Times the government also “publicly named more than 300 individuals and American Muslim organisations as ‘unindicted co-conspirators’, without allowing them to hear the evidence against them or defend themselves in court.”

So much for innocent until proven guilty.

The Holy Land Five tried to appeal their convictions, but the US Supreme Court declined their final appeal in 2012. They have now exhausted all their legal options. Four of the five men are currently imprisoned in a severely restricted facility for prisoners deemed to be “security threats” known as the Communications Management Unit (CMU). After 11/9 two CMUs were built, one in Indiana and the other in Illinois, and the vast majority of prisoners in both are Muslims. Most prisoners have extremely limited contact with the outside world, including their families. American public radio station NPR has called the CMUs “Guantanamo North” and the Nation magazine describes them as “Gitmo in the Heartland.”

To date, the US government still has not published a list of approved Islamic charities, probably because the current ambiguity allows federal officials to selectively pursue politically motivated cases. This has had a chilling effect on charitable giving.

The Holy Land Foundation case did inspire one Washington-based group called the American Task Force on Palestine to come up with a list of acceptable projects for individuals and charities to support in Palestine, which have all been vetted by the US Agency for International Development. Unsurprisingly, the American Task Force on Palestine has been described by one Palestinian-American writing for Al-Jazeera as “a Washington organisation designed to promote a particular line on Palestine. The group is tasked with feeding the State Department palatable fictions – like, ‘two states for two peoples’. In return, organisation heads are invited to dinners with important people.”

The overt politicisation of the American judiciary to deny Muslims in America of their rights is not exclusive to individuals and charities working in Palestine. Since 11/9, thousands of Muslim-Americans have been detained, deported or profiled, even though very few are ever prosecuted in the courts, and dozens of Islamic charities have been either closed down or financially disabled, creating a climate of fear that denies Muslim-Americans of the right to give to charity, rendering them unable to practice zakat, one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Similar to the Holy Land Foundation, many of the individuals and charities that have been targeted were singled out to justify foreign invasions. When President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001 to declare, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” the “us” he was referring to was not the American people, but American empire. He was saying that you must support our foreign invasion and occupation, otherwise you will be criminalised. And in fact, Muslims in America were never even given a choice, because the government had already started to reproduce a particular typology of Muslims-as-terrorists. As scholar Mustafa Bayoumi has argued, immigrant males from targeted countries were obliged to “misidentify from the Muslim-as-terrorist figure” or else face the consequences, a typology repeatedly emphasized in the media.

For example, in February 2003, Dr Rafil Dhafir, a prominent Iraqi-American oncologist and respected imam living in Central New York, was arrested because his charity Help the Needy was sending humanitarian aid to Iraq, including money to build mosques, parcels of food and medical supplies, all of which allegedly violated the UN sanctions, measures which Dennis Halliday, the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, says killed around one million Iraqis. Although the FBI had kept Dhafir under surveillance since at least 1997, Help the Needy was never prevented from delivering the supposedly illegal aid to Iraq. Instead, the charity openly carried out its operations until 85 agents went to Dhafir’s home to arrest him only weeks before the launch of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The same morning he was arrested, around 150 Muslim contributors to the charity living in Central New York were also questioned by various government agencies.

To dispel any doubts about this case being linked to the invasion of Iraq, former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft referred to Dhafir as a terrorist when he was apprehended, a charge repeated by former New York Governor George Pataki. The Washington Post called Dhafir a “high profile suspect” and reported that: “A federal prosecutor suggested that an Arab engineer who was a friend of Dhafir’s might be proficient in fashioning ‘dirty bombs’.”

However when Dhafir finally went to trial, he was only accused of white-collar crimes, with the most serious counts being related to money-laundering. He did not face any charges of terrorism. Nevertheless, by then the US had already invaded Iraq in the name of fighting the war on terror. The reason for Dhafir’s “high profile” arrest was already a moot point, and the alleged terrorist was only found guilty of criminal activity. However, we was given a harsh sentence of 22 years in prison and was initially placed in the CMU prison in Indiana. He has since been transferred to a lower security facility.

Although it was not mentioned at all during the trial because the information was sealed, during the sentencing the prosecution suggested that the government had evidence that while volunteering with Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Dhafir had met with a member of the mujahedin who later became a supporter of Al-Qaeda, leaving out the context of Washington’s financial and military support for the mujahedin at that time.

Indeed the National Security Division of the Department of Justice subsequently listed the case against Dhafir and his charity as a successful terrorist prosecution. He too has lost every judicial appeal, exhausting all his legal options for seeking justice.

Numerous other Islamic charities have also been targeted since 11/9. These include Benevolence International Foundation, Global Relief Foundation, Kind Hearts USA and Islamic American Relief Agency. The witch hunt even led the American Civil Liberties Union to release a report in 2009 entitled “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity“.

In 2006 the FBI raided the Michigan offices of Life for Relief and Development, a large and highly regarded Islamic charity, on the eve of Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast and make considerable charitable contributions. The charity was reportedly under investigation in connection with its activities in Iraq. Despite having its property seized, the case against the charity was ultimately closed and it was allowed to remain open. Nevertheless, the timing of the raid had already achieved a wider purpose.

In another timely coincidence, on the first day of the 2007 trial against the Holy Land Foundation, federal agents raided the offices of the Michigan-based branch of the Al-Mabarrat Association, a charity affiliated with the late Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah in Lebanon, as well as the offices of the Goodwill Charitable Organization, also connected to Lebanon. The US Treasury Department accused the latter of having ties to Hizbullah’s Martyr’s Foundation, an organisation already on the SDN list. The same day, the FBI searched a number of local businesses and homes, again traumatising the community. Subsequently the Goodwill Charitable Organization was shut down and also listed as an SDN. However the FBI allowed Al-Mabarrat Association’s Michigan offices to remain open.

It is important to note that while each case is uniquely tragic, non are unusual. There have been many other domestic victims of the US war on terror, including many Islamic charities. Indeed these coordinated and well-publicised actions against both Muslims and Islamic charities have successfully created a climate of fear that makes it extremely difficult for Muslims in America to give or perform charity, thus criminalising compassion and denying Muslim-Americans of their constitutionally guaranteed right to freely practice their religion.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Islamophobia, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

India’s Iran Policy- Isolated no more

By Vijay Prashad | The BRICS Post | November 30, 2013

I imagine myself walking down to the Beirut train station, boarding the 4pm bullet train that will steam off toward Damascus, heading across the great plains to the east to Baghdad. In a day we’ll be in Iran and then at Mashad there is a choice: one could go south through Pakistan to Delhi, or one would take the longer journey to Beijing via Samarkand. This would be the Great Asian Express that links one end of the massive continent to the other.

But it is impossible. War in Syria stops the train before it has even begun. Instability in Iraq intimates that the tracks would be blown up before they can be laid down. Iran is far more stable, which is why it has begun to build a train line that would link Turkey to Turkmenistan through northern Iran. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are unable to create a modus vivendi that would welcome such a train, or indeed an oil and gas pipeline that might run parallel to it, bringing Iranian fuel to the consumers of the subcontinent. Central Asia oscillates between long periods of calm and bursts of dangerous violence.

A train itinerary such as the one I described sounds like a dream history – impossible even. But it is not so out of our time. The Trans-Asian Railway comes out from the 1960s, a historical artefact, a project of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific that was finally brought to the stage of an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding in 2006. This Iron Silk Road is to run from Singapore to Istanbul. The project has no timetable. Parts of it are already present, and parts of it are in the maddening future. But some of it will form part of the China-Iran rail link which is expected to go into production within a decade, and will form part of the Istanbul to Tehran route that is also already in production. Not so far that regional future.

Regionalism

Regionalism rests on the mantle of geography. Attempts to isolate a country for ideological reasons do not always work. The West, since 2003 at least, has attempted to isolate Iran but it cannot do so – Afghanistan, under US occupation, buys half its oil from Iran. It cannot do otherwise. Any other source would be ridiculously overpriced. The US embargo of Iran had to be violated despite the fact that it was US money in Afghan hands that was buying the Iranian oil.

Pressure from the US and the desire of the Indian political and economic elites for a close link with the US befuddled India’s Iran policy between 2003 and 2013. India is the second largest importer, after China, of Iranian oil. In the halls of the Non-Aligned Movement, India is a country that is greatly respected.

Through a nuclear deal – as I detail in my new report on India’s Iran policy, the US was able to push India to vote against Iran twice at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meetings in exchange for being brought out of the nuclear winter itself. As the sanctions regime on Iran tightened, India found it hard to buy oil from Iran and coldness between the countries set in as a result of India’s seeming eagerness to toe the US line. But beneath the surface of the IAEA votes and the statements against the buying of Iranian oil, linkages deepened – on oil buying certainly but also on the trade in pharmaceuticals and wheat as well as on the Indo-Iranian construction of a port in south-eastern Iran (at Chabahar). The sanctions regime had certainly throttled Iran, but it could not sunder fully the imperatives of regional trade.

On Sunday, November 24, the P5 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) + 1 (Germany) signed a deal with Iran to end the siege on the latter. The P5+1 promised to ease the sanctions regime in exchange for Iran’s disavowal of a nuclear weapon.

India welcomed the deal, suggesting that it was along the grain not only of Indian policy but also of the BRICS declaration from 2013 (“We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement to the Iranian nuclear issue. We recognize Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue,” was the wording of the eThekwini Declaration).

India’s oil firms promised to hastily transfer arrears held in Indian banks for oil purchased during the previous years (now totalling $5.3 billion), and to increase orders for Iranian oil. The latter would be facilitated by the end to the pressure on insurance firms who then refused to underwrite oil tankers coming out of Iran.

India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh met with Iran’s Deputy Prime Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour on Monday, November 25, and agreed that there is “considerable untapped potential to develop economic cooperation between the two countries particularly in the area of energy and transit.” India and Iran have already been at work building the Chabahar port, and India is building a 900 km train track to link the port to the Hajigak region in Afghanistan. Dreams of oil and gas pipelines and train lines remained suspended over the gathering like a huge exclamation mark.

What these developments indicate is that the time of US primacy is now over and the time of multipolar regionalism is at hand. From 1991 to the present, the US had attempted to forge strong bilateral ties with its chosen allies and sought to knit those allies into a planetary security web of military bases and inter-operatable armed forces; this was the hub and spoke system that James Baker had written about in 1992. That system meant that regional ties had to be sacrificed for the close linkages to the United States. Latin America, through the Bolivarian dynamic, was the first region to exit from the US strategy and create its own regional architecture (for political, economic and social linkages). An over-extended US military presence in Asia and the collapse of the finance-led economic model in 2008 weakened the US considerably.

The example of Latin America gave confidence for the new India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) formation, the antecedent of the BRICS bloc. With the quiet emergence of the BRICS bloc in the context of a weaker West, it was inevitable that the siege of Iran would have to be lifted. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Li uncharacteristically told the Chinese media that his country played a crucial role in concluding the deal. Pressure from Russia and China on the European Union pushed them to bring a wayward France in line. No longer can an imperial foreign policy dominate international policy without challenge. That is the lesson of the Iranian deal.

Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon. His most recent book is The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy” Withering Away?

By Sasan Fayazmanesh | CounterPunch | November 29, 2013

The first four years of the Obama Administration were marked by imposing an unprecedented set of sanctions and military threats against Iran. However, since July 2013 fewer sanctions have been imposed and less military threats issued. Indeed, the Obama Administration—along with some of the other four members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, commonly known as the P5+1—appeared to be sincere in trying to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran. They withstood pressures coming from Israel, its lobby groups and proxies in the US Congress and they pushed for a deal with Iran. In the end, a six-month accord between the P5+1 and Iran was reached on November 24, 2013, after a long and unprecedented set of negotiations. Will this accord last, and will it lead to a longer agreement? Was the deal the result of draconian sanctions imposed on Iran, as President Obama would have us believe? Was it the result of the election of President Hassan Rouhani and his promise of “constructive engagement,” as most people believe? Or could it be that President Obama’s policy toward Iran is changing?

In order to answer the above questions, a detailed examination of the Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy” is necessary. I have made such an analysis in Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy.[1] The book is a continuation of a pervious book that was published in 2008 on the dual containment of Iran and Iraq.[2] The latter dealt with nearly three decades of attempts by the US and Israel to “contain” Iran, and it was concluded before President George W. Bush left office. The new book starts where the earlier book left off and follows the first four years of the Obama Administration’s policy toward Iran.

President Barack Obama came to office promising engaging Iran. Yet, in reality his administration followed the policy of “tough diplomacy,” which included, among other acts, imposing “crippling sanctions” against Iran. Indeed, a close look at the Obama Administration’s Iran policy reveals certain continuity between this policy and the policy of “dual containment” pursued by the previous administrations, particularly by the George W. Bush Administration.

Given the history of containment policy, it was not difficult to predict prior to the 2008 presidential election that regardless of the outcome, the US foreign policy toward Iran would be determined largely by Israel and its various lobby groups in the US, especially American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Indeed, it was easy to foresee that if Obama became president, Dennis Ross, Obama’s closest advisor on Iran and the former director of WINEP, would play a leading role in determining the policy. Based on Ross’s writings and WINEP’s publications, one could expect that Obama would pursue a “tough” or “aggressive diplomacy” with Iran. The diplomacy, as Ross and WINEP had formulated, was intended to give an ultimatum to Iran in some face to face meetings, telling Iran to either accept the US-Israeli demands or face aggression, including, ultimately, a naval blockade and military actions. The meetings were also intended to create the illusion of engaging Iran in negotiations and, in so doing, gaining international support for the subsequent aggressive actions.

What was expected in fact happened.  Once Obama came to office Dennis Ross became special advisor to the Secretary of State for the “Gulf and Southwest Asia,” then special assistant to President Obama and his senior director for the “Central Region.” Thus, once more, an individual associated with WINEP became the main architect of Iran policy and in that capacity continued, with some modifications, the same policy that had been pursued by the Bush Administration.

It should, of course, be noted that besides Ross—who left his position at the end of 2011 and rejoined WINEP—there have been other Iran policy makers close to Israel and its lobby groups in the Obama Administration. One such person, who also left office in 2011, was Stuart A. Levey, the former Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Levey, a leftover from the Bush Administration, managed to carry on a crusade against Iran by formulating and implementing financial sanctions against Iran. Another person who left his position in February of 2013 and, subsequently, became president of the Israeli lobby group “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI) was Obama’s special assistant for arms control, Gary Samore. Nevertheless, for the most part the Obama Administration policy toward Iran proceeded along Ross’s policy of “tough” or “aggressive diplomacy.” How the policy was implemented is briefly discussed below.

As mentioned earlier, one of the main aims of the policy of “tough diplomacy” was to create the impression that the US is trying its best to engage Iran. This was tried soon after President Obama took office. For example, Obama’s message of March 21, 2009, on the occasion of the Persian New Year, was intended to create such an impression. To the uninitiated the message appeared to be conciliatory. But to those familiar with the history of the US-Iran relations, the message contained nothing that was essentially new and, indeed, accused Iran of some of the same charges that the Israeli lobby had concocted since the 1990s. Actually, a few days later Obama showed how little the US policy had changed when in his trip to Prague he spoke about a “real threat” posed by Iran to its “neighbors and our allies” and advocated the same missile defense system proposed by the Bush Administration.

By the summer of 2009, while numerous unilateral sanctions were being renewed, passed or contemplated, the Obama Administration was working hard to pass the fourth multilateral, United Nations Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran.  In order to get the Russian vote in the Security Council, in July 2009 Obama offered the Russians a quid pro quo: in exchange for a deal on the expiring 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and postponing the US deployment of anti-missile system in Europe, Russia would agree to impose harsher sanctions against Iran. Later, the Obama Administration sweetened the deal by promising to drop the deployment of an anti-missile system in Europe altogether.

On October 1, 2009, Iran held a meeting with the P5+1. This was followed by three other meetings, one on October 19, 2009, and two others in December
2010 and January 2011. The first two meetings centered mainly on the swap of Iran’s low enriched uranium for higher enriched uranium intended to be used by a reactor in Tehran that produces isotopes for medical purposes. The swap deal was viewed by many, both inside and outside of Iran, as a ploy by the US to get enriched uranium out of Iran and then give Iran an ultimatum to stop any further enrichment or face the fourth round of UN sanctions. Even some US officials described the deal as a clever ploy.

Under massive pressure at home, President Ahmadinejad’s government, which had originally agreed to the swap, tried to modify the deal. Yet, the Obama Administration rejected any modification and began the final push for the fourth round of UN sanctions.  By this time many US officials, including Secretary Clinton, were admitting openly that the Obama Administration’s policy had been, throughout, not just an “engagement policy” but a “two-track policy” and that it was now time for the “pressure track.” This was, indeed, similar to the “carrot and stick policy” of the Bush Administration, which was always no more than offering Iran a stick.

What stood between Iran and a new Security Council resolution however, was China, which was opposed to additional UN sanctions. The Obama Administration therefore cajoled China, twisted its arms, and even threatened it financially, to make it go along with the new set of sanctions. By mid-March 2010 China’s resistance to slow down the US-Israeli push had weakened, and toward the end of March China agreed to discuss the US proposal for the fourth round of UN sanctions. Now, the only stumbling block in getting a near unanimous vote in the Security Council was the presence of three non-permanent members on the Security Council, Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon, which opposed the sanctions despite massive pressure by the US to make them go along.

On May 17, 2010, Brazil and Turkey struck a deal with Iran for swapping enriched uranium, almost the same deal that had been offered by the P5+1 to Iran in October 2009. The only difference between this so-called tripartite agreement and the US proposed swap deal was that Iran would send the low enriched uranium to Turkey rather than Russia, as it had been initially proposed. The Obama Administration rejected the tripartite agreement, making it clear that the original swap deal proposed was a ploy and that the ultimate intention of the US had been, all along, to use the deal to impose, in the language of Benjamin Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton, “crippling sanctions” against Iran.

On June 9, 2010, Resolution 1929, the fourth UN sanctions resolution against Iran, was passed by the Security Council, with Brazil and Turkey voting “no” and Lebanon abstaining. This was, of course, the same resolution that the Bush Administration was unable to pass due to time running out. The passage of the resolution officially ended the “diplomacy” phase of the Obama Administration’s Iran policy. After this multilateral sanction the US and EU intensified their unilateral sanctions, despite Russia’s protest that the measures were exceeding the parameters agreed upon and reflected in the UN Security Council resolution.

With the Obama Administration giving the green light, the US Congress passed, on June 24, 2010, one of the most severe unilateral sanctions acts against Iran, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA). The act had been in the pipeline for some time, but had been held back until the passage of the UN Resolution 1929. CISADA, which was signed by President Obama on July 1, 2010, strengthened the harshest sanctions act passed during the Clinton era, the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act.

After CISADA much of the new sanctions against Iran were enacted by the State and Treasury Departments, particularly under the leadership of Stuart Levey and his successor, David Cohen. In addition, there were once again repeated talks of possible military attacks on Iran by Israel, the US or both. These were not just the usual talks by the Israelis, neoconservatives or media pundits, but threats made by some high officials in the Obama Administration, such as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen who stated on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on August 1, 2010, that “military actions have been on the table and remain on the table.” The push for attacking Iran intensified in late October and early November of 2010 as more Israeli and American officials and media pundits appealed to President Obama.

The combination of continuous threats and increasing sanctions affected the Iranian economy. In the fall of 2010 the value of Iran’s currency fluctuated wildly. The fluctuation was clearly a manifestation of uncertainty, speculation and fear that were mostly caused by the cumulative effect of sanctions. The sanctions were also exacerbating the rate of inflation in Iran and reducing the rate of growth of the economy. For example, while the rate of growth in Iran’s real GDP in 2007 was 7.8%, the rate for 2010, according to the April 2011 report of the International Monetary Fund, was only 1.0%.  The same report forecasted the rate of growth in Iran’s real GDP for 2011 to be 0%.

The Obama Administration appeared to be fully aware of the toll that the sanctions were taking on the Iranian economy and adopted a wait-and-see attitude, despite the pressure exerted on it by Israel and its supporters to engage in military adventures against Iran. It also appears that the current administration found various forms of sabotage—such as the introduction of the Stuxnet computer worm in the Iranian nuclear facilities, assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists—as well as agitation among separatist movements in Iran, quite useful in containing Iran. The issue of human rights violations in Iran also became a tool in the hands of the Obama Administration to mount verbal attacks against Iran.

By the end of 2010 the US policy toward Iran was back on the same track that it had been for over thirty years, a blatant containment policy. In other words, the policy of “tough diplomacy” had no more “diplomacy” left in it; it was simply a tough policy.  The two meetings between Iran and the P5+1, on December 6, 2010, and January 21, 2011, were therefore devoid of any substance and merely provided forums for the two sides to express their grievances.

With the advent of the so-called Arab Spring, and the preoccupation of the US, Europe and Israel with the revolutionary upheavals in the Middle East, there were less news reports in the popular US media about Iran and the need to contain it. Indeed, to the extent that the “Arab Spring” challenged some aspects of the old order in the Middle East and created uncertainty about the future of this order, the pressure on Iran slightly subsided.  But once the dust started to settle, the attention turned, once again, toward Iran, and the push by Israel, its lobby groups, and supporters in the US Congress, to intensify sanctions and threaten Iran militarily resumed. Moreover, the campaign of assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists, sabotaging Iranian nuclear facilities and trying to stir up ethnic tensions intensified.

In addition, there was increasing pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to accept the US demands. Under IAEA’s new director, Yukiya Amano—who was the preferred candidate of the West to replace Mohamed ElBaradei as the Director General of IAEA in 2010—Iran has faced harsh and confrontational reports about its nuclear activities. Indeed, the November 8, 2011 report of IAEA on Iran’s implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement was the harshest ever. The subsequent reports have continued to be confrontational.

Sanctions and threats of military action against Iran intensified after the November 2011 IAEA report. What Israel, its lobby groups, and their supporters in the US government wanted most was sanctioning the Iranian Central Bank. Such a sanction had been considered since the presidential election of 2008. The sanction was finally included in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama signed on December 31, 2011 and has been implemented ever since. In January 2012, the Council of European Union passed similar sanctions against the Central Bank and the energy sector of Iran.  In addition to these sanctions, there were repeated talks of possible military attacks on Iran by Israel, the US or both. For the most part, however, the threats, particularly by Israel, had been used to impose more severe sanctions.

Beginning in April of 2012 Iran and the P5+1 held five more rounds of meetings, including meetings at the technical level. These meetings, similar to the earlier ones, produced no agreement between the two sides. It was, indeed, difficult to expect any agreements as long as more and more draconian sanctions were being levied against Iran and there were repeated talks of military attacks.

In the final analysis, the Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy” had mostly followed the script written by individuals associated with Israel and its lobby groups.  The policy was similar to those pursued by the neoconservatives under the previous administration. But while the “carrot and stick policy” of the Bush Administration was implemented in a brutish way, the Obama Administration’s “two-track policy” had been carried out in a more refined way.

At the end of President Obama’s first term in office, the combination of continuous threats and increasing sanctions had brought about massive economic hardship in Iran. However, these difficulties did not translate into what the architects of the policy of “tough diplomacy” had been waiting for, that is, widespread discontent in Iran.  Nor did the sanctions result in a complete collapse of the Iranian economy. The fate of the policy of “tough diplomacy” therefore remained uncertain. This was even more so, since by the end of Obama’s first term in office, some of the old guard responsible for formulating or implementing the policy, such as Dennis Ross, Stuart Levey, Gary Samore, and Hillary Clinton, had either left the administration or were leaving it.

It is too early to evaluate the changes that have occurred in the composition of the new Obama Administration’s foreign policy team and their approach to Iran.  However, it seems that with the departure of some of the old guard and the arrival of a new crew—such as Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel—the failed policy of “tough diplomacy” is withering away. True, the new crew, particularly Hagel, had to go through the mandatory vetting process by the Israeli lobby groups and publicly kowtow to Israel before being confirmed. Nevertheless, some of the newcomers, who were well versed with the power of Israel in formulating US foreign policy in the Middle East, could see that continuing the policy of “tough diplomacy” would ultimately lead to another war that the US could neither afford nor win.

One indication of the changing policy appears to be a softening in the position of the US in the meetings between Iran and the P5+1. In the last high level meetings, during the first term of President Obama, which took place in June 2012, Iran was told to “stop, shut and ship.” This meant, according to a summary provided by EU’s representative Catherine Ashton, a three step proposal to Iran: “stopping 20 percent enrichment activities, shutting the Fordow nuclear facility and shipping out stockpiled 20 percent enriched nuclear materials.”

The above proposal changed considerably in the second term of Obama’s presidency. In February of 2013, when the P5+1 and Iran meetings resumed, there was no more talk of “stop, shut and ship.” Instead, according to various news sources, Iran was asked to implement “voluntarily” three things in six months: 1) significantly restrict its accumulation of 20% enriched uranium, but keep sufficient amount to fuel its Tehran Research Reactor (TRR); 2) suspend enrichment at Fordow underground facility and accept conditions that constrain the ability to quickly resume enrichment at Fordow; and 3) allow more regular and thorough monitoring of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. As I wrote at the time, not only had the US blinked, but it had tacitly recognized Iran’s right to enrich uranium, at least in the short-run. The Iranian negotiator at the time, Saeed Jalili, responded to these proposals by saying that they were more “realistic,” “positive,” and “closer to Iran’s position.” However, Iran argued that the so-called sanctions relief was not proportional to what was being demanded from Iran and that the endgame, i.e. what would happen after six months, remained unclear. With the Presidency of Ahmadinejad ending, and the presidential election in Iran on the horizon, no further high level meetings took place and no agreements were reached.

The new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, and his Foreign Minister, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, picked up the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 where it had been left off under Ahmadinejad’s government. Even though what Iran proposed at the first round of meetings was kept relatively secret, from various leaked reports one can surmise that the proposal was a modified version of the earlier P5+1’s offering. Iran apparently proposed to: 1) freeze its production of 20% enriched uranium and convert the stock of such uranium into fuel rods for the TRR; 2) relinquish spent fuel from a yet-to-be-operational Arak heavy water reactor; 3) sign the so-called Additional Protocol—which would allow for the most intrusive inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities by the IAEA—once unilateral and multilateral sanctions were lifted.

Iran also proclaimed, as it had done since the beginning of such meetings, that its “inalienable right” to enrich uranium under Article IV of the NPT must be recognized. But Article IV merely states: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.” This is a broad and vague statement that does not spell out any specific “inalienable right,” including the right to enrich uranium.  The adversaries of Iran have used the ambiguity in the language to argue that Iran does not have the right to enrich uranium. Iran has been fully aware of this dispute and, even if it publicly insists upon recognizing such a right, it knows that there is nothing in the law about such a specific right. Indeed, the law must be rewritten at some point to specify the “inalienable right.”

The accord that Iran signed with the P5+1 on November 24, 2013, had some elements of what was offered to Iran in February 2013, during Ahmadinejad’s government, and the counter offers made by Iran under President Rouhani.[3]  For example, on the issue of uranium enrichment, Iran conceded not to enrich uranium above 5% for six months and either to convert the existing 20% enriched uranium into fuel or dilute it. This concession did not affect Iran, since Iran did not need any more 20% enriched uranium for TRR.

As far as Fordow was concerned, there was remarkably no more demand for its suspension. However, according to the agreement, there should be no “further advances” of activities at Fordow. The same was stated with regard to the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant and Arak reactor. This meant that the Arak reactor would not become operational for six months, a new demand that had been put forward as a result of pressure from Israel and its lobby groups. This concession, too, did not affect Iran very much, since starting this reactor had been postponed a number of times and, according to the last report of the IAEA, the start-up was not even achievable in the first quarter of 2014.

As far as the issue of allowing more regular and thorough monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities by the IAEA was concerned, Iran conceded. Without going into details, the accord called for “enhanced monitoring” by the IAEA of certain nuclear sites and facilities related to its nuclear program. But, again, this concession did not harm Iran, since Iran had persistently argued that it has nothing to hide and many of its nuclear facilities were already being monitored intrusively.

In exchange for these concessions, Iran was offered, in a nutshell: 1) a “pause” on “efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales”; 2) suspension of US and EU sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports, gold and other precious metals, auto industry, spare parts for safety of flight for Iranian civil aviation; 3) no “new nuclear-related UN Security Council sanctions” or “EU nuclear-related sanctions,” and a US “refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions”; 4) establishment of “a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs using Iranian oil revenues held abroad”; and 5) an increase in “the EU authorisation thresholds for transactions for non-sanctioned trade to an agreed amount.” Some of these offers were similar to those offered to Iran during Ahmadinejad’s government, which, at that time, were deemed by Iran not to be proportional to the concessions.

The last section of the accord dealt with the clarification of the endgame that the Iranian negotiators during Ahmadinejad’s government had asked for.  Under “Elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution,” the parties agreed that within a year they will reach a long term accord that would: 1) “Reflect the rights and obligations of parties to the NPT and IAEA Safeguards Agreements”; 2) “Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions”; 3) “Involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters”; 4) “Fully resolve concerns related to the reactor at Arak”; 5) “Fully implement the agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring. Ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis”; and 6) “Include international civil nuclear cooperation.”

The above third element seems to tacitly recognize some sort of enrichment “right.” Indeed, the fact that Iran is allowed to continue enrichment at a low level for the short-run makes denying it the right in the long-run difficult. Nevertheless, as I argued in my recent book, the devil is always in the detail. We do not know how the above agreement will be interpreted in the future and whether it will be used in a deceptive way by the P5+1 to halt Iran’s nuclear program altogether. A similar agreement between Iran and the EU3 (France, Britain and Germany) in 2004—termed the Paris Agreement, which called for a temporary freeze of uranium enrichment in Iran—was used by the EU3 to permanently halt enrichment. Moreover, we do not know if Israel, its lobby groups and its surrogates in the US Congress, will be able to derail the agreement.

In conclusion, the new agreement between Iran and the P5+1, however it is interpreted and wherever it will lead, is not simply the result of the election of President Rouhani in Iran. Much of the agreement was already on the table before the new administration in Iran arrived. Rouhani and his team changed the tactic of negotiation, speeded up the process, and accepted what had been offered to Iran under Ahmadinejad’s government. The agreement was also not due to the success of the policy of “tough diplomacy.” On the contrary, it was the result of the failure of the policy. The policy of sanctioning Iran intensively was intended to collapse the Iranian economy, bring the masses into the street and prepare the ground for military actions. But, even though the draconian sanctions caused extreme hardship in Iran, the economy did not collapse and Iranians did not pour into the streets. Indeed, according to many reports, most people in Iran blamed the economic hardship on the sanctions. This caused the Iranian government to dig in its heels deeper and try to ride out the sanctions with what they called the resistance economy. Had it not been for the policy of “tough diplomacy,” a settlement with Iran could have been reached sooner. In that case, ironically, Iran’s nuclear program would not have been as advanced as it is today.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno.  His new book Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy” will be available in December, 2013. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com

Notes

[1] This essay is partly based on the introduction to Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy”: http://www.c-s-p.org/Flyers/Containing-Iran–Obama-s-Policy-of–Tough-Diplomacy-1-4438-5247-3.htm.

[2] See The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment: http://www.amazon.com/The-United-States-Iran-Containment/dp/0415612691.

[3] For a copy of the agreement see: http://www.ft.com/cms/d0fa3682-5523-11e3-86bc-00144feabdc0.pdf.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Book Review, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt’s constitution to grant immunity to military

Press TV – November 30, 2013

Egypt’s constitution-drafting committee has agreed to an article that grants immunity to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

According to a draft published in Egypt’s state media on Thursday, the new constitution would grant more powers to the SCAF and could ban Islamic parties completely.

The 50-member assembly is scheduled to finish the draft of the constitution this week. The constitution will then be put to a referendum in December.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the army chief and minister of defense, had been seeking immunity for the military council for a period of five to ten years.

It has also been leaked that he asked for a media campaign to lobby for a specific clause to be included in the constitution. The clause would allow Sisi to retain his post as defense minister in the event he loses in the presidential election.

The military representatives of the committee also called for the constitution to allow the military to name the defense minister during the next two presidential terms. The move has been widely criticized by legal experts, who say this would give the military more power than the president.

Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since July 3, when the army ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s government, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the parliament. It also appointed the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, as the new interim president.

The government of Mansour has launched a bloody crackdown on Morsi supporters and arrested more than 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood members, including the party’s leader, Mohamed Badie, who was detained on August 20.

About 1,000 people were killed in a week of violence between Morsi supporters and security forces after police dispersed their protest camps in a deadly operation on August 14. The massacre sparked international condemnation and prompted world bodies to call for an independent investigation into the violence.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

What archives? UK ordered destruction of ‘embarrassing’ colonial papers

RT | November 30, 2013

Britain systematically destroyed documents in colonies that were about to gain independence, declassified Foreign Office files reveal. ‘Operation Legacy’ saw sensitive documents secretly burnt or dumped to cover up traces of British activities.

The latest National Archives publication made from a collection of 8,800 colonial-era files held by the Foreign Office for decades revealed deliberate document elimination by British authorities in former colonies.

The secret program dubbed ‘Operation Legacy’ was in force throughout the 1950s and 1960s, in at least 23 countries and territories under British rule that eventually gained independence after WWII. Among others these countries included: Belize, British Guiana, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia and Singapore, Northern Rhodesia (today Zambia and Zimbabwe), Tanzania, and Uganda.

In a telegram from the UK Colonial Office dispatched to British embassies on May 3, 1961, colonial secretary Iain Macleod instructed diplomats to withhold official documents from newly elected independent governments in those countries, and presented general guidance on what to do.

British diplomats were briefed on how exactly they were supposed to get rid of documents that “might embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants (such as police agents or informers)” or “might compromise sources of intelligence”, or could be put to ‘wrong’ use by incoming national authorities.

‘Operation Legacy’ also called for the destruction or removal of “all papers which are likely to be interpreted, either reasonably or by malice, as indicating racial prejudice or bias”.

The newly declassified files revealed that the Royal Navy base in Singapore was turned into the Asian region’s primary document destruction center. A special facility called a “splendid incinerator” was used to burn “lorry loads of files”, Agence France-Presse reported.

The “central incinerator” in Singapore was necessary to avoid a situation similar to that in India in 1947, when a “pall of smoke” from British officials burning their papers in Delhi, ahead of India proclaiming independence, filled the local press with critical reports. That diplomatic oversight was taken into account, as ‘Operation Legacy’ operatives were strictly instructed not to burn documents openly.

But not all the doomed archives could be shipped to Singapore. In some cases documents were eliminated on site, sometimes being dumped in the sea “at the maximum practicable distance from shore” and in deep, current-free areas, the National Archives publication claims.

The newly published collection of documents reveals that the British cleared out Kenyan intelligence files that contained information about abuse and torture of Kenyans during the Mau Mau uprising against British colonial rule in the 1950s. A special committee formed in 1961 coordinated document elimination in Kenya. Yet some files were spared simply when an estimated 307 boxes of documents were evacuated to Britain, just months ahead of the country gaining independence in December 1963.

The existence of some remaining Mau Mau legal case documents was revealed in January 2011.

Even after eliminating important evidence half a century ago, earlier in 2013 the British government was forced to pay 23 million dollars in compensation to over 5,200 elderly Kenyans, who had suffered from Britain’s punitive measures during the Mau Mau uprising.

In another documented occasion, in April 1957, five lorries delivered tons of documents from the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to the Royal Navy base in Singapore. Files were incinerated there; these contained details about British rule in Malaya, such as a massacre of 24 rubber plantation workers at the Malayan village of Batang Kali in 1948, who had allegedly been murdered by British soldiers.

Despite the mass document elimination, Britain’s Foreign Office still has some 1.2 million unpublished documents on British colonial policy, David Anderson, professor of African history at the University of Warwick, told AFP.

So Her Majesty’s government might still publish more valuable material that can shed more light on how one of the biggest empires in human history used to be governed. Overall, Britain had total control over 50 colonies including Canada, India, Australia, Nigeria, and Jamaica. Currently, there are 14 British Overseas Territories that remain under British rule, though most of them are self-governing and all have leaderships of their own.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spain sets new stiff fines for illegal protests

Press TV – November 29, 2013

The Spanish government has approved a new draft law which imposes harsh penalties on Spaniards taking part in unauthorized anti-government demonstrations, a move criticized by the opposition as trying to silence protests.

The draft law, presented by Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz on Friday, sets fines of up to 30,000 euros ($40,800) for offenses like torching the national flag, affronting the state or causing serious troubles outside parliament.

Fines of up to 1,000 euros will be imposed on people insulting or intimidating police officers.

Four “very serious” offenses, including interfering in electoral processes and illegal protests at strategic facilities such as airports or nuclear power plants, could be fined up to 600,000 euros (about $1,000,000).

The opposition says the bill is meant to prevent demonstrations against the government as the country struggles with a debt crisis and high unemployment.

“When more than 20 percent of people are unemployed, I don’t think this legislation is what we require,” said Alejandro Tourino, from law firm Ecija.

The government, however, has defended the bill, saying it will create discipline and safeguard public freedoms.

It will help “regulate and protect public freedoms,” said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

Madrid’s harsh spending cuts and rising unemployment have sparked massive anti-government protests across the country in recent years. Protesters argue that the government-imposed measures have failed to curb rising poverty or help extricate the country from its worst recession in years.

The draft law must be approved by parliament, where it may change to some extent. However, it will probably be ratified as the governing party has an absolute majority in the parliament.

Spain has seen numerous protests in recent years. On November 20, students gathered in front of the Education Ministry in Madrid to show their anger at the government’s austerity cuts, rising fees and other changes to the education system.

The Spanish government has been sharply criticized over the austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.

Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

PSA Peugeot Citroen, Renault ready to return to Iran market

Press TV – November 30, 2013

French automakers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Renault are planning to return to Iran’s market following a recent nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six major world powers in Geneva which will ease sanctions on auto industry.

According to the Geneva deal, the EU and US sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical export, gold and precious metals and auto industry as well as the supply of spare parts for the Iranian airplanes would be suspended.

French auto giants are poised to resume vehicle sales in Iran to reclaim their share of the huge Iranian market they lost after the implementation of sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear energy program in 2011.

Peugeot and Renault are among Western companies sending representatives to a crucial auto conference that was to open in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday.

Their participation in the conference has been interpreted by the media as a sign to mark their early return to the Iranian market before other competitors.

Renault and Peugeot have been production partners of Iran’s domestic majors – Iran Khodro and SAIPA.

Official data show the sanctions against Iran led to the unemployment of 100,000 workers and undermined the output of the two French giants.

A day after the nuclear deal between Iran and the six countries, Peugeot’s shares soared 4.50 percent to 10.69 euros and Renault rose 1.43 percent to 65.35 euros.

Iran used to be Peugeot’s second-biggest market in car sales volumes before Western sanctions against Tehran were toughened. In 2011, Iran accounted for 13 percent of Peugeot’s annual sales.

Peugeot has experienced an estimated four billion euros in lost sales after cutting ties with Iranian automaker Iran Khodro in February 2012 under pressure from its American partner company General Motors.

On July 26, Renault reported a huge fall in profits for the first half of 2013 after writing off the entire value of its business in Iran due to the US-led sanctions against Tehran.

The firm took a 512-million-euro (680-million-dollar) charge after halting its activities in Iran.

Last year, Renault sold a total of 100,783 vehicles in Iran, and had a 10-percent market share. The Middle Eastern country was Renault’s eighth-biggest global market by sales, above Italy where Renault sold 96,144 units and Spain where it sold 83,366 cars.

On November 24, Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the US – plus Germany sealed an interim deal in the Swiss city of Geneva to lay the groundwork for the full resolution of the West’s decade-old dispute with Iran over its nuclear energy program.

November 30, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment