Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

When Your Phone Is Not Your Friend

By Peter Lee | China Matters | January 2, 2014

Gadzooks!  They’ve cracked the iPhone!?

Newly leaked documents from the National Security Agency highlight Dropout Jeep, a piece of software that could target one of the country’s most popular devices — the iPhone.

According to documents published by the German news website Spiegel Online and dated Oct. 1, 2008, Dropout Jeep would give the NSA the ability to retrieve contact information, read through text messages, listen to voicemails and even turn on the iPhone camera and microphone.

The document goes on to say that while Drop Jeep was currently limited to installation through “close access methods,” the NSA would research ways to install the program remotely in future versions.

If you’re wondering how the NSA developed this fiendish capability, fingers are being pointed at Apple, but a trip through the Wayback machine suggests another possible culprit:

From a 2011 article by Mark Elgan at Computerworld:

Cellphone users say they want more privacy, and app makers are listening.

No, they’re not listening to user requests. They’re literally listening to the sounds in your office, kitchen, living room and bedroom.

A new class of smartphone app has emerged that uses the microphone built into your phone as a covert listening device — a “bug,” in common parlance.

The issue was brought to the world’s attention recently on a podcast called This Week in Tech. Host Leo Laporte and his panel shocked listeners by unmasking three popular apps that activate your phone’s microphone to collect sound patterns from inside your home, meeting, office or wherever you are.

The new apps are often sneakier about it [than older apps, which were activated by users in order to identify a song that was playing, etc.–CH]. The vast majority of people who use the Color app, for example, have no idea that their microphones are being activated to gather sounds.

Welcome to the future.

[M]arketers love cellphones, which are viewed as universal sensors for conducting highly granular, real-time market research.

Of course, lots of apps transmit all kinds of private data back to the app maker. Some send back each phone’s Unique Device Identification (UDI), the number assigned to each mobile phone, which can be used to positively identify it. Other apps tell the servers the phone’s location. Many apps actually snoop around on your phone, gathering up personal information, such as gender, age and ZIP code, and zapping it back to the company over your phone’s data connection.

Methinks it would behoove consumers wondering how the NSA might get into their iPhones to hie themselves to their local App Store.

A little further back in the Wayback machine brings us to the analog era, my favorite, when all that was needed to turn your home phone into a microphone was some fiddling at the telco switch.  From Bloomberg in 1999:

It’s hardly a secret that phone taps are a favorite ploy of industrial spies as well as law-enforcement agencies. What isn’t well-known is that the phone doesn’t even have to be off the hook to be tapped. It’s possible to activate a hung-up phone remotely and use it to eavesdrop. This techno-trick recently came to light as a result of a drug dealer’s court case in the Netherlands–but it is said that the technique will work on virtually any phone anywhere.

I remember reading somewhere that this was a much-cherished technology for various British intelligence outfits working through British Telecom and its previous incarnation, Post Office Telecommunications.

And from Mark Bowden’s book on the US-assisted manhunt for Pablo Escobar in the early 1990s, Killing Pablo, here is a nugget from the analog cell phone era which, I expect, still applies today:

There was another nifty secret feature to Centra Spike’s capability [a US Army sigint outfit that, unlike the NSA, was tasked with providing tactical intelligence to special operations–CH].  So long as their target left the battery in his cell phone, Centra Spike could remotely turn it on whenever they wished.  Without triggering the phone’s lights or beeper, the phone could be activated so that it emitted a low-intensity signal, enough for the unit to get a fix on its general location…

With this background, the extravagant cybercaution of Brookings China wonk Kenneth Lieberthal is understandable:

When Kenneth G. Lieberthal, a China expert at the Brookings Institution, travels to that country, he follows a routine that seems straight from a spy film.

He leaves his cellphone and laptop at home and instead brings “loaner” devices, which he erases before he leaves the United States and wipes clean the minute he returns. In China, he disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, never lets his phone out of his sight and, in meetings, not only turns off his phone but also removes the battery, for fear his microphone could be turned on remotely. He connects to the Internet only through an encrypted, password-protected channel, and copies and pastes his password from a USB thumb drive. He never types in a password directly, because, he said, “the Chinese are very good at installing key-logging software on your laptop.”

I have a feeling that Mr. Lieberthal’s countermeasures are informed both by awareness of PRC perfidy, and knowledge of the immense penetration and surveillance capabilities the industrial-security partnership has brought to the telecom and networking game around the world.

If you’re in China–or anywhere else–that phone in your pocket: it’s not your friend.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment

How the Washington Post Distorts Colombia

What Dana Priest Left Out

By JACK L. LAUN | CounterPunch | January 2, 2014

On December 21, 2013 the Washington Post published an article titled “Covert action in Colombia” by reporter Dana Priest. Ms. Priest is a veteran reporter who has over the course of her career produced significant reports on important topics. However, in her report on the role of the United States government in supporting the Colombian state’s war on the FARC guerrillas she has overlooked or ignored some very basic aspects of this relationship.

The most significant of these is that she ignores the nature and history of the paramilitary forces’ activities and the link of these to the United States government. As Father Javier Giraldo, S.J., correctly observed years ago, the paramilitaries in Colombia are a strategy of the Colombian state. Furthermore, this strategy was suggested to the Colombian government by a United States military mission to Colombia in February 1962, in response to fear of the spread of influence of the Castro Revolution in Cuba. The mission was led by Lieutenant General William Yarborough, the Commander of the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center. A Wikipedia entry cites a secret report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff quoting Yarborough as recommending “development of a civilian and military structure…to pressure for reforms known to be needed, perform counter-agent and counter-propaganda functions and as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known Communist proponents. It should be backed by the United States.” (See this citation and more information at Wikipedia.org/wiki/William_P_Yarborough.) The basic idea behind the reliance upon paramilitaries has been to keep the Colombian military from being involved directly in the Colombian government’s dirty war against the guerrillas and rural noncombatants and thus avoid having “dirty hands”. As Father Giraldo observed back in 1996, “Paramilitarism becomes, then, the keystone of a strategy of “Dirty War”, where the “dirty” actions cannot be attributed to persons on behalf of the State because they have been delegated, passed along or projected upon confused bodies of armed civilians.” (Colombia: The Genocidal Democracy, Common Courage Press, 1996, p. 81). There are many examples of the paramilitary death squad actions. One of these was a terrible slaughter by machetes and chainsaws of an estimated 30 civilians in the town of Mapiripan in Meta Department on July 15-20, 1997, in which paramilitary forces under the command of Carlos Castano in northern Colombia were allowed to travel by airplane with Colombian military acquiescence to reach their target community in southeast Colombia. A second example of the vicious attacks of paramilitary forces upon civilians was the slaughter on February 21, 2005 of 8 persons of the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado in Antioquia Department, including a founder and leader of that Community, Luis Eduardo Guerra. The latter massacre was carried out with the assistance of Colombian Army soldiers from the Seventeenth and Eleventh Brigades.

While Ms. Priest approvingly suggests that Colombia “with its vibrant economy and swanky Bogota social scene” is far removed from Afghanistan, she fails to recognize that most of Bogota’s nearly 8 million residents are very poor, while a great majority of the country’s rural residents are impoverished. To be accurate in her portrayal of present-day Colombia, Ms. Priest should recognize and acknowledge that the distribution of land among Colombia’s population is the second worst in South America, after Paraguay, and the 11th worst in the world. (Oxfam Research Reports, “Divide and Purchase: How land ownership is being concentrated in Colombia”, 2013, p.7. See http://www.oxfam.org.) In rural areas paramilitary forces, supposedly demobilized in a sham proceeding during Alvaro Uribe’s Presidency, continue to threaten and murder campesinos (small-scale farmers) and force them and their families off their lands, so they can be taken over by large landowners or multinational corporations with mining and petroleum plans encouraged by the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. Paramilitary activity also continues to account for murders of labor union leaders and organizers, more of whom are killed in Colombia year after year than in any other country in the world.

It is also disappointing that Ms. Priest makes no mention of the fact that there are some 6 million internally-displaced persons in Colombia, more than any other country in the world. In his December 27-29 article in Counterpunch, titled “Mythmaking in the Washington Post: Washington’s Real Aims in Colombia”, Nick Alexandrov correctly calls attention to Ms. Priest’s failure to take into account these displaced persons. And he also properly focuses criticism upon Ms. Priest’s failure correctly to acknowledge one of the most important links of the United State to Colombia and one of the most damaging: the drug trade and the effects of coca crop spraying (fumigation) upon Colombia’s rural population. Here again the responsibility of the United States government is clear and direct. As Mr. Alexandrov points out, tens of thousands of Colombia’s campesinos have been decimated economically as their legal food crops are destroyed through fumigation under direct control of the United States government. As a Colombia Support Network delegation was told by U. S. Embassy personnel while Anne Patterson was Ambassador there, the crop-spraying campaign using Round-Up Ultra has been controlled from the Embassy itself. Indeed, mayors of towns in Putumayo Department (province) told us they are not informed in advance and have no control over when fumigation of farm fields in their municipalities occurs.

Furthermore, the assertion that the FARC are principally responsible for Colombia’s production of illicit drugs is questionable. Right-wing paramilitaries, protected by the Colombian Army and linked to many Colombian political figures, have been involved in the drug trade for decades, and continue to benefit from this trade, as do their benefactors in the private sector, such as owners of large cattle ranches, merchants, and banana plantation owners. And the United States government has supported and even idealized one of the persons most responsible for corruption of the political process in Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Velez. Before his election as President in 2002, Alvaro Uribe had been identified by the United States government as linked to drug-trafficking. As Virginia Vallejo, a Colombian television journalist and sometime love interest of Pablo Escobar, suggested to me in a telephone conversation and mentioned in her book, Amando a Pablo, Odiando a Escobar (Random House Mondadori, September 2007), Alvaro Uribe was favored by Escobar. He allegedly approved the opening of drug-transit airstrips as Director of Civil Aeronautics. Later, as Governor of Antioquia Department, Uribe promoted the formation of so-called “self-defense” forces, which morphed into cut-throat, illegal paramilitaries who ravaged the countryside. His cousin Mario Uribe, with whom he has been particularly close, was convicted of corrupt actions and spent time in prison, while his brother Santiago Uribe Velez is about to be prosecuted for organizing and training illegal paramilitary forces on a Uribe family ranch. When Alvaro Uribe ran for re-election in 2004, his agents bribed Congresswoman Yidis Medina to get her to change her vote in committee so that Uribe could be re-elected (not permitted at that time by the Colombian Constitution). Yidis Medina went to prison for having received the bribe, but neither Alvaro Uribe nor his staff members who offered the bribe have been convicted and sentenced for the offenses they committed.

What was the reaction of the United States government to President Uribe’s alleged promotion of illegal activities? He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush, the highest honor a President can convey upon any person! (For a detailed account of Alvaro Uribe’s purported misdeeds, see the Master’s thesis of Francisco Simon Conejos at the University of Valencia, Spain, of December 2012, titled, in English translation, “Crimes Against Humanity in Colombia: Elements to Implicate Ex-President Alvaro Uribe Velez before Universal Justice and the International Criminal Court”.)

No analysis of the United States’ role in Colombia can properly ignore the relationships and responsibilities outlined above. But even beyond these points if one is to consider whether the United States’ actions toward and in Colombia have been beneficial for that country and its people, one must look at the effect of the United States government’s support for corporate interests of companies from this country and their actions in Colombia. The policies of Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama in the past two decades have advanced the agendas of mining and petroleum companies— such as Exxon Mobil, Occidental Petroleum, and Drummond— and food companies— such as Chiquita Banana and, most recently, Cargill— while these companies’ activities in rural Colombia have caused environmental damage, massive displacement of residents of these areas and destruction of the campesino economy. One wishes that Ms. Priest had treated the Colombian context much more broadly to provide a much more complete and honest view of how United States government actions and policies have affected the population of this important country, with Latin America’s third largest population (after Brazil and Mexico).

John I. Laun is president of the Colombia Support Network.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

After 20 Years, It’s Clear NAFTA Has Failed To Deliver Promised Benefits; So Why Trust TPP, TTIP Will Be Better?

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | January 2, 2014

Both TPP and TAFTA/TTIP are based on the premise that by boosting trade and investment, general prosperity will increase too. And yet, despite the huge scale of the plans, and their major potential knock-on effects on the lives of billions of people, precious little evidence has been offered to justify that basic assumption. To its credit, the European Commission has at least produced a report (pdf) on the possible gains. But as I’ve analyzed elsewhere, the most optimistic outcome is only tangentially about increased trade, and requires a harmonization of two fundamentally incompatible regulatory systems through massive deregulation on both sides of the Atlantic. In any case, the much-quoted figures are simply the output of econometric models, which may or may not be valid, and require extrapolation to the rather distant 2027, by which time the world could be a very different place.

Given the difficulty of saying anything definite about the future, it makes sense to look back at how past trade agreements have actually worked out for those involved. One of the most important, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has been operational for 20 years, and so offers us a wealth of hard facts. Public Citizen has just released an excellent analysis of what happened (pdf). As it points out:

NAFTA was fundamentally different than past trade agreements in that it was only partially about trade. Indeed, it shattered the boundaries of past U.S. trade pacts, which had focused narrowly on cutting tariffs and easing quotas. In contrast, NAFTA created new privileges and protections for foreign investors that incentivized the offshoring of investment and jobs by eliminating many of the risks normally associated with moving production to low-wage countries. NAFTA allowed foreign investors to directly challenge before foreign tribunals domestic policies and actions, demanding government compensation for policies that they claimed undermined their expected future profits. NAFTA also contained chapters that required the three countries to limit regulation of services, such as trucking and banking; extend medicine patent monopolies; limit food and product safety standards and border inspection; and waive domestic procurement preferences, such as Buy American.

This makes NAFTA the clear model for TPP and TAFTA, both of which hand enormous power to corporates, at the expense of the public and governments.

In 1993, NAFTA was sold to the U.S. public with grand promises. NAFTA would create hundreds of thousands of good jobs here — 170,000 per year according the Peterson Institute for International Economics. U.S. farmers would export their way to wealth. NAFTA would bring Mexico to a first-world level of economic prosperity and stability, providing new economic opportunities there that would reduce immigration to the United States. Environmental standards would improve.

Techdirt has already discussed how NAFTA has proved disastrous for the US in basic financial terms; here we’ll look at some of the other effects, not just in the US, but for Mexico too.

NAFTA has contributed to downward pressure on U.S. wages and growing income inequality. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, two out of every three displaced manufacturing workers who were rehired in 2012 experienced a wage reduction, most of them taking a pay cut of greater than 20 percent.

Despite a 188 percent rise in food imports from Canada and Mexico under NAFTA, the average nominal price of food in the United States has jumped 65 percent since the deal went into effect.

The reductions in consumer goods prices that have materialized have not been sufficient to offset the losses to wages under NAFTA. U.S. workers without college degrees (63 percent of the workforce) have likely lost an amount equal to 12.2 percent of their wages under NAFTA-style trade even after accounting for the benefits of cheaper goods.

Taken together, these facts represent the reality for much of the US public: wages have fallen, the cost of food has risen, and even though consumer good prices have dropped, overall US workers are worse off than they were before NAFTA came into force. People have lost out in non-monetary ways, too:

Scores of NAFTA countries’ environmental and health laws have been challenged in foreign tribunals through the controversial investor-state system. More than $360 million in compensation to investors has been extracted from NAFTA governments via “investor-state” tribunal challenges against toxics bans, land-use rules, water and forestry policies and more. More than $12.4 billion are currently pending in such claims.

NAFTA has been the test-bed for corporations to use investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) to resist or even undo improvements in health and environmental laws that reduce their profits. Even the European Commission, a big fan of corporate sovereignty, has been forced to recognize that ISDS is a danger to the public for this reason. In many ways, Mexico has fared even worse than the US under NAFTA:

The export of subsidized U.S. corn did increase under NAFTA, destroying the livelihoods of more than one million Mexican campesino farmers and about 1.4 million additional Mexican workers whose livelihoods depended on agriculture.

The desperate migration of those displaced from Mexico’s rural economy pushed down wages in Mexico’s border maquiladora factory zone and contributed to a doubling of Mexican immigration to the United States following NAFTA’s implementation.

That last point is important: one of the selling points of NAFTA was that it would help stem the flood of Mexican migrants into the US. As the Public Citizen document reports:

Then-Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari claimed NAFTA would reduce the flow of migrants from Mexico into the United States, saying: “Mexico prefers to export its products rather than its people.” Salinas infamously added that the U.S. decision over NAFTA was a choice between “accepting Mexican tomatoes or Mexican migrants that will harvest them in the United States.”

As in the US, overall, Mexicans have lost out under NAFTA:

Real wages in Mexico have fallen significantly below pre-NAFTA levels as price increases for basic consumer goods have exceeded wage increases. A minimum wage earner in Mexico today can buy 38 percent fewer consumer goods as on the day that NAFTA took effect.

Public Citizen has performed an invaluable service by pulling together the figures for NAFTA in this rigorous, fully-referenced document. That’s not least because the TPP negotiations are at a critical point, with President Obama desperate to obtain Fast Track trade authority that will allow him and his negotiators to push through TPP (and TAFTA/TTIP) with no real Congressional scrutiny and a simple yes/no vote at the end. As Public Citizen points out:

the administration and corporate proponents of the TPP will have difficulty getting the controversial deal through Congress. Twenty years of NAFTA’s damage has contributed to a groundswell of TPP opposition among the U.S. public and policymakers. In November 2013, a bipartisan group of 178 members of the U.S. House of Representatives stated their early opposition to any attempt to Fast Track the TPP through Congress, while other members expressed similar concerns about the TPP and the Fast Track trade authority scheme.

Congressional rejection of the TPP stands to intensify as the 20th anniversary of NAFTA provides a fresh reminder of the damage that such past pacts have wrought. It was the initial outcomes of NAFTA that sank previous attempts at massive NAFTA expansions, such as the Free Trade Areas of the Americas and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) FTA.

NAFTA’s two-decade legacy of tumult and hardship for millions of people in North America could similarly hasten the downfall of the attempt to expand the NAFTA model via Fast Track and the TPP. If so, it would constitute a unique benefit of an otherwise damaging deal.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Economics | Leave a comment

Happy ‘News Year’: Decline of the ‘News’

By Danny Schechter | Consortium News | January 1, 2014

At year end, the news agenda fills up with stories about top stories, a chance for networks to repackage footage or highlight favorite newsmakers. These stories rarely look at the news system that picks them or why.

There are two news systems in America. The more prominent one is the official parody of journalism that represents most of what the mainstream – or what some call the “lame stream” – media offers. These are the “products” of an “official” news business, an industry under growing pressure from within and without to maintain a semblance of credibility with a global audience that now has many other divergent sources to rely on.

A part of a global entertainment combine, the advertising-sponsored “news biz” also spends inordinate amounts of money marketing itself and referencing its own output. It is that system that has become one of the major pillars of established power, like the institutions of government and the office holders that the mainstream media covers to a fault. Official news tells us what politicians say.

Some of the stars from the news world move into politics, just as ex-politicians become pundits who define for us what the news is supposed to mean. The system is interconnected and symbiotic. It looks diverse but U.S. mainstream news operates in an ideological framework as surely as Chinese news does. No wonder critics now speak of a military-industrial-media complex.

News has become a publicity machine for those in power but also a shaper of the narratives and myths we live by. It is not surprising that two-thirds of the graduates of journalism schools find jobs not in news but in PR and lobbying firms. And many of the mainstream journalists function increasingly like stenographers, offering up only the news that they and their news executives consider fit to print while the audience increasingly turns away, or migrates to visual media and social media, abandoning most  “serious” newspapers and magazines all together.

One of the reasons is a sense – well documented by many media critics – that news is almost processed to leave out as much as it includes. Investigative journalist Russ Baker of the website whowhatwhere.com puts it this way:

“It’s not so much a challenge to identify important stories the media missed. They are to be found everywhere. What’s hard is to find transformative or substantial stories the media actually got right — really right, by being bold and going wide and deep. Truth be told, the media misses most of the real stories — or at least the stories behind the facile, thin inquiries that prop up wobbly headlines.”

This may be one reason traditional news in the center of the media system is losing its appeal with more critical consumers turning to specialized or even international outlets that have entered the U.S. media space, by offering what we used to call “hard news” and analysis that most U.S. news outlets underplay or abandon.

Welcome Al Jazeera America, RT, and Sahara Reporters as well as Arise TV to tell us the stories that are often conspicuous by their absence. Some U.S. alternative media outlets are looking for market share, too, like Link TV, Democracy Now, The Real News Network, and individuals like Laura Flanders and Bill Moyers.

Free Speech TV tells us:

“Over the last six months, conservatives have begun to direct vast resources into new right-wing media outlets to supplement the conservative programming of Fox News Channel. For example, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze Television Network is now available in more than 15 million homes. Then there was the launch of One America’s News Network, a new conservative broadcast news network whose stated mission is to provide a platform ‘for a broader spectrum of voices on the right than Fox now offers.’ Meanwhile, progressive media outlets are closing their doors…”

While that may be true, non-news platforms like Facebook and Twitter (and their many competitors), as well as an array of news websites are pumping out more stories than ever across the spectrum. The “leaks” of whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden have had more impact than media investigations. News consumers are becoming their own editors, selecting the stories they want to read from sources that didn’t exist years ago. Add in the aggregators, the Diggs and Reddits; there’s just not enough time in the day to take it all in.

Increasingly the news that has the most impact is the news satirizing the news. In many ways the Comedy Channel has become the most respected news channel, offering a hard-hitting take or a parody of a parody. Saturday Night Live’s take-offs get as much attention as the events and personalities they satirize. Attitude seems to trump information in a culture with a “context of no context.” No wonder so many young people laugh at the news. Mockumentaries may be making more money than documentaries.

And now, even big-budget movies compete with characters that make fun of a news media that many feel deserves it. Hilarious and punchy films like Anchorman and Anchorman 2 lampoon news practices in a way that resonates with audiences. In the end of his latest send-up on the news, fictional news anchor. “Ron Burgundy” – played by Will Farrell – gets his highest ratings when he denounces his own newscast on the air and then walks off the set.

At the same time, reality-based programming seems more popular than newsy shows about reality. The more serious TV series on cable channels or distributors like Netflix are “edgy” dramas that, in the words of the New York Times, only offer “hints of reality.” Those “hints” feature political scandals and the terror wars. They may be more attractive to people in power than the real thing.

The Times reports that President Obama is drawn to programs that showcase, “wars, terrorism, economic struggles and mass shootings.” Obama, whose own speechwriter once wrote fiction for a living, seems to prefer these “dark” character–based shows. He was especially drawn to programs like The Wire, set in Baltimore, that pitted the police against drug dealers and urban gangsters.

The author, former newspaperman David Simon, became a TV producer to popularize what he learned about the world. I am sure he is pleased that Obama likes his work, but his evolving underlying ideas have few outlets outside the world of entertainment and none in the White House.

A recent essay by Simon appeared in The Guardian with an indictment of inequality and American capitalism. He calls his country “a horror show,” arguing in terms that his fan Obama would publicly have to reject. He even calls for a rereading of Karl Marx.

Simon wrote:

“Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerge in any of that legislative process. So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will.”

Simon has given up on the press and may soon be giving up on the media. That’s not an optimistic note with which to begin a new “news year.”

News Dissector Danny Schechter has worked in network news and written about his experience critically. He edits the media watchdog site, Mediachannel.org, and blogs at newsdissector,net. His latest book is Madiba AtoZ: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Turkey slaps 36 protesters with terrorist charges

Press TV – January 3, 2014

Prosecutors in Turkey have charged 36 people with terrorism in connection with massive anti-government protests that rocked the country last year.

According to the indictment published on Friday, the suspects face a range of charges including membership in a terrorist organization, illegal possession of hazardous material, and terrorist propaganda.

“Protests that began in May went beyond a democratic reaction and turned into propaganda and demonstration outlets of terrorist organizations with the guidance of marginal groups,” read the document.

“As a result, public property was destroyed, civil servants were incapacitated and security forces were injured,” it added.

The defendants will face up to 58 years in prison if convicted.

In December 2013, more than 250 other protesters were indicted with similar charges.

Anti-government demonstrations erupted in late May 2013, when people in Istanbul protested against the planned destruction of Gezi Park, in the city’s Taksim Square.

However, the protests soon spread across the country and snowballed into a nationwide outburst of anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | | Leave a comment

Panic, Predictions and Propaganda: Endless Empty Estimates on Iran’s Nuclear Program

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | December 31, 2013

“As you know, Iran is just a week away from a nuclear weapon. ‘They have been for the past 20 years…,’ says people who would like to bomb Iran.” – Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, November 12, 2013

It has been three years since I published “The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran’s Nuclear Program,” a timeline of constant American, Israeli, and European assertions regarding the supposed inevitability and imminence of a nuclear-armed Iran – hysterical allegations that have been made repeatedly for the past three decades, none of which has ever come true.

So far, through August 2013, 80 updates cataloging new alarmist claims and dire predictions have been added to the original piece (they can all be read here). More extensive follow-up catalogs were posted in November 2011 and October 2012.

Over the past few months, new estimates and predictions have poured in. Below are some of them.

While reading, please remember that any estimate given for a potential Iranian “breakout” scenario in which Iran makes a “dash” for a nuclear weapon (or simply just enriching enough uranium to weapons grade levels for a single bomb) relies on the presumption that Iran:

1. has a nuclear weapons program;

2. wants to build nuclear weapons or acquire sufficient capability to be able to quickly develop a bomb;

3. and has made or will soon make a decision to militarize its fully legal, strictly safeguarded and constantly monitored civilian nuclear energy program.

Not a single one of these assertions is confirmed and there is overwhelming evidence that argues that each assumption is demonstrably false.

The consensus view of all 16 American intelligence agencies has maintained since 2007 that, by 2003, Iran ceased whatever research (if any) into nuclear weaponization it may have conducted up until that point, and has never resumed that work. This determination has been consistently reaffirmed ever since (in 2009, 2010, and again in 2011).

The United States intelligence community and its allies, including Israel, have long assessed that Iran is not and never has been in possession of nuclear weapons, is not building nuclear weapons, and its leadership has not even made the political decision to do so.

In early 2012, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, stated in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “We do not know…if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

The same day, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Ronald Burgess said that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict” and maintained that Iran’s military doctrine is defensive in nature and designed only for deterrence.

Clapper repeated this conclusion verbatim a number of times this past year.

Moreover, the IAEA itself continually confirms that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program and has stated it has “no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons program.”(emphasis added) Beyond this, IAEA inspectors have never found evidence of illegal nuclear activity in Iran, even after Iran voluntarily accepted the intrusive inspections of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol for over two years.

In November 2003, the IAEA affirmed that “to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme.” And the following year, after extensive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities were conducted under the auspices of the Additional Protocol, the IAEA again concluded that “all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

Even if Iran were to technically acquire the capability to make nuclear bombs and stopped short of militarizing its program, far from being a rogue outlier, it would be joining a nuclear club of dozens of other nations that currently have the materials and knowledge to rapidly produce nuclear weapons.

The alarming time frames dished out constantly are all hypothetical, not actual. The beginning of each worrying countdown to any potential Iranian bomb must start after a decision is made by the Iranian leadership to actually start developing weapons grade fuel, which it is not currently doing.

It is like predicting it would take only a year to learn how to speak French fluently once one actually begins using Rosetta Stone, except without ever making the decision, let alone move, to actually buy the program. The year time frame, in that case, doesn’t make sense. You’ll always be a year away from something that supposedly will take a year if you never actually start the process of accomplishing whatever it is.

As senior Iranian officials have confirmed constantly for decades, that decision will never be made (and if it were, the move to weaponize would be immediately detected by the international community), which means that the timelines are all fantasies based on a starting point that will never occur.

With this in mind, sit back and enjoy:

SEPTEMBER 2013

On September 5, Jasmin Ramsey of Inter Press Service (IPS) reported, “U.S. and Israeli fears that Iran could achieve the capability to dash toward a nuclear weapon by as early as 2014 according to worst-case assessments,” though she added, “To date, the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that Iran has not made the decision to pursue nuclear weapons.”

Ramsey quoted Colin Kahl, Obama’s former senior Middle East advisor at the Pentagon, as saying, “The issue then is not whether Iran will make the decision in 2014 to dash for nuclear weapons. We don’t know whether they will or whether they want to and probably the probability is that they won’t, but they might.”

On September 8, perennial Israeli hysteric Yuval Steinitz – currently Netanyahu’s International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister – warned against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “offensive of friendliness and moderation toward the West,” which he deemed to be a ruse to charm and deceive world leaders and the media and “calm fears over a nuclear Iran.” Rouhani’s real plan, Steinitz announced at an annual conference held by Israel’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism, is to “laugh all the way to the bomb.”

“The centrifuges continue to spin. The heavy water facility [at Arak] continues to work. Make no mistake; Iran must be judged on its actions, not on its words,” Steinitz declared. If one were to judge Steinitz by his own words, however, one might point out that not a single one of Iran’s centrifuges produces weapons-grade uranium, all are under strict international inspection, and that the operational heavy water production plant at Arak is not a nuclear site. The heavy water nuclear reactor at Arak, however, is still under construction and is not yet up and running.

On September 10, the routinely hilarious Gregory S. Jones published another speculative analysis on Iran’s breakout capacity, again based solely on fantastical notions that Iran would be able to somehow convert its entire stockpile of low enriched uranium to weapons-grade in the blink of an eye and without detection or international intervention.

This time around, Jones uses a fancy calculator and elaborate daydreams to surmise that “Iran can produce enough HEU for a nuclear weapon in just six weeks and its entire stockpile of enriched uranium can be used to produce enough HEU for three weapons in four months.” Moreover, Jones asserts that, were Iran to have some “clandestine enrichment facility specifically designed to enrich uranium from 20% to 90%,” it could then “produce enough HEU for a nuclear weapon in just three weeks.”

Jones writes that, while using a secret enrichment lair has the “disadvantage” of “violating IAEA safeguards,” he points out that “the time needed for Iran to produce HEU by this method is so short as to make it very doubtful that any effective counteraction could be taken before Iran obtained a nuclear weapon.”

The fact that enriching uranium to weapons-grade is not the same thing as producing a deliverable nuclear weapon is irrelevant to Jones, as are over a decade of consistent IAEA inspections and safeguards that have never once detected any move by Iran to militarize its civilian nuclear program.

On September 20, Reuters quoted Yuval Steinitz as saying, “There is no more time to hold negotiations” with Iran over its nuclear program. “If the Iranians continue to run, in another half a year they will have bomb capability,” he told the right-wing, Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom daily in an interview.

The same day, in an apparent attempt to prove just how dedicated he is to spouting nonsensical propaganda, New York Times reporter David Sanger wrote, “Unless a good deal of the current infrastructure is dismantled, Iran will be able to maintain a threshold nuclear capability — that is, it will be just a few weeks, and a few screwdriver turns, from building a weapon. It is unclear whether Mr. Obama can live with that; the Israelis say they cannot.”

Also on September 20, a post by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), a right-wing, pro-war outfit that is effectively one of the neoconservative successors to the Project for a New American Century, declared that nothing – diplomacy, sanctions, threats – has caused Iran “to halt its drive to nuclear weapons-making capability. Instead, the potential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program has only grown.”

The post, penned by Robert Zarate, continues, “Even if it is true that Iranian leaders have not made the final decision to assemble a nuclear weapon, Iran not only holds all of the raw ingredients required that for an atomic bomb, but also is making technical advances that could rapidly shorten the amount of time it would need to build a nuclear weapon to a matter of months, if not weeks.”

On September 22, The New York Times reported, “American intelligence experts believe Iran is still many months, if not years, away from having such a [nuclear] weapon.”

An Israeli intelligence assessment, leaked to and published by The Washington Post on September 23, concluded that “[t]he current Iranian charm offensive aims at reaching a deal with the international community… will preserve Iran’s ability to rapidly build a nuclear weapon at a time of its choosing — the so-called breakout option.” It adds that Iran has continued to “move full-steam ahead toward attaining a nuclear weapons capability.”

The same day, Brookings analyst Kenneth Pollack wrote in The New Republic that, were Iran’s “enrichment capability” to be “capped and constrained by intrusive inspections” (which, mind you, it already is) and “its ability to work on weaponization is precluded by those same inspections,” it would then “take Iran at least six months and probably more like a year to assemble a crude nuclear device, once it decided to do so, and it would be highly likely that the inspectors would discover such a gambit long before it came close to fruition.”

In a one minute-long video message, issued on September 24, in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Iran thinks that soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb.” He added, “Israel will welcome a genuine diplomatic solution that truly dismantles Iran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons, but we will not be fooled by half measures that merely provide a smokescreen for Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and the world will not be fooled either.”

On September 27, Maariv reporter Shalom Yerushalmi quoted anonymous Israeli “government security sources up to date on development in Iran” as telling him, “It’s too late for Israel [to prevent an Iranian bomb]. Iran has crossed all the borders and all the constraints, and it has a first nuclear bomb in its possession, and maybe more than that.”

The same day, Ehud Yaari, an analyst for Israel’s popular Channel 2 TV News, said on the air that Iran was no more than “one to two months away” from having a sufficient amount of highly-enriched uranium with which to build its first bomb. He added that, if Iran begins using more advanced centrifuges, that time frame could be cut to merely “two or three weeks.”

On September 28, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren wrote that Israeli and Arab leaders “worry about Iran’s sincerity, and fear that Mr. Obama’s desire for a diplomatic deal will only buy Iran time to continue a march toward building a nuclear weapon.” Yuval Steinitz – who else? – was quoted as saying, “The most critical problem with Iran is its aim of achieving nuclear weapons, but the problem with Iran is wider. Iran is not a peace-seeking country or regime — on the contrary. Iran is maybe the most aggressive country in the world, and it’s not just against Israel.”

Rudoren also gave space to other Israeli analysts who oppose diplomacy. Their “main concern now is that four to six months of negotiations would allow Iran to get to the breakout point for developing a bomb,” she wrote, before quoting Jonathan Spyer of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya as warning, “It’s not just that forever we go on with an Iranian nuclear program that never reaches conclusion, it’s that diplomacy can be a way of helping it get to the finishing line.”

Paper of record, people, paper of record.

On September 29, Britain’s Sunday Times reported that, at their upcoming meeting at the White House, Netanyahu would provide Obama “with an intelligence report asserting that Iran has amassed enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon,” according to the Times of Israel.

The same day, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told ABC News‘ George Stephanopolous, “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 — and you can refer to your records — that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that and they are still saying we’re six months away from nuclear weapons.”

“We’re not seeking nuclear weapons. So, we’re not six months, six years, sixty years away from nuclear weapons. We don’t want nuclear weapons,” he added.

The next day, on September 30, FPI board member Bill Kristol wrote in his Weekly Standard column that “the accommodation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons lies ahead as surely as the accommodation of Nazi Germany’s expansionist dreams,” and shamelessly continued, “As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons, undeterred by the West’s leading power, a 21st-century tragedy threatens to unfold.”

OCTOBER 2013

On October 1, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview on Iranian television, “We have seen nothing from Netanyahu but lies and actions to deceive and scare, and international public opinion will not let these lies go unanswered.”

“For 22 years, the Zionist regime has been lying by repeating endlessly that Iran will have the atomic bomb in six months,” Zarif said, speaking from the United Nations in New York City. “After all these years, the world must understand the reality of these lies and not allow them to be repeated.”

On October 4, Kurt Eichenwald wrote a cover story for the first online issue of Newsweek entitled, “The Phantom Menace” (sound familiar?), in which he called out all the speculation and fear-mongering over Iran as “hysteria,” explaining:

Interviews with military strategists and foreign and domestic intelligence officers, and a review of the 34 years of warnings about the Iranians’ threat to America’s vital interests, all show that the doomsaying is based on suspicion, supposition and precious little hard data. It is, in many ways, a repeat of the supposed threat from Iraq that led to war – except this time, the intelligence world knows there are no weapons of mass destruction.

Eichenwald cites the view of Christopher J. Bolan, a former army intelligence officer who served as a national security advisor to both Al Gore and Dick Cheney and who now teaches military strategy at the prestigious United States Army War College: “Iran is not a threat to American vital interests. They don’t want nuclear weapons. I think it has just been overly alarmist when folks are advocating a more aggressive reaction,” Bolan said “Even if they manage to get sufficient enriched uranium, it is going to be years before they can weaponize it. The timeline is not urgent. We have years, if that is the objective of the government, which, again, I think is a pretty questionable claim.”

In an interview with the Associated Press on October 5, President Barack Obama stated that the current “U.S. intelligence assessment” maintains that Iran “continues to be a year or more away” from being able to produce a nuclear bomb. “And in fact, actually, our estimate is probably more conservative than the estimates of Israeli intelligence services,” he added.

AP itself, in its interview of the American president, inadvertently revealed just how tedious and interchangeable these constant, recycled predictions really are. The question posed to Obama – the one eliciting the above response – was set up with the following statement: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Iran is about six months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.”

This wasn’t true, it was a misinterpreted reiteration of something stupid Netanyahu said a year ago. Note the correction issued by AP in its transcript of the interview:

Last year. Most. Needed to produce. All gibberish, signifying nothing.

On October 6, French Foreign Minister Fabius Laurent said in a radio interview with Europe 1 that nuclear negotiations with Iran must bear fruit quickly lest Iranian facilities be allowed to progress to a point beyond which they can be bombed into oblivion. If the heavy water reactor at Arak, for example, were to become operational, “we wouldn’t be able to destroy it because if you bomb plutonium it will leak. This means it’s a race against time,” he said, continuing that there is “roughly a year” before this becomes a possibility.

The next day, on October 7, Reuters quoted an unnamed “Israeli official” in reaction to Obama’s “year or more” timeframe as saying, “If Iran decides to complete uranium enrichment, it would be able to do so within a few weeks from the moment of decision.”

On October 17, BuzzFeed‘s Sheera Frenkel quoted an anonymous “Israeli diplomat” as telling her that a nuclear-armed Iran “is not a far off possibility but a very near, almost actualized thing.” In an exceptionally alarmist post entitled, “What If Iran Already Has a Nuke?” – which reads more like an Israeli Foreign Ministry press release than an independent news report – Frenkel writes of another recent Maariv article by Shalom Yerushalmi that claimed Israeli officials believe Iran already has a nuclear warhead.

“They made it very clear that Iran already had the uranium for one bomb, and it was very very probable that they had put that one bomb together,” Yerushalmi told Frenkel. “This opinion is growing though many are afraid to say it too loudly because they would then be admitting that Israel, specifically Netanyahu, has failed the central mission of his political life.”

Relaying what an unnamed Israeli official told him, Yerusalmi said, “This is no longer about how to prevent a bomb but about how to prevent its being launched, and what to do if and when.”

Meanwhile, Gary Samore, a former advisor to Obama and longtime pro-Israel hawk, told Frenkel, “We have seen a number of significant changes in the last few weeks that have suggested that Iran is closer, much closer to a bomb than ever before,” adding, “We can’t be precise about the timeline, nobody can because there are too many factors. What we can say is that they are very close and there is nothing standing in their way other than international pressure.”

On October 22, Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor delivered a speech before the UN Security Council during which he declared that “Iran is marching towards a bomb,” and warned, “The clock is ticking and time is running out.”

On October 24, David Albright and his colleagues at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) issued a new report estimating Iranian nuclear “breakout” capacity. They write that Iran could potentially produce one nuclear bomb’s worth of weapons grade uranium (WGU) in about a month or two, depending on the specific stockpile and method used. “It is possible that Iran could use a covert plant to break out in as little as approximately one to two weeks,” the report claims.

The authors also note that “the estimates in this report do not include the additional time that Iran would need to convert WGU into weapons components and manufacture a nuclear weapon.”

This report was publicized in an error-filled USA Today article by Oren Dorell on October 25, headlined, “Iran may be month away from bomb.”

The same day, Ian Bremmer, president of the consulting firm Eurasia Group, wrote a commentary for Reuters in which he stated, “Iran is getting significantly closer to nuclear weapons capability” and cited an International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report from August as claiming that Iran “is on pace to become nuclear-weapons capable in 2014 or 2015 — and that window could narrow further.”

Bremmer added, “Iran is approaching nuclear breakout capacity, the point at which it could conceivably race to produce sufficient material for a nuclear weapon and hide it in a secure location before the U.S. or Israel could amass a military response to stop them. A realistic worst-case scenario could see breakout time drop to around 10 days — a span too short to assemble an effective response — by the middle of next year.”

NOVEMBER 2013

A series of infographics provided by the New York Times on November 8 used David Albright’s hypothetical estimates to promote the dire assessments that “Iran has the technology and material to produce fuel for power or a weapon” and “Iran could quickly move to a nuclear ‘breakout.'” The graphics, created by Sergio Peçanha, illustrate potential measures, outlined in the Institute for Science and International Security report, “that could elevate the breakout time to more than six months.”

One of the graphics (seen above) shows Iran having 19,000 centrifuges, but does not note that roughly half of those, while installed, are not operational.

In testimony before the House Foreign Relations Committee on November 13, Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish, Iran-obsessed think tank, said that if Iran is able to continue construction of its heavy water reactor at Arak over the next six months, “Tehran will gain an extra six months to develop the capacity to produce a plutonium bomb.” He added, that “while keeping all existing sanctions in place, Iran should be given an ultimatum” to suspend its enrichment at both the Natanz and Fordow facilities, where, he said, “nuclear experts estimate that Iran is no more than eight months from achieving an undetectable nuclear breakout.”

The chairman of the committee, Congressman Ed Royce of California, declared during the same hearing, “Only when the Iranian regime is forced to decide between economic collapse or compromise on its rush to develop a nuclear weapons capability, do we have a chance to avoid that terrible outcome.”

At the hearing, Colin Kahl, Obama’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, made the case for diplomacy, citing ISIS estimates for emphasis. “The Institute for Science and International Security estimates it would currently take Iran as little as 1.3-2.3 months to produce one bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium using a combination of its 3.5 percent and 20 percent uranium stockpile,” he said. “However, if Iran stops 20 percent enrichment and neutralizes most of its 20 percent stockpile, this would lengthen the breakout time for weapons-grade uranium to 3.1-3.5 months.”

Later in the hearing, Kahl explained that, if accepted and implemented, the deal proposed to Iran by the P5+1, would thus “double Iran’s breakout time.”

The same day, November 13, top U.S. officials – including Secretary of State John Kerry, Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, Vice President Joe Biden, and others – met with members of the Senate Banking Committee in a closed-door session to convince them of the benefit of working toward a nuclear deal with Iran and dispel rumors about potential sanctions relief floated by the Israeli government and their lobbyists in Washington.

Senator Mark Kirk, a leading Iran hawk who has stated, “It’s okay to take the food out of the mouths of the citizens” of Iran and who, in 2010, received vastly more money from pro-Israel lobbying groups than any other politician, was unhappy with what he heard from Kerry.

The presentation, Kirk told reporters after the meeting, was “very unconvincing” and “fairly anti-Israeli. I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me, and I think the Israelis probably have a pretty good intelligence service.”

Presumably, he was referring to the same Israelis who have insisted Iran has been on the brink of having a nuclear bomb for over two decades now.

Kirk added that the Israelis had told him that the “total changes proposed set back the program by 24 days.”

On November 14, Adiv Sternman of the Times of Israel wrote, “Responding to an International Atomic Energy Agency report claiming that Iran had substantially cut uranium enrichment since the election of President Hassan Rouhani last June, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu said he was ‘not impressed,’ and that Iran still strives to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu continued, “Iran is not expanding its nuclear program because it already has the foundations needed for nuclear weapons. The question is not whether they are expanding the program, but how to stop the Iranian military nuclear program.”

On November 24, New York Times reporter David Sanger – who has a dubious history of writing ignorant and incorrect things about Iran – doubled-down on his complete misunderstanding of Iran’s nuclear program (or any nuclear program or weapons development whatsoever), writing of the “deep suspicion inside Mr. Netanyahu’s government that Mr. Obama will settle for a final agreement that leaves Iran a few screwdriver turns short of a weapon.”

Sanger also wrote that the just-inked interim nuclear deal, “according to American intelligence estimates, would slow Iran’s dash time by only a month to a few months,” and added that “it will take Iran several months to produce weapons-grade fuel from its current stocks, and perhaps a year or more to fashion that fuel into a usable weapon and shrink it to fit atop one of the country’s Shahab missiles.”

In a November 25 op-ed for the Washington Post about the tenets of the interim nuclear deal signed in Geneva between Iran and six world powers and the voluntarily accepted limitations on the Iranian program, ISIS head David Albright wrote, “If Iran used all of its installed centrifuges, the time it would need to produce a weapon would expand to at least 1.9 to 2.2 months, up from at least 1 month to 1.6 months.”

On November 26, Siegfried Hecker, a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, claimed that Iran was “[v]ery close, possibly weeks away from making sufficient highly enriched uranium bomb fuel, and six months or so away from building a nuclear weapon.” He further suggested that “Iran had likely previously done most of the work necessary to build nuclear weapons once it obtained the capacity to produce bomb fuel. Iran’s extensive missile development and testing program also points to Tehran pursuing the option of missile deliverable nuclear weapons.”

On November 27, a report from the Israeli daily Maariv claimed “that Israeli experts have estimated that Tehran’s schedule for nuclear enrichment has only been delayed for up to two weeks.”

A summary of the report by the Israeli settler-run news outlet Arutz Sheva confused Iran’s hypothetical capacity to enrich one bomb’s worth of uranium to weapons grade levels with Iran’s ability to manufacture a deliverable nuclear warhead, issuing the screaming headline, “Estimate: Iran Could Produce a Nuclear Weapon Within 36 Days.”

DECEMBER 2013

In a grossly misleading and disingenuous December 2 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz wrote that the recently-signed “interim agreement leaves Iran, hopefully only temporarily, in the position of a nuclear threshold power—a country that can achieve a military nuclear capability within months of its choosing to do so.”

Speaking at the pro-Israel Saban Center’s annual conference in Washington D.C. on December 7, President Barack Obama said that aspects of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure “cannot justify simply wanting some peaceful nuclear power, but frankly hint at a desire to have breakout capacity and go right to the edge of breakout capacity.” He later stated that, without an interim deal that slows Iran’s nuclear progress, “all the breakout capacity we’re concerned about will accelerate in the next six months… They would be that much closer to breakout capacity six months from now.”

Later that day, John Kerry addressed the same conference and reiterated the White House line. “Iran’s breakout time, the period required to produce enough weapons-grade material intended for nuclear weapons, will have been increased because of our diplomacy,” he said.

On December 10, Fredrik Dahl of Reuters wrote, “Last month’s preliminary accord reached after marathon talks in Geneva is seen as a first step towards resolving a decade-old standoff over suspicions Iran might be covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons ‘breakout’ capability, a perception that has raised the risk of a wider Middle East war.”

On December 11, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett had told Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to leverage its temporary membership on the United Nations Security Council to scuttle the nascent diplomacy over the Iranian nuclear program. After absurdly stating that “Iran is on the verge of having to give up its nuclear production because of the economic sanctions,” Bennett said, “Our objective is to dismantle effectively all their centrifuges so the time they need for a nuclear break-out is not six weeks but three years.”

On December 19, French Foreign Minister Fabius Laurent cast doubt on the ability to reach a final deal with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. “It is unclear if the Iranians will accept to definitively abandon any capacity of getting a weapon or only agree to interrupt the nuclear programme,” he said, “What is at stake is to ensure that there is no breakout capacity.”

In a December 30 interview with the Times of Israel, former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said that Iran already has “enough in their 3.5% stockpile for more than four bombs,” and that Iran could “breakout” as a nuclear weapons state in a matter of “weeks.”

On December 30, former Senator Joe Lieberman, now with the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, issued his own rabid predication for the next twelve months. Speaking on FOX News, Lieberman declared, “tougher sanctions will not convince Iran to find a diplomatic way to end their nuclear weapons project and I think there is a better than even chance that before the end of 2014 the U.S. and/or Israel will take military action to disable Iran’s nuclear program.”

A NEW YEAR, A RESOLUTION?

Despite so much incessant nonsense, the year thankfully ended on a high note. Writing for the indispensable LobeLog on December 31, 2013 – New Year’s Eve – François Nicoullaud, a career diplomat and former French ambassador to Iran, addressed the claim that, with its current technical capabilities, Iran “would be able to produce the fissile material necessary for a bomb in just a few weeks.”

“But what is the practical value of such estimates?,” Nicoullaud rhetorically asks, before laying out some important facts:

First, having the material for the bomb does not mean having the bomb. Several months, possibly a good year or more, would still be necessary to manufacture and test a first nuclear explosive device. Second, to maintain a minimal deterrent effect after an initial test, at least two or three bombs should be kept in stock. To obtain such a deterrent, however, would significantly add to the time needed for enrichment to 90%. Some argue that as soon as this highly enriched uranium would be produced, and subsequently diverted, it would escape the safeguards of the IAEA, making it much more difficult for the international community to react. But why? The whole country would still be there, both as a possible target for increased sanctions and more. And if a few weeks are theoretically enough for a successful breakout, a few days should be enough to deploy and deliver an adequate response.

The entire article is worth reading, if only to rinse the awful taste of hysteria with some effervescent and much-needed rationality and honesty.

Just a day earlier, on December 30, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani published an article that was syndicated around the world. In addition to talk of rejuvenating the Iranian economy, improving relations with European and North American nations, and working toward a peaceful end to the bloody civil war in Syria, Rouhani wrote clearly about “Iran’s peaceful nuclear energy programme which has been subject to enormous hype in recent decades.”

Since the early 1990s, one prediction after another regarding how close Iran was to acquiring a nuclear bomb has proved baseless. Throughout this period, alarmists tried to paint Iran as a threat to the Middle East and the world.

We all know who the chief agitator is, and what purposes are to be served by hyping this issue. We know also that this claim fluctuates in proportion to the amount of international pressure to stop settlement construction and end the occupation of Palestinian lands. These false alarms continue, despite US national intelligence estimates according to which Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon.

In fact, we are committed not to work toward developing and producing a nuclear bomb. As enunciated in the fatwa issued by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, we strongly believe that the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are contrary to Islamic norms. We never even contemplated the option of acquiring nuclear weapons, because we believe that such weapons could undermine our national security interests; as a result, they have no place in Iran’s security doctrine. Even the perception that Iran may develop nuclear weapons is detrimental to our security and overall national interest.

Don’t expect Rohani’s statements to temper the obsessive rhetoric so frequently published in our mainstream media.  It would be imprudent to anticipate 2014 will see fewer platforms for anti-Iran propaganda in the press and less lies from Israeli and American politicians.

Nevertheless, with both the Rouhani and Obama administrations current and continuing dedication to diplomacy, we can hope that the new year will finally bring out a verifiable resolution to the ridiculous impasse over Iran’s nuclear program.

Until then, the least we can demand is the truth and less scare-mongering.

Happy New Year, dear readers.

Let’s hope it’s a good one, as the man says. Without any fear.

War is over, if we want it.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 2 Comments

A Stupid Question

By Kim Petersen | Dissident Voice | January 2, 2014

Zionist Jews have, predictably, taken umbrage to the vote of American Studies Association to boycott Israeli universities. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, contends that the vote casts a “long shadow” on the American Studies Association.1

A Stupid Question

“After all,” Harris writes, “how else to explain the fact that no other country in the world — not Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan or any other serial human rights violator — has been the object of such a boycott by the group?”

Anyone aware of the occupation and oppression wreaked by the Jewish state against Palestinians must assume that Harris is either ignorant or lying. Harris ostensibly cannot fathom why Israel would be targeted.

How to explain? Unlike in Israel,

1. Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and Sudan are not engaged in the occupation and annexation of the territory of another people.2

2. Minorities in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and Sudan do not suffer under an official state-sanctioned system of apartheid.3

3. Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Syria are not waging war upon neighbor states. Sudan, a recently severed country, still has border hostilities with South Sudan.

4. Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Syria do not practice genocide.4 Given the complex situation that existed in the Darfur region of Sudan, I’ll exclude Sudan again from the conversation.

It is important to emphasize that Harris, in his letter, does not deny that Israel is guilty of the crimes that has made it a target of the boycott. Instead he argues tu quoque. In other words, others do it too, so why pick only on Israel? This is a morally vacuous defense. Whether or not Sudan, for example, engages in the same morally reprehensible behaviors as Israel does not lessen Israel’s own crimes. People of conscience have a duty to speak out against violations of human rights wherever they may be occurring.

Nonetheless, a moral tenet would posit that one’s own state would, first and foremost, be held to an equal or higher standard of conduct when criticizing other states. Since Canada and the United States are, like Israel, founded on the genocide and dispossession of Indigenous people, any criticism directed at Israel while silent on the crimes in one’s own backyard would ring of hypocrisy. To the extent that the American Studies Association does not address a similar level of immorality in its own country would be of concern.

In attempting to defend Israel, one lie that Harris trots out is the trope of Israel being “the one truly democratic state [sic] in the Middle East …” It is a lie, but even if it were true, why should being a democracy exculpate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace?

Shlomo Sand wrote a section, “’Jewish and Democratic’ – an Oxymoron?” in his book, The Invention of the Jewish People. Sand concluded:

The essentialist outlook that depends on the definitions of Jew and non-Jew, and the definition of the state by way of this outlook, together with the stubborn public refusal to allow Israel to be a republic of all Israeli citizens, constitute a deep-rooted barrier to any kind of democracy. (307)

Sand sees Israel as “a Jewish ethnocracy … a state whose main purpose is to serve not a civil-egalitarian demos but a biological-religious ethnos that is wholly fictitious historically, but dynamic, exclusive and discriminatory in its political manifestation.” (307)

Harris also pleaded that Israel “is engaged in an intensive and complex peace process with the Palestinians…”

This is an appeal to the ignorance or moral incompetence of members of the general public.

Who with an iota of critical-thinking ability would fall for the canard of a peaceful intent on Israel’s behalf while it continues building Jew-only “settlements” in the Occupied Territories? After all, Jews would have to be stupid (and they aren’t) to invest money and labor to build “settlements” only to knowingly have to abandon them to a so-called peace process.

Harris asks, “If Israel is so anathema to the majority of the association’s members, then presumably they will extend the boycott beyond Israeli universities to everything Israeli.” Harris twists the situation. The notion of a Jewish state that discriminates openly against non-Jews is anathema. Any state that discriminates against groups within the state is engaged in behavior that is anathema. However, leaving aside anarchist arguments, it is not the state, per se, that is anathema, but the actions of the state.

Consequently, when Harris chides the American Studies Association social justice orientation as “regrettable behavior,” he should be encouraged to look in the mirror and confront, what can only most euphemistically be called, Israel’s own regrettable behavior.

Harris is correct in that there are other nation-states that are deserving of the opprobrium that a boycott evokes. Canada is surely deserving for its crimes against its Original Peoples. Canada also deserves criticism for its staunch support of Zionism. There are plenty of states whose citizens need to confront the crimes of their state. This does not absolve Israel of its crimes or the censure conferred by a boycott; it merely means that there are other states deserving of censure.

  1. David Harris, “Parsing an Academic Boycott of Israel,” Letters to the New York Times, 17 December 2013.
  2. Some may point to the Kurdish areas in Iran, but these areas are internationally recognized as part of Iran.
  3. In Sudan, Black-Arab violence has been reported, but there are not, e.g., Arab-only roads in Sudan.
  4. Or as many euphemistically put it: ethnic cleansing. For an elaboration see Kim Petersen, “Bleaching the Atrocities of Genocide,” Dissident Voice, 7 June 2007.

Kim Petersen can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian Teen Dies After IOF Shooting

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | January 03, 2014

Palestinian Medical sources have reported that a Palestinian teen has died of wounds suffered Thursday, after Israeli soldiers opened fire at an area in northern Gaza.

The sources said that Adnan Abu Khater, 17 years of age, was seriously injured east of Jabalia town, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, and was moved to the Ash-Shifa Medical Center, west of Gaza City.

Abu Khater was then moved to surgery, and remained in very serious condition until he passed away on Friday morning.

Furthermore, the Israeli army fired several shells at an area east of Al-Boreij refugee camp, in Central Gaza, causing excessive damage but no injuries.

The Israeli Air Force also carried out several air strikes targeting various areas in the Gaza Strip, mainly agricultural lands east of Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza, in addition to firing missiles into lands east of Gaza City and Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza.

Eyewitnesses stated that Israeli soldiers, stationed across the border east of Gaza City, fired dozens of rounds of live ammunition into Palestinian farmlands.

Israeli navy boats also fired rounds of live ammunition at several Palestinian fishing boats in Palestinian territorial waters, causing damage but no injuries.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment