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Prominent counter-insurgency general sued over N. Ireland killing

RT | April 28, 2015

The British Army’s most prominent and decorated counter-insurgent, who helped suppress anti-colonial rebellions in Ireland, Malaya and Kenya, is being sued by the family of a man killed by Irish loyalist paramilitaries in 1973.

General Frank Kitson, now in his late 80s, is accused of negligence, misfeasance in office and breaching Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) over the death in the early 1970’s of Eugene Heenan.

Heenan, a construction worker, was killed in east Belfast after a Loyalist threw a grenade into a packed minibus in which he was a passenger.

Heenan’s widow, Mary, is bringing the legal action against Kitson.

As well as being a career soldier, Kitson drew on his vast experience of irregular warfare to author several books on the subject of counter-insurgency and is held to be one of the leading theorists on the subject.

Solicitor Kevin Winters of KRW Law, heading Mary Heenan’s legal team, told the Guardian : “This week we have issued proceedings against the MoD [Ministry of Defence] and Frank Kitson on behalf of our clients, the relatives of Patrick Heenan.

“These are civil proceedings for damages but their core value is to obtain truth and accountability for our clients as to the role of the British Army and Frank Kitson in the counter-insurgency operation in the north of Ireland during the early part of the conflict.”

The case hinges on Kitson’s alleged role in the engagement by security forces of local loyalist militias to meet British strategic aims to contain and disrupt republican groups like the IRA.

Winters also cited elements of Kitson’s own seminal work on counter-insurgency, saying that “manipulation of the rule of law, infiltration and subversion” were tactics which were all “core to the Kitson military of doctrine endorsed by the British Army and the British government at the time.”

The Kitson doctrine also inspired the creation the controversial Military Reaction Force (MRF), a Northern Ireland-based unit of urban Special Forces soldier which operated in Ireland during the 1970s.

The MRF has since been accused of carrying out a number of killings – including civilian bystanders.

While former soldier and loyalist paramilitary Albert Baker was given a life sentence for the murder of Heenan, he later claimed to have links with UK intelligence services.

Mary Heenan’s legal team argue Kitson is liable for the death due to the role of his command and influence in the incident which killed Heenan.

The legal action will be the first in a series by families affected by the actions of loyalist militias during the period.

The Kitson case would be the first which attempted to hold a senior officer individually accountable for a death during the Troubles.

In a statement the MOD said: “The Ministry of Defence has received no official notification of this case, nor are we aware of any evidence which would support the allegations.”

April 28, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Drones and Apologies

By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | April 28, 2015

The United States government seems extremely proud of its ability to kill people without endangering the lives of the killers. Today they can sit in a comfortable office and, videogame-like, assassinate people thousands of miles away, without the risk of being shot down. In the past, pilots would at least see the explosion, and possibly see burned victims running from the scene, but such unpleasantness is no longer a necessary part of the mass murder called war.

At least 5,000 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in the last ten years or so. Estimates of the number of ‘terrorists’ (whatever that means) who have been killed range from a few hundred to a few thousand. The rest are what is commonly known as ‘collateral damage’. Such a pleasant, innocuous term! Objects get damaged in a variety of ways; one might drop a dish when washing it, or perhaps dent their car when getting into a tight parking spot. Collateral damage, to be sure, but really nothing more than an inconvenience.

In U.S. parlance, ‘collateral damage’ means innocent people being killed when the U.S. wanted to kill some intended victim; the others, the ‘collateral damage’, were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, U.S. government officials claim, every effort is made to reduce such ‘damage’. This is probably not all that comforting to the loved ones of innocent people who were merely trying to go to work, school or the store, and who were blown to bits as the U.S. targeted some ‘terrorist’.

As long as we’re discussing the elusive concept of terrorism, let’s try to determine what it means. One definition that is occasionally bandied about is anyone who threatens the national security of the United States. So, someone in Pakistan who, perhaps, has been the victim of U.S. oppression, and has very limited resources to cause any damage whatsoever, is targeted, possibly by some CIA (Central Intelligence Agency; now if one wants to discuss international terrorism, that would be a good place to start) informant. So, once identified and placed on President Barack Obama’s kill list, the drone strike is ready. The victim may be assassinated, and if others happen to die also, well, what’s a little collateral damage among friends?

Mr. Obama broke precedent on April 23, when he admitted that two hostages, Dr. Warren Weinstein and Mr. Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in a drone strike, and issued an apology. Said Mr. Obama: “I take full responsibility for our counter-terrorism operations. In the fog of war… mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur… I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the US government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

Now, Dr. Weinstein was from the U.S., and Mr. Lo Porto from Italy. Mr. Obama ‘profoundly’ regrets their deaths. Their deaths were the result of a ‘deadly mistake’, which can, he says, occur in the ‘fog of war’.

Let us take just a moment to look at some components of the president’s statement. What war, one wants to know, is being waged? An ill-defined ‘war on terror’ does not answer the question. Fighting so-called terror with genuine terror does not constitute a war; it constitutes terrorism.

More importantly, why has Mr. Obama been mainly silent when at least hundreds, and probably thousands of innocent men, women and children have been killed by drone strikes? Does he not ‘profoundly regret’ those horrific deaths, and the abject suffering their deaths inflicted on their loved ones?

Mr. Obama wasted no time once he became president to start killing people. In 2009, in what is thought to be his first authorized drone strike in Yemen, 14 women and 21 children were killed. Of these thirty-five people, one was suspected of having some connection to al-Qaeda. Where were the sympathetic comments of U.S. spokespeople regarding the other thirty-four? Or were they, perhaps, not considered, because they were probably Muslim, and certainly Yemeni, and therefore not of the same intrinsic value as an Italian citizen, and certainly not on a par with a citizen of that most superior society, the U.S.

The U.S. deems as ‘terrorist’ any individual or group that doesn’t toe its racist, imperial line. And it assigns that designation somewhat arbitrarily. In March, the Obama administration said that Venezuela represented an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”. This occurred six days after Venezuela put the names of former U.S. president George Bush and his vice-president, Dick Cheney, on a list of U.S. citizens ineligible to visit Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro said that “We will prohibit visas for individuals who want to come to Venezuela who have violated human rights….” What ‘unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States’ this move represented was never clarified.

This complex web of circumstances constitutes a significant part of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. can designate any individual, group or country a terrorist, simply because it wishes to do so. It assigns itself the roles of judge, jury and, with drone strikes, executioner. Those who get in the way are mourned if they are from the West, but dismissed as collateral damage if from the East. And then the U.S. accuses other nations of violating international law, as if it is somehow exempt from such trivialities.

The U.S. uses drones to perpetrate unspeakable terror on Third World countries, all in the sacred name of protecting U.S. interests. That those interests always have more to do with corporate profits than with human rights is a given, proven by history and reinforced by all credible documentation today. The myth of the U.S. as a beacon of peace and liberty, supporting the basic human dignity of the downtrodden, is a fairy tale believed in few places beyond U.S. borders. And innocent people around the world continue to pay with their lives for the violence that is so much a part of U.S. imperialism.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

Forest fires heading for Chernobyl nuclear plant – Ukraine Interior Ministry

RT | April 28, 2015

The Ukrainian National Guard has been put on high alert due to worsening forest fires around the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

Earlier the country’s emergency ministry said there was no danger posed to the sealed-off power plant from the three forest fire flashpoints in the region.

“The forest fire situation around the Chernobyl power plant has worsened,” a statement on Interior Minister Arsen Avakov’s Facebook page says.

“The forest fire is heading in the direction of Chernobyl’s installations. Treetop flames and strong gusts of wind have created a real danger of the fire spreading to an area within 20 kilometers of the power plant. There are about 400 hectares [988 acres] of forests in the endangered area.”

Avakov says the Ukrainian prime minister has called an emergency meeting on how to tackle the situation. Police and National Guard units are on high alert.

Ukrainian emergency services say 182 people and 34 vehicles have been dispatched to fight the fire. Mi-8 helicopters and three An-32 water dropping airplanes are also working at the scene. The efforts are being coordinated from a mobile emergency headquarters.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , | 2 Comments

Israeli military drill sparks fire on Palestinian farmland

Ma’an – April 27, 2015

TUBAS – A fire sparked by an Israeli military drill swept across thousands of dunams of Palestinian farmland in the northern Jordan valley on Monday, the Palestinian civil defense said.

Some 3,000 to 4,000 dunams of farmland in the Humsa area of eastern Tubas district were affected by the fire after Israeli forces opened fire during a military exercise.

The district of Tubas is one of the West Bank’s most important agricultural centers, and the civil defense said the land had been planted with wheat and barley.

Tubas Governor Rabih al-Khandaqji condemned Israeli “violations” in the area, aimed at “displacing people from their lands and deliberately inflicting grave losses to their resources.”

Civil defense crews arrived from Qalqiliya and Nablus to fight the fire but were prevented from reaching the area as Israel has declared it a closed military zone.

The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, despite being within the Palestinian West Bank.

According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, more than 15,000 dunams of land in the Tubas district have been confiscated by Israel for military bases with a further 8,000 dunams seized for illegal Israeli settlements.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing | , , , , | 1 Comment

14-year-old shot by Israeli forces in Gaza Strip in critical condition

Ma’an – April 28, 2015

5-600x400GAZA CITY – A 14-year-old Palestinian is in critical condition and has been transferred to Ramallah for treatment after he was hit by a stray Israeli bullet on Friday at his home in the central Gaza Strip, his family said Tuesday.

The family of Fadi Abu Mandil, 14, said that the teen will undergo surgery in his spine as he is currently unable to walk.

His uncle told Ma’an that the child was hit with a stray Israeli bullet while studying at his home when Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian farmers.

On Friday medical sources said that the 14-year-old from al-Mughazi refugee camp had been transferred to Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah city.

Israeli forces were again firing on Gazan farmers on Tuesday, damaging property and forcing farmers to flee their land, and on Sunday, they shot and injured a 37-year-old man.

Israeli forces have repeatedly opened fire on Gazans since the ceasefire agreement signed Aug. 26, 2014 that ended a devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.

In March alone, there were a total of 38 incidents of shootings, incursions into the coastal enclave, and arrests, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

That was up from 26 incidents through February, and left seven Palestinians injured and one dead.

The attacks come despite Israeli promises at the end of the ceasefire to ease restrictions on Palestinian access to both the sea and the border region near the “security buffer zone.”

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 2 Comments

General strike, demonstration in 1948 Occupied Palestine

Palestine Information Center – April 28, 2015

RAMALLAH – The Palestinians in 1948 Occupied Palestine have been on general strike since the morning hours on Tuesday protesting the Israeli government policy of the demolition of Palestinians’ houses.

This followed a decision made by the higher follow up committee for Arabs in 1948 Occupied Palestine. The strike includes educational institutions and commercial shops.

The Israeli radio announced that the Palestinians are going to take to the streets in Tel Aviv at 5 p.m. in the first national demonstration of its kind. Such marches were previously arranged in cities and towns inhabited by Arabs only.

The Israeli authorities adopt displacement campaigns aiming at expelling the Palestinians in 1948 Occupied Palestine through demolishing their houses under false pretenses.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment

The Central Role of Israel in the U.S. State Religion

By Gary Leupp | Dissident Voice | April 28, 2015

The national secular religion of this country consists of a cluster of rarely questioned premises, usually inculcated in childhood, comparable to the articles of a real religious creed.

The first proposition is the idea that we live in a “free” country, as symbolized by the Statue of Liberty idol that towers over New York City’s harbor. The system absolutely insists on this point, incessantly hammering it in. It’s its basic tenet. Indeed it’s presented as “self-evident.” You’re in this country, ergo, you are FREE.

It’s inflicted by osmosis. Every institution transmits it. Those who doubt it are encouraged to think they must be mentally ill. (Of course you’re free, you’re told. And so fortunate to be so! How can anyone question that?)

“Freedom” is emblazoned on our coinage and many state automobile licenses. It’s proclaimed each school day morning by tens of millions of otherwise innocent children obliged to recite religiously that they live in a nation “with liberty and justice for all.”

This particular component of the national creed is perhaps comparable to the opening article of the Apostles’ Creed, which alludes to belief in “God the Father Almighty.” Because belief in the U.S.A. as the global headquarters of “Freedom” is as central to what some call “Americanism” as monotheism is to Christianity.

The Pledge of Allegiance expresses the belief, not just in the goodness of “freedom” in itself, but in the idea that we actually live in a free country. (How often people protest, when someone criticizes their thoughts or behavior, “Well hey, it’s a free country!” And they usually truly believe this.)

“I’m proud to be an American,” country crooner Lee Greenwood boasts, “where at least I know I’m free.” He knows this, without any religious doubt. “Cause the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away.” (Whoever they are. Presumably people who “hate our freedoms” and are actively conspiring somewhere to invade and enslave us.)

Actually, I suspect that the people of Sweden or Denmark are freer than Lee Greenwood is, or imagines himself to be. But do they know they’re free, with the confidence he exudes?

The second article of the national creed is that the U.S. military (commonly referred to as “our troops”)–wherever and whenever they fight–fight for us, somehow, to “defend our freedoms.” Whenever you attend a ball game (as I do regularly in Fenway Park) you’re told that everyone in the stadium is proud to honor the “servicemen and servicewomen” present–the “heroes” who are “defending our freedoms” in Afghanistan, Iraq, or wherever. We’re expected to applaud them, even in liberal Boston, and indicate our gratitude for whatever it is they did. And if we read in the morning Boston Globe about these heroes killing civilians we should just put it out of mind.

The ball park MC never considers the possibility that there are Red Sox fans there just for the game, who do not see how U.S. troops’ actions in invaded countries defend their freedoms in any way, and who find this insertion of patriotic content into the program really annoying.

Still the crowd rises to its feet on demand, showing deference, accepting the adulation of the troops as a matter of faith. If you just sit there sullenly, refusing to participate, some drunken patriot might hassle you for your traitorous non-enthusiasm. So in this free country it’s best to just stand up to honor the troops and try to maintain your self-respect by being as nonchalant as possible.

Every cable news viewer has seen that endlessly repeated USAA Military Auto Insurance TV commercial, “Thank you Dad.”

“Thank you, Daddy, for defending our country,” says the cute little Latina girl, in one version.

“Thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for your bravery,” says an African-American women, to her spouse perhaps.
“Thank you, colonel,” says the young white man to his former superior officer.
“Thank you, Daddy,” says the little black girl.

It’s a movingly multi-ethnic crowd, thanking Daddy for his martial valor. Trace Adkin’s “Till the Last Shot’s Fired” is in the background, urging us to “say a prayer for peace” even as the song glorifies the warrior and places priority on his (as opposed to his victims’) peace.

I’m in the fields of Vietnam,
the mountains of Afghanistan
and I’m still hopin’ waitin’
prayin’ I did not die in vain.

Say a prayer for peace for every fallen son.
Set our spirits free. Let me lay down my gun.
… We can’t come home until the last shot’s fired.

It doesn’t seem to make any difference to Adkins what the cause is, or how many people these soldiers killed. They’re heroes–just for doing the unquestionable right thing and firing that last shot (against whoever) as ordered.

The fact is, those who fought in Vietnam and Afghanistan did “die in vain.” Certainly their deaths produced no good for this world. But as suffering servants who sacrifice their lives as commanded, the U.S. military vets occupy the position of Christ in the secular religion. Just as in Christian theology, Jesus is God in human flesh, “our troops” are our (mythical) Freedom personified.

St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” In the U.S. civic doctrine, the dead troops are the sacrifice necessary to keep us free.

The third proposition in the official state faith is that we live in a democracy, in which the people decide the nation’s fate through exercising their awesome right to vote. This, in the official civic belief system, is the equivalent of the Holy Spirit in Christianity.

Through the ritual of casting a ballot in the hallowed privacy of a voting booth, citizens fulfill their highest civic duty. One is supposed to stand there in that box, in solitude, but in intimate spiritual communication with the benevolent, all-embracing, fatherly state. One is supposed to be grateful to the state for the opportunity to enjoy the right to help determine the future, perhaps by choosing Jed Bush over Hillary Clinton. Or Hillary Clinton over Jed Bush.

One is supposed to leave that sacred space feeling pure and righteous, having performed the highest duty of citizenship. It’s not so important to vote for either one of the two of the viable corporate-sponsored parties (which are really like two factions of a single party, in a one-party dictatorship of the 1%). No. What’s important is to simply vote and, having participated, thereby voted for the system itself.

You’re supposed to leave the ballot box, proud to be an American, because at least you know you voted. You made a difference! You exercised your right. The only downside is that hereafter–whatever happens–you share responsibility. Because you, after all, elected your leaders, didn’t you?

So if you voted for a warmonger who attacks Iran, with hellish consequences, you’ll have to call the inevitable ensuing conflict “our” war, right? Rather than calling it “their” war–the war of the imperialists, from whom you might have appropriately dissociated yourself–just by politely declining the invitation to attend their unpleasant party and play their game.

Voting is fundamentally a statement of faith in the god of Freedom. And in the Christ-like qualities of the divinized warrior who, in this mythology, dies for your precious right to engage in this vapid ritual. Casting a vote in this “democracy” is rather like receiving Holy Communion in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

In the latter rite one reverentially receives and consumes the wine and wafer; in the U.S. civil rite one religiously casts the ballot and swallows the myth.

These three beliefs constitute the Holy Trinity of the national doctrine. They’re indeed all articles of faith, hardly based on reason. After all, how “free” is a country with the world’s highest incarceration rate, with over 700 in jail or prison out of every 100,000?

Almost 7 million adults in this country–nearly 3% of the adult population–are under what’s called “correctional supervision.” With 5% of the world’s population, this free country boasts fully one-quarter of the planetary prison population. 40% of these prisoners are African-American. There are more young black men in prison in this country than in college.

How can anyone speak with a straight face about “freedom” here?

“I wish I knew how it would feel to be free,” sang Nina Simone–quite heretically, in bold opposition to the state faith–in 1967, before fleeing the U.S. in 1970 and ultimately settling in France, which she (among other African-American and other exiles) found somewhat freer at that time.

How “free” are we now really–when all citizens are under electronic surveillance (at a level of sophistication that puts East Germany’s fabled Stasi to shame); while young men of color are routinely harassed by police, while police murders have–if only due to cell phone camera video exposure–become almost daily news stories; while government whistle-blowers are jailed for revealing such phenomena as state-sponsored torture?

And how do U.S. soldiers fight “for us” or “defend our freedoms” by invading countries in wars based on lies?

In my own state of Massachusetts there have been what I suppose can be termed some modest advances in freedom in recent times. (Sunday alcohol sales were allowed in 2004, gay marriage was legally recognized in 2004, marijuana possession was decriminalized in 2008). These changes have a meaningful impact on my community. But none of them had anything at all to do with U.S. troops’ actions abroad. And in fact the U.S. war (based on lies) in Iraq set women’s rights far back in that tortured, mutilated country.

The Democrats and Republicans pretend to have real differences with one another. (Rather like pro wrestlers pretend to truly despise one another before the big fight. It’s all for show.) But seriously: how democratic is a country in which two parties sharing a common faith in capitalist imperialism trade the presidency every so often–always vowing to effect change, even while nothing dramatically changes–while the one percent at the top of society (especially the cancerous tenth of that one percent) relentlessly increases its share of the national wealth?

The recent (2014) empirical study by Princeton professor Martin Gilens and Stanford professor Benjamin Page declares that the U.S. is not in fact a democracy but an oligarchy in which individuals and even mass-based interest groups cannot prevail over the tiny elite that makes decisions. “Average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence” on policy, they conclude. “Democracy” in this country is a joke.

The national secular creed also entails support for a foreign state which has nothing to do with U.S. freedom, and has not been a battlefield of U.S. blood sacrifice, but which does significantly impact the sacrament of voting. Whereas belief in the trinity of Freedom, Our Troops, and Voting is formally non-religious, this support is rooted deeply in religion.

I refer of course to the role of Israel in the national belief system.

Members of Congress have been known to cite Genesis 12:3, in the Old Testament, to explain their votes in favor of Israel under any circumstances whatsoever. This is the passage in which Yahweh (God) tells Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” Just the other day Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX) declared, “There are many who have been aware of Scripture, and it has been a guide in our relations with Israel.” Enough said!

This sort of ass kissing is politically feasible in a country where, a recent poll showed, 55% of the population believes that God (the Maker of everything) gave what’s now the land of Israel to the Jews in perpetuity. It’s amazing. It would be amusing if the potential ramifications weren’t so horrifying.

President Obama and repeated Congressional resolutions refer to the U.S.’s “eternal support” for Israel. (Notice how such language is never applied to other countries. Despite the “special relationship” U.S. politicians never use such effusive language in referring to ties with the U.K. And recall how France, the U.S.’s oldest ally that gifted it the Statue of Liberty, was vilified as an “enemy” not so long ago–when it refused to support the war on Iraq, based, as that criminal war was, wholly on lies.)

This religious support for Israel in fact produces some amusement in Israel itself, where about a third of the Jewish population considers itself non-religious and takes those Bible fables with a grain of salt. But the support of Christian evangelicals is the key to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Israeli prime ministers are received like rock stars at Christian events held in support of Israel. Christian Zionist organizations play a major role in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful lobby group that serves as a virtual agency of the Israel state.

In his May 2011 speech to Congress, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received 29 standing ovations–including one when he declared, “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.” Never mind that no country in the world recognizes Israel’s right to any land (on the West Bank, or in Gaza, Syria, or Lebanon) occupied during that “pre-emptive” war of aggression. Never mind that it is official U.S. policy to demand, along with the rest of the world, for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders. The bought-and-paid-for Congress rose to applaud Netanyahu’s insistence of the Jewish right to permanently annex more Arab land.

In his March 3, 2015 address to Congress, by invitation of the Republican leaders in the Senate, Netanyahu devoted all of his time to one topic: the G5+1 talks in Switzerland with Iran, and the need for the Congress to oppose any plans for President Obama’s State Department to sign onto any deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Again, incessant standing ovations!

Not surprising. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina and head of the Senate’s Foreign Appropriations Committee, had already told Netanyahu publicly that on Iran “Congress will follow your lead.” How to make sense of such fawning stupidity?

Netanyahu has direly predicted that Iran is close to the production of nuclear weapons since 1992, since before today’s college sophomores were born. He’s been a Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling–that Israel is in imminent, existential danger from Iranian nukes. He will not of course talk about Israel’s nuclear weapons, which the Jewish state has possessed since 1979, when it conducted a joint test with its close ally, the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. (In Israel it is a crime for anyone with knowledge about this to reveal what they know; the nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu spent 18 years in prison for revealing details about it to the British press.)

Israel is the only state in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. Its leaders think they have the right to have them, since (for some reason) Israel faces so much hostility from its refugee-flooded neighbors in this harsh world. And they decline to submit their nuclear facilities to UN inspection, while demanding that the world prevent Iran from developing any sort of nuclear program. Even a program like that which Brazil or Argentina might boast of, quite legally.

There is amazingly little discussion in this country of the actual history of the modern state of Israel. About how 33 of the UN ambassadors in 1947 (59% of the total at the time) voted for a plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine that favored the Jewish immigrants over the 65% Arab majority, allotting the Zionist settlers over half the land.

They don’t realize how unrepresentative the UN was at that time, when half the world remained under colonial occupation.

They don’t know that in 1948 many prominent Jewish rabbis in the world opposed the formation of a specifically Jewish-Zionist state in Palestine.

They don’t realize how the entire Muslim world opposed the unfair partition; how major countries that were not majority Muslim (India, Greece, Cuba) voted against it; and how many others (China, Argentina, Ethiopia, Mexico, Yugoslavia, even the United Kingdom) abstained, feeling queasy about the deal and its potential blowback.

They don’t necessarily know that Zionists in the Irgun brown shirt paramilitary group along with the Stern Gang implemented a strategy of terror to produce mass panic and flight that produced 750,000 Palestinian Arab refugees between April 1948 and January 1949. They’ve never been told about the Deir Yassin massacre in April 1948.

They certainly don’t realize that many of these Palestinians may be the direct descendents of the Judeans of the Roman province where Jesus lived. It’s not like there was ever really a Diaspora in which the wicked Romans drove out all the Jews. They drove out some, while others remained. Of those who stayed, many became Christians over time and stopped self-identifying as Jewish. Later many converted to Islam. Meanwhile Judeans outside Judea, who numbered in millions even before the birth of Jesus, intermarried with others and for a couple centuries there was actually significant conversion to Judaism by gentiles in both the Roman and Parthian empires.

The Jewish Zionist community in contemporary Israel, which officially represents itself as a people who have “returned” to their ancestral land to which they have some sort of “birthright,” may in fact have less DNA in common with the Judeans of Jesus’ time than with modern European populations. The whole business of Abraham talking with the Supreme Being and being told his direct descendents would possess the Land of Israel forever (and so, who cares what happens to the Arabs?) is mythology. The “call of Abraham” is supposed to have occurred around 1000 years before there even was a written Hebrew language.

Christians in this country, who are prone to be much more literalistic in their reading of the Bible than those in Europe, tend to accept (as real historical phenomena) the story of Noah’s Ark, the bondage in Egypt and parting of the Red Sea. They believe that Moses was given the Law by God himself on Mount Sinai, and that during the conquest of Canaan, the walls of Jericho fell miraculously when the Hebrew “chosen people” blew their trumpets. They believe that the sun once remained stationary in the sky to give Joshua the upper hand in a battle for control of Jerusalem (Joshua 10:13).

The Israeli government and Israel Lobby which serves as its unlicensed agent (de facto exempt from U.S. legal oversight) knows that the U.S. public–largely brainwashed by the secular national religion and its own delusions about being itself a Chosen People inhabiting a Promised Land–is extremely receptive to Israel’s incessant religious pitch. They know that politicians competing for votes know they need to show maximum deference to Israel.

In his March 3 address to Congress, as his mesmerized audience sat imbibing his wisdom, Binyamin Netanyahu sermonized:

We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther. We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

The plot was foiled. Our people were saved.

The legislators present rose to applaud this allusion to the Bible story, which immediately segued into the claim that “Today the Jewish people face another attempt by yet another Persian potentate to destroy us. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology…”

The fact is, the story of Queen Esther is a myth. Set in the fifth century BCE but composed around the second century BCE, it describes a situation in which numerous Judeans reside in the city of Babylon in the Persian Empire. The exiles had in fact been permitted to leave by 530 BCE, and to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, by the Achaemenid founder Cyrus the Great–a Persian (Iranian) who is actually identified in the Old Testament as “the Lord’s anointed one” (Isaiah: 45:1-7).

This validation as an “anointed one” was, by the way, an honor shared by no other non-Jew in the Bible. Not that you’d expect Netanyahu to point out the positive aspects of the very long relationship between Jews and Iran, which (as you know) has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel in the Middle East. The Jewish minority has representation in the Iranian parliament, and maintains synagogues, Hebrew schools and kosher restaurants. (If you don’t know these facts, thank the U.S. mainstream media.)

In the Book of Esther story, the Persian emperor Ahasuerus (commonly identified with Xerxes, a real person who ruled from 486 to 465 BCE and the fifth in the Achaemenid line) becomes dissatisfied with his current wife. He casts her aside unceremoniously and looks for a new spouse, choosing Esther, a Jew, who conceals her background. She finds favor with the ruler. However, her kinsman Mordecai offends Xerxes’ prime minister, Haman (to whom Netanyahu alluded in his speech) by refusing to bow down before him.

Haman learns that both the queen and Mordecai are Jews. Energized by petty pique, he organizes a plot to massacre all the Jews in the land and seize their property. He tells Xerxes there is a “certain unassimilated nation… throughout the provinces of your realm” whose laws so differ from those of other nations that “it is not in the king’s interest to tolerate them” (Esther 3:8-9). He persuades him to agree to an annihilation campaign.

Again, this is pure fantasy. It never happened. But in the story, a huge pogrom is planned, Mordecai heroically organizes mass prayer and resistance, and Queen Esther at the decisive moment reveals her identity as a Jew to the ruler, and defends her people. Xerxes, egged on by his spouse, has Haman hanged and gives the Jews license to exact revenge on their enemies. Indeed, according to this novelette, Jews during the Feast of Purim slaughter 75,000 Persians (Esther 9:15-16). (None of this is supported by contemporary Persian sources.)

Having observed that this is pure fiction, one can ask why Netanyahu wanted to use it last month in his fiction-riddled presentation to Congress. He must have known that anyone present with a little knowledge of Jewish-Iranian history might have asked: “Excuse me, but doesn’t the Esther story actually tell us that Jews have been in Persia (Iran) for 2,500 years, and that Persian rulers were regarded favorably by ancient Judeans as allies–even ‘God’s anointed’ rather than foes?”

And couldn’t one ask, “How did the Jewish Queen Esther ‘give the right’ to the Jews ‘to defend themselves against their enemies’?” The Jews were allowed to kill the 75,000 Persians in the story because the Persian ruler had given them the right. Netanyahu might not have read the text carefully. But one must suppose that even if he had, he wasn’t trying to give the U.S. audience a rigorous textual exegesis. He was presenting his Likud Party program of continued confrontation with Iran (as a supporter of Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements) in biblical gift-wrap.

Just by citing an Old Testament work familiar to some Christians–such as those who dominate Congress–Netanyahu plugged into that chord of commonality that many adherents of the national civic religion like to reference when the trinity of Freedom, Holy War, and Voting alone doesn’t quite do the job.

When you’re a U.S. leader and need to get the people on board a new campaign for Mideast war, you can’t just say, “We’re free. But we have to fight to stay free. And we have to vote for the strongest, who will fight hardest for our freedom.” You also need to exploit the religious element and add, “We have to side with Israel, because God said, he would bless those who blessed it, and curse those who didn’t.”

Again, the first three articles in the national civic religion are actually irreligious; they don’t require belief in deities, souls, and afterlives. But the belief in Israel as the Promised Land of a certain bloodline, granted to it in perpetuity by a certain deity in conversations four millennia ago, is an explicitly religious conviction.

Unfortunately these four creedal myths–that we really enjoy freedom; that this countries wars are for freedom; that the act of voting really means “democracy;” and that the U.S. must always as a matter of principle back Israel–constitute a doctrinal whole.

You can presumably lose faith in the fourth while maintaining adherence to the first three, since the latter don’t involve specifically religious beliefs. But polls suggest that the majority of people in this country still accept all four points in the Creed. They would, in the event of an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran–while prizing their freedom, heroic military and parliamentary system–also applaud any Israeli actions in putative defense of the Jews’ “God-given” land.

Even if the Israelis were to deploy nuclear weapons, out of their known arsenal (which U.S. politicians, for some reason, never ever mention) against an Iran which has none, these people would bless rather than curse them. They would see in the action affirmations of “freedom,” heroic military action, and “democracy” alongside adherence to the unquestionable Word of God.

How can one possibly challenge the U.S. state religion–this nonsensical mass of concepts in the service of the 1% including an inordinate share of billionaire Iran-baiting Zionists? Six media corporations (GE, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS) control the “news” consumed by the great majority of people in this country. They all promote the national belief system.

Freedom. Our troops. The beauty of the ballot box. God and Israel.

They all instruct their reporters, in the event of a Ferguson-style situation, to spin the story away from any radical critique of systemic police brutality victimizing the non-white poor. Of course they all uphold the freedom of the abused people to demonstrate (“peacefully”); they have to confirm the national creed that the people are somehow, basically, “free” under the existing system.

“Journalists” and talking heads from Lou Dobbs to Al Sharpton unite in urging the people to respond properly, responsibly to events that disturb them (whether it’s war, economic injustice, or police brutality) by registering to vote!

Off the streets and into the polling booth! To elect more Obamas, more saviors! (Even though–let me repeat–Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page have concluded empirically that in the U.S. your vote means very little.)

They all resist criticism of war, and investigative journalism before the next war-based-on-lies occurs. They all get critical as the U.S. enters a morass, and belatedly might even question the premises for a particular war. But they will always, culturally, uphold the warrior as the soul of the nation. Even after a war has itself been discredited, clearly exposed as based on lies, the warrior is upheld as a freedom fighter and social role model.

How to disabuse people of those doctrinal premises? How to persuade them to see Israel rationally–free of religious baggage–as a normal, oppressive settler-state surrounded by neighbors who are (most understandably) indignant about its aggressions since 1948?

It may well be impossible. State religions are hard to crack. Still, the petering out of state faiths in Europe and the collapse of State Shinto in Japan after 1945 suggest that the U.S. secular national religion might also eventually (as that old Persian expression goes) “fade from the page of time.”

I’m hopeful there will come a time when our youth–frustrated with job prospects and housing issues, fed up with police brutality, burdened with student debt, disgusted with wars based on lies, nauseated by the Stasi-like NSA surveillance of their private lives, shocked by the raw statistics showing how wealth is apportioned in this “free” country, disillusioned by their own engagement with the “American dream”–will rebel big time.

Understanding through experience that this is NOT a free country, and that humanity can do much, much better, they will observe matter-of-factly that U.S. military personnel deployed in imperialist wars are NOT heroes.

They will recognize that elections in this society are a ritual to legitimate the status quo, an ideological trap, not the best means to effect real change.

And they will realize that the mystical hold of Israel over the U.S. polity, which does not advantage the individual citizen at all, is rooted in a mythological misreading of the past.

In today’s world that interpretation of past reality necessarily dovetails with anti-Arab racism and ignorant Islamophobia. Senators and Congressmen will tell you quite frankly they’d be happy to “give” Israel the whole West Bank because the Bible tells them that “the Jews” should ultimately have it.

These fine Christian Zionists have no problem with Palestinian dislocation and disenfranchisement. But maybe their day is ending. The day of the U.S. state religion may be ending. The day that the Israeli prime minister citing biblical fairy tales can dictate U.S. policy in the Mideast may be ending as Bibi reaps the whirlwind of his Bible-thumping address to Congress.

A tsunami of disillusionment is, if not inevitable, at least very likely. It’s good to be disabused of illusions or delusions, religious, patriotic or both. May our youth shuffle off the Zionist coil, seeing it for what it is: the ideological prop for more war that has nothing to do with freedom.

Gary Leupp can be reached at:

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Some states have hijacked NPT in favor of Israel: Researcher

Press TV – April 28, 2015

Press TV has conducted an interview with Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich, an independent researcher and writer, in Irvine, to get her take on the stance of Iran and other countries over the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Mohammad Javad Zarif’s spokes of fairness and equity when it comes to the implementation of the NPT, has that been like that ever since this treaty came into effect?

Sepahpour: Regrettably, not at all and under the international law there ought to be no discrimination whatsoever. In fact, scholars have argued that the only time that discrimination if he wants to be called that is acceptable in international law is to elevate the status of a state to be on par with the rest. But right now as we said the international law has been hijacked and we see that powerful states are doling out favors to those that are pariah states, especially Israel in the region, and in fact, rewarding them for violating international law, while again themselves violating international law by not rendering assistance to those who are signatories to this treaty.

Press TV: How imperative is this for this NPT treaty to remain relevant to be able to bring Israel’s nukes under its control or supervision and also compel nations like the United States to clamp down on their own arsenals?

Sepahpour: I think if the former director general of the IAEA Mr. ElBaradei had listened to Mr. Zarif and perhaps he has, he would have applauded him. In 2004, Dr. ElBaradei, in fact, said that we need to talk seriously to Israel about its nuclear weapons whether it wants to admit to having them or not. And in fact, he called on a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. So, Mr. Zarif is right on the point in calling out, Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, is being rewarded for having nuclear weapons. And as far as the other states are not abiding by the NPT, again I’d like to quote Mohamed ElBaradei, he was the IAEA chief for three terms and he was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize together with the IAEA, and he said of nuclear powers, it is like them having it, “dangling a cigarette in their mouth while telling others not to smoke”. You can not violate international law and expect others to comply. This will create total chaos, disorder and it is a threat not just to the Middle East but to the entire world.

Press TV: When you speak of international law, so let’s not forget Iran is a signatory to the NPT and yet it has faced multiple sanctions regarding its peaceful nuclear energy program. That in itself is another violation, would not you agree?

Sepahpour: It is absolutely a violation. The whole purpose of the IAEA, when it was established in 1957 as a body of the United Nations, was to enable peaceful nations, those there were party, there was no treaty at that time, but to spread nuclear technologies, peaceful use around the world and NPT which was presented in 1968 for signature, in fact the whole spirit of the NPT was not only to render assistance in peaceful nuclear technology to the signatories but to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons, total disarmament and stop proliferation none of that has happened, in fact, Iran is a victim of policies here. There are nations that would want to use this law, this international treaty as a tool to dole out favors to the nations to that their working with and to those that are demanding their rights under the international law. So, it is very hypocritical, it is very dangerous and I think that this was a good occasion for the world to listen to a representative of 120 nations. And I just want to add that Iran has asked in numerous occasions for there to be total nuclear disarmament in the Middle East and even in 2009 the Arab League had said they could no longer tolerate Israel’s nuclear weapons without it is being subjected to… become a part of the NPT and have its nuclear facilities inspected. So, the vast majority of the world understands what is going on and what needs to happen. It is for more powerful nations that have hijacked the NPT that are keeping it as hostage to come on-board and be law abiding.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vox Errata: On Nuclear Framework, Explanatory Journalism Site Has Some More ‘Splaining To Do

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | April 5, 2015

As soon as the framework for a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers was announced in Lausanne, Switzerland on April 2, content manager Max Fisher came out strongly in favor of the agreement’s reported details. While his optimism is certainly welcome, his understanding of some key details leaves something to be desired.

Unfortunately, for someone who writes about the Iranian nuclear program as much as he does, Fisher seems not to have a very solid grasp on certain basic facts about the program. Sure, this is tricky, complex stuff, but if you’re in the business of producing what you refer to as “explanatory journalism” – and your entire reporting model is based upon providing clear analysis to a presumably less knowledgeable public – you should probably know what you’re talking about.

Here are just a few of his most recent errors.

‘Covert Nuclear Facilities’

In his “plain English” guide to the framework parameters, as described by the United States State Department, Fisher notes that facilities at Natanz and Fordow will continue to operate, with uranium enrichment continuing at Natanz and non-uranium enrichment and research occurring at Fordow.

Fisher concludes that this is a good deal for those worried about Iranian nuclear capabilities. “International inspectors will have access [to these facilities],” he writes, “so they won’t really function as covert nuclear facilities anymore.”

But, apparently unbeknownst to Fisher, neither Natanz nor Fordow ever actually functioned as secret nuclear enrichment facilities. Ever.


While much is often made of the 2002 revelation of Iran’s supposedly clandestine enrichment plant at Natanz, rarely do we hear that the pilot facility was still under construction when it was declared by Iran to the IAEA. Per Iran’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA at the time, however, “Iran did not have to declare that it was building a pilot plant until 180 days before it expected to introduce nuclear material into the plant,” explained a May 2003 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Furthermore, as pointed out at the time by a research analyst at the Arms Control Association, Iran “is not required to allow visits to the Arak and Natanz sites under its current agreements with the IAEA.”

In effect, the United States has long been proud of discovering a construction site that Iran was under absolutely no obligation to announce to the IAEA. Natanz was not operational until June 2006, at which which point it had already been under IAEA safeguards for over three years. Not a single atom of enriched uranium has ever been produced at Natanz outside the purview of IAEA inspectors. Nevertheless, in a separate article published the same day, Fisher claims Natanz “was once used for covert enrichment.”


Similarly, the site at Fordow was never a functional enrichment site outside IAEA monitoring. As with Natanz, it was “clandestine” only to the effect that it wasn’t officially declared by Iran to the IAEA before the US intelligence agencies said they already knew about it.

The site was announced by Iran to the IAEA on September 21, 2009, well in advance of the 180 days prior to the introduction of nuclear material as required by Iran’s Safeguards Agreement. At the time, the facility was still under construction and did not actually begin uranium enrichment until early January 2012, roughly 28 months after it had been declared to the IAEA. Upon visiting the facility six weeks after it was announced, then-IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei described Fordow as “a hole in a mountain” and “nothing to be worried about.”

When the plant began operation, the IAEA confirmed that “all nuclear material in the facility remains under the agency’s containment and surveillance.” This was the case well before the November 2013 interim deal between the P5+1 and Iran and this remains the case to this day.

While Fisher has written elsewhere that both the Natanz and Fordow “sites are now publicly declared and will be monitored as part of any deal,” meaning “their value (and threat) as covert facilities is gone,” he appears to insinuate that recent negotiations – and namely Iranian concessions extracted by determined American negotiators – are responsible for this positive state of affairs. Natanz has been safeguarded, monitored and inspected by the IAEA for over a decade, Fordow for over four years.

‘Plutonium Plant at Arak’

If you read, you’d really think Iran has something called a “plutonium plant at Arak.” The main reason you’d probably think that is because that’s exactly what Max Fisher and other explainers at the site claim as fact over and over again. Here’s Fisher from the other day:

There is so much wrong with Fisher’s understanding of Iran’s Arak facilities it’s difficult to know where to begin. Fisher even changed the original words of the State Department’s “fact sheet” on the deal framework to match his misunderstanding before allowing himself to explain things to his readers. Basically none of Fisher’s sentences in this section make any sense.

What Fisher routinely refers to as Iran’s “plutonium plant” is actually the IR-40 heavy water research reactor, a nuclear reactor at the Arak complex that is still under construction and not yet operational. The half-built reactor is under IAEA safeguards and is visited regularly by inspectors. Nevertheless, it has long been used by Israel and its contingent of hawkish American supporters as an alternate way to fear-monger about Iran’s nuclear program.

In simple terms, heavy water reactors are fueled by natural, rather than enriched, uranium. Heavy water, a non-nuclear form of water, acts as both a moderator and coolant in the fuel process. These reactors are said to pose a potential proliferation threat due to the amounts of plutonium produced as a byproduct of their spent nuclear fuel, material that could then be separated from the irradiated fuel and further processed to weapons-grade levels.

So, to be clear, Iran has not been building a “plutonium plant,” let alone a facility “for making and storing potentially weapons-grade plutonium.” Rather, it has been building a certain type of nuclear reactor that happens to produce plutonium as a byproduct in its spent fuel.

Still, the Arak reactor is not in itself a proliferation risk. Even though plutonium is produced as a byproduct of running the reactor, it must first be separated out from irradiated fuel and reprocessed to weapons-grade material before it poses any actual danger. Iran has no reprocessing plant, and has long agreed not to build one.

Reading Fisher’s explanation, it’s clear he thinks that, once operational, the facility at Arak would have somehow made “weapons-grade plutonium,” but now will only “make nuclear fuel” to power a reactor. He is wrong. The relevant facility at Arak is a reactor; it doesn’t make fuel, it runs on fuel. Whenever it is eventually commissioned, it will be used for medical, scientific and agricultural research.

Beyond this, even before Iran’s current negotiating team was in place following the election of President Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, “Iran encouraged United Nations nuclear monitors to use powerful new detection technologies to dispel international concern that the Persian Gulf country is seeking to build atomic weapons,” reported Bloomberg News.

“We always welcome the agency to have more sophisticated equipment, to have more accuracy in their measurements, so that technical matters will not be politicized,” Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the press in Vienna at the time, adding that Iran “won’t object to IAEA monitors using new technologies to determine whether plutonium is being extracted from spent fuel at its new reactor in Arak.”

In his guide to the nuclear framework, Fisher went to weird lengths to confuse his readership about Arak. The State Department’s own fact sheet notes, “Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak, based on a design that is agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium, and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.” Fisher changed the mention of “a heavy water research reactor” to “plutonium plant,” which appears to be a deliberate decision to make Iran’s safeguarded nuclear program sound undoubtedly nefarious.

Fisher also writes that, under the agreement, Iran “is barred from heavy-water reactor use.” That’s not true. Even though IR-40’s reactor core will be redesigned and rebuilt, it will still be a heavy water reactor. What the framework fact sheet says, however, is specifically that “Iran will not build any additional heavy water reactors for 15 years.” (emphasis mine)


As part of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreed to in November 2013, Iran has granted IAEA inspectors regular access to non-safeguarded, non-nuclear sites such as centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities, and uranium mines and mills at Gchine, Saghand, and Ardakan. Fisher is pleased with this development, explaining that, “Inspectors, by gaining access to not just the core nuclear sites but also secondary things like uranium mills and centrifuge plants, will be in a really good position to make sure Iran isn’t cheating on a deal or trying to build another secret facility somewhere.”

Fisher’s sentence construction here is both curious and revealing. He notes that “by gaining access” to “core nuclear sites” as well as other, non-nuclear sites, inspectors have a clearer picture of the entire Iranian supply chain for its nuclear program. But the nuclear sites in question have always been under safeguards and open to routine inspections since they were declared years ago, prior to any actual nuclear work being done there. This is nothing new; it is not a virtue of the JPOA or any other recent negotiated terms. You wouldn’t know this by reading Fisher’s work.

Furthermore, despite constant insinuations to the contrary, Iran has never refused IAEA inspectors admission to any of its safeguarded nuclear sites. All sites and facilities are under round-the-clock video surveillance, readily accessible to IAEA inspectors, open to routine inspection, and subject to material seals application by the agency.

Even before the JPOA was negotiated, Iran’s was the most heavily-scrutinized nuclear program on the planet and had been for years. Though the IAEA has even deeper access as a result of the interim deal (which will presumably continue for the foreseeable future as part of any final deal), the regular inspection regimen was itself quite intensive and intrusive. Rarely is this noted in mainstream media reports, leading many to the outrageously incorrect conclusion that, prior to the current nuclear talks, Iran operated a wholly unmonitored, clandestine and opaque nuclear program. (This is actual an apt description of Israel’s own nuclear arsenal.) Nothing could be further from the truth.

Nuclear expert Mark Hibbs has explained, “There are IAEA safeguards personnel in Iran 24/7/365,” pointing out that inspectors enter and examine enrichment sites “frequently and routinely,” where they carry out “two kinds of inspections: ‘announced inspections’ and ‘short-notice announced inspections.'” The “announced inspections” are conducted with “24-hour notification” given to Iran, while “Iran’s subsidiary arrangements in fact permit the IAEA to conduct a short-notice inspection upon two hours’ notice.” Each of Iran’s enrichment facilities was already subject to two regular inspections every month. Additionally, two unannounced inspections were conducted every month at both Natanz and Fordow.

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian, now a lecturer at Princeton University, has noted that, between 2003 and 2012, “the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has implemented the most robust inspections in its history with more than 100 unannounced and over 4000 man-day inspections in Iran.” In 2012 alone, IAEA investigators spent 1,356 calendar days in Iran, conducting 215 on-site inspections of the country’s 16 declared nuclear facilities, and spending more than 12% of the agency’s entire $127.8 million budget on intrusively monitoring the Iranian program, which includes only a single functional nuclear reactor that doesn’t even operate at full capacity.

IAEA inspectors have also had consistently open access to the gas conversion facility at Esfahan and the light water reactor at Bushehr, despite these facilities not being explicitly covered by Iran’s Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.

The agency has continued to verify – four times a year for the past dozen years – that Iran has never diverted any nuclear material for military purposes and has also affirmed “it has all the means it needs to make sure that does not happen with Iran’s enriched uranium, including cameras, physical inspections and seals on certain materials and components.”

And that was before the increased scrutiny provided by the JPOA.

‘Breakout Time’

In his post on why the newly-announcement framework – as described by the State Department’s own fact sheet – is such a good deal, Fisher explains the oft-used term “breakout time” to his readers this way:

If Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei woke up tomorrow morning and decided to kick out all of the inspectors and set his entire nuclear program toward building a nuclear warhead — to “break out” to a bomb — right now it would take him two or three months. Under the terms of the framework, his program would be so much smaller that it would take him an entire year to build a single nuclear warhead.

Fisher is wrong about this. “Breakout time” – an arbitrary measure in itself – is not the time it takes to build one nuclear bomb. Rather, it is the time it would hypothetically take Iran to acquire enough highly-enriched uranium (HEU) for one nuclear bomb. As Gary Sick has succinctly explained:

Note that “breakout” does not mean Iran will have a nuclear device. It is the starting point to build a nuclear device, which most experts agree would require roughly a year for Iran to do–and probably another two or more years to create a device that could be fit into a workable missile warhead. Plus every other country that has ever built a nuclear weapon considered it essential to run a test before actually using their design. There goes bomb No. 1.

So when officials, pundits, and interested parties talk about a one-year breakout time for Iran, what they are really saying is that if Iran decides to break its word and go for a bomb, it will take approximately one year to accumulate 27 kilograms of HEU. The hard part follows.

As is common in Fisher’s reporting, uranium enrichment is presented as nearly synonymous with nuclear bomb-making. Fisher essentially conflates the two, thereby drawing conclusions that neither the IAEA nor Western and Israeli intelligence agencies have made. Acquiring uranium enriched to high enough levels for a nuclear bomb is only one component of manufacturing a nuclear weapon, which includes the mastery of the detonation process, requisite missile technology, and making a bomb deliverable.

For over a decade, it has been acknowledged that, in addition to the nine nuclear weapons states (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea), perhaps “40 countries or more now have the know-how to produce nuclear weapons,” according to former IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei.

Nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt had also noted that, “if a nation has a developed civilian nuclear infrastructure—which the NPT actually encourages—this implies it has a fairly solid nuclear-weapons capability. Just like Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan also have a nuclear-weapons capability—they, too, could break out of the NPT and make a nuclear device in short order. Capabilities and intentions cannot be conflated.”

‘Modified Code 3.1’

Fisher writes that, under the proposed deal, “Iran has finally agreed to comply by a rule known as Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement, shorthanded as Modified Code 3.1. It says that Iran has to notify inspectors immediately on its decision to build any new facility where it plans to do nuclear work — long before construction starts.”

This is true and Fisher should have left it at that. Instead, he went on to smugly editorialize about Iran’s behavior and it’s here that he revealed his misunderstanding of the actual issues at stake. He writes:

Iran in the past has either rejected this rule or stated that it would only notify inspectors a few months before introducing nuclear material at a facility — a “cover your ass” move in case the world caught them building a new nuclear site. Tehran’s promise to comply may signal that it intends to stop building such covert facilities.

In truth, what Fisher refers to as “a ‘cover your ass’ move” is actually a legally binding stipulation of the original Code 3.1 under Iran’s Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which was implemented in 1976, two years after the initial safeguards.

In 1992, the IAEA modified the code to read that member states would have to notify the agency and provide design information at the planning stage for new facilities, rather than the previously obligatory “no later than 180 days before the introduction of nuclear material to the site.” While most countries accepted the modified code, Iran did not and the original Code 3.1 remained legally in place until February 26, 2003, when Iran agreed to voluntarily implement the modified code, pending ratification by the Iranian parliament. The modified code remained in place for over four years, though it was never ratified.

Days after the adoption of an illegal sanctions resolution by the UN Security Council on March 24, 2007, an outraged Iran suspended its voluntary implementation of the modified code, and reverted to re-implementing the 1976 version of Code 3.1.

While the IAEA disputes Iran’s legal authority to unilaterally revert to the original code, Iran isn’t randomly rejecting official protocol and making up rules as it goes along, despite what Fisher would have his readers believe.

As to Fisher’s claim about Iran building “covert facilities,” that was already addressed above.

Obfuscatory Journalism

Two years ago, researchers at the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM) released the findings of an extensive examination of mainstream media’s coverage of the Iranian nuclear program between 2009 and 2012. “The manner in which news media frame their coverage of Iran’s nuclear program is critically important to public understanding and to policy decisions that will determine whether the dispute can be resolved without war,” the report’s authors wrote.

Among other things, the study found that when media “coverage did address Iranian nuclear intentions and capabilities, it did so in a manner that lacked precision, was inconsistent over time, and failed to provide adequate sourcing and context for claims,” which in turn “led to an inaccurate picture of the choices facing policy makers.”

It also found that “coverage generally adopted the tendency of U.S., European, and Israeli officials to place on Iran the burden to resolve the dispute over its nuclear program, failing to acknowledge the roles of these other countries in the dispute” and that such coverage often “reflected and reinforced the negative sentiments about Iran that are broadly shared by U.S., European, and Israeli publics,” leading to “misunderstandings about the interests involved and narrowed the range of acceptable outcomes.”

Unfortunately, Fisher’s coverage of the Iranian nuclear program and the current negotiations are hardly any different. For a media venture dedicated to “explanatory journalism,” this is even more troubling.

With two months to go before the June deadline for a comprehensive nuclear accord between Iran and the P5+1, Fisher and his Vox colleagues will inevitably publish more articles about the Iranian nuclear program.

Still, here’s hoping that, before he explains anything else about the Iranian nuclear program, Max Fisher finally gets his facts straight.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yemen suffers vital food and aid shortages as shelling continues

RT | April 28, 2015

Amid constant shelling by the Saudi-led coalition, Yemen is struggling to import even essentials such as food and water, with a UN-imposed arms blockade on Houthi fighters interrupting any deliveries to the country.

Speaking at UN Security Council closed-door consultations on the crisis in Yemen, the United Nations envoy to Yemen warned that UN arms embargo targeting the Houthis is having a collateral impact on aid deliveries.

“Implementation of the new targeted arms embargo … could inadvertently restrict the flow of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian assistance to Yemen, including food, fuel and medical supplies,” Jamal Benomar told reporters after the briefing.

Around 10 vessels containing food supplies for Yemen are still waiting to enter the country’s ports, as many Yemeni sea outlets are now being cut off by Saudis who refuse to allow any international vessels to dock in Houthi-controlled areas.

According to the UN, the number includes three ships awaiting clearance at Hodeida, with one carrying 13,500 tonnes of rice. Another six ships carrying fuel, corn and construction products are awaiting clearance from the coalition to dock at the nearby Salifa port.

Yemen which imports more than 90 percent of its food, mainly by sea, has been struggling to feed the population for weeks. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that at least five merchant ships were not allowed to pass. Only two or three of those vessels have been able to offload their cargo, ship tracking data and shipping sources told Reuters.

“Ships with wheat need to wait up to five days for permission to enter. Several seem to be delayed,” a German commodities trade source told the news agency.

Aid deliveries have also been hindered by the Saudis who have now been engaging the Houthi forces from the air for over a month now.

Two Iranian cargo planes headed for Yemen were forced to turn back by Saudi Arabia last week. On Friday Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia’s chargé d’affaires in Tehran to express its protest over the move.

“We consider all options for helping the Yemeni people and immediate dispatch of humanitarian aid and transfer of the injured,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Sunday.

The food that does eventually enter the war-torn country is being moved slowly around Yemen as shortages of fuel continues, United Nations’ World Food Programme said.

With a price tag of $10 per liter of petrol, hospitals are suffering the worst, with the UN humanitarian agency OCHA warning that fuel supplies to generate powers will dwindle for one more week before running out in two weeks time.

Prices for wheat products have also skyrocketed in the country and have risen by more than 40 percent since February. Medicine prices have risen by more than 300 percent, the UN said.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become catastrophic, humanitarian agencies said on Monday, as over 12 million people need help, according to UN figures.

“It was difficult enough before, but now there are just no words for how bad it’s gotten,” said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokeswoman Marie Claire Feghali. “It’s a catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The lack of safe drinking water supply is also becoming a widespread problem in Yemen, a country of vast sand dunes and dessert.

“There’s a consensus on water sharing across the Middle East – since water is generally pretty scarce there. President Hadi cut the water budget by 70 percent and that was one of the many decisions that created the sentiment against him,” Danny Makki of the Syrian Youth Movement, told RT.

Meanwhile Yemen’s exiled government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared three areas in Yemen as “disaster” zone. Yemeni Human Rights Minister Izzedine al-Asbahi proclaimed that fighting in the country has “turned Yemen back 100 years,” due to the destruction of infrastructure. Provinces of Aden, Dhalea and Taiz, have suffered the most, al-Asbahi told a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Since the Saudi-led bombings started on March 26, more than 1,000 people, including an estimated 551 civilians have been killed, the United Nations said last week. UNICEF said at least 115 children were among the dead.

“The impact on civilians is the major concern – a bombing campaign has been happening for over a month, and a hundred of killed civilians are children,” Joe Stork from Human Rights Watch told RT.

Commenting on Monday’s UN Security Council meeting, Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin said that the warring parties have agreed on some measures in resolving the conflict.

“They [the warring parties in Yemen] agreed on a whole series of arrangements for settling the political crisis. The only remaining issue was the way the collective leadership would be structured,” Churkin told reporters.

Last Tuesday, Saudi Arabia said the first phase of the campaign, codenamed operation Decisive Storm, had achieved all of its goals and was concluded. The new phase, operation Restoring Hope, was announced with a focus on diplomacy, but didn’t rule out new airstrikes. Less than 24 hours later, airstrikes resumed with fighting continuing until this day.

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment