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Deconstructing Trump’s Iran sanctions

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 20, 2017

There is an old impish yarn that Moses was stunned to see the two cats he’d put in the Ark trooping out with a bunch of kittens at the end of the tumultuous existential journey. Seeing the old sage’s puzzled look, the adult male shot back, ‘You thought we were fighting?’ This in some ways captures the noisy, implausible games that Iran and the United States play with each other, growling at each other and making us feel worried at times.

President Donald Trump is having a difficult time to differentiate his Iran policies from Barack Obama’s. The Trump administration has twice certified to the Congress that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal – an agreement he vowed to tear up. But, while doing so on Monday, with an eye on the Israeli lobby, it separately imposed sanctions against a clutch of Iranian personalities and entities – so that the optics look appropriately ‘tough’.

Tehran had conveyed a red line to Washington in the weekend that there shall be no sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (which is spearheading Iran’s operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria). The Trump administration understood perfectly well what it implied – namely, that things can overnight hot up for the US on the ground on the Syrian-Iraqi theatre. (For the uninitiated, IRGC-backed militia and American military advisors tacitly collaborate in the liberation of Mosul.)

Tehran understands that Trump is a bluff master. Read the Iranian Foreign Ministry statement here. Clearly, no one is losing sleep in Tehran. Iran’s missile programme is indigenous; nor will US sanctions frighten IRGC’s elite Qud’s Force under the command of its charismatic general Qassem Soleimani to give up the ‘axis of resistance’ in Syria and Lebanon (and Gaza.)

In fact, Majlis passed a finance bill Tuesday increasing the budget allocation for the missile programme and Quds Force each by $260 million.

The Middle East is witnessing a long sunset of the US hegemony. And Iran senses it. So, Tehran is playing its cards astutely through an admixture of strategic defiance and taunts with unspoken overtures seeking meaningful conversation.

Read the transcript, here, of a fascinating interview by National Interest magazine with Iranian FM Mohammed Javed Zarif who is visiting New York. (Zarif already addressed the CFR and was interviewed by CNN’s Fareed Zakariah and the PBS, amongst others.)

Indeed, Zarif virtually choreographed an Iran policy for Trump. Look at his tantalizing remarks:

  • “It took the U.S. longer to clear the purchase of Airbus airplanes than it took for the purchase of Boeing airplanes.”
  • “If it comes to a major violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.”
  • “We need to be more careful about the signaling, because we’ve seen that wrong signaling in the past few weeks in our region, particularly after the Riyadh summit, has caused a rather serious backlash in the region—not between U.S. allies and Iran, but among U.S. allies.”
  • “At this stage we are content with simply implementing that (nuclear) agreement… we wanted that agreement to be the foundation and not the ceiling. But in order for that to serve as a solid foundation, we want to make sure that the obligations by all sides have been fully and faithfully implemented. And if we get that, then we have an opening to further progress.”
  • “We don’t see the situation in our region as a winning or losing battle… we believe that the situation in today’s world is so interconnected that we cannot have winners and losers; we either win together or lose together. Obviously, if an administration or a government or a country defines its interests in terms of exclusion of others, then it is defining the problem in a way that is not amenable to a solution.”
  • “We have had a consistent policy of fighting extremism and terrorism, whether it was in Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban, or, even during the time that the United States was in occupation of Iraq, against terrorist elements who were instigating terror inside Iraq.”
  • “Well, it all depends on the approach that the United States will try, the current administration will try to adopt vis-à-vis Iran. It has to look at Iran as the only country in the region where people stand in line for ten hours to vote. It has to put aside those self-serving assumptions that some members of this administration have repeatedly stated.”
  • “We have a very sober understanding of the situation in the region where we are located, and we hope that the United States can also have such a sober understanding.”

Iran is doing just fine. The genius to optimally put diplomacy to use, with maximum cost-effectiveness, has been Iran’s strategic asset in the politics of the Middle East.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Warmongering | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Misunderstandings About Jerusalem’s Temple Mount

By George Wesley Buchanan | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs | August 2011

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While it has not been widely published, it assuredly has been known for more than 40 years that the 45-acre, well-fortified place that has been mistakenly called the “Temple Mount” was really the Roman fortress—the Antonia—that Herod built. The Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque are contained within these walls. The area is called the Haram Al-Sharif in Arabic.

The discovery that this area had once been the great Roman fortress came as a shock to the scholarly community, which had believed for many years that this ancient fortress was the place where the temple had been. This news was preceded by another shock, when the English archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon discovered in 1962 that the entire City of David in the past had been only that little rock ridge on the western bank of the Kidron Valley. Less than 10 years later the historian Benjamin Mazar learned that the Haram had undoubtedly been the Roman fortress.

In biblical times the Haram was not a sacred place. Instead it was the place that Orthodox Jews considered defiled and the most despised place in the world. Within these walls were found no remnants of any of the earlier temples but rather an image of Mars, the Roman god of war. The 1st century Jewish Roman historian Titus Flavius Josephus said the Romans always kept a whole legion of soldiers (5,000-6,000) there, and that there were stones in its walls that were 30 feet long, 15 feet thick, and 71/2 feet high. While excavating the area, Mazar found these very stones there in the Haram—not in the temple.

He and the local Muslims also discovered there three inscriptions, honoring the Roman leaders in the war of A.D. 66-72—Vespasian, Titus, and Silva—and Hadrian in the war of A.D. 132-135, for their success in defeating the Jews in the wars. Appropriate inscriptions for a Roman fortress, but impossible for a temple that had been destroyed in A.D. 70—65 years before the inscriptions had been made. Mazar shared these insights freely with other participants in the excavation, such as Herbert Armstrong and Ernest Martin.

Mazar also knew at once that the temple instead was stationed 600 feet farther south and 200 feet lower in altitude, on Mount Ophel, where the Spring of Siloam poured tons of water under the threshold of the temple every minute (Ezek 47:1), after which the water was distributed wherever it was needed. This marvelous little City of David was unique in having running water 3,000 years ago. Aristeas, Tacitus and 1 Enoch tell of the inexhaustible spring water system that was indescribably well developed, gushing tons of water into the temple area for sacrifices. Hezekiah’s tunnel directed water under Mount Ophel to the Pool of Siloam.

Herod’s fortress, on the other hand, was unequipped for sacrifices, because it had only 37 cisterns to provide water in the Haram.

After two violent wars with Rome, the City of David was so completely destroyed that it could not be recognized as a city. The Roman emperor Hadrian decreed that it would be used as an area where the Upper City could dump trash and garbage. It continued in that condition for hundreds of years. The Upper City developed, and people forgot what a marvelous little city this had once been. They simply guessed where strategic locations in the City of David must have been in the Upper City. Of course, this was a normal mistake.

Now, 50 years after Kenyon’s discovery, scholars like Leen Ritmeyer, Eilat Mazar and Hershel Shanks have recently written books as if no one knew that the Haram was the Roman Fortress and that Solomon’s, Zechariah’s and Herod’s temples all were located near the Spring of Siloam. Tourists are still mistakenly told that the Haram is the Temple Mount, that David’s citadel is near the Jaffa Gate, and that Mount Zion and the place where the Last Supper was held are all in the Upper City.

Israel’s antiquities authority has been digging a tunnel from under homes in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan to the Western Wall Plaza. According to a recent “60 Minutes” interview, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat wants to create King’s Garden, a Bible-themed tourist park “adjacent to the City of David,” which requires demolishing 22 Arab homes in Silwan. The purpose of archeology is to provide archeological insights, of course, but excavations between the City of David and the old Roman fortress (the Haram) also have an anti-Arab political agenda.

It is not likely that a fourth temple will ever be constructed, either in the City of David or in the Haram. Israel already has diverted the water formerly used for sacrifices away from the former temple area and is making the City of David into a park. Orthodox Jews would oppose having a temple in Herod’s hated fortress. Jews had no interest in the Haram until after the Crusades, when they misunderstood that it was the Temple Mount. If the temple were ever built, it would have to be placed somewhere in the Upper City or a suburb of Jerusalem—not in its former site or in the old Roman Fortress.

Because innocent Evangelical Christians in America, under the guidance of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and John Hagee, have not been informed of these facts, they have thought there was some biblical or religious reason why it was necessary to destroy Islam’s third most sacred building in the world, together with the al-Aqsa mosque. It is my hope that, once Christians learn of this mistake, they will stop following Mars and Phineas (Num 25; Ps 106:30-31) and work as zealously for peace, following the teachings of Abraham, the 8th century prophets (Mica 6:8), Jesus, and Paul, as they once worked to promote war in the Middle East. This would make a tremendous difference to Jerusalem—and to the world.

George Wesley Buchanan has been a United Methodist minister since 1944 and a professor at a theological seminary since 1960, emeritus since he retired in 1991.

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

MH17 probe looking for witnesses to back ‘Buk missile’ scenario

RT | March 31, 2015

The international team of experts investigating the MH17 tragedy in eastern Ukraine have called for possible witnesses to turn in any evidence that might back a scenario that the airliner was shot down by a Buk missile system.

In a video address, released by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), possible witnesses have been encouraged to share their photo and video materials to prove that a Buk surface-to-air missile launcher was transported through the Donbass region before and after the MH17 incident last July.

“The focus of one scenario is that the MH17 was shot down by a Buk missile system,” JIT said in a statement. “We are looking for witnesses who have seen Buk crew members or have more information about the identity of those involved in ordering and launching the Buk.”

Although some media rushed to conclusions, spokesman for the Dutch Public Prosecutor, Wim de Bruin, emphasized that there is “more than one” scenario. “But the one of the Buk rocket has a lot of unanswered questions and that’s why we have put out an appeal,” de Bruin said, calling it a “leading scenario.”

“This appeal for witnesses does not mean that police and prosecutors have definitively concluded what caused MH17 to crash,” the address said. “For that, more investigation is needed.”

A preliminary report of the official investigation published in September 2014 only said that the crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside. The report did not specify what the objects were, where they came from or who was responsible.

No other verifiable evidence has yet been made publicly available, besides objective air control and military monitoring data partially released by the Russian Defense Ministry, which indicated the presence of Ukrainian surface-to-air batteries and warplanes in the area on the day of the Boeing shooting.

Amid the JIT call for witnesses, a local resident in Lugansk region – whom Reuters cited as saying he saw evidence of a surface-to-air missile launched from rebel-held territory – has told RT that the news agency gave a false report of his interview.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov slammed Reuters’ report as“stovepiping”from a seemingly“respected agency”.

“Attempts at distorting facts, enforcing theories as to what could have happened continue to exist, with some based on openly dirty intentions,” Lavrov told journalists.

Yet the JIT investigators, pursuing their “leading” scenario in the crash investigation, have compiled a video that incorporated both social-media-sourced materials and unverified audio files apparently provided by the Ukrainian Intelligence Service, stipulating direct Russian involvement in the tragedy. The team alleges that the Buk missile launcher was seen several times around the time of the crash, yet no real evidence has been offered to support this theory.

The US intelligence community apparently does not have any evidence to support Russian involvement in any way, investigative journalist Robert Parry told RT, citing his intelligence sources and own probe.

Soon after the tragedy, Parry was told “their actual evidence was going in a very different direction.” Eight months after the tragedy the US stands by its old assessment of the incident all based on “circumstantial evidence” and social media reports, refusing to release new data, Perry says.

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment