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The US-Israel-Iran Triangle’s Tangled History

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 2, 2015

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to accuse Iran’s Islamic State of seeking Israel’s destruction – and U.S. neocons talk openly about bombing Iran – the history of Israel’s cooperative dealings with Iran, including after the ouster of the Shah and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, seems to have been forgotten.

Yet, this background is important when evaluating some of Iran’s current political players and their attitudes regarding a possible deal with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes only. In the United States and Israel – for their own politically sensitive reasons – much of this history remains “lost” or little known.

The division inside Iran between leading figures who collaborated with the U.S. and Israel behind the scenes and those who resisted those secret dealings took shape in the early 1980s but remains in place, to some degree, to this day.

For instance, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s current Supreme Leader, was more the ideological purist in 1980, apparently opposing any unorthodox strategy involving Israeli and Republican emissaries that went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back to gain promises of weapons from Israel and the future Reagan administration.

Khamenei appears to have favored a more straightforward arrangement with the Carter administration for settling the dispute over the 52 American hostages who were seized from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, by Iranian radicals.

However, other key political figures – including Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karoubi – participated in the secret contacts with the Republicans and Israel to get the military supplies needed to fight the war with Iraq, which began in September 1980. They were later joined by Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.

In 1980, these internal Iranian differences played out against a dramatic backdrop. Iranian radicals still held the 52 hostages; President Carter had imposed an arms embargo while negotiating for the hostages’ release; and he was struggling to fend off a strong campaign challenge from Republican Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious at Carter for pushing him into the Camp David peace deal with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that required Israel returning the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for normalized relations.

Begin also was upset at Carter’s perceived failure to protect the Shah of Iran, who had been an Israeli strategic ally. Begin was worried, too, about the growing influence of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as it massed troops along the Iranian border.

At that time, Saudi Arabia was encouraging Sunni-ruled Iraq to attack Shiite-ruled Iran in a revival of the Sunni-Shiite conflict which dated back to the Seventh Century succession struggle after the death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Saudi prince-playboys were worried about the possible spread of the ascetic revolutionary movement pushed by Iran’s new ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Upsetting Carter

Determined to help Iran counter Iraq – and hopeful about rebuilding at least covert ties to Tehran – Begin’s government cleared the first small shipments of U.S. military supplies to Iran in spring 1980, including 300 tires for Iran’s U.S.-manufactured jet fighters. Soon, Carter learned about the covert shipments and lodged an angry complaint.

“There had been a rather tense discussion between President Carter and Prime Minister Begin in the spring of 1980 in which the President made clear that the Israelis had to stop that, and that we knew that they were doing it, and that we would not allow it to continue, at least not allow it to continue privately and without the knowledge of the American people,” Carter’s press secretary Jody Powell told me in an interview for a PBS documentary.

“And it stopped,” Powell said — at least, it stopped temporarily.

Questioned by congressional investigators a dozen years later, Carter said he felt that by April 1980, “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes I found among the unpublished documents in the files of a congressional investigation conducted in 1992. Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his possible reelection in 1980 to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”

Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski also recognized the Israeli hostility. Brzezinski said the Carter White House was well aware that the Begin government had “an obvious preference for a Reagan victory.”

Begin’s alarm about a possible Carter second term was described, too, by Israeli intelligence and foreign affairs official David Kimche in his 1991 book, The Last Option. Kimche wrote that Begin’s government believed that Carter was overly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and was conspiring with Arabs to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Extensive evidence now exists that Begin’s preference for a Reagan victory led Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back and delay release of the 52 American hostages until after Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980.

That controversy, known as the “October Surprise” case, and its sequel, the Iran-Contra scandal in the mid-1980s, involved clandestine ties between leading figures in Iran and U.S. and Israeli officials who supplied Iran with missiles and other weaponry for its war with Iraq. The Iran-Iraq conflict began simmering in spring 1980 and broke into full-scale war in September.

More Straightforward

Khamenei, who was then an influential aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, appears to have been part of a contingent exploring ways to resolve the hostage dispute with Carter.

According to Army Col. Charles Wesley Scott, who was one of the 52 hostages, Khamenei visited him on May 1, 1980, at the old U.S. consulate in Tabriz to ask whether milder demands from Iran to the Carter administration might lead to a resolution of the hostage impasse and allow the resumption of U.S. military supplies, former National Security Council aide Gary Sick reported in his book October Surprise.

“You’re asking the wrong man,” Scott replied, noting that he had been out of touch with his government during his five months of captivity before adding that he doubted the Carter administration would be eager to resume military shipments quickly.

“Frankly, my guess is that it will be a long time before you’ll get any cooperation on spare parts from America, after what you’ve done and continue to do to us,” Scott said he told Khamenei.

But Khamenei’s outreach to a captive U.S. military officer – outlining terms that then became the basis of a near settlement of the crisis with the Carter administration in September 1980 – suggests that Khamenei favored a more traditional approach toward resolving the hostage crisis rather than the parallel channel that soon involved the Israelis and the Republicans.

In that narrow sense, Khamenei was allied with Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the sitting Iranian president in 1980 who also has said he opposed dealing with Israel and the Republicans behind President Carter’s back. In a little-noticed letter to the U.S. Congress, dated Dec. 17, 1992, Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican hostage initiative in July 1980.

Bani-Sadr said a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini returned from a meeting with an Iranian banker, Cyrus Hashemi, who had led the Carter administration to believe he was helping broker a hostage release but who had close ties to Reagan’s campaign chief William Casey and to Casey’s business associate, John Shaheen.

Bani-Sadr said the message from the Khomeini emissary was clear: the Reagan campaign was in league with some of the Central Intelligence Agency’s pro-Republican elements in an effort to undermine Carter and wanted Iran’s help. Bani-Sadr said the emissary “told me that if I do not accept this proposal they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my rivals.”

The emissary added that the Republicans “have enormous influence in the CIA,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination.”

Bani-Sadr said he resisted the GOP scheme, but the plan ultimately was accepted by Ayatollah Khomeini, who appears to have made up his mind around the time of Iraq’s invasion in mid-September 1980.

Clearing the Way

Khomeini’s approval meant the end of the initiative that Khamenei had outlined to Col. Scott, which was being pursued with Carter’s representatives in West Germany before Iraq launched its attack. Khomeini’s blessing allowed Rafsanjani, Karoubi and later Mousavi to proceed with secret contacts that involved emissaries from the Reagan camp and the Israeli government.

The Republican-Israeli-Iranian agreement appears to have been sealed through a series of meetings that culminated in discussions in Paris arranged by the right-wing chief of French intelligence Alexandre deMarenches and allegedly involving Casey, vice presidential nominee (and former CIA Director) George H.W. Bush, CIA officer Robert Gates and other U.S. and Israeli representatives on one side and cleric Mehdi Karoubi and a team of Iranian representatives on the other.

Bush, Gates and Karoubi all have denied participating in the meeting (Karoubi did so in an interview with me in Tehran in 1990). But deMarenches admitted arranging the Paris conclave to his biographer, former New York Times correspondent David Andelman.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meeting be kept out of his memoir because the story could otherwise damage the reputation of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. At the time of Andelman’s work on the memoir in 1991, Bush was running for re-election as President of the United States.

Andelman’s sworn testimony in December 1992 to a House task force assigned to examine the October Surprise controversy buttressed longstanding claims from international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush.

Besides the testimony from intelligence operatives, including Israeli military intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, there was contemporaneous knowledge of the alleged Bush-to-Paris trip by Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean, son of author Norman Maclean who wrote A River Runs Through It.

Maclean said a well-placed Republican source told him in mid-October 1980 about Bush’s secret trip to Paris to meet with Iranians on the U.S. hostage issue. Maclean passed on that information to State Department official David Henderson, who recalled the date as Oct. 18, 1980.

Since Maclean had never written a story about the leak and Henderson didn’t mention it until Congress started its cursory October Surprise investigation in 1991, the Maclean-Henderson conversation had been locked in a kind of time capsule.

One could not accuse Maclean of concocting the Bush-to-Paris allegation for some ulterior motive, since he hadn’t used it in 1980, nor had he volunteered it a decade later. He only confirmed it, grudgingly, when approached by a researcher working with me on a PBS Frontline documentary and in a subsequent videotaped interview with me.

Also, alibis that were later concocted for Casey and Bush – supposedly to prove they could not have traveled to the alleged overseas meetings – either collapsed under close scrutiny or had serious holes. [For details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Military Shipments

Though the precise details of the October Surprise case remain murky, it is a historic fact that Carter failed to resolve the hostage crisis before losing in a surprising landslide to Reagan and that the hostages were not released until Reagan and Bush were sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.

It also is clear that U.S. military supplies were soon moving to Iran via Israeli middlemen with the approval of the new Reagan administration.

In a PBS interview, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he first discovered the secret arms pipeline to Iran when an Israeli weapons flight was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course on its third mission to deliver U.S. military supplies from Israel to Iran via Larnaca, Cyprus.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan-Bush camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

In the early 1980s, the players in Iran also experienced a shakeup. Bani-Sadr was ousted in 1981 and fled for his life; he was replaced as president by Khamenei; Mousavi was named prime minister; Rafsanjani consolidated his financial and political power as speaker of the Majlis; and Karoubi became a powerful figure in Iran’s military-and-foreign-policy establishment.

Besides tapping into stockpiles of U.S.-made weaponry, the Israelis arranged shipments from third countries, including Poland, according to Israeli intelligence officer Ben-Menashe, who described his work on the arms pipeline in his 1992 book, Profits of War.

Since representatives of Likud had initiated the arms-middleman role for Iran, the profits flowed into coffers that the right-wing party controlled, a situation that allowed Likud to invest in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and created envy inside the rival Labor Party especially after it gained a share of power in the 1984 elections, said Ben-Menashe, who worked with Likud.

The Iran-Contra Case

According to this analysis, Labor’s desire to open its own arms channel to Iran laid the groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal, as the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres tapped into the emerging neoconservative network inside the Reagan administration on one hand and began making his own contacts to Iran’s leadership on the other.

Reagan’s National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, who had close ties to the Israeli leadership, collaborated with Peres’s aide Amiram Nir and with neocon intellectual (and National Security Council consultant) Michael Ledeen in spring 1985 to make contact with the Iranians.

Ledeen’s chief intermediary to Iran was a businessman named Manucher Ghorbanifar, who was held in disdain by the CIA as a fabricator but claimed he represented high-ranking Iranians who favored improved relations with the United States and were eager for American weapons.

Ghorbanifar’s chief contact, as identified in official Iran-Contra records, was Mohsen Kangarlu, who worked as an aide to Prime Minister Mousavi, according to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman in his 2008 book, The Secret War with Iran.

However, Ghorbanifar’s real backer inside Iran appears to have been Mousavi himself. According to a Time magazine article from January 1987, Ghorbanifar “became a trusted friend and kitchen adviser to Mir Hussein Mousavi, Prime Minister in the Khomeini government.”

In November 1985, at a key moment in the Iran-Contra scandal as one of the early missile shipments via Israel went awry, Ghorbanifar conveyed Mousavi’s anger to the White House.

“On or about November 25, 1985, Ledeen received a frantic phone call from Ghorbanifar, asking him to relay a message from the prime minister of Iran to President Reagan regarding the shipment of the wrong type of HAWKs,” according to Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s Final Report.

“Ledeen said the message essentially was ‘we’ve been holding up our part of the bargain, and here you people are now cheating us and tricking us and deceiving us and you had better correct this situation right away.’”

Earlier in the process, Ghorbanifar had dangled the possibility of McFarlane meeting with high-level Iranian officials, including Mousavi and Rafsanjani. Another one of Ghorbanifar’s Iranian contacts was Hassan Karoubi, the brother of Mehdi Karoubi. Hassan Karoubi met with Ghorbanifar and Ledeen in Geneva in late October 1985 regarding missile shipments in exchange for Iranian help in getting a group of U.S. hostages freed in Lebanon, according to Walsh’s report.

A Split Leadership

As Ben-Menashe describes the maneuvering in Tehran, the basic split in the Iranian leadership put then-President Khamenei on the ideologically purist side of rejecting U.S.-Israeli military help and Rafsanjani, Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi in favor of exploiting those openings in a pragmatic way to better fight the war with Iraq.

The key decider during this period – as in the October Surprise phase – was Ayatollah Khomeini, who agreed with the pragmatists on the need to get as much materiel from the Americans and the Israelis as possible, Ben-Menashe told me in a 2009 interview from his home in Canada.

Ben-Menashe said Rafsanjani and most other senior Iranian officials were satisfied dealing with the original (Likud) Israeli channel and were offended by the Reagan administration’s double game of tilting toward Iraq with military and intelligence support while also offering weapons deals to Iran via the second (Labor) channel.

The ex-Israeli intelligence officer said the Iranians were especially thankful in 1985-86 when the Likud channel secured SCUD missiles from Poland so Iran could respond to SCUD attacks that Iraq had launched against Iranian cities.

“After that (transaction), I got access to the highest authorities” in Iran, Ben-Menashe said, including a personal meeting with Mousavi at which Ben-Menashe said he learned that Mousavi knew the history of the Israeli-arranged shipments in the October Surprise deal of 1980.

Ben-Menashe quoted Mousavi as saying, “we did everything you guys wanted. We got rid of the Democrats. We did everything we could, but the Americans aren’t delivering [and] they are dealing with the Iraqis.”

In that account, the Iranian leadership in 1980 viewed its agreement to delay the release of the U.S. Embassy hostages not primarily as a favor to the Republicans, but to the Israelis who were considered the key for Iran to get the necessary military supplies for its war with Iraq.

Israeli attitudes toward Iran soured when the lucrative arms pipelines of the Iran-Iraq War dried up after the conflict finally ended in 1988. Iran’s treasury was depleted as was the treasury of Iraq, where Saddam Hussein lashed out at one of his oil-rich creditors, the Kuwaiti royal family, in 1990, invading the country and setting the stage for a U.S.-led Persian Gulf War that drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait.

With Iraq burdened by post-war sanctions and its military might restricted by weapons inspectors, Israel began to view Iran as its principal regional threat, a view shared by the wealthy Saudis. That common viewpoint gradually created the basis for a de facto Israeli-Saudi alliance which has begun to come out of the shadows in recent years. [See Consortiumnews.com’sDeciphering the Mideast Chaos.”]

Meanwhile, in Iran, this half-hidden history of double-dealing and back-stabbing remains part of the narrative of distrust that continues to afflict U.S.-Iranian relations. Even 35 years later, some of the same Iranian players are still around.

Though Mousavi and Karoubi fell out of favor when they were associated with the Western-backed Green Movement in 2009, Rafsanjani has remained an influential political figure and Khameini replaced the late Ayatollah Khomeini as Iran’s Supreme Leader. That makes him the most important figure in Iran regarding whether to accept a U.S.-brokered deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program — or not.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April 3, 2015 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Invasion Of Panama And The Proclamation of a Lone Superpower Above The Law

By Matt Peppe |Just the Facts Blog | December 14, 2014

Twenty five years ago, before dawn on December 20, 1989, U.S. forces descended on Panama City and unleashed one of the most violent, destructive terror attacks of the century. U.S. soldiers killed more people than were killed on 9/11. They systematically burned apartment buildings and shot people indiscriminately in the streets. Dead bodies were piled on top of each other; many were burned before identification. The aggression was condemned internationally, but the message was clear: the United States military was free to do whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted, and they would not be bound by ethics or laws.

The invasion and ensuing occupation produced gruesome scenes: “People burning to death in the incinerated dwellings, leaping from windows, running in panic through the streets, cut down in cross fire, crushed by tanks, human fragments everywhere,” writes William Blum. [1]

Years later the New York Times interviewed a survivor of the invasion, Sayira Marín, whose “hands still tremble” when she remembers the destruction of her neighborhood.

“I take pills to calm down,” Marín told the paper. “It has gotten worse in recent days. There are nights when I jump out of bed screaming. Sometimes I have dreams of murder. Ugly things.”

In the spring of 1989, a wave of revolutions had swept across the Eastern bloc. In November, the Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War was over. No country was even a fraction as powerful as the United States. Rather than ushering in an era of peace and demilitarization, U.S. military planners intensified their expansion of global hegemony. They were pathological about preventing any rival to their complete military and economic domination.

U.S. government officials needed to put the world on notice. At the same time, President George H.W. Bush’s needed to shed his image as a “wimp.” So they did what any schoolyard bully would: pick out the smallest, weakest target you can find and beat him to a bloody pulp. The victim is irrelevant; the point is the impression you make on the people around you.

Panama was an easy target because the U.S. already had a large military force in 18 bases around the country. Until 1979, the occupied Panama Canal Zone had been sovereign territory of the United States. The Panama Canal was scheduled to be turned over to Panama partially in 1990 and fully in 2000. The U.S. military would be able to crush a hapless opponent and ensure control over a vital strategic asset.

Washington began disseminating propaganda about “human rights abuses” and drug trafficking by President Manuel Noriega. Most of the allegations were true, and they had all been willingly supported by the U.S. government while Noriega was a CIA asset receiving more than $100,000 per year. But when Noriega was less than enthusiastic about helping the CIA and their terrorist Contra army wage war against the civilian population in Nicaragua, things changed.

“It’s all quite predictable, as study after study shows,” Noam Chomsky writes. “A brutal tyrant crosses the line from admirable friend to ‘villain’ and ‘scum’ when he commits the crime of independence.”

Some of the worst human rights abuses in the world from the early 1960s to 1980s did originate in Panama – from the U.S. instructors and training manuals at the U.S.’s infamous School of the Americas (nicknamed the School of the Assassins), located in Panama until 1984. It was at the SOA where the U.S. military trained the murderers of the six Jesuit scholars and many other members of dictatorships, death squads and paramilitary forces from all over Latin America.

The documentary The Panama Deception demonstrates how the media uncritically adopted U.S. government propaganda, echoing accusations of human rights violations and drug trafficking while ignoring international law and the prohibition against the use of force in the UN Charter. The Academy Award-winning film exposed what the corporate media refused to: the lies and distortions, the hypocrisy, the dead bodies, the survivors’ harrowing tales, and the complete impunity of the U.S. military to suppress the truth.

The propaganda started with the concoction of a pretext for the invasion. The U.S. military had been sending aggressive patrols into the Panama City streets, trying to elicit a response.

“Provocations against the Panamanian people by United States military troops were very frequent in Panama,” said Sabrina Virgo, National Labor Organizer, who was in Panama before the invasion. She said the provocations were intended “to create an international incident… have United States troops just hassle the Panamanian people until an incident resulted. And from that incident the United States could then say they were going into Panama for the protection of American life, which is exactly what happened. [2]

After a group of Marines on patrol ran a roadblock and were fired on by Panamanian troops, one U.S. soldier was killed. The group, nicknamed the “Hard Chargers,” was known for their provocative actions against Panamanian troops. Four days later, the invasion began. [3]

Targeting Civilians and Journalists

Elizabeth Montgomery, narrating The Panama Deception, says: “It soon became clear that the objectives were not limited only to military targets. According to witnesses, many of the surrounding residential neighborhoods were deliberately attacked and destroyed.” [4]

Witnesses recounted U.S. soldiers setting residential buildings on fire. Video footage shows the charred remains of rows of housing complexes in El Chorillo, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

“The North Americans began burning down El Chorillo at about 6:30 in the morning. They would throw a small device into a house and it would catch on fire,” recounted an anonymous witness in the film. “They would burn a house, and then move to another and begin the process all over again. They burned from one street to the next. They coordinated the burning through walkie-talkies.” [5]

People were crushed by tanks, captured Panamanians were executed on the street, and bodies were piled together and burned. Survivors were reportedly hired to fill mass graves for $6 per body.

Spanish photographer Juantxu Rodríguez of El País was shot and killed by an American soldier. Journalist Maruja Torres recounted the incident in the Spanish newspaper the next day.

“’Get back!’ the U.S. soldier yelled from his painted face brandishing his weapon. We identified ourselves as journalists, guests at the Marriot,” she wrote. “’We just want to pick up our things.’ He didn’t pay attention. The hotel, like all of them, had been taken over by U.S. troops. Those young marines were on the verge of hysteria. There was not a single Panamanian around, just defenseless journalists. Juantxu ran out running toward the hotel taking photos, the rest of us took shelter behind the cars. Juantxu didn’t return.”

While the professed aim of the operation was to capture Noriega, there is ample evidence that destroying the Panamanian Defense Forces and terrifying the local population into submission were at least equally important goals.

American officials had been told the precise location of Noriega three hours after the operation began – before the killing in El Chorillo – by a European diplomat. The diplomat told the Los Angeles Times he was “100% certain” of Noriega’s location “but when I called, SouthCom (the U.S. Southern military command) said it had other priorities.”

No one knows the exact number of people who were killed during the invasion of Panama. The best estimates are at least 2,000 to 3,000 Panamanians, but this may be a conservative figure, according to a Central American Human Rights Commission (COEDHUCA) report.

The report stated that “most of these deaths could have been prevented had the US troops taken appropriate measures to ensure the lives of civilians and had obeyed the international legal norms of warfare.”

The CODEHUCA report documented massively “disproportionate use of military force,” “indiscriminate and intentional attacks against civilians” and destruction of poor, densely-populated neighborhoods such as El Chorillo and San Miguelito. This gratuitous, systematic violence could not conceivably be connected to the professed military mission.

When asked at a news conference whether it was worth sending people to die (Americans, of course, not thousands of Panamanians) to capture Noriega, President George H.W. Bush replied: “Every human life is precious. And yet I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it.”

‘Flagrant Violation of International Law’

Several days later, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution condemning the invasion. But the United States – joined by allies Great Britain and France – vetoed it. American and European officials argued the invasion was justified and should be praised for removing Noriega from power. Other countries saw a dangerous precedent.

“The Soviet Union and third world council members argued that the invasion must be condemned because it breaks the ban on the use of force set down in the United Nations Charter,” wrote the New York Times.

After this, on December 29, the General Assembly voted 75 to 20 with 40 abstentions in a resolution calling the intervention in Panama a “flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the States.”

The Organization of American States passed a similar resolution by a margin of 20-1. In explaining the U.S.’s lone vote against the measure, a State Department spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the OAS missed a historic opportunity to get beyond its traditional narrow concern over ‘nonintervention.’”

In the ensuing occupation, CODEHUCA claimed that “the US has not respected fundamental legal and human rights” in Panama. The violations occurred on a “massive scale” and included “illegal detentions of citizens, unconstitutional property searches, illegal lay-offs of public and private employees, and … tight control of the Panamanian media.”

Despite the international outrage, Bush enjoyed a political boost from the aggression. His poll numbers shot to record highs not seen “since Presidents Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower.” The President had authorized crimes against the peace and war crimes. Rather than being held accountable, he benefitted. So did the Pentagon and defense contractors who desperately needed a new raison d’ etre after the fall of Communism.

No longer able to use the fear-mongering Cold War rationales it had for the last 40 years, Washington found a new propaganda tool to justify its aggressive military interventions and occupations. Washington was able to appropriate human rights language to create the contradictory, fictional notion of “humanitarian intervention.”

“Washington was desperate for new ideological weapons to justify – both at home and abroad – its global strategies,” writes James Peck. “A new humanitarian ethos legitimizing massive interventions – including war – emerged in the 1990s only after Washington had been pushing such an approach for some time.” [6]

The stage was set for the even more horrific invasion of Iraq the following summer. Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia, the NATO bombing of Serbia, Iraq (again), and the Bush and Obama interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq (a third time), Pakistan, Libya, Somalia (again), Yemen, Iraq (a fourth time) and Syria would follow.

The invasion of Panama caused unthinkable devastation to the people of Panama. Because of the U.S. military’s obstruction, the full extent of the death and destruction will never be known. The damage done to the legitimacy of international law compounded the devastation exponentially.

Indisputably, the U.S. invasion was aggression against a sovereign nation. Aggressive war was defined in the Nuremberg Trials as the “supreme international crime,” different from other crimes (like genocide or terrorism) in that it contains “the accumulated evil of the whole.” People convicted of waging aggressive war were sentenced to death by hanging.

Twenty five years later, the man who ordered the invasion of Panama, George H.W. Bush, enjoys a luxurious retirement at his Houston and Kennebunkport estates. He is considered by mainstream U.S. pundits to be a foreign policy moderate.

Works Cited

[1] Blum, William. Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II – Updated Through 2003. Common Courage Press, 2008.

[2] The Panama Deception. Dir. Barbara Trent. Empowerment Project, 1992. Film. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-p4cPoVcIo&list=PLBMiR6FLgz2-BEFx0w_V-jE6hKb9uP3Wh&index=3, (30:54)

[3] Ibid (31:40)

[4] Ibid (34:08)

[5] Ibid (37:06)

[6] Peck, James. Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights. Metropolitan Books, 2011.

December 19, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘War for Oil’ — The Notion That Will Not Die

By Dr. Stephen J Sniegoski | My Catbird Seat | March 11, 2014

Those who claim that the United States went to war for oil seem to assume that since Iraq has huge reserves of oil, gaining control of that resource must have been the reason that the United States invaded the country. As the most prominent intellectual exponent of that view, Noam Chomsky, has put it:

Of course it was Iraq’s energy resources. It’s not even a question. Iraq’s one of the major oil producers in the world. It has the second largest reserves and it’s right in the heart of the Gulf’s oil-producing region, which U.S. intelligence predicts is going to be two thirds of world resources in coming years. [1]

Operating from that assumption, the proponents of the war-for-oil thesis have endeavored to produce evidence that proves it, at least in their eyes.

I have offered counter-evidence in my book, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, and elsewhere to show that the existing arguments in support of the oil-war thesis just do not provide anything close to compelling proof. [2]

The fact that Iraq has a large amount of oil does not mean that the oil companies would necessarily push for war; instead, they could seek to exploit that oil in peaceful ways.

Indeed, the companies were pushing for an end to sanctions against Iraq. A Business Week article in May 2001, for example, reported that the easing of sanctions on “rogue” states “pits powerful interests such as the pro-Israeli lobby and the U.S. oil industry against each other. And it is sure to preoccupy the Bush Administration and Congress.” [3]

In short, an easing of sanctions supported by the oil companies, which would enable them to have access to Iraq’s oil, would serve to strengthen Saddam and make it more difficult to overthrow his regime, which was the goal of the neocons, a leading element of the Israel lobby.

Moreover, the oil companies were quite fearful of the impact of war on oil production. According to oil analyst Anthony Sampson in December 2002, “Oil companies have had little influence on U.S. policy-making. Most big American companies, including oil companies, do not see a war as good for business, as falling share prices indicate.” [4]

Fareed Mohamedi of PFC Energy, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., that advised petroleum firms, stated that “[t]he big oil companies were not enthusiastic about the Iraqi war,” maintaining that “[c]orporations like Exxon-Mobile and Chevron-Texaco want stability, and this is not what Bush is providing in Iraq and the Gulf region.” [5]

Despite the lack of solid evidence, and the existence of contrary evidence, the war-for-oil argument just will not die, for various political, psychological, social, and economic reasons.

It fits the prevalent belief in the rapacious nature of capitalist companies, and it is also a safe view to hold — it is doubtful that anyone ever lost a job or a friend for blaming the oil interests, unless one were actually employed by an oil company. In contrast, the explanation involving the neoconservatives and Israel represents a dangerous taboo.

Given the strong attraction of the oil argument, therefore, it is appropriate to examine a prominent piece of purported evidence used by its adherents. Thus, this article will look at the role of the National Energy Policy Development Group, which President George W. Bush created in his second week in office. The group had as its purpose the creation of a national energy policy for the United States. Chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney — who in the war-for-oil scenario is assumed to be an archetypal oil man — it would be dubbed the Cheney Energy Task Force.

As Cheney’s biographer Barton Gellman points out, the task force became, in many respects, a “creature of Cheney’s worldview.” [6] De-emphasizing conservation and environmental protection, Cheney believed that the United States needed a “near-term boost in domestic energy production,” which had suffered from over-regulation. [7] In short, Cheney’s view on energy production coincided with that of the producers of fossil fuels. And in developing the energy policy, he would consult closely with leading figures in the fossil-fuels industry while giving short shrift to the opinions of environmentalists, with whom he rarely met.

Perhaps because of the biased nature of the sources of his information, but also in line with his expansive view of the executive branch’s prerogatives, Cheney kept the meetings secret, and only as a result of legal efforts was any information about them revealed to the public; and even then it was far from everything. It was that secrecy that the war-for-oil theorists fell upon in order to substantiate their claim that the oil interest played the leading role in bringing about the U.S. attack on Iraq.

To the adherents of the thesis, it seemed apparent that the secrecy meant that something very ominous had been discussed in those meetings that could not be made known to the public, and the most ominous development in the early Bush administration was assumed to be the planning for the attack on Iraq.

Now, there is plenty of evidence that such planning was underway, and in fact had already been made, by the neoconservatives, with whom Cheney was certainly in league and whom he had actually brought into the Bush administration. However, there is no evidence that an attack on Iraq garnered substantial support from the oil industry. Far from pushing for war, industry representatives publicly supported the elimination of sanctions on Iraq (and elsewhere) so that they could have access to oil.

Moreover, they were concerned about any form of instability in the Middle East, fearing that war would disrupt the extraction and transportation of oil. Thus, ex-President George H.W. Bush and his cronies, who according to the oil-war scenario are associated with the war on Iraq, were at least cool to the war.

Brent Scowcroft, for one, was actively opposed. Scowcroft had been the elder Bush’s national security advisor and during the run-up to the 2003 war sat on the board of Pennzoil-Quaker State. [8]

As an aside, let me deal with the implication that the oil companies were advocating war only in secret meetings with high Bush administration officials, with their pro-war views unknown to the media.

That invisible approach is highly unlikely. Any contention that the oil interests primarily work behind the scenes is belied by the fact that they have been quite visible indeed in their public advocacy on many issues: fracking regulations; the termination of restrictions on the export of American-produced crude oil; the Keystone XL pipeline; regulations on refineries; and opposition to limitations on the use of fossil fuels because of “climate change” (anthropogenic global warming). And as mentioned, the oil companies were visible in their public opposition to the existing oil sanctions in 2001. The oil companies have been not only quite vocal in those matters but also far from successful in getting their way.

The war-for-oil theorists’ suggestion that the oil interests could be more successful taking an invisible approach instead of a public one does not seem plausible. The neocons had developed and publicized their Middle East war agenda before 2001; once George W. Bush took office, they openly promoted an attack on Iraq, both in the media and from their key positions in the administration. All of that being so, it is reasonable to believe that it was their efforts that accounted for the U.S. attack. There is no need to posit any undocumented, invisible support from the oil lobby; by the standards of proof in argumentation, the neocon explanation fits the simplicity principle of Occam’s razor. In an example of reverse logic, proponents of the oil thesis deny, ignore, or at least downplay the role of the neocons in bringing about the war on Iraq.

Despite counter-evidence, proponents of the war-for-oil thesis claim to find solid evidence for the coming invasion in the documents produced by the Cheney Energy Task Force. Some war-for-oil proponents, for example, have cited the maps of Iraqi oil fields used by the task force as evidence of plans for how those fields would be divvied up among U.S. companies. As the result of a court order, Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, obtained a batch of task force-related U.S. Commerce Department papers that included a detailed map of oil fields, terminals, and pipelines, as well as a list titled “Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” But the papers obtained also included a detailed map of oil fields and pipelines in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a list of oil and gas development projects in those two countries. The U.S. secretary of commerce said there were also maps of other key oil-producing regions of the world, including Russia, North America, the Middle East, and the Caspian Sea region. It seems quite reasonable that a task force on energy would seek clear knowledge about the key global locations of oil production. [9]

Strategic-Energy-Policy-Challenges-for-the-21st-CenturyIraq is barely mentioned in the final report from the Cheney task force, but it is given more, though still quite limited, attention in a report, “Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century,” by an Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A.Baker III Institute of Public Policy.

According to the Baker Institute, that task force was “comprised [of] 52 prominent Americans from government, industry, and academia … [and] offered 110 recommendations to the Cheney task force and U.S. Congress regarding steps to build a comprehensive energy policy and national consensus.”

The chairman of the task force was Edward L. Morse, an energy economist and at the time an advisor at Hess Energy Trading Co. During the Carter administration he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for international energy policy, from 1979 to 1981.[10]

Adherents of the oil-war argument have connected the Baker report to the Cheney task force and have interpreted its few references to Iraq as indications of the forthcoming American invasion. [11]

The Baker group urged four “immediate steps”; one such step, labeled “Deter and Manage International Supply Shortfalls,” was in five parts; the Iraq issue was merely one of those five parts. The “immediate steps” were “to be considered in the very short term to assure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to deal with potential supply disruptions and to buffer the economy from adverse impacts of price volatility.” [12]

The recommendation pertaining to Iraq read: “Review policies toward Iraq with the aim to lowering anti-Americanism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and set the groundwork to eventually ease Iraqi oil-field investment restrictions.” The report acknowledged that “Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to U.S. allies in the Middle East, as well as to regional and global order, and to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.” [13]

The report stated that “[t]he United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.” [14] The emphasis, however, was not on military action against Iraq but on a sanctions policy toward Iraq that was better-coordinated with other countries, the existing sanctions being perceived as harming the Iraqi people without effectively weakening Saddam’s power and ability to acquire weaponry.

“The United States,” the report thus maintained, “should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia and with key countries in the Middle East to restate the goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies…. Actions and policies to promote these goals should endeavor to enhance the well-being of the Iraqi people. Sanctions that are not effective should be phased out and replaced with highly focused and enforced sanctions that target the regime’s ability to maintain and acquire weapons of mass destruction. A new plan of action should be developed to use diplomatic and other means to support U.N. Security Council efforts to build a strong arms-control regime to stem the flow of arms and controlled substances into Iraq.” [15]

The Baker report continued: “Once an arms-control program is in place, the United States could consider reducing restrictions on oil investments inside Iraq. Like it or not, Iraqi reserves represent a major asset that can quickly add capacity to world oil markets and inject a more competitive tenor to oil trade.” [16]

The report acknowledged that if a diminution of the sanctions led to an increase in Saddam’s oil revenues, he “could be a greater security threat to U.S. allies in the region if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sanctions, weapons regimes, and the coalition against him are not strengthened.” Nonetheless, it supported making a change since the continuation of the “oil sanctions is becoming increasingly difficult to implement” and “Saddam Hussein has many means of gaining revenues, and the sanctions regime helps perpetuate his lock on the country’s economy.” [17] A one-sided reading of that passage alone might seem to include war as one alternative to the existing sanctions, but, in fact, the report explicitly prescribed narrowing the scope of sanctions.

The Baker Institute report’s fundamental concern that “energy disruptions could have a potentially enormous impact on the U.S. and world economy, and … affect U.S. national security and foreign policy in dramatic ways” [18] would suggest that the United States not engage in military adventures that could destabilize the region. The U.S. invasion of Iraq certainly did cause such destabilization and explains why the oil interests and the traditional American foreign-policy establishment in general were cool or opposed to the attack on Iraq. [19]

Now, once it had become clear that the United States would attack Iraq, and certainly after it actually had invaded, one may assume that the oil companies would want to take advantage of the situation and jockey for a favored position in postwar Iraq. But that does not somehow prove by itself that the oil interests pushed the country into war. And as it happened, the U.S. government did little to guarantee a favorable position for American oil companies after the war. As I pointed out in The Transparent Cabal, the U.S. government never made plans (much less implemented such plans) to dominate Iraq, to the extent of being able to control Iraq’s oil for its own benefit and that of its oil companies at the expense of the Iraq government and people. To exercise any permanent control of Iraq’s oil reserves, Washington would have had to turn the country into a virtual colony (which would have been very difficult, if not impossible). [20] It was inevitable that an Iraqi government with any type of autonomy would sell oil leases to the highest bidder.

Under the oil argument, the violence and political resistance that sprang up in Iraq during the occupation thwarted the U.S. plan to control oil. The likelihood of such internal violence, however, was fully recognized in a number of pre-invasion government studies. [21] About the only ostensibly knowledgeable group that claimed otherwise was the neocons, and if their expressed view here is accepted as a candid account, it seems necessary to accept also their public pronouncements about establishing democracy and ridding Iraq of WMDs as reasons for the war.

When Iraq began to sell oil leases to foreign companies in 2009, only a very few went to American companies while a disproportionate number went to America’s major rivals, China and Russia. That could hardly be a goal of American foreign policy. One reason given for those countries’ success has been that their companies were government-owned or government-supported, and thus could better afford to incur risk and accept low profits than their American counterparts, which were strictly private. [22] Of course, if the U.S. government really fought a multi-trillion-dollar war for the purpose of gaining control of Iraqi oil for its companies, one would expect it to subsidize any oil leases in Iraq by American companies, the cost of which would pale beside the overall war costs.

In sum, there does not seem to be any real evidence that Washington went to war against Iraq to enhance the profits of the oil industry, or control oil for the United States, nor is there any logical reason to think that would be the case. Nevertheless, as I indicated at the beginning, there are strong political, psychological, social, and economic motivations for maintaining that belief, especially as opposed to the non-P.C. and rather dangerous alternative view to which I adhere — focusing on the role of the pro-Israel neocons. In most cases, those concerns are far more important in determining the prevalence of any view in modern America than logic and evidence, even for that very small minority of the population with high intellectual ability who are actually knowledgeable about the issues.

In fact, such people are often far more affected by concerns involving employment and social status than average Americans, and are thus less open-minded and less willing to alter their views in light of the facts. Whatever their actual personal views, the oil argument provides a safe position for those who want to oppose America’s war policies in the Middle East without endangering themselves by expressing a view that could bring on lethal accusations of anti-Semitism.

However, a false view of reality will not serve to effectively solve problems. If we focus on a false culprit, the neocons and the overall Israel lobby are apt to flourish, and American military adventures are apt to continue in the Middle East.

Notes:

1. Noam Chomsky, interview with Dubai’s Business Channel, “‘Of course, it was all about Iraq’s resources,’” December 2, 2003.
2. Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (Norfolk, Va.: Enigma Editions, 2008), pp. 333-50; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
3. “Rogue States: Why Washington May Ease Sanctions,” Business Week, May 6, 2001. Quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
4. Anthony Sampson, “Oilmen don’t want another Suez,” The Observer, December 21, 2002. Sampson is author of The Seven Sisters(New York: Bantam Books, 1976), which deals with oil companies and the Middle East; quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
5. Quoted in Roger Burbach, “The Bush Ideologues vs. Big Oil in Iraq,” CounterPunch, October 3-5, 2003.
6. Barton Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), p. 90.
7. Ibid., p. 91.
8. Transparent Cabal; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004; “Brent Scowcroft,” Sourcewatch.
9. “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Detail Iraqi Oil Industry,” Fox News, July 18, 2003; “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oil Fields,” Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003.
10. James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy, Energy Forum Policy Research.
11. Ritt Goldstein, “‘Oil War’ Questions Surround Cheney Energy Group”; Michael T. Klare, “The Bush/Cheney Energy Strategy: Implications for U.S. Foreign and Military Policy,” a paper prepared for the second annual meeting of the Association for Study of Peak Oil, Paris, France, May 26-27, 2003; Carol Brightman, Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence, London: Verso, 2004, p. 190; Jason Leopold, “Eager to Tap Iraq’s Vast Oil Reserves, Industry Execs Suggested Invasion,” The Public Record, July 1, 2009.
12. “Strategic Energy Policy,” p. 42.
13. Ibid., p. 46.
14. Ibid., p. 46.
15. Ibid., p. 46-47.
16. Ibid., p. 47.
17. Ibid., p. 47.
18. Ibid., p. 2.
19. The traditional foreign-policy establishment’s opposition to the neocon position is brought out throughout The Transparent Cabal, but especially see: pp. 59, 270-73, 291-297, 343-350; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
20. Transparent Cabal, pp. 340-42; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
21. Transparent Cabal, pp. 336-38.
22. Mohammed Abbas, “No boon for U.S. firms in Iraq oil deal auction,” Reuters, August 12, 2009.

Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in American history,with a focus on American foreign policy, at the University of Maryland. His focus on the neoconservative involvement in American foreign policy antedates September 11, 2001. His first major work on the subject, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel” was published February 10, 2003, more than a month before the American attack. He is the author of “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel”.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Misread Telexes Led Analysts to See Iran Nuclear Arms Programme

By Gareth Porter | IPS | February 5, 2014

When Western intelligence agencies began in the early 1990s to intercept telexes from an Iranian university to foreign high technology firms, intelligence analysts believed they saw the first signs of military involvement in Iran’s nuclear programme. That suspicion led to U.S. intelligence assessments over the next decade that Iran was secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

The supposed evidence of military efforts to procure uranium enrichment equipment shown in the telexes was also the main premise of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation of Iran’s nuclear programme from 2003 through 2007.

But the interpretation of the intercepted telexes on which later assessments were based turned out to have been a fundamental error. The analysts, eager to find evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, had wrongly assumed that the combination of interest in technologies that could be used in a nuclear programme and the apparent role of a military-related institution meant that the military was behind the procurement requests.

In 2007-08, Iran provided hard evidence that the technologies had actually been sought by university teachers and researchers.

The intercepted telexes that set in train the series of U.S. intelligence assessments that Iran was working on nuclear weapons were sent from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran beginning in late 1990 and continued through 1992. The dates of the telexes, their specific procurement requests and the telex number of PHRC were all revealed in a February 2012 paper by David Albright, the executive director of the Institute for Science and International Security, and two co-authors.

The telexes that interested intelligence agencies following them all pertained to dual-use technologies, meaning that they were consistent with work on uranium conversion and enrichment but could also be used for non-nuclear applications.

But what raised acute suspicions on the part of intelligence analysts was the fact that those procurement requests bore the telex number of the Physics Research Center (PHRC), which was known to have contracts with the Iranian military.

U.S., British, German and Israeli foreign intelligence agencies were sharing raw intelligence on Iranian efforts to procure technology for its nuclear programme, according to published sources. The telexes included requests for “high-vacuum” equipment, “ring” magnets, a balancing machine and cylinders of fluorine gas, all of which were viewed as useful for a programme of uranium conversion and enrichment.

The Schenck balancing machine ordered in late 1990 or early 1991 provoked interest among proliferation analysts, because it could be used to balance the rotor assembly parts on the P1 centrifuge for uranium enrichment. The “ring” magnets sought by the university were believed to be appropriate for centrifuge production.

The request for 45 cylinders of fluorine gas was considered suspicious, because fluorine is combined with uranium to produce uranium hexafluoride, the form of uranium that is used for enrichment.

The first indirect allusion to evidence from the telexes in the news came in late 1992, when an official of the George H. W. Bush administration told The Washington Post that the administration had pushed for a complete cutoff of all nuclear-related technology to Iran, because of what was called “a suspicious procurement pattern”.

Then the Iranian efforts to obtain those specific technologies from major foreign suppliers were reported, without mentioning the intercepted telexes, in a Public Broadcasting System “Frontline” documentary called “Iran and the Bomb” broadcast in April 1993, which portrayed them as clear indications of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

The producer of the documentary, Herbert Krosney, described the Iranian procurement efforts in similar terms in his book “Deadly Business” published the same year.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s CIA Director John Deutch declared, “A wide variety of data indicate that Tehran has assigned civilian and military organisations to support the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.”

For the next decade, the CIA’s non-proliferation specialists continued to rely on their analysis of the telexes to buttress their assessment that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. The top-secret 2001 National Intelligence Estimate bore the title “Iran Nuclear Weapons Program: Multifaceted and Poised to Succeed, but When?”

Former IAEA Deputy Director General for Safeguards Olli Heinonen recalled in a May 2012 article that the IAEA had obtained a “set of procurement information about the PHRC” – an obvious reference to the collection of telexes – which led him to launch an investigation in 2004 of what the IAEA later called the “Procurement activities by the former Head of PHRC”.

But after an August 2007 agreement between Iran and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei on a timetable for the resolution of “all remaining issues”, Iran provided full information on all the procurement issues the IAEA had raised.

That information revealed that the former PHRC head, Sayyed Abbas Shahmoradi-Zavareh, who had been a professor at Sharif University at the time, had been asked by several faculty departments to help procure equipment or material for teaching and research.

Iran produced voluminous evidence to support its explanation for each of the procurement efforts the IAEA had questioned. It showed that the high vacuum equipment had been requested by the Physics Department for student experiments in evaporation and vacuum techniques for producing thin coatings by providing instruction manuals on the experiments, internal communications and even the shipping documents on the procurement.

The Physics Department had also requested the magnets for students to carry out “Lenz-Faraday experiments”, according to the evidence provided, including the instruction manuals, the original requests for funding and the invoice for cash sales from the supplier. The balancing machine was for the Mechanical Engineering Department, as was supported by similar documentation turned over to the IAEA. IAEA inspectors had also found that the machine was indeed located at the department.

The 45 cylinders of fluorine that Shahmoradi-Zavareh had tried to procure had been requested by the Office of Industrial Relations for research on the chemical stability of polymeric vessels, as shown by the original request letter and communications between the former PHRC head and the president of the university.

The IAEA report on February 2008 recorded the detailed documentation provided by Iran on each of the issues, none of which was challenged by the IAEA. The report declared the issue “no longer outstanding at this stage”, despite U.S. pressure on ElBaradei to avoid closing that or any other issue in the work programme, as reported in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

The IAEA report showed that the primary intelligence basis for the U.S. charge of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme for more than a decade had been erroneous.

That dramatic development in the Iran nuclear story went unnoticed in news media reporting on the IAEA report, however. By then the U.S. government, the IAEA and the news media had raised other evidence that was more dramatic – a set of documents supposedly purloined from an Iran laptop computer associated with an alleged covert Iranian nuclear weapons programme from 2001 to 2003. And the November 2007 NIE had concluded that Iran had been running such a programme but had halted it in 2003.

Despite the clear acceptance of the Iranian explanation by the IAEA, David Albright of ISIS has continued to argue that the telexes support suspicions that Iran’s Defence Ministry was involved in the nuclear programme.

In his February 2012 paper, Albright discusses the procurement requests documented in the telexes as though the IAEA investigation had been left without any resolution. Albright makes no reference to the detailed documentation provided by Iran in each case or to the IAEA’s determination that the issue was “no longer outstanding”.

Ten days later, the Washington Post published a news article reflecting Albright’s claim that the telexes proved that the PHRC had been guiding Iran’s secret uranium enrichment programme during the 1990s. The writer was evidently unaware that the February 2008 IAEA report had provided convincing evidence that the intelligence analyst’s interpretations had been fundamentally wrong.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US, Israel aim to divide and conquer Middle East

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By Brandon Martinez | Press TV | January 20, 2014

In a recent broadcast, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes denounced the sordid attempts of 16 leading Democratic lawmakers who, under the influence of the Israeli lobby, are pushing to impose new economic sanctions on Iran, which is designed to sabotage Obama’s rapprochement with the Islamic Republic.

Although this condemnation of the Zionist lobby’s implacable warmongering is admirable, in the strictly confined discourse we see on the mainstream media presenters of this caliber refuse to state the obvious, which is that the United States has no right whatsoever to tell any country what to do on any matter, either foreign or domestic. Economic sanctions are an act of war, yet the US has imposed crippling economic sanctions on dozens of countries around the world, strangling the life out of them like a deadly python suffocating its victims.

The US has utilized sanctions to neuter nations that are not compliant with Washington’s hegemonic agenda. In turn, Washington is driven by Israel’s imperial desire to subjugate its foes, keeping them weak and divided. Using America as its proxy, Israel aims to fragment and destabilize the Arab/Muslim world.

In 1980 the US backed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran. They provided him with material and diplomatic support. They gave him weapons and intelligence assistance. When it became apparent that Iran was going to win that war, the US dispatched a war ship off the coast of Iran called the USS Vincennes. On July 3, 1988, the Vincennes deliberately shot down an Iranian civilian airplane, killing all 290 passengers, including 66 children. This act of state-sponsored terrorism was a “message” from Washington designed to intimidate the Iranians into entering peace talks with a nearly defeated Saddam, instead of seeing the war out to the bitter end. The US has never apologized for this act of barbarism.

The Iran-Iraq war was part and parcel of the US-Israeli divide and conquer strategy in the Middle East. In 1982 an Israeli geo-political thinker named Oded Yinon penned a report entitled “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties.” In the document Yinon outlined a diabolical scheme whereby Israel would neutralize its adversaries by instigating internal ethnic and religious conflicts in the Arab/Muslim world. Yinon called for the dissolution of the Arab states surrounding Israel. He envisioned the break up of countries like Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan into smaller, weaker statelets, thereby undermining their ability to resist Israeli domination.

“In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us,” Yinon wrote. “Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation,” he continued, “will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon.”

Skipping ahead to 1991, Iraq entered into another conflict, this time with Kuwait. The US gave Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait, and then stabbed its ally in the back. America’s entry into that conflict was predicated on a monstrous lie. Tom Lantos, a Jewish-American congressman from California, spearheaded the effort to galvanize public opinion behind an American intervention in the Iraqi-Kuwaiti territorial dispute. He set up a “human rights” front group called the “Congressional Human Rights Foundation.” Working in cahoots with the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton, Lantos put on a televised hearing where several people claiming to be “witnesses” to Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait gave testimony.

The star witness was a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl who appeared at the hearing under the assumed name “Nayirah.” She gave a tearful testimony about how she saw Iraqi troops enter a hospital in Kuwait City, whereupon they removed hundreds of babies from their incubators, leaving them to die on the cold floor. “While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the children to die on the cold floor,” she said.

The story spread like wildfire across the mass media and President George H. W. Bush trumpeted it from the Oval Office pulpit. Soon after the atrocity story reached critical mass, the US deployed warplanes and ground troops to “punish” Saddam. American forces killed tens of thousands of Iraqis in the war.

Some time after that war, the incubator babies atrocity story was exposed as an out-and-out hoax. “Nayirah” and her compatriots posing as downtrodden victims of Iraqi aggression were all actors reading from a script prepared for them by the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton. Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the US, Saud Nasir al-Sabah, and she had lived in the US most of her life. She was never even in Kuwait when Saddam invaded.

Tom Lantos’ propaganda production helped push America into a war for Israel’s interests. The second US war against Iraq in 2003, which was also based upon malicious lies about Saddam’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction,” was similarly engineered by Zionists to facilitate the removal of the Iraqi “threat” to Israeli power. “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 — it’s the threat against Israel,” said Philip Zelikow, a former Bush administration insider.

In 1996 several leading neoconservatives wrote a strategy paper for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud regime entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” In the report they talked about “rolling back Syria” and argued that deposing Saddam Hussein in Iraq was “an important Israeli strategic objective.” Among the authors of the dastardly document were the Israel-first partisans Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, all of whom became high-ranking members of the Bush administration in 2003, leading the drive for a war against Iraq.

Shortly before the 2003 invasion, the Israel-first champion Tom Lantos assured his Israeli counterparts that Saddam Hussein would soon be ousted and an US/Israeli-backed puppet dictator would be installed in his place. “You won’t have any problem with Saddam,” the Jewish congressman told MK Colette Avital of Israel’s Labour Party. “We’ll be rid of the bastard soon enough. And in his place we’ll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and for you.”

In 1996 Madeline Albright, the former secretary of state under Bill Clinton, unveiled her utter inhumanity on a CBS News 60 Minutes broadcast. When informed that the genocidal US economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 [Persian] Gulf War caused the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children, Albright remarked that it was “worth the price.” In that twelve-year period from 1991 to 2003 more than a million Iraqi children as well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men and women died as a result of US sanctions.

Alongside Israel’s political leaders, Israeli religious leaders were jubilant at the prospect of Iraq’s demise. Yona Metzger, Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, thanked President Bush for invading Iraq and killing millions of Iraqis. “I want to thank you for your support of Israel and in particular for waging a war against Iraq,” the rabbi told President Bush in a brief verbal exchange at Ben-Gurion airport.

Believing their war of annihilation against the Arab/Muslim world is sanctioned by god, the Jewish-Zionist elite of Israel and the United States will stop at nothing to bring doom upon millions of innocent people who stand in the way of their grandiose dream of a “Greater Israel.” In 1962 Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion made a striking prediction. He candidly outlined his vision of the future, forecasting that the nations of the world would become “united in a world alliance, at whose disposal will be an international police force. All armies will be abolished, and there will be no more wars.”

He further declared that in Jerusalem “the United Nations … will build a Shrine of the Prophets to serve the federated union of all continents; this will be the seat of the Supreme Court of Mankind, to settle all controversies among the federated continents, as prophesied by Isaiah.” Ben-Gurion also once remarked that the ideals of the United Nations are consistent with Jewish ideals. “We consider that the United Nations’ ideal is a Jewish ideal,” he said.

In his eerie presage Ben-Gurion referenced the Jewish prophet Isaiah. The book of Isaiah in the Old Testament of the Bible contains some interesting passages that illuminate the supremacist mindset of Ben-Gurion and his co-religionists. Isaiah 60:5 says, “Ye shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings.” Isaiah 61:5 speaks of how “Strangers will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.” Isaiah 60:5 explains how “The wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.” “And you will be called priests of the LORD, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast,” it says in Isaiah 61:6.

Isaiah 60:12 decrees the destruction of nations not subservient to the chosen people: “For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined.” Isaiah 49:23 foresees kings and queens becoming slaves of the chosenites: “Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet.”

“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth,” it says in the book of Deuteronomy (7:6). Driven by religious fanaticism and ethnic chauvinism, the Jewish Zionists and their puppets are pursuing mad policies that will only cause bloodshed and misery.

It is now up to people with a conscience, however many there are left in the world, to recognize this evil for what it is and confront it with the truth.

Brandon Martinez is a freelance writer in Canada with a specialty in foreign policy and international affairs.

January 20, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NAFTA at 20: State of the North American Worker

Twenty years since its passage, NAFTA has displaced workers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, depressed wages, weakened unions, and set the terms of the neoliberal global economy.

By Jeff Faux | Foreign Policy in Focus | December 13, 2013

Foreign Policy In Focus is partnering with Mexico’s La Jornada del campo magazine, where an earlier version of this commentary appeared, to publish a series of pieces examining the impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 20 years since its implementation. This is the first in the series.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was the door through which American workers were shoved into the neoliberal global labor market.

By establishing the principle that U.S. corporations could relocate production elsewhere and sell their products back into the United States, NAFTA undercut the bargaining power of American workers, which had driven the expansion of the middle class since the end of World War II. The result has been 20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth, and political power.

A Template for Neoliberal Globalization

NAFTA impacted U.S. workers in four principal ways.

First, it caused the loss of some 700,000 jobs as companies moved their production to Mexico, where labor was cheaper. Most of these losses came in California, Texas, Michigan, and other states where manufacturing is concentrated (and where many immigrants from Mexico go). To be sure, there were some job gains along the border in the service and retail sectors resulting from increased trucking activity. But these gains are small in relation to the losses, and have generally come in lower paying occupations. The vast majority of workers who lost jobs from NAFTA, therefore, suffered a permanent loss of income.

Second, NAFTA strengthened the ability of U.S. employers to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits. As soon as NAFTA became law, corporate managers began telling their workers that their companies intended to move to Mexico unless the workers lowered the cost of their labor. In the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with unions, some companies even started loading machinery into trucks that they said were bound for Mexico. The same threats were used to fight union organizing efforts. The message was: “If you vote to form a union, we will move south of the border.” With NAFTA, corporations also could more easily blackmail local governments into giving them tax breaks and other subsidies, which of course ultimately meant higher taxes on employees and other taxpayers.

Third, NAFTA drove several million Mexican workers and their families out of the agriculture and small business sectors, which could not compete with the flood of products—often subsidized—from U.S. producers. This dislocation was a major cause of the dramatic increase of undocumented workers in the United States, putting further downward pressure on North American wages, particularly in already lower-paying labor markets.

Fourth, and ultimately most importantly, NAFTA created a template for the rules of the emerging global economy, in which the benefits would flow to capital and the costs to labor. Among other things, NAFTA granted corporations extraordinary protections against national labor laws that might threaten profits, set up special courts—chosen from rosters of pro-business experts—to judge corporate suits against governments, and at the same time effectively denied legal status to workers and unions to defend themselves in these new cross-border jurisdictions.

The U.S. governing class—in alliance with the financial elites of its trading partners—applied the NAFTA principles to the World Trade Organization, to the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and to the deal under which employers of China’s huge supply of low-wage workers were allowed access to U.S. markets in exchange for allowing American multinational corporations to invest there. The NAFTA doctrine of socialism for capital and free markets for labor also drove U.S. policy in the Mexican peso crisis of 1994-95, the Asian financial crash of 1997, and the global financial meltdown of 2008. In each case, the U.S. government organized the rescue of banks and corporate investors while letting the workers fend for themselves.

A Watershed in U.S. Politics

In U.S. politics, the passage of NAFTA under President Bill Clinton signaled that the elites of the Democratic Party—the “progressive” major party—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan.

A “North American Accord” was first proposed by the Republican Reagan in 1979, a year before he was elected president. A decade later, his Republican successor, George H.W. Bush, negotiated the final agreement with Mexico and Canada.

At the time, the Democrats who controlled Congress would not approve the agreement. And when Democrat Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, it was widely assumed that the political pendulum would swing back from the right, and that therefore NAFTA would never pass. But Clinton surrounded himself with economic advisers from Wall Street and in his first year pushed the approval of NAFTA through the Congress.

Despite the rhetoric, the central goal of NAFTA was not “expanding trade.” After all, the United States, Mexico, and Canada had been trading goods and services with each other for three centuries. NAFTA’s central purpose was to free American corporations from U.S. laws protecting workers and the environment. Moreover, it paved the way for the rest of the neoliberal agenda in the United States: the privatization of public services, the deregulation of finance, and the destruction of the independent trade union movement.

The inevitable result was to undercut the living standards of workers all across North America: Wages and benefits have fallen behind worker productivity in all three countries. Moreover, despite declining wages in the United States, the gap between the typical American and typical Mexican worker in manufacturing remains the same. Even after adjusting for differences in living costs, Mexican workers continue to make about 30 percent of the wages that workers make in the United States. Thus, NAFTA is both symbol and substance of the global “race to the bottom.”

Creating a New Template

Here in North America there are two alternative political strategies for change.

One is repeal: NAFTA gives each nation the right to opt out of the agreement. The problem is that by now the three countries’ economies and populations have become so integrated that dis-integration could cause widespread dislocation, unemployment, and a substantial drop in living standards.

The other option is to build a cross-border political movement to rewrite NAFTA in a way that gives ordinary citizens rights and labor protections at least equal to the current privileges of corporate investors. For example, all three NAFTA nations should adopt similar high standards for the protection of free trade unions, collective bargaining, and health and safety—and their citizens should have the right to sue other countries for violations.

This would obviously not be easy. But a foundation has already been laid by the growing collaboration among immigrant, trade unionist, human rights, and other activist organizations in all three counties.

If such a movement could succeed in drawing up a new continent-wide social contract, North American economic integration—instead of being a blueprint for worker exploitation—might just become a model for bringing social justice to the global economy.

Jeff Faux is the founder, and now Distinguished Fellow, of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC. His latest book is The Servant Economy.

December 14, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Environmentalism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Myths about Korean militarism

By David Whitehouse | Worxintheory | March 21, 2013

The frontier between North and South Korea is the most militarized border in the world. There is, of course, another partitioned state in Asia, India-Pakistan, where each side possesses nuclear weapons and commands hundreds of thousands of soldiers. In Korea, though, the stakes are especially high because one of the belligerents is a superpower.

On the opposite side, the world’s most likely superpower-in-the-making, China, is North Korea’s only close ally. It’s not clear that China would intervene militarily in the North’s defense, but the possibility of such action raises the stakes of confrontation even higher. The last war on the Korean peninsula, from 1950 to 1953, pitted the same two outside powers against each other. The Korean War produced well over 2 million civilian casualties.

At various times in the past 20 years, the Pentagon has estimated that one million Korean civilians, divided evenly between North and South, would die in the first days of an all-out war. More than 25 million people live in metropolitan Seoul, South Korea’s capital. The Pentagon refers to the area as the “kill box.”

US military power is overwhelming, but North Korea does possess some deterrents. That’s why there would be casualties on both sides. Chief among the North’s deterrents may be its set of more than 10,000 artillery pieces, dug into the mountains, which could bombard Seoul with explosive, incendiary or chemical weapons. There is no evidence that the North is technically capable of delivering or detonating a nuclear weapon in the South, but the regime has worked in recent years to develop suitable delivery systems and to turn their unwieldy nuclear “devices” into bombs.

In the standard media representation, the rulers of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK — North Korea’s official name) are uniquely bellicose, unpredictable and irrational. Some would say “inscrutable” if that word weren’t obviously racist. George W. Bush was an obvious racist, of course, so he was true to form when he called the regime’s then-General Secretary Kim Jong-il a “pygmy.”

Despite the media’s befuddlement over the regime’s motivations and intentions, they aren’t difficult to figure out. They come through quite clearly at the English-language site of the Korean National News Agency (KCNA) once you figure out how to read through the froth and invective. American reporters and editors are inclined to dismiss the KCNA’s reports because they’re pretty sure that the US can’t be “imperialist” or “arrogant,” as the KCNA claims, and because they treat State Department and Pentagon sources as generally honest and reliable.

These credulous attitudes may arise from complacency, unthinking patriotism, or the job pressures inside the corporate media. In any case, US news outlets consistently produce egregious distortions when they cover the DPRK’s conflicts with the United States. Sometimes the accounts of North Korean actions are accurate enough. Often what makes the picture false is the misrepresentation — or simple omission — of US actions.

As a result, the picture of US-DPRK relations is topsy-turvy. Below, I discuss three points that the media usually get backwards.

1) North Korea nuclearized the peninsula with its bomb test of 2006.

Wrong. The US threatened the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean War of 1950-1953, and President Eisenhower installed an ongoing nuclear arsenal beginning in 1958. The weapons included missiles, bombs and artillery shells. F-4 fighter planes were on constant alert — armed only with nuclear bombs.[1]

There were also portable “atomic demolition mines” (ADMs) that weighed just 60 pounds each. With an explosive yield equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the mines were more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Korea specialist Bruce Cumings writes:

The ADMs were moved around in Jeeps and placed by special teams who carried them in backpacks; meanwhile, US helicopters routinely flew nuclear weapons near the DMZ [the Demilitarized Zone, which divides North from South Korea].… Meanwhile, forward deployment of nuclear weapons bred a mentality of “use ‘em or lose ‘em”; even a small North Korean attack might be cause enough to use them, lest they fall into enemy hands.[2]

President George H.W. Bush withdrew nuclear weapons from the peninsula in 1991 as a cost-free way to place the burden of disarmament on North Korea. The US, of course, was not disarming at all. The Gulf War had shown that the latest generation of “conventional” weapons could inflict suitably horrific damage, and besides, nuclear weapons would be ready-at-hand on offshore ships, submarines and planes.

2) North Korea is serial violator of the Armistice of 1953.

The DPRK regime declared on March 11 of this year that it was nullifying the armistice of 1953. Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations replied that the North could not nullify the agreement unilaterally. The UN is involved because the US fought the Korean War against North Korea and mainland China in the name of the UN. At the time, the anticommunist Taiwan government represented China on the Security Council — a fact that led the USSR to boycott the council. With mainland China excluded and the USSR boycotting, the war resolution passed without a veto.

The fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, so the “UN coalition” is still technically at war with North Korea. I’m not sure why nobody mentions being at war with China, too.

The South Korean defense ministry declared in 2011 that North Korea had violated the armistice 221 times since 1953. This includes 26 claims of military attacks. Some of these attacks were serious, including a 2010 torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors and an artillery bombardment later in the same year that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. In the first case, North Korea denies making the attack. In the second, the regime claims that South Korea shot first.

In fact, the regime often disputes accusations of violating the armistice, declaring that their actions were responses to violations by the US and South Korea. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in keeping records about those violations. (If somebody finds a decent account, please let us know.)

The important thing to know about armistice violations is the big one: The US deployment of nuclear weapons violates an explicit ban on the introduction of “qualitatively new” weapons to Korea. The ban applies to the whole Korean “theater,” so offshore weapons are included.[3] The US has thus committed a major violation of the Armistice continuously for 55 years.

This nuclear posture was known in the Cold War as a “first-strike” policy, since it licensed the use of nuclear weapons even without a nuclear provocation. The US renounced the first-strike option in the European theater but not in Korea. “The logic,” writes Bruce Cummings, “was that we dare not use nuclear weapons in Europe because the other side has them, but we could use them in Korea because it doesn’t.”[4]

3) North Korea has violated the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The world’s great powers came up with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 as a way to maintain their monopoly on nuclear weapons. In the treaty, the nuclear states of that time — the US, Britain, France, the USSR and China — made a vague promise to negotiate their own disarmament in the future.

In order to induce non-nuclear states to sign, the treaty stipulated that nuclear-armed states would help the NPT’s non-nuclear members to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses such as energy production. As a further inducement, the nuclear-weapons states offered a side agreement (not in the NPT) in which they promised not to threaten non-nuclear signatories of the NPT with nuclear attack — or to carry out such attacks.

North Korea did not sign the NPT until 1985. At the time, the DPRK had a small reactor that produced plutonium waste and very little electricity. The Reagan administration feared that the waste could be stockpiled to make a weapon. The US encouraged Konstantin Chernenko, then premier of the USSR, to offer North Korea light-water reactors (LWRs), which produce no waste that can easily be converted into weapons-grade material. The energy-strapped DPRK accepted the deal and agreed to sign the NPT.[5] This was the kind of quid pro quo that the treaty’s authors anticipated when they wrote it.

The USSR was crisis-ridden in the 1980s and dithered over construction of the four promised LWRs, which would have cost about $1 billion apiece. When the Soviet state collapsed in late 1991, the DPRK lost one of its two patrons — the other was China — and entered a decade of natural disaster, economic regression and famine.[6]

With US technical help, and upon US insistence, the UN’s atomic agency (IAEA) began mandatory, intrusive inspections of the DPRK’s nuclear sites in 1992. Following the Gulf War of 1991, the US and the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hans Blix, improvised a new regime of mandatory inspections backed by the threat of Security Council sanctions. Iraq, Iran and North Korea were the intended target of these “special inspections.” The NPT does not authorize any of this.

IAEA inspectors did surmise in 1992-1993 that North Korea had probably stockpiled a significant amount of plutonium. US intelligence operatives looked over the IAEA data and concluded that the hypothesized amount of stockpiled plutonium would be enough to construct one or two nuclear weapons, although they believed that the DPRK was as yet technically incapable of making the plutonium into bombs. These intelligence estimates gave rise to an oft-quoted “worst-case scenario” according to which North Korea already possessed two nuclear weapons in the 1990s.[7]

Stockpiling plutonium may constitute a violation of the NPT, but if so, then Japan is many times more guilty than North Korea. With US approval, Japan has stored up enough plutonium to construct 5,000 warheads. Nevertheless, Japan’s nuclear sites have never been subject to UN “special inspections,” although the country’s nuclear safety record suggests that it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

North Korea declared Blix to be a stooge of the United States — which, of course, he was — and threatened to pull out of the NPT. Eventually, Clinton backed away from the crisis. He offered to provide the LWRs previously promised by the USSR in return for North Korea’s acceptance of further IAEA inspections. The deal was formally written up along with some other provisions, dubbed the “Agreed Framework,” and signed by both parties.

Like the USSR, the US never delivered the LWRs — never even broke ground on them. If we’re looking for violations of the NPT, that’s a clear one, since the NPT obligates nuclear-weapons states to help non-weapons states with nonmilitary nuclear projects.

The promise of LWRs may have been the part of the Agreed Framework that the Northern regime cared most about. For the entire time of its membership in the NPT, from 1985 to 2003, North Korea waited for assistance with nuclear electricity-production that never came. In Clinton’s second term, those who wanted to ridicule the DPRK began to point to nighttime satellite photos of East Asia that showed every country but North Korea lit up. They didn’t mention that the US played a role in turning out the lights.

Meanwhile, although the US had signed every updated version of its 1968 promise not to target non-nuclear-weapons states, Bill Clinton reaffirmed the first-strike policy against North Korea in 1993. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Clinton publicly approved the retargeting of ballistic missiles from Russia to North Korea.[8]

In January 2002, George W. Bush named North Korea, Iraq and Iran as members of an “Axis of Evil.” Then in March, a leak of Bush’s “nuclear posture review” reconfirmed the US first-strike policy. By the fall, Bush was building up troops in the Middle East to overthrow the Iraqi government. Kim Jong-il had good reason to believe that his government would be next.

In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. The treaty itself authorizes a members’ withdrawal when its sovereignty is threatened:

“Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.”

There’s no doubt that George W. Bush’s “global war on terror” qualified as a set of extraordinary events that jeopardized the DPRK’s supreme interests.

In 2010, Barack Obama confirmed once again that the US “nuclear posture” was to keep targeting North Korea. For North Korea and Iran, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “All options are on the table.” It’s a phrase that Obama has used many times since, and it suits his understated style: Threaten the maximum, but make it sound moderate.

[1] Bruce Cumings, Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American–East Asian Relations at the End of the Century (Duke University Press Books, 1999), 127-130.

[2] Ibid., 130.

[3] Ibid., 128.

[4] Ibid., 132.

[5] Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Rev. & upd. Basic Books, 2002), 245 and 289.

[6] For more detail on North Korea’s crisis, and on the imperial interests at play in Korea from 1985 to 2003, see my “What’s at stake in North Korea” in the International Socialist Review, March-April 2003. A PDF is available here.

[7] Oberdorfer, 276.

[8] Cumings, 142.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Romney’s Made-up History on Iran

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 6, 2012

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has taken a page from right-wing mythology as the foundation for his tough-guy policy toward Iran, citing the supposed “history” of Ronald Reagan scaring the Iranians into releasing 52 American hostages on Jan. 20, 1981.

This account of a macho Reagan staring down the Iranians after they had mocked Jimmy Carter for 444 days is a cherished canard of the American Right, reprised again Tuesday in Romney’s Washington Post op-ed, which states:. “Running for the presidency against Carter [in 1980], Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior.”

But that swaggering tale of Reagan’s toughness is not supported by the historical record. Not only does the overwhelming evidence now show that Reagan’s campaign team negotiated secretly behind President Carter’s back to undercut his efforts to free the hostages, but Reagan then followed up their release by authorizing secret shipments of weapons to Iran via Israel.

In other words, instead of bullying the Iranians over their hostage-taking, Reagan rewarded them. And those shipments did not begin in 1985, with the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage deals, but rather almost immediately after Reagan took office in 1981, according to a number of Israeli and U.S. government officials.

For instance, Israeli arms dealer William Northrop claimed in an affidavit that even before Reagan’s inauguration, Israel had sounded out the incoming administration regarding its attitudes toward more weapons shipments to Iran and got “the new administration’s approval.”

By March 1981, millions of dollars in weapons were moving through the Israeli arms pipeline, Norththrop said, including spare parts for U.S.-made aircraft and tons of other hardware. Northrop added that Israel routinely informed the new Reagan administration of its shipments.

(Northrop was indicted by the U.S. government in spring 1986 for his role in allegedly unauthorized shipments of U.S. weapons to Iran, but the case was thrown out after Reagan’s Iran-Contra arms deal with Iran was exposed in fall 1986).

Lost Plane

On July 18, 1981, one of Israel’s secret weapons deliveries to Iran went awry. A chartered Argentine plane strayed off course and crashed (or was shot down) in Soviet territory, threatening to reveal the clandestine deliveries, which surely would have outraged the U.S. people if they had learned that Israel was supplying weapons to Iran with Reagan’s secret blessing – just months after the hostage crisis had ended.

After the plane went down, Nicholas Veliotes, a career diplomat serving as Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, tried to get to the bottom of the mysterious weapons flight.

“We received a press report from Tass [the official Soviet news agency] that an Argentinian plane had crashed,” Veliotes said in a later interview with PBS “Frontline” producers. “According to the documents … this was chartered by Israel and it was carrying American military equipment to Iran. …

“And it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment. Now this was not a covert operation in the classic sense, for which probably you could get a legal justification for it. As it stood, I believe it was the initiative of a few people [who] gave the Israelis the go-ahead. The net result was a violation of American law.”

The reason that the Israeli flights violated U.S. law was that Reagan had not given formal notification to Congress about the transshipment of U.S. military equipment as required by the Arms Export Control Act. If he had, the embarrassing reality of the arms pay-off to Iran would almost surely have leaked — and questions might have been asked about why Reagan was making the pay-off in the first place.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

Q: “Between?”

Veliotes: “Between Israelis and these new players.”

Veliotes added that the embarrassing facts about the downed plane were obscured by Reagan’s State Department, which issued misleading guidance to the U.S. press.

Israeli Pipeline

In my work on the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, I also had obtained a classified summary of testimony from a mid-level State Department official, David Satterfield, who saw these early arms shipments as a continuation of Israeli policy toward Iran.

“Satterfield believed that Israel maintained a persistent military relationship with Iran, based on the Israeli assumption that Iran was a non-Arab state which always constituted a potential ally in the Middle East,” the summary read. “There was evidence that Israel resumed providing arms to Iran in 1980.”

Over the years, senior Israeli officials have claimed that those early shipments, which Carter had tried to block, received the blessing of Reagan’s team.

In May 1982, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon told the Washington Post that U.S. officials had approved Iranian arms transfers. “We said that notwithstanding the tyranny of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, which we all hate, we have to leave a small window open to this country, a tiny small bridge to this country,” Sharon said.

A decade later, in 1993, I took part in an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Tel Aviv during which he said he had read Gary Sick’s 1991 book, October Surprise, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980  hostage negotiations to disrupt Jimmy Carter’s reelection.

With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”

“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”

Walsh’s Suspicions

Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh also came to suspect that those later arms-for-hostage deals traced back to 1980, since it was the only way to make sense of why the Reagan team kept selling arms to Iran in 1985-86 when there was so little progress in reducing the number of American hostages then held by Iranian allies in Lebanon.  When one hostage was released, another was taken.

In conducting a polygraph of Vice President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser (and former CIA officer) Donald Gregg, Walsh’s investigators added a question about Gregg’s alleged participation in the secret 1980 negotiations between Reagan’s team and the Iranians.

“Were you ever involved in a plan to delay the release of the hostages in Iran until after the 1980 Presidential election?” the examiner asked. Gregg’s denial was judged to be deceptive. [See Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. I, p. 501]

So, the historical evidence suggests that the dramatic timing of Iran’s hostage release – as Reagan was giving his Inaugural Address – was not the result of the Iranians fearing Reagan’s retaliation, but rather was a choreographed P.R. event between Reagan’s team and the Iranians.

In the days before Reagan’s Inauguration, his acolytes had been busy circulating a joke around Washington which went: “What’s three feet deep and glows in the dark? Tehran ten minutes after Ronald Reagan becomes President.”

Instead the Iranians released the hostages at the moment most favorable to Reagan – to enhance his standing with the American people as someone whom America’s enemies feared. Republicans got busy working the myth of the Mighty Reagan while Reagan’s team quietly approved Israeli-brokered weapon sales to Iran.

Now, this mythology has found a new place in Romney’s campaign, which has entrusted its foreign policy largely to neoconservatives who came of age during the Reagan administration in the 1980s and helped shape George W. Bush’s foreign policy last decade. In part, here is what Romney published in Tuesday’s Washington Post:

“Beginning Nov. 4, 1979, dozens of U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House. Running for the presidency against Carter the next year, Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior.

“On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.

“America and the world face a strikingly similar situation today; only even more is at stake. The same Islamic fanatics who took our diplomats hostage are racing to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama, America’s most feckless president since Carter, has declared such an outcome unacceptable, but his rhetoric has not been matched by an effective policy.

“While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world. …

“The overall rubric of my foreign policy will be the same as Ronald Reagan’s: namely, ‘peace through strength.’ Like Reagan, I have put forward a comprehensive plan to rebuild American might and equip our soldiers with the weapons they need to prevail in any conflict. By increasing our annual naval shipbuilding rate from nine to 15, I intend to restore our position so that our Navy is an unchallengeable power on the high seas. …

“My plan includes restoring the regular presence of aircraft carrier groups in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. It also includes increasing military assistance to Israel and improved coordination with all of our allies in the area.”

Historical Need

Sometimes, I’m asked why I have worked so hard trying to get the history of the Reagan era correct. The question often goes: “Why not leave that to the historians?” In the tone, there is a suggestion that this history is not as important as investigating current events.

But my concern is this: If the bogus history is allowed to stand unchallenged today, the Reagan mythology will continue to control how many Americans perceive their recent past – and thus this propaganda will keep influencing the present and the future.

Romney’s op-ed is a good example of the price the nation and the world might pay for the tendency of many Americans (including prominent Democrats) to duck difficult confrontations with Republicans over a truthful accounting of the Reagan history.

With the Reagan myth lovingly protected by Republicans (and rarely contested by Democrats), it can become a touchstone for dangerous policies, now and in the future, both foreign and domestic.

[For more details on Reagan’s secret dealings with Iran, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Consortiumnews.com’s “New October Surprise Series.”]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

How many violations of US arms laws are too many?

By Franklin Lamb | Al-Manar | March 17, 2012

On March 6, 2012, the US Congressional Research Service released a report to the US Congress concerning Restrictions on the use of American weapons by recipient countries.

For those who have followed the subject there was not a whole lot new in the CRS study, yet it is instructive in identifying Israel once again as far and away the most consistent egregious violator of virtually every provision of every US law which purports to regulate how American weapons are used.

In accordance with American law, the U.S. Government is mandated to enforce strict conditions on the use against civilians, of weapons it transfers to foreign recipients.

Violations of these conditions can lead to the suspension of deliveries or termination of contracts for such defense items, and even the cutting off of all aid to the violating country.

Section 3(a) of the 1976 US Arms Export Control Act (AECA) sets the standards for countries to be eligible to receive American arms and it also sets express conditions on the uses to which these arms may be put. Section 4 of the AECA states that U.S. weapons shall be sold to friendly countries “solely” for use in “legitimate self-defense, for use in “internal security,” and to enable the recipient country to participate in “collective measures requested by the United Nations for the purpose of maintaining or restoring international peace and security.”

Should the President or Congress determine pursuant to section 3(c)(3)(A) of the Arms Export Control Act that a “substantial violation” by a foreign country of an applicable agreement governing an arms sale or grant has occurred, then that country is automatically ineligible for further U.S. military hardware. This action would also terminate provision of credits, loan guarantees, cash sales, and deliveries pursuant to previous sales or grants. Other options include suspension of deliveries of defense items already ordered and refusal to allow new arms orders.

The United States has only once used such an option against Israel.

Questions raised by researchers in Beirut during the summer of 1982 and by Washington Post journalist Jonathan Randel regarding the use of U.S.-supplied military equipment by Israel in Lebanon in June and July 1982, led the Reagan Administration to determine on July 15, 1982, that Israel “may” have violated its July 23, 1952, Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the United States (TIAS 2675) and the AECA.

The pertinent language of the 1952 agreement between Israel and the United States states:

“The Government of Israel assures the United States Government that such equipment, material, or services as may be acquired from the United States … are required for and will be used solely to maintain its internal security, its legitimate self-defense, or to permit it to participate in the defense of the area of which it is a part, or in United Nations collective security arrangements and measures, and that it will not undertake any act of aggression against any other state.”

Alarm centered on whether or not Israel had used U.S.-supplied antipersonnel cluster bombs against civilian targets during its carpet bombing West Beirut during the nearly three month siege.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on this issue in July and August 1982.

On July 19, 1982, the Reagan Administration announced that it would prohibit new exports of cluster bombs to Israel.

This prohibition was lifted by the Reagan Administration in November 1988 under US Israel lobby pressure on the White House designed to assist the Presidential campaign of George H. W. Bush.

The facts of this case which manly centered on events in Lebanon are instructive. During the 1973 Ramadan war, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, watching Arab forces advance on Israel troops following the October 6 Egyptian and Syrian offensive, and being advised by the Israeli Defense Ministry of a pending disaster, threatened President Nixon with Israel using nuclear weapons unless the US rescued Israel. Nixon’s immediate response was to order a massive air lift to Israel of US arms stockpiled for use in Vietnam at Clark air force base near Subic Bay, Philippines. […]

During a late June 1982 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Begin, Reagan was handed a note from George Shultz. Based on the information he had in hand, Reagan directly told Begin that the US had reliable information than Israel was using American weapons against civilians in Lebanon. At this point according to Reagan, Begin became very agitated.

He lowered his glasses and while glaring at Reagan and shaking his index finger said, “Mr. President, Israel has never and would never use American weapons against civilians and to claim otherwise is a blood libel against every Jew, everywhere.”

Following their meeting Reagan told Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, as reported by Weinberger and by various biographers of Reagan that “I did not know what the term “blood libel” meant, but I know that the man looked me straight in the eyes and lied to me.” […]

The US Zionist lobby accurately considers American arms control laws as meaningless. The prohibitions against Israel’s use of American weapons against civilians have not, are not and in all likelihood will never be enforced against Israel given the regime’s continuing occupation of much of the US government. … Full article

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Comments Off on How many violations of US arms laws are too many?