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Nuclear deal or no nuclear deal? That is the question

By Catherine Shakdam | RT | April 17, 2015

As neocons are working to destroy Iran’s tentative nuclear deal, US President Obama will have to either reinvent America’s policy or give in to Israel’s lobby and Saudi Arabia’s paranoiac fear of Shia Islam.

If months of intense political wrangling were crowned earlier this April by the confirmation that Iran and the P5+1 countries reached a tentative framework agreement over one of the most contentious issue of the past three decades – Iran’s nuclear dossier – it appears such diplomatic respite could prelude to a dangerous political standoff.

If by any account Iran’s nuclear negotiations were going to be trying, especially since Tehran’s nuclear ambitions do not necessarily sit at the center of this internationally staged quarrel, Israel’s neocon war campaign against the Islamic Republic risks pushing the world toward yet another lengthy conflict- a global one at that.

With the fires of war already burning bright in the MENA region – Middle East and North Africa – the fall of another domino could prove one too many for the word to handle. From a purely geostrategic standpoint a war with Iran, however pleasing to Tel Aviv’s avid warmongers, would likely force Western powers and their Arab allies to commit more military power than they can handle. Bearing in mind that the US has already committed troops and resources to Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and of course Ukraine, how much farther can imperial America really stretch?

However grand the US might think itself to be, and however solid the US might think its alliances to be, Washington has yet to win a war. Claiming victory as George W. Bush did in Iraq on May 1, 2003 did not exactly make it so. And though America basked in the glorious light of its military supremacy over the “Iraqi enemy,” its joy was short-lived as reality soon came knocking. And though starting a war might seem an easy enough business for neocon America, it is really the art of peace this belligerent nation has failed to master so far.

But back to Iran’s nuclear deal

To the surprise of many skeptics, Iran and the P5+1 did reach a deal – and while there were a few near misses, a deal was nevertheless brokered; proof experts actually insisted that Tehran is more interested in diplomacy than its detractors gives it credit for. Iran’s concessions attest to its officials’ determination to engage with the international community and integrate back into mainstream international politics.

As Gareth Porter wrote in a report for CounterPunch this April, “The framework agreement reached on Thursday night [April 2, 2015] clearly gives the P5+1 a combination of constraints on Iran’s nuclear program that should reassure all but the most bellicose opponents of diplomacy.”

And although Iran gave every assurance its government will not seek to weaponize its nuclear program, no amount of concessions might prove sufficient enough or comprehensive enough to assuage Washington’s fears vis-a-vis its “great Satan” – especially if the Saudis and Israelis have a say in it.

With the ink of the nuclear framework agreement still left to dry, both the powerful Israeli lobby and Al Saud’s petrodollars went on overdrive, telling the world what a catastrophe Iran’s nuclear deal would be.

One trip to US Congress and a few well-chosen words against its mortal enemy later, Israel seems satisfied it forever drove a wrench into the yet to be formulated and signed nuclear agreement.

As Yuval Steinitz, Israel minister for intelligence and strategic affairs so eloquently told the world on April 6, Israel would try to persuade the P5 +1 “not to sign this bad deal or at least to dramatically change or fix it”.

Echoing his minister’s narrative, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu determined that since Iran represents a threat to Israel’s very existence, America should abandon all diplomacy and instead beat the war drums. And we don’t really need to know why, only that it is so – If Netanyahu’s drawing did not convince your idle mind of Iran’s evil in 2012 then nothing will!

Just as Israel’s lobby bullied its way through the Oval office, cornering U.S. President Barak Obama into relenting power to Congress, Saudi Arabia declared war on Yemen, adding a new layer of complication to an already impossible mesh of over-lapping and over-conflicting alliances in the Middle East, thus weaving a dangerous noose around peace’s neck.

Interestingly, if war requires no US Congress oversight you can be sure that peace does!

Caught in between a rock at home and a hard place in the Middle East, US President Obama is faced with one mighty dilemma – one which will determine not his presidency but his very legacy.

If recent tensions between President Obama and the Israeli Premier are anything to go by, it would appear Israel’s lobby suit of armor is not as thick and potent as it’d like it to be, or maybe just maybe, it simply exhausted Americans’ patience. Israel’s greatest ally and supporter, the one power which has quite literally and almost single-handedly carried the Jewish State into being and helped it survive adverse winds since its very inception in 1948: vetoing UNSC resolutions when needed, propping its military and economy when needed, acting a political champion when needed, could be running out of road.

If Israel and Saudi Arabia’s foreign agenda stand now in perfect alignment – their ire directed not at one another but at Iran, changes in the region and fast-moving geostrategic interests have forced the US to re-evaluate its position vis-a-vis Iran and the so-called mythical Shia crescent the world has learnt to be wary of without quite understanding why.

In Netanyahu’s officials’ own words we are to believe that Islamic radicalism, a perverted, acetic and reactionary interpretation of Islam which has mapped itself around Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism movement would be preferable to seeing Iran gain a greater footing in the Arab world. In September 2013, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Assad and the Shiites. “The greatest danger to Israel is by the [Shiite] strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in an interview.

“We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Obviously Saudi Arabia would rather eat its own foot than allow the all so devilish Iran from reclaiming its standing in the region, especially since it would essentially mean relenting power to rising calls for democratic reforms in the Gulf monarchies – Bahrain being the flagship of such a desire for change.

Why do that when you can wage senseless wars to assert your dominion?

Iran’s nuclear deal is more than just a nuclear deal. If signed, this deal would become the cornerstone of a broad shift in alliances, the moment when the US would actually choose to put its national interests over that of Tel Aviv and over Riyadh’s billions. Where Israel has bullied the US for decades, Saudi Arabia has bought its policies for decades.

With nothing left to lose but his good name and his legacy, President Obama could be just the man to break this self-destructing cycle and reinvent America’s foreign policy.

And that’s not even wishful thinking it would actually make sense for America to make peace with Iran – economically, politically and in terms of energy security and counter-terrorism Iran could be a more helpful and potent ally than Saudi Arabia. Bearing in mind that Riyadh’s fingerprints are all over al-Qaeda, ISIS and whatever terror offshoots radicals created those days, Washington might want to consider another ally in its fight against radicalism.

Thing is, America wants change! What it needs now is mastering the courage of its desire.

America is a superpower running out of steam, and more importantly running out of standing in the world. America’s exceptionalism is on its last leg. Too many double-standards, too many incoherencies in its alliances, too many double-talks, double-entendres and double-crossings. America needs a deal.

And though the July deadline seems very far away indeed, especially since Yemen’s war came to yank at diplomacy’s already stretched out rope; not signing the nuclear deal would be far worse than ruffling Israel and Saudi Arabia’s feathers.

For the sake of argument, why not ask Israel to pay the world the courtesy of practicing what it preaches in terms of nuclear transparency. That would be the nuclear deal of the century!

Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst and commentator for the Middle East with a special emphasis on Yemen and radical movements. A consultant with Anderson Consulting and leading analyst for the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies, her writings have appeared in MintPress, Foreign Policy Journal, Open-Democracy, the Guardian, the Middle East Monitor, Middle East Eye and many others. In 2015 her research and analysis on Yemen was used by the UN Security Council in a situation report.

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO plans amount to violation of NPT: Russian envoy

Press TV – April 16, 2015

Russia says the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is preparing the ground for the use of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear countries in contradiction to the Western military alliance’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“NATO, contrary to the obligations taken under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, is still conducting preparations for the use of nuclear weapons by countries that are non-nuclear states,” Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, said at the Fourth Moscow International Security Conference on Thursday.

The NPT, which was ratified in 1970, constitutes the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to open up access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Non-nuclear signatories to the treaty have agreed not to seek to develop or acquire nuclear arms.

The Russian official further accused the military bloc of seeking to revive the Cold War ideology.

Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu told the conference that NATO military exercises in the Arctic and Eastern Europe are against Russia.

The minister also warned that the participation of NATO’s non-nuclear states in the drills stimulate “the use of US tactical nuclear weapons” in violation of the NPT.

In February, NATO defense ministers agreed to increase from 13,000 soldiers to 30,000 the size of the alliance’s rapid reaction force. They also announced plans to set up six new command posts in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

The Western military bloc has over the past year increased its presence and conducted several drills in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine. Moscow, however, has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup near Russia’s borders.

Moscow-West relations have been extremely tense in recent months. The West accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an allegation strongly denied by the Kremlin.

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Dozens of arrests as anti-nuclear protesters demand end to UK’s Trident sub program

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Anti-nuclear demonstrators at Faslane naval base, April 13 2015. (Photo by Veronika Tudhope)
RT | April 13, 2015

Some 36 anti-nuclear activists have been arrested at Faslane naval base in Scotland, according to organizers, as hundreds of protesters blockaded the home of Britain’s nuclear weapons system.

Workers at the naval facility were sent home after failing to gain access to the site due to the blockade, according to The Common Space journalist Liam O’Hare.

Scrap Trident, a coalition of organizations including the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND) and Trident Ploughshares, have been demonstrating outside the facility since 7 a.m.

Protesters are demanding an end to the UK’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, which is up for renewal by the Westminster parliament in 2016.

Trident has become a contentious issue ahead of the general election in May, with Defense Secretary Michael Fallon pledging last week that a Conservative-led government would replace the Vanguard-class nuclear submarines with four new nuclear missile carriers.

Fallon’s election promise followed a statement by Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, in which she said Trident was a “red line” issue the SNP would not support.

In the event of a hung Parliament, Labour may seek to form a minority government in an informal coalition with SNP.

Critics, including Fallon of the Conservative Party, argue that Labour would abandon the UK’s nuclear weapons program to secure power.

Shadow Defense Secretary Vernon Coaker rejected the idea, insisting last week Labour was committed to renewing Britain’s nuclear weapons program, which is set to cost taxpayers £100 billion over the course of its deployment.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said in January he supported renewing Trident, adding he is “not in favor of unilateral disarmament.”

Monday’s blockade of Faslane naval base follows anti-Trident demonstrations in Glasgow and London over the weekend.

Scrap Trident organizers claim that 36 anti-nuclear activists were arrested in the blockade.

O’Hare, of The Common Space, reports that police have attempted to move anti-nuclear activists camped outside the naval facility’s south gate, while the majority of demonstrators are protesting outside the north gate.

Arthur West, chair of Scottish CND, said in a statement: “The purpose of the event is to draw attention to the fact that all Britain’s nuclear weapons are based just 25 miles away from our biggest city [Glasgow].”

“We say get rid of nuclear weapons and spend the money on decent things like housing, jobs and education.”

Speaking to RT, West added: “Scottish CND are campaigning in cities and towns across Scotland in the run-up to the general election.”

“Our main message to voters at the election is to only support candidates who have given a clear commitment that they will vote against Trident replacement when the issue comes up in the next parliament.”

Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, was among the demonstrators at Faslane on Monday.

Harvie, a member of the Scottish parliament, said in a statement: “Trident is an obscenity. Through direct action and through the ballot box we can make the case for the UK to play a new role on the world stage.”

He added: “By choosing to disarm Trident we can reskill workers on the Clyde to provide defense of the strategically important northern seas, and diversify our economy for social good.”

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Iran could constrain reckless impulses of US Mideast allies’

RT | April 1, 2015

A deal with Iran over its nuclear program would benefit the US as it needs to change its policy in the Middle East, and even build a constructive relationship with critical regional powers, said Hillary Mann Leverett, a former US negotiator with Iran.

RT: Hopes are high that the six world powers and Iran who have been holding talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne will reach a deal by Wednesday evening. What kind of document do you expect to come out of these talks?

Hillary Mann Leverett: I would assume at this point we can still really think of only a vague document coming out of these talks. There does not seem to be agreement on many of the details, much of the substance that would be detailed in the final agreement.

But that is not really the purpose of what they were trying to get by [Wednesday evening]. This was supposed to be a political understanding of what the agreement would entail, and a final agreement then would be drafted by June 30. So my sense is that if we get an agreement it will be focused more on a reaffirmation in a sense of a core bargain that they struck back in November 2013: that the parties would proceed toward resolving this conflict by Iran agreeing in negotiated contacts to constraints on its nuclear program in exchange for comprehensive lifting of sanctions.

And that is where I think the parties have really got stuck, because the comprehensive lifting of sanctions is something that is not technical. It doesn’t involve nuclear physicists at the table, it requires real political will. And I think that’s where we’ve seen the brinkmanship.

RT: If a deal is agreed on, what kind of reaction is it likely to trigger on Capitol Hill?

HL: I think the reaction will be negative, regardless of what the deal is. Some people in Washington, I think, disingenuously claim that it depends on whether it is a ‘good deal’ or ‘bad deal’. But there is no ‘good deal’ for many of the lawmakers in Washington, the 47 senators who sent this letter to Iran, there’s no good deal for them with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their agenda is regime change. They would be happy for an Iran under a kind of Shah, an American puppet, to have nuclear weapons. But they are not really interested in an independent state to have any nuclear weapons. So I think they would oppose any deal.

I think because of that reality, the focus of the talks in this session has been not so much, not I really think at all, on the US sanctions, but how to really put that in its own box and deal with something more internationally. The focus has been on the UN sanctions, which Congress has no say over. The United States could agree to lift UN sanctions in five minutes. I saw it done on Libya; I saw it done on Sudan. The United States can do it in five minutes; they don’t need to consult with anybody in Congress. And that is what I’m talking about in terms of political will.

It’s up to President Obama whether he will agree and literally pick up the phone and call the UN ambassador and say: “Either vote for the lifting of sanctions or abstain.” It’s all he needs to do. That’s a question of political will; the rest of it is really just political posturing.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) and Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talk while other members of their delegation listen after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. officials at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne March 27, 2015 (Reuters / Brendan Smialowski)

RT: The Republicans have warned that any deal with Iran might not survive after Barack Obama is out of the White House. Should we expect the US to make a U-turn on Iran in subsequent years?

HL: We’ve actually seen a bad scenario of this happening in the past. In the late 1970s under President Carter, his administration had negotiated the SALT II treaty with Moscow, with the Soviet Union. And the way he sold it was as if it was a “technical agreement,” that we were “imposing meaningful curbs” on the Soviet Union’s strategic capacity. The Congress defeated it. It was a devastating failure for President Carter.

We could potentially be looking at something like that if President Obama plays the same game by saying that he’s essentially going to hold his nose while he is negotiating with Iran and just try to focus on a narrow technical agreement. He needs to make the case, the strategic case why a fundamental realignment of US policies in the Middle East toward the Islamic Republic of Iran is imperative for the United States, that after a decade of disastrous military interventions in the Middle East, the United States needs a different way. It needs a constructive way forward with Iran. But he has not done that. Instead, my concern is that he is following President Carter’s route. Essentially Carter’s view was that the Soviet Union was an unreconstructed adversary, evil empire in a sense, and he was just going to hold his nose and try to get the SALT II treaty passed. Well, he lost the election in 1980, we got Ronald Reagan, and that was the end of that.

RT: If a deal is reached, how is it likely to change regional dynamics for America’s main allies in the region Israel and Saudi Arabia, who both strongly oppose a deal?

HL: I think it will be very good for the United States. After the end of the Cold War, the United States has gone through a period I think some would call of arrogance, essentially trying to impose its dominance on various regions of the world, including the Middle East. And those who want to go along with it, we characterize them as allies, when they are not really allies per se, they are just going along with the United States. What we really need is constructive relationships with each of the critical powers in the region so that they can restrain even the reckless impulses of our so-called allies. It’s not in our interests when Israel bombs Lebanon, Israel bombs Gaza. It’s not in our interest when Saudis invade Yemen. If you have a better relationship with Iran, it will constrain these reckless impulses of even our allies, and allow the United States to get off this dangerous trajectory of trying to impose its own military dominance on the region.

Read more: Nuclear deal with Iran ‘reached on all key aspects’ – Lavrov

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russia and nuclear disarmament

Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the UK, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011) | RT | March 28, 2015

One of the most important tasks in the field of international security is to free the world from the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.

Russia is constantly advocating for further limitations and reductions of nuclear weapons stockpiles, along with strengthening international regimes of arms control and non-proliferation. One of the examples in the field of nuclear disarmament is the Russia-US START treaty, which entered into force in 2011. Under this treaty, the sides committed themselves to limiting their nuclear arsenals by one-third compared to previous agreements.

Further dialogue on nuclear disarmament, held both bilaterally and internationally, could only be successful if the core principle of international security is observed – i.e. that the security of one country should not be strengthened at the expense of another. Unfortunately, what is happening now on the international scene is a far cry from what the international community was striving for. Among other things that affect global stability and deterrence, trust between Russia and the West is diminishing. Some of the critical Russian concerns are left unaddressed.

They include an unconditional resolve of our partners to build systems of ballistic missile defense throughout the world, primarily in Europe, along with reluctance to engage in serious dialogue on issues related to the Russian initiative on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, and an ongoing uncontrolled build-up of conventional weapons along with efforts to develop such systems that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapons airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour, known as Prompt Global Strike. It is also worth mentioning that disparity in conventional weapons in Europe is increasing, something that consequently provokes an unnecessary arms race on the continent.

Further nuclear disarmament would be impossible without all countries with corresponding potential being involved in that process. It can’t exclusively rely on the efforts by Russia and the US. For that to happen, a greater importance should also be attached to the earliest ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Some states, including the US, have still not ratified it, blocking its entry into force. Signing and ratifying the CTBT should become an imperative of contemporary international relations, for it will contribute to the strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Global stability and nuclear deterrence remain the facts that we have to live with. Without trust and consensus, the current challenges in the field of nuclear disarmament are doomed to persist for a foreseeable future. Hopefully, the time will come, sooner rather than later, when nuclear disarmament issues are properly addressed based on respect and trust among nations.

March 30, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US making ‘no practical steps’ to ratify Nuclear Test Ban Treaty – Russia

RT | March 27, 2015

Moscow has slammed Washington for taking “no practical steps” to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) – despite countless promises to do so – and consequently preventing the important international treaty from going into force.

“The main load of responsibility that the CTBT has not entered into force so far lies on the eight remaining countries from the so-called ‘list of 44’ whose ratification documents are needed to launch the treaty,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry stressed that “first of all, this refers to the US, a country that positions itself as a leader in the sphere of strengthening the regime of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.”

“Unfortunately, despite the repeated statements on the plans to ratify the Treaty, the US has yet taken no practical steps in this direction,” the statement said.

Moscow also praised Angola for ratifying the CTBT on March 20. The African nation was the 164th country to confirm the treaty.

“Such a decision of Luanda (Angola’s capital) certainly brings the CTBT closer to a universal status and contributes to its turning into a valid international-legal tool,” the ministry said.

The statement stressed that Russia’s “continuous commitment to the CTBT and the readiness to secure its speedy entry into legal force.”

“We once again call on all the states that have not yet signed or not ratified the Treaty to do it without delay or preconditions,” it said.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a multilateral agreement banning all nuclear explosions in all environments, for military or civilian purposes.

The CTBT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 1996. However, nearly two decades later, it has not entered into force due to non-ratification by eight countries.

The US, China, Egypt, Iran, Israel have signed the deal, but not ratified it. North Korea and Pakistan have yet to sign the treaty.

March 27, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why ban nuclear weapons? Ask the French president

By John Loretz | International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War | March 13, 2015

francois-hollandePresident François Hollande of France has explained to the world why nuclear weapons must be banned and eliminated. Not intentionally, of course. Not because he made the fallacious argument that nuclear weapons make France more secure in a dangerous world (although he did); not because he lumped every conceivable and inconceivable threat to France into a confusing hash and came up with nuclear weapons as the final answer to every one (although he did that, too); and not because be shamelessly contradicted himself on the fundamental point that France is a champion of nuclear disarmament but finds its own “nuclear deterrent” indispensible (all the nuclear-armed States suffer from that particular mental health problem, as Sue Wareham has diagnosed it elsewhere on this blog).

In fact, his speech on February 19 to the French military and political elite at Istres Air Force Base was more frightening than that. I don’t want to twist his words, so here’s exactly what President Hollande said, taken from the English translation of the speech released by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“Our nuclear forces must be capable of inflicting absolutely unacceptable damages for the adversary, upon its centres of power, its political, economic and military nerve centres.” And since “the Head of State is the first citizen in France to speak and decide,” it’s up to President Hollande (or one of his successors) to decide if and when nuclear weapons will be used to “preserve the life of our nation.”

Never mind that this is delusional Cold-War thinking at its worst, since any use of nuclear weapons by France would almost certainly result in the use of nuclear weapons against France, rendering the “integrity of [it’s] territory” somewhat tentative. Never mind that the entire concept of nuclear deterrence—“to prevent any threat of blackmail by another state”—is itself the most extreme threat of blackmail. Never mind that every word of this speech ignores the evidence about the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons presented at three international conferences over the past two years and is an arrogant attempt to rescue nuclear weapons from stigmatization.

No, what makes the French president’s tribute to “the credibility of our deterrence force” truly terrifying is that he has claimed the right to use nuclear weapons, more or less on his own say so, in order to make sure no one messes with France’s (or, I kid you not, Sony’s) “vital interests.” Apparently no price, not even the end the world (which would be a bit inconvenient for French citizens in a permanent season of nuclear winter), is too high to pay for “independence, freedom, and the ability to ensure our values prevail.” Which begs the question, what values are those, exactly, that prepare one to inflict “absolutely unacceptable damages” on millions upon millions of people?

Perhaps the rest of us lack President Hollande’s poetic vision. “France has, with its partners,” he said, “built a community of destiny,” with nuclear weapons as the ultimate expression of “heartfelt solidarity.” In a way, he’s right. But how many of you care to join him in that destiny?

March 14, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shutting Down AIPAC

Removing Israel from American politics

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • March 10, 2015

aipac

[The following is a lightly edited version of a speech I gave on March 1 st in Washington during the anti-AIPAC and Netanyahu visit demonstrations. Two days later Israeli Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, whom I cite below, was sitting in the House VIP visitors’ gallery beaming as he listened to Netanyahu’s love fest with Congress. It might have been the first time a clandestine agent for a foreign country who spied on the United States was so honored but I would observe that the event was doubly significant in that the speaker Prime Minister Netanyahu was also involved in the same theft of American nuclear technology.]

I would like to concentrate on two issues. First is the nature of the special relationship between Israel and the United States and second is the role of the Israel Lobby and most particularly AIPAC in shaping that relationship. I was a foreign policy adviser for Ron Paul in 2008 and consider myself politically conservative. I respect the fact that nations must be responsive to their interests, but because of my personal experience of living and working overseas for many years I have come to recognize that the United States is an anomaly in that it persists in going around the world doing things that just do not make any sense. This has been particularly true during the past fourteen years, with invasions, interventions and targeted assassinations having become the preferred form of international discourse for Washington.

Many would agree with what I have just observed, but few recognize the role of the special relationship with Israel in shaping what the United States has become. Quite frankly, the relationship is both lopsided in terms of favoring perceived Israeli interests as well as being terrible for the long suffering Palestinians, very bad for the United States as it damages the American brand worldwide and even bad for Israel as it enables its governments to act in ways that are ill advised and ultimately self-defeating.

I would first like to address the often repeated mantra that Israel is America’s best friend or closest ally as it is a bedrock issue that is frequently trotted out to excuse behavior that would otherwise be incomprehensible. Apart from being a recipient of more than $3 billion per year from the US taxpayer, Israel is no ally and never has been. There is no alliance of any kind with Israel, in part because Israel has a border that has been moving eastward for the past fifty years as it continues to absorb Palestinian land. Without an internationally recognized border it is impossible to define a relationship between two nations. Israel also has no strategic value to the United States, so to speak of an alliance, which posits reciprocity is ridiculous.

But that is not to say that Israel does not interact with Washington. Indeed, some might say that it possesses a disproportionate voice relating to some foreign and domestic policies. The penchant to use force as a first option in international interactions is perhaps itself due to Washington imitating Tel Aviv or vice versa as neither the United States nor Israel seems any longer interested in diplomacy.

American protection of Israel in international bodies like the United Nations is a disgrace, making the United States de facto complicit in Israeli violations of international law, to include its settlement expansion, as well as its war crimes. Under Bill Clinton the United States more or less adopted the Israeli model in dealing with terrorism, which consists of overwhelming armed response and no negotiations ever. Washington’s uncritical support for Israel politically and militarily was a major factor in motivating the perpetrators of the 9/11 terror attack.

Deferring to Israel often results in U.S. policies that are absurd and highly damaging to other interests. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Israel’s devastation of Lebanon in 2006 in which nearly 1,000 civilians were killed and more than $2 billion in infrastructure was destroyed as the “birth pangs of a new Middle East”. Rice, who also spoke of fear of a nuclear mushroom cloud rising above Washington to justify invading Iraq, far from being discredited due to her lack of discernment, is currently a professor at Stanford University and is now being spoken of as a possible Senator from California or, alternatively, as the next Commissioner of the National Football League. So much for accountability in the United States.

One might well conclude that Israel is not only not an ally but also not much of a friend. It has run massive spying operations inside the United States to include hundreds of Art Students and celebrations by the employees of an Israeli moving firm located in New Jersey when the twin towers were going down. Israel is regularly named by the FBI as the most active friendly country in terms of running espionage operations against the U.S. but nothing ever happens. Israeli spies are sent home quietly and Americans who spy for Israel are rarely prosecuted. Last year we witnessed Hollywood producer and Israeli citizen Arnon Milchan receiving an Oscar even as stories were circulating about his criminal collusion to obtain restricted American technology to enable Israel to build nuclear weapons. The Justice Department has not seen fit to do anything about him.

Israel also has a hand in what is going on domestically in the United States. Many states now have their own departments of homeland security and many of the companies that obtain contracts to provide security services are Israeli. Airport security is a virtual Israeli monopoly. Increasingly militarized American police officers now use federal government grants to travel to Israel for training based on the Israeli experience with the Palestinians. Israelis have advised CIA and Pentagon torturers and Israeli advisers were also present at Abu Ghraib.

Israel’s influence over Washington policies frequently means war. American officials extremely close to the Israeli government were behind the rush to war with Iraq. If Washington goes to war with Iran in the near future it will not be because Tehran actually threatens America, it will be because Israel and its powerful lobby in the U.S. have succeeded in creating an essentially false case to mandate such action. Congress is obligingly advancing legislation that would commit the United States to intervene militarily in support of a unilateral Israeli attack, meaning that Israel could easily be empowered to make the decision on whether or not the U.S. goes to war.

Israel interferes in American elections, in 2012 on behalf of Mitt Romney, and also this week by aligning itself with the Republicans against the President of the United States to harden existing policy against Iran. Looking ahead to elections in 2016, two Jewish billionaires have already stated clearly that they will spend whatever they have to to elect the candidate that is best for Israel. As Sheldon Adelson is a Republican and Haim Saban is a Democrat both major parties are covered and I would warn “Watch out for Hillary,” Saban’s candidate of choice.

Israel has corrupted our congress which we will witness again on Tuesday. Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rebukes and belittles our own head of state, its government ministers insult and ridicule John Kerry, and its intelligence officers have free access to Capitol Hill where they provide alarmist and inaccurate private briefings for American legislators. In short, Israel has no reluctance to use its enormous political and media clout in the US to pressure successive administrations to conform to its own foreign and security policy views.

Beyond the corruption of our political process, I believe many in this room would agree that the depiction and treatment of the Palestinians has been disgraceful. Israel has engaged in land and water theft and is doing its best to make Palestinian life so miserable that they will all decide to leave. Some would describe that as ethnic cleansing. Just last week there were reports of how Israeli authorities cut off water and electricity to parts of the West bank and also won a bogus court case in New York City that will bankrupt the Palestinian authority.

Netanyahu’s policy is to punish the Palestinians incessantly no matter what they do. The United States has certainly embraced a lot of unpleasant policies over the past fourteen years, but I honestly think that most Americans would be appalled if they knew how Palestinians really have been treated. Unfortunately the Israel propaganda machine has been able to maintain a tight grip on the narrative promoted in the mainstream media. Arabs are depicted as terrorists while Israelis are seen as folks just like us.

How does all this happen? Because of money which enables the Israel firsters to control the media and buy the politicians, but unfortunately no one is allowed to say that lest Abe Foxman of the Anti Defamation League accuse one of propagating a stereotype that is an “anti-Semitic myth.” American media corporations and national politics are in fact totally corrupted by money and the control that it buys and not just on behalf of Israel. One would have to be blind not to recognize that fact.

This is where groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee better known as AIPAC come in. AIPAC is only one part of the octopus like Israel Lobby but it might well be regarded as the most effective component. AIPAC has an annual budget of $70 million and 200 full time employees. It has thousands of volunteers and tens of thousands of contributors and supporters, many of whom are in Washington right now. On Tuesday they will descend on Congressional offices to pressure congressmen to agree to conform to AIPAC talking points.

AIPAC, which is an IRS 501(c)4 lobbying organization, is able to keep its donor list secret. It characteristically operates in the shadows. It prepares position papers that are then distributed in congress and many congressmen, largely ignorant of the issues, parrot what AIPAC gives them. AIPAC operative Steve Rosen once boasted that he could have the signatures of seventy Senators on a napkin in twenty-four hours.

Congressmen know that crossing the Israeli Lobby is career damaging. Senators William Fulbright and Chuck Percy were among the first to feel its wrath when they were confronted by well-funded challengers backed by effective media campaigns who defeated them in spite of their own outstanding records as legislators. The founder of my own organization the Council for the National Interest Congressman Paul Findley also suffered the same fate when he fell afoul of the Lobby. Within the government the purge has also been widespread with the traditional Arabists at State Department forced out to be replaced by friends of Israel, many of whom have been political appointees rather than career diplomats.

There is no easy solution to what I have been telling you. Certainly a more honest media would produce American voters who are better informed, but even though AIPAC has long been defending the indefensible the corruption in Congress runs deep and it is difficult to find a constituency anywhere in the United States where it is possible to vote for a candidate who is not openly and enthusiastically supportive of the Israel relationship. In Virginia last year there were several important congressional elections. All the candidates were vetted for their views on Israel well before the voting took place.

But to return to AIPAC there should be demands that it and other similar Israel-advocacy organizations register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. That would require them to have complete transparency in terms of their funding and it would also tell the American people that the organizations themselves are not necessarily benign and acting on behalf of U.S. interests, which is the subterfuge that they currently engage in. It is certainly past time to push back against an organization that is brazenly promoting the interests of a foreign government at the expense of the American people. Thank you.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 NATIONAL NUCLEAR WAR LABORATORIES HAVE RUN AMOK, BLOCK DISARMAMENT, AND SHOULD BE SHUT DOWN, WATCHDOG SAYS

By Sherwood Ross | Aletho News | March 6, 2015

NEW YORK — The nation’s three privatized nuclear warhead laboratories are bloated, redundant, stand in the way of progress on real 21st century security issues, and should be shut down, a conference on peace and security here was told.

“These privatized labs have become a considerable racket” and this year will consume more than $4 billion for their nuclear weapons activities, said Greg Mello, Executive Director of the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG), of Albuquerque, N.M., which tracks their activities.

The laboratories are the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in Los Alamos, N.M., the Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in Albuquerque, NM, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, CA.

Civil society’s disarmament’s efforts since the demise of the Soviet Union “have all foundered in substantial part because they failed to realize the central importance of attenuating and then eliminating the political power of these laboratories,” Mello says.

The laboratories are pushing “an ambitious plan to replace all current warheads and (nuclear) bombs with redesigned models” that will actually make them more destructive, threatening further to destabilize our relationship with Russia, and with their new delivery systems will cost taxpayers over time more than an estimated one trillion dollars, Mello said.

In a talk Feb. 28th to the Helen Caldicott Foundation conference on “The Dynamics of Possible Nuclear Extinction” in the New York Academy of Medicine, Mello said the labs “are the primary institutions through which corporate prerogatives have replaced government decision-making in the nuclear weapons arena.”

“The labs were given sweeping new powers in 1996,” Mello recalled, and since 2006 all are fully privatized. “They now wield enormous policy power by a variety of means both crude and subtle, direct and indirect, and they do not hesitate to blackmail government whenever that power is threatened.”

Nuclear weapons should be banned, as dozens of countries are now considering, Mello said, “and the nuclear weapons laboratories should be closed entirely as part of such a ban.”

“After 25 years of close examination of the labs,” he continued, “we have finally concluded, and for the first time, that the labs have no unique role in disarmament, nonproliferation, verification, cleanup, intelligence, or in any other mission” that cannot be performed “more objectively, cheaper, and better” by other institutions. All government-led and civil society efforts at reform have failed.

Privatization deepened the conflict of interest at the labs, since now the three labs’ directors corporate officers have a legal responsibility to advise the Secretary of Energy and the President regarding the (nuclear) stockpile while also having a legal responsibility to bring in more business, Mello warned. “What’s more,” he pointed out, “The corporations are fully indemnified and protected from the consequences of their many failures, misuses of funds, violations of law, and accidents, and they have never paid a dime for any of these.”

“It is now critically important,” Mello concluded, “to dethrone the nuclear weapons laboratories now in public, in the executive branch, and in congressional eyes to prepare for disarmament – to expose the transgressive nature of nuclear weapons institutions right along with nuclear weapons themselves. If we don’t, we won’t be able to grapple with the real problems this country faces.”

In 2002, Prior to his current position, Mello was a Visiting Research Fellow at Princeton’s Program of Science and Global Security.

The conference at which Mello spoke comes at a time when tensions between Russia and the U.S. are escalating. “As the Cold War heats up again, the U.S. and Russia maintain over 1,000 weapons on hair-trigger alert to be launched with a press of a button,” says Dr. Caldicott, an Australian pediatrician who has become perhaps the most prominent opponent of nuclear war and nuclear power.

March 6, 2015 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Playing Chicken with Nuclear War

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 2, 2015

The United States and Russia still maintain vast nuclear arsenals of mutual assured destruction, putting the future of humanity in jeopardy every instant. But an unnerving nonchalance has settled over the American side which has become so casual about the risk of cataclysmic war that the West’s propaganda and passions now ignore Russian fears and sensitivities.

A swaggering goofiness has come to dominate how the United States reacts to Russia, with American politicians and journalists dashing off tweets and op-eds, rushing to judgment about the perfidy of Moscow’s leaders, blaming them for almost anything and everything.

These days, playing with nuclear fire is seen as a sign of seriousness and courage. Anyone who urges caution and suggests there might be two sides to the U.S.-Russia story is dismissed as a wimp or a stooge. A what-me-worry “group think” has taken hold across the U.S. ideological spectrum. Fretting about nuclear annihilation is so 1960s.

So, immediately after last Friday night’s murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, the West’s media began insinuating that Russian President Vladimir Putin was somehow responsible even though there was no evidence or logic connecting him to the shooting, just 100 meters from the Kremlin, probably the last place Russian authorities would pick for a hit.

But that didn’t stop the mainstream U.S. news media from casting blame on Putin. For instance, the New York Times published an op-ed by anti-Putin author Martha Gessen saying: “The scariest thing about the murder of Boris Nemtsov is that he himself did not scare anyone,” suggesting that his very irrelevance was part of a sinister political message.

Though no one outside the actual killers seems to know yet why Nemtsov was gunned down, Gessen took the case several steps further explaining how – while Putin probably didn’t finger Nemtsov for death – the Russian president was somehow still responsible. She wrote:

“In all likelihood no one in the Kremlin actually ordered the killing — and this is part of the reason Mr. Nemtsov’s murder marks the beginning of yet another new and frightening period in Russian history. The Kremlin has recently created a loose army of avengers who believe they are acting in the country’s best interests, without receiving any explicit instructions. Despite his lack of political clout, Mr. Nemtsov was a logical first target for this menacing force.”

So, rather than wait for actual evidence to emerge, the Times published Gessen’s conclusions and then let her spin off some even more speculative interpretations. Yet, basing speculation upon speculation is almost always a bad idea, assuming you care about fairness and accuracy.

Remember how after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, some terrorism “experts” not only jumped to the false conclusion that the attack was a case of Islamic terrorism but that Oklahoma was chosen to send a message to Americans that no part of the country was safe. But the terrorist turned out to be a white right-wing extremist lashing out at the federal government.

While surely hard-line Russian nationalists, who resented Nemtsov’s support for the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime in Kiev, should be included on a list of early suspects, there are a number of other possibilities that investigators must also consider, including business enemies, jealous rivals and even adversaries within Russia’s splintered opposition – though that last one has become a target of particular ridicule in the West.

Yet, during my years at the Associated Press, one of my articles was about a CIA “psychological operations” manual which an agency contractor prepared for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels noting the value of assassinating someone on your own side to create a “martyr” for the cause. I’m in no way suggesting that such a motive was in play regarding Nemtsov’s slaying but it’s not as if this idea is entirely preposterous either.

My point is that even in this age of Twitter when everyone wants to broadcast his or her personal speculation about whodunit to every mystery, it would be wise for news organizations to resist the temptation. Surely, if parallel circumstances occurred inside the United States, such guess work would be rightly dismissed as “conspiracy theory.”

Nuclear Mischief

Plus, this latest rush to judgment isn’t about some relatively innocuous topic – like, say, how some footballs ended up under-inflated in an NFL game – this situation involves how the United States will deal with Russia, which possesses some 8,000 nuclear warheads — roughly the same size as the U.S. arsenal — while the two countries have around 1,800 missiles on high-alert, i.e., ready to launch at nearly a moment’s notice.

Over the weekend, I participated in a conference on nuclear dangers sponsored by the Helen Caldicott Foundation in New York City. On my Saturday afternoon panel was Seth Baum of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute who offered a sobering look at how the percentage chances of a nuclear war – though perhaps low at any given moment – add up over time to quite likely if not inevitable. He made the additional observation that those doomsday odds rise at times of high tensions between the United States and Russia.

As Baum noted, at such crisis moments, the people responsible for the U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons are more likely to read a possible computer glitch or some other false alarm as a genuine launch and are thus more likely to push their own nuclear button.

In other words, it makes good sense to avoid a replay of the Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse by edging U.S. nuclear weapons up against Russia’s borders, especially when U.S. politicians and commentators are engaging in Cold War-style Russia-bashing. Baiting the Russian bear may seem like great fun to the tough-talking politicians in Washington or the editors of the New York Times and Washington Post but this hostile rhetoric could be taken more seriously in Moscow.

When I spoke to the nuclear conference, I noted how the U.S. media/political system had helped create just that sort of crisis in Ukraine, with every “important” person jumping in on the side of the Kiev coup-makers in February 2014 when they overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

Since then, nearly every detail of that conflict has been seen through the prism of “our side good/their side bad.” Facts that put “our side” in a negative light, such as the key role played by neo-Nazis and the Kiev regime’s brutal “anti-terrorism operation,” are downplayed or ignored.

Conversely, anything that makes the Ukrainians who are resisting Kiev’s authority look bad gets hyped and even invented, such as one New York Times’ lead story citing photos that supposedly proved Russian military involvement but quickly turned out to be fraudulent. [See Consortiumnews.com’sNYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]

At pivotal moments in the crisis, such as the Feb. 20, 2014 sniper fire that killed both police and protesters and the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 298 passengers and crew, the U.S. political/media establishment has immediately pinned the blame on Yanukovych, the ethnic Russian rebels who are resisting his ouster, or Putin. Then, when evidence emerged going in the opposite direction — toward “our side” — a studied silence followed, allowing the earlier propaganda to stay in place as part of the preferred storyline.

A Pedestrian Dispute

One of the points of my talk was that the Ukrainian crisis emerged from a fairly pedestrian dispute, i.e., plans for expanding economic ties with the European Union while not destroying the historic business relationship with Russia. In November 2013, Yanukovych backed away from signing an EU association agreement when experts in Kiev announced that it would blow a $160 billion hole in Ukraine’s economy. He asked for more time.

But Yanukovych’s decision disappointed many western Ukrainians who favored the EU agreement. Tens of thousands poured into Kiev’s Maidan square to protest. The demonstrations then were seized upon by far-right Ukrainian political forces who have long detested the country’s ethnic Russians in the east and began dispatching organized “sotins” of 100 fighters each to begin firebombing police and seizing government buildings.

As the violence grew worse, U.S. neoconservatives also saw an opportunity, including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who told the protesters the United States was on their side, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who passed out cookies to the protesters and plotted with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt on who would become the new leaders of Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’sNYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.“]

Thus, a very manageable political problem in Ukraine was allowed to expand into a proxy war between nuclear-armed United States and Russia. Added to it were intense passions and extensive propaganda. In the West, the Ukraine crisis was presented as a morality play of people who “share our values” pitted against conniving Russians and their Hitler-like president Putin.

In Official Washington, anyone who dared suggest compromise was dismissed as a modern-day Neville Chamberlain practicing “appeasement.” Everyone “serious” was set on stopping Putin now by shipping sophisticated weapons to the Ukrainian government so it could do battle against “Russian aggression.”

The war fever was such that no one raised an eyebrow when Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told Canada’s CBC Radio last month that the West should no longer fear fighting nuclear-armed Russia and that Ukraine wanted arms for a “full-scale war” against Moscow.

“Everybody is afraid of fighting with a nuclear state. We are not anymore, in Ukraine,” Prystaiko said. “However dangerous it sounds, we have to stop [Putin] somehow. For the sake of the Russian nation as well, not just for the Ukrainians and Europe. … What we expect from the world is that the world will stiffen up in the spine a little.” [See Consortiumnews.com’sReady for Nuclear War over Ukraine?”]

Instead of condemning Prystaiko’s recklessness, more U.S. officials began lining up in support of sending lethal military hardware to Ukraine so it could fight Russia, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who said he favored the idea though it might provoke a “negative reaction” from Moscow.

Russian Regime Change

Even President Barack Obama and other U.S. leaders who have yet to publicly endorse arming the Kiev coup-makers enjoy boasting about how much pain they are inflicting on the Russian economy and its government. In effect, there is a U.S. strategy of making the Russian economy “scream,” a first step toward a larger neocon goal to achieve “regime change” in Moscow.

Another point I made in my talk on Saturday was how the neocons are good at drafting “regime change” plans that sound great when discussed at a think tank or outlined on an op-ed page but often fail to survive in the real world, such as their 2003 plan for a smooth transition in Iraq to replace Saddam Hussein with someone of their choosing – except that it didn’t work out that way.

Perhaps the greatest danger from the new neocon dream for “regime change” in Moscow is that whoever follows Putin might not be the pliable yes man that the neocons envision, but a fierce Russian nationalist who would suddenly have control of their nuclear launch codes and might decide that it’s time for the United States to make concessions or face annihilation.

Yet, what I find truly remarkable about the Ukraine crisis is that it was always relatively simple to resolve: Before the coup, Yanukovych agreed to reduced powers and early elections so he could be voted out of office. Then, either he or some new leadership could have crafted an economic arrangement that expanded ties to the EU while not severing them with Russia.

Even after the coup, the new regime could have negotiated a federalized system that granted more independence to the disenfranchised ethnic Russians of eastern Ukraine, rather than launch a brutal “anti-terrorist operation” against those resisting the new authorities. But Official Washington’s “group think” has been single-minded: only bellicose anti-Russian sentiments are permitted and no suggestions of accommodation are allowed.

Still, spending time this weekend with people like Helen Caldicott, an Australian who has committed much of her life to campaigning against nuclear weapons, reminded me that this devil-may-care attitude toward a showdown with Russia, which has gripped the U.S. political/media establishment, is not universal. Not everyone agrees with Official Washington’s nonchalance about playing a tough-guy game of nuclear chicken.

As part of the conference, Caldicott asked attendees to stay around for a late-afternoon showing of the 1959 movie, “On the Beach,” which tells the story of the last survivors from a nuclear war as they prepare to die when the radioactive cloud that has eliminated life everywhere else finally reaches Australia. A mystery in the movie is how the final war began, who started it and why – with the best guess being that some radar operator somewhere thought he saw something and someone reacted in haste.

Watching the movie reminded me that there was a time when Americans were serious about the existential threat from U.S.-Russian nuclear weapons, when there were films like “Dr. Strangelove,” “Fail Safe,” and “On the Beach.” Now, there’s a cavalier disinterest in those risks, a self-confidence that one can put his or her political or journalistic career first and just assume that some adult will step in before the worst happens.

Whether some adults show up to resolve the Ukraine crisis remains to be seen. It’s also unclear if U.S. pundits and pols can restrain themselves from more rushes to judgment, as in the case of Boris Nemtsov. But a first step might be for the New York Times and other “serious” news organizations to return to traditional standards of journalism and check out the facts before jumping to a conclusion.

~

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).

March 3, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Nuclear safety incidents soar 54% at UK’s Clyde sub base & arms depot

RT | March 3, 2015

The number of “nuclear safety events” at Britain’s submarine base and warhead depot at the Clyde has drastically soared according to official records that showed 105 incidents in 2013-2014, compared to just 68 in the previous period.

Almost all of the incidents involved the reactors on Trident and other nuclear subs at the Faslane Naval Base, while six involved nuclear weapons stored at Coulport armaments depot.

Ministers were forced to disclose the information after a question in parliament by Angus Robertson from the Scottish National Party (SNP) who leads the party’s parliamentary group in Westminster.

Only 45 of the latest incidents were level C events, meaning there was a “moderate potential for future release or exposure, or localized release within a designated radiological controlled area.” The remaining 60 were classed as level D defined as “low potential for release – but may contribute towards an adverse trend producing latent conditions.” According to the records, the base has not recently suffered from any of the more serious Category A or B safety failures.

Overall in the past six years the Clyde naval base suffered nearly 400 “widespread” safety events, according to official records. Twelve of these cases were listed as “Category B” incidents meaning there was an “actual of high” risk of exposure to radiation or that there was a release of radiation which was contained within a submarine or a building.

Robertson, whose party wants the complete removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland, asked the MoD to explain what was being done to improve safety measures especially as construction work is underway for Faslane to house all of Britain’s nuclear submarines, some of which are currently in Devonport, Plymouth.

“A near doubling in the number of nuclear safety incidents within a year is totally unacceptable and needs urgent answers from the MoD. It’s important to note this doubling has occurred before expansion work at the base for more nuclear submarines is complete,” he said.

But the government maintained that the vigorous culture of reporting any incidents as well as putting them in the public domain ensured that there was never any threat to personal or the environment. The details of the incidents were not disclosed, but MoD insisted all of them were “minor issues,” such as incorrect labeling or not filing the correct form as required by standard procedures.

“This comprehensive, independent recording process allows Clyde to maintain a robust reporting culture, undertake learning from experience and to take early corrective action,” the UK Defence Minister, Philip Dunne, told MPs.

Read more:

March 3, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-nuclear MPs debate Trident, call renewal ‘waste of money’

RT | January 20, 2015

The future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent was debated in Parliament on Tuesday, hours after a Scottish opinion poll found nearly half of Scots oppose renewing the Trident program.

Parliament’s debate on Trident comes weeks after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) published a report revealing the cost of the program’s “assessment phase” will increase by an additional £261 million this year.

Renewal of Trident, which is based just 25 miles west of Glasgow, is expected to cost £20 billion.

The cost of the overall program over the next 25 years, however, is estimated to be £80 billion.

Tuesday’s debate was called by the Scottish National Party (SNP), Green Party, and Welsh national party Plaid Cymru, with the intention of demonstrating “opposition to Trident renewal in Westminster.”

It was boycotted by most members of the Labour Party, which officially supports Trident renewal.

Tuesday’s poll, conducted by Survation and commissioned by SNP, found that 47 percent of Scots oppose Trident renewal, 32 percent support it, and 21 percent “don’t know.”

The results, along with revelations of Trident’s rising costs, will boost SNP confidence, as the party pledges to oppose nuclear weapons ahead of May’s general election.

Angus Robertson MP, a member of the SNP, opened the debate in the House of Commons.

“Today’s debate is an opportunity to show there is opposition to Trident renewal in Westminster,” he said.

Robertson emphasized the ethical case for scrapping nuclear weapons.

“Each warhead [on Trident submarines] has an explosion eight times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945,” he said.

He also cited recent debates on austerity and food banks, saying “there is an alternative.”

In a press statement, the SNP criticized Labour’s boycott of the debate given the party’s support for austerity.

“Labour’s refusal to take part in the debate on Trident comes less than one week after the party voted along with the Tories for a further £30 billion of austerity cuts,” the SNP said.

“That Scottish Labour MPs support wasting another £100 billion on weapons of mass destruction while foodbank use is rocketing, and more and more children are being pushed into poverty, is simply indefensible,” they added.

A handful of Labour MPs did attend the debate, however. Speaking to the Commons, rogue Labour MP Dame Joan Ruddock supported scrapping Trident.

The former chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) asked how Britain can justify trident renewal “when we cannot raise millions out of poverty or fund our precious National Health Service.”

Ruddock described proponents of Trident renewal as being stuck in “Cold War thinking.”

“The threats that were part of the Cold War scenario are very different from the threats we face today,” she said.

“Real security lies in nuclear disarmament,” she added.

Her comments echo those of current CND General Secretary Kate Hudson.

“[Trident] is the wrong answer to the security challenges facing the UK. And when that wrong answer comes with a £100 billion price-tag, it’s no wonder it’s deeply unpopular with the British public,” Hudson said.

“[Prime Minister] David Cameron claims it’s the ultimate insurance policy – but even the former head of the Armed Forces has conceded that it is ‘completely useless’ to [sic] the threats we face.”

“It’s time the government recognized the colossal waste of money that Trident constitutes, and committed instead to investing the money in health, jobs and education,” she added.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon defended the planned renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons program, calling it “the ultimate guarantor of our freedom and independence.”

“Whether we like it or not, there remain approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons globally,” he said.

“We cannot gamble with our country’s national security, we have to plan for a major, direct nuclear threat to this country or to our NATO allies,” he added.

Fallon cited Russia, North Korea and Iran as potential nuclear threats given their desire to build or maintain nuclear weapons programs.

Parliament will vote on whether to upgrade Britain’s nuclear weapons program in 2016.

A mass demonstration against replacing Trident will take place in London on Saturday, January 24.

Organized by CND, the protest will begin at 12pm outside the Ministry of Defence on Horseguards Avenue.

READ MORE:

Nuclear ultimatum: Scottish National Party challenges Labour on Trident

‘Ticking time bomb’: Watchdogs slam UK nuclear weapons maker over safety practices

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , | 1 Comment