Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two minutes to midnight? NO, the USA is wheeling and dealing with IRAN behind a smoke screen of utter lies...Mousavi secrets 'put his life in danger?

Two minutes to midnight? NO, the USA is wheeling and dealing with IRAN behind a smoke screen of utter lies.....Mousavi secrets 'put his life in danger'....???
By Tony Karon

America's march to a disastrous war in Iraq began in the media, where an unprovoked United States invasion of an Arab country was introduced as a legitimate policy option, then debated as a prudent and necessary one. Now, a similarly flawed media conversation on Iran is gaining momentum.

Last month, TIME's Joe Klein warned that
Barack Obama administration sources had told him bombing Iran's nuclear facilities was "back on the table". In an interview with CNN, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Admiral Mike Hayden next spoke of an "inexorable" dynamic toward confrontation, claiming that bombing was a more viable option for the Obama administration than it had been for his predecessor, George W Bush.

The piece de resistance in the most recent drum roll of bomb-Iran alerts, however, came from Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic Monthly. A journalist influential in US pro-Israeli circles, he also has access to Israel's corridors of power. Because sanctions were unlikely to force Iran to back down on its uranium enrichment project, Goldberg invited readers to believe that there was a more than even chance Israel would launch a military strike on the country by next summer.

His piece, which sparked considerable debate in both the blogosphere and the traditional media, was certainly an odd one. After all, despite the dramatics he deployed, including vivid descriptions of the Israeli battle plan, and his tendency to paint Iran as a new Auschwitz, he also made clear that many of his top Israeli sources simply didn't believe Iran would launch nuclear weapons against Israel, even if it acquired them.

Nonetheless, Goldberg warned, absent an Iranian white flag soon, Israel would indeed launch that war in summer 2011, and it, in turn, was guaranteed to plunge the region into chaos. The message: the Obama administration better do more to confront Iran or
Israel will act crazy.

It's not lost on many of his progressive critics that, when it came to supporting a prospective invasion of Iraq in 2002, Goldberg proved effective in lobbying liberal America, especially through his reports of "evidence" linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Then and now, he presents himself as an interlocutor who has no point of view. In his most recent Atlantic piece, he professed a "profound, paralyzing ambivalence" on the question of a military strike on Iran and subsequently, in radio interviews, claimed to be "personally opposed" to military action.

His piece, however, conveniently skipped over the obvious inconsistencies in what his Israeli sources were telling him. In addition, he excluded perspectives from Israeli leaders that might have challenged his narrative in which an embattled Jewish state feels it has no alternative but to launch a quixotic military strike.

Such an attack, as he presented it, would have limited hope of doing more than briefly setting back the Iranian nuclear program, perhaps at catastrophic cost, and so Israeli leaders would act only because they believe the "goyim" (non-Jews) won't stop another Auschwitz. Or as my friend Paul Woodward, editor of the War in Context website, so brilliantly summed up the Israeli message to America: "You must do what we can't, because if you don't, we will."

Goldberg insists that he is merely initiating a debate about how to tackle Iran and that debate is already underway on his terms - that is, like its Iraq War predecessor, based on a fabricated sense of crisis and arbitrary deadlines.

Last Friday, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration had convinced Israel that there was no need to rush on the issue. Should Iran decide to build a nuclear weapon (which it has not done), it would, administration officials pointed out, quickly make its intentions clear by expelling the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who routinely monitor its nuclear work, and breaking out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). After that, it would still need another year or more to assemble its first weapon.

In other words, despite Goldberg's breathless two-minutes-to-midnight schedule, there's no urgency whatsoever about debating
military action against Iran. And then there's the question of the very premises of the to-bomb-or-not-to-bomb "debate".

Perhaps, after all these years of obsessive Iran nuclear mania, it's too much to request a moment of sanity on the issue of Iran and the bomb. If, however, we really have a couple of years to think this over, what about starting by asking three crucial questions, each of which our debaters would prefer to avoid or ignore?

The right to fight
1. Does the US have a right to launch wars of aggression without provocation, in defiance of international law and an international consensus, simply on the basis of its own suspicions about another country's future intentions?

Or to put it bluntly, as former National Security Council staffers Flint Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have: Does the US have the right to attack Iran because it is enriching uranium?

The idea that the US has the right to take such a catastrophic step based on the fevered imaginations of Biblically inspired Israeli extremists - Goldberg has previously suggested that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes Iran to be the reincarnation of the Biblical Amalekites, mortal enemies the ancient Hebrews were to smite - or simply to preserve an Israeli monopoly on nuclear force in the Middle East is as bizarre as it is reckless.

Even debating the possibility of launching a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities as a matter of rational policy, absent any Iranian aggression or even solid evidence that the Iranian leadership intends to wage its own version of aggressive war, gives an undeserved respectability to what would otherwise be considered steps beyond the bounds of rational foreign policy discussion.

Perhaps someone in our media hothouse could take just a moment to ask why, outside of the United States and Israel, there is no support - nada, zero, zip - for military action against Iran. In Goldberg's world, this may be nothing more than the eternal beast of anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head in the form of disdain for the rise of yet another Amalek/Haman/Torquemada/Hitler. A more sober reading of the international situation would, however, suggest that most of the international community simply doesn't share an alarmist view of what Iran's nuclear program represents.

Indeed, it is notable that, in Goldberg's world, Arabs and Iranians never get to speak. The Arabs, we are told, secretly want Israel or the US to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities out of fear that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would embolden their Persian rivals. They are, so the story goes, just not able to say so in public. When Arab leaders do publicly express their opposition to the idea of another war being launched in the Middle East, they are ignored in the Goldberg-led debate.

Similarly, their rejection of Washington's long-held premise that Israel's special security must be exempted from any discussion of the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East remains outside the bounds of the Iran-debate story. And don't expect to see any mention of the authoritative University of Maryland annual survey of Arab
public opinion either. After all, it recently reported that, contrary to claims of an Arab world cowering under the threat of Iranian nukes, 57% of the Arab public actually believe a nuclear-armed Iran would be good for the Middle East!

The idea that Iran's regime might exist for any purpose other than to destroy Israel is largely ignored as well. Bizarrely enough, Iranians don't actually feature much in the American "debate" at all (beyond citations of mad-mullah-like pronouncements by some Iranian leaders who wish Israel would disappear).

The long, nuanced relationship between Israel and the Islamic Republic, as explained by Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, is simply ignored. So, too, is every indication Iran's leaders have given that they have no intention of attacking Israel or any other country. In fact, in the Goldberg debate, domestic politics in both the US and Israel is understood as an important factor in future decisions; Iran, with the Green movement presently suppressed, is considered to have no domestic politics at all, just those mad mullahs.

The reason to fight
2. Even if Iran were to acquire the means to build a nuclear weapon, would that be a legitimate or prudent reason for launching a war?

If Iran is actually pursuing the capability to build nuclear weapons, its leaders would be doing so in response to a strategic environment in which two of its key adversaries, the US and Israel, and two of its sometime friends/sometime adversaries, Russia and Pakistan, have substantial nuclear arsenals.

By all sober accounts, Iran's security posture is primarily focused on the survival of its regime. Some Israeli military and intelligence officials have been quoted in Israel's media as saying that Iran's motivation in seeking a nuclear weapon would be primarily to head off a threat of US intervention aimed at regime change.

Most states do not pursue weapons systems as ends in themselves, and most states are hardwired to prioritize their own survival. It is to that end that they acquire weapons systems - to protect, enhance, or advance their own strategic position, or up the odds against more powerful rivals. In other words, the conflicts that fuel the drive for nuclear weapons are more dangerous than the weapons themselves, and the problem of those weapons can't be addressed separately from those conflicts.

An Iran that had been bombed to destroy its nuclear power program would likely emerge from the experience far more dangerous to the US and its allies over the decades to come than an Iran that had nuclear weapons within reach. The only way to diminish the danger of an escalating confrontation with Iran is to address the conflict between Tehran and its rivals directly, and seek a modus vivendi that would manage their conflicting interests.

Unfortunately, such a dialogue between Washington and Tehran has scarcely begun, even as, amid alarmist warnings, Goldberg and others insist it must be curtailed so as to avoid the Iranians "playing for time".

The need to fight
3. Is Iran actually developing nuclear weapons?

No, it is not. That's the conclusion of the CIA, the IAEA, whose inspectors are inside Iran's nuclear facilities, and most of the world's intelligence agencies, including the Israelis. US intelligence believes that Iran is using a civilian nuclear energy program to assemble much of the infrastructure that could, in the future, be used to build a bomb, and that Iran may also be continuing theoretical work on designing such a weapon.

Washington's spooks and its defense establishment do not, however, believe Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons, nor that its leadership has made the ultimate decision to do so. In fact, the consensus appears to be that Iran will not weaponize nuclear material, but will stop short at "breakout capacity" - the ability, also available, for instance, to Japan , to move relatively quickly to build such a weapon.

Currently, as the New York Times reported, the time frame for "breakout", if all went well (and it might not), would be about a year, after which Iran would have enough fissile material for one bomb. (The Israelis, by comparison, are believed to have 200 to 400 nuclear weapons in their undeclared program, the Pakistanis between 70 and 90, and the United States more than 5,000.) In addition, a credible nuclear deterrent would require the production of not one or two bombs, but a number of them, which would allow for testing.

For ex-CIA director Hayden, such a breakout capacity would be "as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon". His is a logical leap that's hard to sustain, unless you believe that it's worth launching a war to prevent Iran from, at worst, acquiring a defensive trump card that might prevent it from being attacked.

Iran's enrichment activities are a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions backed by sanctions. Those were imposed to demand that Iran suspend its enrichment program until it satisfied concerns raised by IAEA inspectors over its compliance with the disclosure and transparency requirements of the NPT - especially when it came to aspects of its program which have been developed in secret, raising suspicions over their future use.

Three years before North Korea was in a position to test a nuclear weapon, it had to withdraw from the NPT and kick out IAEA inspectors. Iran remains within the treaty. Even as the standoff over its nuclear program continues, renewed efforts are underway to broker a confidence-building deal to exchange Iranian enriched uranium for fuel rods produced outside the country to power a Tehran reactor that produces medical isotopes.

None of this will be easy. The two main parties are trying to impose their own, mutually exclusive terms on any deal: Washington wants Iran to forego its treaty-guaranteed right to enrich its own uranium because that also gives it the potential means to produce bomb materiel; Iran has no intention of foregoing that right. Such longstanding pillars of foreign policy sobriety as Senator John Kerry and Colin Powell, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and secretary of state, have publicly deemed the US position untenable.

To suggest that Iran's present nuclear program represents the security equivalent of a clock ticking down to midnight is calculated hysteria that bears no relation to reality. Ah, says Goldberg, but the point is that the Israelis believe it to be so. Yes, replies former National Security Council Iran analyst Gary Sick, now at Columbia University, but the Israelis and some Americans have been claiming Iran is just a few years away from a nuclear weapon since 1992.

The premises of the debate just initiated by Goldberg's piece are palpably false. More important, they are remarkably dangerous, since they leap-frog over the three basic questions laid out above and move straight on to arguing the case for war amid visions of annihilation. This campaign of panic is not Goldberg's invention. It's been with us for a long time now. Goldberg is just the present vehicle for an American conversation initiated by others, among them those known in the Bush years as neo-conservatives, who have long been dreaming of war with Iran and are already, as Juan Cole recently indicated, planning for such a war under a future Republican administration, if not sooner.

Similarly, among Israelis, Netanyahu, in particular, believes that Americans are politically feeble-minded; he said as much to a group of Israeli settlers in a video that surfaced recently: "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in [our] way."

Through Goldberg, the Israeli leader and his aides are seeking to "move America in the right direction" with dark tales of Auschwitz and Amalekites, and of Netanyahu himself as a hostage, in the Freudian sense, to a fierce and unforgiving father who won't tolerate any show of weakness in the face of perceived threats to the Jews.

Goldberg's sources, including Netanyahu, make it perfectly clear that they don't believe Iran would attack Israel. Instead, they warn that an Iranian nuclear weapon would embolden Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, although the logic there is flimsy indeed. After all, if Iran would not attack Israel on its own with a nuclear weapon, why would it do so to defend its insurgent allies?
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has suggested that a nuclear-armed Iran would prompt the best and brightest Israelis to emigrate, because they are clever people who can make a good life for themselves anywhere in the world.

Indeed, and they have been doing exactly that for many years now. Some 750,000 Israeli Jews now live abroad - one in every six Israelis - precisely because anti-Semitism is no longer a threat to Jewish life in most of the industrialized world. None of this has anything to do with an Iranian bomb. It has to do with the frustration of Israel's leadership that 63% of the world's Jews have chosen to live elsewhere.

Despite Goldberg's panic-inducing prediction, there are plenty of reasons to believe that, for all its bluster and threat, Israel won't, in fact, bomb Iran next year - or any time soon. But would the Israelis like to see the United States take on their prime regional enemy? You bet they would. Indeed, Netanyahu continually insists that the US has an obligation to take the lead in confronting Iran.

It's patently clear in Goldberg's piece that the Israelis are trying to create a climate in which the US is pressed onto the path of escalation, adding more and more sanctions, and keeping "all options on the table" in case those don't work.

In an excellent commentary that dismantles the logic of Goldberg's argument, David Kay - the American who served as an United Nations Special Commission arms inspector in search of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the US invasion - suggests that:
Israel is engaged in psychological warfare with the Obama administration - and it only partly concerns Iran ... [B]eyond Iran, of probably greater importance to the current Israeli government is avoiding the Obama administration pushing it into a choice between settlements and territorial arrangements with the Palestinians that it is unwilling to make and permanent damage to its relationship with the US. Hyping the Iranian nuclear program and the need for early military action is a nice bargaining counter ... if the US wants to avoid an imminent Israeli strike, it must make concessions to Israel on the Palestinian issues.
Creating a sense of crisis on the Iran front, narrowing US options in the public mind and precluding a real discussion of US policy towards Iran may serve multiple purposes for various interested groups. Taken together, however, they reduce all discussion to one issue: when to exercise that military option kept "on the table", given the unlikeliness of an Iranian surrender. The debate's ultimate purpose is to plant in the public mind the idea that a march to war with Iran, as Admiral Hayden put it on CNN, "seems inexorable, doesn't it?"

Inexorable - only if the media allow themselves to be fooled twice.

Tony Karon is a senior editor at where he analyzes Middle Eastern and other conflicts.

Mousavi secrets 'put his life in danger'
By Omid Memarian

SAN FRANCISCO - Responding to pro-government critics, Iran's defiant opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has said several times in recent months that he would reveal "untold secrets" from his tenure.

Mousavi served as prime minister of Iran from 1981 to 1989, until constitutional changes abolished the post. He was a leading opposition candidate in Iran's contested presidential elections last year.

Abolhassan Banisadr, Iran's first president after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, who now lives in France, told Inter Press Service (IPS) that he believes Mousavi's life is danger. "Many people who have had access to the regime's secrets or who have tried to reveal them have been murdered," he said.

Last month, Banisadr published what he says is Mousavi's 1988 letter of resignation on his website, Enghelab-e Eslami. The letter was addressed to then-president Seyed Ali Khamenei, now Iran's Supreme Leader. Neither Mousavi nor any of the Iranian government authorities, including the Office of the Supreme Leader, has reacted to the letter's contents.

In the letter, Mousavi explicitly speaks of terrorist activities carried out abroad and about which, he claims, his cabinet was not aware. In a part of the letter, Mousavi explains his reason for his resignation as his inability to carry out his responsibilities, saying:
The operations abroad ... take place without the cabinet's knowledge or orders. You know better [than me] of their catastrophic and undesirable consequences for the country. We are informed only after an airplane is hijacked. We learn only after a machine gun opens fire on a Lebanon street and its sound can be heard all over.

I am informed only after explosives are found on our pilgrims in Jeddah. Unfortunately, and against all the losses these actions have brought to the country, the likes of these operations could take place at any moment or any hour in the name of the cabinet.
Many Iranian intellectuals and politicians have asked Mousavi to express his opinion about the 1988 mass executions of thousands of political prisoners and to explain his role in them.

Recently, on the occasion of Reporters' Day in Iran, he addressed a group of newspaper editors, journalists, and families of arrested journalists. "We must view the 1988 events through their own historical vantage point and then ask whether the cabinet had any knowledge about these events or not? Did it play a role? Was it possible at all for it to interfere? Is there any mention of the cabinet in the documents and rulings?" said Mousavi.

Banisadr, who was elected Iran's first president in 1980, fled to Paris after he was impeached by the Iranian parliament in 1981. In an interview with IPS, he addressed the authenticity of the letter, the dangers facing Mousavi after he threatened to reveal secrets, and the importance of revelations of the 1988 mass political executions in Iran.

Excerpts from the interview follow.

Inter Press Service: How did you gain access to this letter?

Abolhassan Banisadr: This letter was published in 1988. We asked our friends to research its authenticity. They told us that it was authentic. Mousavi has not refuted its authenticity during all these years, either.

IPS: What was the aim of those who leaked the letter to you?

AB: We speculated at the time that the letter was leaked from Mr [Ruhollah] Khomeini's office [a leader of the 1979 Revolution]. Of course Mousavi himself could have leaked it. Or it could have been through Mr Khamenei, in order to make Mousavi look bad to Khomeini for revealing the regime's secrets.

IPS: Several government officials have said amid political struggles that there are secrets they do not wish to reveal. How do you think the revelation of these secrets would impact Iran's internal politics?

AB: Several people have been murdered in order to prevent the publication of certain secrets. For example, several people were murdered around the "October Surprise", or the story of the secret dealings about the release of American hostages. Inside Iran, Mr Mehdi Hashemi, Mr Omid Najafabadi, and their colleagues were murdered because of the information they had and published about the "Irangate Affair" [also known as Iran-Contra].

IPS: Why would Iranian authorities be concerned about what Mousavi might have to say?

AB: It would destroy their legitimacy on the national level as well as the regional level among Islamic nations.

IPS: There is mounting pressure on Mousavi for speaking about the 1988 political executions. How might revelations regarding one of Iran's darkest periods be costly for him?

AB: It is definitely dangerous. Mr Mousavi's importance to this regime is not more than Ahmad Khomeini's importance [the late son of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini]. Ahmad Khomeini had a lot of information - his own son called him a treasure chest of the regime's secrets. When he started to make noises, he was eliminated. I believe, just as I did myself, that instead of threatening to say or do things, he must spit out the information spontaneously. This might guarantee him his life, because if they want to touch him then, the people of Iran and the world would say that he was taken out because he revealed the secrets.

IPS: Why has the authenticity of Mousavi's letter not been denied by Iranian authorities?

AB: Because it is real and authentic. If they say they did them [the incidents described], it would prove that the world was right in calling them a terrorist government. If they want to say they didn't do them, it would make the world laugh, because these actions did take place. The only thing they have said in the past is that renegade agents have done some things and the regime itself was not in the know. Now an individual who used to be the prime minister at that time is saying that the regime did know and the agents were carrying out orders.

IPS: Why hasn't anything happened to Mousavi yet, even though his nephew was shot dead during the post-election period last year?

AB: The most important reason is that Mr Mousavi and Mr [Mehdi] Karroubi were presidential candidates when that huge electoral fraud took place and the protest movement was formed to object to the election results. This movement was not only in Iran. It engaged the public opinion of the world.

IPS: But a lot of people were killed and it was said that organizations such as the MEK [Mujahideen-e-Khalq - People's Mujahideen] or the rioters killed them.

AB: Those people did not have the same clout as these two presidential candidates who persisted even after the elections. Arrests would not bring a lack of credibility - instead, they would bring credibility.

A text was recently published on behalf of Mr Khamenei, saying that these two can be arrested anytime he wants, but that he is looking for a chance to convince people that these two [Mousavi and Karroubi] are not what they seem.

IPS: What if a subject like the mass executions of 1988 could be comprehensively discussed in Iran, considering the fact that Ayatollah Khomeini is not alive now?

AB: It would have an important impact. Mr Khomeini's handwritten note exists in which he says to execute the prisoners with a "yes" and "no" answer on a question. Three people are known to have been assigned to do the task. There were also people who encouraged Mr Khomeini to do this, even though he did not need much encouragement, because he had the motivation. Who were they? Mr Khamenei was the president, and Mr Hashemi Rafsanjani was the speaker of the parliament [Majlis].

So, it is obvious that these two did not make the slightest objection to that crime. Were they among the ones that encouraged this, and convinced Mr Khomeini to commit such a crime? Clarifying this issue is very important. Why? Since now one of those people is the Leader, and another is the Head of Assembly of Experts and the head of the Expediency Council. Mr Mousavi was the prime minister. Did he know or not? Was he in agreement or not?