Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Covert operations sabotage US-Iran ties...

Covert operations sabotage US-Iran ties...
By Rob Grace

For years, the United States and Israel have engaged in a covert effort to destabilize Iran's government and sabotage its nuclear program. But these operations frequently escape mention in public discussions. By ignoring the covert effort, the current debate about the relative wisdom of diplomacy, sanctions, and preventive
military action addresses an incomplete picture. To understand the challenges and potential of US-Iranian relations, the covert program must be factored into the equation.

Although sabotage may prove successful in slowing Iranian nuclear progress in the short term, it actually stands as a barrier to a long-term resolution.

The program
United States covert action in Iran has played a historically destructive role in US-Iranian relations. In 1953, when the United States was planning to overthrow Iran's prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent Roger Goiran warned that the endeavor would harm long-term US interests and lead Iran to view the United States as a supporter of "Anglo-French colonialism".

The CIA fired Goiran for his opposition and went forward with its plan, but his prediction came true. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 brought to power a leader who dubbed America "the Great Satan" and established a government legally founded on "the rejection of all forms of domination" and "non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers", to quote Article 152 of Iran's constitution.

During the Iran hostage crisis, Iran only agreed to free the 52 trapped Americans after the United States pledged non-intervention in Iranian affairs. As stated in the 1981 Algiers Accords, "it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."

However, the United States has not lived up this commitment. In 1995, American news media revealed a US$18 million covert effort by the CIA to destabilize Iran, confirming Iranian suspicions of the "Great Satan".

Iran's foreign minister wrote to the United Nations Security Council, calling the US policy "nothing but a flagrant support of state terrorism", and one member of Iran's parliament called the United States "a renegade government whose logic was no different from Genghis Khan or Hitler".

Covert efforts were also a factor in the breakdown of negotiations in 2005 between Iran and the E3/European Union, a group composed of representatives from Germany, France the United Kingdom and the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Only one year earlier, relations with Iran seemed promising. Iran had joined the E3/EU in signing the Paris Accord, in which Iran pledged that it would "not seek to acquire nuclear weapons", voluntarily implement the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) Additional Protocol, and voluntarily halt all uranium-enrichment activities. The accord's signatories pledged to negotiate an agreement that would encompass not just nuclear and economic cooperation but also "firm commitments on security issues".

Iran's desired security commitments, as the British House of Commons' report on the negotiations indicates, included a UN Security Council-backed commitment to prevent "any direct or indirect attack or sabotage or threat against Iranian nuclear facilities".

United States actions in the mid-2000s gave credence to Iran's concern. The US was collaborating with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a group devoted to overthrowing Iran's government, in cross-border raids to gather intelligence about Iran's nuclear program; supporting Jundallah, a Pakistani-based tribal terrorist group that has struck Iranian targets; and had established a "covert infrastructure" within Iran to reach out to Iranian dissidents.

And in 2005, the US Congress authorized $3 million to fund "the advancement of democracy and
human rights" in Iran, a move the Iranian UN ambassador called a "clear violation of the Algiers accords".

Ultimately, the E3/EU did not accept Iran's security proposal and instead offered only to reaffirm existing security guarantees. Iran thus concluded that the E3/EU "did not have the intention or the ability" to make "firm commitments on security issues", let alone progress on nuclear and economic cooperation, and Iran announced it would once again begin enriching uranium.

As the UN Security Council began passing sanctions against Iran, news reports indicate that covert efforts escalated. In 2007, CBS News reported on "covert efforts by US and other allied intelligence agencies to actively sabotage [Iran's] nuclear program".

When Iranian nuclear scientist Ardeshire Hassanpour died under mysterious circumstances that same year, sources told The Times that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, had assassinated him. In 2008, president George W Bush signed a "non-lethal presidential finding" that, according to ABC News, initiated a CIA plan involving "a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions".

In early 2009, The New York Times reported that Bush had "stepped up intelligence-sharing" with Israel and had authorized a covert program "aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program".

The Bush administration handed off this program to President
Barack Obama. In the first month of Obama's presidency, the Telegraph reported that Israel was "using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project".

Reuters reported that Israel "planned to target Iranian nuclear scientists with letter bombs and poisoned packages", possibly as part of "a psychological warfare campaign". And when Iran suffered a cyber-attack from the Stuxnet computer virus, The New York Times reported on possible US involvement, noting that Bush's covert program "has been accelerated since President Obama took office".

The problem
The sabotage effort has seemingly been successful in delaying Iranian progress on uranium enrichment. But sabotage also disrupts diplomatic progress.

Obama administration has presented Iran with a "stark choice" - accede to Western demands and join the "community of nations" or "face even more pressure and isolation". Iran scoffs at both options.

As for "pressure and isolation", President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has stated he doesn't believe the United States or Israel will actually undertake preventive military action. This belief is most likely correct, as the
Obama administration has successfully convinced Israel that the Iranian nuclear threat is not imminent.

Ahmadinejad has also said that sanctions are "of no concern to us" and "have, in fact, encouraged us to be firmer in the pursuit of our economic goals". This claim is under debate, even within Iran. Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for example, has urged Iranian officials to take the sanctions seriously. But the sanctions do seem to have benefited Ahmadinejad by giving "an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition", according to Iranian reformist Mehdi Karroubi.

As for joining the "community of nations", Iran does not perceive a community it wishes to join. Instead, it sees an "inhumane" and "discriminatory management of the world" in which "the very same goals of colonialists and the slave masters" are “pursued with a new facade", and thus the global system "requires a major overhaul", as Ahmadinejad stated in his recent UN address. For this reason, Iran strives for UN Security Council reform and global nuclear disarmament under the slogan, "nuclear energy for everyone, nuclear arms for no one".

Still, there are signs that Iran and the West can reach an agreement. Both Iran and the United States have said they are open to more talks. And though the US would like Iran to halt enrichment entirely, a feasible middle ground exists. As former US
secretary of state Colin Powell stated recently on Meet The Press:
... I think if you take them at their word, "trust, but verify," [former US president Ronald] Reagan's old line ... then put in place a set of sanctions that would be devastating to them if they violate that agreement, and then put in place an IAEA inspection regime ... you might be able to live with an Iran that has a nuclear power capability
Covert activities risk undermining this possibility. The United States needs to show Iran that a genuine settlement is possible. If Iran fears that US covert intervention will continue, Iran is unlikely to sign on to an agreement of the sort Powell described. Like in 1953, by pursuing the sabotage option, the US is sacrificing its long-term interests for pathetic short-term gains....

New Iraqi alignment reveals utter US failures....
By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - A newly released CIA/DOD/DIA/WikiLeaks document on Iraq and the new political alignment between Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki both provide fresh evidence that General David Petraeus's war against Shi'ite militias in 2007-2008 was a futile exercise.

The WikiLeaks document is an intelligence report identifying the Shi'ite commander who Petraeus said was the Iranian-backed rogue militia leader behind the kidnapping and killing of five US troops in Karbala in January 2007. In fact, according to the leaked document, it was a commander of Muqtada's Mahdi

That new information about the Karbala operation confirms earlier evidence that in 2007 a political axis linking Iran, Muqtada and Maliki was working to foil Petraeus' assault on the Mahdi Army and to hasten the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

That political alignment is not a reflection of Iranian dominance over Iraqi politics, but of a convergence of interests among Shi'ite actors in the Iraq conflict.

The same political alignment has now resurfaced as a pivotal development in the formation of a new Iraqi government. Maliki and Muqtada have agreed to form a new Shi'ite-dominated government, and Maliki traveled to Iran last week to meet Muqtada and publicly thanked Iran for its help in bringing Muqtada into his bloc of deputies.

The Maliki bloc now has two more votes than the Sunni-based al-Iraqiya bloc and hopes to bring in the Kurds to collect enough votes to form a new government.

The December 2006 intelligence report in the WikiLeaks collection details a plan to kidnap US soldiers in Baghdad. The report reveals that the militia commander in charge of the operation, Ashar al-Dulaimi, was a subordinate to a "senior Jaysh al-Mahdi [Mahdi Army] commander" named "Hasan" or "Salim".

Dulaimi was a key commander of the Mahdi Army's "secret cells", which had been trained by Hezbollah officers working in cooperation with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Muqtada had never hidden his military cooperation with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Despite Muqtada's open criticism of Iranian policy toward Iraq for its backing of the rival Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, he also sent troops to be trained in Iran.

The Mahdi Army plan to kidnap US troops did not unfold in Baghdad but in Karbala, where five American soldiers were abducted in a raid on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center on January 20, 2007, and later found dead. The US military tracked Dulaimi to Sadr City in Baghdad and killed him in May 2007.

Petraeus' spokesman, General Kevin Bergner, later accused Iran of having directed the Karbala attack through its control of networks of "special groups" it armed and trained. Petraeus maintained consistently that Iran was backing "rogue" units that had left the Mahdi Army.

The WikiLeaks documents show, however, that Petraeus and his command in Iraq were well aware that Dulaimi was a Mahdi Army commander in charge of secret operations. The Petraeus "special groups" line was aimed at hiding the fact that the US command was determined to destroy as much of the Mahdi Army as possible by claiming that it was actually attacking rogue Shi'ite militias.

The New York Times story on Iran-related WikiLeaks documents by Michael Gordon, which portrays the documents as reconfirming the Petraeus line on Iran-backed "special groups", highlighted the intelligence report on Dulaimi but omitted the central fact that it clearly identifies him as a Mahdi Army commander.

The evidence also indicates that the Mahdi Army’s Karbala operation was done with the full knowledge of the Maliki government.

Colonel Michael X Garrett, then commander of the Fourth Brigade combat team in Karbala, confirmed to this writer in December 2008 that the Karbala attack "was definitely an inside operation". Both the provincial governor and police chief were suspected of having collaborated in the operation, Garrett said.

Governor Aqil al-Khazali was not a Sadrist but a member of Maliki's own Da'wa Party and was presumably acting in line with a policy that came from Baghdad.

That was a sign that Maliki, Muqtada and Iran were still cooperating secretly, even as Maliki was ostensibly cooperating with the US military against Muqtada.

Maliki maintained ties with Muqtada because he needed his support. Muqtada, who had 30 members in the Iraqi parliament, had supplied the key votes that installed Maliki as prime minister at an April 2006 meeting in the Green Zone over which Iranian Quds Force commander Brigadier General Qasem Suleimani presided, according to a story by McClatchy newspapers.

The Mahdi Army had also played the key role in 2006 and early 2007 on behalf of the entire Shi'ite Alliance in the pivotal Battle of Baghdad against Sunni insurgents, by carrying out an "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Sunnis in a number of neighborhoods.

Sadrist deputies had left the government parliamentary bloc in September 2006, and Muqtada attacked Maliki's renewal of the
United Nations mandate for the foreign military presence in November 2006.

In early 2007, however, Maliki's national security adviser, Nassar al-Rubaie, told Reuters that they were negotiating on a proposal for a timetable for withdrawal to heal the rift with Muqtada. He also expressed dismay at the US military desire to "lure Muqtada into direct confrontation".

The Sadrists worked out an arrangement with Maliki under which US troops could be kept out of Sadr City. Iraqi troops would take the lead in establishing security in the Sadrist enclave, and US troops would not intervene unless there was resistance by the Mahdi Army.

But the US military refused to honor the agreement and carried out large-scale sweeps and even air strikes in Sadr City beginning in early 2007, claiming that they were only targeting those "special groups".

The Mahdi Army command for secret military operations apparently planned their counter-attack in Karbala in the hope of having some leverage over the US military in Iraq.

Even as Maliki was ostensibly agreeing to US attacks on Mahdi Army commanders in Sadr City, Petraeus told author Bing West in September 2007 that the political link between Maliki and Muqtada was far from being broken. "JAM [the Mahdi Army] has its hooks into the ministries," Petraeus told him. "It took years to get this point, and it will take some time to get rid of it. Maliki is working his way through it."

A series of moves from September 2007 to mid-2008 marked the unfolding of a strategy by Maliki, supported by Iran, to get Muqtada to curb the Mahdi Army's role in order to maneuver the George W Bush administration into negotiating a timetable for total withdrawal.

Iran prevailed on Muqtada to agree to a unilateral ceasefire in September 2007 and to end fighting in Basra and Sadr City in late March and early May 2008. The latter two agreements prevented US troops from carrying out major offensives in both cases.

The quid pro quo for Muqtada's agreement to those ceasefires appears to have been the promise of a US troop withdrawal.

Maliki's renewal of the alliance with Muqtada on the way to forming a new Shi'ite government has brought strong protest from the Barack
Obama administration. US ambassador James Jeffrey has repeatedly said in recent weeks that Muqtada's inclusion in an Iraqi government is unacceptable to Washington.

But that protest has only underlined the fact that the United States is the odd man out in the Shi'ite-dominated politics of Iraq.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy.


Richard Holbrooke and a couple of his friends share laughs in the 'good old days.'

From Vietnam to Afghanistan to Wall Street and AIG, Holbrooke played the game of war and financial corruption very well. He made the zionists, bankers and the war machine very happy.

In repeating the accolades ad nauseam, the media will fail to mention his blood stained hands. The spin meisters even came up with some famous last words lies to tell the world - "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

A more accurate description of Holbrooke's 'accomplishments' for the crime empire can be read here and here if you're interested.

So rest in peace Richard, Lord knows there was little of that during your tenure. And may your 'friends' join you soon....