Thursday, June 9, 2011

War talk still in the air, and False bells on Iran's nuclear program....

War talk still in the air, and False bells on Iran's nuclear program....

By Barbara Slavin

WASHINGTON - The likelihood of a United States or Israeli military attack on Iran's nuclear installations seems miniscule during the remaining months of the Barack Obama administration's first term.

The US is focused on domestic economic problems, winding down wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and stabilizing emerging democracies in Egypt and Tunisia. Israel is preoccupied with Arab uprisings and new manifestations of people power by Palestinians in and outside the West Bank and Gaza.

Yet war cannot be ruled out, according to regional specialists who say that the persistent invocation of the "military option" by some Israeli and US officials may be inhibiting diplomatic initiatives.

Retired Admiral William "Fox" Fallon, who resigned as head of US Central Command in 2008 after a profile in Esquire magazine portrayed him as opposing a military strike on Iran, told a Washington audience on Tuesday that while there seemed to be "little chance" of a preventive strike, "I have no idea" whether one could occur.

"The problem was and still is this incessant focus on conflict, conflict, conflict," he told a symposium of the American Iranian Council, a group that advocates engagement with Iran. "We ought to be working pretty hard to focus on other things that would put us in a different place" with Iran, he said.

One spark for conflict could be a shooting incident in the narrow waters off Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Fallon said that during the many years he spent stationed in the region as a navy flyer and commander, US interactions with the regular Iranian navy were "in my experience, very professional. The problem for us lately is that the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] has muscled in more frequently than ever and they don't behave in the expected ways. They've been challenging in some respects."

"On several occasions while I was the commander we had some shooting out there that was absolutely unnecessary," Fallon added. "This kind of potential is not good."

Fallon and his predecessor, Army General John Abizaid, sought but were apparently denied permission from the George W Bush administration to negotiate an "incidents at sea" agreement with Iran that would have established procedures for preventing altercations from turning into a major conflict.

"General Abizaid had some very good ideas but they weren't accepted by the Bush administration," said Colonel David Crist, a special adviser to the current head of Centcom, Marine General James Mattis, and the author of an upcoming book on the history of US military clashes with Iran.

Speaking on Tuesday at the same Washington symposium as Fallon, Crist said that "there is always the potential for an unintended consequence in the Gulf". He noted a lack of understanding in both countries of how national security decisions are made and examples of "Tom Cruise fly-bys" of Iranian aircraft close to US ships.

"Is this part of an Iranian plan to systematically harass the United States or just [the actions of] hot shot pilots?" Crist asked. The US and Iran are in a "regional cold war but the means to de-escalate are not in place".

Some hardliners in Iran might actually welcome conflict with the United States or Israel to unify a politically divided nation.

At the same time, Iran is continuing its provocative nuclear progress. On Tuesday, Iranian Vice President and Atomic Energy Chief Fereydoun Abbasi announced that Iran would install advanced centrifuges to produce uranium enriched to 19.75% at Fordow, an installation outside the theological center of Qom that is built into a mountainside and was revealed by the United States in September 2009. Abbasi also said Iran intended to triple its output of 19.75% enriched uranium by the end of this year.

While the uranium is ostensibly meant to be fuel for a Tehran reactor that produces medical isotopes, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington research group that focuses on nuclear proliferation, warned that such a step would enable Iran "to more quickly break out and produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, if it chose to do so".

United States intelligence officials have said they do not believe that Iranian officials have made a decision to produce a nuclear weapon. The US has not disclosed any hard evidence that Iran has resumed weapons research that, according to a 2007 US intelligence estimate, ended in 2003.

However, Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, told the IAEA board on Monday that the agency had acquired new "information related to possible past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities that seem to point to the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program".

President Barack Obama, after a brief and unsuccessful effort at engagement with Iran, has focused on sanctions to try to convince Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. The policy has failed to achieve its goal in part because of high oil prices and China's deepening involvement in the Iranian economy.

Obama has said repeatedly that an Iran equipped with nuclear weapons is "unacceptable".

Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association and veteran nuclear expert at the State Department, told Inter Press Service that while he thought the chances of an unprovoked US attack on Iran in the next two years was "very low", some Israeli officials would continue to press for US military action.

"Some in Israel want to prod us into an attack while others want to wave the saber so that the US will have more sanctions and not consider talking to Iran," Thielmann said.

Any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would probably not destroy all the sites, would certainly not eliminate Iran's nuclear knowledge and could provoke formidable retaliation against Israel by Iranian partners such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and against US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meir Dagan, the former chief of the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, said recently that an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear installations would be "the stupidest thing I have ever heard". This provoked harsh criticism of him by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

"They're not arguing with his logic," Thielmann said. "They are arguing with his right to talk about this publicly."

Fallon said the best solution would be negotiations with Iran but that "it takes two to tango".

"The interests of both people are better addressed with engagement and cooperation rather than antagonism and hostility [but] there is no clear path to this preferred alternative anytime soon," he said.
False bells on Iran's nuclear program....
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Confusion over an assessment of Iran's nuclear program by the Rand Corporation in the past week perfectly illustrates the quagmire that anyone has to contend with when sifting through bias on media reports.

When the Republican-leaning New York Post says history may well mark United States President Barack Obama "as the leader who let Iran get the bomb - and so doomed the Middle East to a new Dark Age", it based its assertion on a report it attributed to Rand Corporation analyst Gregory Jones.
"Using the latest data from the International Atomic Energy Agency, he recently concluded that, if Iran's centrifuges continue to produce enriched uranium at current capacity, the regime will have 90% of the 20 kilograms it needs to produce a nuclear weapon within two months - certainly by summer's end," the Post said in an opinion piece. [1]
The Post report was at least an accurate reflection of Jone's calculations in a report dated June 2, but inaccurately reported that it was published by the Rand Corporation, when it was in fact from the Non-proliferation Policy Education Center. [2] Jones has written for Rand, but his last report for the non-profit policy and research think-tank was published in 2009.

Yet the New York Post was not alone. A deluge of commentaries took it at face value that Rand was alleging with iron-clad certainty that Iran was "two months away from making nuclear bombs". Media sources who attributed the report to Rand included Israel's Ynetnews, the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom, the Weekly Standard and American Thinker, the latter under the headline, "RAND Corp: Iran 8 weeks from the Bomb". [3]

The Rand Corporation's own report, Iran's Nuclear Future: Critical US Policy Choices, financed by the US Air Force and published on June 7, contained no such timetable and is about policy alternatives for the United States and urges greater engagement. [4]

The study's lead author Lynn E Davis, a senior political scientist at Rand, summed up the report in a statement saying, "The challenge for the United States is to influence how the Iranian leadership pursues [national security] interests, for they could provide reasons for acquiring nuclear weapons."

For all it is worth, the Rand report failed to mention that the US intelligence community has yet to revise its December 2009 finding that Iran as of early 2003 has stopped its nuclear weapon program. Nor does it mention that the IAEA despite its expressed concerns about the "possible military dimension" of Iran's nuclear activities has repeatedly stated that after extensive inspections it has found "no evidence of diversion of declared nuclear material".

Close scrutiny of the study shows repeated references to "considerable uncertainties" regarding Iran's nuclear program and, on page 14, it states categorically that "Iran is likely in the near to medium term to strive to stay within the bounds of international norms and laws established by the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty], while continuing with uranium enrichment and warhead experimentation."

This is hardly an affirmation of an Iranian march toward nuclear weapons, unless the scope of outside inspections of Iran's nuclear activities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is considered irrelevant. The IAEA's surveillance cameras at Tehran's enrichment facility in Natanz can easily detect any diversion of nuclear material.

A report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh titled "Iran And The Bomb - How Real is the Nuclear Threat?" and published in the June 6 issue of The New Yorker magazine quotes former IAEA director general Mohammad ElBaradei as saying he didn't see "a shred of evidence" in 12 years in charge to suggest Iran is building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials.

"I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran," ElBaradei, a likely candidate for future Egyptian president, told Hersh in the interview. An abstract of Hersh's piece says:
There’s a large body of evidence, however, including some of America’s most highly classified intelligence assessments, suggesting that the U.S. could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq eight years ago - allowing anxieties about the policies of a tyrannical regime to distort our estimates of the state’s military capacities and intentions. The two most recent National Intelligence Estimates (N.I.E.s) on Iranian nuclear progress have stated that there is no conclusive evidence that Iran has made any effort to build the bomb since 2003.

Yet Iran is heavily invested in nuclear technology. In the past four years, it has tripled the number of centrifuges in operation at its main enrichment facility at Natanz, which is buried deep underground.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have expressed frustration with Iran’s level of cooperation, but have been unable to find any evidence suggesting that enriched uranium has been diverted to an illicit weapons program. [5]
Such frustration was in evidence on Monday when Yukiya Amano, ElBaradei's successor at the global nuclear watchdog, told the IAEA board the agency had acquired new "information related to possible past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities that seem to point to the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program".

The disclosure of new information came as Iran announced it would enrich nuclear fuel at an underground facility whose function had been secret until 2009, boosting its production of enriched uranium in spite of UN sanctions over its refusal to halt the enrichment program, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

It is ironic, albeit understandable from the prism of the US Air Force, which is in competition with other branches of the US military and has a vested interest in promoting itself by getting ahead in the "war-games", that the Rand report on Iran's nuclear program pays scant attention to the actual program and, instead, focuses on various potential scenarios and the policy implications for the US, Israel, and Iran's neighbors in Persian Gulf.

Although maintaining that "different future Iranian nuclear postures are possible", it nonetheless takes for granted Iran's evolution of a nuclear weapons program that allegedly could be either "virtual", ie fully developed short of building the actual bombs", or "ambiguous" or "declared". The reason for the multiple authors' collective certainty that Iran is acquiring a nuclear weapon capability is that "Iran's national security interest could be served by nuclear weapons".

Not so, and in fact the Rand study itself provides several clues that contradict its abstract generalization on Iran's national security interests, such as the implication of Iran's Arab neighbors being spurred to emulate Iran and build their own bombs and thus hurl the oil region into a costly nuclear arms race, to US playing nuclear shield for the supposedly vulnerable Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states indefinitely, etc. As the authors concede, "expanded US conventional activities could be counterproductive" and "heighten Iranian threat perception."

In addition to a distorted understanding of Iran's national security interests and priorities, the report also has a distorted view of how Iran's neighbors view the Iranian nuclear threat, claiming that none of the Gulf Cooperation States (GCC) states support "an approach that seeks to reduce the threat posed to Iran".

In fact, the myth of a monolithic GCC bloc with a unified voice on Iran needs debunking, and following the report's own line of argument, the GCC states should logically support a more congenial security environment with reduced risks for Iran that could, in turn, keep Iran's nuclear potential just that; potential rather than actual.

Interestingly, the Rand report's release coincided with a Washington conference on the changing Middle East and future of US-Iran relations on Tuesday, featuring the former head of US Central Command, Admiral James Fallon, who told the audience that there was very little chance of any US and or Israeli strike on Iran and that the US and Iran should pursue the path of comprehensive dialogue and engagement in light of their shared concerns in the region.

Unfortunately, instead of giving coverage to such voices of reason, the US media and others opted to give prominent and erroneous billing of alarming new information about Iran's nuclear program; yet another example of Chomskyan "manufacturing consent"....

Ehud Olmert, the disgraced former prime minister of Israel is currently fighting for his life in an Israeli court. Olmert, who was in New York City on a secret visit on the infamous inside Job of 9/11, is a disciple of the notorious Israeli terrorist Yitzhak Shamir of the LEHI (Stern Gang). Olmert is clearly one of the criminals "in the know" about the false-flag terrorism of 9/11.

Sources close to the 9/11 litigation have informed me that International Consultants on Targeted Security (ICTS), the Israeli defendant in the 9/11 terrorism case, was dismissed from the lawsuit last week. Although I have not seen a court document that says that ICTS has been dismissed, there is a document from 12 May 2011 that clearly indicates that this move was on Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein's agenda for May 16. Apparently ICTS had filed a motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit. ICTS is the Israeli parent company of Huntleigh USA, the passenger screening outfit that allegedly allowed armed terrorists to board the planes in Boston on 9/11, according to the official version of events.
The Zionist judge Alvin K. Hellerstein discussed dismissing ICTS, the Israeli defendant in the 9/11 litigation, as the 12 May 2011 court document from the Bavis family case shows.
Judge Hellerstein has a clear conflict of interest in the 9/11 litigation. His son Joseph is a lawyer in Israel with Amit, Pollak, and Matalon, a law firm which represents the owners of ICTS and Huntleigh USA. In 2001, ICTS was run by a team of Israelis including the Harel brothers, Boaz and Ezra, and Menachem Atzmon. Atzmon is a convicted Israeli criminal who was involved in illegal fund-raising for the Likud party of Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon, and Menachem Begin. Olmert was in New York City on the eve of 9/11 and probably remained to observe the crime. Ezra Harel "died" at age 53 on his yacht off the coast of Spain in November 2003 after being indicted with his father Aryeh Mualem of serious financial fraud in Israel.
The only remaining wrongful death case is Mary Bavis vs. UAL Corporation, et al. This case represents the only 9/11 trial that will ever be held and should be of great concern to all Americans... The flagrant conflict of interest on the part of the judge cannot be ignored. Judge Hellerstein must be removed from the case and a new process begun for all of the 9/11 families who have not been treated fairly in the tort litigation.
The simplest way to remove Judge Hellerstein is to show that his son's law firm has represented the owners of ICTS and Huntleigh USA. I am doing that with the following documents to show that Amit, Pollak, and Matalon (Joseph Z. Hellerstein is "of counsel" with Amit, Pollak, and Matalon) represents entities that include the owners of ICTS:
Amit, Pollak, and Matalon represents BOS (Better Online Solutions), Cukierman Investments, and Catalyst Fund. Edouard Cukierman is Chairman of the Board of Directors of BOS, the founder and CEO of Catalyst Funds, and the Chairman of Cukierman & Co Investment House.
C. Bollyn


1. When Iran gets Nukes, New York Post, June 9, 2011.
Out of the Spotlight Iran's Rate of Enriched Uranium Production Continues to Increase: Centrifuge Enrichment and the IAEA May 24, 2011 Update, June 2, 2011.
RAND Corp: Iran 8 weeks from the Bomb, American Thinker, June 8, 2011.
Iran's Nuclear Future: Critical US Policy Choices, The Rand Corporation, Monographs, 2011.
Iran And The Bomb - How Real is the Nuclear Threat?, The New Yorker magazine, June 6, 2011.