Archive for September, 2009

POLITICS: U.S. Story on Iran Nuke Facility Doesn’t Add Up

September 30, 2009

Analysis by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sep 29 (IPS) – The story line that dominated media coverage of the second Iranian uranium enrichment facility last week was the official assertion that U.S. intelligence had caught Iran trying to conceal a “secret” nuclear facility.

But an analysis of the transcript of that briefing by senior administration officials that was the sole basis for the news stories and other evidence reveals damaging admissions, conflicts with the facts and unanswered questions that undermine its credibility.

Iran’s notification to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the second enrichment facility in a letter on Sep. 21 was buried deep in most of the news stories and explained as a response to being detected by U.S. intelligence. In reporting the story in that way, journalists were relying entirely on the testimony of “senior administration officials” who briefed them at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh Friday.

U.S. intelligence had “learned that the Iranians learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised”, one of the officials said, according to the White House transcript. The Iranians had informed the IAEA, he asserted, because “they came to believe that the value of the facility as a secret facility was no longer valid…”

Later in the briefing, however, the official said “we believe”, rather than “we learned”, in referring to that claim, indicating that it is only an inference rather than being based on hard intelligence.

The official refused to explain how U.S. analysts had arrived at that conclusion, but an analysis by the defence intelligence consulting firm IHS Jane’s of a satellite photo of the site taken Saturday said there is a surface-to-air missile system located at the site.

Since surface-to-air missiles protect many Iranian military sites, however, their presence at the Qom site doesn’t necessarily mean that Iran believed that Washington had just discovered the enrichment plant.

The official said the administration had organised an intelligence briefing on the facility for the IAEA during the summer on the assumption that the Iranians might “choose to disclose the facility themselves”. But he offered no explanation for the fact that there had been no briefing given to the IAEA or anyone else until Sep. 24 – three days after the Iranians disclosed the existence of the facility.

A major question surrounding the official story is why the Barack Obama administration had not done anything – and apparently had no plans to do anything – with its intelligence on the Iranian facility at Qom prior to the Iranian letter to the IAEA. When asked whether the administration had intended to keep the information in its intelligence briefing secret even after the meeting with the Iranians on Oct. 1, the senior official answered obliquely but revealingly, “I think it’s impossible to turn back the clock and say what might have been otherwise.”

In effect, the answer was no, there had been no plan for briefing the IAEA or anyone.

News media played up the statement by the senior administration official that U.S. intelligence had been “aware of this facility for years”.

But what was not reported was that he meant only that the U.S. was aware of a possible nuclear site, not one whose function was known.

The official in question acknowledged the analysts had not been able to identify it as an enrichment facility for a long time. In the “very early stage of construction,” said the official, “a facility like this could have multiple uses.” Intelligence analysts had to “wait until the facility had reached the stage of construction where it was undeniably intended for use as a centrifuge facility,” he explained.

The fact that the administration had made no move to brief the IAEA or other governments on the site before Iran revealed its existence suggests that site had not yet reached that stage where the evidence was unambiguous.

A former U.S. official who has seen the summary of the administration’s intelligence used to brief foreign governments told IPS he doubts the intelligence community had hard evidence that the Qom site was an enrichment plant. “I think they didn’t have the goods on them,” he said.

Also misleading was the official briefing’s characterisation of the intelligence assessment on the purpose of the enrichment plant. The briefing concluded that the Qom facility must be for production of weapons-grade enriched uranium, because it will accommodate only 3,000 centrifuges, which would be too few to provide fuel for a nuclear power plant.

According to the former U.S. official who has read the briefing paper on the intelligence assessment, however, the paper says explicitly that the Qom facility is “a possible military facility”. That language indicates that intelligence analysts have suggested that the facility may be for making low-enriched rather than for high-enriched, bomb-grade uranium.

It also implies that the senior administration official briefing the press was deliberately portraying the new enrichment facility in more menacing terms than the actual intelligence assessment.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s offer the day after the denunciation of the site by U.S., British and French leaders to allow IAEA monitoring of the plant will make it far more difficult to argue that it was meant to serve military purposes.

The circumstantial evidence suggests that Iran never intended to keep the Qom facility secret from the IAEA but was waiting to make it public at a moment that served its political-diplomatic objectives.

The Iranian government is well aware of U.S. capabilities for monitoring from satellite photographs any site in Iran that exhibits certain characteristics.

Iran obviously wanted to make the existence of the Qom site public before construction on the site would clearly indicate an enrichment purpose. But it gave the IAEA no details in its initial announcement, evidently hoping to find out whether and how much the United States already knew about it.

The specific timing of the Iranian letter, however, appears to be related to the upcoming talks between Iran and the P5+1 – China, France, Britain, Russia, the United States and Germany – and an emerging Iranian strategy of smaller back-up nuclear facilities that would assure continuity if Natanz were attacked.

The Iranian announcement of that decision on Sep. 14 coincided with a statement by the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, warning against preemptive strikes against the country’s nuclear facilities.

The day after the United States, Britain and France denounced the Qom facility as part of a deception, Salehi said, “Considering the threats, our organisation decided to do what is necessary to preserve and continue our nuclear activities. So we decided to build new installations which will guarantee the continuation of our nuclear activities which will never stop at any cost.”

As satellite photos of the site show, the enrichment facility at Qom is being built into the side of a mountain, making it less vulnerable to destruction, even with the latest bunker-busting U.S. bombs.

The pro-administration newspaper Kayhan quoted an “informed official” as saying that Iran had told the IAEA in 2004 that it had to do something about the threat of attack on its nuclear facilities “repeatedly posed by the western countries”.

The government newspaper called the existence of the second uranium enrichment plan “a winning card” that would increase Iran’s bargaining power in the talks. That presumably referred to neutralising the ultimate coercive threat against Iran by the United States.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Don’t Israel’s nuclear weapons count?

September 30, 2009

Netanyahu has what he wants to keep up the idea of his plucky, vulnerable little state

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The Independent/UK, Sep 28, 2009


Influential Europeans – including many Muslims – recently debated freedom of expression with the Danish editor who commissioned the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed which led to riots. Held in Berlin, it was a good, at times blazing, debate.

Freedom of expression, we were given to understand, is one of the valves in Europe’s heart that must remain open to keep our continent alive and healthy. In good faith I exercise that freedom in this column. Let us see if readers and interest groups will support my right to write what follows even if they violently disagree with my observations.

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Gore Vidal: ‘We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US’

September 30, 2009

The Times/UK, Sep 30, 2009

The grand old man of letters Gore Vidal claims America is ‘rotting away’ — and don’t expect Barack Obama to save it

Gore Vidal

Tim Teeman

A conversation with Gore Vidal unfolds at his pace. He answers questions imperiously, occasionally playfully, with a piercing, lethal dryness. He is 83 and in a wheelchair (a result of hypothermia suffered in the war, his left knee is made of titanium). But he can walk (“Of course I can”) and after a recent performance of Mother Courage at London’s National Theatre he stood to deliver an anti-war speech to the audience.

Another War in the Works

September 30, 2009

America Is Led And Informed By Liars

by Paul Craig Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Sep 30, 2009

Does anyone remember all the lies that they were told by President Bush and the “mainstream media” about the grave threat to America from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?  These lies were repeated endlessly in the print and TV media despite the reports from the weapons inspectors, who had been sent to Iraq, that no such weapons existed.

The weapons inspectors did an honest job in Iraq and told the truth, but the mainstream media did not emphasize their findings.  Instead, the media served as a Ministry of Propaganda, beating the war drums for the US government.

Now the whole process is repeating itself.  This time the target is Iran.

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US Rabbis Protest Israel’s Policy Over Gaza

September 30, 2009

By Gilbert Mercier

NEWS JUNKIE POST, Sep 29, 2009

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A group of 13 American Rabbis and some of their congregants in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia are fasting on the third Thursday of every month in an effort to shake the conscience of the American Jewish community about what they see as the inhuman blockade by Israel of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The group is called Jewish Fast For Gaza, and it has been gathering steam since its creation in mid-July.

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Obama Decides Karzai to Stay in Power Despite Fraud

September 29, 2009

White House Embraces Fraudulent Win, Calls for ‘Reconciliation’

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com,  September 28, 2009

Ending weeks of speculation regarding the massive fraud in Afghanistan’s August presidential election, the Obama Administration has formally decided that incumbent President Hamid Karzai will get a second five year term, no matter what the investigations determine.

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The Comic Genius of Netanyahu

September 29, 2009

Middle East Online, Sept 29, 2009

Nearly every offensive remark he makes about Iran and Palestine can be flung back in his face because Israel is no better and in most respects far worse. Netanyahu’s speech to the UN was the most hilarious example in history of the pot calling the kettle black, notes Stuart Littlewood.


Knowing that Iran won’t surrender its right to civil nuclear power, the schemers in Tel Aviv and Washington were bound to mount a hysterical campaign to scare the rest of the world into believing this would bring terror to our own streets.

And at the United Nations we saw the process swing into action as Netanyahu tried to whip up support for another Middle East war for Israel’s benefit.

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Kashmir dispute main cause of tension in South Asia

September 29, 2009

Kashmir Media Service,

New York, September 26 (KMS): The Chairman of All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has said that Kashmir dispute is the main cause of tension in South Asia and needs to be resolved without any further delay. Addressing the OIC Foreign Ministers’ Conference in New York, the APHC Chairman said, because of its impact on relations between Pakistan and India, the conflict over Kashmir directly affects the peace and stability in the entire region, which is home to millions of people.

Mirwaiz maintained that the APHC was committed to bring about a peaceful and political solution to the dispute through meaningful dialogue among Pakistan, India and Kashmiris’ genuine leadership. He demanded demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir, complete withdrawal of Indian troops from town and villages of occupied Kashmir and repeal of all draconian laws including Disturbed Areas Act, Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The APHC Chairman said that human rights violations should be stopped and the international rights organisations should be allowed to have access to the occupied territory. He also called for the restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations, unconditional release of all political prisoners, freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad and allowing people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Mirwaiz appealed to the leaders of the Islamic countries to use their moral and political influence to help resume the peace process for a just and honourable settlement of the Kashmir dispute and to grant the people of Kashmir their inalienable right of self-determination.

Complete text of the APHC Chairman’s speech is as follows

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,
Assalam-u-Alaikum Warahmatula-e-Wabarakatuhu,
I am enormously grateful for the opportunity to address this highly esteemed gathering of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on the subject of Kashmir.  I was also invited to participate in the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Damascus, Syria in May 2009. However, I could not attend that meeting because I was not given the travel document by the Government of India.

Excellencies, today, at this august body, I stand before you not just as a representative of the Kashmiri people struggling for their inalienable right of self-determination, but, more importantly as a ‘believer’. A believer who is urging the Ummah to reclaim its intellectual and spiritual glory.  A believer who is proud of the accomplishments of the Organization of Islamic Conference, yet, recognizes that there is much work still to do.

The Foreign Ministers in this annual coordination meeting aim to discuss various issues related to the United Nations’ agenda in order to enhance cooperation and coordination among the OIC Member States at the UN.  The importance of this initiative cannot be overstated. And, we need to be sure that our cooperation cannot be built on the hatred of anyone or anything, rather it should be undertaken with a love for ourselves and our traditions.

The present Charter of the Organization was adopted by the Eleventh Islamic Summit held in Dakar on 13-14 March 2008, which laid down the objectives and principles of the organization and fundamental purposes to strengthen the solidarity and cooperation among the Member States. The Organization has the singular honor to galvanize the Ummah into a unified body and have actively represented the Muslims by espousing all causes close to the hearts of over 1.5 billion Muslims of the world. The Organization has consultative and cooperative relations with the UN to protect the vital interests of the Muslims and to work for the settlement of conflicts and disputes involving Member States. One such conflict is that of the Jammu and Kashmir.

It bears no reiteration that the Kashmir conflict primarily involves the life and future of the people of the land. However, unresolved dispute is at the underlying cause of tension between two nuclear rival – India and Pakistan.  Because of its impact on relations between these two neighboring countries, it directly affects the peace and stability in an unstable region, which is home to more than 1.2 billion people, and the peace and security of many more nations beyond.

It has been a cause of two wars and numerous battles between the two neighbors, India and Pakistan.  The place has been aptly described by the former US President, Bill Clinton as the “most dangerous place” on earth. The situation has taken an ominous turn since the Mumbai attacks o November 26, 2008. With extremist threat growing in the region, the escalating turmoil in Kashmir promises to engulf the entire region extending from Afghanistan to Bangladesh.

Excellencies, the APHC is committed to a peaceful and political solution to the Kashmir dispute. We believe that for a meaningful dialogue between Pakistan, India and the Leadership of Jammu & Kashmir the following measures need to be taken.

1.  To demilitarize the arena of conflict – the State of Jammu and Kashmir – through a phased withdrawal of the troops;

2.  Complete withdrawal of India’s military presence from Kashmiri towns and villages;

3.  Immediate repeal of all draconian laws including Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act and Armed Forces Special Powers Act;

4.   End to violations of human rights and allowing the international human rights organisations to have access to Kashmir;

5. The restoration of the rights of peaceful association, assembly and demonstrations;

6.    The unconditional release of all political prisoners;

7.     Freedom of all political leaders to travel abroad; and

8.   To allow people to people contact on either side of the Line of Control.

Excellencies, we trust you will bring your immense moral and political influence to bear on initiating a peace process which will lead to a speedy, just an honourable settlement of the dispute and to restore the inalienable right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir.

I thank you, Excellencies for your patient hearing.

See also, Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

UN says caste system is a human rights abuse

September 29, 2009

United Nations is to declare discrimination based on the Indian caste system is a human rights abuse.

By Dean Nelson in New Delhi, Telegraph.co.uk, Sep 29, 2009

The UN’s Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, is expected to ratify draft principles which recognises the scale of persecution suffered by 65 million ‘untouchables’ or ‘Dalits’ who carry out the most menial and degrading work

Many of them work as lavatory and sewer cleaners and in remote villages as “night-soil carriers”.

They are considered unclean by many higher-caste ‘Brahmins’ who regard their presence, and sometimes even their shadow as ‘polluting’.

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Obama follows Bush’s modus operandi on Iran

September 28, 2009

Peter Symonds, wsws.org, Sept 28, 2009

In a manner chillingly reminiscent of the Bush administration’s buildup to the Iraq war, top White House officials yesterday intensified the US propaganda offensive against Iran, threatening heavy sanctions if Tehran does not provide unrestricted access to its newly revealed uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom and other nuclear facilities and personnel.

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