Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Ross’

Dilemmas of American Empire: Can Obama Pull Off a Game-Changer in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan?

June 23, 2009
By Gary Dorrien | religion dispatchesJune 22, 2009
For Obama to steer us back to the softer side of Empire, withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan—and negotiating with Iran—he’ll have to overrule his key officials, Hillary Clinton and Dennis Ross, risk alienating Israel for its own good, and stand up to bracing public attacks. And he’ll need a hand from a strong, anti-imperial religious and secular peace movement.

Iraq War Memorial. Dogtags representing military dead. Image courtesy flickr user Ewan McIntosh

In the wake of the Bush administration’s disastrous resort to neoconservative ideology the Obama Administration is seeking to reclaim the liberal internationalist and diplomatic way of relating to the world. The United States is going to be an aggressive imperial power no matter whom it elects as president; what is called “neoconservatism” is merely an extreme version of normal American supremacism, one that explicitly promotes and heightens the U.S.’s routine practices of empire. But it matters greatly whether the American empire tries to work cooperatively and respectfully with other nations instead of conspiring mainly to dominate them. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Middle East as a whole, the legacy of George W. Bush is not very good and Obama has an overabundance of leftover crises to manage.

In Iraq the U.S. is slowly withdrawing military forces while in Afghanistan the U.S. is escalating; but in both cases the work is grinding, perilous, and ambiguous. There are no breakthroughs coming in Iraq or Afghanistan. The fix is in, and the new administration is simply trying to find a decently tolerable outcome. Iran is a different story diplomatically, where there is a real possibility of a breakthrough, but also the greatest danger.

‘We hate you because you are occupiers, but we hate Al Qaeda worse, and we hate the Persians even more.’

From March 2005 to April 2007 the eruption of a civil war, in the midst of an already ferocious insurgent war, in Iraq produced huge numbers of weekly attacks and casualties, averaging 2,000 attacks per month. The numbers then dropped dramatically as ethnic cleansing was completed in many areas, the “surge” of U.S. forces restricted the flow of explosives into Baghdad, the Mahdi Army suspended its attacks, and the U.S. co-opted Sunni insurgents. But violence has spiked again recently; it’s a perilous business to depend on buying off the opposition; and most importantly, the fundamental problems that fueled the insurgency and civil war still exist in Iraq. Meanwhile the U.S.’s price tag is approaching $2 trillion, as predicted by Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes back in 2006.

All of this will take decades to play out, well beyond the blink of an American news cycle. Iraq is broken into rival groups of warlords, sectarian militias, local gangs, foreign terrorists, political and ethnic factions, a struggling government, and a deeply corrupted and sectarian police force. The Sunnis are appalled that a Western invader paved the way to a Shiite government allied with Iran. They are deeply opposed to the new constitution. They want a strong central government that distributes oil revenue from Baghdad, and they are incredulous that the U.S. has enabled Iran to become the dominant force in the Middle East. The Shiites are embittered by decades of Sunni tyranny in Iraq and centuries of Sunni dominance in the Middle East. Arab Shiites have not tasted power for centuries, and Iraqi Shiites are determined to redeem their ostensible right to rule Iraq that was denied them in 1920.

Both sides and the Kurds have militia groups that are the real powers in Iraq. The main thing that has worked in Iraq is the U.S.’s desperate gambit to co-opt the Sunni militia groups aligned with the Awakening Movement. In the counterinsurgency playbook, buying off the opposition is a last resort. The French, British, and U.S. tried it, respectively, in Algeria, Malaya, and Vietnam. In each case the weapons given to insurgents ended up being used against the forces providing them. In this case, over 100,000 Sunni fighters have been put on the U.S.’s weekly payroll. Major General Rick Lynch, commander of the Third Infantry Division, explains why it is working, so far: “They say to us, ‘We hate you because you are occupiers, but we hate Al Qaeda worse, and we hate the Persians even more.’” In this lexicon, Iraqi Shiites are Persians, like the Iranians.

So the U.S. is paying and arming Sunni insurgents to kill people in the middle group, even as they profess to hating Shiites most of all. It’s not clear how the Awakening fighters will be removed from the dole, and Shiite leaders are not sympathetic to the U.S.’s predicament. The cooptation strategy has deeply enmeshed the U.S. in Iraqi tribal politics, lifting up certain tribes over others, and corrupting them. Tribes are forming their own militias and creating new leaders adept at cutting deals and getting access to money that was supposed to pay for reconstruction. The predatory corruption of government officials and connected tribal leaders is pervasive, direct, and unrelenting, which helps to explain why $200 billion of reconstruction aid has produced almost no reconstruction.

Iraq could explode again at any time, because Sunni leaders are demanding real power, the Shiite parties are determined not to yield it, and intra-sectarian resentments are boiling. Shiite and Kurdish leaders are stonewalling against integrating Sunnis into the army, and they are gathering the fingerprints, retinal scans, and home addresses of every Awakening fighter.

Despite all of this, important political gains have been made in the past year. Parliament is grappling seriously with the Baathist reconciliation problem, which requires tough political bargaining, and the recent provincial elections brought more Sunnis into the political process. Prime Minister Maliki, toughened by 24 years of brutally difficult exile in Iran and Syria as a functionary of a tiny, persecuted Islamist party—the Dawa Party—has proven to be a more resilient leader than many expected. To make a real difference, Iraq needs an oil deal, a new constitution, a resolution over Kirkuk, and a national election that brings more Sunnis into the government. Most difficult of all, it needs to integrate large numbers of Sunni forces into the army and police force. Above all, it needs to get the U.S. Army out.

The toxic politics of collaboration and betrayal

On the latter issue, we need to be resolute and pragmatic at the same time; and by “we,” I mean our religious communities, the movements for social justice, and the Obama Administration. President Obama has significantly compromised his campaign promise to withdraw most or all U.S. troops within 16 months of taking office. His current position is that 65 percent of our force structure in Iraq will be removed by August 2010, and all our combat troops, leaving up to 50,000 troops there in non-combat roles until December 2011. He stresses that the combat mission will end at the end of next summer, more or less as he promised, and that we need to keep a heavy force in Iraq for at least 15 months beyond that. Last month the U.S. relinquished one of its largest military bases in the Green Zone, the dramatically named Forward Operating Base Freedom. But two weeks later the administration announced its plan to keep indefinitely the entire Camp Victory complex, which has five large bases in Baghdad, and Camp Prosperity and Camp Union III, which are located near the new American Embassy in the Green Zone.

There are more announcements of this sort to come. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is already saying we will need to keep some military forces in Iraq beyond December 2011, beyond simply protecting the embassy. It isn’t clear what the distinction between combat and non-combat will mean. All soldiers are trained to fight, which the Army is currently stressing in its press statements. If a civil war breaks out, will U.S. troops take action? If not, what is the rationale for 50,000 troops? It is ethically imperative for the U.S. to be careful and deliberate in extricating itself from Iraq; we must avoid the mistakes of the British in India, the French in Algeria, and the U.S. in Vietnam. Obama gets that part. What he needs to hear is that his core supporters are serious about getting out of Iraq and are not willing to be strung along for years with half-measures.

Once an empire invades, especially a self-righteous one like the U.S., there are always reasons why it thinks it cannot leave. But sooner or later, conquered peoples have to be set free to breath on their own to regain their dignity. As long as the U.S. Army is the ultimate power in Iraq, Iraq will have no sovereignty; Shiites will be viewed in the Sunni provinces as collaborators with the invader; and Sunnis will view the Iraqi army as a creation of the invaders that puts their enemies in charge. When the occupier pulls back, the toxic politics of collaboration and betrayal will be lessened. The civil strife in Iraq is going to play itself out no matter what the U.S. does. But the U.S. set it off and we are refueling it every day we remain.

In the past two years the U.S. has, in effect, created a Sunni Army. The fate of this entity trumps a long list of daunting variables in Iraq. Sunni leaders protest constantly that the nation’s interests against Iran are not being defended. If the Sunnis and Kurds can be integrated into the Iraqi Shiite Army, which is euphemistically called the Iraq Army, Iraq has a chance of holding together as a semi-federalized state. There is no other option that averts another upsurge of death and destruction.

Advocates of breaking Iraq into three nations stress that parts of the country are already partitioned; all three of the major groups have their own military, and the Kurds have their own government and oil deal too. But the majority of Iraqi cities and provinces still have Sunni and Shiite communities living side by side. Iraq cannot break apart without igniting a horrible civil war, one that Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia would not sit out. The best hope is that Iraqis will decide for integration and sovereignty, but it is up to them to decide whether they want a unitary state, a decentralized federation, three nations, or something else. I don’t want President Obama to make that decision or to commit U.S. troops to one of these outcomes. We must hold the Obama Administration to leave Iraq by a time certain, relinquish all the military bases, and support the rebuilding of a shattered society.

Wanted: an anti-imperialist peace movement

Today we have the right president to repair the terrible damage to the U.S.’s image in the world, especially the Middle East, as Obama’s eloquent speech in Cairo demonstrated. But he is escalating the war in Afghanistan, with a rationale that leads straight to more escalation and virtual occupation.

The president has already added 17,000 combat troops and 4,000 trainers to the force of 37,000 that we had in Afghanistan. He is talking about doubling that escalation, says we have to shore up the government, and he is planning to double the size of the Afghan army with U.S. taxpayer funds. What he has not done is explain how or when we will know if any of this ramping up has succeeded.

After nearly eight years of war, Afghanistan has “quagmire” written all over it. The government is corrupt from top to bottom. It barely exists outside Kabul except as an instrument of shakedowns and graft, beginning with the family of President Karzai. The Afghan army is part of the corruption plague and opium production is expanding dramatically. More than two-thirds of the economy is centered on opium traffic.

The United States has a vital interest in preventing Al Qaeda from securing a safe haven in Afghanistan. But escalating to 60,000 troops, and warning that more may be necessary, suggests some larger objective that has not been explained or defended. If the U.S. is going to pour more troops into a country featuring a chronically dysfunctional government, treacherous terrain, a soaring narcotics trade, and a history of repelling foreign armies, it needs to spell out what, exactly, this escalation is supposed to accomplish and how the U.S. will know it has succeeded enough to get out or even to scale down.

I am more hopeful, though equally wary, about the situation in Iran, where the Bush legacy is disastrous. In 2001 Iran had a few dozen centrifuges and the government of President Mohammad Khatami helped the U.S. overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Khatami negotiated with the U.S. in the wake of 9/11, closed Iran’s border with Afghanistan, deported hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban operatives who had sought sanctuary there, and helped establish the new Afghan government. The Bush administration could have spent the succeeding years further negotiating with Iran, limiting Iran’s nuclear program, allowing it to buy a nuclear power reactor from France, and restraining it from flooding Iraq with foreign agents. Instead, Bush arbitrarily ended talks with Iran, famously consigning it to the “axis of evil.” Iran responded by electing an eccentric extremist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to the presidency, developing over 5,000 centrifuges, and threatening Israel. We barely averted a catastrophe in 2006, when Bush and Cheney wanted to bomb Natanz with a nuclear weapon until the Joint Chiefs rebelled against them.

Today there is a serious possibility that the Netanyahu government in Israel will carry out the bombing option. If it does, the entire region could explode into a ball of fire. That’s the apocalyptic scenario. The hopeful one is a game-changer based on two or three years of sustained diplomacy. The U.S. could declare that it recognizes the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It could acknowledge Iran’s right to security within its present borders and its right to be a geo-political player in the region. It could accept Iran’s right to operate a limited enrichment facility with a few hundred centrifuges for peaceful purposes. It could agree to the French nuclear power reactor and support Iran’s entry into the World Trade Organization. And it could return seized Iranian assets. In return Iran could be required to cut off its assistance to Hezbollah and Hamas, help to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, maintain a limited nuclear program for peaceful ends verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, adopt a non-recognition and non-interference approach to Israel, and improve its human rights record.

Any deal of this sort would be a dramatic breakthrough in the Middle East. It would have a positive impact on nearly every major point of conflict in the region. It would be the opposite of the Bush-neocon approach, which demonized Iran and plotted attacks against it. Obama may be the ideal president to pull off a game-changing deal with Iran. The Iranian people are remarkably inclined to pro-Americanism. The clerics that rule Iran might be willing to seize this moment, which would enhance their stature in world politics. If Obama is the president to make it happen, he will have to stand up to a firestorm of opposition in the U.S. and probably overrule his key officials in this area, Hillary Clinton and Dennis Ross. And he will have to risk offending most of Israel’s political establishment, to get something that is actually better for Israel.

Regardless of what Obama does or does not do, we need a defiantly anti-imperial peace movement that rejects the American obsession with supremacy and dominance. Forty years ago, Senator William Fulbright warned that the U.S. was well on its way to becoming an empire that exercised power for its own sake, projected to the limit of its capacity and beyond, filling every vacuum and extending U.S. force to the farthest reaches of the earth. As the power grows, he warned, it becomes an end in itself, separated from its initial motives (all the while denying it), governed by its own mystique, projecting power merely because we have it.

That’s where we are today. Now as much as ever, we need a self-consciously anti-imperial movement that seeks to scale back the military empire and opposes invading any more nations in the Middle East or Latin America or anywhere else.

Dennis Ross’s Iran Plan

April 14, 2009
By Robert Dreyfuss | The Nation, April 14, 2009

When Dennis Ross, a hawkish, pro-Israel adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, was elevated in February to the post of special adviser on “the Gulf and Southwest Asia”–i.e., Iran–Ross’s critics hoped that his influence would be marginal. After all, unlike special envoys George Mitchell (Israel-Palestine) and Richard Holbrooke (Afghanistan-Pakistan), whose appointments were announced with fanfare, Ross’s appointment was long delayed and then announced quietly, at night, in a press release.

But diplomats and Middle East watchers hoping Ross would be sidelined are wrong. He is building an empire at the State Department: hiring staff and, with his legendary flair for bureaucratic wrangling, cementing liaisons with a wide range of US officials. The Iran portfolio is his, says an insider. “Everything we’ve seen indicates that Ross has completely taken over the issue,” says a key Iran specialist. “He’s acting as if he’s the guy. Wherever you go at State, they tell you, ‘You’ve gotta go through Dennis.'” It’s paradoxical that Obama, who made opening a dialogue with Iran into a crucial plank in his campaign, would hand the Iran file to Ross. Since taking office, Obama has taken a number of important steps to open lines to Iran, including a remarkable holiday greeting by video in which the president spoke directly to “the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” adding, “We seek engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.” He invited Iran to attend an international conference on Afghanistan, where a top Iranian diplomat shook hands with Holbrooke; he’s allowing American diplomats to engage their Iranian counterparts; and he’s reportedly planning to dispatch a letter directly to Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Yet Ross, like his neoconservative co-thinkers, is explicitly skeptical about the usefulness of diplomacy with Iran.

Widely viewed as a cog in the machine of Israel’s Washington lobby, Ross was not likely to be welcomed in Tehran–and he wasn’t. Iran’s state radio described his appointment as “an apparent contradiction” with Obama’s “announced policy to bring change in United States foreign policy.” Kazem Jalali, a hardline member of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, joked that it “would have been so much better to pick Ariel Sharon or Ehud Olmert as special envoy to Iran.” More seriously, a former White House official says that Ross has told colleagues that he believes the United States will ultimately have no choice but to attack Iran in response to its nuclear program.

Not quite a neoconservative himself, Ross has palled around with neocons for most of his career. In the 1970s and ’80s he worked alongside Paul Wolfowitz at the Defense and State Departments, and with Andrew Marshall, a neoconservative strategist who leads the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessments. In 1985 Ross helped launch the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Israel lobby’s leading think tank.

From the late 1980s through 2000, Ross served as point man on Arab-Israeli issues for George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, acquiring a reputation as a highly skilled diplomat, albeit one with a pronounced pro-Israel tilt. He led the US side at the July 2000 Camp David summit, but he was deeply mistrusted by Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, and the feeling was mutual. At a crucial moment in the negotiations, Ross threw a tantrum, hurling a briefing book into a table full of juice and fruit. Not surprisingly, when Arafat rejected the Israelis’ less-than-generous offer, Ross heaped blame on the Palestinians for scuttling the talks, the failure of which led directly to Ariel Sharon’s rise to power and the second intifada. Daniel Kurtzer, an Orthodox Jew who served as US ambassador to Israel and Egypt and who was one of Obama’s top Middle East advisers last year, co-wrote a book in which he explained, “The perception always was that Dennis started from the Israeli bottom line, that he listened to what Israel wanted and then tried to sell it to the Arabs.”

From 2001 until his appointment in February, Ross was at WINEP, where he helped to oversee a series of reports designed to ring alarm bells about Iran’s nuclear research and to support closer US-Israeli ties in response. Last summer, while advising Obama, he co-chaired a task force that produced a paper titled “Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.” That report opted for an alarmist view of Iran’s nuclear program and proposed that the next president set up a formal US-Israeli mechanism for coordinating policy toward Iran (including any future need for “preventive military action”). Along with Holbrooke, Ross also helped found United Against Nuclear Iran, a group established to publicize warnings about Iran to the American public and the media. UANI’s advisory board includes former CIA director James Woolsey and Fouad Ajami, perhaps the top Middle East expert for the neoconservative movement.

In September, Ross served as a key member of another task force organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center. The group assembled a flock of hawks under the leadership of Michael Makovsky, brother of WINEP’s David Makovsky, who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the heyday of the Pentagon neocons from 2002 to 2006. Its report, “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development”–written by Michael Rubin, a neoconservative hardliner at the American Enterprise Institute–read like a declaration of war.

The core of the Bipartisan Policy Center report predicted that diplomacy with Iran is likely to fail. Anticipating failure, Ross and his colleagues recommended “prepositioning military assets” by the United States–i.e., a military buildup–coupled with a US “show of force” in the Gulf. This would be followed almost immediately by a blockade of Iranian gasoline imports and oil exports, meant to paralyze Iran’s economy, followed by what they call, not so euphemistically, “kinetic action.”

That “kinetic action”–a US assault on Iran–should, in fact, be massive, suggested the Ross-Rubin task force. It should hit dozens of sites alleged to be part of Iran’s nuclear research program, along with other targets, including Iranian air defense sites, Revolutionary Guard facilities, much of Iran’s military-industrial complex, communications systems, munitions storage facilities, airfields and naval facilities. Eventually, the report concluded, the United States would also have to attack Iran’s ground forces, electric power plants and electrical grids, bridges and “manufacturing plants, including steel, autos, buses, etc.”

Like virtually all of his neoconservative confreres, Ross does not argue that negotiations with Iran should not proceed. Surrendering to the inevitability of a US-Iran dialogue, they insist instead that any such talks proceed according to a strict time limit, measured in weeks or, at most, a few months. In November, Iran specialist Patrick Clawson, Ross’s colleague at WINEP, described any US-Iran dialogue that might emerge as mere theater. “What we’ve got to do is…show the world that we’re doing a heck of a lot to try and engage the Iranians,” he said. “Our principal target with these offers [to Iran] is not Iran. Our principal target with these offers is, in fact, American public opinion [and] world public opinion.” Once that’s done, he implied, the United States would have to take out its big stick.

The reality, however, is that negotiations between Iran and the United States might take many, many months, perhaps years. Putting US-Iran diplomacy on a short fuse, as Ross and his colleagues want to do, guarantees its failure, setting the stage for harsher sanctions, embargoes and the “kinetic action” that Ross has suggested might follow.

Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones. more…

If Dennis Ross is Appointed as a US Envoy to Iran, He Will Work for Israel, Not the US, Will Work for War, Not Peace

March 10, 2009

DAILY.PK, March 1, 2009

Dennis Ross was the main figure behind dragging the US to war against Iraq in 1991, instead of allowing Iraqis to withdraw from Kuwait without a war. He did that to guarantee the destruction of Iraq, as a strong Arab state, in order to safeguard the hegemonic Israeli position in the oil-rich Middle East region (See The Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness).

Thus doing, he paved the way for the Zionist Israel-firsters Wolfowitz, Pearle, and Feith to plan and execute the disastrous 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, for Israel, which resulted in the destruction of the Iraqi state and the collapse of the US financial system. More than $ 5 trillion have been added to the US national debt, as military spending, in order to achieve the Israeli paramount goal of controlling the Middle East, using the US money and blood. For these Zionist Israel-firsters, it does not matter if the US collapses as a result, and retreats from the world stage defeated and poor.

Today, there’s a lot of talk about an imminent announcement by President Barack Obama appointing the Zionist Israel-firster, AIPAC operative, and agent of Israeli interests, as his envoy to Iran.

If this happens, God forbid, it means that Obama is no different from the two Bushes and Clinton, a figure head. The show is still run completely by the Zionist Israel-firsters, who work only for the Israeli occupation government, in its bid to be the coming world super power, after subjugating the Middle East with US resources and blood.

Zionists want Iran to dismantle its nuclear program, in order to guarantee that only Israeli aggressors have nuclear weapons, which are used as a threat to all nations of the Middle East. Zionists, including Dennis Ross, want to make sure that no Arab or Muslim state in the Middle East attempts to have any deterrence to the Israeli nuclear threat. If they truly want a peaceful solution, then they should put the Israeli nuclear weapons on the table for negotiations.

If the Israeli racist-Zionist state is disarmed of its nuclear weapons, then there is no reason for Iran or any other Middle Eastern state to seek for a deterrent.

Make no mistake about it, Dennis Ross will represent Israel, not the United States, when he goes to Tehran. Ultimately, he will make sure that the United States is going to attack Iran, or at least allows the Israeli occupation government air forces to attack the Iranian nuclear sites and military installations with protection from the US forces stationed in the Middle East. This is a recipe for killing millions of Iranians and other Muslims in the Middle East.

The appointment of Dennis Ross means that there’s no change in the US policy towards the Arab and Muslim worlds, as President Obama wanted to assures Muslims in his interview with Al-Arabiya TV. It will confirm to Arabs and Muslims worldwide that the US is following a policy of systematic invasions and wars against them, on behalf of Israel.

This is not in the national interest of the United States. Period.

Neither Dennis Ross nor any Zionist Israel-firster should be allowed to make decisions on behalf of the United States.

It’s time for American patriots in the US Department of Justice to make their move and stop the systematic destruction of the United States by these Zionist  Israel-firsters.

Dennis Ross should not be allowed to occupy any position in the US government. He is an agent of a foreign government.

Appointment of Dennis Ross as Presidential Envoy to Iran

President Obama told Al-Arabiya that the US would in the next few months lay out a general framework of policy towards Tehran. “It is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of US power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran…. As I said in my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.  ”

Obama had been expected to appoint former ambassador Dennis Ross, president Bill Clinton’s special Middle East envoy, to a third post that would handle US relations with Iran. But Ross’s aggressive campaign for the post, as well as his close association with key groups that make up the Israel Lobby, appears to have incited a backlash among key Obama advisers, reportedly including Clinton herself, that may have delayed his appointment, according to Jim Lob.

Dennis Ross, an Iran baiter, has supported the war on Iraq which Obama has opposed. Ross has also served with the pro-Israel think tank, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) as well as with the Jerusalem-based “Jewish People Policy Planning Institute” (JPPPI).

Dennis Ross has co-authored the report “Meeting the Challenge: US Policy towards Iranian Nuclear Development”. This report alludes to an Iranian nuclear program that has been debunked by the CIA National Intelligence Report (Nov 2007) that said that the Iran nuclear program was on hold. The report calls for the military encirclement of Iran, pressure on Iran to abrogate its nuclear programme and thus leading to its logical extension where “war becomes inevitable”.

To borrow Prof. Gary Leupp, “by appointing Dennis Ross, Obama is sending the Iranian leaders a clear message. He is associating himself with the most extreme alarmist positions currently articulated, including those of Norman Podhoretz.”

Ross co-authored an op-ed with Richard Holbrooke, R. James Woolsey, and Mark D. Wallace entitled, “Everybody Needs to Worry About Iran.”  The op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal Sept. 22, 2008, stated: “Iran is now edging closer to being armed with nuclear weapons, and it continues to develop a ballistic-missile capability.” As Prof Gary Leupp stated:

“This contradicts the conclusion of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies (Central Intelligence Agency, Army Military Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, etc.) as of November 2007. Those authors reported: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” In other words, in the world of empirical methods, critical thinking and analysis–the world of hundreds of trained professionals who’ve actually researched Iran’s nuclear program, with access to spy satellite data, reports from agents in the field, electronic surveillance–Iran has no nuclear program. Mohamed El-Barade’i and IAEA staffers on the ground have consistently said that Iran has been thoroughly cooperative and that there are no signs of any diversion for a military program But in the world of this Chicken Little group Iran is edging ever nearer to nukes.”

The editorial describes the nuclear program as “destabilizing” (while noting that Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel all have nuclear weapons) and repeats the old Cheneyism that since Iran has so much oil it can’t have any possible real need for a civilian program. (The Iranian nuclear program was encouraged by the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations when the Shah was in power and supported by General Electric and other U.S. firms.) It repeats the old charge that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel off the map (adding that he’s said it could be done with one nuke) and generally assembles all the Bush-era anti-Iran talking-points: Iran sponsors Hizbollah and Hama terrorism, the regime’s repressive towards women and homosexuals, Iran could shut off the Strait of Hormuz, etc.

In conclusion the authors announce their establishment “along with other policy advocates from across the political spectrum” of the nonpartisan group United Against Nuclear Iran.

Prof. Gary Leupp says Ross is known to favor the recommendations of a September 2008 report by something called the Bipartisan Policy Center. These include forcing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and meet other demands by imposing blockades on Iranian gas imports and oil exports (acts of war) as well as striking “not only Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also its conventional military infrastructure in order to suppress an Iranian response.” So it looks like the official Obama line towards Iran, at least for the beginning, will be the Cheney-neocon line. And that is worrisome.

Hassan El-Najjar


See  also Veteran Mideast Envoy Ross Named as Clinton’s Adviser on Iran

Here We Go Again With the Iranian Nuclear Scare

March 10, 2009

Eric Margolis | Khaleej Times, March 9, 2009

While the United States was fighting for its economic life, Obama administration officials and the media issued a blizzard of contradictory claims over Iran’s alleged nuclear threat, leaving one wondering who is really charge of US foreign policy?

Much of the uproar over Iran’s so-far non-existent nuclear weapons must be seen as part of efforts by the Israeli lobby to block President Barack Obama’s proposed opening to Teheran, and to keep pressing the US to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

Israel’s supporters and most Israeli military experts insist Iran has secret weapons programmes. Israel knows about covert nuclear programs, having run one of the world’s largest and most productive.

The hawkish Hillary Clinton’s naming of veteran Israel supporter Dennis Ross as her special adviser on Iran and the Gulf suggest she is more interested in building future domestic political support than securing balanced advice.

Meanwhile, confusion over Iran grew sharply.  New CIA director, Leon Panetta, said ‘there is no question, they (Iran) are seeking that (nuclear weapons) capability.’

Pentagon chief Adm. Mike Mullen claimed Iran had ‘enough fissile material to build a bomb.’ Fox News claimed Iran already had 50 nuclear weapons.  While the American Rome burns, here we go again with renewed hysteria over MWMD’s –  Muslim Weapons of Mass Destruction. Wars drums are again beating over Iran.

The czar of all 16 US intelligence agencies, Adm. Dennis Blair, stated Iran could have enough enriched uranium for one atomic weapon by 2010-2015. But he reaffirmed the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate that Iran does not have nuclear weapons and is not pursuing them.  Defence Secretary William Gates backed up Blair. So does the UN nuclear agency.  Some of the confusion over Iran comes from misunderstanding nuclear enrichment, and lurid scare stories.

Iran is producing low-grade uranium-235 (LEU), enriched to only 2.5 per cent, to generate electricity. Teheran has this absolute right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its centrifuge enrichment process at Natanz is under 24-hour international inspection.  Iran’s soon to open nuclear plant at Bushehr cannot produce nuclear weapons fuel.  Its spent fuel will be returned to Russia.

Today, some 15 nations produce LEU U-235, including Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, and Japan.  Israel, India and Pakistan, all covert nuclear weapons powers, refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty.  North Korea abrogated it. UN inspectors report Iran has produced 1,010 kg of 2-3 per cent enriched uranium for energy generation, insists Iran. Theoretically that is enough for one atomic bomb.

But to make a nuclear weapon, U-235 must be enriched to over 90 per cent in an elaborate, costly process. Iran is not doing so, say UN inspectors.

Highly enriched U-235 or plutonium must then be milled and shaped into a perfect ball or cylinder. Any surface imperfections will prevent achieving critical mass.  Next, high explosive lenses must surround the core, and detonate at precisely the same millisecond. In the gun system, two cores must collide at very high speed.  In some cases, a stream of neutrons are pumped into the device as it explodes.

This process is highly complex.  Nuclear weapons cannot be deemed reliable unless they are tested. North Korea recently detonated a device that fizzled.  Iran has never built or tested a nuclear weapon.  Israel and South Africa jointly tested a nuclear weapon in 1979.

Even if Iran had the capability to fashion a complex nuclear weapon, it would be useless without delivery. Iran’s sole medium-range delivery system is its unreliable, inaccurate 1,500 km ranged Shahab-3. Miniaturizing and hardening nuclear warheads capable of flying atop a Shahab missile is another complex technological challenge.

It is inconceivable that Iran or anyone else would launch a single nuclear weapon.  What if it didn’t go off? Imagine the embarrassment and the retaliation.  Iran would need at least ten warheads and a reliable delivery system to be a credible nuclear power.

Israel, the primary target for any Iranian nuclear strike, has an indestructible triad of air, missile and sea-launched nuclear weapons pointed at Iran.  An Israeli submarine with nuclear cruise missiles is on station off Iran’s coast. Iran would be wiped off the map by even a few of Israel’s 200 nuclear weapons.  Iran is no likelier to use a nuke against its Gulf neighbours. The explosion would blanket Iran with radioactive dust and sand.

Washington would do better to stop worrying about Iran and focus on its economic meltdown.

Eric S Margolis is a veteran US journalist who has reported from the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan for several years

Obama, Mitchell and the Palestinians

February 7, 2009

By James Abourezk | Counterpunch, Feb 6 – 8, 2009

Abe Foxman, head of the “Anti-Defamation League”, claims that George Mitchell is too fair to be a broker between Israel and the Palestinians.  I guess that Foxman, in denouncing the choice of Mitchell for Middle East negotiator, shows that he is accustomed to such impartial mediators as Dennis Ross, who, when he left the Clinton Administration returned to the Israeli Lobby, whence he came.  Or he possibly could be making a comparison between George Mitchell and Alan Dershowitz, the notorious Israeli propagandist.  (I once called Dershowitz a “snake” on Al Manar TV, which prompted him to write a column in the Jerusalem Post calling me an anti-Semite.  My mistake was to forget to apologize to the snakes.)

I’m sorry to say that, as much as I admire George Mitchell for the public service he has provided over the years, being fair will not be enough to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the brutality that accompanies it.

The gyrations of various administrations over the years, all of whom have put on great shows of “settling” the conflict, has done nothing but waste a great deal of newspaper ink and television time reporting peace efforts, as though the media believed what snake oil salespeople, such as Condi Rice, were selling to the public.  What someone in our government should have realized by now is that Israel absolutely does not want to give up the West Bank for a Palestinian state, even though there are warnings that if a “two state solution” is not reached, the Palestinians will be forced into a state of apartheid for the rest of the century.  Certainly, the Israelis have no intention of allowing the Palestinians to outvote them in Israel, which leaves South African style apartheid as the only solution.

One can count all the reasons given by the Israelis for not achieving the “peace” that Israel claims it wants, reasons such as:

    1. We have no negotiating partner.
    2. The Palestinians have to recognize Israel’s right to exist first before we talk to them.
    3. They have to end terrorism first.
    4. We made the Palestinians the best offer they could ever have gotten, but they turned it down.

These are just some of the shopworn excuses trotted out to avoid cutting a deal.

It seems that very few people have caught on to this scam, even though it has been exposed for many years.  So, as the establishment continues to blather about achieving “peace,” Israel continues to swallow up Palestinian lands, beating up, imprisoning and massacring Palestinians on a daily basis.

It is very clear to me, as well as to anyone else who declines to see the conflict through an Israeli prism, that only when an American President flatly tells the Israelis that they must move the settlers out of the West Bank, there will be no peace, only more occupation, more brutality, more violations of international law, and more bloody slaughters of civilians such as the one we only recently witnessed in Gaza.  Anything short of that leaves the Israelis in complete control, and it will leave America with more and more enemies not only in the Middle East, but around the world.

President Obama mentioned recently that if he doesn’t get the economy turned around in his first term, he will most likely not have a second term. What he has not yet calculated is that the Israeli occupation results in angry terrorism against American interests all over the world.  He is faced with the choice of either angering the Likud Lobby by demanding that the Israeli settlers be kicked out of the West Bank, or of continuing the heavy spending required to maintain Israel’s occupation against the wishes of the people they are occupying.  What is your guess as to what he will do?

Surely we should have learned by now that America can no longer afford to listen to the Abe Foxmans and the Alan Dershowitzes of the world.  As a nation, we are out of money, bereft of ideas, and incapable of curbing the moral and financial corruption in Washington, D.C., which includes the corruption brought about by the Likud Lobby.

The result is that the rich get richer, the poor and the middle class become more and more desperate, searching for jobs that no longer exist, and for homes they can no longer afford.

The likes of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have brought the world down around our collective ears, and after having done so, they have ridden off into the sunset, happy in the knowledge that they’ve taken care of their rich friends, who have profited from the wars they have started.  The oil price surge, the conflicts in the Middle East, which have brought about the surge in military spending has created fortunes for their cronies, all paid for by the people of this country.  We are, unfortunately, not finished paying the price for Mr. Bush’s costly — in terms of human lives and of money — puerile adventures for the past eight years.  We will be reaping the hatred and the violence caused by their wars, in addition to suffering  the economic fallout resulting from their policies of greed and corruption.  And we have not yet counted the kinds of misery and poverty and corruption these two heroes have spawned as a result of the Iraq War.

The cowardice of our presidents and of our Congress keeps Israel in the driver’s seat so far as continuing the occupation.  Brutality is the natural product of an occupation that is necessary to keep the land they’ve stolen from the Palestinians.  We are in desperate need of “change,” and we hope and we pray that Mr. Obama will have the courage to put it in motion.

James G. Abourezk is a lawyer practicing in South Dakota. He is a former United States senator and the author of two books, Advise and Dissent, and a co-author of Through Different Eyes. This article also  runs in the current issue of Washington Report For Middle East Affairs.  Abourezk  can be reached at

Israel Asserting Middle East Supremacy: From Gaza to Tehran

February 2, 2009

“The Israeli Defense Force is the most moral army in the World!”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

By James Petras | Information Clearing House, February 2, 2009

Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany bombed, invaded and annexed countries and territories as a prelude to their quest for World Empire.  Israel’s drive for regional dominance has followed in their footsteps, imitating their style: Indiscriminate aerial bombings of civilian and military facilities, a savage blitzkrieg led by armored vehicles, disdain and repudiation of all criticism from international agencies was accompanied by an open, military buildup for a new and bigger war against Iran.  Like the Nazi leadership, who played on the ‘Bolshevik threat’, the Israeli high command has set in motion a vast world-wide propaganda campaign led by its world Zionist network, raising the specter of ‘Islamic terror’ to justify its preparations for a military assault on seventy-four million Iranians.  Just as Nazi Germany interpreted the passivity, sympathy and impotence of the West when confronted by ‘facts on the ground’ as license for aggression, the Israeli military machine receives a powerful impetus for new wars by the Western governments’ inaction and flaccid response to its invasion of Lebanon, the bombing of Syria and now its Nazi style blitz and conquest of Gaza.  For the Israeli high command, the impotence and complicity of the Western states, marks the way to bigger and bloodier wars to establish Israel’s supremacy and dominance of the Middle East, from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.

Gaza Blitz:  Dress Rehearsal for an Assault on Iran

Israel’s military victory in Gaza is a dress rehearsal for a full-scale military assault on Iran.  In the course of their Gaza extermination campaign, Israeli political and military strategists gained a great deal of vital information about: (1) the levels of complicity and impotence of European, North American and Arab states;  (2) the high degree and depth of material and political support obtainable from the United States government in pulverizing adversaries; (3) the high degree of internal support among the Jewish electorate for even the most brutal killing fields; (4) the massive unquestioning backing of an offensive war from all the biggest and most politically influential and wealthiest Jewish-Zionist organizations in the US and Western Europe; (5) the weakness and ineffectiveness of the United Nations and the incapacity of the entire range of humanitarian organizations to limit Israel’s extermination campaign directed at destroying the very existence of an entire people; (6) the unconditional backing of the entire mass media and news agencies in the US and most of the mass media in Europe and the rest of the world; (7) the willingness of the liberal critics to equally blame the victims of extermination and the exterminators for the ‘violence’, thus neutralizing any effective consequential condemnation of the Israeli state; and (8) the adaptation of practically all the journalists, writers, academics and politicians to the entire euphemistic vocabulary of the Israeli propaganda office.

For example, sustained total war is called an ‘incursion’.  Ten thousand aerial assaults by hundreds of Israeli helicopters and fighter-bombers are equated with sporadic harmless homemade rocket attacks as ‘violence’.  Israeli targeting of thousands of civilian homes, hospitals and basic infrastructure are labeled ‘terrorist’ targets.  Resistance fighters are labeled ‘Hamas terrorists’.  The bombing of the Red Cross, the United Nations relief facilities, hospitals, mosques are called ‘mistakes’ or justified as ‘launching sites for Hamas terrorists.

Israeli political leaders have drawn the lesson from their dirty little ‘war’ that they can totally destroy a nation, decimate a society and murder and maim 7000 civilians with impunity.  Israeli leaders learned they can carry out an offensive genocidal war without suffering breaks in diplomatic relations (except Mauritania, Qatar, Bolivia and Venezuela).  The Israelis have successfully tested the loyalty and submissiveness of the major Arab regimes in the region and secured cooperation and acquiescence from Egypt, the ‘Palestinian Authority’, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Israeli civilian-military leaders calculate that with this high degree of governmental complicity, combined with support from all the major Zionist leaders and mass media moguls, they can dismiss even large-scale street protests, repeated calls for boycotts and United Nations denunciations.  Israeli leaders know that the criticism of major religious leaders and the growing number of Jewish dissidents, critical intellectuals and activists will have no consequential impact on Western governments nor lessen the fervor and loyalty of the major Jewish organizations.

Continued >>

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