Posts Tagged ‘Robert Parry’

Obama Goes with Neocon Flow on Iran

June 11, 2010

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, June 10, 2010

Whether wittingly or witlessly, President Barack Obama is pursuing a neocon-charted path on Iran that parallels the one that George W. Bush took to war with Iraq – ratcheting up sanctions against the “enemy,” refusing to tolerate more peaceful options, and swaggering along with the propagandistic tough-guy-ism of the major U.S. news media.

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The Obama administration is celebrating its victory in getting the UN Security Council on Wednesday to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran. Obama also is expected to sign on to even more draconian penalties that should soon sail through Congress.

Obama may be thinking that his UN diplomatic achievement will buy him some credibility – and some time – with American neocons and Israel’s Likud government, which favor a showdown with Iran over its nuclear program.

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Covert US Military Strategy on Iran

May 28, 2010

By Robert Parry, consortimnews.com, May 25, 2010

Hawks in the United States and Israel appear set on “regime change” in Iran, pursuing a game plan similar to the run-up to war in Iraq, ratcheting up tensions while frustrating opportunities for a peaceful settlement.

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In the latest example, the New York Times on Tuesday published a leaked account of an order signed by U.S. Central Command chief, Gen. David Petraeus, expanding “clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups to counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region.”

In most of those countries, the secret U.S. military operations would be intended to help U.S. allies combat anti-government militants. However, in Iran, the goal would be to make contact with opposition forces, according to the Times article by Mark Mazzetti.

“Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate,” the article said.

The leaking of Petraeus’s order — which was signed almost eight months ago on Sept. 30, 2009 — follows a May 17 tripartite agreement among Iran, Brazil and Turkey that called for Iran exporting 2,640 pounds of low-enriched uranium (LEU) – about half its supply – to Turkey in exchange for higher-enriched uranium that could only be used for peaceful purposes.

Though the new accord paralleled a tentative agreement that the Obama administration brokered last fall with Iran, hawks inside the U.S. government and the American news media quickly went to work ripping the deal apart.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva were portrayed as ambitious neophytes striving for a spot in the international limelight, with their oversized egos making them easy marks for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Even before the agreement was announced, the Washington Post’s neoconservative editors had framed the story as a case of two out-of-their-league regional leaders getting sucked into “yet another effort to ‘engage’ the extremist clique of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

After the deal’s announcement, the Post rushed out an analysis with the headline, “Iran creates illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations.” Its main points were that the 2,640 pounds now accounted for a smaller percentage of Iran’s low-enriched uranium than last fall; that Iran would retain enough LEU so it could theoretically be refined to a purity needed to build one bomb; and that Iran was not abandoning its proclaimed right to enrich uranium for what it says are peaceful purposes.

Quickly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other administration hawks began belittling and undermining the accord, too.

The following day, Clinton claimed that Russia and China had signed onto “a strong draft” for new sanctions against Iran. “This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” she declared.

Even a week later, the mockery of the two Brazilian and Turkish leaders continued. On Tuesday, the New York Times ran a headline, “Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy,” giving Lula da Silva’s critics pretty much a free shot to hit him over his supposed stumble.

“The most charitable interpretation is that we were naïve,” said Amaury de Souza, a political analyst in Rio de Janeiro. But “in a game like this, being labeled naïve just shows you have a third-rate diplomacy.”

An Obama Letter?

Yet, while the U.S. news media engaged in Brazil-Turkey bashing, little or no attention was paid to a Reuters report from Brasilia that said President Barack Obama had sent a letter to President da Silva encouraging Brazil to move forward on the uranium swap.

“From our point of view, a decision by Iran to send 1,200 kilograms [2,640 pounds] of low-enriched uranium abroad, would generate confidence and reduce regional tensions by cutting Iran’s stockpile,” Obama said, according to excerpts from the letter translated into Portuguese and seen by Reuters.

Brazilian officials claimed that Obama’s letter was just of one of the signs that dovish officials in Washington and other Western countries had quietly encouraged Brazil to help revive last October’s fuel swap deal.

“We were encouraged directly or indirectly … to implement the October proposal without any leeway and that’s what we did,” said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

In other words, Obama may not be enthusiastic about forcing a showdown with Iran, but the policy now appears to be driven by the American hawks and the Israeli government. They behave as if they’re spoiling for a fight with another Muslim country that is considered a threat to Israel, despite the fact that Israel has a huge nuclear arsenal of its own, with some 200 to 400 warheads and posssessing missiles and planes to deliver them.

Iran also has been the object of open discussions inside Israel and within neoconservative circles in the United States about the desirability of a preemptive military strike aimed at destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and encouraging an uprising that would oust the current government.

Fueling Fears

The leaking of Petraeus’s order for special operations within Iran will surely fuel the fears of the Iranian Islamic government, which took power in 1979 after ousting the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, who had been installed by a CIA-organized coup in 1953. Even earlier, Great Britain, Russia and other world powers had intervened in Iranian affairs.

So, one casualty from the Petraeus-order leak could be the Iran-Brazil-Turkey accord. However, Iran still pressed forward with the agreement on Monday, formally notifying the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Still, the New York Times ’ account on Tuesday could convince Iran that its only protection is the construction of an atomic bomb, which in turn could exacerbate tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Regarding the secret U.S. military actions, the Times reported that Petraeus’s seven-page order “appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the country’s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive.

“The Obama administration insists that for the moment, it is committed to penalizing Iran for its nuclear activities only with diplomatic and economic sanctions. Nevertheless, the Pentagon has to draw up detailed war plans to be prepared in advance, in the event that President Obama ever authorizes a strike.”

The Times quoted one Pentagon official with knowledge of Petraeus’s directive as saying: “The Defense Department can’t be caught flat-footed.”

Petraeus’s just-disclosed directive was issued on Sept. 30, 2009, a date that closely coincides with Iran’s original uranium-swap agreement, which had been under negotiation for weeks but was announced on Oct. 1.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad initially supported the swap accord and agreed to a follow-up meeting on Oct. 19 in Vienna.

However, the deal came under criticism from Iran’s opposition groups, including the “Green Movement” led by defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has had ties to the American neocons and to Israel since the Iran-Contra days of the 1980s when he was the prime minister who collaborated on those secret arms deals.

Last October, Mousavi’s U.S.-favored political opposition deemed the swap agreement an affront to Iran’s sovereignty. But Ahmadinejad’s opponents also stood to lose politically if tensions between Iran and other nations declined.

Also, as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has noted, the prospects of the follow-up session were damaged on Oct. 18 when a car bombing and an ambush in Iran left several Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders dead along with other officers and civilians.

A terrorist group called Jundullah took credit for the attacks, which followed years of killing Revolutionary Guards and Iranian policemen and an attempted ambush of President Ahmadinejad’s motorcade in 2005.

Tehran has long maintained that Jundullah is supported by the United States, Great Britain and Israel. Now, the newly disclosed fact that this bloody attack followed Petraeus’s secret order by only 18 days is likely to heighten Iranian suspicions even more.

A Captured Leader

Iranian authorities captured Jundallah leader Abdolmalek Rigi in February and publicized his claims that the United States had promised his group military help in its insurgency against Iran’s Islamic Republic.

Rigi described contacts in March 2009, claiming that U.S. representatives “said they would cooperate with us and will give me military equipment, arms and machine guns. They also promised to give us a base along the border with Afghanistan next to Iran.”

Rigi asserted that the U.S. representatives said a direct U.S. attack on Iran would be too costly and that the CIA instead favored supporting militant groups that could destabilize Iran.

“The Americans said Iran was going its own way and they said our problem at the present is Iran… not al-Qaeda and not the Taliban, but the main problem is Iran,” Rigi said, according to Iran’s Press TV.

“One of the CIA officers said that it was too difficult for us [the United States] to attack Iran militarily, but we plan to give aid and support to all anti-Iran groups that have the capability to wage war and create difficulty for the Iranian (Islamic) system,” Rigi said.

Rigi added that the Americans said they were willing to provide support “at an extensive level.” However, in the Press TV’s account, Rigi did not describe any specific past U.S. support for his organization.

In a July 7, 2008, article for The New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh quoted Robert Baer, a former CIA clandestine officer who worked in South Asia and the Middle East for nearly two decades, as saying that Jundallah was one of the militant groups in Iran benefiting from U.S. support.

Hersh also reported that President George W. Bush signed an intelligence finding in late 2007 that allocated up to $400 million for covert operations intended to destabilize Iran’s government, in part, by supporting militant organizations.

Hersh identified another militant group with “long-standing ties” to the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations communities as the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, or MEK, which has been put on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups.

But Jundallah has been spared that designation, a possible indication that the U.S. government views it as a valuable asset in the face-off against Iran, or in the parlance of the “war on terror,” as one of the “good guys.”

Gen. Mizra Aslam, Pakistan’s former Army chief, also has charged that the U.S. has been supporting Jundallah with training and other assistance. But the U.S. government denies that it has aided Rigi or his group.

Whatever the truth about the alleged U.S. backing for Jundallah, its Oct. 18, 2009, attack on the Revolutionary Guards does appear to have disrupted Iran’s readiness to move forward on the uranium swap deal. Iran sent a lower-level Iranian technical delegation to Vienna for the Oct. 19 meeting while Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili stayed away.

Ahmadinejad’s government also began expressing doubts about American and Western trustworthiness. The Iranians proposed some alternative ideas regarding where the uranium might be swapped, but Obama – stung by harsh criticism over his diplomatic outreach to Iran – began retreating from his peace plans, talking tougher against Iran and suggesting no further concessions.

Yet, according to the letter released in Brazil, it appears Obama continued to harbor hopes that the swap could be salvaged.

Despite that, the hawks have been insistent on the need to escalate the confrontation with Iran by imposing ever harsher sanctions and closing off options for peace talks. The neocons are raising their decibel level for “regime change,” much as they did before the invasion of Iraq.

The new leak regarding covert U.S. military operations inside Iran has sprayed even more cold water on hopes for a diplomatic solution.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

Itching to Fight Another Muslim Enemy

May 19, 2010

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, May 18, 2010

If you read the major American newspapers or watch the propaganda on cable TV, it’s pretty clear that the U.S. foreign policy Establishment is again spoiling for a fight, this time in Iran.

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Just as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was the designated target of American hate in 2002 and 2003, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is playing that role now. Back then, any event in Iraq was cast in the harshest possible light; today, the same is done with Iran.

Anyone who dares suggest that the situation on the ground might not be as black and white as the Washington Post’s editors claim it is must be an “apologist” for the enemy regime. It’s also not very smart for one’s reputation to question the certainty of the reporting in the New York Times, whether about Iraq’s “aluminum tubes” for nuclear centrifuges in 2002 or regarding Iran’s “rigged” election in 2009.

It’s much better for one’s career to clamber onto the confrontation bandwagon. Nobody in the major U.S. media or in politics will ever be hurt by talking tough and flexing muscles regarding some Muslim “enemy.” And, if the posturing leads to war, it will fall mostly to working-class kids to do the fighting and dying while the bills can be passed along to future generations.

Even groups that should know better – like Votevets.org representing veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars – have been piggybacking on the organized hate campaign against Ahmadinejad and Iran to advance other political agendas. In cable TV ads, Votevets.org uses Ahmadinejad’s face and Iran’s alleged manufacture of some IEDs to press the case for alternative energy.

Indeed, looking at this American propaganda campaign objectively, you would assume that the only acceptable outcome of U.S. differences with Iran is another Iraq-like ratcheting up of tensions, using Washington’s influence within the UN Security Council to impose escalating sanctions, leading ultimately to another war, as if the lessons of Iraq have already been forgotten.

Fearing Negotiations

This warmongering attitude was on display again Monday, when a possible breakthrough regarding Iran’s refining of nuclear material – its agreement to ship a substantial amount to Turkey in exchange for nuclear rods for medical research – was treated more as a negative than a positive.

The New York Times promptly framed the agreement reached by Iran, Turkey and Brazil as “complicating sanctions talk,” while the Washington Post rushed out an analysis with the headline, “Iran creates illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations.

The Post’s analysis followed a Saturday editorial denouncing Brazil’s President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva for even trying “yet another effort to ‘engage’ the extremist clique of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “

The Post’s neocon editorial writers reprised the usual anti-Iran propaganda themes with all the arrogance that they once showed in declaring as flat fact that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of WMD. After the U.S. invaded Iraq and found no WMD caches, the Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt acknowledged to CJR that if there indeed were no WMD, “it would have been better not to say it.”

(To date, 4,401 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, in part, because of Hiatt’s mistake.)

On Saturday, an unchastened Hiatt and his crew were back again spouting more fictions, this time about Iran, like the oft-repeated claim that the Iranian election last June was “fraudulent,” apparently because the Post’s preferred candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, lost.

An analysis by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes earlier this year found that there was little evidence to support allegations of fraud or to conclude that most Iranians viewed Ahmadinejad’s reelection as illegitimate.

Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA – whether before or after the June 12 election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran – showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed the much-touted Green Movement’s candidate Mousavi ahead or even close.

“These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. “But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over It!”]

So, while many in the West may agree that Ahmadinejad is an unpleasant politician who foolishly questions the historical accuracy of the Holocaust and makes other bombastic statements, it is nevertheless a propaganda fiction to continue asserting that he was not the choice of most Iranian voters.

The point is not insignificant, because the claim about Iran’s “fraudulent” election has been cited repeatedly as fact by the Post, the Times and other major U.S. news outlets, feeding the rationale of Israel and U.S. neocons in demanding “regime change.”

If Ahmadinejad was actually elected – even if the process had flaws – then the goal of “regime change” would involve ousting a popularly chosen leader, much like the CIA helped do in 1953 when another anti-Western Iranian leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, was removed from office and replaced by Washington’s preferred choice, the Shah of Iran.

But the American hostility toward Ahmadinejad – and the U.S. media’s annoyance at any rapprochement between Washington and Tehran – present other dangers, particularly now that Iran has agreed to a previous Western demand that it transfer 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of low-enriched uranium out of the country, in this case to Turkey, where it would be stored.

The Iran-Turkey-Brazil agreement would then give Iran the right to receive about 265 pounds of more highly enriched uranium from Russia and France in a form that could not be used for a nuclear weapon, but could be put to use for peaceful purposes, such as medical research.

Even though this new deal parallels a plan that the Obama administration favored last October, U.S. officials have indicated that they might balk at the agreement now because the 2,640 pounds of low-enriched uranium represents a lower percentage of Iran’s total supply than it did last fall, possibly more like half than two-thirds.

“The situation has changed,” one diplomat told the New York Times.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also indicated that the new agreement would not stop the United States from seeking harsher sanctions against Iran.

“The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds — and not simply words — its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions,” Gibbs said.

Victory/Defeat

The Washington Post’s analysis by Glenn Kessler portrayed the new agreement as “a victory” for Iran that has allowed it to create “the illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations with the West, without offering any real compromise to the United States and its allies.”

However, perhaps the bigger concern among American neocons is that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil accord might weaken the rationale for pressing ahead either with a military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities or with a “regime change” strategy that would use sanctions and covert political operations to turn the Iranian people against their government.

By reducing the prospects of Iran building a nuclear weapon – something that Iran has vowed that it has no intention of doing and that U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in 2007 that it wasn’t doing – the new agreement could remove the scariest claim that Israel and its supporters have used in justifying a confrontation with Iran.

So, what might otherwise appear as good news – i.e. an agreement that at minimum delays the possibility of an Iranian bomb and could be a first step toward a fuller agreement – is presented as bad news.

“The Obama administration now faces the uncomfortable prospect of rejecting a proposal it offered in the first place — or seeing months of effort to enact new sanctions derailed,” Kessler explained.

As usual, too, the articles by the Washington Post and the New York Times left out the relevant fact that Israel, which has been aggressively pushing for greater transparency from Iran over its suspected interest in nukes, itself has one of the world’s most sophisticated – and undeclared – nuclear arsenals.

Even as President Barack Obama has demanded more nuclear transparency from all countries, he himself continues the longstanding charade of U.S. presidents, dating back to Richard Nixon, pretending that they don’t know that Israel has nuclear weapons.

In line with that history of double standards, Washington’s neocon opinion leaders now are framing what could be a positive step toward peace – the Iran-Turkey-Brazil accord – as another failure.

But the larger truth may be that the neocons are simply chafing under the possibility that their hunger for a new conflict in the Middle East might be delayed indefinitely and that – heaven forbid – cooler heads might prevail.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

Israel, the US and Propaganda’s Power

April 16, 2010

Consortiumnews.org, April 14, 2010

By Robert Parry

Sometimes, it seems like there are only two groups on earth that don’t grasp the importance of media – the American Left and some tribe in Borneo, though the word is that the tribe may have just bought a radio transmitter, leaving only one group that doesn’t get it.

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Indeed, part of the reason for the dangerous media imbalance in the United States – tilted heavily to the Right, especially in cable TV and talk radio – is that the American Left has made media a very low priority, underfunding or closing down its own outlets even as the Right poured billions and billions of dollars into a vast media infrastructure.

Yet, even as the Left has undervalued media, two other groups may be overestimating its power to control public perceptions and thus may be failing to adjust to new realities. Those two groups are the U.S. Republican Party and Israel’s Likud government.

Both appear to be holding onto past recipes for success, relying on the ability of friendly media to manipulate public opinion even as the ground shifts under them. But perhaps no one should blame them, since it makes sense to keep doing what works at least until it doesn’t work anymore.

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Bush/Cheney Pulled Torture Strings

March 6, 2010

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, March 4, 2010

George W. Bush’s White House stage-managed the Justice Department’s approval of torture techniques by putting pliable lawyers in key jobs, guiding their opinions and punishing officials who wouldn’t go along, according to details contained in an internal report that recommended disciplinary action against two lawyers.

Though the recently released report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility concentrated on whether lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee deserved punishment for drafting and signing 2002 memos that permitted brutal interrogations of suspected terrorists, the report also revealed how the White House pulled the strings of Yoo, Bybee and others.

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Cheney Exposes Torture Conspiracy

February 18, 2010

By Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, February 14, 2010

If the United States had a functioning criminal justice system for the powerful – not just for run-of-the-mill offenders – former Vice President Dick Cheney would have convicted himself and some of his Bush administration colleagues with his comments on ABC’s “This Week.”

On Sunday, Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.

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