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IRAN : Daily news here please.......

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« on: July 27, 2010, 06:36:09 am »

Middle East
Jul 28, 2010 
Europe's Iran sanctions may backfire

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

The European Union (EU) on Monday adopted a new round of sanctions against Iran that, if implemented, will have serious implications not only for the EU as the Islamic Republic's largest trading partner, but also for its energy security.

The new European sanctions target Iranian shipping and air cargo companies, impose visa bans on officials and freeze assets linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and also include trade insurance and financial sanctions. They ban new EU investments in Iran's nuclear and gas sectors as well as any technical energy assistance - this from a continent that receives roughly 29% of Iran's crude oil exports and is increasingly dependent on its gas exports.

The EU sanctions support curbs under the UN Security Council


Resolution 1929 imposed on June 10, which were followed by US sanctions. The resolution paved the way for a fourth round of international sanctions over claims that Iran is building nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the accusations and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

In light of Iran's serious need for foreign capital in its energy sector, the crippling effect of Western sanctions on its oil and gas is bound to have ripple effects in accentuating Europe's current energy insecurity, reflected in the 27-member EU's wariness of undue dependence on Russia and its frantic search to diversify sources of gas imports.

It may well be that the implicit assumption behind the new EU sanctions is the comforting assurance that the energy sanctions will not cripple Iran's ability to export, allowing Europe to continue to benefit. The crux of Europe's dilemma, however, is that sanctions on Iran will inevitably translate into economic, financial and energy losses for the EU.

By imposing sanctions on Iran's energy sector while expecting business as usual in the delivery of oil and gas, European politicians are engaging in the self-deluding notion that somehow they can be at the forefront of the sanctions regime on Iran without incurring substantial costs.

Already, Iran has warned that it may switch its energy transactions from the euro to other currencies, above all the dirham of the United Arab Emirates. The mere threat of such a move simply adds to the euro's weaknesses at a critical time when the eurozone is grappling with multiple difficulties in its currency and financial health.

Not only that, the new EU sanctions, in addition to switching the EU's so-called two-track diplomacy with Iran almost entirely to one-track coercive diplomacy, target Europe's own hitherto reliable source of energy, unlike sanctions from the US, which does not directly import oil or gas from Iran. A case in point is the Swiss energy giant EGL, which has signed a US$13 billion 25-year contract with Iran that almost certainly will be hurt by the new Western sanctions on Iran's energy sector.

Ironically, the EU's decision comes only a few days after Turkey signed a US$1.3 billion pipeline agreement with Iran that calls for gas exports of 2.1 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) in three years. No surprise then that Ankara was quick in denouncing the EU's sanctions and openly stated it would not honor them.

In addition to the proposed 410 mile (660 kilometer) pipeline, the existing 745 mile Iran-Turkey pipeline, completed in 2001, can transport up to 1.4 billion cf/d of natural gas, although due to technical and other difficulties it has never operated at optimal levels and there have been periodic interruptions.

"The EU has foolishly and blindly followed the footsteps of the United States, which has no vested economic interests with Iran,'' a Tehran University political science professor told the author. ''This is going to have negative geo-economic implications for the European Union, that is, telling Iran that now we would love to have your oil and gas, but we will do everything possible to make sure that your energy sectors are crippled. What an irony."

In response, Iran would probably expand its energy ties with Asian countries such as India, which had increased its oil imports from Iran by 9% compared to last year, the professor added. Nor is there any sign that China and Japan, which together account for roughly one third of Iran's oil exports, are ready to risk their energy security over the nuclear standoff, as Europe has now done.

Without doubt, the European and US sanctions will have a significant impact on Iran's trajectory as a gas producer in the years to come. According to senior Iranian energy officials, Iran needs a minimum of $8 billion in investment in the gas sector, given the fact that some two-thirds of its gas reserves remain undeveloped, particularly in the giant South Pars. The gas field contains roughly half of Iran's gas and is shared with Qatar, which has far outplayed Iran in its exploitation of the reserve, much to the chagrin of the Iranians who are worried that Qatar will take advantage of the Western sanctions.

A big question concerns how the new EU sanctions will impact on plans for the ambitious "Persian pipeline" that could connect Iran's South Pars gas to Europe via Turkey? [1] Has Europe really given serious thought to these questions or, as the late German Iran specialist Johannes Reissner once put it, has Europe fallen into the malady of a "nuclear reductionism"?

Prospects for a mini-breakthrough
Meanwhile, in the maddening march of Western governments toward tougher sanctions on Iran there is the glimmer of a mini-breakthrough in the area of a nuclear fuel exchange for Iran's small medical reactor.

After extensive exchanges with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there is reportedly a considerable narrowing of differences between the parties on this issue. By early to mid-September we may witness the finalization of an IAEA-proposed deal for a fuel swap.

Iran has now submitted a new letter to the IAEA and the Vienna Group, consisting of the US, Russia, France and the IAEA, regarding the technical aspects of the fuel swap, urging the other side not to "waste time".

Reports from Tehran indicate some new signs of flexibility on Iran's part, such as with respect to the thorny issue of Iran's production of 20% enriched uranium. Iran may now be willing to forego this in exchange for a firm commitment from the Vienna group on the timely delivery of nuclear fuel to the Tehran reactor.

Not only that, the chances are that Iran, which has offered a new round of multilateral nuclear talks this September, may be willing to entertain a deal whereby it would put its enrichment activities on "standby option" and agree to a temporary freeze without stopping its centrifuges from "dry spinning"; this in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

The "standby option" is, indeed, the most that the West can expect from Iran at this stage, since the "zero centrifuge" option is a thing of the past - and politically unrealistic in Iran.

Thus, a combined nuclear fuel swap with the standby option, together with other "objective guarantees" regarding Iran's peaceful nuclear program, may at this point pose the best and most feasible scenario for ending a crisis that over the past few months has qualitatively worsened and, indeed, could get a lot worse.

1. For more on this click here.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. His latest book, Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) is now available.

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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2010, 06:15:43 am »

South Asia
Jul 31, 2010 
A Persian message for Obama

By M K Bhadrakumar

The season of diplomacy on the Iran nuclear issue is once again approaching. Another harsh winter has passed. Rhetoric has touched a point of diminishing returns.

The logical conclusion of the sanctions packages of the United Nations Security Council, the United States and the European Union as well as the military buildup in the Persian Gulf ought to be the enforcement of sanctions through high-sea inspections of Iranian vessels. But that is a route fraught with dangerous consequences as Tehran will retaliate.

Meanwhile, Tehran has offered a ladder for the US to climb down from the high horse it mounted - in the nature of the announcement that it is willing to talk about a nuclear-fuel swap "without preconditions". Washington has done the right thing to accept the Iranian overture and European powers are visibly relieved.

United States State Department spokesman Philip Crowley set the ball rolling on Wednesday when he said, "We obviously are fully prepared to follow up with Iran on specifics regarding our initial proposal involving the Tehran research reactor ... as well as, you know, the broader issues of trying to fully understand the nature of Iran's nuclear program. We hope to have the same kind of meeting coming up in the coming weeks that we had last October."

The "initial proposal" Crowley mentioned refers to a plan to provide fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in exchange for low-enriched uranium. The plan was mooted at the meeting in Geneva last October between Iran and the "Iran Six" - the US, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany.

All of a sudden, "beeps" are appearing at several points on the diplomatic radar screen. It transpires that there had been confabulation regarding a "prospective meeting" involving the US and Iran between Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative, and Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's foreign minister, on July 20, on the sidelines of the international conference regarding Afghanistan.

Six days after that meeting in Kabul, Tehran addressed the International Atomic Energy Agency with a communication suggesting it was ready to negotiate the details of exchanging 2,646 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of its own 3% enriched uranium for 265 pounds of 20% enriched uranium. Again, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued three conciliatory statements between Tuesday and Wednesday robustly backtracking on its abrasive stance in recent months regarding the Iran nuclear issue.

Most important, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has since revealed that Tehran has given Ankara an assurance that it will stop enriching uranium to 20% if the swap is agreed. Mottaki gave another important message during his visit to Turkey last week, saying that if the Tehran deal is signed and Iran is provided with the necessary fuel for its research activities, "then they [Iran] will not continue enriching uranium to 20%,'' Davutoglu said.

Today the big question is not whether US-Iranian negotiations will resume but what should be their scope. The EU's Ashton, while suggesting that talks should begin again as soon as possible, voiced the opinion that talks must focus exclusively on Iran's nuclear program. But the agenda needs to be broader and should cover the range of security concerns that underline the US-Iran standoff.

As Suzanne Dimaggio, director of policy studies at the Asia Society think-tank told the BBC last week, there is a lot to talk about. "The Iranians make it clear that they live in a tough neighborhood surrounded by nuclear weapon states: Russia, Pakistan, Russia and Israel. They also have two major wars on their borders ... What kind of security atmosphere do Iranians want to see in their neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan? What are the possibilities of forming some sort of cooperative agreements around stabilizing both countries?"

In particular, the US should strive to pursue an active engagement of Iran over Afghanistan. The fact remains that the most significant salient point from the WikiLeaks disclosures is that the US has trapped itself in Afghanistan by its overwhelming dependence on the Pakistan military. And much of this folly is to be traced to the limitations placed on the Barack Obama administration's Afghan strategy by the US-Iran standoff.

Any serious course correction on Afghanistan by the Obama administration involves engaging Iran. Broader negotiations will not be easy. How could the US-Iran engagement prove to be a game-changer in Afghanistan for Obama's AfPak strategy?

First, if history is any guide, in the weeks following 9/11 Tehran unequivocally showed the will to work with Washington during the US's invasion in 2001 with the expectation that the cooperative enterprise would help moderate Washington's hostility toward the regime in Tehran. If the limited short-term project lasting up to the Bonn conference in December 2001 did not blossom on the lines Tehran expected, the fault lies entirely with the George W Bush administration's myopic outlook.

Second, Iran's longstanding concerns about the Taliban are in actuality no different from those of the Obama administration. Iran shares abhorrence of the Taliban's resurgence as a major force in Afghan politics. In fact, Iran goes a step further, regarding the Taliban's Wahhabist ideology as pernicious and seeing Taliban outfits such as the so-called Haqqani network as pawns for the projection of Pakistani and Saudi influence in Afghanistan. Tehran will be as much wary as Washington about an outright Taliban takeover in Kabul once the US drawdown is underway.

Third, Iran has a total commitment to vanquishing the last traces of al-Qaeda from the region. Fourth, there is a meeting point between the Iranian and US positions regarding the "reintegration" of insurgents who are not linked with al-Qaeda. Fifth, neither Iran nor the US is obdurate about a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul that reflects the country's diverse society. Sixth, Tehran's approach of developing multiple alliances within Afghanistan and its awareness of the need to have a regional balance in any Afghan settlement ought to be of use to the Obama administration.

Karzai's "reconciliation" strategy is already generating a backlash among non-Pashtun communities which also happen to be Iran's Afghan allies. Conceivably, Iran can be a useful bridge for restraining these groups while at the same time finessing them as they "push back" against the resurgent Taliban. In short, Iran can be of help to the US strategy to reduce the risk of renewed civil war in Afghanistan.

Tehran sees that the foreign occupation creates resentment among substantial portions of the Afghan population and this can only work to the advantage of the Taliban. But then, it can be argued that Tehran and Washington would even have a shared interest in developing an "exit strategy" within a definable timeline.

In sum, there is enormous scope for American and Iranian strategies in Afghanistan complementing each other. The effort at the forthcoming negotiations should be to bridge the trust deficit that exists between the two sides. Tehran perceives Washington as hostile to its interests and would, therefore, do its utmost to ensure the US doesn't use its military presence in Afghanistan to attack it, to undermine its government and political system through covert operations or to strengthen Iran's regional rivals.

Needless to say, after a promising start, the Obama administration systematically abandoned its own new thinking on Iran. Under current circumstances, therefore, the US needs to go the extra mile to persuade Iran to cooperate once again with the United States in Afghanistan. There is no alternative to addressing Tehran's longstanding concerns about the Taliban, the regional balance of power, and US intentions towards Iran.

In his first public reaction to the WikiLeaks, Obama said, "The fact is these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan." (Emphasis added.) However, sometimes it is perceptions rather than facts that matter and besides, the Afghan war is not a matter of debate within the US alone; rather, this war also concerns the people of Afghanistan.

The perceptions drawn by the Afghan people from the WikiLeaks are likely to be extremely unsavory, to say the least. To be sure, Afghans will be laughing their guts out at how a bumbling superpower has been had by the smart Pakistani generals. It is important that the meeting that Obama has called in the Situation Room in the White House should hear this laughter ringing loud in the valleys and mountains of the Hindu Kush.

The US's credibility has been seriously eroded and it becomes particularly difficult to restore it in the Hindu Kush. Objectively speaking, a US-Iranian grand bargain is the need of the hour to avoid what is perilously close to strategic failure in Afghanistan.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2010, 06:57:57 am »

Middle East
Aug 5, 2010 
Forgetful Mullen's 'unintended consequences'

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States' joint chiefs of staff, caused a media stir by revealing on Sunday that the US has prepared a plan of attack on Iran, once again reminding Tehran that "all options are on the table" and that the fury of US military might may soon descend upon Iran if it continues with its controversial nuclear program.

Such calculated escalation of Washington's rhetoric elicited an expected Iranian denunciation and the pledge of a firm response throughout the Middle East and beyond. Despite its superpower wherewithal, the US military has major areas of vulnerability that Iran can exploit, primarily though the overstretch and drain on resources of already fighting in two theaters of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the proximity of US forces to Iran and its intermediate and long-range missiles.

US ships' vulnerability to anti-ship cruise missiles and Iran's ability to strike back at any attack in the region, including Lebanon, Gaza, and above all the narrow Strait of Hormuz, are also considerations leading to the conclusion that an aggressive response would likely instigate a regional conflagration. Amid estimates that oil prices could nearly double with the onset of any military flare-ups between Iran and the US or Israel, an attack leading to an aggressive response would be detrimental to the world economic recovery.

It is therefore pertinent to question Mullen's passing reference to such an attack's "unintended consequences". Mullen seems to have forgotten his own insight, shared with an audience at Columbia University in April, that an attack on Iran could be "incredibly destabilizing", perhaps as much as the possession of nuclear bombs by Tehran itself.

That was then. Now, all of a sudden, the US media is inundated with hatched commentaries on "the case for attacking Iran", often by pro-Israel pundits trying to minimize the risks of an attack on Iran, some portraying this as a convenient "surgical strike" to knock off Iran's nuclear installations and thus set back Iran's program for many years.

More serious US pundits on the other hand are somewhat more cautious. A recent "war game" at Brookings Institution concluded that an attack on Iran "could easily spin out of control''. Any idea that Iran would respond to an attack with a great deal of huff and puff but ultimately self-restraint in the face of overwhelming US-Israeli firepower would be a recipe for disillusionment.

US and or Israeli military planners are unlikely to harbor the false notions of the hatched commentaries, and must surely know that Iran's Revolutionary Guards will strike back as hard as they can, for example, by attacking the US Navy in the Persian Gulf. In such a scenario, the limited "surgical strike" would simply prove to be the instigator of a wider war, triggering chained reactions that in all likelihood would indeed spiral out of control, as the US would commence an aerial bombardment of the guards' military bases, and attack Iran's navy and airforce. Iran would respond to the "asymmetrical warfare" by sending waves of suicide attacks on US's interests, and instigate rocket and missile attacks on Israel, and the like.

Protracted warfare engulfing an entire region is the most likely "unintended consequence" of an attack on Iran, a bleak prospect that can be rationally predicted in terms of its prohibitively high costs even though causing such dire consequences may not be the attacking forces' intention.

Indeed, it would have been appropriate for the host of NBC's news program to whom Mullen revealed that war plans had been drawn up to ask the admiral "what do you think are the likely consequences" of an attack on Iran? Unfortunately, as for the most part they have sheepishly toed the official line, compliant US television networks have produced no meaningful debate, with pro-Israel pundits thirsting for war enjoying nearly unchallenged sway over public opinion.

The entire machinery of US print and electronic media has adopted as an article of faith that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons and is getting dangerously close to acquiring the nuke "capability". What should be an open question has been treated as rather moot and self-evident, with an array of "experts" from Harvard and other elite universities and think tanks lending authority to this conclusion, thus removing it from the realm of genuine debate. Hardly any of the experts bother to pose the question, "What if we are witnessing a recycling of the run-up to the Iraq war, in other words, another WMD hype that may turn out to be false just as it was with Iraq?"

Such disconcerting "what if" questions are cast away from the mainstream American discourse on Iran and, instead, we are witnessing the total absence of any "Iraq lesson" applied to the case of Iran, perhaps save the lessons about counterinsurgency. The "unintended consequence" of failing to learn from history is, however, that the world could be imposed upon with the horror and devastation of another war of choice that could still be avoided through prudent diplomacy from both sides of the on-going nuclear standoff.

Ironically, Mullen's statement on NBC coincided with the news from Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, that Iran had received "positive signals" from the Vienna Group - comprising the US, Russia, France, and the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) - regarding proposals for a nuclear fuel swap. Clearly, the US is playing a double-handed game with Iran, its mixed signals indicating a conflicted administration that may neutralize efforts of its own that could result in a small yet significant breakthrough via the fuel swap; efforts which can transpire only in a calm environment.

But, as the IAEA prepares the ground for a new round of Iran-Vienna group meeting, the US's incendiary rhetoric is simultaneously poisoning the environment conducive for a nuclear breakthrough. That is one "unintended consequence" that Mullen and other US officials do not seem terribly concerned about.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. His latest book, Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) is now available.

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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2010, 07:53:03 am »

More on Potential Iranian Reax To Military Strike

August 11th, 2010

by Ali Gharib
Via Mondoweiss, Juan Cole’s excellent Informed Comment site is currently carrying an analysis by Middle East and terror expert Mahan Abedin that explores Iran’s likely options and fallout should the United States use bombers to attack the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Eli addressed this scenario last week using Patrick Disney’s analysis, and this latest attempt at gazing into the crystal ball is no less sobering.

Abedin writes:

A top priority for the IRGC high command is to respond so harshly and decisively so as to deter the Americans from a second set of strikes at a future point. The idea here is to avoid what happened to Iraq in the period , when the former Baathist regime was so weakened by sanctions and repeated small-scale military attacks that it quickly collapsed in the face of American and British invading armies.

The range of predictable responses available to the IRGC high command include dramatic hit ad run attacks against military and commercial shipping in the Persian Gulf, the use of mid-range ballistic missiles against American bases in the region and Israel and a direct assault on American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. All these options are likely to be used within 48 hours of the start of hostilities.

What is less predictable is the response of the IRGC Qods Force, which is likely to be at the forefront of the Pasdaran’s counter-attack. One possible response by the Qods force is spectacular terrorist-style attacks against American intelligence bases and assets throughout the region. The IRGC Qods Force is believed to have identified every key component of the American intelligence apparatus in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are likely to put this information to good use, especially since the Qods Force suspects that the CIA had a hand in last October’s Jundullah-organised suicide bombing targeting IRGC commanders in Iran’s volatile Sistan va Baluchistan province.

The IRGC navy will also play a key asymmetrical role in the conflict by organising maritime suicide bombings on an industrial scale. By manning its fleet of speedboats with suicide bombers and ramming them into American warships and even neutral commercial shipping, the Pasdaran will hope to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which nearly 40 percent of world crude oil supplies pass.

The combination of these asymmetrical forms of warfare with more conventional style missile and even ground force attacks on American bases in the region will likely result in thousands of American military casualties in the space of a few weeks. The IRGC has both the will and wherewithal to inflict a level of casualties on American armed forces not seen since the Second World War.

Even if the United States manages to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and much of the country’s military assets, the IRGC can still claim victory by claiming to have given the Americans a bloody nose and producing an outcome not dissimilar from the Israeli-Hezbollah military engagement in the summer of 2006.

The political effect of this will likely be even more explosive than the actual fighting. Not only will it awaken the sleeping giant of Iranian nationalism, thus aligning the broad mass of the people with the regime, it will also shore up Iran’s image in the region and prove once and for all that the Islamic Republic is prepared to fight to the death to uphold its principles. Suddenly Iran’s allies in the region – particularly non-state actors like Hezbollah and Hamas – would stand ten feet tall.


4 Responses to “ More on Potential Iranian Reax To Military Strike ”
August 11, 2010 @ 11:52 am

That U.S./Israel would finally get its “comeupance” seems a little optimistic to me, but I suppose there is always hope.
rober davies
August 11, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

Iran is likely in such an aggressive strike to demonstrate that the U.S.-Israeli missile defense is another Maginot Line. In any case, Iran is not going to allow any attack to go unanswered. It will be the beginning of the American and Israeli recognition that they cannot intimidate the nations of the world.
August 11, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

Again, I think the most telling commentary on this is the US military’s own drills on this. We couldn’t defeat the “red” team without limiting them to Napoleonic warfare. I wish someone would find that retired general. I wish someone would dig up that story. Either you or Glenn Greenwald does it, or it won’t happen. Sadly, neither you nor Greenwald matter. Your message isn’t “ready” for prime time (propaganda)
Mohammad Alireza
August 11, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

As an Iranian that has lived in Iran for the past ten years and 30 years prior to that in the United States what is very clear to me is that if there is a military confrontation 70,000,000 million Iranians will become sworn enemies of America and at least two million of them will volunteer for suicide missions. Does the American empire really want to create such a situation?

Even if Iran is flattened Iranians will fight on for not years but for decades.

As for Israel; they simply need to stop being so scared and paranoid and face the reality that those that are constantly barking nonsense are a very small minority and 95% of Iranians don’t care less for Hezbollah and Hamas and consider the whole thing a problem between Arabs and Jews.

War is not option. The only option is peace. Let’s work for that, which may be harder to do but the results would benefit our grandchildren
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« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2010, 07:02:42 am »

Middle East
Aug 14, 2010 
Obama's Mona Lisa smile

By M K Bhadrakumar

The range of interpretations given by the small group of journalists invited to United States President Barack Obama's briefing on Iran last week is truly amazing. What comes to mind is Mona Lisa, the famous song sung in a soft baritone voice six decades ago, before Obama was born, by another African-American from Chicago, Nat King Cole:

Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa,
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there.

Was there a "mystic smile" on Obama's lips when he briefed the media? David Ignatius of the Washington Post was certain Obama put the issue of negotiating with Iran "firmly back on the table", but Peter David of The Economist was equally sure Obama "unveiled no new policy".

Marc Ambinder and Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic thought Obama was grandstanding before his domestic audience about the effectiveness of his policy of engagement joined with tightening the squeeze on Iran economically and politically.

Prominent commentator Robert Kagan drew satisfaction that Obama signaled "there was no new diplomatic initiative [on Iran] in the offing". On the whole, the neo-conservatives in the US are delighted that the glove on their president's fist hides high-quality steel.

They all are probably right in their own way. However, against the backdrop of the upcoming US Congressional elections in November, one main purpose of the briefing was to reassure Israel and the influential pro-Israel lobby in US politics that the Obama presidency's Iran policy of harping on the theme of engagement meant no real harm to the interests of the Jewish state.

The heart of the matter is that the US policy on Iran is again at a crossroads. Obama made the case that he tried to engage Iran early in his presidency, but Tehran failed to respond. But, in actuality, did he really try? While he made overtures to Tehran, sections within his own administration strove for "regime change" in Iran and undertook covert operations. Iran was given the chance to negotiate at gunpoint.

At some stage after last year's presidential election in Iran, Washington convinced itself about the scope for a "color revolution" in Tehran. Whereas, the priority should have been to negotiate with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who was well ensconced in power and could take tough decisions. Obama instead tried to enter into correspondence with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, forgetting entirely that he himself is but a caesar.

Second, Obama claimed as a pillar of his Iran strategy the emphasis he placed on his nuclear non-proliferation agenda by living up to the US's own responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and organizing a successful NPT conference. Yet, as the world sees it, US policies are riddled with contradictions and in effect are shredding the treaty to pieces.

Moscow's course correction
However, it was his "reset" with Russia that Obama presented as the third crucial leg of the US's Iran policy. In short, Washington takes pleasure that Moscow not only betrayed Tehran but also lent a hand to encourage China, the European Union and Canada also to spurn Iran.

Russia dumped Iran most opportunistically. But anyone who has been opportunistic once can do so again, and the US could already be sensing it.

Nothing else can explain the alacrity with which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appealed on Wednesday to the US Senate to act favorably on the "new START", the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia signed by Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in April and which needs to be ratified by the US Senate before it goes into effect.

However, Moscow, which places great store in the START treaty for Russia's resurgence on the world stage, calculates that ratification requires 67 votes in the US Senate, which means the Obama administration would have to mobilize all 59 Democrats and independents and find at least another six Republicans to get the "new START" ratified. So far the only Republican senator who has publicly committed to support ratification is Richard Lugar from Indiana.

Moscow seems to factor in that the policy shift on Iran has gone too far without commensurate returns and a course correction is useful. Kremlin rhetoric has tapered off. A new ambivalence has crept into the status of Russia's deal for supply of S-300 missiles to Iran.

Russian company Lukoil last week supplied refined petroleum products to Iran, ignoring the US threat of retaliation - and that too, in partnership with Chinese oil company Zhuhai Zhenrong. Moscow received the Iranian oil minister to discuss bilateral cooperation and Russian officials have spoken of the likely commissioning of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran in August. The diplomatic front too shows signs of stirrings. Russia has joined China to criticize the US and the European Union's moves to impose unilateral sanctions against Iran.

Reset of US-Russia reset?
On Monday, the Iranian ambassador in Moscow, Reza Sajjadi, visited the Russian Foreign Ministry to have a "fruitful exchange of views" with Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin regarding "themes related to the development of mutually beneficial Russian-Iranian economic and trade cooperation". According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, "Mutual interest was expressed in reinvigorating bilateral collaboration in this sphere."

On Tuesday, Sajjadi was back to meet First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Denisov. A Russian statement said, "The parties exchanged views on issues of the bilateral, regional and international agenda with particular focus on Russian-Iranian political dialogue and joint work aimed at resolving key international and regional problems." (Emphasis added.)

The US's reset with Russia seems to be the shakiest leg in its Iran policy. Curiously, this problematic leg also happens to be made of a mixed alloy cast from Russian and Chinese metals.

The US's successive acts of provocation against China in the Asia-Pacific in recent weeks could have fallout on Beijing's stance regarding the Iran issue. Significantly, the US has put Beijing on notice publicly. US special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control Robert Einhorn, who will proceed to Beijing later this month amid the rising tensions in Sino-US relations, said:

We want China to be a responsible stakeholder in the international system and that means cooperating with UN Security Council resolutions. It means not backfilling, not taking advantage of the responsible self-restraint of other countries.

One concern a number of countries expressed when approached to take measures against Iran is that "if we practice restraint, China will fill in behind, China will take advantage of our restraint".

For Iran, the stakes are high, too. Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Hossein Noghrehkar said last week China had invested US$29 billion in Iran's oil sector and another $11 billion worth investment is in the pipeline, including for the setting up of seven refineries.

To be sure, Beijing's perspective on the US-Russia reset comes into play. Beijing seems to estimate that the US-Russia reset has not gone much beyond Obama's "Burger Diplomacy" with Medvedev. On Monday, a Chinese commentary took a good look at Moscow's Iran policy. It said:

As an ally of Iran with many strategic and economic interests in the country, Russia's pro-Western stance is unlikely to last ... Iran not only represents an important regional ally for Russia but also a useful bargaining tool in diplomatic relations with the West, especially the US. For now, Russia has decided its relations with the US are more important than its relations with Iran.

Russia's pandering to Western countries has brought more negative than positive results ... Russia has gained little from its pro-Western stance. Meanwhile, Russians have voiced more doubts and criticism over Medvedev. Against such a backdrop, Russia cannot afford to lose Iran. Therefore, in the near future Russia is very likely to soften its tone toward Iran.

All in all, Obama's "Mona Lisa smile" last week needs to be put in perspective. On the one hand, he apparently indicated to Tehran he was leaving open a "pathway" for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue and for a deal that allows the latter to maintain its civilian nuclear program as long as "a clear set of steps" could be negotiated that are "sufficient to show that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons".

Meanwhile, Obama proposed a "separate track" for talks regarding Afghanistan, given the two countries' "mutual interest" in fighting the Taliban. He said Iran should be a "part" of the regional talks about stabilizing Afghanistan and "could be a constructive partner".

The words were conciliatory. On the other hand, Obama insisted the US had the upper hand, the Iranians had been diplomatically isolated and sanctions were already "biting" and that, in this overall context, he was merely being logical in driving home the advantage by choosing to re-engage Iran.

He also offered vaguely hawkish hints regarding the option in reserve to use force if diplomacy fails. Nat King Cole sang, "Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?"

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2010, 01:11:57 pm »

'Iran will block Hormuz if attacked'

Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:8PM

Top Iranian military official Brig. Gen. Ali Shademani

A senior Iranian military official says Iran will take full control of the Strait of Hormuz should Washington opt to launch aggression against Iran.

"The country's armed forces which are under the (Islamic Revolution) Leader's command are in the highest state of preparedness." head of the Operations Department of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Ali Shademani was quoted by Mehr News Agency as saying on Tuesday.

"Three measures are in store to counter any potential aggression against the country", he said.

"The first action would be to take full control of the Strait of Hormuz whereby we wouldn't allow any move by anybody", the top military official underlined.

He said the enemy 'will be brought to its knees' as soon as it makes a move.

As for the second measure, General Shademani said, "We are keeping a close watch on all American military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq."

"With the slightest move against Iran, we will paralyze the troops stationed in those bases and won't allow them to make any move." he stressed.

The top general also elaborated on the third plan.

"Israel is the United States' backyard", he highlighted, "So we will disturb the peace there."

"The US and Israel well know that we can do it", he added.

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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2010, 08:38:38 am »

Is an Attack on Iran Imminent?

Transfer of Nuclear Materials This Weekend Will Make Attacks Inconvenient

by Jason Ditz, August 17, 2010

In an interview today with Fox Business, former US Ambassador John Bolton warned that Israel has “only eight days” left to attack Iran, and the rhetoric against Iran seems to be ratcheting up.

So what’s the rush? This weekend Russia will begin to load uranium fuel into the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the first stage in preparing it for launch. This fact has nothing to do with any nominal threat posed by Iran, even rhetorically, as the plant is designed purely for energy generation.

But Bushehr isn’t just a nuclear power plant, it is also a city of nearly 200,000 people along the Persian Gulf, and surrounded by a comparatively populous province along the coast.

While this isn’t particuclarly surprising, few power plants, after all, are built in the middle of nowhere, the fact that the plant is going to be loaded with 3.5% enriched uranium fuel is going to make a prospective attack, whether from Israel or the United States, incredibly inconvenient.

An attack on Iran would have to be done under the guise of targeting its nuclear assets, and that would have to include the most important asset of all, the Bushehr power plant. But the targeting of this plant would spread radioactive material across the immediate vicitinity, putting hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians at serious risk.

Attacks on operating nuclear power plants thus are unconscionable large-scale attacks on civilians, and would spark an enormous level of international condemnation on whoever launched the attack.

Even this first stage in launching Bushehr would put the target virtually out of reach, which is why the US reacted so negatively to the news that it was pending. The threat to attack becomes infinitely less credible next week, which also means that, if Israeli or US officials are bound and determined to start a war, they may be obliged to do so in the next few days, for convenience sake if nothing else.
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2010, 08:53:12 am »

Israel will attack Iran: Will Israel attack Iran? 

21/08/2010 01:30:00 PM GMT
The world once again watches the funny advertisement of human rights by those who are terrifically massacring humans in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, getting prepared for Iran.


By Kourosh Ziabari

Those who mastermind the U.S.-directed psychological operation against Iran have obliviously forgotten that we're now accustomed to seeing the uninteresting, exhausting charade of "will attack Iran"; you put the subject for it, either the United States or Israel.

Over the past five years, Iran has been recurrently under the threat of an imminent war which the mainstream media have overwhelmingly talked of; a war against Tehran to overthrow the Islamic Republic and bring to power a "democratic" regime which the "international community" favors.

Since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed office in 2005 as the Iranian head of state, he made attempts to reverse the passive, submissive stance of Iran towards the Eastern and Western superpowers and proposed new theories for an innovative international order. He accelerated Iran's nuclear program and made remarkable advancements in nationalizing the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Iran.

He put forward insightful and astute questions: "why should Israel possess nuclear weapons in violation of the international law", "why should Israel occupy the lands which don't belong to it", "why should Israel repeatedly threaten its neighbors and wage wars against them", "why should Holocaust be used as a pretext to suppress the Palestinian nation?", "why should Iran be deprived of the peaceful uses of nuclear power while the United States, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China have thousands of nuclear weapons?"

These questions were not digestible for the United States and its stalwart allies around the world; therefore, some measures should be adopted to suffocate this man and the people he represents internationally. The reason was simple. Ahmadinejad and Iran would not make concessions and thus should be silenced at any cost. So, who is going to pay the price for silencing Iran? Are the military options plausible?

The answer is simply "no". Iran is different from Iraq, Afghanistan and all of the countries which Israel attacked during its period of existence in the Middle East. The people of Iran have demonstrated that they react to the aggressive powers categorically. So, the best option would be to stage an all-out psychological operation in which the means of coercion, falsification, distortion, fabrication and intimidation might be used.

The project was set off almost five years ago, when the U.S. and European mainstream media gradually began trumpeting for an imaginative war against Iran. The first man to set in motion the project was Scott Ritter, the former chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. He told the media on February 19, 2005 that George Bush is laying the groundwork for an all-out attack against Iran: "President George W.

Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran's alleged program to develop nuclear weapons." With what was described as Ritter's "greatest skepticism", he also talked of the possibility of a regime change in Iran, pushed by the neoconservatives who were trying to persuade the ex-President Bush to broaden the extents of war to topple the Islamic Republic.

The primary threats looked so realistic and actual that even deceived the veteran investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, who wrote in a January 24, 2005 article in the New Yorker that U.S. is getting prepared to launch a military strike against Iran. He quoted a high-ranking intelligence official as telling him: Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism."

In 2006, the gossips were strongly suggesting that there'll be an attack against Iran, either by Israel or the United States. In August 2006, the former chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Major General Hamid Gul emphatically proclaimed that Iran will be attacked by the United States. Interestingly, he also specified the exact time of the attack. Talking to the Pakistani Parliament, he predicted that "America would definitely attack Iran and Syria simultaneously in October."

Along with the previous predictions, however, General Gul's prediction about an imminent assault on Iran transpired to be futile.

The same events continued to happen in 2007; futile predictions and empty threats, either by those who were involved in the conflict with Iran or those who did not have a role.

On January 24, 2007, the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum that there's a possibility of U.S. attacking Iran: "It's a 50/50 proposition, and we hope that it won't happen. Attacking Iran would be counterproductive."

The atmosphere created by the United States and its allies was so imposing and impressive that had influenced everyone, from the most pragmatic, down-to-earth journalists to the most adventurous, overconfident politicians. Quoting the Kuwaiti paper Arab Times, John Pilger wrote in a "New Statesman" article dated February 5, 2007 that Bush will attack Iran, and also gave the military details of the attack according to the statements of a Russian military official: "The well-informed Arab Times in Kuwait says that Bush will attack Iran before the end of April. One of Russia's most senior military strategists, General Leonid Ivashov, says the U.S. will use nuclear munitions delivered by cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean."

Untruthfulness and falsehood had pervaded the mainstream media and they had simply failed to take seriously the possibility of losing their reputation as a result of proposing unrealistic, improbable and pointless predictions. They were only after serving the interests of their governmental owners and trumpeting for a non-existing war which was about to be waged against Iran.

On March 5, 2007, the Reuters AlterNet quoted analysts that there could be a chance for a possible military strike against Iran. This time, the attacker was destined to remain unspecified: "Risk analysts say there could be an up to one-in-three chance that the United States or Israel will attack Iran by the end of this year, and markets may not be doing enough to hedge against the impact." This employment of the "United States or Israel" was the newest psychological operation tactic; spreading uncertainty and ambiguity to overawe and subdue Iran.

In 2008, the most entertaining charade of the game was initiated by John Bolton, a politician who seemed to be enormously interested in playing the role of a new Nostradamus. His prophecy was that Israel would attack Iran before the new U.S. President swears in. The magnificent foretelling by Mr. Bolton was grandiloquently featured by the Daily Telegraph in a report titled: "Israel 'will attack Iran' before new U.S. president sworn in, John Bolton predicts".

Anyway, the new US President swore in and nobody attacked Iran.

The war threats against Iran have been renewed several times since John Bolton publicized his prediction. The famous "proverb" of "all options are on the table" was uttered by the successor of George W. Bush; the same man whom we trusted in once for good and deceived all of us with his promise of change. Mr. Bolton's newest forecast has been released recently: Israel has until week's end to strike Iran's nuclear facility. The psychological warfare machinery is being activated again as each newspaper and website represents one arsenal.

Jeffrey Goldberg is taking steps to become the Judith Miller of war against Iran and the world once again watches the funny advertisement of human rights by those who are terrifically massacring "humans" in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, getting prepared for a new bloodshed in Iran. The thing is not that Israel will attack Iran. The thing is that Israel won't dare attack Iran, but its unremitting propaganda won't cease. The thing is that we should hear these sentences incessantly: "Israel will attack Iran… will Israel attack Iran?"

-- Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist. He worked regularly with Tlaxcala and Foreign Policy Journal.

-- Middle East Online

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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2010, 04:36:02 pm »

Iran starts nuclear reactor, says intent peaceful

BUSHEHR, Iran – Trucks rumbled into Iran's first reactor Saturday to begin loading tons of uranium fuel in a long-delayed startup touted by officials as both a symbol of the country's peaceful intentions to produce nuclear energy as well as a triumph over Western pressure to rein in its nuclear ambitions.

The Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant will be internationally supervised, including a pledge by Russia to safeguard it against materials being diverted for any possible use in creating nuclear weapons. Iran's agreement to allow the oversight was a rare compromise by the Islamic state over its atomic program.

Western powers have cautiously accepted the deal as a way to keep spent nuclear fuel from crossing over to any military use. They say it illustrates their primary struggle: to block Iran's drive to create material that could be used for nuclear weapons and not its pursuit of peaceful nuclear power.

Iran has long declared it has a right like other nations to produce nuclear energy. The country's nuclear chief described the startup as a "symbol of Iranian resistance and patience."

"Despite all pressure, sanctions and hardships imposed by Western nations, we are now witnessing the startup of the largest symbol of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters inside the plant with its cream-colored dome overlooking the Persian Gulf in southern Iran.

In several significant ways, the Bushehr plant stands apart from the showdowns over Iranian uranium enrichment, a process that can be used both to produce nuclear energy or nuclear weapons. It also could offer a possible test run for proposals to ease the impasse.

The Russian agreement to control the supply of nuclear fuel at Bushehr eased opposition by Washington and allies. Bushehr's operations are not covered by U.N. sanctions imposed after Iran refused to stop uranium enrichment. And last week, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the Russian oversight at Bushehr is the "very model" offered Tehran under a U.N.-drafted plan unveiled last year.

That proposal — so far snubbed by Iran — called for Iran to halt uranium enrichment and get its supplies of reactor-ready material from abroad.

Western leaders fear Iran's enrichment labs could one day churn out weapons-grade material. Iran claims it has no interest in nuclear arms, but refuses to give up the right to make its own fuel.

Iran has some of the world's biggest oil reserves, but lacks refinery capacity to meet domestic demand and must repurchase fuel on international markets. Nuclear power is seen as both a goal to meet power needs and an important technological achievement for the Islamic government.

The French Foreign Ministry said the Russian deal shows Iran does not need to enrich uranium to benefit from civilian nuclear power.

"This clearly shows that the sanctions do not aim to deprive Iran of its right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful uses," said the French statement.

In London, a Foreign Office junior minister, Alistair Burt, said the loading of Russian fuel at Bushehr "demonstrates that Iran can have the benefits of nuclear power."

But conservative Iranian lawmaker Arsalan Faithipour struck a tone of defiance.

"The startup at Bushehr proved the ineffectiveness of sanctions," he said.

After years of delays in completing the plant, Moscow now claims that the project is essential to persuading Iran to cooperate with international efforts to ensure it does not develop the bomb.

Iran has said that monitors from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will have access to the fuel shipments at Bushehr, about 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) south of Tehran. Spent fuel contains plutonium, which can be used to make atomic weapons.

U.N. nuclear inspectors were on hand Saturday as the first truckloads of fuel were taken from a storage site to a "pool" inside the reactor. Over the next two weeks, 163 fuel assemblies — equal to 80 tons of uranium fuel — will be moved inside the building and then into the reactor core.

It will be another two months before the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor — heavily guarded by soldiers and anti-aircraft batteries — is pumping electricity to Iranian cities.

Two weeks ago, two Iranian drones were sent over Bushehr to test of air defense capability. The drones were picked up, but were grounded before forces guarding the nuclear plant could open fire, Bushehr Provincial Gov. Mohammad Hossein Jahanbakhsh told The Associated Press.

"The decision had been to test the capability of the Bushehr air defense system. The reaction was appropriate and authorities were happy," he said.

The uranium fuel Russia has supplied for Bushehr is well below the more than 90 percent enrichment needed for a nuclear warhead. Iran is already producing its own uranium enriched to the Bushehr level — about 3.5 percent. It also has started a pilot program of enriching uranium to 20 percent, which officials say is needed for a medical research reactor.

Salehi said Iran will continue to enrich uranium to 20 percent, but had no intention to continuing the higher level of enrichment forever.

Iran raised more alarm in the West with its recent declaration of plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment sites inside protected mountain strongholds. It said it will begin construction on the first one in March in defiance of the U.N. sanctions.

"Today is a historic day and will be remembered in history," Salehi said at a news conference alongside the head of Russia's state-run nuclear corporation, Sergei Kiriyenko.

"The countdown to the Bushehr nuclear power plant has started," Kiriyenko said. "Congratulations."

Russia signed a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr plant in 1995 but has dragged its feet on completing the work. Moscow had cited technical reasons for the delays, but analysts say Russia used the project to try to press Iran to ease its defiance over uranium enrichment.

Iran has announced plans to build other reactors and says designs for a second rector in southwestern Iran are taking shape.;_ylt=AgyM23lTVqfzvYx.sg_Xwl.s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNjMDRvNDVnBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwODIxL2lyYW5fbnVjbGVhcgRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzEEcG9zAzIEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA2lyYW5zdGFydHNudQ--
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« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2010, 12:56:16 pm »

Boxed into a Corner on Iran

by Philip Giraldi, August 26, 2010

There has been considerable concern expressed in the media over the date August 21st.  It was the day when Russian technicians were to insert the fuel rods to begin the activation of the Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr. No less a voice out of the past than John Bolton, UN Ambassador under George W. Bush, called for an immediate attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities before the reactor became operational.  Bolton and his neoconservative friends reasoned that no attack against Iran would be "complete" if Bushehr were not taken out as it is part of the broader Iranian nuclear program.  In their view, its destruction would have the same impact as the bombing of the Iraqi Osirak reactor by Israel in 1981, which was intended to derail Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions.

Well, the 21st has come and gone and neither Israel nor the United States took the initiative to destroy Bushehr.  Indeed, the entire argument about attacking it has something of a surreal quality.  Bushehr is not a reactor that can be used to concentrate its fuel, meaning that it can generate electricity but cannot itself produce weapons grade uranium or plutonium.  The entire argument about attacking it seems to center on its symbolic value as Iran’s only soon-to-be operating reactor combined with the notion that its fuel could be removed and enriched somewhere else.  The reactor is located in a relatively heavily populated coastal area and the demand to hit it before it became operational was based on the possible consequences of having to do so after it is up and running.  Destroying an operating reactor would produce considerable radioactive contamination that would devastate a wide area both within Iran and in neighboring countries and would kill many civilians.  Comparisons with Chernobyl and Three Mile Island spring to mind.  Whoever would bomb and destroy such a target would be vilified by most of the international community, and rightly so.  While Israel and the United States both regularly ignore such criticism, the deaths of thousands in a deliberate bombing directed against a country that poses no immediate threat would be a bit hard to explain, even in the New York Times and Washington Post.

To be completely and cold bloodedly serious about the respective positions being staked out by Iran and its chief antagonists in Washington and Tel Aviv, one must first of all remember that Tehran does not currently have a nuclear weapon and there is no real evidence that it even has a program to produce one.  It has been basically compliant with the UN inspection regime mandated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.  Nor is there any evidence that the Mullahs are suicidal, suggesting that they would not want to develop a weapon in a secret program at great cost to hand off to terrorists and thereby guarantee the annihilation of their nation and millions of their people.  And they have good reason to be just a bit paranoid about their own security.  The repeated threats coming out of Israel and the United States that "all options are on the table" with Iran is a not exactly subtle suggestion that many policymakers in both countries consider it perfectly acceptable to begin bombing, all in spite of the fact that it would be an attack on a country based on what might happen without any evidence that there is an actual intention to develop and use a weapon of mass destruction.  Bombing a country under those circumstances would be a war crime, one more crime among many.

The real problem is that the public utterances of the policy makers in Washington and Tel Aviv have backed them into a corner, reducing their options and committing them to a policy that has no real attainable objective and makes absolutely no sense.  If Iran is a threat at all, which can be disputed, it can be easily contained by either Israel or the United States, both of which have large nuclear and conventional arsenals. Iran is a military midget compared to either country, though admittedly it has the capability to strike back hard in asymmetrical ways if it is attacked.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu both appreciate very clearly that Iran does not pose a serious threat and both know that the often cited claim that Tehran has called for wiping Israel off the map is bogus. Such knowledge is widespread even among hawks in Israel, though apparently less so among American neocons.  In September 2009 former Israeli Prime Minister and current Minister of Defense Ehud Barak was quoted as saying that "I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel."  A few years earlier, Foreign Minister Livni argued against the idea that a nuclear Iran would be an existential threat. This summer, ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevi made the same point and added that speaking of Iran as an existential threat exaggerates Iran’s power and suggests instead the false and dangerous narrative that Israel might be vulnerable.

But in spite of their certain knowledge of the fragility of the Iranian threat, both Obama and Netanyahu have unfortunately let themselves wallow in rhetoric that hypes the danger.  If it sounds and smells exactly like the lead up to Iraq, it should. And, like the case of Iraq, the fearmongering does not end with the intemperate comments made by the two leaders.  The US Congress with its proposed House Resolution 1553 is engaged in giving the green light for an Israeli attack on Iran, indicating in advance its support for such an action.  HR 1553 comes on top of harsh sanctions approved in early July, measures that could lead to US Navy vessels attempting to board Iranian flagged merchant ships. Even tougher sanctions, steps that would almost certainly lead to war are endorsed by many legislators, particularly those who are regarded as close to Israel. Congressman Brad Sherman of California explains  "Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that."  At least Congress shows consistency when it is knee jerking spasmodically to demonstrate support for Israel.  Sherman’s view of Iranians is somewhat similar to his punishing the Gazans for voting for Hamas or pillorying the Turks for trying to send aid to the Palestinians.  Or, not so long ago, sending the 500,000 Iraqi children to their deaths à la Madeleine Albright.

And the White House rhetoric blends harmoniously with the congressional ire.  President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all repeatedly stated that Israel is completely free to make its own decisions relating to its security.  That assertion presumably plays well in certain quarters, but as an Israeli attack will have to be enabled by the United States they also know that bombing courtesy of Tel Aviv would mean Iranian retaliation directed against American troops in the Middle East.  In other words, America’s leaders have abdicated all responsibility for maintaining a rational policy in an unstable part of the world and have instead granted the authority to make key decisions to Israel.  How many Americans will die as a result?   

Both the Israeli and American people have been prepared for war by all of the truculent noises coming out of Washington and the propaganda appearing in the media.  The conversation on Iran, such as it is, has been expressly designed to bring about a war rather than avoid it.  The mainstream media disinformation campaign orchestrated by AIPAC has worked just fine.  Most Americans already believe incorrectly that Iran has a nuclear weapon and most also support attacking it, a product of the steady diet of hokum that they have been fed.  The moral turpitude of America and Israel’s leaders combined with the popular consensus that they have willy-nilly allowed to develop grants the concept of war with Iran a certain inevitability.  Former CIA Director Michael Hayden has described the process as "inexorable."

So we have dodged the bullet on the war that might have begun on August 21st because our leaders really do know that Iran is not a threat and when it came to gut check time were ultimately unwilling to start World War III.  But the bomb is still ticking because those selfsame politicians, lacking any sense of true leadership, have set the forces in play that will almost inevitably produce a war.  It is somewhat reminiscent of Iraq surely, but it also recalls the 1914 European security environment in which an entangling web of alliances and arrangements virtually guaranteed that a war would take place.  The only way to stop the rot is for President Obama to consider for a moment what is good for the United States rather than for his political party’s hold on power.  He should act like a true statesman instead of a used car salesman.  If he is uncertain how to do that there are a number of good nineteenth century political biographies that he can read up on to learn the ropes.  He must stand up before the American people and state simply and unequivocally that Washington opposes any new military action in the Middle East and that the United States is not threatened by Iran and will take no part in any military action directed against it.  He might add that the US will further consider anyone staging such an attack as an aggressor nation and will immediately break off relations before demanding a UN Security Council vote to condemn the action.  Will that happen?  Fat chance.
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« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2010, 07:53:52 am »

The Strategic Counteroffensive

By Fidel Castro Ruiz
Global Research, September 16, 2010
Cuba Debate - 2010-09-10

We Are Living Through an Exceptional Moment in Human History.

The deadlines established by the United Nations Security Council for Iran to yield to the demands imposed by the United States regarding nuclear research and uranium enrichment for medical purposes and to generate electricity will be expiring in these days.

This is the only nuclear use that has been documented in Iran.

The fear that Iran is looking forward to producing nuclear weapons is only based on an assumption.

With regard to this delicate issue, the United States and its western allies, among them two of the five nuclear powers with veto power -France and the United Kingdom- supported by the richest and most developed capitalist powers of the world, have promoted an increasing number of sanctions against Iran, a rich, oil-producing Muslim country. Today, the measures adopted include the inspection of Iran’s merchant vessels and severe economic sanctions aimed at suffocating its economy.

I have been following very closely the grave dangers that may result from that situation, because if a war breaks out in that region, it could very quickly go nuclear, and this will have lethal consequences for the rest of the planet.

In referring to such danger I was not looking for publicity or sensationalism. I just wanted to warn the world public opinion hoping that, being advised of such grave danger it could contribute to avoid it.

At least we have managed to draw attention to a problem that was hardly mentioned by the big world media.

This has made me use part of the time scheduled for the launching of this book, on which we worked diligently. I did not want this to coincide with the dates of September 7 and 9. September 7 marks the end of the 90 days term established by the Security Council to know whether Iran complied or not with the requirement of authorizing the inspection of its merchant vessels. September 9 marks the expiration of the three months term fixed by the Resolution adopted on June 9. Quite possibly the establishment of this last term was what the Security Council intended to do originally.

So far we have only had the weird statement made by the Director General of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the Japanese Yukiya Amano, a man who serves the interests of the Yankees. He added all the fuel to the flames and then, like Pontius Pilate, he washed his hands of the issue.

A spokesperson from the Foreign Ministry of Iran commented his statements with a well earned contempt. According to a news report published by EFE, Amano’s assertion that “‘our friends should not worry, because we don’t believe our region is in the position to engage in new military adventures’ and that ‘Iran was fully prepared to respond to any military invasion’ was an obvious reference to the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, ‘who warned about a possible Israeli nuclear attack against Iran with the support of the United States’”.

News on this topic are pouring and get mixed with others of remarkable repercussion.

The journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine, already known by our people, has been publishing some excerpts of the long interview he made with me. He has been discussing some interesting aspects of it before he finally writes a future and long article.

“There were many odd things about my recent Havana stopover, [...]“, he wrote, but one of the most unusual was Fidel Castro’s level of self-reflection [...] but it seemed truly striking that Castro was willing to admit that he misplayed his hand at a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis [...] that he regrets asking Khrushchev to nuke the U.S.” It is true that he addressed the topic and he asked me that question. Literally, as he wrote in the first part of his report, his words were the following: “I asked him: At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?” He answered: “After I’ve seen what I’ve seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn’t worth it all.”

I had thoroughly explained to him -and there is written evidence of that- the content of that message: “…if the United States invades Cuba, a country with Russian nuclear weapons, under such circumstances Russia should not allow to be dealt the first strike, as the one dealt against the USSR on June 22, 1941, when the German army and all European forces attacked the USSR.”

As can be observed from that brief reference to the issue, from the second part of his report to the audience on that news, readers could not realize that “if the United States invaded Cuba, a country with Russian nuclear weapons”, under such circumstances, my recommendation was to prevent the enemy from launching the first strike; nor the profound irony embedded in my response - “…and knowing what I know now…”, which was an obvious reference to the betrayal by one Russian President who saturated himself with some ethylic substance and revealed to the United States the most important military secrets of that country.

Further on Goldberg wrote about another moment of our conversation: “I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.” Obviously, that question implicitly suggested the theory that Cuba exported the Revolution. So I responded: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore”. I said this to him without any bitterness or concern. And now I laugh at the way he literally interpreted what I said and how, according to him, he consulted it with Julia Sweig, a CFR analyst who accompanied him and worked out the theory he described. But the truth is that the meaning of my response was exactly the opposite of the interpretation made by both American journalists of the Cuban model.

My idea, as everybody knows, is that the capitalist system does not work anymore either for the United States or the world, which jumps from one crisis into the next, and these are ever more serious, global and frequent and there is no way the world could escape from them. How could such a system work for a socialist country like Cuba?

Many Arab friends worried when they knew I had met with Goldberg, and sent some messages describing him as “the staunchest advocate of Zionism.”

From all of these we can infer the big confusion that exists in the world. Therefore I hope that what I am telling you about my thoughts could be useful.

The ideas I expressed are contained in 333 Reflections -see what a coincidence. The last 26 refer exclusively to the problems affecting the environment and the imminent danger of a nuclear war.

And now I should very briefly add something.

I have always condemned the Holocaust. In my Reflections entitled “Obama’s Speech in Cairo”, “A Swipe Waiting to Happen”, and “The Opinion of an Expert” I expressed this very clearly.

I have never been an enemy of the Jewish people, which I admire for having resisted dispersion and persecution during two thousand years. Many of the most brilliant talents, such as Karl Marx and Albert Einstein, were Jews, because that was a nation where the most intelligent managed to survive by virtue of a natural law. In our country and in the whole world they were persecuted and slandered. But this is just pat of the ideas I defend.

They were not the only one who were persecuted and slandered for their beliefs. Muslims were attacked and persecuted for their beliefs by the European Christians for much more than 12 centuries, just as the first Christians were in ancient Rome before Christianity became an official religion of that empire. History should be accepted and remembered just the way it happened, with all its tragic realities and its fierce wars. I have spoken about that and that is why I have all the more reason to explain the dangers jeopardizing humankind today, when wars have become the biggest suicide risk for our fragile species.

If we add to this a war against Iran, even if it were of a conventional nature, the United States would rather turn off the light and say goodbye. How could the US put up with a war against 1.5 billion Muslims?

For any true revolutionary, defending peace does not mean to renounce to the principles of justice, without which human life and society would be meaningless.

I still believe that Goldberg is an excellent journalist who is able to set out, in an enjoyable way and masterly way, his views, which promotes debate. He does not invent phrases; he transfers them and interprets them.

I will not refer to the content of many others aspects of our conversation. I will respect the secrecy of the issues we discussed and I eagerly await his future long article.

The current news that have started to pour from all sources make me to complement his presentation with these words whose essence is contained in the book “La contraofensiva estratégica” (The Strategic Counteroffensive), which I have just presented.

I believe that all peoples have the right to peace and enjoy all the goods and natural resources of the planet. What is currently going on with peoples in many countries of Africa, where there are millions of emaciated children, women and men out of lack of food, water and medicines is a shame. We feel astonished by the images we see from the Middle East, where Palestinians are deprived from their lands, their homes are demolished by gigantic equipment, and men, women and children are bombed with white phosphorus and other extermination means; the Dantesque scenes of families exterminated by the bombs dropped over Afghan and Pakistani towns by drones; the Iraqis who are dying after years of war; and the more than one million lives lost in that conflict imposed by a US President.

The last we could expect to see were the news about the expulsion of the French gypsies, who are victims of a new sort of racial Holocaust. The strong protest by the French is only logical. At the same time, the millionaires restrict French citizens’ rights to retirement while reducing the possibilities to get a job.

From the US we have heard the news of a pastor in Florida that intends to burn the Holy Book of the Quran in its own church. Even the Yankee and military chiefs engaged in punitive war missions were disturbed by the news which they believed would put their soldiers in jeopardy.

Walter Martínez, the prestigious journalist who conducts the Venezuelan TV program Dossier, was amazed at such madness.

Yesterday, Thursday 9th in the evening, some news asserted that the pastor had relinquished his idea. It might be necessary to know what the FBI agents who visited him told him to “persuade him”. That was a colossal media show, a chaos. Those are things proper of an empire that is sinking.

I thank all of you for your attention.

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« Reply #11 on: September 17, 2010, 08:03:55 am »

Real Versus Fake Crises: Concealing The Risk of An All Out Nuclear War

By Michel Chossudovsky
Global Research, September 16, 2010

We have reached a turning point in our history. The US and its allies are preparing to launch a nuclear war with devastating consequences.

During the Cold War, the concept of "mutual assured destruction" (MAD) was put forth. An understanding of the consequences of nuclear war largely contributed to avoiding the outbreak of war between the US and the Soviet Union.

Today, in the post-Cold war era, no such understanding prevails. 

The spectre of a nuclear holocaust, which haunted the world for half a century has been relegated to the status of "collateral damage".

This military adventure in the real sense of the word threatens the future of humanity.

While one can conceptualize the loss of life and destruction resulting from present-day wars including Iraq and Afghanistan, it is impossible to assess or fully comprehend the devastation which would result  from a Third World War, using "new technologies" and advanced weapons systems, until it actually occurs and becomes a reality.   

A sequence of US sponsored wars characterizes a period of our history euphemistically referred to as "the post-War era". The US  led war in Afghanistan has been ongoing, in various stages, for thirty-one years. Iraq has been under US and allied military occupation for more than seven years.

We are living history but at the same time we are unable to comprehend the events which shape our future and which are currently unfolding in front of our very eyes.

The details of ongoing war preparations in relation to Iran have been withheld from the public eye. (See See Michel Chossudovsky, Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran, Global Research, August 1, 2010,

Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack on Iran, August 13, 2010)

The media is involved in acts of camouflage. The devastating impacts of a nuclear war are either trivialized or not mentioned. Meanwhile, public opinion has its eyes rivetted on what might be described as "fake crises".

A Third World War is no longer a hypothetical scenario. Already in 2007, president Bush had hinted in no uncertain terms that if Iran did not comply with US demands, we might "reluctantly" be forced into in a World War III situation:

" We got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously...." (George W. Bush, 17 October 2007)

Grin and Laugh: "Here's Bush's expression while saying the words "World War Three" (Huffington Post, 17 October 2007)

Real versus Fake Crises

In an utterly twisted logic, World War III is presented as a means to preserving World Peace.

Iran is blamed for refusing to abide by the "reasonable demands" of "the international community".

Realities are twisted and turned upside down. Iran is being accused of wanting to start World War III.  Inherent in US military doctrine, the victims of war are often heralded as the aggressor.

World War III is upheld as a bona fide humanitarian undertaking which contributes to global security.  In a bitter irony, those who decide on the use of nuclear weapons believe their own propaganda. President and Commander in Chief Barack Obama believes his own lies.

Neither the War nor the worldwide economic depression are understood as part of an unprecedented crisis in World history. Ironically, the dangers to humanity of an all out nuclear war do not instil fear and public concern.

Instead, fake "crises" -- e.g. a global warming, a Worldwide flu pandemic, a "false flag" nuclear attack by "Islamic terrorists"--, are fabricated by the media, the governments, the intelligence apparatus and the Washington think tanks.

An understanding of fundamental social and political events is replaced by a World of sheer fantasy, where "evil folks" are lurking. The purpose of these "fake crises" is to obfuscate the real crisis as well as instil fear and insecurity among the population: 

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed ... by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary... The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it." (H. L. Menken)

While the real danger of nuclear war is barely acknowledged, these "fake crises" are invariably front page news.

Mass unemployment, foreclosures and poverty are not characteristic of a (social) crisis.
The legalization of torture and targeted political assassinations is not part of a (constitutional) crisis. Torturing and killing potential terrorists are intended to "make the world safer".
War waged on humanitarian grounds is considered a "solution" to a crisis rather than its cause.
Economic Depression is not mentioned because the economic recession is said to be over. In other words there is no economic crisis. 

Three Types of Fake Crises

1. A Nuclear Attack on America by Al Qaeda

 "Sooner or later there will be a nuclear 9/11 [by Islamic terrorists] in an American city or that of a US ally... A terrorist nuclear attack against an American city could take many forms. A worst case scenario would be the detonation of a nuclear device within a city. Depending upon the size and sophistication of the weapon, it could kill hundreds of thousands or even millions of people." David Krieger, Is a Nuclear 9/11 in Our Future?,  Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, October 6, 2003

The nuclear threat comes from "non-State" organizations, with limited advanced weapons' capabilities rather than from known nuclear powers (nuclear States).

2 A Global Public Health Emergency. A Global Flu Pandemic

"As many as 2 billion people could become infected [H1N1] over the next two years — nearly one-third of the world population." (World Health Organization as reported by the Western media, July 2009, emphasis added)

"Swine flu could strike up to 40 percent of Americans over the next two years and as many as several hundred thousand could die if a vaccine campaign and other measures aren't successful." (Official Statement of the US Administration, Associated Press, 24 July 2009).

"The U.S. expects to have 160 million doses of swine flu vaccine available sometime in October", (Associated Press, 23 July 2009)

"Vaccine makers could produce 4.9 billion pandemic flu shots per year in the best-case scenario", (Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO), quoted by Reuters, 21 July 2009)

3. The Perils of Global Warming

"The headline figures are: 300,000 deaths and 300 million people affected every year [by global warming]" (Greenpeace, Deaths and displacement due to climate change set to grow. June 5, 2009)

"Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield." (Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate)

"Two thousand scientists, in a hundred countries, engaged in the most elaborate, well organized scientific collaboration in the history of humankind, have produced long-since a consensus that we will face a string of terrible catastrophes unless we act to prepare ourselves and deal with the underlying causes of global warming. (Al Gore, speech at National Sierra Club Convention, Sept. 9, 2005)

"The ultimate concern is that if runaway global warming occurred, temperatures could spiral out of control and make our planet uninhabitable.... this is the first time that a species has been at risk of generating its own demise.… The dinosaurs dominated the earth for 160 million years. We are in danger of putting our future at risk after a mere quarter of a million years." (Michael Meacher, Former UK Minister for the Environment, quoted in the The Guardian, 14 February 2003, emphasis added)

The American Inquisition

Heralded as the "real threat", these fake crises constitute a cover-up of the "real crisis".

The objective is to distort the facts, create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation as well as quell popular dissent and resistance against the established  political and economic order. We are dealing with an inquisitorial environment. In the words of Monty Python:

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! [Read the American inquisition] Our chief weapon is surprise [Read insecurity] ...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency .... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency... and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope [Read the US government].... Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.”

The fear campaign underlying a fake crisis is intended to obfuscate the real crisis --including the danger of nuclear war-- as well as disarm all forms of meaningful resistance and opposition.
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« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2010, 06:33:23 am »

Are sanctions against Iran sophisticated siege warfare?  

22/09/2010 01:00:00 PM GMT
Whether it be the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran, Cuba and North Korea or the Israeli sanctions against Gaza, one could argue that sanctions are a type of modern siege warfare.

( Due to Israeli sanctions against Gaza, eighty percent of the people are dependent on aid.

By Dallas Darling

"I tore out their tongues and defeated them completely, the others, still alive, I smashed with the very same statutes of protective deities with which they had smashed my own grandfather Sennacherib-who had been assassinated in Babylon-finally a belated burial sacrifice for his soul. I fed their corpses, cut into small pieces, to the dogs, pigs, zibu-birds, vultures, the birds of the sky and to the fish of the ocean."(1)

This account of siege warfare and its aftermath by King Assurbanipal came to mind when Iran recently called U.S.-led sanctions against its nation "pathetic," "confused acts," and an attempt to bully and intimidate its people. For some, it was only yesterday when Iran was a corporate-military outpost of the United States Empire. Even as President Carter was promising "the basic right of every human to be free of poverty, hunger, disease, and political repression,"(2) the Shah's CIA-trained and armed troops were machine-gunning Iranians in Jaleh Square. After hundreds of innocent people were killed and wounded, the Shah thanked the U.S. for "this move towards democracy."(3) (A move which would become a sophisticated siege after Iran's Islamic revolution!)

So in 1979 when the people of Iran overthrew this move towards U.S.-styled democracy and instead, embraced an Islamic republic, the U.S. refused to accept such a defeat, that is, the loss of another colonial holding and an alternate democracy. The U.S. not only helped instigate the Iraq-Iran War (1980-87) and the U.S.-Iran Tanker War (1980-85), but it is now training and arming rebels and terrorist groups inside and outside of Iran. Although siege warfare means the art of capturing cities and fortresses by means of a partial or total blockade followed by a systematic reduction including assaults, psychological warfare, and spreading diseases(4); can the same be applied to sophisticated, modern-day sanctions that basically serve the same purpose and the same ends?

In ancient times, siege warfare usually developed into mistrust and hatred between the besieged and the besiegers. While the besieged developed reinforced walls and artificial obstacles, not to mention a deep resentment, the besiegers sought total domination with advanced engineering techniques. Conquering armies built massive assault machines like battering-rams, fighting-towers, and catapult-missiles. If sappers, ramparts, climbers, or artillery barrages failed to breach the gates, besiegers would catapult dead or decapitated bodies over walls to spread diseases. Fire-flaming arrows, to spread panic, were used too. In some instances, even rivers were diverted to starve the defenders into submission. If the besiegers were successful, plundering, pillaging, destruction, and death often ensued.

Whether it be the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran, Cuba and North Korea or the Israeli-led sanctions against the people of Gaza, one could argue that sanctions are a type of modern and civilized-kind of siege warfare, especially when considering the final result: subjection, exploitation and supremacy. For years, Cubans have had to suffer from shortages of food, medicines, and technologies, along with travel restrictions. Due to Israeli sanctions against Gaza, eighty percent of the people are dependent on aid. And while children suffer from malnutrition, some food items and basic necessities like medicines, electricity, construction material, and mechanical parts for industries are blacklisted or banned, as they now are in Iran.

Since provisions like petroleum, industrial parts, and some foods and medicines-including cultural and educational exchanges and financial institutions and investment firms for the purpose of economic development-are now directly or indirectly affected, was a member of Iran's parliament correct in stating that U.S.-led sanctions against Iran are a declaration of war? After all, besiegers must spend enormous amounts of thought, time, resources and money to plan and prepare their attacks. But siege warfare can backfired-as can sanctions-causing the invading armies to retreat, even leading to the collapse of the besiegers own civilization. Surely, the engineering that has remained an extension of siege warfare, and the ingenuity that goes into sanctions, could be better utilized in initiating open dialogue and making peaceful overtures to Iran.

The U.S. could actually learn from Iran's rich and diverse history, specifically in regards to King Cyrus who displayed ingenuity against the walled defenses of Lydia. He did not have the siege skills and would have been forced to retreat, except one day he noticed a Lydian defender climbing down from the walls to retrieve his helmet. He observed the soldier's route back-up the wall, which they did, and the city was taken. Cyrus treated the Lydians with mercy and Lydia willingly became a Persian province.(5) On hearing about this, and due to their own corrupt and abusive leaders, when Cyrus laid siege to Babylon, there was little resistance among the people. When he entered Babylon, branches were placed at Cyrus' feet and he proclaimed peace to all men, forbade looting, allowed religious toleration, and promised payment for those who had suffered under the prior regime.(6)

Not only are the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran a kind of modern siege warfare for the purpose of subjugating and homogenizing its people, but they are retaliatory in nature and very hypocritical. Under U.S. control, the Shah had been America's best customer, buying more than $10 billion in lethal technology, including air-to-air missiles, smart bombs, and aerial tankers-"everything but the atomic bomb,"-according to a State Department official. Amnesty International reported that the Shah presided over a 20,000 man secret police apparatus, had eliminated civilian courts, held 100,000 political opponents in jail, and carried out more official executions than any other country in the world.(7)

After massacring peaceful Iranian demonstrators in Jaleh Square, the Shah's ambassadors asked Washington with regard to its appetite for terror: "Would you accept five thousand deaths? Ten thousand? Twenty thousand?"(Cool The same questions need to be raised today about deadly sanctions. Can battering rams and assault ladders turn into peace initiatives and words of goodwill? Can fighting-towers and ramparts develop into ambassadors and bridges of peace and understanding? Will aid to sappers-who attack randomly and bomb innocent civilians-end? When will flaming-arrows that cause fear and panic, or dead bodies catapulted over walls that leads to sickness, be eliminated? Will rivers that provide drink and food for the thirsty and hungry, never again be used as weapons of war?

Whether it be ancient siege warfare or modern sanctions, the ends have always been the same: the arrogant and self-indulgent desire to dominate and conquer a city, fortress, or entire nation. But just as King Cyrus observed and discovered, there are much better ways and avenues in establishing peace with justice and security. After three decades of modern and sophisticated siege warfare against Iran, including the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of lives, one has to wonder if the U.S. and its political and military leaders will ever learn this valuable lesson.

-- Dallas Darling -

(Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John's Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for You can read more of Dallas' writings at and

-- AJP
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2010, 06:22:03 am »

Are We Secretly Fighting a Cyberwar Against Iran?

Stuxnet, a virus affecting Iran's nuclear facilities, appears to be a case of sabotage. If the United States is behind it, then Obama is already at war with Iran.

By Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation
Posted on September 27, 2010, Printed on September 28, 2010

For several years now, there have been reports that the United States has been waging what amounts to technological warfare against Iran, using sophisticated industrial sabotage measures to weaken and undermine Iran’s nuclear industry -- and, according to the New York Times, these efforts began during the Bush administration but accelerated under President Obama. And, for the past several years, there have been widespread reports that Iran’s nuclear program has been slowed or crippled by some unexplained malfunctions that have, among other things, caused Iran to spin far fewer centrifuges at Natanz, its enrichment plant, than earlier.

Now, it appears, there is a serious computer worm affecting Iran’s nuclear industry, along with other Iranian industrial facilities. Called Stuxnet, the worm appears to be a case of outright industrial sabotage or cyber warfare, created and unleashed not by rogue hackers but by a state. According to the Seattle Times, the time stamp on the Stuxnet virus reveals that it was created in January, 2010, meaning that if the United States is behind it, it’s Obama’s doing, not Bush’s.

If so, and if the United States is behind it, then Obama is already at war with Iran. Cyber warfare is no less war than bombs and paratroopers. Besides the United States, of course, Israel is high on the list of countries with both motive and capability. Iran’s PressTV, a government-owned news outlet, quotes various Western technology and cybersecurity experts saying that either the United States or Israel is behind Stuxnet.

The Seattle Times reports that Stuxnet is highly specific, aimed “solely at equipment made by Siemens that controls oil pipelines, electric utilities, nuclear facilities, and other large industrial sites.”

The Stuxnet infection was detected by VirusBlokAda, a Belarusian computer security company, in July. Like other forms of warfare, the Stuxnet attack is causing collateral damage, spreading to computer networks outside Iran.

The Seattle Times notes, somewhat obliquely, that while President Obama talks often about spending huge sums to protect the United States from computer warfare, it also spends a lot of money to develop an offensive capability against other countries:  “President Obama has talked extensively about developing better cyberdefenses for the United States, to protect banks, power plants, telecommunications systems and other critical infrastructure. He has said almost nothing about the other side of the cybereffort: billions of dollars spent on offensive capability, much of it based inside the National Security Agency.”

The Stuxnet virus has also affected Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr, constructed by the Russians. According to the Tehran Times, Iranian officials have admitted the attack and they’re working to contain it. “Iranian information technology officials have confirmed that some Iranian industrial systems have been targeted by a cyber attack, but added that Iranian engineers are capable of rooting out the problem,” reported the Tehran Times. The paper also quoted a top Iranian official saying: “An electronic war has been launched against Iran.” The same official, Mahmoud Liaii of the Industries and Mines Ministry’s tech office, added that the virus “is designed to transfer data about production lines from our industrial plants to (locations) outside of the country.”

Haaretz, the Israeli daily, quoted the European firm Kaspersky Labs thus: “Stuxnet is a working and fearsome prototype of a cyber-weapon that will lead to the creation of a new arms race in the world.”

Make no mistake: This is serious stuff. I'm not one of those naive, Pollyannish types who believe that Iran is merely interested in peaceful uses of nuclear power. (For one thing, it doesn't have a nuclear power industry that needs fuel, and it won't have one for at least 15 years.)

Iran would never suffer the painful sanctions and international isolation that it faces merely to defend a theoretical right to develop a civilian nuclear industry. Perhaps its leaders see the nuclear program as a giant bargaining chip or as a way to gain attention for itself. No one wants to see Iran get the bomb, including Russia, China -- and, yes, the author of this article. However, Iran is not very close to having that capability: So far it hasn't even tried to enrich uranium to the highly enriched state needed to build a bomb. If and when it does, the world will know. And, if bombing Iran's nuclear facilities is not the answer, neither is launching war by other means.

Robert Dreyfuss is the author of "Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam" (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books).

© 2010 The Nation All rights reserved.
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2010, 07:09:14 am »

Israel Suspected in Worm Sabotage of Iran's First Nuclear Plant

Jason Mick (Blog) - September 27, 2010 10:45 AM

Iran's first nuclear power plant has suffered a serious cyber-intrusion from a sophisticated worm that infected workers' computers, and potentially plant systems.  (Source: AP)

The worm has spread to over 10,000 computers in Indonesia. Computers in the U.S. have also been infected.  (Source: Digitrain)

Attack has since spread to plants and computers in the U.S. and elsewhere, posing serious threat

It's been only a month since the activation of Iran's first nuclear power plant and there's already a major crisis concerning proliferation.  But this crisis has nothing to do with nuclear arms proliferation.  Rather, the scare has to do with the proliferation of the Stuxnet worm, a malicious computer program that has invaded the plant's computers and since spread to computers worldwide.

The viral program is very sophisticated and appears designed specifically to attack the plant.  It first was released onto workers' computers, designed to try to reach plant's control systems.  Unlike other more sophisticated attacks which appeared to be primarily geared for monitoring, this attack was designed to do damage.  It contained logic to sabotage nuclear fuel enrichment centrifuges.  The centrifuges, made by German equipment electronics giant Siemens, would be made to fail in a virtually unnoticeable way.

The Bushehr plant is located near Natanz, central-Iranian city located almost 200 miles south of the capital city of Tehran.  The plant is a joint endeavor between Iran and Russia.  While the U.S. and others have chastised Russia for its involvement, the U.S. intelligence community has asserted that it doesn't believe Iran to be currently developing nuclear weapons at the facility.

Mahmoud Jafari, project manager at the Bushehr nuclear plant is quoted in The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, as stating that the viral worm never achieved its goal.  Comments Mr. Jafari, "[It] has not caused any damage to major systems of the plant."

But according to international whistle-blower site Wikileaks, a serious nuclear accident occurred at the plant sometime before mid-June.  The site's founder, Julian Assange, wrote:

Two weeks ago, a source associated with Iran's nuclear program confidentially told WikiLeaks of a serious, recent, nuclear accident at Natanz. Natanz is the primary location of Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
WikiLeaks had reason to believe the source was credible however contact with this source was lost.
WikiLeaks would not normally mention such an incident without additional confirmation, however according to Iranian media and the BBC, today the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, has resigned under mysterious circumstances. According to these reports, the resignation was tendered around 20 days ago.
Inspectors examined the claims, but found no distinguishable traces of an accident.

A time stamp on the virus reveals that it was made in January.  What is equally remarkable to its sophistication in terms of attack behavior is the lack of sophistication when it comes to the worm's proliferation. 

If it had constrained its infections to Bushehr, it would likely not have been noticed for some time.  Instead, the worm was extremely aggressive in its infection vectors, spreading to fifteen other Siemens plants, and tens of thousands of non-plant computers worldwide.  In Iran 60,000 computers are infected.  In Indonesia, 10,000 machines are infected.  And in the United States thousands of computers are believed to be infected as well.

That creates a dangerous situation, as numerous parties, including international governments and black-hat hackers, are racing to reverse-engineer the code and exploit the infected machines.  The infected machines may not only compromise personal details, but may compromise industrial infrastructure in Iran, Indonesia, India (another infection site), and the U.S.

Melissa Hathaway, a former United States national cybersecurity coordinator, comments, "Proliferation is a real problem, and no country is prepared to deal with it.  All of these guys are scared to death. We have about 90 days to fix this before some hacker begins using it."

So who is behind the attacks?  The New York Times quotes a former U.S. intelligence office as saying that the attack was the work of Israel’s equivalent of America’s National Security Agency, known as Unit 8200.  According to IEEE Spectrum's December issue, Israel had previously used a cyber-attack to shut off radar systems in Syria, allowing it to evaluate what it believed to be an under-construction nuclear reactor.

Regardless of who perpetrated the attack, the primary issue now is stamping it out, before it can be used for even more nefarious purposes.  Early reports were unclear about the transmission vector, but suggested it may be spreading via USB sticks and other removable media.

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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2010, 07:34:48 am »

Middle East
Sep 30, 2010
Why the US doesn't talk to Iran

By Ismael Hossein-zadeh and Karla Hansen

The unrelenting diplomatic and geopolitical standoff between Iran and the United States is often blamed on the Iranian government for its "confrontational" foreign policies, or its "unwillingness" to enter into dialogue with the United States. Little known, however, is that during the past decade or so, Iran has offered a number of times to negotiate with the US without ever getting a positive response.

The best-known effort at dialogue, which came to be known as Iran's "grand bargain" proposal, was made in May 2003. The two-page proposal for a broad Iran-US understanding, covering all issues of mutual concern, was transmitted to the US State Department through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran. Not only
did the State Department not respond to Iran's negotiating offer, but, as reporter Gareth Porter pointed out, it "rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer".

Since then, Iran has made a number of other efforts at negotiation, the latest of which was made by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad ahead of last week's trip to the United States to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Regrettably, once again the US ignored Ahmadinejad's overture of meeting with President Barack Obama during his UN visit.

The question is why? Why have successive US administrations been reluctant to enter into a conflict-resolution dialogue with Iran, which could clearly be in the national interests of the United States?

The answer, in a nutshell, is that US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is driven not so much by broad national interests as they are by narrow but powerful special interests - interests that seem to prefer war and militarism to peace and international understanding. These are the nefarious interests that are vested in military industries and related "security" businesses, notoriously known as the military-industrial complex. These beneficiaries of war dividends would not be able to justify their lion's share of our tax dollars without "external enemies" or "threats to our national interests."

Taking a large share of the national treasury was not a difficult act to perform during the Cold War era because the pretext for continued increases in military spending - the "communist threat" - seemed to lie conveniently at hand. Justification of increased military spending in the post-Cold War period, however, has prompted the military-security interests to be more creative in inventing (or manufacturing, if necessary) "new sources of danger to US interests".

When the collapse of the Soviet system and the subsequent discussions of "peace dividends" in the United States threatened the interests of the military-industrial conglomerates, their representatives invented "new threats to US interests" and successfully substituted them for the "threat of communism" of the Cold War. These "new, post-Cold War sources of threat" are said to stem from the so-called "rogue states", "global terrorism" and "Islamic fundamentalism." Demonization of Iran and/or Ahmadinejad can be better understood in this context.

Now, it may be argued that if beneficiaries of war-dividends need external enemies to justify their unfair share of national treasury, why Iran? Why of all places is Iran targeted as such an enemy? Isn't there something wrong with the Iranian government and/or Ahmadinejad's policies in challenging the world's superpower knowing that this would be a case of David challenging Goliath, that it would cause diplomatic pressure, military threats and economic sanctions on Iran?

These are the kind of questions that the "Greens" and other critics of Ahmadinejad's government ask, rhetorical questions that tend to blame Iran for the economic sanctions and military threats against that country - in effect, blaming the victim for the crimes of the perpetrator. Labeling Ahmadinejad's policies as "rash", "adventurous" and "confrontational," Mir Hossein Mousavi and other leaders of the "Greens" frequently blame those polices for external military and economic pressures on Iran.

Accordingly, they seek "understanding" and "accommodation" with the US and its allies, presumably including Israel, to achieve political and economic stability. While, prima facie, this sounds like a reasonable argument, it suffers from a number of shortcomings.

To begin with, it is a disingenuous and obfuscationist argument. Military threats and economic sanctions against Iran did not start with Ahmadinejad's presidency; they have been imposed on Iran for more than 30 years, essentially as punishment for its 1979 revolution that ended the imperial US influence over its economic, political and military affairs. It is true that the sanctions have been steadily escalated, significantly intensified in recent months. But that is not because Ahmadinejad occasionally lashes out at imperialist/Zionist policies in the region; it is rather because Iran has refused to give in to the imperialistic dictates of the US and its allies.

Second, it is naive to think that US imperialism would be swayed by gentle or polite language to lift economic sanctions or remove military threats against Iran. During his two terms in office (eight years), former president Mohammad Khatami frequently spoke of a "dialogue of civilizations", counterposing it to the US neo-conservatives' "clash of civilizations". This was effectively begging the Unites States for dialogue and diplomatic rapprochement, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. Why?

Because US policy toward Iran (or any other country, for that matter) is based on an imperialistic agenda that consists of a series of demands or expectations, not on diplomatic decorum, or the type of language its leaders use. These include Iran's giving up its lawful and legitimate right to civilian nuclear technology, opening up its public domain and/or state-owned industries to debt-leveraging and privatization schemes of the predatory finance capital of the West, as well as its compliance with US-Israeli geopolitical designs in the Middle East.

It is not unreasonable to argue that once Iran allowed US input, or meddling, into such issues of national sovereignty, it would find itself on a slippery slope, the bottom of which would be giving up its independence. The US would not be satisfied until Iran became another "ally" in the Middle East, more or less like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the like.

It is ironic that Green leaders such as Mousavi, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami blame Ahmadinejad for the hostile imperialist policies toward Iran. For, as mentioned above, US imperialism showed its most venomous hostility toward Iran during the presidency of Khatami while he was vigorously pursuing a path of friendship with the US.

While Khatami was promoting his "dialogue of civilizations" and taking conciliatory steps to befriend the US, including cooperation in the overthrow of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan, the US labeled Iran as a member of the "axis of evil", along with Iraq and North Korea. This demonization was then used as a propaganda tool to intensify economic sanctions and justify calls for "regime change" in Iran.

In the face of Khatami's conciliatory gestures toward the US, many Iranians were so outraged by its unfair and provocative attitude toward Iran that they began to question the wisdom of Khatami's policy of trying to appease the US. It is now widely believed that the frustration of many Iranians with Khatami's (one-sided) policy of dialogue with the US played a major role in the defeat of his reformist allies in both the 2003 parliamentary elections and the 2005 presidential election.

By the same token, it also played a major role in the rise of Ahmadinejad to Iran's presidency, as he forcefully criticized the reformists' attitude toward US imperialism as naive, arguing that negotiation with the US must be based on mutual respect, not at the expense of Iran's sovereignty. (See Iran's Greens deserted Asia Times Online, June 16, 2010.)

In its drive to provoke, destabilize and (ultimately) change the Iranian government to its liking, the US finds a steadfast ally in Israel. There is an unspoken, de facto alliance between the US military-industrial complex and militant Zionist forces - an alliance that might be called the military-industrial-security-Zionist alliance.

More than anything else, the alliance is based on a convergence of interests on militarism and war in the Middle East, especially against Iran; as Iran is the only country in the region that systematically and unflinchingly exposes both the imperialist schemes of Western powers and expansionist designs of radical Zionism.

Just as the powerful beneficiaries of war dividends view international peace and stability as inimical to their business interests, so too the hardline Zionist proponents of "greater Israel" perceive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors as perilous to their goal of gaining control over the "Promised Land".

The reason for this fear of peace is that, according to a number of United Nations resolutions, peace would mean Israel's return to its pre-1967 borders, that is, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But because proponents of "greater Israel" are unwilling to withdraw from these territories, they are fearful of peace and genuine dialogue with their Arab neighbors - hence, their continued disregard for UN resolutions and their systematic efforts at sabotaging peace negotiations.

So, the answer to the question "why is Iran targeted?" boils down to this: because Iran has broken the mold, so to speak, of a pattern of imperialist domination in the Middle East (and beyond). Iran's only "sin" (from the viewpoint of imperialist powers) is that it tries to be an independent, sovereign nation. All other alleged "offenses", such as pursuit of nuclear weapons or support for terrorism, have proven by now to be harebrained excuses that are designed to punish Iran for trying to exercise its national rights as a sovereign country.

Under the influence of hawkish neo-conservative pressure groups (representing the interests of the military-industrial-Zionist forces) the US has cornered itself into a position in which it is afraid of talking to Iran because if it does, all of its long-standing accusations against that country would be automatically exposed.

It is worth noting that while the powerful special interests that are vested in the military-security capital benefit from (and therefore tend to advocate) war and military adventures in the Middle East, the broader, but less-cohesive, interests that are vested in civilian, or non-military, capital tend to incur losses in global markets as a result of such military adventures.

Militaristic American foreign policy is viewed by international consumers as a significant negative. Representatives of the broad-based civilian industries are aware of the negative economic consequences of the militarization of US foreign policy. And that's why leading non-military business/trade associations such as The National Foreign Trade Council and USA*Engage (a coalition of nearly 800 small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of aggressive US foreign policy actions) have expressed disappointment at the recently expanded US sanctions against Iran on the grounds that such sanctions would significantly undermine US national interests.

Yet US foreign policy decisions, especially in the Middle East, seem to be driven not so much by broad national interests as they are by narrow (but powerful) special interests, not so much by "peace dividends" as they are by "war dividends". These powerful special interests, represented largely by the military-security and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee forces, tend to perceive international peace and stability, especially in the Middle East, as detrimental to their interests.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of the The Political Economy of US Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Karla Hansen, director-producer of Silent Screams, is a social worker and peace activist from Des Moines, Iowa.

(Copyright 2010 Ismael Hossein-zadeh.) 
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« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2010, 06:11:11 am »

Middle East
Oct 2, 2010 
Ominous signs in Iran under siege

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

Iran is increasingly under siege. From cyber-attacks on its nuclear infrastructure to biting economic and financial sanctions, to overt support for (armed) opposition groups, to a military build-up of neighbors, it appears that outside powers are making a concerted effort at regime change in the Islamic Republic.

If unchecked, this will likely yield growing regional tensions instead of dialogue that reduces them. For all practical purposes, United States President Barack Obama's "Iran engagement" policy has turned into a subversive engagement with pro-democracy and opposition groups, tantamount to a new level of interference in Iran's internal affairs under the veneer of democracy and human rights.

By all accounts, in the aftermath of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's controversial speech at the United Nations last week eliciting harsh Western responses, the prospects for dialogue appear to have diminished, replaced by a new, and ominous, qualitative turn for the worse in the tumultuous US-Iran relations. This in addition to the new "human rights sanctions" imposed by the US government on a number of Iranian officials, as well as the new drumbeats of war by various US pundits. (See New Iran sanctions as war chorus rises Asia Times Online, October 1, 2010.)

Adding new teeth to the harsh jaws of Iran sanctions, the US government has just announced that four major oil companies are quitting Iran, which, if true, represents a major blow to the ailing energy sector. It has been forced to shut down several major projects, such as in Assaluyeh, which is bound to reverberate throughout the oil-based economy in the near future. United States Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said on Thursday that Royal Dutch Shell, based in Britain and the Netherlands; France's Total; Eni of Italy; and the Norway-based Statoil had committed to no further investments in Iran.

Coinciding with Tehran's announcement of a new delay in launching the Bushehr power plant, widely attributed to the cyber-attack that Tehran say originate from the US and or Israel, these represent serious setbacks for Iran that the country can ill-afford.

Simultaneously, neither the US nor its Western allies involved in nuclear negotiation with Iran have displayed any genuine interest in moving forward with a new round of negotiation, despite the conciliatory gestures of Ahmadinejad during his New York visit. There, he repeatedly expressed optimism on new dialogue and even went as far as declaring Tehran's readiness to halt the 20% uranium enrichment (for the Tehran reactor) if a proposed nuclear swap deal was accepted by the Vienna Group, consisting of US, Russia, France and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

According to some Iran experts, Ahmadinejad's 9/11 accusations hurled at the US government during his UN General Assembly speech served to put Iran on the offensive in light of all the variegated attacks on Iran, which had put Tehran "on the defensive". It has also served the president's domestic considerations, given the solid support by the majority of Iran's parliament (Majlis), many of whom had been vocally critical of the president prior to his New York visit.

But, as an untimely trade-off between internal gains versus external loss, it is unclear whether the 9/11 remarks will have a lasting negative impression on Obama, who lambasted the speech in an interview with the Persian program of the BBC. That would be unfortunate, given the fact that while in New York Ahmadinejad revealed the existence of a new letter to Obama, this while praising the US government for the first time as "an influential world power".

None of those conciliatory gestures seems to matter the least nowadays to Washington, still angry at Ahmadinejad's audacity in raising the touchy issue of 9/11. This despite the fact that other world leaders such as Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez have long been making the same allegations of US government complicity in the 9/11 tragedies, with some help from various US sources. [1]

Ironically, compared to the light reactions in the US media to Chavez's allegations, Ahmadinejad has been the recipient of the harshest responses, with a Fox news reporter interviewing him asking him how dare he makes such "stupid and nutty claims?"

One of his key advisers, who spoke with the author on the condition of anonymity, maintains that Ahmadinejad's "communicative rationality" is his ace, which disarms his US media critics who "actually expose their own biases by their rude behavior".

In light of the concerted US-led campaign of destabilization of Iran, the stage is now set for more ominous developments on the US-Iran front, given the proximity of US forces to Iranian (land and maritime) territory; in a word, at this point no one can rule out future triggers such as in the Persian Gulf, scene of potential naval flash points between US and Iran.

With the risk scenarios many, and a poisoned climate evaporating the chances for selective cooperation on regional issues such as Ahmadinejad's offer of cooperation with the US on Afghanistan, the future of US-Iran relations looks hopelessly bleak at the moment. A familiar story since the onset of the anti-Western Islamist regime in Iran however, the new level of hostilities between the two countries may be followed by a cooling off period caused by the mere threat of an unwanted spiral toward physical confrontation.

According to a Tehran political analyst, the US and Israel have exploited the Iranian president's 9/11 comments to deflect attention from Israel's total disregard for Obama's call for extending the moratorium on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which he characterized as an impediment to peace process in his UN speech.

Instead of focusing on the Israeli non-response and the mad rush for building thousands of new housing units in the occupied territories, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is reportedly granted the discretion of setting the Iran policy, has been side-tracked, busy issuing punitive measure after measure on Iran, to the delight of the pro-Israel lobbyists.

Best described as a Iraq war-in-slow-motion, the current impasse with Iran is rapidly acquiring all the ingredients of a major international crisis warranting prudent conflict-management by the world community. The European Union, which is outsourcing its Iran policy to the Obama administration, requires an urgent wake-up call before it is too late. But then again who in Europe today can resist the Obama "charm offensive" even though it may be the Mephistophelean charm of a militarized superpower?

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and his latest book, Looking for rights at Harvard, is now available.

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« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2010, 06:17:27 am »

Asia Times
Oct 2, 2010 
Stuxnet raises virus stakes

By Martin J Young

HUA HIN, Thailand - The term "cyber-warfare" has until recently been reserved primarily for spy novels or the corridors of clandestine government security departments. That changed in recent weeks when a nuclear installation in Iran was attacked by a piece of malicious software (malware) called Stuxnet.

The viral code has been circulating since June, but the specific targeting of this particular attack sets a precedent as the first of its kind and a new era of cyber warfare.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant, on Iran's southwest coastline, was the target of the well-orchestrated digital assault. The method of infection would probably have been via a USB memory stick (or sticks), which may have been left in strategic locations to be stumbled upon by employees who would subsequently pocket the device and later plug it into their laptop or workstation.

Iranian authorities estimated that at least 30,000 computers at the reactor and owned by employees were infected. Efforts to remove the viral code were fraught with problems. "The virus is not stable, and since we started the clean-up process three new versions of it have been spreading,” said Hamid Alipour, deputy head of Iran's state run Information Technology Co.

Industrial control systems made by German company Siemens, which are widely used in Iran, were the targets of the worm, indicating that its creators had advanced knowledge of these types of systems far beyond the scope of a most information technology experts. The code is so specialized that it targets only two models of Siemens programmable logic controllers, the S7 300 and S7 400, and will execute only if it finds very specific parameters within the machine. These controllers are usually associated with the management of oil pipeline systems, electrical power grids, and nuclear power plants.

Alipour went on to state that due to the code's complexity, reach, and huge investment behind its creation it was likely to have originated from a foreign country or organization.

Writers and purveyors of malware and viruses have usually been motivated by a desire for notoriety or financial gain. Stuxnet breaks that mould by being malicious code designed as a weapon. It attacks industrial control systems and alters the code in them, allowing hackers to gain control of the physical machinery and manipulate real-world equipment. This makes the threat far more dangerous than a regular virus, which is designed to wreak havoc in cyberspace.

According to online security company Symantec, Stuxnet is sophisticated, well funded and has been created by a highly skilled team over a six-month period. There are not many groups globally that could have pulled this threat off and fingers are already being pointed.

Over the past week, security companies have been dissecting the malware code in an effort to reveal clues about its creators. Feeding conjecture that is spreading across the Internet and media are obscure biblical references discovered hidden in the code.

The word "Myrtus" offers an ephemeral reference to an Old Testament tale in the Book of Esther, depicting a story about a pre-emptive move by the Jews against a Persian plot to destroy them. The Hebrew word for myrtle, "Hadassah", was the birth name of Esther, a Jewish queen of Persia.

Other cryptic messages include the date "05091979" which refers to May 9, 1979 - the day Jewish Iranian businessman and philanthropist Habib Elghanian, who played a significant role in bringing Western technology to Iran in the 1960s and 1970s, was executed in Tehran.

The digital calling cards in the code could be red herrings designed to flummox investigators or, as many suspect, they could be confirmation of an Israeli effort to thwart Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Israel has never hidden its intentions to undermine the computer systems that manage Iran's large uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, but the malware has also appeared in other countries, including China, India and Indonesia.

It has been reported that Iranian engineers have been struggling to control the huge centrifuges at Natanz that are required for uranium enrichment. The emergence of Stuxnet at another plant only adds to their suspicions.

Israel's secret cyberwar division, Unit 8200, has received huge resources in recent times so it is entirely possible that the Stuxnet attack on Bushehr - which does not process uranium - was a warm-up for something bigger.

Cyber warfare stakes have now moved up a level, to one that leaves it highly unlikely Iran will be able to retaliate through USB sticks and computer code.

Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.

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