Iran MPs condemn US ‘terrorists’

Iranian Revolutionary Guard (file)

The guards force was established after the Islamic revolution in 1979

Iranian MPs have voted to classify the US armed forces and the CIA as terrorist groups. A statement signed by 215 Iranian MPs cited the bombing of Japan during World War II, and the invasions of Vietnam and Iraq, as “terrorist actions”.

The largely symbolic move comes days after the US Senate urged the White House to brand Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation.

The foreign ministry in Tehran said it backed the MPs’ motion.

Correspondents say the ministry’s support is significant because government bodies are generally not as hardline as the parliament.

REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS

Officially the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)

Formed after 1979 revolution

Loyal to clerics and counter to regular military

Estimated 125,000 troops

Includes army, navy, air force, intelligence and special forces

Iran President Ahmadinejad is a former member

Source: Globalsecurity.org

US turns heat up on Iran

Timeline: US-Iran relations

While the Iranian motion is seen as largely symbolic, the labelling of a group as a terrorist organisation by the US could have financial implications for the guards.

Any assets within US jurisdiction would be frozen and the US Treasury Department could move against firms subject to US law that do business with the guards.

The Revolutionary Guards force was established after the Islamic revolution toppled the Shah and brought hard-line clerics to power in Iran in 1979.

It is estimated to have 125,000 active members and operates separately from Iran’s main armed forces.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7020603.stm

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US, NATO and Israel Deploy Nukes directed against Iran

 

Global Research, September 27, 2007

 

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In late August, reported by the Military Times,  a US Air Force B-52 bomber flew from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana with six AGM advanced cruise missiles, each of which was armed with a W-80-1 nuclear warhead. “… Missiles were mounted on the pylons under its wings. Each of the warheads carried a yield of up to 150 kilotons, more than ten times as powerful as the US bomb that leveled Hiroshima at the close of the  Second World War.”  (See Bill Van Auken, Global Research September 2007)

The Military Times byline was “B-52 mistakenly flies with nukes aboard”. The issue was casually acknowledged by The Washington Post and the New York Times. The reports quoted a US Air force spokesman. The matter was offhandedly brushed aside. The incident represented “an isolated mistake” and that “at no time was there a threat to public safety.” (Ibid) :

“As far as is known, the incident marked the first time that a US plane has taken off armed with nuclear weapons in nearly 40 years. …

… The transport of weapons from one base to another, however, is normally carried out in the holds of C-17 and C-130 cargo planes, not fixed to the wings of combat bombers.

Someone had to give the order to mount the missiles on the plane. The question is whether it was a local Air Force commander—either by mistake or deliberately—or whether the order came from higher up.

B-52s from Barksdale have been used repeatedly to strike targets in Iraq, firing cruise missiles at Iraqi targets in 1996 and 1998, and in the “shock and awe” campaign that preceded the 2003 invasion, carrying out some 150 bombing runs that devastated much of the southern half of the country.

Moreover, the weapon that was fixed to the wings of the B-52 flying from Minot air base was designed for use against hardened targets, such as underground bunkers.

Given the ratcheting up of the threats against Iran and the previous reports of plans for the use of “tactical” nuclear weapons against Iranian nuclear installations, there is a very real possibility that the flight to Barksdale was part of covert preparations for a nuclear strike against Iran.

If this is indeed the case, the claims about a “mistake” by a munitions officer and a few airmen in North Dakota may well be merely a cover story aimed at concealing the fact that the government in Washington is preparing a criminal act of world historic proportions by ordering—without provocation—the first use of nuclear weapons since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki more than sixty years ago. (Bill van Auken, op. cit).

In recent developments, Wayne Madsen (September 27) has suggested, based on US and foreign intelligence sources, that the B-52 carrying the advanced cruise missiles with bunker buster nuclear warheads was in fact destined for the Middle East. 

Is the B-52 Barksdale incident in any way related to US plans to use nuclear weapons against Iran? 

Madsen suggests, in this regard, that the operation of shipping the nuclear warheads was aborted “due to internal opposition within the Air Force and U.S. Intelligence Community”, which was opposed to a planned US attack on Iran using nuclear warheads. 

Without downplaying the significance of the Barksdale incident, if Washington were to decide to use nuclear weapons against Iran, they could be launched at short notice from a number of military bases in Western Europe and the Middle East, from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, from a submarine or from a US Aircraft carrier. Turkey has some 90 B61 tactical nuclear weapons which are fully deployed. (See details below). (Moreover, with regard to the Barksdale incidenct, it should be noted that the W-80-1 nuclear warheads mounted on the B-52s are not the type of nuclear weapon contemplated by the US military for use in the Middle East conventional war theater.)

To grasp the seriousness of the “Barksdale incident”, it is important to understand the broader context of nuclear weapons deployment respectively by the US, NATO and Israel.  

We are not dealing with a single aborted operation of deployment of nuclear weapons to the Middle East. 

There are indications that a large number of US made nuclear weapons are currently deployed in Western Europe and the Middle East including Israel. 

Coordinated Military Operation

We are dealing with a coordinated military operation in which US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) plays a central role. The main coalition partners are the US, NATO and Israel.

There are four interrelated “building blocks” pertaining to the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater: 

1. CONPLAN 8022 formulated in 2004. CONPLAN integrates the use of conventional and nuclear weapons.  

2. National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 35, entitled Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization  issued in May 2004  

3. The deployment of Israeli nuclear weapons directed against targets in the Middle East

4. Deployment of Nuclear Weapons by NATO/EU countries, directed against targets in the Middle East  

1. CONPLAN 8022

CONPLAN 8022 under the jurisdiction of USSTRATCOM sets the stage. It envisages the integration of conventional and nuclear weapons and the use of nukes on a preemptive basis in the conventional war theater. It is described as “a concept plan for the quick use of nuclear, conventional, or information warfare capabilities to destroy–preemptively, if necessary–“time-urgent targets” anywhere in the world.” CONPLAN became operational in early 2004. “As a result, the Bush administration’s preemption policy is now operational on long-range bombers, strategic submarines on deterrent patrol, and presumably intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).” (Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)

CONCEPT PLAN (CONPLAN) 8022 now consists of  “an actual plan that the Navy and the Air Force translate into strike package for their submarines and bombers,’ (Japanese Economic Newswire, 30 December 2005, For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, op. cit.).

“CONPLAN 8022 is ‘the overall umbrella plan for sort of the pre-planned strategic scenarios involving nuclear weapons.'”

2. Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization: NSPD 35 (2004)

National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 35, entitled Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization  was issued in May 2004.  

The contents of this highly sensitive document remains a carefully guarded State secret. There has been no mention of NSPD 35 by the media nor even in Congressional debates. While its contents remains classified, the presumption is that NSPD 35 pertains to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater in compliance with CONPLAN 8022.

There are unconfirmed reports that  B61-11 type tactical nuclear weapons have been deployed to the Middle East following NSPD 35. According to a report published in the Turkish press, the B-61s could be used against Iran, if Iran were to retaliate with conventional weapons to a US or Israeli attack (See Ibrahim Karagul, “The US is Deploying Nuclear Weapons in Iraq Against Iran”, Yeni Safak,. 20 December 2005, quoted in BBC Monitoring Europe).

In this regard, NSPD-17 of December 2002 entitled National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction, quoted in the Washington Times (January 31, 2003) points to possible use of nuclear weapons in retaliation, if US or allied forces are attacked:  

    “The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force — including potentially nuclear weapons — to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.” (emphaisis added, this section quoted by the WT pertains to the classified version of NSPD)

3. Israeli Nukes

Israel is part of the military alliance and is slated to play a major role in case  the planned attacks on Iran were to be carried out. (For details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 ).

Israel possesses 100-200 strategic nuclear warheads . In 2003, Washington and Tel Aviv confirmed that they were collaborating in “the deployment of US-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Israel’s fleet of Dolphin-class submarines.” (The Observer, 12 October 2003) . Coinciding with the 2005 preparations to wage air strikes against Iran, Israel took delivery of  two new German produced submarines “that could launch nuclear-armed cruise missiles for a “second-strike” deterrent.” (Newsweek, 13 February 2006. See also CDI Data Base)

The Israeli military and political circles had been making statements on the possibility of nuclear and missile strikes on Iran openly since October, 2006, when the idea was immediately supported by G. Bush. Currently it is touted in the form of a “necessity” of nuclear strikes. The public is taught to believe that there is nothing monstrous about such a possibility and that, on the contrary, a nuclear strike is quite feasible. Allegedly, there is no other way to “stop” Iran. (General Leonid Ivashov, Iran Must Get Ready to Repel a Nuclear Attack, Global Research, January 2007)

At the outset of Bush’s second term, Vice President Dick Cheney dropped a bombshell. He hinted, in no uncertain terms, that Iran was “right at the top of the list” of the rogue enemies of America, and that Israel would, so to speak, “be doing the bombing for us”, without US military involvement and without us putting pressure on them “to do it”. 

“Rather than a direct American nuclear strike against Iran’s hard targets, Israel has been given the assignment of launching a coordinated cluster of nuclear strikes aimed at targets that are the nuclear installations in the Iranian cities: Natanz, Isfahan and Arak.(Michael Carmichael, Global research, January 2007)

Israel is a Rottweiler on a leash: The US wants to “set Israel loose” to attack Iran. Commenting the Vice President’s assertion, former National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in an interview on PBS, confirmed with some apprehension, yes: Cheney wants [former] Prime Ariel Sharon to act on America’s behalf and “do it” for us:

…”And the vice president today in a kind of a strange parallel statement to this declaration of freedom hinted that the Israelis may do it and in fact used language which sounds like a justification or even an encouragement for the Israelis to do it.”

Beneath the rhetoric, what we are dealing with is a joint US-NATO-Israeli military operation directed against Iran and Syria, which has been in the active planning stage since 2004. US advisers in the Pentagon have been working assiduously with their Israeli military and intelligence counterparts, carefully identifying targets inside Iran ( Seymour Hersh, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/HER501A.html )

In recent developments, at the September 2007 meetings of the Vienna based IAEA, a critical resolution, implicitly aimed at Israel, was put forth which would put Israel’s nuclear program “under international purview.” The resolution was adopted with the US and Israel voting against it. 

4. NATO Nukes. Nuclear Weapons Deployment by Five Non-nuclear States

Several Western European  countries, officially considered as “non-nuclear states”, possess tactical nuclear weapons, supplied to them by Washington.

The US has supplied some 480 B61 thermonuclear bombs to five non-nuclear NATO countries including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, and one nuclear country, the United Kingdom. These weapons are ready for delivery to “known military targets”.


 

Source: http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/nato.htm 

See Details and Map of Nuclear Facilities located in 5 European Non-Nuclear States


As part of this European stockpiling, Turkey, which is a partner of the US-led coalition against Iran along with Israel, possesses some 90 thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs at the Incirlik nuclear air base. (National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005). These military facilities are part of the war plans directed against Iran.   

B61-11 NEP Thermonuclear Bomb


Consistent with US nuclear policy, the stockpiling and deployment of B61 nuclear weapons in Western Europe are intended for targets in the Middle East. Confirmed by “NATO strike plans”, these thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs (stockpiled by the “non-nuclear States”) could be launched  “against targets in Russia or countries in the Middle East such as Syria and Iran” ( quoted in
National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005) 

Moreover, confirmed by (partially) declassified documents (released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act):

“… The approximately 480 nuclear bombs in Europe are intended for use in accordance with NATO nuclear strike plans, the report asserts, against targets in Russia or countries in the Middle East such as Iran and Syria.

The report shows for the first time how many U.S. nuclear bombs are earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear NATO countries. In times of war, under certain circumstances, up to 180 of the 480 nuclear bombs would be handed over to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey for delivery by their national air forces. No other nuclear power or military alliance has nuclear weapons earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear countries.”

(quoted in  http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/nato.htm emphasis added)

Moreover, the U.S. military made arrangements in the mid-1990s for the use of these nukes outside the area of jurisdiction of European Command (EURCOM). For EUCOM, this would mean responsibility for the delivery of nukes within CENTCOM’s (Central Command) area of jurisdiction, meaning that nuclear attacks on Iran and Syria could be launched from military bases in non-nuclear EU/NATO countries:

The report also documents that the U.S. military in 1994 made arrangements for nuclear targeting and use of nuclear weapons in Europe outside European Command’s (EUCOM) area of responsibility. For EUCOM, this means CENTCOM (Central Command) which incorporates Iran and Syria

.. It is unclear whether [the] parliaments [of EU/NATO countries] are aware of arrangements to target and potentially strike Middle Eastern countries with nuclear weapons based in Europe.(
http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/nato.htm

 


 

Source: http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/nato.htm

 


Nuclear Weapons’ Double Standards. Where is the Nuclear Threat?

While these “non-nuclear states” casually accuse Tehran of developing nuclear weapons, without documentary evidence, they themselves have capabilities of delivering nuclear warheads, which are targeted at Iran and Syria.  To say that this is a clear case of “double standards” in the process of identifying the threat of nuclear weapons is a gross understatement.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy Endorses Bush’s Pre-emptive Nuclear War Doctrine

France accuses Tehran of developing nuclear weapons against mountains of evidence that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program.  

The Sarkozy government favors a military operation directed against Iran. Ironically, these threats by President Sarkozy and his Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner were formulated immediately following the release of the IAEA Report. The latter confirms unequivocally the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear program.  

According to President Sarkozy in his September 26,  2007 address to the UN General Assembly: 

 “There will be no peace in the world if the international community falters in the face of nuclear arms proliferation … Weakness and renunciation do not lead to peace. They lead to war,”  

France has also confirmed that it could use its own nuclear warheads estimated at between 200 and 300, on a preemptive basis. In January 2006, (former) President Jacques Chirac announced a major shift in France’s nuclear weapons policy. 

Without mentioning Iran, Chirac intimated that France’s nukes should be used in the form of  “more focused attacks” against countries, which were “considering” the deployment of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). 

He also hinted to the possibility that tactical nuclear weapons could be used in conventional war theaters, very much in line with both US and NATO nuclear doctrine (See Chirac shifts French doctrine for use of nuclear weapons , Nucleonics Week January 26, 2006).

Chirac’s successor, Nicolas Sarkozy has embraced the US sponsored “War on Terrorism”. 

France supports the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in the conventional war theater, broadly following the principles formulated in the Bush Administration’s nuclear doctrine, which  allows the use of nukes (against Iran or Syria) for purposes of  “self-defense”.


A Note of Caution

The existence of war plans, which are currently in an advanced state of readiness, does not imply that war will occur.

But at the same time, these war plans and their consequences must be forcefully addressed. An all out war, which would engulf the entire Middle East Central Asian region, cannot be excluded.

Moreover, a political consensus in favor of a war directed against Iran is building up in the US. This war agenda is now supported by several of America’s European allies including Britain, France and Germany.

Public opinion is not informed due to a media blackout. The war on Iran using nuclear weapons is not front page news.

The legitimacy of the war criminals in high office remains intact. There is visibly no mass movement against this war as occured in the months leading up to the Iraq invasion.  Moreover, concurrent with the development of the war agenda, the Western countries are developing their “Homeland Security” apparatus with a view to to curbing public protest against the war.

In the months ahead, we can expect the media propaganda war against Iran to go into high gear with a view to galvanising public opinion in support of a military intervention.

It is absolutely essential that people in America and around the World take a firm position against a war, which in a very real sense threatens the future of humanity.

Note: Readers are welcome to cross-post this article with a view to spreading the word and warning people of the dangers of a broader Middle East war. Please indicate the source and copyright note.

media inquiries crgeditor@yahoo.com

Why did Israel attack Syria?

Global Research, September 27, 2007

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Israel’s air strike on northern Syria earlier this month should be understood in the context of events unfolding since its assault last summer on neighbouring Lebanon. Although little more than rumours have been offered about what took place, one strategic forecasting group, Stratfor, still concluded: “Something important happened.”

From the leaks so far, it seems that more than half a dozen Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace to drop munitions on a site close to the border with Turkey. We also know from the US media that the “something” occurred in close coordination with the White House. But what was the purpose and significance of the attack?

It is worth recalling that, in the wake of Israel’s month-long war against Lebanon a year ago, a prominent American neoconservative, Meyrav Wurmser, wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney’s recently departed Middle East adviser, explained that the war had dragged on because the White House delayed in imposing a ceasefire. The neocons, she said, wanted to give Israel the time and space to expand the attack to Damascus.

The reasoning was simple: before an attack on Iran could be countenanced, Hizbullah in Lebanon had to be destroyed and Syria at the very least cowed. The plan was to isolate Tehran on these two other hostile fronts before going in for the kill.

But faced with constant rocket fire from Hizbullah last summer, Israel’s public and military nerves frayed at the first hurdle. Instead Israel and the US were forced to settle for a Security Council resolution rather than a decisive military victory.

The immediate fallout of the failed attack was an apparent waning of neocon influence. The group’s programme of “creative destruction” in the Middle East — the encouragement of regional civil war and the partition of large states that threaten Israel — was at risk of being shunted aside.

Instead the “pragmatists” in the Bush Administration, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the new Defence Secretary Robert Gates, demanded a change of tack. The standoff reached a head in late 2006 when oilman James Baker and his Iraq Study Group began lobbying for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq — presumably only after a dictator, this one more reliable, had again been installed in Baghdad. It looked as if the neocons’ day in the sun had finally passed.

Israel’s leadership understood the gravity of the moment. In January 2007 the Herzliya conference, an annual festival of strategy-making, invited no less than 40 Washington opinion-formers to join the usual throng of Israeli politicians, generals, journalists and academics. For a week the Israeli and American delegates spoke as one: Iran and its presumed proxy, Hizbullah, were bent on the genocidal destruction of Israel. Tehran’s development of a nuclear programme — whether for civilian use, as Iran argues, or for military use, as the US and Israel claim — had to be stopped at all costs.

While the White House turned uncharacteristically quiet all spring and summer about what it planned to do next, rumours that Israel was pondering a go-it-alone strike against Iran grew noisier by the day. Ex-Mossad officers warned of an inevitable third world war, Israeli military intelligence advised that Iran was only months away from the point of no return on developing a nuclear warhead, prominent leaks in sympathetic media revealed bombing runs to Gibraltar, and Israel started upping the pressure on several tens of thousands of Jews in Tehran to flee their homes and come to Israel.

While Western analysts opined that an attack on Iran was growing unlikely, Israel’s neighbours watched nervously through the first half of the year as the vague impression of a regional war came ever more sharply into focus. In particular Syria, after witnessing the whirlwind of savagery unleashed against Lebanon last summer, feared it was next in line in the US-Israeli campaign to break Tehran’s network of regional alliances. It deduced, probably correctly, that neither the US nor Israel would dare attack Iran without first clobbering Hizbullah and Damascus.

For some time Syria had been left in no doubt of the mood in Washington. It failed to end its pariah status in the post-9/11 period, despite helping the CIA with intelligence on al-Qaeda and secretly trying to make peace with Israel over the running sore of the occupied Golan Heights. It was rebuffed at every turn.

So as the clouds of war grew darker in the spring, Syria responded as might be expected. It went to the arms market in Moscow and bought up the displays of anti-aircraft missiles as well as anti-tank weapons of the kind Hizbullah demonstrated last summer were so effective at repelling Israel’s planned ground invasion of south Lebanon.

As the renowned Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld reluctantly conceded earlier this year, US policy was forcing Damascus to remain within Iran’s uncomfortable embrace: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finds himself more dependent on his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than perhaps he would like.”

Israel, never missing an opportunity to wilfully misrepresent the behaviour of an enemy, called the Syrian military build-up proof of Damascus’ appetite for war. Apparently fearful that Syria might initiate a war by mistaking the signals from Israel as evidence of aggressive intentions, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, urged Syria to avoid a “miscalculation”. The Israeli public spent the summer braced for a far more dangerous repeat of last summer’s war along the northern border.

It was at this point — with tensions simmeringly hot — that Israel launched its strike, sending several fighter planes into Syria on a lightning mission to hit a site near Dayr a-Zawr. As Syria itself broke the news of the attack, Israeli generals were shown on TV toasting in the Jewish new year but refusing to comment.

Details have remained thin on the ground ever since: Israel imposed a news blackout that has been strictly enforced by the country’s military censor. Instead it has been left to the Western media to speculate on what occurred.

One point that none of the pundits and analysts have noted was that, in attacking Syria, Israel committed a blatant act of aggression against its northern neighbour of the kind denounced as the “supreme international crime” by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

Also, no one pointed out the obvious double standard applied to Israel’s attack on Syria compared to the far less significant violation of Israeli sovereignty by Hizbullah a year earlier, when the Shia militia captured two Israel soldiers at a border post and killed three more. Hizbullah‘s act was widely accepted as justification for the bombardment and destruction of much of Lebanon, even if a few sensitive souls agonised over whether Israel’s response was “disproportionate”. Would these commentators now approve of similar retaliation by Syria?

The question was doubtless considered unimportant because it was clear from Western coverage that no one — including the Israeli leadership — believed Syria was in a position to respond militarily to Israel’s attack. Olmert’s fear of a Syrian “miscalculation” evaporated the moment Israel did the maths for Damascus.

So what did Israel hope to achieve with its aerial strike?

The stories emerging from the less gagged American media suggest two scenarios. The first is that Israel targeted Iranian supplies passing through Syria on their way to Hizbullah; the second that Israel struck at a fledgling Syrian nuclear plant where materials from North Korea were being offloaded, possibly as part of a joint nuclear effort by Damascus and Tehran.

(Speculation that Israel was testing Syria’s anti-aircraft defences in preparation for an attack on Iran ignores the fact that the Israeli air force would almost certainly choose a flightpath through friendlier Jordanian airspace.)

How credible are these two scenarios?

The nuclear claims against Damascus were discounted so quickly by experts of the region that Washington was soon downgrading the accusation to claims that Syria was only hiding the material on North Korea’s behalf. But why would Syria, already hounded by Israel and the US, provide such a readymade pretext for still harsher treatment? Why, equally, would North Korea undermine its hard-won disarmament deal with the US? And why, if Syria were covertly engaging in nuclear mischief, did it alert the world to the fact by revealing the Israeli air strike?

The other justification for the attack was at least based in a more credible reality: Damascus, Hizbullah and Iran undoubtedly do share some military resources. But their alliance should be seen as the kind of defensive pact needed by vulnerable actors in a Sunni-dominated region where the US wants unlimited control of Gulf oil and supports only those repressive regimes that cooperate on its terms. All three are keenly aware that it is Israel’s job to threaten and punish any regimes that fail to toe the line.

Contrary to the impression being created in the West, genocidal hatred of Israel and Jews, however often Ahmadinejad’s speeches are mistranslated, is not the engine of these countries’ alliance.

Nonetheless, the political significance of the justifications for the the Israeli air strike is that both neatly tie together various strands of an argument needed by the neocons and Israel in making their case for an attack on Iran before Bush leaves office in early 2009. Each scenario suggests a Shia “axis of evil”, coordinated by Iran, that is actively plotting Israel’s destruction. And each story offers the pretext for an attack on Syria as a prelude to a pre-emptive strike against Tehran — launched either by Washington or Tel Aviv — to save Israel.

That these stories appear to have been planted in the American media by neocon masters of spin like John Bolton is warning enough — as is the admission that the only evidence for Syrian malfeasance is Israeli “intelligence”, the basis of which cannot be questioned as Israel is not officially admitting the attack.

It should hardly need pointing out that we are again in a hall of mirrors, as we were during the period leading up to America’s invasion of Iraq and have been during its subsequent occupation.

Bush’s “war on terror” was originally justified with the convenient and manufactured links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, as well as, of course, those WMDs that, it later turned out, had been destroyed more than a decade earlier. But ever since Tehran has invariably been the ultimate target of these improbable confections.

There were the forged documents proving both that Iraq had imported enriched uranium from Niger to manufacture nuclear warheads and that it was sharing its nuclear know-how with Iran. And as Iraq fell apart, neocon ideologues like Michael Ledeen lost no time in spreading rumours that the missing nuclear arsenal could still be accounted for: Iranian agents had simply smuggled it out of Iraq during the chaos of the US invasion.

Since then our media have proved that they have no less of an appetite for such preposterous tales. If Iran’s involvement in stirring up its fellow Shia in Iraq against the US occupation is at least possible, the same cannot be said of the regular White House claims that Tehran is behind the Sunni-led insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few months ago the news media served up “revelations” that Iran was secretly conspiring with al-Qaeda and Iraq’s Sunni militias to oust the US occupiers.

So what purpose does the constant innuendo against Tehran serve?

The latest accusations should be seen as an example of Israel and the neocons “creating their own reality”, as one Bush adviser famously observed of the neocon philosophy of power. The more that Hizbullah, Syria and Iran are menaced by Israel, the more they are forced to huddle together and behave in ways to protect themselves — such as arming — that can be portrayed as a “genocidal” threat to Israel and world order.

Van Creveld once observed that Tehran would be “crazy” not to develop nuclear weapons given the clear trajectory of Israeli and US machinations to overthrow the regime. So equally Syria cannot afford to jettison its alliance with Iran or its involvement with Hizbullah. In the current reality, these connections are the only power it has to deter an attack or force the US and Israel to negotiate.

But they are also the evidence needed by Israel and the neocons to convict Syria and Iran in the court of Washington opinion. The attack on Syria is part of a clever hustle, one designed to vanquish or bypass the doubters in the Bush Administration, both by proving Syria’s culpability and by provoking it to respond.

Condoleezza Rice, it emerged at the weekend, wants to invite Syria to attend the regional peace conference that has been called by President Bush for November. There can be no doubt that such an act of détente is deeply opposed by both Israel and the neocons. It reverses their strategy of implicating Damascus in the “Shia arc of extremism” and of paving the way to an attack on the real target: Iran.

Syria, meanwhile, is fighting back, as it has been for some time, with the only means available: the diplomatic offensive. For two years Bashar al-Assad has been offering a generous peace deal to Israel on the Golan Heights that Tel Aviv has refused to consider. This week, Syria made a further gesture towards peace with an offer on another piece of territory occupied by Israel, the Shebaa Farms. Under the plan, the Farms — which the United Nations now agrees belongs to Lebanon, but which Israel still claims is Syrian and cannot be returned until there is a deal on the Golan Heights — would be transferred to UN custody until the dispute over its sovereignty can be resolved.

Were either of Damascus’ initiatives to be pursued, the region might be looking forward to a period of relative calm and security. Which is reason enough why Israel and the neocons are so bitterly opposed. Instead they must establish a new reality — one in which the forces of “creative destruction” so beloved of the neocons engulf yet more of the region. For the rest of us, a simpler vocabulary suffices. What is being sold is catastrophe.

Jonathan Cook is a journalist and writer based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” (Pluto Press). His forthcoming book is “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East”. His website is www.jkcook.net 

‘Israeli warplanes raid’ Lebanon

 

map

Israeli warplanes have flown at low altitude over southern Lebanon in defiance of a United Nations resolution, reports from Beirut say.The fighter jets allegedly caused sonic booms as they flew over the cities of Sidon and Tyre, as well as the towns of Bint Jbeil and Marjayoun.

Israel has so far made no comment on the Lebanese claims.

Israel has been criticised by the UN for making a number of overflights in Lebanon in recent weeks.

Israel says they are necessary to monitor activities by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants.

‘Hezbollah stronghold’

Lebanese police said six Israeli aircraft violated Lebanon’s airspace at 0700 GMT, according to the AFP news agency.

Police said the jets swooped low over the port cities of Sidon and Tyre as well as the Bint Jbeil region, a Hezbollah stronghold.

Last August’s UN ceasefire followed a resolution by the world body that ended a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah.

A history of Europe, Arabs and Islam

This is an episode of a TV course titled : “The Western Tradition”, presented by Professor “Eugen Weber” at UCLA (usa) (University of California at Los Angeles):

“While religious disputation has became the Byzantine Empire’s favorite sport – more so than chariot racing – a powerful force did burst onto the world stage. It was called : ISLAM.”

Letter from Lebanon: Where Justice Seems Very Far Away

The summer break is officially over in Lebanon. At about 5pm yesterday, a roughly 40 kg bomb placed in a Mercedes was detonated in a bustling part of Sin el-Fil district of Beirut. The immediate target was member of Parliament (MP) Antoine Ghanim of the right-wing Phalange party and pro-government March 14 coalition, the fourth MP to be assassinated since former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s murder in March 2005 split the country and paralyzed the state.

Six other civilians were killed and over 50 wounded in the blast, with the vast majority of Lebanese both apprehensive and disgusted with a political class that has failed them politically, socially, economically, and security-wise.

The real target of yesterday’s assassination, however, was the apparently not-far-off consensus among key government and opposition players seeking to resolve the crisis enveloping the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for next week. March 14 currently holds a slim (though disputed) Parliamentary majority-now, tragically, made even slimmer-and has hinted that it could break from the traditional constitutional interpretation and elect a president by a simple majority rather than the customary two-thirds required quorum. This has infuriated opposition figures who consider the current pro-US government of Fouad Siniora to be illegitimate and supportive of US-Israeli desires to disarm the resistance.

Following several months of futile negotiations and bitter recriminations from both sides, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri recently launched a last-ditch compromise initiative which was widely seen to have achieved a break through. As former President Amin Gemeyal correctly noted: “This is how Lebanese politics work. At the last quarter-hour, everybody realizes that the bargaining time is up, and they would put all the papers on the table and agree on a compromise that would save the country. The alternative is disastrous.”

Berri’s compromise requires the opposition–which includes Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement lead by General Michel Aoun, the most popular Christian leader in Lebanon–to participate in a Parliament session on 25 September to elect a new President in return for explicit recognition by March 14 that a two-thirds parliamentary majority is indeed required for the election as per the Lebanese Constitution. After this, a national unity government would be appointed.

After receiving the blessing by the leader of March 14 coalition, Saad Hariri, Speaker Berri was due to meet with the Maronite (Christian) Patriarch, who serves as a power broker among the competing presidential candidates (who must be Maronite Christian according to Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement). Such a meeting, if successful, could have paved the way for a consensus Presidential candidate and, just maybe, the beginning of a wider resolution of the Lebanese crisis that has deepened since Israel’s bloody invasion of Lebanon last summer.

This week’s car bomb, then, must be read against this context. While we will never know who actually masterminded this murder-such cases stretching back many years have never been solved by Lebanese investigators, usually for political reasons-it did not take long for accusations to be bandied about.

Live on TV, several MPs and officials from March 14 stated clearly that “everyone” knows who is behind not only this heinous murder, but all the others of the past two and a half years: Syria. Saad Hariri even, bizarrely, accused Syria of assassinating Ghanim in retaliation for Israel’s recent aerial strike in Syrian territory. Some March 14 politicians also seized the opportunity to openly accuse any opposition MP who does not attend the 25 September parliamentary session of treason, and thus indirectly of being complicit with Ghanim’s assassination.

Lebanese opposition figures and Syrian spokesmen, who had all unequivocally condemned yesterday’s terrorist act, angrily rejected such logic and accused anyone who took advantage of this tragedy for political gains of fomenting discord and serving “foreign” interests. For them, these attacks on March 14 MPs always come conveniently whenever the momentum seems to be swinging away from US and Israeli interests and towards internal consensus.

It is too early to tell what the precise fall out from this latest murder will be. Alas, genuine statesmen capable of rising above petty interests are in short supply here, and Lebanese will now expect more assassinations as Lebanon head towards a worst case scenario, namely the formation of two governments (in case no consensus is reached before the current President’s term expires on 24 November) and the effective partition of the country, not to mention state institutions. If this is allowed to happen, the future could be grim indeed.

Yesterday’s events cannot be taken out of the larger regional context. Just as prospects for Lebanon’s unity was taking a beating-and Iraq continues its violent spiral towards partition-Palestine was being further divided with Israel officially declaring Gaza, now a huge prison with 1.5 million people living in atrocious conditions, a “hostile territory” (with American blessing). Leaving aside the obvious legal and humanitarian considerations of such a provocative move by Israel, as noted by the UN Secretary General, it is clear that the Arab region is undergoing yet another round of internationally-sponsored violence and perhaps even partition, redrawing the regional map along the line fantasized by some neocons. The objective of such policy is to establish a string of “pro-US” (and neoliberal) regimes across the region and punish the “bad guys,” those state (e.g., Iran, Syria) or non-state (e.g., Hizbullah, Hamas) actors who reject Pax Americana and Israeli regional hegemony.

It is customary to end such an article with a plea to sane people everywhere to ensure that just settlements are reached in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. However, my feeling today is that we have only just begun a particularly violent stage of our history here, and lasting settlements–let alone justice–seems very far away indeed.

Karim Makdisi is an Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Dept. of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut. He can be reached at: makdisi007@yahoo.com

The Iran Offensive Builds

Former New York Times journalist (they only became readable once they part with the paper) and author of the best book on CIA’s overthrow of Mossadegh, All the Shah’s Men, offers sober warnings of imminent war.

When President Bush took his place in front of television cameras last Thursday to deliver his latest assessment of conditions in Iraq, one thing was certain. He would utter the word “Iran” more than once.

Sure enough, Bush blamed “Iranian-backed militants” for much of the violence in Iraq. He said the United States had to keep fighting in Iraq in order to “counter the destructive ambitions of Iran.” Then he warned that Iran’s efforts to influence events in Iraq “must stop.”

This came just two weeks after Bush asserted that Iran is placing the Middle East “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust” and announced: “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

We have now entered a season in which every speech by an official of the Bush administration that has anything to do with Iraq or the Middle East includes threats against Iran. This intensifying drumbeat suggests that, incredible as it may seem, the United States is seriously considering launching a military attack on Iran.

The day before President Bush’s recent speech, the US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, told Congress that his forces were already fighting a “proxy war” against Iran. He told reporters at the National Press Club that the power of the anti-American insurgency in Iraq “would by no means be possible without Iranian support.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described Iran as Iraq’s “very troublesome neighbor”. Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador in Baghdad, said Iran was pursuing a “fairly aggressive strategy” in Iraq, and added, “It needs to stop”.

This latest round of saber-rattling comes in the wake of more concrete evidence that the US is marshaling its forces for an attack on Iran.

Two prominent British specialists recently issued a report asserting that US military planners have identified an astonishing 10,000 bombing targets in Iran. Private contractors report that the Pentagon has asked them to prepare cost estimates for ground support and reconstruction in an unnamed West Asian country.

A former CIA analyst, Bob Baer, published an article predicting that the US will use Iran’s activities in Iraq to justify a massive bombing campaign, and concluded: “There will be an attack on Iran.”

Most Americans, like most people around the world, still doubt the US will launch such an attack. The reason is obvious. It seems too unbelievable. Logic leads us to wonder: Why would the United States, bogged down in a disastrous quagmire in Iraq, want to widen the scope of the disaster rather than try to reduce it?

The prospect of attacking Iran seems even more far-fetched when one considers its likely effects.

Iran would probably respond to an attack by launching missiles at Israel, Saudi Arabia, US positions in Iraq and American vessels in the Persian Gulf. That might well lead Israel to retaliate against both Iran and pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. These conflicts could set off a series of explosions around the world, ranging from an uprising against President Pervez Musharraf’s pro-American government in Pakistan to a decision by Venezuela to cut its vital oil supplies to the United States. Iran could also close of the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil passes, and thereby force a sharp increase in oil prices around the world.

Worst of all, an attack on Iran would turn an entire new generation of Muslims into bitter enemies of the United States, sworn to revenge at any cost. This will have unimaginable consequences for decades to come.

President Bush and his allies have used one justification after another to explain their decision to invade and occupy Iraq. They now seem to have settled on the one they will use to justify attacking Iran. They will say that Iran brought devastation on itself by meddling in Iraq and refusing to curb its nuclear ambitions.

The Iranian regime is, as the Bush Administration asserts, both brutally oppressive and highly destabilizing. There may come a time when outside powers will need to use military force against it. That could only be justified under two conditions: first, that all diplomatic means be exhausted, and second, that a decision to attack be made by a broad coalition of nations, not the United States alone.

The Bush administration has repeatedly ruled out the option of opening direct, unconditional talks with Iran. As long as it refuses to test the diplomatic option, it has no moral basis for launching a new war. That, however, means little or nothing to President Bush and his comrades.

The message of this past week is chilling. A massive US attack on Iran has become a very real possibility.

When General Petraeus was asked on Wednesday whether his charges against Iran were meant as a prelude to an attack, he replied, “Absolutely not.”

Don’t believe him.

Source: Fanonite