Tehrani source close to those detained says some have been beaten heavily and waterboarded with hot water #iranelection
In my younger years, I would simply expect this news to be greeted with universal outrage, knowing that the techniques being described had long been deemed to be well across the Bridge Too Far. Now that I've lived through the Bush administration, however, I am forced to contemplate the possibility that Iran is merely taking legitimate steps to obtain critical information in their nations' vital national security interests. One mustn't preclude the possibility that many of those being waterboarded are privy to information about "time bombs" that may, at this moment, be "ticking." ...
Witnesses at the scene tell The Associated Press that some protesters claimed they suffered broken arms or legs in Sunday's clashes around the Ghoba Mosque.
They say some young demonstrators screamed at police and then attacked them after the officers allegedly beat an elderly woman.
Meanwhile, Former CIA agent Bob Baer thinks so. He says it appears that Iran's Revolutionary Guard, of whom Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a former member, has taken over control of the country from the mullahs. Wouldn't that make Ayatollah Khamenei more of a captive than a leader? Watch:
Interesting, but Baer also admitted that the U.S., and he, have no clue what's going on in Iran. And he previously postulated that Ahmadinejad might have actually won the election. So a grain of salt may be in order. But Baer made a very good point about the Western prism and bias when looking at what's going on in Iran when he wrote this for TIME on June 16th:
Most of the demonstrations and rioting I've seen in the news are taking place in north Tehran, around Tehran University and in public places like Azadi Square. These are, for the most part, areas where the educated and well-off live — Iran's liberal middle class. These are also the same neighborhoods that little doubt voted for Mir-Hossein Mousavi, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rival, who now claims that the election was stolen. But I have yet to see any pictures from south Tehran, where the poor live. Or from other Iranian slums.
... Some facts about Iran's election will hopefully emerge in the coming weeks, with perhaps even credible evidence that the election was rigged. But until then, we need to add a caveat to everything we hear and see coming out of Tehran. For too many years now, the Western media have looked at Iran through the narrow prism of Iran's liberal middle class — an intelligentsia that is addicted to the Internet and American music and is more ready to talk to the Western press, including people with money to buy tickets to Paris or Los Angeles. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a terrific book, but does it represent the real Iran?
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, asked a top judge Monday to investigate the killing of Neda Agha Soltan, who became an icon of Iran's ragtag opposition after gruesome video of her bleeding to death on a Tehran street was circulated worldwide.
Ahmadinejad's Web site said Soltan was slain by "unknown agents and in a suspicious" way, convincing him that "enemies of the nation" were responsible.
The regime has implicated protesters and even foreign intelligence agents in Soltan's death. But an Iranian doctor who said he tried to save her told the BBC last week she apparently was shot by a member of the volunteer Basij militia. Protesters spotted an armed member of the militia on a motorcycle, and stopped and disarmed him, Dr. Arash Hejazi said.
“People are depressed, and they feel they have been lied to, robbed of their rights and now are being insulted,” said Nassim, a 56-year-old hairdresser. “It is not just a lie; it’s a huge one. And it doesn’t end.”
12:29 PM ET -- Solidarity. We noted earlier that Mousavi was calling on supporters to release green balloons tomorrow and take video or photos of the scene. NIAC translated the Mousavi Facebook message:
"Ok, now all the world are going to show their supports to Iranians... This Friday, We all are going to send GREEN BALLOONS to the sky to show that now ALL PEOPLE OF THE WORLD ARE IRANIAN. On 9/11 everybody was American, NOW THE WORLD IS IRANIAN."
The Dubya of Persia attacks the U.S. president, using his political doppelganger as a foil. Ahmadinejad the Appointed begins his diatribe with a swipe at the Brits:
"They (The British) already have a bad record in these matters," he said, describing Downing Street as being run by "political retards". "But why did the US president fall into their trap?"
He advised Mr Obama to take a different approach from his predecessor President George W Bush.
"I hope you (Obama) will avoid interfering in Iran's affairs and express regret in a way that the Iranian people are informed of it," Mr Ahmadinejad said.
"Will you use this language with Iran (in any future dialogue)? If this is your stance, there will be nothing left to talk about. Do you think this behaviour will solve the problem for you? This will not have any result except that the people will consider you somebody similar to Bush."
I think the appropriate response to that might be laughter, but then I'm not a diplomat.
70 professors were arrested in Iran for meeting with Mr. Mousavi, whose wife has stated that her country is now, for all intents and purposes, under martial law.
Fifa are ready to step in to the political firestorm in Iran and ban the national team from football until the Iranian football federation rescinds the life bans it has issued against four of its players.
Four Iranian footballers all of whom wore green armbands in their recent world cup qualifier against South Korea have apparently “retired” from football.
They include a 24 year old Hosein Ka’abi as well as Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32 and Vahid Hashemian, 32.
Fifa does not allow political interference in football and have banned Iran before after claims of improper interference the Iranian regime.
Meanwhile, Iran's government is now denying it has banned the players at all:
TEHRAN (AFP) — The head of Iran's football federation has denied punishing players for wearing green wristbands in a show of support of the opposition during a World Cup qualifier, according to local media.
"The comments in foreign media are nothing but lies and a mischievous act," Ali Kafashin was quoted as saying. "The federation has not banned any player from the national team."
Really? So where are they, and why haven't they been allowed to speak to the media? The potential banning of Iran's soccer team could have particular sting for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, since:
...Iranian sporting heroes have long been used as pawns to suit their government's propaganda needs.
Team Melli, as the national squad is known to its millions of adoring fans, has historically been one of the strongest teams in Asia, and regularly plays in front of crowds of over 100,000 at Tehran's Azadi ("Freedom") Stadium.
The team is so important to the people of Iran that before the elections, some commentators even went so far as to suggest that Ahmadinejad's success hinged on the national team's success.
Ahmadinejad, who regularly attends national matches and has even trained with the squad in the past, increased his involvement in the team's affairs leading up to the elections. He promised to personally help it achieve international success, and even sent his presidential jet to Pyongyang to fly the team back to Iran after a qualifying game.
Striker Ali Karimi, 31, once dubbed Asia's Maradona, and captain Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, were among six players who wore the wristbands.
On Wednesday, both players resigned from the national team, known as Team Melli, saying they wanted to clear the way for younger players.
"I am sure that the younger players in the team and the ones who will join later can succeed in Team Melli," Karmi said, while Mahdavikia added: "Team Melli has to get ready for the Asian Cup 2011, and I believe I should give my place to younger players, therefore I am saying goodbye to the team."
... all of which makes the bravery of those players even more apparent. (The resignation statements of the leading players sound about like those "confessions" being aired on Iranian state TV, no?)
UPDATE: The U.S. soccer team is urged to back-up their brothers in Iran:
To the U.S. soccer team players:
Please consider wearing green wristbands in your upcoming match in the Confederations Cup finale. It would be a sign of solidarity and compassion for your fellow soccer brethren who were banned from the game they love and face unthinkable repercussions for simply adorning a green wristband symbolizing peace and freedom. This is not politics, it is human rights. Any slap on the wrist you may face from FIFA pales in comparison to what the Iranian soccer team faced, and what the Iranian people face.
Mir Hossein Mousavi probably didn't set out to become the leader of the next Iranian revolution, but today, he finds himself a central protagonist in what looks for all the world like a struggle for the soul of Iran. The would-be president, who hasn't been seen in public for a disturbing amount of time and is essentially under house arrest, has the potential, at least on the surface, to become Iran's Nelson Mandela. That's both good news and bad news. The good news is that it means that eventually, he could win. The bad news is that it took Mandela more than 27 years.
The former hardliner who became a reformist during (and mostly after) the disputed election of 2009, defied his captors today. From the BBC:
Iran protest leader Mir Hossein Mousavi says he holds those behind alleged "rigged" elections responsible for bloodshed during recent protests.
In a defiant statement on his website, he called for future protests to be in a way which would not "create tension."
... A BBC correspondent in Tehran says the statement is a direct challenge to Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
... "I won't refrain from securing the rights of the Iranian people... because of personal interests and the fear of threats," Mr Mousavi said on the website of his newspaper, Kalameh.
Those who violated the election process "stood beside the main instigators of the recent riots and shed people's blood on the ground", Mr Mousavi said, pledging to show how they were involved.
Mr Mousavi, a former prime minister, spoke of the "recent pressures on me" that are "aimed at making me change my position regarding the annulment of the election".
He described the clampdowns he and his staff were facing.
"My access to people is completely restricted. Our two websites have many problems and Kalameh Sabz newspaper has been closed down and its editorial members have been arrested," said Mr Mousavi, who has not been seen in public for days.
"These by no means contribute to improving the national atmosphere and will lead us towards a more violent atmosphere," he added.
Of course, there are differences, and the Mandela analogy isn't perfect (it never is.) For one thing, Mousavi is acting with at least the tacit support of very powerful insiders and leading clerics, including would-be "supreme leader" replacement, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and former president Mohammed Khatami, and perhaps the speaker of parliament, who apparently was one of the 180 out of 290 members of Iran's parliament who snubbed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "victory party" this week. Mandela had no such official quasi-sanction. Still, like Mandela, the movement created in part by him has grown beyond Mousavi's person, to become an organic thing on its own, with his leadership, even in what looks like incarceration, combining with the support of people all around the world to give his supporters courage. And courageous they are.
... if you think Michelle "Internment Camps" Malkin and her crowd really care one iota about the people of Iran. After all, we're talking about Michelle Malkin -- probably the only brown person ever published by the white supremacist site Vdare, who has never demonstrated any emotion toward Muslims outside of the narrow chasm between hatred and loathing -- theoretically being in favor of people who are out yelling "Allahu Akbar" -- a phrase that is an anathema to people like her. No, I'd guess that the wingers are really after with all their carping about Iran is a plan they can reproduce, and thereby pretend that at long last, they're freedom-fighters, too: fighting Barack Obama (of course) ... maybe even in the streets! Witness this interesting comment thread on Malkin's latest supposedly heartfelt Iran post:
Ladies and gentlemen, I think we may have spotted the next lone gunman. Hopefully someone who knows this weirdo "Elm Creek Smith" will keep one eye on his gun stash, and 911 on speed dial. And what's really scary is that his comments aren't all that far from the recent nuttiness Twittered by Florida's very own Marco Rubio.
By the way, on the not really giving a crap about Muslims but shooting their mouths off anyway front? Throw in the right wing local politicos who probably couldn't find Iran on a map, or think Barack Obama is a Muslim, and probably can't stand Muslims as a rule anyway ... or all three combined. Say ... I wonder if my old pal O'Neal Dozier is a member of the Southeastern Broward Republican Club ...)
BBC, Huffpo and AJE updates, including word that (no surprise) the Iranian mullahocracy are trying to blame the CIA for the uprisings, and this via Nico Pitney:
6:24 PM ET -- 70 university professors reportedly arrested. "According to the Kalameh website, this evening, June 24th, Mir Hossein Mousavi held a meeting with the university professors who are members of IAUTI. After the meeting, 70 attendees were arrested."
6:07 PM ET -- "The Butcher" to oversee prosecutions of protesters. This does not look good.
The Iranian regime has appointed one of its most feared prosecutors to interrogate reformists arrested during demonstrations, prompting fears of a brutal crackdown against dissent.
Relatives of several detained protesters have confirmed that the interrogation of prisoners is now being headed by Saaed Mortazavi, a figure known in Iran as "the butcher of the press". He gained notoriety for his role in the death of a Canadian-Iranian photographer who was tortured, beaten and raped during her detention in 2003.
"The leading role of Saeed Mortazavi in the crackdown in Tehran should set off alarm bells for anyone familiar with his record," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.
The Guardian has a frightening headline saying Tehran "like a war zone" as citizens clash with police and Basij militia. Meanwhile, are Mir-Hussein Mousavi and his wife emerging as the Nelson and Winnie Mandela of Iran? From the Guardian story:
The latest confrontations came as the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose authority has been challenged by massive grassroots protests, said on state television: "I had insisted and will insist on implementing the law on the election issue. Neither the establishment nor the nation will yield to pressure at any cost."
But the opposition was just as unyielding. One of the defeated presidential candidates, Mehdi Karroubi, stepped up his challenge to the regime, describing the government as illegitimate. Rejecting the outcome of the 12 June vote, the reformist cleric and most liberal of the presidential candidates said on his website: "I do not accept the result and therefore consider as illegitimate the new government. Because of the irregularities, the vote should be annulled."
In another act of blatant defiance, the wife of defeated opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called on the authorities to immediately release Iranians who had been detained, .
In remarks posted on her husband's website, Zahra Rahnavard said: "I regret the arrest of many politicians and people and want their immediate release. It is my duty to continue legal protests to preserve Iranian rights."
And then there's the tale of the secreted Ayatollah:
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of Iran's most senior clerics, who has been under house arrest for 10 years, called for three days of national mourning from today for those killed.
"Resisting the people's demand is religiously prohibited," he said on his website. Once the heir apparent to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Montazeri fell out with the founder of the Islamic republic shortly before his death in 1989.
If people begin to follow him -- via his website -- doesn't that further erode Khamenei's power?
Plus, what of the safety of those incredibly brave Iranian footballers who wore green wristbands during a World Cup qualifying match last week and who have now been banned for life from the national team by Khamenei, and had their passports revoked? Will they become special targets of the regime? Their names (for purposes of praying for them and their families):
According to the pro-government newspaper Iran, four players – Ali Karimi, 31, Mehdi Mahdavikia, 32, Hosein Ka'abi, 24 and Vahid Hashemian, 32 – have been "retired" from the sport after their gesture in last Wednesday's match against South Korea in Seoul.
Just as the apparent murder last weekend of the student Neda Soltan lent a human face to the uprising in Iran, the controversy generated by the sportsmen's gesture of defiance has paraded Iran's turmoil to football fans across the world.
By stopping the footballers representing their country, Iran has worsened the prospects of an already faltering national team. Fifa, football's world governing body, banned Iran from international competition in 2006 after claims of improper interference by Tehran's rulers. That ban, later lifted, should now be reimposed until Iran learns to keep politics off the football pitch.
Fifa, are you listening? And while we're at it, the world ought to start looking at the old Apartheid South Africa model when it comes to participation in all sports, including the Olympics, until the war on its own people is stopped.
He smacked down John McCain ("only I'm the president...") apparently pleased the increasingly troll-like Krauthammer and his friends at Hot Air, explained the logic of competition ("if the insurance companies say they're delivering a great product, why can't they compete [with a public plan?]" and issued a strong statement on Iran, that in reality, is much like his previous statements, only not in writing. Had enough, neocons? (probably not). Best moment of the presser: when poor Major Garrett showed his Fox "News" creds by asking whether non-existent Iranian diplomats would be welcome at the White House on the Fourth of July ... Earth to Major: we don't have Iranian diplomats because we have no formal diplomatic relations with Iran.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the winner of Iran's disputed presidential election, is to be sworn in by mid-August, Iranian media reported today after the authorities ruled out an annulment of the result.
IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, said Ahmadinejad, who won a "closely contested and disputed 10th presidential election", would be sworn in before parliament between 26 July and 19 August.
... A spokesman for the powerful guardian council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, was quoted by Iran's state-run English language Press TV as saying the organisation had found "no major fraud or breach in the election". As a result, he said, the outcome would not be annulled.
The move came after Iranian security forces yesterday threatened a "decisive and revolutionary confrontation" with opposition demonstrators if protests continued against the regime..
Well, if you insist ... Shah's son positions himself for restoration
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former dictator of Iran, cries freedom
What does a guy who left Iran when he was 14, lives in Maryland, and whose father was the dictator deposed in the 1979 revolution have to do with the "green revolution" in Iran? Well ... in a word ... nothing. A glance at TIME's list (or anyone else's) of the top ten players in the Iranian political system doesn't even reveal his name. But that hasn't stopped former "Crown Prince" Reza Pahlavi from talking ... and talking ... and talking ... revolution. And he's weeping about it too. It's almost like he's positioning himself on the side of the uprising in order to be "available" to be restored to the throne ... should the Iranian people cry out for his return, of course. (ahem)
Did you catch Pahlavi playing the Iran expert on CNN this morning? It's hard to believe he knows any more about what's going on in his former country than you or I. What about his tear-filled speech at the National Press Club, in which he clutched a picture of Neda, the young woman who has come to symbolize the rebellion, and declared that she is like his own child (if for instance, his child was an Iranian woman who wasn't related to the last guy to order his military police to mow people down in the streets of Tehran...) During his speech, the Crown Prince spoke Big:
Bear in mind that for the great majority of Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution, the unfolding events are the most significant transforming experiences of their collective memory. The courage of their convictions gives hope for peace and democracy in the most troubling region of the world. On the other hand, their defeat will encourage extremism from the shores of the Levant, to the energy jugular of the world. At the very least it will threaten regional tranquility and global economic recovery through fears of terrorism, slowdown of globalization and steeply higher energy prices. At worst, fanatical tyrants - who know that the future is against them - may end their present course on their terms: a nuclear holocaust.
Wow ... a nuclear holocaust? Hadn't heard that before from the Iran analysts who have actually crossed the border into that country in the last 30 years... And Pahlavi's doomsaying wouldn't have aaaaaanything to do with his ties to the nihilist American neoconservative movement that up until about a minute ago was seeking an excuse to, in the words of one of their political people "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" ... would it??? Perhaps the most important sentence in Pahlavi's green serenade was "Iranians born after the Islamic Revolution." Said revolution is kind of a sore spot for our friend Reza. As Dana Milbank appropriately snarks:
Yesterday, the 48-year-old son of a dictator was merely voicing his hopes that what his countrymen have begun over the last 10 days will become a revolution. "However, I often don't use the word 'revolution,' because I think revolution has a very negative connotation in everybody's collective memory."
Particularly Pahlavi's. His family had lived a life of great extravagance until Ayatollah Khomenei deposed the shah in 1979, a year after Jimmy Carter hailed the monarch as "an island of stability." Even yesterday, the former crown prince was defensive about those days. "They had orders not to hit -- fire on people," he said of his father's troops, who, whatever their orders, managed to kill thousands.
Ah, the good old days. And of course, being a patriot, Pahlavi is only too happy to serve his country by restoring them. More Milbank:
Whatever the Iranian demonstrators are seeking, there is little evidence from their Twitter feeds that they are seeking the restoration of the monarchy -- and Pahlavi, who was a teenager getting flight training in Texas during the Islamic revolution, was shrewd enough not to propose it. "This is not about restitution of an institution," he said. But should a democratic Iran "choose to have me play a more prominent role," he added, "let that be their choice."
Yes, of course. "Their choice." And as to the potential nuclear holocaust that will ensue if the revolution he is most decidedly NOT a part of fail?
Luckily, Pahlavi had a solution: himself. While he said repeatedly that he is not running for any office, he also spoke of his "supporters" and even his "platform" of human rights for his homeland.
"People support me because of the very fact that we are talking the same language: freedom, democracy, human rights," the shah's son said. "I'm not demanding people to support me today because of me. I'm demanding people to support me so that I can best serve them achieve what their goal is, which is achieve freedom."
Pahlavi does have his supporters: about 500 of them ... in Los Angeles. Plus this guy in London. And coincidentally, the last time he stepped into the spotlight was back in 2001, following the September 11 terror attacks, as ordinary Iranians took to the streets to declare their love for America, causing Pahlavi to step forward and ... surprise! ... offer himself as a potential future leader of Iran. From 2001:
Despite his cold-generated cough, the prince spoke enthusiastically for almost two hours, about his vision of Iran and the progress of his campaign for democracy in Iran, whicj he discussed in an interview with the Middle East last year.
Commenting on what his mother Empress Farah Pahlavi, told London Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat two days earlier - that her son wants to return and serve his country like any ordinary citizen- the Shah in exile sys the important thing is that the people of Iran are given the right to chose how they wish to be governed. Whether the future for Iran involves a republic or constitutional monarchy, is not the issue at this time, he says. The first aim shold be for the wishes of the Iranian people to be recorded in a free and fair election.
"My mission in life, from the day I started 21 years ago, remains the same, " said the man who most Iranian liberals in exile, as well as an increasing number of Iranians at home, consider him to be the hope of salvation from what many describe as its current nightmare.
He outlines his vision for a comprehensive strategy to give Iranian people freedom of choice and real democracy, in his book, " Winds of Change: the Future of Democracy in Iran" published feb 2002 in Washington by Regency Publishing Inc., which he dedicated to the memory of all Iran's fallen heroes and patriots.
" My goal is to reach a stage when the Iranian people can go to a national referendum and vote their conscience and vote for their future. That day, the day the Iranians go to the polls, is the end of my mission in life. What they want to do afterwards is entirely up to them and I stand ready to serve them in whatever capacity that they see fit. "
In his 1946 book, Millspaugh provides an indication of the prevailing terror practiced by Reza Shah. Millspaugh states that Reza Shah "had imprisoned thousands and killed hundreds, some of the latter by his own hand." As the consequence of the terror, "Fear settled upon the people. No one knew whom to trust; and none dared to protest of criticize. ... Evidence also appeared abundant and pitifully convincing, that he (shah's) terror operating on a timid and sensitive people had shaken nerves and unbalanced minds. Moreover, he let loose a spirit of violence that lent sinister implications to the mercurial temperament of the people, the disunity of the country, and the disorganization and weakness of the government."
State Department records provide a vivid account of hte reign of terror inflicted on the people of Iran between 1921 and 1951. for twenty ears, the country was a complete and brutal military dictatorship. Parliament became a rubber stamp and complete censorship was imposed. Iran's newspapers and their editors were early victims of the dictatorship. The suppression of newspapers, the physical violence (specially the savage beatings administered by Reza Khan himself), and even the murder of recalcitrant editors are described in the records. There are many instances of arrest and subsequent disappearance of opponents, including numerous members of the ulema, the most notable that of Seyed Hassad Modarres. the arrests and extrajudicial killings of political personalities are described in detail in the American records...
One morning soon after his arrival, the new secret police, called Savak, organized a crude maneuver to impress upon him the terms of his incarceration. A gang of thugs turned up in front of his home, and they began shouting violent anti-Mossadegh slogans. At their head was none other than the gang leader Shaban the Brainless, who had become on e of the regime's favorite enforcers. Fora time the mob seemed ready to storm the house. It retreated after one of Mossadegh's grandsons fired several rifle shots into the air from inside. Several minutes later two Savak officers arrived and asked to see the prisoner. They carried a letter for him to sign. It was a request that Savak agents be assigned to protect him. Mossadegh, who understood the realities of power, signed it without protest. Within an hour Savak agents took up posts outside and inside the walled complex where he lived. their standing orders, which did not change for the rest of Mossadegh's life, were to allow no one other than relatives and a few close friends to visit him.
In the weeks following the coup, most of Mossadegh's cabinet ministers and prominent supporters were arrested. Some were later released without charge. Others served prison terms after being convicted of various offenses. Six hundred military officers loyal to Mossadegh were also arrested, and about sixty of them were shot. So were several student leaders at Tehran University. Tudeh and the National Front were banned, and their most prominent supporters were either imprisoned or killed.
Hussein Fatemi, who had been Mossadegh's foreign minister, was the most prominent figure singled out for exemplary punishment. Fatemi was a zealous antimonarchist, and during the turbulent days of August 1953 he had attacked the Shah, whom he called "the Baghdad fugitive," with special venom. .... In one speech, he addressed the absent monarch: "O traitor Shah, you shameless person, you have completed the criminal history of the Pahlavi regime! The people want revenge. They want to drag you from behind your desk to the gallows." Now that the tables were turned, the Sha had his chance, and he did not miss it. Just as he had promised Kermit Roosevelt, he arranged for Fatemi to be summarily tried, convicted of treason, and executed.
Fatemi had once compared the Shah to a snake "who bites mortally when the opportunity presents itself." In the end he was among those who suffered the deadly bite. Becasue of his fate, and also because he was the only member of Mossadegh's inner circle who was a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, his memory is honored in Iran today. One of the main boulevards in Tehran is Dr. Hussein Fatemi Avenue.
It's almost hard to believe, with all the GOPers out there demanding that President Obama demand a recount in Iran (as Rep. Mike Coffman, embarrassing my former state of Colorado, suggested tonight on "Hardball") that there are any non-Iranians out there with much to say about Iran that isn't completely idiotic. The idea that the American president should demand a recount in a country that isn't the United States is at minimum ironic, given what happened in our presidential elections in 2000, complete with five of our very own Republican mullahs putting their thumb on the scale on the side of their political compatriot. It's also insane. Watch Chris Matthews try to explain as much to a stumbling Coffman tonight:
So why has Europe, so often cast as the more timid side of the transatlantic partnership, responded more vigorously this time? The answer, according to Robin Niblett, director of the London-based international-relations think tank Chatham House, lies in the low-rumbling crisis in the background of the disputed election: Iran's nuclear program.
"The United States is the only country that can convince Iran that it is not as threatened as it thinks it is, and that's crucial to the negotiations [over Iran's disputed enrichment program]," Niblett says. "The Obama Administration is playing it absolutely right: it is determined to convince the Iranians that its goal is not regime change. Any public denunciations could damage Obama's efforts to coax Iran out of its defensive posture."
Meanwhile, over in Europe:
Domestic politics is also playing into the strong rhetoric on the part of European leaders like Sarkozy and Merkel, according to Niblett. "It is in Sarkozy's nature to be plain-speaking and tough, and that's played well domestically. His popularity has dropped recently, so his stance on the importance of free elections plays well. It does for Merkel too, as it distinguishes her from [Social Democrat Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor] Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been more measured in his response."
Yeah, domestic politics is playing a big role here, too. It seems some of our Republican/neocon friends are more interested in attacking the president of the United States than in pursuing an intelligent foreign policy that benefits America's national security.
Next up, real, live Republican grown-up Peggy Noonan (who unlike the neocons, is a conservative Ronald Reagan actually bothered to listen to):
Stifling and corrupt religious autocracy has seen its international standing diminished, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is among other things a Holocaust denier, has in effect been rebuked by half his country, and through free speech, that most painful way to lose your reputation, which has broken out on the streets. He can no longer claim to speak for his people. The rising tide of the young and educated seems uninterested in reflexively hating the West and deriving their meaning from that hatred.
To refuse to see all this as progress, or potential progress, is perverse to the point of wicked. To insist the American president, in the first days of the rebellion, insert the American government into the drama was shortsighted and mischievous. The ayatollahs were only too eager to demonize the demonstrators as mindless lackeys of the Great Satan Cowboy Uncle Sam, or whatever they call us this week. John McCain and others went quite crazy insisting President Obama declare whose side America was on, as if the world doesn't know whose side America is on. "In the cause of freedom, America cannot be neutral," said Rep. Mike Pence. Who says it's neutral?
This was Aggressive Political Solipsism at work: Always exploit events to show you love freedom more than the other guy, always make someone else's delicate drama your excuse for a thumping curtain speech.
And she adds this:
Should there at this point, more than a week into the story, be a formal declaration of support from the U.S. government? Certainly it's time for an indignant statement on the abuses, including killings and beatings, perpetrated by the government and against the opposition. It's never wrong to be on the side of civilization. Beyond that, what would be efficacious? It must be asked if a formal statement of support for the rebels would help them. And they'd have a better sense of it than we.
The current policy, much criticized by prominent Republicans, vindicated Barack Obama's boast in his Cairo speech that he is a "student of history." The student in him knows that the worst thing the United States could do at the moment is provide the supreme leader and the less supreme leaders with the words to paint the opposition as American stooges -- or, even worse, suggest to the protesters that some sort of help is on its way from Washington.
Cohen then delivers a nice splash of cold water to Paul Wolfowitz's (surprise, surprise!) TOTALLY WRONG ANALOGY in his recent column comparing Ronald Reagan's intervention with a former colony with Barack Obama's positition vis-a-vis a government WITH WHICH WE HAVE NO FORMAL RELATIONS... (sigh)
Some of Obama's critics have faulted him for not doing what Ronald Reagan (belatedly) did following the fraudulent election in the Philippines in 1986. After some dithering, Reagan virtually forced President Ferdinand Marcos into exile. How neat. How not a precedent for Iran.
Marcos was, to exhume a dandy Cold War phrase, an "American lackey." The Philippines itself was a former American colony. We knew the country. Hell, at one time, we virtually owned it.
In contrast, not a lot is known about how Iran is actually governed. If, for instance, the White House asked the State Department to send over someone with on-the-ground experience in contemporary Iran, the car would arrive empty. The last American diplomats left Iran in 1979. The United States has to rely on foreign diplomats and journalists for its information.
Yet according to some of the dumbest elected persons I've ever heard on television, our president should take to the airwaves and ... wait for it ... demand a recount in Iran. Brilliant.
In the end, the Nation's Washington editor Chris Hayes got it right on Rachel's show tonight. The neoconservative movement is fundamentally about this weird, preening desperation to make every world event, every happening in every culture, even ones we fundamentally don't understand -- All About Us. Thus, the Iranian uprising is about Us (not about the economy, or joblessness, or frustration with the strictures of religious law, or the things the Iranians say it's about. Silly brown people -- they just don't get that it's really all about them wanting Us to guide them to freedom!) The protesters are speaking to Us (not to the Europeans who used to run the place, or to other English-speaking people, just Us. The color green is so close to the color blue that even THAT must ... MUST be About Us. This desire to jam the United States and our inflated self-portrayal as The World's Greatest/Only Defender of Liberty Everywhere into the center of every conceivable conflict is actually starting to look like a mental affliction, and it's one that I, for one, am very glad was not visited on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last November.
You've kind of got to feel sorry for Marco Rubio. His GOP Senate opponent Charlie Crist has got all the name recognition, all the money, all the big endorsements ... and all he's got are those losers at Club for Growth, the Limbaugh crowd and a couple of guys holed up in their mother's basements in Davie stockpiling guns (and teabags) ... waiting for the black helicopter invasion. So you'll forgive Marco if he's a little liberal with "the Twitter..."
Dropped a muffin on floor at airport. Was advised that 2 second rule applied but decided not to risk it and bought another one. 30 minutes ago from TwitterFon
No... not that one ...
I have a feeling the situation in Iran would be a little different if they had a 2nd amendment like ours. #sayfie #tcot #nra2:38 PM Jun 21st from TwitterFon
Yeah, that one. Marco? You're not suggesting that you wish the protesters in Iran could get into an actual shoot-out with the military, police and Basij militia, are you...? And worse, you're not suggesting that you generally support that kind of thing ... at the same time ... you're trying to become a United States Senator ... right?
You know, Twitter can be a darned dangerous thing in the hands of a politician... particularly a politician who probably couldn't find Iran on a map, let alone know a darned thing about the place, but who has been set free by social networking software to unleash his inner Limbaugh.
UPDATE: Thanks to Kathy Riordan for correcting me (and everyone else) on the previous, erroneous, Neda photo. Read more about the photo snafu on her blog.
The death of a 27(?)-year-old Iranian philosophy student whose murder in the streets of Tehran, apparently at the hands of the "Basij" militia, was captured on cellphone video, has become the new rallying cry for Iranian protesters. With a name and face to put on the protests, it seems the Twitter Revolution is morphing into Neda's revolution, at least in the media...
There have conflicting stories about her age, with some news reports putting her age at as young as 16 (which is what CNN was still saying this morning), which may be part of the mythology that's building around the still boiling uprising in Iran.
Meanwhile, a man who says he was Neda's Fiancé, speaks.
"Neda wanted freedom, freedom for everyone," said Kaspeen Makan, who was engaged to Neda Sultani, 27, the young Iranian woman who has become a symbol of the reformist struggle in Iran after a video of her being killed by a Basij sniper during a protest on Saturday was posted on the Internet.
"She said a number of times that even if she dies and takes a bullet to the heart, which apparently is what happened, it will be a step forward. Neda, in her young age, taught a lesson to many people," said Makan in an interview with the BBC.
He noted that she was not affiliated with any political camp. "Neda's goal was not Mousavi or Ahmadinejad, but her homeland. It was important to her that the homeland advance a step forward."
Full BBC interview here. It's clear that one of the reasons that the Neda story is so affecting is that she was a pretty, western looking young woman. That's evident from some of the right wing blog reaction. Case in point (from The InQuisitor):
I hope to god this isn’t really her…because the thought of her being so beautiful and dignified makes the murder somehow that much more obscene….If there’s any justice, there’ll be videos like this of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad someday soon.
Neda Sultani pictured without headscarf. AFP.
Yeah, that usually moves the wingers. For the rest of us, Neda's story is tragic and affecting just on its own, and our hearts go out to her family and to the people of Iran who are risking their lives for the future of their country.
More liveblogging and updates on what's going on in Iran, where the government apparently put down Neda mourning protests yesterday with brute force, (though apparently, Islamic tradition states that mourning takes place 3, 7 and 40 days after a death, so there could well be more "Neda protests" coming...) from the Beeb (minus their reporter, who was kicked out of Iran over the weekend) and the Times of London. More opinion on Neda via Taylor Marsh, and of course the Huffpo.
George Will says it all: neocon Obama critics wrong on Iran
You're seeing the split again: neocon nuts versus actual conservatives, this time on the issue of Iran, in the persons of realists like Dick Lugar, old school ex-regime changers like (the awful) Henry Kissinger, and paleocons like Pat Buchanan and on Sunday, George Will.
What these guys seem to have in common is that they were part of the Nixon crowd -- people who in general are skeptical (if not downright disdainful) of neoconservatism and its interventionist, Wilsonian bent (not to mention the fact that the same neocons who are now screeching for Obama to help the demonstrators were rooting for Ahmadinejad to win the election...) Buchanan and others (including Zbigniew Brzezinksi) see the neocons hovering around the Iran situation, looking for an opening for military intervention. They've seen that movie before and don't want to catch another viewing. By the way Brzezinksi has to have had the quote of the weekend, when he appeared on the best of the Sunday shows, "Fareed Zakaria GPS," and conflated the right wing Iranian regime and our own neocons:
In Iran, we have two different forces at work. You have those who are for more democracy but who are also nationalistic and you have those who are supporting the regime who in many respects are ... very similar to our Neocons. They are Manichean, they look at the world as divided into Good and Evil and many of them see America as the personification of Evil...
[Obama] has struck exactly the right note. He's offering moral sympathy, he's identifying himself morally and historically with what is happening in Iran but he's not engaging himself politically, he's not interfering, because that would turn out badly and it could be exploited by the Neocons in Iran to crush the revolution ...
Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly getting frustrated with the lack of credit Obama is getting for the Cairo speech, which undoubtedly inspired reform-minded Iranians, at least according to Chuck Todd.
Nico Pitney has all the updates, including Youtube video of disturbing, violent scenes of police beating women, and one woman who was fatally shot (warning: graphic) apparently by the pro-government "Basji" forces.
President Obama issued a very strong, well done statement:
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.
As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.
Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.
Asked if he aspired to return to Iran as shah and restore the monarchy, Pahlavi said it would be premature to answer. "The only thing that I'm concerned with -- which is my agenda, my political agenda -- is to end up with a secular parliamentary, democratic system," Pahlavi said.
Such a system could take the form of a parliamentary monarchy such as in Sweden or Japan, he said. "I'm not fighting for any job right now. This is not about me," Pahlavi added.
The temptation in the West (particularly in the media,) is to assume that the Iran situation is a straightforward clash between an incumbent regime and "the people." That's clearly true on a basic level. But as in all complex things, there is always more than one level.
The day before the Friday prayers by Ayatollah Ali-Khameini, a column appeared on Al Jazeera English that offers some tantalizing tidbits about the Ayatollah Khameini (not to be confused with the Ayatollah Khomeini who died in 1989 and whose authority one must assume would never have been questioned, particularly in the streets.) The current Ayatollah is another guy entirely, who was put in place after the previous "SL"'s demise, by a council of men who theoretically, can remove him from power ... read on ... [at left: you say Khameini, I say Khomeini. The current Iran "supreme leader" is pictured on the left, and the 1979 revolution leader on the right]
Not since the 1979 Islamic Revolution when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the shah has Iranian society been so rattled and divided.
According to the Iranian constitution, the Guardians of the Constitution are supposed to monitor and sign off on election results.
After the votes have been counted and the winner announced by the interior ministry, the Guardians have the responsibility to endorse the result within 10 days if there are no complaints from the defeated candidates.
The president-elect is then confirmed and later sworn in by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But last week's election did not follow these procedures.
Despite complaints by Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaei, the opposition candidates, Ayatollah Khamaenei congratulated Ahmadinejad in a public speech and pointed out that he had got 14 million votes more than the first time he was elected president four years ago.
What comes next, is an explanation of how Iran's governmental system works, which suggests that a truism of Western understanding about Iran: that the "supreme leader" is the top man in Iran, is not entirely true...
Many moderate clerics, some of whom are believed to be members of the powerful Assembly of Experts, have questioned the wisdom of Khamenei in hastily endorsing Ahmadinejad's "victory".
The Assembly, which selects the country's supreme leader, is chaired by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani who is considered by many as one of the pillars of the Islamic Revolution.
He was the man behind the election of Khamenei as supreme leader soon after the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeni in 1989.
In theory at least, the Assembly has the constitutional right to question and even replace the supreme leader.
Which brings to mind a couple of paragraphs from that MSNBC.com profile of the opposition leader, Mr. Mousavi:
Mousavi promised economic reform, freedom of expression and a campaign against economic corruption.He also pledged to review laws that discriminate against women, remove the ban on privately owned television stations and curb the power of the supreme leader by taking control of security forces.
What? Could it be that Khameini, whose job description includes "commander in chief of the armed forces," and who served as president in the 1980s during the time Mousavi was prime minister (a position which afterward was eliminated) be fearful of his former colleague, and of being removed from power? That brings us back to the Al Jazeera article:
Some influential moderate clerics privately admit that Khamenei has not done "justice" to the presidential candidates and has not treated them with impartiality.
This behaviour, they believe, could jeopardise his position as leader since one of the main qualities required of the supreme leader is "justice".
Rafsanjani is also the chairman of the Expediency Council which is a body charged with the power to resolve differences or conflicts between parliament and the Guardians of the Constitution, but its true power lies more in its power to oversee the supreme leader.
It is a well-known fact that there is a lot of bad blood between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani whom the president accuses of corruption and aristocratic behaviour.
Ahmadinejad angered Rafsanjani when in his presidential television debate with Mousavi, he alleged that all the three opposition candidates had been put forward by Rafsanjani to defeat him.
He further accused Rafsanjani of unlawfully accumulating massive wealth over many years and putting his cronies in the way of the president.
The allegations prompted Rafsanjani to write a highly critical open letter to Khamenei, which the supreme leader ignored.
The result has been serious public rift within the establishment and many observers believe Rafsanjani may be encouraging the ferment among supporters of the opposition presidential candidates.
Mohammed Khatami, the former Iranian reformist president, has also been serving in the ranks of the "green movement" of Mousavi, who together with fellow candidate Karroubi, have been calling for the annulment of the election which they believe was rigged by Ahmadinejad supporters.
All this leaves Khamenei in a very difficult situation.
Difficult indeed... If Khamenei were to be removed, you know who would be the most likely next "supreme leader?" Why, Mr. Rafsanjani. I guess politics really is alive and well in Iran. From Bloomberg:
Now, the two men are locked in conflict amid a wave of protests against the June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Khamenei ally. Rafsanjani supports Mir Hossein Mousavi, who says that he won the vote and has drawn hundreds of thousands of Iranians into the streets to rally behind him.
Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are the public faces of a power struggle among Iran’s ruling clerics. As the country is swept up in protests not seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the conflict risks undermining the regime’s existence, said Mohammad-Reza Djalili, an Iran expert at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
“The divisions within the ruling elite in Iran are making it very hard for the authorities to crack down decisively,” Djalili said. The regime “is going through its biggest crisis in 30 years. The divisions are getting deeper and deeper.”
Speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran today, Khamenei said Ahmadinejad’s re-election was valid and warned of a crackdown on “political elites” if the unrest continues. “Street demonstrations should end,” Khamenei said. “If they don’t, leading politicians will be held accountable for the chaos.”
Rafsanjani’s support legitimizes Mousavi’s fight against the regime, broadening his base and making it harder for the government to respond, said Cliff Kupchan, a senior analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group.
“Rafsanjani is extremely influential,” he said. “That is providing a degree of protection to the opposition.”
“The political contest playing out in the election is, in fact, among rival factions of the same regime,” said Trita Parsi, an Iran scholar and head of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, the largest U.S.-Iranian association. Ahmadinejad represents a view that “the established political class has hijacked the revolution,” Parsi said.
... Rafsanjani, imprisoned and tortured by the shah’s secret police, was an associate of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution.
Khomeini died in 1989 and Khamenei replaced him with the aid of an endorsement from Rafsanjani, who later that year became president. Rafsanjani remained the key figure in Iranian politics for at least four years because Khamenei lacked authority, Pedram said.
After 1993, Khamenei built up his own power base in the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij and other security structures by cultivating younger politicians who had served in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Rafsanjani was defeated when he tried to return to office in 2005 presidential elections by Ahmadinejad, 52, a former mayor of Tehran who promised to redistribute oil wealth to the people.
During this year’s presidential campaign, Khamenei and Rafsanjani took pot shots at each other, either directly or through Mousavi, 67, and Ahmadinejad. The president complained in a televised debate on June 3 that Rafsanjani was spearheading Mousavi’s campaign and accused the former president’s family of corruption.
Rafsanjani sent back an open letter to the supreme leader denouncing Ahmadinejad’s “lies.” He called for a “fraudless” election.
Khamenei endorsed Ahmadinejad’s re-election on June 13, calling it a “glittering event.” Amid escalating protests, Khamenei two days later ordered the top clerical body to investigate irregularities, and then requested a partial recount. Mousavi rejected those moves and is demanding new elections.
Allies of Rafsanjani and Mousavi include former president Mohammed Khatami, 65, who sought to promote social and political freedoms during his 1997-2005 administration.
Three senior religious figures in the holy city of Qom, the center of Islamic learning in Iran, have publicly supported Mousavi. They are Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, Ayatollah Yosuf Sanei and Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Rafsanjani is trying to rally support among the clerical establishment against the supreme leader, Pedram said.
Complexity doesn't make for good television copy, but it definitely gets you closer to the truth.
Like most people watching this drama unfold, I fully support the Iranians who are rallying in the streets and I'm rooting for them. Hell, I'm even tempted to break out my own green armband. But I'm also cognizant of the fact that as a Westerner, and an outsider, I don't fully understand all that's going on in Iran, nor its complexities and nuances. So like Obama, I think its best to root for the green revolution from a healthy distance. We should pay attention to what's going on, and offer our full moral support. But we should not to demand that American leaders start meddling in the attempts by a people -- any people -- to find their own way to freedom. If they want our help, I'm sure they'll ask for it.
In a sense, I guess you could say I'm taking what should by all rights, be the conservative position.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali-Khamenei delivered Friday prayers, along with a crushing blow to the reformist movement. From Reuters:
Iran's Khamenei demands halt to election protests
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday demanded an end to street protests that have shaken the country since the disputed presidential election a week ago and said any bloodshed would be their leaders' fault.
(Editors' note: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.)
He defended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the rightful winner of the vote and denied any possibility that it had been rigged, as Ahmadinejad's opponents have alleged.
"If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible," Khamenei said in his first address to the nation since the upheaval began.
"The result of the election comes from the ballot box, not from the street," the white-bearded cleric told huge crowds thronging Tehran University and surrounding streets for Friday prayers. "Today the Iranian nation needs calm."
Supporters of runner-up Mirhossein Mousavi have called another rally on Saturday. If they proceed in defiance of Khamenei's explicit warning, they risk a severe response from security forces, which have so far not tried to prevent mass demonstrations. ...
At the sermon's end, Khamenei began lamenting his physical condition and weeping, a move which made the throngs of dignitaries and Basiji militiamen gathered before him weep in response. Observers said Khamenei's gesture, similar to one he made during the height of 1999 student protests, was a call for his loyalists to crack down on the demonstrators.
"Our vote is written in blood, and we gave it to the leader," roared the huge crowd, which flowed out of the Tehran University venue and into the streets outside.
Khamenei blamed Western media and officials for stirring unrest by exploiting internal political differences over the election results. Such allegations have been running for days on state television. Khamenei singled out the U.S., mocking America's concern for human rights issues in Iran, noting that secretary of State Hillary Clinton's husband was president when federal forces stormed the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Scores of people died after a fire ravaged the compound.
"Do you even believe in human rights?" he said, criticizing the U.S. for its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its support for Israel.
"The followers of the Davidian sect were staging a sit-in protest in a house," he said. "The authorities asked them to come out. The Davidians refused. More than 80 men, women and children were burned alive in this house."
He called the British "the most evil" of the Western governments, most likely for launching the highly influential BBC Persian satellite news channel months before the vote. Iranian channels have jammed the channel's signal. "Please see the hungry wolves in ambush gradually removing their masks of diplomacy and showing their true faces," he said. "Today, senior diplomats of some Western countries, who addressed us diplomatically up until today, have now removed their masks. They are showing their true faces." [BTW the British are not amused...]
"American officials remarks about human rights and limitations on people are not acceptable because they have no idea about human rights after what they have done in Afghanistan and Iran and other parts of the world. We do not need advice over human rights from them."
Of the opposition, Khameini said:
Without naming the three losing candidates who have challenged the election results, he ordered them to "open their eyes" and see behind the demonstrations "the enemy hands working, the hungry wolves waiting in ambush".
He added, with distinct menace: "Those politicians who somehow have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner...This extremism will reach a sensitive level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos."
Mr Khamenei also blamed the deaths, violence and vandalism of the past week on "ill-wishers, mercenaries and elements working for the espionage machines of Zionism and western powers".
So what will the opposition do now? If Mousavi goes ahead with planned protests, it's hard to imagine he won't be hauled off to jail. If the people go into the streets, one wonders whether the security forces will show their sympathy, or brutality. And while Americans, Europeans and much of the world may be rooting for the Green Revolution, only the neocons appear ready to see their blood shed in the effort.
This morning on MSNBC's very own mini Fox News Channel (also known as "Morning Joe,") Zbigniev Brzezinski and Pat Buchanan laid it out as plainly as I've heard it said. Both men agreed that there is an element in the U.S., which, apart from simply using the Iran situation to score political points against President Obama, wants to see blood running in the streets of Tehran so that they will have an excuse to say "see? we can't negotiate with Iran. I guess we'll have to bomb them and take out their nuclear capability." As Buchanan pointed out, that's why the neocons wanted Ahmadinejad to win, and why they, and Bibi Netanyahu's hard right government in Israel, is rooting for the forces of doom to prevail in Iran (a take explained thoroughly and succinctly in the Asia Times. Today's must-read.) The thirst for further Middle East "conquest" has even brought old Paul Wolfowitz out of the woodwork, packing completely asymmetrical comparisons between Iran and both the Philippines and the old Soviet Union, neither of which were theocratic republics steeped in an ancient Persian culture, at least the last time I checked... Wolfowitz's WaPo op-ed is helpful, however, in reminding us that he was indeed one of the nut-case neocons that Ronald Reagan thankfully ignored throughout much of his presidency, otherwise we would probably have wound up at war with the U.S.S.R ... President Obama should heed the late Mr. Reagan, and ignore the neocons, too.
Meanwhile, Democrats will likely cave in to the GOP's silly politicking on Iran's protests.
And now some video:
From "Morning Joe" (yech...) the smart take of Richard Engel:
He's gone from colorless insider to political rock star — a graying, bearded veteran of the Islamic regime who now stands at the forefront of a youth-driven movement fighting for change.
Despite his newfound fame, Mir Hossein Mousavi still works out of his old office at the Iranian Art Academy and lives in the same unassuming brick home in a middle-class district of Tehran as before, according to an aide.
Only now, he travels with armed guards provided by the very government he is challenging. ...
Thousands of supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man they consider the true winner of Iran's disputed presidential election, have held a rally in Tehran to mourn the recent deaths of protesters.
Thursday's gathering took place at the capital's Imam Khomeini Square in spite of a statement by the highest legislative body that it would meet the candidates to discuss their complaints about the vote.
... Mousavi had issued a statement on his website calling for Thursday to be observed as a day of mourning for those killed during the protests against the election result.
Chanting "Peace be upon (Prophet) Muhammad and his family", the opposition supporters, many dressed in black, marched in south Tehran, the witnesses said.
Mousavi had urged his supporters to wear black as a sign of remembrance and remain peaceful.
One witness said the marchers carried pictures of Mousavi and placards like "We have not had people killed to compromise and accept a doctored ballot box" and "Silent, keep calm".
Mousavi somehow managed to reach the venue and addressed the huge crowd.
He announced that a rally scheduled for Friday had been cancelled, and that his supporters should prepare for a major march planned for Saturday afternoon from Tehran's Revolution Square to Freedom Square.
Mousavi has applied for a permission at the interior ministry but it is unclear whether this would be issued.
About 100 people gathered outside the United Nations building in Tehran earlier on Thursday urging the Guardian Council to take action over the disputed poll. Officials have barred the foreign media from covering such "unauthorised" events. However, they are expected to ensure a heavy turnout for a special sermon to be delivered by Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the country's supreme leader, at the Tehran University campus on Friday. ...
For now, the only thing I'd criticize Obama for is stating that there's not much difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. That may have been true before the election, but it's probably not now. Although, his saying what he did had the effect of distancing the U.S. from the opposition, which is probably what the administration wanted, and in the end, most probably the right thing to do. Let's let the Iranians speak for themselves. The neocons' days of treating Muslims like wayward children who must be given democracy by their western benefactors (usually at the barrel of a gun) is over.
Tens of thousands of people have again taken to the streets in Iran's capital Tehran in protest at election results. It follows a call by presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi for further peaceful demonstrations.
An even larger protest is expected on Thursday, which Mr Mousavi says should be a day of mourning for the eight people killed after Monday's protest. ...
... Heavy restrictions have been placed on the BBC and other foreign news organisations. Reporters are not allowed to cover unauthorised gatherings or move around freely in Tehran - but there are no controls over what they can write or say. Opposition demonstrations gathered in force in central Tehran on Wednesday afternoon.
The BBC's Jon Leyne in the capital says it is difficult to verify the numbers attending. Some estimates say between 70,000 and 100,000, others up to 500,000.
The march was reported to be in silence to try to avoid provoking the authorities.
Meanwhile the BBC has amazing video of an amazing green wristband protest by members of the Iranian soccer team that in some ways, recalled the protests by Black athletes at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, though clearly, the soccer team members who did this protest are taking considerably greater risk with their lives... Watch:
Al Jazeera reports the Iranian interior ministry is cracking down on bloggers, and preparing to investigate an attack on university students. In fact, bloggers have been ordered to remove any offending posts.
Al Jazeera also plays up President Obama's comments about similarities between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, which seem to be having the desired effect in Tehran:
The Revolutionary Guard has warned the country's online media it will face legal action if it "creates tensions".
Within the country, mobile phone text services have been down since the election. There is no access to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
The interior ministry has ordered an investigation into an attack on university students in which it is claimed four people were killed.
At least seven people have been killed in recent clashes between the authorities and the opposition movement, according to state media reports, while hundreds more are thought to have been injured.
For its part, the foreign ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents US interests in Tehran, on Wednesday to protest at "interventionist" US statements on Iran's election.
Obama told CNBC there appeared to be little difference in policy between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.
"Either way we are going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States," he said.
So is Mousavi different? Christian Amanpour and Richard Engel, the two best American reporters on the case in my view, both say yes, on domestic issues, and increasingly as the revolution goes on. But his history is one of a hardliner, and an establishment figure. More on Mousavi here and here. One interesting note: Mousavi was prime minister when the current Ayatollah, Mr. Khomeini, was president. Hm... apparently, Khomeini isn't wild about the idea of having an Iranian president who is his peer...
The fate of Iran rested last night in a grubby north Tehran highway interchange called Vanak Square where – after days of violence – supporters of the official President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at last confronted the screaming, angry Iranians who have decided that Mirhossein Mousavi should be the president of their country. Unbelievably – and I am a witness because I stood beside them – just 400 Iranian special forces police were keeping these two armies apart. There were stones and tear gas but for the first time in this epic crisis the cops promised to protect both sides.
"Please, please, keep the Basiji from us," one middle-aged lady pleaded with a special forces officer in flak jacket and helmet as the Islamic Republic's thug-like militia appeared in their camouflage trousers and purity-white shirts only a few metres away. The cop smiled at her. "With God's help," he said. Two other policemen were lifted shoulder-high. "Tashakor, tashakor," – "thank you, thank you" – the crowd roared at them.
This was phenomenal. The armed special forces of the Islamic Republic, hitherto always allies of the Basiji, were prepared for once, it seemed, to protect all Iranians, not just Ahmadinejad's henchmen. The precedent for this sudden neutrality is known to everyone – it was when the Shah's army refused to fire on the millions of demonstrators demanding his overthrow in 1979.
Yet this is not a revolution to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Both sets of demonstrators were shouting "Allahu Akbar" – "God is Great" – at Vanak Square last night. But if the Iranian security forces are now taking the middle ground, then Ahmadinejad is truly in trouble.
"On this issue, I do not believe that the president is taking a leadership that is incumbent upon an American president, which we have throughout modern history, and that is to advocate for human rights and freedom — and free elections are one of those fundamentals," the Arizona Republican told John Roberts on CNN's American Morning.
President Obama Tuesday said that he has deep concerns over the election results in Iran, but stressed that "it's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections."
McCain disputed that assessment. "We're not meddling in any country's affairs when we call for free and fair elections and the ability of people to exercise their human rights," he said Monday. "And when they disagree with a flawed or corrupt election, as the Iranian people have, [not] to be beaten and even killed in the streets."
To which one astute commentator replied (with link added by me):
Yes, McCain, lets do get more involved. Shall we bomb, bomb, bomb Iran? Shall we tell Ayatolla what we want him to do, and then if he refuses, what, blame President Obama for not being forceful enough? Win win either way, right?
Pat Buchanan does it again, answering the neocon warmongering gobbledygook with a good, sensible column on the president's response to Iran in Town Hall. His opening:
The Obama policy of extending an open hand to Iran is working and ought not be abandoned because of the grim events in Tehran.
For the Iranian theocracy has just administered a body blow to its legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people and the world.
Before Saturday, the regime could credibly posture as defender of the nation, defiant in the face of the threats from Israel, faithful to the cause of the Palestinians, standing firm for Iran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear power.
Today, the regime, including the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is under a cloud of suspicion that they are but another gang of corrupt politicians who brazenly stole a presidential election to keep themselves and their clerical cronies in power.
In his first public comments on the situation in Iran, Mr Obama said: "I am deeply troubled by the violence that I've been seeing on television.
"I think that the democratic process, free speech, the ability for folks to peacefully dissent, all those are universal values and need to be respected."
But the BBC's Jonathan Beale, in Washington, says the president studiously avoided any comment on the allegations of vote fraud.
"We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran," Mr Obama said.
Steve Clemons said on "Countdown" tonight that he thinks that Obama has struck the right note so far. He wants to avoid seeming to favor Mousavi outright, lest Mousavi be made to look like an American puppet.
Meanwhile, the mullahs must be worried, because the Ayatollah Khameini, who earlier declared the Ahmadinejad "victory" to be a "divine result," has now ordered a review:
The Guardian Council, the body tasked with supervising the electoral process, says it will announce its verdict on the results of Iran's presidential elections within 10 days.
Council spokesman Abbas-Ali Kadkhodayi said the body had received two official complaints from defeated presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mohsen Rezaie.
The two candidates have questioned the legitimacy of the June 12 poll.
Kadkhodayi said the Council would review the appeals and announce its final verdict within 10 days.
Despite the fact that Iran uses paper ballots nationwide that have to be counted by hand, only two hours after the polls closed the state-run news agency was already claiming that Ahmadinejad won 69 percent of the vote to Moussavi’s 28 percent.
The speed with which the results were certified and the wide margin of victory, coupled with some statistical anomalies, have led many to believe the vote was rigged.
A most strange storyline has emerged with regard to the provincial vote totals for the Iranian election. Around 1600 GMT Sunday, the ministry of Interior released the official vote totals by province. As others have mentioned, by law candidates have three days following voting to contest the result, before the final totals are approved by the Supreme Leader. As such, it is notable that both the aggregate totals and provincial totals were certified, approved and released before the three day deadline.
Another curious turn of events was that somewhere between 1600 and 2000 GMT, the provincial vote totals mysteriously disappeared from the English language (and all other languages other than Persian) versions of www.presstv.ir and other Iranian news outlets, where the interior ministry had distributed the results. As such, we are in debt to Daniel Berman and his colleagues for their translation of the official provincial numbers.
..paradoxically, it seems that from Israel's point of view the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually preferable. Not only because "better the devil you know," but because the victory of the pro-reform candidate will paste an attractive mask on the face of Iranian nuclear ambitions...
... Ahmadinejad, with his Holocaust denial and his long series of provocations, drew most of the attention, but apparently had less influence on the nuclear program. There are even senior members of the Israeli defense establishment who share the public stance of former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, who claimed that the Iranian president's behavior, perceived in the West as quasi-lunatic, advanced Israel's security interests.
... or did they? ... Much like Bush's court-appointed victory in 2000, and his Ohio-tainted win in 2004, the opposition begs to differ with the result. From the Independent UK:
Supporters of the main election challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed with police and set up barricades of burning tires today as authorities declared the hard-line president was re-elected in a landslide. Opponents responded with the most serious unrest in the capital in a decade and charges that the result was the work of a "dictatorship."
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, closed the door on any chance he could use his limitless powers to intervene in the disputes from Friday's election. In a message on state TV, he urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, calling the result a "divine assessment."
But Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has rejected the result as rigged and urged his supporters to resist a government of "lies and dictatorship."
The clashes in central Tehran were the more serious disturbances in the capital since student-led protests in 1999 and showed the potential for the showdown over the vote to spill over into further violence and challenges to the Islamic establishment.
Several hundred demonstrators — many wearing the trademark green colors of Mousavi's campaign — chanted "the government lied to the people" and gathered near the Interior Ministry as the final count was announced. It gave 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad and 33.75 to Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s and has become the hero of a youth-driven movement seeking greater liberties and a gentler face for Iran abroad.
The turnout was a record 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters. Two other candidates received only a fraction of the vote.
Protesters set fire to tires outside the Interior Ministry and anti-riot police fought back with clubs and smashed cars. An Associated Press photographer saw a plainclothes security official beating a woman with his truncheon.
In another main street of Tehran, some 300 young people blocked the avenue by forming a human chain and chanted "Ahmadi, shame on you. Leave the government alone."
And there are signs that the government is responding to the "Green Movement" in what you might call "the Chinese fashion"...
It was even unclear how many Iranians were even aware of Mousavi's claims of fraud. Communications disruptions began in the later hours of voting Friday — suggesting an information clampdown. State television and radio only broadcast the Interior Ministry's vote count and not Mousavi's midnight press conference.
Nationwide, the text messaging system remained down Saturday and several pro-Mousavi Web sites were blocked or difficult to access. Text messaging is frequently used by many Iranians — especially young Mousavi supporters — to spread election news.
... Mousavi's backers were stunned at the Interior Ministry's results after widespread predictions of a close race — or even a slight edge to Mousavi.
"Many Iranians went to the people because they wanted to bring change. Almost everybody I know voted for Mousavi but Ahmadinejad is being declared the winner. The government announcement is nothing but widespread fraud. It is very, very disappointing. I'll never ever again vote in Iran," said Mousavi supporter Nasser Amiri, a hospital clerk in Tehran.
Bringing any showdown into the streets would certainly face a swift backlash from security forces. The political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard cautioned Wednesday it would crush any "revolution" against the Islamic regime by Mousavi's "green movement."
... Historic because Ahmadenijad is getting election results that are just about impossible to believe. I always thought he would probably win -- but nuance and subtlety are not skill sets of the regime's election rigging operation.
To be up front, I never thought that Mousavi's strategic policy course would differ substantively from his now unlikely predecessor Ahmadenijad -- but a change in optics and posture, which Mousavi would have offered, might have yielded significant new opportunities down the road.
Iran will be tied in knots now -- for a long time. What worries me about this is the tendency of Iran's leadership to generate external crises and international focal points to try and distract a frustrated citizenry and unify the nation.
Even before the results were in, Foreign Policy predicted that Iran 2009 could wind up like Florida 2000, and explained how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a lot like George W. Bush:
Lastly there is 52-year-old Ahmadinejad himself, who despite his profound mismanagement of the economy and foreign policy adventurism seemingly retains the support of the Supreme Leader. An Iranian Joe Six-pack who intertwines religion and populism and infuriates urban elites -- think Ayatollah Khomeini meets Sarah Palin -- Ahmadinejad's supporters are the Iranian equivalent of American evangelicals: a small percentage of the population with outsize political influence given their high voter turnout.
While his divine inspirations, lack of introspection, and polarizing rhetoric have frequently earned comparisons to George W. Bush, what's unclear is whether Ahmadinejad is the Bush of 2004 (who got the benefit of the doubt) or the Bush of 2008, whose legacy was shunned even by his own party. There are increasing signs of the latter.
Absent credible polling, however, Iran's political landscape is difficult to decipher. In elections past, much has been made of the gap between affluent-middle class North Tehran, and working class South Tehran. The real disparity, however, is between Tehran and a few other urban centers (Iran's blue states) and the rest of the country (Iran's red states). Just as Staten Island residents probably have more in common with Manhattanites than Alabamans, South Tehran residents tend to have more in common with north Tehranis than with their rural compatriots who don't have access to the Internet and satellite TV and rely on state television as their primary source of information. [Note: Think Fox News...]
Because the last two presidents in Iran -- Mohammed Khatami and Ahmadinejad -- were both surprises, seasoned observers are loath to make predictions this time around. Based on media coverage coming mostly out of the capital, Ahmadinejad is looking like Jimmy Carter in 1980. But the vote of the provinces, and the potential for fraud, are impossible to foresee.
Given the depth of polarization in Iran, the final results will likely be hotly contested by the losing side. Florida in 2000 could be most instructive. But while in America the memory of unelected elders in robes deciding the country's outlook was an historical anomaly, for Iranians it has been, and will likely continue to be, a way of life.
You really missed something. It was a fascinating look at a fascinating, and in this country, largely unknown country, which by the way, appears to have more compassionate healthcare policies than we do. Go figure. Here's part one:
The Secretary of State, who is one of the few people with the President's ear, has shown the door to Vice-President Dick Cheney's cabal of war-hungry advisers. Ms Rice was able to declare yesterday that the administration's decision to break with past policy proves that there is international unity in opposing Iran's nuclear programme. "The point that we're making is the United States is firmly behind this diplomacy, firmly behind and unified with our allies and hopefully the Iranians will take that message," Ms Rice said.
Mr Bush's decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department's sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest's section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.
"This is a complete capitulation on the whole idea of suspending enrichment," said Mr Bush's former UN envoy, John Bolton. "Just when the administration has no more U-turns to pull, it does another."
Ms. Rice is described in the article as a "prime mover" behind the disastrous Iraq invasion, but her change of direction has pushed her man Bush in a new direction, one in which she appears to be steering the ship:
The breakthrough, if that is what it turns out to be, that persuaded Mr Bush that it was time to end the 30-year boycott of high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran, came from the simple act of Ms Rice signing her name to a joint letter offering sweeter terms to Tehran than it had seen before.
The very act of putting her name to a package of incentives presented in Tehran last month persuaded the Iranian authorities that there was movement that would allow them to proclaim victory over the US, while ending their nuclear programme.
When he saw Ms Rice's signature on the document, Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was visibly stunned, according to those present at the meeting. He formally responded to the offer with a letter addressed to Ms Rice and the EU's foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, as well as foreign ministers of the five other countries at the talks.
His letter skirted around the hot-button issue of Iran's uranium enrichment programme, but it contained an olive branch of an offer to "find common ground through logical and constructive actions", according to reports.
But the piece also makes it clear who the real ship's captain in the Bush administration is:
Before approaching the President with a plan to avoid war in the last six months of his presidency, Ms Rice had to persuade Mr Cheney, chief among those described as the "Vulcans" of his administration. She made her pitch at a meeting that included Mr Cheney, Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, Joshua Bolton, the White House Chief of Staff, and Mr Burns, who is heading to Geneva at the weekend to take part in the "one time only deal".
Scary. Read the entire article for a nice recounting of Condi's greatest hits, including her assertion that "no one could have anticipated planes flying into buildings..."
Hey, did you hear the one about the government-chartered mortgage giants who spent $200 million to buy influence in Washington? About 20 McCain advisers have...
Forget all that talk about "appeasement" and the "Axis of evil..." The Guardian reports the Bush administration is preparing to establish an "interests section" in Iran, similar to the one we have in Cuba. The move is a half-step away from setting up an embassy, and comes on the heels of news the U.S. will send the third in command at the State Department to silently observe European talks with Tehran. Et tu, Bushie? In other news, the neocons will be wearing black today as a sign of mourning. Dick Cheney will be wearing an ankle monitor.
There are two ways to look at this news. Either GWB has turned his foreign policy over to Condi Rice, taking the portfolio away from Dick Cheney and his band of neocon nutjobs, in order to salvage some semblance of a legacy in the final months of his administration ... or, Bush hopes to undermine Barack Obama's foreign policy stances one by one, by preempting him on engagement with Iran, troop drawdowns in Iraq, etc. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether John McCain is swift enough to pick up the ball, or whether he will keep blustering on about staying in Iraq forever and ever and blowing Iran to hell.
Also in the Guardian, a new report says the U.S. ranks 42nd in life expectancy -- lower than any developed nation and on par with Croatia ... and Canada is taken to task for refusing to seek the repatriation of a 15-year-old kid the Bush administration has locked up in Gitmo, and who is seen pleading for help during a videotaped interrogation released this week. From the story:
Toronto-born Omar Khadr's US military lawyer called on Harper to "stand up and act like a prime minister of Canada" and demand the teenager's return.
... Khadr's military lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler, along with his criticism of Harper, said yesterday that the military tribunals at Guantánamo "aren't designed to be fair" and designed "to produce convictions".
He said anyone who watched Khadr whimpering for his mother and still believed he had vowed to die fighting with a bunch of hardened al-Qaida terrorists is "crazy".
"The tape shows Omar Khadr not as a hardened terrorist but as a frightened boy."
"It just shows how unreliable anything that they extracted from this kid is would be at trial."
Khadr, who was shown in the video aged 16 and questioned after severe sleep deprivation, will have to remain at Guantánamo until he is prosecuted for war crimes in front of a special US military tribunal, later this year.
The liberal Canadian senator and ex-general Romeo Dallaire told Canada Television's (CTV) Newsnet programme that Khadr is a child solider and should be treated and given the same rehabilitation that Canada devotes to other child soldiers around the world.
"We're getting stabbed in the back," Dallaire told the cable channel. "We have worked for years to assist other nations in eradicating the use of children in conflict. But our own country doesn't even want to recognise that our own citizen (is a child soldier). No matter what his politics are, it's totally irrelevant.
Canada's conservative P.M., Stephen Harper, remains unmoved, and Canadian experts are casting doubt on chances for the boy to return to his home country. [Omar Khadr photo, showing him at age 15, from the Canadian Broadcasting Co.]
Meanwhile in the Middle East, Hezbollah supporters are gleeful at the return of five of their members to Beirut, along with the bodies of some 200 fighters, who were exchanged for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. In Israel, no celebration, just funerals for the two Israelis, whose capture led to Israel's disastrous 2006 war with Lebanon. In the Independent UK, Robert Fisk writes of Israel's folly, and Hezbollah's hubris. On the exchange, Hezbollah got:
Samir Kuntar – 28 years in an Israeli jail for the 1979 murder of an Israeli, his young daughter and a policeman. He arrived from Israel very much alive, clean shaven but sporting a neat moustache, overawed by the hundreds of Hizbollah supporters, a man used to solitary confinement who suddenly found himself idolised by a people he had not seen in almost three decades. His eyes moved around him, the eyes of a prisoner watching for trouble. He was Israel's longest-held Lebanese prisoner; Hizbollah's leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, had promised his release. And he had kept his word.
... But it was also a day of humiliation. Humiliation most of all for the Israelis. After launching their 2006 war to retrieve two of their captured soldiers, they killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians, devastated Lebanon, lost 160 of their own – most of them soldiers – and ended up yesterday handing over 200 Arab corpses and five prisoners in return for the remains of the two missing soldiers and a box of body parts.
Read the whole thing. Trust me.
Back to the states, where the New York Times' Caucus blog reports Barack Obama raised $52 million in June (though Chuck Todd pooh-poohed the number this morning on "Morning Joe," saying Obama had better raise that amount since he's not taking public financing. Geez, the media is STILL sore about that?)
Meanwhile, the paper proper reports on how much Iraqis seem to like Obama, quoting one Iraqi general as saying the candidate is "very young, very active" and "we would be very happy if he was elected president." Look for the McCain camp to deride Obama as "the candidate of the Iraqi people" today ... before they have to dial back once the candidate remembers that Iraq is no longer in the Axis of Evil. The same story attempts to throw cold water on Obama's withdrawal plans, however, calling them "complicated" for Iraqis:
... mention Mr. Obama’s plan for withdrawing American soldiers, and the general stiffens.
“Very difficult,” he said, shaking his head. “Any army would love to work without any help, but let me be honest: for now, we don’t have that ability.”
... There was, as Mr. Obama prepared to visit here, excitement over a man who is the anti-Bush in almost every way: a Democrat who opposed a war that many Iraqis feel devastated their nation. And many in the political elite recognize that Mr. Obama shares their hope for a more rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.
But his support for troop withdrawal cuts both ways, reflecting a deep internal quandary in Iraq: for many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Mr. Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war. Many Iraqis also acknowledge that security gains in recent months were achieved partly by the buildup of American troops, which Mr. Obama opposed and his presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, supported.
“In no way do I favor the occupation of my country,” said Abu Ibrahim, a Western-educated businessman in Baghdad, “but there is a moral obligation on the Americans at this point.”
Like many Iraqis, Mr. Ibrahim sees Mr. Obama favorably, describing him as “much more humane than Bush or McCain.”
“He seems like a nice guy,” Mr. Ibrahim said. But he hoped that Mr. Obama’s statements about a relatively fast pullout were mere campaign talk.
“It’s a very big assumption that just because he wants to pull troops out, he’ll be able to do it,” he said. “The American strategy in the region requires troops to remain in Iraq for a long time.”
Why do I not quite trust the Times not to put neocon words into Iraqis mouths? Maybe it's just me ... and Judy Miller... Meanwhile, the paper also reports on the phalanx of media stars and actual anchor people who will chase Barack around the Middle East and Europe when he travels there, as opposed to the "in other news" treatment that McCain's overseas trip received.
The U.S. economy and financial system are more closely linked to those in other wealthy nations, particularly in Europe, where rising inflation and the weak dollar are adding to growing trouble. The United States and Europe have "similar economies and share the potential problems of industrialized nations in terms of property price fluctuations and financials," said Simon Johnson, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "And they find themselves sharing variable degrees of vulnerability."
As global wealth has shifted during the past decade, emerging markets have become not only increasingly stable but they have also been claiming a larger portion of the world's riches than ever before. If Californians are rushing to withdraw money from banks there, the situation in Kenya is just the opposite: People are flocking to banks to open accounts. The Nairobi exchange, which lists mostly Kenyan companies and a handful of multinational firms, posted 10 percent gains in the three months ended in June as local and foreign investors flocked to the initial public offering of the cellphone giant Safaricom.
The WaPo also tries to even out the mortgage crisis exposure of the two presidential candidates, attempting to make former Obama advisers and of all things, Clinton advisers, the equivalent of John McCain's bevy of current lobbyist pals and campaign shot callers who are steeped in Freddie and Fannie lobbying cash. So much for the liberal media.
And the paper reports that the Obama campaign is creating a heavy presence in Virginia, suggesting they are serious about winning the state.
The Los Angeles Times reports on newly minted FBI investigatee Indymac's latest problem: rival banks are refusing to accept its cashier's checks, adding a new headache for depositors who have been lining up to get their money.
And the paper reports that a stunning 1 in 4 California high school students -- and 1 in 3 Los Angeles high schoolers, dropped out of school since the fall of 2006. Wow. The head count was made possible by a new ID system in the state that was meant to track students leaving one school and enrolling at another. Unfortunately, the second part of that equation didn't happen 25-33% of the time.
Iranian television shows the test firing of a Shahab 3 missile. Source: New York Times
Iran tests new long range missiles that can reach Tel Aviv, not to mention U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Isn't that the kind of thing that got the Bushies to the table with North Korea? Just sayin...
(BBC) Iran has test-fired nine missiles, including a new version of the Shahab-3, which is capable of reaching its main regional enemy Israel.
The Shahab-3, with a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles), was armed with a conventional warhead, state media said. Iran has tested the missile before, but the latest launch comes amid rising tensions with the US and Israel over the country's nuclear programme.
The early morning launch at a remote desert site sent oil prices climbing. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe called on Iran to "refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world".
Two other types of missile with shorter ranges were also fired as part of the Great Prophet III war games being staged by Iran's military.
PARIS — One day after threatening to strike Tel Aviv and United States interests if attacked, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were reported on Wednesday to have test-fired nine missiles, including one which the government in Tehran says has the range to reach Israel.
State-run media said the missiles were long- and medium-range weapons, among them a new version of the Shahab-3, which Tehran maintains is able to hit targets 1,250 miles away from its firing position. Parts of western Iran are within 650 miles of Tel Aviv.
The reported tests coincide with increasingly tense negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, which Iran says is for civilian purposes but which many Western governments suspect is aimed at building nuclear weapons. At the same time, United States and British warships have been conducting naval maneuvers in the Persian Gulf — apparently within range of the launching site of the missiles tested on Wednesday. Israel insisted it did not want war with Iran.
“Israel has no desire for conflict or hostilities with Iran,” Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said. “But the Iranian nuclear program and the Iranian ballistic missile program must be of grave concern to the entire international community.”
The missile tests drew a sharp response from the United States. Gordon D. Johndroe, the deputy White House press secretary, said in a statement at the Group of 8 meeting in Japan that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles was a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“The Iranian regime only furthers the isolation of the Iranian people from the international community when it engages in this sort of activity,” Mr. Johndroe said.
He urged Iran to “refrain from further missile tests if they truly seek to gain the trust of the world. The Iranians should stop the development of ballistic missiles which could be used as a delivery vehicle for a potential nuclear weapon immediately.”
The tests appear to be a reaction to Israel's "dress rehearsals" last month for an attack on ... somebody ... which coincide with increased diplomacy by Israel with enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas, which some Mideast analysts see as a way to soften the blow in the Arab world should the Jewish state attack Iran.
The news drew quick reactions from the U.S. presidential candidates:
... "Working with our European and regional allies is the best way to meet the threat posed by Iran, not unilateral concessions that undermine multilateral diplomacy," McCain said in a statement.
Obama has been criticized by Republicans for being too eager to engage enemies of the U.S. in talks. Asked how he would respond to the missile tests if he were president, Obama said he would confer with his national security team to find out whether "this indicates any new capabilities on Iran's part."
"At this point, the report is unclear, it's still early," Obama said on "The Early Show" on CBS. "What this underscores is the need for ... a clear policy that is putting the burden on Iran to change behavior. And frankly, we just have not been able to do that the last several years, partly because we're not engaged in direct diplomacy."
Obama said he continued to favor an incentive package that is aimed at getting Iran to drop its nuclear ambitions.
McCain said Iran's missile tests "demonstrate again the dangers it poses to its neighbors and to the wider region, especially Israel."
"Ballistic missile testing coupled with Iran's continued refusal to cease its nuclear activities should unite the international community in efforts to counter Iran's dangerous ambitions," McCain said.
Obama, while calling Iran a threat, criticized the Bush administration for using bellicose language against the Iranian government while increasing exports to the country.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that U.S. exports to Iran grew more than tenfold under President Bush in spite of his criticism of its government as a sponsor of terrorism and warnings against any efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
"It's that kind of mixed signal that has led to the kind of situation that we're in right now," Obama said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
More on Bush's checkbook diplomacy, from Newsweek:
(WASHINGTON) Nuclear weapons? No way. But there are plenty of items on Iran's shopping list the United States is more than happy to supply: cigarettes, brassieres, bull semen and more.
U.S. exports to Iran grew more than tenfold during President Bush's years in office even as he accused it of nuclear ambitions and sponsoring terrorists. America sent more cigarettes to Iran — at least $158 million worth under Bush — than any other product.
Other surprising shipments during the Bush administration: fur clothing, sculptures, perfume, musical instruments and military apparel. Top states shipping goods to Iran include California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of seven years of U.S. governmenttrade data.
Despite increasingly tough rhetoric toward Iran, which Bush has called part of an "axis of evil," U.S. trade in a range of goods survives on-again, off-again sanctions originally imposed nearly three decades ago. The rules allow sales of agricultural commodities, medicine and a few other categories of goods. The exemptions are designed to help Iranian families even as the United States pressures Iran's leaders.
"I understand that these exports have increased. However, we believe that they are increasing to a segment of the population that we want to reach out to, we want to know and understand that the U.S. government, the U.S. people want to be friends with them, want to work with them to integrate them into the world economy and become partners in the future," Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, said Tuesday when asked by reporters about AP's findings.
So ... we want them to get hooked on our cigarettes and be our friends before we ... blow them away...? And remember, while we're increasing exports to Iran (and don't think Dick Cheney's Halliburton isn't still doing business there, too...) we're also conducting covert operations which may be designed to provoke Iran into a war...
The Guardian drills deeper into the candidate reactions, and finds Barack Obama talking tough diplomacy (he also gets the headline, while Mac gets the mid-article crumbs...) and McCain sealing himself into the Bush glass coffin once again with a call for a halo of missile defense over Europe:
"Iran is a great threat. We have to make sure we are working with our allies to apply tightened pressure on Iran," the Illinois senator said.
Iran demonstrated its military force with the test-flight of nine long and medium-range missiles in the strategic Strait of Hormouz, through which 40% of the world's oil passes.
Tehran said the exercise was in retaliation to threats from the US and Israel over its disputed nuclear projects, which it claims are civilian.
Obama said if he were to be elected president, he would combine more direct diplomacy with the threat of much tougher economic sanctions.
"I think what this underscores is the need for us to create a kind of policy that is putting the burden on Iran to change behaviour, and frankly we just have not been able to do that over the last several years," Obama said.
He cited reports that US exports to Iran have increased under George Bush, even as the administration has toughened its rhetoric.
Earlier, the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said the "war games" justified America's defence plans with bases in eastern Europe. She said the tests were "evidence that the missile threat is not an imaginary one."
"Those who say there is no Iranian missile threat against which we should build a missile defence system perhaps ought to talk to the Iranians about their claims."
Her comments were backed by the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. He said the tests "demonstrate the need for effective missile defence now and in the future, and this includes missile defence in Europe as is planned with the Czech Republic and Poland". These plans are strongly opposed by Russia.
Gunmen attacked a police guard post this morning outside the heavily fortified U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, killing three Turkish police officers in what Ambassador Ross Wilson called "an obvious act of terrorism."
Three of the assailants were shot to death during the gun battle, authorities said, and a fourth person was taken into custody a short time later, according to Turkey's Dogan News Agency.
No Americans or consular employees were injured.
"This was an attack on the American diplomatic establishment here," Wilson said in an appearance before reporters in Ankara, the Turkish capital. " . . . Our countries will stand together and confront this, as we have in the past."
Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Istanbul Gov. Muammer Guler also labeled the incident a terrorist attack. Gul referred to the slain police officers as martyrs and said Turkey "will fight against those who masterminded such acts and the mentality behind it till the end."
L ate last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.
The Washington Post takes a fascinating look at the economic up-trends and down-trends for two states; Virginia and West Virginia, and plumbs the ramifications for Democrats and Republicans:
... "Democratic areas are sopping up people with BA degrees; Republican areas are sopping up white people without degrees. Church membership is declining in Democratic areas and increasing in red counties," said Bill Bishop, author of "The Big Sort." "There are all these things telling people they should be around people like themselves. And every four years, this has political consequences."
Overall, the most wealthy are still more likely to vote for GOP candidates, particularly in red states, where it is the rich, not the working class, who are most reliably Republican. The split is more evident in education and vocation, with professionals and voters with post-graduate degrees trending Democratic.
But in general, where economic dynamism is concentrated, Democrats are gaining. Bishop found that Gore and Kerry did much better in the 21 metro areas that produced the most new patents than in less tech-oriented cities. Virginia Tech demographer Robert E. Lang found that Kerry did better in the 20 metro areas most linked to the global economy -- based on business networks, shipping and airport activity -- than in metro areas as a whole.
In private, he is surely gaming this out further, George Carlin-style. What would be the optimum timing, from the campaign’s perspective, for this terrorist attack — before or after the convention? Would the attack be most useful if it took place in a red state, blue state or swing state? How much would it “help” if the next assassinated foreign leader had a higher name recognition in American households than Benazir Bhutto?
Rich goes on to critique the "terror = M-c-win" strategery of Karl Rove, saying that should the unthinkable occur:
... voters might take a hard look at the antiterrorism warriors of the McCain campaign (and of a potential McCain administration). This is the band of advisers and surrogates that surfaced to attack Mr. Obama two weeks ago for being “naïve” and “delusional” and guilty of a “Sept. 10th mind-set” after he had the gall to agree with the Supreme Court decision on Gitmo detainees. The McCain team’s track record is hardly sterling. It might make America more vulnerable to terrorist attack, not less, were it in power.
Take — please! — the McCain foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann. He was the executive director of the so-called Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, formed in 2002 (with Mr. McCain on board) to gin up the war that diverted American resources from fighting those who attacked us on 9/11 to invading a nation that did not. Thanks to that strategic blunder, a 2008 Qaeda attack could well originate from Pakistan or Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden’s progeny, liberated by our liberation of Iraq, have been regrouping ever since. On Friday the Pentagon declared that the Taliban has once more “coalesced into a resilient insurgency.” Attacks in eastern Afghanistan are up 40 percent from this time last year, according to the American commander of NATO forces in the region.
Another dubious McCain terror expert is the former C.I.A. director James Woolsey. He (like Charles Black) was a cheerleader for Ahmad Chalabi, the exiled Iraqi leader who helped promote phony Iraqi W.M.D. intelligence in 2002 and who is persona non grata to American officials in Iraq today because of his ties to Iran. Mr. Woolsey, who accuses Mr. Obama of harboring “extremely dangerous” views on terrorism, has demonstrated his own expertise by supporting crackpot theories linking Iraq to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On 9/11 and 9/12 he circulated on the three major networks to float the idea that Saddam rather than bin Laden might have ordered the attacks.
Then there is the McCain camp’s star fearmonger, Rudy Giuliani, who has lately taken to railing about Mr. Obama’s supposed failure to learn the lessons of the first twin towers bombing. The lesson America’s Mayor took away from that 1993 attack was to insist that New York City’s emergency command center be located in the World Trade Center. No less an authority than John Lehman, a 9/11 commission member who also serves on the McCain team, has mocked New York’s pre-9/11 emergency plans as “not worthy of the Boy Scouts.”
If there’s another 9/11, it’s hard to argue that this gang could have prevented it.
"The company you keep" will be a theme this year, and not just for Barack Obama... Back at the WaPo, an article that breaks no news, but which states an obvious conclusion that will have major implications for the campaign: a McCain win could push the Supreme Court to the right. Say it isn't so!
Joe Biden makes it plain regarding President Bush's un-American conduct in Israel:
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), piling on to Democratic complaints about President Bush’s speech in Israel today:
“This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset ... and make this kind of ridiculous statement.”
Speaking before the Knesset, Bush said that “some people” believe the United States “should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."
"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Democrats have interpreted the comments as an attack on Sen. Barack Obama, and Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the president was out of line.
“He is the guy who has weakened us,” he said. “He has increased the number of terrorists in the world. It is his policies that have produced this vulnerability that the U.S. has. It’s his [own] intelligence community [that] has pointed this out, not me.”
Biden noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both suggested that the United States ought to find a way to talk more with its enemies.
"If he thinks this is appeasement, is he going to come back and fire his own cabinet?” Biden asked. “Is he going to fire Condi Rice?”
How about firing himself? After all, Bush is the man who turned to the Iranians after 9/11 for cooperation against our mutual enemy, al-Qaida, in neighboring Afghanistan. Bush then "appeased" al-Qaida itself, by pulling American troops out of the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia (whom he constantly appeases, even though they produced 15 of the 19 hijackers who flew planes into our buildings on 9/11, and their money funds global terrorism...) giving in to one of Osama bin Laden's chief complaints. Gates and Rice have indeed advocated talking to the Iranians, and worse, Bush's Iraq policy has done more to benefit Iran than a decade of its own war with Iraq ever could. Bush has made Iran the preeminent power in the Gulf region, and by driving up oil prices, his war has enriched the Mullahs to no end.
So congratulations Mr. Bush, you're our Appeaser in Chief.
George W. Bush thinks it appropriate to accuse a fellow American of appeasing Iran while on foreign soil. But he and his friends also thought it appropriate to put a foreign national on the U.S. payroll for years to supply them with false intelligence on Iraq, all the while apparently blissfully unaware that their payee was spying for Iran. (At least we hope they were unaware...) Now, the neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi has, at long last, been cut off:
Sources in Baghdad tell NBC News that as of this week American military and civilian officials have cut off all contact with controversial Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, the former favorite of Washington's once powerful neoconservatives.
The reason, the sources say, is "unauthorized" contacts with Iran's government, an allegation Chalabi denies. Iran has been accused of arming and training rebel Shiite forces in Iraq.
Only this week? What the hell have you idiots been doing all this time???
Since the invasion, reports of Chalabi's ties to Iran and his contacts with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have at times been sore spots. The FBI once sought to interview him, sources say, about allegations that secret U.S. codes had been passed to Iran.
Since September 2007, however, American military officials and civilian officials working out of the U.S. Embassy had contacts with Chalabi. At that time he was installed as the head of a "services" committee for Baghdad that was to coordinate the restoration of services to the city's residents.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq, even escorted Chalabi on a trip, on U.S. helicopters, to address reconstruction issues. And American officials attended meetings with him and supported his efforts.
That contact and all support has ended as of this week, American officials tell NBC News. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
The U.S. Embassy had no comment, and a spokesman for the multinational force said any questions "related to Dr. Chalabi and his duties and status" should be addressed to the Iraqi government.
If you haven't figured out that John McCain's main interest in life is war (he uses the word "whatever" when talking about the economy, and all of his other domestic proposals are cast-off versions of the words "tax cut...) I'm not sure where you've been hiding. Well, to be fair, you've probably been watching the mainstream media give Johnny Mack the "full Monica," so you're confused. But McCain has uttered some of the most extreme, most frightening statements during this campaign, of which this is the latest:
"There is no circumstance under which the international community could be confident that uranium enrichment or plutonium production activities undertaken by the current government of Iran are purely for peaceful purposes. Given the Iranian regime's history of deception with regard to its nuclear program, its continuing lack of cooperation with the IAEA, its still unacknowledged work on weaponization, its defiance of international norms with regard to support for terrorism and threats toward Israel, and the lack of any serious economic justification for the program in the first place, Iran has forfeited any plausible claim to be pursuing a "peaceful" nuclear energy program. Accordingly, we must insist that the government of Iran permanently suspend its uranium enrichment activity and development of a plutonium production capability."
Come again, grandpa? You're telling us that you don't know jack about the U.S. economy, but you know enough about the Iranian economy and energy sector to know that they have no "serious justification" for wanting nuclear power? Who in the hell are you to tell another country what their electricity needs are? Clearly, McCain knows better. But what he's actually saying in this revealing statement, is that Iran can't spell the word "nuclear" without provoking a President McCain to blow them to hell. Really? So what you're saying is that we're guaranteed to be at war with Iran either before, or certainly if, you become president.
Is anybody paying attention to this guy? The New York Times today seems more preoccupied with how well he cuddles up to his Republican colleagues in congress so he can win the election. And the Times is even looking forward to a McCain administration canoodling with Democrats to stymie the right, with the reporter, Carl Hulse, employing the always handily vague term "some," as in, "this is my opinion but I'm generalizing it to make it seem like somebody credible told it to me":
In fact, some see a potentially divided government, with Mr. McCain on one side and a Democratic Congress on the other, as an opportunity to make major agreements. And that is a prospect that could leave some Republicans now in the McCain campaign camp out of the final picture.
Really, Carl? And who might these "some" be? They don't work for the New York Times, by chance, do they?
Not that there aren't perfectly loud voices screaming at the top of their lungs about a potential U.S. attack on Iran. But most of them point to Mr. Bush, forgetting that apparently, John McCain has sold his proverbial soul to the neocons and war profiteers, and if Bush doesn't get to it, HE will take this country to war with Iran, come hell or high water (hell being the most likely.)
McCain has aligned himself with some of the hardest of the hardcore neocons (many forget that McCain was their original candidate in 2000, before it became clear that Bush would win the nomination, and they switched to him), including Joe Lieberman, for whom war with Iran isn't an option, it's an imperative.
Indeed, it's likely that President Bush's constantly elevated threat posture toward Iran is partly being done in the service of Mr. McCain, who backed down dutifully after the nasty 2000 election and then promptly sucked up to Mr. Bush, I believe in a deal that he believes will make him president with Bush's help. Says retired diplomat Dan Simpson:
... Washington's band of war makers, war profiteers, and their theorist lackeys and flacks might lead our weary country into one more unnecessary war in the Middle East is the experience of the run-up to the Iraq war.
Based on the narrowness of Mr. Bush's Florida "victory" in 2000 and realizing that voters had some basic understanding of Mr. Bush's limited talents, the President's campaign team saw that a second-term victory in 2004 was unlikely unless Mr. Bush was a war president, so the drums began to roll. Iraq appeared increasingly to be cast in the role of loose dog on the parkway and the endless shock and awe began.
Now, roll the clock ahead to the 2008 elections, as seen by a Republican strategist looking to hold onto the White House at almost any cost in spite of the dire state of the economy and of our armed forces.
The Republican candidate is a former Navy pilot and bona fide war hero, albeit his experience is at the tactical level. The Democratic candidate is either young and somewhat inexperienced or a woman who would be hard to mistake for Xena Warrior Princess or G.I. Jane.
Taking America to war again in the final months of the current administration would make the case for electing Mr. McCain - with his white uniform, all those medals, and war-seasoning - just what America needs to lead us in a time of war, gas rationing, and maybe even a draft to soak up all those unemployed from the ruined economy.
What an appealing scenario. How else to get 71-year-old John McCain on the grueling campaign trail one more time other than this prospect of victory? The only question is whether it should be Israel or the United States that bombs the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz to set off the war.
The skeptic says that the Bush Administration couldn't be that irresponsible. But how badly do the Republicans not want to relinquish the White House? How much do they not want a reckoning of the real costs of their eight years in power to the American public?
Bin Laden's deputy says Iran trying to undermine al-Qaida
By LEE KEATH, Associated Press Writer
CAIRO, Egypt - Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader issued a new audiotape Tuesday accusing Shiite Iran of spreading a conspiracy theory about who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to discredit the power of the Sunni terrorist network.
Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, has stepped up his denunciations of Iran in recent messages in part to depict al-Qaida as the Arabs' top defense against the Persian nation's rising power in the Middle East.
The increasing enmity toward Iran is a notable change of rhetoric from al-Zawahri, who in the past rarely mentioned the country — apparently in a hopes he would be able to forge some sort of understanding with Tehran based on their common rivalry with the United States. Iran has long sought to distance itself from al-Qaida.
Doh!!! How could they do it to ya, John???
"Al-Zawahri wanted to work with Iran, but he's deeply disappointed that Iran has not cooperated with al-Qaida," said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert and author of "Inside al-Qaida: The Global Network of Terror."
So now, al-Zawahri "wants to appeal to the anti-Shiite, anti-Iran sentiments in the Arab and Muslim world," said Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore.
Al-Zawahri appeared intent on exploiting widespread worry in the Arab world over Iran's influence, particularly in Iraq, to garner support for al-Qaida. At the same time, he sought to denigrate Iran's ally Hezbollah, which has gained some popularity even among Sunnis in the region for its fight against Israel.
Al-Zawahri's comments came in a two-hour audio posted on an Islamic militant Web site, the second message in weeks in which he answered hundreds of questions sent to the site by al-Qaida sympathizers and others. ...
("Psst!... John ... can we start bombing Iran yet?" "Patience Joe ... Patience...)
Oh wait, there's more...
... in many of his answers, al-Zawahri went out of his way to criticize Iran. He said the Iraqi insurgent umbrella group led by al-Qaida, called the Islamic State of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the Crusaders (the United States) and challenging Iranian ambitions" in Iraq.
One questioner asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor. "The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.
"Iran's aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he added. Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled al-Qaida's allies, the Taliban.
And now for the big finish:
... the change in tone could be because of al-Qaida's failure to win the release of al-Qaida figures detained by Iran since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, including al-Qaida security chief Saif al-Adel and two of bin Laden's sons.
Gunaratna said that up to 200 al-Qaida figures and their families are under house arrest in Iran and that Tehran has rejected al-Qaida attempts to negotiate their release.
Al-Qaida doesn't have the strength to launch attacks in Iran, but it intends to do so "in the future," he said. "If al-Qaida becomes strong in Iraq ... Iran believes al-Qaida in Iraq could become a major threat."
Al-Qaida has previously claimed responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks.
In an audiotape last week, al-Zawahri denounced what he called Iran's expansionist plans, saying Tehran aims to annex southern Iraq and Shiite areas of the eastern Arabian Peninsula as well as strengthen ties to its followers in southern Lebanon. He warned that if Iran achieves its goals, it will "explode the situation in an already exploding region."
So al-Qaida is not only NOT cooperating with Iran, it intends to "strike it in the near future..." and Iran is not only NOT arming, training or helping al-Qaida (a ridiculous notion repeatedly put forward ... accidentally...??? ... by John McCain and his neocon friends) ... they are detaining al-Qaida prisoners?
Recall that in his testimony, General Petraeus declared that the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is Iran. But John McCain and the neocons claim the biggest threat to the U.S. inside Iraq is al-Qaida (all 1,000 of them...) so which is it, and if they're not working together, as John McCain would have the American people believe, is one of them more or less working in line with our interests? And if al-Qaida, wherever they are, including the franchises like al-Qaida in Iraq, constitute our single worst enemy, then isn't the enemy of our enemy ... Iran ... kind of on our side?
The U.S. commander in charge of the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, "retired" today, following the publication of an important piece in Esquire magazine that cast him as the lone voice of reason, and the man standing between the U.S. (and its Nero-like president) and war with Iran. One of the fatal clips:
while Admiral Fallon's boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century's Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it's left to Fallon--and apparently Fallon alone--to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: "This constant drumbeat of conflict . . . is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions."
What America needs, Fallon says, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage."
Those are fighting words to your average neocon--not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to "nuclear holocaust."
How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?
The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.
Prophetic work. And farewell to a good soldier, and a good man. Here's the story as told by CNN, complete with the appropriate spin (no, Admiral Fallon is NOT at odds with the president. Nah...)
in·cred·i·ble /adjective 1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible: incredible speed. 2. not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable: The plot of the book is incredible.
Today, George W. Bush managed to hit both definitions out of the park.
In a morning news conference, he attempted to convince people who are not high or completely insane, that he only found out about a three-month old intelligence estimate telling HIM, and his administration, that Iran has no nukes, and hasn't even tried to develop nukes for four years ... last week. Here's Dubya sparring with NBC reporter David Gregory:
DAVID GREGORY: Mr. President, thank you. I'd like to follow on that. When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud; then there were no WMD in Iraq. When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat? And don't you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?
THE PRESIDENT: David, I don't want to contradict an august reporter such as yourself, but I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze. Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it's not disinformation. You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real. And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered: If they think it's real, then what does it mean? And it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.
NSA advisor Stephen Hadley backed Bush up on that ludicrous notion. in his own news conference, but no serious person can believe that the Director of National Intelligence went into the West Wing, warned the president that there was a major intelligence briefing coming down the pike, and the president didn't bother to ask ... "so what does it say?"
The neocons have been dusting off their plans for a brand new war, this time on Iran, for more than a year. And between Bush and Cheney, it's hard to tell which one wants to bomb Iran more desperately. Well I think it's growing increasingly clear that when he made that statement, either he, or his advisors, knew that there was no "if" -- because Iran wasn't seeking said weapons.
So is Bush chastened? Uh ... no. More from the presser:
Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. The NIE says that Iran had a hidden -- a covert nuclear weapons program. That's what it said. What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program? And the best way to ensure that the world is peaceful in the future is for the international community to continue to work together to say to the Iranians, we're going to isolate you. However, there is a better way forward for the Iranians.
Are you kidding me??? Iran is dangerous because "what's to say they won't start a weapons program sometime, who knows when?" What are they gonna do, kill us with bad intentions? ... Give us the evil eye?? ... Talk to us sternly???
Earth to Dubya: Iran is not a threat to us because of nuclear weapons! Just like Iraq wasn't! And Bush added that we tried diplomacy and Iran responsded by electing Ahmadinejad. Well, dubya, remember that long, rambling letter Ahmadinejad sent you, seeking negotiations? Hell, remember calling Iran a member of the "axis of evil" in January 2002??? Are you still on cocaine?????
I think they call this the "credibility gap."
An speaking of "incredible" ... you're not gonna believe the National Review's take on the Iran has no nukes revelation: in a nutshell, the Crazies are declaring Iraq a smashing success because apparently, the war in 2003 single-handedly stopped the Iran bomb. But aren't the guys at NRO the one's who've been braying about Iran's nuclear ambitions for the the last four years? Are they now prepared to admit that they've been dead wrong all the time? Hm?
The Bush administration cannot take military action against Iran during its remaining time in office, or credibly threaten to do so, unless it is in response to an extremely provocative Iranian action. A military strike against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities was always fraught with risk. For the Bush administration, that option is now gone.
Neither, however, will the administration make further progress in winning international support for tighter sanctions on Iran. Fear of American military action was always the primary reason Europeans pressured Tehran. Fear of an imminent Iranian bomb was secondary. Bringing Europeans together in support of serious sanctions was difficult before the NIE. Now it is impossible.
Leading the way is Michael Ledeen, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with a long track record in the Iran policy area, from the Iran-contra affair in the Reagan administration to meetings with Iranian dissidents living abroad that surprised George Tenet, who was then the director of central intelligence, in 2002.
Mr. Ledeen’s first critique — published on his blog under the title “The Great Intelligence Scam” — dismissed the new intelligence estimate as “policy advocacy masquerading as serious intelligence.” The document is riddled with “blatant unprofessionalism,” he says...
The Democrats uniformly criticized Bush's rhetoric toward Iran, but former North Carolina senator John Edwards said Clinton's September vote for a resolution urging the administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization amounted to agreement with Bush's worldview on terrorism.
Clinton said her vote was aimed at encouraging diplomacy and deterring the administration from using military force against the Iranians. She sharply objected to Edwards's characterization of the vote.
"I understand politics, and I understand making outlandish political charges, but this really goes way too far," Clinton responded. "Having designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, we've actually seen some changes in their behavior."
What if you threw a nuclear threat and nobody came?
Bush, Cheney and Company have been pushing the notion that Iran represents an existential threat to world peace because, in the president's assessment, Tehram is seeking "nucular" weapons. Well ... about that threat ...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new U.S. intelligence report says Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and it remains on hold, contradicting the Bush administration's earlier assertion that Tehran was intent on developing a bomb.
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released on Monday could undermine U.S. efforts to convince other world powers to agree on a third package of U.N. sanctions against Iran for defying demands to halt uranium enrichment activities.
Tensions have escalated in recent months as Washington has ratcheted up the rhetoric against Tehran, with U.S. President George W. Bush insisting in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War Three.
But in a finding likely to surprise U.S. friends and foes alike, the latest NIE concluded: "We do not know whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."
That marked a sharp contrast to an intelligence report two years ago that stated Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons."
Bush was supposedly briefed on the new developments last Wednesday. It must have put quite a damper on his and Dick's holiday plans (to attack Iran.) The Bushies, and their friends on the GOP campaign trail (hellooooo, Rudy!) have been hyping the notion that now that we've completely screwed up liberated Iraq, the next threat to Israel the "homeland" that must be taken care of is Iran. In fact, the last, scary residue of the neocon virus are actually praying for war with Iran, and word is they're even sneaking Paul Wolfowitz back in. (Wonder if he'll be allowed to bring his girlfriend...)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some Democratic lawmakers questioned on Wednesday whether a new Bush administration request for $88 million to fit "bunker-busting" bombs to B-2 stealth bombers was part of preparations for an attack on Iran.
The proposal was included as part of a nearly $200 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush administration sent to Capitol Hill on Monday.
The request included $87.8 million for further development of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, a conventional bomb designed to destroy hardened or deeply buried targets.
Many of Iran's nuclear development facilities are believed to be underground. The United States accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb while Tehran insists its nuclear program is only for power generation.
A Bush administration summary said the request was needed for "development of a Massive Ordnance Penetrator for the B-2 aircraft in response to an urgent operational need from theater commanders," but gave no details.
"My assumption is that it is Iran, because you wouldn't use them in Iraq, and I don't know where you would use them in Afghanistan, it doesn't have any weapons facilities underground that we know of," said Rep. Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat who is on the House defense spending committee and intends to argue against the request.
"I suppose you could try to bomb out a cave (in Afghanistan), but that seems like taking a sledgehammer to a tack. A little excessive," Moran said in a phone interview.
Another Democrat, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, said the bunker-buster request worried him because of the rising tide of criticism of Iran coming from the Bush administration. Last week, Bush warned that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War Three.
"The drumbeats of war are beating again, this time against Iran and we have to step in while there is still time," McDermott said through a spokesman.
But will the Dems step in before Bush uses their prior votes -- Hillary's included -- as an excuse to pull the trigger? Signs point to no. The Dems clearly lack the political will to confront the administration, even in its weakened state, and they have proved to be woefully inadequate at countering the political gamesmanship (and Stepford-like loyalty to the president) of their Republican counterparts. The neocons and their robotic operatives on Capitol Hill are still carrying the day, and beating the Dems at every punch. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should be ashamed of the way they have conducted themselves thus far.
The optimist in me (which at this stage is a very junior operative) still holds out hopd for some show of sanity -- perhaps from within the military itself, or maybe even from Bob Gates -- to stop this train before it leaves the station, and a president with nothing left to lose decides to lose one more for his dwindling, war-crazed, paronoid delusional base.
And then there's this: the noises out of Russia are nearly as bellicose as those coming out of Dick Cheney's pharyngeal motor cortex. From the Asia Times:
... The barely reported highlight of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for the Caspian Sea summit last week was a key face-to-face meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
A high-level diplomatic source in Tehran tells Asia Times Online that essentially Putin and the Supreme Leader have agreed on a plan to nullify the George W Bush administration's relentless drive towards launching a preemptive attack, perhaps a tactical nuclear strike, against Iran. An American attack on Iran will be viewed by Moscow as an attack on Russia. ...
There's also news in that same report that Putin may be working on a plan to temporarily have Tehran halt its nuclear program in exchange for a Russian push to kill U.N. sanctions, eventually allowing Iran's program to resume. That would be good news. But my sinking feeling is that Washington is hurtling toward war, because Cheney and his neocons fear that the next president cannot be trusted to do it (unless they can guarantee a Giuliani win, in which case the same neocons will continue to be in charge.) If that happens, Russia is in something of a "heads we win, tails you lose" position. An attack would drive up oil prices, as Uri Kasparov explained on "60 Minutes," enriching oil-soaked Russia. And an attack would dirve Iran deeper into the embrace of the KGB-led Russian government, strengthening Putin's hand in the now Iran-centric Middle East.
If on the other hand, Russia is able to forestall an attack, Iran's debt to Moscow grows deep, and Putin's influence grows anyway. Either way, it's unlikely that the Bushies have much of a clue as to what they will unleash with even an air attack on Iran.
After all, foreward planning isn't their strong suit. Their strong suit is bombing Muslims.
Back to the planning. TIME reports that the real target of the new U.S. sanctions against Iran might be the European businesses and governments that continue to have deep economic ties with Tehran, and that:
the new measures may actually signal a splintering of the international consensus pressuring Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
The teeth in the new measures derives from the fact that they target anyone who is doing business with those Iranian institutions and individuals. And that means doing business with Iran at all, because as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson put it, the IRGC "is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy and commercial enterprises, it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are doing business with [the Guard]." Administration officials told the New York Times that a key purpose of the new measures was "to persuade foreign governments and financial institutions to cut ties with Iranian businesses and individuals."
The move comes amid U.S. frustration at its failure to elicit sufficient support for new U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, and at the slow progress of efforts to persuade European countries and institutions that do business with Iran to voluntarily desist. Some of Iran's biggest European trading partners, such as Italy and Germany, oppose unilateral sanctions, warning that if their companies were to withdraw from Iran, they would simply be replaced by competitors from Russia and China. But to the extent that the latest U.S. moves are used to pressure third-country governments, banks and corporations doing business with Iran, they will be perceived as Washington using its muscle in the international financial system to impose its own Iran policy on others. And resentment may not be the only consequence. China, for example, would be unlikely to accept any U.S. effort to stop any of its corporations from doing important business with Iran, and could threaten economic countermeasures to deter such action. ...
Again, failure to foresee the consequences.
While the U.S. call to ratchet up economic pressure on Iran is strongly backed by Britain and France, Russia and China have both warned against taking unilateral measures outside of the U.N. Italy and Germany, Iran's largest European trading partners, have also opposed moves to pressure Iran outside of the U.N. Security Council. The move suggests the U.S. may be reverting to a "coalition of the willing" model for dealing with Iran. Yet the case Washington makes for escalating sanctions — the claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, and that shutting down its uranium-enrichment program is a matter of urgency to prevent it attaining the know-how to build a bomb — is not the international consensus. Russia's President Vladimir Putin last week visited Tehran, and made clear that Russia sees no evidence that Iran is actually pursuing nuclear weapons — contradicting the U.S. charge that the civilian nuclear technologies Iran seeks will give it the means eventually to build such weapons.
Meanwhile, Bush is pressing forward knowing that Congress doesn't have the cojones to stand in his way, should he and his neocons choose war to grab the resources ... I mean "alter the behavior" of Iran.
Sy Hersh reports that the Bush administration may have shifted their game plan, from bombing the hell out of Iran's nuclear facilities, as the neocons dream he shall ... to bombing the hell out of the Iranian Revlutionary Guard, who Joe Lieberman just had his friends in the Senate label a terrorist group. How convenient...
Meanwhile, Debra Cagan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Coalition Affairs to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, hates all Iranians ... no, really, she hates them ALL... (maybe they're the ones who messed up her face...)
The American media sniffs at Iranian executions, while ignoring our own ... meanwhile the Supreme Court takes up the question of whether the method of U.S. killings -- not the fact of them -- is unconstitutional. So what's the point? Lethal injection is just high tech hanging, isn't it? Arguing over the method is silly if we agree with the Iranians on the notion of putting criminals to death.
While you were choking on that $190 BILLION supplemental war request by the Pentagon, several chess pieces moved in the endless global war today. Here are three:
The Knight: An amendment (#3017) to the 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, authored by uber-neocon Joe Lieberman and Arizona Republican John Kyl, passed the Senate with 76 votes to 22 against (Biden and Dodd voted against it, as did military vets Chuck Hagel and Jim Web; Hillary "Margaret Thatcher" Clinton voted in favor, and Barack failed to show...) The admendment is tantamount to a soft declaration of war, even with the more egregious portions stripped out, and the technically non-binding nature of the measure. Recall that this is the same Joe Lieberman who was the AUTHOR of the legislation that gave George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq. The resolution designates Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and decrees:
(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;
(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;
(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and
(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively.
The Bishop: An amendment (#2997) authored by Joe Biden passed the Senate, also by a wide margin (75 to 23,) advocating a plan of "soft partition" -- something Biden has been pushing for some time -- which would turn Iraq into a loose republic. Clearly, the idea of the United States Congress voting to change the form of government in a supposedly sovereign country is bordering on scary, but then again, this is America. We tend to do that sort of thing. (full text here, again, search for 2997). In fact, the Biden amendment is largely an exercise in wishful thinking. It reads in part:
(1) the United States should actively support a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions;
(2) the active support referred to in paragraph (1) should include--
(A) calling on the international community, including countries with troops in Iraq, the permanent 5 members of the United Nations Security Council, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Iraq's neighbors--
(i) to support an Iraqi political settlement based on federalism;
(ii) to acknowledge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq; and
(iii) to fulfill commitments for the urgent delivery of significant assistance and debt relief to Iraq, especially those made by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council;
(B) further calling on Iraq's neighbors to pledge not to intervene in or destabilize Iraq and to agree to related verification mechanisms; and
(C) convening a conference for Iraqis to reach an agreement on a comprehensive political settlement based on the creation of federal regions within a united Iraq;
(3) the United States should urge the Government of Iraq to quickly agree upon and implement a law providing for the equitable distribution of oil revenues, which is a critical component of a comprehensive political settlement based upon federalism; and
(4) the steps described in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) could lead to an Iraq that is stable, not a haven for terrorists, and not a threat to its neighbors.
The Rook: On the domestic front, a federal judge has struck down two the many egregious portions of the Patriot Act, in a case stemming from a chilling incident for anyone who believes in the basic civil liberties and freedoms promised by the Constitution:
Federal district court judge Ann Aiken struck down the government's ability to get orders from the secret spy court for anything other than acquiring foreign intelligence activities, saying that using that court and its lowered standards -- instead of getting a traditional criminal wiretap order -- violates the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling applies to Patriot Act changes to wiretapping laws and to so-called sneak-and-peak searches, where the government can search someone's home secretly and never have to disclose the search to the individual.
The ruling comes out of a lawsuit brought by Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield, who was arrested by the FBI shortly after train bombings in Madrid, Spain. The FBI publicly said Mayfield's prints matched the bomb, though Mayfield had no passport and the Spanish police told the FBI they did not believe the print was a match. The government approached the secret spying court, saying that Mayfield was an "agent of a foreign power" which allowed the government to get warrants to secretly search his home and office, as well as bug his house and eavesdrop on him, for use in a criminal court. Prior to the Patriot Act, searches authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had to have a primary purpose of gathering foreign intelligence, rather than prosecuting a person.
Mayfield, a practicing Muslim who argues he was targeted by the FBI because of his religion, was later exonerated of all charges.
Mayfield and the government settled his lawsuit, with the exception of his challenge to the changes to the Patriot Act that allowed the government to use secret spying orders, rather than traditional wiretaps, for criminal cases.
It's a chilling incident, but a heart warming result.
The score for today: one down, one neutral, one up.
The U.S. delegation walks out before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's U.N. speech, but he gives it nonetheless:
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Tuesday that Iran's disputed nuclear program is closed as a political issue and said Tehran will ignore a U.N. Security Council demand imposed by "arrogant powers" to curb its nuclear program.
Instead, he told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly that Iran has decided to pursue the monitoring of its nuclear program "through its appropriate legal path," the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency.
When Ahmadinejad was ushered to the podium, the U.S. delegation walked out, leaving only a low-ranking note-taker to listen to his speech, which indirectly accused the United States and Israel of major human rights violations. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the U.S. wanted "to send him a powerful message."
The Iranian president spoke hours after French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned the assembly that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an "unacceptable risk to stability in the region and in the world." In her talk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened tougher sanctions against Iran.
Iran insists the program is purely peaceful, aimed solely at using nuclear reactors to generate electricity. But the United States and key European nations believe the program is a cover for an Iranian attempt to produce nuclear weapons.
Just ask Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, who managed to draw frowns from as anti-Iran a publication as the Jerusalem Post for his insulting, silly performance ahead of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech -- at Bollinger's invitation -- yesterday.
The right and its media handmaidens have been foaming at the mouth since before the Iranian leader set foot in the U.S., even stammering implausibly that were he to visit Ground Zero while in New York to address the United Nations, it would be an ourage upon the dignity of 9/11 (how, I'm not sure, since Iran not only had no part in 9/11, it couldn't have, since the Taliban and al-Qaida are just as much Tehran's enemies as they are ours, and since Iran cooperated with the U.S. against the Taliban after the attacks...) No matter, the right must have its boogeymen, and for now, Mahmoud is it. Even Congressional Democrats couldn't resist getting in on the action. (Soon, Iran will be as isolated and battered by U.S. aprobrium as Myanmar!)
Anyway, in his way too long introduction, Bollinger sought to squirm out from under the ridiculous criticism of his university's decision to invite the Iranian leader -- to allow him to partake of the precious freedom of expression we really don't much believe in here in the land of the free and the home of the brave ... His back-peddling had all the subtlety of a brick to the head -- the head being Ahmadinejad's... (video here)
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was taken to task Monday for casting doubt on the Holocaust, during a forum at Columbia University in New York.
Columbia president Lee Bollinger told the Iranian leader he exhibited "all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," to enthusiastic applause from the audience.
He then said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust came across as foolish in front of an audience of students and teachers.
"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," said Bollinger. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."
Well, actually, it's simply ridiculous to invite the man and then say he's ridiculous for showing up... next, it was Ahmadinejad's turn (audio):
... Ahmadinejad replied that Bollinger's words were "an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here."
He accused Bollinger of being influenced by U.S. politicians and biased news agencies.
"I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment," he said.
Ahmadinejad quoted extensively from the Koran during his appearance, expounded on the relationship between science and enlightenment, and claimed Iran itself was a victim of U.S.-supported terrorists.
He said members of the Iranian government had been killed in an attack by U.S.-supported terrorists, though he didn't name the alleged attackers or provide other details.
He also spoke out against governments that "tap telephones" and was critical of what he described as governments that unleash an "onslaught on the domestic cultures of nations."
Ahmadinejad didn't directly answer a questions about whether he sought the destruction of Israel, but instead discussed the plight of the Palestinian people. He received loud cheers from the packed auditorium when he demanded whether or not the Palestinian situation was an important global issue.
Ahmadinejad also claimed European academics have been put in prison for "approaching the Holocaust from a different perspective," and defended Iran's nuclear ambitions. He said Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology and has never intended to use it for violence, nor has it hid anything from international inspectors.
At another point, Ahmadinejad denied that any homosexuals lived in Iran -- a comment that prompted derisive laughter from the audience.
Unfazed, Ahmadinejad persisted: "In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this."
He spoke to The Associated Press prior to delivering the speech at Columbia and a scheduled address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
"Iran will not attack any country," he told AP in an interview.
Bollinger's stunt made Ahmadinejad -- who is hardly a dictator since he was elected to his position in Iran -- despite the U.S. supporting his rival, Mr. Khatami -- appear sympathetic, almost a victim. He came across as the man seeking a way around war, while American freedom of speech looked like a greeting card lie we feed to the Third Worlders before we take over their countries and install a new government.
Pathetic. Sad. Frankly, ridiculous.
That said, I cannot help but wonder if very many Americans even know why they hate Iran. I mean, we used to arm that country... remember Iran Contra? Remember the deals the Reagan-Bush administration cut with the Ayatollah to delay the release of our hostages in return for brand new American F15s for the Iranian Air Force?
On the flip side, remember the gassing of Iranian citizens by Iraq, back when we liked, and armed, Saddam Hussein? What about our takeover of that government in 1953 via a CIA overthrow the then-democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossedeq in order to halt the nationalization of Iranian oil? It was that takeover, and our subsequent installation of a phony king -- the Shah -- on a phony Peacock Throne WE MADE UP -- that set the stage for the student revolution of 1979, and the coming to power of the mullahs, whom we now hate.
In other words, there's plenty of water under the bridge between the U.S. and Iran, but I'll wager that very few Americans can articulate why they are salivating for war with a country that they know nothing about.
As for Iraq, sure Iran is meddling. They're doing what WE did in Afghanistan during that country's war with the Soviet Union. And my dears, they're mostly meddling ON THE SAME SIDE THAT WE'RE ON in Iraq -- the side of the shaky, but very Shiite, al-Maliki government. The Dawa Party, to which Mr. Maliki belongs, is closely aligned with Tehran, as it is with the "rebel" cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who only answers to one man: Grand Ayatola Ali al-Sistani -- an IRANIAN born mullah who wields some of the only real power in that broken country. All of these players have a foothold in Iran, with the mullahs who are the REAL dictators of Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad is the face, but not the body, of that country. He is an academic, a soccer fan, and compared to Lee Bollinger, a rather temperate sounding guy.
The truth of the matter is that most Americans who loathe Iran do so because they have been told to, and for little reason beyond that. Iran is the new boogeyman, meant to replace Iraq in our endless resource wars in the Middle East. Americans say "Iran hates America" with absolutely no evidence of that. To be sure, Iranians appear to hate George W. Bush, but then, so do a majority of the British... care to bunker buster nuke them, mates?
As for the real reason most Americans hate Iran -- Ahmadinejad's attitude toward Israel, I submit that his personal feelings about a country that is not, nor has it ever been, a part of the United States, is utterly irrelevant to you as an American. The Iranian president's rhetoric on Israel is mostly meant for consumption around the Arab world, where such imflamatory rhetoric is a necessary precursor to claiming a mantle of leadership (Iran seeks to be the savior of the Mideast...) And if Ahmadinejad truly believes the Holocaust didn't happen (something he hasn't really said -- rather he's said that since the Palestinians didn't perpetrate it, they shouldn't be the ones paying for it with their land...) then how does his ignorance harm you? Will Iran attack Israel? Please. Israel has nuclear weapons and would wipe Iran off the map.
In fact, Iran is literally surrounded by nuclear powers, including Pakistan and India, and it's sitting next door to a collapsing country called Afghanistan. No wonder they want to be nuclear armed, assuming you don't believe Ahmadinejad's protests to the contrary, again, because the media tells you you shouldn't...
At the end of the day, I don't see how the U.S. can purport to tell any country what they can and cannot do in the interests of their own security. Iran hasn't got the missile capacity or range to threaten us, any more than Iraq did, even if Saddam did have nuclear weapons. The country they threaten -- assuming, again, that the mullahs are suicidal -- is Israel, a country that can more than take care of itself.
The next argument I'll hear is that Iran "supports terrorists" -- ok, which ones? Not al-Qaida, of course. They're the wrong sect. Hezbollah? They killed hundreds of Americans in the 1980s, and Ronald Reagan didn't do a damned thing about it. In fact, he turned around and kept right on doing business with Iran, as did Richard Cheney, through his notorious company, Halliburton. So if we want to punish Iran for those past wrongs, we're about 20 years too late and more than a dollar short. And are they fomenting terrorism today? If so, tell me where, and against whom. Lebanon? That's an internal struggle akin to a civil war. America isn't threatened there. And again, any rockets being lobbed by terror groups funded by Iran are headed Israel's way. So unless you're saying that Israel's interests are always and necessarily our interests, you must admit that the U.S. has no DIRECT reason to hate Iran, or to feel threatened by it. On the contrary, we have a vested interest in getting that country's cooperation, both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
Is Iran a bad actor? On human rights, certainly. But then, we aren't doing great shakes in that arena either. And we do business with country's that are as bad, or worse (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China come to mind...)
But that only counts if you aren't gung-ho determined to go to war.
And I hate to say it, but I think the American people are fully capable of being fooled again.
On his blog for the Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan writes today:
Bill Kristol knows that the current strategy in Iraq will not work as it was designed to do. He's not crazy. The chances of national reconciliation in Iraq have gone backward, not forward, this past year, and the U.S.'s empowerment of anti-Shiite propaganda in Anbar will only isolate Maliki further. The best that can happen is an indefinite occupation of a dismembered Iraq to slow down genocide and make ethnic cleansing more orderly. But even that is a very risky proposition. And the events of last week mean that the Republican party now owns the Iraq occupation more exclusively and deeply than they ever had - and indeed intend to maintain it for another decade.
So what to do? Remember that Kristol's loyalty to the Republicans often trumps national security. How else to explain his support for the GOP last November, even though a Republican victory would have prevented the surge in the first place and kept Rumsfeld in the Pentagon? One option: Change the subject by launching wars against Syria and Iran, and so polarize the country that the choice is framed as: MoveOn or America? That's much better than having, you know, an actual debate about the merits of the war in Iraq and the war against Islamist terror. On that, Republicans lose. If the war is far wider and more terrifying, if the enemies can be multiplied and amplified, then the dynamic plays to the advantage of the GOP. It's for us or against us again.
Remember it doesn't matter to the current Bush Republicans if they cannot persuade a majority of thie necessity of extending the war to Iran and Syria. They have dropped attempting to persuade a majority on the war. They are concerned only with shoring up their own party, which can enable them to launch new wars before the current presidency ends. ...
That being the case, Sullivan reports, via Kristol, that the president must now move to put down potential rebellions against his policy from within the military, from generals who may be "jealous of Petraeus" (whatever that means -- could one possibly be jealous of the military man placed in the service of presidential P.R.?) or who otherwise oppose Bush on the subject of expanding the war to Syria and Iran, in order to prevent them from underminig the neocon project in Iraq.
But not all of the military is in need of "putting down."
THE United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with “fighting the next war” as tensions rise with Iran.
Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.
It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defence sources.
Checkmate’s job is to add a dash of brilliance to Air Force thinking by countering the military’s tendency to “fight the last war” and by providing innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for air, space and cyberwarfare.
It is led by Brigadier-General Lawrence “Stutz” Stutzriem, who is considered one of the brightest air force generals. He is assisted by Dr Lani Kass, a former Israeli military officer and expert on cyberwarfare.
The Israeli connection is alarming, given the myriad signals that the U.S. policy in Iran is heavily influenced by the desires of the Likud government -- which badly wants President Bush to rid Israel of its chief enemies: Iran and Syria, before Mr. Bush leaves office, Saddam Hussein already having been taken care of.
It's not just those on the left who fear that Mr. Bush will launch yet another war on his way out the door. Pat Buchanan and other true conservatives believe as much as well, as do leading journalists like Seymour Hersh.
The question remains, however, whether Congress will sit still for yet another war, and whether Senate Democrats can successfully stop neocons and deocons like Joe Lieberman, from aiding the Bush administration in forcing upon this country a foreign policy that is not in the best interests of the United States.
Americans to Congress: "we hate you" (and your little president, too...)
The Pope to Condi Rice: "I'll get back to you on that meeting..." not... sorry but I've got to give this bit to you:
Pope Benedict XVI refused to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in August, saying he was on holiday, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday. Rice "made it known to the Vatican that she absolutely had to meet the pope" to boost her diplomatic "credit" ahead of a trip to the Middle East, the Corriere della Sera daily reported without citing its sources.
She was hoping to meet the pontiff at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo at the beginning of August, it said.
"'The pope is on holiday' was the official response," the paper said.
It said the reply "illustrated the divergence of view" between the Vatican and the White House about the "initiatives of the Bush administration in the Middle East."
Oh, Condi, you pathetic little dear ... at least you can pick up some fabulous shoes while in Italy...
A lot of people, myself included, have been getting on the Democrats for not standing more firmly against George W. Bush's agenda, particulary when it comes to Iraq. But do the Democrats really have the power to bring the House of Bush down? Maybe, maybe not. Joe Biden has made a debate point of saying "you don't have the votes!" And maybe he's right. A little numbers reminder for you:
The Democrats won 54% of the popular vote, to wrest control of the Senate away from the GOP in 2006, winning six seats (the ones I predicted they'd get, by the way... just thought I'd throw that in.) But did they win the Senate?
After the 2006 election, the Democrats hold 49 seats in the Senate. The Republicans? They too hold 49 seats. The other two seats are held by Independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with the Dems, giving them that 50th seat that keeps Dick Cheney out of their Kool-Aid, and Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut neocon who claims he caucuses with the Democrats, too, and who was allowed to keep his committee assigments as if he hadn't lost the Democratic primary in Connecticut to an actual Dem.
And Lieberman? Well he's a whole 'nother, nother.
He supports George W. Bush ... totally.
He is zealously in favor of continuing the war in Iraq.
He is eager to expand that war to Syria, and to Iran.
Case in point: here's Lieberman questioning Gen. David Petraeus the day before yesterday on the subject of Iran's supposed complicity in the fighting in Iran, and what he thinks the U.S. should do about it. Note that Petraeus does the calm military version of "get the f--- outta here...!"
George W. Bush has been making increasingly threatening noises in the general direction of Tehran, leading many people to believe that he plans an attack on Iran before he finally, and mercifully, leaves office in January of 2009.
In fact, Bush's recent speech to war veterans in Nevada, in which he prognosticated a "nuclear holocaust" in the Middle East if Iran is allowed to develop a nuclear program (Iran denies it's for weapons), sent shockwaves through much of the world, as did his call for U.S. troops to seize any Iranian that Bush claims is causing havoc inside Iraq. This comes on the heels of the Bush administration's decision this month to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards -- its highest level military establishment -- as a terrorist group. Put it all together, and up goes the temperature.
The subsequent arrest of a group of Iranians inside Iraq has only made things worse. Reports the Asia Times:
With Congress gearing up for a fight with the White House on the "surge" policy in Iraq, Bush has arguably many reasons to talk up tensions with Iran. Focusing on Iran may help deflect attention away from the "surge" strategy's failure to turn the tide in Iraq. It can also help convince Congress that Iran is responsible for US misfortunes in Iraq and that cutting the funds for the war would embolden the clergy in Tehran.
Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is certainly not making the work of the administration more difficult. Shortly before Bush's address to the Nevada war veterans, Ahmadinejad did his part in ratcheting up tensions.
"Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region," he predicted at a press conference. "Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia, and with the help of the Iraqi nation," he continued in a clear reference to the US's declining position in the Middle East and Iran's bid to reclaim a regional leadership role.
Still, the nature and implications of the Bush administration's recent moves do not have the characteristics of a customary rhetorical deflection exercise. Accusing Iran of seeking to put an already unstable Middle East under "the shadow of a nuclear holocaust" and promising to confront Tehran - whose actions "threaten the security of nations everywhere" - before it is too late echo statements made by the Bush White House about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein prior to the invasion of Iraq.
In fact, Bush's speech to the veterans in Nevada has several similarities to his address to the nation on January 10. That was also slated as a major speech on Iraq, though it spelled out little new about Washington's strategy except to call for staying the course. Instead, it revealed key elements of the US's new aggressive posture on Iran.
For the first time, the president accused Iran of "providing material support for attacks on American troops" while promising to "disrupt the attacks on our forces" and "seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq".
Moments after the president's speech in January, US Special Forces stormed an Iranian consulate in Irbil in northern Iraq, arresting five Iranians who Tehran said were diplomats. Washington described the detained Iranians as agents and members of the IRGC. Later that day, US forces almost clashed with Kurdish Peshmerga militia forces when seeking to arrest more Iranians at Irbil's airport.
The US move drew stark criticism from the Iraqi government. "What happened ... was very annoying because there has been an Iranian liaison office there for years and it provides services to the citizens," Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshiyar Zebari told Al-Arabiya television.
The administration has since declared the seizure of the Iranians to have been an unfortunate misunderstanding, as the BBC reported on Wednesday:
BBC World News reported Wednesday that "an embarrassed American military has said it regrets that eight Iranians ... were arrested, handcuffed, and blindfolded by US soldiers in Baghdad." The US now acknowledges that the Iranians are engineers who were in Iraq to help rebuild the local electrical system.
According to BBC, "the eight Iranians were taken away from the Sheraton Hotel in the dead of night to be interrogated. American troops also seized their bags, a laptop computer, and phones. All this just a couple of hours after President Bush began a speech to American veterans which included a bitter attack on Iran, accusing it of arming and training Shiite militants inside Iraq."
"I have authorized our military commanders inside Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities," promised Bush in that speech. ...
... but that hasn't stopped many nervous Bush watchers from predicting that the provocative actions are a prelude to yet another war, particularly as it might be the only thing a lame duck, woefully unpopular president could do to help his party, heading into the presidential election... And its not just Bush critics on the left. Smart journalists like Sy Hersh and analysts like The Washington Note's Steve Clemons are saying the same thing. In fact, Clemons sees some of these neocons fishing around to make a buck off the next war.
Besides that, Bush is still being advised by a coterie of neocon advisers who dearly want to attack, not just Iran, but also Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Check Joe Lieberman for that.
On the right, Pat Buchanan, a former Republican and unrestructed paleoconservative, has been sounding the alarm, too.
Let's hope that all of these voices are wrong. But don't count on it.
The second bombing of a sacred Shiite Mosque in Samarra in 15 months has only escalated the mayhem in that country. The reprisals have been swift and brutal in that ongoing civil war.
In this country, the Democrats have sent the president a letter telling him what he should already know: that the surge has failed -- more to the point, the war itself is a rank failure, with no realistic chance of turning around.
Meanwhile, there are two other wars raging in the Middle East, in Lebanon, where the Fouad Siniora government recently battled Islamic militias in a Palestinian refugee camp, and tensions are high after the murder of an anti-Syrian MP, and in Gaza, where an all out civil war is underway, with President Mahmoud Abbas moving to dissolve the Palestinian government yesterday.
The multi-headed hydra of violence reaching across the region will be the subject of an emergency Arab League meeting tomorrow. The instability is frightening, and worse, it's providing an opportunity for the warmongering neocons to try and push for even more war, against Iran, which is now inexplicably being accused of arming their sworn enemies, the Taliban.
What's needed in the Middle East is credible diplomacy on the part of the United States, which is impossible as long as this country can't bring itself to deal even-handedly with the parties there.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Hamas fighters have seized Fatah's senior field commanders in the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamic group announced Friday, while Egyptian police said nearly 100 Fatah officials had crossed into Egypt.
The spokesman, Abu Obeideh, said the group's men arrested the commanders of the National Security organization and the elite Presidential Guard, along with a senior Fatah spokesman, a lawmaker and six other officials.
The men were being interrogated by Hamas, Obeideh said on Hamas TV.
Meanwhile, 97 senior members of Fatah's security and administrative apparatus arrived in the Egyptian port of El-Arish hours after fighters from the militant Hamas group took control of Gaza, an Egyptian security official in El-Arish said.
The retreating Fatah members, who fled aboard a fishing boat, were transferred to camps affiliated to Egypt's security forces, a police official in Cairo confirmed.
Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that Hamas is now in "full control" of the Gaza strip.
It seems a legitimate quetsion to ask, given his recent public statements on Iraq, where in Joe's mind, things are just greeeaat... to his breathtaking inability to grasp the concept that the troops he gets to talk to on his two day junkets to our violent little tributary in Mesopotamia aren't free to tell him where to stick his war plans ... to his latest statements on Iran, which Joe thinks we should commence bombing, like, yesterday...
"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman told Bob Schieffer. "And to me, that would include a strike into... over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."
Lieberman made the comments to Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" this past Sunday, as a follow up to his rather dramatic attempt to link Shiite Iranian arms and dollars to, of all things, Wahabi/Sunni al-Qaida:
Sen. LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll see when we talk to Admiral Mullen, but so far I don't think so. I think the president is holding firm and Secretary Gates is. And the firmness, as I can tell you coming back from Iraq, Bob, is that you can't look at Iraq in a vacuum. What we're involved in here, as General Lute said to our committee last week, is the--Iraq is now the main front in the long war we are fighting against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. In fact, 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq today killing Iraqis and American soldiers are foreign al-Qaeda fighters. Iran is training and equipping soldiers, Iraqis to come in and kill American soldiers and Iraqis. So we--we've got to see that larger context, and that's why we're committed to helping the Iraqis to stability and victory.
Witness that masterful conflation! Iraq is where we're fighting the Saudis, Yemenis and Egyptians who attacked us on 9/11??? Well I'll be damned! And 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are al-Qaida? Good thing suicide bombers are responsible for less than five percent of the violence in Iraq. Any more than that and we'd really be screwed! And Iran has put aside its fundamental hatred of al-Qaida Sunnis, which it demonstrated when Tehran helped us fight the Taliban and al-Qaida ... which it has always detested ... in Afghanistan, to arm and train these Saudis, Yemenis, and other al-Qaida types, despite those same al-Qaida types' hatred for Shiites??? And despite the fact that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is KILLING SHIITES DAILY ON THE STREETS THROUGHOUT IRAQ??? Wow... Joe sure knows Muslims... not...
Lieberman has been down this road before. Not only was he the co-sponsor of our current war debacle in Iraq, he has repeatedly issued threats of doing the same thing to Iran, including all-but declaring war on them single-handedly last December. As a matter of fact, perhaps the only people more eager for the U.S. to bomb Iran might be the neoconservative nutjobs, and the Israeli Likudniks (not to mention the big defense contractors and oil giants who have made a killing on the breaking of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Iraq, but who have yet to profit from a war waged primarily by the men and women of the Navy and Air Force... oh, yeah, and Dick Cheney, he's really into the bomb Iran thing... and worse, Lieberman has become the convenient lure that the Cheney wing of the Bush administration dangles before the press gaggle to make the idea of another war sound bipartisan ... or is that tripartisan???
Lieberman's warmongering is particularly scary because it dovetails with an apparent push inside the Bush administration's militant wing to get a war going, even if it means going around Secretary of State Rice, or even around the president himself, if we won't play ball. Curious leaks to the Jerusalem Post and other militant Likudnik outfits don't help:
Predicting that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon within three years and claiming to have a strike plan in place, senior American military officers have told The Jerusalem Post they support President George W. Bush's stance to do everything necessary to stop the Islamic Republic's race for nuclear power.
Bush has repeatedly said the United States would not allow Iran to "go nuclear."
A high-ranking American military officer told the Post that senior officers in the US armed forces had thrown their support behind Bush and believed that additional steps needed to be taken to stop Iran.
Predictions within the US military are that Bush will do what is needed to stop Teheran before he leaves office in 2009, including possibly launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities.
On Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said the US should consider a military strike against Iran over its support of Iraqi insurgents. ...
The story goes on to posit a theory that the U.S. could institute a Naval blockade against Iran, without closing the Straights of Hormuz completely. Are you thinking Gulf of Tonkin? Naval ship left curiously unprotected? Supposed Iranian attack on said ship... and Dems fainting into a pro-war swoon??? You get the picture.
“Only someone who never wore the uniform or thought seriously about national security would make threats at this point. What our soldiers need is responsible strategy, not a further escalation of tensions in the region. Senator Lieberman must act more responsibly and tone down his threat machine.”
Spoken like a true soldier.
And by the way, if Joe and the neocons are able to trick or goad the U.S. and Israel into launching World War III with Iran, it will drag in Russia and China, and not on our side. The idea of launching a war against Iran, which has a real military, including a Navy and Air Force, unlike the paper tiger that was Iraq, is insane. Or maybe it's not ... because such a war would send global oil prices through the stratosphere, which will mean big bucks for Big Oil. And it could have the secondary effect of pushing the reluctant Iraqi parliament to approve that abomination of an oil law, signing away that country's rights to exploit its own oil to the major Western oil companies for 30 years, in order to help Iraq make up for sidelined Iranian oil, to feed Europe and Asia's need. This thing stinks to high heaven, and as Sy Hersh and others have been warning us for years, it's only a matter of time and timing. Enough of the right people want war, and they know that the Democrats in Congress cannot, or will not, stop them.
Dick Cheney continues his campaign of using the American military to oust his former business partners. First it was Iraq, where Halliburton continues to make a ton of profits, even without his and Don Rumsfeld's buddy Saddam. Next, there's increasing talk that Cheney is looking for ways to get around Condi Rice, and even George W. Bush, so that he can attack Iran, another frequent Halliburton business partner.
... The person in the Bush administration who most wants a hot conflict with Iran is Vice President Cheney. The person in Iran who most wants a conflict is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force would be big winners in a conflict as well -- as the political support that both have inside Iran has been flagging.
Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney's national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush's tack towards Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.
This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.
The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).
This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war. ...
Cheney is insane. Or maybe not.
His oil holdings stand to substantially benefit from another war, and he and his cronies have to fear that if Republican support seriously erodes in September, the major oil companies and oil exploitation firms like Halliburton stand to lose substantial income should the war draw down, Iraq's insurgency cools without the pressure of U.S. occupation, and gas prices begin to fall. So what to do? Start another war, take Iran's oil off market (or seriously reduce the output of the world's fourth largest oil exporter, and watch the profits from sky-high gas prices roll in. Cheney & Co. also have to realize that with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, investigations into current gouging could force Big Oil to bring the prices down.
So what to do? Start another war.
War is the answer to the Oil Industrial Complexes dreams of unlimited profits. They saw what the defense industry was able to make of the wars from Korea onward, and what industrial America was able to reap from World War II. They want their piece of the pie, and they're not going to let anybody stop them. Not even George W. Bush.
Clemons' conclusion is chilling:
The zinger of this information is the admission by this Cheney aide that Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, Michael Hayden and McConnell have sculpted.
According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the "right decision" when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President's hands.
On Tuesday evening, i spoke with a former top national intelligence official in this Bush administration who told me that what I was investigating and planned to report on regarding Cheney and the commentary of his aide was "potentially criminal insubordination" against the President. I don't believe that the White House would take official action against Cheney for this agenda-mongering around Washington -- but I do believe that the White House must either shut Cheney and his team down and give them all garden view offices so that they can spend their days staring out their windows with not much to do or expect some to begin to think that Bush has no control over his Vice President.
Update: Did you hear the one about the undersecretary of defense who made up a fake company in the Netherlands in order to justify going to war with Iraq?
The Guardian breaks the story this morning that the Bush administration offered to help free the 15 British military captives from Iran via military intervention, but the offer received a rather chilly response from the Brits, who apparently have cooled on the notion of joint military adventures with their American cousins, in favor of diplomacy with their Asiatic neighbors.
The US offered to take military action on behalf of the 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran, including buzzing Iranian Revolutionary Guard positions with warplanes, the Guardian has learned.
In the first few days after the captives were seized and British diplomats were getting no news from Tehran on their whereabouts, Pentagon officials asked their British counterparts: what do you want us to do? They offered a series of military options, a list which remains top secret given the mounting risk of war between the US and Iran. But one of the options was for US combat aircraft to mount aggressive patrols over Iranian Revolutionary Guard bases in Iran, to underline the seriousness of the situation.
The British declined the offer and said the US could calm the situation by staying out of it. London also asked the US to tone down military exercises that were already under way in the Gulf. Three days before the capture of the 15 Britons , a second carrier group arrived having been ordered there by president George Bush in January. The aim was to add to pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme and alleged operations inside Iraq against coalition forces. At the request of the British, the two US carrier groups, totalling 40 ships plus aircraft, modified their exercises to make them less confrontational.
The British government also asked the US administration from Mr Bush down to be cautious in its use of rhetoric, which was relatively restrained throughout.
The incident was a reminder of how inflammatory the situation in the Gulf is. According to some US and British officers, there is already a proxy war under way between their forces and elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. ...
This comes as Tehran accuses the U.S. and Britain of using proxy guerilla fighters from the "Stans" -- including Pakistan -- to encroach upon Iranian positions.
This quote from the story sums it up nicely (although "nice" might not be the appropriate word...)
A senior Iranian source with close ties to the Revolutionary Guard, told the Guardian: "If this had been between Iranian and American soldiers it could have been the beginning of an accidental war."
If you consider such things "accidental"...
More interesting nuggets from the Guardian piece include the fact that the decision to grab the sailors was apprently made locally, by the Iranian commander in charge of that Gulf region, after three alleged previous incursions over the Iraq/Iran line in the Shat al-Arab waterway, long disputed between the two countries. The Guardian writes that the situation took so long to disentangle because of the hydra headed nature of the Iranian government, whose various pieces were scattered around the country due to a major holiday (their version of New Year's). More from the article:
"Nobody who counted was answering the phone," said one senior British official. "By the time the Iranian leaders got back from the holiday [on Tuesday] the phone was ringing off the hook, including from people they didn't expect, calling on them to release the captives quickly."
Among those unexpected callers were their closest allies, the Syrians, as well as leaders from far-flung states with no direct stake in the Gulf. Even the Colombian government issued a protest.
Another surprise intervention came from the Vatican. Hours before Wednesday's release, a letter from Pope Benedict was handed to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It said the Pope was confident that men of goodwill could find a solution. He asked the supreme leader to do what he could to ensure that the British sailors and marines were reunited with their families in time for Easter. It would, he said, be a significant religious gesture of goodwill from the Iranian people.
What impact the Pope's message had is impossible to assess. But some of its language was reflected at the press conference at which the release of the 15 Britons was announced. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the decision to "forgive" the sailors and marines had been taken "on the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet [Muhammad] ... and for the occasion of the passing of Christ".
The Iraqi government also played a critical role, pushing for consular access to five Iranians who had been arrested by US forces in Irbil and had been in custody since January, and helping organise the mysterious release of an Iranian diplomat who had been in captivity since February.
In the first days of the crisis, Iraqi officials also helped the British to identify the exact boundaries of Iraqi waters, the Guardian has learned, suggesting the British were not as certain of their case as they had publicly claimed. ...
I took a couple days off blogging to deal with "other issues" (you just ponder that one for a minute... cause I'm not giving details...) Strangely enough, the political universe didn't shift that much since Wednesday :)
So what's new in the world as of today?
Fred Thompson is getting serious about maybe, possibly running for president, while Rudy Giuliani is still catching softballs, even from the blog press... (Roger Simon of Politico apparently didn't find the time to ask the former New York mayor about his caustic relatioonship with firefighters, his cozy relationship with probable felon Bernie Kerik, his problems with "the race issue" in New York City, or his poor decisionmaking on security prior to 9/11 (who moved the logistics and communication nerve centers of the city into the WTC before the attacks? Why Rudy, of course! But don't hold your breath waiting for the media to ask him about it. They're too busy chasing stories about his Cruella de Ville wife and his bad management of his marriage to Donna Hanover ... SIDEBAR: I got it on good authority from a prominent person who knows Rudy very well that Donna doesn't just resent Rudy, she HATES him, and so does his son. The person I spoke with talked to Donna recently and got it straight from the jilted spouse's mouth. ... but I digress...)
John Edwards has pulled out of the Fox News debate to be put on by the Congressional Black Caucus. And now many are wondering, what the hell is the CBC doing partnering with the Faux News network anyway?
Clinton-hating TIME columnist Joe Klein calls Bush "unfit to lead" and the head of "one of this nation's worst administrations" but says talk of impeaching him is "a bit nutso..."
An Iranian diplomat freed -- quite coincidentally, I'm sure -- around the same time the Iranians freed 15 British military personnel is now claiming torture at the hands of the CIA...
Meanwhile, the now freed Royal Naval and Marine personnel are talking about their ordeal, including being blindfolded, tied up, and threatened with execution. The group explained that in their determination, "fighting back was not an option." Seems like a reasonable enough explanation to me, but then again, I've never worn the uniform.
And now for a completely different view, from Col. Jack Jacobs, who slams the Britons for clearly making their top priority "going home," rather than preserving their honor as military men and women... Whatever your opinion of the Royal Navy/Marines, I think it's clear that in the propaganda war between Iran and Great Britain, Iran won this one, just as Hezbollah beat Israel over their captured soldiers, and Hamas did the same (neither group has returned the Israelis, despite a reign of military horror by the Israeli military...) I feel badly for the Brits, they are young, and clearly they weren't in this for an ideological fight. I tend to wince at chickenhawk winger slaps at them, and brash statements about what the Limbaughs, Hannities and Savages of the world claim they would have done in their place (cower and beg are my best guesses). These guys did what they had to do to get home. But I can understand why a guy like Jack Jacobs -- a hero and Medal of Honor winner -- would feel the way he does.
Final note, it must really cheese off the Brits to recall stories such as this one:
June 13, 2004 - ... Last week, a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq rescued three Italian hostages - Salvatore Stefio, Umberto Cupertino and Maurizio Agliana - who since April 12 had been held captive by terrorists calling themselves the Green Brigade. When the Italians returned home, they said they had joked with one another to ease the tension and quell their fears. Although they told reporters they had not been physically abused, their lives were constantly threatened. Only after the rescue did the former hostages discover that their captors had murdered their friend, a fourth hostage Fabrizio Quattrocchi. Just before the terrorists shot and killed Quattrocchi, he tried to pull off his hood and yelled, "This is how an Italian dies." He was buried in his home city of Genoa on May 29. Dying with dignity - and honor - is brave.
But that said, if you were in the place of the 15, what would YOU have done? In all honesty??? And before you wingers get too giddy, let's also recall that there have been Americans in this situation, too, both military and civilian. And in some cases, they too have chosen to comply... It is a basic human instinct to want to live. When one can force oneself to deny that basic instinct, we either call it bravery, or stupidity (recall that suicide bombers also deny that instinct.) I don't personally fault these guys, because in their shoes, I really don't know what I would do.
Here's one I completely missed: Geraldo vs. O'Reilly, the grudge match... Scroll down and watch the video ... the REAL comedy here is the segway that the ladies of Good Morning America manage to makde after the Fox News scream-fest was over. Trust me, it's worth listening until the end...
Unemployed former U.N. Ambassador (sans Senate confirmation) John Bolton snaps at the Saudi King for criticizing his pet project in Iraq.
Bafflingly still employed U.S. vice president Dick Cheney continues to take up residence in LaLa Land over the issue of the late Saddam Hussein's supposed ties to al-Qaida, despite the rheems of evidence, from the intelligence services of his own government, that there were no such links. Of course, you can say just about anything to Rush Limbaugh ... what the hell does he know...
Don Imus has apologized for his "nappy headed hos" remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team. On his April 4 program, Imus, his executive producer Bernard McGuirk and sportscaster Sid Rosenberg got into a stupid discussion about the teams that delved into the supposed manishness of the Rutgers girls (apparently Rosenberg feels they favor the Toronto Raptors). It quickly devolved from there. Imus did not, however, take back the comments on the same program which called the Tennessee women "cute..."
Today, speaking to strangely and very obviously NOT applauding troops at Fort Irwin, California, President Bush said something about Iraq and the war on terror that I guess I should consider important, since he's the president, but, hey, there you go ... it's George W. Bush talking ... c'mon...
Meanwhile, over at the House of Representatives, the Armed Services Committee declares that there really is no "global war on terror" ... duh... oh, and the "long war...?" That's history, too.
And while Dubya is boring the props troops, Mother heads over to Syria with a small Congressional delegation, and extracts something out of Bashar al Assad that Condi Rice can only dream of: DIPLOMACY!
And as if to shine a humongous spotlight on the primacy of talk over warmongering, Britain talks its way out of the nascent Royal Naval "detainee" crisis, producing this happy, and rather stylish, in a strictly Iranian sense ... photo:
Mr. Ahmadinejad even got in a dramatic flourish, pinning a medal on the Revolutionary Guard general who orchestrated the capture, and then announcing that he was releasing the 15 "as a little Easter-time gift to the British people." Then, the Brits were marched out in their new, comfy Iran suits and even got a personal greeting from His Persian Shortness, as they appeared, thanking their former captors, on Iranian TV. Huzaa!! Oh, and check out this Ahmadinejad gem:
"I'm asking Mr Blair to not put these 15 personnel on trial because they admitted they came to Iranian territorial water," he added, referring to taped "confessions" made by the British sailors and marines.
Riiight... Oh, and the U.S. released this guy...
Release Seen Tied To Iran Crisis
An Iranian "diplomat" detained by U.S. forces in Iraq was freed in an apparent effort to help secure the release of 15 British sailors captured by Iran. While Britain has repeatedly asserted it won't negotiate with Tehran, diplomatic sources said the crisis appears likely to be resolved soon. "The next 48 hours will be fairly critical," U.K. PM Tony Blair said, offering no details. [Source: Investor's Business Daily, April 3, 2007]
Now that's what I call coincidental!
So Iran managed to turn around a sure loser of an issue into a relative win -- giving Britain back its sailors and Marines, and snatching away the neocon's cassis belli.
And last but not least, remember that charming little Baghdad market where our friend Baghdad John took a lil' stroll the other day, along with 100 of his closest military friends, their Blackhawk helicopters and helicopter gunships? Well ... it was bombed yesterday, killing 14 school children and adults. Guess they didn't have THEIR flack jackets and security phalanx. So having put U.S. military personnel in danger, not to mention himself, by insisting on his ridiculous stunt, it appears McCain also endangered Iraqis. Yep, that's presidential material...
Anti -British and anti-American protests rocked Iran this weekend, as the public tension continued to heat up over the fates of those 15 Royal Naval and Marine personnel seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on March 23rd and subsequently paraded on television. Meanwhile, word from Fareed Zakaria on "MTP" today was that behind the scenes, the Brits and Iranians have dramatically lowered the temperature, and are engaged in talks to resolve the conflict, which appears more and more to be a calculated error on the part of the Revolutionary guards, but one in which the Mullahs have now put down stakes. Meanwhile, the Times of London reports that the fate of the detainees, whom President Bush officially called "hostages" this week -- probably much to the chagrin of his former BFF Tony Blair -- may rest on a clash between two generals within the Revolutionary Guards over whether to let the prisoners go free, or put them on trial.
It now appears that Iran is ratcheting up the rhetoric while the Brits are cooling it down, even expressing "regret" for the incident via the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett (which drew an immediate public snub from Tehran, though who knows what's being said behind the scenes.) Is that a sign that Britain thinks it can get its soldiers back through diplomacy? Or is this Britain's way of walking away from a Bushian opportunity to let the neocons unleash the bombers? Time will tell...
We're starting to see the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's end-game in the taking of those 15 British Royal Navy and Marine personnel, as Tehran releases not just more propaganda video of the sailors supposedly confessing to trespassing in Iranian waters, but also letters from one of the hostages -- I guess "detainees" is more politically correct, though I think both are accuarate descriptors -- supposedly calling on Tony Blair to withdraw British forces from Iraq.
But the latest gambit from the Iranians (which may or may not be under the direction of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) is probably the bottom line: Iran is now seeking to exchange the Britons for five Iranian intelligence officers being detained by the Americans after the latter captured the former inside Iraq. That's already been rejected by the U.S., but it gives you a window into the Iranians' strategy, which likely included the premeditated seizure of the Brits.
Meanwhile, some Britons are calling for a change in tactics, namely the ratcheting up of pressure on Tehran by the E.U., which is Iran's largest trading partner, and which enjoys greater respect by the Iranians than the British, given the war in Iraq. And speaking of Iraq, the editorialists at the Independent add insult to British injury:
...there is a bigger problem here than clumsy diplomacy. Quite simply, Iran is holding most of the cards. Because of the catastrophe in Iraq, the UK has no real diplomatic leverage in the region. Tony Blair calls the Iranian action illegal in international law and cites the United Nations mandate for the presence of British forces in Iraq. But the US and Britain invaded Iraq ignoring the will of the UN. The former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, called the action illegal. Mr Blair has little moral authority when he cites international law now. It is notable that the UN statement stopped short of deploring the Iranian action, as requested by Britain. It also makes no mention of Security Council resolution 1723 that authorises the coalition presence in Iraq. The wounds opened by the foolish invasion of Iraq by the US and the UK have not healed.
The American sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear programme has raised the stakes, too. It is increasingly clear from the preposterous letters that Ms Turney has been forced to write that hardline elements in Tehran want to use this incident as part of a wider propaganda war against Britain and America. But we also ignore Tehran's paranoia at our peril. British ministers never mention that US forces have Iranian territory more or less surrounded. America is in Iraq, Afghanistan and recently they have moved two aircraft carriers to the Gulf. ...
The Iranians are clearly paranoid, but also crafty. They likely know that the Brits don't have the wherewithal to attack them militarily, and the U.S. has been revealed to be far from invincible in Iraq (much the way Israel was exposed by the Lebanon conflict.) So Iran clearly feels it can take a calculated risk by trying to force the U.S. and the Brits into a diplomatic corner.
The trouble is, George W. Bush is not the most stable or thoughtful character out there, and it could be that he decides to use the U.K.-Iran crisis as a means to start his next project for a new American century... and to force a clearly reluctant and disappointed Britain to go along.
Institute for Policy Studies fellow and Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis has said the following on that prospect:
"The U.S. is continuing to ratchet up threats against Iran. The current standoff in the Gulf between Iran and Britain may well not have been a deliberate British provocation, beyond the 'normal' provocative nature of the U.S.-British strategy of boarding and 'inspecting' ships, etc., but that doesn't mean it isn't dangerous."
"Blair isn't so keen on an attack on Iran; his rhetoric even after the sailors were captured has been remarkably low-key, and a move against Iran could threaten his already-shaky political standing. The Shatt al-Arab waterway is always a difficult navigation point, even aside from political tensions, and this kind of move has happened before and blown over in a few days. However, it's likely the Cheney gang is pushing Britain to escalate, to make this Tonkin Gulf II (the false claim of a North Vietnamese attack used to justify the Vietnam war in 1964), though it doesn't appear Blair/Brown are biting yet. But, once again, having said all THAT, things are very tense and could easily spin out of control."
The U.S. gets a guilty plea from Australian Qaida suspect David Hicks, who will likely be returned to his home country to serve his sentence. Why the quick capitulation by Hicks, who had been prepping for a fight? Time, and perhaps the Red Cross, will tell. My guess is the Howard government, already teetering under the weight of the "global war on terror" and the unpopularity of the Iraq war, brokered a deal. Aussie media take: Hicks pleaded out to escape "hell..."
Mitch McConnell, come on down! You're the next contestant on, "voters: fire this Bush-bot!"
The New York Times continues to carry water for the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, this time back-stoking the "Iran is arming the terra-rists" meme in a front page story.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair continues to fulminate, and do little else, on the subject of those captured sailors in Iran. Blair says Iran must follow international law or face unnamed consequences (a good, stern talking-to, maybe?)
Jay Rockefellar actually does the job of Senate Intelligence Committee chair (a refreshing change from Pat Roberts, whose chosen role was more like pathetic White House toadie...) Rockefellar is raising important questions about whether the Whie House's high value detainee program (encompassing both renditions to secret CIA prisons and foreign countries known for torture, and Gitmo, apparently also known for toture...) should continue. Ironically, Congress is awaiting a rewrite of the White House's policy on the Geneva Conventions that will come in large part via the advice of Mr. Torture/prosecutor head chopper Albertcito Gonzales... yet another reason that he should go - any advice he gives will have little currency with the Dem controlled Congress.
Meanwhile, amid from EU demands that they be immediately freed, Iran is claiming that the 15 detained UK Royal Navy members (including one woman) have "confessed" to being in Iranian waters when they were captured and detained. The BBC reports the group are being "interrogated" but are "safe" according to Tehran officials. How stupid a move was this on the part of the Iranians? I'm guessing pretty damned stupid, given the tensions in the region being fanned by both Tehran and Washington. The British up to now have expressed no desire to join the U.S. in even entertaining the idea of attacking Iran. My guess is that this incident will help the hawks in the Bush administration to drag the Blairites closer to their point of view...
And this as the U.N. prepares to vote on possible sanctions against Iran for its continued nuclear program.
Fifteen British Navy personnel have been captured at gunpoint by Iranian forces, the Ministry of Defence says. The men were seized at 1030 local time when they boarded a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.
The Royal Navy said the men, who were on a routine patrol in Iraqi waters, were understood to be unharmed.
The Foreign Office has demanded the immediate and safe return of the men, who are based on HMS Cornwall.
The frigate's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he was hoping there had been a "simple mistake" over territorial waters.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they [British personnel] were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may claim they were in Iranian territorial waters.
More on this development from the Independent UK:
The MoD said the incident happened at around 10.30am local time.
"The boarding party had completed a successful inspection of a merchant ship when they and their two boats were surrounded and escorted by Iranian vessels into Iranian territorial waters," a spokesman said.
Hopefully it's just a misunderstanding ... and not a dress rehearsal for another "coalition of the willing" ...
Is Iraq in a civil war? According to the new director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, it most certainly is.
And will the Bush administration reverse course and talk to Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran? Yes ... and no ... Condi Rice continues her turn as spin-mistress, attempting to explain how we're going to sit down in the same room with the two bad actors in the Middle East, but only because the Iraqis invited them. I can just hear the negotiations now:
U.S.: "Could you please tell the Syrian ambassador that I said he's a horse's ass?"
IRAQI: (sitting between U.S. and Syrian reps): "Certainly, madam." (turns to Syrian, sitting beside him.) "she says you're a horse's ass."
SYRIAN: "Kindly tell the lady to bite me."
Meanwhile, that hellified market correction yesterday (which extended in Europe and Asia today) has spooked everyone, but there's more bad news out there, starting with the mortgage market, where it's about to get a lot tougher to get a loan. Also, America's homeless population is growing and hardening, at a time when the Bushbots are claiming we have the best economy ever...
A groundbreaking survey of homelessness being released today found that 704,000 people nationwide sought shelter at least once in a three-month period.
Families with children accounted for one-third of those seeking emergency shelter or transitional housing between February and April 2005, the most recent period studied, according to the report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The rest were individuals, mostly adult men. Nearly half were black.
The count covered only those seeking shelter, not people living on the street, so the total number of homeless people would be higher.
"This first-of-its-kind study is a huge leap forward in our understanding of not only how many people are homeless, but also what their needs are," HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson says. The report says, for example, that at least a quarter are disabled.
HUD, which briefed USA TODAY on the report Monday, says it is the most comprehensive government estimate ever of homelessness. Previous counts looked only at the number of people homeless on a given day or week.
The three-month figure — equal to the population of South Dakota — is an estimate based on a sample of 80 communities. It will serve as a baseline for annual reports to Congress and may be expanded to include people living on the street.
And about that economy: it isn't nearly as good as the righties say it is...
On a much lighter note, could anything or anyone have saved Anna Nicole Smith? Quoth Travolta, Scientology.
The Largo, Florida city manager who wants to go from Mr. Manager to Mrs. Manager is about to get fired.
Sy Hersh reports that the Bush administration is making very real plans to attack Iran. Also, the New Yorker reprints Hersh flashbacks from 2005 and 2006, on the administration's consolidation of control over the intelligence operations of the CIA and Pentagon, and their plans to use their unprecedented powers to upend Iran. Hersh also asks two key questions: first, is the Bush policy helping or hurting the war on terror, and second, will the military go along? At least one paper, the Times of London, reports that some U.S. generals plan to resign if the Bush administration insists on attacking Iran:
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
There's also this:
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”
But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.
Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.
Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.
“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”
Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being “seriously careful” in the Gulf.
The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month. ...
So which is it? Are we planning an Iran attack or not? It could be that the Bush administration, led by Dick Cheney, is pushing for an attack, but elements within the Pentagon and the uniformed military are resisting it every way they can.
Meanwhile, Israel is now denying it is seeking U.S. overflight permission to traverse Iraqi airspace to attack Iran.
We're going to be talking about Iran and its continued nuclear ambitions on the morning show, and so I thought I'd put up a helpful mappie of the region, showing just what we're dealing with when we're talking about Iran, and what that country wants. Iran seems quite clearly to want to possess at minimum, nuclear technology. But given the neighborhood they live in, you almost can't blame them. To the east of Iran is Afghanistan, which is teeming with enemy Sunni al-Qaida and related militants. Just to the south/southeast of Afghanistan, bordering Iran's southeastern flank, is nuclear-armed Pakistan (and just to the east of that is nuclear India. To the northwest of Iran is Turkey, with it's constant potential for war over breakaway Kurdistan. And to the west is Iraq, where 140,000 American troops -- all potential targets of an Iranian counterattack -- are mired in hell. To the Southwest -- rival oil power Saudi Arabia, which just happens to be considering, if the rumor mill is to be believed ... acquiring nuclear weapons capability of their own. And then, of course, there's Israel, also nuclear armed, and constantly threatening a pre-emptive strike. Wouldn't Iran's leaders have to be insane not to want nukes? Now, I'm for counter-proliferation, and a nuclear free Middle East. But given the geography, and the geopolitics, I don't think there's any real way to stop the nuclear fever from spreading.
Meanwhile, the top U.S. Navy commander who has been rattling the saber -- and our collective nerves -- over Iran, says Tehran started the provocation in the Persian Gulf and that the U.S. movement of carrier groups was merely a response.
The Army says it's fixing the embarassing, shocking problems at Walter Reed's Building 18 (and apparently, other buildings and facilities as well), while Tony Snow says, hey man, don't ask me, ask the boys across the river.
The BBC uncovers the Bush administrations plans for an attack on Iran:
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned. It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.
The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.
The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.
But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.
That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.
And what would trigger such an attack by the U.S.?
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.
The Natanz plant is buried under concrete, metal and earth Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.
Here's how it will work. President Bush will continue to insist that Iran is funneling weapons and money to Iraqi militias who are in turn, killing American troops, but that, aw shucks, he doesn't have ANY intention of starting another war... But he will ratchet up the rhetoric, and the tactical provocations, like detaining Iranian officials in Iraq, hoping to trigger an overreaction by Tehran. Then he will make a sober sounding speech to the nation, stating that by his authorization, U.S. troops have been forced to retaliate against these outrageous acts, "in the name of peace." We will be at war with Iran, and nobody will have had the opportunity to stop it -- not Congress, not the American people.
#5. The entire Middle East region is imploding, starting with Iraq, but increasingly including Lebanon, something which strengthens Syria, which further strengthens Iran, because those two countries are seen as uniquely able to get their arms around the chaos, in a way we clearly cannot. A military confrontation with Iran could have disastrous consequences for the region, and could suck the United States into a quaqmire that would make Iraq look like a walk in the park. And this time, there will be no "coalition."
The Bush administration continues to beat the war drums on Iran, persistently charging that Iran is funding and supplying... well, not the insurgency, right? ... since the insurgents are Sunnis and Iran is a Shiite power that supports ...the ... same ... government ... we... put in ... place... hmmmmmm......
Righto, so they're supporting somebody bad that we don't like in Iraq but who is in many ways on our side of the ledger, but it's still bad anyway ... right? Right.
So if Bushie could just convince the world that this time, he and his Pentagon guys have really, really gotten it right, and Iran really, really is trying to destabilize Iraq ... rather than to prop up Iraq's Shiite government that ... we ... put in ... place... ooooohhhhhh.... sorry ... hmm...... well they might start by convincing their own Joint Chiefs chairman...
WASHINGTON - A day after the U.S. military charged Iran's government with shipping powerful explosive devices to Shiite Muslim fighters in Iraq to use against American troops, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that he hasn't seen any intelligence to support the claim.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace's comment could make it harder for the Bush administration, its credibility about Iran questioned because of its false pre-war claims about Saddam Hussein, to make its case that Iranian meddling in Iraq is fueling sectarian violence and causing U.S. casualties.
At a briefing Sunday in Baghdad, U.S. military officials said the al-Quds Force, an elite Iranian paramilitary organization, is sending arms into Iraq that include bombs that shoot molten metal jets through the armor of American tanks and Humvees.
They said these "explosively formed projectiles," or EFPs, have killed 170 U.S. troops and wounded more than 600 others and are "coming from the highest level of the Iranian government."
Asked about the briefing during a visit Monday to Canberra, Australia, Pace said he couldn't substantiate the assertion that the clerical regime in Tehran is shipping such devices to Shiite militias in Iraq.
"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government per se knows about this," Pace replied. "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it is clear that materials from Iran are involved. But I would not say based on what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon responded to requests for an explanation of the apparent contradiction between the nation's highest-ranking military officer and his subordinates in Baghdad.
Pace's apostasy aside, if Bushie could just convince the world to trust him just this one more time, and perhaps if they can just convince the country and the Congress that Iran really is the THE real problem for the U.S. in Iraq, perhaps he could put that third carrier group to use straffing Iran's ... nuclear facilities? Thus stopping Iran's provocation in Iraq by denying them the chance to build a "nucular" bomb. As one former Bush administration official put it, we could just "accidentally" end up at war...
Oh, and the Europeans believe it's too late to stop Iran getting a nuke anyway...
In an admission of the international community’s failure to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the document – compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief – says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. “Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,” it states.
The downbeat conclusions of the “reflection paper” – seen by the Financial Times – are certain to be seized on by advocates of military action, who fear that Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a bomb over the next two to three years. Tehran insists its purposes are purely peaceful.
“At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme,” says the paper, dated February 7 and circulated to the EU’s 27 national governments ahead of a foreign ministers meeting yesterday.
“In practice . . . the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the UN or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone.”
The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Presdident Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- despite his occasional tendency toward overreaching -- didn't order the U.S. military to dispatch soldiers and sailors to attack Tokyo. He went to Congress, and asked for a declaration of war. Those were the good old days, when Congress mattered and the president knew it.
Somebody has to tell George W. Bush that he is not a monarch. He does not have the unilateral power to spy on Americans, database our private info, or declare war. Specifically, he does not now, nor has he ever asked Congress for, the authority to wage war on Iran.
To that end, Senators Pat Leahy of Vermont and Arlen Specter of PA are demanding that Bush's justice department explain to Congress just what authority he thinks Congress has when it comes to waging war on Iran.
Let's see how that works out. Meanwhile, Barack Obama releases his version of a plan to extricate the U.S. from Iraq.
Ari Fleischer testifies at the Scooter Libby trial -- contradicting Dick's right hand man on the subject of just when Scooter found out about Valerie Plame's identity (he testified that Scooter told him three days before Scooter's fabled convo with Tim Russert -- you know, the one where he heard about Plame for the "first time" -- during the one and only lunch Libby ever invited Ari to...) BTW, the Ari-Libby convo was "hush hush, on the QT..." On the stand today: Judy Miller.
The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.
This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.
Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.
US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.
The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.
It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month. ...
Meanwhile, who's to blame for Iran's dramatic rise in power and influence in the Mideast? George W. Bush, start talking to the man in the mirror... And Europe, which blames the U.S. for Iran's rise, is balking at Bush administration attempts to force Western countries to cut ties to Tehran.
AG "Torquemada" Gonzales says, um ... about that NSA spying without a warrant thing ... ways-out...Although some are asking what exactly has changed... well, here's one thing, with new management in town, the Bushies are apparently in retreat, at least in part:
Under pressure from Congress and the courts, Bush in the past six months has closed secret overseas CIA prisons, transferred previously unidentified detainees to regular military custody, negotiated congressional approval for tribunals to try foreign terrorism suspects and accepted at least some regulation of how harshly such prisoners could be interrogated.
Bush has hardly surrendered his effort to broadly define the commander in chief's authority to wage war in the modern era. Just last weekend, he and Vice President Cheney told Congress that it has no business trying to stop the president from sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq. But in other ways, Bush has engaged in a series of strategic fallbacks intended to preserve what authority he can while fending off escalating political and constitutional challenges.
"You can only be at odds with two-thirds of the people on a limited number of issues," said Jack Quinn, who was White House counsel under President Bill Clinton. "He has his back to the wall. He really has depleted his political capital and he simply can't afford to be at odds with most of us on a number of issues. He is conserving what limited political capital he has to see through this final effort on which he's embarked in Iraq."
Bush has backed off other confrontations with the new Democratic Congress as well, even as they square off over Iraq. He gave up efforts to confirm John R. Bolton to be permanent ambassador to the United Nations, offered qualified support for a Democratic move to raise the minimum wage, endorsed a Democratic goal of balancing the budget by 2012 and withdrew the nominations of four would-be judges bitterly opposed by Democrats.
And in another version of the same song here, comes the suggestion that Bush's big push for power may trigger the law of unintended consequences:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — The Bush administration’s abrupt abandonment on Wednesday of its program to eavesdrop inside the United States without court approval is the latest in a series of concessions to Congress, the courts and public opinion that have dismantled major elements of its strategy to counter the terrorist threat.
In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, President Bush asserted sweeping powers to conduct the hunt for operatives of Al Qaeda, the detention of suspects and their interrogation to uncover the next plot. But facing no new attack to justify emergency measures, as well as a series of losses in the courts and finally the Democratic sweep of the November election, Mr. Bush has had to retreat across the board.
“I think there’s no question that both politically and legally, the president has been chastened,” said Douglas W. Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University and generally a supporter of the administration’s interpretation of executive power.
Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of Yale Law School and a critic of the administration’s legal theories, said the president’s strategy might have provoked so strong a judicial and Congressional rebuff that it would ultimately accomplish the opposite of his goal. “I think historians will see it as an exorbitant and extreme theory of executive power that ended up weakening the presidency,” Mr. Koh said.
Welcome to the new world order, where the first branch of government has actual power and authority to check a runaway executive... actually, welcome to the old world order...
And while we're at TPMM, let's see what Arlen Specter has to say about his role in giving Bush more power...
Remember the Freedom Fries guy? He's making a bid to halt a Bush administration push for war with Iran.
Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad is mocking the Bush administration again, saying Iran is ready to rumble...
The Missouri sicko pleads not guilty... meanwhile Missouri police now suspect him in the kidnaping of a third boy, who has never been heard from since... to heighten the creepy, the third missing boy, who disappeared back in 1991, reportedly bears a striking resemblance to Sean Hornbeck.
The I heart Hagel love-fest continues, as Hagel let's Dubya know, "This is not a monarchy, bitch..." okay, he didn't say the bitch part. But Hagel has co-sponsored a non-binding resolution in the Senate (with Joe Biden and Carl Levin) expressing disapproval of Bush's surge plan. (Of course, the non-binding part is a bit wimpy, given Hillary's new gambit to put teeth into Congressional oversight of the war by capping the number of American troops and putting stricter requirements on the money, and John Edwards calls any claim by Congress that they can do no better, total horse shit ... okay, he didn't say horse shit...) Meanwhile, Hillary's backing Hagel to the hilt, even as she pushes her own plan. (Another smart move.)
So who will win the showdown: Congressional Dems and their Republican allies, or the White House? I wouldn't bet on Bush right about now... even if he manages to begin his injection of additional troops, he will do so with the world knowing he lacks the confidence of the American people, and the Congress, and that will only speed the exit -- which is already underway -- by the so-called "coalition of the willing."
Pushing for war witn Iran? And more chaos in Basra
If that was your goal, how about detaining a handful of Iranians inside Iraq and positing nebulous charges that they were "planning attacks against Iraqi security forces"? Then, since you're already bungling the damned war, how about detaining the Iranians in the compound of the very party you're trying to boost as the new Shiite leadership of a coalition government, embarrassing the current Shiite Prime Minister in the process?
It's like a neocon cluster-f*** from hell. From the Sunday NYT:
BAGHDAD, Dec. 24 — The American military is holding at least four Iranians in Iraq, including men the Bush administration called senior military officials, who were seized in a pair of raids late last week aimed at people suspected of conducting attacks on Iraqi security forces, according to senior Iraqi and American officials in Baghdad and Washington.
The Bush administration made no public announcement of the politically delicate seizure of the Iranians, though in response to specific questions the White House confirmed Sunday that the Iranians were in custody.
Gordon D. Johndroe, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said two Iranian diplomats were among those initially detained in the raids. The two had papers showing that they were accredited to work in Iraq, and he said they were turned over to the Iraqi authorities and released. He confirmed that a group of other Iranians, including the military officials, remained in custody while an investigation continued, and he said, “We continue to work with the government of Iraq on the status of the detainees.”
It was unclear what kind of evidence American officials possessed that the Iranians were planning attacks, and the officials would not identify those being held. One official said that “a lot of material” was seized in the raid, but would not say if it included arms or documents that pointed to planning for attacks. Much of the material was still being examined, the official said.
Nonetheless, the two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security. At least two of the Iranians were in this country on an invitation extended by Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, during a visit to Tehran earlier this month. It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.
So what exactly is the evidence, or will these guys be simply declared "enemy combatants" and shipped off to one of our secret prisons, or dare I say for interrogation in Syria, like we did before Syria became country non grata?
A bit more:
A senior Western official in Baghdad said the raids were conducted after American officials received information that the people detained had been involved in attacks on official security forces in Iraq. “We conduct operations against those who threaten Iraqi and coalition forces,” the official said. “This was based on information.”
A spokesman for Mr. Hakim, who heads a Shiite political party called Sciri, which began as an exile group in Iran that opposed Saddam Hussein, declined to comment. In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, had no comment about the case on Sunday other than to say it was under examination.
The action comes at a moment of extraordinary tension in the three-way relationship between the United States, Iran and Iraq. On Saturday, even as American officials were trying to determine the identity of some of the Iranians, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution imposing mild sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has rejected pressure to open talks with Iran about its actions in Iraq.
Much about the raids and the identities of the Iranians remained unclear on Sunday. American officials offered few details. They said that an investigation was under way and that they wanted to give the Iraqi government time to figure out its position. A Bush administration official said the Iranian military officials held in custody were suspected of being members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It has been involved in training members of Hezbollah and other groups that the Americans regard as terrorist organizations.
American and Iraqi officials have long accused Iran of interfering in this country’s internal affairs, but have rarely produced evidence. The administration presented last week’s arrests as a potential confirmation of the link. Mr. Johndroe said, “We suspect this event validates our claims about Iranian meddling, but we want to finish our investigation of the detained Iranians before characterizing their activities.”
Hm. So guys, are we shoring up Mr. Hakim or accusing him? Do go on, Grey Lady:
The raids and arrests were confirmed by at least seven officials and politicians in Baghdad and Washington. Still, the development was being viewed skeptically on Sunday by some Iraqis, who said that they suspected that the timing was intended to reinforce arguments by some in the administration that direct talks with Iran would be futile.
And I'd say they're probably correct...
The United States is now holding, apparently for the first time, Iranians who it suspects of planning attacks. One senior administration official said, “This is going to be a tense but clarifying moment.”
“It’s our position that the Iraqis have to seize this opportunity to sort out with the Iranians just what kind of behavior they are going to tolerate,” the official said, declining to speak on the record because the details of the raid and investigation were not yet public. “They are going to have to confront the evidence that the Iranians are deeply involved in some of the acts of violence.”
Clarifying, indeed. More about "Sciri":
The predawn raid on Mr. Hakim’s compound, on the east side of the Tigris, was perhaps the most startling part of the American operation. The arrests were made inside the house of Hadi al-Ameri, the chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s security committee and leader of the Badr Organization, the armed wing of Mr. Hakim’s political party.
Many Shiite political groups are now suspected of having ties to Iran, and Sciri is no exception. Senior party leaders lived in exile in Iran for years plotting the overthrow of Mr. Hussein. Some married Iranians and raised their children there.
Mr. Hakim has emerged as the central Iraqi Shiite who is backing a new bloc made up of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds that would isolate more radical politicians. Americans back the new bloc, and Mr. Hakim traveled to Washington earlier this month to discuss its formation with Mr. Bush. It was not clear how the arrests, embarrassing to Mr. Hakim, would affect those political efforts.
Hiwa Osman, a news media adviser to Mr. Talabani, said, “The president is unhappy with the arrests.”
To understand this, you have to remember that during the time of Saddam, opposition groups were as likely to be based in Tehran as in London, with Shiite groups becoming closely aligned with the Iranians (as we ourselves have been from time to time.) It would follow that Mr. Hakim -- not unlike Grand Ayatola Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shiite cleric, and perhaps the most powerful man, in Iraq -- is closely aligned with Iran (Sistani was born there, though to my knowledge, he is not a Persian.) One last bite before I'm through:
The disagreement will further irritate relations between Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq and his American supporters. The Shiite-led government has begun to chafe under the control of the Americans, pressing for more control of its army and for greater independence from what it says is unilateral American decision making.
And what could this sudden burst of independence by Mr. Maliki signal? If the U.S. is seeking to isolate him, and perhaps to replace him, with Mr. Hakim, then why piss off Mr. Hakim by arresting Iranians who may have been his allies? It makes about as much sense as, well, invading Iraq. What is clear is that on the same weekend when meek-ish sanctions were passed by the UNSC against Iran, this little diplomatic raid won't do a thing to ease tensions, but it could provide our neocon president with a fresh reason to push for war with Iran.
Now to the British, who are doing some pissing off of their own. Writes the BBC:
Basra City Council has withdrawn co-operation from UK forces in southern Iraq after the police's serious crimes unit was disbanded by troops. More than 1,000 troops helped to break-up the unit, which has been blamed for robberies and death squads.
Major Charlie Burbridge said local politics was "complicated" and targeting the unit had been justified.
Mohammed al Abadi, head of the city's council, said the raid was provocative and illegal.
During the operation, troops stormed the unit's headquarters and took charge of 127 prisoners whom they feared might be killed.
hey demolished the Jamiat police station, which was the Serious Crimes Unit's base in Basra.
Hm. So how to "put this in context...":
Major Burbridge, speaking on behalf of the British Army in Basra, said: "The local provincial council, or a few members of the local provincial council, conducted a press conference a couple of hours after the operation was completed and they criticised the way in which, or the means by which, we conducted the operation.
"Now let's say we put this in context. Of course the local political scene is a complicated one and the governor [Mohammed al-Waili] wasn't there at the press conference."
The major added: "He [Mohammed al-Waili] even had a conversation with our general and said that we had done the right thing.
"Furthermore, we have continued to have overwhelming support up in Baghdad from the Ministry of Defence, so we're pretty confident we've done the right thing here."
Perhaps we're at such a bad stage in Iraq that "pretty confident" is the best we're going to get...
Maj Burbridge added: "For some time we've been talking about culling the police force; well, this is exactly what we've done.
"We've removed a very significant and nasty part of the police force which has been scaring people in Basra and ultimately it's going to make Basra a better place.
There have been long-held fears of the Iraqi police being infiltrated by corrupt officers.
And British forces have said some Iraqi commanders were using the unit as a cover for death squads and criminal activities.
I'm sure they have. The station in question had earned the catchy moniker, "the stastion of death. Catchy, no?
Welcome to post-Saddam Iraq. Same as pre-Saddam Iraq, only with bloody, out of control violence on every street corner.
Isn't it great to live in a free country? Just ask these guys. They wanted to tell you some things about the U.S.' historic relationship (and it's current blunderous one) with Iran. And they would no. The authors of a recent piece for the New York Times used to work the Iran issue within the federal government. So when it came time to tell you what they know, they were allowed to go ahead and publish their piece ... with blacked out passages courtesy of the Orwellian bunch at the White House.
Kudos to the Times for publishing the redactions as they were, for all the world to see. I guess Tehran's got nothing on us. (P.S., read all of the citations. They're very illuminating...)
... and good thing I have my Raw Story decoder ring! Perhaps the most interesting thing you'll find in the supplemental materials is a reminder that in fact, Iraq under Saddam Hussein WAS harboring a terrorist group -- it just hapened that the terrorist group it was harboring was not strictly anti-U.S., rather it was the Iranian anti-Irani regime Mujajeddin e-Kalq, which enjoys support inside the Republican lunatic fringe in Washington, led by Florida's own, shameless and wacky, Castro-hunting, terror group defending Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Ileana just loves the MEK, despite their past history of anti-U.S. activity, and their very recent history of attacking Iraqi Kurds and Shia, purportedly people our troops are struggling to defend. It just gets thicker and thicker, doesn't it?
Bottom line: after 9/11 Iran was ready to help the U.S., and would have, had the kooks inside the administration not scuttled all attempts to engage Tehran on the full table of issues between our two countries. You can guess for yourself who those kooks are.