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06/13/11

CRYING WOLF, AGAIN?

By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse

As the new threats of an attack on Iran, this time supposedly between June and September this year, loom larger, I have little doubt that the goal posts will be pushed back once again. As I have said, Iran as an existing threat serves the purpose much better than a friendly or a defeated Iran. An existing regional pariah serves Israel's interests and agendas perfectly well.

If there were any doubts about the Zionists' influence, both domestic and the Israeli regime, on American foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly with respect to Iran, the following articles extracted from the June 9, 2011 "antiwar.com" website should shed additional light on the matter:


Francis Barlow's illustration of the fable "Boy Who Cried Wolf" - 1687

Target: Iran
by Philip Giraldi, June 09, 2011
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent and successful excoriation of the Palestinians before a receptive American audience made it easy to miss the subplot, which was the alleged threat posed by Iran.  Netanyahu took every opportunity to attack the Iranians, tying them into each hostile group in the Middle East and taking them to task for their presumed efforts to become the regional hegemon rather than his beloved Israel.  So it comes as no surprise that an Israeli Deputy Prime Minister has now called for war against Iran. Speaking at the end of May in an ‘interview’, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon urged an attack on Iran, arguing that it is necessary to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Ya’alon also called on the other countries, by which he meant the United States, to join in because Iran is “a threat to the entire civilized world.”

And it is not just an Israeli government official who would be expected to mouth the party line who is sending up red flags.  Respected journalist Amir Oren, writing for Haaretz, ‘opines’ that there is considerable danger that Iran will be surprise attacked between the June departure of Robert Gates from the office of Secretary of Defense and the retirement of Admiral Mike Mullen from the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September.  The timing of the attack is intended to take advantage of the confusion inevitable when there is a change of command in Washington.  A regional war would also preempt any Palestinian attempts to declare statehood at the UN in September.  And there are many in Washington who would welcome such an enterprise.  Sources ‘report’ that the Pentagon is carrying out contingency planning based exercises in which US forces follow-on to the first Israel strikes against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.  It is being presumed that President Obama would find it difficult not to do so, in support of “friend and close ally” Israel.

So we are possibly contemplating entering into another war to counter the Iranian “threat,” which this time, per Israel, is directed against the entire civilized world.  As everyone knows, the United States has a mandate given by God to deal with all uncivilized behavior, something it has done so successfully in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.  But stepping back a bit from the usual Israel rhetoric, there are certain problems with what is being promoted.  Israel and its friends in the US have exhibited a tendency to move the goal posts back every time they discuss Iran, so much so that even well informed Americans don’t really understand the issues.  For many years now it has been asserted that Iran is either six months or a year away from having a nuclear weapon, but they are no closer to having one now than they have ever been.  Intelligence estimates coming from sources other than shills for Israel believe that even if Iran were to make the political and economic decision to proceed towards a weapon, by no means a given, they still could not do so before 2014.  And that is assuming that the CIA and Mossad do not succeed in sabotaging parts of their program, as they did when they introduced the Stuxnet computer worm last year.

An ‘article’ by Seymour Hersh that appeared last week in the New Yorker reveals some details of the still classified 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran.  To put it succinctly, there is no actual evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon program.  None.  Hersh’s article elicited a response from a number of anonymous White House sources who disputed the article’s conclusions, suggesting very clearly that the Obama Administration embraces the Iranian threat narrative, if only to be able to cite Tehran as the reason for the repeated American failures in the region.  Hersh also reported that the NIE had been delayed for four months because the White House had wanted a harsher judgment on Iran’s likely intentions.  The intelligence community, having been burned once over Iraq, refused to comply.

Israel and Washington have also continuously redefined the red line regarding the precise nature of the Iranian threat.  It started reasonably enough with the acquisition of a nuclear weapon, but then became breakout capability meaning that the technology had been developed to such a point that a weapon could be acquired in short order, and now it is any ability to master the uranium enrichment process.  It is a series of definitions that constantly move backwards, so Iran can hardly win except by abandoning its perfectly legal and inspected program to provide nuclear energy to generate electricity.  Even if Iran were to do so, it would undoubtedly be accused of having a “secret” program.

So it might not be completely illogical to conclude that Iran is not the likely instigator of a regional war in the Middle East - it is much more likely to be Israel, with its extreme right-wing government, an established nuclear arsenal, and a US taxpayer-provided defensive missile system in place to protect it against counter-attack.  And lest there be any doubt about what the United States would do, there are two bills in Congress that might provide some enlightenment.  They are ‘H. Res. 271′ and ‘H. Res. 1905′ .  The former, which is co-sponsored by Tea Party darling Michelle Bachmann and 43 other Republicans, affirms the US commitment to continue arming Israel against its enemies, notes rather oddly along the way that “whereas archeological evidence exists confirming Israel’s existence as a nation over 3,000 years ago in the area in which it currently exists, despite assertions of its opponents,” and concludes by expressing “support for Israel’s right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran, defend Israeli sovereignty, and protect the lives and safety of the Israeli people, including the use of military force if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable time.”

H. Res 1905 “The Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011” toughens sanctions against Iran, including establishment of a refined petroleum products embargo, which would have a devastating effect on the Iranian economy.  Many would consider it to be an act of war.  It is sponsored by the irrepressible Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, and has 95 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle and including both liberals and conservatives.

The bills in Congress, which do absolutely nothing for the United States and its citizens and instead ratchet up tension in the region while also providing a carte blanche for Israel to start another war, should provide convincing evidence to anyone who cares that Benjamin Netanyahu pretty much calls the shots insofar as America’s legislature is concerned.  If the reports from Haaretz are true and we are quite possibly looking at war later this summer, that would mean that the control extends to the White House.  Obama, keen to get reelected, would not want to cross the Israel Lobby even if it means sinking farther into the international quagmire that has characterized American foreign policy over the past ten years. Someone should tell him that when you fall in a hole the way out is not to dig deeper.
*******

Threat of Attack on Iran Recedes, but Tensions Remain High
by Barbara Slavin, June 09, 2011
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The likelihood of a U.S. or Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear installations seems miniscule during the remaining months of the Barack Obama administration’s first term.

The U.S. is focused on domestic economic problems, winding down wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and stabilizing emerging democracies in Egypt and Tunisia. Israel is preoccupied with Arab uprisings and new manifestations of people power by Palestinians in and outside the West Bank and Gaza.

Yet war cannot be ruled out, according to regional specialists who say that the persistent invocation of the "military option" by some Israelis and U.S. officials may be inhibiting diplomatic initiatives.

Retired Adm. William "Fox" Fallon, who resigned as head of U.S. Central Command in 2008 after a profile in Esquire magazine portrayed him as opposing a military strike on Iran, told a Washington audience Tuesday that while there seemed to be "little chance" of a preventive strike, "I have no idea" whether one could occur.

"The problem was and still is... this incessant focus on conflict, conflict, conflict," he told a symposium of the American Iranian Council, a group that advocates engagement with Iran. "We ought to be working pretty hard to focus on other things that would put us in a different place" with Iran, he said.

One spark for conflict could be a shooting incident in the narrow waters off Iran in the Persian Gulf.

Fallon said that during the many years he spent stationed in the region as a Navy flyer and commander, U.S. interactions with the regular Iranian Navy were "in my experience, very professional... The problem for us lately is that the IRGC (Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps) has muscled in ... more frequently than ever ... and they don’t behave in the expected ways. They’ve been challenging in some respects." 

"On several occasions while I was the commander we had some shooting out there that was absolutely unnecessary," Fallon added. "This kind of potential is not good."

Fallon and his predecessor, Army Gen. John Abizaid, sought but were apparently denied permission from the George W. Bush administration to negotiate an "incidents at sea" agreement with Iran that would have established procedures for preventing altercations from turning into a major conflict.

"Gen. Abizaid had some very good ideas but they weren’t accepted by the Bush administration," said Col. David Crist, a special adviser to the current head of Centcom, Marine Gen. James Mattis, and the author of an upcoming book on the history of U.S. military clashes with Iran.

Speaking Tuesday at the same Washington symposium as Fallon, Crist said that "there is always the potential for an unintended consequence in the Gulf." He noted a lack of understanding in both countries of how national security decisions are made and examples of "Tom Cruise fly-bys" of Iranian aircraft close to U.S. ships.

"Is this part of an Iranian plan to systematically harass the United States or just [the actions of] hot shot pilots?" Crist asked. The U.S. and Iran are in a "regional cold war but the means to de- escalate are not in place."

Some hardliners in Iran might actually welcome conflict with the United States or Israel to unify a politically divided nation.

At the same time, Iran is continuing its provocative nuclear progress. On Tuesday, Iranian vice president and atomic energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi announced that Iran would install advanced centrifuges to produce uranium enriched to 19.75 percent at Fordow, an installation outside the theological center of Qom that is built into a mountainside and was revealed by the United States in September 2009. Abbasi also said Iran intended to triple its output of 19.75 percent enriched uranium by the end of this year.

While the uranium is ostensibly meant to be fuel for a Tehran reactor that produces medical isotopes, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington research group that focuses on nuclear proliferation, warned that such a step would enable Iran "to more quickly break out and produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon, if it chose to do so." 

U.S. intelligence officials have said they do not believe that Iranian officials have made a decision to produce a nuclear weapon. The U.S. has not disclosed any hard evidence that Iran has resumed weapons research that, according to a 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate, ended in 2003.

However, Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the global nuclear watchdog, told the IAEA board Monday that the agency has acquired new "information related to possible past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities that seem to point to the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program." 

President Obama, after a brief and unsuccessful effort at engagement with Iran, has focused on sanctions to try to convince Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment. The policy has failed to achieve its goal in part because of high oil prices and China’s deepening involvement in the Iranian economy.

Obama has said repeatedly that an Iran equipped with nuclear weapons is "unacceptable."

Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association and veteran nuclear expert at the State Department, told IPS that while he thinks the chances of an unprovoked U.S. attack on Iran in the next two years is "very low", some Israeli officials will continue to press for U.S. military action.

"Some in Israel want to prod us into an attack while others want to wave the saber so that the U.S. will have more sanctions and not consider talking to Iran," Thielmann said. 

Any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would probably not destroy all the sites, would certainly not eliminate Iran’s nuclear knowledge and could provoke formidable retaliation against Israel by Iranian partners such as Hezbollah and against U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Meir Dagan, the former chief of the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, said recently that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations would be "the stupidest thing I have ever heard." This provoked harsh criticism of him by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. 

"They’re not arguing with his logic," Thielmann said. "They are arguing with his right to talk about this publicly." 

Fallon said the best solution would be negotiations with Iran but that "it takes two to tango."

"The interests of both people are better addressed with engagement and cooperation rather than antagonism and hostility [but] there is no clear path to this preferred alternative anytime soon," he said. 
*******

So, here we go again. American elections are looming closer and the international outcry against Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and the so-called peace process has been getting increasing worldwide attention.

Another round of the annual Israel lobby shindig (AIPAC) has successfully ended, with the pompous Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, addressing some 7000 members and a significant chunk of the US Congress and members of the Executive Branch. These sorry, beholden and intimidated representatives of the American people had seemingly no choice but to pledge allegiance to the Israeli flag and, in order to secure their political futures, to sheepishly humiliate themselves by bowing slavishly to the little tail that continues to wag the Superdog.

Having successfully portrayed Iran as the regional terror, an existential threat to America's favorite "friend and ally", Israel, and even a nuclear danger to Western civilizations, Netanyahu and his radical Right comrades continue to use this fictitious narrative to their fullest advantage.

Thanks to the lobby's relentless financial and media influences, the American public opinion has long been swayed to accept any version or interpretation of the Middle East news or commentary that favors Israel's agendas. And, when was the last time a member of the Administration dared to criticize anything Israeli, and managed to survive the wrath of the lobby? Remember the latest victim, Cynthia McKinney?

Portrayal of Iran as a marketable international threat has been serving the interests of the Israeli regimes, as well as quite arguably those of the United States, the latter worth more careful examination. Israel's agendas are quite straightforward and easy to understand:

  1. Israel intends to remain the sole regional superpower.
  2. Israel must enjoy the unwavering financial, diplomatic and military support of the United States for its very survival.
  3. Israel has no intention of giving the Palestinians any level of meaningful autonomy or nationhood, or give up a square inch of territory in the occupied areas or in East Jerusalem.
  4. Israel intends to remain a "Jewish" state at any cost.

The United States has also involvements in the region that cannot be downplayed or ignored:

  1. With the ongoing military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the explosive developments in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and possibly Saudi Arabia, America's military presence in the Middle East region, particularly in the Persian Gulf, must and shall continue.
  2. The proverbial Military Industrial Complex and its contributions to the economy of the nation cannot be exaggerated. Unlike the human costs of war, the material losses turn into gains by America's own manufacturing industries, not to mention the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars worth of mostly second hand or nearly obsolete hardware sold to the oil-rich Arab states who are "supposedly"  in danger of some Iranian assault. Of course, they know full well that Iran poses no physical threat to their kingdoms, but they have no option but to accept America's offer, as their very survival against their own people depends on the American military and diplomatic support. The Saudis, the purchasers of some 100 billion dollars worth of American arms are, for example, quite vulnerable to internal uprisings by their disenfranchised citizenry.
  3. Last but not least is the need for a strong American presence in the region to monitor and, if necessary, to prevent or buffer a potential Israeli adventurism against Iran, which would have catastrophic results all around.

Both the Israelis and the Americans realize that any attack on Iran would be ill advised, not only because it would not have the advertised desired effects or, worse yet, the fact that it would promote more aggressive militarization by the Iranians, but because it would cause major adverse ripples throughout the region with global economic repercussions. Both Israel and the Unites States also know that the mere portrayal of Iran as a regional or even a global threat plays the intended role, much more safely and effectively than would Iran as a real threat.

It has, therefore, been the policy to keep this negative portrayal convincingly alive, to which end the Iranian regime itself has been contributing significantly, albeit by default!

There have been numerous occasions, from the initial American attack against Al-Gha'eda and Taliban bases in Afghanistan and the establishment of the Karzai government, to the IAEA nuclear negotiations with Iran during the El Baradei leadership of that United Nations' agency, that the "problems" with Iran could have been resolved, leading to a rapprochement between the United States and Iran. Each time a hand was stretched from either side, some unexpected, or actually quite expected, excuse blocked the path to such an opening. Examples are far too numerous to recount here. The obvious lack of interest by the United States to negotiate the way to a rapprochement was interpreted quite correctly by the Iranian regime as a clear indication that, short of total capitulation, something that the Iranians would never be expected to submit to, there was nothing Iran could reasonably do to remedy its negative portrayal.

This, and the repeated open threats of violation of Iran's territorial integrity and regime change, as well as the admitted and undeniable acts of infiltration and sabotage fomented by the Israeli and American agencies, played into the hands of Iran's hardliners to further strengthen their position as the guardians of the nation. The result, as though well plotted in advance, has been a continuous postponement of democratic reforms toward moderation and opening, and the resulting public dissatisfaction with more restrictive sociopolitical environment. The increasing economic sanctions spearheaded by the United States, mostly on behest of the Israeli powerhouses, have been adding to the internal problems the Iranian regime has been trying to cope with.

It has been my long-term belief that the detrimental effects of America's Iran policies for America's own interests must be well known by the American policy makers. I have to, therefore, conclude that it is a lack of ability, rather than the absence of desire, in the part of the Administration, from the office of the President on down to the US Congress, that the nation's best strategic interests in the Middle East are being compromised for the dictates of America's true enemy who has been parading as a friend and as an inseparable ally.

Many Middle East analysts, among whom Professor Seyed Mohammad  Marandi of the University of Tehran, who in his latest article appearing in CASMII website, blames poor intelligence and reliance on dubious sources for a misperception of Iranian affairs. I, however, am of the opinion that those in the know in the State Department, from Hillary Clinton on down to the CIA and NSC staff advising her, do understand the situation on the ground, but are forced to resort to diplomatic hypocrisy and propaganda routines to cover up the system's inability to override the influence of special interest groups and lobbies that have a stranglehold on the nation's Middle East policy apparatus.  

As I look at the status quo, I do not see any prospects for change looming on a visible horizon when it comes to this one-sided parasitic relationship. The best interests of both the United States and Iran have been suffering because of the toxins injected into the system by this parasite.

As the new threats of an attack on Iran, this time supposedly between June and September this year, loom larger, I have little doubt that the goal posts will be pushed back once again. As I have said, Iran as an existing threat serves the purpose much better than a friendly or a defeated Iran. An existing regional pariah serves Israel's interests and agendas perfectly well.

The only hope for a change in this ongoing macabre theatrical scenario is for some other regional actor to replace Iran convincingly enough to satisfy the ticket holders to this drama. I believe the script is actually undergoing changes in that direction.

Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He has conducted lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues. More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at: intellectualdiscourse.com

There are enough military and civilian brains here to realize that a change in the status quo must be initiated sooner rather than later. My prediction is that Pakistan, a real nuclear-armed state with tribal factions that are not under the control of a viable central government and who are known for their vehement anti West and anti American sentiments can take up Iran's role as a regional pariah quite convincingly. It seems to be heading that way. Give it two to three years, and a great sea changes might be taking place in the region, especially with respect to a rapprochement with Iran, with prospects of positive developments within the Islamic Republic as tensions ease.

Meanwhile, Israel can use its time-tested tactics of keeping the United States on edge by feinting its intentions of a preemptive strike against Iran, in order to blackmail and extort more military and financial support from its big benefactor and to further postpone any prospects of a compromise with regard to its Palestinian dilemmas.

... Payvand News - 03/25/16 ... --



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