Saturday, August 30, 2008

John McCain's Dangerous Choice

John McCain's Dangerous Choice

Commentary from William O. Beeman:
This comes from, which has occasionally been seen as over the top in their public pronouncements as they have frequently in recent years allowed ideology and a certain tendency toward ridicule to trump factuality. I rarely forward anything from them. However, this profile of Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is sober, factually correct, and very important. I hope that you will take it to heart and forward it widely.


Yesterday was John McCain's 72nd birthday. If elected, he'd be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for "inexperience," here's who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.


Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:

* She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.1
* Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2
* She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3
* Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4
* She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.5
* She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species—she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.6
* How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.7

This is information the American people need to see. Please take a moment to forward this email to your friends and family.

We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here's a sample:

She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. —Rose M., Fairbanks, AK

She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She's a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. —Christine B., Denali Park, AK

As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. —Karen L., Anchorage, AK

Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.—Sherry C., Anchorage, AK

She's vehemently anti-choice and doesn't care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. —Marina L., Juneau, AK

I think she's far too inexperienced to be in this position. I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.—Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK

So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier who shares John McCain's commitment to Big Oil. And she's dramatically inexperienced.

In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he's made a very dangerous decision for our country.

In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain's vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.


1. "Sarah Palin," Wikipedia, Accessed August 29, 2008

2. "McCain Selects Anti-Choice Sarah Palin as Running Mate," NARAL Pro-Choice America, August 29, 2008

3. "Sarah Palin, Buchananite," The Nation, August 29, 2008

4. "'Creation science' enters the race," Anchorage Daily News, October 27, 2006

5. "Palin buys climate denial PR spin—ignores science," Huffington Post, August 29, 2008

6. "McCain VP Pick Completes Shift to Bush Energy Policy," Sierra Club, August 29, 2008

"Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past," League of Conservation Voters, August 29, 2008

"Protecting polar bears gets in way of drilling for oil, says governor," The Times of London, May 23, 2008

7 "McCain met Palin once before yesterday," MSNBC, August 29, 2008

Jim Lobe--Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions

August 28
Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions

Analysis by Jim Lobe*

Commentary by William O. Beeman:

The controversy over Russian actions in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia has placed Iran in a stronger position. Certainly Russia is not going to support the idea that an attack against Iran could be launched by the United States or Israel from anywhere in the Caucasus, and Russian cooperation for more sanctions against Iran are also unlikely unless the United States cuts a very serious bargain with Moscow. For example, sacrificing Georgian President Saakashvili for Russian cooperation on tough actions against Iran. In light of this, and their historical experience dealing with Russia for more than 200 years, Iranians area also distrustful of Moscow and its intensions. The long term benefit for Iran may be a relaxation of pressure on its nuclear program, but the short term benefit is that Iran now has an increased market for its natural gas, which it is ready to sell to Europeans. If Moscow gets testy, and the BTC Pipeline remains closed, Europeans will soften on Iranian sanctions. Dick Cheney is traveling to the Caucasus in the next week to make sure that U.S. and Israeli military operations to threaten Iran are still in place, but the world can see that U.S. foreign and military policy in this region is crumbling. Jim Lobe's excellent analysis fills in the details below.

WASHINGTON, Aug 27 (IPS) - Iran could emerge as a big winner, at least in the short term, from the rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and Russia over Moscow's intervention in Georgia, according to analysts here.

Whatever waning chances remained of a U.S. military attack on Iran before President George W. Bush leaves office next January have all but vanished, given the still-uncertain outcome of the Georgia crisis, according to most of these observers.

Similarly, the likelihood that Moscow will cooperate with U.S. and European efforts to impose additional sanctions on Tehran through the U.N. Security Council, where Russia holds a veto, for not complying with the Council's demands to halt its uranium enrichment programme has been sharply reduced.

Not only has Washington's confrontation with its old superpower rival displaced Tehran at the top of the administration's and U.S. media foreign policy agenda, but Tehran's geo-political leverage -- both as a potential partner for the West in containing Russia and as a potential ally of Moscow's in warding off western pressure -- has also risen sharply as an incidental result of the crisis.

"When the U.S. invaded Iraq, it didn't do so to improve Iran's power position in the region, but that was the result," noted Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University who served on the National Security Council staff of former Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan. "That wasn't the purpose of the Russian invasion of Georgia either, but it, too, may be the result."

So far, Tehran's response to the Georgia crisis has been measured. Despite calls by some right-wing voices to side with Moscow, according to Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars here, the government, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has expressed disapproval of the Russian action, particularly its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia.

"The reason is on grounds of principle -- if Iran is going to start supporting the secession of territories that are unhappy with the central government, then Iran itself has some similar issues with ethnic dissatisfaction," Farhi, who also teaches at the University of Hawaii, told IPS.

In addition, she said, most of Tehran's foreign policy establishment "don't view Russia as a reliable partner. They understand that Russia may support Iran on the nuclear file depending on its own security or policy interests, but Russia has also been quite clever in using Iran as a bargaining chip in terms of its relationship with the United States."

"The Iranians are being very clever here; they're not likely to rush to Russia's defence unless Russia comes to them and ask for their help, and then they can ask for something in return," Farhi added.

The latter may include anything from the accelerated completion of the long-delayed Bushehr nuclear plant, to providing advanced anti-aircraft systems (something that Tehran's ally Syria has already asked Moscow to provide in the wake of Damascus' public support for the Russian intervention), to full membership in the Sino-Russian-sponsored Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a defence group that is coincidentally holding its annual summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, this week.

Teheran's leverage is not just confined to its status, along with Turkey's, as the most powerful nation in a strategically critical neighbourhood inhabited by relatively weak U.S.-backed buffer states like Georgia. During the Cold War and until the 1979 Revolution, after all, Iran served as Washington's most important bulwark against Soviet influence in the Gulf.

It also derives from its being a major oil and gas producer that could also play a much more important role as a transshipment point for Central Asian and Caspian energy resources bound for Europe, whose growing dependence on Russia for its energy supplies looks more risky than ever. This is particularly so in the wake of Moscow's demonstration that it can easily reach -- and disrupt, if it wishes -- the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, the only pipeline that transports oil from the Caspian to the West without transiting either Russia or Iran.

"Oil and gas companies now must factor in a new level of uncertainty," according to Jay Stanley at Kent Moors, an expert on energy finance who writes for 'Caspian Investor'. "...Georgia is now unstable and that increases the risk of transporting hydrocarbons across it."

"If the BTC and Georgia won't be a reliable source of energy, then Iran will absolutely step up to the plate," according to Prof. William Beeman, an Iran expert at the University of Minnesota. "'You want gas? We'll sell you gas' will likely be their position," he added, noting that Switzerland signed a 25-year, 42-billion-dollar gas supply and pipeline deal with Tehran last March over strong U.S. objections. "I think the Swiss are a very good bellwether for the rest of Europe on this."

While Iran has alienated some major European energy companies -- most recently France's Total -- by demanding tough terms, it might "see the present crisis as an opportunity to go back to European colleagues and say, 'Let's take another look at this,"' said Sick. "It gives them some more leverage by going to the West and saying 'You're shooting yourselves in the foot here. When are you going to come to your senses?"'

That argument naturally becomes more compelling as tensions between Russia and the West continue to escalate and could affect internal Bush cabinet-level deliberations on whether to act on a State Department recommendation to seek Iranian approval for opening an interests section in Tehran. Such a move, at the present juncture, would likely be seen as a major move on geo-strategic chessboard. Despite reports earlier this month that Bush had approved the recommendation, the issue appears to be unresolved.

Still, some experts say Iran's advantage could be short-lived. With a Russian veto over new Iran sanctions all but assured, Washington could decide to drop the U.N. route and try to impose a "coalition-of-the-willing" sanctions regime with its allies, according to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

Michael Klare, author of "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy", told IPS he believes that Russia's unilateral resort to military action against Georgia may actually embolden Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the leader of the administration's hawks who travels next week to Georgia and Azerbaijan.

"The question is whether Bush and Cheney will feel empowered to behave in a more belligerent fashion or not," he said.

*Jim Lobe's blog on U.S. foreign policy, and particularly the neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration, can be read at


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gareth Porter--Bush Covered up Musharraf Ties with Al-Qaeda, Khan (

August 20, 2008
Bush Covered Up Musharraf Ties With al-Qaeda, Khan

by Gareth Porter

Commentary by William O. Beeman:
The United States Government and President Pervez Musharraf appear to have had a common interest in no doing anyting to curtail Al-Qaeda or finding Osama bin Laden. For President Bush, the continued presence of bin Laden assured that the "Global War on Terror" for which the Pentagon has been issuing war medals for the last years, would continue unabated, justifying every form of destruction of human rights and American civil liberties. For Musharraf, the fact that bin Laden was never found allowed him to milk the United States for billions of dollars of military and civilian aid, something that continues to the present day. Gareth Porter now shows us that the Bush administration was completely aware of Musharraf's ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and just didn't bother to tell Congress or the American public. What is astonishing is that the Bush administration seems to have made no plans for Musharraf's departure. Two warring political factions are left to wrangle over power in Islamabad, while the fate of Pakistan's nuclear bombs remains uncertain. This is about the worst political muddle perpetrated by the Bush administration since the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's resignation Monday brings to an end an extraordinarily close relationship between Musharraf and the George W. Bush administration, in which Musharraf was lavished with political and economic benefits from the United States despite policies that were in sharp conflict with U.S. security interests.

It is well known that Bush repeatedly praised Musharraf as the most loyal ally of the United States against terrorism, even though the Pakistani military was deeply compromised by its relationship with the Taliban and Pakistani Islamic militants.

What has not been reported is that the Bush administration covered up the Musharraf regime's involvement in the activities of the A.Q. Khan nuclear technology export program and its deals with al-Qaeda's Pakistani tribal allies.

The problem faced by the Bush administration when it came into office was that the Pakistani military, over which Musharraf presided, was the real terrorist nexus with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. As Bruce Riedel, National Security Council (NSC) senior director for South Asia in the Bill Clinton administration, who stayed on the NSC staff under the Bush administration, observed in an interview with this writer last September, al-Qaeda "was a creation of the jihadist culture of the Pakistani army."

If there was a state sponsor of al-Qaeda, Riedel said, it was the Pakistani military, acting through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate.

Vice President Dick Cheney and the neoconservative-dominated Bush Pentagon were aware of the intimate relationship between Musharraf's regime and both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda was not a high priority for the Bush administration.

After 9/11, the White House created the political myth that Musharraf, faced with a clear choice, had "joined the free world in fighting the terrorists." But as Asia expert Selig S. Harrison has pointed out, on Sept. 19, 2001, just six days after he had supposedly agreed to U.S. demands for cooperation against the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda, Musharraf gave a televised speech in Urdu in which he declared, "We are trying our best to come out of this critical situation without any damage to Afghanistan and the Taliban."

In his memoirs, published in 2006, Musharraf revealed the seven specific demands he had been given and claimed that he had refused both "blanket overflight and landing rights" and the use of Pakistan's naval ports and air bases to conduct anti-terrorism operations.

Musharraf also famously wrote that, immediately after 9/11, Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" if Musharraf didn't side with the United States against bin Laden and his Afghan hosts. But Armitage categorically denied to this writer, through his assistant, Kara Bue, that he had made any threat whatsoever, let alone a threat to retaliate militarily against Pakistan.

For the next few years, Musharraf played a complicated game. The CIA was allowed to operate in Pakistan's border provinces to pursue al-Qaeda operatives, but only as long as they had ISI units accompanying them. That restricted their ability to gather intelligence in the northwest frontier. At the same time, ISI was allowing Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders to operate freely in the tribal areas and even in Karachi.

The Bush administration also gave Musharraf and the military regime a free ride on the A.Q. Khan network's selling of nuclear technology to Libya and Iran, even though there was plenty of evidence that the generals had been fully aware of and supported Khan's activities.

Journalists Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins wrote in their book The Nuclear Jihadist that one retired general who had worked with Khan told them there was no question that Khan had acted with the full knowledge of the military leadership. "Of course the military knew," the general said. "They helped him."

But the Bush administration chose to help Musharraf cover up that inconvenient fact. According to CIA Director George Tenet's memoirs, in September 2003, he confronted Musharraf with the evidence the CIA had gathered on Khan's operation and made it clear he was expected to end its operations and arrest Khan.

The following January and early February, Khan's house arrest, public confession of guilt and pardon by Musharraf was accompanied by an extraordinary series of statements by high-ranking Bush administration officials exonerating Musharraf and the military of any involvement in Khan's activities.

That whole scenario had been "carefully orchestrated with Musharraf," Larry Wilkerson, then a State Department official but later Colin Powell's chief of staff, told IPS in an interview last year. The deal that had been made did not require Musharraf to allow U.S. officials to interrogate Khan.

But the Bush administration apparently conveyed to the Pakistani military after that episode that it now expected the Musharraf regime to deliver high-ranking al-Qaeda officials – and to do so at a particularly advantageous moment for the administration. The New Republic magazine reported July 15, 2004, that a White House aide had told the visiting head of ISI, Ehsan ul-Haq, that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of any HVT [high value target] were announced on 26, 27, or 28 July." Those were the last three days of the Democratic National Convention.

The military source added, "If we don't find these guys by the election, they are going to stick the whole nuclear mess up our a**hole."

Just hours before Democratic candidate John Kerry's acceptance speech, Pakistan announced the capture of an alleged al-Qaeda leader.

Meanwhile, Musharraf was making a political pact with a five-party Islamic alliance in 2004 to ensure victory in state elections in the two border provinces where Islamic extremist influence was strongest. This explicit political accommodation, followed by a military withdrawal from South Waziristan, gave the pro-Taliban forces allied with al-Qaeda in the region a free hand to recruit and train militants for war in Afghanistan.

Yet another deal with the Islamic extremists in 2006 strengthened the pro-Taliban forces even further.

But Bush chose to reward Musharraf by designating Pakistan a "Major Non-NATO Ally" in 2004 and by agreeing to sell the Pakistani Air Force 36 advanced F-16 fighter planes. Prior to that, Pakistan had been denied U.S. military technology for a decade.

In July 2007, a National Intelligence Estimate concluded that al-Qaeda's new "safe haven" was in Pakistan's tribal areas and that the terrorist organization had reconstituted its "homeland attack capability" there. That estimate ended the fiction that the Musharraf regime was firmly committed to combating al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

Had the Bush administration accurately portrayed Musharraf's policies rather than hiding them, it would not have avoided the al-Qaeda safe haven there. But it would have facilitated a more realistic debate about the real options available for U.S. policy.

(Inter Press Service)

Monday, August 18, 2008

William O. Beeman--Big Three Block Iran Attack (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Big Three Block Iran Attack

William O. Beeman | August 18, 2008

Editor: John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus

The United States is in a huge foreign policy muddle in the Middle East. It wants to dominate and control Iran but requires the support of the world community to accomplish its aims. Diplomacy and sanctions require only a low level of support. On the other hand, to launch a military attack or green-light one by Israel, the United States needs far more backing.

This support does not appear to exist, and recent U.S. foreign policy actions are eroding that support even further. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on August 13 that the United States refused to give the go-ahead to Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities in talks between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Could it be that the Bush administration finally knows when it is licked?

Israeli officials acknowledge that it would be difficult to launch such an attack without approval from Russia, China, and India, something that the United States would have to lobby those nations to achieve. The chances at present are extremely slim that any of the three will acquiesce.

U.S. condemnation of Russia’s military action to defend the breakaway region of South Ossetia, combined with the determination of the Bush administration to install missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, virtually guarantee that Russia will not do anything to help the United States foment more violence in its neighborhood.

Beijing owns much of the U.S. debt, continues to be one of Tehran’s largest trade partners, and is not about to be dictated to by Washington. India has defied the United States by entering into a pipeline deal with Iran. Exhaustive three-year nuclear treaty negotiations between the United States and India are utterly stalled. If the treaty is not presented to Congress in September, it will be dead.

Russia and China have repeatedly said that they see no nuclear weapons danger in Iran. Besides the tension over the pending treaty with the United States, India has little to say, since it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, as Iran is. The skepticism of these nations is yet another reason why support for an Iranian attack is evaporating.

So the Bush administration is hoisted with its own petard. Whatever the more hawkish denizens of Washington want to do to Iran, they are not going to get the international support necessary for their desired action.

The most obvious alternative for the United States is to engage with Iran diplomatically. This is particularly difficult for the Bush administration because of its carefully burnished tough-guy approach. When Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns merely appeared at the negotiating table with European Union members and Iran for the first time, the right-wing media reaction was swift and vitriolic. Critics on the right, , including two editorials in one week on the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page, accused the Bush administration of “capitulation” to Iran.

Nevertheless international conditions with Russian, China and India may force expansion of this diplomatic approach, regardless of right-wing reaction.
The irony is that talking to Iran could be easy if the Bush administration would just relax. All the Iranians want for real talks to begin is to be treated as equals at the negotiating table, and to start the talks with no pre-conditions. This, too, is what Russia, India, and China want – not only for Iran, but for themselves as well.

The Bush crowd, however, is determined to patronize and insult everyone. During the current conflict in Georgia, Washington has implied that Russia is “not yet” part of the international community. The Bush administration coerced and threatened India over its nuclear program and the oil pipeline deal with Iran. China has been treated somewhat more gently, but the Chinese, too, chafe at criticisms of their environmental record, politics toward Tibet, and international dealings in the Sudan and elsewhere, which they see as hypocritical and intrusive.

When it comes to Iran, all three countries have signaled that they’ve had enough of Washington’s bullying. If however, the United States decides to treat Iran with mutual respect at the negotiating table, it might discover not only a way out of the impasse in the Middle East but improved relations with other key countries around the world.

Foreign Policy In Focus contributor William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He is president of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association and the author, most recently, of The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Petropolitics at heart of Russia-Georgia clash |

Petropolitics at heart of Russia-Georgia clash |

Commentary by William O. Beeman:
The clash between Russia and Georgia is not the simple black-and-white conflict over "democracy" and "sovereignty" portrayed by the Bush administration. The United States is just as complicit in this conflict as any of the other parties. The U.S. is trying to establish outposts in the Caucasus that will allow American (and Israeli) interests to be promulgated in the entire region. Seventy percent of the national budget of Georgia is spent on defense, despite widespread poverty in that nation. President Saakashvili is an American trained lawyer (Columbia and George Washington) who just happened to give up his law firm job in the U.S. to lead a Revolution in Georgia that allowed the U.S. and Israel free access to the state, and the U.S. and British Petroleum to run a pipeline through the country that would bypass both Iranian and Russian supply lines to the world.

Petropolitics at heart of Russia-Georgia clash
Oil-pipeline routes, market leverage make struggle a 'battle for energy.'
By David R. Francis
from the August 18, 2008 edition
In both geopolitical and economic terms, the United States appears a loser in the Russia-Georgia conflict.
If the pipeline crossing Georgia, bringing approximately a million barrels of Caspian oil a day to the West, remains shut down for much longer, it could result in higher oil prices.
"We could see $4 a gallon gasoline again," warns Edward Yardeni, an American consulting economist.
The 1,100-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline provides only about 1 percent of the global demand for oil. But, as Prof. Michael Klare of Amherst College notes: "There's not a lot of spare [crude oil] capacity" in the world.
In the long-running struggle for control of Caspian oil and gas and influence in the ex-Soviet states of that region, the clash has been a blow to US clout.
"The Russians come out of this as winning this round," says Professor Klare. "They are the power brokers in this part of the world…. But there will be more skirmishes to come."
Klare, author of "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy," sees the conflict as "not a battle for democracy," as portrayed by Washington. "It was a battle for energy," he says.
Oil reserves underneath the Caspian Sea are believed to be huge, perhaps as much as 200 billion barrels. That compares with the estimated 260 billion barrels in Saudi Arabia.
In his State of the Union Address in 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed what has become known as the "Carter doctrine." It stated that the US would use military force if necessary to defend its national interest in the Persian Gulf region. Carter saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at that time as "a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil."
President Clinton, as Klare sees it, expanded the Carter doctrine "more or less" to include Caspian oil. The BTC pipeline, taking crude from Azerbaijan through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, where it is loaded on tankers for the international market, was "Clinton's brainchild," says Klare.
President Bush has heated up what Klare regards as a struggle over vital resources, rather than a throwback to the cold-war era or classic balance-of-power politics. In that struggle, the US helped Mikheil Saakashvili win the presidency in Georgia after its 2003 "Rose Revolution" and helped build up and train Georgia's armed forces. When the American-educated Saakashvili attempted to show his mettle and restore the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgia's control, the Russians took the opportunity to show who is boss.
Klare worries that an American military adviser might be hit inadvertently by a Russian bomb, raising US-Russia tensions further.
"Throughout the Caucasus, the US has been striving to establish pro-American governments for strategic reasons," says William Beeman, chair of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota. One reason aside from Caspian oil, Professor Beeman suspects, is to provide a staging area for possible attacks on such perceived enemies as Iran and Syria.
The $4 billion BTC pipeline, managed by and 30 percent owned by British Petroleum, was routed through Georgia to avoid sending Caspian oil through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, or Russia. A 10-mile pipeline could have connected Caspian oil to the well-developed Iranian pipeline system. Beeman charges that millions in government bribes changed hands to place the pipeline in its tortuous route.
Georgian authorities charged Russia with trying to bomb the pipeline last Tuesday, a pipeline that had been buried deep in a trench for the sake of security. BP stated it was unaware of such bombings. In any case, the BTC flow of oil – about $1 billion worth every 10 days – had already been stopped by an earlier fire at a facility in Turkey. Kurdish rebels, known as the PKK, claimed the fire was their responsibility.
There have been plans to take the same Georgia route for a Caspian natural-gas pipeline ending in Europe. Klare considers the Russian action as partially a warning that this is not a good idea. Such a pipeline would offer serious competition to Gazprom, the giant Russian oil-and-gas conglomerate. Russia supplies one-quarter of the oil and half the natural gas consumed in Europe, and the revenue is seen as key to Russian prosperity. The European Union has been keen on the Georgia plan as a way to gain bargaining power and reduce the risk of supply cutoffs.
But the Russia-Georgia war may have reduced the prospects for such a gas pipeline getting financing and European backing.
"I wouldn't hold my breath," says Klare. He advocates that the US, EU, Russia, and the Caspian states develop a comprehensive regional energy plan for Caspian oil and gas. | Copyright © 2008 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

William O. Beeman--Chickens Come Home to Roost in Georgia - NAM

Chickens Come Home to Roost in Georgia - NAM

Chickens Come Home to Roost in Georgia
New America Media, News Analysis, William O. Beeman, Posted: Aug 12, 2008

Editor's Note: The Bush Administration's push for access to oil from the Caspian Sea and it's desire to isolate Iran precipitated the Russian invasion of Georgia. William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He has lived and worked in the Middle East region for more than 30 years.

No one should be surprised that U.S. interference in the Caucasus has led to the Russian invasion of South Ossetia. By mixing into the volatile politics of the Caucasus, and trying to recruit the governments there to become American "plumbers" for a variety of purposes, the United States has only drawn Russian fire.

The Caucasus was one of the last territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th century. It was captured from the Qajar Empire of Iran. The Caucasians never were fully incorporated into Greater Russia, and maintained a fierce cultural separatism. Georgia in particular was proudly nationalistic, with a distinctive language, cuisine, literary tradition and writing system.

It is arguable that had Josef Stalin not been Georgian, the Caucasian region might never have been part of the Soviet Union. Georgia chafed under Soviet rule, and the wily Soviets enlisted other Caucasian minorities to keep the peace in the region, including the Ossetians. However, Stalinist nationalities philosophy made sure that no one ethnic group ever became too strong. One way to do this was to draw borders in such a way that groups would be split by administrative boundaries. The division between North and South Ossetia was one of these divisions.

The fall of the Soviet Union created three new independent nations in the Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Almost immediately the ethnic enclaves in all of these nations began to fulminate for territorial reunification with their co-ethnic populations in other nations. These included South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, Nakhchivan in Armenia, which is mostly Azerbaijani; and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, which is mostly Armenian.

Enter the United States. U.S. interests in this region were vastly different than that of the people of the region, or of Russia. The United States wanted access to Caspian Sea oil, and it wanted to contain Iran. The Caucasian nations were ideal for both purposes. The United States blasted ahead with no regard for the historical tensions in the region.

Therefore the United States blindly pursued a steady policy of propping up the dictatorial regimes of the region. Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia are among the most corrupt nations on earth, and it was easy to buy a government. The price for this support was unquestioning alliance with the United States and its regional policies.

Access to Caspian oil was one burning policy goal of all administrations since 1990. The easy route for transport of petroleum products from the region would be through Iran's well developed pipeline system. Literally just a few miles of pipeline would connect the Azerbaijani oil fields to the Iranian system. However, Washington was ready to do almost anything to avoid providing any economic benefit to Iran. Hence, working with U.S. petroleum producers, they constructed a difficult and tortuous pipeline across Azerbaijan and Georgia, to emerge in Turkey for shipping to the world. Many millions in government bribes changed hands to make this happen.

As Iran became a target of the George W. Bush administration, having friendly powers in the Caucasus became a priority for the Washington establishment. The Velvet Revolution in Georgia was aided by the United States. In Azerbaijan, the United States virtually installed the current president, Ilham Aliyev, son of the previous president for life, Heydar Aliyev. The election itself was highly controversial. Heydar Aliyev was in Cleveland, Ohio for medical treatment, and was rumored to have died four months before his son was elected. The United States government was reportedly involved in the cover-up, and supported Ilham's election despite mass protests among Azerbaijani citizens.

President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia has close ties to the United States, having graduated with law degrees from Columbia and George Washington Universities. He was the leader of the Rose Revolution in 2003, which ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister, and striking a blow for Georgian independence. Elected president in 2004, he also greatly improved ties with Israel, and received an honorary doctorate from Haifa University, and has allowed Israeli intelligence to operate in Georgia. All of this endeared him to the Bush administration.

The United States tried to engineer the entrance of Georgia into NATO in April, 2008, but was surprised when 10 NATO members vetoed the proposal. Russia viewed this as a hostile act on the part of the United States.

President Saakashvili's presidency has not stopped continual ethnic violence from breakaway regions in his country. The South Ossetia conflict is only one of the latest, but it was different in that it serves as a smokescreen for Russian attacks on Saakashvili's government.

If Saakashvili should be ousted from office, a major U.S. and Israeli outpost would be lost. The fate of the oil pipeline would be in danger, and pressure on Iran would lessen considerably. All of these outcomes are seen as disastrous for the Bush administration. Thus all of the high-minded rhetoric about Georgian sovereignty coming out of Washington is ultimately cynical. If U.S. interests were not at stake, no one would care.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

William O. Beeman --The Iranian Chess Game Continues (Foreign Policy in Focus)

The Iranian Chess Game Continues
August 6, 2008

Foreign Policy In Focus

Diplomacy between Iran and the United States has entered the opening gambit stage and Iran appears to be winning at this point.

The game began on July 19, when Iranian nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili met with European negotiators with an American diplomat, Under Secretary of State William J. Burns, present for the first time at such a meeting since the Iranian hostage crisis.

The presence of William J. Burns riled many anti-Iranian forces resulting in a flurry of pronouncements and articles about American "capitulation" to Iran. The recriminations continued. Even now, on August 5, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, a notorious anti-Iran detractor, wrote a fulminating article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "While Diplomats Dither, Iran Builds Nukes."

The Bush administration clearly found itself in a difficult situation, needing to placate hawks like Bolton and Vice-President Dick Cheney while seeming to allow diplomacy to have a chance, so they made the talks not about substance, but about power – which side could compel the other to toe the line.

So the Bush administration started with a big lie. At the time of the July meeting the press and the State Department announced that Iran had a two-week deadline to respond to the European proposals, (the exact details of which remain secret, but which are presumed to include an extensive basket of technology, economic, and trade incentives).

There was no such deadline. It appears to have been a fiction. However, this falsehood gave Washington and the press the opportunity on August 2 to announce that Iran had "rejected" the deadline. The New York Times went so far as to call it an "informal deadline," a head-scratching concept.

Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki was reported by Agence France Press to have said, "The language of deadline-setting is not understandable to us. We gave them our response within a month as we said we would, now they have to reply to us."

Even the State Department itself had to back down from the fictional deadline. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack threatened further sanctions if Iran did not respond on Wednesday, July 30. But he had changed his tune on Saturday, August 2, the putative deadline. "I didn't count the days. It's coming up soon," he said. And when asked when Washington would pull incentives off the table designed to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program, said "there is no indication of that.

So little happened at the July 19 meeting, it could hardly be called a diplomatic encounter. In fact, Iran has been pursuing a productive diplomatic course. Rather than responding to deadlines and ultimatums, Iran has steadily put forward proposals for resolving its differences with the European and American governments over its nuclear energy program. It is clear that Iran will not give up its "inalienable right" to peaceful development of nuclear energy, as enshrined in Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it (but not India, Pakistan or Israel) is a signatory. It seeks other means, short of suspending uranium enrichment, to assure the world that it has no active nuclear weapons program.

Iran's proposal for negotiations presented to the European Nations is titled "The Modality For Comprehensive Negotiations" and sets out three stages of proceedings:

Preliminary Talks. Overall determination of the negotiating timetable.

Start of Talks. Actions against Iran would be suspended and common ground matters would be discussed.

Negotiations. Actual negotiating stage which the Iranians envision should last two months, but could be extended by mutual consent.

Iran does not agree in this document to suspend uranium enrichment. The document states in the negotiation stage that determinations regarding Iran's compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty would be "concluded in the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] and fully and completely returned to the Agency [The International Atomic Energy Agency]."

This is a reasonable blueprint for forward negotiations, and it represents a real diplomatic effort on Iran’s part. By contrast, the United States seems to have acted with a combination of bluff and muscle, and has gotten nowhere for their efforts.

This has not stopped the United States and its European allies for calling on August 4 for more sanctions based on Iran's violation of the "informal deadline." This is an astonishing exercise in diplomatic audacity – calling for punishment where there could be no violation, there being no mutual agreement of the conditions under which actions would be declared a violation. Unfortunately, the political climate against Iran being what it is, such an unwarranted bellicose move will likely go unquestioned.

Except by Iran.

Iran had its own gambits in mind to retain control of the process. After the accusations and the threats by the European and U.S. consortium, they countered with a grim reminder that they could close the Strait of Hormuz, through which two-thirds of OPEC crude oil passes. They tested some new conventional missiles. Then they announced that they would indeed answer the European proposals – but in their own time and on their own timetable, according to their own agenda. They were clearly working through their own negotiation plan step by step, catching the United States off guard, and throwing everyone in Washington off their game, leaving them to continue their slow burn.

The question is whether, out of frustration or pique, the impatient Washington detractors will upset the table.

Foreign Policy In Focus contributor William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He is president of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association and the author, most recently, of The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Ebneyousef--Attacking Iran: Probable Economic Consequences (Middle East Economic Survey)

Middle East Economic Survey


No 31


Comment by William O. Beeman

Elements of the Bush administration evidently think that attacking Iran would be cost-free, as they did with Iraq. Hosseein Ebneyousef, an oil expert tells the sobering truth.

Bill Beeman
University of Minnesota


Attacking Iran: Probable Economic Consequences

By Hossein Ebneyousef

The following article was written for MEES by Mr Ebneyousef. Since 1988 he has been the President of Washington-based International Petroleum Enterprises, having previously worked for ARCO for 14 years (e-mail

Considering the already overstretched US military assets, its engagement in two major and costly theaters of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, deteriorating security conditions in Pakistan and Lebanon and Iran’s apparently softer approach on the nuclear issue, I am not sure that a military attack on Iran is imminent (that is, if one attributes a minimal level of rationality to the decision makers). Even an effective military blockade of Iran, which is an act of war in any case, does not seem feasible in light of Iran’s size, strategic location and lengthy maritime and land borders. Here, I would like to address the global economic impact of such potential actions, as it would likely be much more drastic and long lasting than has so far been explained.

Despite the existence at the time of more than 4.4mn b/d of spare oil production capacity worldwide, the limited nature of the reduction in the total oil output of the exporting countries, and the short duration of the implemented policy, the 1973 Arab oil embargo was a turning point for the oil and natural gas business. Oil prices never retreated to the pre-crisis level but kept going up by more than 400% into the next energy shock, which took place six years later. Notably, global oil output during the same time frame increased by more than 22% – even the Gulf producers raised their output by more than 20%. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect substantially higher oil prices for a longer period of time as a result of introducing any additional threat of a military attack.

Inflicting damages to oil facilities – intentionally or otherwise – can and will reduce production capacity. With today’s high cost of materials and services and severe manpower shortage, repairs would prove to be highly costly and time consuming. A similar but more manageable condition existed during the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent reconstruction era in both countries. Thus, actual military operations have the potential to raise oil prices even further and for yet longer periods of time. The same is also true for post-natural disaster recoveries. For instance, the 2005 hurricane damage in the US Gulf coast is not yet fully repaired three years later, and its impact is still reflected in the current production figures.

Military conflicts have the tendency of spreading beyond their intended scopes, and could be devastating particularly in a region that houses close to two-thirds of the global oil reserves, with the probability of driving oil prices to even higher levels for a longer time interval and causing more ‘collateral damage’.

Unlike in the 1970s or the 1980s:

The industry now has very little spare oil production capacity left anywhere in the world;

Resource nationalism is on the rise;

Economic sanctions have eliminated up to 5mn b/d of oil production capacity from the market;

Strategic stocks have grown at a lower rate relative to the growth of global oil consumption; and

There are higher oil prices and high uncertainty over future prices, forcing refiners to minimize the size of their commercial stocks.

In short, at present the oil industry’s support systems are very limited and incapable of modifying the current and future risks. Therefore, I hope authorities realize the seriousness of the issue at hand and the potential disastrous consequences of making a wrong move at this crucial juncture. Runaway oil prices have the potential to force the Western economies, particularly that of the US which is already weakened by the housing crises and the declining dollar value, into a collapse.

John Bolton continues disinformation on Iranian nuclear program

Commentary from William O. Beeman:

It is astonishing that the Wall Street Journal continues to give Ambassador
John Bolton a standing platform to spread disinformation about the Iranian
nuclear program in the article below. He presents the misleading information currently being
promulgated by the American Enterprise institute and the Wasington
Institute for Near East Policy that the difference between Low Enriched
Uranium and High Enriched Uranium is trivial. This presupposes that Iran
actually has the reliable equipment to produce the High Enriched Uranium,
or the wherewithal to weaponize that material, which it does not, as Dr.
Behrad Nakhai, a real nuclear scientist, and I pointed out in an article on
July 16
Mr. Bolton writes: "every indication is that Iran is dispersing its nuclear
facilities to unknown locations . . ." What is the "every indication" that
he talks about. This is is some kind of fantasy on his part, because there
is no proof of this whatever. Finally, we have more alarmism about Iran's
conventional weapons, none of which can now deliver a nuclear weapon. Of
course, Mr. Bolton is not above simply asserting that Syria and the
Palestinians are so crazed and cowed by Iran that they would launch an
attack on Israel from their own territory, as if they were servile minions
of Tehran with martyr-like unconcern for the safety of their own people and
nations. Dr. Nakhai and I also pointed out in our article that Iran would
have to test a bomb before it used one, and this could never go undetected.
Iran is years away from anything resembling Mr. Bolton's apocalyptic

Bill Beeman
University of Minnesota
President, Middle East Section, American Anthropological Association.

August 5, 2008

While Diplomats Dither, Iran Builds Nukes
August 5, 2008; Page A19

This weekend, yet another "deadline" passed for Iran to indicate it was seriously ready to discuss ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Like so many other deadlines during these five years of European-led negotiations, this one died quietly, with Brussels diplomats saying that no one seriously expected any real work on a Saturday.

The fact that the Europeans are right -- this latest deadline is not fundamentally big news -- is precisely the problem with their negotiations, and the Bush administration's acquiescence in that effort.

The rationality of continued Western negotiations with Iran depends critically on two assumptions: that Iran is far enough away from having deliverable nuclear weapons that we don't incur excessive risks by talking; and that by talking we don't materially impede the option to use military force. Implicit in the latter case is the further assumption that the military option is static -- that it remains equally viable a year from now as it is today.

Neither assumption is correct. Can we believe that if diplomacy fails we can still take military action "in time" to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons? "Just in time" nonproliferation assumes a level of intelligence certainty concerning Iran's nuclear program that recent history should manifestly caution us against.

Every day that goes by allows Iran to increase the threat it poses, and the viability of the military option steadily declines over time. There are a number of reasons why this is so.

First, while the European-led negotiations proceed, Iran continues both to convert uranium from a solid (uranium oxide, U3O8, also called yellowcake) to a gas (uranium hexafluoride, UF6) at its uranium conversion facility at Isfahan. Although it is a purely chemical procedure, conversion is technologically complex and poses health and safety risks.

As Isfahan's continuing operations increase both Iran's UF6 inventory and its technical expertise, however, the impact of destroying the facility diminishes. Iran is building a stockpile of UF6 that it can subsequently enrich even while it reconstructs Isfahan after an attack, or builds a new conversion facility elsewhere.

Second, delay permits Iran to increase its stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) -- that is, UF6 gas in which the U235 isotope concentration (the form of uranium critical to nuclear reactions either in reactors or weapons) is raised from its natural level of 0.7% to between 3% and 5%.

As its LEU stockpile increases, so too does Tehran's capacity to take the next step, and enrich it to weapons-grade concentrations of over 90% U235 (highly-enriched uranium, or HEU). Some unfamiliar with nuclear matters characterize the difference in LEU-HEU concentration levels as huge. The truth is far different. Enriching natural uranium by centrifuges to LEU consumes approximately 70% of the work and time required to enrich it to HEU.

Accordingly, destroying Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz does not eliminate its existing enriched uranium (LEU), which the IAEA estimated in May 2008 to be approximately half what is needed for one nuclear weapon. Iran is thus more than two-thirds of the way to weapons-grade uranium with each kilogram of uranium it enriches to LEU levels. Moreover, as the LEU inventory grows, so too does the risk of a military strike hitting one or more UF6 storage tanks, releasing potentially substantial amounts of radioactive gas into the atmosphere.

Third, although we cannot know for sure, every indication is that Iran is dispersing its nuclear facilities to unknown locations, "hardening" against air strikes the ones we already know about, and preparing more deeply buried facilities in known locations for future operations. That means that the prospects for success against, say, the enrichment facilities at Natanz are being reduced.

Fourth, Iran is clearly increasing its defensive capabilities by purchasing Russian S-300 antiaircraft systems (also known as the SA-20) directly or through Belarus. In late July, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and his spokesman contradicted Israeli contentions that the new antiaircraft systems would be operational this year. Assuming the Pentagon is correct, its own assessment on timing simply enhances the argument for Israel striking sooner rather than later.

Fifth, Iran continues to increase the offensive capabilities of surrogates like Syria and Hezbollah, both of which now have missile capabilities that can reach across Israel, as well as threaten U.S. troops and other U.S. friends and allies in the region. It may well be Syria and Hezbollah that retaliate initially after an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, thus making further strikes against Iran more problematic, at least in the short run.

Iran is pursuing two goals simultaneously, both of which it is comfortably close to achieving. The first -- to possess all the capabilities necessary for a deliverable nuclear weapon -- is now almost certainly impossible to stop diplomatically. Thus, Iran's second objective becomes critical: to make the risks of a military strike against its program too high, and to make the likelihood of success in fracturing the program too low. Time favors Iran in achieving these goals. U.S. and European diplomats should consider this while waiting by the telephone for Iran to call.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

Monday, August 04, 2008


Note from William O. Beeman

Below is the proposal Iran made to the Eurpean powers and the Uni ted States. It scandalously remains unreported. It is a reasonable framework for diplomatic negotiations, and not the "runaround" cited by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Source: CASMII

(None paper)

Stage one: Preliminary talks,

1) In this stage, a maximum 3 rounds of talks will take place between Dr. Jalili, representing the Islamic Republic of Iran and Dr. Solana, representing the 3+3.

2) By the end of the above stage, the parties will have agreed on a modality to govern the negotiations. They will have further agreed on the subsequent stages of negotiations, which will include the following.
A- Determination of the timetable and the agendas of negotiations that will take place in the stage – which will be based on the commonalities of the two packages. Subsequently the committees will be organised and their agendas' will also be determined.
B- Requirements, manner and time of entry into the next stage.

Stage two: Start of talks,

1) With completion of stage one and implementation of the agreed requirements, talks will start at the level of ministers.

2) At the beginning of the above stage, the 7 states will meet the following requirements:
A- The 3+3 will refrain from taking any unilateral or multilateral action – or sanctions – against Iran, both inside and outside the UNSC. The group will further discontinue certain unilateral measures taken by one or some of it's members.
B- The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to cooperate with the agency.

3) In this stage a minimum of 4 meetings will take place between Mr. Solana, the foreign ministers of the 3+3, and Dr. Jalili, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation, representing the Islamic Republic of Iran.

4) The guiding principles of the meetings that will be attended by the 3+3 foreign ministers, plus Mr. Solana, in which the Islamic Republic of Iran will be represented by Dr. Jalili and the relevant ministers, will be as follows:
A- The parties will abstain from referring to, or discussing, divergent issues that can potentially hinder the progress of negotiations.
B- The parties will start by discussing issues that are considered as common ground.
C- The parties will agree on a timetable, list of issues to be discussed, and priorities of the negotiations.

5) The talks will end by issuing an official joint statement on the agreements reached at the above stage.

6) Following the statement on the completion of the talks, the 3 specialized committees will produce and finalize agreements on comprehensive cooperation.

Stage three: negotiations,

1) Upon the completion of the second stage of the talks, the 6 states will discontinue the sanctions and existing UNSC resolutions. Iran, in turn, will implement the agreed action.

2) With the start of the third stage, the 7 states will start to negotiate to produce and sign a comprehensive agreement relating to their "collective obligations" on economic, political, regional, international, nuclear, energy, security and defense cooperation – whose proposals will be presented to them by the specialized committees.

3) The negotiations will be conducted within a 2 month period. However, the period can be extended by mutual agreement.

4) Following the conclusion of the comprehensive and long-term agreement on "collective obligations" Iran's nuclear issue must be concluded in the UNSC and fully and completely returned to the Agency. Moreover, the issue must be taken out of the board of Governor's agenda and the implementation of the safeguards must be returned to normal in Iran.
... Payvand News - 08/01/08 ...

West Retracts Ultimatum to Tehran (Fars News)

West Retracts Ultimatum to Tehran

TEHRAN (FNA)- The United States and its European allies have pulled back from setting Saturday as a firm deadline for Iran to reply to the West's offer of incentives for a freeze in its nuclear drive.

"I didn't count the days. It's coming up soon," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Thursday when asked if August 2 was the deadline for Iran to accept or reject the package.

Not only did McCormack omit to mention a strict deadline, he also said there was "no indication of that" when asked whether Washington would pull the incentives offer off the table.

Iran on Thursday rejected any deadline to give a final response to a package drawn up by world powers, and said there should be more negotiations to reach a deal.

"The language of deadline-setting is not understandable to us. We gave them our response within a month as we said we would, now they have to reply to us," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters on Thursday.

Mottaki said Iran and representatives of the major powers had agreed at a July 19 meeting in Geneva to find common ground on both sides' proposals aimed at ending the five-year standoff over Tehran's nuclear drive.

"Both sides said that in future meetings they should work on the communalities of both frameworks in a constructive way to reach an agreement that satisfies both sides, otherwise Iran's constructive activities will take their natural course," he said.

Tehran's arch-foe, the United States, insisted on Wednesday that Iran must give an answer on Saturday, warning of consequences of any defiance by the Islamic republic.

But, Washington took back its words on Thursday and denied its previous ultimatum to Tehran that it should present its answer till Saturday or face more sanctions.

Iran on July 4 handed major powers its "constructive and creative" response to their offer presented by EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana in June aimed at persuading Tehran to give up its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right of uranium enrichment.

"Perhaps based on incorrect analysis, some of the Geneva participants got the wrong expectation, but our job was to give our views to the 5+1 framework... then we gave our own framework," Mottaki said.

Also on Wednesday, Mottaki said that no deadline was agreed upon during the meeting with EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and P5+1 representatives in Tehran.

"No deadline was agreed upon during our meetings in Tehran. We delivered our opinions within a month and now they are obliged to announce their reaction," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said.

"The P5+1 should live up to the agreements reached during their negotiations with Iranian officials in Tehran," added Mottaki who was speaking at a press conference following the final session of the 15th Foreign Ministerial Conference of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran late Wednesday.

A diplomatic source in Brussels said an Iranian response could come in the next few days.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had given Iran two weeks to come up with a "serious" reply after an international meeting in Geneva on July 19.

Washington broke with past policy by sending top diplomat William Burns to the talks in Geneva.

Gary Sick of Columbia University, an Iran expert who was interviewed after the July 19 meeting, said Washington and Tehran were both showing an increased desire to end the showdown that had raised fears of a military conflict.

"Neither side wants to show that it is losing face, or that it is caving in or appeasing the other side, but both sides are interested in finding a way out of this conundrum," Sick told the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a US think-tank.

Sick said another change is Washington's willingness to look at opening an interests section in Iran - a first step toward restoring diplomatic ties cut three decades ago.

The expert said that Washington had learned that its past desire to isolate Iran with increasingly stiff sanctions had failed to stop Iran enriching uranium.

Along with the four other permanent UN Security Council members - Britain, France, China, and Russia - as well as Germany, the United States has taken a more conciliatory approach lately.

The so-called P5+1 have offered Iran economic and trade incentives if it gives up its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) right of uranium enrichment.

If Iran accepts the package, there would be pre-negotiations during which Tehran would add no more uranium-enriching centrifuges and, in return, face no further sanctions.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana delivered the incentives package to Tehran in June.

In Brussels, the diplomatic source, who asked not to be named, said that for the Europeans "the Iranian reply should come in the next few days," without setting Saturday as a strict deadline.

Rice has warned of more "punitive measures," an allusion to more sanctions.

The US is at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran's nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington's push for additional UN penalties contradicted the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran's programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head - one in November and the other one in February - which praised Iran's truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran's cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran's nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran's case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic's increased cooperation with the agency.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Scott Ritter--Acts of War (Truthdig - Reports)

Truthdig - Reports - Acts of War

Note from William O. Beeman

Scott Ritter's account includes new information about Olli Heinonen, the Finnish IAEA deputy for safeguards. Mr. Heinonen has been working in lockstep with the Bush administration to build a case for war against Iran.


Acts of War

Posted on Jul 29, 2008

By Scott Ritter

The war between the United States and Iran is on. American taxpayer dollars are being used, with the permission of Congress, to fund activities that result in Iranians being killed and wounded, and Iranian property destroyed. This wanton violation of a nation’s sovereignty would not be tolerated if the tables were turned and Americans were being subjected to Iranian-funded covert actions that took the lives of Americans, on American soil, and destroyed American property and livelihood. Many Americans remain unaware of what is transpiring abroad in their name. Many of those who are cognizant of these activities are supportive of them, an outgrowth of misguided sentiment which holds Iran accountable for a list of grievances used by the U.S. government to justify the ongoing global war on terror. Iran, we are told, is not just a nation pursuing nuclear weapons, but is the largest state sponsor of terror in the world today.

Much of the information behind this is being promulgated by Israel, which has a vested interest in seeing Iran neutralized as a potential threat. But Israel is joined by another source, even more puzzling in terms of its broad-based acceptance in the world of American journalism: the Mujahadeen-e Khalk, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group sworn to overthrow the theocracy in Tehran. The CIA today provides material support to the actions of the MEK inside Iran. The recent spate of explosions in Iran, including a particularly devastating “accident” involving a military convoy transporting ammunition in downtown Tehran, appears to be linked to an MEK operation; its agents working inside munitions manufacturing plants deliberately are committing acts of sabotage which lead to such explosions. If CIA money and planning support are behind these actions, the agency’s backing constitutes nothing less than an act of war on the part of the United States against Iran.

The MEK traces its roots back to the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeg. Formed among students and intellectuals, the MEK emerged in the 1960s as a serious threat to the reign of Reza Shah Pahlevi. Facing brutal repression from the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK, the MEK became expert at blending into Iranian society, forming a cellular organizational structure which made it virtually impossible to eradicate. The MEK membership also became adept at gaining access to positions of sensitivity and authority. When the Shah was overthrown in 1978, the MEK played a major role and for a while worked hand in glove with the Islamic Revolution in crafting a post-Shah Iran. In 1979 the MEK had a central role in orchestrating the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and holding 55 Americans hostage for 444 days.

However, relations between the MEK and the Islamic regime in Tehran soured, and after the MEK staged a bloody coup attempt in 1981, all ties were severed and the two sides engaged in a violent civil war. Revolutionary Guard members who were active at that time have acknowledged how difficult it was to fight the MEK. In the end, massive acts of arbitrary arrest, torture and executions were required to break the back of mainstream MEK activity in Iran, although even the Revolutionary Guard today admits the MEK remains active and is virtually impossible to completely eradicate.

It is this stubborn ability to survive and operate inside Iran, at a time when no other intelligence service can establish and maintain a meaningful agent network there, which makes the MEK such an asset to nations such as the United States and Israel. The MEK is able to provide some useful intelligence; however, its overall value as an intelligence resource is negatively impacted by the fact that it is the sole source of human intelligence in Iran. As such, the group has taken to exaggerating and fabricating reports to serve its own political agenda. In this way, there is little to differentiate the MEK from another Middle Eastern expatriate opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, or INC, which infamously supplied inaccurate intelligence to the United States and other governments and helped influence the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Today, the MEK sees itself in a similar role, providing sole-sourced intelligence to the United States and Israel in an effort to facilitate American military operations against Iran and, eventually, to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran.

The current situation concerning the MEK would be laughable if it were not for the violent reality of that organization’s activities. Upon its arrival in Iraq in 1986, the group was placed under the control of Saddam Hussein’s Mukhabarat, or intelligence service. The MEK was a heavily militarized organization and in 1988 participated in division-size military operations against Iran. The organization represents no state and can be found on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, yet since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the MEK has been under the protection of the U.S. military. Its fighters are even given “protected status” under the Geneva Conventions. The MEK says its members in Iraq are refugees, not terrorists. And yet one would be hard-pressed to find why the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees should confer refugee status on an active paramilitary organization that uses “refugee camps” inside Iraq as its bases.

The MEK is behind much of the intelligence being used by the International Atomic Energy Agency in building its case that Iran may be pursuing (or did in fact pursue in the past) a nuclear weapons program. The complexity of the MEK-CIA relationship was recently underscored by the agency’s acquisition of a laptop computer allegedly containing numerous secret documents pertaining to an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Much has been made about this computer and its contents. The United States has led the charge against Iran within international diplomatic circles, citing the laptop information as the primary source proving Iran’s ongoing involvement in clandestine nuclear weapons activity. Of course, the information on the computer, being derived from questionable sources (i.e., the MEK and the CIA, both sworn enemies of Iran) is controversial and its veracity is questioned by many, including me.

Now, I have a simple solution to the issue of the laptop computer: Give it the UNSCOM treatment. Assemble a team of CIA, FBI and Defense Department forensic computer analysts and probe the computer, byte by byte. Construct a chronological record of how and when the data on the computer were assembled. Check the “logic” of the data, making sure everything fits together in a manner consistent with the computer’s stated function and use. Tell us when the computer was turned on and logged into and how it was used. Then, with this complex usage template constructed, overlay the various themes which have been derived from the computer’s contents, pertaining to projects, studies and other activities of interest. One should be able to rapidly ascertain whether or not the computer is truly a key piece of intelligence pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programs.

The fact that this computer is acknowledged as coming from the MEK and the fact that a proper forensic investigation would probably demonstrate the fabricated nature of the data contained are why the U.S. government will never agree to such an investigation being done. A prosecutor, when making a case of criminal action, must lay out evidence in a simple, direct manner, allowing not only the judge and jury to see it but also the accused. If the evidence is as strong as the prosecutor maintains, it is usually bad news for the defendant. However, if the defendant is able to demonstrate inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the data being presented, then the prosecution is the one in trouble. And if the defense is able to demonstrate that the entire case is built upon fabricated evidence, the case is generally thrown out. This, in short, is what should be done with the IAEA’s ongoing probe into allegations that Iran has pursued nuclear weapons. The evidence used by the IAEA is unable to withstand even the most rudimentary cross-examination. It is speculative at best, and most probably fabricated. Iran has done the right thing in refusing to legitimize this illegitimate source of information.

A key question that must be asked is why, then, does the IAEA continue to permit Olli Heinonen, the agency’s Finnish deputy director for safeguards and the IAEA official responsible for the ongoing technical inspections in Iran, to wage his one-man campaign on behalf of the United States, Britain and (indirectly) Israel regarding allegations derived from sources of such questionable veracity (the MEK-supplied laptop computer)? Moreover, why is such an official given free rein to discuss such sensitive data with the press, or with politically motivated outside agencies, in a manner that results in questionable allegations appearing in the public arena as unquestioned fact? Under normal circumstances, leaks of the sort that have occurred regarding the ongoing investigation into Iran’s alleged past studies on nuclear weapons would be subjected to a thorough investigation to determine the source and to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to end them. And yet, in Vienna, Heinonen’s repeated transgressions are treated as a giant “non-event,” the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone pretends isn’t really there.

Heinonen has become the pro-war yin to the anti-confrontation yang of his boss, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Every time ElBaradei releases the results of the IAEA probe of Iran, pointing out that the IAEA can find no evidence of any past or present nuclear weapons program, and that there is a full understanding of Iran’s controversial centrifuge-based enrichment program, Heinonen throws a monkey wrench into the works. Well-publicized briefings are given to IAEA-based diplomats. Mysteriously, leaks from undisclosed sources occur. Heinonen’s Finnish nationality serves as a flimsy cover for neutrality that long ago disappeared. He is no longer serving in the role as unbiased inspector, but rather a front for the active pursuit of an American- and Israeli-inspired disinformation campaign designed to keep alive the flimsy allegations of a nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program in order to justify the continued warlike stance taken by the U.S. and Israel against Iran.

The fact that the IAEA is being used as a front to pursue this blatantly anti-Iranian propaganda is a disservice to an organization with a mission of vital world importance. The interjection of not only the unverified (and unverifiable) MEK laptop computer data, side by side with a newly placed emphasis on a document relating to the forming of uranium metal into hemispheres of the kind useful in a nuclear weapon, is an amateurish manipulation of data to achieve a preordained outcome. Calling the Iranian possession of the aforementioned document “alarming,” Heinonen (and the media) skipped past the history of the document, which, of course, has been well explained by Iran previously as something the Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan inserted on his own volition to a delivery of documentation pertaining to centrifuges. Far from being a “top-secret” document protected by Iran’s security services, it was discarded in a file of old material that Iran provided to the IAEA inspectors. When the IAEA found the document, Iran allowed it to be fully examined by the inspectors, and answered every question posed by the IAEA about how the document came to be in Iran. For Heinonen to call the document “alarming,” at this late stage in the game, is not only irresponsible but factually inaccurate, given the definition of the word. The Iranian document in question is neither a cause for alarm, seeing as it is not a source for any “sudden fear brought on by the sense of danger,” nor does it provide any “warning of existing or approaching danger,” unless one is speaking of the danger of military action on the part of the United States derived from Heinonen’s unfortunate actions and choice of words.

Olli Heinonen might as well become a salaried member of the Bush administration, since he is operating in lock step with the U.S. government’s objective of painting Iran as a threat worthy of military action. Shortly after Heinonen’s alarmist briefing in March 2008, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, emerged to announce, “As today’s briefing showed us, there are strong reasons to suspect that Iran was working covertly and deceitfully, at least until recently, to build a bomb.” Heinonen’s briefing provided nothing of the sort, being derived from an irrelevant document and a laptop computer of questionable provenance. But that did not matter to Schulte, who noted that “Iran has refused to explain or even acknowledge past work on weaponization.” Schulte did not bother to note that it would be difficult for Iran to explain or acknowledge that which it has not done. “This is particularly troubling,” Schulte went on, “when combined with Iran’s determined effort to master the technology to enrich uranium.” Why is this so troubling? Because, as Schulte noted, “Uranium enrichment is not necessary for Iran’s civil program but it is necessary to produce the fissile material that could be weaponized into a bomb.”

This, of course, is the crux of the issue: Iran’s ongoing enrichment program. Not because it is illegal; Iran is permitted to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Not again because Iran’s centrifuge program is operating in an undeclared, unmonitored fashion; the IAEA had stated it has a full understanding of the scope and work of the Iranian centrifuge enrichment program and that all associated nuclear material is accounted for and safeguarded. The problem has never been, and will never be, Iran’s enrichment program. The problem is American policy objectives of regime change in Iran, pushed by a combination of American desires for global hegemony and an activist Israeli agenda which seeks regional security, in perpetuity, through military and economic supremacy. The specter of nuclear enrichment is simply a vehicle for facilitating the larger policy objectives. Olli Heinonen, and those who support and sustain his work, must be aware of the larger geopolitical context of his actions, which makes them all the more puzzling and contemptible.

A major culprit in this entire sordid affair is the mainstream media. Displaying an almost uncanny inability to connect the dots, the editors who run America’s largest newspapers, and the producers who put together America’s biggest television news programs, have collectively facilitated the most simplistic, inane and factually unfounded story lines coming out of the Bush White House. The most recent fairy tale was one of “diplomacy,” on the part of one William Burns, the No. 3 diplomat in the State Department.

I have studied the minutes of meetings involving John McCloy, an American official who served numerous administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, in the decades following the end of the Second World War. His diplomacy with the Soviets, conducted with senior Soviet negotiator Valerein Zorin and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev himself, was real, genuine, direct and designed to resolve differences. The transcripts of the diplomacy conducted between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho to bring an end to the Vietnam conflict is likewise a study in the give and take required to achieve the status of real diplomacy.

Sending a relatively obscure official like Burns to “observe” a meeting between the European Union and Iran, with instructions not to interact, not to initiate, not to discuss, cannot under any circumstances be construed as diplomacy. Any student of diplomatic history could tell you this. And yet the esteemed editors and news producers used the term diplomacy, without challenge or clarification, to describe Burns’ mission to Geneva on July 19. The decision to send him there was hailed as a “significant concession” on the part of the Bush administration, a step away from war and an indication of a new desire within the White House to resolve the Iranian impasse through diplomacy. How this was going to happen with a diplomat hobbled and muzzled to the degree Burns was apparently skipped the attention of these writers and their bosses. Diplomacy, America was told, was the new policy option of choice for the Bush administration.

Of course, the Geneva talks produced nothing. The United States had made sure Europe, through its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, had no maneuvering room when it came to the core issue of uranium enrichment: Iran must suspend all enrichment before any movement could be made on any other issue. Furthermore, the American-backed program of investigation concerning the MEK-supplied laptop computer further poisoned the diplomatic waters. Iran, predictably, refused to suspend its enrichment program, and rejected the Heinonen-led investigation into nuclear weaponization, refusing to cooperate further with the IAEA on that matter, noting that it fell outside the scope of the IAEA’s mandate in Iran.

Condoleezza Rice was quick to respond. After a debriefing from Burns, who flew to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, where Rice was holding closed-door meetings with the foreign ministers of six Arab nations on the issue of Iran, Rice told the media that Iran “was not serious” about resolving the standoff. Having played the diplomacy card, Rice moved on with the real agenda: If Iran did not fully cooperate with the international community (i.e., suspend its enrichment program), then it would face a new round of economic sanctions and undisclosed punitive measures, both unilaterally on the part of the United States and Europe, as well as in the form of even broader sanctions from the United Nations Security Council (although it is doubtful that Russia and China would go along with such a plan).

The issue of unilateral U.S. sanctions is most worrisome. Both the House of Representatives, through HR 362, and the Senate, through SR 580, are preparing legislation that would call for an air, ground and sea blockade of Iran. Back in October 1962, President John F. Kennedy, when considering the imposition of a naval blockade against Cuba in response to the presence of Soviet missiles in that nation, opined that “a blockade is a major military operation, too. It’s an act of war.” Which, of course, it is. The false diplomacy waged by the White House in Geneva simply pre-empted any congressional call for a diplomatic outreach. Now the president can move on with the mission of facilitating a larger war with Iran by legitimizing yet another act of aggression.

One day, in the not-so-distant future, Americans will awake to the reality that American military forces are engaged in a shooting war with Iran. Many will scratch their heads and wonder, “How did that happen?” The answer is simple: We all let it happen. We are at war with Iran right now. We just don’t have the moral courage to admit it.

Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector and Marine intelligence officer who has written extensively about Iran.

AP photo / Brennan Linsley

Members of the Iranian resistance group Mujahadeen-e Khalk, or MEK, guard a road leading to the group’s main training camp, watched over by a U.S. Army Abrams tank in background, near Baqubah in north-central Iraq.
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