Friday, November 30, 2012

Fake AP Graph on Iran Exposes Israeli Fraud And IAEA Credulity

That Associated Press story displaying a graph alleged to be part of an Iranian computer simulation of a nuclear explosion — likely leaked by Israel with the intention of reinforcing the media narrative of covert Iranian work on nuclear weapons – raises serious questions about the International Atomic Energy Association’s (IAEA) claim that it has credible evidence of such modeling work by Iran.
The graph of the relationship between energy and power shown in the AP story has now been revealed to contain absurdly large errors indicating its fraudulence.
Those revelations indicate, in turn, that the IAEA based its publication of detailed allegations of nuclear weapons-related Iranian computer modeling on evidence that should have been rejected as having no credibility.
Former senior IAEA inspector Robert Kelley, who has challenged the accuracy of IAEA reporting on Iran, told Lobe Log in an e-mail that “It’s clear the graph has nothing to do with a nuclear bomb.”
“The pretty, symmetrical bell shaped curve at the bottom is not typical of a nuclear explosion but of some more idealized natural phenomena or mathematical equation,” he said. “Clearly it is a student example of how to perform integrals to which someone has attached some meaningless numbers.”
Nuclear physicists Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress also pointed out that the graph depicted by AP is not only so rudimentary and crude that it could have been done by an undergraduate student, but is based on a fundamental error of mind-numbing proportions.
The graph shown in the AP story plots two curves, one of energy versus time, the other of power output versus time. But Butt and Dalnoki-Veress noted that the two curves are inconsistent. The peak level of power shown in the graph, they said, is nearly a million times too high.
After a quick look at the graph, the head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Cal State Sacramento, Dr. Hossein Partovi, observed, “[T]he total energy is more than four orders of magnitude (forty thousand times) smaller than the total integrated power that it must equal!” Essentially, the mismatch between the level of total energy and total power on the graph is “more than four orders of magnitude”, which Partovi explained means that the level of energy is 40,000 times too small in relation to the level of power.
One alert reader of the account of the debunking of the graph at the Mondoweiss blog cited further evidence supporting Kelley’s observation that the graph shown by AP was based on an another graph that had nothing to do with nuclear explosions.
The reader noted that the notation “kT” shown after “energy” on the right hand scale of the graph does not stand for “kilotons” as Jahn suggested, but “Boltzmann constant” (k) multiplied by temperature (T). The unit of tons, on the other hand, is always abbreviated with a lower case “t”, he pointed out, so kilotons would be denoted as “kt”.
The reader also stated that the “kT” product is used in physics as a scaling factor for energy values in molecular-scale systems, such as a microsecond laser pulse.
The evidence thus suggests that someone took a graph related to an entirely different problem and made changes to show a computer simulation of a 50 kiloton explosion. The dotted line on the graph leads the eye directly to the number 50 on the right-hand energy scale, which would lead most viewers to believe that it is the result of modeling a 50 kiloton nuclear explosion.
The graph was obviously not done by a real Iranian scientist — much less someone working in a top secret nuclear weapons research program — but by an amateur trying to simulate a graph that would be viewed, at least by non-specialists, as something a scientist might have drawn.
Although AP reporter George Jahn wrote that officials who provided the diagram did so “only on condition that they and their country not be named”, the country behind the graph is not much of a mystery.
Blogger Richard Silverstein has also provided a key piece of evidence indicating that the source of the graph was Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad. He reports that a “highly-placed Israeli source” told him the diagram “was stolen by the Mossad from an Iranian computer” using one of the various malware programs deployed against Iran.
That information links the graph in question to a longer stream of documents, supposedly obtained by Israeli intelligence from inside Iran’s nuclear program and then given to the IAEA over the past few years.  Former IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei refers in his memoirs to documents provided by Israel in 2009 “purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007.” ElBaradei adds that the Agency’s “technical experts” had “raised numerous questions about the documents’ authenticity”, and suggested that US intelligence “did not buy the “evidence” put forward by Israel” in its 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.
Jahn’s story indicates that this and similar graphs were the basis for the IAEA’s publishing charges by two unnamed states that Iran had done computer modeling that the agency said could only have been about nuclear weapons.
Jahn cites a “senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue” as confirming that the graph accompanying his story was one of “a series of Iranian computer-generated models provided to the IAEA by the intelligences services of member nations.”
Those “computer generated models” were discussed in the November 2011 report, which referred to “[i]nformation provided to the Agency by two Member States relating to modelling [sic] studies alleged to have been conducted in 2008 and 2009 by Iran….”  The unnamed member states were alleging that the Iranian studies “involved the modelling [sic] of spherical geometries, consisting of components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression, for their neutronic behaviour at high density, and a determination of the subsequent nuclear explosive yield.”
Nothing in that description of the alleged modeling is documented by the type of graph shown by the AP story.
The IAEA report concludes by saying, “The information also identifies models said to have been used in those studies and the results of these calculations, which the Agency has seen.”
In other words, the only evidence that the IAEA had actually seen was the graphs of the alleged computer modeling, of which the graph shown in the AP story is alleged to be an example. But the fact that data on that graph has been credibly shown to be off by four orders of magnitude suggests that the Israeli claim of Iranian computer modeling of “components of the core of an HEU nuclear device subjected to shock compression” was completely fabricated.
Former IAEA Inspector Kelley also told Lobe Log that “We can only hope that the claim that the IAEA has relied on this crude hoax is false. Otherwise their credibility has been shattered.”
- Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

NY Times Sanger and Broad obsess over Iran's Fordo Enrichment Plant

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad continue their obsession with the Fordo nuclear enrichment facility in Iran in their Thursday, October 25 article "Iran Said to Nearly Finish Nuclear Enrichment Plant" <>.

They are more careful in hedging their commentary by comparison with other reporting, but the implication is still that Iran is on the road to manufacturing nuclear weapons. "The installation of the last of nearly 3,000 centrifuges at a site called Fordo, deep under a mountain inside a military base near the holy city of Qum, puts Iran closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon, or come up to the edge, if its leaders ultimately decide to proceed." This continues the right-wing denizens' mantra in which, failing to provide any evidence whatever that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, they condemn Iran developing a "capacity" for producing a nuclear weapon. Later in the article, they throw caution aside and assert: "The fact that the Fordo plant is approaching full operation, shortening the amount of time it would need to build a weapon, gives Iran added ability to exert pressure on the United States and its allies."

It is hard to know why this story is appearing now. The Fordo plant is no news. It was announced by Iran and has been regularly monitored by the IAEA. Moreover, as Sanger and Broad report, ". . . as Mr. Vietor (Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, and the only official quoted by name) noted, with inspectors visiting, 'We are in a position to closely observe Iran’s program and detect any effort by Iran to begin production of weapons-grade uranium.' "

The Fordo plant has produced some 20% enriched uranium, some of which has been converted to plates for use in an isotope-generating medical reactor, thus reducing the stock of 20% enriched uranium available for any other purpose. So, Fordo has been "functioning" all this time. What is the point now of announcing that it is "approaching full operation" if not simply to provide another alarmist report exaggerating the already over-hyped brouhaha about Iranian danger? Sanger and Broad's attempt to fan the dying embers of hair-on-fire reporting on Iran's nuclear danger is all the more strange given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's retreat from threats to attack Iran over the issue.

Candidate Mitt Romney, citing President Obama's supposed "weakness" on Iran, asserted in the recent Presidential Debates that Iran had enough enriched uranium to make "five bombs." This is a total fantasy fabrication, and misleading as well, since low-enriched uranium cannot be weaponized without further enrichment. Reporters are not supposed to engage in partisan advocacy, but it seems Messrs Sanger and Broad in issuing this total non-story are trying to tip the scales in Mr. Romney's favor.

Friday, August 31, 2012

David E. Sanger, William J. Broad and Jodi Rudoren once again distort IAEA Report on Iran's nuclear activities

Once again, we have the New York Times reporters David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, now joined by Jodi Rudoren spinning and edtitorializing on the latest IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program.

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad's reportage on Iran's nuclear is deeply misleading. These New York Times commentators have essentially editorialized about Iran's nuclear program, adding their own interpretations to the IAEA Report. They write: "[the report] left open the question of . . . whether by racing ahead with construction [Iranian leaders] were seeking negotiating advantage or trying to gain the ability to build a bomb before sanctions, sabotage or military action could stop them." Today Jodi Rudoren and David Sanger talk about Iran "crossing the red line" toward the construction of nuclear weapons.

The IAEA report says nothing about about building a bomb. That is Messers Sanger and Broad's own conjecture. In fact the IAEA report, as every other IAEA report since 2003 verifies that Iran has not diverted any fissile material for military purposes. The IAEA and every other intelligence agency in the world inspecting the Iranian program verifies that Iran has no detectable nuclear weapons program. In any case the IAEA carefully monitors every speck of nuclear material currently in development in Iran. Sanger and Broad in their own reportage toward the end of their piece contradict their own speculations, reporting  that Iran does not have enough fissile material to construct a "complete nuclear weapon."

Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei in his address to the Non Alligned Movement (barely reported in the U.S. Press) once again renounced any intent to construct nuclear weapons, and denounced nations who had them. How Messers Sanger and Broad can now imply that Iran is on the road to weapons construction can only be explained as reportorial bias. The media should be extremely careful in fan the flames of war in this fashion.

One needs only to see the public commentary to this and every other IAEA report. Despite the complete lack of evidence for any Iranian nuclear military program, vast numbers of the public have come to believe that such a program exists. This was the aim of the neoconservatives under George W. Bush--to gin up a plausible justification for an attack on Iran with the purpose of effecting regime change.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nima Shirazi--Some Notes on Ahmadinejad's "Insult to Humanity" Comment (Wide Asleep in America)

Some Notes on Ahmadinejad's "Insult to Humanity" Comment

by NIMA SHIRAZI--Wide Asleep in America

Commentary by William O. Beeman: Nima Shirazi has dissected the overwrought critiques of President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric in a particularly sober manner. One should understand that President Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is frequently mistranslated. It also has absolutely no connection to official state policy on foreign affairs, military affairs or the nuclear energy program. When speaking about Zionism or the Israeli situation he is speaking entirely for himself, and usually to his own constituency. His words are frequently at odds with the Iranian state. Still, those who favor attacking Iran take his words to be the policy of Iran, and they frequently say "Iran says . . . " plugging Ahmadinejad's words inaccurately into this statement. For U.S. readers, this is like taking the hateful anti-Islamic words of Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN) or Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) as U.S. government policy. That said, Ms. Shirazi points out that the same critics of Ahmadinejad's rhetoric have no objections when his same words are seen in other contexts to condemn states like S. Africa during the apartheid years. This is not to excuse President Ahmadinejad, but rather to put his remarks in Iranian social and political context, and to point out the hypocrisy of those who talk about his unprecedented rhetoric, which is not unprecedented at all in the West.

As tends to happen whenever Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivers a speech, especially one in commemoration of Al-Quds Day that explicitly rejects the ideology of Zionism and condemns the Israeli government for its inherently discriminatory, exclusivist, and ethnocentric policies and actions, all hell broke lose after the Iranian President addressed a large crowd at Tehran University on Friday.

"The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity," Ahmadinejad said, adding that "confronting the existence of the fabricated Zionist regime is in fact protecting the rights and dignity of all human beings."

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to the remarks as "offensive and inflammatory."  The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading nuclear negotiations with Iran, also denounced Ahmadinejad's speech as "outrageous and hateful."

Naturally, Ahmadinejad's words also sparked the usual shock and horror from the usual people, the same people who still insist that (1) Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and (2) believe that such a comment constituted a direct threat of military action against the superpower-backed, nuclear-armed state of Israel.

Without delving into the persistent myths and deliberate falsehoods surrounding that particular talking point (one that has been sufficiently debunked countless times though obviously never seems to cut through the hasbara) or seeking to justify anything said by Ahmadinejad, a few things should be noted:

First: While Associated Press described Ahmadinejad's comment as "one of his sharpest attacks yet against the Jewish state," which seemed to indicate that this is the first time such language has been used, they failed to point out that Ahmadinejad has used this exact same phrase before.

After Ahmadinejad delivered a speech at a "National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine" conference in February 2010, Ha'aretz reported he had said that "the existence of 'the Zionist regime' is an insult to humanity, according to Iranian news agency IRNA."

Later that year, he said the very same thing. 

Second (and more important): The "insult to humanity" phrase was not coined by the Iranian President to describe a political power structure defined by demographic engineering, colonialism, racism, and violence.

For example, a December 11, 1979 editorial in California's Lodi News-Sentinel stated clearly, "Apartheid is an insult to humanity" and "must be ended."

But the phrase has far deeper roots - roots with which the UN Secretary-General himself should be well acquainted.

A joint declaration by 20 Asian and African countries issued to the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on October 1, 1963 called upon the agency to reject the membership of South Africa due to its racist and discriminatory regime of Apartheid.  It noted "with grave concern that the South African Government continues stubbornly to disregard all United Nations and Security Council resolutions and to maintain its apartheid policies in defiance of the United Nations General Assembly, of the Security, and consequently of the IAEA Statute."

The declaration stated:
1. We condemn categorically the apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa, based on racial superiority, as immoral and inhuman;

2. We deprecate most strongly the South African Government's irresponsible flouting of world opinion by its persistent refusal to put an end to its racial policies;

3. The apartheid policies of the Government of South Africa are a flagrant violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as being an insult to humanity.
The very first International Conference on Human Rights, held by the UN in (get this) Tehran from April 22 to May 13, 1968, "condemned the brutal and inhuman practice of apartheid," "deplore[d] the Government of South Africa's continuous insult to humanity," and "declare[d] that the policy of apartheid or other similar evils are a crime against humanity."

On February 15, 1995, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights adopted a resolution praising the end of "the era of apartheid in South Africa" which also reaffirmed that "apartheid and apartheid-like practices are an insult to humanity..."

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly reaffirmed "that the conclusion of an internal convention on the suppression and punishment of the crime of apartheid would be an important contribution to the struggle against apartheid, racism, economic exploitation, colonial domination and foreign occupation" and, more specifically, the UN has affirmed time and again that "the inalienable rights of all peoples, and in particular...the Palestinian people, to freedom, equality and self-determination, and the legitimacy of their struggles to restore those rights."

No one can accuse Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having any affinity whatsoever for Zionism or the government of Israel.  Clearly he believes that Israel practices its own form of Apartheid against the Palestinian people.  And he is not alone.

Back in 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, South Africa's notoriously racist Prime Minister said, "The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state."

In April 1976, just two months before the Soweto Uprising, South African Prime Minister (and known former Nazi sympathizer) John Vorster took an official state visit to Israel, where he was hosted by Israeli Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin.  A number of friendship pacts and bilateral economic, military and nuclear agreements were signed.  At a banquet held in Vorster's honor, Rabin hailed "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence" and praised Vorster as a champion of freedom.  Both Israel and South Africa, Rabin said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness."

Vorster lamented that both South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of Western civilization.  Only a few months later, an official South African Government's document reinforced this shared predicament: "Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."

Both Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and as well as many other South Africa anti-Apartheid activists, have consistently called Israel an Apartheid state. 

Michael Ben-Yair, Israel’s attorney general from 1993 to 1996, has written that following the Six Day War in June 1967,
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one ‑ progressive, liberal ‑ in Israel; and the other ‑ cruel, injurious ‑ in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.

That oppressive regime exists to this day.

In 2002, Yigal Bronner, then a professor at Tel Aviv University, wrote in Ha'aretz of the true purpose of the Israeli separation wall: "Ours will be a brutal land of pens stretching between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean that will make South African apartheid pale. The outcome is too terrible to even imagine."

Avraham Burg, Israel's Knesset Speaker from 1999 to 2003 and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has long determined that "Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy," insisting the only way to maintain total Jewish control over all of historic Palestine would be to "abandon democracy" and "institute an efficient system of racial separation here, with prison camps and detention villages." He has also called Israel "the last colonial occupier in the Western world."

Yossi Sarid, who served as a member of the Knesset between 1974 and 2006, has written of Israel's "segregation policy" that "what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid."

Yossi Paritzky, former Knesset and Cabinet minister, writing about the systematic institutionalization and legalization of racial and religious discrimination in Israel, stated that Israel does not act like a democracy in which "all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality."  Rather, by implementing more and more discriminatory laws that treat Palestinians as second-class citizens, "Israel decided to be like apartheid‑era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist."

Shulamit Aloni, another former Knesset and Cabinet member, has written that "the state of Israel practices its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population."

In 2008, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel released its annual human rights report which found that the dynamic between settlers, soldiers and native Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was "reminiscent, in many and increasing ways, of the apartheid regime in South Africa."

Ehud Olmert, when he was Prime Minister, told a Knesset committee meeting, "For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deep‑seated and intolerable" and repeatedly warned that if "we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished."

Ehud Barak has admitted that "[a]s long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic.  If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

Shlomo Gazit, former member of Palmach, an elite unit of the Haganah, wrote in Ha'aretz that "in the present situation, unfortunately, there is no equal treatment for Jews and Arabs when it comes to law enforcement. The legal system that enforces the law in a discriminatory way on the basis of national identity, is actually maintaining an apartheid regime."

Last summer, Knesset minister Ahmed Tibi told the Jerusalem Post that "keeping the status quo will deepen apartheid in Israel as it did in South Africa," while Gabriela Shalev, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told The Los Angeles Times last year that, in terms of public opinion of Israel, "I have the feeling that we are seen more like South Africa once was."

Council on Foreign Relations member Stephen Roberts, after returning from a trip to Israel and the West Bank, wrote in The Nation that "Israel has created a system of apartheid on steroids, a horrifying prison with concrete walls as high as twenty-six feet, topped with body-ravaging coils of razor wire."

In April 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu's own nephew, Jonathan Ben Artzi wrote that Israel's "policies of segregation and discrimination that ravaged (and still ravage) my country and the occupied Palestinian territories" undoubtedly fit the definition of Apartheid.

Linguist, cultural anthropologist, and Hebrew University professor David Shulman wrote in May 2012 in The New York Review of Books that there already exists "a single state between the Jordan River and the sea" controlled by Israel and which fits the definition of an "ethnocracy."  He continues,
Those who recoil at the term "apartheid" are invited to offer a better one; but note that one of the main architects of this system, Ariel Sharon, himself reportedly adopted South African terminology, referring to the noncontiguous Palestinian enclaves he envisaged for the West Bank as "Bantustans."

These Palestinian Bantustans now exist, and no one should pretend that they're anything remotely like a "solution" to Israel's Palestinian problem. Someday, as happened in South Africa, this system will inevitably break down.
Whether those who get hysterical over Ahmadinejad's rhetoric agree with the above assessments - many of which were made by prominent Israeli and Jewish politicians, officials, and academics - is irrelevant.  It's clear that Ahmadinejad himself would agree.

Consequently, his reference to Israel (which he sees as an Apartheid state) as an "insult to humanity" (which repeats the same verbiage used repeatedly by the United Nations itself) appears to be far less inflammatory then the outrage that followed would suggest.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Israel's Iran Itch--Roger Cohen NYT (commentary by William O. Beeman)


Israel's Iran Itch

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NEW YORK — Hmm, it’s August, things are quiet, time for another wave of hysteria over an imminent Israeli attack on Iran. We’ve seen this movie for a decade — Israel’s “red line” on the Iranian nuclear program has proved of spandex-like elasticity.
Damon Winter/The New York Times
Roger Cohen
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(I sometimes imagine the size of the explosion if all the words devoted to the Iranian nuclear program since 2000 were placed in a large container and detonated.)
Israeli newspapers are full of reports that home-front preparedness is inadequate. Only 53 percent of Israelis, they say, have gas masks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just appointed Avi Dichter, a former head of Shin Bet — the Israeli equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — as the new home-front minister to address these concerns.
Dichter, by the way, has joined a host of former security and intelligence chiefs in saying that for Israel to lead an offensive against Iran would be a “total mistake.”
Wise words; but they have done nothing to dampen the attack-looming chatter of these summer doldrums, with the U.S. election less than 100 days away. One theory in Jerusalem is that the run-up to Nov. 6 is a good moment to attack because President Obama, despite his misgivings, would have no choice but to get behind the Jewish state or lose votes.
Netanyahu is doing nothing to dispel the rumors. Why should he? They provide leverage for tougher Iran sanctions and have no downside for Israel other than creating an impression that, on Iran, it has cried wolf.
Consider this recent post on the International Herald Tribune’s Latitude blog from Shmuel Rosner, the political editor of the Jewish Journal: “I got home Monday evening to find in my mailbox an official reminder: Did we have enough gas masks for the whole family?”
Rosner continues: “These days, Israeli media outlets are competing with one another to run scare stories: Are there enough shelters in Jerusalem for all residents? Does the new text-message missile alert system work properly?”
The Netanyahu government is happy enough with this state of fear: It seeks uncertainty. It takes a rightly skeptical view of the talks on Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. These have gone over familiar ground — Iranian offers to stop enrichment to 20 percent and eliminate its stockpile of such uranium against a lifting of sanctions and recognition of its right to enrich to a much lower level — without moving the ball.
Let’s get real: A deal in a U.S. election year is out of the question. Obama will not do it. He is not going to hand the Republicans ammunition on a plate.
Moreover, the Iran led by the Brezhnevian Ayatollah Khamenei is incapable of clear decision-making. It is a nation in the image of its noisy president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?): a lot of bluster over not much. It is given to what James Buchan has called “lachrymose intransigence.” Khamenei is a septuagenarian supposedly standing in for the Prophet. The average age of his wired population is 27. Try getting that system to function.
As Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told me, a deal is unthinkable because “the possibility of ever aligning Israeli psychology, Iranian ideology and the American political calendar is infinitely remote.”
So what should Israel do? Israeli security is incompatible with an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon that says it is bent on the destruction of the Jewish state: That, given history and psychology, is the reality of the situation.
But a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran today would be disastrous. It unites Iran in fury; locks in the Islamic Republic for a generation; gives a substantial boost to the wobbling Assad regime in Syria; radicalizes the Arab world at a moment of delicate transition; ignites Hezbollah on the Lebanese border; boosts Hamas; endangers U.S. troops in the region; sparks terrorism; propels oil skyward; rocks a vulnerable global economy; triggers a possible regional war; offers a lifeline to Iran just as sanctions are biting; adds a never-to-be-forgotten Persian vendetta to the Arab vendetta against Israel; and may at best set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions a couple of years or at worst accelerate its program by prompting it to rush for a bomb and throw out International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
Such damage may not amount to an existential threat to Israel — the phrase is overused. It would be a devastating strategic error.
Don’t do it, Bibi.
I do not say this lightly. All the talk of gas masks reflects real Israeli fears, even if they are artfully stoked. Israel must keep in mind that no U.S. president can accept the current Iranian regime going nuclear: Obama has been explicit about this.
Iran is not enriching uranium, as it claims, for a power plant of epic dysfunction. But nor has it yet united the various elements needed to make a bomb. If it ever makes the decision to do so, I expect the U.S. military response to be swift and devastating. The wise choice for Israel is therefore patience.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Tea Party Economic Madness and the Romney/Ryan Ticket

To listen to the Tea Party supporters of the Ryan/Romney ticket we might as well be electing Gordon Gekko as President. Greed is good, they pontificate and have the most naive idea of economics ever promulgated on the American public. Their idea seems to be that every dollar should only be taxed once, as if it got a little stamp on it when first earned (whenever that is) and thereafter would never be taxed again. You pay it to someone for a good or service, and bingo! no tax on that dollar, because it was already taxed when the buyer first received it. A fourth grader can see that this is idiotic if there is to be a functioning economy, but I have heard this again and again on the talk shows this past weekend applied to the capital gains tax (which Ryan would reduce to zero) and the the inheritance tax (which he would also reduce to zero). 

The anti-tax crazy Grover Norquist simplistically defended this by saying "most Americans agree with this principle." Well Duhh. If you ask Americans whether their inheritance or investments should be taxed, what do you think they will answer? Economic policy is not a popularity contest. If it were no one would pay any taxes ever. 

It is already the case that the rich reduce their capital gains income to near zero through legal legerdemain. Now they want it made simple and explicit. No paying accountants and lawyers to game the system, just don't charge them anything at all. "Only the little people pay taxes!" -Leona Helmsley

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Paul Ryan is a liar

When Paul Ryan expresses concern for the deficit and for our national economy, he is belied by his own actions. Below, thanks to Chris Hayes of Up with Chris Hayes is a list of his votes in Congress over the past few years. Apparently Ryan's "Budget Plan" and his concern over financial matters only matters when he needs Tea Party support or wants to get President Obama out of office. How can we believe that he would ever follow his own precepts based on his past record?

Monday, July 30, 2012

William O. Beeman--Mitt Romney’s Jerusalem Speech Panders to the Right-Wing (New America Media)

Mitt Romney’s Jerusalem Speech Panders to the Right-Wing

 Mitt Romney’s Jerusalem Speech Panders to the Right-Wing

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New America Media, Op-ed, William O. Beeman, Posted: Jul 30, 2012

Mitt Romney’s foreign policy speech to the Jerusalem Foundation in Israel on Sunday qualified him to be President—of Israel. His observations were as remarkable for what he didn’t say as for what he did. They could have been written by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, for they parallel his thinking almost exactly, and they were sharply at odds with current U.S. policy toward the region.

Mr. Romney didn’t mention the Palestinians (although he later made an invidious comparison of Palestinians to Israelis that was deemed racist by Palestinian officials), nor did he offer any remarks on the settlements in the West Bank—arguably Israel’s most pressing problem. Indeed, he explicitly called for Americans not to engage in any criticism of Israel at all, since Israelis seemed to be capable of self-critique.

What Mr. Romney did do in his talk was primarily to lambaste Iran.

He trotted out a laundry list of accusations against Iran, virtually all of which have been discredited fabrications or shown to be wildly exaggerated caricatures of Iranian thought and behavior. Among these was the hoary old accusation that Iranians had threatened to “wipe Israel off the map”—a fabrication so well known that it has its own Wikipedia page. He also repeated the old saw that Iran is the “chief State supporter of terrorism,” an unsupported assertion left over from the Bush administration. He also cited the discredited claims that the Iranian government supplied weapons used to attack Americans in Iraq—something the U.S. military tried desperately to prove with absolutely no success.

He said, “When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust . . .” branding them as Holocaust deniers. Iran’s leaders, in fact, have never denied the Holocaust. To be sure, they have questioned its causes and results in ways that are inaccurate, but they never denied that it happened. There was even a widely applauded popular film in Iran dealing with the Holocaust and an Iranian historical figure who saved Jews from being killed.

Of course, no one denies Iran’s dismal domestic human rights record—something that should be of concern to the whole world—but Mr. Romney barely touched on this one legitimate accusation of wrongdoing on the part of the Iranian government.

These broad swipes at Iran would be just garden-variety neoconservative palaver if it weren’t for the additional steps Mr. Romney took in advancing a case for armed conflict against the Islamic Republic—steps that were both reckless and ignorant. The case is based on the favorite neoconservative hobby-horse: Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Romney hinted broadly that the United States would support a military strike against Iran. This would not be to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as is current U.S. policy, but rather to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capacity. This is code for shutting down or destroying Iran’s entire nuclear development program.

Mr. Romney seems unaware of the complexities of the Iranian case. Iran is signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) along with all other states with nuclear development, except for Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The treaty grants all signatories the inalienable right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Iran is engaged in uranium enrichment to provide fuel for nuclear generation of electricity. However, Iran is not alone in doing this. Nineteen other world states who are signatories to the NPT do so as well, and at least two, Japan and Brazil, have stated openly that they are prepared to manufacture nuclear weapons if the need arises. Even if there were any proof that Iran had a nuclear weapons program, they are far from producing even nuclear reactor fuel. Mr. Romney said, cagily, they are “five years closer” to producing a nuclear weapon—but those attacking Iran have been saying this every year since 1990, and Iran is no closer.

The history of nuclear development in Iran also involves the United States directly. The U.S. government urged the Iranians to start their program in 1970 as a move toward modernization. The nuclear facilities they are now developing are a direct outgrowth of those mutually approved plans.

The complexity of this issue is apparent to the Obama administration, which is why diplomacy has been urged by every foreign policy adviser as a means of creating confidence and settling misunderstandings and differences between Iran, the United States and its allies. Brute force designed to damage Iran’s nuclear facilities has been decried as dangerous and useless by American and Israeli military and intelligence officials.

The most ironic part of Mr. Romney’s speech came toward the end when he stated: “If you want to hear some very sharp criticisms of Israel and its policies, you don’t have to cross any borders. All you have to do is walk down the street and into a cafĂ©, where you’ll hear people reasoning, arguing, and speaking their mind. Or pick up an Israeli newspaper – you’ll find some of the toughest criticism of Israel you’ll read anywhere. Your nation, like ours, is stronger for this energetic exchange of ideas and opinions.”

If Mr. Romney had taken this observation to heart and showed even a modicum of nuance in his remarks, he might have appeared statesmanlike. As it was, his speech was little more than a screed of right-wing slogans designed to please his Israeli host, and the Americans who support the most extreme right-wing policies of the Israeli government. His need to pander may go even further. Part of his live audience in Jerusalem was Israeli-supporter, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is bankrolling Mr. Romney’s campaign with unlimited amounts of money.
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 for over 40 years. He visited Iran last November, and Israel in June of this year. He is the author of The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other. (University of Chicago Press, 2008)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mitt Romney in Israel

Mitt Romney's recently broadcast speech in Israel is a shameful pastiche of accusatory  lies and half-truths about Iran, echoing the very worst, discredited misinformation. This is pandering to the right wing of both Israel and the United States on a new level. Not even the most rabid right-wing politicians in the United States have dared to trot out an attack with such completely blatant chicanery. This talk is practically calling for a military attack on Iran. In fact, Romney has all but pre-authorized such an attack, while implying that the United States wouldn't necessarily participate. So, a President Romney would egg on an Iranian attack without taking responsibility for pulling the trigger or involving the U.S. This is both reckless and cowardly. He curiously references and praises many members of the Israeli Press and their criticism of the Israeli government, and the balance such dialog brings to politics there. Too bad he couldn't reflect the same balance in his own assessment of Israeli right-wing attacks on Iran. Indeed, he goes on to say that the United States shouldn't criticize Israel at all.


Bill Beeman
University of Minnesota

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Porter--Israel Pins Bombing on Hezbollah to Get EU Terror Ruling (IPS)

Israel Pins Bombing on Hezbollah to Get EU Terror Ruling

Reprint | 
Commentary by William O. Beeman: An Israeli tour bus was bombed in Burgas, Bulgaria. Since that time Israel has been trying to demonstrate that Hezbollah and by extension the Iranian government was responsible. Thus far no one has claimed responsibility, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, despite loud proclamations of Hezbollah guilt in the affair has not produced one iota of evidence that Hezbollah was actually involved. Investigator Gareth Porter dissects this matter, concluding that the Israeli claims have no merit. 
WASHINGTON, Jul 24 2012 (IPS) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim Sunday of absolutely reliable intelligence linking Hezbollah to the bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria last week was apparently aimed at supporting his government’s determination to get the EU to declare Hezbollah a terrorist state.

The Netanyahu claim in interviews on Fox News Sunday and CBS Face the Nation of “rock solid” intelligence on the bombing was accompanied by an announcement that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would travel to Brussels Monday to meet with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and foreign ministers of nine EU member states to persuade them to put Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organisations.

Netanyahu, who usually emphasises Iran’s role in terrorism, focused primarily on Hezbollah’s alleged culpability.

Unlike the United States, the EU has never officially considered Hezbollah to be a terrorist organisation, but Netanyahu believes that pinning the Bulgarian bombing on Hezbollah gives him political leverage on the EU to change that.

Lieberman was quoted Sunday as saying the bombing in Bulgaria “has changed the way in which Hezbollah is seen”.

For months, Netanyau has been building a case that Iran has been carrying out a worldwide campaign of terrorism. That narrative is based, however, on a systematic and highly successful Israeli campaign of shaping the news coverage of a series of murky allegations about terrorist actions or efforts in Baku, Tibilisi, Bangkok and Delhi, and into stories fitting neatly into the overall narrative.

Netanyahu used sweeping language about the alleged intelligence underlying his charge that Hezbollah carried out the Bulgarian tourist bombing, but refused to offer any further information to back it up.

In the interview on Fox News Sunday, Netanyahu said, “We know with absolute certainty, without a shadow of a doubt that this is a Hezbollah operation….” But despite being asked by interviewer Chris Wallace for some indication of the nature of the intelligence, he would say only that information had been shared with “friendly agencies”.

When the heads of Mossad and Shin Bet, Tamir Pardo and Yoram Cohen, briefed the Israeli cabinet Sunday on those agencies’ efforts against what were described as Iranian and Hezbollah plans for terrorism in more than 20 countries, they were not reported to have presented hard intelligence supporting the claim of Hezbollah responsibility for the Bulgarian bombing.

If the Israeli government did share intelligence information on Hezbollah and the Bulgarian bombing with the Central Intelligence Agency as Netanyahu claimed, it did not register with the senior U.S. officials on Jul. 19.

When a “senior U.S. official” was quoted by the New York Times that day confirming the Israeli assertion that the bomber who carried out the operation was “a member of a Hezbollah cell operating in Bulgaria”, he was apparently merely making assumptions rather than relying on any hard evidence.
Also on Jul. 19, Pentagon press secretary George Little said, “I don’t know that anybody has assessed attribution for this cowardly action….”

On Jul. 20, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration was “not in a position to make a statement about responsibility”.

Netanyahu declared immediately after the news of the Bulgarian bus bombing Jul. 18 that Iran was responsible for the attack. In support of the charge, he cited recent alleged terrorist incidents in a number of other countries. “All the signs lead to Iran,” he said.

But Netanyahu offered no proof, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington acknowledged to CNN on Jul. 19 that it had no proof that Iran was the instigator of the attack.

Netanyahu also argued in his Fox News interview as well as in an appearance on CBS Face the Nation that an Iran/Hezbollah connection to the bombing of the Israeli tourist bus could be reasonably inferred from a Hezbollah terrorist plan that had been discovered in Cyprus only a week earlier.

“The whole world can see who it is,” said Netanyahu on Fox News Sunday. “You would have known or been able to surmise it from Cyprus a week ago.” A “Hezbollah operative” in Cyprus was caught planning “exactly the same attack, exactly the same modus operandi”, he said.
But the case to which Netanyahu referred is much less clear-cut than his dramatic description. In fact, it is unclear who the alleged Hezbollah operative really is and what he was actually doing in Cyprus. The 24-year-old Lebanese man with a Swedish passport was arrested in his hotel room in Limossol Jul. 7 – just two days after he had arrived in the country — following an urgent message sent to Cyprus from Israeli intelligence that the man intended to carry out attacks, according to Haaretz Jul. 14.

The Israeli press have portrayed the unnamed Lebanese as “collecting information for a terror attack” being planned by Hezbollah (Israel Hayom) and as identifying the “vulnerabilities that would allow for maximal damage among a group of Israeli tourists in their first hours on Cyprus ” (Ynet News).

But those descriptions may not reflect what the Lebanese man was actually doing. A senior Cypriot official told Reuters a week after he was taken into custody, “It is not clear what, or whether, there was a target in Cyprus.” And other Cypriot authorities were reported by the Cyprus Mail Jul. 20 and by Associated Press Monday to have said they believe the man was acting alone.

The Cypriot Greek-language newspaper Phileftheros reported that he was found with information on tour buses carrying Israeli passengers, a list of places favoured by Israeli tourists, and flight information on Israeli airlines that land in Cyprus, suggesting that he planned to detonate explosives on board a plane or bus.

But despite an intensive search, no indication has been found that the man is linked to any explosives.
A lone individual arrested in his hotel room without any explosives hardly presents a close parallel to the bus bombing in Burgas. Contrary to Netanyahu’s breathless description of what happened in Cyprus, the arrest may turn out to have been an overreaction by Mossad to unconfirmed information the agency had obtained three months earlier that someone might be interested in harming Israeli tourists in Cyprus, reported by Ynet News Jul. 15.

Details that have emerged about the cases of Lebanese and Iranian citizens arrested at the insistence of Mossad in Thailand in January and Kenya in June also suggest that sensational press accounts of alleged terrorist plans by the suspects inspired by the Israelis may have been highly distorted, and that the individuals arrested may turn out not to be terrorists at all.

*Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Illinois Anti-Marriage equality commentator mis-quotes Reverend John Piper (Star-Tribune Letter of the Day)

Letter of the Day (July 2): The Rev. John Piper

  • Updated: July 1, 2012 - 8:40 PM
The Revs. John Piper, above, and Leith Anderson, evangelical leaders in Minnesota, are taking a measured stance on the state’s marriage amendment issue.
Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune
Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute has taken it on herself to interpret the Rev. John Piper's sermon on the Minnesota marriage amendment ("Pastor showed way to clarity on amendment," June 26). She concludes that although Piper did not direct his parishioners to vote for the amendment, his sermon was tantamount to calling for a positive vote.
Higgins' commentary disturbed me greatly. Was she actually present for the sermon? She doesn't say so.
Also, why is she speaking for the pastor when he would be perfectly capable of answering for himself if he had been mischaracterized by the Star Tribune report in question ("Key pastors opt out of marriage fight," June 21).
Higgins' article strikes me as yet another out-of-state attempt to influence Minnesotans' vote on the amendment.