Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do You Feel Your Strings Being Pulled --Again? (Interview with William O. Beeman)


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Do You Feel Your Strings Being Pulled -- Again?

The media branch of the Great American War machine has just dropped a bunker-busting propaganda bomb.  The New York Times Magazine virtually declared war against Iran on behalf of Israel in this week's cover story by  Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist.

"Israel vs. Iran," the cover graphic shouts, and the subtitle asks not "if" but "When will it erupt?"  Bergman's answer: sometime in 2012.  Why? Because, according to Bergman, Israel's leaders believe that the three conditions for attacking Iran have been met.  The conditions are (1) that Israel is capable of "severely damaging Iran's nuclear sites" and of withstanding the inevitable counterattack; (2) there is at least tacit support from the international community, especially the United States and (3) all other possibiities for "the containment of Iran's nuclear threat" have been exhausted; war is the last resort.

This comes immediately on the heels of a magazine piece by the Times's former executive editor, Bill Keller, headlined "'Bomb-bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb-Iran?'"  The Times's main news section has published, often under misleading headlines, stories by  David Sanger, Erick Schmitt and Steven Elranger that contained distortions, questionable interpretations or outright falsehoods.  For just one example, on Jan. 4, Erlanger wrote:

"The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran's nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign."

Twice on the main page introducing Bergman's article last Sunday, Times editors used  the phrase "Iran's nuclear threat" as if it were an accepted fact.

It is not.  Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton: "The IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multi-year effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb." William O. Beeman, professor and chair of anthropology and specialist in Middle East studies at the University of Minnesota: "Israeli and American officials state flatly that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, and is not likely to have one soon. There is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, and the opinion of the U.S. intelligence community, the Obama administration, and the latest IAEA report is that Iran’s enrichment is so far civilian in nature."  Ira Chernus, author and professor of religious studies at the University of Colorado: "The myth of 'poor little Israel, surrounded by fanatic enemies bent on destroying it' is so pervasive here in the U.S., most readers might easily take this Iranophobic article at face value, forgetting the absurd premises underlying all arguments that Israel 'must' attack Iran."

Early in the Times magazine article, Bergman quotes Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: "The Iranians are, after all, a nation whose leaders have set themselves a strategic goal of wiping Israel off the map."  This is quotational abuse equivalent to "hoist on his own petard" (Shakespeare wrote "with") and "play it again, Sam" (Bogart said, "Play it, Sam. Play, 'As Time Goes By.')  Dead wrong, but in the language to stay.

Beeman again: "The quote about wiping Israel off the map is inaccurate. It was an old quote from Ayatollah Khomeini in 1978. It is a wish or desire expressed in the subjunctive, and there are several possible translations, but none of them call for wiping Israel off the map. Here is the original Persian: een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad::

"One translation would be 'The regime occupying Jerusalem should (eventually) disappear from the pages of time.' Because it is subjunctive, it could also be seen as a wish or a hope: 'May it be that the regime occupying Jerusalem disappear from the pages of time.' However it is translated, it is not a policy or directive or anything that could be seen as a threat or a call to action. This is one of the most abused and misused pieces of propaganda for the last six years. I am thoroughly sick of hearing it misquoted by people who obviously know better, and more importantly being used as an excuse to justify attacking Iran. Shame on everyone, especially Ehud Barak, for indulging in this ongoing lie."

Last night, CNN rejoined the war chorus, with a "special report" on Iran full of dire language, which even trotted out one of those retired military officers who are paid by the Pentagon to lobby for war.  During the segments I saw there was no one who represented the views of Beeman, Chernus or John Glaser of the Anti-War Forum.

Beeman did score several important points in a recent debate on Real News Radio with Leonard Spector, deputy director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. It was a wide-ranging discussion, rich in technical detail.

After raising the straw man of what Iran "could do" with its current uranium enrichment program in terms of "possibly" developing a weapon, Spector acknowledged that "Mr. Beeman may be correct that by the letter of the law, perhaps they are within bounds in some of these areas, but when you see all of these things piling up, nobody can be comfortable about it."

Beeman responded that  "the letter of the law, is precisely the point. And what Iran is saying to the world community is, we are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and you are not allowing us to exercise our rights; you are forcing us to do something that no other signatory to the treaty has been asked to do, and that is to stop enriching uranium, which is our inalienable right--and I use that word very carefully, because it's in the preamble to the NPT: it is their inalienable right to enrich uranium, or to do anything, really, for peaceful purposes.

"There are about 20 other nations who have exactly the same capability. They've been doing exactly the same things. Japan  . . . is developing the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. They declare it. They're quite open about it. And the United States doesn't worry at all about Japan's capacity to build nuclear weapons, even though they're even far more advanced in this than Iran. But I wanted to go back to the question about the enrichment of uranium. You're talking about an enrichment to 20 percent of uranium. And Iran several years ago . . . said that they were running out of uranium, running out of isotope generators for the treatment of cancer. You may not know this, but Iran is a major provider of medical services for the entire region. There's medical tourism going on to Iran all the time, because their treatment of medical problems is superior to almost everybody in the region. They declared to the United States two years before they began to enrich uranium to 20 percent that they were running out of these isotopes, which had been provided . . . by the United States many years ago. And so the United States said, well, we're not going to give you any more enriched uranium. And so the Iranians started to do it themselves. Iran has a few thousand centrifuges. They need sixty or seventy thousand centrifuges in order to be able to enrich things to (weapons grade) 90 percent. We're talking about something that is theoretically way down the road."

The Times magazine article generated a huge barrage of comments before the comments were cut off.  One commenter wondered what section of international law entitles one country to wage war upon another because of what it  "could" or "might" or "might become capable of" doing ?

There is no such law, of course.  But neither is there an iota of law to support many other wrongful aspects of American foreign policy under Bush II or Obama.

American media, resuming their enabler role in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, don't want to raise the difficult questions that Beeman, Chernus, Glaser and many others are raising about Iran's alleged nuclear program.

What folly.  What madness.
Thomas Wark is a retired newspaper editor: New York Times, Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Inquirer.

Friday, January 27, 2012

NPR--U.N. Atomic Agency to Visit Iran for New Probe

National Public Radio once again tonight in a story about Iran's nuclear program trotted out Leonard Spector to provide evidence that Iran is creating a nuclear weapon.

I debated him on line late last year. I repeat the link to that debate in which I counter his questionable evidence.

More at The Real News

There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. The IAEA knows this, and is unwilling to reveal the source of their "evidence" leading to "suspicions" about Iran's activities. Until they do, Iran has little ability to answer the charges. 

Bill Beeman

Monday, January 23, 2012

W. O. Beeman--Commentary on Bill Keller: "Bomb-bomb-bomb, Bomb-bomb Iran" January 23, 2012 (NY Times)

Here is my commentary on Bill Keller's New York Times column "Bomb-bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb-Iran?" (New York Times, Monday, January 23). My comment is a "pick" of the NY Times editorial board. Keller's article is below my commentary:

How many times do we have to remind ourselves that no one--no one has any proof that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Not the IAEA not our own National Intelligence Estimate, not the Israeli military. Moreover the U.S and its allies have been saying that Iran is one or two years away from making a bomb every year since 1990. Iran has none of the facilities needed to turn its current low enriched uranium into anything weaponizable, nor does it have a delivery system. Even if it had such facilities it would need to test its imaginary weapon, depleting its stockpile of low enriched uranium.

Let's consider that 19 other nations--all signatories like Iran to the NPT--are enriching uranium exactly as Iran is doing. Some, like Japan, have already declared that they intend to make nuclear weapons in the future if they need to. So why aren't we going after these nations with threats, sanctions and plans for carpet bombing? The answer is clear: we are targeting Iran, and using this non-existent issue as an excuse. The reason: a nuclear threat is a plausible excuse for regime change--what the hawks and neocons are really after!

Americans need to wake up and understand that they are being flim-flammed in a huge way. We will wake up in the middle of a massive conflagration and realize that the ideologues did it again--got us into a gigantic foreign conflict that will tie us and the world up for decades over a non-existent threat. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Bill Beeman
University of Minnesota

Bomb-Bomb-Bomb, Bomb-Bomb-Iran?

Published: January 22, 2012

O.K., Mr. President, here’s the plan. Sometime in the next few months you order the Department of Defense to destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity. Yes, I know it’s an election year, and some people will say this is a cynical rally-round-the-flag move on your part, but a nuclear Iran is a problem that just won’t wait.

Our pre-emptive strike, designated Operation Yes We Can, will entail bombing the yellowcake-conversion plant at Isfahan, the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo, the heavy-water reactor at Arak, and various centrifuge-manufacturing sites near Natanz and Tehran. True, the Natanz facility is buried under 30 feet of reinforced concrete and surrounded by air defenses, but our new bunker-buster, the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, will turn the place into bouncing rubble. Fordo is more problematic, built into the side of a mountain, but with enough sorties we can rattle those centrifuges. Excuse me? Does that take care of everything? Um, that we know of.

Civilian casualties? Not a big deal, sir, given the uncanny accuracy of our precision-guided missiles. Iran will probably try to score sympathy points by trotting out dead bodies and wailing widows, but the majority of the victims will be the military personnel, engineers, scientists and technicians working at the facilities. Fair game, in other words.

Critics will say that these surgical strikes could easily spark a full-blown regional war. They will tell you that the Revolutionary Guard — not the most predictable bunch — will lash out against U.S. and allied targets, either directly or through terrorist proxies. And the regime might actually close off the vital oil route through the Strait of Hormuz. Not to worry, Mr. President. We can do much to mitigate these threats. For one thing, we can reassure the Iranian regime that we just want to eliminate their nukes, not overthrow the government — and of course they will take our word for it, if we can figure out how to convey the message to a country with which we have no formal contacts. Maybe post it on Facebook?

To be sure, we could just let the Israelis do the bombing. Their trigger fingers are getting itchier by the day. But they probably can’t do the job thoroughly without us, and we’d get sucked into the aftermath anyway. We might as well do it right and get the credit. Really, sir, what could possibly go wrong?

The scenario above is extracted from an article by Matthew Kroenig in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. (The particulars are Kroenig’s; the mordant attitude is mine.) Kroenig, an academic who spent a year as a fellow at the Obama administration’s Defense Department, apparently aspires to the Strangelovian superhawk role occupied in previous decades by the likes of John Bolton and Richard Perle. His former colleagues at Defense were pretty appalled by his article, which combines the alarmist worst case of the Iranian nuclear threat with the rosiest best case of America’s ability to make things better. (Does this remind you of another pre-emptive war in a country beginning with I?)

This scenario represents one pole in a debate that is the most abused foreign policy issue in this presidential campaign year. The opposite pole, also awful to contemplate, is the prospect of living with a nuclear Iran. In that case, the fear of most American experts is not that Iran would decide to incinerate Israel. (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does a good impression of an evil madman, but Iran is not suicidal.) The more realistic dangers, plenty scary, are that a conventional conflict in that conflict-prone neighborhood would spiral into Armageddon, or that Iran would extend its protective nuclear umbrella over menacing proxies like Hezbollah, or that Arab neighbors would feel obliged to join the nuclear arms race.

For now, American policy lives between these poles of attack and acquiescence, in the realm of uncertain calculation and imperfect options. If you want to measure your next president against a hellish dilemma, here’s your chance.

In the Republican field we have one candidate (Rick Santorum) who is about as close as you can get to the bomb-sooner-rather-than-later extreme, another (Ron Paul) who is at the let-Iran-be-Iran extreme, and Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are in between. Of particular interest is Romney, who has performed the same rhetorical trick with Iran that he did with health care. That is, he condemns Obama for doing pretty much what Romney would do.

Although much about Iran’s theocracy is murky, a few assumptions are widely accepted by specialists in and out of government.

First, for all its denials, the Iranian regime is determined to acquire nuclear weapons, or at least the capacity to make them quickly in the event of an outside threat. Having a nuclear option is seen as a matter of Persian pride and national survival in the face of enemies (namely us) who the Iranians believe are bent on toppling the Islamic state. The nuclear program is popular in Iran, even with many of the opposition figures admired in the West. The actual state of the program is not entirely clear, but the best open-source estimates are that if Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered full-speed-ahead — which there is no sign he has done — they could have an actual weapon in a year or so.

American policy has been consistent through the Bush and Obama administrations: (1) a declaration that a nuclear Iran is “unacceptable”; (2) a combination of sticks (sanctions) and carrots (supplies of nuclear fuel suitable for domestic industrial needs in exchange for forgoing weapons); (3) unfettered international inspections; (4) a refusal to take military options off the table; (5) a concerted effort to restrain Israel from attacking Iran unilaterally — beyond the Israelis’ presumed campaign to slow Iran’s progress by sabotage and assassination; and (6) a wish that Iran’s hard-liners could be replaced by a more benign regime, tempered by a realization that there is very little we can do to make that happen. This is also the gist of Romney’s Iran playbook, for all his bluster about Obama the appeaser.

In practice, Obama’s policy promises to be tougher than Bush’s. Because Obama started out with an offer of direct talks — which the Iranians foolishly spurned — world opinion has shifted in our direction. We may now have sufficient global support to enact the one measure that would be genuinely crippling — a boycott of Iranian oil. The administration and the Europeans, with help from Saudi Arabia, are working hard to persuade such major Iranian oil customers as Japan and South Korea to switch suppliers. The Iranians take this threat to their economic livelihood seriously enough that people who follow the subject no longer minimize the chance of a naval confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz. It’s not impossible that we will get war with Iran even without bombing its nuclear facilities.

That’s not the only problem with the current — let’s call it the Obamney — approach to Iran.

The point of tough sanctions, of course, is to force Iranians to the bargaining table, where we can do a deal that removes the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran. (You can find some thoughts on what such a deal might entail on my blog.) But the mistrust is so deep, and the election-year pressure to act with manly resolve is so intense, that it’s hard to imagine the administration would feel free to accept an overture from Tehran. Anything short of a humiliating, unilateral Iranian climb-down would be portrayed by the armchair warriors as an Obama surrender. Likewise, if Israel does decide to strike out on its own, Bibi Netanyahu knows that candidate Obama will feel immense pressure to go along.

That short-term paradox comes wrapped up in a long-term paradox: an attack on Iran is almost certain to unify the Iranian people around the mullahs and provoke the supreme leader to redouble Iran’s nuclear pursuits, only deeper underground this time, and without international inspectors around. Over at the Pentagon, you sometimes hear it put this way: Bombing Iran is the best way to guarantee exactly what we are trying to prevent.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hooman Majd--Top 5 U.S. misconceptions on Iran (Politico)

Top 5 U.S. misconceptions on Iran

By: Hooman Majd
January 17, 2012 10:09 PM EST | POLITICO

Commentary by William O. Beeman: Hooman Majd has consistently been a realistic voice on Iran. His article below should be required reading for all persons purporting to claim expertise on Iran or giving advice. I concur with each of his assertions. Ask yourself if you are hearing this information on NPR, PBS, the New York Times or other "reliable" outlets. (Hint: you are not!). 

Top five, 10 or 100 lists are standard at the end of the year. Though the Iranian year doesn’t end for roughly two months, given the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, with threats and counter threats over the Strait of Hormuz — to say nothing of most GOP presidential candidates’ views on what to do about Iran — it might be useful to compile one on the growing Iran crisis, early 2012 here and late 1390 there:

1) More severe sanctions will eventually cause the regime to blink.

Um, no. Thirty-plus years of sanctions have had no effect on Tehran. None. The regime can’t blink — even if it wanted to. Not after it has spent energy, money and every tool it has convincing its people that the nuclear program is a matter of national pride, that the West wants to prevent Iranians from enjoying the fruits of technological advancement and that their suffering under the sanctions is for the country’s greater good.

The regime’s credibility has already suffered because of the opposition protests in 2009 and 2010. So what would it have left if it caved to foreign demands that even the opposition describes as unreasonable?

2) Increasing sanctions will cause the Iranian people to hate the regime
 even more, leading to an uprising against the ayatollahs.

No. The Iranian people may blame their government for economic mismanagement, as well as human-rights abuses — but most won’t blame it for U.S. actions. Similarly, Iranians may blame President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for exacerbating domestic problems or creating problems with the West because of his rhetoric. But they don’t blame him for, say, sanctions that prevent Tehran from buying parts for its aging airplanes, which fall out of the sky with alarming frequency.

Think about it: When a nation is attacked, or under severe external pressure, it usually blames the external enemies, not its own leaders. If you factor in the assassinations of scientists on the streets of Tehran and mysterious factory explosions, sanctions and threats may make life miserable for Iranians but are unlikely to cause them to overthrow their rulers.

3) A spark is all that’s required to ignite protests and a revolution. We
 will “stand” with the Iranian people.

Perhaps. And no, we won’t. But the spark cannot be a foreign one.

Iranians have never, in their more than 2,500-year history, taken the side of a foreign invader. Not even the Arabs, who invaded Persia and forced Islam on its people — which they later altered. Guess who hates the Persians more than anyone else? That’s right, the Arabs.

No, if there is change in Iran, it won’t be brought about by foreigners — or wealthy and well-connected Iranians in exile.

Most Iranians don’t believe that Washington “cares” about them or “stands with them.” After Washington’s long friendship with the shah, they’re not naive.

If America cared, Iranians reason, it wouldn’t be so cozy with dictatorships. It “stood” with Hosni Mubarak — until it decided it should “stand” with the Egyptians in Tahrir Square. It “stands” with Saudi Arabia — while Riyadh oppresses its people and sends troops to put down a popular uprising in Bahrain. Iranian TV fetishized the demonstrations and brutal suppression on that island, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, much as the Western media fetishized Iran’s Green Movement.

4) Iran is incapable of reaching an agreement with the West over its
 nuclear program or its support of terrorism, for it would threaten the
 regime’s existence. And Iran is too politically divided to make this

Many of the West’s Iran analysts and experts, both Iranian and American, assert this. Some purport to know what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s motivation is. Curious, given that in Iran, few people make that claim — even Iranians I know who actually speak with him.

Iran has repeatedly said that it would negotiate in good faith — as long as it was respected and its rights acknowledged. Tehran’s negotiating style may be radically different from the West’s, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want talks.

Iranians are far slower and more methodical. They maneuver to stall, divide their opponents and extract the maximum concessions from rivals. But Khamenei has repeatedly said that he is not opposed to relations with the U.S. — they just can’t be solely on Washington’s terms. If they were, that would indeed threaten the regime’s credibility — and survival.

Iran’s internal opposition is also not opposed to a d├ętente with the U.S. This could empower civil society — since it would remove the government’s major excuse for crushing dissent. But Iranians, including any viable opposition, won’t be dictated to by foreigners.

As to the deep divisions among conservatives, including the Ahmadinejad-Khamenei split — it’s still the supreme leader who makes the call on relations with the West and the nuclear program. All Iranian politicians, some of whom hate each other, fall in line.

5) All options are the table.

Let’s stop kidding. No, they’re not. War is neither a joke nor an option. It’s astonishing that politicians and presidential candidates talk about it cavalierly. If the U.S., unilaterally or with allies, attacks Iran, it will be reviled by almost all Iranians — and many others. It doesn’t matter if the attack is “surgical” — designed to minimize collateral damage. Any attack will most likely be viewed by Iranians as an attack on their sovereignty.

They will surely respond — and the response will likely be ugly. Tehran could put nuclear weapons development on a faster track while whatever opposition exists could be extinguished. Any idea of reform will disappear.

There really is only one option in dealing with Iran: negotiations and a deal that allows Iran to maintain its dignity while it de-incentivizes the building of weapons of mass destruction.

But it is difficult to negotiate with Iranians in good faith while increasing sanctions, seeking to block their source of income, assassinating scientists (though the U.S. denies any involvement, Iranians in the regime and the general public remain unconvinced) and announcing that war is an option.

As one high-ranking Iranian official said to me, “We are allergic to threats.”

Hooman Majd is the author of “The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran” and “The Ayatollahs’ Democracy: An Iranian Challenge.” He just returned from a yearlong stay in Tehran and is writing a new book about Iran.

William O. Beeman Commentary on "The Case for Regime Change in Iran" Foreign Affairs January 17, 2012

The Case for Regime Change in Iran

Commentary on The Case for Regime Change in Iran by William O. Beeman

The Case for Regime Change in Iran
Jamie M. Fly and Gary Schmitt
Foreign Affairs 
January 17, 2012

I was struck dumb with incredulity at Jamie Fly and Gary Schmitt's pronouncement favoring regime change in Iran in Foreign Affairs. First, what do these two gentlemen know about Iran? Apparently nothing. The Iranian public is already primed and on a hair trigger expecting that the United States is going to pull another coup like in the 1952 C.I.A. led overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddeq, building on despised neo-colonialist moves from Russia and Great Britain going back to the 19th Century. That perception of American hegemony is what precipitated the hostage crisis of 1979-80.

Anyone who came to power now with the help of the US would immediately be cultural poison to the Iranians. They might endure for a little while, but they would eventually be toppled themselves. This is why the Iranian opposition tells U.S. sympathizers: "Keep your hands off!" They know that the taint of U.S. involvement will doom anything they might do to eventual failure.

This doesn't even address the absurdity of trying to effect "regime change" in the first place in Iran. This Cold War fantasy is unrealistic on a practical level. The Iranians were well aware of the dangers of having a narrow power structure at the top at the time of the Revolution of 1978-79. Therefore they ensconced the most intricate set of interlocking leadership positions one could ever imagine in their constitution. Clearly the authors of this piece have not done minimal homework to ascertain this basic fact.

There is not one Iranian supreme leader in Iran, there are about 150 power brokers at multiple stages of government. Knocking off a few of them will never topple the government.

This article would be laughable if it weren't so dangerous. The right wing will be touting it tomorrow as "proof" of the value of a military strategy against Iran. When the hawks are out screaming for attacks on Iran on the campaign trail as a cheap sop to naive voters, this is very dire indeed. That a respected journal would print such unmitigated nonsense is a sign of the depths of ignorance to which we have fallen in our assessment of Iran.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

FALSE FLAG--How Mossad posed as CIA to recruit terrorists to attack Iran

False Flag

A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.



Commentary by William O. Beeman: People wonder why Iran keeps accusing people of being "spies." The reason is that there are real spies in Iran from Israel and likely from the United States. At least four Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated, and Mossad and the CIA are suspected of being behind these murders. This story demonstrates how Mossad recruited Baluchi resistance groups to act against the Iranian government by pretending to be US Agents.This was even too much for the George W. Bush administration.

Buried deep in the archives of America's intelligence services are a series of memos, written during the last years of President George W. Bush's administration, that describe how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents. According to two U.S. intelligence officials, the Israelis, flush with American dollars and toting U.S. passports, posed as CIA officers in recruiting Jundallah operatives -- what is commonly referred to as a "false flag" operation.
The memos, as described by the sources, one of whom has read them and another who is intimately familiar with the case, investigated and debunked reports from 2007 and 2008 accusing the CIA, at the direction of the White House, of covertly supporting Jundallah -- a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization. Jundallah, according to the U.S. government and published reports, is responsible for assassinating Iranian government officials and killing Iranian women and children.
But while the memos show that the United States had barred even the most incidental contact with Jundallah, according to both intelligence officers, the same was not true for Israel's Mossad. The memos also detail CIA field reports saying that Israel's recruiting activities occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers, most notably in London, the capital of one of Israel's ostensible allies, where Mossad officers posing as CIA operatives met with Jundallah officials.
The officials did not know whether the Israeli program to recruit and use Jundallah is ongoing. Nevertheless, they were stunned by the brazenness of the Mossad's efforts.
"It's amazing what the Israelis thought they could get away with," the intelligence officer said. "Their recruitment activities were nearly in the open. They apparently didn't give a damn what we thought."
Interviews with six currently serving or recently retired intelligence officers over the last 18 months have helped to fill in the blanks of the Israeli false-flag operation. In addition to the two currently serving U.S. intelligence officers, the existence of the Israeli false-flag operation was confirmed to me by four retired intelligence officers who have served in the CIA or have monitored Israeli intelligence operations from senior positions inside the U.S. government.
The CIA and the White House were both asked for comment on this story. By the time this story went to press, they had not responded. The Israeli intelligence services -- the Mossad -- were also contacted, in writing and by telephone, but failed to respond. As a policy, Israel does not confirm or deny its involvement in intelligence operations.
There is no denying that there is a covert, bloody, and ongoing campaign aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, though no evidence has emerged connecting recent acts of sabotage and killings inside Iran to Jundallah. Many reports have cited Israel as the architect of this covert campaign, which claimed its latest victim on Jan. 11 when a motorcyclist in Tehran slipped a magnetic explosive device under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a young Iranian nuclear scientist. The explosion killed Roshan, making him the fourth scientist assassinated in the past two years. The United States adamantly denies it is behind these killings.
According to one retired CIA officer, information about the false-flag operation was reported up the U.S. intelligence chain of command. It reached CIA Director of Operations Stephen Kappes, his deputy Michael Sulick, and the head of the Counterintelligence Center. All three of these officials are now retired. The Counterintelligence Center, according to its website, is tasked with investigating "threats posed by foreign intelligence services."
The report then made its way to the White House, according to the currently serving U.S. intelligence officer. The officer said that Bush "went absolutely ballistic" when briefed on its contents.
"The report sparked White House concerns that Israel's program was putting Americans at risk," the intelligence officer told me. "There's no question that the U.S. has cooperated with Israel in intelligence-gathering operations against the Iranians, but this was different. No matter what anyone thinks, we're not in the business of assassinating Iranian officials or killing Iranian civilians."
Israel's relationship with Jundallah continued to roil the Bush administration until the day it left office, this same intelligence officer noted. Israel's activities jeopardized the administration's fragile relationship with Pakistan, which was coming under intense pressure from Iran to crack down on Jundallah. It also undermined U.S. claims that it would never fight terror with terror, and invited attacks in kind on U.S. personnel.
"It's easy to understand why Bush was so angry," a former intelligence officer said. "After all, it's hard to engage with a foreign government if they're convinced you're killing their people. Once you start doing that, they feel they can do the same."
A senior administration official vowed to "take the gloves off" with Israel, according to a U.S. intelligence officer. But the United States did nothing -- a result that the officer attributed to "political and bureaucratic inertia."
"In the end," the officer noted, "it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat." Even so, at least for a short time, this same officer noted, the Mossad operation sparked a divisive debate among Bush's national security team, pitting those who wondered "just whose side these guys [in Israel] are on" against those who argued that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
The debate over Jundallah was resolved only after Bush left office when, within his first weeks as president, Barack Obama drastically scaled back joint U.S.-Israel intelligence programs targeting Iran, according to multiple serving and retired officers.
The decision was controversial inside the CIA, where officials were forced to shut down "some key intelligence-gathering operations," a recently retired CIA officer confirmed. This action was followed in November 2010 by the State Department's addition of Jundallah to its list of foreign terrorist organizations -- a decision that one former CIA officer called "an absolute no-brainer."
Since Obama's initial order, U.S. intelligence services have received clearance to cooperate with Israel on a number of classified intelligence-gathering operations focused on Iran's nuclear program, according to a currently serving officer. These operations are highly technical in nature and do not involve covert actions targeting Iran's infrastructure or political or military leadership.
"We don't do bang and boom," a recently retired intelligence officer said. "And we don't do political assassinations."
Israel regularly proposes conducting covert operations targeting Iranians, but is just as regularly shut down, according to retired and current intelligence officers. "They come into the room and spread out their plans, and we just shake our heads," one highly placed intelligence source said, "and we say to them -- 'Don't even go there. The answer is no.'"
Unlike the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the controversial exiled Iranian terrorist group that seeks the overthrow of the Tehran regime and is supported by former leading U.S. policymakers, Jundallah is relatively unknown -- but just as violent. In May 2009, a Jundallah suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque in Zahedan, the capital of Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province bordering Pakistan, during a Shiite religious festival. The bombing killed 25 Iranians and wounded scores of others.
The attack enraged Tehran, which traced the perpetrators to a cell operating in Pakistan. The Iranian government notified the Pakistanis of the Jundallah threat and urged them to break up the movement's bases along the Iranian-Pakistani border. The Pakistanis reacted sluggishly in the border areas, feeding Tehran's suspicions that Jundallah was protected by Pakistan's intelligence services.
The 2009 attack was just one in a long line of terrorist attacks attributed to the organization. In August 2007, Jundallah kidnapped 21 Iranian truck drivers. In December 2008, it captured and executed 16 Iranian border guards -- the gruesome killings were filmed, in a stark echo of the decapitation of American businessman Nick Berg in Iraq at the hands of al Qaeda's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In July 2010, Jundallah conducted a twin suicide bombing in Zahedan outside a mosque, killing dozens of people, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The State Department aggressively denies that the U.S. government had or has any ties to Jundallah. "We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate again that the United States has not provided support to Jundallah," a spokesman wrote in an email to the Wall Street Journal, following Jundallah's designation as a terrorist organization. "The United States does not sponsor any form of terrorism. We will continue to work with the international community to curtail support for terrorist organizations and prevent violence against innocent civilians. We have also encouraged other governments to take comparable actions against Jundallah."
A spate of stories in 2007 and 2008, including a report by ABC News and a New Yorker article, suggested that the United States was offering covert support to Jundallah. The issue has now returned to the spotlight with the string of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and has outraged serving and retired intelligence officers who fear that Israeli operations are endangering American lives.
"This certainly isn't the first time this has happened, though it's the worst case I've heard of," former Centcom chief and retired Gen. Joe Hoar said of the Israeli operation upon being informed of it. "But while false-flag operations are hardly new, they're extremely dangerous. You're basically using your friendship with an ally for your own purposes. Israel is playing with fire. It gets us involved in their covert war, whether we want to be involved or not."
The Israeli operation left a number of recently retired CIA officers sputtering in frustration. "It's going to be pretty hard for the U.S. to distance itself from an Israeli attack on Iran with this kind of thing going on," one of them told me.
Jundallah head Abdolmalek Rigi was captured by Iran in February 2010. Although initial reports claimed that he was captured by the Iranians after taking a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, a retired intelligence officer with knowledge of the incident told me that Rigi was detained by Pakistani intelligence officers in Pakistan. The officer said that Rigi was turned over to the Iranians after the Pakistani government informed the United States that it planned to do so. The United States, this officer said, did not raise objections to the Pakistani decision.
Iran, meanwhile, has consistently claimed that Rigi was snatched from under the eyes of the CIA, which it alleges supported him. "It doesn't matter," the former intelligence officer said of Iran's charges. "It doesn't matter what they say. They know the truth."
Rigi was interrogated, tried, and convicted by the Iranians and hanged on June 20, 2010. Prior to his execution, Rigi claimed in an interview with Iranian media -- which has to be assumed was under duress -- that he had doubts about U.S. sponsorship of Jundallah. He recounted an alleged meeting with "NATO officials" in Morocco in 2007 that raised his suspicions. "When we thought about it we came to the conclusion that they are either Americans acting under NATO cover or Israelis," he said.
While many of the details of Israel's involvement with Jundallah are now known, many others still remain a mystery -- and are likely to remain so. The CIA memos of the incident have been "blue bordered," meaning that they were circulated to senior levels of the broader U.S. intelligence community as well as senior State Department officials.
What has become crystal clear, however, is the level of anger among senior intelligence officials about Israel's actions. "This was stupid and dangerous," the intelligence official who first told me about the operation said. "Israel is supposed to be working with us, not against us. If they want to shed blood, it would help a lot if it was their blood and not ours. You know, they're supposed to be a strategic asset. Well, guess what? There are a lot of people now, important people, who just don't think that's true."
David Silverman/Getty Images
Mark Perry is an author and historian. His latest book is Talking to Terrorists.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Stalemate in Obaman's Iran Policy--Interview with Reza Marashi and William O. Beeman

program date: 
Fri, 01/13/2012
A live interview with Professor William Beeman, University of Minnesota, and Reza Marashi, Policy Director with National Iranian American Council on issues related to sanctions and threats of war with Iran.  Panel also reviewed President Obama's change of policy on Iran from negotiations to pressure and hostile track.

Reza Marashi joined NIAC in 2010 as the organization’s first Research Director.  He came to NIAC after four years in the Office of Iranian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.  Prior to his tenure at the State Department, he was an analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) covering China-Middle East issues, and a Tehran-based private strategic consultant on Iranian political and economic risk. Marashi is frequently consulted by Western governments on Iran-related matters.  His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The National Interest and Al Jazeera, among other publications. He has been a guest contributor to the BBC, NPR, Financial Times, Reuters, and ABC News, among other broadcast outlets.  Follow Reza on Twitter: @rezamarashi
Professor Beeman is an internationally known expert on the Middle East and the Islamic World, particularly Iran, the Gulf Region and Central Asia. He has also conducted research in Japan, India, Nepal, China and Europe. From 1996-1999 he sang professionally in Europe as an operatic bass. He continues his musical career.  His scholarly interests and research include sociolinguistics and the semantics of interaction; cross-cultural comparison of theatrical and performance genres; opera; paralinguistic and nonlinguistic semiotics; action anthropology; philosophic anthropology; peasant and nomadic societies. Follow Dr. Beeman on Twitter: @wbeeman

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