"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

My Photo
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

How Soon Will the U.S. or Israel Bomb Iran?

I can just hear the Presidential conversation. "Did I say Iraq backed al-Qaeda?" he asks with a boyish grin. "Oh, heck, I meant Iran. I always get those two mixed up."

Steve Weissman, "Americans: The Missionary Position"

What should Iran do? What would you do if you were an Iranian Ayatollah?

The President of the United States has branded Iran part of the "Axis of Evil." He has demanded that Iran "abandon her nuclear ambitions." He has claimed the right to wage pre-emptive war against any enemy he chooses.

To add weight to these threats, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution on May 6, 2004, calling on the president "to use all appropriate means to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons." The vote was overwhelming: 376 for, three against. On July 22, the Senate passed a similar resolution with wording only slight less inflammatory.

The Americans now have nearly 150,000 troops just across the border in Iraq. They also have aircraft and missiles in easy striking distance, as do the Israelis, who - as the New Yorker's Sy Hersh reported - are currently working with the Kurds to make raids into Iran.

Put yourself in Israel's shoes. The Iranians are building a major nuclear industry, with the ability to enrich bomb-grade Uranium-238 and reprocess plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods. Iran has facilities in Tehran, Bushehr, Natanz, and Arak, and could soon produce 15-20 nuclear weapons a year, according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has already found traces of the bomb-grade U-238 in Natanz and Tehran. The Iranians say this is only contamination from used centrifuges they bought from other countries.

An Iranian Bomb would challenge Israel's nuclear monopoly in the Middle East, creating a short-range, hair-trigger stand-off that would continually encourage each side to strike first before the other could.

Now think like an American neo-conservative. You and your fellow policy wonks have struggled for years to persuade both Democrats and Republicans in Washington and successive Likkud governments in Tel Aviv to play hardball throughout the Middle East. You urged them to expand control over the world's diminishing supply of oil and to overthrow nasty regimes, especially in Iraq and Iran.

Your neo-con colleagues currently hold key posts in the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington, but your policies and performance have made a hash of Iraq, causing President Bush to turn increasingly to other advisors. Worse, Mr. Bush could lose the November election amidst a burgeoning spy scandal that widely paints neo-cons, whether Christian or Jewish, as not-to-be-trusted Israeli agents.

As in the perfect storm, the activities of the three groups - Iranian Ayatollahs, Israeli Likkudniks, and American neo-cons - are now creating just the right conditions for a ghastly outcome - an aerial attack on Iran's nuclear installations. While no one can predict with certainty where the madness might lead, it would clearly isolate Israel and the United States even more from most of the world, unify rival Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims, and encourage the Iranians to intervene massively in Iraq.

On the other hand, an October Surprise to make America safe from an Islamic Bomb might help Mr. Bush win a close election.

Can anything stop an attack on Iran, whether before the elections or - as I think more likely - after? At this juncture, even a cockeyed optimist has difficulty seeing much hope.

From where they stand, the Iranian leaders have little choice but to press ahead with their quest for nuclear weapons. They may say - as did the Pakistanis, Indians, and Israelis before them - that they want only peaceful uses of atomic energy. They may see nuclear power as the best way to meet a growing population's demand for electricity. In fact, much of the program began under the Shah, and with American blessings. But the Bush Administration has given Iran the strongest argument yet for wanting atomic bombs - and the missiles to drop them on Tel Aviv. Nothing less seems as likely to hold the pre-emptive Bushies at bay.

Given the way atomic energy works, the Iranians could move ahead with an entirely peaceful program to produce electricity, as they say they are doing. They could allow full inspections and monitoring from the International Atomic Energy Agency. But once they reprocess plutonium or enrich Uranium 238 in sufficient quantities, they are only weeks away from having an atomic bomb.

Senators Kerry and Edwards, the Democratic contenders, have suggested offering Iran "a great bargain." If the Iranians give up their capacity to produce bomb-grade materials and accept full supervision to ensure that they have, other countries - including the United States - will provide whatever nuclear fuel Iran needs.

It's a great start. But a Kerry Administration would also have to offer security guarantees far beyond any yet mentioned - or any they could easily mention. Too many Americans still remember with bitterness the pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini's young supporters holding fifty-two of our fellow citizens as blindfolded hostages. The Great Satan, as the Iranians called us, does not forgive and forget without an enormous effort.

Nor would the Iranians find it easy to overcome their rational fears. As Shia Muslims, with historic and religious interests in the Shia areas of Iraq, they would increasingly bump up against the Americans, who show no sign of leaving no matter who wins the November election. Even if President Kerry could contain the inevitable conflicts, some future president could easily return to the evil-hunting crusades of the current incumbent. Better a nuke in the hand, which some analysts believe the Iranians could have as early as 2006.

For the Israeli Likkudniks, and for me personally, the situation looks like déjà vu all over again. We all saw the same thing back in 1981, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin took on the French government of then-Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, which was helping Saddam Hussein build his OSIRAK nuclear reactor near Baghdad. Israel's Mossad led the charge. In April 1979, secret saboteurs entered a small French engineering firm on the French Riviera in Toulon, where they dynamited the reactor core only hours before the Iraqis could take delivery. In June 1980, in a hotel room in Paris, an unknown intruder bludgeoned to death an Egyptian nuclear engineer who played a leading role on the OSIRAK project. In August, a series of bombings and telephone threats terrorized French and Italian engineering firms supplying equipment to OSIRAK.

During that time, Mossad was also secretly leaking information to journalists about Pakistan's effort to build what Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto called his "Islamic Bomb." Among the journalists was a team from BBC's Panorama, for whom I worked. The Israelis, who would never meet me face-to-face, could never understand why a Nice Jewish Boy insisted on checking out first- hand every bit of information they proffered. In fact, our team discovered several parts of the Pakistani story Mossad had apparently missed. We also found an Israeli-American defense analyst who boldly predicted on camera that the Israelis would bomb the Iraqi reactor, which they did on Sunday, June 7, 1981.

What a scoop! Breathlessly recounted in several books and articles, the daring Israeli attack still stands as a model of pre-emptive warfare, which the Israelis now threaten to repeat on Iran. According to one recent news story, they have already rehearsed the bombing run, much as they did before sending their American-supplied F15's and F16's to wipe out OSIRAK.

But, before jumping on the bandwagon, please remember some oft-forgotten facts. Prime Minister Begin rushed the attack in part because he feared his party would lose a close election. Seeing military action as the only remedy, he also feared that his opponent Shimon Peres would try working diplomatically with the newly elected French President Francois Mitterand, who had already ordered significant steps to safeguard the Iraqi reactor. On the other side, one of Begin's staunchest supporters for the attack was his Minister of Agriculture, Ariel Sharon.

For the American neo-cons, recent events could push them to become even more extreme. The Israeli spy flap involving retired Air Force Col. Larry Franklin focuses heavily on Iran, and the cooperation between leading neo-cons, the Israelis, and Iranian exiles to overthrow the Ayatollahs. There are also suggestions of improper Pentagon arms transfers to Israel, unauthorized back-channel dealings with foreign governments and private groups, and the question of how closely the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the chief pro-Israeli lobby group, works with the Sharon government.

All of this will terribly embarrass the neo-cons, who will grasp at any straw to divert attention from both their failures in Iraq and their efforts behind the scenes. Enlarging the Iraq war to Iran offers the perfect solution. In the advice often attributed to their Pentagon protector, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "If you're having difficulty dealing with small problems, make them bigger."

By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

FBI Seizes Computer from AIPAC Offices

FBI agents on Friday copied the computer hard drive of a senior staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who has been questioned in relation to the case of a Pentagon official suspected of turning over a classified document either directly to Israel, or via the pro-Israel lobby group.

Sources in Washington said the hard drive was that of Steve Rosen, AIPAC's director of foreign policy issues.

It was not clear if FBI agents also seized other materials from Rosen's office. AIPAC says it is cooperating fully with the FBI's investigation.

Government lawyers, according to Tuesday's New York Times, are preparing to make the first arrests in the case by issuing a criminal complaint against one or more figures who are said to be involved. The case is being handled by federal prosecutors in Virginia.

But experts suggested that the rush to file a complaint could be a sign that the charge will be less severe than that of espionage, as was originally reported.

"The fact that they're going to file a complaint instead of an indictment is an indication of the weakness of their case," said one criminal defense expert. A criminal complaint would allow the government to proceed with arrests more quickly.

AIPAC and Israel have denied any wrongdoing in a case that has become increasingly muddled since CBS News reported on Friday that the FBI was about to arrest an Israeli mole in the Pentagon.

Investigators suspect that a mid-level Pentagon staffer, Larry Franklin, provided either AIPAC or Israel with a secret draft of an internal planning document on US policy toward Iran.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith have been briefed on the case, as have officials at the White House, State Department, and congressional leaders.

Congressional leaders continued on Tuesday to rally around AIPAC, whose image, many in the pro-Israel community fear, has been tarnished by accusations of wrongdoing.

"AIPAC has worked hard to build its credibility with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle," House Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri said. "While the House will want to look carefully at any allegations that might endanger our national security, it will begin that look with a record of great confidence in our relationship with AIPAC and our strongest ally and the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel."

The House Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) also expressed confidence in AIPAC. "I have worked with AIPAC for many years. They are a very successful, strong, and committed organization and do a tremendous job advocating for the important US-Israel relationship."

Despite those voices of confidence, some in Washington said they expected that US officials would be reluctant to meet with AIPAC staffers, at least in the immediate short-term, now that there is a suspicion that AIPAC is being monitored by the FBI.

"The biggest implication, is that mid-level officials will not be meeting with AIPAC. They don't want to be seen with them," said one Washington lobbyist.

Janine Zacharia
Jeruselem Post

At Least 900 Arrested in City as Protesters Clash With Police

A series of demonstrations rippled across Manhattan last night when protesters tried to converge on the Republican National Convention, as a day of planned civil disobedience erupted into clashes with police officers and led to the arrest of more than 900 people.

The wave of confrontations - which included a brawl with the police at the New York Public Library, marauding crowds cursing at delegates in Midtown and the detention of hundreds of protesters near ground zero - created a day of disorder in a convention week already marked by sustained protests against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

Yesterday's incidents stood in contrast to the enormous, mostly orderly antiwar march that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Manhattan on Sunday. Many of those protesting yesterday had purposefully avoided seeking permits for their rallies but had publicized their plans well in advance, leading hordes of police officers in cars, bikes, scooters and vans to flood various parts of the city primed to pre-empt disorder before it could occur. The day's arrests brought the convention-related total to more than 1,460.

The protesters gathered at various locations, many with the goal of descending on the convention site at Madison Square Garden. But at the various staging areas - near ground zero, in Union Square, in Herald Square near Macy's, and outside the New York Public Library - the police began making arrests, sending the crowds into a frenzy. These confrontations followed several other events, some of which went off without incident, and the police said their aggressive actions prevented even more widespread disruptions.

"Today a number of anti-R.N.C. activities failed to materialize, including a takeover of the lobby of the Warwick Hotel, perhaps because of the police presence there," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly told reporters at an early evening news conference.

Protesters and civil liberties lawyers expressed concerns over what they said had been unfair and overzealous tactics in dealing with demonstrators who may not have had permits but were not violent.

"It's an example of the police suckering the protesters," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, referring to the arrest of some 200 protesters who said they thought they were abiding by an agreement they had negotiated with the police as they marched from ground zero on Fulton Street.

"It was a bait-and-switch tactic," she added, "where they approved a demonstration and the protesters kept up their end of the bargain. They undermined people's confidence in the police, and that's a serious problem as we go forward."

The day, loosely organized by an anarchist collective called the A31 Action Coalition, began slowly, with highly anticipated events proving less than fractious. Indeed, the cat-and-mouse between the protesters and the police started early.

Responding to word that anarchists planned to somehow disrupt the morning's trading, hundreds of police officers flooded the blocks surrounding the New York Stock Exchange before 8 a.m.

Roughly an hour later, dozens of officers responded to an obscure corner near the exchange at South William Street and Mill Lane, where protesters had stretched a ball of yarn across the street.

Within minutes, 14 young people sat handcuffed and seated with their backs to a wall near the short pedestrian mall, surrounded by three or four times as many police officers. Several balls of red and yellow yarn were strewn about the street, and a boom box sat nearby with a sign on a bedsheet reading "Celebrate the Power of Money." One of the protesters wore a pinstriped suit and a beret.

Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman, said of the protesters, "A lot of them are from out of town, and I think it was reflected in the choice of intersections."

But the protests gained intensity throughout the day, and by late afternoon, the tenor had clearly changed as the police appeared to adjust their tactics to deal with the spontaneous eruptions throughout the city and the crowds of demonstrators grew increasingly volatile as the arrests mounted.

Indeed, the turning point appeared to come as several hundred protesters with the War Resisters League tried to begin a march up Fulton Street that organizers had negotiated with police, although they did not have a permit.

Ed Hedemann, one of the organizers, said their understanding was that if they stayed on the sidewalk and did not block foot traffic or vehicles, they could proceed toward Madison Square Garden.

But within minutes, the protesters were confronted by a line of police officers who told demonstrators they were blocking the sidewalk and would be arrested, although they did not appear to be blocking pedestrian traffic at that point.

A commanding officer, telling the crowd of about 200 "you're all under arrest," ordered other officers to bring the "prison van" and the "orange netting" with which to enmesh the protesters.

"We don't know why we are being arrested, we were just crossing the street," said Lambert Rochfort, who was among the protesters. "We were told if we don't do anything illegal we would be allowed to march on the sidewalk and we did just that. Then they arrested us for no apparent reason."

Later in the afternoon, a clash erupted on the steps of the New York Public Library after two women tried to hang a protest banner over one of the lions atop the library steps. After the police pinned the women to the ground, a crowd of protesters struggled with police, answering requests to move with chants of "Oink, oink, oink."

People coming off the subways were thrown to the ground and the steps of the library were left littered with chairs and debris.

As protesters converged on Herald Square in the evening, the police tried to contain the increasingly raucous crowds. Hundreds of protesters seemed to get too close to the buses of delegates and the crowd became unruly as the police moved in metal barricades and used scooters to try to push the crowd back.

Those who would not move were arrested, and each time the police moved in to make an arrest, they were swarmed by protesters.

The demonstrators at Herald Square, frustrated by their lack of ability to move closer to Madison Square Garden, began breaking off in clusters of hundreds or so and storming the streets and avenues in Midtown, throwing cones and other objects at cars and windows as they ran.

As police drew close, they tried to scatter. Police tackled them in streets, corners and in front of stores. Innocent bystanders were also caught up in the maelstrom.

In one instance, about 200 people broke away from the larger group in a chase that went all the way from 33rd Street and Broadway to 27th Street and Park Avenue, before being tackled by police. At 27th Street and Madison Avenue, protesters set fire to a large pile of trash near the Carlton Hotel as delegates and other guests made their way to the convention.

Diane Cardwell and Marc Santora
The New York Times

Iraq's Chalabi Escapes Assassination Bid

Baghdad - Gunmen opened fire Wednesday on a convoy carrying former Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi in an apparent assassination attempt that wounded two of his bodyguards, Chalabi's spokesman said.

Chalabi's convoy was attacked in southern Baghdad at about 7:30 a.m. as he returned from the holy city of Najaf, said spokesman Mithal al-Alusi.

"The doctor (Chalabi) is in good health. He is safe but two of his bodyguards were injured," al-Alusi said.

Chalabi, a one-time Pentagon favorite who fell out of favor with the United States, returned to Iraq from Iran earlier this month to face counterfeiting charges.

A warrant issued by an Iraqi court accused him of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars, which were removed from circulation after the ouster of Saddam Hussein last year. Chalabi denies the allegations, saying he collected the fake currency in his role as chairman of the Governing Council's finance committee.

Despite the warrant, the Iraqi Interior Ministry has said it won't arrest Chalabi until unspecified legal issues are cleared up, leaving him free to move around the country.

Chalabi's nephew, Salem Chalabi - who heads the special tribunal in charge of trying ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein - faces separate murder charges.

The Associated Press

Wednesday 01 September 2004