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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Who really rules Israel?

Who really rules Israel?:

Jewish state controlled by four informal networks, not by government,7340,L-3452359,00.html

Iran ready to work with US and stabilize Iraq

Iran ready to work with US and stabilise Iraq:

Iran is ready to help the US stabilise Iraq if Washington were to present a timetable for withdrawing its troops from the country, Tehran's top security official said on Sunday.

The Hidden Facts: A Message from the Iraqi Resistance

The Hidden Facts

A Message (In English) From The Iraqi Resistance.

Must Watch Video and Transcript

To the American people we say, you have finally awakened and the millions of honorable people amongst you have now realized that the Iraqi people are not your enemies, and they are not responsible for your grief. It is your troops which occupied our country, and not us yours. The arrogant war criminal who rules in your name has humiliated your nation & military honor and we believe, that a democracy that is not willing to fight for its own freedom, is no better that a raw dictatorship.

The Victor? The Hidden Iranian Offer to Bush by Peter Galbraith

The Victor?

The Hidden Iranian Offer To Bush

By Peter W. Galbraith

"In May 2003, the Iranian authorities sent a proposal through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, for negotiations on a package deal in which Iran would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for an end to US hostility"

The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States

The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States

By Democracy Now

We speak with Trita Parsi, author of "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the United States" and Baruch professor Ervand Abrahamian, co-author of "Targeting Iran."

The Empire is Over by Charley Reese

The Empire Is Over

By Charley Reese

The American government has come to resemble the characters in The Wizard of Oz. We have the Cowardly Congress, a president without a brain, and a foreign-policy establishment without a heart.

Blood and Religion: Unmasking the Jewish and Democratic State

Blood and Religion: Unmasking the Jewish and Democratic State

By Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook is a British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He has regularly published articles on the Middle East in international newspapers, English-language Arab publications and specialist magazines since 2001.

Shifting Targets: The Administration's plan for Iran by Seymour Hersh

Shifting Targets
The Administration's plan for Iran.
by Seymour M. Hersh
October 8, 2007

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of
his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as
a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. "Shia extremists, backed
by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi
people," Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August.
"The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have
increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does,
I will take actions necessary to protect our troops." He then concluded, to
applause, "I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront
Tehran's murderous activities."

The President's position, and its corollary?that, if many of America's problems
in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to
confront the Iranians?have taken firm hold in the Administration. This summer,
the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested
that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack
on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of
the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran's known
and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites.
Now the emphasis is on "surgical" strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps
facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been
the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as
a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his
senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American
public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar
campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular
support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White
House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American
intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a
bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and
throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of
the war in Iraq.

During a secure videoconference that took place early this summer, the President
told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, that he was thinking of hitting
Iranian targets across the border and that the British "were on board." At that
point, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice interjected that there was a need to
proceed carefully, because of the ongoing diplomatic track. Bush ended by
instructing Crocker to tell Iran to stop interfering in Iraq or it would face
American retribution.

At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior
intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were
carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they
were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the
Administration could say, "Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited
strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives."
The former intelligence official added, "There is a desperate effort by Cheney
et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the
politicians are saying, `You can't do it, because every Republican is going to
be defeated, and we're only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.' But
Cheney doesn't give a rat's ass about the Republican worries, and neither does
the President."

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said, "The President has made it clear that
the United States government remains committed to a diplomatic solution with
respect to Iran. The State Department is working diligently along with the
international community to address our broad range of concerns." (The White
House declined to comment.)

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue
the "execute order" that would be required for a military operation inside Iran,
and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant
increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told
reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guard
Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the
C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the
authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said,
"The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its
operational components.")

"They're moving everybody to the Iran desk," one recently retired C.I.A.
official said. "They're dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything.
It's just like the fall of 2002"?the months before the invasion of Iraq, when
the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added,
"The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with
Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react,
and the Administration has not thought it all the way through."

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security
adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House's more
limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to
an American attack "by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in
Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck
in a regional war for twenty years."

In a speech at the United Nations last week, Iran's President, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, was defiant. He referred to America as an "aggressor" state, and
said, "How can the incompetents who cannot even manage and control themselves
rule humanity and arrange its affairs? Unfortunately, they have put themselves
in the position of God." (The day before, at Columbia, he suggested that the
facts of the Holocaust still needed to be determined.)

"A lot depends on how stupid the Iranians will be," Brzezinski told me. "Will
they cool off Ahmadinejad and tone down their language?" The Bush
Administration, by charging that Iran was interfering in Iraq, was aiming "to
paint it as `We're responding to what is an intolerable situation,' " Brzezinski
said. "This time, unlike the attack in Iraq, we're going to play the victim.
The name of our game seems to be to get the Iranians to overplay their hand."

General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, in
his report to Congress in September, buttressed the Administration's case
against Iran. "None of us, earlier this year, appreciated the extent of Iranian
involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq's leaders all now have
greater concern," he said. Iran, Petraeus said, was fighting "a proxy war
against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq."

Iran has had a presence in Iraq for decades; the extent and the purpose of its
current activities there are in dispute, however. During Saddam Hussein's rule,
when the Sunni-dominated Baath Party brutally oppressed the majority Shiites,
Iran supported them. Many in the present Iraqi Shiite leadership, including
prominent members of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, spent
years in exile in Iran; last week, at the Council on Foreign Relations, Maliki
said, according to the Washington Post, that Iraq's relations with the Iranians
had "improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal
affairs." Iran is so entrenched in Iraqi Shiite circles that any "proxy war"
could be as much through the Iraqi state as against it. The crux of the Bush
Administration's strategic dilemma is that its decision to back a Shiite-led
government after the fall of Saddam has empowered Iran, and made it impossible
to exclude Iran from the Iraqi political scene.

Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, who is an
expert on Iran and Shiism, told me, "Between 2003 and 2006, the Iranians thought
they were closest to the United States on the issue of Iraq." The Iraqi Shia
religious leadership encouraged Shiites to avoid confrontation with American
soldiers and to participate in elections?believing that a one-man, one-vote
election process could only result in a Shia-dominated government. Initially,
the insurgency was mainly Sunni, especially Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Nasr told
me that Iran's policy since 2003 has been to provide funding, arms, and aid to
several Shiite factions?including some in Maliki's coalition. The problem, Nasr
said, is that "once you put the arms on the ground you cannot control how
they're used later."

In the Shiite view, the White House "only looks at Iran's ties to Iraq in terms
of security," Nasr said. "Last year, over one million Iranians travelled to Iraq
on pilgrimages, and there is more than a billion dollars a year in trading
between the two countries. But the Americans act as if every Iranian inside Iraq
were there to import weapons."

Many of those who support the President's policy argue that Iran poses an
imminent threat. In a recent essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz depicted
President Ahmadinejad as a revolutionary, "like Hitler . . . whose objective is
to overturn the going international system and to replace it . . . with a new
order dominated by Iran. . . . [T]he plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is
to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to
the actual use of military force." Podhoretz concluded, "I pray with all my
heart" that President Bush "will find it possible to take the only action that
can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and
toward Israel." Podhoretz recently told that he had met with the
President for about forty-five minutes to urge him to take military action
against Iran, and believed that "Bush is going to hit" Iran before leaving
office. (Podhoretz, one of the founders of neoconservatism, is a strong backer
of Rudolph Giuliani's Presidential campaign, and his son-in-law, Elliott Abrams,
is a senior adviser to President Bush on national security.)

In early August, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking
U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Times about an increase in attacks involving
explosively formed penetrators, a type of lethal bomb that discharges a
semi-molten copper slug that can rip through the armor of Humvees. The Times
reported that U.S. intelligence and technical analyses indicated that Shiite
militias had obtained the bombs from Iran. Odierno said that Iranians had been
"surging support" over the past three or four months.

Questions remain, however, about the provenance of weapons in Iraq, especially
given the rampant black market in arms. David Kay, a former C.I.A . adviser and
the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations, told me that his
inspection team was astonished, in the aftermath of both Iraq wars, by "the huge
amounts of arms" it found circulating among civilians and military personnel
throughout the country. He recalled seeing stockpiles of explosively formed
penetrators, as well as charges that had been recovered from unexploded American
cluster bombs. Arms had also been supplied years ago by the Iranians to their
Shiite allies in southern Iraq who had been persecuted by the Baath Party.

"I thought Petraeus went way beyond what Iran is doing inside Iraq today," Kay
said. "When the White House started its anti-Iran campaign, six months ago, I
thought it was all craziness. Now it does look like there is some selective
smuggling by Iran, but much of it has been in response to American pressure and
American threats?more a `shot across the bow' sort of thing, to let Washington
know that it was not going to get away with its threats so freely. Iran is not
giving the Iraqis the good stuff?the anti-aircraft missiles that can shoot down
American planes and its advanced anti-tank weapons."

Another element of the Administration's case against Iran is the presence of
Iranian agents in Iraq. General Petraeus, testifying before Congress, said that
a commando faction of the Revolutionary Guards was seeking to turn its allies
inside Iraq into a "Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests." In August,
Army Major General Rick Lynch, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, told
reporters in Baghdad that his troops were tracking some fifty Iranian men sent
by the Revolutionary Guards who were training Shiite insurgents south of
Baghdad. "We know they're here and we target them as well," he said.

Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, told me that "there are a lot of Iranians at any time inside Iraq,
including those doing intelligence work and those doing humanitarian missions.
It would be prudent for the Administration to produce more evidence of direct
military training?or produce fighters captured in Iraq who had been trained in
Iran." He added, "It will be important for the Iraqi government to be able to
state that they were unaware of this activity"; otherwise, given the intense
relationship between the Iraqi Shiite leadership and Tehran, the Iranians could
say that "they had been asked by the Iraqi government to train these people."
(In late August, American troops raided a Baghdad hotel and arrested a group of
Iranians. They were a delegation from Iran's energy ministry, and had been
invited to Iraq by the Maliki government; they were later released.)

"If you want to attack, you have to prepare the groundwork, and you have to be
prepared to show the evidence," Clawson said. Adding to the complexity, he said,
is a question that seems almost counterintuitive: "What is the attitude of Iraq
going to be if we hit Iran? Such an attack could put a strain on the Iraqi

A senior European diplomat, who works closely with American intelligence, told
me that there is evidence that Iran has been making extensive preparation for an
American bombing attack. "We know that the Iranians are strengthening their
air-defense capabilities," he said, "and we believe they will react
asymmetrically?hitting targets in Europe and in Latin America." There is also
specific intelligence suggesting that Iran will be aided in these attacks by
Hezbollah. "Hezbollah is capable, and they can do it," the diplomat said.

In interviews with current and former officials, there were repeated complaints
about the paucity of reliable information. A former high-level C.I.A. official
said that the intelligence about who is doing what inside Iran "is so thin that
nobody even wants his name on it. This is the problem."

The difficulty of determining who is responsible for the chaos in Iraq can be
seen in Basra, in the Shiite south, where British forces had earlier presided
over a relatively secure area. Over the course of this year, however, the region
became increasingly ungovernable, and by fall the British had retreated to
fixed bases. A European official who has access to current intelligence told me
that "there is a firm belief inside the American and U.K. intelligence community
that Iran is supporting many of the groups in southern Iraq that are
responsible for the deaths of British and American soldiers. Weapons and money
are getting in from Iran. They have been able to penetrate many
groups"?primarily the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias.

A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that
Basra's renewed instability was mainly the result of "the systematic abuse of
official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood
vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal
mafias." The report added that leading Iraqi politicians and officials
"routinely invoke the threat of outside interference"?from bordering Iran?"to
justify their behavior or evade responsibility for their failures."

Earlier this year, before the surge in U.S. troops, the American command in
Baghdad changed what had been a confrontational policy in western Iraq, the
Sunni heartland (and the base of the Baathist regime), and began working with
the Sunni tribes, including some tied to the insurgency. Tribal leaders are now
getting combat support as well as money, intelligence, and arms, ostensibly to
fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Empowering Sunni forces may undermine efforts
toward national reconciliation, however. Already, tens of thousands of Shiites
have fled Anbar Province, many to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, while Sunnis
have been forced from their homes in Shiite communities. Vali Nasr, of Tufts,
called the internal displacement of communities in Iraq a form of "ethnic

"The American policy of supporting the Sunnis in western Iraq is making the Shia
leadership very nervous," Nasr said. "The White House makes it seem as if the
Shia were afraid only of Al Qaeda?but they are afraid of the Sunni tribesmen we
are arming. The Shia attitude is `So what if you're getting rid of Al Qaeda?'
The problem of Sunni resistance is still there. The Americans believe they can
distinguish between good and bad insurgents, but the Shia don't share that
distinction. For the Shia, they are all one adversary."

Nasr went on, "The United States is trying to fight on all sides?Sunni and
Shia?and be friends with all sides." In the Shiite view, "It's clear that the
United States cannot bring security to Iraq, because it is not doing everything
necessary to bring stability. If they did, they would talk to anybody to achieve
it?even Iran and Syria," Nasr said. (Such engagement was a major recommendation
of the Iraq Study Group.) "America cannot bring stability in Iraq by fighting
Iran in Iraq."

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on
counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the
Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and
more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to
destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots,
and command and control facilities.

"Cheney's option is now for a fast in and out?for surgical strikes," the former
senior American intelligence official told me. The Joint Chiefs have turned to
the Navy, he said, which had been chafing over its role in the Air
Force-dominated air war in Iraq. "The Navy's planes, ships, and cruise missiles
are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They've got everything they
need?even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The
Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf." There are also plans to
hit Iran's anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites. "We've got to get a path
in and a path out," the former official said.

A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign
took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called "short, sharp
incursions" by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training
sites. He said, "Cheney is devoted to this, no question."

A limited bombing attack of this sort "only makes sense if the intelligence is
good," the consultant said. If the targets are not clearly defined, the bombing
"will start as limited, but then there will be an `escalation special.' Planners
will say that we have to deal with Hezbollah here and Syria there. The goal
will be to hit the cue ball one time and have all the balls go in the pocket.
But add-ons are always there in strike planning."

The surgical-strike plan has been shared with some of America's allies, who have
had mixed reactions to it. Israel's military and political leaders were
alarmed, believing, the consultant said, that it didn't sufficiently target
Iran's nuclear facilities. The White House has been reassuring the Israeli
government, the former senior official told me, that the more limited target
list would still serve the goal of counter-proliferation by decapitating the
leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who are believed to have direct control
over the nuclear-research program. "Our theory is that if we do the attacks as
planned it will accomplish two things," the former senior official said.

An Israeli official said, "Our main focus has been the Iranian nuclear
facilities, not because other things aren't important. We've worked on missile
technology and terrorism, but we see the Iranian nuclear issue as one that cuts
across everything." Iran, he added, does not need to develop an actual warhead
to be a threat. "Our problems begin when they learn and master the nuclear fuel
cycle and when they have the nuclear materials," he said. There was, for
example, the possibility of a "dirty bomb," or of Iran's passing materials to
terrorist groups. "There is still time for diplomacy to have an impact, but not
a lot," the Israeli official said. "We believe the technological timetable is
moving faster than the diplomatic timetable. And if diplomacy doesn't work, as
they say, all options are on the table."

The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected
government of Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. A senior European official
told me, "The British perception is that the Iranians are not making the
progress they want to see in their nuclear-enrichment processing. All the
intelligence community agree that Iran is providing critical assistance,
training, and technology to a surprising number of terrorist groups in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and, through Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, too."

There were four possible responses to this Iranian activity, the European
official said: to do nothing ("There would be no retaliation to the Iranians for
their attacks; this would be sending the wrong signal"); to publicize the
Iranian actions ("There is one great difficulty with this option?the widespread
lack of faith in American intelligence assessments"); to attack the Iranians
operating inside Iraq ("We've been taking action since last December, and it
does have an effect"); or, finally, to attack inside Iran.

The European official continued, "A major air strike against Iran could well
lead to a rallying around the flag there, but a very careful targeting of
terrorist training camps might not." His view, he said, was that "once the
Iranians get a bloody nose they rethink things." For example, Ali Akbar
Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, two of Iran's most influential political figures,
"might go to the Supreme Leader and say, `The hard-line policies have got us
into this mess. We must change our approach for the sake of the regime.' "

A retired American four-star general with close ties to the British military
told me that there was another reason for Britain's interest?shame over the
failure of the Royal Navy to protect the sailors and Royal Marines who were
seized by Iran on March 23rd, in the Persian Gulf. "The professional guys are
saying that British honor is at stake, and if there's another event like that in
the water off Iran the British will hit back," he said.

The revised bombing plan "could work?if it's in response to an Iranian attack,"
the retired four-star general said. "The British may want to do it to get even,
but the more reasonable people are saying, `Let's do it if the Iranians stage a
cross-border attack inside Iraq.' It's got to be ten dead American soldiers and
four burned trucks." There is, he added, "a widespread belief in London that
Tony Blair's government was sold a bill of goods by the White House in the
buildup to the war against Iraq. So if somebody comes into Gordon Brown's office
and says, `We have this intelligence from America,' Brown will ask, `Where did
it come from? Have we verified it?' The burden of proof is high."

The French government shares the Administration's sense of urgency about Iran's
nuclear program, and believes that Iran will be able to produce a warhead within
two years. France's newly elected President, Nicolas Sarkozy, created a stir in
late August when he warned that Iran could be attacked if it did not halt is
nuclear program. Nonetheless, France has indicated to the White House that it
has doubts about a limited strike, the former senior intelligence official told
me. Many in the French government have concluded that the Bush Administration
has exaggerated the extent of Iranian meddling inside Iraq; they believe,
according to a European diplomat, that "the American problems in Iraq are due to
their own mistakes, and now the Americans are trying to show some teeth. An
American bombing will show only that the Bush Administration has its own agenda
toward Iran."

A European intelligence official made a similar point. "If you attack Iran," he
told me, "and do not label it as being against Iran's nuclear facilities, it
will strengthen the regime, and help to make the Islamic air in the Middle East

Ahmadinejad, in his speech at the United Nations, said that Iran considered the
dispute over its nuclear program "closed." Iran would deal with it only through
the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said, and had decided to "disregard
unlawful and political impositions of the arrogant powers." He added, in a press
conference after the speech, "the decisions of the United States and France are
not important."

The director general of the I.A.E.A., Mohamed ElBaradei, has for years been in
an often bitter public dispute with the Bush Administration; the agency's most
recent report found that Iran was far less proficient in enriching uranium than
expected. A diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. is based, said, "The Iranians
are years away from making a bomb, as ElBaradei has said all along. Running
three thousand centrifuges does not make a bomb." The diplomat added, referring
to hawks in the Bush Administration, "They don't like ElBaradei, because they
are in a state of denial. And now their negotiating policy has failed, and Iran
is still enriching uranium and still making progress."

The diplomat expressed the bitterness that has marked the I.A.E.A.'s dealings
with the Bush Administration since the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
"The White House's claims were all a pack of lies, and Mohamed is dismissive of
those lies," the diplomat said.

Hans Blix, a former head of the I.A.E.A., questioned the Bush Administration's
commitment to diplomacy. "There are important cards that Washington could play;
instead, they have three aircraft carriers sitting in the Persian Gulf," he
said. Speaking of Iran's role in Iraq, Blix added, "My impression is that the
United States has been trying to push up the accusations against Iran as a basis
for a possible attack?as an excuse for jumping on them."

The Iranian leadership is feeling the pressure. In the press conference after
his U.N. speech, Ahmadinejad was asked about a possible attack. "They want to
hurt us," he said, "but, with the will of God, they won't be able to do it."
According to a former State Department adviser on Iran, the Iranians complained,
in diplomatic meetings in Baghdad with Ambassador Crocker, about a refusal by
the Bush Administration to take advantage of their knowledge of the Iraqi
political scene. The former adviser said, "They've been trying to convey to the
United States that `We can help you in Iraq. Nobody knows Iraq better than us.'
" Instead, the Iranians are preparing for an American attack.

The adviser said that he had heard from a source in Iran that the Revolutionary
Guards have been telling religious leaders that they can stand up to an American
attack. "The Guards are claiming that they can infiltrate American security,"
the adviser said. "They are bragging that they have spray-painted an American
warship?to signal the Americans that they can get close to them." (I was told by
the former senior intelligence official that there was an unexplained incident,
this spring, in which an American warship was spray-painted with a bull's-eye
while docked in Qatar, which may have been the source of the boasts.)

"Do you think those crazies in Tehran are going to say, `Uncle Sam is here! We'd
better stand down'? " the former senior intelligence official said. "The
reality is an attack will make things ten times warmer."

Another recent incident, in Afghanistan, reflects the tension over intelligence.
In July, the London Telegraph reported that what appeared to be an SA-7
shoulder-launched missile was fired at an American C-130 Hercules aircraft. The
missile missed its mark. Months earlier, British commandos had intercepted a few
truckloads of weapons, including one containing a working SA-7 missile, coming
across the Iranian border. But there was no way of determining whether the
missile fired at the C-130 had come from Iran?especially since SA-7s are
available through black-market arms dealers.

Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. officer who has worked closely with his
counterparts in Britain, added to the story: "The Brits told me that they were
afraid at first to tell us about the incident?in fear that Cheney would use it
as a reason to attack Iran." The intelligence subsequently was forwarded, he

The retired four-star general confirmed that British intelligence "was worried"
about passing the information along. "The Brits don't trust the Iranians," the
retired general said, "but they also don't trust Bush and Cheney."

The Shadow Army by Janine Wedel
The Boston Globe
The shadow army

By Janine R. Wedel | September 30, 2007

IF THERE is a quagmire in Iraq, it was created more than a decade ago when the United States instituted a flawed system governing the use of contractors to perform governmental functions. Now, despite Iraqi fury at Blackwater USA, some of whose employees are accused of fatally shooting Iraqis, Washington is so reliant on the firm that it dare not order it from the field.

The heavy dependence on private contractors in the military is relatively recent. In the Gulf War only 9,200 contractors supported 540,000 military personnel. The estimated 180,000 US-funded contractors now in Iraq (of which about 21,000 are Americans) outnumber the 160,000 US troops.

All too often this private army has been unmanageable and unaccountable, its interests dangerously divergent from those of the US and the Iraqi governments. The troubles exposed by the Blackwater debacle provide a glimpse into a much larger, systemic problem that pervades military, intelligence, and homeland security efforts alike.

The Bush administration came into office bent on privatizing as many government functions as possible and threw billions into the mix in its Iraq venture. It was changes in the contracting system, instituted during the Clinton administration, though, that transformed the contracting rules and undercut oversight, transparency, and competition.

Through the Clinton and Bush II administrations, outsourcing steadily accelerated. In fiscal year 2006, the federal government awarded contracts valued at over $420 billion, more than double the amount awarded in 2000, according to the Federal Procurement Data System. The war in Iraq has spurred contracting to record-breaking heights. As the federal government's biggest buyer of services, the Department of Defense, in fiscal 2006 alone, obligated upwards of $151 billion in service contracts, a rise since 1996 of 78 percent. The transfer of many military functions to the private sector occurred at the same time that government oversight , has been diminished. The Defense Department is ever-more dependent on contractors to supply a host of "mission-critical services," according to the Government Accountability Office. These services include "information technology systems, interpreters, intelligence analysts, as well as weapons system maintenance and base operation support," according to the GAO.

Moreover, functions that were once the responsibility of military personnel are now essentially in private hands. For example, websites of contractors working for the Defense Department have posted announcements of job openings for analysts to perform such functions as preparing the department's budget. One contractor boasted of having written the Army Field Manuals on Contractors on the Battlefield.

Yet, while private companies are acquiring government functions and the number of contractors is on the rise, the number of Defense Department employees available to oversee them has declined. For 15 years, the GAO has included the Pentagon's contract management operation on its list of "high-risk" activities. This designation means that the department may well lack "the ability to effectively manage cost, quality, and performance in contracts," according to US Comptroller General David M. Walker, head of the GAO. When these deficiencies play out on the ground in Iraq, they can have serious consequences.

The extensive transfer of functions to the private sector raises more fundamental concerns. The overarching goal of government is supposedly the adoption of policies and practices that promote the public good. For contractors performing government services, the bottom line is profit.

Further, military personnel are governed by regulations that do not apply to contractors, such as those Blackwater employees involved in the shooting. They do not fall under the rules of war or the Geneva Convention. The records of private employees in war zones are exempt from scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act. And, unlike military personnel, contract employees on the battlefield can quit their jobs when the going gets rough.

The Iraq war has exposed the dangers of contracting out vital state functions to private actors. Such massive privatization renders government more susceptible to the influence of unelected private players with their own interests - players who are far removed from the oversight of government and the scrutiny of voters.

Inherently governmental functions, such as the direction of military and intelligence operations, ought not to be privatized. It is vital to reverse Clinton-era procurement "reforms" and to restore effective government oversight - and Bush-era extensions of them. Otherwise, the public can be more easily mislead, and America's interests, along with its moral standing, will be repeatedly undercut by a shadow army.

Janine R. Wedel is professor of public policy at George Mason University and a fellow at New America Foundation.

No Going Back: No relief in sight for millions of displaced Iraqis

No Going Back: No relief in sight for millions of displaced Iraqis

Nir Rosen, an Israeli-American journalist of exceptional empathy and reporting skill, provides a long but compelling reading of the causes, course, and implications of the extraordinary flows of refugees from Iraq. This is rewarding reading fo those with the time to take it in.

On Translating Ahmadinejad

On translating Ahmadinejad

09/29/2007 07:12 PM | By Fawaz Turki, Special to Gulf News

Two cultures collided in New York early this week. Happily, the collision was not of the violent kind that we associate with bloodletting. But it was nasty nevertheless, involving as it did a nightmare of untranslatability between two disparate views of the world, two value systems, two historical experiences and two semantic fashions of perception.

On a three-day visit to the United States to address the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to deliver a speech at Columbia University. That made him a guest speaker, and thus he was entitled to be treated with respect by his academic hosts.

Introducing him at the podium, however, the university's president, Lee Bollinger, deemed it necessary to identify the Iranian leader as a man who lacked "intellectual courage", had a "fanatical mind-set" and was "astonishingly undereducated". Turning towards Ahmadinejad, Bollinger hollered theatrically: "Mr President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator". And on and on. And that was just for starters.

Bollinger, who did not appear quite "overeducated" himself, clearly did not seem to understand the sacrosanct place that a guest, whether invited to one's campus or one's home, occupied in Middle Eastern society.

Seeming visibly shaken and chastising his host for lambasting him before he uttered a single word, Ahmadinijad still soldiered on, delivering his speech and later answering questions from the audience. He did not disappoint the predominantly hostile attendees who had come to the lecture hall predisposed to laugh him off the stage.

"Our people are the freest people in the world," he said. On the issue of women's rights, he claimed that "the freest women in the world are women in Iran". Addressing himself to a question about the press, he asserted, none too convincingly, that "in our country freedom is flowing at its highest level". Then came this: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals as you do in your country". To the audience that was a howler. And so it went.

Currency of rational exchange

What is going on here? What is going on here is the question of two cultures that meet at an academic venue, to exchange ideas, only to discover that their respective experience of each other (each others' language habit and assumed social reference) has set them apart.

The language world of Middle Easterners is different from that of North Americans. Language, of course, is more than a mere currency of rational exchange among people, for it stands in vital, close-knit reciprocity with culture, felt reality and consciousness. The ornamental irrelevancies and elided references that we insinuate into our speech act in the Middle East, our capacity to use the same word to mean different things (to psycho-linguists known as "polysemy") will totally escape people in the Euro-American world but be recognised instantly by a Middle Easterner as signals of mutual understanding.

When Ahmadinejad, for example, claimed that there were no homosexuals in Iran, he did not expect his audience to take him literally. He may be "undereducated", and he may not have taken the trouble to read half a dozen decent books about what makes American society tick, but he is not insane. The remark's ferocious innocence came across to his audience as simply duplicitous. Then, passing equally misunderstood, came that strain of ultimatum, that separatist stance, that masculine use of the third person plural, in his references to "we in Iran".

Different cultures define the objective world around them differently, though they may seem to use the same vocabulary. During the heyday of the Soviet Union, as a case in point, Communist leaders employed the same idiom as their counterparts in the West to refer to, say, "freedom", "progress" and "human rights", but the terms in both locales had fiercely disparate meanings.

Try to search for the right words to explain to someone in a country that has known, or been allowed, only a "mobilising press" (whose sole role in society is to mobilise support for the government) the victory scored by the American media to win the right to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 against the strenuous objections of the White House. Conversely, try to explain to an English-speaking person how absurd, how improbable, the character of Lady Macbeth, committed to killing Duncan "under my battlements", appears to an Arab being introduced to Shakespear's play. Duncan, he will exclaim, is her guest. Who harms a guest? Unimaginable!

Different cultures speak differently indeed, at times even in body language incomprehensible to non-native speakers. To Yasser Arafat, packing a .45 at his hip while addressing the UN General Assembly in November 1974 was, as it were, a normal fashion statement for him as it was for several other political leaders in his part of the world. For New Yorkers, and other Americans, however, it was gross, unbecoming and scandalous. A Korean who smiles at a stranger means to insult him. A Japanese fan beating before a speaker's face in ceremonious motion will convey impatience. And the rest of it.

Ahmadinejad did not appear to understand American culture one bit. Neither did Americans appear to understand Ahmadinejad one bit. They talked at not to each other. It was as if Iranians and Americans heard each other for the first time and discovered, with sickening conviction, that they shared no common language, that their previous encounter, before 1979, had been hollow, leaving the heart of meaning in both cultures untouched. All the pity.

Fawaz Turki is a veteran journalist, lecturer and author of several books, including The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile. He lives in Washington D.C.

Big Coffers and a Rising Voice LIft a New Conservative Group

Big Coffers and a Rising Voice Lift a New Conservative Group

Published: September 30, 2007

Freedom’s Watch, a deep-pocketed conservative group led by two former senior White House officials, made an audacious debut in late August when it began a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush’s troop increase in Iraq.

Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.

Next month, Freedom’s Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, according to several benefactors of the group.

Although the group declined to identify the experts, several were invited from the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington research group with close ties to the White House. Some institute scholars have advocated a more confrontational policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, including keeping military action as an option.

Last week, a Freedom’s Watch newspaper advertisement called President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran “a terrorist.” The group is considering a national advertising campaign focused on Iran, a senior benefactor said, though Matt S. David, a spokesman for the group, declined to comment on those plans.

“If Hitler’s warnings were heeded when he wrote ‘Mein Kampf,’ he could have been stopped,” said Bradley Blakeman, 49, the president of Freedom’s Watch and a former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush. “Ahmadinejad is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel.”

With a forceful message and a roster of wealthy benefactors, Freedom’s Watch has quickly emerged from the crowded field of nonprofit advocacy groups as a conservative answer to the nine-year-old liberal, which vehemently opposes the Iraq war.

The idea for Freedom’s Watch was hatched in March at the winter meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Manalapan, Fla., where Vice President Dick Cheney was the keynote speaker, according to participants. Next week, the group is moving into a 10,000-square-foot office in the Chinatown section of Washington, with plans to employ as many as 50 people by early next year.

One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. Raising big money “will be easy,” the benefactor said, adding that several of the founders each wrote a check for $1 million. Mr. Blakeman would not confirm or deny whether any donor gave $1 million, or more, to the organization.

Since the group is organized as a tax-exempt organization, it does not have to reveal its donors and it can not engage in certain types of partisan activities that directly support political candidates. It denies coordinating its activities with the White House, although many of its donors and organizers are well connected to the administration, including Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary.

“Ideologically, we are inspired by much of Ronald Reagan’s thinking — peace through strength, protect and defend America, and prosperity through free enterprise,” Mr. Fleischer said.

Among the group’s founders are Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who ranks sixth on the Forbes Magazine list of the world’s billionaires; Mel Sembler, a shopping center magnate based in St. Petersburg, Fla., who served as the ambassador to Italy and Australia; John M. Templeton Jr., the conservative philanthropist from Bryn Mawr, Pa.; and Anthony H. Gioia, a former ambassador to Malta who heads an investment group based in Buffalo, N.Y. All four men are long-time prolific donors who have raised money on behalf of Republican and conservative causes.

For years, the group’s founders lamented MoveOn’s growing influence, derived in large part from its grass-roots efforts, especially on the debate about the Iraq war. “A bunch of us activists kept watching MoveOn and its attacks on the war, and it just got to be obnoxious,” said Mr. Sembler, a friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. “We decided we needed to do something about this, because the conservative side was not responding.”

Mr. Sembler, who is on the board of directors of the American Enterprise Institute, said the impetus for Freedom’s Watch “came out of A.E.I.” last winter. He said that at an institute event in December 2006 he listened to retired Gen. Jack Keane and Frederick W. Kagan, an A.E.I. scholar, talk about the need for a troop increase in Iraq, a plan adopted by Mr. Bush in January. “I realized it was not only what we needed to do,” Mr. Sembler said, “but we needed to articulate this message across the country.”

Mr. Sembler also said he was frustrated that he heard reports at institute events earlier this year that the increase was working, but that the news media was not reflecting the progress.

Mr. Fleischer said: “After the president announced the surge, and even Republicans started getting nervous, there was a palpable fear among several of us that this fall Congress was going to cut off the funding and the Middle East would explode and America would likely get hit. It really wasn’t much more complicated than that.”
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Over the summer, Mr. Fleischer and the other founders recruited a president, choosing Mr. Blakeman, who served as a deputy assistant to the president in charge of scheduling and appointments. In 2000, Mr. Blakeman led the Bush-Cheney campaign’s public relations effort during the 36 days of the deadlocked election. He left the White House in January 2004.

Mr. Blakeman and Mr. Fleischer said they intended to turn Freedom’s Watch into a permanent fixture among Washington advocacy groups, waging a “never-ending campaign” on an array of foreign policy and domestic issues. They also hope to build an active, grass-roots support network.

But Eli Pariser, the executive director of, which was founded in 1998 by two Silicon Valley venture capitalists, said he doubted the group’s ability to meet that goal.

“This is the fourth or the fifth group that intends to be the right-wing MoveOn,” Mr. Pariser said, naming other fledgling groups like and “So far, it’s not clear that this group is anything other than a big neoconservative slush fund. They are a White House front group with a few consultants who are trying to make a very unpopular position on the war appear more palpable.”

Like Freedom’s Watch, MoveOn had its origins in an attempt by wealthy political donors, including George Soros, to shape the debate in Washington. MoveOn began shortly after the Starr report was delivered to Congress in September 1998, detailing accusations of perjury and obstruction of justice against President Bill Clinton.

Already, Freedom’s Watch and MoveOn have clashed through competing advertisements over Gen. David H. Petraeus’s war progress report to Congress earlier this month.

In one Freedom’s Watch ad, Sgt. John Kriesel, a National Guardsman from Stillwater, Minn., who lost his legs in a bomb attack near Falluja, pleads with Congress and the American people not to “surrender” in Iraq. As the screen shows a still photograph of the second hijacked plane bearing down on the burning World Trade Center, Sergeant Kriesel adds, “They attacked us, and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq.”

Several of the group’s spots suggested that Iraq, rather than Al Qaeda, was behind the Sept. 11 attacks, even though the independent Sept. 11 commission investigation and other inquiries found no evidence of Iraq’s involvement. But in August, when the organization rolled out the advertisement with Sergeant Kriesel to two focus groups in Pennsylvania, its upbeat, patriotic message was well received, even causing a few viewers to weep, Mr. Blakeman said.

“The focus groups couldn’t tell whether it was a Republican ad or a Democratic ad,” he said. “It was the voice of a soldier, and that’s the message we want to deliver to Americans: listen to the opinions of real people.”

The campaign was seen as a way to head off any momentum in Congress toward halting the financing for the Iraq war. The group’s advertisements, placed in nearly 60 Congressional districts in 23 states, targeted wavering moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Freedom’s Watch also pounced on’s full-page “General Betray Us” advertisement published Sept. 10 in The New York Times. Mr. Bush called the advertisement “disgusting.” Both chambers of Congress passed resolutions condemning the advertisement. The New York Times was also embroiled in the debate after giving MoveOn a discounted price for the advertisement, which the newspaper later acknowledged was a mistake. MoveOn has since agreed to pay the difference.

That advertisement, Mr. Blakeman said, “was an unexpected gift,” allowing Freedom’s Watch to “take the high road” and demonstrate that it is a “conservative voice that is not divisive.”

Mr. Pariser, of MoveOn, said his group’s grass-roots membership — it claims 3.3 million members — was the envy of Freedom’s Watch. “I think people see that Freedom’s Watch is a few billionaires, and not a large, mainstream constituency,” he said.

Mr. Blakeman denied the accusation that Freedom’s Watch is a White House front group. “I don’t need their help,” he said of his former colleagues at the White House. “I don’t seek their help. And they don’t offer it.” Mr. Blakeman is a long-time friend of Ed Gillespie, the new counselor to Mr. Bush who succeeded Dan Bartlett. Mr. Blakeman said that he speaks with Mr. Gillespie, but that they are careful not to discuss the activities of Freedom’s Watch.

Mr. Fleischer said Freedom’s Watch was not coordinating with the White House and had an agenda beyond the Bush administration. “On Jan. 21, 2009, what will these critics say when we are still here, doing the same thing?” he said. “We will still be here after George Bush is gone.”

Neocons seek to justify action against Teheran

Neocons seek to justify action against Teheran

By Tim Shipman
Last Updated: 12:17am BST 30/09/2007

American diplomats have been ordered to compile a dossier detailing Iran's violations of international law that some fear could be used to justify military strikes against the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.
# US trains Gulf air forces for war with Iran

Members of the US secretariat in the United Nations were asked earlier this month to begin "searching for things that Iran has done wrong", The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

Some US diplomats believe the exercise — reminiscent of attempts by vice-president Dick Cheney and the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to build the case against Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war — will boost calls for military action by neo-conservatives inside and outside the administration.

One diplomat revealed the plans for an Iran dossier to Steven Clemons, a fellow with the New America Foundation, a Washington think-tank, who has previously revealed attempts by Mr Cheney's allies to pressurise President George W Bush into war.

He said: "There are people more beholden to the Cheney side who have people searching for things that Iran has done wrong — making the case. They've been given instructions to build a dossier. They've been scouring around for stuff over the last couple of weeks." He recently exposed how a member of Mr Cheney's office used private meetings with neo-conservatives at the American Enterprise think- tank to reveal the vice-president's frustration that Mr Bush had authorised a diplomatic strategy against Iran by his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

Last week, Newsweek magazine went further, claiming that David Wurmser, until last month Mr Cheney's Middle East adviser, had told fellow neo-conservatives that Mr Cheney had considered asking Israel to launch limited missile strikes against the Iranian nuclear site at Natanz. The intention, it was said, would be to provoke a reaction from Teheran that would help justify wider US air strikes.

Mr Wurmser, an analyst in the Pentagon unit that tried to link Saddam Hussein to the September 11 attacks, denied the claims, saying, "That conspiracy is unrecognisable to anything I have ever seen or heard or done." But he refused to discuss Mr Cheney's views.

Opponents of military action were further alarmed last week when it emerged that Norman Podhoretz, one of the godfathers of neo-conservatism, used a 45-minute meeting with Mr Bush at the White House to lobby for the bombing of Iran's nuclear plants.

Mr Podhoretz disclosed that, when he said Mr Bush was just "giving futility its chance" by pursuing diplomacy, the president and his former aide Karl Rove had burst out laughing. "It struck me," Mr Podhoretz added, "that if they really believed that there was a chance for these negotiations and sanctions to work, they would not have laughed. They would have got their backs up and said, 'No, no, it's not futile, there's a very good chance'." He said he believed "Bush is going to hit" Iran before his presidency ends.

Mr Podhoretz is highly influential. His son-in-law is Elliott Abrams, Mr Bush's deputy national security adviser, who is regarded by US officials as a key advocate of bombing Iran. He was found guilty of withholding evidence from Congress over the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s.

Concern is also growing in the CIA and the Pentagon that the White House exaggerated intelligence used to justify an Israeli air raid on a suspected nuclear facility in Syria earlier this month, which some neo-conservatives hope is a precursor to war with Iran.

Bruce Reidel, a former CIA Middle East desk officer, said the neo-conservatives realised their influence would wane rapidly when Mr Bush left office in just over 15 months. "Whatever crazy idea they have to try to transform the Middle East, they have to push now. The real hardline neo-conservatives are getting desperate that the door of history is about to close on them with an epitaph of total failure."

US trains Gulf air forces for war with Iran

US trains Gulf air forces for war with Iran

By Tim Shipman in Washington
Last Updated: 12:21am BST 30/09/2007

The American air force is working with military leaders from the Gulf to train and prepare Arab air forces for a possible war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

An air warfare conference in Washington last week was told how American air chiefs have helped to co-ordinate intelligence-sharing with Gulf Arab nations and organise combined exercises designed to make it easier to fight together.

Gen Michael Mosley, the US Air Force chief of staff, used the conference to seek closer links with allies whose support America might need if President George W Bush chooses to bomb Iran.

Pentagon air chiefs have helped set up an air warfare centre in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where Gulf nations are training their fighter pilots and America has big bases. It is modelled on the US Air Force warfare centre at Nellis air force base in Nevada.

Jordan and the UAE have both taken part in combined exercises designed to make sure their air forces can fly, and fight, together and with American jets.

The conference was long-planned to discuss developments in air warfare technology, but the question of possible hostilities involving Iran was discussed.

Bruce Lemkin, the American air force deputy under-secretary for international affairs, said: "We need friends and partners with the capabilities to take care of their own security and stability in their regions and, through the relationship, the inter-operability and the will to join us in coalitions when appropriate…

"On its most basic level, it's about flying together, operating together and training together so, if we have to, we can fight together."

While it is unlikely that America's Gulf allies would join any US air strike against suspected nuclear targets in Iran, their co-operation might be required to allow passage of warplanes though their airspace. American defence officials are also keen that Iran's Arab neighbours prepare to deal with any Iranian attempt to target them in return.

Lt Gen Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein, who is special assistant to the chief of staff of the Jordanian armed forces, said "concern at Iran's attempt to establish itself as a regional superpower" had led to greater co-operation, "not just at the inter-service level but also at the political level".

He said the new air warfare centre had allowed them to "exchange information and exercise together".

But Air Chief Marshal Sir Glen Torpy, the head of the RAF, voiced the fear of many British officials that America is too devoted to military solutions. He said: "In an environment like this, we always focus on the part that the military can play in solving security and foreign policy problems, but the military will rarely, if ever, be the solution."

Iran in deal to cut Iraq arms flow

Iran in deal to cut Iraq arms flow
By Alexandra Zavis
Petraeus says Tehran's pledge to Iraqi officials in August has led to a dip in
attacks associated with Shiite militants.

Bloggin Ahmadinejad in Tehran

Blogging Ahmadinejad in Tehran

Published: September 30, 2007

AMERICANS might be forgiven for thinking they have heard everything there is to say about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia University, but the story occupied Iranian bloggers at least as much as it dominated the American news cycle. Although Iranian authorities have introduced laws requiring citizens to register their blogs and Web sites with the government, Persian is the 10th most widely used language on blogs worldwide, according to Technorati, the blog-tracking service.

Despite official harassment and intimidation, Iranian blogs remain a vibrant source of debate and provide a valuable insight into popular opinion inside the country. Bloggers tend to be young, well educated and not very supportive of President Ahmadinejad, who typically attracts followers from the urban poor.

Here are excerpts from the conversation as it unfolded in Iran last week. They have been translated by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center from the Persian.

— Tom Parker, executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Someone who denies the Holocaust and promises the downfall of the Western world will inevitably remind Westerners of bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Ahmadinejad comes from a country that burns the American flag, the symbol of American identity, and shouts its desire for the death and destruction of the government and its president.

American anger is understandable. Maybe it comes from the same source as the anger of the Iranian students at Amirkabir University in Tehran who confronted Ahmadinejad and his entourage.

— Republic,, Sept. 23

Can anyone imagine George Bush coming to Tehran and then criticizing the Islamic Republic’s policies in a speech? Is it plausible to imagine George Bush speaking about wiping Palestine off the map? Could George Bush talk about sending democracy to Tehran in Tehran? Would George Bush even be provided with security or would plain-clothed operatives be sent to “spontaneously” attack him?

— Street No. 11,, Sept. 24

The most important part of the speech is the very positive message that Iran has sent to America. In response to the question “Are you willing to have a dialogue with America and what do you expect?” after some explanations, he said, “We think that America can be a good friend for Iran.” He repeated the sentence and the phrase “good friend” one more time to show that it did not slip out accidentally.

— Word of Wisdom,, Sept. 24

Most Western news agencies like CNN and Fox News, which are branded by the regime as the agents of a Western cultural war, broadcast the speech of President Ahmadinejad live. It is interesting that none of the channels inside our country did that. What does this mean? Does it mean we don’t trust ourselves? Does it mean that we worry we might let something slip? Does it mean that we fear that our president might let something slip?

It means that knowing is not a right our people have! It means that other countries abide by democracy more than we do. It means that even we don’t believe ourselves, even that we fear ourselves. We fear that we might say something by mistake and that our lies would be revealed to the people. Really, why are the state officials against open access to information? Why don’t the people even have the right to hear the speech of their elected president? Why can’t they hear his reasoning for issues like nuclear power, democracy in Iran, and so on?

What is interesting is that we claim the Americans want to prevent our voice from being heard, so why do we censor ourselves?

— Poor Iran,, Sept. 24

When you, the Iranian president, don’t understand how to criticize Israel and Zionism so your criticism is taken seriously, and not ridiculed by all, what kind of treatment do you expect from others?

I understand that your intentions were honorable. I know that you really meant that the Holocaust should not be used as an excuse to oppress the Palestinians. But if you expected others to grasp your meaning, you should have just said it plain and simple.

— Kingdom of Heaven,, Sept. 24

I was reading the news reports of the American media. I am truly dumbfounded. They have focused on Ahmadinejad’s response to the homosexuality question and are analyzing it. What has the world come to that, with innocent people dying in Iraq every day, the rights of the homosexuals have become the most important issue of the day?

Insulting the president of a country, no matter how unacceptable his point of view, is synonymous to insulting a nation.

— Cure,, Sept. 25

Dude, someone should take Ahmadinejad’s hand and take him to Daneshju Park in Valiasr Crossing. No need for explanation. Just hold on firmly to his hand so that he does not get too excited. We all know that when he is among different people and ethnic groups, he tries to blend in and considers becoming one of them as his undeniable duty. So be careful, God forbid, that when he is in Daneshju Park, this feeling of duty might arise and cause him trouble! Unlike those boys who have gender confusion in that godforsaken park, a president cannot pluck his eyebrows, or wear tight-fitting clothes, or put on blusher.

— Messiah,, Sept. 25

During the speech of my favorite president, I felt broken. The belittling killed me little by little. He thought Columbia University was just another visit to the provinces and everyone would applaud him. How could he stand all the insults to his people?

Last night, before the speech of my knowledgeable Ahmadinejad, I was so worried. O Lord, how are we going to be ridiculed now?

How did we become who we are? The year of dialogue between civilizations seems so far away!

— Until the Polytechnic Students Are Released ... (formerly To Watch the Cleansing Waters),, Sept. 26

Tom Parker is the executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Iraq's WMD Myth by Andrew Cockburn

Iraq's WMD Myth


A former senior UN diplomat has revealed to me details of how, just over 10 years ago, the Clinton administration deliberately sabotaged UN weapons inspections in Iraq.

American officials were fearful that Iraq would be officially certified as weapons-free, a development that was seen as a political liability for Bill Clinton. Thus the stage was set for the manufacture of the Iraqi WMD myth as the excuse for George Bush's catastrophic invasion of Iraq.

It was March 1997. For six years the UN inspectors had been probing the secrets of Saddam's weapons programs, in the process destroying huge quantities of chemical munitions and other production facilities. To enforce Saddam's cooperation, Iraq was subject to crushing sanctions.

Now, Rolf Ekeus, the urbane Swedish diplomat who headed the inspection effort, was ready to announce that his work was almost done. "I was getting close to certifying that Iraq was in compliance with Resolution 687," he confirmed to me recently.

At the time, he declared that although there were some loose ends to be cleared up, "not much is unknown about Iraq's retained proscribed weapons capabilities."

For the Clinton administration, this was a crisis. If Ekeus was allowed to complete his mission, then the suspension of sanctions would follow almost automatically.

Saddam would be off the hook and, more importantly for the Clintonites, the neo-conservative republicans would be howling for the president's blood.

The only hope was somehow to prevent Ekeus completing his mission.

Enter Madeleine Albright, newly appointed Secretary of State. On March 26, 1997, she strode on to the stage at Georgetown University to deliver what was billed as a major policy address on Iraq. Many in the audience expected that she would extend some sort of olive branch toward the Iraqi regime, but that was far from her mind.

Instead, she was set on making sure that Saddam effectively ended his cooperation with the inspectors. "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted," she declared. Sanctions, she stated without equivocation, would remain unless or until Saddam was driven from power.

Ekeus understood immediately what Albright intended. "I knew that Saddam would now feel that there was no point in his cooperating with us, and that was the intent of her speech."

Sure enough, the following day he got an angry call from Tariq Aziz, Saddam's deputy prime minister and emissary to the outside world. "He wanted to know why Iraq should work with us any more."

From then on, the inspectors found their lives increasingly difficult, as Iraqi officials, clearly acting under instructions from Saddam, blocked them at every turn.Ekeus resigned in July 1997, to be replaced by the Australian Richard Butler. Butler was soon embroiled in acrimonious confrontation with the Iraqis. Later the following year, all the inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq and the US mounted a series of bombing raids.

Clinton's strategy had been successful. Iraq remained under sanctions, while in Washington the neo-conservative faction spun the wildest conjectures as to what evil schemes Saddam, unmolested by inspectors, might be concocting with his weapons scientists.

In fact Saddam had long abandoned all his WMD programs, but as the CIA had no sources of intelligence inside Iraq, no one in the West could prove this.

Finally, following 9/11, the war party in George Bush Jr's administration was able to make the case for invasion on the grounds that Saddam had refused to comply with UN resolutions on disarmament by refusing to grant access to the weapons inspectors. The Iraq disaster has many fathers.

[Footnote: Ekeus knew from the mid-l990s on that Saddam Hussein had no such weapons of mass destruction. They had all been destroyed years earlier, after the first Gulf war.

Ekeus learned this on the night of August 22, l995, in Amman, from the lips of General Hussein Kamel, who had just defected from Iraq, along with some of his senior military aides. Kamel was Saddam's son-in-law and had been in overall charge of all programs for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

That night, in three hours of detailed questioning from Ekeus and two technical experts, Kamel was categorical. The UN inspection teams had done a good job. When Saddam was finally persuaded that failure to dispose of the relevant weapons systems would have very serious consequences, he issued the order and Kamel carried it out. As he told Ekeus that night, "All weapons, biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed." (The UNSCOM record of the session can ne viewed at In similar debriefings that August Kamel said the same thing to teams from the CIA and MI6. His military aides provided a wealth of corroborative details. Then, the following year, Kamel was lured back to Iraq and at once executed. Editors.]

Andrew Cockburn is the author of Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy.

How to Make Iraq Look Like Whipped Cream: So What About Iran? by Uri Avnery

How to Make Iraq Look Like Whipped Cream
So What About Iran?


A respected American paper posted a scoop this week: Vice-President Dick Cheney, the King of Hawks, has thought up a Machiavellian scheme for an attack on Iran. Its main point: Israel will start by bombing an Iranian nuclear installation, Iran will respond by launching missiles at Israel, and this will serve as a pretext for an American attack on Iran.

Far-fetched? Not really. It is rather like what happened in 1956. Then France, Israel and Britain secretly planned to attack Egypt in order to topple Gamal Abd-al-Nasser ("regime change" in today's lingo.) It was agreed that Israeli paratroops would be dropped near the Suez Canal, and that the resulting conflict would serve as a pretext for the French and British to occupy the canal area in order to "secure" the waterway. This plan was implemented (and failed miserably).

What would happen to us if we agreed to Cheney's plan? Our pilots would risk their lives to bomb the heavily defended Iranian installations. Then, Iranian missiles would rain down on our cities. Hundreds, perhaps thousands would be killed. All this in order to supply the Americans with a pretext to go to war.

Would the pretext have stood up? In other words, is the US obliged to enter a war on our side, even when that war is caused by us? In theory, the answer is yes. The current agreements between the US and Israel say that America has to come to Israel's aid in any war - whoever started it.

Is there any substance to this leak? Hard to know. But it strengthens the suspicion that an attack on Iran is more imminent than people imagine.

* * *

Do Bush, Cheney & Co. indeed intend to attack Iran?

I don't know, but my suspicion that they might is getting stronger.

Why? Because George Bush is nearing the end of his term of office. If it ends the way things look now, he will be remembered as a very bad - if not the worst - president in the annals of the republic. His term started with the Twin Towers catastrophe, which reflected no great credit on the intelligence agencies, and would come to a close with the grievous Iraq fiasco.

There is only one year left to do something impressive and save his name in the history books. In such situations, leaders tend to look for military adventures. Taking into account the man's demonstrated character traits, the war option suddenly seems quite frightening.

True, the American army is pinned down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even people like Bush and Cheney could not dream, at this time, of invading a country four times larger than Iraq, with three times the population.

But, quite possibly the war-mongers are whispering in Bush's ear: What are you worrying about? No need for an invasion. Enough to bomb Iran, as we bombed Serbia and Afghanistan. We shall use the smartest bombs and the most sophisticated missiles against the two thousand or so targets, in order to destroy not only the Iranian nuclear sites but also their military installations and government offices. "We shall bomb them back into the stone age," as an American general once said about Vietnam, or "turn their clock back 20 years," as the Israeli Air Force general Dan Halutz said about Lebanon.

That's a tempting idea. The US will only use its mighty Air Force, missiles of all kinds and the powerful aircraft-carriers, which are already deployed in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. All these can be sent into action at any time on short notice. For a failed president approaching the end of his term, the idea of an easy, short war must have an immense attraction. And this president has already shown how hard it is for him to resist temptations of this kind.

* * *

Would this indeed be such an easy operation, a "piece of cake" in American parlance?

I doubt it.

Even "smart" bombs kill people. The Iranians are a proud, resolute and highly motivated people. They point out that for two thousand years they have never attacked another country, but during the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war they have amply proved their determination to defend their own when attacked.

Their first reaction to an American attack would be to close the Straits of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf. That would choke off a large part of the world's oil supply and cause an unprecedented world-wide economic crisis. To open the straits (if this is at all possible), the US army would have to capture and hold large areas of Iranian territory.

The short and easy war would turn into a long and hard war. What does that mean for us in Israel?

There can be little doubt that if attacked, Iran will respond as it has promised: by bombarding us with the rockets it is preparing for this precise purpose. That will not endanger Israel's existence, but it will not be pleasant either.

If the American attack turns into a long war of attrition, and if the American public comes to see it as a disaster (as is happening right now with the Iraqi adventure), some will surely put the blame on Israel. It is no secret that the Pro-Israel lobby and its allies - the (mostly Jewish) neo-cons and the Christian Zionists - are pushing America into this war, just as they pushed it into Iraq. For Israeli policy, the hoped-for gains of this war may turn into giant losses - not only for Israel, but also for the American Jewish community.

* * *

If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not exist, the Israeli government would have had to invent him.

He has got almost everything one could wish for in an enemy. He has a big mouth. He is a braggart. He enjoys causing scandals. He is a Holocaust denier. He prophesies that Israel will "vanish from the map" (though he did not say, as falsely reported, the he would wipe Israel off the map.)

This week, the pro-Israel lobby organized big demonstrations against his visit to New York. They were a huge success - for Ahmadinejad. He has realized his dream of becoming the center of world attention. He has been given the opportunity to voice his arguments against Israel -- some outrageous, some valid - before a world-wide audience.

But Ahmadinejad is not Iran. True, he has won popular elections, but Iran is like the orthodox parties in Israel: it is not their politicians who count, but their rabbis. The Shiite religious leadership makes the decisions and commands the armed forces, and this body is neither boastful nor vociferous not scandal-mongering. It exercises a lot of caution.

If Iran was really so eager to obtain a nuclear bomb, it would have acted in utmost silence and kept as low a profile as possible (as Israel did). The swaggering of Ahmadinejad would hurt this effort more than any enemy of Iran could.

It is highly unpleasant to think about a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands (and, indeed, in any hands.) I hope it can be avoided by offering inducements and/or imposing sanctions. But even if this does not succeed, it would not be the end of the world, nor the end of Israel. In this area, more than in any other, Israel's deterrent power is immense. Even Ahmadinejad will not risk an exchange of queens - the destruction of Iran for the destruction of Israel.

* * *

Napoleon said that to understand a country's policy, one has only to look at the map.

If we do this, we shall see that there is no objective reason for war between Israel and Iran. On the contrary, for a long time it was believed in Jerusalem that the two countries were natural allies.

David Ben-Gurion advocated an "alliance of the periphery". He was convinced that the entire Arab world is the natural enemy of Israel, and that, therefore, allies should be sought on the fringes of the Arab world - Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia, Chad etc. (He also looked for allies inside the Arab world - communities that are not Sunni-Arab, such as the Maronites, the Copts, the Kurds, the Shiites and others.)

At the time of the Shah, very close connections existed between Iran and Israel, some positive, some negative, some outright sinister. The Shah helped to build a pipeline from Eilat to Askelon, in order to transport Iranian oil to the Mediterranean, bypassing the Suez Canal. The Israel internal secret service (Shabak) trained its notorious Iranian counterpart (Savak). Israelis and Iranians acted together in Iraqi Kurdistan, helping the Kurds against their Sunni-Arab oppressors.

The Khomeini revolution did not, in the beginning, put an end to this alliance, it only drove it underground. During the Iran-Iraq war, Israel supplied Iran with arms, on the assumption that anyone fighting Arabs is our friend. At the same time, the Americans supplied arms to Saddam Hussein - one of the rare instances of a clear divergence between Washington and Jerusalem. This was bridged in the Iran-Contra Affair, when the Americans helped Israel to sell arms to the Ayatollahs.

Today, an ideological struggle is raging between the two countries, but it is mainly fought out on the rhetorical and demagogical level. I dare to say that Ahmadinejad doesn't give a fig for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he only uses it to make friends in the Arab world. If I were a Palestinian, I would not rely on it. Sooner or later, geography will tell and Israeli-Iranian relations will return to what they were - hopefully on a far more positive basis.

* * *

One thing I am ready to predict with confidence: whoever pushes for war against Iran will come to regret it.

Some adventures are easy to get into but hard to get out of.

The last one to find this out was Saddam Hussein. He thought that it would be a cakewalk - after all, Khomeini had killed off most of the officers, and especially the pilots, of the Shah's military. He believed that one quick Iraqi blow would be enough to bring about the collapse of Iran. He had eight long years of war to regret it.

Both the Americans and we may soon be feeling that the Iraqi mud is like whipped cream compared to the Iranian quagmire.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is o a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Al Qaeda on the Ropes?

Article published Sep 28, 2007
Al Qaeda on the ropes?

September 28, 2007

Arnaud de Borchgrave - Osama bin Laden "is a man on the run, from a cave, who is virtually impotent other than the tapes" he releases from time to time. That was the mid-September assessment of Frances Fragos Townsend, top adviser to President Bush on Homeland Security, terrorism and counterterrorism.

Mrs. Townsend was a former Coast Guard assistant commandant for intelligence and a counsel to the attorney general for intelligence policy. The best and the brightest in the Bush White House, she was deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism before her rise to czar, or czarina, for transnational terrorism.

For a terrorist darting from cave to cave, the world's most wanted terrorist wasn't as impotent as he apparently appeared in top secret e-mails speeding into Mrs. Townsend's computers. The view from cyberspace told a different story about al Qaeda. For bin Laden, it is high noon on the electronic frontier.

As former Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid said, "Al Qaeda's organizing ability in cyberspace is unprecedented." Cyberpower has emerged as a complex ether power in which digital grass roots are truly global. Al Qaeda's 6,000-plus Web sites supply the ability to liberate and dominate at the same time. Al Qaeda now operates in virtual space with impunity in recruiting, proselytizing, plotting and planning.

In the ether (not the anesthetic), thought is a reality. For millions of Muslim surfers, the global caliphate and Shariah law exist. They have superseded the nation-state, whether the kingdom of Saudi Arabia or the Netherlands, where Muhammad is the second most popular name for baby boys.

The Muslim world's extremists are roughly estimated at 1 percent of Islam's 1.3 billion adherents (or 13 million who see suicide bombers and other acts of terrorism as legitimate weapons of war against the U.S.-Zionist crusaders). The fundamentalists who approve of bin Laden, though not necessarily his MO, number about 130 million.

Extremist ranks include many well-educated, middle-class youngsters with computer skills. Some of the cells under surveillance in the United Kingdom include computer scientists and engineers. They travel online, meeting like-minded spirits in the virtual caliphate. Plotting has morphed from the mosque to the virtual global caliphate.

In Pakistan, where al Qaeda and Taliban training camps again operate with impunity, almost half the 160 million population gives Osama bin Laden high marks.

Similar percentages show up in other moderate Muslim states — e.g., Bangladesh, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. New arrests and revelations about Muslim terrorist sleeper cells in European countries occur almost daily. In Algeria, the underground Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which now includes deserters from the Algerian army, has sworn allegiance to al Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda is not a hierarchical organization, but a network of like-minded Muslim fundamentalists with jihadi "spear carriers." Its expansion no longer depends on bin Laden and his deputy, the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahri (whose group assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981). The Internet, with more than 1 billion people on line, and reckoned to double to 2 billion by 2010, does that job for them automatically.

Iraq, in al Qaeda's perspective, is a small subset of a broader campaign. For five years, Iraq has been a useful force multiplier for jihadi volunteers. Camp followers in cyberspace have busily posted videos of IED explosions that kill Americans in Iraq, along with beheadings of infidels.

Republican front-runner Rudolph Giuliani's foreign policy adviser Norman Podhoretz has a new book titled, "World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism." Last June, in an article in Commentary magazine (which he edited for almost four decades) Mr. Podhoretz "begged" President Bush to bomb Iran before Iran nukes Israel.

Daniel Pipes, also on Mr. Giuliani's team, agrees because the Islamists have "a potential access to weapons of mass destruction that could devastate Western life." That means Israel. Explains Newt Gingrich who is seriously considering a run for the presidency: "It makes no sense to have a Holocaust Museum in Washington and yet have no honest assessment of the threat of a 21st century Holocaust ... if the Iranians get nuclear weapons and use them against Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem."

Mr. Gingrich's alarm bell is the loudest: "The gap between where we are and where we should be is so large that it seems almost impossible to explain why the Petraeus Report, while important, will be a wholly inadequate explanation as to what is required to defeat our enemies and secure America and her allies."

America, says Mr. Gingrich, is "currently trapped between those who advocate 'staying the course' and those who would legislate surrender and defeat for America." The Petraeus Report is about a specific campaign, he explained, but Iraq is a campaign in a larger war just as Afghanistan is a campaign in a larger war. Context is missing. Like Gettysburg without the context of the larger Civil War still to be won; or Guadalcanal without the larger war still to be won, or President Reagan's Berlin Wall speech without any understanding about the Cold War and that the Soviet Union was a mortal threat to freedom.

Beyond Gen. Petraeus' testimony, says Mr. Gingrich, we need a report "on the larger war with the irreconcilable Wing of Islam. This enemy is irreconcilable with the modern civilized world... because it cannot tolerate other religions or other life styles... the Islamofascist approach to imposing its views on others and as such it is a mortal threat to our way of life, to freedom, and to the rule of law."

On Sept. 7, CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden told the Council on Foreign Relations: "Our analysts assess with high confidence that al Qaeda's central leadership is planning high-impact plots against the U.S. homeland... we who study the enemy see a danger more real than anything our citizens at home have confronted since our Civil War."

Without an understanding of the virtual reality of Islam's global ummah in cyberspace, and a thorough reading of the bin Laden-Zawahri Islamist catechism, the warnings are likely to go unheeded in the Democratic scramble to bug out of Iraq.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

Promoting Chinese Hegemony in Myanmar by Chas Freeman

Reading the Washington Post this morning, I am sure I am not the only one struck by the numerous ironies of the current situation in Myanmar and our response to it. Some excerpts, under the heading "US Urges China to Help Curb Violence in Burma, Prepare for Transition," with parts underlined and somewhat reordered to clarify the underlying logic of this travesty of American diplomacy:

" The White House is focusing its diplomacy on China largely because it has little independent influence over the military-led government in Burma, which has engaged this week in a crackdown on protesters led by Buddhist monks."

"Yesterday, the State Department announced that three dozen Burmese military and government officials and their families will be barred from visiting the United States."

"U.S. officials have limited knowledge about events inside Burma -- including the death toll, so far -- and depend, in large measure, on news reports and information from refugees, exiles and others in neighboring countries. The United States does have a mission in Burma, but the ability of diplomats there to report has been limited..."

"Senior Bush administration officials have pressed Chinese officials in private conversations this week to use their leverage with Burmese authorities to limit the violence and help manage a transition to a new government ...."

"China, which has extensive commercial interests in Burma, has received a blunt message from the United States: 'You wanted to become a big power -- part of being a big power is you will be held responsible for your client states,'... U.S. officials have also urged China to consider some form of refuge for Burmese leaders, to help speed a transition to a new government....
" The administration is calculating that Beijing, a major protector of Burma, will not want to risk world opprobrium if widespread bloodshed is caused by its long-time ally."

Once again, we have to turn to China (a country that does not share our perspectives or interests with respect to the issues at hand) because we have no credibility or influence with any of the players in an evolving situation. Once again, our preferred means of exercising direct influence ourselves is a symbolic distancing of ourselves from those players. This situation came about and is unfolding this way because:

-- we sought to avoid the moral contagion of engagement with the governments in Yangon/Naypyidaw and thus have no effective communication with them or their most likely successors, who probably do not include any candidates for office known to or favored by the West;

-- we have responded to the crisis in Myanmar by symbolically deepening our inability to communicate directly with its government, thus empowering Beijing as our preferred intermediary, assuming we have any interest in actually attempting to influence the situation as opposed to striking political postures over it;

-- having deprived ourselves of all influence in Naypidaw, the one effort (commendable as it was) to reengage with Myanmar made by us had to take place, symbolically, in what we now seem to regard as the paramount diplomatic capital of Asia -- Beijing;

-- that effort aside, we have been seen in the region as more interested in posturing than in results, instructing those neighbors with the greatest influence in Myanmar, including China, Thailand, and India, as well as ASEAN collectively, to fall into line with our preferred methodology, especially sanctions, rather than engaging in dialogue about what ends we might have in common with these neighbors or the internal opposition and how we might best work together to achieve these ends;

-- once again, we appear to have put values (ideology) ahead of the interests of those closest to and most likely to be affected by instability in Myanmar, thus raising questions about our commitment to take into account the interests and priorities of regional allies and friends;

-- we are giving every appearance of continuing to posture (if not act) unilaterally (or at most bilaterally with China) rather than in concert with ASEAN, India, Japan and other allies in Asia with an interest in seeing Myanmar return to stability;

-- having isolated ourselves, we do not know much about what is going on in Myanmar and must depend for our information on the very neighbors of Myanmar we have previously offended and now condemn for not following our lead in dealing with the situation;

-- our message to the Myanmar junta ("eat shit and die, or at least move to China") is more likely to stiffen their already very stiff backs than to limber them up and is very likely to be seen by the Chinese as distinctly unhelpful to behind-the-scenes efforts to persuade the junta to adopt a less confrontational approach that might serve the primary interest of China, India, Thailand, and others on the scene, which is the stability of Myanmar and relationships with it;

-- we are asking the Chinese to help arrange a successor government in Naypidaw (presumably one to their taste), thus confirming their paramount influence there, while underscoring our own powerlessness and confirming Indian paranoia;

-- by urging such a role on the Chinese, we are encouraging them to exercise the very sort of hegemonic influence over their Myanmarese neighbors that would form the basis for an Sinitic version of the Roosevelt corollary to the Munroe Doctrine and inviting them to establish their sway over a widening sphere of influence along their borders; and

-- our interaction with the Chinese is full of bluster and threats related to Chinese national pride in the Olympics and highly unlikely to instill a propensity in Beijing for it to cooperate us on other matters.

Sanctions and disengagement are the diplomatic equivalent of unilateral disarmament. We are ceding our global leadership to others by our chronic inability to distinguish between interests and values and our propensity to employ sanctions as a substitute for war in circumstances where, inasmuch as our interests are too peripheral to justify war, they end up as a substitute for diplomatic engagement. Our pathetic inability exercise helpful influence in Myanmar ought to lead to a reexamination of such counterproductive American diplomatic practices as they apply in other contexts. But I very much doubt it will.

Chas Freeman