The Reasoned Review

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Iran

Nuclear Reactors: Israel – 3; Iran – 0

leave a comment »

Iran gets a “draft proposal” for new sanctions – Israel fires up its third nuclear reactor.

Update:

Our Vice-President has just announced a blank cheque policy for Israel, saying: “There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security“.

Advertisements

Written by pavanvan

March 9, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Policy

Tagged with , , ,

US Government Pays Its Companies To Violate Iran “Sanctions”

leave a comment »

The Times has a hilarious investigative report in today’s issue. Apparently $100 billion in government cash has gone into the pockets of energy companies doing business with the nefarious Iran.

Its worth getting out of the way first that sanctions don’t work. They never have. Numerous studies have concluded that the net effect of “sanctions” is invariably to strengthen the targeted regime, and an article on sanctions in Iran – especially on how US companies are violating them – should probably mention this.

Instead, The Times plumps for the opposite approach – that instead of the sanctions themselves being a vicious attack on the Iranian people, the violation on the part of the US companies of the sanctions is the real crime. It bears mentioning that the major Israeli paper, Haartez, ran a similar story, “US Rewarding Firms That Defy Iran Sanctions“, with a much angrier headline. The pro-Israel lobby clearly isn’t happy about this.

The whole Times article really deserves to be read in full, as it presents a case study in systemic bias. Observe:

For years, the United States has been pressing other nations to join its efforts to squeeze the Iranian economy, in hopes of reining in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Now, with the nuclear standoff hardening and Iran rebuffing American diplomatic outreach, the Obama administration is trying to win a tough new round of United Nations sanctions.

The third paragraph. Note how nonchalantly The Times speaks of “squeezing” the Iranian economy and “reining in” its nuclear ambitions, as though we have an implicit right to do such things. The next sentence accuses Iran of “rebuffing American diplomatic outreach” (an Orwellianism, that), completely ignoring Iran’s agreement to ship its uranium for inspection in Russia. The US demanded to send its own specialists into Iran to “inspect” their sites, something which Iran rightfully refused. Actually, when one thinks of it, the Americans rebuffed Iran’s outreach, but in true propaganda style, The Times reverses the accusation.

After a few paragraphs describing how easily US companies and those of our “allies” can operate in Iran and how eager Iran is for foreign investment, The Times says:

One of the government’s most powerful tools, at least on paper, to influence the behavior of companies beyond the jurisdiction of the embargo is the Iran Sanctions Act, devised to punish foreign companies that invest more than $20 million in a given year to develop Iran’s oil and gas fields. But in the 14 years since the law was passed, the government has never enforced it, in part for fear of angering America’s allies.

That has given rise to situations like the one involving the South Korean engineering giant Daelim Industrial, which in 2007 won a $700 million contract to upgrade an Iranian oil refinery.

Once again, the implicit assumption is that these “sanctions” (a) work, and (b) are legitimate. After all, why shouldn’t South Korea be allowed to invest where it wishes? The Times claims that the Army’s $111 million investment in S. Korea should have bought at least some respect for our sanctions, but this is a facile argument.

Later, they complain that Brazil, the Netherlands, France, and other “US allies” are investing in Iran while taking US dollars.

The Iranian government has engaged in some unsavory acts this past year, but the amount of violence it visited upon its citizens is minuscule compared to that of our “allies”, particularly Israel. Even the highest estimates of the death toll in Iran’s post-election violence only reach the low hundreds. In January of the same year, Israel killed more than 2,000 Gaza civilians, and dozens die from lack of food, water, or sanitation as a result of that action and the surrounding blockade every day.

If we’re really going to castigate countries for human-rights violations and write massive “exposes” on US companies violating sanctions , shouldn’t we focus on a more murderous country than Iran?

Written by pavanvan

March 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Profiles in Idiocy: Thomas Friedman

leave a comment »

Here we go again! Another evasive, revisionist piece of trash from none other than our favorite warmonger, Thomas Friedman! I hasten to point out that Friedman was one of the Iraq War’s biggest cheerleaders, once exhorting the starving Iraqi masses to “Suck. On. This.” (i.e. our bombs). That linked YouTube video comes highly recommended because it reveals, for all the world to see, just what a slimy reptile Mr. Friedman really is. But no, he’s not finished! In his February 24th New York Times column he takes his complete lack of ethics, his shifting morality, and his base “intellectualism” to a new low.

Tongue-twistingly entitled “Iraq’s Known Unknowns, Still Unknown” (a ‘clever’ play, I suppose, on Rumsfeld’s famous quote), his article begins with one of the most poorly written, eurocentric, history-denying openings I’ve ever seen:

From the very beginning of the U.S. intervention in Iraq and the effort to build some kind of democracy there, a simple but gnawing question has lurked in the background: Was Iraq the way Iraq was (a dictatorship) because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq was the way Iraq was — a collection of warring sects incapable of self-rule and only governable with an iron fist?

Maybe Iraq was “the way it was” because the Untied States actively funded Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship for decades. Has this man ever read a history book? We supported Saddam all through the ’80s, and then after his failed adventure in Kuwait we imposed “sanctions” on Iraq which had the net effect of strengthening his regime, albeit at the cost of 500,000 Iraqi children (what Madeline Albright called “a price worth paying”). Does he think that may have something to do with it? Nah, it’s much easier to just be a racist and tar Iraq as a “collection of warring sects incapable of self-rule and only governable with an iron fist”. That way the US invasion almost seems justified!

It’s hard to imagine anyone topping that astounding bit of stupidity, but really, Friedman is just getting started:

Ironically, though, it was the neo-conservative Bush team that argued that culture didn’t matter in Iraq, and that the prospect of democracy and self-rule would automatically bring Iraqis together to bury the past. While many liberals and realists contended that Iraq was an irredeemable tribal hornet’s nest and we should not be sticking our hand in there; it was a place where the past would always bury the future.

But stick we did, and in so doing we gave Iraqis a chance to do something no other Arab people have ever had a chance to do: freely write their own social contract on how they would like to rule themselves and live together.

Oh boy! I’m sure the Iraqis were just thrilled that we gave them the chance to “freely write their own social contract” – I mean, sure, it was at the barrel of US artillery, but it’s not nice to talk about that, right, Friedman? And I think you’re missing something here. Do you remember something called “WMDs”? You know, the ones that we never found? I think that was the real reason we attacked Iraq, in blatant violation of international law. All this talk of “supporting democracy” came afterward.

Also, the “liberals and realists” did not contend that Iraq was an “irredeemable tribal hornet’s nest”, you miserable racist. We said that America shouldn’t “stick [its] hand there” because attacking a country that was not actively preparing to declare war would be a monstrous act of aggression and an express violation of international law. It’s “irredeemable” to “contend” otherwise.

Then Mr. Friedman talks about his latest meeting with Gen. Odierno, who, along with Joe Biden, has apparently done the most to “coax, cajole, and occasionally shove Iraq away from the abyss”. You know, the abyss that we opened up. The Iraqis sure are lucky they had Uncle Sam around to “cajole” them away from it!

I found the general hopeful but worried. He was hopeful because he has seen Iraqis go to the brink so many times and then pull back, but worried because sectarian violence is steadily creeping back ahead of the elections and certain Shiite politicians, like the former Bush darling Ahmed Chalabi — whom General Odierno indicated is clearly “influenced by Iran” and up to no good — have been trying to exclude some key Sunni politicians from the election.

Wrong, you colossal ass, a thousand times wrong! Jesus Christ, I can’t believe you work for the New York Times. The real reason “some key Sunni politicians” are being excluded from the Iraqi election is because of a specific order by our own Paul Bremer that banned former Ba’ath party members from contesting elections. Your own newspaper reminded us of this just five days before your column ran. Don’t you read newspapers? But it’s so much easier to shift the blame onto our scapegoat Chalabi, isn’t it? Facts are just too cumbersome.

How does Friedman think the elections might play out? Well…

The ideal but least likely scenario is that we see the emergence of an Iraqi Shiite Nelson Mandela. The Shiites, long suppressed by Iraq’s Baathist-led Sunni minority, are now Iraq’s ruling majority. Could Iraq produce a Shiite politician, who, like Mandela, would be a national healer — someone who would use his power to lead a real reconciliation instead of just a Shiite dominion? So far, no sign of it.

Okay, you want to see a “Shiite Nelson Mandela”. What has the US been doing to promote this? Well, we’ve been arbitrarily arresting and throwing Shiites in jail on false pretexts for a while now. Didn’t Nelson Mandela go to jail? We’ve brutally occupied their country and left it swarming with mercenaries. I guess that’s kind of like South Africa? I don’t know. Maybe Mr. Friedman could just drop this dishonest comparison to Nelson Mandela and try and give some real solutions. Nah, that’s too hard.

So tell us what you don’t want, Mr. Friedman:

The two scenarios you don’t want to see are: 1) Iraq’s tribal culture triumphing over politics and the country becoming a big Somalia with oil; or 2) as America fades away, Iraq’s Shiite government aligning itself more with Iran, and Iran becoming the kingmaker in Iraq the way Syria has made itself in Lebanon.

Again with the racial overtures! Good lord, what kind of human being are you? “Iraq’s tribal culture”, eh? “A big Somalia with oil”? Did you really write that with a straight face? You “pundits” are all the same. If a country doesn’t have cars and multinational corporations in it, then its automatically a “tribal” culture. Man, you would have fit right in with the European imperialists laying waste to Asia and South America. You were born in the wrong century, Mr. Friedman!

As to your second scenario: forgive me, but why? Why shouldn’t Iraq be friends with its neighbor, Iran? Just because you, personally, wouldn’t like it? What do you mean by “kingmaker”? Iraq’s culture is predominantly Shi’a – so to a reasonable observer it should make sense that Iraq and Iran would be friends. Mr. Friedman, however, is not a reasonable observer.

He ends with a parting shot, and a last bit of historical revisionism:

Why should we care when we’re leaving? Quite simply, so much of the turmoil in the region was stoked over the years by Saddam’s Iraq and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, both financed by billions in oil revenues. If, over time, a decent democratizing regime could emerge in Iraq and a similar one in Iran — so that oil wealth was funding reasonably decent regimes rather than retrograde ones — the whole Middle East would be different.

Mr. Friedman, unlike myself, was actually alive to remember the Iran-Contra scandal, and thus has no excuse for this spectacular display of ignorance. “So much of the turmoil” in the region was not stoked by “billions in oil revenues”, as it was by billions in CIA dollars, paid to both sides, with express instructions to keep fighting. I mean Jesus, how can he not remember this? The United States gave arms and funding to both sides of the Iraq-Iran conflict, and used the proceeds to illegally fund a terrorist group in Nicaragua. Doesn’t he think that “stoked” some turmoil in the region? I guess when you’re Thomas Friedman, history just doesn’t matter.

I simply cannot believe this guy is writing for The New York Times while tens of millions of Americans are out of work. Anyone who has graduated from high school has a firmer grasp of history than Thomas Friedman. Anyone short of a Ku Klux Klan member has more ethical integrity. Thomas Friedman is a joke.

Profiles in Idiocy: Anne Applebaum

with one comment

Anne Applebaum has won major accolades for her Gulag: A History, for which she owes a huge debt of gratitude to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and which constitutes the poor man’s history of the Soviet Union – for when you want your histories dull and without universal insights into human nature. Her work for The Washington Post, however, has been singularly atrocious, and one wonders what, exactly, she learned from all her research into the depths of evil.

Her columns consistently and unapologetically disavow international law, human rights, or any concern for civilian casualties – each week brings a new and more forceful call to “defend our allies” and “defeat our enemies”, usually with only the most token concern for anyone who might stand in our way.

Her latest article, horrifically entitled: “Prepare for War With Iran – In Case Israel Strikes” displays all of her odious tendencies, and is worth discussing in detail.

She starts by observing that President Obama is unlikely to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Why?

The president will not bomb Iran’s nuclear installations for precisely the same reasons that George W. Bush did not bomb Iran’s nuclear installations: Because we don’t know exactly where they all are, because we don’t know whether such a raid could stop the Iranian nuclear program for more than a few months, and because Iran’s threatened response — against Israelis and U.S. troops, via Iranian allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Lebanon — isn’t one we want to cope with at this moment.

Apparently this lady hasn’t heard of a little thing called international law. You see, under normal circumstances, countries aren’t allowed to go mindlessly bombing each other on flimsy pretexts. This constitutes “aggression”, and the Nuremberg Principles (to which we supposedly subscribe) consider it “the supreme international crime”. I mean, I get that we basically threw that idea out the window long ago, but isn’t Ms. Applebaum supposed to be a scholar who specializes in international relations? What kind of scholar thinks the only reason we don’t go around bombing other countries is because it probably wouldn’t work?

After this bald refutation of the basic principles of international law, Ms. Applebaum raises another specter of war. Even though we may consider it inconvenient to bomb Iran, that doesn’t mean other countries won’t. Other countries like Israel. As she remarks:

The defining moment of his presidency may well come at 2 a.m. some day when he picks up the phone and is told that the Israeli prime minister is on the line: Israel has just carried out a raid on Iranian nuclear sites. What then?

Yes, “what then” indeed? Well, a reasonable observer might note that such a “raid” would be an act of sheer aggression, not to mention one supremely unjustified. After all, Israel boasts of its nuclear weapons every chance it gets, and Iran hasn’t carried out any “raids” on its nuclear sites.  A country truly interested in the rule of law would chastise Israel for its wanton aggression, cut off the extravagant military aid ($2.5 billion per year) it currently supplies the aggressor, and maybe even impose those sanctions everyone likes to talk about so much. The same sanctions we’re currently threatening Iran with. I don’t remember Israel getting any sanctions when it got the bomb. Oh, that’s right. We gave it to them.

The rest of the article serves as a justification for such Israeli “raids”. As she says:

Many Israelis regard the Iranian nuclear program as a matter of life and death. The prospect of a nuclear Iran isn’t an irritant or a distant threat. It is understood directly in the context of the Iranian president’s provocative attacks on Israel’s right to exist and his public support for historians who deny the Holocaust. If you want to make Israelis paranoid, hint that they might be the target of an attempted mass murder. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does exactly that.

I have a hard time believing she wrote this passage with a straight face. Perhaps she remembers a little speech given by President Bush, charmingly nicknamed the “Axis of Evil” speech. In it, he specifically named Iran to the eponymous “axis”, and then punctuated that slur by invading another member of said axis. The US mainstream press is is full of naked suggestions that President Obama attack Iran, including this endearing piece by Mr. Daniel Pipes, ludicrously entitled How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran. “The American people would support it,” Mr. Pipes contends.

For crying out loud, Ms. Applebaum’s own article is entitled “Prepare for War with Iran”! I wonder if she thinks that might make the Iranians “paranoid”.

Of course, Ms. Applebaum doesn’t want war with Iran. But a country’s gotta do what a country’s gotta do:

I do hope that this administration is ready, militarily and psychologically, not for a war of choice but for an unwanted war of necessity. This is real life, after all, not Hollywood.

And here we see, finally, in what an alternate reality our mainstream punditry operates. Defending an Israeli war of aggression is no longer a choice, but a necessity. Should Israel, without consulting us, begin a unilaterial bombing campaign on Iran, the United States has no choice but to fight Israel’s war for it. I mean, does Ms. Applebaum expect us to buy this nonsense?

Next she’ll be telling us that it’s necessary for the US to remain the “sole superpower” for the indefinite future. Oh wait…

How Do Americans Like Your Country?

leave a comment »

A new Gallup Poll:

I wonder if Iran’s low approval has anything to do with the ceaseless, virulent propaganda directed against it. After all, Egypt has just as repressive a government  (some might say more so) to Iran’s – but then, they happen to be a US-Funded dictatorship – so that makes all the difference, I guess. Israel, for that matter, is only once step removed from an outright state-sponsor of terrorism, what with its frequent, devastating raids on the Gaza strip (the last one killed more than 1,500 civilians), its continual blockade of Gaza (which starves the Gazan citizens and has been defined as a war crime), and its agressive expansion into the occupied territories (remember when aggression was considered “the supreme international crime”?)

So I guess all this poll really shows is how effective US propaganda is. Americans like countries that are “friendly” to the US, and dislike countries who are “unfriendly” – facts be damned!

Written by pavanvan

February 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

Iran: Hold your Horses!

leave a comment »

The US media is predictably awash with euphoria at the latest protest movement in Iran. Originating after the botched election of June 2009, this anti-Ahmadinejad movement has whet the appetites of our policy planners, who clearly hope it will lead to a “more democratic” (read: pro-west) government in the place of Ahmadinejad’s “repressive” regime. Though the original movement died down after a couple months, this latest resurgence, on the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, proves it has not quite vanished. The US establishment could not be happier.

Read for instance this joyful op-ed in today’s Times, entitled “Will Iran become a Beacon of Liberty?” (like Iraq was supposed to be?):

A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A politically freer Iran would bring front and center the great Islamic debate of our times: How can one be both a good Muslim and a democrat? How does one pay homage to Islamic law but give ultimate authority to the people’s elected representatives? How can a Muslim import the best of the West without suffering debilitating guilt?

Wow. That’s pretty optimistic.

Two notes in connection with this:

First, it remains clear that the main opposition candidate, Mir-Hossein Moussavi does not seek a dismantling of the Islamic Revolution, likely seeks to keep Khamenei in the seat of power, and has spoken repeatedly in favor of the current constitution, claiming it carries within it the “seeds of democracy” (source).  We in the West like to demonize Ahmadinejad, but the fact remains that he is a relatively minor player in Iranian politics. Ayatollah Khamenei holds all the real power, and any “reform” which leaves him in place is no reform at all.

On that note, Khameni’s behavior in this struggle is utterly inscrutable. Why does he continue to support Ahmadinejad, who is clearly unpopular, and probably incompetent to boot? Why not just tell Ahmadinejad his time is up, and let Mousavi be the puppet for a while? Khamenei’s vacillation has cost him, because now Mousavi’s supporters are shouting “death to Khamenei!” – something which Mousavi never endorsed. A situation which he could have easily contained now presents him a significant problem.

Secondly, it is clear that America is making heavy use of this protest movement, while it appears to refrain from actively funding it. Twitter, and Google, to take just two examples, have made millions off of these protests – indeed, a few bloggers have cynically termed the movement “one big advertisement for Twitter”. And while the US may have hidden its hand in these particular protests, the fact remains that it has attempted continuously to destabilize the Iranian Government for years. As Paul Craig helpfully notes in Counterpunch:

On May 23, 2007, Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported on ABC News: “The CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert “black” operation to destabilize the Iranian government, current and former officials in the intelligence community tell ABC News.”

On May 27, 2007, the London Telegraph independently reported: “Mr. Bush has signed an official document endorsing CIA plans for a propaganda and disinformation campaign intended to destabilize, and eventually topple, the theocratic rule of the mullahs.”

A few days previously, the Telegraph reported on May 16, 2007, that Bush administration neocon warmonger John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US military attack on Iran would “be a ‘last option’ after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed.”

On June 29, 2008, Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker: “Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership.”

Whether these protests are a product of such “covert action” – or even what that action entailed – we’ll never know. However, recall the “National Endowment for Democracy”, a US-sponsored group which promoted several ‘color revolutions’ across Eastern Europe, and which is known to have given money to the Mousavi clique.

In the end, I wish the Mousavi protesters all the best in their efforts. I don’t think Iran will become signifiantly “more democratic” so long as Khamenei is allowed to remain in power, but with Mousavi in the presidency, it is likely to become more “western-oriented”. This, of course, means relinquishing its right to sell oil in whatever currency it wants (infuriating the US via the Iran Oil Bourse), and also relinquishing what should be its right: to develop nuclear power. So the United States’ agenda will thus be fulfilled. But one hopes the Iranian public would also incur some benefit.

Written by pavanvan

February 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Trillions to Burn?

leave a comment »

(c/o Kevin Drum)

The Project for Defense Alternatives has just put up its 2011 guide to Pentagon spending, entitled Trillions to Burn – complete with nine handy charts which excruciatingly detail the United States’ military dominance of the world. We will be hearing a lot in the coming months about the US budget deficit – how this or that proposal will be “unfeasible” because of its budgetary implications, or how we must reduce social spending (via education, social security, medicare, etc.) in order to show “fiscal responsibility”. Just know that all of those statements are hogwash and bullshit (or hogshit, if you like).

In reality, the single biggest contributor to the United States budget deficit is so-called “defense spending”. We spend upwards of $5000 per second in Iraq (source) and spend a similar amount per unit time in Afghanistan. This spending does nothing for anybody. It does not make us “more safe”, it does not help these impoverished people “achieve democracy”, and it certainly hasn’t made oil any cheaper. The only thing – and I do mean the only thing – it does is transfer the nation’s wealth from the taxpayer to a select group of war profiteers.

That’s it. That’s all our “defense spending” does. The next time you hear some “Republican” or “Democrat” spout off about how we need to spend this money in order to “defeat our enemies”, check to see who their campaign contributors are (via OpenSecrets), and ask yourself if these people would still be our “enemies” if we weren’t spending the equivalent of South Korea’s GDP every year attempting to bomb them out of their homes. Remember the Fort Hood shooter, who specifically stated that his motivation was outrage over US massacres of Iraqi and Afghan civilians? Or the so-called “shoe bomber” who similarly claimed he was compelled to attack the US because of its ongoing support for Israeli atrocities in Gaza?  (Aid to Israel = “Defense spending”, in the eyes of our budget office). Osama bin Laden himself, assuming he was responsible for 9/11, repeatedly cited the US occupation of Saudi Arabia and its continued ‘aid’ to Israel as his primary beefs with the United States.

It is clear that the gargantuan sums of money we allocate for ‘defense’ have precisely the opposite of their intended effect. That we should spend our time squabbling over whether or not health care reform should “add to the deficit” demonstrates just how far removed from reality our discourse has become. Anyone who claims to worry about the deficit yet still thinks we need to prosecute our foreign adventures is either an idiot or in the pay of our ‘defense contractors’. Either way, we should all benefit from their swift and timely death.

Written by pavanvan

February 11, 2010 at 10:31 pm