Iran

‘Guilty of Embarrassing Government': CIA Whistleblower Gets 42-Month Sentence – Lauren McCauley

May 12, 2015

A federal court in Alexandria, Virginia sentenced former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling to three and a half years in prison on Monday in a case that has received widespread condemnation for revealing the “rank hypocrisy” of the U.S. government’s war on whistleblowers. In January, a jury convicted Sterling of violating the Espionage Act and leaking classified information toNew York Times journalist James Risen about a botched CIA mission to provide flawed nuclear plans to Iran, known as “Operation Merlin.” He was found guilty of nine charges against him and faced as many as 24 years behind bars. Risen refused to testify against Sterling and many say that the former intelligence official was convicted merely on circumstantial evidence. Ahead of the sentencing, Sterling’s attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema to reconsider the proposed terms, arguing that former CIA director and retired general David Petraeus was given a plea deal and shown great leniency despite comparable charges. In March, Petraeus was handed a $40,000 fine and two years probation for leaking troves of classified material to his mistress and biographer Paula Broadwell. “[Sterling] should be treated similarly to others convicted for the same crimes and not singled out for a long prison sentence because he elected to exercise his right

The United States Considers Itself a Human Rights Champion. The World Begs to Differ. – Jamil Dakwar

May 11, 2015

Starting Monday, the United States’ human rights record will be subject to international scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Council. It may just be the perfect catalyst for the Obama administration to make good on past and present wrongs that should never be associated with a liberal democracy predicated on respect for human rights. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is part of a regular examination of the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member countries and will be the second review of its kind for the U.S. since 2010.  The review comes at a critical time when the U.S. human rights record has been criticized for falling short of meeting international human rights standards. From racially biased policing and excessive use of force by law enforcement to the expansion of migrant family detention and from thelack of accountability for the CIA torture program to the use of armed drones abroad, the U.S. has a lot to answer for. Read

The U.S. Encouragement of Fanatic Islamism in the Arab World – GARY LEUPP

May 7, 2015

A beautiful essay posted on Medium.com, entitled “A Marine in Syria: Silhouettes of Beauty and Coexistence before the Devastation” by Brad Hoff, draws our attention to what for the warmongers in Washington is a highly inconvenient truth: the secular dictatorships in the Middle East the U.S. has sought to destroy since 9/11 (including most recently that of Libya) have been far more tolerant towards religious and cultural diversity than the regimes that have replaced them. In particular, the much-vilified Baath Party, which governed Iraq during the Saddam years and continues to govern Syria, was and is based upon the principle of secularism (non-religious, relatively religiously tolerant) rule. Hoff, who “served” (as they say) as a Marine in Iraq between 2000 and 2004, first visited Syria in 2004 in order to study Arabic. He describes his surprise at how the experience challenged the “false assumptions” about the Arab world acquired during his “Texas Baptist childhood.” Describing Damascus in 2004 under Bashar Assad’s Baathist rule he writes: “What I actually encountered were mostly unveiled women wearing European fashions and sporting bright makeup — many of them wearing blue jeans and tight fitting clothes that would be commonplace in American shopping malls on a summer day. I saw groups

Russian Missile Sale to Iran Involves Unseen Deals With Israel – Calev Ben-DavidIlya Arkhipov

May 5, 2015

Last month, when President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced plans to sell a powerful anti-missile system to Iran before the lifting of international sanctions, Israel was quick to join the U.S. in expressing shock and anger. But behind the public announcements is a little-known web of arms negotiations and secret diplomacy. In recent years, Israel and Russia have engaged in a complex dance, with Israel selling drones to Russia while remaining conspicuously neutral toward Ukraine and hoping to stave off Iranian military development. The dance may not be over. Critics of the Russian move say it undermines efforts to apply pressure to Iran by removing one building block of a sanctions regime that will be hard to put back together. It would also enhance Iran’s defenses against a potential U.S. or Israeli attack, as both countries have said they’d consider using force if diplomacy fails. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warned that the missiles, known as S-300s, would provide the Islamic Republic with a military shield that would encourage further adventurism, and expressed concern they could end up in the hands of Iranian allies like Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Read

Why Iran Must Remain a US Enemy – GARETH PORTER

May 5, 2015

Since the start of the US nuclear negotiations with Iran, both Israeli and Saudi officials have indulged in highly publicised handwringing over their belief that such a nuclear deal would represent a fundamental strategic shift in US policy towards the region at the expense of its traditional alliances with Israel and Saudi Arabia. But the Obama administration is no more likely to lurch into a new relationship with Iran than were previous US administrations. The reason is very simple: The US national security state, which has the power to block any such initiative, has fundamental long-term interests in the continuation of the policy of treating Iran as an enemy. Some in the Israeli camp have spun elaborate theories about how the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran represent a strategic vision of partnership with the Iranian regime. Typical of the genre is former Bush administration official Michael Doran’sspeculation in February that US President Barack Obama based his policy of outreach to Tehran on the assumption that Tehran and Washington are “natural allies”. Saudi response The Saudi response to the negotiations has been, if anything, even more extreme. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence, who speaks more candidly in public than any other Saudi

Darkness in the Morning: American Policy in the Middle East – JOSEPH GROSSO

April 29, 2015

In one way, since the end of the Second World War, when the U.S. assumed its role as the leading global hegemon, American policy towards the Middle East has resembled a damaged pinball machine gone tilt. There was the CIA led 1953 coup against Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, whose sin was nationalizing the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, that resulted in the reinstallation of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. When the ghastly Shah regime finally fell decades later and Iran was soon after at war and Washington’s tilt away from Iran was towards Iraq, of course ruled by none other than Saddam Hussein (his Baath Party’s coup in 1963 also was helped along by the CIA), this tilt coinciding with the worst of Hussein’s atrocities, including the use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers (U.S. intelligence provided imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements) and the Kurds. A few years later Hussein overstepped his bounds by seizing Kuwait, perhaps due to misreading shady diplomatic signals -then American ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie was quoted as telling Hussein ‘We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion

The Kingpin Strategy – Andrew Cockburn

April 29, 2015

As the war on terror nears its 14th anniversary — a war we seem to be losing, given jihadist advances in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen — the U.S. sticks stolidly to its strategy of “high-value targeting,” our preferred euphemism for assassination.  Secretary of State John Kerry has proudly cited the elimination of “fifty percent” of the Islamic State’s “top commanders” as a recent indication of progress. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself, “Caliph” of the Islamic State, was reportedly seriously wounded in a March airstrike and thereby removed from day-to-day control of the organization. In January, as the White House belatedly admitted, a strike targeting al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan also managed to kill an American, Warren Weinstein, and his fellow hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto. More recently in Yemen, even as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took control of a key airport, an American drone strike killed Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish, allegedly an important figure in the group’s hierarchy.  Meanwhile, the Saudi news channel al-Arabiya has featured a deck of cards bearing pictures of that country’s principal enemies in Yemen in emulation of the infamous cards issued by the U.S. military prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as an aid to targeting its leaders.  (Saddam Hussein was the ace

Yemen: Saudi prince promises free Bentleys to bomber pilots who killed 1,000 – Orlando Crowcroft , Anas Alajlan

April 23, 2015

A billionaire Saudi Arabian prince promised to give each of the 100 fighter pilots that took part in Riyadh’s latest air strikes in Yemen a brand new Bentley. Prince Alaweed bin Talal – who owns one of Saudi Arabia’s largest companies, Kingdom Holdings, and owns a $300m stake in Twitter – made his promise on social media but has since deleted the Tweet. “I congratulate our wise leaders on the victory of Operation Decisive Storm and the beginning of Operation Restoring Hope,” bin Talal appeared to tweet Tuesday, following the announcement of a new phase in the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. “To recognise the one hundred participating Saudi pilots I am pleased to present them with 100 Bentley cars,” he said. Read

Saudi Arabia’s Disastrous War in Yemen – MICHAEL HORTON

April 23, 2015

In what has been three decades of ill-advised wars in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen may be the most ill-advised of them all. “Operation Decisive Storm,” the ironic name for Saudi Arabia’s aerial campaign in Yemen, has led to nothing decisive in Yemen beyond ensuring that the country remains a failed state and fertile ground for organizations like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Long before the commencement of “Operation Decisive Storm,” Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, was grappling with a host of problems ranging from severe water shortages, food insecurity, and a moribund economy, to a long running multi-front insurgency. Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen has exacerbated all of these problems and could well be the coup de grace for a unified and relatively stable Yemen. On Tuesday April 21st, the government of Saudi Arabia abruptly announced that it was ending “Operation Decisive Storm” and that it would be scaling back its aerial campaign in Yemen. “Operation Decisive Storm” will be replaced with “Operation Restore Hope,” an unfortunate name for a military operation given that it was also the name for the US’ ill-fated 1992-3 intervention in Somalia. It is unclear what “Operation

Khamenei: US invented nuclear Myth; Iran will Never Invade another Country – Juan Cole

April 22, 2015

The clerical leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, gave a speech on Sunday in which he urged that Iran maintain its military readiness in order to fend off any hostile invasion or attack. But, he said, “Iran has never invaded a country and never will.” He also called US charges that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon a “myth” and “propaganda.” Whatever else is wrong with the Islamic Republic of Iran, you have to admit that it is refreshing for a country’s leader to make such a pledge. No American politician could even run for election on such a platform, of “no conventional military attack on another country.” American politicians are always talking about keeping all options open or ‘on the table’, by which they mean that Washington might at any moment take it into its head suddenly to go to aggressive war against another country, even though that country had not attacked the US. The illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was only the most recent and dramatic such attack. Iran has a small military budget, about $10 bn., on the order of that of Norway or Singapore. It has no air force to speak of. The US military budget is
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