Category Archives: Sanctions

Home / Iran / Sanctions
18 Posts

French President Emmanuel Macron has accused the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia of instigating a war as their mutual foe, Iran, was rocked by a week of protests.

Macron on Wednesday joined several other world leaders to weigh in on protests that began as demonstrations against austerity measures under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and later spilled into isolated, deadly clashes between civilians and security forces. The French leader called for dialogue with Tehran and criticized three of his international partners for pursuing what he considered bellicose policies toward a country the trio have increasingly sought to isolate and undermine in recent years.

“The official line pursued by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war,” Macron told reporters, according to Reuters.

It was “a deliberate strategy for some,” he added.

 

GettyImages-901120004Iranian pro-government supporters march during a rally after authorities declared the end of deadly unrest, in the city of Mashhad, Iran, on January 4. A total of 21 people died and hundreds were arrested in five days of unrest that began on December 28, 2017.NIMA NAJAFZADEH/TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Since taking office almost one year ago, President Donald Trump has led the U.S. on an increasingly confrontational path with Iran and has reversed historic measures by his predecessor that were designed to ease the longstanding enmity between the two nations. He decertified President Barack Obama’s 2015 Iran nuclear deal, of which France was also a signatory and an eager supporter, and has subjected Iran to a travel ban and increased sanctions over accusations it backs terrorism across the Middle East.

Trump has most recently weaponized his Twitter account to launch a barrage of insults against Iran’s leadership and voice support for the scores of Iranian citizens trying to “take back their corrupt government.” He offered “great support,” seeking to align himself with those calling to displace, rather than amend, the revolutionary Shiite Muslim government in the country, despite these voices currently being a minority among protesters on the ground. Trump was quickly accused of meddling in international affairs and of mishandling matters of diplomacy on Twitter.

Trump’s aggressive approach to Iran has been welcomed by Israel, which deeply opposed the nuclear deal reached under Obama. Iran has long supported militant Lebanese and Palestinian groups opposed to Israel and, as forces backed by Iran overcame rebels and jihadis battling for control of Syria, Israel has warned it would not tolerate Iranian presence in the neighboring, war-torn country.

“This regime tries desperately to sow hate between us. But they won’t succeed. And when this regime finally falls, and one day it will, Iranians and Israelis will be great friends once again,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, according to Israeli network Arutz Sheva.

Israel has also sought the assistance of Saudi Arabia in taking on Iran. Despite the conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom not even formally recognizing the majority-Jewish state, reports have continued to emerge of a cautious detente between the two leading U.S. allies in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his influential crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, have stayed relatively quiet as Iran’s protests flared and appeared to subside. A viral video showing an animated Saudi invasion of Iran and Mohammed bin Salman’s vow in May to take Saudi Arabia’s and Iran’s regional power struggle for influence “inside Iran” have been met with controversy.

GettyImages-901135572Iranians shop in Tehran’s ancient Grand Bazaar, on January 4, 2018. Life in the Iranian capital appeared to go on as usual for many Iranians.ATTA KENARE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

In his statement Wednesday, which was also carried by Anadolu Agency, Macron said the actions of the U.S, Israel and Saudi Arabia could “end up surreptitiously rebuilding an ‘axis of evil,’” which, by President George W. Bush’s 2002 definition, included Iran, Iraq and Syria. Later that year, it was expanded to include Cuba, Libya and North Korea.

Bush went on to invade Iraq the following year and dislodge Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, while Obama (along with France) led the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2011 and supported the uprising in Syria, which began that same year and at several points threatened the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Trump has set his sights on the “rogue regime” of nuclear-armed North Korea and the “evil dictatorship” of Iran, as laid out by his debut, “America First” National Security Strategy.

The State Department said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. had “ample authorities to hold accountable those who commit violence against protestors, contribute to censorship, or steal from the people of Iran” and Iranian prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazerin blamed the CIA along with Israel and Saudi Arabia for stirring the unrest. When Newsweek reached out, the CIA declined to comment.

As pro-government rallies surfaced throughout Iran and the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was sent to restore order, the government declared an end to the unrest, but social media chatter and international speculation about the causes and future of the demonstrations remained rampant.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Iran And The Bomb, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Facts by Christian Stork

by , September 28, 2012

As our Nobel laureate President ascended to the podium on September 25 at the United Nations for his last international speech before the election, we again were the recipients of fine oratory and rhetorical flourish about America’s problems in the world. Focusing on the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa—what’s often misleadingly termed, “the Muslim world”—Obama singled out Iran’s treaty-entitled uranium enrichment activities, saying “make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.”

Obama’s remarks were dutifully transcribed by our stenographer class, as can be expected, despite intelligence-community conclusions to the contrary and the historical precedent of containment as Cold War policy. This follows the latest media scare concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and the recent tiff between the U.S. and Israel over it. Like Obama’s speech (and because of similarly unchallenged statements by politicians), many media reports are awash in misleading narratives, incomplete histories, and outright fiction about Iran and its nuclear program.

Given how easily the American public and media were manipulated into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, this moment should give us some pause. The disastrous effects of that $3 Trillion Dollar War are still being felt across the world. For those not interested in seeing a much-bloodier, costlier sequel, I offer this introductory course in intellectual self-defense. The only way to rebuff and dismantle propaganda is to be aware of the truth on which it claims to comment.

Lesson #1: Iran is not building nuclear weapons

National Intelligence Estimate: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” (2007 National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities; November 2007)

“Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran.” (Associated Press, “Israel shifts views on Iran”; March 18, 2012)

The 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a synthesized compilation of data evaluated by America’s 17 intelligence agencies, declared that there were no serious revisions to the controversial (for war hawks) 2007 NIE—which stated Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. While the 2011 estimate did include updated progress on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, such as an increased number of operative centrifuges, it still could not muster any evidence to indicate the program was being weaponized.

These findings echo reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has also concluded that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The IAEA accounts are typically pored over for the slightest hint of ambiguity or malevolence, which are then promulgated as the most important takeaways in Western news summaries.

A recent example of such deliberate obfuscation was the IAEA report on Iran from August 30, 2012. Typical American media accounts highlighted the increase in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure (underground centrifuge production, etc.), while failing to mention that their stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium—the only material capable of being enriched further to 85% or weapons grade—had actually diminished as a result of conversion to fuel plates for use in the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Thus nuclear development is highlighted, under the false premise that that equals progress toward a weapon, while exculpatory evidence is discarded: a case study in how news and propaganda function.

A civilian nuclear program is not easily converted into a weapons program. Before a country can begin the latter, it must break the IAEA monitoring seals on its uranium stockpile, which is also under constant camera detection. It must also kick out international inspectors, who currently have unfettered access to all of Iran’s nuclear sites. Completing those very public steps would be the first true warning indicators that Iran was building nuclear weapons.

As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is entitled to enrich uranium to low levels for domestic power consumption and medical treatment, such as radiation therapy for cancer patients.

Lesson #2: Iran is not a threat to the US

The United States military is the largest, most sophisticated machine of force and violence the world has ever seen. After factoring in foreign military aid and nuclear weapons maintenance, the U.S. spends over an estimated $1 trillion (that’s >$1,000 billion) on defense annually.

By contrast, Iran spends somewhere between $10-12 billion on defense annually, after factoring in foreign and domestic paramilitary units such as the Revolutionary Guards and Basij—Iran’s domestic volunteer militia. This is “less than the United Arab Emirates, and only between 25% to 33% of Saudi defense spending,” notes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It spends approximately 1/5 of the amount allocated by the six sheikdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council—America’s staunchest regional allies (save for Israel) and the guardians of Western access to crude.

Lesson #3: Iran is not an existential threat to Israel

Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.” (Reuters, Report: Barak says Iran is not existential threat to Israel; September 17, 2009)

Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces and Commander of the Israeli Air Force: “Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one. The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, it’s a mistake. Force should be exerted only as a last resort.” (YNet, Former IDF Chief: Iran doesn’t pose an existential threat; February 2, 2012)

Tamir Pardo, Director of the Mossad: “Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That’s not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely.” (Haaretz, Mossad Chief: Nuclear Iran not necessarily existential threat to Israel; December 29, 2011)

Israel maintains a competitive advantage in total amount spent on munitions and assets, as well as a massive edge in terms of technological sophistication. Israel spends almost twice as much as Iran on defense appropriations and is able to buy the world’s most advanced weaponry from the United States (mostly with U.S. taxpayer money, laundered through foreign aid). Iran, by contrast, is heavily dependent on the dated munitions it received under the Shah and acquires rudimentary missile technology from China and North Korea with its own money.

Even if Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons, Israel’s own stockpile—estimated at a several hundred high-yield warheads—ensures that Tehran would not engage in a first-strike. Those familiar with the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) know that when confronted with the possibility of your own annihilation, so the theory goes, you’re incentivized to refrain from launching a first strike. Israel’s stationing of nukes on German-made Dolphin class submarines in the Mediterranean assures that even if a first strike were to be carried out on the Jewish state, the perpetrator would still be subject to a retaliatory strike.

However, much as America acts as Israel’s patron, so too Iran spends a good deal arming and supporting proxy armies in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively. While these forces present a serious challenge to Israeli military incursions into said areas, their ability to project force within Israel’s borders is limited to indiscriminate rocket fire. While dangerous and psychologically terrifying for civilians, such tactics cannot be considered more than a nuisance when comparing capacities for state violence.

Israel is not a signatory to the NPT and repeatedly refuses propositions for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (MENWFZ) to be established as a means of ending the stand-off with Tehran, despite majority support from the Israeli public.

Lesson #4: Iran’s leadership is not fanatical or suicidal

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.” (Global Public Square, Martin Dempsey on Syria, Iran and China; February 17, 2012)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz: “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” (CS Monitor, Israeli Army Chief says he doubts Iran will build a nuclear weapon; April 25, 2012)

Intellectual orthodoxy holds that even the most tepid criticism of Israeli and American policy vis-à-vis Iran requires a disclaimer by all “serious people” that Iran is a vicious theocratic regime which oppresses its own people. While Iran’s governmental structure is religiously based and peaceful protests have been met with repression, such traits are hardly unique. Saudi Arabia, America’s most solid regional ally, enforces religious doctrine as viciously if not more so than Iran does (such as executing many for practicing freedom of speech and religion as “witches” or “blasphemers”). And, of course, violent government responses to non-violent demonstrations aimed at political change are hardly unknown in free societies (see: Occupy Wall Street).

Moreover, there’s little correlation between the internal repression of a society and its external behavior. The United States, one of the freer societies on the planet, routinely engages in aggression and the use of brute force to accomplish geopolitical objectives. Conversely, Iran pummels domestic dissent while historically limiting its military involvement outside its borders. The only record of Iranian aggression since the 18th century was when the U.S.-backed Shah invaded and conquered a series of Arab islands in the early 1970’s.

Despite contentions from the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s leadership is capable of pulling the temple down on their heads in a show of Samsonian martyrdom, Tehran’s track record and statements indicate otherwise. The more judicious pundits at least acknowledge as much.

Lesson #5: Politicians and media stenographers have been claiming Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons since the mid-1980’s

House Republican Research Committee in 1992: “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.” (Christian Science Monitor, Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979; November 8, 2011)

Iran began its nuclear program with help from the United States during the 1950’s when it was run by Washington’s puppet-dictator Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was installed after the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government in a 1953 CIA coup known as Operation Ajax. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini condemned all nuclear and chemical weapons as “un-Islamic,” stopping the nascent nuclear program in its tracks. Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei reiterated his predecessor’s religious edict some 20 years later.

The 1980’s saw complex American-Iranian and Israeli-Iranian relations, whereby discreet deals were made among the antagonistic powers in an effort to accomplish other foreign policy goals. Yet by the early 1990’s Iran’s growing military prowess and the near-destruction of the major Arab military presence to Israel’s east (Iraq) put Iran back on Tel Aviv’s agenda as a strategic competitor. In 1992, then-member of parliament Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset that Iran was 3 to 5 years from having a nuclear weapon—and that the threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.” Sound familiar?

American policymakers began to echo Israeli claims during the 1990’s, largely in public and without evidence to back them up. These assertions continued in a steady drumbeat of increasingly hostile rhetoric (“The Axis of Evil”) all the way until 2007, when a declassified NIE was released disputing the fact that Iran continued its weapons program in any way beyond 2003. Despite the conclusions, as mentioned in lesson #1, hawks on the left and right continue to peddle demonstrably false claims to this very day.

Lesson #6: The American and Israeli security establishments are against it

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We’re watching very carefully about what [Iran] do[es], because it’s always been more about their actions than their words…We’re not setting red lines.” (Haaretz, Clinton rejects Netanyahu’s call for ‘red lines’ over Iran nuclear program; September 10, 2012)

Former Internal Security Chief Yuval Diskin: “…attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster.” (Think Progress, Diskin says he has ‘no faith’ in current leadership, April 27, 2012)

Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan: a future Israeli Air Force strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” (Haaretz, Former Mossad chief: Israel air strike on Iran ‘stupidest thing I have ever heard’, May 7, 2011)

Although the idea of nuclear weapons in the hands of an avowedly hostile regime is as upsetting to Washington as it is to Tel Aviv, the Pentagon brass is opposed to an attack, not because they suddenly favor the regime in Tehran, but because their own strike simulations predict a great deal of injurious blowback in exchange for, at most, a brief setback in Iran’s nuclear capability.

And despite war hysteria in Israel, fanned by political rhetoric, and legitimate conventional security concerns for the Jewish state, Israeli security and military officials recognize that they don’t have anywhere near the overwhelming force required to take care of the problem. The only way to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapons capability would be to install a friendly puppet regime in Tehran, a task far beyond the capability of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or the U.S. military at this point.

In lieu of direct military conflict, the U.S. and Israel have adopted a harsh policy of economic sanctions, cyberwarfare, and covert operations—declarations of war, by American standards—in an effort to delay Iran’s nuclear progress. But the consensus among knowledgeable players is that any resort to force will have far worse repercussions than benefits.

Lesson #7: The American and Israeli people are against it

Poll: 7 out of 10 Americans choose diplomacy over military force to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Christian Science Monitor, To strike Iran’s nuclear facilities or not to strike? Why polls differ; March 14, 2012)

Poll: 58% of Israelis oppose a unilateral strike on Iran (Haaretz, Haaretz poll: Most of the public opposes an Israeli strike on Iran; March 8, 2012)

Poll: Only 27% of Jewish Israelis in favor of a unilateral strike on Iran (Haaretz, Poll: Most Israelis oppose attack on Iran nuclear facilities; August 16, 2012)

While public opinion is as malleable as Play-Doh, surveys show that the American and Israeli citizenries are very skeptical about war with Iran. The former, still reeling from the unpleasant effects of two costly occupations (one ongoing), are overwhelmingly opposed to another war in the Middle East. Likewise, although a majority of Israelis view Iran’s nuclear program as more immediately dangerous than their American counterparts do, polling indicates they are opposed to a unilateral strike initiated without American support. This makes sense, given the IDF’s military inadequacy for the task at hand, and Israel’s proximity to retaliatory proxy forces in southern Lebanon and Gaza.

It is true that survey responses vary depending on how the question is asked. When confronted with the baseless assertion that Iran is building nuclear weapons, many respondents aver that military action is worth it. But when given the correct facts, both populations conclude that the downsides of military force aren’t worth the payoff. This aligns with the thoughts of most policymakers within the establishment.

Lesson #8: An Iranian nuclear weapon will be all-but-assured if the U.S. or Israel attack

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden on war deliberations within the Bush administration: “the consensus was that [a brief bombing campaign] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent: an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.” (The Hill, Don’t let Iran be a second Iraq; February 27, 2012)

With so much evidence solidly against their position, U.S. and Israeli hawks have become increasingly strident in their appeal to violence as a means of ending the Iranian “nuclear threat.”  Many proponents of a strike have cited the Israeli Air Force raid on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 as a precedent that could be emulated. While comparisons between the two situations are tenuous at best, what’s of higher import is the fact that U.S. intelligence concluded that the 1981 attack didn’t stop Saddam’s nuclear weapons program—it accelerated it.  (It was actually the consequences of Saddam’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait that brought Iraq’s bomb program to a halt.)

A former intern for Democracy Now! and correspondent for the radio program Political Seance 101 on WRHU 88.7 FM, Christian Stork is a news junkie and commentator specializing in foreign affairs and civil liberties. He now contributes to WhoWhatWhy.com and keeps the blog American Samizdat.

This article originally appeared at WhoWhatWhy.com

Iraq Redux?

Iran: the Neocons Are At It Again

by RALPH NADER

The same neocons who persuaded George W. Bush and crew to, in Ron Paul’s inimitable words, “lie their way into invading Iraq” in 2003, are beating the drums of war more loudly these days to attack Iran. It is remarkable how many of these war-mongers are former draft dodgers who wanted other Americans to fight the war in Vietnam.

With the exception of Ron Paul, who actually knows the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, the Republican presidential contenders have declared their belligerency toward Iranian officials who they accuse of moving toward nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime disputes that charge, claiming they are developing the technology for nuclear power and nuclear medicine.

The inspection teams of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) that monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran belongs, have entered Iran numerous times and, while remaining suspicious, have not been able to find that country on the direct road to the Bomb.

While many western and some Arab countries in the Gulf region have condemned Iran’s alleged nuclear arms quest, Israel maintains some 200 ready nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, thereby avoiding the IAEA inspectors.

Israelis in the know have much to say. Defense minister, Ehud Barak, responded to PBS’s Charlie Rose’s question “If you were Iran wouldn’t you want a nuclear weapon?” with these words:

“Probably, probably. I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They have their history of 4,000 years. They look around and they see the Indians are nuclear. The Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear as well as North Korea, not to mention the Russians.”

The Iranian regime, with a national GDP smaller than Massachusetts, is terrified. It is surrounded by powerful adversaries, including the U.S. military on three of its borders. President George W. Bush labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, one of the three “axis of evil,” and Teheran knows what happened to Iraq after that White House assertion. They also know that North Korea inoculated itself from invasion by testing nuclear bombs. And all Iranians remember that the U.S. overthrew their popular elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and installed the dictatorial Shah who ruled tyrannically for the next 27 years.

Recently, Iran has experienced mysterious cyber sabotage, drone violations of its air space, the slaying of its nuclear scientists and the blowing up of its military sites, including a major missile installation. Israeli and American officials are not trying too hard to conceal this low level warfare.

Israel military historian—strategist Martin van Creveld said in 2004, that Iranians “would be crazy not to build nuclear weapons considering the security threats they face.” Three years later he stated that “the world must now learn to live with a nuclear Iran the way we learned to live with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China….We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us…thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany.”

U.S. General John Abizaid is one of numerous military people who say that the world can tolerate a nuclear Iran—which, like other countries, does not wish to commit suicide.

Using the “Iranian threat,” served Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who on his first tour of duty back in 1996, speaking to a joint session of Congress, made a big point of the forthcoming Iranian bomb.

Somehow the Iranians, who were invaded in 1980 by a U.S.-backed Saddam Hussein, resulting in a million casualties, and who have not invaded anybody for 250 years, are taking a very long time to build a capability for atomic bomb production, much less the actual weapons.

In mid-2011, Meir Dagan, recently retired head of Israel’s “CIA,” repeated his opposition to a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, adding it would engulf the region in a conventional war.

He further took the Israeli government to task for failing “to put forth a vision,” noting that “Israel must present an initiative to the Palestinians and adopt the 2002 Saudi Arabia peace proposal, reiterated since, that would open full diplomatic relations with some two dozen Arab and Islamic countries in return for an Israeli pullback to the 1967 borders and recognition of a Palestinian state.

The war-mongers against Iran have often distorted Iranian statements to suit their purpose and kept in the shadows several friendly Iranian initiatives offered to the George W. Bush Administration.

Flynt L. Leverett, now with Brookings and before a State Department and CIA official, listed three initiatives that were rejected. Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, Iran offered to help Washington overthrow the Taliban. The U.S. declined the offer. Second, in the spring of 2003, top Iranian officials sent the White House a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve questions regarding its weapons programs, relations with Hezbollah and Hamas and a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel. This proposal was rebuffed and ignored.

Third, in October 2003, European officials secured an agreement from Iran to suspend Iranian uranium enrichment and to pursue talks that Mr. Leverett said “might lead to an economic, nuclear and strategic deal.” The Bush administration “refused to join the European initiative, ensuring that the talks failed,” he added.

A few days ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iran was developing a capability for making nuclear weapons someday but was not yet building a bomb. So why is the Obama Administration talking about a western boycott of Iran’s oil exports, so crucial to its faltering, sanctions-ridden economy? Is this latest sanction designed to squeeze Iranian civilians and lead to the overthrow of the regime? Arguably it may backfire and produce more support for the government.

Backing the Iranian regime into such a fateful corner risks counter-measures that may disrupt the gigantic flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Should that occur, watch the prices of your gasoline, heating bill and other related products go through the roof—among other consequences.

Isn’t it about time for the abdicatory Congress to reassert its constitutional responsibilities? It owes the American people comprehensive, public House and Senate hearings that produce knowledgeable testimony about these issues and all relevant history for wide media coverage.

The drums of war should not move our country into a propagandized media frenzy that preceded and helped cause the Iraq invasion with all the socio-cide in that country and all the costly blowbacks against U.S. national interests?

It is past time for the American citizenry to wake up and declare: Iran will not be an Iraq Redux!

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.

Terror Attacks, U.S.-Israeli War Games Raise the Prospects for War

Amid rising tensions over bogus Western claims that Iran plans to build nuclear weapons, upcoming American war games with Israel have the potential of escalating into a deadly confrontation.

A miscalculation, or deliberate provocation by the West designed to maneuver the Iranians into “firing the first shot,” could have disastrous consequences far beyond the confines of the Persian Gulf.

That provocation wasn’t long in coming.

Despite an agreement reached by Iran with the P 5+1 group of nations (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany), to restart talks in Turkey over the nuclear issue, the CIA-Mossad-MEK terror campaign took a dark turn this week; a sign that the imperialist powers, spearheaded by the United States, aim to scupper negotiations even before they start.

On Tuesday, an Iranian university professor, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, a chemistry expert and director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was murdered after two assailants on a motorcycle attached magnetic bombs to his car.

Analyst Richard Silverstein wrote on the Tikun Olam web site Wednesday that “my own confidential Israeli source confirms today’s murder was the work of the Mossad and MEK, as have been a number of previous operations I’ve reported here.”

Silverstein averred that “the method recalls another series of assassinations that occurred of Fereidoun Abbassi Davani (who was seriously wounded) and his colleague Majid Shahriari (who was killed). Today’s killing occurred two years to the day after the assassination of another scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi.”

According to Fars News Agency, the blasts which killed Roshan “also wounded two other Iranian nationals in Seyed Khandan neighborhood in Northern Tehran.”

The scientist”s driver, Reza Qashqavi, who was severely injured in the blast, “died of his wounds in Resalat Hospital a few hours later,” Fars reported.

What makes Roshan’s murder especially troubling is that according to political analyst Seyyed Mohamed Marandi, the “IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] officials had met him [Ahmadi Roshan] earlier.”

Marandi charged that all of the Iranian scientists who had been targeted and then subsequently murdered in terrorist attacks “have had their names given by the IAEA to third parties,” Press TV reported.

“It is obvious that Western intelligence agencies are carrying out these attacks, or if the Israelis are carrying them out, it is with the knowledge of the Europeans and Americans. Because these agencies are very closely aligned to one another, they cooperate extensively, they exchange information,” Marandi said.

While no one has claimed authorship of the terrorist outrage, the Associated Press reported that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz testified in closed session to the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that America’s proxy, Israel, was engaged in sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program through a series of “unnatural acts.”

“2012 is expected to be a critical year for Iran,” Gantz told the committee, citing “the confluence of efforts to advance the nuclear program, internal leadership changes, continued international pressure and things that happen to it unnaturally.”

Roshan was the fourth scientist killed in a series of assassinations since January 2010 and follows a series of attacks on defense and nuclear facilities.

In early November, a massive bomb blast at the sprawling Bid Ganeh missile base 25 miles west of Tehran killed upwards of 30 members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a senior leader of Iran’s missile program.

Later that month, a huge explosion was reported at Iran’s uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. Though Iranian officials denied an attack took place, The Times reported that “satellite imagery … clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction.”

U.S. officials, as is their wont, responded in typical fashion–they blamed the victims.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said she had “no information one way or the other” about the scientist’s murder, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Iran for their “provocative rhetoric” and issued a categorical denial that the U.S. was organizing terrorism inside the Islamic Republic.

However, in an interview with the Hebrew-language Ma’ariv daily, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that “Washington is preparing to undertake any measure to thwart Iran’s nuclear program,” Xinhua reported.

“We’ve said and I say again that all options are open … President (Barack) Obama clearly and consistently says that he will do everything and resort to all necessary means to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, and he means every word,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro’s statement, if not quite an open admission, is a sign of Washington’s boundless hypocrisy as it supposedly wages a so-called “War on Terror” while organizing terrorist attacks on governments it has targeted for regime change.

Iran, and China, Strike a Defiant Note

With a new round of economic sanctions targeting Iran’s ability to sell its oil on international markets signed into law by President Obama last week, and with the European Union threatening to do the same, it was unlikely that the Iranian government, or their principle trading partner, would sit idly by and allow the West to damage their respective economies.

Although The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “a senior U.S. intelligence official” said that “the goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran is regime collapse,” the quote was quickly yanked from their web site.

The Post claimed the earlier account was “incorrectly reported” and that “an updated version clarifies the official’s remarks,” a fallacious climb-down that revealed far more than Washington intended to say the least!

The European Union announced that a meeting of foreign ministers would be held January 23, a week earlier than originally planned, to finalize an agreement on a comprehensive oil embargo.

While the EU and some Asian oil-buying nations are caving-in to Washington’s demands, America’s geopolitical rival and largest creditor, China, has rejected calls to put the squeeze on Tehran.

With U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Beijing this week, The Washington Post reported that the former Kissinger Associates henchman in Obama’s cabinet “is expected to press China’s leaders to reduce the country’s oil imports from Iran.”

He is unlikely to find a receptive ear, however.

China’s vice foreign minister responsible for U.S. relations, Cui Tiankai, said on Monday that “the normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue. We should not mix issues of different natures, and China’s legitimate concerns and demands should be respected.”

Having blasted the new sanctions regime imposed last week, China, the third largest buyer of Iranian crude, said new restrictions would not affect business in the least.

The Associated Press reported that “about 11 percent of China’s oil imports in 2011 came from Iran, or about 560,000 barrels per day, a flow that increased in the latter half of the year, according to oil industry analysts Argus Media.”

“The daily average for November was 617,000 barrels,” AP reported, “close to a third of Iran’s total oil exports of 2.2 million barrels a day, Argus said,” a sign that China is hardly intimidated by U.S. threats.

Rejecting U.S. and European claims that normal business relations with the Islamic Republic provided financial support for its nuclear program, Cui declared that “argument does not hold water.”

“According to this logic,” the vice minister said, “if the Iranians have enough money to feed their population, then they have the ability to develop nuclear programs,” Cui told reporters. “If that is the case, should we also deny Iran the opportunity to feed its population?”

Cui’s pointed remark was an obvious jab at the U.S. sanctions regime which targeted Iraq for more than a decade prior to the 2003 invasion. Sanctions, which former UN official Dennis Halliday called “genocide” back in 1999, were estimated to have caused the death of upwards of 1.7. million people, including some 500,000 children, a “price” which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said was “worth it.”

Undeterred by American threats, Press TV disclosed Sunday that “a senior Iranian lawmaker says the aim of the upcoming naval drills by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is to prepare for the potential closure of the strategic Hormuz Strait.”

Iranian naval officials announced January 5 that they “would be holding a major military maneuver in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in February.”

“IRGC’s Naval Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said the drills, the seventh in a series of military exercises dubbed the Great Prophet, will be different compared to previous naval maneuvers held by the IRGC,” Press TV reported.

Pointedly, the deputy head of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Esmail Kowsari, said that “the military maneuver has been designed to prepare the armed forces for receiving the order to shut down the strait within the shortest time possible.”

The semiofficial Iranian news outlet also reported Sunday that the “Commander of Iran’s Ground Forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan announces plans to hold a massive military maneuver in the near future.”

“In line with the global developments and their own interests,” Pourdastan told Press TV, “Western countries are, today, using soft war [tactics] as the core of their strategy and it is [only] natural for us to have a defense [tactic] when the enemy starts a war.”

On Monday, Fars News Agency reported that IRGC Commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, reiterated his earlier warning that “any enemy move, even the slightest aggressions, against the Islamic Republic would be reciprocated with a destructive response and will endanger the interests of the aggressor all around the world.”

Mounting U.S.-NATO Threats

Iran’s announcement that they will hold new naval exercises, followed a report by The Daily Telegraph that the UK will deploy “the HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer,” and this “will send a significant message to the Iranians because of the firepower and world-beating technology carried by the warship.”

In November, The Guardian disclosed that “Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran.”

In a controlled leak, Ministry of Defence officials told The Guardian that “military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.”

During the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Diego Garcia was used by the the U.S. Air Force as a launch pad for B-2 stealth bombers during the initial phase of Washington’s “shock and awe” campaign over Baghdad.

It now appears those contingency plans have moved off the drawing board with the deployment of the HMS Daring towards the Persian Gulf.

The Telegraph disclosed that the ship “has been fitted with new technology that will give it the ability to shoot down any missile in Iran’s armoury. The £1 billion destroyer, which will leave Portsmouth next Wednesday, also carries the world’s most sophisticated naval radar, capable of tracking multiple incoming threats from missiles to fighter jets.”

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond warned Iran that “any blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be ‘illegal and unsuccessful’.”

According to the Telegraph, naval sources have said that “more British ships could be sent to the Gulf if required. The second Type 45, HMS Dauntless, will also be available to sail at short notice.”

As Global Research reported in December, the United States has significantly increased military aid to Israel in preparation for an all-out war with Iran and that “the Pentagon dispatched some 100 military personnel to Israel from US European Command (EUCOM) to assist Israel in setting up a new sophisticated X-band early warning radar system as part of a new and integrated air defense system.”

Although “casually heralded as ‘military aid,'” Michel Chossudovsky wrote, “the project consisted in strengthening the integration of Israel’s air defense system into that of the US, with the Pentagon rather than Israel calling the shots.”

In a new development, Russia Today reported last week that “thousands of American troops are being deployed to Israel, and Iranian officials believe that this is the latest and most blatant warning that the US will soon be attacking Tehran.”

“Under the Austere Challenge 12 drill scheduled for an undisclosed time during the next few weeks,” RT disclosed, “the Israeli military will together with America host the largest-ever joint missile drill by the two countries.”

An anonymous Israeli official told the Associated Press “the drill would test multiple Israeli and U.S. air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets. Israel has deployed the ‘Arrow’ system, jointly developed and funded with the U.S., designed to intercept Iranian missiles in the stratosphere, far from Israel.”

While U.S. and Israeli officials have called the drills “routine,” RT reported that “following the installation of American troops near Iran’s neighboring Strait of Hormuz and the reinforcing of nearby nations with US weapons, Tehran authorities are considering this not a test but the start of something much bigger.”

Iranian fears are fully justified.

With the United States and NATO ringing Iran with military bases and with the U.S. beefing-up arm sales to its regional allies, including recently announced plans to sell some $30 billion of advanced F-15SA war planes to Saudi Arabia and “bunker buster” bombs to the UAE, the stage is set for a confrontation.

In this context, the murder of an Iranian scientist just as a new round of talks were announced, is a clear sign that Washington is hell-bent on imposing its control over the Persian Gulf–through aggressive war–as part of long-standing plans to ensure imperial hegemony over the energy-rich regions of of Central Asia and the Middle East.