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US Officials Peddle False Intel to Support Terror Plot Claims by Gareth Porter

US Officials Peddle False Intel to Support Terror Plot Claims

Posted By Gareth Porter On October 17, 2011

Officials of the Barack Obama administration have aggressively leaked information supposedly based on classified intelligence in recent days to bolster the allegation that two high-ranking officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were involved in a plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in Washington, D.C.

The media stories generated by the leaks helped divert press attention from the fact that there is no verifiable evidence of any official Iranian involvement in the alleged assassination plan, contrary to the broad claim being made by the administration.

But the information about the two Iranian officials leaked to NBC News, The Washington Post, and Reuters was unambiguously false and misleading, as confirmed by official documents in one case and a former senior intelligence and counterterrorism official in the other.

The main target of the official leaks was Abdul Reza Shahlai, who was identified publicly by the Obama administration as a “deputy commander in the Quds Force” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Shahlai had long been regarded by U.S. officials as a key figure in the Quds Force’s relationship to Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq.

The primary objective of the FBI sting operation involving Iranian-American Manssor Arbabsiar and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant that was started last June now appears to have been to use Arbabsiar to implicate Shahlai in a terror plot.

U.S. officials had learned from the DEA informant that Arbabsiar claimed that Shahlai was his cousin.

In September 2008, the Treasury Department designated Shahlai as an individual “providing financial, material, and technical support for acts of violence that threaten the peace and stability of Iraq,” which made him subject to specific financial sanctions. The announcement said Shahlai had provided “material support” to the Mahdi Army in 2006 and that he had “planned the Jan. 20, 2007, attack” by Mahdi Army “Special Groups” on U.S. troops at the Provincial Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq.

Arbabsiar’s confession claims that Shahlai approached him in early spring 2011 and asked him to find “someone in the narcotics business” to kidnap the Saudi ambassador to the United States, according to the FBI account. Arbabsiar implicates Shahlai in providing him with thousands of dollars for his expenses.

But Arbabsiar’s charge against Shahlai was self-interested. Arbabsiar had become the cornerstone of the administration’s case against Shahlai in order to obtain leniency on charges against him.

There is no indication in the FBI account of the investigation that there is any independent evidence to support Arbabsiar’s claim of Shahlai’s involvement in a plan to kill the ambassador.

The Obama administration planted stories suggesting that Shahlai had a terrorist past and that it was therefore credible that he could be part of an assassination plot.

Laying the foundation for press stories on the theme, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday that it was sanctioning Shahlai, along with Arbabsiar and three other Quds Force officials, including the head of the organization, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, for being “connected to” the assassination plot.

But Michael Isikoff of NBC News reported the same day that Shahlai “had previously been accused of plotting a highly sophisticated attack that killed five U.S. soldiers in Iraq, according to U.S. government officials and documents made public Tuesday afternoon.”

Isikoff, who is called a “national investigative correspondent” at NBC News, reported that the Treasury Department had designated Shahlai as a “terrorist” in 2008, despite the fact that the Treasury announcement of the designation had not used the term “terrorist.”

On Saturday, The Washington Post published a report closely paralleling the Isikoff story but going even further in claiming documentary proof of Shahlai’s responsibility for the January 2007 attack in Karbala. Post reporter Peter Finn wrote that Shahlai “the guiding hand behind an elite group of gunmen from the feared militia of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr,” which had carried out an attack on U.S. troops in Karbala in January 2007.

Finn cited the fact that the Treasury Department named Shahlai as the “final approving and coordinating authority” for training Sadr’s militiamen in Iran. That fact would not in itself be evidence of involvement in a specific attack on U.S. forces. On the contrary, it would suggest that he was not involved in operational aspects of the Mahdi Army in Iraq.

Finn then referred to a “22-page memo that detailed preparations for the operation and tied it to the Quds Force.” But he didn’t refer to any evidence that Shahlai personally had anything to do with the operation.

In fact, U.S. officials acknowledged in the months after the Karbala attack that they had found no evidence of any Iranian involvement in the operation.

Talking with reporters about the memo on April 26, 2007, several weeks after it had been captured, Gen. David Petraeus conceded that it did not show that any Iranian official was linked to the planning of the Karbala operation. When a journalist asked him whether there was evidence of Iranian involvement in the Karbala operation, Petraeus responded, “No. No. No. … [W]e do not have a direct link to Iran involvement in that particular case.”

In a news briefing in Baghdad July 2, 2007, Gen. Kevin Bergner confirmed that the attack in Karbala had been authorized by the Iraqi chief of the militia in question, Qais Khazali, not by any Iranian official.

Col. Michael X. Garrett, who had been commander of the U.S. Fourth Brigade combat team in Karbala, confirmed to this writer in December 2008 that the Karbala attack “was definitely an inside job.”

Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, is on the list of those Iranian officials “linked” to the alleged terror plot, because he “oversees the IRGC-QF officers who were involved in this plot,” as the Treasury Department announcement explained. But a Reuters story on Friday reported a claim of U.S. intelligence that two wire transfers totaling $100,000 at the behest of Arbabsiar to a bank account controlled by the FBI implicates Soleimani in the assassination plot.

“While details are still classified,” wrote Mark Hosenball and Caren Bohan, “one official said the wire transfers apparently had some kind of hallmark indicating they were personally approved” by Soleimani.

But the suggestion that forensic examination of the wire transfers could somehow show who had approved them is misleading. The wire transfers were from two separate non-Iranian banks in a foreign country, according to the FBI’s account. It would be impossible to deduce who approved the transfer by looking at the documents.

“I have no idea what such a ‘hallmark’ could be,” said Paul Pillar, a former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center who was also national intelligence officer for the Middle East until his retirement in 2005.

Pillar told IPS that the “hallmark” notion “pops up frequently in commentary after actual terrorist attacks,” but the concept is usually invoked “along the lines of ‘the method used in this attack had the hallmark of group such and such.’”

That “hallmark” idea “assumes exclusive ownership of a method of attack which does not really exist,” said Pillar. “I expect the same could be said of methods of transferring money.”

Saudi Woman Sentenced to 10 Lashes for Driving, Others Await Trial

Source: My Right2Dignity Initiative.

Breaking News: We have received unfortunate news about a Saudi lady, Shaimaa, who was called in court for driving her car, she has attended three sessions in Jeddah and they have sentenced her for 10 lashes. She rejected the verdict and will appeal in court. This is completely unacceptable and certainly breaks laws and regulations as well as international treaties that Saudi Arabia has signed. Two other ladies have been called to court, Ms. Najlaa Al Hariri was forced to sign a pledge not to drive again and is scheduled to appear in court for trial in one month in Jeddah and another lady is under trial in the Eastern Province. What is happening to our women today is unfortunate and violates the rule of law and legal rights and is contrary to the reformist direction that was launched by The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. We deplore what has happened and what is happening, and we appeal to The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, to look into our [Saudi women driving] issue which has long been silenced and which has caused shedding off our rights, and our dignity. A right that was promised to be granted to us by King Abdullah and one which has been legitimized by laws and codes yet was seized by so-called customs. We declare [once again] that there is no legal provision that criminalize women for driving their cars, and which if found, would legally be considered a flagrant violation of women rights and would infringe treaties and conventions that was signed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, such as the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We hereby announce that The Initiative will offer lawyers, if needed, for any woman who is subjected to legal accusations for driving her car, and we shall continue this until The King hears our voices. We will send telegrams to The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, on the issue of Ms. Najla Al Hariri for driving her car, and other ladies who have been interrogated or prosecuted for driving their cars. We hope that other citizens who denounce the above incidents will communicate with officials by sending telegrams or by callingTelegraph on 969 from any phone owned by the person to bring our collective voices to key decision-makers.

Signed, My Right2Dignity Initiative

Source: My Right2Dignity Initiative.

وردتنا اخباء مؤسفه عن استدعاء السيدة شيماء لمحاكمتها بسبب قيادتها سيارتها و حضرت ثلاث جلسات في المحكمة قبل الحكم عليها بالجلد عشر جلدات ، هذا الامر بالتأكيد غير مقبول تماما و قد كسر القوانين و اللوائح و المعهدات الدولية التي وقعت عليها المملكة العربية السعودية ، مثل معاهدة سيداو ،، كذلك تم استدعاء سيدتين أخريين للمحاكمة بسبب قيادة السيارة ، احداهن في رلمنطقة الشرقية و الأخرى السيدة نجلاء حريري التي اجبرت على توقيع تعهد بعدم القيادة و حددت لها جلسة في المحكمة الشهر القادم في جدة ،، ما يحدث مع نساءنا اليوم شيء مؤسف و مخالف للقواعد الشرعية و القانونية و يخالف بالوقت ذاته التوجهات الإصلاحية التي دشنها خادم الحرمين الشريفين. ونحن نشجب ما حدث ويحدث ونناشد خادم الحرمين الشريفين بالنظر لموضوعنا الذي طال السكوت عنه وأريقت كرامتنا مرات ومرات بسبب مطالبتنا بحق شرعي بشر به الملك عبدالله و كفلته كل القوانين والشرائع وصادرته أعراف ما أنزل الله بها من سلطان. ونعلن مرة أخرى أنه لا يوجد أي نص قانوني يجرم أو يمنع قيادة المرأه للسيارة وأنه لو وجد فسيعد انتهاك صارخ لحقوق المرأة ونقض لكل المعاهدات والمواثيق الدولية التي وقعتها المملكة العربية السعودية ومنها اتفاقية سيداو لازالة كافة أشكال التمييز ضد المرأة. وهنا نعلن أن المبادرة ستتكفل بتوكيل محامين لأي سيدة تتعرض لمسائلة قانونية عند قيادتها للسيارة ولن نمل حتى يصل صوتنا لخادم الحرمين الشريفين. مبادرة حقي كرامتي

Abu Mazen’s Gambit » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Abu Mazen’s Gambit


A WONDERFUL SPEECH. A beautiful speech.

The language expressive and elegant. The arguments clear and convincing. The delivery flawless.

A work of art. The art of hypocrisy. Almost every statement in the passage concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue was a lie. A blatant lie: the speaker knew it was a lie, and so did the audience.

It was Obama at his best, Obama at his worst.

Being a moral person, he must have felt the urge to vomit. Being a pragmatic person, he knew that he had to do it, if he wanted to be re-elected.

In essence, he sold the fundamental national interests of the United States of America for the chance of a second term.

Not very nice, but that’s politics, OK?

IT MAY be superfluous – almost insulting to the reader – to point out the mendacious details of this rhetorical edifice.

Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength – Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis.

But of the two, it is the Israelis – only they – who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad.

No Occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened. It’s the straight right-wing Israeli propaganda line, pure and simple – the terminology, the historical narrative, the argumentation. The music.

The Palestinians, of course, should have a state of their own. Sure, sure. But they must not be pushy. They must not embarrass the US. They must not come to the UN. They must sit with the Israelis, like reasonable people, and work it out with them. The reasonable sheep must sit down with the reasonable wolf and decide what to have for dinner. Foreigners should not interfere.

Obama gave full service. A lady who provides this kind of service generally gets paid in advance. Obama got paid immediately afterwards, within the hour. Netanyahu sat down with him in front of the cameras and gave him enough quotable professions of love and gratitude to last for several election campaigns.

THE TRAGIC hero of this affair is Mahmoud Abbas. A tragic hero, but a hero nonetheless.

Many people may be surprised by this sudden emergence of Abbas as a daring player for high stakes, ready to confront the mighty US.

If Ariel Sharon were to wake up for a moment from his years-long coma, he would faint with amazement. It was he who called Mahmoud Abbas “a plucked chicken”.

Yet for the last few days, Abbas was the center of global attention. World leaders conferred about how to handle him, senior diplomats were eager to convince him of this or that course of action, commentators were guessing what he would do next. His speech before the UN General Assembly was treated as an event of consequence.

Not bad for a chicken, even for one with a full set of feathers.

His emergence as a leader on the world stage is somewhat reminiscent of Anwar Sadat.

When Gamal Abd-al-Nasser unexpectedly died at the age of 52 in 1970 and his official deputy, Sadat, assumed his mantle, all political experts shrugged.

Sadat? Who the hell is that? He was considered a nonentity, an eternal No. 2, one of the least important members of the group of “free officers” that was ruling Egypt.

In Egypt, a land of jokes and jokers, witticisms about him abounded. One concerned the prominent brown mark on his forehead. The official version was that it was the result of much praying, hitting the ground with his forehead. But the real reason, it was told, was that at meetings, after everyone else had spoken, Sadat would get up and try to say something. Nasser would good-naturedly put his finger to his forehead, push him gently down and say: “Sit, Anwar!”

To the utter amazement of the experts – and especially the Israeli ones – this “nonentity” took a huge gamble by starting the 1973 October War, and proceeded to do something unprecedented in history: going to the capital of an enemy country still officially in a state of war and making peace.

Abbas’ status under Yasser Arafat was not unlike Sadat’s under Nasser. However, Arafat never appointed a deputy. Abbas was one of a group of four or five likely successors. The heir would surely have been Abu Jihad, had he not been killed by Israeli commandoes in front of his wife and children. Another likely candidate, Abu Iyad, was killed by Palestinian terrorists. Abu Mazen (Abbas) was in a way the choice by default.

Such politicians, emerging suddenly from under the shadow of a great leader, generally fall into one of two categories: the eternal frustrated No. 2 or the surprising new leader.

The Bible gives us examples of both kinds. The first was Rehoboam, the son and heir of the great King Solomon, who told his people: “my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions”. The other kind was represented by Joshua, the heir of Moses. He was no second Moses, but according to the story a great conqueror in his own right.

Modern history tells the sad story of Anthony Eden, the long-suffering No. 2 of Winston Churchill, who commanded little respect. (Mussolini called him, after their first meeting, “a well-tailored idiot.”). Upon assuming power, he tried desperately to equal Churchill and soon embroiled Britain in the 1956 Suez disaster. To the second category belonged Harry Truman, the nobody who succeeded the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt and surprised everybody as a resolute leader.

Abbas looked like belonging to the first kind. Now, suddenly, he is revealed as belonging to the second. The world is treating him with newfound respect. Nearing the end of his career, he made the big gamble.

BUT WAS it wise? Courageous, yes. Daring, yes. But wise?

My answer is: Yes, it was.

Abbas has placed the quest for Palestinian freedom squarely on the international table. For more than a week, Palestine has been the center of international attention. Scores of international statesmen and -women, including the leader of the world’s only superpower, have been busy with Palestine.

For a national movement, that is of the utmost importance. Cynics may ask: “So what did they gain from it?” But cynics are fools. A liberation movement gains from the very fact that the world pays attention, that the media grapple with the problem, that people of conscience all over the world are aroused. It strengthens morale at home and brings the struggle a step nearer its goal.

Oppression shuns the limelight. Occupation, settlements, ethnic cleansing thrive in the shadows. It is the oppressed who need the light of day. Abbas’ move provided it, at least for the time being.

BARACK OBAMA’s miserable performance was a nail in the coffin of America’s status as a superpower. In a way, it was a crime against the United States.

The Arab Spring may have been a last chance for the US to recover its standing in the Middle East. After some hesitation, Obama realized that. He called on Mubarak to go, helped the Libyans against their tyrant, made some noises about Bashar al-Assad. He knows that he has to regain the respect of the Arab masses if he wants to recover some stature in the region, and by extension throughout the world.

Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the US has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff.

All for reelection.

IT WAS also a crime against Israel.

Israel needs peace. Israel needs to live side by side with the Palestinian people, within the Arab world. Israel cannot rely forever on the unconditional support of the declining United States.

Obama knows this full well. He knows what is good for Israel, even if Netanyahu doesn’t. Yet he has handed the keys of the car to the drunken driver.

The State of Palestine will come into being. This week it was already clear that this is unavoidable. Obama will be forgotten, as will Netanyahu, Lieberman and the whole bunch.

Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, as the Palestinians call him – will be remembered. The “plucked chicken” is soaring into the sky.

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

Rights groups urge UAE to release democracy activists ahead of elections – The Washington Post.

Rights groups urge UAE to release democracy activists ahead of elections

By Associated Press,

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — International rights groups have called on the United Arab Emirates to release from custody five political activists who campaigned for democratic reforms in the oil-rich Gulf country.

The activists, including a blogger and an academic, were detained in April after they signed an online petition demanding constitutional changes and free elections.

The rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, said in a statement Wednesday authorities should drop the charges against the activists and release them ahead of parliamentary elections, scheduled for Saturday.

The activists have been charged with insulting the UAE’s rulers. The next hearing in the case is set for Sept. 26.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.