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Iran’s nuclear ambitions have already started a war with west – a covert one

Iran’s nuclear ambitions have already started a war with west – a covert one

A secret campaign of surveillance, sabotage, cyberattacks and assassinations has slowed but not stopped Tehran’s programme

President George W Bush in 2007

Iran’s nuclear ambitions led then US president George W Bush to launch a covert war in 2007 to thwart the programme. Photograph: Jim Young/REUTERS

The covert war on Iran‘s nuclear programme was launched in earnest by George Bush in 2007. It is a fair assumption that the western powers had been trying their best to spy on the Islamic Republic since the 1979 Iranian revolution, but the 2007 “presidential finding” put those efforts on a new footing.

Bush asked Congress to approve $400m for a programme of support for rebel ethnic groups, as well as intelligence gathering and sabotage of the nuclear programme. Part of that effort involved slipping defective parts such as centrifuge components into the black market supply to Iran, designed to blow apart while in operation and in so doing bring down all the centrifuges in the vicinity. The UK, Germany, France and Israel are said to have been involved in similar efforts. Meanwhile, western intelligence agencies stepped up their attempt to infiltrate the programme, seeking to recruit Iranian scientists when they travelled abroad.

That espionage effort appears to have paid dividends. In 2009, the US, British and French intelligence agencies were able to confirm that extensive excavations at Fordow, a Revolutionary Guard base near the Shia theological centre of Qom, were a secret uranium enrichment plant under construction. The digging had been seen by satellites, but only human sources could identify its purpose. Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy were able to reveal Fordow’s existence at the UN general assembly in September 2009, a diplomatic setback to Iran. Russia, which had been Iran’s principal protector on the world stage, was furious with Tehran at having been taken by surprise.

It is harder to gauge the impact of sabotage. Olli Heinonen, the former chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said: “I never saw any direct evidence of sabotage. We could see that they had breakages but it was hard to say if those were the result of their own technical problems or sabotage. I suspect a little of both.”

Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, complained to the press in 2006 about sabotage but vowed that Iran would overcome the challenge by making more of the centrifuges and other components itself.

But it was impossible to make everything at home. The computer systems which run the centrifuge operations in Natanz, supplied by the German engineering firm Siemens, were targeted last year by a computer worm called Stuxnet, reportedly created as a joint venture by US and Israeli intelligence. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad conceded that Stuxnet had caused damage, and last November, Iranian scientists were forced to suspend enrichment to rectify the problem. A few days later, however, the centrifuges were working once more.

The black operations have not been confined to hardware and computer systems. They have also targeted Iran’s scientists. In July 2009, an Iranian nuclear expert called Shahram Amiri vanished while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. A year later, he surfaced in the US claiming he had been abducted by American agents, and in July 2010 he returned to a hero’s welcome in Tehran.

US officials said he had been a willing defector who had been paid $5m for his help, but who had since had a mysterious change of heart. There have since been claims Amiri had been an Iranian double agent all along. The truth is unclear.

Other attempts to remove Iran’s scientists have been blunter and bloodier.

Starting in January 2010, there were a series of attacks in Tehran on Iranian physicists with links to the nuclear programme. The first target was Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a physicist and lecturer at the Imam Hussein university, run by the Revolutionary Guards. He was on his way to work when a bomb fixed to a motorbike parked outside his house exploded and killed him instantly.

In November that year, assassins on motorbikes targeted two Iranian scientists simultaneously as they were stuck in morning traffic. In both cases, the killers drove up alongside their targets’ cars and stuck bombs to the side. Majid Shahriari, a scientist at the atomic energy organisation, who had co-authored a paper on neutron diffusion in a nuclear reactor, was killed.

The other target, Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani, suspected by western officials of being a central figure in experiments on building a nuclear warhead, was only injured. Three months later he was promoted to the leadership of the nuclear programme.

A third scientist, Darioush Rezaeinejad, was killed in an attack in July this year, when gunmen on motorbikes shot him in a street in east Tehran. He was initially described in the Iranian media as a “nuclear scientist”, but the government later denied he had any involvement in the programme.

Iran has blamed the attacks on the Israeli secret service, Mossad, and in August sentenced an Iranian, Majid Jamali-Fashi, to death for his alleged involvement in the Ali Mohammadi killing. He had confessed to being part of a hit-team trained in Israel, but it appeared likely he had made the confession under torture.

Despite the millions spent, stalled machines and deaths of leading scientists, Iran has steadily built up its stockpile of enriched uranium to 4.5 tonnes – enough for four nuclear bombs if it was further refined to weapons-grade purity. At most, the covert war has slowed the rate of progress, but it has not stopped it.


Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again | Common Dreams

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again

The Palestinians won’t achieve statehood, but they will consign the ‘peace process’ to history.

The Palestinians won’t get a state this week. But they will prove – if they get enough votes in the General Assembly and if Mahmoud Abbas does not succumb to his characteristic grovelling in the face of US-Israeli power – that they are worthy of statehood. And they will establish for the Arabs what Israel likes to call – when it is enlarging its colonies on stolen land – “facts on the ground”: never again can the United States and Israel snap their fingers and expect the Arabs to click their heels. The US has lost its purchase on the Middle East. It’s over: the “peace process”, the “road map”, the “Oslo agreement”; the whole fandango is history.“In the new Middle East,” writes Fisk, “Amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. (EPA)

Personally, I think “Palestine” is a fantasy state, impossible to create now that the Israelis have stolen so much of the Arabs’ land for their colonial projects. Go take a look at the West Bank, if you don’t believe me. Israel’s massive Jewish colonies, its pernicious building restrictions on Palestinian homes of more than one storey and its closure even of sewage systems as punishment, the “cordons sanitaires” beside the Jordanian frontier, the Israeli-only settlers’ roads have turned the map of the West Bank into the smashed windscreen of a crashed car. Sometimes, I suspect that the only thing that prevents the existence of “Greater Israel” is the obstinacy of those pesky Palestinians.

But we are now talking of much greater matters. This vote at the UN – General Assembly or Security Council, in one sense it hardly matters – is going to divide the West – Americans from Europeans and scores of other nations – and it is going to divide the Arabs from the Americans. It is going to crack open the divisions in the European Union; between eastern and western Europeans, between Germany and France (the former supporting Israel for all the usual historical reasons, the latter sickened by the suffering of the Palestinians) and, of course, between Israel and the EU.

A great anger has been created in the world by decades of Israeli power and military brutality and colonisation; millions of Europeans, while conscious of their own historical responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and well aware of the violence of Muslim nations, are no longer cowed in their criticism for fear of being abused as anti-Semites. There is racism in the West – and always will be, I fear – against Muslims and Africans, as well as Jews. But what are the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, in which no Arab Muslim Palestinian can live, but an expression of racism?

Israel shares in this tragedy, of course. Its insane government has led its people on this road to perdition, adequately summed up by its sullen fear of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt – how typical that its principle ally in this nonsense should be the awful Saudi Arabia – and its cruel refusal to apologise for the killing of nine Turks in the Gaza flotilla last year and its equal refusal to apologise to Egypt for the killing of five of its policemen during a Palestinian incursion into Israel.

So goodbye to its only regional allies, Turkey and Egypt, in the space of scarcely 12 months. Israel’s cabinet is composed both of intelligent, potentially balanced people such as Ehud Barak, and fools such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Ahmadinejad of Israeli politics. Sarcasm aside, Israelis deserve better than this.

The State of Israel may have been created unjustly – the Palestinian Diaspora is proof of this – but it was created legally. And its founders were perfectly capable of doing a deal with King Abdullah of Jordan after the 1948-49 war to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But it had been the UN, which met to decide the fate of Palestine on 29 November 1947, which gave Israel its legitimacy, the Americans being the first to vote for its creation. Now – by a supreme irony of history – it is Israel which wishes to prevent the UN from giving Palestinian Arabs their legitimacy – and it is America which will be the first to veto such a legitimacy.

Does Israel have a right to exist? The question is a tired trap, regularly and stupidly trotted out by Israel’s so-called supporters; to me, too, on regular though increasingly fewer occasions. States – not humans – give other states the right to exist. For individuals to do so, they have to see a map. For where exactly, geographically, is Israel? It is the only nation on earth which does not know and will not declare where its eastern frontier is. Is it the old UN armistice line, the 1967 border so beloved of Abbas and so hated by Netanyahu, or the Palestinian West Bank minus settlements, or the whole of the West Bank?

Show me a map of the United Kingdom which includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it has the right to exist. But show me a map of the UK which claims to include the 26 counties of independent Ireland in the UK and shows Dublin to be a British rather than an Irish city, and I will say no, this nation does not have the right to exist within these expanded frontiers. Which is why, in the case of Israel, almost every Western embassy, including the US and British embassies, are in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem.

In the new Middle East, amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. So locked into Israel has US foreign policy become, so fearful of Israel have almost all its Congressmen and Congresswomen become – to the extent of loving Israel more than America – that America will this week stand out not as the nation that produced Woodrow Wilson and his 14 principles of self-determination, not as the country which fought Nazism and Fascism and Japanese militarism, not as the beacon of freedom which, we are told, its Founding Fathers represented – but as a curmudgeonly, selfish, frightened state whose President, after promising a new affection for the Muslim world, is forced to support an occupying power against a people who only ask for statehood.

Should we say “poor old Obama”, as I have done in the past? I don’t think so. Big on rhetoric, vain, handing out false love in Istanbul and Cairo within months of his election, he will this week prove that his re-election is more important than the future of the Middle East, that his personal ambition to stay in power must take first place over the sufferings of an occupied people. In this context alone, it is bizarre that a man of such supposed high principle should show himself so cowardly. In the new Middle East, in which Arabs are claiming the very same rights and freedoms that Israel and America say they champion, this is a profound tragedy.

US failures to stand up to Israel and to insist on a fair peace in “Palestine”, abetted by the hero of the Iraq war, Blair, are responsible. Arabs too, for allowing their dictators to last so long and thus to clog the sand with false frontiers and old dogmas and oil (and let’s not believe that a “new” “Palestine” would be a paradise for its own people). Israel, too, when it should be welcoming the Palestinian demand for statehood at the UN with all its obligations of security and peace and recognition of other UN members. But no. The game is lost. America’s political power in the Middle East will this week be neutered on behalf of Israel. Quite a sacrifice in the name of liberty…

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer fundraise on Norway attack – War Room – Salon.com.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer fundraise on Norway attack

America’s most virulent anti-Islam bloggers continue attacking all Muslims, accuse terror victims of anti-Semitism

By Alex Pareene
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer fundraise on Norway attack
Wikipedia/AP
>Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller

As a writer, it sure sucks when someone murders a bunch of people based on your ideas. (I mean, I assume that sucks. Weirdly, it’s never happened to me.) So you can understand why right-wing anti-Islam bloggers are all being kind of defensive, these days.

Anders Breivik, the anti-Islam terrorist who killed 77 people in Norway on July 22, read a lot of American anti-Islam bloggers, many of whom he cited in his lengthy manifesto. Breivik’s favorites included Robert Spencer, a self-proclaimed expert on Islam whose “Jihad Watch” blog was quoted and cited in Breivik’s manifesto, and Spencer’s ally and collaborator Pam Geller, whose “Atlas Shrugs” was similarly recommended by the killer.

So some people have been like, “hey, wow guys, a crazy person took everything you write so seriously that he murdered a bunch of people, in the name of protecting his nation from the creeping ‘Islamization’ of Europe that you guys constantly crow about, maybe you guys should stop and think for a minute about the horrible, hateful things you all write, all the time.” And Spencer and Geller have basically screeched back, “CENSORSHIP!!!!!”

They are now actually fundraising on the fact that they helped inspire a massacre. Or more accurately, they’re begging for money to protect them from the imaginary witch hunt that they claim the liberals will mount. (Is this part of the witch hunt? I am always confused about whether I’m witch-hunting or not, when I call people horrid hateful bigots.) Spencer also signed Geller’s fundraising blog, and if you donate more than $500 to Atlas Shrugs, ThinkProgress reports, they will send you a signed copy of Geller’s book, “Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance.” (I assume a coordinated terror attack against radical Islam’s liberal enablers is written off in the pamphlet as impractical.)

People are not responsible for what crazy people do after reading their blog posts for years, obviously (though inciting fear of and hatred for ethnic and religious minority groups tends to be the sort of speech with the bloodiest track record), and Pamela Geller never called on anyone to go out and murder some liberals, to save us from the Islamists. But she has now stopped just short of justifying the attacks, after the fact!

Adam Serwer notes the strong ‘they had it coming’ vibe in Geller’s latest on Norway. From Geller’s post:

 

But the more that is revealed about that youth indoctrination center, the more grotesque the whole story becomes. Of course, the genocidal leftists will twist what I write here; I am not condoning the slaughter in Norway or anywhere. I abhor violence (except in regard to self defense). But the jihad-loving media never told us what antisemitic war games they were playing on that island. Utoya Island is a Communist/Socialist campground, and they clearly had a pro-Islamic agenda.

Only the malevolent media could use the euphemism summer camp and get away with it.

The slaughter was horrific. What these kids were being taught and instructed to do was a different kind of grotesque. There is no justification for Breivik’s actions whatsoever. There is also no justification for Norway’s antisemitism and demonization of Israel.

Those are pretty perfunctory disclaimers against violence. Those dead people clearly had a pro-Islamic agenda! “Antisemitic war games” makes the victims sound like … soldiers preparing to attack Israel, making violence against them conceivably an act of “defense of Israel,” which is, of course, a justification for violence that in Geller’s world is indistinguishable from “self-defense.”

It may surprise you to learn that Geller feels any shame, ever, but she did delete the blatantly racist photo caption that originally accompanied the post. The faces of the camp attendees look, to Geller, “more Middle Eastern or mixed than pure Norwegian.” (!) In other words: I abhor violence, but these pro-Islamofascist soldiers were being trained by the Commie-Nazis to destroy Israel, also they look sorta Arab, right?

So! Please remember how horribly these guys are reacting to what should be a moment of shameful self-reflection for them, the next time you see them cited in some newspaper editorial or interviews on Fox or something.

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene More: Alex Pareene

The best rip off the disgraceful media coverage in the US was on the Comedy Central!

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Norwegian Muslish Gunman’s Islam-Esque Atrocity
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

 

Anders Breivik: the story no one wanted to tell | News & Politics | News & Comment | The First Post.

Anders Breivik: the story no one wanted to tell

Norwegian prime minister Jonas Gahr Stoere

Robert Fox: An Islamist plot was so much more convenient for today’s narcissistic media

LAST UPDATED 7:52 AM, JULY 27, 2011

From the first, the British media, the broadcasters in particular, have had a great deal of difficulty in reporting the foreground and the background to Anders Behring Breivik’s mass murder spree in Oslo and Utoya island last Friday.

Even on the hard news bulletins, they rushed to judgment before fully and forensically investigating the facts.

By chance, on Friday night I had been invited to do the two newspaper reviews on Sky News. The full extent of the carnage caused by the bombing in the centre of Oslo and out on the island was only just becoming known from reports on the ground.

But still the questions were who and why? Only at around midnight was the name of the prime suspect, Breivik, announced. But already the news channels were full of speculation as to what had happened.

For several hours the tide was following in favour of some further outrage by Islamist militants, branches of al-Qaeda even, as if Osama bin Laden’s spectre had risen from his watery grave. ‘Norway’s 9/11’ barked the headline on the Sun‘s first edition.

It seemed that commentators started shifting from the Islamist theme with the greatest reluctance.

My co-reviewer of the papers at 10.30 pm that night on Sky, the Republican commentator and law professor Colleen Graffy, a former member of the George W Bush administration, even suggested that the fact that the perpetrator was a “blonde Norwegian male” – the only description we had at the time – could mean that the Islamist terrorists had moved to “a new level” by now recruiting native Norwegians.

Then, gingerly, the narrative of the right-wing loner, who liked to dress up in strange uniforms, began to emerge. As the world’s television crews lumbered into Norway, the anchormen and women back home struggled. The BBC, radio and television, hedged their bets.

BBC Radio News bulletins reported a behavioural psychologist saying that the suspect was not mad, as he was talking coherently and had not killed himself – which is what most perpetrators of shooting sprees, especially against children, usually do.

The more this claim for the murder’s sanity was broadcast, the more bizarre it sounded – a piece of explaining away, rather than serious analysis. It was almost as if by modern psychiatric standards, to say nothing of basic social ethics, it was quite understandable to try to blow up Norway’s prime minister in central Oslo and then try to wipe out a teenage holiday camp.

On Monday, Sam Leith in the Evening Standard wrote that Breivik was a mad loner and there was no politics to speak of in what he did and aimed to do. More judicious and nearer the mark was Roger Cohen in the International Herald Tribune yesterday. At one level, he wrote, Breivik appears “a particularly murderous psychotic loner”, but, on the other hand, his violence was brewed in “a specific European environment” which is also manifest in the USA.

In other words there are the elements of the deranged loner, but his motives, programmes and legacy are set in a deep social and political context.

There is much in common in the story so far with the incidents at Ruby Ridge in Idaho, 1992, the destruction of the Waco commune in 1993, the Aum Shinrikyo Tokyo underground attack of 1995, and the Oklahoma FBI building bombing that April.

The narratives of all these fed into each other. They were celebrated in underground ballads and manifestos, and their perpetrators became heroes to that audience. The figure of Anders Behring Breivik is sure to be installed in this black Valhalla of extremist anti-heroes, if isn’t already.

So why can’t much of mainstream media tackle this story of our time, the insane act of violence, and the context in which it is set?

First because it is too complex for most broadcast news outfits, whose coin is the 30-second sound-bite, the YouTube blurred image, marinated with instant judgment from the studio, preferably in under a minute. Second, this is a tale of Narcissus – a narcissistic killer reflected in the mirror of a narcissistic media, where performance takes precedence over cool exposition and analysis.

Thus we have the thundering clichés – “Norway losing its innocence” and “this tranquil and most peaceful of all communities”.

The truth is Norway, like Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, still has the traumas of the past to contend with – the shadow of Nazi occupation, collaboration and resistance – as well as the huge recent changes in society, including the sudden impact of new immigration and the new political Islam.

It is also, as Roger Cohen points out, part of the story of western ‘declinism’ – my word not his – that the steam is running out of our once prosperous economy and society.

This has been reported brilliantly by the band of writers known collectively as ‘Scandinavia Noir’ – of which the most celebrated are Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankel, Jo Nesbo and Karin Fossum.

Larsson and Nesbo plied their trade initially as investigative reporters, and the Breivik story could be almost be the plot line of any one of their stories.

The opening chapter of Mankel’s latest and last Inspector Kurt Wallender novel ends with a prescient paragraph. Curiously, it refers to the murder of the prime minister Olof Palme, but it applies just as well to Oslo and our Europe today.

“So it all began with a fit of rage. This story about the realities of politics, this journey into the swamps where truth and lies are indistinguishable and nothing is clear.”