Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Anthropologists on the Front Lines (TIME Magazine)

TIME Magazine
Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007
Anthropologists on the Front LinesBy Ken Stier

Academic conferences tend to be fairly sedate affairs, at least to the uninitiated, and the American Anthropological Association's (AAA) annual meetings are usually no exception. But this year's, held recently in Washington, D.C., was a downright raucous gathering, certainly the liveliest and most intemperate since the divisive days of the Vietnam War, when some anthropologists were attacked for willingly or unwittingly abetting violent counter-insurgencies. There was some serious name-calling ("torture-deniers," even "war criminals") as well as threats to name names, censure or expel certain colleagues.

The reason for the furor was a small but growing number of colleagues who are collaborating with the U.S. government's war on terror. Two years ago, the CIA quietly started recruiting social scientists, advertising in academic journals and offering princely salaries of up to $400,000. But in the past few months the Pentagon has taken its work with the ivory tower to a new level. In September, Washington turned a pilot project called Human Terrain Teams into a full-fledged, $40 million program to embed four- or five-person groups of scholars — including anthropologists, sociologists and social psychologists — with all 26 U.S. combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although too early to fairly assess how these new field teams are faring, some preliminary reports are encouraging. From Afghanistan, the 4th brigade (82nd Airborne Division) reported a 60-70% drop in attacks — and a dramatic spike in capture of Taliban and allied Pakistanis and Arabs — after anthropological advisers recommended redirecting outreach from village elders to focus on the local mullahs. One mullah was reportedly so moved after being invited to bless a restored mosque on the nearby U.S. base that he quickly agreed to record an anti-Taliban radio ad. "That sounds too good to be true, and I am sure there are other sides, but the principle is certainly logical, which is whoever is in charge is the one you want to deal with," says James Peacock, an Indonesia expert at the University of North Carolina, who chaired an ad-hoc AAA commission to study the profession's involvement in national security matters. (He notes it is the same lesson Holland learned — in Indonesia, in 1870 — from a Dutch anthropologist, Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, who helped end a 30-year war with independent-minded Aceh province virtually overnight.)

In the wake of the colossal mishandling of the Iraq occupation, this new partnership manifests the military's renewed appreciation of the importance of culture. "The more unconventional the adversary, and the further from Western cultural norms, the more we need to understand the society and underlying cultural dynamics," argues Montgomery McFate, a Navy anthropologist, and early advocate of what she says is best described as anthropologizing the military, not militarizing anthropology.

Yet many in the profession contend that any collaboration of this nature compromises their field's integrity. Anthropology deployed under such circumstances will become "just another weapon...not a tool for building bridges between peoples," argues Roberto Gonzalez, an associate professor of anthropology at San Jose State University and leading member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.

Because of its tainted history as the "handmaiden of colonialism," modern anthropologists have always been on guard to avoid anything that smacks of exploitation or oppression of their subjects. Core professional ethics standards require voluntary, informed consent from subjects, and that anthropologists (like doctors) do no harm. But the AAA is not actually a certifying body, which means that despite fervent petitioning, it has no real power to ban members from working with the national security agencies — leaving it to individuals to decide where to draw ethical lines.

Even anthropologists who are already working with the military acknowledge that this is a major challenge. "You are trying to be loyal to two communities — your subjects, and to the brigade you are attached to. It puts you an impossible situation," says one of the dozens of civilian anthropologists working within the military, who requested anonymity because of his opposition.

Given such ethical dilemmas, it's no wonder that Washington is also trying to develop its own in-house expertise in the social sciences. As it now does to help recruit experts in foreign languages, the government has begun programs to attract anthropologists and other academics before they develop any of their profession's qualms. Typically, students are connected with an intelligence agency early on in their academic career, attending special summer camps and soaking up the agency's own unique culture. David Price, who teaches the history of anthropology at St. Martin's University in Lacey, Washington, notes that such cultivation can end up defeating the purpose. "The intelligence agencies are [seeking social scientists] because they want to get smarter, to think outside the box, but it is very clear to me this will just reinforce what the box is," he says. "They are trying to capture their minds before they enter the class, so that they will already be thinking in agency-like way — so these programs will have the opposite effect."

In any event, it will tbe years before the government can be self-sufficient in these increasingly important fields of study. "Across all the services, if you could wave a magic wand and make all the changes that needed to happen in professional military education overnight, in 20 years they would have caught up in terms of cycles of how long it takes to build general officers," explains Kerry Fosher, an anthropologist currently teaching Marines. "Until that happens, intelligence and pre-deployment training have to spin at triple time in order to make up for the fact that the schools are not yet spitting out people who can be more intelligent consumers of cultural information."

Nor is there any guarantee that more social-science expertise in the U.S. military will mean more enlightened policy. "We had a lot to tell them [the Administration, about post-invasion governance] before they actually invaded but they were clearly so completely besotted by the idea that this was going to be a quick strike," says William O. Beeman, an Iran expert and chairman of the AAA's Middle East chapter. "They just blew us off, they absolutely would not talk to us, [and] it is no satisfaction to be able to say, 'we told you so, and we were right.'"

*
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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

William O. Beeman--Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program Never Existed (New America Media)



Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program Never Existed

New America Media, News Analysis, William O. Beeman, Posted: Dec 05, 2007

Editor’s note: The recently released National Intelligence Estimate says Iran had “suspended its nuclear weapon program.” But Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program never existed, writes NAM contributing editor William O. Beeman. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota and author of “The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.”

Iran has never had a proven nuclear weapons program. Ever. This inconvenient fact stands as an indictment of the Bush administration’s stance on Iran.

The recently released 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran “suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003” caught the Bush administration flat-footed. In his panic, Bush grasped desperately at the idea that the weapons program may have once existed. However, the report does not offer a scintilla of evidence that the weapons program was ever an established fact.

Designating 2003 as the date that Iran “stopped” its program is telling: this is the year the Bush administration first decided to create a case for attacking Iran based on the purported danger of its nuclear program.

In February 2003, the U.S. government-designated terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq, better known as the MEK (or MKO) “revealed” the existence of Iran’s nuclear facilities to Washington. The MEK, which had been purged from Iran during the period following the 1979 revolution, took up residence in Iraq under the protection of Saddam Hussein. The MEK, sometimes identified as an “Islamic Marxist” organization, is dedicated to the overthrow of the current Iranian government. It has been assiduous in courting American lawmakers to recruit U.S. support for its cause. Legislators such as Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have championed this cause, and neoconservatives Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes lobbied for its removal from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations in order to use the MEK in the Bush White House drive for regime change in Iran.

Subsequently, the Bush administration claimed that Iran had “concealed” its weapons program for decades, and began a campaign to shut down all nuclear development.

In fact, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) grants all nations the “inalienable right” to peaceful nuclear development. Further, it does not require any nation to report its facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) until fissile material, such as uranium, is actually introduced into the facility.

Iran did indeed have a brief reporting lapse. It revealed the start of its nuclear enrichment experiments at the time they began, rather than announcing this to the IAEA 180 days before experimentation as was required. This was in 2003, and it was the only serious breech of protocol.

The National Intelligence Estimate now identifies 2003 as the date when the weapons program stopped — literally at the point when the Bush administration first became aware of it.

2003 was two years before the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was more than a year before the United States began to lobby for U.N. economic sanctions against Iran. Claiming that “international pressure” had caused Iran to modify its behavior, the Bush administration tried desperately to justify its exaggerated characterizations of the danger Iran posed to the world. The only event that the Bush administration can now claim as constituting “international pressure” is the May 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

If the international community understands that Iran never had a weapons program, President George W. Bush’s statement that Iran could start the program up “again” is clearly absurd.

It is now clear that the Bush administration’s campaign to convince the world of the danger of Iran’s purported immanent nuclear weapons was a sham. The campaign was one in a series of public pretexts to effect regime change in the Islamic Republic. No amount of equivocation, or bluster about Iran’s “continuing” danger can mask the fact that American credibility on this issue has been irrevocably damaged.

The only positive outcome of this debacle may be that the Bush administration may finally accept that differences with Iran can only be solved by actually talking to the leaders of the Islamic Republic. Restoration of diplomatic relations, even at a low level, will begin the process of reducing the hostile atmosphere that has been created, and will start the long, slow process toward the restoration of productive and peaceful relations.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Secrecy and Anthropology (Inside Higher Ed)

Inside Higher Ed

Secrecy and Anthropology

Anthropologists Oppose Attacking Iran, Serving Secret Intellignece

With debate over the role of anthropologists in aiding the military machine a theme threading through their annual meeting, scholars voted Friday to demand that the American Anthropological Association reinstate strict language from its 1971 code of ethics prohibiting secret research. Members at the meeting – who, for the second time in about 30 years and the second year in a row constituted a quorum in excess of the required 250 — also voted overwhelmingly to oppose “any covert or overt U.S. military action against Iran.”

The language anthropologists want reinstated on secrecy – which, the resolution’s sponsor affirmed would apply to anthropologists doing work for corporations too – stipulates that “no reports should be provided to sponsors that are not also available to the general public and, where practicable, to the population studied.” Like every item of business discussed Friday other than the resolution on Iran, the resolution on secrecy was not filed for consideration 30 days in advance, as is required under association rules, and so will be submitted to the association’s executive board on an advisory basis only.

But Friday’s vote only strengthens a recommendation contained in a new report from the AAA Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the U.S. Security and Intelligence Communities, which suggests that the membership or ethics committee “should consider” reinstating those same sections (1.g, 2.a, 3.a, and 6) of the 1971 code. The report centers on whether the association’s ethical standards bar ties to the military or intelligence agencies. The commission’s short answer: Not necessarily, although more scrutiny is needed. Stressing the diversity of roles anthropologists can play in military and intelligence apparatuses, the panel determined that while certain interactions would violate the ethical code, members also “see circumstances in which engagement can be preferable to detachment or opposition.” On issues of secrecy, for instance, the commission offered one particularly complex dilemma as illustration: “Some situations might be counterintuitive for most of us: consider a situation in which a research project is kept secret from the scholarly community, but not from the local population or community under study – as when an anthropologist employed by a government agency helps a special operation to get medical supplies to a remote town in northern Afghanistan.”

Debate on the resolution to reinstate the 1971 secrecy language Friday was short and terse. Terence Turner, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and a retired professor from Cornell University, offered the resolution, which was immediately seconded. Deborah Nichols, of Dartmouth College, expressed concern that reinstating the language would have the effect of rendering archaeologists in violation of the AAA ethics code for keeping the location of archaeological sites secret (to reduce looting) – which Turner then refuted, saying that the language does not restrict AAA members from protecting the identities of their subjects, informants or fieldwork locations.

Another member suggested that “the language of 1971, as excellent as it is, may need to be revisited” in a post 9-11 world (“We don’t know the scope of this new landscape,” she said). Hugh Gusterson, of George Mason University, spoke in support. Others clarified what the measure would and would not do. J. Anthony Paredes, professor emeritus at Florida State University, said that he had opposed considering the resolution because he didn’t remember the language of the 1971 code (because it was only brought up Friday, no paper copies of the resolution being voted upon were available). Paredes later asked for clarification from the resolution’s sponsor about whether it would apply to anthropologists working on proprietary reports in the corporate world (which Turner responded to by saying yes).

An AAA member called for a vote, seeking to cut debate short not long after it began. After a voice-vote on whether to end debate that garnered more yays than nays – but still generated significant noise from opponents – AAA President Alan Goodman, a professor at Hampshire College, declared the two-thirds majority needed to proceed to a vote. But a group cried “No” from the back of the room, at which point Goodman called for a headcount before finding there was in fact a two-thirds majority and the vote could proceed.

After the vote, Gerald Sider, of the City University of New York, expressed his dismay with the use of AAA as a platform for anthropologists who work for the military, and said he’d like to see the association publicly register its condemnation of the practice. But Paredes, who fills the practicing/professional seat on the AAA executive board, stood up to explain why he had opposed the board’s recent statement against the Human Terrain System, a project in which anthropologists work as contractors for the U.S. military in war zones for the purpose of collecting cultural and social data for military use. If the project is having any part in reducing harm, he said, he wants no part morally in condemning it.

Also on Friday, members approved a resolution submitted by Roberto J. González, of San Jose State University, and William O. Beeman, of the University of Minnesota, to oppose the use of military action in Iran, condemn any public relations campaigns designed to convince the U.S. public to support any military action, and urge the president and Congress to work toward a peaceful and diplomatic solution. The resolution was the only one submitted 30 days in advance, and therefore, per the organization’s bylaws, it will be put to the entire AAA membership for a vote.

Anthropologists also lamented the failure of recent business meeting deliberations to effect change at the highest levels of the AAA. John Kelly, a professor at the University of Chicago, sponsored a motion asking that the executive board take the recommendations that come out of the business meeting seriously and, if they don’t apply them, offer very good reasons why not. “Because of the urgency of the relationship of anthropology to the military, we want [the secrecy resolution] taken as written,” Kelly said after the meeting of his reasons for sponsoring the motion. “We’re concerned that the board respond in good will and faith to the advice they’re given.”

Finally, board members approved items – again on an advisory basis to the board – that would establish a task force to study the rise of food prices worldwide and urge the U.S. Census Bureau to alter its questions and classifications relative to individuals who speak languages other than English. In a resolution sponsored by Laura Graham of the University of Iowa, anthropologists urged the bureau “to include a question about proficiency in languages other than English, and to stop classifying those who speak English less than ‘very well’— and all members of their households — as ‘linguistically isolated’ because the term is inaccurate and discriminatory.”

— Elizabeth Redden

Monday, December 03, 2007

U.S. Wants to Have it Both Ways on Iranian Nonintervention Pact--Algiers Accords Make Intervention in Iran Illegal (Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore Sun

U.S. wants to have it both ways on Iranian nonintervention pact

By Reese Erlich
November 28, 2007

President Bush and leading Democratic presidential candidates have said a
military attack on Iran is a viable option. According to the president,
Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology puts the Middle East "under the
shadow of a nuclear holocaust."

Yet the 1981 Algiers Accords, backed by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald
Reagan and Bill Clinton, prohibit such an attack.

The Bush administration has defended the validity of the Algiers Accords
in court, and the courts agreed, so there can be no doubt of the
documents' legality.

Issued Jan. 19, 1981, and brokered at the end of the Carter
administration, the accords declared, "It is now and will be the policy of
the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or
militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."

The accords mostly dealt with potential legal disputes arising out of the
1979 hostage crisis. They prohibited individual lawsuits against Iran and
established a procedure for the resolution of future disputes between the
two countries.

A group of former hostages challenged that agreement in 2000 and sued Iran
for subjecting them to 444 days of captivity. Iran never responded to the
lawsuit, and the former hostages won a default judgment. They wanted $33
billion in damages. But the State Department invoked the Algiers Accords,
arguing that individuals suing sovereign governments would interfere with
U.S. foreign policy. A federal appeals court agreed in 2004 and upheld the
Algiers Accords.

The hypocrisy is obvious. The administration supported the dispute
resolution portions of the accord while ignoring the nonintervention
provisions. Barry Rosen, a former press officer at the U.S. Embassy in
Iran who was part of the 2000 lawsuit, put it bluntly: "This
administration has not been shy about breaking international agreements,"
he told The Washington Post last year. "The administration appears to be
in contradiction of itself. "

The situation has only gotten worse. Two years ago, the Bush
administration initiated a covert program of military attacks against Iran
by disaffected ethnic minority groups, as Seymour M. Hersh documented in
The New Yorker.

Last year, I interviewed leaders of PJAK, a branch of the Kurdistan
Workers Party (PKK), which is on the State Department's list of terrorist
organizations. As I reported in Mother Jones this year, PJAK receives
money and arms from the United States in a program designed to destabilize
northern Iran. The PJAK guerrillas claimed they killed more than 100
Iranian Revolutionary Guards last year. Iran retaliated by shelling
Kurdish villages in northern Iraq.

Turkey says it captured PKK guerrillas possessing U.S. arms. In recent
weeks, because of PKK attacks, Turkey has sent helicopters to attack the
PKK in northern Iraq. U.S. policy is destabilizing the entire region.

According to the ABC Evening News, similar covert actions are under way in
Baluchistan, a province near the Pakistan border. ABC reported that the
U.S. is funding Jondollah, the insurgent group behind the February 2007
bombing in Baluchistan that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards and wounded
several civilians. Jondollah is headed by a former Taliban member turned
freedom fighter against Iran.

These proxy troops are similar to the Afghanistan mujahedeen that the U.S.
armed and funded to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. Some of those
fighters, including Osama bin Laden, later attacked the U.S. Will history
repeat itself?

By engaging in this covert war and selectively ignoring the Algiers
Accords, the U.S. undermines efforts to make Iran follow United Nations
resolutions and international law. To support the Algiers Accords and
reject them at the same time is consistent with the general illogic of the
Bush administration. But to allow this backdoor war to continue is to
court disaster.

Reese Erlich is the author of "The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S.
Policy and the Middle East Crisis." His e-mail is rerlich@pacbell.net.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

William O. Beeman--Iran Benefits from Mideast Peace Talks--New America Media

Iran Benefits from Mideast Peace Talks

New America Media, News Analysis, William O. Beeman, Posted: Nov 27, 2007

Editor's Note: The Bush administration hopes the Arab-Israeli peace process will weaken Arab support for Iran but the talks stand to give Iran an advantage and move the nation closer to America and its Arab allies.Iran was not invited to the Middle East summit in Annapolis, but the Iranians are there nonetheless, and they will benefit whatever the outcome.

After nearly seven years of inaction on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Bush administration has finally decided to act by convening a conference on the matter. Among the 50 countries invited, delegates from virtually every Middle Eastern nation were invited to a conference in Annapolis, Md. on Nov. 27, including a delegation from Syria. Given Iran’s absence, it is ironic that the event might not have taken place at all had it not been for Iranian challenges to American power in the Middle East.

The United States has been trying desperately to gain traction in the international community for some kind of action against Iran. Although it is not clear what an anti-Iranian action is designed to accomplish, the driving need of the Bush administration to do something to cripple the current Iranian regime is an idée fixe in the Bush foreign policy shop.

The Jerusalem Post on Nov. 26 confirmed this in its reporting on the conference: “The idea that brokering an Arab-Israeli peace would be a setback for Iran is a valid one. Iran wants to destroy Israel, so anything that safeguards Israel's freedom and security is a defeat for Tehran.”

However, the Bush administration’s greater hope is that moving the Arab-Israeli peace process will weaken Arab support for Iran. One mantra continually repeated by Washington officials is that Iran’s Arab neighbors are “worried” by its growing strength and nuclear program. Yet Bush officials such as Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns have been massively unsuccessful in raising alarms in the Arab world about Iran. The decision to move seriously on Arab-Israeli peace as a second route toward undermining Iran may have resulted from the realization that trying to scare the Arab world with the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons has not worked.

Iran's immediate Arab neighbors never condemn it to the same degree that Americans and Europeans do. Arab leaders have expressed mild discomfort with Iran's nuclear program, but they never present it in terms of being directly threatened: there is either quizzical musing about where Iran might use possible weapons, or expressions about potential regional destabilization.

Arab states refrain from attacking Iran directly on any issue. When the United States tried to blame the 1996 attack on the Saudi Arabian Al-Khobar Towers on Iran, the Saudis refused to cooperate. Moreover, popular Arab sentiment seems to be directly supportive of Iran's nuclear program. One non-scientific poll conducted by London Based Al-Qods on Jan. 26, 2006 showed that 85 percent of Arab readers supported the Iranian nuclear energy program. The same results were reported in a separate poll on Aug. 6, 2005 by the Arab television news service Al-Jazeera.

All states in the region continue to have full diplomatic relations with Iran. The principal discomfort with the Islamic Republic has been expressed by King Abdullah of Jordan, who is somewhat removed from Iran. The big exception, of course, was Saddam Hussein, who waged war on Iran.

Arab nations say the greater concern in the region is the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Indeed, Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s negative pronouncements on Israeli political actions have been highly popular with the Arab public—something that has received significant notice on the part of Arab leaders. The message to the United States is that if Washington wants the Arab world to go along with sanctions on Iran, or some kind of violent action against Iran, they had better do something about the Israelis and Palestinians. Thus we see a reluctantly summoned parade of nations coming to Annapolis to demonstrate the Bush administration’s seriousness about solving the issue.

Iran might feel neglected at being left out of the party, but in reality, if everything that one could hope works out satisfactorily in Annapolis, it all would work to Iran’s advantage.

Although Iran has been painted by neoconservatives as wanting to destroy Israel, nothing could be further from the truth. Iran is opposed to the extreme repressive politics of the Israeli right-wing, but if the Palestinians were given their own state, and Israel withdrew from the West Bank, Iranian opposition to Israeli politics would end. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has privately expressed the opinion that should the Israeli-Palestinian issue be resolved, he could imagine Iran renewing diplomatic relations with Israel.

Settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue could also lead to improvement in U.S.-Iranian relations. The United States has been so intent on portraying Hamas as a creature of Iranian surrogate aggression against Israel and the United States, they have forgotten that Mahmoud Abbas is still held in some esteem in Iran. When Yassir Arafat had passed from the scene, Iranians were speculating about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' potential leadership among the Palestinians, but also about his possible role as mediator between Iran and the United States. If he is strengthened in his role in the Israel-Palestine conflict he could indeed play this role.

Syria would also have to come on board in a comprehensive settlement, adding another link to Iran. In this scenario, the Siniora government in Lebanon, which the Syrians oppose, would have to be sacrificed. However some settlement of the Golan Heights problem with Syria would be worth tossing out a faction that represents a minority of the Lebanese population.

If all these things transpire, there will be no real reason for Arab opposition to Iran. Iran would be on the path to rapprochement with both the United States and with Israel, and thus on the same side as American’s Arab allies. Hezbollah would be on the rise as rulers of Lebanon, but would no longer be a threat to Israel.

But aside from these rosy prospects, it is wise to remember that there never was any real threat from Iran toward any Arab nation anyway.

Of course, these positive developments are unlikely to transpire in Annapolis, and if they don’t, Iran will be no worse off than it is now. Arab states will still not be any more likely to oppose Iran then they were before. Hezbollah’s power would continue to grow in Lebanon, and the Palestinian issue would continue to fester and discredit American’s bona fides in the Middle East.

William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and is President of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. He has conducted research in the Middle East for more than 30 years. His latest book is The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, which will be issued in Paperback by the University of Chicago Press next month.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

William O. Beeman--Sanctions Against Iran Will Cure Nothing (Providence Journal, November 16, 2007)

The Providence JournalNovember 16, 2007

William O. Beeman: Sanctions against Iran will cure nothing
12:30 PM EST on Friday, November 16, 2007 WILLIAM O. BEEMAN MINNEAPOLIS

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION declared new economic sanctions against Iran on Oct. 25. These new sanctions, announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, like those already in place, will accomplish nothing except to increase international tensions.

The new sanctions are an extension of a longstanding failed policy first begun under the Reagan administration, and extended under the Clinton administration. The United States is acting utterly alone; it is not supported by any other nation.

American dealings with Iran have failed in large part because the United States has never articulated any goals in its dealings with Iran that make any sense either to Iranians or to Americans. They mostly consist of calls for Iran to cease actions that Iran asserts are not being carried out in the first place. The principal accusations against Iran include: developing nuclear weaponry, supporting terrorist groups and providing arms to Iraqi insurgents. The United States then tries to prove that Iran is indeed carrying out the things it is accused of.

The Iranians counter with further proof that the accusations are baseless, and so it goes, ad infinitum. There has never been any proof that Iran’s domestic nuclear-energy program is directed at developing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with inspecting nuclear facilities under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, has repeatedly asserted that no evidence of Iranian nuclear-weapons development exists. Iran’s leaders also maintain that they are not developing nuclear weapons; Iran’s spiritual leader, Ali Khamenei, has declared that nuclear-weapons development is illegal in the Islamic Republic.

The Bush administration obscures these inconvenient facts with statements like those made recently by President Bush, who said on Oct 17, “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon,”

implying that the weapons are actually under development.

Iran’s support for terrorist groups is also far less than it seems. Iran provided humanitarian support for the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority after Israel and the United States established an international embargo of funds for that government. Although Iran was instrumental in the founding of Lebanese Hezbollah, Tehran no longer has any effective influence or control of this group, which has evolved into an active political party with a large number of parliamentary representatives and government officials in Lebanon today.

Neo-conservative Michael Ledeen, of the American Enterprise Institute, in a new book maintains that Iran supports al-Qaida, and that Iran was instrumental in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States, but this assertion and similar claims that Iran supports the Taliban make no logical sense. Both conservative Sunni al-Qaida and the Taliban reject Shiism, the state religion of Iran, as a heresy, and sanction the killing of Shiites.

Finally, there is no proof that Iran is supporting attacks against Americans in Iraq. As analysts Seymour Hersh, Gareth Porter and others have pointed out, the Bush administration, having failed to establish that Iran is actually developing nuclear weapons, turned in desperation to the claim that Iran is supplying explosive devices to militias in Iraq through the offices of the Revolutionary Guard and its specialized Quds force. Gen. David Petraeus, who directs American military forces in Iraq, himself has admitted that no Iranian Quds force member has ever been captured in Iraq, and evidence of Iranian-supplied weapons in Iraq is nebulous.

The U.S. sanctions will also fail because Iran still has many friends. Europeans still have extensive trade with Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently warned the United States not to think of attacking Iran. On Oct. 16 the nations bordering the Caspian Sea, including Iran, issued a declaration, in which the countries agreed that none would let their territories be used as a base for military strikes against any of the others. India has renewed talks with Iran to establish a pipeline between the two nations. Iran has a positive balance of trade with China (as well as India). China’s leadership has repeatedly declared that Iran’s nuclear energy program is not an international threat. Japan continues to be an important Iranian trade and diplomatic partner.

Thus the new sanctions are being greeted with skepticism by the international community of nations. They are so insubstantial that it seems they are actually designed to fail. Increasingly, it seems that the United States itself does not believe in them, but has only imposed the sanctions as a prelude to military action. As in the build-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the world awaits the announcement from the White House that, “having tried everything,” nothing was left except to bomb Iran.

William O. Beeman, an occasional contributor, is an anthropology professor and chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He was a professor of anthropology and the director of Middle East Studies at Brown University.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pakistan Is the New Iran: U.S. Makes Old Mistakes - NAM

Pakistan Is the New Iran: U.S. Makes Old Mistakes - NAM

Pakistan Is the New Iran: U.S. Makes Old Mistakes

New America Media, Analysis, William O. Beeman, Posted: Nov 15, 2007

Editor's Note: In Pakistan the United States has again backed the wrong authoritarian regime, a clear parallel to its support for the Shah of Iran in 1979, writes William O. Beeman, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota.


In Pakistan the United States has once again placed its reliance on an authoritarian “plumber” to carry out its foreign policy goals with disastrous effects – a time-honored foreign policy blunder that seems unavoidable for U.S. presidents.

This time the plumber is President Pervez Musharraf, who is also General Musharraf, Pakistan’s military chief.

Musharraf was hardly a candidate for this in 1991. He and the Pakistani military intelligence establishment were instrumental in supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, who in turn supported al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

There was also the matter of the proliferation of nuclear technology through Pakistani nuclear expert A.Q. Khan – something that President Musharraf must surely have known about, even if he was not directly complicit. Pakistan has nuclear weapons even though it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Musharraf’s turnaround in Washington’s estimation was rapid. Once the United States was on the hunt for the Al Qaeda leader, Musharraf quickly sensed the direction of the political winds and became the Bush administration’s new best friend, vowing to find bin Laden. Washington overlooked the A.Q. Khan incident, and conveniently maintains that Pakistani nukes are okay because Musharraf is our buddy.

But the friendship is fragile.

It is virtually axiomatic that bin Laden would have been captured long ago – except that General Musharraf knew that once bin Laden was gone, his days as leader of Pakistan would be numbered. The United States would lose interest in the South Asian nation, or would scuttle him as an inconvenience. American officials might deny such a scenario, but the U.S. track record is extremely clear: once an American "plumber" ceases to be of use, he or she is toast.

The clearest parallel to General Musharraf is the Shah of Iran, who was deposed in the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. The United States saw the Shah as a bastion against Soviet penetration into the Persian Gulf and armed him to the hilt. The Carter administration never talked to the Shah's Iranian opposition and had no clue about the power of the religious forces surrounding Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, until it was too late. By making the Shah the United States’ sole plumber in the region, when he fell, the United States could only watch helplessly as it lost everything.

The same may well hold true in Pakistan. The Bush administration propped up Musharraf with massive financial aid and arms supplies. They never tried to take opposition to his rule seriously, or develop any backup strategy for preventing Pakistan’s disintegration should Musharraf fall.

And fall he may. He has the backing of segments of the Pakistani military, but lacks broad support among the people. His heavy-handed tactics in quashing public dissent have all but killed Pakistan’s progress in establishing an independent judiciary and an effective civil society. Having tasted a bit of freedom, the opposition to Musharraf has become emboldened, and is not likely to tolerate his authoritarian rule or singular stubbornness in hanging onto absolute power.

If he does fall, Pakistan risks disintegration. As a nation cobbled together from disparate former Indian states at the end of World War II, Pakistan is not well integrated ethnically. Its sole integrating principle is Islam, and a post-Musharraf nation will likely embrace Islamic government as a unifying force. Whole parts of the country are barely under central control. Al Qaeda and the Taliban operate with impunity near the Western border, running international terrorist training camps. And those nuclear weapons are still present, ready to be used to threaten anyone who opposes those who control them. Pakistan’s neighbor is Hindu-dominated India, and every nation that is looking toward the burgeoning Indian economy needs to be very afraid.

All the Beltway blather and talk of support for President Musharraf fail to conceal that he is both weak and vulnerable, and that the United States has no backup plan whatsoever if he is deposed. This event would extend the grand scope of American failure in the region from the Mediterranean to the borders of China. Increasingly, no place in the world may be left safe from the violence emerging through the gaping holes in U.S. foreign policy.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is president of the Middle East section of the American Anthropological Association, and has conducted research in the Middle East and South Asia for more than 30 years.

Monday, October 29, 2007

United States Ties with Terrorism--Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

novus.liber » Blog Archive » Ties with Terror


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Ties with Terror

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

Cold War Creature

Most of us recall that Osama bin Laden is a creation of the CIA. He was employed as a key player in the Afghan war against Soviet occupation. Under his CIA contract, and backed by Saudi finances and Pakistani military intelligence, he built the multi-million dollar CIA-financed underground Tora Bora tunnel complex “to serve as a major arms storage depot, training facility and medical center for the Mujaheddin, deep under the mountains close to the Pakistan border.”1

“Delighted by his impeccable Saudi credentials,” records former ABC News reporter John Cooley, “the CIA gave Usama free rein in Afghanistan, as did Pakistan’s intelligence generals.”2 Bin Laden was so enthusiastic that he soon began to pay “with his own company and funds, for recruitment, transportation and training of the Arab volunteers who flocked, first to Peshawar, and to Afghanistan.… By 1985 bin Laden had collected enough millions from his family and company wealth.… to organize al-Qaida.”2

From ‘freedom fighters’ to ‘terrorists’, from Reagan to Bush Jnr, dirty hands have been stirring the dirt in poverty stricken, but strategically central Afghanistan.
From ‘freedom fighters’ to ‘terrorists’, from Reagan to Bush Jnr, dirty hands have been stirring the dirt in poverty stricken, but strategically central Afghanistan.

A Hidden Agenda

According to the conventional wisdom, US ties with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda ended with the victory of the Afghan war against the Soviets. In the post-Cold War period there was no reason to continue funding the ‘mujahideen’. But this convenient narrative falls apart upon closer inspection. Swiss TV journalist Richard Labeviere, in his book Dollars for Terror based on several years of archival research and interviews with US and European intelligence sources, quotes a CIA analyst on the long-term objectives of US ties with Muslim terror networks. Hinting at a policy involving the ongoing use of al-Qaeda to secure regional US strategic interests, continuing throughout the 1990s, the CIA official stated:
“The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”

In other words, the CIA had envisaged that it would maintain ties with the “Islamists” of Afghanistan that were used to repel the Soviet occupation. US intelligence had planned to continue to use Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda beyond Afghanistan’s borders. The CIA had always seen vast potential to use the terrorist network established by bin Laden during the Cold War in an international framework in the post-Cold War era against Russian and Chinese power, i.e. in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia.4

The US Woos the Taliban

The US government was well aware that the Taliban had been harbouring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda since June 1996, as revealed by official documents. Bin Laden was expelled by Sudan to Afghanistan in early 1996 at US insistence. He had publicly declared war against the US in August 1996. He had lauded that year’s bombings in Saudi Arabia killing 19 US servicemen as “praiseworthy terrorism”, promising future attacks against US targets in November 1996, and confessing complicity in attacks on US military personnel in Somalia in 1993 and Yemen in 1992. There was already a mass of evidence linking him to the 1995 bombing of a US military barracks in Riyadh; the 1993 World Trade Center attacks; and a 1994 assassination plot against President Clinton in the Philippines.5 But none of this stopped the US from flirting with Enemy No. 1.

When the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996, signaling the faction’s domination of Afghanistan, respected French observer Oliver Roy noted that: “When the Taleban took power in Afghanistan (1996), it was largely orchestrated by the Pakistani secret service [ISI] and the oil company Unocal, with its Saudi ally Delta.” At this time, Pakistan’s support for the Taliban was approved by public and private Saudi authorities, the CIA, and the American oil company UNOCAL.6

Unholy Matrimony

Why the continued interest in Afghanistan? This has been aptly explained by Elie Krakowski, former Special Assistant to the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy (1982-88), a man who “knows more about Afghanistan than just about any man on American soil,” according to Tony Snow of Fox News. Afghanistan “is the crossroads between what Halford MacKinder called the world’s Heartland and the Indian sub continent”, writes Krakowski.

“It owes its importance to its location at the confluence of major routes. A boundary between land power and sea power, it is the meeting point between opposing forces larger than itself. Alexander the Great used it as a path to conquest. So did the Moghuls. An object of competition between the British and Russian empires in the 19th century, Afghanistan became a source of controversy between the American and Soviet superpowers in the 20th. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become an important potential opening to the sea for the landlocked new states of Central Asia. The presence of large oil and gas deposits in that area has attracted countries and multinational corporations… Because Afghanistan is a major strategic pivot what happens there affects the rest of the world.”7

When the Taliban consolidated its rule in 1996, US State Department spokesperson Glyn Davies explained that the US found “nothing objectionable” in the event. US approval was further revealed by Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East and South East, Senator Hank Brown, who announced: “The good part of what has happened is that one of the factions at last seems capable of developing a new government in Afghanistan.”8 US support of the Taliban did not end there, but continued throughout most of the 1990s. Professor William O. Beeman, an anthropologist who is Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University specializing in Islamic Central Asia, points out:
“It is no secret, especially in the region, that the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have been supporting the fundamentalist Taliban in their war for control of Afghanistan for some time. The US has never openly acknowledged this connection, but it has been confirmed by both intelligence sources and charitable institutions in Pakistan.”9

“The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis,” commented one US diplomat in 1997, highlighting the US vision for a ‘free Afghanistan’. “There will be Aramco [consortium of oil companies controlling Saudi oil], pipelines, an emir, no parliament and lots of Sharia law. We can live with that.”10

Pipeline-istan

Thus, in December 1997, Taliban representatives were invited as guests to the Texas headquarters of UNOCAL, to negotiate their support of the pipeline. Meanwhile, UNOCAL had already begun training Afghans in the skills required for pipeline construction, with US government approval: “A senior delegation from the Taleban movement in Afghanistan is in the United States for talks with an international energy company that wants to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan across Afghanistan to Pakistan.

“A spokesman for the company, Unocal, said the Taleban were expected to spend several days at the company’s headquarters in Sugarland, Texas… A BBC regional correspondent says the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea.… Unocal… has commissioned the University of Nebraska to teach Afghan men the technical skills needed for pipeline construction. Nearly 140 people were enrolled last month in Kandahar and Unocal also plans to hold training courses for women in administrative skills. Although the Taleban authorities only allow women to work in the health sector, organisers of the training say they haven’t so far raised any objections.”11

UNOCAL was not alone in its dealings with the Taliban. The notorious US energy corporation ENRON, which had close ties to the US government, was also deeply involved. Enron performed the preliminary feasibility study on the gas pipeline, which was paid for with a $750,000 grant from the US Agency for Trade and Development.12

Furthermore, US intelligence sources and former ENRON officials have confirmed that Enron “gave the Taliban millions of dollars”, apparently with the US government’s blessings, “in a no-holds-barred bid to strike a deal for an energy pipeline in Afghanistan-while the Taliban were already sheltering Osama bin Laden.” Atul Davda, who worked as a senior director for ENRON’s International Division until the company’s collapse, stated that: “Enron had intimate contact with Taliban officials. Building the pipeline was one of the corporation’s prime objectives.” One CIA insider commented that: “Enron was wooing the Taliban and was willing to make the Taliban a partner in the operation of a pipeline through Afghanistan. Enron proposed to pay the Taliban large sums of money in a ‘tax’ on every cubic foot of gas and oil shipped through the pipeline.”

More than $400 million was paid by Enron for the feasibility study on the pipeline “a large portion” of which “was payoffs to the Taliban,” according to the CIA source. An FBI official similarly confirmed that: “When Clinton was bombing Bin Laden camps in Afghanistan in 1998, Enron was making payoffs to Taliban and Bin Laden operatives to keep the pipeline project alive. And there’s no way that anyone could NOT have known of the Taliban and Bin Laden connection at that time, especially Enron.”13

Al-Qaeda: Ongoing Intelligence Asset?

A number of reports and studies demonstrate that US governments have continued to sponsor al-Qaeda in a new theatre of war, designed to destabilize US rivals in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. As the London Spectator noted:
“America’s role in backing the Mujahideen a second time in the early and mid-1990s is seldom mentioned… From 1992 to 1995, the Pentagon assisted with the movement of thousands of Mujahideen and other Islamic elements from Central Asia into Europe, to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs… If Western intervention in Afghanistan created the Mujahideen, Western intervention in Bosnia appears to have globalised it.”14

This policy had nothing to do with aiding Bosnians - it was more concerned with exacerbating the conflict in order to generate a justification to expand regional US military hegemony. Much of the details of the alliance have been authoritatively documented in the official Dutch inquiry into the 1995 Srebrenica. Professor Richard Aldrich of the University of Nottingham described the Dutch inquiry’s most salient findings, based on five years of unrestricted access to Dutch intelligence files and interviews with key officials:
“Now we have the full story of the secret alliance between the Pentagon and radical Islamist groups from the Middle East designed to assist the Bosnian Muslims - some of the same groups that the Pentagon is now fighting in ‘the war against terrorism’. Pentagon operations in Bosnia have delivered their own ‘blowback.’… Mojahedin fighters were… flown in, but they were reserved as shock troops for especially hazardous operations… Rather than the CIA, the Pentagon’s own secret service was the hidden force behind these operations.”15

US officials were well-aware of the implications of their post-Cold War alliance with al-Qaeda in the Balkans. They knew that one of bin Laden’s top lieutenants was commanding a league of operatives in Bosnia, which during the 1990s had thus become a “staging area and safe haven” for al-Qa’eda. Nevertheless, a conscious decision was made to continue allowing the growth and activities of al-Qaeda mujahideen forces in Europe throughout the 1990s.16

Extensive military intelligence training and assistance was provided to the KLA - now fighting with US backing in Macedonia under the banner of the NLA - during the Kosovo conflict in the late 1990s by both American and British forces. This training continued despite the fact documented in a 1999 Congressional report by the US Senate Republican Party Committee that the KLA is closely involved with:
* “The extensive Albanian crime network that extends throughout Europe and into North America, including allegations that a major portion of the KLA finances are derived from that network, mainly proceeds from drug trafficking; and * “Terrorist organizations motivated by the ideology of radical Islam, including assets of.… the notorious Osama bin-Ladin - who has vowed a global terrorist war against Americans and American interests.”17

Indeed, the KLA and NLA have been funded by bin Laden to the tune of millions of dollars, and al-Qaeda fighters have joined their ranks as well as trained them, to the point that experts describe the KLA/NLA as al-Qaeda’s arm in the Balkans. None of this has prevented the US from providing military intelligence assistance to the latter.18

The British government is no stranger to the secret alliance with al-Qaeda. Apart from being integrally involved in the previous Balkans operations, as revealed by former British intelligence agent David Shayler who worked at MI5’s Counterterrorism desk: “British secret service agents paid up to £100,000 to al Qaeda terrorists for an assassination attempt on Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffy in 1996.” As a result of his revelations, he has been under trial in the UK for the disclosing classified intelligence information.19

No ‘War on Terror’

If the British and American governments have harboured, financed and provided military assistance to al-Qaeda to pursue covert operations in line with strategic interests, then in reality the ‘War on Terror’ is a myth. Clearly, the US and UK governments have continued to provide covert support the Osama bin Laden’s international terror network throughout the post-Cold War period. During this time, numerous terrorist attacks against Western targets orchestrated by bin Laden have occurred. It is not only bin Laden who is responsible for anti-Western terrorism - the West is also culpable. Terror, it seems, is a tool of the powerful designed to support secret illegal operations, inculcate fear into mass consciousness, manipulate public opinion, and engineer domestic support for a foreign policy of imperialism.

Footnotes

1. Rashid, Ahmed, ‘How a Holy War against the Soviets turned on US,’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 23 September 2001.
2. Ibid., p. 222.
3. Cooley, John K., Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, American and International Terrorism, Pluto Press, London, 1999, p. 119.
4. Labeviere, Richard, Dollars for Terror: The United States and Islam, Algora Publishing, New York, 2000.
5. Turnipseed, Tom, ‘A Creeping Collapse in Credibility at the White House’, Counterpunch, 10 January 2002.
6. Scott, Peter Dale, ‘Afghanistan, Turkmenistan Oil and Gas, and the Projected Pipeline,’ Online Resource on Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, 21 October 2001, http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~pdsco….
7. Krakowski, Elie, ‘The Afghan Vortex,’ IASPS Research Papers in Strategy, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, Jerusalem, No. 9, April 2000.
8. Cited in Rashid, Ahmed, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 2000, p. 166.
9. Beeman, William O., ‘Follow the Oil Trail - Mess in Afghanistan Partly Our Government’s Fault,’ Jinn Magazine (online), Pacific News Service, San Francisco, 24 August 1998, web-site at http://www.pacificnews.org/jinn.
10. Cited in Rashid, Ahmed, Taliban, op. cit., p. 179.
11. BBC News, ‘Taliban in Texas for Talks on Gas Pipeline,’ 4 Dec. 1997.
12. Info-Prod Research [Middle East] Ltd., Middle East News Items, 22 November 1998.
13. ‘Enron Gave Taliban $Millions’, National Enquirer, 4 March 2002.
14. O’Neill, Brendan, ‘How we trained al-Qa’eda’, The Spectator, 13 September 2003.
15. Aldrich, Richard J., ‘America used Islamists to arm the Bosnian muslims: The Srebrenica report reveals the Pentagon’s role in a dirty war’, The Guardian, 22 April 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/yugo/arti….
16. O’Neill, Brendan, op. cit.
17. Craig, Larry E., The Kosovo Liberation Army: Does Clinton Policy Support Group with Terror, Drug Ties?: From ‘Terrorists’ to ‘Partners’, United States Senate Republican Policy Committee, Washington DC, 31 March 1999, http://www.fas.org/irp/world/para/d….
18. Grigg, William Norman, ‘Behind the Terror Network,’ The New American, 5 November 2001, Vol. 17, No. 23, http://www.thenewamerican.com/tna/2….
19. McGowan, Patrick, ‘Calls for Secret Shayler Trial,’ Evening Standard, 15 October 2002, http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/….
Published Monday, October 25th, 2004

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is the author of “Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq” and the international bestseller “The War on Freedom: How & Why America was Attacked, September 11, 2001″.
World Crisis Web

http://www.world-crisis.com/analysi…

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Sanctions Against Iran Will Accomplish Nothing - NAM

New Sanctions Against Iran Will Accomplish Nothing - NAM



New Sanctions against Iran Will Accomplish Nothing

New America Media, Commentary, William O. Beeman, Posted: Oct 25, 2007

Editor's Note: The United States has once again implemented economic sanctions on Iran, accusing it of developing nuclear weapons. Like the earlier sanctions, these will not accomplish anything either, writes NAM contributor William O. Beeman.

The Bush administration declared new economic sanctions against Iran Oct. 25. The sanctions, announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, like those already in place, will accomplish nothing except to increase international tensions.

The new sanctions are an extension of a long-standing failed policy first begun under the Reagan administration, and extended under the Clinton administration. The United States is acting totally alone; it is not supported by any other nation.

American dealings with Iran have failed in large part because the United States has never articulated what it wants to accomplish. They mostly consist of calls for Iran to cease doing things that Iran says it is not doing in the first place.

The principal accusations against Iran include: developing nuclear weaponry, supporting terrorist groups, and providing arms to Iraqi insurgents. The United States then tries to prove that Iran is indeed carrying out the things it is accused of. The Iranians counter with further proof that the accusations are baseless, and the exchange repeats.

There has never been any proof that Iran’s domestic nuclear energy program is directed at developing nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with inspecting nuclear facilities under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory, has repeatedly asserted that no evidence of Iranian nuclear weapons development exists. Iran’s leaders also maintain that they are not developing nuclear weapons. The country’s spiritual leader, Ali Khamene’I, has declared that nuclear weapons development is illegal in the Islamic Republic.

The Bush administration obscures these inconvenient facts with statements like those made recently by President Bush, who said Oct. 17, "If you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," implying that the weapons are currently being developed.

Iran’s level of support for terrorist groups is also far lower than it seems. Iran provided humanitarian support for the Hamas-led government of the Palestinian Authority after Israel and the United States established an international embargo of funds for that government. Although Iran was instrumental in the founding of Lebanese Hezbullah, Tehran no longer has any effective influence or control over this group, which has evolved into an active political party with a large number of parliamentary representatives and government officials in Lebanon today. In his new book, neoconservative Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute maintains that Iran supports Al-Qaeda, and that Iran was instrumental in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States - but this assertion and similar claims that Iran supports the Taliban make no logical sense. Both conservative Sunni Al-Qaeda and the Taliban reject Shi’ism, the state religion of Iran, as a heresy, and sanction the killing of Shi’ites.

Finally, there is no proof that Iran is supporting attacks against Americans in Iraq. As analysts Seymour Hersh, Gareth Porter and others have pointed out, the Bush administration, having failed to establish that Iran is actually developing nuclear weapons, has turned in desperation to the claim that Iran is supplying explosive devices to militias in Iraq through the offices of the Revolutionary Guard and its specialized Quds force. General David Petraeus himself has admitted that no Iranian Quds force member has ever been captured in Iraq, and evidence of Iranian-supplied weapons in Iraq is nebulous.

The U.S. sanctions will fail because Iran still has many friends. Europeans still have extensive trade with Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently warned the United States not to think of attacking Iran. On Oct. 16, the nations bordering the Caspian Sea, including Iran, issued a declaration in which the countries agreed that none would allow their territories to be used as a base for military strikes against any of the others. India has renewed talks with Iran to establish a pipeline between the two nations. Iran has a positive balance of trade with China, as well as India. China’s leadership has repeatedly declared that Iran’s nuclear energy program is not an international threat. Japan continues to be an important Iranian trade and diplomatic partner.

It's little wonder that the new sanctions are being greeted with skepticism by the international community of nations. The sanctions are so insubstantial that it seems they are actually designed to fail. Increasingly, it seems that the United States itself does not believe in them, but has only imposed the sanctions as a prelude to military action. As in the build-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the world awaits the announcement from the White House that, "having tried everything," nothing was left except bombing Iran.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is president of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association, and has conducted research in Iran for more than 30 years. The second edition of his book, "The 'Great Satan' vs. the 'Mad Mullahs': How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other," will be published by the University of Chicago Press.

©2007 William O. Beeman and New America Media. This article may be freely reproduced and distributed for any non-commercial purpose. For commercial use, please contact the author or New America Media ( Peter Micek pmicek@newamericamedia.org | 415-503-4170)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

David Wurmser--neocon hawk

David Wurmser has been at the elbow of the Bush administration at every step as a primary advisor. His extreme hawkish views on Iran and Syria have come close to being standard policy. If the U.S. launches an attack on Iran, Wurmser can be held as one of those responsible. See the article below and know what incredible obstacles sane people have to deal with in this current administration.

Best,

Bill Beeman



US 'must break Iran and Syria regimes'
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/05/wiran105.xml


By Toby Harnden in Washington


Last Updated: 2:09am BST 05/10/2007












America should seize every opportunity to force regime change in Syria and Iran, a former senior adviser to the White House has urged.

Profile: US hawk David Wurmser
Toby Harnden: David Wurmser - a neocon unbowed


US 'must break Iran and Syria regimes'
By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last Updated: 2:09am BST 05/10/2007



America should seize every opportunity to force regime change in Syria and Iran, a former senior adviser to the White House has urged.

Profile: US hawk David Wurmser
Toby Harnden: David Wurmser - a neocon unbowed


David Wurmser: 'If we start shooting, we
must be prepared to fire the last shot'


"We need to do everything possible to destabilise the Syrian regime and exploit every single moment they strategically overstep," said David Wurmser, who recently resigned after four years as Vice President Dick Cheney's Middle East adviser.

"That would include the willingness to escalate as far as we need to go to topple the regime if necessary." He said that an end to Baathist rule in Damascus could trigger a domino effect that would then bring down the Teheran regime.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the first since he left government, he argued that the United States had to be prepared to attack both Syria and Iran to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that could result in a much wider war.

Mr Wurmser, 46, a leading neo-conservative who has played a pivotal role in the Bush administration since the September 11th attacks, said that diplomacy would fail to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power. Overthrowing Teheran's theocratic regime should therefore be a top US priority.

advertisementIran was using Syria as its proxy against Israel and among Sunni Arabs and both regimes had to be overthrown, he insisted.

"It has to be, because who they are is now defined around provoking a wider clash of civilisations with the West. It is precisely to avoid this that we need to win now."

Both countries were part of a "proliferation consortium", possibly in league with North Korea, that is helping Teheran to acquire a nuclear bomb, he said.

If Iran was seen to be powerless to prevent regime change in Syria, Mr Wurmser claimed, Teheran's prestige would be undermined just as the Soviet Union's was when it failed to come to the aid of Syrian forces during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Regime change was possible because Syria was "weak and rattled" while Iran had adopted a "go-for-broke strategy" of stirring up regional tensions to overcome the reality that "the foundations of the regime in Teheran are fragile".

A situation such as last year's attack on Israel by Hezbollah, which was backed by Iran and Syria, could provide an opportunity for US intervention.

Although Mr Wurmser's recommendations have not yet become US policy, his hard-line stances on regime change in Iran and Syria are understood to have formed the basis of policy documents approved by Mr Cheney, an uncompromising hawk who is deeply sceptical about the effectiveness of diplomatic pressure on Teheran.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State and an advocate of multilateral diplomacy, currently holds sway within the Bush administration but Iran's intransigence on the nuclear issue and its role in the Iraq insurgency could well shift the balance back towards Mr Cheney.

Limited strikes against Iranian nuclear targets would be useless, Mr Wurmser said. "Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians.

"If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don't shoot a bear if you're not going to kill it."

Mr Wurmser emphatically denied recent allegations he told a small group that Mr Cheney intended to press Israel to launch strikes against Iran in order to provoke a retaliation that the US would then respond to.

It was "fantastical" to suggest that he or Mr Cheney would "try to cause a war that the president expressly doesn't want", he said. "Everything that was done was to execute the policies of the president and not to subvert them."

Mr Wurmser, an outspoken proponent of removing Saddam Hussein in the years before the 2003 invasion, was highly critical of British forces in southern Iraq. "Being in Basra, the British had a major role to play and they didn't really play it very well.

"Under British presence, the Iranians extended their power considerably. British troops are still there but Iraqis see them as dead men walking.... everybody's looking towards who is the real power that fills the vacuum and that then translates into an Iranian-American confrontation in that area."

British withdrawal, he said, could be a plus for the US. "It frees our hand to deal aggressively with their [Iran's] structures. Once we have responsibility for that area, we'll have to do what we need to do and that could well mean troops on the ground."

Although he conceded many mistakes had been made by the US in Iraq, Mr Wurmser said there were now reasons for optimism. "While Iraq became more violent, it also became in some ways the international bug-zapper of terrorists.

"It was the light that attracted all the terrorists of the world. And that became the battleground, and this is a decisive battle. I think the battle is turning in our favour now, and this is a defeat that it will take the al-Qaeda world a long time to recover from."

In the meantime, the US still had the power to deal with Iran militarily. "If we decided from no preparation to doing something in Iran, while it would cause a lot of heartburn among many people in the Pentagon, we could do it.

"I would never underestimate the raw capability of the United States in any off-the-shelf situation. If that's what we decided to do, things can be done."

Publishers wishing to reproduce photographs on this page should phone 44 (0) 207 931 2921 or email syndication@telegraph.co.uk



Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright










David Wurmser: 'If we start shooting, we
must be prepared to fire the last shot'


"We need to do everything possible to destabilise the Syrian regime and exploit every single moment they strategically overstep," said David Wurmser, who recently resigned after four years as Vice President Dick Cheney's Middle East adviser.


"That would include the willingness to escalate as far as we need to go to topple the regime if necessary." He said that an end to Baathist rule in Damascus could trigger a domino effect that would then bring down the Teheran regime.


In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the first since he left government, he argued that the United States had to be prepared to attack both Syria and Iran to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that could result in a much wider war.


Mr Wurmser, 46, a leading neo-conservative who has played a pivotal role in the Bush administration since the September 11th attacks, said that diplomacy would fail to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power. Overthrowing Teheran's theocratic regime should therefore be a top US priority.



advertisement


Iran was using Syria as its proxy against Israel and among Sunni Arabs and both regimes had to be overthrown, he insisted.

"It has to be, because who they are is now defined around provoking a wider clash of civilisations with the West. It is precisely to avoid this that we need to win now."

Both countries were part of a "proliferation consortium", possibly in league with North Korea, that is helping Teheran to acquire a nuclear bomb, he said.

If Iran was seen to be powerless to prevent regime change in Syria, Mr Wurmser claimed, Teheran's prestige would be undermined just as the Soviet Union's was when it failed to come to the aid of Syrian forces during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.


Regime change was possible because Syria was "weak and rattled" while Iran had adopted a "go-for-broke strategy" of stirring up regional tensions to overcome the reality that "the foundations of the regime in Teheran are fragile".


A situation such as last year's attack on Israel by Hezbollah, which was backed by Iran and Syria, could provide an opportunity for US intervention.

Although Mr Wurmser's recommendations have not yet become US policy, his hard-line stances on regime change in Iran and Syria are understood to have formed the basis of policy documents approved by Mr Cheney, an uncompromising hawk who is deeply sceptical about the effectiveness of diplomatic pressure on Teheran.


Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State and an advocate of multilateral diplomacy, currently holds sway within the Bush administration but Iran's intransigence on the nuclear issue and its role in the Iraq insurgency could well shift the balance back towards Mr Cheney.


Limited strikes against Iranian nuclear targets would be useless, Mr Wurmser said. "Only if what we do is placed in the framework of a fundamental assault on the survival of the regime will it have a pick-up among ordinary Iranians.


"If we start shooting, we must be prepared to fire the last shot. Don't shoot a bear if you're not going to kill it."

Mr Wurmser emphatically denied recent allegations he told a small group that Mr Cheney intended to press Israel to launch strikes against Iran in order to provoke a retaliation that the US would then respond to.


It was "fantastical" to suggest that he or Mr Cheney would "try to cause a war that the president expressly doesn't want", he said. "Everything that was done was to execute the policies of the president and not to subvert them."


Mr Wurmser, an outspoken proponent of removing Saddam Hussein in the years before the 2003 invasion, was highly critical of British forces in southern Iraq. "Being in Basra, the British had a major role to play and they didn't really play it very well.


"Under British presence, the Iranians extended their power considerably. British troops are still there but Iraqis see them as dead men walking.... everybody's looking towards who is the real power that fills the vacuum and that then translates into an Iranian-American confrontation in that area."


British withdrawal, he said, could be a plus for the US. "It frees our hand to deal aggressively with their [Iran's] structures. Once we have responsibility for that area, we'll have to do what we need to do and that could well mean troops on the ground."


Although he conceded many mistakes had been made by the US in Iraq, Mr Wurmser said there were now reasons for optimism. "While Iraq became more violent, it also became in some ways the international bug-zapper of terrorists.


"It was the light that attracted all the terrorists of the world. And that became the battleground, and this is a decisive battle. I think the battle is turning in our favour now, and this is a defeat that it will take the al-Qaeda world a long time to recover from."


In the meantime, the US still had the power to deal with Iran militarily. "If we decided from no preparation to doing something in Iran, while it would cause a lot of heartburn among many people in the Pentagon, we could do it.


"I would never underestimate the raw capability of the United States in any off-the-shelf situation. If that's what we decided to do, things can be done."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

William O. Beeman No Gays in Iran… But Many Same-Sex Couples (New America Media)

http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=3a90d68c4ee619b83cd450f0661f0343



No Gays in Iran… But Many Same-Sex Couples
New America Media, Commentary


William O. Beeman, Posted: Sep 26, 2007

Editor’s Note: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s comment that homosexuality does not exist in Iran like it does in the West is true in a sense, writes anthropologist William Beeman. In fact, same-sex relations in Iran do look very different from what is called gay behavior in the West.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was derided for his statement in a Sept. 24 speech at Columbia University that homosexuality doesn't exist in Iran. Though many Americans may find it incredible, differences in the construction of sexual behavior do exist across cultures.

As an anthropologist, I can state with confidence that sexuality varies tremendously between cultures. The notion that one is either "gay" or "straight" does not accord with what we observe in human sexual behavior, which is far more flexible. This categorization is an artifact of American culture, which glories in binary categories for classifying people. Folks that identify as "bisexual" (yet another ambiguous category) in the United States often get grief from both the gay and straight community for "deluding" themselves about their sexuality.

Of course it is impossible to discern precisely what President Ahmadinejad meant in his remarks. But what is true is the construction of same-sex behavior and, indeed, same-sex affection in Iran is extremely different than in Europe and America. There has been a recent phenomenon of Western-style "gay culture" emerging in Iran – replete with gay bars, clubs and house parties – but this is very new, largely limited to the upper classes, and likely not known to President Ahmadinejad, whose social milieu is the middle and lower-middle class. This recent Western-style gay phenomenon is distinct from ordinary same-sex behavior as practiced traditionally in Iran. Indeed, there was not even a word for homosexuality in Persian before the 20th century. It had to be invented. The term used by President Ahmadinejad was “hamjensbaz,” a neologism that literally means, “playing with the same sex.”

In Iran, same-sex sexual behavior is classified rigidly into active and passive roles. The Arabic terms “fa’el” and “maf’oul” (active and passive – actually grammatical terms used to describe active and passive verbs) were the common designation for these roles. The passive partner is still called by the Arabic term “obneh,” or, more crudely, “kuni.” (Kun means anus.) The active vs. passive same-sex preference is well known in the Western world, but it is constructed quite differently in Iran and other Arab and Mediterranean cultures.

Active partners in Iran do not consider themselves to be “homosexual.” Indeed, it is a kind of macho boast in some circles that one has been an active partner with another male. Passive partners are denigrated and carry a life-long stigma if their sexual role is known, even after a single incident. They have been deflowered, as it were, in the same way that women might lose their virginity, and they are considered to be "xarob" or "destroyed."

In actual fact, many men are "versatile" in their sexual activity but if they are known to have relations with other men, they will always claim in public to be the active partner. Same-sex relations between females are undoubtedly practiced, but this is the deepest secret in Iran, and rarely talked about at all.

Emotional relations are very different. Men and women both may become exceptionally attached to people of the same sex, to the point that Westerners would swear that they must have a sexual relationship. It is not necessarily so. Kissing, holding hands, weeping, jealousy, physical contact and all the signs of partnership can exist without any sexual activity or, indeed, with an undercurrent of absolute horror that it might take place, because of the active-passive split in sexual classification and men's fear of being pegged as a passive partner. A man who truly loves another man doesn't want to degrade him by making him a passive sex partner.

More typically, male teenagers who become exceptionally attached may marry sisters in order to become kin to each other, thereby creating a lifelong bond. There is even a quasi-marriage ceremony based on the idea of “muta,” or temporary marriage, through which two men or two women can become fictive “siblings.” This takes care of many things, allowing intimate relations, and intimacy between family relations, but also imposing an even stronger taboo against sexual relations, which would be considered incest.

Iranians who come to Europe and the United States may "discover" that they are "gay" once they are liberated from the rigid cultural system that binds them into these polarized active-passive roles.

To be sure, sodomy is punishable by death in Iran, but such executions have been historically extremely rare compared with the routine incidence of same-sex sexual behavior in Iran. Much was made in the United States of two boys who were executed in the city of Mashhad a few years ago for "being homosexual," as the Western press put it. However, they were executed because they had essentially committed what we would call statutory rape on an under-aged boy. The boy's father was beside himself with rage and grief, and pressed charges. In many such cases, the shame of the family and the victim himself is so great that no one ever finds out.

In the end, both the United States and Iran classify sexuality in a way that fails to accord with the range of actual human proclivities. However, there is no doubt that the two systems are very different.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He has been conducting research in Iran for more than 30 years, and is a fluent speaker of Persian. He is author of Language, Status and Power in Iran and The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, the second edition of which will be published later this year by the University of Chicago Press.


©2007 William O. Beeman and New America Media. This article may be freely distributed for any non-commercial purpose. For commercial use, please contact the author or New America Media

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

U.S. Accusations against Iran in Iraq are False

Analysts Ervand Abrahamian and Gareth Porter have recently make essential points in talking about Iran's purported involvement with groups that have attacked the United States in Iraq. First, Brigadeer General Kevin Bergner, General David Petraeus and their underlings have used the slogan "Iranian-backed militia extremists" creating the utterly false impression that there is a unitary force backed by Iran that is engaging with the United States. Second, Bush administration officials have invoked the impression that Iran has some kind of uniform strategy to implement some kind of campaign. Both of these propositions appear to be completely false.

There are at least five identifiable Shi'a militia groups operating in Iraq. The Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr is perhaps the most troublesome of them--so troublesome that the United States has initiated attacks against them, prompting retaliation--hardly an Iranian plot. It is not clear who and under what conditions IED/ETFs have been planted in other areas, and as Porter has shown in a whole series of decisive articles, one must strain at gnats to demonstrate an Iranian connection. Wayne White's anecdote about some militia person going and getting some kind of arms across the Iranian border, if even reflecting a true event, only emphasizes the logical source of such weapons, namely from gun runners. What conflict has not had such people?

As deep as suspicion may run of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard, no evidence exists that they have been active in Iraq, and no amount of public jawboning can eliminate the thundering lack of evidence. The formula "Hezbullah=Iranian control" as much as it has been invoked by the Bush administration, is patently false, as Hezbullah observers have been asserting for more than a decade. But beyond this, even the active involvement of Hezbullah in Iraq lacks any concrete proof, beyond the identification of a few individuals who may well be simple freebooters.

Does anyone seriously believe that Iran desires chaos in Iraq? Has anyone understood that Muqtada al-Sadr and Ali al-Sistani will never be Iranian clients--that they both oppose Iran's governmental structure, and have their own ideas about how Iraq should be constructed? These obvious questions are never asked by either press or politicians. They inconveniently contravene the dominant Bush administration Iranian plot scenario, but they are the most important analytic factors in understanding Iran's true relationship to Iraq today.

It only takes a little sober thought and a careful examination of the lack of evidence to see that this giant "plot" on the part of Iran is a total house of cards concocted to gin up an excuse for military action against Iran. I am frankly appalled at the U.S. government for promulgating such chicanery on the world. What is especially appalling is the gullibility of both the press and the American politicians, who now repeat this specious formulation as if it were fact. This can not end well.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Iran and America: Conflict, Context & Connect (Minnesota Public Radio Broadcast)

Minnesota Public Radio held a forum on July 19th entitled

"Iran and America: Conflict, Context & Connect," a discussion about the U.S.-Iranian relationship with members of Minnesota's Iranian community in which I also participated.
The discussion was broadcast on July 23, and included additional listener call-in remarks. Both broadcasts are sound-archived at the following web site.

Iran and America: Conflict, Context & Connect--Minnesota Public Radio

The discussion was highly enlightening. The Iranian members of the panel were exceptionally articulate and balanced in their views. MPR would likely be open to allowing rebroadcast of the program if anyone were interested.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How To Talk The Talk With Iran--William O. Beeman

How To Talk The Talk With Iran

by William O Beeman

Editor's Note: Face-to-face talks between Iran and the United States over Iraq's future will be fraught with pitfalls unless Washington adopts complex rules of engagement. Key will be mastering the art of "inside" as well as "outside" communication. William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota and President of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. He is author of "Language, Status and Power in Iran" and "The "Great Satan" vs. the "Mad Mullahs": How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.

Face-to-face talks between Iran and the United States have a good chance of success if the Bush administration knows how to handle their part of the exchange,

Some denizens of Washington are under the mistaken impression that the Americans can dictate the terms of the conversation and the Iranians will fall in line. They will not.

The first rule in Iranian negotiations is that both sides must exhibit mutual respect, even if they harbor virulent hatred for each other. Iran is a hierarchical society, and negotiations are stabilized by balanced reciprocity in terms of respect. Each party elevates the other party in status and humbles him or herself in turn. In this way hierarchy is preserved, but mutuality is maintained.

Politeness is an exquisite art in Iran; it is especially appreciated in difficult negotiations. One can see this demonstrated in public encounters between Iranian officials themselves. Many of Iran's political leaders and clerics hate each other with a vengeance. Their intense rivalry is always hidden behind a veil of outward respect. This system of encounter, replete with bowing, complimentary language and deference, is called "ta'arof". It is an essential political and social skill.

Second, Iranians will not tolerate accusations or accept blame except from those with whom they have a personal relationship that embodies respect because of their superior social or political position, morality or accomplishments. Even the most exalted individual will tolerate criticism from his or her parent, teacher, spiritual leader or acknowledged patron. The same person will bristle and remonstrate when faced with accusations from some unrelated party, or someone considered to be of equal or inferior status. The Revolution of 1978-79 hinged on this principle. When the Shah's army began firing on unarmed women and youths in public, his superior status vis-a-vis the public - anchored in his implicit pledge to protect his people - evaporated, and he fell like a rock in a matter of weeks.

Third, a resumption of relations after estrangement is especially difficult. Estrangement in Iran is institutionalized. It is called "qahr and involves a period of ritual non-interaction. The resumption of relations usually requires a neutral mediator and even then, reconciliation can be fraught with pitfalls. Either party can quickly test the sincerity of the other party with unreasonable or difficult demands. The only way forward in this situation is to continually demonstrate good will, and present scenarios that show the mutual benefit of the resumption of relations.

Finally, Iranians make a very clear distinction between "inside" and "outside" communication. An appeal to the "inside" values of spirituality, virtue and human feeling is always likely to win the Iranian heart; but such an appeal must be sincere. "Inside" expressions recall the mysticism of Sufi orders, and are redolent with spiritual meaning. Practiced Iranians are quick to detect insincerity, cynicism and overt flattery, all of which are definitely "outside" in nature. Cynical overtures are immediately rejected as a sign of bad faith, and can destroy any delicate negotiation. And no wonder, since the "inside" communication mode is so powerful, and its misuse so despised.

These principles can easily be implemented by the United States for any mutually useful purpose in talking with Iran.

If the talks are to be about stability in Iraq, the United States must not bias them by making pre-conditions about other issues - such as Iran's nuclear program. It must acknowledge that Iran has an equal and respected position in creating stability in the region. Language must be unfailingly polite and humble.

The United States must avoid making accusations against Iran. Frankly, from Iran's perspective, the United States has no standing to make such accusations. It is neither respected as a social or cultural superior, nor has it acted as an acknowledged patron of Iran or its people. If talks are productive, the accusatory matters can be handled once relations are on a more even keel.

In dealing with Iran, the United States must be prepared for the fits and starts that accompany the 28-year estrangement between the two nations. Iran will feint, pull back, charge forward with seemingly helpful suggestions, only to withdraw them. This is normal, expected and part of the process of reconciliation.

Finally, the United States must speak with sincerity about mutual desires to cooperate with the Iranian government on matters of mutual interest. Nothing could be more essential to both nations than stability in Iraq. There can be ho holding back here. The message must be from the heart, and unqualified.

Only then will the long chill between Iran and the United States begin to abate.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Economist editorial "The Riddle of Iran" --Why was it Written?

The Economist editorial "The Riddle of Iran" --Why was it Written?

William O. Beeman

The mystery of the Economist "editorial" about Iran, entitled "The Riddle of Iran" is why it was written at all, and why now? The editorial once again attacks Iran for its nuclear development program. It contains absolutely nothing new--nothing that was not already in the press and in the editorial pages a year ago or more. It gives prominence to the demagoguery of likely future Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spouting the same anti-Iranian rhetoric he has been pushing on Fox News for the past two years. It also contains the same falsehoods about the illegality of Iranian actions under the NPT. However, the Economist employs a trick that the New York Times and others have used. They get away with publishing outright untruths, but in an editorial, where it is "opinion" and not news reporting. The underlying "special report" referred to in the editorial is also dismally stale, containing nothing at all of note, except to advertise that the American Enterprise Institute is trying to publicize companies who are doing business with Iran in some vain hope that Washington might somehow find a way to enforce the economic sanctions against Iran, the better to generate some minimal pressure on the Iranian leadership. The sanctions are foolish and unworkable, but presenting a picture where all is copasetic is the White House line, lest they endure another dismal and embarrassing failure of strategy. We had Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman in a speech here in the Twin Cities recently, accompanied by AIPAC Handlers (who reportedly sponsored the event) giving exactly the same talk to a pre-selected audience--"the economic sanctions are working, Iran is feeling the pain, etc.". Of course it is nonsense. It is wearying to hear the same tripe over and over again, and surprising in the extreme to see such a respected journal as The Economist joining in--especially with a cover story no less with virtually no news inside. But every time these lies are repeated, it makes me fearful that the administration hawks and the neocons are on a tear to soften up the American public for their cherished military strike.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Beeman--The National "Intelligence" Estimate

The National "Intelligence" Estimate

William O. Beeman

I cannot begin to express my dismay at the announcement of the cowardly and anemic national intelligence estimate today. The operative sentence, reported at least in the New York Times, was “These assessments, which are based on incomplete or at times fragmentary information, are not a fact, proof or knowledge." Boy howdy. It is not only the information that is fragmentary, it is the "terrorist network" itself. The administration continues to do its best to present a monolithic picture of terrorism when all evidence points to isolated groups with intensely parochial interests operating without any central control, except perhaps a kind of franchise label to make them seem part of something bigger than they really are.

The administration has tried desperately to link the original Al Qaeda to Iran, to the Iraqi insurgency, to Hezbollah, to the Taliban, to Anwar al-Islam and even to Hamas and various North African splinter groups. The term "affiliated" should be seen for what it is when used to link Osama bin Laden to any of these other groups--a fudge factor designed to support a mythology of the Bush administration's own creation. None of these groups can be approached with the same strategies that must be applied to the others. They do not use the same tactics. They don't have the same ideologies. Most importantly, they do not have the same leadership, nor political survival strategies. Hamas and Hezbollah are political entities in their own countries. Hamas is fighting Israel and the supporters of Al-Fatah; Hezbollah is fighting Israel and its own Lebanese central government. The Iraqi insurgency is rebelling against its own central government and the United States. The Taliban once housed Al-Qaeda, but they are primarily interested in regaining control over Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda itself in the far-away hills of Pakistan may launch verbal volleys at the United States, but it still seethes at the Saudi Royal Family. And we are now to believe that all of these entities, with all of their local concerns and investments in local conflicts are ganged up with the sole purpose of attacking the United States on its shores? This may satisfy an ego- and ethno-centric American public but it makes no logical sense at all.

Of course, the all purpose logical glue for some in Washington is to claim that Iran is masterminding everything. This is either wishful thinking, or a diabolical deceit of the American public.

The very saddest realization of all is that every one of these groups pre-existed the 9/11 tragedy. Their interests and their struggles go back decades. If Americans only had minimal education about the region, they would see this charade for what it is--a serious attempt to fool and scare the American public into granting this administration yet another loan extension on our national lives, liberties and treasure--just to "get them through the next few months," when they can dump the whole mess they have created on the next poor saps, and go off to Crawford or wherever and pontificate about how they acted on "principle" rather than "politics."