Apr 22, 2007

Stupid or Criminal?

By Zam Armatay, April 22, 2007

After listening to the Wolf Blitzer's interview with The New York Time's foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman in the CNN's Late Edition, I sat on my couch and wondered how stupid a prominent New York Time's columnist can get. In the response to Wolf Blitzer asking:

Wolf Blitzer: "You are not very optimistic right now? ... I remember that column you wrote after the war, you described yourself as a worried optimist . You supported the war, going into the war, you thought it was a just war, later you called yourself a worried optimist. How would you describe yourself right now?"
Thomas Friedman: "Oh, I'm a sort of just worried right now, Wolf. Just worried."

Four and a half years after the occupation of Iraq, that has resulted in the death of more than 600,000 people, nearly four million refugees and internally displaced persons, a deeply divided nation and a highly unstable region, the guy has just began to worry. Amazing.

Thomas Friedman was one of the so many journalists in the main stream media and official press, who supported the Iraq war and called it a just war. Well, back in 2002 and 2oo3 before the US invasion of Iraq, it didn't require a very bright mind and a high intelligence to see and realize that the rationals made by the Bush administration and his hawkish neo-conservatives, were built upon cheap lies and manipulated intelligence.

Calling the war as a just war by a prominent journalist was incredible. And what was more incredible was that all the mainstream media in the west followed in the footsteps of Bush and his fellows in fixing the intelligence around their catastrophic policy and in making a "good" case out of one of the biggest disasters since World War II.

Writers and journalists supporting the Iraq war could be divided in two different groups; those who supported the occupation of Iraq, because they really believed that the Iraq war was good and necessary and just and those who supported the warmongers in spite of knowing that the rationals behind the war was all lie and based on false intelligence.
Well, the first group are simply a bunch of simple minded, ignorant and naive people who should seek other professions to make carrier in, and the second group are people who has no pride and no respect for the noble profession of writing, has no respect for human life and are at best criminals.

Now I'm not sure which group Thomas Friedman, Judith Miller, Michael R. Gordon and many others of the kind belong to, but what is clear is that these people in The New York Times have been such disappointing failures.

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."
Mark Twain. The Mysterious Stranger 1916

Apr 18, 2007

The secret war against Iran

By rian Ross and Christopher Isham, April 03, 2007

A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News.

The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

It has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials.

U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or "finding" as well as congressional oversight.

Tribal sources tell ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its youthful leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states.

Jundullah has produced its own videos showing Iranian soldiers and border guards it says it has captured and brought back to Pakistan. The leader, Regi, claims to have personally executed some of the Iranians.

"He used to fight with the Taliban. He's part drug smuggler, part Taliban, part Sunni activist," said Alexis Debat, a senior fellow on counterterrorism at the Nixon Center and an ABC News consultant who recently met with Pakistani officials and tribal members.

"Regi is essentially commanding a force of several hundred guerrilla fighters that stage attacks across the border into Iran on Iranian military officers, Iranian intelligence officers, kidnapping them, executing them on camera," Debat said.

Most recently, Jundullah took credit for an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan.

Last month, Iranian state television broadcast what it said were confessions by those responsible for the bus attack.

They reportedly admitted to being members of Jundullah and said they had been trained for the mission at a secret location in Pakistan.

The Iranian TV broadcast is interspersed with the logo of the CIA, which the broadcast blamed for the plot.

A CIA spokesperson said "the account of alleged CIA action is false" and reiterated that the U.S. provides no funding of the Jundullah group.

Pakistani government sources say the secret campaign against Iran by Jundullah was on the agenda when Vice President Dick Cheney met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in February.

A senior U.S. government official said groups such as Jundullah have been helpful in tracking al Qaeda figures and that it was appropriate for the U.S. to deal with such groups in that context.

Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Apr 16, 2007

Iran leads attack against U.S. dollar

by Jerome R. Corsi, April 12, 2007

While the world press has focused on Iran's plans to move ahead with enriching uranium, Tehran continues to wage economic war against the U.S. dollar behind the scenes.

Tehran has reached a decision to end all oil sales in dollars, according to statements by Iran's central bank governor, Ehrabhim Sheibany, in Kuala Lumpur at the end of last month.

Zhuhai Zhenrong Trading, a Chinese state-run company that buys 240,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran, approximately 10 percent of Iran's 2.2 million barrels per day total output, has confirmed a shift to the euro for its Iranian oil purchases.

About 60 percent of Iran's oil income is currently in non-dollar currencies, according to Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, who is responsible for international affairs for National Iranian Oil.

Even Japanese refiners who buy some 550,000 barrels of oil a day from Iran have indicated their willingness to buy Iran's oil in yen.

China, which buys approximately 12 percent of its crude oil supply from Iran, signed last year a long-term $100 billion deal with Iran to develop Iran's giant Yadvaran oil field. Estimates indicate China could draw 150,000 barrels of oil from the Yadvaran field for the next 25 years, assuring Iran's position as one of the major suppliers of oil to China for decades to come.

One possibility is that China may begin paying Iran for oil in yuans.

Meanwhile, China which now holds $1 trillion in foreign reserve holdings, announced March 20 it will no longer accumulate foreign exchange reserves.

This is more bad news for the dollar, since approximately 70 percent of China's $1 trillion in foreign reserve holdings are held in U.S. dollar assets.

About half of China's foreign exchange U.S. assets are invested in U.S. treasuries, which are vital to financing the continuing U.S. federal budget deficits.

The recent push by Iran to demand payment for Iranian oil in currencies other than the dollar marks a move away from a previous announcement that Tehran planned to open an Iranian oil bourse in March 2006, designed to quote oil prices in the euro.

Iran has yet to open an Iranian oil bourse, but demanding payment for Iranian oil in currencies other than the dollar is seen by many experts as a more direct attack on the dollar, especially if the Iranian decision backs a worldwide move away from using the dollar as the underpinning of world foreign exchange reserves.

Iran's central bank governor Sheibany also confirmed Iran is cutting U.S. dollar reserves to less than 20 percent of its total foreign reserve currency holdings. Iran plans to manage its foreign reserve currencies from oil sales in a basket of 20 different currencies.

The move by both Iran and China to hold fewer dollars in their foreign exchange reserve reflects a desire to diversify foreign exchange reserve portfolios amid concerns the dollar will continue to lose value versus the euro.

The dollar has lost 9 percent of its value against the euro in the last year and is down 35 percent against the euro in the last five years.

Apr 10, 2007

Call that humiliation?

The Guardian, March 31, 2007
By Terry Jones

No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch

Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python.

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. Of course they'd probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn't be humiliated.

And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.

The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn't rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it's just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What's more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is "unhappy and stressed".

What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her "unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer - whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.

Apr 9, 2007

What We Can Learn From Britain About Iran

New York Times, April 5, 2007
By Vali Nasr and Ray Takeyh

Through the capture of and subsequent announcement that it would release 15 British sailors and marines, the Islamic Republic of Iran sent its adversaries a pointed message: just as Iran will meet confrontation with confrontation, it will respond to what it perceives as flexibility with pragmatism. This message is worth heeding as the United States and Iran seem to be moving inexorably toward conflict.

The timing of the Britons’ capture was no accident. The incident followed the passage of a United Nations resolution censuring Iran for its nuclear infractions, the dispatch of American aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf and the American sanctioning of Iranian banks.

Had the British followed the American example, once the sailors and marines were seized, they could have escalated the conflict by pursuing the matter more forcefully at the United Nations or sending additional naval vessels to the area. Instead, the British tempered their rhetoric and insisted that diplomacy was the only means of resolving the conflict. The Iranians received this as pragmatism on London’s part and responded in kind.

The United States faces a stark choice: it will have to either escalate its confrontational policy or adopt a policy of engagement. Far from arresting the Iranian danger, escalation would most likely present the United States with new perils. Given the balance of power in the region, a continued confrontational course with Iran would saddle the United States with a commitment to staying in the Persian Gulf indefinitely and deploying to other conflict areas in an environment of growing radicalism. It would place the United States at the heart of the region’s conflicts, leaving it all the more vulnerable to ideological extremism and terrorism at home and abroad.

Beyond such concerns, a continued policy of confrontation will also complicate America’s Iraq policy. Just as Iraqi Sunnis have cultural and political ties with Sunni Arab states and look to them for support, Iraqi Shiites trust and depend on Iran. An Iraq policy that allies the United States with Sunni Arab governments to eliminate Iranian influence in Iraq will be construed as biased against the Shiites. Such a policy will not win the support of the Shiite-dominated government on which the success of the new American strategy depends.

Since the United States entered Iraq in 2003, Washington has complained about Iran’s meddling, and about its involvement with radical groups and militias. Still, Iran, far more than any of the Sunni Arab regimes, has also supported the Shiite-dominated government and the Iraqi political process that brought it to power. If Iraq were to exclude Iran and seek to diminish its regional influence, Iran would have no further vested interest in the Iraqi political process, and it could play a far more destabilizing role. Therefore, the current policy will not reduce the Iranian threat to Iraq but rather increase it.

An American conflict with Iran would also undermine regional stability, jeopardize the economic gains of the Persian Gulf emirates and inflame Muslim public opinion. Persistent clashes with the United States will radicalize the Iranian theocracy and, more important, the Iranian public.

Iran today sees regional stability in its interest. It abandoned the goal of exporting its revolution to its Persian Gulf neighbors at the end of 1980s and has since acted as a status-quo power. It seeks influence within the existing regional power structure. It improved its relations with its Persian Gulf neighbors throughout the 1990s, and in particular normalized relations with Saudi Arabia. Iran supported the stabilization of Afghanistan in 2001 and that of Iraq during the early phase of the occupation. Conflict will change the direction that Iranian foreign policy has been following, and this will be a change for the worse and for the more confrontational.

A judicious engagement policy will require patience and must begin with a fundamental shift in the style and content of American diplomacy. The breakthrough in American-Chinese relations during the Nixon administration followed such a course. Beijing responded favorably to engagement only after two years of unilateral American gestures. As part of a similar effort toward Iran, the Unites States should try to create a more suitable environment for diplomacy by taking actions that gradually breach the walls of mistrust.

After 28 years of sanctions and containment, it is time to accept that pressure has not tempered Iran’s behavior. The announced release of the British captives shows that the Islamic Republic is still willing to mitigate its ideology with pragmatism. A policy of patient engagement will change the context, and that may lead Iran to see relations with America to be in its own interest. Only then will Tehran chart a new course at home and abroad.

Read the entire article here.
Vali Nasr is a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and the author of “The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future.” Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic.”