Monthly Archives: October 2010

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Within the restrictions imposed on us as government civil servants and during the hard days of dictatorship, our generation was able to transfer Bahrain into a modern state in few years following independence in 1971.

Analysis of the official voting results of primary round and after taking into consideration the probable redistribution of votes indicates the chance of each of the two candidates from Waad opposition party is less than 50% (50% + 1 is the number of votes needed to win the second round).

These two seats are highly critical for both the government and the opposition. By winning the seats, the opposition will guarantee a 50% representation in the lower parliament. Still less than the two third  majority required for affecting radical changes such as the amendment of the constitution, but enough to cause headache for the government. Of course the government has many other tricks to play such as using the appointed upper house to block decisions taken by the elected house. This tool was used this year to block a law proposed by the pro-government  Islamists in the lower house to ban the sale of alcohol.

We have to wait to see the results of the final round but it seems that more pro-government Sunni liberals are replacing the Sunni Islamists, thus relieving the government from the tax it pays back to the Islamists which
 in many cases takes the form of imposing more strict Islamic laws.

In my opinion, the chances of Waadâ€Ts party members could increase if they start to moderate their messages and slogans because people of Bahrain have lost trust in all those raising Goebbels style slogans, which has become old fashion anyways. They should always remember the fact that the regime has given out more breathing space but not the rule. If they have agreed to abandon all forms of resistance including arms struggle and join the democratic process, then they should play by its rule. Still and within the limitations imposed by the regime many things can be achieved for the people of Bahrain. Within the restrictions imposed on us as government civil servants and during the hard days of dictatorship, our generation was able to transfer Bahrain into a modern state in few years following independence in 1971. We were able to achieve all that through dialogue and reasoning.

Finally, we would like to congratulate AlWifaq for their outstanding victory and hope they stop knocking their heads in the hard walls of the  government and use dialogue and wisdom to serve all the people of Bahrain, not Shiite only, in areas such as economic development, upgrade of education and health services, housing and social services. They should do that in planned and organized manner not on hit and run basis.


I have used the figures published by the government for the calculations shown below (rounded to the nearest 1000):

The total number of eligible voters was 300,000 and the total number of the actual votes was 195,000 making a turnout of 65%.

The number of Bahrainis voted for AlWifaq candidates was 104,000 (53.3%), the number voted for Waad candidates was 7,000 (3.6%) and the number voted for other candidates was 84,000 (43.01%).

The total number of Bahraini citizens in 2001 census was 405,000 and according to the government figures the number in 2008 was 537,000. The total number according to a growth rate of 2.3% would be 475,000*.

Accordingly there is an increase in the number of Bahrainis by 62,000 not explained by the normal growth rate but could be explained by the addition of Bahraini emigrants to neighboring countries who opted to re-claim their citizenship after the government allowed dual citizenship with GCC countries in addition to granting citizenship to people lived in Bahrain with unclassified status after relaxing the regulations. The government at present is conducting a sample census which would show the latest population figures.

Dr. Sameer Khalfan – Bahrain

*The growth rate has been estimated based on the growth of Bahraini population between 1991 and 2001 censuses. The current actual rate should be slightly lower in line with the declining fertility rates.

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A Saudi border guard scanned the border with Yemen near the Saudi city of Jizan. The Saudis look for refugees, smugglers and insurgents entering from the south.

Faisal Mehdi for The New York Times
A Saudi border guard scanned the border with Yemen near the Saudi
city of Jizan. The Saudis look for refugees, smugglers and insurgents
entering from the south.

ON THE SAUDI-YEMENI BORDER — The five Yemeni men, all of them rail-thin,
clutched their knees as they sat staring across the sand at the narrow
road, which separates the Arab world’s poorest country from its richest.

The New York Times

Guards near Jizan watch for drug smugglers and Al Qaeda.

Faisal Mehdi for The New York Times

Yemeni men, seen through a wire barrier, watched and waited for a chance
to enter Saudi Arabia through the desert border.

“They’re waiting for us to move on,” said the Saudi border guard with a
weary smile, as he sat watching from the front seat of a gleaming S.U.V.
“Waiting so they can try to cross.”

This remote 1,100-mile frontier, once a casual crossing point for
Bedouins and goats, has become an emblem of the increasingly global
threats emanating from Yemen: fighters from Al Qaeda,
Shiite insurgents, drugs and arms smuggling and, well under the world’s
radar, one of the largest flows of economic refugees on earth.

Every day hundreds of illegal migrants are caught and sent back to
Yemen, Saudi officials say, including many who have come from Africa and
across Yemen’s deserts fleeing war and hunger.

The porousness of the border is essential to Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based
branch, which has become a major terrorism concern for the United States
as well as Arab countries. Al Qaeda draws recruits from Saudi Arabia,
where they can cross and recross without being noticed, and it has sent
militants across to try to kill Saudi leaders in their efforts to
topple the oil-rich kingdom.

In response, the Saudi authorities have embarked on a
multibillion-dollar effort to strengthen the border, evacuating scores
of villages that once straddled it and building elaborate defense
networks to keep intruders out.

Earthen berms now prevent cars from crossing, and layers of concertina
wire line the roads, some of it strewn with the rags and dried blood of
desperate migrants who still try to get through. Floodlights and thermal
cameras focus on different parts of the border at night, and
intelligence units stand ready to interrogate anyone who is deemed

“They adapt very quickly to every strategy we have,” said Lt. Muhammad
Qahtani, a seven-year veteran of the border patrol. The migrants wear
their shoes backward to confuse trackers, or strap sponges to their
soles to leave no footprints at all. They trek through arid mountains
where the border is loosely patrolled.

Many smugglers are heavily armed and will fight to the death when
surrounded, Lieutenant Qahtani said, because they know convicted drug
traffickers are usually beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

In some ways the border here resembles the one separating the United
States from Mexico, another desert barrier between rich and poor

But this border has become far more volatile lately. A year ago Yemeni
rebels killed a Saudi border guard, setting off a short war that
delivered a humiliating blow to the Saudis’ well-financed but
inexperienced military.

At least 133 Saudi soldiers were killed over three months, and the
fighting raised alarms across the Sunni Arab world about the possibility
that Iran might be supporting the Yemeni rebels — who subscribe to an
offshoot of Shiite Islam known as Zaydism — and turning this border into
another front for sectarian conflict.

Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch has repeatedly boasted about its ability
to infiltrate the border and outwit Saudi Arabia’s network of informants
in the area. Last year, a suicide bomber crossed here and later came
close to assassinating Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who runs Saudi
Arabia’s counterterrorism efforts. In October 2009, Yusef al-Shihri, a
leading Qaeda operative who had been detained at Guantánamo Bay, was
killed in a gun battle after crossing the border from Yemen disguised as
a woman.

Border security here involves far more than fences and patrols. Some
tribes straddle the border, and they — and the Yemeni government —
protested fiercely when Saudi Arabia first began reinforcing the border
in 2003, saying they needed free access for grazing. That dispute seems
to have eased, and the Saudi government is now refining an old policy of
subsidies to border tribes with a view to security, analysts say.

“The Saudis realize they need to work with tribal leaders and make sure
their livelihood depends on how good they are at keeping the border
safe,” said Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at
Princeton who has written extensively on Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
“There’s also cross-border trade, and there is a debate inside Saudi
Arabia now on how hard the border should be.”

In the past, many Yemenis complained that Saudi Arabia’s support for
various tribal and political figures in Yemen seemed aimed at keeping
their southern neighbor divided and weak. Now, as Yemen’s instability
and the threat of terrorism grow worse, Saudi Arabia appears to be
reassessing its approach to Yemen and its longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, diplomats say.

“They are trying to be more systematic,” said a Western diplomat in the
Saudi capital, Riyadh. “Their manipulations are now aimed at supporting
Saleh, because he’s the only game in town.”

The border was officially demarcated only in 2000. Much of it remained
so informal that many villages on the border’s western edge, near the
Red Sea, were half-Yemeni, half-Saudi. Those days ended last year with
the war, when the Saudi government evacuated 78 border villages and
extended the network of fences it had begun building several years

The area is an eerie wasteland now — scores of houses, some of them
pockmarked with bullets from the war, sit empty and silent. At the top
of the mountain where the fighting started last year, Saudi soldiers man
a .50-caliber machine gun, gazing across at the unmarked ridges that
form the border with Yemen.

Inside the border patrol headquarters in the port city of Jizan,
photographs line the wall showing contraband captured by the patrol
guards: truckloads of rocket-propelled grenades, huge bricks of hashish,
stacks of machine guns.

Drug smuggling has risen by almost a third in the past two years, Saudi
officials in Jizan say, with more than 7,000 pounds of hashish seized so
far this year. The most dangerous smugglers of all are those who drive
through the Empty Quarter, the Texas-size sand desert that dominates the
southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, patrol officers say.

But far more numerous are the illegal migrants, hundreds of thousands of
them annually in recent years. Most are caught and sent back to Yemen
after being held in crowded border detention centers for a day or so.
Many have crossed the sea to Yemen from Somalia or Ethiopia, risking
death on rickety boats in shark-infested waters.

Most of the survivors make the arduous journey through Yemen’s arid mountains only to be turned back at the Saudi border.

“Some of them say, ‘If you give me something to eat, I will go back,’ ”
said Lieutenant Qahtani, the border patrol officer. “You can only feel
pity for these men.”

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First, the United States government should not be in the news business at all. Arguments and debates about public affairs should be the province of private citizens. If the government must engage in propaganda in times of war or tension, to sell its policies abroad, the home front should remain insulated from that propaganda.

On June 30, 1972, two weeks after the Watergate burglars were taken
into custody, Richard Nixon vetoed a congressional bill to double and
treble federal funding for public broadcasting.

Nixon’s stunning veto was sustained. Yet he had only “scotched the snake, not killed it,” in the words of MacBeth.


Having escaped the ax, PBS and its little sister, National Public
Radio, with their consistently leftist bias, grew fat on 40 years of
federal money.

Nixon would express regret he had not followed the advice of those
who urged him to terminate taxpayer funding and force public television
and radio to compete fairly with private broadcasting.

Early in 2011, a Republican House and a more Republican Senate will
have a second chance to succeed where Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George
Bush I and II failed to try — to terminate tax funding of PBS and NPR.

This vote will be an early test of the GOP’s claim that, having been
burned in 2006 and 2008, it has learned its lesson, that Big Government
conservatism was a fatal attraction and remains an oxymoron.

As any viewer of cable news now knows, what has pushed NPR into the
crosshairs of Tea Party sharpshooters was its egregious act of liberal
bigotry against Juan Williams, a 10-year veteran of NPR.

Williams, a moderate-liberal African-American who worked for The
Washington Post and now works at Fox News, was fired for telling Bill
O’Reilly that, when boarding an airliner where Muslims are wearing
visibly Muslim garb, he gets “nervous,” he gets “worried.”

Whether Williams was fired for harboring such feelings, or for having
confessed them to O’Reilly, we do not know. But NPR President Vivian
Schiller said that if Juan did entertain such feelings, they should have
remained “between him and his psychiatrist.”

Schiller’s NPR calls to mind other places where folks who confessed
to thoughts offensive to the regime ended up in insane asylums and
re-education camps, the Soviet Union and South Vietnam post-1975.

Yet, as this episode, like a flash of lightning, suddenly illuminated the ideological landscape at NPR, it is most welcome.

As for Juan, not to worry. He has a new three-year, $2 million
contract with Fox. He is known to a larger national audience, and in a
positive way. He is widely seen as having been scapegoated by bigots and
bravely fought back.

But the reasons for defunding PBS and NPR, and their parent, the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting, are far broader. They involve not
just politics and economics, but principles and the Constitution.

First, the United States government should not be in the news
business at all. Arguments and debates about public affairs should be
the province of private citizens. If the government must engage in
propaganda in times of war or tension, to sell its policies abroad, the
home front should remain insulated from that propaganda.

When director Bruce Herschensohn’s brilliant “Years of Lightning, Day
of Drums” about JFK’s White House days was made by the United States
Information Agency, it was only by special dispensation that it was
allowed to be shown to the American public.

Second, a U.S. government that has run back-to-back deficits of $1.4
trillion and $1.3 trillion cannot afford the luxury of providing news
and entertainment to a nation with hundreds of cable TV channels and
hundreds of AM, FM and satellite radio stations, not to mention scores
if not hundreds of nationally syndicated radio programs.

Why should taxpayers have to fund a government version of Al
Franken’s Air America, when the private version went belly up? Let the
PBS-NPR elite audience fund its own news and entertainment.

When public television first came on air, there were three TV
networks and few cities had more than three TV stations. The case for
public television, that the people need “alternative programming,”
collapses when there are more channels than most of us have heard of,
tailored to every conceivable taste and interest.

Consider now the words of Thomas Jefferson: “To compel a man to
furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is
sinful and tyrannical.”

Yet, Congresses and presidents who profess to revere Jefferson have
voted for 40 years to force conservatives to pay billions of dollars
through CPB, PBS and NPR to propagate leftist ideas that they disbelieve
and abhor.

In FY 2010 alone, CPB, which funnels tax dollars to public television
and radio stations, received $420 million. The special interests who
will fight to shelter these subsidies should not be underestimated. In
big cities and on many campuses, there are powerful beneficiaries and
articulate advocates of public broadcasting who will paint as
troglodytes any congressmen who would poach on these preserves of

Again, whether a Republican House will zero out funding for public
broadcasting will be an early test of its character. If it gives CPB
only a haircut and a pat on the head, the tea party folks should start
recruiting candidates to run against GOP incumbents in 2012.

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The Tory budget cuts defense 8 percent and military personnel by 7,000. Translated here, that would mean a cut of $60 billion and about 100,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

Before the tea-party philosophy is ever even tested in America, it will have succeeded, or it will have failed, in Great Britain.

For in David Cameron the Brits have a prime minister who can fairly be described as a tea-party Tory. Casting aside the guidance of Lord Keynes – government-induced deficits are the right remedy for recessions – Cameron has bet his own and his party’s future on the new austerity. He is making Maggie Thatcher look like Tip O’Neill.

Two headlines Thursday testify that the Tories have seized the tea-party banner. First was the headline in the Washington Times, “Tea Party Urges Drastic Cutting,” that carried a caveat subhead, “Economists Question If Move Is Wise at This Time.”

Second was the Financial Times banner, “U.K. Unveils Dramatic Austerity Cutbacks.” The FT story begins, “The U.K.’s conservative-led coalition has announced the most drastic budget cuts in living memory. …

“The sweeping cuts in entitlements and spending far exceed anything contemplated in the U.S., where Barack Obama … has proposed only a three-year freeze on discretionary spending and Congress is still debating whether to extend tax cuts for the wealthy.”

Get Pat Buchanan’s classic, “The Death of the West,” autographed at low price

The Tory budget cuts defense 8 percent and military personnel by 7,000. Translated here, that would mean a cut of $60 billion and about 100,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

By 2015, some 490,000 public-sector employees, 8 percent of the total, will lose their jobs. The rest will have their wages frozen for two years and face a 3-percent-of-salary hike in compulsory contributions to their pension program. The retirement age will rise from 65 to 66.

France is in the 10th day of demonstrations, strikes and riots over President Sarkozy’s plan to raise the retirement age to 62.

If Cameron’s plans take effect and his projections prove correct, Britain’s deficit will fall from 10 percent of gross domestic product to 2 percent.

Writes the FT, “The U.K. cuts … over four years are the equivalent of 4.5 percent of projected 2014-2015 gross domestic product. Similar cuts in the U.S. would require a cut in public spending of about $650 billion.”

Nothing like that is being discussed here, and even if Republicans capture the House, cuts of that magnitude appear out of the question. The correlation of forces would not permit it.

Consider what seems the best possible outcome, Nov. 2, for the tea party. Republicans capture the House by winning 50 seats and come within a vote or two of capturing the Senate.

Should that happen, Democrats, shorn of their centrist wing in the massacre, will be in no mood to cooperate in cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicare, unemployment insurance, food stamps or the earned-income tax credit, the party’s legacy to the nation.

They will vote against serious cuts with as great a unanimity as Republicans voted against Obamacare. And if the GOP House votes the cuts, Senate Democrats will restore them. And if President Obama thinks they are too severe, he will veto the budget, his veto will stand, and he will run against “Boehner’s House” in 2012.

And Obama would do so with conviction. For neither he nor Fed chair Ben Bernanke agree with Cameron that Carthusian austerity is the way to go. They are Keynesians who think that is Hooverism.

Both believe the $1.4 and $1.3 trillion deficits they just ran up prevented the Great Recession from becoming a Great Depression.

Recall. Obama endorsed George W. Bush’s TARP bailout of the banks. He enacted a $789 billion stimulus bill, pushing the deficit to 10 percent of GDP. Bernanke doubled the money supply. He has now embraced “quantitative easing.” He is going to print billions to buy bonds and inject the money directly into the economy.

Quantitative easing is another bailout of the banks, only this time through the Fed back door.

Hence, the tea party faces almost certain disappointment, if not disillusionment.

Why? Because many in the Republican establishment also do not believe austerity is the way to go in a recession. Second, while most Republicans may favor deep cuts, they know that if they vote to cut Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance, but do not get those cuts, they will get the pain but not the benefit and be held accountable, just as Democrats were held accountable for cap-and-trade, which they voted for but did not get through the Senate.

Republicans will come out of this election with a tricky hand to play. They will have the appearance of power, but not the actuality. They will vote for cuts that will not be agreed to by the Senate or accepted by the president.

If the economy is in the ditch in 2012, they will seem ineffectual. If the economy is improving, Obama and Bernanke will claim credit.

By then, however, we will know the fate of the tea-party Tory who will at least have seen his policy prescriptions put to the test.

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"Threat" and "danger" were catchwords that rang through all of Washington late on Friday, as WikiLeaks published almost 400,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Iraq war. The official line remained the same throughout: It was the greatest leak in the history of the US military endangered national security — as well as the lives of troops and civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of classified US military
reports on the Iraq war have been published. WikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange is rejecting all accusations that he has endangered lives by
publishing the information. The US government is still seething. Will
the publication spark a fresh debate over the horrors of war?

Not a single word. Barack Obama clearly decided not to acknowledge
the news of the day by stating any position on it. The president, the
commander in chief of the US forces, could have personally condemned the
release of close to 400,000 classified military documents from the Iraq
war as he did after the publication of documents from Afghanistan.
After all, this was the biggest leak in US military history. But then,
when he appeared at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, the president didn’t
waste a single word on the historic security leak. Instead, he praised
the “100,000 brave young men and women who have come back from Iraq.”

This time, it seems, the US government was prepared. For weeks, a
120-member Pentagon task force had been combing through classified war
logs from Iraq. Their mission: To identify names and other “sensible”
information well ahead of time. “Our concern,” said department spokesman
Dave Lapan, “is mostly with the threat to individuals, the threat to
our people and our equipment.”

“Threat” and “danger” were catchwords that rang through all of
Washington late on Friday, as WikiLeaks published almost 400,000
classified Pentagon documents on the Iraq war. The official line
remained the same throughout: It was the greatest leak in the history of
the US military endangered national security — as well as the lives of
troops and civilians.

No surprise there. The Pentagon had already condemned the WikiLeaks
scoop — the second of its kind in two months — ahead of time as a
breach of law (see the box below). After DER SPIEGEL, the London Guardian and the New York Times put their own analyses of the papers online, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell picked up the argument late on Friday.

“This is all classified secret information never designed to be exposed
to the public,” Morrell told CNN. “Our greatest fear is that it puts our
troops in even greater danger than they inherently are on these
battlefields. That it will expose tactics, techniques and procedures.”

And so the dice fell where they were expected to fall. The
administration tried the awkward balancing act of downplaying the logs
while simultaneously condemning their release as some sort of treason.
The pundits on the left cheered. The pundits on the right demanded
WikiLeak’s founder Julian Assange’s head.

Which is apparently why WikiLeaks’ founder Assange, in an exclusive
interview with CNN on Friday, pointed out that the documents were
somewhat “easier to understand” than the Afghanistan logs previously
published in July. When CNN insisted on pressing him about his legal
problems, he walked out of the interview.

Of the US media, only the New York Times was granted prior
access to the war logs. CNN revealed it was also offered access to the
documents in advance of the release but declined “because of conditions
that were attached to accepting the material.”

The other US media then took a few hours to digest the flood of
information — only to come up with different conclusions. “The reports
cover such a variety of incidents and situations that they will be
interpreted in many different ways, depending on the perspective of
those who study them,” the radio station NPR said.

‘Compelling Evidence of War Crimes’

Probably the most buzz in the US was generated by those documents
detailing the torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners committed by US-led
coalition and Iraqi government forces. Assange said the logs revealed
“compelling evidence of war crimes.”

That caught the eye of many. “Files detailing alleged Iraq war crimes
are released on WikiLeaks,” was CNN’s initial news flash. “Torture,
Abuse, Murder,” blared the overnight headline of the Huffington Post news site, followed by, “US Troops Abused Prisoners For Years After Abu Ghraib.” The web site of the magazine The Atlantic didn’t
mince words, either: “American-led forces averted their eyes from
horrific, systematic detainee abuse by Iraqi security forces,” it read.

Pentagon spokesman Morrell rushed to object to this assessment:
“There is nothing in here which would indicate war crimes. If there
were, we would have investigated it a long time ago,” he told CNN.

Yet Amnesty International immediately called on the US to investigate
how much American officials knew about the torture and other
ill-treatment of detainees. “We have not yet had an opportunity to study
the leaked files in detail but they add to our concern that the US
authorities committed a serious breach of international law when they
summarily handed over thousands of detainees to Iraqi security forces
who, they knew, were continuing to torture and abuse detainees on a
truly shocking scale,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s director for the
Middle East and North Africa.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the leak as well as
Ryan Crocker, the former US ambassador in Iraq, and Nato Secretary
General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. General Stanley McChrystal, the former US
commander-in-chief in Afghanistan, called it “illegal.”

Similar criticism had come from conservative commentators. Washington Post
columnist Marc Thiessen, a member of the conservative American
Enterprise Institute think tank, characterized WikiLeaks as a “criminal
enterprise” and demanded Assange be put on trial. Mike Rogers, a
Republican in the House of Representatives, had previously encouraged
capital punishment for whistleblowers.

Conspicuous Silence from the Right

On Friday night, however, most conservative blogs remained conspicuously silent.

The unified phalanx of administration and military shows how
embarrassing the affair is to them. The fact the the most modern
military in the world can suffer such a “massive security breach,” as
CNN put it, is an international humiliation — and raises serious
questions about the protection of classified government information in
war times.

It didn’t help much that the Pentagon had gone into damage control
mode weeks ago already, as if preparing for a real army to attack. Not
to be surprised again, as it had been by the leak of the Aghanistan logs
in July, the so-called Information Review Task Force formed then had
continued to diligently comb through all relevant Iraq documents from
2003 to 2010.

“We can’t chase every single person”, a Pentagon official cautioned the Wall Street Journal. “Maybe no one’s name will be released.”

“There are 300 names of Iraqis in here that we think would be
particularly endangered by their exposure,” Pentagon spokesman Morrell
said on Friday. WikiLeaks didn’t hesitate to fight back on its Twitter
account, calling that “absolute lies … there are no names in the Iraq
war logs.”

As was the case with the Afghanistan war logs, SPIEGEL has taken
every measure possible to ensure that lives are not put at risk. This
includes redacting the names of those individuals who could be targeted
for revenge or of those places at risk of being targeted for collective

Even US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has put those accusations
into perspective, albeit in semi-private communications. “The review to
date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods
compromised by this disclosure,” he wrote in a letter to the Democratic
Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

‘They’re Crying Alarm Over This’

“They’re crying alarm over this, as they always do in the case of
every case of a leak,” said activist Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked
the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War, in an interview with the
progressive radio and TV program “Democracy Now!” on Friday. “I’ve
waited 40 years for a release of documents on this scale,” he rejoiced
later that night on Twitter before heading to London to participate in a
WikiLeaks press conference.

ABC News used the war logs to highlight the new, high number of war
casualties. Other media focused on the fate of two US citizens captured
in 2009 by Iran at the Iranian-Iraqi border. Many Americans have been
moved by this particular story, unrelated to the Iraq war.

One of the military reports made public by WikiLeaks and read by the New York Times asserts
that the US students were on the Iraqi side of the border when they
were seized. One of them, Sarah Shourd, was released last month, the two
others remain in Iranian custody to be tried for espionage in November.

Still, even some progressive voices protested the leaks. “It’s still
wrong to put Iraqi lives at risk and/or release personal details about
soldiers and civilians who fought, informed, died or just had the
misfortune to live in Iraq,” wrote Heather Hurlburt, executive director
of the National Security Networks, a think tank, in the Huffington Post.
“Second, the flood of data makes it harder, not easier, to see the
patterns that we still need to learn from this misbegotten war. And the
sheer, accumulated horror of it will accelerate the pace at which some
Americans will turn away from wanting to learn anything at all.”

It’s true that these late revelations will do little to stir up the
American people. Neither the Afghanistan war nor Iraq are issues in the
current congressional election campaigns, which center around populist
quarrels over the economy, unemployment and the national debt. The
primetime shows on the big US cable news networks — Fox News, MSNBC,
CNN — on Friday barely mentioned the Iraq publications.

Meanwhile, the WikiLeaks website remained unaccessible through much
of the night. “We will be back online as soon as possible,” it said
instead. Presumably having been attacked by a hacker, it went live again
after midnight — including an appeal for money: “Please donate to
WikiLeaks to defend this information.”

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It might seem unlikely that a raft of sophisticated arms under Saudi control really can stabilise the neighbourhood and change both the calculations of Iran’s nuclear protagonists and Israel’s hawks. Critics will say the move will quickly backfire and ignite a new regional arms race. But, oddly, both of these scenarios can be simultaneously true.

The Obama administration’s $60bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia
is already being touted a domestic “jobs generator” for Americans.
Instead, it should be seen as a strategically savvy deal – and one at
the heart of a changed US strategy in the Middle East that seeks to
confront Iran through proxies and allies.

By pushing helicopters
and fighters to the Saudis, the US is stealing the scene from Iran, and
removing the perception that it is the only rising power in the region.
Given global concerns about Iran’s nuclear course,
along with doubts about US power in the Middle East and fear about
Israel striking Iran on its own, President Barack Obama and King
Abdullah have raised the ante in a high stakes effort to create a new,
stable balance of power.

might seem unlikely that a raft of sophisticated arms under Saudi
control really can stabilise the neighbourhood and change both the
calculations of Iran’s nuclear protagonists and Israel’s hawks. Critics
will say the move will quickly backfire and ignite a new regional arms
race. But, oddly, both of these scenarios can be simultaneously true.

What is important is that the US sale
is an attempt by Mr Obama’s team to bolster the capacity of one of
Iran’s natural regional rivals, without encouraging either a regional
war or Israeli bomb-dropping.

Having capacity is not the same as
using it. This move, while provocative in the eyes of some analysts,
will actually help deflate calls for imminent attacks on Iran’s nuclear

The risks for the Saudis, the Middle East and Mr Obama,
however, is actually that this 10-year arms-building programme begins to
drive not only Iran’s strategic paranoia – which is already high given
John Bolton and his fellow travellers’ incessant calls for regime change
– but a greater appetite for arms acquisition across the entire region.

This could happen. But while new Saudi military capacity can help change the decisions of Iran’s mullahs today, this weaponry may also generate fear in Israel or other nations in the region tomorrow.

forget that Israel has not accepted King Abdullah’s much-offered Arab
Peace Initiative normalising relations between Israel and most of the
world’s Arab and Muslim-dominant nations in exchange for a Palestinian
state along 1967 borders as well as other conditions. The Saudis and
Israelis are still on opposite sides.

True, the chances of
achieving equilibrium with one big favour to Saudi Arabia today is
highly unlikely. But Mr Obama’s moves remains strategically astute in
the near term. More importantly, it could begin to chart a new approach
in which the US can work as an offshore balance in regions around the
world, helping to nudge military and economic favours between
competitors without a massive US invasion force.

The writer
directs the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and
publishes the political blog, The Washington Note

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

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If you would chart America’s decline, this program is a good place to begin. As a harbinger of the Great Society to come, in early 1964, a Food Stamp Act was signed into law by LBJ appropriating $75 million for 350,000 individuals in 40 counties and three U.S. cities.

“The lessons of history … show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”

These searing words about Depression-era welfare are from Franklin Roosevelt’s 1935 State of the Union Address. FDR feared this self-reliant people might come to depend permanently upon government for the necessities of their daily lives. Like narcotics, such a dependency would destroy the fiber and spirit of the nation.

What brings his words to mind is news that 41.8 million Americans are on food stamps, and the White House estimates 43 million will soon be getting food stamps every month.

A seventh of the nation cannot even feed itself.

If you would chart America’s decline, this program is a good place to begin. As a harbinger of the Great Society to come, in early 1964, a Food Stamp Act was signed into law by LBJ appropriating $75 million for 350,000 individuals in 40 counties and three U.S. cities.

Yet, no one was starving. There had been no starvation since Jamestown, with such exceptions as the Donner Party caught in the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-47, who took to eating their dead.

Get Pat Buchanan’s classic, “The Death of the West,” autographed at low price

The Food Stamp Act became law half a decade after J.K. Galbraith in his best-seller had declared 1950s America to be the world’s great Affluent Society.

Yet, when Richard Nixon took office, 3 million Americans were receiving food stamps at a cost of $270 million. Then CBS ran a program featuring a premature baby near death, and told us it was an infant starving to death in rich America. The nation demanded action, and Nixon acted.

By the time he left office in 1974, the food-stamp program was feeding 16 million Americans at an annual cost of $4 billion.

Fast forward to 2009. The cost to taxpayers of the U.S. food-stamp program hit $56 billion. The number of recipients and cost of the program exploded again last year.

Among the reasons is family disintegration. Forty percent of all children in America are now born out of wedlock. Among Hispanics, it is 51 percent. Among African-Americans, it is 71 percent.

Food stamps are feeding children abandoned by their own fathers. Taxpayers are taking up the slack for America’s deadbeat dads.

Have food stamps made America a healthier nation?

Consider New York City, where 1.7 million people, one in every five in the city, relies on food stamps for daily sustenance.

Obesity rates have soared. Forty percent of all the kids in city public schools from kindergarten through eighth grade are overweight or obese.

Among poor kids, whose families depend on food stamps, the percentages are far higher. Mothers of poor kids use food stamps to buy them sugar-heavy soda pop, candy and junk food.

Yet Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to the Department of Agriculture that recipients not be allowed to use food stamps to buy sugar-rich soft drinks has run into resistance.

“The world might be better … if people limited their purchases of sugared beverages,” said George Hacker of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “However, there are a great many ethical reasons to consider why one would not stigmatize people on food stamps.”

The Department of Agriculture in 2004 denied a request by Minnesota that would have disallowed food stamp recipients from using them for junk food. To grant the request, said the department, would “perpetuate the myth” that food-stamps users make poor shopping decisions.

But is that a myth or an inconvenient truth?

What a changed country we have become in our expectations of ourselves. A less affluent America survived a Depression and world war without anything like the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance, welfare payments, earned income tax credits, food stamps, rent supplements, day care, school lunches and Medicaid we have today.

Public or private charity were thought necessary, but were almost always to be temporary until a breadwinner could find work or a family could get back on its feet. The expectation was that almost everyone, with hard work and by keeping the nose to the grindstone, could make his or her own way in this free society. No more.

What we have accepted today is a vast permanent underclass of scores of millions who cannot cope and must be carried by the rest of society – fed, clothed, housed, tutored, medicated at taxpayers’ expense for their entire lives. We have a new division in America: those who pay a double fare, and those who forever ride free.

We Americans are not only not the people our parents were, we are not the people we were. FDR was right about what would happen to the country if we did not get off the narcotic of welfare.

America has regrettably already undergone that “spiritual and moral disintegration, fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.”

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Why we all forget the aforesaid facts when we cry out for equal rights and freedom of speech, thought and action in the West? Why don’t we demand the same in our own countries? Why do we lapse into collective silence at the persecution of minorities in our countries? Why don’t we believe in giving to others what we claim for ourselves? Why don’t we see the heart rending injustice of it all?
Why do we lapse into collective silence at the persecution of minorities in our countries? Why don’t we believe in giving to others what we claim for ourselves? Why don’t we see the heart rending injustice of it all?

Someone needed to say this, so there.

We huff and puff, in a self-righteous rage, over the refusal of a few
in the US of A to allow the building of a mosque near ground zero. For
the bigots on either side especially, the issue has become so consuming
that its is hard to distinguish their collective voice from one
continuous, high-pitched, piercing blare.

Quite a few on my mailing list enthusiastically forwarded to me the amazing article written by Michael Moore (yes..of Fahrenheit 9/11 fame) titled as, “If This Mosque isn’t Built, This is no Longer America”.
In the stunning piece, Michael Moore wants the mosque built ‘not two
blocks away from ground zero but on ground zero’. He goes on to give a
long list of his reasons for that. What really stumped me in Michael’s
write-up was that, according to him, it was the Jewish Community Center
of Manhattan whose rabbi has been helping the New York Muslim community
in their quest since the beginning.

And I thought Jews were our worst enemies.

Bang in the midst of this controversy, another dazzling news almost drowned out. According to this Christian Science Monitor report,
the hundred thousand strong Muslim community of the Italian city of
Milan are pushing for building the first ever mosque in the city. And
who happens to be their steadfast ally in their quest? Lo and behold;
none other than the Vatican itself. Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi,
Catholic church’s highest authority in town, says, “Milan civil
institution must guarantee everyone religious freedom” and that,
“Muslims have the right to practice their faith”.

All power to the Muslim communities in New York and Milan and to
Michael Moore and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi but where does that leave
an ordinary Muslim like me? I am all confused now. I thought these
people could never be friends with Muslims. That, as a matter fact, is
an article of faith with us Muslims. I appeal to the paragons of moral
consistency to now come to my aid. And pronto please. What is happening?
Someone please reassure me that these friendly gestures are actually
some more ‘Judeo-Christian conspiracies’ against us Muslims. And if
these are, what exactly are we going to do about these? Refuse the help
or refuse building the mosques?

But that is not all I am puzzled about. I need also to understand why
in our holy land, a country that is a role model for the Muslim world, a
kind of apartheid is practiced against non-Muslims? Christians, and
other non-Muslims, are prohibited from even entering the two holy cities
with signs indicating that Muslims must go to certain areas and
non-Muslims to others. There are more than a million Roman Catholics in
that country with not a single church for any denomination. Not allowed
to practice their faith openly, these Christians are forced to worship
in secret within private homes. Even articles and symbols such as
Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious icons etc.
are prohibited. The government does not permit non-Muslim clergy to
enter the country for the purpose of conducting religious services. The
blood money in that country payable for accidental death of a Christian
male is half as much as that for a Muslim male (lucky, one would say,
because all others i.e. Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs etc. are valued at

But above all what really boggles my mind is when I think that were
some Christians supposedly involved in a terror attack on our holy
cities, would we ever, ever contemplate allowing Christians to build a
Church next to the attack sites? Not that there are any even without
such attacks. Whether Muslims were or weren’t involved in the 9/11
attacks is beside the point. Rightly or wrongly, they are perceived to
have been.

Not just that, people are actually killed for having different
beliefs. In a country like Pakistan, Christians, along with other
minorities of course, are routinely persecuted, their churches burnt,
their homes and communities vandalized while we stand as helpless
bystanders. Even ancient Bamyan statues, an international heritage, were
not spared in Afghanistan. Yet when we go and reside in the West we
foam righteous at our mouths demanding equal rights in matters of
worship and daily living. We are the rowdiest, loudest and most violent
protesters when we protest a seeming injustice.


Why we all forget the aforesaid facts when we cry out for equal
rights and freedom of speech, thought and action in the West? Why don’t
we demand the same in our own countries? Why do we lapse into collective
silence at the persecution of minorities in our countries? Why don’t we
believe in giving to others what we claim for ourselves? Why don’t we
see the heart rending injustice of it all?

Why are we inure to these basic human values? When will we understand
that fear freezes the mind keeping it forever at the mercy of
ignorance? That superstition is a dagger that slaughters the intellect?

And if it is not the case of a callous indifference to basic human values or of fear or of superstition, what is it then?

Is it ignorance? Is it duplicity? Or is it dread of the unknown? Or
is it the lethal mix of all three that keeps us from being honest?

Or is it plain old hypocrisy?


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Like George Bush, Obama plans permanent war and more military spending than all other nations combined at a time America has no enemies. He promised change and betrayed us. Grassroots activism must stop this madness.Post-9/11, Dick Cheney warned of wars
that won’t end in our lifetime. Former CIA Director James Woolsey said
America “is engaged in World War IV, and it could continue for
years….This fourth world war, I think, will last considerably longer
than either World Wars I or II did for us.” GHW Bush called it a “New
World Order” in his September 11, 1990 address to a joint session of
Congress as he prepared the public for Operation Desert Storm.

The Pentagon called it the “long war” in its 2006 Quadrennial Defense
Review (QDR), what past administrations waged every year without
exception since the republic’s birth, at home and abroad. Obama is just
the latest of America’s warrior presidents that included Washington,
Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, F. Roosevelt, Truman,
Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, GHW Bush, Clinton, and GW Bush preceding him.

This article covers WW II and its aftermath history of imperial wars
for unchallengeable global dominance throughout a period when America
had and still has no enemies. Then why fight them? Read on.

Wars Without End

America glorifies wars in the name of peace, what historian Charles
Beard (1874 – 1948) called “perpetual war for perpetual peace” in
describing the Roosevelt and Truman administrations’ foreign policies –
what concerned the Federation of American Scientists when it catalogued
about 200 post-1945 conflicts in which America was, and still is, the

Historian Gore Vidal used Beard’s phrase in titling his 2002 book, “Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace” and saying:

“our rulers for more than half a century have made sure
that we are never to be told the truth about anything that our
government has done to other people, not to mention our own.”

In his 2002 book “Dreaming War,” he compared GW Bush’s imperial ambitions to WW II and the 1947 Truman Doctrine’s pledge:

“To support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.”

It was to keep Greece and Turkey from going communist, but it applied
globally and initiated America’s National Security State strategy that

  • NATO in 1949 for offense, not defense;
  • NSC-68 against Soviet Russia in 1950 to “contain” what was called
    an enemy “unlike previous aspirants to hegemony….animated by a new
    fanatic faith, antithetical to our own (wishing to) impose its absolute
    authority over the rest of the world” at a time America was the only
    global superpower, the Soviet Union lay in ruins, threatened no one, and
    needed years to regain normality.

Then came:

  • Truman’s instigated June 25, 1950 war after the DPRK retaliated in
    force following months of ROK provocations, what Americans call the
    Korean War, South Koreans the 6-2-5 War (meaning June 25), and the North
    its “fatherland liberation war” that left it in ruins, the South
    occupied to this day, and it was only the mid-century beginning as
    succeeding administrations continued an agenda for what’s now called
    “full spectrum dominance” for global US hegemony.

It worried
historian Harry Elmer Barnes (1889 – 1968) in his 1953 collection of
leading historical revisionists’ essays titled, “Perpetual War for
Perpetual Peace: A Critical Examination of the Foreign Policy of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and It’s Aftermath” in which he wrote in the

“If trends continue as they have during the last fifteen
years, we shall soon reach this point of no return, and can only
anticipate interminable wars, disguised as noble gestures for peace.
Such an era could only culminate in a third world war which might well,
as Arnold J. Toynbee has suggested, leave only the pygmies in remote
jungles, or even the apes and ants, to carry on ‘the cultural
traditions’ of mankind.”

He cited how America’s “needless” entry into two world wars converted
its pre-1914 dream “into a nightmare of fear, regimentation,
destruction, insecurity, inflation, and ultimate insolvency.” He
debunked the cause and merits of WW I, “the folly of our entering it,
and the disastrous results that followed.” He cited “popular fictions”
about WW II, the injustices to Germany and Austria that caused it, the
war Roosevelt wanted early in the 1930s as captured Polish documents and
the censored Forrestal Diaries confirmed.

Before it began, he wanted US neutrality legislation ended, then
after September 1939, he dropped any pretense by supporting Britain and
France and opposing peace efforts after Poland’s defeat. His June 1940
“dagger in the back” address was a de facto act of war by beginning vast
amounts of weapons and munitions shipments to Britain after Dunkirk,
followed by the September 1940 (peacetime) Selective Service Act, the
first in US history, in preparation for what close advisor Harry Hopkins
told Churchill in January 1941 that:

“The President is determined that we shall win the war
together. Make no mistake about it,” followed by Chief of Naval
Operations, Admiral Harold Stark telling his fleet commanders that “The
question of our entry into the war now seems to be when, and not

Only a pretext was needed, first by trying and failing to provoke
Germany, then deciding Japan would be attacked, whether or not it struck
US ships, territory, or forces in the Pacific. In a July 4 radio
broadcast, Roosevelt said:

“solemnly (understand) that the United States will never
survive as a happy and fertile oasis of liberty surrounded by a cruel
desert of dictatorship.” Then his July 25 Executive Order froze Japanese
assets, stating it was:

“….To prevent the use of the financial facilities of
the United States in trade between Japan and the United States in ways
harmful to national defense and American interests, to prevent the
liquidation in the United States of assets obtained by duress or
conquest, and to curb subversive activities in the United States.”

Britain followed suit the next day, and Roosevelt nationalized the
Philippines’ armed forces “as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of
the United States” with dominion over its Asian colony.

As early as 1937, he planned a naval blockade, but dropped the idea
after an adverse reaction. It resurfaced in 1938 because he knew
strangling Japan economically assured war.

Throughout his administration, from 1933 through late 1941, he
spurned Japanese peace overtures that would have protected all American
interests in the Pacific. By November 25, the final die was cast.
America chose war, and on that day, War Secretary Henry Stimson wrote in
his diary that it depended only on how to maneuver Japan to attack with
the lowest number of US casualties.

Tokyo had no other recourse, knowing it couldn’t win, but hoping for a
negotiated settlement to solidify whatever Asian control it could
retain. It failed, lost the war, and remains an occupied US vassal

In the late 1930s, Roosevelt encouraged a Japanese attack by
stationing the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor against the advice of two
key admirals, James Richardson, Pacific Fleet commander and Harold
Stark, Chief of Naval Operations until March 1942.

Selling arms to Japan’s enemies and an embargo assured war, and US
cable documentation confirmed it was coming. Breaking the Japanese code
let Britain and Washington track its fleet from the Kurile Islands to
its North Pacific refueling point en route to Pearl Harbor on or about
December 7.

At a December 5 cabinet meeting, Navy Secretary Frank Knox said:
“Well, you know Mr. President, we know where the Japanese fleet is?”

“Yes, I know,” responded Roosevelt, saying “Well, you tell them what
it is Frank,” who explained where it was, where it was heading until
Roosevelt interrupted adding that perfect information wasn’t available
in spite of navy reports confirming it in Pacific waters heading toward
Hawaii. On December 6, officials awaited the attack until it came the
next morning at 7:55AM Hawaii time.

It was a day of infamy and deceit, with Pearl Harbor’s commander,
Admiral HE Kimmel, denied crucial intelligence to let it proceed
unimpeded, arouse public anger, and give FDR his war – one decoded
Japanese messages showed they didn’t want but Roosevelt gave them no

Like other presidents, he lied the country into war against the
wishes of 80% of the public, at a cost of millions of lives in both
theaters, and a policy henceforth of perpetual wars for perpetual peace
to achieve unchallengeable US dominance. In the modern era, FDR’s
foreign policy began it, leaving a bankrupted moral and political legacy
active to this day.

Consider also what revisionist historians say about Lincoln – that he
provoked the Fort Sumpter (in Charleston, SC harbor) attack and began
the Civil War for economic reasons, not to end slavery.

Consider also that ordinary people and soldiers don’t want war, just
their leaders and commanders – to wit, Christmas 1914 during WW I when
German and British troops stopped fighting, didn’t know why they were
doing it, then defied orders by fraternizing with each other for two
weeks despite risking being court-martialed. Unable to stop them, their
officers joined them in a celebratory pause that didn’t stop another
three years of carnage, millions of lost lives, and post-war policies
that assured WW II.

The lesson is clear. All wars are immoral, unnecessary, and only
happen when one side provokes the other for reasons unrelated to
national security threats.

In his seminal book, “A Century of War,” Gabriel Kolko called the 20th century:

“the bloodiest in all history. More than 170 million
people were killed,” 70% of whom in WW II were civilians, “mainly (from)
the bombing of cities by Great Britain and America.” There was nothing
good about “the good war” nor any others.

In Kolko’s later book “Another Century of War,” he stressed how
America contributes to much of the world’s disorder through its
interventions and as the world’s largest arms producer and exporter.
Post-WW II, the US became a global menace, today claiming “terrorism” as
the main threat – a bogus fiction to justify militarism, perpetual wars
heading the nation for moral, political and economic bankruptcy.
According to Kolko:

“The way America’s leaders are running the nation’s
foreign policy is not creating peace or security at home or stability
abroad. The reverse is the case: its interventions have been

In his newest book, “The World in Crisis,” Kolko believes that
America’s decline “began after the Korean War, was continued in relation
to Cuba, and was greatly accelerated in Vietnam – but (GW Bush did)
much to exacerbate it further.” He also thinks:

  • US power is declining everywhere;
  • “the world is no longer dependent on its economic might” because
    other nations like China and India are growing and may some day equal or
    surpass America;
  • after the Soviet Union’s collapse, “the absence of identifiable
    foes has been a disaster, leaving the US aimless – (so) it picks and
    chooses enemies: rag-tag Afghan tribesmen, Iraqis or all sorts, perhaps
    China, perhaps Russia….South American caudillos,” whatever bogus ones
    can be invented for imperial wars, but the justification is wearing
    thin, and the burgeoning cost unsustainable.

The result is that America’s “century of domination is now ending.”

America’s Permanent War Economy

It’s how Seymour Melman (1917 – 2004) characterized it in his books
and frequents writings on America’s military-industrial complex. One of
his last articles was titled “In the Grip of a Permanent War Economy
(CounterPunch, March 15, 2003) in which he said:

“at the start of the twenty-first century, every major
aspect of American life is being shaped by our Permanent War Economy.”
He then examined the horrific toll:

  • a de-industrialized nation, the result of decades of shifting production abroad leaving unions and communities “decimated;”
  • government financing and promoting “every kind of war industry and
    foreign investing by US firms;” war priorities take precedence over
    essential homeland needs;
  • America’s “Permanent War Economy….has endured since the end of
    World War II….Since then the US has been at war – somewhere – every
    year, in Korea, Nicaragua, Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan – all this
    to the accompaniment of shorter military forays in Africa, Chile,
    Grenada, Panama,” and increasingly at home against its own people;
  • “how to make war” takes precedence over everything leaving no “public space….on how to improve the quality of our lives;”
  • “Shortages of housing have caused a swelling of the homeless
    population in every major city (because) State and city governments
    across the country have become trained to bend to the needs of the
    military….;” the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) currently
    estimates over 21,000 are on city streets nightly, and during winter
    months it’s dangerous;
  • the result is a nation of growing millions of poor, disadvantaged,
    uneducated, and “disconnected from society’s mainstream, restless and
    unhappy, frustrated, angry, and sad;”


    Capitalism” characterizes America’s government – business partnership
    running a war economy for greater power and wealth at the expense of a
    nation in decline, corrupted leadership, lost industrialization,
    crumbling infrastructure, and suffering millions on their own, uncared
    for, unwanted, ignored, and forgotten.

Melman stressed that:

“Further evasion is out of order. We must come to grips with
America’s State Capitalism and its Permanent War Economy.”
Re-industrialization is essential “to restore jobs and production
competence – industry by industry.”

“Failing that, there is no hope for any constructive exit,” for the nation or its people.

Dwight Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 Address to the Nation

It was his farewell address delivered 30 years to the day
before Operation Desert Storm began in which he warned about the
“military-industrial complex,” citing the “grave implications” of a
“coalition of the military and industrialists who profit by
manufacturing arms and selling them to the government.”

He stated “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted
influence….by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the
disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

He also said that:

“Every gun that is made, every war ship launched, every
rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who
hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and not clothed,” the
result of what some analysts call the “iron triangle” of Congress, the
Pentagon, and the defense industry that includes producers of
sophisticated technology for digital age warfare of a kind Eisenhower
never imagined.

In combination, they’ve addicted America to war, not for threats, but
for the power and profits that result. In his book “The Political
Economy of US Militarism,” Professor Ismael Hossein-Zadehrefers to
“parasitic military imperialism,” consuming over 40% of the national tax
revenue at the expense of unmet human needs.

Morality aside, it’s not justified economically. It’s wasteful,
inefficient, comes at a great cost, and over time is ineffective and

“The control over huge amounts of national resources
tends to lead to an undermining of democratic values, a perversion of
republican principles and a reduction of civil freedoms, as well as to
the political corruption at home and abroad.” Moreover, “The constant
need for international conflicts makes (America’s) military
imperialism….more dangerous than the imperial powers of the past.”

It’s made war-making a giant enterprise “not only for expansionism
but, in fact, for the survival of this empire,” yet consider the fallout
Hossein-Zadeh examined in a July 10, 2007 article titled, “Parasitic

  • the redistribution of income and resources to the wealthy;
  • the undermining of physical and human capital;
  • the nation’s increased vulnerability to natural disasters;
  • economic and financial instability, the result of the growing national debt now totally out of control;
  • less foreign market potential for non-military ventures;
  • the undermining of civil liberties and democratic values; and
  • “foster(ing) a dependence on or addiction to military spending,
    and, therefore….a spiraling vicious circle of (unsustainable) war and
    militarism” that’s sucking the nation into decline.
America’s Post-WW II Imperial Grand Strategy

Post-WW II, America emerged as the world’s sole superpower –
economically, politically and militarily, given the war’s toll on East
Asia, Europe and Soviet Russia. In his book, “The Cold War and the New
Imperialism,” Professor Henry Heller examined it with emphasis on the
Cold War, America’s containment policy, and its efforts against leftist
forces in support of fascist elements on the right at both state and
local levels.

The Soviet Union controlled Eastern and Central Europe while Mao’s
War of Liberation defeated Chiang Kai-Shek Nationalists. Cold War
confrontation followed. It pitted US imperialism against an opposing
ideology, the aim being which side would triumph or could both co-exist
peacefully and avoid conflict.

War was never an option given each side’s nuclear strength under a
policy of “mutually assured destruction (MAD)”. In addition,
post-Stalinist Russia began reforms and expanded its sphere of
influence. It wasn’t to destroy the West, but to co-exist equally.
America and Soviet Russia only competed for developing country allies to
keep them from the opposing camp, so neither would be dominated by the
other or more vulnerable to being isolated, marginalized, or shut out
from world markets and influence.

US Imperialism Post-WW II

James Petras and others have said behind every imperial war is a
great lie, the more often repeated the more likely to be believed
because ordinary people want peace, not conflict, so it’s vital to
convince them.

In the 1950s, the Eisenhower administration overthrew two popularly
elected governments in Iran and Guatemala, and sought greater influence
in Africa and Southeast Asia as anti-colonial movements gained strength.

On January 1, 1959 Fidel Castro’s socialist revolution ousted the
US-backed Batista dictatorship. He then survived America’s failed 1961
Bay of Pigs invasion, but faced decades of US hostility, including an
embargo, destabilization, intimidation, and hundreds of attempts to kill
him, unsuccessful so Cuba is still free from US dominance, but hardly
safe from its northern hegemon.

In the 1950s, America also backed French Southeast Asian imperialism
until defeat at Dien Bien Phu drove them out. A repressive South
Vietnamese client regime was established at the same time, supported by
US military advisors teaching war and repression tactics. Unifying North
and South elections were blocked, and direct intervention began in
1961. In 1958, Washington also subverted Laotian democracy and incited
civil war. Cambodia as well was targeted but remained free.

Early in his administration, Kennedy intervened, but a new James
Douglass book titled “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It
Matters” says without conviction because he opposed using force. After
the Joint Chiefs demanded troops for Laos, he told his Geneva Conference
representative, Averell Harriman:

“Did you understand? I want a negotiated settlement in Laos. I don’t want to put troops in.”

He wouldn’t agree to using nuclear weapons in Berlin and Southeast
Asia and refused to bomb or invade Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis,
saying afterwards that “I never had the slightest intention of doing

In June 1963 (a few months before his assassination), he called for
the abolition of nuclear weapons, ending the Cold War, and moving
forward for “general and complete disarmament.” In October 1963, he
signed National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263 to withdraw 1,000
US forces from Vietnam by year end and all of them by 1965. He said he
wanted “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the
winds.” He wanted peace, not conflicts. It cost him his life, and future
presidents got the message.

Johnson resumed Southeast Asian escalation to establish client
regimes and military bases across East and South Asia, encircle China,
and crush nationalist anti-imperial movements. The Indochinese war
engulfed Cambodia and Laos as well under Johnson and Nixon. It killed
three to four million, inflicted vast amounts of destruction, caused
incalculable human suffering, got America to sign a peace treaty in
January 1973, but war continued until its clients were defeated in April

Prior to Reagan’s election, the “Vietnam syndrome” and easing Cold
War tensions and disarmament efforts alarmed militarists to fear defense
spending cuts detrimental to profits. A propaganda campaign exaggerated
bogus threats, manipulated intelligence to heighten fear, and got the
Reagan administration to approve large military spending increases to
confront “Soviet expansionism” at a time it was transitioning from
Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko to Gorbachev in 1985, followed by
perestroika in 1986, glasnost in 1988, border openings and the Berlin
Wall’s collapse in 1989, then the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991 – a
new threat militarists feared would bring large, not to be tolerated,
defense budgets cuts.

In the late 1980s, however, leading figures, including Henry
Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samuel Huntington, and Albert
Wohlstetter alleged Third World conflicts threatened US interests in the
Middle East, Mediterranean, and Western Pacific, and recommended
deterrence to stop them. Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell and Defense
Secretary Dick Cheney agreed. Others wanted large defense cuts for a
peace dividend, including Johnson’s DOD chief Robert McNamara who
proposed reductions up to 50%.

Throughout the 1989 – 1999 period, mostly under Bill Clinton,
US-instigated provocations, sanctions, and armed insurrections support
involved America in 134 military operations according to the Federation
of American Scientists. The most egregious was Clinton’s bombing and
dismemberment of Yugoslavia, an act playwright Harold Pinter called:

“barbaric” and despicable, “another blatant and brutal assertion of
US power using NATO as its missile” to consolidate “American domination
of Europe.” Worse was yet to come with the election of George Bush,
America’s worst president in a country that never had a good one and
never will as it’s now governed.

Long before 9/11, Middle East restructuring plans were based on bogus
terrorist, rogue state, and “clash of civilizations” threats by hordes
of Islamofascists, including the Palestinian resistance, the Islamic
Republic of Iran, and Saddam Hussein targeted in the 1990 – 91 Gulf War,
followed by years of devastating sanctions, then ousted by GW Bush in

Iraq was destroyed, occupied and balkanized. Afghanistan, Pakistan,
and Iran face similar threats, the common thread being dominating
Eurasia through endless conflicts and increased military spending for
war profiteering bounties. September 11 assured it, and got Michelle
Ciarocca of the Arms Trade Resource Center, in September 2002 to say:

“The whole mind set of military spending changed on Sept.
11. The most fundamental thing about defense spending is that threats
drive (it). It’s now going to be easier to fund almost anything.”

Hossein-Zadeh investigated the growing role of private contractors
creating a “built-in propensity to war that makes the US
military-industrial complex a menace to world peace and stability, a
force of death and destruction,” as virulent under Obama as George Bush.

The fallout includes a burgeoning national debt, loss of civil
liberties and democratic freedoms, erosion of social services, collapse
of the dollar, America already in decline, its coming loss of
preeminence as a world power, its potential bankruptcy, perhaps demise
in its present form. and the possibility of WW III.

America’s Illegal Wars of Aggression – The “Supreme Crime”

All US post-WW II conflicts were premeditated wars of aggression against nations posing no threat to America –
what Justice Robert Jackson at Nuremberg called:

the “supreme international crime differing only from
other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil
of the whole.”

Canadian Law Professor Michael Mandel explained America’s guilt in
his superb 2004 book, “How America Gets Away with Murder: Illegal Wars,
Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity,” his main theme being
Jackson’s Nuremberg “supreme crime” declaration, as relevant now as

Tragically, as Edward Herman observed in reviewing Mandel’s book:

“The problem for the United States (and the world) has
been that this country is now in the business of aggression and its
commission of the “supreme crime” is standard policy, thereby bringing
the “scourge of war” across the globe in direct violation of the UN

Its Purposes and Principles state that:

“The Purposes of the United Nations are:

(1) To maintain international peace and security, and to
that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and
removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of
aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring by peaceful
means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and
international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or
situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”

Conspiratorially with NATO and Israel, America willfully and
repeatedly violates international and US laws, punishes its victims,
absolves itself, and since WW II has directly or indirectly murdered
millions of people globally, mostly civilian non-combatants.

Barack Obama – America’s New Warrior President

America glorifies conflicts and the righteousness of waging them,
packaged as liberating ones for democracy, freedom, justice, and the
best of all possible worlds. Obama is just the latest in a long line of
warrior leaders promising peace by waging war, justifying them by bogus
threats, and calling pacifism unpatriotic to further an imperial agenda
for greater wealth, power, and unchallengeable global dominance.

In opposition to his announced Afghanistan surge, peace activists
gathered across from the White House on December 12 for an “Emergency
Anti-Escalation Rally” organized by “End US Wars”- a new coalition of
grassroots anti-war organizations.

Speakers included Kathy Kelly, David Swanson, Granny D (age 100 on
January 24, 2010) former Senator Mike Gravel (1969 – 1981), and former
Representative and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia
McKinney, among others.

This writer was asked to prepare a short commentary to be read to the crowd. Updated, it’s reproduced below:

Obama’s Permanent War Strategy

Disingenuously calling Afghanistan a “war of necessity, not choice,”
Obama ordered 30,000 more troops deployed over the next six months with
perhaps many more to follow. In one of his most defining decisions, he’s
more than doubled the force count since taking office, angered a
majority in the country, and continues his permanent war agenda while
calling himself a man of peace.

Next target, Yemen, and its newest, occupied Haiti for plunder,
exploitation, and very likely killing unwanted Haitians by neglect,
starvation, disease, and face-to-face confrontations if they resist.

As a candidate, Obama campaigned against imperial militarism,
promised limited escalation only, and pledged to remove all combat
troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. That was then. This is now, and
consider what he has in mind – the permanent occupation of Iraq,
Afghanistan and more.

Besides the Afghan escalation, he’s also destabilizing Pakistan to
balkanize both countries, weakening them to control the Caspian Sea’s
oil and gas riches and their energy routes to secured ports for export.
The strategy includes encircling Russia, China, and Iran, obstructing
their solidarity and cohesion, defusing a feared geopolitical alliance,
weakening the Iranian government, perhaps attacking its nuclear sites,
eliminating Israel’s main regional rival, and securing unchallenged
Eurasian dominance over this resource rich part of the world that
includes China, Russia, the Middle East, and Indian subcontinent.

Like George Bush, Obama plans permanent war and more military
spending than all other nations combined at a time America has no
enemies. He promised change and betrayed us. Grassroots activism must
stop this madness and make America a nation again to be proud of. The
alternative is too grim to imagine.

Over 50 years ago, Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) warned:

“Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war” and live in peace, because we have no other choice.

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King Abdullah has taken a few incremental steps toward modernization. In a move last year that angered some Wahhabis, for example, he inaugurated the first university where male and female students share classes.


The ideology that reigns in Saudi
Arabia comes into plain view on the website of the Council of Senior
Religious Scholars, where boys and girls sharing a swimming pool causes
“mischief and evil” and bringing flowers to a hospital patient is to be
discouraged because it’s a foreign custom that “imitates Allah’s

And those fatwas, or religious rulings, come from the
government-appointed body of clerics who are the guardians of the
kingdom’s ultraconservative Wahhabi school of Islam. But there’s also a
whole other world of independent clerics issuing their own
interpretations, often contradictory, through the Web, TV stations and
text messages.

Now King Abdullah is moving to regain control over this abundance of
fatwas. Under a royal decree issued in mid-August, only the official
panel may issue the fatwas that answer every question of how pious
Saudis should live their lives.

The result: In recent weeks, websites and a satellite station where
clerics answered questions have been shut down or have voluntarily
stopped issuing fatwas. One preacher was publicly reprimanded for urging
a boycott of a supermarket chain for employing female cashiers.

The question on the minds of some Saudis is whether any of this
points the way to a more liberal code. Saad Sowayan, a Saudi historian
and columnist, thinks it does. “The state wants to take the lead in
shaping public opinion and this serves the issue of secularism and
modernity,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

But many of the powerful clerics on the 21-member council are
themselves hard-liners. Beyond strict edicts on morality, they reinforce
a worldview whereby non-Muslims and even liberal or Shiite Muslims are
considered infidels, and their stances on jihad, or holy war, at times
differ only in nuances from al-Qaida’s.

The website has thousands of fatwas, some dating back more than a decade, and dozens more are added each month.

A far stricter interpretation than is followed in most Muslim
countries, Wahhabism is known most for its near obsessive segregation of
the sexes, its insistence on ideological purity and its harsh
punishments of beheadings and hand amputations for some crimes. It is
also the law in Saudi Arabia, where clerics sit as judges in courts,
religious police prevent unmarried or unrelated men and women from
mixing, and women are banned from driving.

King Abdullah has taken a few incremental steps toward modernization.
In a move last year that angered some Wahhabis, for example, he
inaugurated the first university where male and female students share

But tinkering with the system is risky, because of the grand
trade-off that lies at the heart of modern Saudi Arabia: The governing
Al Saud family supports the clerics, and the clerics support the
family’s rule.

Theoretically at least, the council’s new fatwa monopoly could help
Abdullah if his aim is to enact further reforms by seeding the
commission with clerics who are more liberal and are willing to give him
religious cover. The king seemed to give a hint of that last year when
for the first time he appointed four clerics from non-Wahhabi schools of
Islam, including one Sufi — a notable step given Wahhabi hatred of the
Sufi movement.

On the other hand, some of the now-barred independent sheiks have
issued fatwas that are more moderate than those of official clerics —
men like Sheik Adel al-Kalbani, who challenged the Wahhabi ban on music
by saying it was permitted provided the lyrics didn’t promote sin.

Saudi media have speculated that the king’s resolve may have been
hardened by a recent fatwa that provoked particular public uproar. Sheik
Abdul-Mohsen al-Obeikan ruled that if a woman needs to appear without
her veil in front of an adult, unrelated male, she has the option of
breast-feeding him, because it establishes a mother-son bond in Islamic
tradition. That reasoning has been heard in a few fatwas by other
sheiks, but is rejected by most scholars.

Saudi political analyst Turk al-Hamed says limiting fatwa rights to
the official panel isn’t enough. “The state must intervene. The
religious establishment enjoys complete freedom. This is not
acceptable,” al-Hamad said in an interview.

He noted the council clerics’ rulings on jihad, some of which are
vague enough to be interpreted on pro-al-Qaida websites as approval of
violence in the cause of Islam.

“If you endorse jihad, it means you are searching for a war with the rest of the world,” al-Hamad said.

Even amid a state counterterrorism effort that followed a series of
al-Qaida attacks on Saudi territory from 2003-2005, council clerics have
balked at issuing a clear rejection of waging “holy war.” In 2007, the
council’s head, Grand Mufti Abdel Aziz Al Sheik, urged young Saudis not
to join jihad in Iraq or other countries, saying it could embarrass the
kingdom. Still, some criticized him for not outright prohibiting it.

Fatwas on the official website also reinforce a deep intolerance that
critics say fuels militancy. Apart from the rulings on swimming pools
and hospital flowers, there are injunctions against movie theaters that
“promote lewdness and immorality,” and against relationships of “mutual
affection, love and brotherhood” with non-Muslims — or even initiating
an exchange of greetings with them.

Islamic clerics around the world issue opinions regularly. They can
vary widely, and individuals can choose which ones to follow. Fatwas
from other parts of the Middle East tend to be more moderate, but the
Saudi council is influential, as the kingdom is home to Islam’s holiest
sites and its oil wealth amplifies its voice.

Council members are appointed by the king to four-year terms. The
leadership has generally not intervened in clerics’ opinions, but a
council member was dropped in 2009 after he criticized the mixed-gender
university, Abdullah’s pet project.

Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan was removed as chief of the Supreme Judiciary
Council, the kingdom’s top court, after a 2008 fatwa in which he said it
was permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV stations that show
“immoral” content. Several popular TV channels are owned by influential
Saudi billionaires.

On the other hand, one of the kingdom’s most hard-line independents
is still issuing fatwas on his website, openly flouting the ban without
reprisals so far. Sheik Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak endorses jihad and in
February raised controversy by ruling that those who advocate easing
gender segregation should be put to death.

“This is not reforming the clerical establishment,” Christopher
Boucek, an expert on Saudi Arabia at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, said of the royal decree, “but rather a process
to institutionalize and bureaucratize the state.”

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Sanctions are not precise instruments. Invariably, average Iranians will be somewhat affected, be it directly or indirectly. If by this class of sanctions the US means freezing the accounts of senior IRGC members, then its claim that it wants to avoid adverse effects on average Iranians may be true but so is the fact that such sanctions achieve absolutely nothing. It is at best US grandstanding.

This article concludes a three-part report.
Part 1: A history of failure
Part 2: US shuns the obvious

In the last part of this three part series, we tackle the all-important question: should the US and the United Nations continue with sanctions on Iran, possibly modified and strengthened, or change course?

At the outset, we should recap a few points. First, there are sanctions and associated policies that would, with very high probability in my opinion, destabilize the Iranian economy in quick order and put widespread pressure on the regime to change its ways or be overthrown – from the wealthy bazaar merchants, from the rich, from those who have saved a little for a rainy day, and

the average person who relies on government subsidies to survive.
As important, this would bare the regime’s economic failures as never before, its total incompetence and the dismal future in store for generations of Iranians to come.

Briefly and as discussed in Part 2, the sanctions that can pressure the regime in Tehran are financial. Financial sanctions today are more precise than blanket embargoes on trade. Financial sanctions can pinpoint activities that the US wants cut off, such as various imports; that is, they can make the cost of trade prohibitive (with no bank willing to issue letters of credit) and pressure the mullahs into submission.

Most importantly, additional financial sanctions that require no UN support (just US political will to fine banks that cooperate with the mullahs) can raise the cost of trade further (sanctioning the Iranian central bank) and cause a financial panic (initiating a run on the Iranian currency, the rial).

An important reason for the predicted success of financial success on Iran is the fact that the regime and its supporters are corrupt. Money is all that matters to them; they want political power to accumulate wealth, wealth is their ultimate target. In today’s Iran there is no politics, there is only political economy.

While the success of thoughtful and comprehensive financial measures is highly probable, the US has taken a more timid approach. One step at a time. Appealing to other countries and the UN. And professing the protection of average Iranians from additional hardship. Is the US position believable? Is the US serious? And what is the best course of action for the US and in the longer-term interest of the majority of Iranians?

One step at a time
As with anything in life, there is a threshold level of pressure before change can be achieved. So it is with sanctions. There has to be a sufficient level of pressure to force a target to change its policies. In the case of sanctions on Iran, the US has never adopted a comprehensive approach. It is all ad hoc, a little of this now and later a little of that. Although today there is more pressure than ever before, it is still not at that threshold level, causing some pain but less than likely to succeed. Pain with no little likelihood of success should never be the approach.

Let me give some examples. Why just freeze the foreign accounts of a few prominent Iranians such as senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC)? As mentioned before, their foreign banks accounts are unlikely to be under their real name. So why not freeze foreign bank accounts of all Iranian residents that are in excess of a certain amount, say exceeding US$1 million or any other reasonable number.

Most Iranian residents (probably over 99%) don’t have foreign bank accounts, and a majority of those that have sizeable foreign bank accounts are members of the regime or support it for financial gain. Yes, a few who are independently rich and that have nothing to do with the regime may unfortunately get caught in the net, but they are not average Iranians by any stretch of the imagination. This may be the price of exacting change. In their cases, they can be allowed to appeal and if their appeal is supported there accounts can be quickly unfrozen.

Why hasn’t the US sanctioned the central bank of Iran? Well, there are two empty excuses that are often provided. It may violate the International Monetary Fund’s Articles of Agreement. But that’s never bothered the US before; just recall the unilateral abrogation of dollar conversion on August 15, 1971, that destroyed the Bretton Woods exchange-rate system; also the central bank of Iraq under Saddam was sanctioned.

The other reason given is that the US needs the support of other central banks to do so. Again, the US has and continues to use threats when it really wants to do something; if another central bank violates US sanction on the central bank of Iran the US can threaten not to transact with them.

These are doable. They would tighten sanctions many, many notches. But the US continues with a little here and a little there, prolonging the insufficient pressure and getting nowhere.

UN support
The UN, China and Russia are the most convenient crutches used by the US. The US bestows various benefits on China and Russia to get their support at the UN Security Council for watered-down sanctions that are at best symbolic. Instead, if the US were serious, it would use its threat of banning countries and their companies from access to the US market and imposing large fines as it has done with less than a handful of companies for breaking US sanctions. This has become a powerful weapon to enforce sanctions.

Getting China and Russia aboard and going to the United Nations takes time, costs the US something, and the results in the end are not worth very much.

Hardship on average Iranians
The US has expressed concern about the adverse effect of sanctions on average Iranians. There are a number of problems with the US position and its credibility.

For many Iranians, especially those that suffered in the Iran-Iraq War, the US claim of overriding concern for average Iranians is not credible. The reason why Iranians by and large support the regime’s nuclear enrichment program is the vivid memory of the Iran-Iraq war. The UN said little and even did less when Iran was invaded. The US and other Western powers supported Saddam and Iraq, even when Saddam used banned chemical weapons on Iranians. The regime defended Iran. Iran survived as a nation. As a result the rule of the mullahs took hold.

After this experience, Iranians do not believe in the UN and the rule of international law. Nuclear Enrichment is an insurance policy against external aggression. The regime in Tehran will not give up enrichment. It is just about the only policy that the majority of Iranians support. So the only way Iran’s enrichment program may be terminated is if there is regime change and Iran receives almost ironclad guarantees that it will not be left defenseless to be butchered by outsiders ever again.

As important is the fact that the most effective sanction strategy would principally hurt regime insiders and its wealthy collaborators. To the extent that average Iranians are affected, the regime would do all it could to reduce suffering for its own survival (more on this below).

Moreover, for average Iranians the question is whether they prefer many more years of economic and social deprivation under this regime or a change for a better future, even if it means a little more short-run sacrifice. If the US truly pursues sanctions with no pain except to a few regime insiders then it is either naive or does not appreciate the workings of most sanctions.

Sanctions are not precise instruments. Invariably, average Iranians will be somewhat affected, be it directly or indirectly. If by this class of sanctions the US means freezing the accounts of senior IRGC members, then its claim that it wants to avoid adverse effects on average Iranians may be true but so is the fact that such sanctions achieve absolutely nothing. It is at best US grandstanding.

What next? We must stress an important fact. It is difficult to believe that the principal US goal is to reach an agreement on nuclear enrichment with the regime in Tehran. First, any agreement with the Tehran regime, be it with the Supreme Leader or with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad or both, will not be worth the paper it is written on. No reasonable person can believe that this regime will honor such an agreement. So, it makes little sense to strive for such a piece of paper.

Moreover, if Iranians believe this to be the US goal, then they have no reason to pressure the regime to change its policies and one of the major venues for affecting change is lost. Iranians want economic prosperity, opportunities for a better future, human rights, freedom to express their views, free press and free elections. An agreement to end nuclear enrichment does little to support these aspirations.

The only goal that makes sense is to affect regime change. Not with force or with outside interference, but at the hands of the people of Iran. To this end, the US should adopt a realistic approach to support the Iranian people.

First, the US should reduce its rhetoric about stopping Iran’s enrichment program and support the aspirations of the Iranian people. The US should stress the failures of the regime to achieve economic prosperity and human rights. The regime has failed the people of Iran, not only the present generation but also future generations to come. That is why the young educated class is leaving in droves. Iran’s economic failures are self-inflicted and are a result of mismanagement and corruption. Iran has fallen behind its neighbors and other countries around the world. There is no glimmer of hope as long as this regime stays in power. This should be the drumbeat of the US.

Second, the US should stress that in the past errors were made in relations with Iran, in the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq and in supporting Saddam during a senseless war that should have been ended immediately by the UN. Today is a new day. The US pledges that such errors will not be repeated. At the same time, the regime in Tehran has not served Iran well. Iranians should determine their own future. But the US will not collaborate and reconcile with a regime that does not honor basic human rights, defies the will of its people and threatens its neighbors.

Third, in the quest to enable Iranians to choose their own leaders, the US will do what it can to force the regime to honor the will of its people, to allow free and open elections. Surely this quest was at the foundation of the Iranian Revolution but has been buried by the current regime in Tehran.

To these ends, the US should adopt a comprehensive set of measures to force the regime in Tehran to honor the will of its people. These measures would be calibrated to achieve a certain threshold of pressure on the regime:
# The US should freeze all foreign bank accounts with a balance of over $1 million that are owned by residents of Iran; Iranians, not only those belonging to key regime figures, but also those belonging to rich merchant class. This would threaten the financial interests of all who benefit from the regime, not those of average Iranians. Targeting a few bank accounts does nothing because most of the individuals targeted by the US have accounts under false names or in their partners’ names.
# The US should further tighten Iran’s isolation from the international financial system by sanctioning every Iranian financial institution, including the central bank of Iran. Again, any financial institution that does not cooperate would face US fines and exclusion from the US market. Cutting off the central bank and all Iranian financial institutions would basically increase the cost of Iranian imports because Iran could not use letters of credit but would have to rely on barter or cash to buy what it needs. Either regime insiders would be forced to forego their own economic interests or finance basic necessities to keep prices from soaring and resulting in a popular uprising.
# The US could spark a financial panic by motivating Iranians, as well as expatriates residing in the US and worldwide, to liquidate their assets in Iran and to convert them into foreign currency (dollars, euros, pounds, Swiss francs and yens) and take their money out of Iran. The wealthy would rush to liquidate their assets in Iran and to take their money out, fearing a collapse in asset prices and in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial. The regime would have no choice but to block the outflow of funds from Iran; the black market exchange rate would jump; import prices and eventually inflation would soar. A week ago, a minor panic devalued the Iranian currency by 20%. These US actions should cause a collapse of the rial.

These measures – the financial sanctions and initiatives to spark a financial panic in Iran – should be adopted simultaneously so as to have the maximum effect; adopting them one by one would not inflict the needed level of pain on the regime and its supporters.

This is about the only viable approach for the US. The ongoing sanction strategy and the singular goal of reaching an agreement with the Tehran regime to end nuclear enrichment is not a policy that will bear fruit. If the US cannot adopt a new approach, for instance the one elaborated here, then it may be better to do nothing at all.

Hossein Askari is professor of international business and international affairs at George Washington University.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.

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The US has only recently imposed heavy fines on banks that have continued to deal with Iran but want to maintain their access in the US. The US Treasury is fully cognizant that the central bank of Iran, Bank Markazzi, is circumventing sanctions on Iranian commercial banks. Yet it has not sanctioned the Iranian central bank.

 This is the second article in a three-part report.
Part 1: A history of failure

Why have sanctions not persuaded Iran to forsake its nuclear enrichment policy? There are a number of simple lessons.

First, for the target country. Sanctions on the exports of a country may be less than effective if that country’s main export is a commodity in global demand. Simply put, others will buy Iran’s oil if the US does not. Will Iran get a much lower price for its oil? No.
Sanctions on the imports of a country from the sender (the United States [1]) will do little if the country can buy similar goods previously imported from the sender (the US) from third countries

(Europe, Japan and China) or still from the sender but re-exported through other countries (the United Arab Emirates) although at a somewhat higher price.

Possibly most important, sanctions to change a target’s policy that the majority of its citizens support are much less likely to succeed. Iranians support the regime’s nuclear program, but targeted sanctions to change Iran’s human rights abuses would be much more likely to succeed; possibly resulting in regime change and a reversal of objectionable policies.

Sanctions on investments in Iran’s energy sector, highly touted by a number of observers, have not affected the regime as is widely believed. The regime has not used oil revenues to put Iran on the path of rapid growth and development. It has, instead, used the country’s non-renewable resources to buy domestic support in order to survive, through wasteful subsidies and to enrich senior members of the establishment (intelligence services, Revolutionary Guards, military, clerics and bureaucrats). For these purposes it has had sufficient funds, especially in the last eight or so years, with high and rising oil prices. Foreign investment and better technologies for its oil and gas sectors would have paid off more into the future (and could now become important as the regime struggles economically).

Second, for the sender. The US has sent mixed signals with policies that look at times bizarre from an Iranian perspective. The US stated long ago that Iranian oil was embargoed from coming into the US, yet Iranian refined products were exempt for a number of years. The US turned a blind eye towards most u-turn financial transactions for about 28 years. [2] The US has frozen accounts of individuals by their name; does anyone really believe that members of the Revolutionary Guards, intelligence services, and clerical and government establishment open big foreign bank accounts in their own names? These are not boy scouts. These powerful men in Iran have partners, fictitious names and numbered accounts. Is it believable that the US with Saudi support could not persuade the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Malaysia to cut their ties with Iran? No.

The fact that is most inexplicable and puzzling is the issue of financial sanctions. Let me explain. Financial sanctions have been arguably the most effective of all sanctions. They have slowly cut off Iranian banks and government institutions from the US financial sector, and in turn the global financial sector. This has increased the cost of imports and reduced revenues from exports, squeezing Iran for revenues. Yet with this confirmed success, some US actions show a timidity that is inexplicable.

The US has only recently imposed heavy fines on banks that have continued to deal with Iran but want to maintain their access in the US. The US Treasury is fully cognizant that the central bank of Iran, Bank Markazzi, is circumventing sanctions on Iranian commercial banks. Yet it has not sanctioned the Iranian central bank.

When one looks at the sanctions on Iran, one gets the feeling that there is something of a country club atmosphere. It is steady as you go and a little bit at a time. If the US wants change in Tehran, then there has to be sufficient pain on the establishment to change their policies or on the citizenry to rise up and overthrow the regime. The US is just prolonging the agony, giving the impression that it is not really serious. That it really likes the mullahs and wants to reach a workable accommodation. Why?

At times, the US professes that it does not want to cause the Iranian people more pain. If that is the case, then it is forgetting the most important way that sanctions are supposed to do their work – to motivate a general uprising against an unpopular regime and its policies. It is willing to watch Iranians suffer, either by leaving their homeland in unprecedented numbers or by barely surviving under the oppressive and economically bankrupt rule of the mullahs, but it will not help them to put an end to their misery by supporting their demonstrations for basic human rights.

What would be the choice of Iranians: to suffer a little bit more and end their misery or continue down the same road for another 30 years?

What could the US do to put the regime under real pressure? Are their sanctions and associated policies that could force the regime to change its oppressive policies or be overthrown? The answer is yes, but it seems that either the US does not have the political will to do so or, more likely, it is not as concerned about the suffering of the Iranian people as it professes.

So what could work? First, financial sanctions on the Iranian central bank could squeeze Iran further. This, the US could adopt unilaterally and threaten countries that did not comply. Second, Iran’s foreign exchange reserves are being rapidly depleted given lower oil prices and capital flight. The regime is worried. During the week of September 25, the Iranian currency lost about 20% of its value against the US dollar as the demand for dollars was rising and the central bank did not offer sufficient dollars to calm the market. A spark could cause a total collapse of the Iranian riyal, an economic and political catastrophe for the Tehran regime.
Given these realities, by announcing the enforcement of a number of existing laws, the US Treasury could spark a panic: motivate Iranians, as well as expatriates residing in the US and elsewhere to liquidate their assets and to withdraw their money from Iran. Existing US laws include the payment of taxes by all US citizens and permanent residents (holders of green cards) on all foreign sources of income (including interest income and profits) and the prohibition of investments in Iran (requiring a license from the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control).

Specifically, the US Treasury could make an announcement that Iranian Americans and permanent residents (estimated to number over two million) are honestly unaware of these US laws and the Treasury would give individuals an amnesty from prosecution and from loss of permanent resident status, say for six months, if holdings are declared, taxes paid and funds repatriated.

Why would this hurt the regime in Tehran? Many Iranian Americans and permanent residents in the US have quietly transferred money to Iran (giving dollars to individuals in the US and receiving rials in Iran, a practice that is facilitated through international trade with third countries). They have made such transfers to make lucrative bank deposits in Iran; with three-year interest rates in the range of 15% to 24% and an essentially stable exchange rate (fluctuating in about a 20% band over the period), such deposits possibly earn on average about 15% more in annual interest, even when converted back into dollars, than could be earned on deposits in the US.

They have invested in real estate, which has boomed by more than 1,200% in Tehran in the last 12 years. They have invested in the Tehran Stock Exchange, where prices have surged but which is also a mighty bubble that could undo the regime at any moment. They have invested in business and have worked in Iran. Some have even fronted for the regime and received cash payments or real estate in Iran for their services.

Some of these investments and transactions are illegal under US law and require a license from the US Treasury. These individuals should have paid taxes on all income and profits. Thousands of Iranian Americans and permanent residents find themselves in this predicament.

A US announcement on the lines outlined above would cause a panic, not only in the US community but also in Iran, because Iranians would fear the consequences of a rush to sell, and subsequent fund outflows, on the value of assets in Iran and on the exchange rate of the rial. Iranian Americans, permanent residents in the US, Iranians residing in other countries and even Iranians in Iran would sell and try to take their money out before everything crashed.

The rush to take money out of Iran would put a squeeze on Iran’s foreign exchange reserves. The regime, already sensitive about supporting the value of the rial (for prestige, support of businessmen and the wealthy, and to keep a lid on inflation), would have no choice but to pre-empt this by instituting foreign exchange controls blocking the outflow of funds from Iran; the black market exchange rate would become multiples of the official rate; import costs for unsubsidized non-essentials would soar; and inflation would skyrocket.

More importantly, these rapid financial developments – collapse of asset prices and currency controls – would turn ordinary citizens, and especially those with vast assets, the wealthy, regime loyalists, and prominent bazaar merchants, against the regime as their enormous wealth was decimated in terms of dollars. The ensuing inflation, and it is already over 25%, would fuel dissatisfaction among average citizens struggling for survival.

Some may question the workability of this approach on the grounds that the US government does not know who has transferred money to, or invested in, Iran. The US does not need this information to ignite panic among these individuals. The Treasury could even play up one or two cases in the media to further ignite a panic. This is how panics do their work. These are initiatives that the US could adopt and would not need the backing of the UN.

At this stage, to get the backing of the Iranian people, these initiatives should be targeted towards improving the regime’s human rights record, not the nuclear enrichment issue, which Iranians largely support. Iran’s nuclear program could be better addressed with a weakened regime, or with a new regime in Tehran.

A number of human rights advocates and anti-regime activists have argued against new sanctions, or any form of pressure, that might increase the burden on ordinary Iranians. While their concerns are understandable, they should recall the experience of South Africa.

Unfortunately, there’s unlikely to be any gain without pain. But luckily in this case, much of the burden would fall on the elite. It is they who have money to take out of the country as the average Iranian has barely enough to survive.

Is this the best course of action for the US?

1. The country imposing sanctions is normally referred to as the “sender”, the country whose policies it finds to be objectionable the “target”.
2. Until 2008, the US allowed Iran to sell oil to non-US entities for dollars. When a foreign entity buys Iranian oil, it instructs a US bank to issue funds to an Iranian bank. The fund transfers to Iranian banks were achieved through what has been coined a “u-turn”.

Part 3: More sanctions – or a change in course?

Hossein Askari is professor of international business and international affairs at George Washington University.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.

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The United States banned the importing of Iranian crude into the United States, but allowed refined products to enter the country. Then there was a ban on importing refined products and of all non-oil products from Iran, so Iran sold all it had to sell to other countries, albeit in the case of non-oil exports at a slightly lower price. Iran hardly felt even a side blow.

This is the first article in a three-part report.

In considering the effectiveness or otherwise of sanctions against Iran, it is valuable to look first at how sanctions of one or more counties against another are “supposed” to do their job and their imposition against Iran over the past 30 years. Then before questioning whether the United States and the United Nations should continue with sanctions, we consider why these have so far failed to change Tehran’s nuclear enrichment policies.

What’s behind sanctions?
Economic sanctions are imposed on a country in the hope of changing what are seen as its objectionable policies. Arguably, the most famous and successful case of sanctions since World War II were imposed on South Africa in the hope that it would rescind apartheid and allow a democratic South Africa to emerge. Although the sanctions on South Africa were multilateral, some countries defied the United Nations resolutions; still sanctions were sufficiently tight to force the apartheid regime to collapse.

Unilateral economic sanctions are not as effective, simply because a sanctioned country can turn to other countries for what it needs, be it export markets, import needs, technology or capital. Still unilateral economic sanctions have proliferated in recent years.

The US has been the principal country to use its economic muscle to impose sanctions (normally referred to as the “sender”) on countries (the “target”) whose policies it has found to be objectionable. The US has seen economic sanctions as an instrument for achieving specific international objectives while avoiding military conflicts, eliminating loss of human life and minimizing its budgetary outlays.

By some estimates, the US currently has imposed some form of economic sanctions on over 60 countries. There are a number of possible reasons why the US is by far the preeminent sender of sanctions. First, as a superpower, the US has influence and thus tries to get countries and entities around the globe to support, or at least not frustrate, its political, economic, and military agendas.
Second, the US economy is so big – representing roughly 25% of global GDP – that US economic sanctions could have an impact on a target since it could represent a significant market for a country’s exports, be the supplier of choice for a country’s imports, be a major source of capital flows to support a country’s investment program, and so on.

Third, the US can further affect the target by asserting pressures on others (third countries and on international and regional organizations) to support US policies.

Fourth, US politicians are vulnerable to domestic lobbying by special interest groups (for example, financial donors to campaigns and representatives of a large voting bloc) who have economic or political interests in sanctioning a country (for example, the Cuba lobby).

Fifth, while the US could resort to force in pursuing economic and political ends, it is politically preferable for politicians to use sanctions, inasmuch as military engagement requires funding, results in US casualties, and can escalate; and politicians can waive the flag and brag that they have been “tough” on those who pursue objectionable policies.

The policies that the US has found objectionable have included abuse of human rights; development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; support of terrorism; unlawful military engagement; opposition to a variety of US policy initiatives; exchange rate and trade policies; and financial, copyright, and patent policies. By imposing some form of economic sanction on a country, the US sends a signal of its displeasure to the target country’s leadership and hopes to set in motion forces to induce a change.

The US has used a wide range of sanction instruments in relation to target countries: an embargo on all, or specific, US exports; on all, or specific, imports into the US; on US capital flows; on operations of US corporations; freezing of the target country’s financial and non-financial assets in the US; and bans on travel by US citizens and flights by US airlines to the target country.

At times, the US has lobbied multilateral (eg the World Bank), regional organizations (eg the Inter-American Development Bank) and friendly countries (eg those in the European Union) to withhold their normal policies and practices toward US-sanctioned countries. Also, the US has tried to extend its sanctions’ reach by threatening sanctions on third countries (extra-territoriality) and on their companies if they do not follow the US lead and impose similar sanctions against a target country (for example, the Iran-Libya Sanction Act (ILSA) of 1996) and targeting their companies with fines if they want to maintain their access to US markets (eg Credit Suisse in 2009).

Economic sanctions are presumed to set in motion a change of events that will, in time, induce the target country to comply with US wishes. The standard expectation is that US economic sanctions will inflict a quick and heavy economic burden on the target country, making life intolerable for the citizenry. The leadership, seeing the general dissatisfaction and the threat to its survival, will change its policies to comply with US wishes; or if the leadership does not change its objectionable policies, it will be over-thrown and a more US-friendly regime will come to power.

Alternatively, economic sanctions may target the leader of a country or some of the target country’s elite (for example, freezing their US assets or denying them life-saving medical treatment in the US), who in turn will change the country’s policies or force the leadership to do so. Rarely, if ever, do economic sanctions follow such presumed paths or achieve their intended goal quickly. These are akin to fairy tales!

This is not surprising. Target countries are not all the same. Some are more vulnerable than others. The likelihood of significant economic pain on the target will in large part depend on the economic and financial characteristics of the target; US-target economic and financial relations; and global macroeconomic and financial conditions.

The important target characteristics include: gross domestic product (GDP); GDP per capita; growth rates of GDP and GDP per capita; exports as a percentage of GDP; imports as a percentage of GDP; structure of exports, imports, and GDP; size and structure of capital inflows and outflows; and membership in regional organizations (for example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or World Trade Organization).

Additionally, the relative political and economic importance on the global stage of the US and the target is a critical factor in affecting the policy of third countries and of regional and international organizations. Important US–target relations include the structure and relative importance of bilateral trade and capital flows. Last, but not least, the level of global economic activity and sectoral conditions, such as an oil shortage, will affect the success of economic sanctions.

In essence, countries that don’t need the US and are courted by other countries are less vulnerable to US sanctions. These would be countries that are big, rich, and/or economically diversified, have exports that are in demand the world over, are part of a regional economic or security pact, or are cohesive, democratic and with popular governments in place.

In addition to country characteristics shaping vulnerability to sanctions, the nature of the policy that the sender finds objectionable is also of paramount importance in determining the likelihood of success. Policies that are supported by the general citizenry but found objectionable (Iran’s nuclear enrichment policy) by the sender are less vulnerable to sanctions. The reason is obvious. When the US wants to change a policy that is popular with the citizenry of the target, the citizenry will support the regime and will not rise up to change the policy or much less to overthrow the regime. This fact is mostly ignored when it comes to Iran (more on this in Part II).

Sanctions on Iran
US sanctions on Iran have gone through a number of changes over the last 20 to 30 years. They were imposed to change a number of policies, including opposition to the Middle East peace process, support for Hezbollah and Hamas, acquisition of nuclear and ballistic weapons, general support for international terrorism, and hostility toward the US. But the objectionable policy that has been at the center of it all for about the last 10 or so years has been Iran’s secret, and now open, nuclear enrichment policies.

An examination of 30 years of sanctions demonstrates how ineffective they have been. In 1979, the United States froze Iranian financial assets but returned the frozen assets after the Algiers Accord in 1981, an agreement brokered by Algeria between Iran and the United States to solve the hostage crisis. The unresolved item was the foreign military sales assets (FMS). Washington had confiscated military equipment that Iran had paid for – some of it the United States used and some rotted in storage – and the US has been engaged in a tedious process at The Hague to compensate Iran on a line-by-line basis.

The United States banned the importing of Iranian crude into the United States, but allowed refined products to enter the country. Then there was a ban on importing refined products and of all non-oil products from Iran, so Iran sold all it had to sell to other countries, albeit in the case of non-oil exports at a slightly lower price. Iran hardly felt even a side blow.

In the mid-1980s, the United States embargoed all US exports to Iran. You surely wouldn’t know it if you have been to Tehran, where most American goods are abundantly available, sometimes at a lower price than even in the US. Dubai is forever the fan of US sanctions policies because most imports from the United States go through Dubai, and their merchants take a 5% to 10% commission that has hurt Iran little; although since 2008 this has been more costly for Iran as the US Treasury has isolated Iranian banks, raising the cost of letters of credit (more on this below). More importantly, US sanctions have afforded Iran’s intelligence services and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) another source of revenue as they also take a cut of these transactions.

Under president Bill Clinton, the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA, now ISA after the removal of Libya) was enacted in 1996. This banned investment in Iran’s energy sector and threatened third countries with sanctions, if they did not do the same. This slowed Iran’s oil and gas development, which has also hurt the United States and its allies by causing higher oil prices. However, these sanctions have had a minimal short-term effect; Iran’s leadership has hardly used oil revenues to advance and develop the country. What money they have earned has instead been squandered and a good chunk has been squirreled away in the foreign bank accounts of regime insiders.

Starting in 2007, the US government began to develop more targeted financial sanctions. The US Treasury reduced the access of Iranian banks to the international financial system. Over time and with further financial sanctions, this has increased Iran’s cost of letters of credit and thus the price of imports by about 15-20% in 2010.

On November 6, 2008, the US Treasury further tightened restrictions on Iran by revoking its “u-turn license”. Ever since the Islamic revolution in 1979, US administrations have allowed Iran to sell oil to non-US entities for dollars. Thus, when a foreign entity bought Iranian oil, it issued instructions to a US bank to issue funds to an Iranian bank (although tightened earlier for one bank). The fund transfers to Iranian banks were achieved through what has been coined a “u-turn”.

The revocation of this license means that US banks cannot make such dollar transfers to Iranian financial institutions. Until recently, the US Treasury had been persuaded of the advantage of this financial u-turn license because it added to the demand for dollars and afforded the United States the benefits of seignorage (the costless issuing of paper money to buy something tangible).

In June 2010, the US Treasury announced new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear and missile programs by targeting the IRGC as well as Iran’s shipping and financial sectors.

Besides US unilateral sanctions, the US has been the main proponent of sanctions on Iran at the United Nations. At US urgings and heavy lobbying, the UN has adopted four rounds of sanctions on Iran.
# Resolution 1737 (2006) called on states to block Iran’s import and export of “sensitive nuclear material and equipment” and to freeze the financial assets of those involved in Iran’s nuclear activities.
# Resolution 1747 (2007) banned all arms exports to Iran and froze the assets and restricted the travel of people involved in Iran’s nuclear program.
# Resolution 1803 (2008) asked countries to scrutinize their activities with Iranian banks and urged countries to inspect cargoes to see if prohibited goods on board.
# Resolution 1929 (2010) prohibited Iran from buying heavy weapons, toughened financial transactions with Iranian banks, froze assets, increased travel bans, and urged for more cargo inspections.

US ambassador Susan Rice has hailed the latest round of UN sanctions as a demonstration of the UN “standing up” to Iran, while President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has likened it to a “used handkerchief” that belongs in the bin.

On September 29, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced the latest US measures against Iran; the move bars eight Iranians from entering the United States, blocks their US assets (although probably none of them have any US assets to their name) and prohibits Americans from doing business with them.

After all this effort, have sanctions worked? Has Iran changed its objectionable policies?

The answer is a resounding no.

Part 2: The failure of sanctions against Iran.

Hossein Askari is professor of international business and international affairs at George Washington University.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.

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"The interrogators also gleaned information on the role of Sheikh Fateh al-Misri as the mastermind and the commander of the new al-Qaeda mission in Europe." Egyptian Misri, al-Qaeda’s chief commander in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was killed in a drone attack on September 25. Misri, previously not a member of al-Qaeda, in May replaced Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, who was also killed in a drone attack in the North Waziristan tribal area.

ISLAMABAD – Information supplied by a Pakistani-German jihadi led to the United States Predator drone attack in Pakistan on Monday in which at least eight other Germans were killed, Asia Times Online has learned.

A senior Pakistani security official said the two missile strikes near the town of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan tribal area followed intelligence passed on by Rami Mackenzie, 27, during interrogation following his arrest in the middle of this year by Pakistani security officials in Bannu, the principal city of Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province.

At the time of his capture, Pakistani authorities said they believed Mackenzie, who had been disguised in a traditional woman’s burqa, was an expert in manufacturing suicide vests.

Drone attacks have been significantly stepped up in the past few months – there were a record 22 in September – since the arrest in July in Kabul of Afghan-German Ahmad Siddiqi. He revealed that al-Qaeda was planning attacks in London, Paris, Berlin and other European cities similar to those carried out in Mumbai, India, in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed and scores wounded.

The threat of attacks has set off a Europe-wide travel alert issued by the United States.

“On Ahmad Siddiqi’s tip-off, CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] drones targeted North Waziristan on September 8 in which a few Germans were killed,” the security official said. Siddiqi attended the same mosque in Hamburg in Germany as the September 11 lead hijacker, Mohamed Atta.

“The interrogators also gleaned information on the role of Sheikh Fateh al-Misri as the mastermind and the commander of the new al-Qaeda mission in Europe.” Egyptian Misri, al-Qaeda’s chief commander in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was killed in a drone attack on September 25. Misri, previously not a member of al-Qaeda, in May replaced Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, who was also killed in a drone attack in the North Waziristan tribal area.

The official said highly concerned American and European intelligence services were desperately trying to track down suspected al-Qaeda connections in North Waziristan in an effort to eliminate al-Qaeda’s European franchise.

The Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Hussain Haqqani, has confirmed a link between the increased drone strikes and efforts to disrupt possible attacks in Europe, which unconfirmed reports said were to take place in November.

“The activity we see in North Waziristan, in terms of strikes and terms of measures to try to get people from al-Qaeda and associated groups, is connected to the terrorist warnings that we have heard about potential strikes in Europe,” Haqqani told the BBC.

A failed jihadi
Mackenzie was recruited in Germany this year and sent to North Waziristan for training. However, after spending only a few months he became disillusioned.

“The Europeans who were recruited by al-Qaeda are in really bad shape. They converted to Islam or even if they were Muslims born in Europe, they were reared in a comfortable atmosphere,” the security official told Asia Times Online.

“The rugged terrain of North Waziristan and then the ruthless behavior and treatment of the local Wazirs and Mehsuds made most of the Europeans disillusioned. Rami was among one of those who decided to go to Islamabad and surrender himself to the German Embassy. But to his bad luck he was spotted and arrested by the security agencies in Bannu.”

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which has been active in Pakistan’s tribal areas for many years, split several years ago, leading to the creation of the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). The IMU remained based in South Waziristan while the IJU set up in Mir Ali, North Waziristan. The IMU began in the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan and has also fought in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, with the aim of establishing an Islamic caliphate.

The Uzbeks are Turkic by origin and therefore in North Waziristan they became close with militants from Turkey. The Turks are mostly based in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan that borders Afghanistan, from where they regularly take part in attacks against occupation forces.

Under the umbrella of the IJU, the Uzbeks encouraged the Turks to move to Mir Ali, away from the border regions, to join forces in a broader alliance that would shock the Western world – such as attacks in Europe.

There is a sizeable Turk diaspora in Europe, especially in Germany, and many have acquired German nationality. The IJU encouraged such Turks among their ranks to return to Germany to recruit Muslim converts, especially ethnic Germans and other Europeans, into al-Qaeda. Within a short period, a sizeable number of German, Dutch, Norwegian and Spanish recruits went to North Waziristan.

“In the town of Mir Ali, this new alliance of Germans, Turks and Uzbeks emerged alongside other European nationals and al-Qaeda supported the alliance as its new franchise in Europe,” the Pakistani official told Asia Times Online.

According to estimates, at least 150 German nationals are involved with the al-Qaeda network, including those in North Waziristan in transit to Turkey, Central Asia or other Pakistani areas.

If the past several weeks are any indication, the intensified drone war can be expected to continue as long as Europe feels it is under threat from terror attacks that have their roots in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“The region of Datta Khel [North Waziristan] has been identified as the place where all al-Qaeda bigwigs are gathered. [Osama bin Laden’s deputy] Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri is also believed to be there, and it therefore looks as if the Afghan war will cross into North Waziristan this winter,” the security official said.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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When the collapse of the Soviet system and the subsequent discussions of "peace dividends" in the United States threatened the interests of the military-industrial conglomerates, their representatives invented "new threats to US interests" and successfully substituted them for the "threat of communism" of the Cold War. These "new, post-Cold War sources of threat" are said to stem from the so-called "rogue states", "global terrorism" and "Islamic fundamentalism." Demonization of Iran and/or Ahmadinejad can be better understood in this context.

The unrelenting diplomatic and geopolitical standoff between Iran and the United States is often blamed on the Iranian government for its “confrontational” foreign policies, or its “unwillingness” to enter into dialogue with the United States. Little known, however, is that during the past decade or so, Iran has offered a number of times to negotiate with the US without ever getting a positive response.

The best-known effort at dialogue, which came to be known as Iran’s “grand bargain” proposal, was made in May 2003. The two-page proposal for a broad Iran-US understanding, covering all issues of mutual concern, was transmitted to the US State Department through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran. Not only  did the State Department not respond to Iran’s negotiating offer, but, as reporter Gareth Porter pointed out, it “rebuked the Swiss ambassador for having passed on the offer”.

Since then, Iran has made a number of other efforts at negotiation, the latest of which was made by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad ahead of last week’s trip to the United States to attend the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Regrettably, once again the US ignored Ahmadinejad’s overture of meeting with President Barack Obama during his UN visit.

The question is why? Why have successive US administrations been reluctant to enter into a conflict-resolution dialogue with Iran, which could clearly be in the national interests of the United States?

The answer, in a nutshell, is that US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is driven not so much by broad national interests as they are by narrow but powerful special interests – interests that seem to prefer war and militarism to peace and international understanding. These are the nefarious interests that are vested in military industries and related “security” businesses, notoriously known as the military-industrial complex. These beneficiaries of war dividends would not be able to justify their lion’s share of our tax dollars without “external enemies” or “threats to our national interests.”

Taking a large share of the national treasury was not a difficult act to perform during the Cold War era because the pretext for continued increases in military spending – the “communist threat” – seemed to lie conveniently at hand. Justification of increased military spending in the post-Cold War period, however, has prompted the military-security interests to be more creative in inventing (or manufacturing, if necessary) “new sources of danger to US interests”.

When the collapse of the Soviet system and the subsequent discussions of “peace dividends” in the United States threatened the interests of the military-industrial conglomerates, their representatives invented “new threats to US interests” and successfully substituted them for the “threat of communism” of the Cold War. These “new, post-Cold War sources of threat” are said to stem from the so-called “rogue states”, “global terrorism” and “Islamic fundamentalism.” Demonization of Iran and/or Ahmadinejad can be better understood in this context.

Now, it may be argued that if beneficiaries of war-dividends need external enemies to justify their unfair share of national treasury, why Iran? Why of all places is Iran targeted as such an enemy? Isn’t there something wrong with the Iranian government and/or Ahmadinejad’s policies in challenging the world’s superpower knowing that this would be a case of David challenging Goliath, that it would cause diplomatic pressure, military threats and economic sanctions on Iran?

These are the kind of questions that the “Greens” and other critics of Ahmadinejad’s government ask, rhetorical questions that tend to blame Iran for the economic sanctions and military threats against that country – in effect, blaming the victim for the crimes of the perpetrator. Labeling Ahmadinejad’s policies as “rash”, “adventurous” and “confrontational,” Mir Hossein Mousavi and other leaders of the “Greens” frequently blame those polices for external military and economic pressures on Iran.

Accordingly, they seek “understanding” and “accommodation” with the US and its allies, presumably including Israel, to achieve political and economic stability. While, prima facie, this sounds like a reasonable argument, it suffers from a number of shortcomings.

To begin with, it is a disingenuous and obfuscationist argument. Military threats and economic sanctions against Iran did not start with Ahmadinejad’s presidency; they have been imposed on Iran for more than 30 years, essentially as punishment for its 1979 revolution that ended the imperial US influence over its economic, political and military affairs. It is true that the sanctions have been steadily escalated, significantly intensified in recent months. But that is not because Ahmadinejad occasionally lashes out at imperialist/Zionist policies in the region; it is rather because Iran has refused to give in to the imperialistic dictates of the US and its allies.

Second, it is naive to think that US imperialism would be swayed by gentle or polite language to lift economic sanctions or remove military threats against Iran. During his two terms in office (eight years), former president Mohammad Khatami frequently spoke of a “dialogue of civilizations”, counterposing it to the US neo-conservatives’ “clash of civilizations”. This was effectively begging the Unites States for dialogue and diplomatic rapprochement, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. Why?

Because US policy toward Iran (or any other country, for that matter) is based on an imperialistic agenda that consists of a series of demands or expectations, not on diplomatic decorum, or the type of language its leaders use. These include Iran’s giving up its lawful and legitimate right to civilian nuclear technology, opening up its public domain and/or state-owned industries to debt-leveraging and privatization schemes of the predatory finance capital of the West, as well as its compliance with US-Israeli geopolitical designs in the Middle East.

It is not unreasonable to argue that once Iran allowed US input, or meddling, into such issues of national sovereignty, it would find itself on a slippery slope, the bottom of which would be giving up its independence. The US would not be satisfied until Iran became another “ally” in the Middle East, more or less like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the like.

It is ironic that Green leaders such as Mousavi, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami blame Ahmadinejad for the hostile imperialist policies toward Iran. For, as mentioned above, US imperialism showed its most venomous hostility toward Iran during the presidency of Khatami while he was vigorously pursuing a path of friendship with the US.

While Khatami was promoting his “dialogue of civilizations” and taking conciliatory steps to befriend the US, including cooperation in the overthrow of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan, the US labeled Iran as a member of the “axis of evil”, along with Iraq and North Korea. This demonization was then used as a propaganda tool to intensify economic sanctions and justify calls for “regime change” in Iran.

In the face of Khatami’s conciliatory gestures toward the US, many Iranians were so outraged by its unfair and provocative attitude toward Iran that they began to question the wisdom of Khatami’s policy of trying to appease the US. It is now widely believed that the frustration of many Iranians with Khatami’s (one-sided) policy of dialogue with the US played a major role in the defeat of his reformist allies in both the 2003 parliamentary elections and the 2005 presidential election.

By the same token, it also played a major role in the rise of Ahmadinejad to Iran’s presidency, as he forcefully criticized the reformists’ attitude toward US imperialism as naive, arguing that negotiation with the US must be based on mutual respect, not at the expense of Iran’s sovereignty. (See Iran’s Greens deserted Asia Times Online, June 16, 2010.)

In its drive to provoke, destabilize and (ultimately) change the Iranian government to its liking, the US finds a steadfast ally in Israel. There is an unspoken, de facto alliance between the US military-industrial complex and militant Zionist forces – an alliance that might be called the military-industrial-security-Zionist alliance.

More than anything else, the alliance is based on a convergence of interests on militarism and war in the Middle East, especially against Iran; as Iran is the only country in the region that systematically and unflinchingly exposes both the imperialist schemes of Western powers and expansionist designs of radical Zionism.

Just as the powerful beneficiaries of war dividends view international peace and stability as inimical to their business interests, so too the hardline Zionist proponents of “greater Israel” perceive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors as perilous to their goal of gaining control over the “Promised Land”.

The reason for this fear of peace is that, according to a number of United Nations resolutions, peace would mean Israel’s return to its pre-1967 borders, that is, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But because proponents of “greater Israel” are unwilling to withdraw from these territories, they are fearful of peace and genuine dialogue with their Arab neighbors – hence, their continued disregard for UN resolutions and their systematic efforts at sabotaging peace negotiations.

So, the answer to the question “why is Iran targeted?” boils down to this: because Iran has broken the mold, so to speak, of a pattern of imperialist domination in the Middle East (and beyond). Iran’s only “sin” (from the viewpoint of imperialist powers) is that it tries to be an independent, sovereign nation. All other alleged “offenses”, such as pursuit of nuclear weapons or support for terrorism, have proven by now to be harebrained excuses that are designed to punish Iran for trying to exercise its national rights as a sovereign country.

Under the influence of hawkish neo-conservative pressure groups (representing the interests of the military-industrial-Zionist forces) the US has cornered itself into a position in which it is afraid of talking to Iran because if it does, all of its long-standing accusations against that country would be automatically exposed.

It is worth noting that while the powerful special interests that are vested in the military-security capital benefit from (and therefore tend to advocate) war and military adventures in the Middle East, the broader, but less-cohesive, interests that are vested in civilian, or non-military, capital tend to incur losses in global markets as a result of such military adventures.

Militaristic American foreign policy is viewed by international consumers as a significant negative. Representatives of the broad-based civilian industries are aware of the negative economic consequences of the militarization of US foreign policy. And that’s why leading non-military business/trade associations such as The National Foreign Trade Council and USA*Engage (a coalition of nearly 800 small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of aggressive US foreign policy actions) have expressed disappointment at the recently expanded US sanctions against Iran on the grounds that such sanctions would significantly undermine US national interests.

Yet US foreign policy decisions, especially in the Middle East, seem to be driven not so much by broad national interests as they are by narrow (but powerful) special interests, not so much by “peace dividends” as they are by “war dividends”. These powerful special interests, represented largely by the military-security and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee forces, tend to perceive international peace and stability, especially in the Middle East, as detrimental to their interests.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh, author of the The Political Economy of US Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), teaches economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Karla Hansen, director-producer of Silent Screams, is a social worker and peace activist from Des Moines, Iowa.

(Copyright 2010 Ismael Hossein-zadeh.)

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If Obama makes good on his pledge of full withdrawal of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of 2011, will the tea party and Republican right oppose that withdrawal and join the War Party in demanding that we retain an army in Iraq indefinitely?

“We’re all on the same page until the polls close Nov. 2,” Richard Viguerie, the longtime conservative strategist who has allied with the tea party, told the New York Times. After that, “a massive, almost historic battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party begins.”

Indeed, such a battle seems unavoidable. Consider.

The great issue uniting and motivating the Republican Party and tea party is the deficit-debt crisis, a national debt nearing 100 percent of gross domestic product and a deficit of 10 percent of GDP.

As to the cause of the deficit that could precipitate a run on the dollar, double-digit inflation, even a default, the tea party and GOP also agree – federal spending that consumes 25 percent of GDP.

Both are also on the same page in their opposition to closing the deficit with new or higher taxes.

This means spending must be slashed. But to cut the budget to 20 percent of GDP, where it was before George W. Bush and Barack Obama, requires spending cuts of an astronomical $700 billion a year. Even then, the 2011 deficit would be $700 billion.

As interest on the debt must be paid, or we default, there are only two places you can find that kind of money. The first is the major entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security – and social spending for education, veterans benefits, earned income tax credits and unemployment compensation.

But a Democratic Party, brutalized and bled on Nov. 2, returning to Capitol Hill with its moderate wing annihilated, is unlikely to collude with a resurgent Republican right and tea-party caucus in hacking away at social programs that are the Democratic Party’s pride and joy, and the reason that party exists.

Which leaves one place where a bipartisan majority may be found for major spending cuts: defense and the empire, the warfare state.

The “agonizing reappraisal” of commitments abroad that John Foster Dulles predicted half a century ago may be at hand.

And here is where the tea party and War Party split the blanket.

If Obama makes good on his pledge of full withdrawal of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of 2011, will the tea party and Republican right oppose that withdrawal and join the War Party in demanding that we retain an army in Iraq indefinitely?

If Obama refuses to go to war against Iran, a war that would send oil prices soaring, close the Persian Gulf and be a disaster for the global economy, will the tea party join the War Party in denouncing Obama for not launching a third war in the Near East?

If Obama begins his promised withdrawal from Afghanistan next July, will tea-party Republicans join the War Party and the generals in accusing Obama of inviting an American defeat?

The neocons are nervous the tea party may not sign up to soldier on for the empire. Writing in the Washington Post, Danielle Pletka and Thomas Donnelly of AEI have sniffed out the unmistakable scent of “isolationism” among tea-party favorites.

They are warning that the old right and tea party might unite in a “combination of Ebenezer Scrooge and George McGovern, withdrawing from the world to a countinghouse America.”

Sorry, but the old neocon name-calling won’t cut it this time.

After Iraq and Afghanistan, the American people are not going to give the establishment and War Party a free hand in foreign policy. Every patriot will do what is necessary and pay what is needed to defend his country. But national security is one thing, empire security another.

Why should Americans, 65 years after World War II, be defending rich Europeans from a Soviet Union that has been dead for 20 years, so those same Europeans can cut their defense budgets to protect their social safety nets?

President Eisenhower told JFK to bring the troops home from Europe, or the Europeans would wind up as permanent wards.

Was Ike a closet isolationist?

Almost $14 trillion in debt today, we borrow from Europe to defend Europe, borrow from Japan to defend Japan, borrow from the Gulf Arabs to defend the Gulf Arabs. And we borrow from Beijing to send foreign aid to African regimes whose U.N. delegations laughed and applauded as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the General Assembly that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. Have we lost all sense of self-respect?

In his 1969 “Silent Majority” address, Richard Nixon said that, after Vietnam, America would provide Asian allies with weapons and assistance in defending their freedom. But Americans would no longer do the fighting.

Why are U.S. soldiers still on the DMZ, 57 years after the Korean War? Why are Marines still on Okinawa, 65 years after Gen. MacArthur took the surrender? Cannot Korea and Japan, prosperous and populous, conscript the soldiers for their own defense?

National security, yes. Empire security we can no longer afford.

The only problem with Sen. McGovern’s “Come home, America!” slogan was the timing.

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Compassion for the United States swept the globe right after the attacks, but conspiracy theories were circulating even then. It wasn’t al-Qaida, they said, but the United States or Israel that downed the towers. Weeks after the strikes, at the United Nations, President George W. Bush urged the world not to tolerate "outrageous conspiracy theories" that deflected blame from the culprits.

ISTANBUL – About a week ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to the United Nations that most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

To many people in the West, the statement was ludicrous, almost laughable if it weren’t so incendiary. And surveys show that a majority of the world does not in fact believe that the U.S. orchestrated the attacks.

However, the belief persists strongly among a minority, even with U.S. allies like Turkey or in the U.S. itself. And it cannot be dismissed because it reflects a gulf in politics and perception, especially between the West and many Muslims.

“That theory might be true,” said Ugur Tezer, a 48-year-old businessman who sells floor tiles in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “When I first heard about the attack I thought, ‘Osama,’ but then I thought the U.S. might have done it to suppress the rise of Muslims.”

Compassion for the United States swept the globe right after the attacks, but conspiracy theories were circulating even then. It wasn’t al-Qaida, they said, but the United States or Israel that downed the towers. Weeks after the strikes, at the United Nations, President George W. Bush urged the world not to tolerate “outrageous conspiracy theories” that deflected blame from the culprits.

However, the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provided fodder for the damning claim that the U.S. killed its own citizens, supposedly to justify military action in the Middle East and to protect Israel. A 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that significant majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey — all among the most moderate nations in the Islamic world — said they did not believe Arabs carried out the attacks.

Two years later, a poll of 17 nations by, an international research project, found majorities in nine of them believed al-Qaida was behind the attacks. However, the U.S. government was blamed by 36 percent of Turks and 27 percent of Palestinians.

Such beliefs have currency even in the United States. In 2006, a Scripps Howard poll of 1,010 Americans found 36 percent thought it somewhat or very likely that U.S. officials either participated in the attacks or took no action to stop them.

Those who say the attacks might have been an “inside job” usually share antipathy toward the U.S. government, and often a maverick sensibility. Besides Ahmadinejad, high-profile doubters include Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura has questioned the official account. Conspiracy theorists have heckled former President Bill Clinton and other prominent Americans during speeches.

Controversy over U.S. actions and policies, including the widely discredited assertions that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, reinforced the perceptions of conspiracy theorists. Iranians dug deeper into history, recalling the U.S.-backed coup in their country in 1953.

“Initially, I was doubtful about the conspiracy theories. But after seeing the events in later years, I don’t have any doubt that it was their own operation to find a pretext to hit Muslim countries,” said Shaikh Mushtaq Ahmed, a 58-year-old operations manager in a bank in Pakistan. “It’s not a strange thing that they staged something like this in their own country to achieve a big objective.”

In March, an editorial in The Washington Post harshly criticized Yukihisa Fujita, a lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, for saying in an interview that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers were alive and that shadowy forces with advance information about the plot played the stock market for profit. Fujita said the article contained factual errors.

The record shows that al-Qaida agents on a suicide mission hijacked four American passenger planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people. The evidence is immense: witness accounts, audio recordings, video and photographic documentation, exhaustive investigations and claims of responsibility by al-Qaida.

Yet every fact and official assertion only feeds into alternative views that become amplified on the Internet, some tinged with anti-Semitism because of the close U.S.-Israeli alliance. They theorize that a knowing U.S. government stood by as the plot unfolded, or that controlled demolitions destroyed the Twin Towers, and the Pentagon was hit by a missile.

“All this, of course, would require hundreds if not thousands of people to be in on the plot. It speaks volumes for the determination to believe something,” said David Aaronovitch, the British author of “Voodoo Histories: the role of Conspiracy Theory in Modern History.”

“This kind of theory really does have a big impact in the Middle East,” he said. “It gets in the way of thinking seriously about the problems in the area and what should be done.”

A U.S. State Department website devotes space to debunking conspiracy theories about Sept. 11, in the apparent belief that the allegations must be addressed forcefully rather than dismissed out of hand as the ruminations of a fringe group.
“Conspiracy theories exist in the realm of myth, where imaginations run wild, fears trump facts, and evidence is ignored. As a superpower, the United States is often cast as a villain in these dramas,” the site says.

 Tod Fletcher of Petaluma, California, has worked as an assistant to David Ray Griffin, a retired theology professor, on books that question the Sept. 11 record. He was cautious about the Iranian president’s comments about conspiracy theories, suggesting Ahmadinejad may have been politically motivated by his enmity with the U.S. government.

 “It seems like it’s the sort of thing that could lead to further vilification of people who criticize the official account here in the United States,” Fletcher said.
Torchia reported from Istanbul. Associated Press Writers Gulden Alp in Ankara, Turkey, and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.