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The Coup

The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iranian Relations deals with such an engaging topic that even this new book can't really make it boring, hard as it seems to try. When asked what historical figure I would most like to bring back to life and have a talk with I tend to think of Mossadeq, the complex, Gandhian, elected leader, denounced as both Hitler and a communist (as would become part of the standard procedure) and overthrown in an early CIA coup (1953) -- a coup that encouraged dozens more around the globe and led straight to the Iranian revolution and to today's Iranian distrust of the United States. I'm more inclined to believe that current Iranian distrust of the U.S. government is well-merited than blaming it on a long-ago coup implies, but the coup lies at the root of Iranian and worldwide skepticism about generous U.S. intentions.

It's also an interesting fact, supported by this case, that some of the best government actions, taken by any government around the world, have occurred just prior to various U.S.-backed violent coups -- and I include in that category the U.S. New Deal, followed by the unsuccessful Wall Street coup attempt rejected by Smedley Butler. Mossadegh had just done, among other things, these: Slashed the military budget 15%, launched an investigation into weapons deals, retired 135 senior officers, caused the military and police to report to the government rather than to the monarch, slashed stipends to the royal family, restricted the Shah's access to foreign diplomats, transferred the royal estates to the state, and drafted bills to give women the vote and protect the press and the independence of the Supreme Court and taxing extreme wealth by 2% and giving workers healthcare and upping peasants' share of the harvest by 15%. Facing an oil embargo, he cut state salaries, eliminated chauffeured cars for high officials, and restricted luxury imports. All of that was in addition, of course, to the cause of the coup: his insistence on nationalizing the oil from which a British company, and Britain, had been profiting enormously.

Jeffrey Sterling vs. the CIA: An Untold Story of Race and Retribution

By Norman Solomon, ExposeFacts

CIA

A dozen years before his recent sentencing to a 42-month prison term based on a jury’s conclusion that he gave classified information to a New York Times journalist, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was in the midst of a protracted and fruitless effort to find someone in Congress willing to look into his accusations about racial discrimination at the agency.

ExposeFacts.org has obtained letters from Sterling to prominent members of Congress, beseeching them in 2003 and 2006 to hear him out about racial bias at the CIA. Sterling, who is expected to enter prison soon, provided the letters last week. They indicate that he believed the CIA was retaliating against him for daring to become the first-ever black case officer to sue the agency for racial discrimination.

As early as 2000, Sterling was reaching out toward Capitol Hill about his concerns. He received a positive response from House member Julian Dixon (D-Calif.), a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who expressed interest in pursuing the matter of racial discrimination at the CIA and contacted the agency about his case, Sterling says. But the 20-year member of Congress died from a heart attack on Dec. 8, 2000.

Sterling recalls getting special firing treatment in early 2002 from John Brennan, then a high-ranking CIA executive, now the agency’s director and a close adviser to President Obama: “He personally came down to the administrative office to tell me that I was fired. Someone told me that, ‘Well, you pulled on Superman’s cape.’”

Iran Nuclear Talks. A fresh tone in Washington with a breath of Oregon

By Patrick T. Hiller

It is easy to be a cynic listening to some of the more nonsensical chatter coming out of Congress. Despite the most comprehensive international agreement between the United States and its P5+1 partners (the members of the UN Security Council and Germany) with Iran on its nuclear program, the calls to bomb Iran are still too loud for them to be dismissed. In a less publicized speech last week, informed leadership by Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley points to a simple yet powerful truth: diplomacy works. Merkley argued, without dismissing the absolute need to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program, that the most effective strategy to achieve this outcome is a verifiable, negotiated process. Almost simultaneously, 150 House Democrats wrote a letter supporting the administration’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, urging the exhaustion of every avenue toward a verifiable, enforceable diplomatic solution in order to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

This is more than just Congressional politics and debate. We are experiencing a shift in the larger debate about the effectiveness of diplomacy versus war. We are more secure through diplomacy and negotiated agreements, because they are superior to military intervention and war. Therefore it is crucial that diplomatic efforts continue and that we disregard military options which are guaranteed failures in the short and long-term.

There is a poor track-record of military intervention to achieve the stated outcomes. Or to put it differently – wars don’t work. This is especially true for the more recent wars and military interventions in the Middle East. The voices still claiming success in the two major US-led Middle East wars are increasingly shrinking. The war in Afghanistan was an ill-conceived response to the criminal attack of September 11, 2001. The 2003 invasion of Iraq turned into the Iraq War. Astronomical costs, a violent insurgency, the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and immense casualties and suffering of civilians sum up the current situation.

Diplomats and negotiators are not acting in uncharted landscapes. There is a body of knowledge on why negotiation and other conflict resolution approaches are superior to military options. Negotiation is not a zero-sum game where one party wins at the expense of the other parties. The possible and expected outcomes are mutually acceptable agreements. In multilateral negotiations – in this case the P5 + 1 framework – the potential for more lasting agreements grows substantially, as more groups and interests are interdependent and have to be reconciled. Negotiation is a critical tool to restore and repair broken relationships as well as creating space for agreements in other areas. Whether we like it or not, Iran is a major player in the Middle East and beyond. Foreign policy issues around Syria, Iraq, Yemen, oil, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be addressed constructively when Iran is an involved participant in creating a path forward.  

In a time where people and governments worldwide are calling for nuclear disarmament, there is an understandable fear of a nuclear-armed Iran. Some might argue that swift military air bombardment against Iran is the best option to achieve this goal. This is a purely political statement and out-of-touch with history and expertise of military leaders.  Adm. Mike Mullen (Ret.), former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote, “As of today, there is no more credible path of reducing the likelihood of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon than this potential deal. Those who say the risks are too high with the current deal offer no constructive path forward save the high potential for war.” Due to absolute superiority of U.S. conventional military force, even the threat of military intervention would be an incentive for Iran to actually acquire nuclear weapons and create as much secrecy as possible around those efforts. The tone in Washington’s foreign policy and intelligence community has changed. Having personally sat through briefings with officials from the State Department, the intelligence community and other state agencies recently, I can attest that there was a strong consensus that any application of hard military power leads to uncertain and uncontrollable outcomes and that diplomacy and cooperation with partners was the preferred course of action.

The stakes in P5+1 and Iran nuclear negotiations are high. The only path forward is to seek negotiated agreements based on oversight and control. In doing so, we can prevent war and the inevitable human, social, economic and environmental costs. We can avoid putting American men and women in harm’s way, who then would cause harm to Iranian men, women and children – that’s the nature of war. The way we understand and constructively address global conflict and war now has changed. Senator Merkley has shown that he recognizes that negotiation and understanding its environment is the new realpolitik which makes us more secure. The media and the public have a responsibility to protect and emphasize such voices.

***

Patrick. T. Hiller, Ph.D., Hood River, OR, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Conflict Transformation scholar, professor, on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association, and Director of the War Prevention Initiative of the Jubitz Family Foundation.

Credit where credit's due...but only where it's due: How Can Obama Claim the Alternative to a Nuclear Deal with Iran is War?

By Dave Lindorff


A kudo to President Obama. But just one.

If he manages to pull off an agreement with Iran on limiting that country's nuclear fuel enrichment program in the fact of determined resistance from Republicans, Neocons, the Israel Lobby and the warmongers in both the GOP and his own Democratic Party, he will have finally earned at least some small portion of the gold in his Nobel Peace medallion.

Iran News - Apr 6, 2015


Obama Strongly Defends Iran Nuclear Deal (VIDEO) - NYTimes.com


Interview with Obama on the Iran nuclear deal (VIDEOS) - NYTimes.com


Obama’s ‘technocratic’ approach: How Iran nuclear deal came together proton by proton - Telegraph


Netanyahu blasts ‘very, very bad’ Iran nuclear agreement - The Washington Post


VIDEO: Netanyahu: Iran nuke deal "very bad" - CNN


Dianne Feinstein: Iran Deal Does Not Threaten Israel's Survival, I wish that Netanyahu would contain himself (VIDEO) - huffingtonpost.com


Senate Democrat Murphy: Netanyahu's Version of an Iran Deal is Unrealistic (VIDEO) - NBC News.com


Sen. Elizabeth Warren Believes A Nuclear Deal With Iran Is 'Our Best Promise In The Region' - huffingtonpost.com


Corker works overtime to get last few votes to ensure Congress has mandatory review of Iran nuke deal - Fox News


G.O.P.’s Israel Support Deepens as Political Contributions Shift - NYTimes.com


Pentagon Worked to Improve Biggest ‘Bunker-Buster’ Bomb as Iran Talks Unfolded - WSJ


How the U.S. Would Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Program - TIME


Iran Top General Signals Supreme Leader Backing of Nuclear Deal - Bloomberg Business


If an agreement is seen as too weak, Saudi Arabia will try to find a way to counter-balance it: Western diplomat - Yahoo News


Pope backs Iran nuke deal, urges end to extremist violence - usatoday.com


VIDEO: Pope Francis welcomes Iran nuclear deal - CBS


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White House looks to scientists to sell Iran deal, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has emerged as the face of the push - POLITICO


VIDEO: Energy secretary Moniz: Iran deal blocks pathways to bomb - CBS News


TRANSCRIPT: Face the Nation: Moniz, Graham, Santorum - CBS News


Conservatives Trash Iran Deal Framework That Experts Call "A Very Convincing Agreement" - Media Matters for America


Proposed accord far tougher on Iran than expected, experts say - McClatchy Washington Bureau


Five views on the Iran nuclear framework - Washington Post


William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: The Fruits of Diplomacy With Iran - NYTimes.com


Anthony Cordesman: Verify and Trust May Come with Iran: The Parameters for the Proposed Joint Comprehensive Plan - Center for Strategic and International Studies


Joseph Cirincione: Why the Iran nuclear deal is a victory for American national security - daily-sun.com


NPR talks on the Iran nuclear deal with Gary Samore, executive director at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government - WGBH News


Is The Iran Nuclear Framework Agreement A Good Deal? We speak with Ariane Tabatabai - huffingtonpost.com


Former intelligence head Amos Yadlin: Israel mustn't reject Iran deal - Al-Monitor


VIDEO: Is Iran nuke deal good or bad for US? John Yang, Ali Arouzi, Hillary Mann Leverett and Ayman Mohyeldin join to discuss the complex details of the nuclear deal with Iran - MSNBC


VIDEO: Former IAEA inspector Olli Heinonen reacts to framework deal with Iran - Fox News Video


VIDEO: Analyst Michael Genovese: Reasons For Caution, Reasons For Hope In Iran Pact - YouTube


The Iran Nuclear Deal, by the Numbers (CHARTS) - The Atlantic


Outline of Nuclear Deal Sounds Different in the U.S. and Iran Accounts of Their Agreements - NYTimes.com


Joint Statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif - European Union, EEAS


Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's Nuclear Program - US State Department


English translation of Iranian Fact Sheet on the Nuclear Negotiations - Iran Matters

 

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Iran News - Apr 2, 2015

 

Iranian chief negotiator Araghchi: no deal without a ‘framework for the removal of all sanctions', disagreement on R&D of centrifuges - newsmax


VIDEO: Iranian chief negotiator Araghchi: no deal without a 'framework for the removal of all sanctions' - YouTube


Iran negotiator Baeidinejad: P5+1 countries agreed to remove oil, gas, and banking sanctions, remaining only technical aspects - Breitbart


VIDEO: Iran negotiator Baeidinejad: 'Oil, gas, banking sanctions issues resolved’ - PressTV


Iran nuclear talks: Delays in agreement blamed on repeated consultation with Supreme Leader Khamenei - The Independent


Iranian President Rouhani trumps the supreme leader Khamenei — on Twitter, at least - rifenews.com

 

POLL: Iranians already seeing better economic conditions with the limited easing of international sanctions last year - gallup.com

 

Deal Prospects Stir Hopes of Iranian Consumers, Importers - WSJ

 

Iran nuclear deal could unlock huge economic potential - CNN

 

VIDEO: Impact of lifting sanctions on Iran - CNN Video

 

VIDEO: Companies waiting for Iran sanctions to end - DW.DE

 

VIDEO: Sanctions push poultry prices up in Iran - BBC News

 

Iran’s oil: Rusty taps - The Economist

 

CHARTS: Iran GDP | 1965-2015 - tradingeconomics

 

Background: Explaining The Iran Sanctions - Eurasia Review

 

Navigating the Iran Sanctions Thicket - RealClearWorld

 

A Look at Iran's Various Nuclear Assets - ABC News

 

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GOP slaps Obama over Iran talks extension - CNN.com


GOP calls for Iran sanctions get louder, as nuclear talks drag on - TheHill


Statement of GOP Sen. Cruz: Obama Administration’s Iran Deal is Only Getting Worse - Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator for Texas


GOP senator Kirk: Sanctions will strengthen Iran deal - TheHill


POLL: GOP, voters at odds over policy towards Iran - MSNBC


Limited Progress On Iran Talks Unlikely To Impress Even Senate Democrats - huffingtonpost.com

 

Menendez indictment stifles prominent Democratic critic of Obama foreign policy, calls into question the future of Iran legislation - WashingtonExaminer.com

 

Obama Adviser on Iran Worked for Pro-Regime Lobby - Breitbart

 

Netanyahu Meets Boehner, Warns Against Emerging Iran Deal - Bloomberg Business

 

VIDEO: Netanyahu Blasts 'Unconscionable' Iran Deal - Breitbart

 

Israel tests U.S.-backed missile shield as Iran nuclear talks churn - Reuters

 

Fabius: Iran talks a 'few metres from the finishing line' - ITV News

 

Lavrov, Zarif claim breakthrough in Iran nuclear talks - Yahoo News

 

On sanctions relief, Russia and China are on Iran’s side - Quartz

 

'Oman can become trade hub if international sanctions on Iran are lifted’ - Times of Oman

 

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But I Thought We Were the Trustworthy Ones

Why Iran Distrusts the US in Nuke Talks

Editor Note:  The mainstream U.S. media portrays the Iran nuclear talks as “our good guys” imposing some sanity on “their bad guys.” But the real history of the West’s dealings on Iran’s nuclear program shows bad faith by the U.S. government.

By Ray McGovern

The Iranians may be a bit paranoid but, as the saying goes, this does not mean some folks are not out to get them. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his knee-jerk followers in Washington clearly are out to get them – and they know it.

Iran News - Mar 31, 2015


POLL: Clear majority of Americans supports nuclear deal with Iran - The Washington Post


POLL: Most Americans Say Congress Should Have Final Authority Over Nuclear Deal - Pew Research Center


With or Without Iran Deal, Obama Faces Fight With Congress - Bloomberg Politics


Will Senate Democrats really help kill an Obama nuclear deal with Iran? - The Washington Post


More Harmful than Helpful: The U.S. Senate Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 - Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation


Netanyahu: The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne confirms our concerns and even worse - Yahoo News


McConnell, in Israel, shares Netanyahu’s concerns about Iran nuke deal - McClatchy DC


Iran nuclear talks: Prospect of deal with Iran pushes Saudi Arabia and Israel into an unlikely alliance - The Independent


Arab nations alarmed by prospect of US nuclear deal with Iran - The Guardian


How France Became an Iran Hawk - Foreign Policy


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Slow economy could prompt Iran to take nuclear deal - The Washington Post


Iran Riches Coveted by Big Oil After Decades of Conflict - Bloomberg Business


Nuclear Deal Could Drive Foreign Investors to Iran Stocks - WSJ


Rouhani to Merkel: Any Nuclear Deal Must End in Lifting Sanctions - Islamic Invitation Turkey


Dem: 'Sanctions will be tightened' if no Iran deal - TheHill


Russia, China oppose UNSC automatic imposition of sanctions proposed by US and Europe if Iran violates the deal - Business Standard News


The sanctions on Iran are already falling apart - Business Insider


Iran nuclear talks: What are the sanctions on Iran? - BBC News


Factbox: Sanctions on Iran’s oil sector - Reuters


Oil Declines as Potential Iran Nuclear Deal Seen Boosting Glut (VIDEO) - Bloomberg Business


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Where the Iran nuclear talks stand: the gaps as crunch time arrives - AP


Here's a guide to the key terms and major concerns animating the Iran nuclear talks - CNN


Iranian conservatives say they're getting a bad deal - Al-Monitor


IAEA Wants 'Snap Inspections' as Part of Iran Nuclear Deal - Breitbart


Watchdog group: We could detect an Iranian nuclear test - CNN


White House denies reports of Iran balking on nuclear shipments - Washington Times


Does Iran Have Secret Nukes in North Korea? - The Daily Beast


Negotiating Issue: Preventing Proliferation Assistance between Iran and other Proliferant States or Entities - isis-online.org


Opinion: How to Know if the Iran Deal Is a Good Deal - huffingtonpost.com


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Iran News - Mar 23, 2015

 

Obama said Iranian negotiators have made concessions in nuclear talks, though not enough to seal an agreement - Bloomberg


In Video, Obama Address Iranian Youth in Celebration of the Persian New Year - NYTimes.com


VIDEO (Persian subtitles): Obama's address to the Iranian people in celebration of the Persian New Year - YouTube


Obama urges release of US prisoners in Iran - TheHill

 

Kerry to Iran: It's Time for Tough Decisions on Nuclear Program - VOA

 

CIA head: U.S. intel has 'robust' knowledge of Iran nuclear capabilities, Warns of ‘tremendous' consequences if it decides to develop nuclear weapons - CNN.com

 

Lawmakers on Both Sides Push to Cut Funding for Iran Nuclear Deal - newsmax.com

 

AIPAC, Netanyahu Sabotaging Iran Deal - American Free Press

 

Text of Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 Approved by the Senate Committee - GovTrack.us

 

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Iran President Rouhani says all nuclear issues can be resolved - kashmirmonitor.in


As crowd chants 'Death to America,' Khamenei backs nuclear talks - LA Times


UN sanctions emerge as possible Iran talks 'deal breaker' - Yahoo News


Draft Nuclear Agreement To Cut Iran's Centrifuges By 40%, At 6,000 For Decade - AP


France balks at the US-Iranian deal on five counts – not least with an eye on its Gulf ties - DEBKAfile

 

Israel reaches out to France about preventing what it considers an unfavourable nuclear deal with Iran - Reuters

 

Netanyahu: Israel May Accept Some Iran Centrifuges - Arutz Sheva

 

Saudi Arabia Says It Will Want Same Enrichment Rights as Iran if Nuclear Deal is Done - VICE News

 

Covert sabotage of Iran unlikely to end with nuclear deal - NYTimes.com

 

How a Nuclear Deal With Iran Could Affect Gas Prices - Boston.com

 

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Tikrit assault stalls as Obama withholds U.S. airstrikes to avoid Iran ties, analysts say - Washington Times


CIA Director: Iran general ‘destabilizing' efforts in Iraq as he advises Shiite militias battling Islamic State in the Tikrit offensive - ABC News


Iran general in Iraq 'whenever we need': Shiite militia chief - THE DAILY STAR


VIDEO: Iran Military & Iraq battle for Tikrit - PBS


US trains Iraqi forces as battle for Tikrit continues - Fox News

 

Petraeus: Iran, Not ISIS, Poses Most Significant Threat to Iraq - breitbart.com

 

The Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy war is heating up in Yemen - Business Insider

 

Pakistan Declines to Join Saudi Arabia's Anti-Iran Alliance - US News

 

U.N. Monitor Says Iran Is Worsening on Rights, Executions on the Rise - NYTimes.com

 

Saudi Arabia: Unprecedented spike in death penalty, half of the executions carried out so far this year were for drug-related offences - Amnesty International

 

Learn 10 brutal facts about Saudi Arabia's appalling human rights record - Amnesty International

 

A rare look inside a Saudi prison that showers terrorists with perks - The Washington Post 

 

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The Washington Post Will Kill Us All

"War with Iran is probably our best option." This is an actual headline from the Washington Post.

Yes it's an op-ed, but don't fantasize that it's part of some sort of balanced wide-ranging array of varied opinions. The Washington Post wouldn't print a column advocating peace to save its life -- as such an act just might help to do. And you can imagine the response if the headline had been: "Racism is probably our best option," or "Rape is probably our best option," or "Child abuse is probably our best option." Nobody would object: "But they've probably had lots of columns opposing child abuse. Surely they can have one in favor, or do you want to shut down debate?" No, some things are rightly considered beyond the range of acceptability. War, in Washington, is not one of them.

Now, war propaganda is illegal under the International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights. War itself is illegal under the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter. But the Washington Post isn't one to worry about legal niceties.

There was quite a brouhaha last week when 47 senators tried to impede negotiations between the White House / State Department and Iran. Yes, charges of violating the Logan Act were ridiculous. If that was a violation, there have been thousands.  In fact here's one now from the Washington Post. Iran's government reads this vicious piece of propaganda just as surely as it reads an "open letter" from 47 sexually repressed climate-denying bible-thumping nimrods with corporate funding. When my town's government passed a resolution opposing any U.S. war on Iran I was immediately contacted by Iranian media, and our city council members were never charged with undermining the federal government's so-called foreign policy. But the nonpartisan substance of the critique of the 47 Fools and of the Netanyahu Get-Up-Sit-Down aerobics workout was important and applies equally to the Washington Post: advocating war is immoral, illegal, and idiotic.

It is no secret what war on Iran means: lots of death and suffering -- the extreme version being if Israel were to use its nuclear weapons:

"Iranian cities -- owing to geography, climate, building construction, and population densities -- are particularly vulnerable to nuclear attack, according to a new study, 'Nuclear War Between Israel and Iran: Lethality Beyond the Pale,' published in the journal Conflict & Health by researchers from the University of Georgia and Harvard University. It is the first publicly released scientific assessment of what a nuclear attack in the Middle East might actually mean for people in the region.

"Its scenarios are staggering. An Israeli attack on the Iranian capital of Tehran using five 500-kiloton weapons would, the study estimates, kill seven million people -- 86% of the population -- and leave close to 800,000 wounded. A strike with five 250-kiloton weapons would kill an estimated 5.6 million and injure 1.6 million, according to predictions made using an advanced software package designed to calculate mass casualties from a nuclear detonation.

"Estimates of the civilian toll in other Iranian cities are even more horrendous. A nuclear assault on the city ofArak, the site of a heavy water plant central to Iran's nuclear program, would potentially kill 93% of its 424,000 residents. Three 100-kiloton nuclear weapons hitting the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas would slaughter an estimated 94% of its 468,000 citizens, leaving just 1% of the population uninjured. A multi-weapon strike on Kermanshah, a Kurdish city with a population of 752,000, would result in an almost unfathomable 99.9% casualty rate."

The barbaric boneheadedness of someone who would write such murder off as acceptable because the victims are not Americans is almost unfathomable. The response would be attacks on U.S. soldiers and U.S. citizens and the United States. The potential for escalation into a global and nuclear war would be significant, particularly with the U.S. playing at war games on Russia's western border and arming attacks on the government of Syria.

But here comes Joshua Muravchik in the Washington Post. He's funded by corporate-funded and war-industry-funded institutes. He's backed all the recent wars, including the war on Iraq. He has no shame, no repentance. He wants more war. And all the many wars that President Obama is happy to wage or provoke just aren't enough. There must be a war on Iran.

Muravchik calls Iran "violent, rapacious, devious, and redolent with hatred for Israel and the United States" without offering any evidence or explanation, and then claims -- contrary to some 17 U.S. and 1 Israeli spy agencies -- that Iran "is bound to continue its quest for nuclear weapons." Imagine submitting an op-ed to the Washington Post that asserted that Iran had never had and does not have a nuclear weapons program. The editors would demand proof. Imaging providing the proof. The editors would reject it out of hand. After all, "both sides" make the same baseless accusations. President Obama and Senator McCain will both tell you that Iran is trying to build a nuke and must be stopped. They'll just disagree on how to stop it, with Obama proposing a response that fits better with reality than it does with his own rhetoric.

Muravchik objects to any deal that might be reached with Iran because it will, necessarily and by definition, have Iran's agreement. A better option, he says, would be the above mass-murder scenario. "What if force is the only way to block Iran from gaining nuclear weapons?" Iran is abiding by its treaty obligations, unlike the United States or Israel. Its nuclear energy puts it close to nuclear weaponry, but no closer than many other nations including all the Gulf dictatorships to which the West is currently spreading nuclear energy, just as it did to Iran -- not to mention the CIA's handing nuclear bomb plans to Iran and scapegoating Jeffrey Sterling over it. Beyond a negotiated agreement, a little leading by example, the removal of Israel's nukes, the provision of clean energy, and a coordinated elimination of nuclear energy are entirely doable.

Muravchik knows this. And he knows that anyone you can talk to can work out a deal with you that is far superior to murdering millions of human beings. In fact everyone who's not a vicious fascist pig knows this. So, there are two solutions in the standard propaganda toolbox: 1) claim Iran cannot be talked to, 2) call Iran a bunch of Nazis:

"Ideology is the raison d'etre of Iran's regime, legitimating its rule and inspiring its leaders and their supporters. In this sense, it is akin to communist, fascist and Nazi regimes that set out to transform the world. Iran aims to carry its Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond. A nuclear arsenal, even if it is only brandished, would vastly enhance Iran's power to achieve that goal."

He admits that nuclear arsenals tend not to be used. But he claims that the madmen of Iran, even while exhibiting such rational restraint, would nonetheless spread their imperial conquests. Never mind that the United States has troops in 175 nations while Iran has not attacked another nation in centuries. If Iran can be imagined as behaving the way the United States would, and the United States can be imagined as behaving the way civilized countries do, then violence can be made to seem justified.

But you have to catapult the propaganda: "Sanctions may have induced Iran to enter negotiations, but they have not persuaded it to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons." There is of course no evidence for the opening claim in that sentence, nor for the concluding lie.

So, what we need, according to the Washington Post's columnist is another knowingly self-defeating war that makes everything even worse: "Wouldn't an attack cause ordinary Iranians to rally behind the regime? Perhaps, but military losses have also served to undermine regimes, including the Greek and Argentine juntas, the Russian czar and the Russian communists." Our over-excited neocon may actually be at the point of imagining that Ronald Reagan invaded the USSR. The Washington Post, if questioned, will tell you that accuracy is not relevant in opinion writing.

And, if at first you kill millions of innocent people while accomplishing nothing: "Wouldn't destroying much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary. Of course, Iran would try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program, so we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race."

Surely. And if not, what's the viability of life on planet earth in the grand scheme of things? After all, there is some "us" for whom a war on Iran is "our" best option. For this crowd, there is a more important world than this one. It is the world of sacred self-deluded megalomaniacal murderers for whom killing is a sacrament.

And never mind the uncontrollable outbreak of wider war, when you've already written off the planet: "And finally, wouldn't Iran retaliate by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans — as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — with new ferocity? Probably. " But, says our sociopathic friend, it is better for the United States to suffer hard losses, while killing lots of Iranians unworthy of any notice, than to suffer the even worse losses that would surely come if an imaginary Iran that behaved like the United States attacked its neighbors and the United States were "drawn in" to those wars.

When you're starting wars, not on the grounds that fictional weapons of mass destruction will kill you otherwise, not on the pretense of preventing an attack on civilians, but on the grounds that if you don't start a war now someone else could theoretically start one later, you have set up a logic of Armageddon. And it may kill us all. We may die in part of overdosing on Hollywood movies with happy endings that convince us reality looks like that. But we won't all die, I feel fairly certain, without the Washington Post cheering death through the door.

Open Letter to the People and Leaders of Iran from the People of the United States

Sign here.

It has come to our attention while observing the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States government that a group of 47 U.S. Senators are attempting, against the will of the majority of the American people, to sabotage any agreement due to their hope of creating additional conflict between our country and the people of Iran.

We would also like to bring to your attention that many people in the United States are aware that the United States government is in violation of a treaty approved by the Senate and signed into law. The treaty imposes an affirmative obligation on the United States and all other countries possessing nuclear weapons to act to diminish and eventually eliminate all of their existing nuclear weapons as a condition for relieving non-nuclear countries of the need to acquire such terrifying weapons. The official name of this treaty is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or NPT.

We also wanted to bring to your attention that under the U.S. Constitution, (Article 6, Clause 2), any treaty approved by the Senate and signed into law “shall be the supreme law of the land” in the United States.

Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty requires the United States as a nuclear power to: “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control". (our emphasis)

We wanted to make sure that you were aware that the U.S. Constitution, recognizing the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the supreme law of the land in the United States, requires government officials to carry out two specific tasks:

First, to eliminate the U.S. nuclear arsenal under its Treaty pledge of “general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control;”

And second, to “pursue negotiations in good faith” with other nations for the achievement of nuclear disarmament.

As things stand, the United States is in violation of this “supreme law of the land.”

The United States is not ridding itself of nuclear weapons. It possesses thousands of operational nuclear weapons that it is not destroying. In fact, it is in the process of improving their capability, deploying them on updated fighter aircraft, and other land-attack missiles, aircraft carriers and submarine platforms at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars in new government funding.

The United States also provides more than $4 billion in military and economic aid to the state of Israel although Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or allow outside inspectors, and does not deny that it possesses a considerable arsenal of nuclear weapons. We are not aware of any call by U.S. officials insisting that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or begin liquidating its own nuclear arsenal.  

We, the people of the United States, are also aware that Iran as a signatory to the same Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has the absolute legal right, as do all signatory countries, to develop a nuclear capability for civilian energy purposes.

Article IV of the Treaty states: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

As a side note, we are also aware that when your country was ruled by a monarch installed in power in 1953 as a consequence of a CIA led-coup against the then constitutional government in Iran, the policy of the U.S. government was to encourage the development of an Iranian nuclear program.

We hope that this letter enriches your understanding that the spirit and content of the Open Letter by 47 Republican Senators does not conform with the views and desires of a broad section of public opinion inside the United States.

Their real aim in scuttling and sabotaging the current negotiations between the United States and Iran, perhaps unprecedented in the form they have chosen, is to create more conflict including the danger of military action against Iran.

Be assured that the last thing the American people want is war with or against Iran.

Initial signers
Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General • Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman • Brian Becker, ANSWER Coalition • Cindy Sheehan, peace activist • Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund • Heidi Boghosian, Esq., Constitutional Rights attorney • James Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles • Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait • Chuck Kauffman, National Co-Coordinator of Alliance for Global Justice • Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst • Eugene Puryear, Party for Socialism and Liberation • Medea Benjamin, co-founder, Code Pink • David Swanson, WarIsACrime.org • Juan Jose Gutierrez, Vamos Unidos, USA • Malachy Kilbride, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance • Imam Mahdi Bray, American Muslim Alliance • Phil Wilayto, author and editor, Virginia Defenders Newspaper • Don DeBar, Host, CPR News • Arturo Garcia, Alliance Philippines • Radhika Miller, Attorney, Washington, D.C. • Rev. Claudia de la Cruz, Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDACBX) • Kim Ives, Haiti Liberte • Benjamin N. Dictor, Attorney, New York, NY • John Beacham, ANSWER Chicago • Phil Portluck, Voices4Justice72.com • Preston Wood, ANSWER - LA • Mike Prysner, March Forward! • Jeff Bigelow, labor organizer • Gloria La Riva, National Committee to Free the Cuban Five           

Which Party Do You View Iran Through?

Most people in the United States have little contact with Iran or its culture. Iran comes up as a scary threat in the speeches of demagogues. A range of debate is offered between obliterate it and pressure it into compliance with our civilized norms, or at least the civilized norms of some other country that doesn't obliterate or pressure people.

So how do Americans view Iran? Many view it, like all governmental matters, through the lens of either the Democratic or the Republican Party. The Democratic President has come to be seen as on the side of preventing a war with Iran. The Republican Congress has come to be seen as pushing for that war. In this framework, something remarkable happens. Democrats begin recognizing all of the arguments against war that ought to be applied to every war.

Liberals and progressives are full of talk about respecting their president and their commander in chief and following his course to tame the Iranian threat, and so forth. But they are also pointing out that war is optional, that it is not a justifiable last resort because there are always other choices. They are pointing out the undesirability of war, the horrors of war, and the preferability of a diplomatic resolution, indeed the generation of friendly and cooperative relations -- albeit in some cases as a means to fighting another war with Iran as an ally. (This seems to be Obama's scheme for using war to fix the disaster left by a past war.)

Online activist organizations that identify with the Democratic Party are actually doing remarkably well at arguing against a war with Iran. They've largely dropped the President's own rhetoric that baselessly claims Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, preferring to rail against the danger of Republican warmongering. That's a reality-based position held by neither Party -- the Republicans don't claim they're starting a war and the White House doesn't generally focus on accusing them of it. Yes, these groups are still pushing the idea that Republicans disrespecting their president is an even bigger deal than starting a war, but when they turn to the topic of war they truly sound like they oppose it and understand why we always all should.

If you see Iran through that left-Democratic lens, that is if you are opposed to Republican efforts to start yet another unnecessary catastrophic war, this one with Iran, I have a few ideas I'd like to run by you.

1. What if President Obama were opposed to efforts to undermine and overthrow the government of Venezuela? What if Republicans in Congress were ridiculously claiming that Venezuela was a threat to the United States? What if the Republicans were writing letters of encouragement to the leaders of coup attempts in Venezuela to let them know that they had U.S. backing regardless of what the State Department might say? Would you oppose the overthrow of the Venezuelan government?

2. What if Congress had sent a delegation to instigate a violent coup in Kiev, behind the back of the State Department and the White House? What if pressure was building toward a war with nuclear Russia, and Republican leaders of Congress were eagerly fanning the flames while the White House pursued the alternatives of diplomacy, demilitarization, ceasefires, negotiations, aid, and the international rule of law? Would you oppose U.S. Congressional support for the rightwing coup government in Ukraine and its antagonization of Russia?

3. What if President Obama gave an eloquent speech acknowledging that not only is there "no military solution" in Iraq or Syria but that it's wrong to keep saying that while pursuing a military solution? What if he pulled U.S. troops out of that region and out of Afghanistan and asked Congress to fund a Marshall Plan of aid and restitution, at a much lower price tag than the troop presence of course? And what if Republicans introduced a bill to put all the troops back in? Would you oppose that bill?

4. What if the Congressional armed "services" committees set up panels to review kill lists and ordered men, women, and children targeted and murdered with drone strikes, along with anyone too close to them and anyone with a suspicious profile? What if President Obama accused Congress of violating national laws on murder, the U.S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the Kellogg Briand Pact, the Ten Commandments, and the lessons of the past that show such reckless actions to generate more enemies than they kill? Would you protest drone kills and demand the elimination of armed drones?

Here's what worries me. There are some positive signs right now and were some in late 2013 and at moments since. But the anti-Republican-war movement of 2002-2007 may not be matched again until the U.S. President is again a Republican (if that ever again happens). And by then, President George W. Bush's wars will have long passed without any penalties for those responsible. And President Obama will have increased military spending and foreign presence and privatization, given the CIA the power to wage wars, eliminated the practice of gaining UN approval for wars, ended the custom of gaining Congressional sanction for wars, established the practice of murdering people with missiles anywhere on earth (and armed half the earth's nations with similar ability), while continuing to spread violence and weaponry through Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and on and on.

One last question: If you had a chance to oppose things you dislike, even though they're the result of bipartisanship, would you?

Skipping The Speech for All the Wrong Reasons

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to hear that Congress members will skip Netanyahu's speech no matter what reason they offer. Here are some of them:

It's too close to Netanyahu's election. (That doesn't persuade me. If we had fair, open, publicly funded, un-gerrymandered, verifiably counted elections, then "politics" wouldn't be a dirty word and we would want politicians to show themselves doing things to try to please us before, during, and after elections. I want them acting that way now, even with our broken system. I don't want the U.S. interfering in Israeli elections, but allowing a speech is hardly the same as backing coups in Ukraine and Venezuela or giving Israel billions of dollars worth of weapons every year.)

The Speaker didn't ask the President. (This is likely the big reason that Democrats are promising to skip the speech. I'm actually amazed more of them haven't made that promise. Netanyahu seemed to me to miss the extent to which the United States has become a term-limited monarchy. Congress typically wants to pass the buck on wars to the President. The President typically controls one of the two parties quite tightly. But do I actually care that Congress didn't consult the President? Hell no! Imagine if, during the run-up to the 2003 attack on Iraq, Congress had offered a joint-session microphone to El Baradei or Sarkozy or Putin or, indeed, Hussein to denounce all the bogus claims about WMDs in Iraq? Would you have been outraged by the impoliteness toward President Bush or delighted that a million people might not get killed for no damn reason?)

These kinds of reasons do have a practical weakness: they lead to calls for postponing the speech, rather than canceling it. Some other reasons have more serious flaws.

The speech damages bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. (Really? A slim minority of the President's party skips the speech for a laundry list of lame excuses and suddenly the United States is going to stop providing all the free weapons and vetoing every attempt at legal accountability for the crimes of the Israeli government? And that would be a bad thing if it actually happened?)

The speech hurts the critical effort of negotiations to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. (This is the worst of the bad reasons. It pushes the false idea that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon and threatening to use it. It plays right into Netanyahu's fantasies of poor helpless nuclear Israel the victim of Iranian aggression. In reality, Iran has not attacked another nation in modern history. If only Israel or the United States could say as much!)

As I said, I'm glad anyone's skipping the speech for any reason. But I find it deeply disturbing that an enormously important and deeply moral reason to skip the speech is obvious and known to every member of Congress, and while most are acting against it, those acting in accordance with it refuse to articulate it. The reason is this: Netanyahu is coming to spread war propaganda. He told Congress lies about Iraq in 2002 and pushed for a U.S. war. He has been lying, according to leaks this week of his own spies' information and according to the understanding of the U.S. "intelligence" services, about Iran. It is illegal to spread war propaganda under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel is a party. Congress is struggling to keep up with the wars President Obama is continuing, launching, and risking. Here's one war Obama seems not to want, and Congress is bringing in a foreign leader with a record of war lies to give them their marching orders. Meanwhile, an agency of that same foreign government, AIPAC, is holding its big lobby meeting in Washington.

Now, it is true that nuclear energy facilities create dangerous targets. Those drones flying around French nuclear plants scare the hell out of me. And it is true that nuclear energy places its possessor a short step away from nuclear weaponry. Which is why the U.S. should stop spreading nuclear energy to countries that have no need of it, and why the U.S. should never have given nuclear bomb plans to Iran or sentenced Jeffrey Sterling to prison for allegedly revealing that act. But you can't accomplish good by using horrific mass murder to avoid horrific mass murder -- and that's what Israeli-U.S. aggression toward Iran means. Stirring up a new cold war with Russia in Syria and Ukraine is dangerous enough without throwing Iran into the mix. But even a war that confined itself to Iran would be horrifying.

Imagine if we had one Congress member who would say, "I'm skipping the speech because I'm opposed to killing Iranians." I know we have lots of constituents who like to think that their progressive Congress member secretly thinks that. But I'll believe it when I hear it said.

No more AUMFs! No more ‘unitary executives’!: We’re Already Losing Our Democracy and All Our Freedoms to the 2001 AUMF

By Dave Lindorff

 

            Critics of President Obama’s proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force AUMF) against ISIS have been focused upon its deliberately obfuscatory and ambiguous language, which they rightly note would make it essentially a carte blanche from Congress allowing the president to go to war almost anywhere some would-be terrorist or terrorist copycat could be found who claims affinity with ISIS.

Obama the war president -- War: Where 69¢ of Each Tax Dollar Goes

By Dave Lindorff

 

         The Nobel Peace Laureate President Barack Obama, the guy who once campaigned claiming one US war -- the one against Iraq -- was a “bad” one, and the other -- against Afghanistan -- was a “good” one, turns out to be a man who, once anointed commander-in-chief, can’t seem to find a war he doesn’t consider to be a “good” idea.

Sterling Prosecution Long on Rhetoric, Short on Evidence

By John Hanrahan, ExposeFacts.org

To hear the prosecution side tell it in the ongoing trial of Jeffrey Sterling, the former CIA officer who is accused of a national security leak involving Iran, Sterling has potentially (emphasis on potentially):

 

Courtroom sketch by Debra Van Poolen (<a href=



* placed a CIA “asset” at risk;

* hurt recruitment of other defectors, informants and turncoats;

* scared other current “assets” into having second thoughts about remaining as assets;

* tipped off the Iranians and the Russians and other nations that the CIA carries out clandestine schemes to disrupt other countries’ nuclear weapons programs;

* possibly caused the U.S. to modify its own nuclear weapons plans, and, well, you get the picture.

Sterling’s alleged actions — he is accused of providing New York Times reporter James Risen with classified information on a super-secret CIA scam, Operation Merlin, involving delivering flawed nuclear weapons plans to the Iranians in Vienna — also could “conceivably contribute to the deaths of millions of innocent victims.”

Or so said the CIA in talking points prepared for then-National Security Adviser and Hyperbolist-in-Chief Condoleezza Rice for a meeting with New York Times personnel in April 2003 in a successful effort to kill Risen’s story about Merlin. Risen subsequently reported the botched Iranian nuclear plan in his 2006 book “State of War,” much to the embarrassment of the CIA (and the New York Times editors who had killed his original piece).

All these dire warnings were delivered ominously by federal prosecutors in opening and closing arguments, by current and former CIA personnel, a former FBI counterintelligence officer and other national security officials. The case is now being deliberated by the jury.

There is only one thing wrong with the prosecution’s narrative about the dire consequences caused by James Risen’s book and Sterling’s alleged leaks — it is almost completely evidence-free.

Pressed by defense attorneys over the last two weeks, the various employees of the national security state could cite no one who had been killed or hurt as a result of the disclosures in Risen’s book, which came out nine years ago — more than enough time for the predicted cataclysm to occur.

No examples of prospective “assets” who had said no-thanks because of the Risen disclosures. No example of even one current asset who had quit over the disclosures. No alteration of U.S. nuclear weapons plans. And, no, Condi Rice, no one has yet been killed by non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons or in that scary mushroom cloud you falsely warned us about in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of WMD-free Iraq.

Typical this week was the testimony of former CIA official David Shedd, currently the acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who pointed to many dire potential results of the Risen book’s now-aging disclosures. He called the leak “a breach of security that potentially would affect similar operations,” and warned that such a leak “could require modification” of U.S. nuclear plans — apparently because the bogus plans had good stuff in them that, warts and all, provided tips about the U.S. program. Which only underscores the craziness: If there is good stuff in the flawed plans, why would you want to peddle them to Iran or any other country you consider an adversary?

For the government’s case, of course, it is enough to talk of potential harm rather than actual harm to national security, something prosecutor Eric Olshan did so skillfully in his closing argument. Add to that the factor of a lot of intelligence community people telling the jury that we all should be more than a little frightened because a cockamamie, dangerous CIA plot was exposed. That helps sweeten the pot, and could be enough to persuade some jurors despite the absence of facts. And have a Bush administration superstar like Condi Rice spin more tall tales about WMDs, this time in Iran. When you don’t have evidence in a national security whistleblowing case, scare them.

And evidence, beyond the circumstantial and an impressive (if incomplete) chronology that shows Risen and Sterling contacting each other frequently in phone calls during key periods, was sorely lacking.

With defense attorney Edward MacMahon masterfully picking apart some of the key testimony of prosecution witnesses this week, these witnesses were forced to admit they have found no evidence that it was Sterling who gave Risen a document for his book; or that it was Sterling who gave Risen any information about anything in his book; or that anyone had ever seen Risen and Sterling together; or that Sterling took home or otherwise purloined documents relating to Operation Merlin.

And MacMahon and fellow defense attorney Barry Pollack have also demonstrated that there are multiple other possible sources for the leak of the Merlin materials but none was investigated.These include the Russian scientist who actually dropped off the flawed nuclear plans for pick-up by an Iranian official in Venice, other CIA officials, and various staffers of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (to whom Sterling had legally gone in 2003 as a whistleblower to voice his concerns over Merlin). Pollack, in closing arguments, demonstrated there was a significant number of people who could have been sources for Risen, including the 90 CIA employees that government testimony showed had access to the Merlin program

FBI special agent Ashley Hunt, who has led the FBI investigation of the Merlin leak for more than a decade, presented the strongest circumstantial evidence against Sterling — the aforementioned chronology. MacMahon got her to acknowledge that she did not pursue — or was blocked from pursuing — certain paths of inquiry that might have turned up other suspects as the source of the Merlin information that Risen received.

Hunt acknowledged under tough questioning that she had once earlier in the investigation written memoranda saying Sterling was probably not the leaker and that the likely source was someone from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (SSIC). She also acknowledged writing a memo in early 2006 citing “unified opposition” to her investigation within the committee, which was supposed to be monitoring Merlin. She testified that then-committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) told her he was not going to cooperate with the FBI, and the committee staff director, Republican William Duhnke, refused to talk to her at all.

Two former staffers from the SSIC who met with Sterling in March 2003, when he brought what they and other prosecution witnesses have described as a whistleblowing complaint about the Merlin scheme, did testify as prosecution witnesses at Sterling’s trial. Under questioning, they provided testimony helpful to Sterling that showed that Risen, indeed, apparently had sources on the committee — a committee that was already familiar with Operation Merlin even before Sterling came to them with his concerns.

One former staffer, Donald Stone, even acknowledged in his testimony that he had taken a call from Risen sometime after that meeting with Sterling, but that he had told him he couldn’t talk to the press. Stone said he had not provided Risen with any information on any subject ever.

The other former staffer, Vicki Divoll, was fired from the committee after providing non-classified information to a Judiciary Committee staffer on a contentious intelligence authorization bill matter, only to see that information (which was embarrassing to the Republicans) trumpeted the next day in a front-page New York Times story written by — James Risen. She testified she had never spoken to Risen on any matter, but that others on the committee had dealt with Risen from time to time.

Divoll acknowledged telling the FBI at one point that Alfred Cumming, the committee’s Democratic staff director, had spoken to Risen on occasion. She also testified she had heard during her committee tenure — but had no direct knowledge — that both the Democratic and Republican staff directors on the committee talked to reporters on various matters, and that both officials sometimes gave reporters information they wanted in a quid-pro-quo arrangement in which the reporter would also agree to write a story that the committee official wanted. She said this was very much “third-hand” information, maybe even “fifth-hand.”

Defense attorneys hammered on the point through testimony from these prosecution witnesses that despite Risen’s sources and potential sources in both the CIA and on Capitol Hill (including right on the SSCI), none had had their residences searched, their computer’s contents analyzed, their telephone call logs examined, their bank and credit card records searched — as had been the case with Sterling.

As part of the defense’s counter-narrative, Pollack said in his closing arguments: “They have a theory, I have a theory.” But, he added, a jury should not convict or acquit someone on the basis of theories in such a serious case. Rather, he said, it was the government’s responsibility to present evidence showing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and “they haven’t done it.”

For much of this trial, the courtroom has been awash in reasonable doubt. Of course, jurors could choose to infer from the prosecution’s chronology of circumstantial evidence that Sterling was, in fact, one of Risen’s sources. And some of them could be scared enough by the government’s narrative to believe the “State of War” disclosures made us less safe. In the government’s rebuttal to Pollack’s closing argument, prosecutor James Trump played the terrorism and treason cards, in case jurors had missed the message earlier. Sterling had “betrayed his country…betrayed the CIA…”, in contrast to CIA employees who “serve and we rest easier as a result.”

Given the flimsiness of the case presented against Sterling, it would be a tragic miscarriage of justice if he were to be convicted and face a long prison sentence on the basis of nothing more than inferences — and the fears of nuclear nightmares the government says can ensue because of the Operation Merlin disclosures.

     John Hanrahan is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He has written extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Why the CIA Is So Eager to Demolish Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

jeffrey-sterlingMidway through the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, one comment stands out. “A criminal case,” defense attorney Edward MacMahon told the jury at the outset, “is not a place where the CIA goes to get its reputation back.” But that’s where the CIA went with this trial in its first week — sending to the witness stand a procession of officials who attested to the agency’s virtues and fervently decried anyone who might provide a journalist with classified information.

The CIA’s reputation certainly needs a lift. It has rolled downhill at an accelerating pace in the dozen years since telling President George W. Bush what he wanted the nation to hear about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. That huge bloody blot on the agency’s record has not healed since then, inflamed by such matters as drone strikes, rendition of prisoners to torture-happy regimes and resolute protection of its own torturers.

CIA sensibilities about absolution and prosecution are reflected in the fact that a former head of the CIA’s clandestine service, Jose Rodriguez Jr., suffered no penalty for destroying numerous videotapes of torture interrogations by the agency — which knew from the start that the torture was illegal.

But in the courtroom, day after day, with patriotic piety, CIA witnesses — most of them screened from public view to keep their identities secret — have testified to their reverence for legality.

In the process, the CIA is airing soiled threads of its dirty laundry as never before in open court. The agency seems virtually obsessed with trying to refute the negative portrayal of Operation Merlin — the CIA’s effort 15 years ago to provide a flawed nuclear weapon design to Iran — in James Risen’s 2006 book State of War.

To underscore the importance of blocking the information about Operation Merlin that eventually surfaced in the book, Rice testified that — in her role as national security adviser in 2003 — she consulted with President Bush and got his approval before meeting with representatives of the New York Times. Rice succeeded in persuading the newspaper hierarchy not to publish the story. (Revealing CIA memos about the agency’s maneuvers to pressure the Times are posted as trial exhibits.)

The star witness at the end of last week, identified as “Mr. Merlin,” was the CIA-asset Russian scientist who delivered diagram material for a nuclear weapon component to an Iranian office in Vienna in 2000. Like the CIA officers who testified, he voiced pride in Operation Merlin — at one point even seeming to assert that it had prevented Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. (That was an especially bizarre claim. Mr. Merlin himself admitted that his efforts never got any response from Tehran, and there is no evidence the operation had any nonproliferation effect.)

Contrary to the narrative in State of War — which portrays him as very skeptical of the operation and reluctant to participate — Mr. Merlin’s testimony via video aimed to present himself as resolute about executing the plan: “I knew I needed to do my job. . . . I had no doubts.”

When the prosecutor asked whether it took a lot of persuading to get him to participate in the operation, Mr. Merlin responded with sudden vehemence: “It was not a rogue operation. It was a brilliant operation.” (The chapter in Risen’s book detailing Operation Merlin is titled “A Rogue Operation.”)

The prosecutor probably liked the answer — except for the obvious fact that it was not responsive to his question. So he tried again, inquiring whether it took a lot of persuasion from the CIA case officer to go through with his assigned mission to Vienna. The query was an evident prompt for a “No” answer. But Mr. Merlin replied:  “I don’t know.”

The prosecutor tried again, asking whether he had been reluctant to agree to go ahead with the task.

At first there was no answer, just conspicuous silence. Then: “I don’t know.” Then: “I didn’t have any doubts. I didn’t hesitate.”

All this is potentially important to the case, since the government is asserting that Risen’s book is inaccurate — that Operation Merlin was actually near flawless and that Sterling invented concerns and a narrative that unfairly characterized it.

Everyone agrees that Sterling went through proper channels to share his concerns and classified information with Senate Intelligence Committee staff in early March 2003. But the prosecution, armed with a 10-count felony indictment, alleges that he also went to Risen and disclosed classified information. Sterling says he’s innocent on all counts.

The government hadn’t wanted Mr. Merlin to testify, contending that he was too ill (with kidney cancer), but U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled for a video deposition. That turned out to be unfortunate for the prosecutors, since Merlin became foggy and evasive under cross-examination, with increasing frequency of replies like “I can’t recall” and “I don’t remember.” Dense fog of his own making eclipsed Mr. Merlin as a star witness for the government.

To close out the trial’s first week, before a three-day weekend, the government called more CIA witnesses to the stand. They hammered at the vital need for scrupulous rectitude from CIA officers to obey the law and regulations in handling classified materials. As you might imagine, none had anything to say about disapproval of violating laws against torture or destroying evidence of torture. Nor did any allude to realities of extremely selective prosecution for leaks, with top U.S. government officials and the CIA press office routinely funneling classified information to favorite journalists.

But high-ranking officials and PR operatives are not the only CIA employees apt to elude intense scrutiny for possibly leaking to the press. Judging from testimony at the trial, the harshest investigative spotlight shines on those seen as malcontents. The head of the CIA press office, William Harlow, indicated that Sterling (who is African American) became a quick suspect in the Operation Merlin leak case because he’d previously filed a suit charging the agency with racial bias.

Sterling’s other transgressions against a de facto code of silence included his visit to Capitol Hill when he spilled classified beans to Senate oversight committee staffers.

In the courtroom, during the trial’s first week, I often sat near retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s and prepared the CIA’s daily briefs for presidents from John Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. I wondered what McGovern was making of the spectacle; I found out when he wrote that “the real subtext of the Sterling case is how the politicization of the CIA’s analytical division over the past several decades has contributed to multiple intelligence failures, especially efforts to ‘prove’ that targeted regimes in the Middle East were amassing weapons of mass destruction.”

There’s no telling whether members of the jury will grasp this “real subtext.” Judge Brinkema seems determined to exclude anything more than faint wisps of such context. Overall, an elastic sense of scope is prevailing from the bench, to the benefit of the government.

“In the Sterling case, federal prosecutors seem to want to have it both ways,” McGovern observed. “They want to broaden the case to burnish the CIA’s reputation regarding its covert-op skills but then to narrow the case if defense attorneys try to show the jury the broader context in which the ‘Merlin’ disclosures were made in 2006 — how President George W. Bush’s administration was trying to build a case for war with Iran over its nuclear program much as it did over Iraq’s non-existent WMDs in 2002-2003.”

Along the way, the CIA is eager to use the trial as much as possible for image damage control, trying to ascend high ground that has eroded in part due to high-quality journalistic accounts of the sort that Risen provided in his State of War reporting on Operation Merlin.

And the CIA wants a very harsh prison sentence to serve as a warning to others.

The CIA is on a quest for more respect — from news media, from lawmakers, from potential recruits — from anyone willing to defer to its authority, no matter how legally hypocritical or morally absent. Demolishing the life of Jeffrey Sterling is just another means to that end.

     Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

CIA on Trial in Virginia for Planting Nuke Evidence in Iran

Since Tuesday and continuing for the coming three weeks, an amazing trial is happening in U.S. District Court at 401 Courthouse Square in Alexandria, Va. The trial is open to the public, and among the upcoming witnesses is Condoleezza Rice, but -- unlike the Chelsea Manning trial -- most of the seats at this somewhat similar event are empty.

The media is mostly MIA, and during lunch break the two tables at the cafe across the street are occupied, one by the defendant and his lawyers, the other by a small group of activists, including former CIA officer Ray McGovern, blogger Marcy Wheeler (follow her report of every detail at ExposeFacts.org), and Norman Solomon who has organized a petition at DropTheCharges.org -- the name of which speaks for itself.

Why Gareth Porter (and others who are focused on the decades-long Western effort to frame Iran with having or pursuing nuclear weapons) are not here, I do not know. Why the public is not here, I do not know. Except that Jeffrey Sterling has not been even so much as demonized in the major media.

Jeffrey who?

Some people have heard of James Risen, a New York Times reporter who refused to name his source for a story. Damn right. Good for him. But what was the story and whom did the government want named as a source? Ah. Those questions might seem obvious, but the reporting on James Risen has avoided them like the plague for years and years now. And the independent media is not always as good at creating a story as it is at improving on stories in the corporate press.

Jeffrey Sterling went to Congress with his story. He was a CIA case officer. He is accused of having taken his story to James Risen. The prosecution is quite clearly establishing, against its own interest, during the course of this trial already, that numerous people were in on the story and could have taken it to Risen. If Sterling is to be proved guilty of the non-crime of blowing the whistle on a crime, the prosecution has yet to hint at how that will be done.

But what is the story? What is the crime that Sterling exposed for that tiny sliver of the population that's interested enough to have listened? (Sure, Risen's book was a "best seller" but that's a low hurdle; not a single prospective juror in Alexandria had read the book; even a witness involved in the case testified Wednesday that he'd only read the one relevant chapter.)

The story is this. The CIA drew up plans for a key part of a nuclear bomb (what a CIA officer on Wednesday described in his testimony as "the crown jewels" of a nuclear weapons program), inserted flaws in the plans, and then had a Russian give those flawed plans to Iran.

During the trial on Wednesday morning, the prosecution's witnesses made clear both that aiding Iran in developing a part of a bomb would be illegal under U.S. export control laws, and that they were aware at the time that there was the possibility of what they were doing constituting just such aid.

So, why do it?

And why is this trial going on for hours and hours without the slightest relevance to prosecuting Jeffrey Sterling, sounding for all intents and purposes like a defense of the CIA?

Well, the stated reason for this operation, known as Operation Merlin, was to slow down Iran's nuclear weapons program by causing Iranian scientists to spend time and resources on a doomed plan that would never work.

A very young, very very white jury is hearing the case made thusly. The U.S. government lacked evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program and not long after came out with an assessment that such a program did not exist and had not existed for some time. Nonetheless, years of effort and millions of dollars went into trying to slow the program down by a period of months. The CIA created a design, drawing, and parts list for a Russian nuclear fire set (the nuclear bomb component). They intentionally made it incomplete because supposedly no actual Russian scientist would credibly have complete knowledge of it. Then they told their designated Russian to tell the Iranians that it was incomplete because he wanted money, after which he would gladly produce what he couldn't credibly have.

According to one cable read aloud in court, the CIA would have liked to give Iran the actual device already constructed for them, but didn't because it wouldn't have been credible for their Russian to have it.

Before getting their Russian to spend years (anything shorter would not have been credible, they say) getting in touch with the Iranians, the U.S. scientists spent 9 months building the device from the plans and then proceeded to test it in a lab. Then they introduced multiple "flaws" into the plans and tested each flaw. Then they gave their flawed plans to their own team of scientists who weren't in on their cockamamie scheme. In five months, those scientists spotted and fixed enough of the flaws to build a fire set and get it to work in a lab. This was considered a success, we're told, because the Iranians would take a lot longer than five months, and because getting something to work outside of a lab is much harder.

To their credit, the defense lawyers' cross-examining of witnesses suggests that they find much of this ludicrous. "Have you ever seen a Russian parts list in English?" was one question asked on Wednesday. Another question: "You say you had people experienced in detecting flaws in fire set plans. Is that because there is a market in such things?" The judge sustained an objection to that last question.

The stated motivation for Operation Merlin is patent nonsense that cannot be explained by any level of incompetence or bureaucratic dysfunction or groupthink.

Here's another explanation of both Operation Merlin and of the defensiveness of the prosecution and its witnesses (in particular "Bob S.") at the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling which is thus far failing to prosecute Jeffrey Sterling. This was an effort to plant nuke plans on Iran, part of the pattern described in Gareth Porter's latest book.

Marcy Wheeler reminds me of related efforts to plant English-language nuke plans around the same period of time or not long after. There was the laptop of death, later reprised for another war marketing effort. There were nuke plans and parts buried in a backyard as well.

Why give Iran flawed plans for a key part of a nuclear weapon? Why fantasize about giving Iran the thing already built (which wouldn't delay Iran's non-existent program much). Because then you can point out that Iran has them. And you won't even be lying, as with forged documents claiming Iraq is buying uranium or hired subcontractors pretending aluminum tubes are for nuclear weapons. With Operation Merlin you can work some real dark magic: You can tell the truth about Iran having what you so desperately want Iran to appear to have.

Why go to such efforts? Why do Operation Merlin, whatever the motivation(s) may have been?

Democracy!

Of course.

But when "Bob S." is asked who authorized this madness he doesn't say. He clearly suggests that it initiated within the CIA, but avoids specifics. When Jeffrey Sterling told Congress, Congress didn't tell the public. And when somebody told James Risen, the U.S. government -- so outraged over assaults on freedom of the press in Paris -- started hauling people into court.

And the public doesn't even show up to watch the trial.

Attend this trial, people. Report on it. Report the truth. You'll have no competition. The big media are not in the room.


Clarity vs. befoggery: Troglodytes, Weasels and Young Turks

By John Grant

 

I’m a leftist, but I have a weakness for my brothers and sisters on the right. For some reason, I’m compelled to see what troglodytes like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly are thinking. They’re all quite entertaining as they do their best to un-man Barack Obama and advocate day-in, day-out for a war with Islam. They are masters of malicious fog.

Then there’s a writer like New York Times columnist David Brooks, a man who must sit around observing current events until he figures out a safe, center-right position he can express in the most reasonable, muddled language possible. Reading David Brooks is like trying to get a grip on jello.

Who's On First?: The War of the Heads

By John Grant

 

Ain’t no time to wonder why.
Whoopee, we’re all gonna die.

                  - Country Joe MacDonald

 

A Tale of Two Alleged Iran Nuke Leakers

By Marcy Wheeler

Published by ExposeFacts

https://exposefacts.org/a-tale-of-two-alleged-iran-nuke-leakers/

James Carwright testifies before the Senate; 2010 defense imagery photo.

General James Cartwright testifies before the Senate; 2010 defense imagery photo.

Last week focused a lot of attention on New York Times reporter James Risen, who is facing the threat of jail time for refusing to testify in a leak case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. The Supreme Court refused to hear Risen’s appeal of a subpoena to testify in June.

On Monday, a bunch of fellow Pulitzer Prize winners signed a statement supporting Risen. On Thursday, a coalition of press freedom groups submitted 100,000 signatures calling on DOJ to halt its pursuit of Risen’s testimony. In an interview with Maureen Dowd after a press conference on press freedom on Thursday, Risen called President Obama, “the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

Meanwhile, even as Risen waits to find out whether the Department of Justice will send him to jail to attempt to force him to testify about his source, Sterling also waits, as he has since January 2011, when he was first arrested. The government has done nothing official in Sterling’s case since the Supreme Court refusal to take Risen’s appeal in June.

Sterling is accused of providing Risen classified information regarding Operation Merlin, a bungled CIA effort to deal Iran bad nuclear weapons information. The information appeared in Chapter 9 of Risen’s 2006 book, State of War, which exposed a number of the Bush Administration’s ill-considered intelligence programs.

Risen’s account revealed not just that CIA tried to thwart nuclear proliferation by dealing doctored nuclear blueprints to American adversaries, but that in this case, the Russian defector the US charged with dealing the blueprints to Iran told them the blueprints were flawed. In other words, Risen’s story — for which Sterling is one alleged source  – demonstrated questionable judgment and dangerously incompetent execution by the CIA, all in an effort to thwart Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program.

Sterling’s story, then, makes an instructive contrast with that of retired General James Cartwright, who is alleged by the press, but not yet — publicly at least — by the government, to have served as the source for another story about the intelligence community’s questionable judgment and dangerously incompetent execution of counter-proliferation plots targeting Iran.

A Meditation on Peacemaking: Americans Need to Break the Cycle of War

By John Grant


All we are saying is give peace a chance
             -John Lennon


War Stories: Bad Wars and the Voice of Disillusion

By John Grant

 

      When lo! An angel called him out of heaven,

      Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad, . . .

Supporting Democracy is So Yesterday: Washington’s Rats are Abandoning Maliki

By Dave Lindorff 


The rat, among mammals, is one of the most successful animals on the planet. Cunning, ruthless, competitive and above all adaptable -- it is able to change its habits quickly as needed to accommodate the situation it finds itself in.  


When it comes to foreign policy, the US government is filled with rats.

Krauthammer is right: The US Empire is in Decline

By Dave Lindorff


I was shocked to find myself in almost perfect agreement today with a recent column by the neoconservative pundit Charles Krauthammer. 


Usually Krauthammer has me groaning, but yesterday his column nailed it.


Hillary Clinton: Not the Democratic Savior.

           


            The media is awash with information about a potential presidential run by Hillary Clinton. She has the overwhelming support of Democrats, unparalleled name-recognition, and the assurance of more money for her campaign than either candidate had in the historically-expensive Obama-Romney match-up of 2012. Her credentials – mastermind of her husband’s comeback campaign for Governor of Arkansas, former first lady, former senator from a heavily populated state, presidential candidate, former Secretary of State – look very impressive, if one doesn’t look too closely. However, it is high time one did so.

Possibly the Biggest Unknown Known Risks Exposure

A petition to the President and the Attorney General has just been posted by several organizations, including one I work for, asking that the Department of Justice stop threatening New York Times reporter James Risen with prison if he refuses to reveal a confidential source.

This story, among other stunning features, I think, threatens to expose an unknown known of the highest magnitude -- by which I mean, not something lying outside Donald Rumsfeld's imagination, but something that everyone paying attention has known all about for years but which would explode the brains of most consumers of corporate media if they ever heard about it.

Here's a great summary of the matter at the Progressive.  The focus there and in the petition is on the threat to freedom of the press.  But read this offhand bit of the explanation carefully:

"The information concerns a source for a chapter in Risen’s terrific 2006 book, 'State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration.' That chapter dealt with a scheme to give the Iranians faulty blueprints for a nuclear weapon."

Not only is the Justice Department (universally understood to take its orders from the White House) trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source, but it's trying to pressure a reporter to reveal a source who told him that the United States gave Iran plans for building a nuclear bomb.

Imagine if the general public had a clue that this had happened!

Rather than reporter, I should probably be saying author.  And I should stop attaching the insulting modifier "New York Times" in front of "reporter".  Because this was a story published in a book.  The same book included several interesting stories that I don't think ever made it into major media outlets. 

One exception was a story about NSA mass-surveillance.  The New York Times had sat on that story for over a year and explained that failure as a desire not to inform the public of what its government was up to prior to an election (the 2004 election).  When the book came out, the New York Times finally reported the story.  But if the Times or other outlets have informed the public that the CIA gave Iran nuke plans, I've missed it.  This shocker certainly has not been extensively covered.

The genius plan was to give Iran nuclear bomb plans with some little portion altered. But reportedly it was quite clear to scientists -- yes, even in Iran they have scientists -- which bit had been altered. 

The result was not the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb program.  As Gareth Porter's new book documents in detail, Iran has never had a nuclear bomb program, and we've simply been lied to about that fact for 35 years. 

But, here's the point: if your Uncle Homer knew the sort of moron stunts the CIA was engaged in with a nation marketed for 35 years as a force of evil, the result would out-do by far the outrage heard last summer when Obama and Kerry proposed joining a war in Syria on the side of al Qaeda (which everyone had been told was Evil Inc. up to that moment).

Don't Obama and Holder risk bringing more attention to this lunacy by prosecuting James Risen? Can they really trust the Press Corpse (sic) to bury the substance of the story? 

More to the point: Will we let them? Please sign the petition to the President and the Attorney General.

Negotiations With Iran Serve U.S. Interests

By Nathaniel Batchelder, Americans Against the Next War

Ongoing negotiations with Iran could lead to normalized relations, even a major trading partner with the US. Iran would import US beef and grains, benefiting Oklahoma producers. US firms serving the petroleum and other industries are eager to open offices in Iran and become trading partners.  Releasing Iran’s oil production would lower the world oil price, giving Americans relief at the gas pumps.

As diplomatic relations improve, Iran might well become an ally for regional stability, peace, and the security of US interests.  Iran is the size of Alaska with a population of 75 million and an advanced military. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif are western educated and pro-western, reaching out to change Iran’s image. 

TV personality Rick Steves (“Rick Steves’ Europe”) calls Iran “the most misunderstood country he has ever visited.” His 2008 documentary about his tourism in Iran reports a modern and developed society, the majority of whom admire the US and the western world. 

Iran maintains that their nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes - nuclear energy and medical uses.  Skeptics in Congress and Israel do not believe this, but the IAEA, doing inspections in Iran for years, has never reported evidence to the contrary. 

Despite naysayers and obstructionists, the negotiations that Iran agreed to with the P5+1 nations (U.S., China, France, Russia, the UK, and Germany) are on track. There is great promise in the progress thus far:

UN inspectors with the IAEA report that Iran is complying with the demands of the agreement. According to the IAEA, Iran has stopped producing 20% enriched uranium (UF6); has disabled centrifuges producing UF6; has begun diluting its stockpile of UF6 to be complete in six months;  has stopped installing additional centrifuges;  has begun providing information required by the agreements;  and is granting increasing access to IAEA inspectors. 

The IAEA is doubling the numbers of their inspection teams and is installing additional monitoring equipment. All this means enhanced transparency of Iran’s nuclear program for the international community. “Trust but verify” has an honorable tradition in serious negotiations.

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