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By Dave Lindorff
The horrors of the US Agent Orange defoliation campaign in Vietnam, about which I wrote on Oct. 15, could ultimately be dwarfed by the horrors caused by the depleted uranium weapons which the US began using in the 1991 Gulf War (300 tons), and which it has used much more extensively--and in more urban, populated areas--in the Iraq War and the now intensifying Afghanistan War.
This Friday, the American Enterprise Institute
will hosted an event addressing the question “Should Israel attack Iran?” The event includes, among others, Iran uberhawk Michael Rubin and infamous “torture lawyer” John Yoo, but the real star is likely to be John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador whose right-of-Attila views left him an outcast even within the second Bush administration. (Bolton was eventually forced out when it became clear that he would be unable to win Senate confirmation for the U.N. post.)
If Bolton’s recent rhetoric is any indication, his AEI appearance may accomplish the formidable feat of making Michael Rubin sound like a dove. Discussing Iran during a Tuesday speech at the University of Chicago, Bolton appeared to call for nothing less than an Israeli nuclear first strike against the Islamic Republic. (The speech, sponsored by the University Young Republicans and Chicago Friends of Israel, was titled, apparently without a trace of irony, “Ensuring Peace.”) Read more.
Six years after nearly 1,200 U.S. soldiers in Iraq were potentially exposed to a sometimes deadly chemical linked to cancer, the military and Veterans Affairs Department have been tracking them down and asking them to get a medical exam.
The troops were protecting or in the area of workers hired by a subsidiary of the contractor, KBR Inc., based in Houston, to rebuild the Iraqi water treatment plant Qarmat Ali near Basra, Iraq. The chemical was sodium dichromate, and it had contaminated the area.
In June, The Associated Press chronicled the health problems of the soldiers who had served at the site. Sickness with symptoms ranging from chest pain to lung disease and even death among troops who served there have been blamed on exposure at the site. Read more.
By Cindy Sheehan
Today, a President of the largest violently military empire in the world, won the Nobel Peace Prize while his nation is mired in wars in three countries where his actions have oftentimes made things worse.
Let’s also make this clear that the Nobel prizes are supposed to be awarded for work done the previous year (2008), so that means Obama was awarded the prize for campaigning for the presidency of the USA, where his “vision” (platform) was consistently pro-more war. The nominations are also due by February 1st. Ten days after the inauguration and about a week after a drone in Pakistan killed over 3 dozen innocent people.
He was awarded the prize for his “vision” for a “nuclear free world.”
Is the U.S. stepping up preparations for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities?
The Pentagon is always making plans, but based on a little-noticed funding request recently sent to Congress, the answer to that question appears to be yes.
First, some background: Back in October 2007, ABC News reported that the Pentagon had asked Congress for $88 million in the emergency Iraq/Afghanistan war funding request to develop a gargantuan bunker-busting bomb called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). It's a 30,000-pound bomb designed to hit targets buried 200 feet below ground. Back then, the Pentagon cited an "urgent operational need" for the new weapon.
Now the Pentagon is shifting spending from other programs to fast forward the development and procurement of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The Pentagon comptroller sent a request to shift the funds to the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees over the summer.
The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb's "development and testing", and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers. Read more.
Barack Obama, the US president, has agreed to abide by a 40-year policy of allowing Israel to keep nuclear weapons without opening them to international inspection, according to a US newspaper.
In a report on Saturday, The Washington Times quoted three unnamed sources as saying Obama had confirmed to Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, that he would maintain the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The incident reportedly occurred when the two met at the White House in Washington DC in May.
Neither Israel's embassy in Washington, nor the White House National Security Council would comment on the claim.
Avner Cohen, an Israeli expert and author, was quoted by the paper as saying that under the deal "the United States passively [accepts] Israel's nuclear weapons status as long as Israel does not unveil publicly its capability or test a weapon". Read more.
Below please find a letter to Congress that the Global Network and other concerned organizations are requesting that you send to your members of Congress during our current Keep Space for Peace Week.
This letter calls on them to urge the Obama administration to seriously negotiate a treaty at the UN to prevent an arms race in space.
If you are not sure about how to contact your member of Congress just go to this link for details.
Thanks for your help with this important effort.
Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 652
Brunswick, ME 04011
Dear Member of Congress,
The head of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog on Sunday described a "shifting of gears" in the controversy over Iran's nuclear program, and said inspectors would visit the country's new uranium processing site Oct. 25.
Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spoke in Tehran following talks with Iranian officials over the recently-revealed facility that has caused consternation around to world over the extent and purpose of Iran's nuclear program.
"I see that we are at a critical moment, I see that we are shifting gears from confrontation into transparency and cooperation," said ElBaradei as he announced the new inspection date.
"I hope and trust Iran will be helpful with our inspectors so it is possible for us to be able to assess our verification of the facility as early as possible," he added, while sitting next to Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear program.
The news came shortly after The New York Times reported on its Web site Saturday night that, according to a confidential analysis by the U.N.'s nuclear regulatory agency, Iran has obtained "sufficient information" required to design and manufacture an atomic bomb.
While IAEA staff members declare their findings are tentative and require further investigation and confirmation, their conclusions, said the Times, go further than the public statements of the United States and other governments.
The leaked IAEA report, on top of ElBaradei's arrival in Tehran to arrange inspections of recently-revealed nuclear facility in Qom, "is sure to put pressure on the Obama administration to require Iran to disclose the bigger picture of all its uranium enrichment facilities and allow for inspection," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk, based at the U.N., "and that runs counter to the denials of secrecy coming from Tehran."
President Obama has reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections, three officials familiar with the understanding said.
The officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were discussing private conversations, said Mr. Obama pledged to maintain the agreement when he first hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in May.
Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs. Read more.
An Iranian assertion that construction on its second enrichment facility began only last year and further analysis of satellite photos of the site have cast fresh doubts on the Barack Obama administration's charge that the construction of the plant near Qom involved a covert decision to violate Iran's obligations to report immediately to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on any decision to build a new facility.
At a Sep. 25 briefing on the site, senior administration officials refused to provide any specific information to back up the claim that construction had begun before the March 2007 Iranian withdrawal from an agreement requiring that it inform the IAEA immediately of any decision to build a nuclear facility.
The U.S. charges on the Qom facility, coming a week before the first opportunity for negotiations with Iran on a full range of issues since 1981, appear to have been a deliberate ploy to make the Obama administration appear tough and on the offensive when the talks started.
Iran's Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, told a news conference Tuesday that his agency took over a military ammunition dump in 2008 to begin work on the enrichment facility near Qom.
Meanwhile, a new photo analysis by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) of the Qom site in 2004 and 2005 suggests it was not dedicated to building a uranium enrichment facility at that time. Read more.
The Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran Crowd Is Getting All Riled up Again
By Pepe Escobar | Asia Times
Apparently even Saudi Arabia is on board with the idea of an Israeli strike on Iran.
The United States and Western "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" crowd - hysteria running at fever pitch ahead of Thursday's multilateral nuclear talks in Geneva - could do worse than have a word with Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula actually talked to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad face-to-face for over an hour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week. He invited Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil in November. About the meeting, he went straight to the point, "What I wish for Iran is what I always wanted for Brazil - a peaceful, civilian nuclear program."
Lula is an island of common sense in an ocean of hysteria. French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly gave a December deadline for Iran not to make a "tragic mistake", as in provoking Armageddon. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini reiterated the Group of Eight was giving Iran only three more months.
United States President Barack Obama - now running three wars (Iraq and the AfPak combo) - demanded that Iran (which is not at war with anybody) demonstrate "its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law". Read more.
Foreign Policy Briefing: Congressional Staff and Public
Mr. McGovern was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer in the 1960s and then spent 27 years as an analyst in the Central Intelligence Agency, during which he chaired National Intelligence Estimates and briefed the President's Daily Brief under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
Mr. Thielmann is the former Office Director for Strategic and Proliferation Issues in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, tasked with analyzing the Iraqi weapons threat. He was a senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Arms Control Association." His Sept. 10 Iran Threat Assessment Brief, "Is There Time to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon?" can be accessed at Arms Control Association.
Contact/RSVP: Daniel McAdams, 225-52831.
By Lawrence S. Wittner
Editor: John Feffer, Foreign Policy In Focus
Although the smashing victory of the opposition Democratic Party in Japan's parliamentary elections of August 30 had numerous causes, one of the results will be a strengthening of the campaign for a nuclear weapons-free world.
Iran agrees to ship enriched uranium to Russia for refinement
By Warren P. Strobel and Margaret Talev | McClatchy
Iran agreed in principle Thursday to ship most of its enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be refined for exclusively peaceful uses, in what Western diplomats called a significant, but interim, measure to ease concerns over its nuclear program.
The agreement was announced after more than seven hours of high-level talks in Geneva among Iran and representatives of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, which also featured the highest-level official U.S.-Iranian encounter in three decades.
Iran also pledged that within weeks it would allow the inspection of a previously covert uranium enrichment facility near the holy city of Qom, and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, announced that he'd head to Tehran to work out the details.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said the talks marked "a constructive beginning" and showed the promise of renewed engagement with Iran, but added that "going forward, we expect to see swift action. We're not interested in talking for the sake of talking."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the talks had "opened the door" to potential progress on the nuclear issue. "It was a productive day, but the proof of that has not yet come to fruition, so we'll wait and continue to press our point of view and see what Iran decides to do," she said.
In Geneva, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said he hoped the talks — which are to reconvene later this month — were the beginning of intensive engagement with Iran after a 15-month pause. Read more.
The U.S. press corps appears to have learned little or nothing from the Iraq debacle as a new crisis looms with Iran.
Yet, the most dangerous parallel between the misreporting on Iraq and the current hysteria about Iran may be that major U.S. news outlets, especially the New York Times and the Washington Post, continue to paint the disputes in black and white and leave shades of gray out of the frame.
In doing so, these news organizations again are casting aside their own rules about objectivity and balance. Just like in the run-up to the Iraq War, they obsess about a villain (with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replacing Iraq’s Saddam Hussein) – and have thrown down the memory hole inconvenient facts and important context.
For instance, prior to the June 12 election in Iran, it was well known and widely reported that President George W. Bush had signed a covert action finding targeting Iran’s Islamic government with a major program of propaganda and political destabilization.
In the July 7, 2008, New Yorker magazine, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote that late the previous year, Congress had agreed to Bush’s request for a major escalation in covert operations against Iran to the tune of up to $400 million.
“The Finding was focused on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” one person familiar with its contents told Hersh. The operation involved “working with opposition groups and passing money,” the person said. Read more.
Is the media exaggerating the Iranian nuke threat?
If Iran is open to U.N. inspections, it's probably not constructing nuclear weapons
Editor's note: For more from Juan Cole, visit his blog Informed Comment.
By Juan Cole | Salon
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, reaffirmed Monday that a date would soon be set for the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect the planned nuclear enrichment facility near Qom about which the Iranian government informed the IAEA on Monday a week ago.
If Iran really does permit full, ongoing IAEA inspections of the facility, then it cannot be used for weapons production. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted Sunday that Iran cannot use the Natanz plant for bomb-making because it is being regularly inspected by the UN.
Scott Ritter, an experienced inspector himself, dispels the myths about the new Qom facility and urges against new economic sanctions on Iran as counter-productive. Greater transparency and more inspections should be the demand of the West, he says.
I made the same point on MSNBC on Monday with Nora O'Donnell:
US Nukes Agency Pushes New Bomb Production
By Matthew Cardinale, North American Correspondent, Inter-Press Service; and News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (September 30, 2009)
ATLANTA, Georgia, Sep 30 (IPS) - Despite statements by U.S. President Barack Obama that he wants to see the world reduce, and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons, the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration continues to push forward on a programme called Complex Modernisation, which would expand two existing nuclear plants to allow them to produce new plutonium pits and new bomb parts out of enriched uranium for use in a possible new generation of nuclear bombs.
The story line that dominated media coverage of the second Iranian uranium enrichment facility last week was the official assertion that U.S. intelligence had caught Iran trying to conceal a "secret" nuclear facility.
But an analysis of the transcript of that briefing by senior administration officials that was the sole basis for the news stories and other evidence reveals damaging admissions, conflicts with the facts and unanswered questions that undermine its credibility.
Iran's notification to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the second enrichment facility in a letter on Sep. 21 was buried deep in most of the news stories and explained as a response to being detected by U.S. intelligence. In reporting the story in that way, journalists were relying entirely on the testimony of "senior administration officials" who briefed them at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh Friday.
U.S. intelligence had "learned that the Iranians learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised", one of the officials said, according to the White House transcript. The Iranians had informed the IAEA, he asserted, because "they came to believe that the value of the facility as a secret facility was no longer valid..."
Later in the briefing, however, the official said "we believe", rather than "we learned", in referring to that claim, indicating that it is only an inference rather than being based on hard intelligence. Read more.
Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
There is no good evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It has offered to allow regular International Atomic Energy Agency inspections of the newly announced facility near Qom, which would effectively prevent it from being used for weapons production.
There is a secret nuclear facility in the Middle East, however, producing plutonium and not just enriched uranium, which has the capacity to make 10 nuclear warheads a year.
It is Israel's ongoing nuclear weapon production that drives the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saddam wanted a bomb because Israel had one. The Iranians were then worried both about an Iraqi and an Israeli bomb. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others are annoyed at their geostrategic helplessness in the face of Israeli nukes.
Israel's nuclear arsenal is the region's Original Sin.
Synchronized announcements on September 17 by President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the U.S. was abandoning plans to station interceptor missiles in Poland and a forward-based missile radar site in the Czech Republic are now ten days ago and information surfacing in the interim indicates that its new plans are more far-reaching than their predecessor.
Two days after the statements by the American president and defense chief the latter, Pentagon head Robert Gates, was granted a column in the New York Times.
The most representative segment of Gates' comments is arguably this:
"I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies....American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future SM-3 sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well....We are strengthening - not scrapping - missile defense in Europe." 
Remarking that the earlier-envisioned system in Poland and the Czech Republic would not have been operative until 2015 and that opposition among both nations' parliamentarians would have delayed the process at least another two years, Gates evinced both impatience with and far grander designs for the European wing of the U.S.'s global missile shield program by asserting, "President Obama...decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles - weapons that are growing in capability...."
The new deployments, which will be examined in depth later, are to be more mobile and less capable of being anticipated and defended against; will be implemented, according to Gates' own schedule, at least eight years ahead of the prior plan's timeline; and will extend worldwide missile interceptor networks into far broader swathes of Eurasia, the Middle East and ultimately the planet as a whole.
Beware politically motivated hype. While on the surface, Obama's dramatic intervention seemed sound, the devil is always in the details. The "rules" Iran is accused of breaking are not vague, but rather spelled out in clear terms. In accordance with Article 42 of Iran's Safeguards Agreement, and Code 3.1 of the General Part of the Subsidiary Arrangements (also known as the "additional protocol") to that agreement, Iran is obliged to inform the IAEA of any decision to construct a facility which would house operational centrifuges, and to provide preliminary design information about that facility, even if nuclear material had not been introduced. This would initiate a process of complementary access and design verification inspections by the IAEA....
While this action is understandably vexing for the IAEA and those member states who are desirous of full transparency on the part of Iran, one cannot speak in absolute terms about Iran violating its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. So when Obama announced that "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow", he is technically and legally wrong.
It was very much a moment of high drama. Barack Obama, fresh from his history-making stint hosting the UN security council, took a break from his duties at the G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh to announce the existence of a secret, undeclared nuclear facility in Iran which was inconsistent with a peaceful nuclear programme, underscoring the president's conclusion that "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow".
Obama, backed by Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, threatened tough sanctions against Iran if it did not fully comply with its obligations concerning the international monitoring of its nuclear programme, which at the present time is being defined by the US, Britain and France as requiring an immediate suspension of all nuclear-enrichment activity.
The facility in question, said to be located on a secret Iranian military installation outside of the holy city of Qom and capable of housing up to 3,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium, had been monitored by the intelligence services of the US and other nations for some time. But it wasn't until Monday that the IAEA found out about its existence, based not on any intelligence "scoop" provided by the US, but rather Iran's own voluntary declaration. Iran's actions forced the hand of the US, leading to Obama's hurried press conference Friday morning. Read more.
Canada is close to signing a deal with India to sell nuclear technology and materials, Trade Minister Stockwell Day said on Friday, adding he was confident that remaining security concerns would be resolved.
Day made similar comments in May, saying at that time that a deal was imminent.
He told reporters on a conference call that he was now ironing out a few final stumbling blocks.
"I had a telephone meeting just last week with India's national security adviser. We are down to four fine points ... He and I both agree that final agreement is possible within days, if not just a matter of a few weeks," Day told reporters on a conference call from India.
Day said he did not foresee any threat of Canadian materials being diverted to military uses elsewhere in the region because of India's commitment to allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as tough transparency and reporting requirements.
"These are very strong provisions," he said.
New revelations about Iran's nuclear ambitions are center stage at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh today, where President Obama, French President Nikolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Iran has until December to reverse course or face stiff international sanctions.
Sarkozy said that "if by December there is not an in-depth change by the Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken."
Obama called evidence of Iran's second, secret underground nuclear fuel plant a "direct challenge" to the principles of nuclear non-proliferation.
"Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power that meets the energy needs of its people," Obama said. "But Iran is breaking rules all nations must follow… It's time for Iran to act immediately to restore the confidence of the international community by fulfilling its international obligations."
The president said Iran "must be prepared to cooperate fully" at the upcoming Oct. 1 meeting between Iranian officials and representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- the U.S., Russia, China, U.K., and France -- plus Germany.
Obama said at that meeting Iran must "demonstrate that it is committed to establishing its peaceful intentions through meaningful dialogue and concrete actions." Read more.
Obama Leads Security Council Session on Sidelines of UN General Assembly
By Margaret Besheer | VOA
President Barack Obama chaired a summit level-session of the Security Council Thursday that unanimously adopted a resolution committing to work toward a nuclear weapons-free world. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the second day of the U.N. General Assembly where the annual debate continued.
The Security Council session focused on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and the resolution urged action to prevent the spread of atomic weapons.
President Obama presided over the meeting, the first time a U.S. president has done so. He told the council that the United Nations has a "pivotal role to play" in preventing a nuclear crisis.
"The historic resolution we just adopted enshrines our shared commitment to the goal of a world without nuclear weapons," said President Obama. "And it brings Security Council agreement on a broad framework for action to reduce nuclear dangers as we work toward that goal." Read more.
The Defense Intelligence Agency and its contractors conclude that a nuclear test was conducted jointly by South Africa and Israel.
An ad hoc presidential panel contradicts that analysis and suggests a meteoroid struck the satellite causing it to sound a false alarm.
Which was it? What should've been the U.S. response? Can you decide?
But perhaps the questions we should really be deciding is does Iran have nuclear weapons; and if so, should the U.S. attack Iran and North Korea”.
Israel's Netanyahu: Let's Talk with Palestinians -- and Stop Iran's Threat
Prime Minister Tells ABC's Charles Gibson Iran's Nuclear Ambitions Threaten World Peace
By Ned Potter | ABC News
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ABC's Charles Gibson tonight he welcomes talks -- without preconditions -- to set up a Palestinian state in the Middle East. But he said it is up to Palestinian leaders to exert leadership, and added he is not going to back down on the right of Israelis to settle in Palestinian territory.
"There are a quarter of a million people living in these communities," said Netanyahu. "You know, they need kindergartens. They need schools. ... You can't freeze life."
In a one-on-one interview with Gibson, Netanyahu said he is especially worried about Iran -- which, he said, could destabilize the entire Middle East with the development of nuclear weapons. Read more.
The U.S. intelligence community is reporting to the White House that Iran has not restarted its nuclear-weapons development program, two counterproliferation officials tell NEWSWEEK. U.S. agencies had previously said that Tehran halted the program in 2003.
The officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that U.S. intelligence agencies have informed policymakers at the White House and other agencies that the status of Iranian work on development and production of a nuclear bomb has not changed since the formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's "Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities" in November 2007. Public portions of that report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies had "high confidence" that, as of early 2003, Iranian military units were pursuing development of a nuclear bomb, but that in the fall of that year Iran "halted its nuclear weapons program." The document said that while U.S. agencies believed the Iranian government "at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," U.S. intelligence as of mid-2007 still had "moderate confidence" that it had not restarted weapons-development efforts.
One of the two officials said that the Obama administration has now worked out a system in which intelligence agencies provide top policymakers, including the president, with regular updates on intelligence judgments like the conclusions in the 2007 Iran NIE. According to the two officials, the latest update to policymakers has been that as of now—two years after the period covered by the 2007 NIE—U.S. intelligence agencies still believe Iran has not resumed nuclear-weapons development work. Read more.