JFP 2/14: Bahrain uprising; Dems balk at LieberBill; Iran not suspect in India bombing
Just Foreign Policy News, February 14, 2012
Bahrain uprising; Dems balk at LieberBill; Iran not suspect in India bombing
Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your support helps us to educate Americans about U.S. foreign policy and create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a foreign policy that is more just. Help us press for an end to the war in Afghanistan and spread opposition to a new war with Iran,
Go Straight to the News Summary in this Email
I) Actions and Featured Articles
** Action: Free U.S. policy toward Bahrain from the chess game with Iran
Washington foreign policy elites rationalize the U.S. policy of opposing democracy in Bahrain by saying that Bahrain's government is an "ally" against Iran. That's a pretty poor excuse, isn't it? Bahrain is a tiny country with minor influence on regional affairs. What real difference does it make if its government is anti-Iran? Is the difference enough to justify supporting minority rule? Urge President Obama and Congress to delink U.S. policy towards Bahrain from the standoff with Iran, so the U.S. can stop siding with those who seek to block the democratic aspirations of the majority of Bahrainis.
The Real News: Why are Israel and US on a Collision Course with Iran?
Just Foreign Policy talks to The Real News: the dispute over Iran's nuclear program is also a proxy for the contest for influence in the region between the U.S.-Israel-Saudi axis and the Iran axis.
Medea Benjamin: Tear Gas From Us, Kindness in Return
Bahrainis want to know why the U.S. has such double standards. Not only is the U.S. going ahead with arms sales to Bahrain, but the tear gas used on demonstrators comes from the US.
Robert Mackey: A Year of Protest in Bahrain Ends as It Began, in Clouds of Tear Gas
Annie Murphy on Honduras for NPR
Unusually straightforward and devastating treatment for US MSM.
Part 1: In Honduras, Police Accused Of Corruption, Killings
Part 2: 'Who Rules In Honduras?' Coup's Legacy Of Violence
What I Learned at the Airport in Bahrain
The government of Bahrain is paying a real cost for its efforts to shield its crackdown on peaceful protesters from international scrutiny.
1) Bahraini security forces fanned out in unprecedented numbers Tuesday as Bahrain was marking the one-year anniversary of the Shiite-led uprising against its Sunni rulers, AP reports. Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain's population of some 525,000 people, but say they have faced decades of discrimination and are blocked from top political and security posts, AP notes. The kingdom's Sunni rulers have refused to make changes the protesters and the main Shiite group, Al Wefaq, have demanded, including ending the monarchy's ability to select the government, set key state policies and appoint most of the parliament members.
2) Democratic senators are reluctant to press President Obama to take more aggressive action against Iran despite the efforts of some of their colleagues, The Hill reports. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are spearheading a resolution calling on Congress to rule out any foreign policy approach that would accept Iran as a regional power with nuclear [weapons production] capability [The Hill is sloppy in its description of the resolution - JFP.] But their attempts to recruit Democratic lawmakers to their cause is falling short, as Democrats are showing an aversion to interfering with the commander in chief during an election year.
3) No evidence points to Iran in the bombing outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi, Juan Cole notes. Israel's government, a master of spin and propaganda, immediately blamed the bombing on Iran and Hizbullah. But there is no evidence for this cynical allegation, which makes no sense. India is Iran's economic lifeline, and Tehran would not likely risk such an operation at this time.
4) Many Afghan Taliban fighters are confused and demoralized by their leadership's decision to negotiate with the United States, Newsweek reports, because the news makes them doubt the leadership's commitment to jihad. The ruling Quetta Shura's leadership council sent out a written dispatch saying, "We assure you we will not compromise our jihad's main goal of forcing the U.S. to leave Afghanistan." The idea of giving the peace talks a chance may not have much support in the field, but it has traction among rear-echelon Taliban officials and former fighters who continue to believe in the cause.
Many of these pragmatists want to regain power, but don't believe it can be done by force of arms, Newsweek says. The group's political operatives are taking the line that the Taliban's popularity with Afghan villagers would actually be strengthened if the shooting stops and peace comes. Some former insurgents who still sympathize with the cause say the Taliban will have to accept a share of power, rather than total control of Afghanistan, and regard that as a victory.
5) Rolling Stone published the full unclassified report of Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, who says that classified intelligence shows that U.S. military leaders are lying to the American public about "progress" in the war in Afghanistan. The report has been making the rounds in Washington, Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone says.
6) Netanyahu's real target with his war rhetoric is not Iran but Obama, argues Gene Lyons in Salon. Netanyahu appears to see an Obama second term as an impediment to further Israeli expansion into the West Bank and has cast his lot with the Republican right.
7) Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum should be challenged to say if they intend to raise taxes to pay for the war they want in Iran, Steve Clemons writes. If not, how to they propose to pay for it?
8) Meir Dagan, former head of Israel's intelligence agency, says there is no way to stop Iran's nuclear program with military force, writes Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune. Furthermore, those who claim that Iran is willing to commit suicide to destroy Isarel should explain why it has not already tried to do so using conventional weapons, which would be easier. The world has seen the rise of one nuclear state after another without the outbreak of nuclear war or nuclear blackmail. Yet this one, we are told, will change the world in ways we cannot tolerate. We've heard that warning before. It's still wrong.
9) U.S. inability to cut illegal drug consumption leaves Guatemala with no option but to consider legalizing the use and transport of drugs, President Otto Perez Molina said, a remarkable turnaround for an ex-general elected on a platform of crushing organized crime with an iron fist, AP reports. Perez said he will try to win regional support for drug legalization at an upcoming summit of Central American leaders.
1) Amid massive security, Bahrain's Shiite majority marks 1st anniversary of country's uprising
Associated Press, Wednesday, February 15, 12:09 AM [Bahrain time]
Manama, Bahrain - Bahraini security forces fanned out in unprecedented numbers on Tuesday as the island nation was marking the one-year anniversary of the Shiite-led uprising against its Sunni rulers.
On the eve of the anniversary, violence erupted at a rally in the Gulf nation's capital of Manama as opposition supporters staged the largest attempt in months to retake Pearl Square, the city's central roundabout that had served as the epicenter of weeks of anti-government protests last year, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts.
Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters on Monday evening and protesters hurled firebombs and rocks at security forces. No serious injuries were reported.
Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain's population of some 525,000 people, but say they have faced decades of discrimination and are blocked from top political and security posts.
The kingdom's Sunni rulers have promised reforms, although they refused to make the far-reaching changes the protesters and the main Shiite group, Al Wefaq, have demanded. These include ending the monarchy's ability to select the government, set key state policies and appoint most of the parliament members.
Bahrain lifted emergency rule in June and the Sunni rulers made token concessions ahead of the U.S.-supported reconciliation talks between the monarchy and the opposition. The so-called national dialogue began in July, but Al Wefaq delegates pulled out of the talks, saying the government was not willing to discuss political reform.
Since then, no talks between the monarchy and the opposition have taken place, Khalil said. Street battles between security forces and protesters still flare up almost every day in the predominantly Shiite villages around the capital.
At least 40 people were killed during months of unprecedented political unrest in Bahrain, the Gulf country hardest hit by upheaval during last year's Arab Spring protests. Neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states dispatched troops to Bahrain in March to help crush the protests after the rulers imposed martial law.
2) Democrats split on handling Iran threat
Alexander Bolton, The Hill, 02/14/12 05:30 AM ET
Democratic senators are reluctant to press President Obama to take more aggressive action against Iran despite the efforts of some of their colleagues.
As tensions rise in the Middle East and an Israeli military strike seems imminent, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are spearheading a resolution calling on Congress to rule out any foreign policy approach that would accept Iran as a regional power with nuclear strike capability. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is also involved.
But their attempts to recruit Democratic lawmakers to their cause is falling short, as Democrats are showing an aversion to interfering with the commander in chief during an election year.
This comes despite the sway of the men involved: Graham, Lieberman and McCain are considered some of the top foreign policy experts in the upper chamber and they often travel together on codels, the official trips lawmakers take to foreign countries.
They have had some success: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) has signed on, and one source familiar with the legislative strategy said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is also on board.
The measure is expected to be unveiled later this week, and the trio was scrambling to persuade more Democrats to sign on by midweek.
Democrats worry the resolution would be seen as creeping toward an authorization of military force against Iran, a foreign policy option that is highly unpopular with liberal voters.
Graham and Lieberman announced last month they planned to introduce a bipartisan resolution that will "put the Senate on record as ruling out a strategy of containment of a nuclear-armed Iran."
[Crucially, according to people who have seen the text of the draft resolution, it would actually put the Senate on record as ruling out a strategy of containment of a nuclear weapons *capable* Iran. See: "Can Joe Lieberman Block Diplomacy With Iran That Would Prevent War?" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/lieberman-graham-iran_b_1266064.html]
They, and others in Congress, worry the administration views Iran's development of a nuclear weapon as inevitable, and are preparing to employ a variation of the containment policy the United States used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Some lawmakers and policy experts believe Obama is prepared to accept a nuclear-armed Iran.
"Many in Congress suspect correctly that Barack Obama has every intention of tolerating Iran with a nuclear weapon despite his protestations to the contrary," said Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute. "The administration seems more concerned about an Israeli strike on Iran than Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon."
Graham, Lieberman and McCain are dead set against accepting Iran as a nuclear power, and want the administration and Congress to make an unequivocal statement that the United States will pursue all means to avert that possibility.
3) Indian Investigators do not Suspect Iran in Israel Embassy Blast
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 02/14/2012
India has suffered from both Hindu and Muslim terrorist groups. So the attack on an automobile outside the Israeli embassy in New Delhi could easily have been carried out by an Indian group. Israel's government, a master of spin and propaganda, immediately blamed the bombing on Iran and Hizbullah. But there is no evidence for this cynical allegation, which makes no sense. India is Iran's economic lifeline, and Tehran would not likely risk such an operation at this time.
India gets 12% of its oil from Iran and sees an $8 billion annual export opportunity in filling the trade vacuum left by unilateral US and European boycotts of Iran. Contrary to a bad Reuters article, Indian officials denied Tuesday that the bombing would affect trade ties. (Logical because no evidence points to Iran.)
Indian investigators are first rate. Based on the modus operandi, their initial thesis is that the attack was the work of the "Indian Mujahidin" group. It had used a similar remote controlled sticky bomb, placed by a motorcyclist, in an attack on Taiwanese tourists outside the Jama Masjid cathedral mosque in 2010. IM is a Sunni group, not connected to Iran, and doesn't like Shiite Muslims (Iranians are Shiites). IM like other Sunni radicals support the Palestinians and they are unhappy with increasingly close ties between India and Israel.
American media that just parrot notorious thug, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in this unlikely allegation are allowing themselves to be used for propaganda. Why not interview Indian authorities on this matter? They are on the ground and have excellent forensic ("CSI") abilities. Stop being so lazy and blinkered; that isn't journalism.
4) How Afghan Peace Talks Are Splintering The Taliban
Will the Taliban survive talking with the Americans? Many fighters say no.
Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau, Newsweek, Feb 13, 2012 12:00 AM EST
Ever since he was 20, Ahmad Jamal has been a loyal follower of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. He became a supporter back in 1996, the year Omar's mujahedin marched to power in Kabul, and until late last year he was an active combatant in the war against U.S. and Afghan National Army forces. Even so, something changed when he heard about the secret peace talks between the Americans and the Taliban in the Gulf state of Qatar. Although at first he dismissed the tales as enemy propaganda, the more he heard, the more his worries grew. "Those rumors raised questions in my mind for days and nights," Jamal says. And eventually he had to admit to himself that the news was true. "When I realized the Taliban was really talking face to face with the Americans-the worst enemies of Islam!-my dream of the holy jihad was washed away," he says.
That's when he decided to do something he had never dreamed of: abandon the fight. You don't tell the Taliban you're quitting-not if you want to keep living. Still, he had to say goodbye to his 25-year-old kid brother, Ahmad Bilal; the two had been fighting side by side for four years. "I'm not going to risk making my four children orphans and my wife a widow so some Taliban leaders can share power with the American puppet [President Hamid] Karzai in the Presidential Palace," Jamal says he told Bilal late one night. Then he got rid of his weapon and headed off to rejoin his family in Pakistan, their home since the days of the Soviet occupation. On the way, he passed through Kabul, where he spoke with a Newsweek reporter. "I fought to kick out the infidels from my country and to restore our Islamic regime, not to give up our ideals," Jamal said as they sat together at a kebab shop. "I cannot trust my leaders anymore."
Disclosure of the leadership's secret talks in Qatar-confirmed and driven home by the group's opening of a liaison office in the emirate's capital, Doha-has devastated the insurgency's ranks. The previously unified movement is splitting, if not shattering, as doubts grow among its members about the logic of their once-unshakable commitment to jihad. Many formerly loyal fighters like Jamal have become confused and demoralized. Although there have been no reports so far of any large-scale desertions, some ranking Taliban admit they're worried about the possibility. "I fear there is a serious risk of defections," says a Taliban logistics officer. Intentionally or not, Washington's decision to put out serious peace feelers to the group has sowed dissension among the insurgents, even before the talks have made any real progress.
Veteran commanders are at a loss to explain to their troops exactly what's happening in Qatar, let alone what the senior leadership is thinking. According to Taliban sources, at least one senior member of the group's main military council could only throw up his hands in response to his subordinates' questions, saying, "I don't know more than I've heard on the radio." That kind of talk is anything but reassuring to the group's fighters and subcommanders. In the past two years the Taliban's former strongholds have been hit hard by the Americans' troop surge and by the Special Operations Forces' night raids. Now many Taliban worry that after so much hardship and sacrifice, their leaders may be in the process of selling them out. "Mullah Omar has always said fight, fight, fight until the Americans withdraw their troops," says Rahmatullah, a former insurgent (like many other Afghans he uses a single name). "Suddenly he's talking to the Americans. How can Mullah Omar cross out 18 years of resistance? It's impossible for Taliban to understand."
Commanders and fighters alike are waiting for some word-any word-from Omar. The reclusive leader hasn't issued a single verifiable audio or video statement since he was driven from power in late 2001. But considering the disarray in his ranks, he needs to. "Everyone is waiting for a statement from Mullah Omar," says a Taliban intelligence officer. "They have to hear something from him. And soon." In fact, there are unconfirmable reports that he did send word orally to several senior commanders via the grapevine late last month. "I will not betray you and compromise the sacrifice of your blood," the somewhat ambiguous message said, according to one senior Taliban commander who requests anonymity. "My target is to achieve the goal of every Taliban, as we have fought so hard and suffered so much."
Around the same time, the ruling Quetta Shura's leadership council sent out a written dispatch-apparently an effort to calm the insurgents' nerves. A subcommander in Laghman province tells of having attended a meeting where a letter from the council was read aloud. It acknowledged that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (as the Taliban call their defunct national government) was in the process of opening an office in Qatar. "Apart from continuing the jihad, we want to have a process of negotiations to win the release of prisoners," the letter said. "We assure you we will not compromise our jihad's main goal of forcing the U.S. to leave Afghanistan."
The idea of giving the peace talks a chance may not have much support in the field, but it has traction among rear-echelon Taliban officials and former fighters who continue to believe in the cause. Negotiating with the enemy is not contrary to Islamic teachings, they say. "The Prophet Muhammad talked with and traded with his enemies," says Rahmatullah, who was arrested in a 2007 night raid and spent two years in U.S. and Afghan detention facilities. "We must talk and reason together."
Many of these pragmatists want to regain power, but don't believe it can be done by force of arms. "The talks can help us get politically what we have been trying to win militarily," says a former senior Taliban minister. They welcome what they see as the American recognition of the insurgency as a viable political force. "It's good that the U.S. seems ready to end this war and to give the Taliban a role in the future Afghan political system," says Qazi Habibullah Fauzi, who was the regime's chargé d'affaires in Saudi Arabia when the Taliban held power. "The question is, after 10 years of fighting has the Taliban gained a political vision that will allow it to take advantage of this opportunity?" says a former senior Taliban diplomat who declined to be quoted by name. "As a former Taliban, my answer is, regrettably, no."
Some Taliban voice doubts that anyone can stop the fighting. "Mullah Omar may not be able to answer his fighters' questions," says the Taliban intelligence officer. "Many are addicted to the ideology and the war. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for them to change."
On the other hand, some former Taliban think the men on the ground could be persuaded to hold their fire-for a while, anyway. When dealing with recalcitrant commanders and fighters, the group's political operatives are taking the line that the Taliban's popularity with Afghan villagers would actually be strengthened if the shooting stops and peace comes. "Let's have and observe a ceasefire and see what happens," says one Taliban liaison officer. "In the end the Afghan people will support us." Fauzi agrees. "If the Taliban can show discipline and political maturity during a ceasefire, there's a strong chance they would gain lots of support in the countryside," he says.
To do that, the insurgents would have to accept that Afghanistan is not the same as it was 10 years ago. "The Taliban should change and compromise," says Rahmatullah. "Because the people have changed. Afghans have seen development, technology, and the benefit of knowledge over these past 10 years." He believes that most Afghans-in the villages, at least-are still undecided about which side to back, and that a cessation of hostilities would favor the insurgents. "The majority of people are not talking but are watching and waiting."
5) The Afghanistan Report the Pentagon Doesn't Want You to Read
Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone, February 10, 4:25 PM ET
[Davis' full unclassified report:
Earlier this week, the New York Times' Scott Shane published a bombshell piece about Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, a 17-year Army veteran recently returned from a second tour in Afghanistan. According to the Times, the 48-year-old Davis had written an 84-page unclassified report, as well as a classified report, offering his assessment of the decade-long war. That assessment is essentially that the war has been a disaster and the military's top brass has not leveled with the American public about just how badly it's been going. "How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding?" Davis boldly asks in an article summarizing his views in The Armed Forces Journal.
Davis last month submitted the unclassified report –titled "Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leader's Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort" – for an internal Army review. Such a report could then be released to the public. However, according to U.S. military officials familiar with the situation, the Pentagon is refusing to do so. Rolling Stone has now obtained a full copy of the 84-page unclassified version, which has been making the rounds within the U.S. government, including the White House. We've decided to publish it in full; it's well worth reading for yourself. It is, in my estimation, one of the most significant documents published by an active-duty officer in the past ten years.
Here is the report's damning opening lines: "Senior ranking U.S. military leaders have so distorted the truth when communicating with the U.S. Congress and American people in regards to conditions on the ground in Afghanistan that the truth has become unrecognizable. This deception has damaged America's credibility among both our allies and enemies, severely limiting our ability to reach a political solution to the war in Afghanistan." Davis goes on to explain that everything in the report is "open source" – i.e., unclassified – information. According to Davis, the classified report, which he legally submitted to Congress, is even more devastating. "If the public had access to these classified reports they would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is actually true behind the scenes," Davis writes. "It would be illegal for me to discuss, use, or cite classified material in an open venue and thus I will not do so; I am no WikiLeaks guy Part II."
6) Israel's real target: Obama
Prime Minister Netanyahu's threats have more to do with challenging Washington than with actually attacking Iran
Gene Lyons, Salon, Thursday, Feb 9, 2012 4:00 Am Arab Standard Time
After being elected in large part because he'd opposed a "dumb" war in Iraq, President Obama finds himself confronting an even dumber one in Iran. Exponentially dumber, actually.
Dumb because like the targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists rarely cited by columnist commandoes, bombing raids alone can't achieve the alleged goal: preventing the Ayatollahs from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Slow them down, probably. Stop them, no. Short of a full-scale invasion and occupation of a nation three times larger than neighboring Iraq in population and five times larger in land area, that can't be done. Global disapproval didn't stop North Korea, Pakistan or, for that matter, Israel.
Exponentially dumb because it could set the entire Middle East aflame.
You'd think the Israelis, of all people, would recognize that threatening a people with death and destruction hardens their resolve. Yet the New York Times reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "told visitors that he believes the Tehran government to be deeply unpopular, indeed despised, and that a careful attack on its nuclear facilities might even be welcomed by Iranian citizens."
Yes, and Dick Cheney predicted that U.S. forces invading Iraq would be greeted with candy and flowers. "Most analysts [in Jerusalem] and abroad," the Times noted cautiously, "take a different view." Indeed, historical examples of civilian populations cheering on aerial bombardments are rare, if not nonexistent. Despite his and Cheney's obvious affinities, one would expect Netanyahu to be made of saner stuff.
Assuming that the Israeli prime minister's motives for threatening a unilateral Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities are as reported. I suspect they are not. To put it bluntly, it's not so much the regime in Tehran that Netanyahu is keen to destabilize as the one in Washington. The question now is how far he's willing to take it.
Despite media chatter about "red lines" being crossed, it's hard to point to anything the Iranians have done to provoke the current crisis. They've been trash-talking since 1979. Otherwise, no Iranian armies are massing. With its navy badly outgunned in the Persian Gulf, and a vestigial air force scarcely capable of defending against Israeli bombers, Iran sits surrounded by U.S. bases in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan - well, everywhere.
But when articles invoking the Holocaust and urging "creative destruction" in Iran appear on the same day (Feb. 7) in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Bloomberg News, a skeptical observer might be forgiven for suspecting a well-coordinated propaganda campaign.
Writing in Beirut-based Al-Akhbar, American journalist Max Blumenthal dates its inception to a Jan. 3 article in Israel Hayom revealing that Israel's National Security Council - basically Netanyahu's closest political allies - had concluded that "U.S. President Barack Obama is 'naive'" and fails to understand Israel's precarious position. Deemed a Likud Party organ, the newspaper is owned by multibillionaire Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who bankrolls Netanyahu and serves as Newt Gingrich's Sugar Daddy too.
Netanyahu appears to see an Obama second term as an impediment to further Israeli expansion into the West Bank - or "Judea" and "Samaria," as Likudniks style it - and has cast his lot with the Republican right. He's made public appearances with notables like Glenn Beck and "End Times" evangelist John Hagee. Adelson himself has pledged his vast resources to Obama's defeat.
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama reiterated his determination to prevent Iran's getting nuclear weapons. He said he was "taking no options off the table." But he also expressed hope that international sanctions could lead to a peaceful resolution.
On cue, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen called this "startlingly naïve." Only a fool or a Frenchman, the same pundit once opined, could doubt the existence of Saddam Hussein's WMD. Bombs away!
President Obama also reportedly dispatched Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to Israel to warn Netanyahu that if he tries to force the United States' hand, he's on his own.
But can he make it stick? For his sake and everybody else's, he'd better.
7) Iran War Would Cost Trillions: Will the GOP Pay More Taxes for That?
Steve Clemons, The Atlantic, February 12, 2012
While GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul is doing all he can in this election cycle to gin up a debate about U.S. foreign policy and a measure of the costs and benefits, the debate about Iran, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel's security has been taking place in a gravityless environment.
Mitt Romney's opening foreign-policy opus at the Citadel criticized Obama for defense cuts with promises to boost America's defense commitments abroad, to boost military spending on hardware and ships in the Pacific -- to do everything we have been doing but more.
Where are the dollars going to come from?
I am one who thinks that war with Iran is far off and in the near term unlikely -- unless Israel makes a tremendous mistake by triggering and forcing a geostrategic move by the United States, a choice that could very well ultimately dismantle the close U.S.-Israel relationship, or alternatively if forces inside Iran that would benefit from war actually cause an escalation of events that produce a potential nightmare in the Persian Gulf and region.
That said, fewer and fewer people agree with me -- and various of the presidential candidates seem to be competing with each other to tell U.S. citizens how quickly they would deploy U.S. military and intelligence assets to undermine Iran's Supreme Leader and his government.
That's OK -- in the summer of 2007, both analysts and agitators in the political left believed Bush and Cheney would bomb Iran before year's end. Neoconservatives and pugnacious nationalists like John Bolton also believed this. I did a survey of folks on the inside and argued in September 2007 in a widely read Salon article that they would not bomb Iran. They didn't.
In the summer of 2010, some folks on the left were absolutely convinced that the U.S. would bomb Iran before August. Again, that was not how things turned out -- and was not the analysis I had from talking to people in the defense and intel establishments.
Today, things are fuzzier -- but at the highest levels of the national-security decisionmaking tree there is palpable doubt that bombing Iran achieves any fundamental strategic objectives while at the same time ultimately undermining U.S., Israel, and regional security, undermining the global economy. One senior official I heard when asked about bombing Iran then said, "OK, and then what? Then what?! Seriously, then what???"
It is ridiculous to think that a strike by Israel against Iran, that would in real terms tie the U.S. to the conflict, would not be staggeringly expensive and consequential.
So, it would be interesting to hear from those who want to reside in the White House -- and even the Obama administration which has some 'kinetic action' advocates on the inside -- on what a more sensible financial management strategy for these proliferating conflicts, including an Iran war, would be.
Wars cost lots and lots of money -- and if a substantial chunk of the GOP crowd wants these wars and feels that it is in our national interest to have them, then by all means they should start lining up some of the wealthiest in the country who are helping to agitate for these conflicts to pay more in taxes for them.
8) The Folly Of Attacking Iran
Proceeding toward another needless war
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, February 12, 2012
"The stupidest thing I have ever heard."
-Meir Dagan, former head of Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, on attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.
Stupid it may be, but it's also the hottest trend since the iPhone. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last year that if Iran proceeds toward acquiring a nuclear arsenal, "we will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the same thing.
The Republican presidential candidates (except Ron Paul) strain to outdo each other in bellicose rhetoric. Mitt Romney says, "If you elect me as president, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon." Newt Gingrich promises, "Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon." Rick Santorum is prepared to bomb Iranian nuclear sites.
The United States and Israel are keeping their powder dry, but that could change anytime. A report in The Washington Post said, "Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June."
The prevailing wisdom among policymakers, in short, bears an eerie resemblance to the Iraq consensus of 2002. We and the Israelis allegedly faced an intolerable peril from a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction and a lust for aggression. Fortunately, we were told, it was nothing that -a short, sudden military attack wouldn't solve.
But in Iraq, it turned out the solution was anything but quick or easy - and the danger was vastly exaggerated. And in Iran? Ditto.
"The working assumption that it is possible to totally halt the Iranian nuclear project by means of a military attack is incorrect," Dagan recently told The New York Times. "There is no such military capability. It is possible to cause a delay, but even that would only be for a limited period of time." Another prominent Mossad veteran, Rafi Eitan, said an attack would delay Iran's nuclear program "not even three months."
Americans may be led to assume we will pay no price. But Iran has innumerable options for "asymmetric" retaliation: attacking our ships in the Persian Gulf, sponsoring terrorism in Afghanistan or the United States and ordering its Lebanese Hezbollah ally to rain rockets on Israel. We may find that fighting a war with Iran is like making love to a gorilla: You don't stop when you're done; you stop when the gorilla is done.
Why is everyone so eager to plunge into another war? Because of another false fear: that a nuclear-armed Iran will use its new arsenal to obliterate the Jewish state or bully its neighbors.
This panic requires a total disregard for everything we have learned during the nuclear age. Since World War II, assorted enemies and rivals have acquired nuclear stockpiles: the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan and North Korea. All of them have learned that they are useless as offensive weapons against other nuclear states and their allies.
The reason is simple: Any nation that carries out a nuclear attack assures itself of cataclysmic retaliation. You can't win a nuclear war. You can only lose one.
Alarmists claim the past is irrelevant because the mullahs in Tehran are an entirely different enemy: willing to accept national annihilation for the brief pleasure of erasing Israel. But if the Iranians were bent on mass martyrdom, they could have found a simpler way.
The incineration of Israel could be done with conventional weapons - remember what the U.S. did to Dresden and Tokyo? - which are far easier to acquire in bulk than nukes. For some reason, Iran has passed on this option.
China was equally terrifying back when it was developing nuclear weapons. The dictator Mao Zedong declared, "We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution." President John F. Kennedy, however, wisely rejected a preemptive attack.
North Korea provoked intense anxiety when it built the bomb. But in the ensuing years, it has been no more or less intractable or belligerent than before.
Alarmists insist that an Iranian bomb would set off a regional arms race, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey hastening to get their own. But they already face a worrisome neighbor with a nuclear arsenal: Israel. None has seen the need for a comparable deterrent.
The world has seen the rise of one nuclear state after another without the outbreak of nuclear war or nuclear blackmail. Yet this one, we are told, will change the world in ways we cannot tolerate. We've heard that warning before. It's still wrong.
9) Guatemala Says it's Weighing Drug Legalization
Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, Associated Press, Monday, 02.13.12
Guatemala City -- U.S. inability to cut illegal drug consumption leaves Guatemala with no option but to consider legalizing the use and transport of drugs, President Otto Perez Molina said Monday, a remarkable turnaround for an ex-general elected on a platform of crushing organized crime with an iron fist.
Perez said he will try to win regional support for drug legalization at an upcoming summit of Central American leaders next month. He got his first public support on Monday at a security meeting with El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, who said he too is willing to consider legalization.
"We're bringing the issue up for debate. Today's meeting is intended to strengthen our methods of fighting organized crime," Perez said with Funes. "But if drug consumption isn't reduced, the problem will continue."
But after returning to El Salvador, Funes said he personally doesn't support legalization because it would "create a moral problem," though he supports Perez's right to bring up the issue for consideration.
Perez's proposal comes as drug cartels have taken over large swathes of Guatemala and other Central American countries, fueling some of the highest murder rates in the world. A May 2011 report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service said that 95 percent of all cocaine entering the United States flows through Mexico and its waters, with 60 percent of that cocaine having first transited through Central America.
In just a month in office, Perez has transformed himself from one of Latin America's toughest advocates of military action against drug cartels to one of the region's strongest voices for drug legalization. His stance provoked strong criticism from the United States over the weekend, and intense discussion inside the country, where Guatemalans argued for and against his proposal in the streets and on radio talk shows.
One analyst said Perez's about-face could be designed to pressure the U.S. into providing military aid, currently banned by the U.S. Congress because of past human rights abuses.
"This is kind of like a shot across the bow, saying if you don't help us, this is what we can do," said Anita Isaacs, a Guatemala expert and professor of political science at Haverford College.
But Perez's backers said the change grew out of the realization that if demand continues in the U.S., the small country will never have the resources to fight the flow of illegal drugs from producers in South America to the world's largest consumer market in the U.S.
"Are we going to be responsible to put up a war against the cartels if we don't produce the drugs or consume the drugs? We're just a corridor of illegality," Eduardo Stein, a former Guatemalan vice president who headed Perez's transition team.
"The issue of drug trafficking and consumption is not on the North American political agenda. The issue of drugs in the U.S. is very marginalized, while for Guatemala and the rest of Central America it's very central," he added.
U.S. President Barack Obama would cut funds to fight drug trafficking in Latin America in 2013, according to his budget proposal released Monday. While the Obama administration has promised to shift anti-drug resources from law enforcement and military intervention to treatment and prevention, funding would be restored to slightly higher than 2011 levels in the proposal after suffering a cut in 2012.
A growing number of former Latin American leaders have come out in favor of legalization, saying the U.S. efforts to fight drug trafficking in Latin America have only caused more violence and sucked up resources.
Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos has said he would be open to legalization if the entire world agreed.
"It's a theme that must be addressed," Colombia's Foreign Minister Maria Holguin told reporters in Cartegena Monday. "The war on drugs definitely hasn't been the success it should be and it's something the countries should discuss."
Political analyst Alvaro Pop said Guatemala would benefit from legalization "because it would get us out of a fight that has blocked our chances of developing as a country." But he added that Perez would have to carefully define exactly what he wants to legalize.
The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala issued a statement Sunday saying that legalizing drugs wouldn't stop transnational gangs that traffic not only drugs, but also people and weapons.
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here: