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Snowden Leaks: UK operates secret Middle East web surveillance base

Al Ahed news

The UK has been working on a secret Middle East web surveillance base which is a part of a $1.5 billion project, a new report suggests. It intercepts and gathers emails, telephone calls, and web traffic for Western intelligence.

According to Edward Snowden’s leaked documents, as studied by The Independent, “The secret internet-monitoring project is still a work in progress and is being organized by the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ].”

The intelligence station can intercept data both by satellite and underwater fiber-optic cables that pass through the Middle East. The data will then be copied into large computer storage “buffers.” After that, it can be analyzed and passed on to CGHQ, where it later can be shared with the National Security Agency [NSA].

In response to the leaked information, the UK argues that the base is central for the West’s “war on terror” and helps with “early warning” when it comes to possible attacks. It can also gain access to submarine cables passing through the region.

British intelligence sources maintain the base is used strictly to monitor “security, terror and organized crime.”
In its article, The Independent made clear that it was not revealing the exact location of the base. It did say that it received the information from the 50,000 top-secret GCHQ documents leaked by Snowden, many of which the whistleblower downloaded from “an internal Wikipedia-style information site called GC-Wiki” in 2012.

The UK’s main concern is that the location of the secret Middle East web intelligence base will become known in the public domain, according to the newspaper.

The base is part of a larger US$1.5 billion surveillance project code-named “Tempora,” whose overall goal of global interception of digital communications was revealed earlier though Snowden’s leaked documents.

The Middle East base was created after a warrant was signed by then Foreign Secretary David Miliband. It gave permission to the GCHQ to monitor, store, and analyze data that passed through the fiber-optic cables that link up the internet around the world.

It is worth mentioning that the issued certificates allow GCHQ to collect information about the “‘political intentions of foreign powers,’ terrorism, proliferation, mercenaries and private military companies, and serious financial fraud.”

Certificates are reissued every six months and ministers have the authority to change them at will.
GCHQ was essentially given the power to monitor anyone overseas or communicating from overseas, bypassing all other legal checks and balances in place in the UK.

The budget of the Middle East base alone is not known.

The revelation follows the Metropolitan Police’s launch of a terrorism investigation into information found on the computer of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda. The data, along with all of Miranda’s electronic devices, was seized during a nine-hour detention in Heathrow airport on Sunday. British authorities held Miranda under Schedule 7 of the UK’s Terrorism Act.

British police said the information found is “highly sensitive,” the disclosure of which “could put lives at risk.”

The Guardian newspaper took the case to court on Thursday to demand the materials seized from Greenwald’s Brazilian partner be protected by injunction.

The court ruled on Thursday that British authorities can sift through electronic documents seized from Miranda, in the interests of “national security.” The two judges gave authorities until August 30 to analyze “thousands” of documents, according to a police lawyer.

Ahmadinejad and Obama at the UN: Of Statesmanship and Political Pandering…

by Franklin Lamb, Al Manar

Beirut, Lebanon

For westerners, and particularly Americans who have watched Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad up fairly close as he delivers speeches in the US and elsewhere including during last year’s visit to Lebanon, his charisma and populist connection with the public are evident and often powerful.

And President Barack Obama is normally no slough either on the stump when he woes voters and inspires them to support his point of view. But last week’s UN appearance by the two leaders left a Matthew 13:24-30 type image of the wheat being separated from the chaff. Both countries are juxtaposed menacingly in the Middle East, one pressuring the region in an all-out sustained NATO utilized effort to maintain its hegemony and the other actively trying to lead the region in a very different direction. Consequently the public was presented with an interesting contrast in styles and substance.

The two appearances could be handicapped along the lines that Obama’s tough job was to try to shore up Israel whose days as a dominate force in the Levant rapidly grow fewer as history corrects the nearly incalculable injustice that resulted from the West’s implantation of the racist state and as history inexorably deconstructs the world’s last 19th Century colonial enterprise.

From the UN podium, Ahmadinejad knew in advance that approximately 15 minutes into his speech began AIPAC would signal the launch of its churlish and infantile 30 country walkout and most of the delegations in the audience knew that the White House had given its ok. The Iranian President also knew that there would be the pro-Zionist tabloid media blitz against him complete with the now expected degrading and offensive cartoons and the Persian visitor being labeled in the US media, what else, but an “anti-Semite”, “a clown”, “weirdo”, “crackpot”. “the new Hitler” and the usual moronic libels. It is hard to imagine that the New York Times editors actually read his speech since they not only failed it analyze it but simply dismissed it as a “tirade” the same description they applied last year.

But this year, the AIPAC/White House walk-out backfired and it was roundly condemned not only among the American public but among the publics of each of the countries that agreed to rudely interrupt the proceedings. The Zionist controlled US government failed to realize that the international public, like most Americans, by and large retain respect for the values of open dialogue, common hospitality and respect for leaders from other countries. Moreover, they understand that the raison d’etre of the United Nations is to provide its members with an open forum. This includes Iran and each of the 192 other UN Member States. When Obama spoke the Iranian delegation listened respectfully.

OBAMA the complete politician?

President Obama, embarrassingly for the American public proved once more his habit of assuming the role of the groveling US politician for the pariah Israeli UN Member. This latest speech was no exception and once more Obama made plain that he will support Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestine as a quid pro quo for the Israeli lobby funding and supporting his 2012 Presidential re-election bid.

Birzeit University Professor Hanan Ashrawi, spoke for many in the audience and across America after Obama finished: “I did not believe what I heard. It sounded as if the Palestinians were occupying Israel. There was no empathy for the Palestinians; he only spoke of the Israeli problems. He told us that it isn’t easy to achieve peace, thanks, we know this. He spoke about universal rights, Good; those same rights apply to Palestinians. The White House is applying enormous pressure on everybody at the UN and they are using threats and coercion. I wish they would invest the same energy in an attempt to promote peace, not threats.”

Has Iran produced a Statesman or a sycophant?
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is at his best when he is engaged in dialogue and debate according to people in Lebanon and Iran who know him well. But he gets to the point quickly and it sometimes catches his interlocutors off-guard if they aren’t prepared.

Devoutly religious, Iran’s President is unerringly polite and respectful, and never fails to mention the positive and the necessity of dialogue and seeking common ground.

But he speaks frankly and also noted that President Obama never made good on a pledge to try to improve US-Iranian relations and to open a dialogue with Iran, and said he still hopes for a face-to-face meeting. “I don’t believe that this is a chance that has been completely lost,” Ahmadinejad said.

He told Iran’s fellow UN Members “You all know that the nuclear issue has been turned and manipulated into a political issue,” and he added that Iran remains ready to negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, and repeated the country’s position that the program is for the peaceful production of energy

Following the 2009 disputed Iranian elections, he stated “We were very much in support of change. I sent a personal message to President Obama, but we never received a response.

His UN speech theme was that most nations of the world are unhappy with the current international circumstances. “And despite the general longing and aspiration to promote peace, progress, and fraternity, wars, mass-murder, widespread poverty, and socioeconomic and political crises continue to infringe upon the rights and sovereignty of nations, leaving behind irreparable damage worldwide.” He continued, “Approximately, three billion people of the world live on less than 2.5 dollars a day, and over a billion people live without having even one sufficient meal on a daily basis. Forty-percent of the poorest world populations only share five percent of the global income, while twenty percent of the richest people share seventy-five percent of the total global income. More than twenty thousand innocent and destitute children die every day in the world because of poverty.”

He challenged the United Nations to reform itself and he urged honest debate on the vital issues confronting the world community. He asked the UN to bear in mind who imposed colonialism for over four centuries, who occupied lands and massively plundered resources of other nations, destroyed talents, and alienated languages, cultures and identities of nations?

He asked the UN members to join in solutions to the World’s problems but asked that we not hide the facts of:

• Who triggered the first and second world wars, that left seventy millions killed and hundreds of millions injured or homeless. Who created the wars in Korean peninsula and in Vietnam?

• Who imposed through Zionism and over sixty years of war, homelessness, terror and mass murder on the Palestinian people and on countries of the region?

• Who imposed and supported for decades military dictatorship and totalitarian regimes on Asian, African, and Latin American nations?

• Who used nuclear bomb against defenseless people, and stockpiled thousands of warheads in their arsenals?

• Whose economies rely on waging wars and selling arms?

• Who provoked and encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade and impose an eight-year war on Iran, and who assisted and equipped him to deploy chemical weapons against our cities and our people?

• Who used the mysterious September 11 incident as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq, killing, injuring, and displacing millions in two countries with the ultimate goal of bringing into its domination the Middle East and its oil resources?

• Who nullified the Breton Woods system by printing trillions of dollars without the backing of gold reserves or equivalent currency? A move that triggered inflation worldwide and was intended to prey on the economic gains of other nations?

• Which country’s military spending exceeds annually a thousand billion dollars, more than the military budgets of all countries of the world combined?

• Who dominates the policy-making establishments of the world economy?

• Who are responsible for the world economic recession, and are imposing the consequences on America, Europe and the world in general?

• Who are the ones dominating the Security Council which is ostensibly responsible for safeguarding the international security?

This month’s Iran-U.S Presidential addresses at the United Nations have given its members a clear choice for the challenges quickly engulfing the Middle East. Ultimately, as the popular awakenings in this region teach us, it is the citizens of each country who have the power to decide how to deal with these crises.

Iran’s President demonstrated at Turtle Bay this month that he understands the problems, offers rational solutions and is ready for constructive dialogue. The next move is up to President Obama to extricate him and his country from the jaws of Zionism and to join with Iran and the community of nations with constructive proposals to help alleviate the challenges Iran’s President enumerated.

Saudi Arabia scrambles to limit region’s upheaval

(NYT) RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia is flexing its financial and diplomatic might across the Middle East in a wide-ranging bid to contain the tide of change, shield other monarchies from popular discontent and avert the overthrow of any more leaders struggling to calm turbulent nations.

From Egypt, where the Saudis dispensed $4 billion in aid last week to shore up the ruling military council, to Yemen, where it is trying to ease out the president, to the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco, which it has invited to join a union of Persian Gulf monarchies, Saudi Arabia is scrambling to forestall more radical change and block Iran’s influence.

The kingdom is aggressively emphasizing the relative stability of monarchies, part of an effort to avert any drastic shift from the authoritarian model, which would generate uncomfortable questions about the pace of political and social change at home.

Saudi Arabia’s proposal to include Jordan and Morocco in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council — which authorized the Saudis to send in troops to quell a largely Shiite Muslim rebellion in the Sunni Muslim monarchy of Bahrain — is intended to create a kind of “Club of Kings.” The idea is to signal to Shiite Iran that the Sunni Arab monarchs will defend their interests, analysts said.

“We’re sending a message that monarchies are not where this is happening,” Prince Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, a businessman and high-profile member of the habitually reticent royal family, told the editorial board of The New York Times last week, referring to the unrest. “We are not trying to get our way by force, but to safeguard our interests.”

The range of the Saudi intervention is extraordinary as the unrest pushes Riyadh’s hand to forge what some commentators, in Egypt and elsewhere, brand a “counterrevolution.” Some Saudi and foreign analysts find the term too sweeping for the steps the Saudis have actually taken, though they appear unparalleled in the region and beyond as the kingdom reaches out to ally with non-Arab Muslim states as well.

“I am sure that the Saudis do not like this revolutionary wave — they were really scared,” said Khalid Dakhil, a Saudi political analyst and columnist. “But they are realistic here.”

In Egypt, where the revolution has already toppled a close Saudi ally in Hosni Mubarak, the Saudis are dispensing aid and mending ties in part to help head off a good showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in the coming parliamentary elections. The Saudis worry that an empowered Muslim Brotherhood could damage Saudi legitimacy by presenting a model of Islamic law different from the Wahhabi tradition of an absolute monarch.

“If another model of Shariah says that you have to resist, this will create a deep difficulty,” said Abdulaziz Algasim, a Saudi lawyer.

Saudi officials are also concerned that Egypt’s foreign policy is shifting, with its outreach to the Islamist group Hamas and plans to restore ties with Iran. The Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, also retains a personal interest in protecting Mr. Mubarak, analysts believe.

The Arab Spring began to unravel an alliance of so-called moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which were willing to work closely with the United States and promote peace with Israel. American support for the Arab uprisings also strained relations, prompting Saudi Arabia to split from Washington on some issues while questioning its longstanding reliance on the United States to protect its interests.

The strained Saudi posture toward Washington was outlined in a recent opinion article by Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi analyst, in The Washington Post that suggested Riyadh was ready to go it alone because the United States had become an “unreliable partner.”

But that seems at least partly a display of Saudi pique, since the oil-for-military aid arrangement that has defined relations between the two for the past six decades is unlikely to be replaced soon. Saudi Arabia is negotiating to buy $60 billion in advanced American weapons, and President Obama, in his speech last week demanding that Middle Eastern autocrats bow to popular demands for democracy, noticeably did not mention Saudi Arabia. The Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, sat prominently in the front row.

Saudi Arabia is taking each uprising in turn, without relying on a single blueprint. In Bahrain, it resorted to force, sending troops to crush a rebellion by Shiites because it feared the creation of a hostile government — a kind of Shiite Cuba — only about 20 miles from some of its main oil fields, one sympathetic to Iran, if not allied with it. It has deployed diplomacy in other uprisings, and remained on the fence in still others. It is also spending money, pledging $20 billion to help stabilize Bahrain and Oman, which has also faced protests.

In Yemen, Saudi Arabia joined the coalition seeking to ease out President Ali Abdullah Saleh because it thinks the opposition might prove a more reliable, less unruly southern neighbor. But Arab diplomats noted that even the smallest Saudi gestures provided Mr. Saleh with excuses to stay, since he interpreted them as support. This month, for example, the Saudis sent in tanker trucks to help abate a gasoline shortage.

On Syria, an initial statement of support by King Abdullah for President Bashar al-Assad has been followed by silence, along with occasional calls at Friday Prayer for God to support the protesters. That silence reflects a deep ambivalence, analysts said. The ruling Saudi family personally dislikes Mr. Assad — resenting his close ties with Iran and seeing Syria’s hand in the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, a Saudi ally. But they fear his overthrow will unleash sectarian violence without guaranteeing that Iranian influence will be diminished.

In Libya, after helping push through an Arab League request for international intervention, Saudi Arabia sat out and left its neighbors, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to join the military coalition supporting the rebels. It has so far kept its distance publicly from Tunisia as well, although it gave refuge to its ousted president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

There are also suspicions that the kingdom is secretly providing money to extremist groups to hold back changes. Saudi officials deny that, although they concede private money may flow.

In 1952, after toppling the Egyptian king, Gamal Abdel Nasser worked to destabilize all monarchs, inspiring a regicide in Iraq and eventually the overthrow of King Idris of Libya. Saudi Arabia was locked in confrontation with Egypt throughout the 1960s, and it is determined not to relive that period.

“We are back to the 1950s and early 1960s, when the Saudis led the opposition to the revolutions at that time, the revolutions of Arabism,” said Mohammad F. al-Qahtani, a political activist in Riyadh.

Liar, Liar

by Philip Giraldi, source

President Barack Obama’s speech in Indonesia in which he conceded that the United States must do more to establish a good working relationship with many Muslim nations would have ranked as one of the more pathetic performances by an American president in recent years but for the fact that there have been so many awful performances to choose from.  The president’s grammar and syntax were perfect and the speech was cleverly crafted, exactly what we have come to expect.  It was replete with carefully designed pauses, Indonesian words and phrases, and some self deprecating humor, but it was characteristically bloodless and completely tone deaf.  One almost longed to see Bill Clinton choking up and shedding a tear or two. 

Obama’s spin team made a heroic effort to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.  They likened the Indonesia speech to his Cairo offering seventeen months ago, in which he likewise committed his administration to establishing a new, more convivial modality for dealing with Islamic nations.  That speech was received respectfully and even positively in many quarters, but this time no one was fooled.  It’s funny how a year and a half of inaction and even retreat can reshape how someone thinks.  One Indonesian commented afterwards “What will Obama do in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? If we don’t see any progress, what he says is just a speech.”

Obama’s offering was full of the usual bromides, about how respectful he is of Islam and its traditions.  He even touched on Israel-Palestine, not surprisingly blaming both sides for not taking the necessary courageous steps to find peace.  It is a familiar argument for American audiences who are used to hearing that the conflict is bilateral, but did not go down well in Indonesia where the listeners are all too aware of the details of the brutal Israeli occupation.

What Obama should have said was that it has now become clear that Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has no desire for any peace agreement that does not provide for perpetual and absolute Israeli dominance over the Palestinians.  He should have added that he knows that Netanyahu has nothing but contempt for him personally in the wake of the midterm election debacle and he might also observe that his ability to act independently is conditioned by the Israel Lobby so he can do nothing to help the Palestinians achieve statehood or even to recover a measure of dignity under Israeli occupation.  He might admit that he has now been reduced to offering multi-billion dollar bribes of military equipment to Israel just to tempt it to suspend some settlement activity for ninety days.  Obama’s words would not have changed reality on the ground, but at least he would have told the truth for a change and the candor would have been refreshing.

If Obama wants to establish some kind of modus vivendi with the Islamic world he must speak to it in language that it understands and not lie about things that all Muslims know to be true.  And it is also past time that he begins to speak the truth to the American people also.  His administration’s retreat from any confrontation with Israel in an attempt to make a recalcitrant Netanyahu conform even to minimal standards of behavior confirms what all the world already knows:  Israel will act and the United States will follow, even if those actions will inflict grave damage on the American people and on the US national interest.

And what will that mean for the United States?  It means that the decision about going to war for the US is essentially controlled by Israel because Tel Aviv can start a conflict with Iran at any time that will quickly draw Washington in.  Those who think that the White House still is managing the situation are completely naïve.  There is no indication that the Obama administration has warned Israel against bombing Iran because the US has no cards to play, having ruled out exerting any sort of economic or military pressure on Netanyahu. And there should be no doubt that an attack by Israel on an Iranian nuclear facility would trigger Iranian retaliation and immediate calls in Congress and the media to support Tel Aviv, leaving the president no option but to enter the conflict.  A third war in the region would mean goodbye to any American ability to disengage from the other conflicts that are bleeding the US white and would possibly lead to even more dire consequences if neighbors like nuclear armed Pakistan and India somehow enter the fray. 

Bibi Netanyahu surely understands that the cost to the United States in lives and treasure from war with Iran could potentially be catastrophic but it is a price he is willing to pay as his own people and economy would largely be spared, at least initially.  No American leader should tolerate such a situation but, deplorably, those who have spoken out at all on the Middle East have lined up behind the Israelis as if they were part of the United States, or even more esteemed than any of the fifty states. Vice President Joe Biden told the Jewish Federations of North America annual gathering in New Orleans last week that “the ties between our two countries are literally unbreakable” and described how he is “absolutely certain that our support for Israel must continue … forever,” echoing similar statements made by both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.  Biden knows full well that Israeli and US interests do not coincide and his comments amount to political pandering of the worst sort.  It is even more disconcerting to think that he might actually mean what he says.

Meanwhile Steny Hoyer, who calls himself a Zionist and frequently expresses his love for Israel, and has spoken of  “our responsibility to stand by Israel and the Jewish people,” is poised to take over as Minority Whip in the House of Representatives.  On the other side of the aisle, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Eric Cantor are unrelenting advocates of Israel who are about to step into senior positions in the Republican dominated congress.  Cantor recently met privately with Bibi Netanyahu and said the Republican Party would serve “as a check on” the Obama Administration over its policies in the Middle East. Then “He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.” In other words, Cantor was meeting with the leader of a foreign country and promising to do whatever he could to influence and even subvert the foreign policy of his own country.  Think about that one for a minute or two.

And while Cantor, Hoyer, Biden and company are ceding US national security to the Israelis, who actually is calling the shots on shaping American policy?  None other than the redoubtable Dennis Ross, perched in the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region.  Ross, who has been described as Israel’s lawyer, is poison in the very heart of the policy making apparatus. He recently spoke at an AIPAC Conference in Hollywood Florida where he said “Just last week, I participated in the US-Strategic Dialogue, a biannual event that includes a comprehensive exchange of views on regional issues crucial to both the United State and Israel. But more importantly, the Strategic Dialogue is just one of many, ongoing, and high-level exchanges that occur regularly between the United States in Israel. I’m not aware of another country that we engage more regularly on such a wide range of issues. These types of exchanges not only provide opportunities for discussion of ideas on policy, but they also help solidify connections between our two governments. Over the last two years, I have seen four-star generals, intelligence officers, and high-ranking diplomats all develop personal relationships with their Israeli counterparts. Frankly, this degree of coordination is unprecedented. I have participated in these types of discussions for the last 30 years, and they have never been as intense or focused, reflecting the serious cooperation that we have today with Israel. But our commitment to Israel’s security is defined not by talk. It is defined by the kinds of actions and deeds that help make both of our countries safer and stronger in the face of common threats.” 

So if you doubt that the United States is tied hand and foot to Israel in terms of its ability to take independent action in the Middle East, just listen to what Dennis Ross, Joe Biden, and Eric Cantor are saying.  Does it sound like they are articulating policies beneficial to the US?  They are insisting that Americans have to support Israel unquestioningly no matter what it does and are little more than advocates for monsters like Bibi Netanyahu, pure and simple.  The word Quisling comes to mind when one thinks of them and also Hoyer and Ros-Lehtinen.  If their failure to be truly loyal to the country that has nurtured them brings about a new war in which many of their fellow citizens will die, their actions and posturing should be defined by one and all as treason.  If America is to be taken back in a new revolution that will lead to a restoration of the vision of the Founding Fathers it will only take place after the betrayers of our constitution are removed from government, every single one of them.  When American politicians and senior government officials speak of their love of a foreign government that pursues policies inimical to US values and interests they should be disowned by every true patriot and also by every respectable media outlet.  It should be grounds for their immediate removal.

Obama’s man on the Middle East

by Khalil Bendib

The Obama administration’s letter of assurances and incentives to Israel has Dennis Ross written all over it.

by Lamis Andoni, source

The draft letter written by the Obama administration to Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and revealed by David Makovsky on the website of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has Dennis Ross written all over it.

The veteran American negotiator who has championed Israeli security needs while repudiating Palestinian rights for the past two decades reportedly convinced Barack Obama, the US president, that the letter of assurances and incentives was necessary to persuade Israel to extend the settlement freeze that expired at the end of last month.

At first glance, the letter appears to be trying to accommodate the Palestinian demand for a freeze in settlement construction in return for the resumption of stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Strengthening Israel’s hand

But the equation is hugely unbalanced. In exchange for a partial two-month settlement freeze, Israel is offered US endorsement of all of its “security needs” – as defined, of course, by Israel.

Included within this are assurances aimed at stopping the infiltration of weapons into Palestinian territories and the positioning of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley – all of which is consistent with the Israeli vision of a demilitarised Palestinian state. The letter effectively offers to consolidate the integration of Israeli security interests into US national strategy and pledges to engage Arab parties and Israel in discussions on a “regional security architecture”; a convoluted euphemism for an arrangement to address Israel’s need to confront Iran.

Furthermore, the letter promises that after the initial 60-day extension of the freeze, the US would not ask Israel for another – leaving the status of the settlements to be decided only as part of final status negotiations.

The terms are such that they would only serve Israel’s strategic goals and further strengthen the Israeli hand at already asymmetrical negotiations.

Under such conditions, the construction of colonies would continue unabated as soon as the extended freeze expired, leaving Palestinians unable even to raise the issue of Israel’s ongoing land grab. The letter offers Israel what it wants, while effectively setting the stage for the legitimisation of settlement building and the fulfillment of Israeli plans to annex the major settlements as part of a final deal.

No surprises, no secrets

But as damaging as these assurances are to Palestinian interests, they should not come as a surprise. After all it is not the first time that Ross has helped find “a solution” to an impasse in Israeli-Palestinian talks in a way that provides strategic benefits to Israel.

In 1997, during negotiations over the Hebron Protocol, Ross played a crucial role in convincing Netanyahu, who was prime minister then too, to accept a partial withdrawal from the Palestinian town.

He is also said to have written a memo that – for the first time since the 1993 Oslo Accords – stipulated that future Israeli implementation of its obligations under the agreement hinged on Palestinians meeting Israel’s security requirements (as defined by Israel).

During the Camp David talks in 2000, according to his published memoirs, Ross pushed for Israeli “security need” to take top priority while dismissing any discussion of Palestinian rights.

But the US diplomat’s bias in favour of Israel is hardly a secret. Palestinian negotiators have always complained that Ross was bargaining on behalf of Israel, while other Obama aides have more recently accused him of placing Netanyahu’s concerns above all others.

The international law impediment

Ross’ imprint on the letter is testimony to his influence over Obama – an influence that took root long before Ross was moved from his position at the State Department to the White House in the summer of 2009.

He has come to represent continuity in US foreign policy – having held positions under George Bush Snr, Bill Clinton, George Bush Jnr and now Obama. And even when he took a break from these positions, he worked for the influential Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which gave him a forum from which to influence decision makers and to shape media and public perceptions.

WINEP was a perfect fit for Ross as it has become the most influential think tank openly promoting Israeli interests and goals as the basis for discourse on the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Ross, who as an official stays away from public statements, openly articulated his pro-Israeli views in a book he co-authored with fellow WINEP associate David Makovsky, in which he argued that the US should foster a partnership with Israel in its policy towards Iran.

But it was his memoirs that revealed the true extent of his support for Israel and his dismissal of Palestinian rights. For Ross, Palestinians are held hostage to a culture of victimhood that breeds a sense “of entitlement” to land and self-perceived rights without paying attention to “Israeli needs”.

The Orientalist view Ross espouses discards Palestinian rights as a subjective narrative existing only in Palestinian eyes. International law and UN resolutions that affirm Palestinian national rights are, in his view, a cumbersome impediment to finding a solution on the premise of “Israeli needs”; a view reflected in the letter’s promise to veto any UN Security Council resolutions during the one-year negotiating period.

But Ross is not alone within the US establishment in dismissing UN resolutions relating to Israel and Palestine, for US policy in general is based on the belief that Israeli military-imposed facts on the ground should determine the shape of a final solution to the conflict. In other words the party that controls the land determines the parameters for a solution.

Wielding influence

Ross’ blatant bias against the Palestinians was already well known when the Obama administration decided to recruit him as their main advisor on Middle Eastern affairs.

But Ross’ value was not based simply on his knowledge and experience of the region. His initial role was to garner votes for Obama within pro-Israeli Jewish circles.

In June 2008, he was sent to Florida, a swing state, to convince pro-Israeli Jewish voters that Obama was a true friend to Israel. He also gave interviews to Israeli newspapers to placate Israeli fears.

After the elections Ross became the point man on Iran at the state department. A former member of the Obama campaign, visiting the Middle East after the elections, told me that Arabs had no need to worry about Ross because he would not have Obama’s ear as long as he was at the State Department.

But, in the summer of 2009, all that changed when Ross was promoted to the role of special assistant to the president and head of “the region” at the National Security Council. His influence – and that of his former associates at WINEP – can now be clearly detected.

Obama had initially stated that a halt to settlement building was a prerequisite to the resumption of negotiations. In a speech to the UN he even called the settlements illegal. But then WINEP stepped in. Ross’ former associates began a campaign portraying Obama’s statement as a policy error or even a blunder that should be rectified.

In their articles and media appearances WINEP fellows sought to divert attention from the settlement issue and to place the “Iranian threat” at the centre of US policy towards the region.

Obama, meanwhile, was gradually abandoning his position.

Even as Israel agreed to a partial 10-month settlement freeze under US pressure, Ross and Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, were negotiating the very terms that appeared in the letter.

Under the guise of meeting Palestinian demands, the letter aims primarily at repudiating international law and UN resolutions once and for all, while making Israeli “security needs” the main focus of final status talks.

But Ross is no superman and his influence does not represent some kind of Jewish conspiracy. What it does expose is a system that allows him, and other Jewish and non-Jewish officials within the administration, to wield such enormous influence.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.

The Fate of Palestine: Overcoming AIPAC is Not Enough

by LAWRENCE DAVIDSON, source

Two stories have recently appeared, each discussing a different approach to overcoming the influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby that presently has enough clout to substitute its own parochial interests for the national interest. As John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s 2007 book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, demonstrated there is a direct connection between AIPAC’s level of influence in Congress and the White House and the recent disasters that have befallen the U.S. in the Middle East. Indeed, the connection is one of sufficient intensity to have led to the creation in 2008 of a new “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby called J Street. J Street calls for Israel to accept, “borders based on the 1967 line with reciprocally agreed land swaps,” thus allowing for a two state formula settlement. The optimistic view here is that in the relatively near future J Street will become strong enough to displace AIPAC and its hard line “we must keep it all” stance on the Occupied Territories. While this prognosis might be a tad premature, the situation has progressed enough that folks involved in this effort are now discussing tactics and approaches that might speed up AIPAC’s demise. And so, our two stories.

The first story appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on September 26, 2010 and is entitled “Billionaire George Soros Revealed as Mystery J Street Donor.” It is now public information that Mr. Soros sees AIPAC as “too hawkish” and so he and his family have thrown their weight behind the more compromising, “dovish” J Street. They have done so to the tune of 245,000 dollars a year. Soros has in fact been making these contributions since J Street’s founding in 2008. This is certainly not all the money the Washington based lobby obtains per year. J Street has about 10,000 donors and they provide about 11 million dollars annually.

What is important is that a man like George Soros, who is dedicated to using some of his fortune to move the world in what he feels is a progressive direction, has put his money behind the traditional approach to influencing American policy formulation. He appears to accept as a working assumption that interest group politics plays a central role in both domestic and foreign policy making. Thus, if you want to change policy you have to out-lobby the fellow who is helping to shape the one now in place. In the case of J Street this means the organization must not only be able to win the politicians’ allegiance through reasoned argument, but be capable of providing them with enough money to counter any AIPAC effort to unseat them in an election. Soros knows this and his aim is to help J Street achieve this status.

The second story comes in the form of a short essay by the Irish writer Maidhc O’Cathail that appeared in the Salem-News.com. It is entitled “The Truth Will Set U.S. Free: Breaking Israel’s Stranglehold over American Foreign Policy.” O’Cathail quotes Philip Giraldi, who is executive director of the Council for the National Interest (an organization critical of the American-Israel alliance), a former CIA officer and also a contributer to The American Conservative. Giraldi’s position is that overcoming AIPAC “must be done from the bottom up as Israel cannot be challenged in the mainstream media, Congress, and in the White House.” The tactic here is to convince enough American voters that “Israel is and always has been a strategic liability that has done immense damage to the United States and its worldwide interests” so they will be led to demand that the Congress and political parties abandon AIPAC. This has proven anything but easy. According to Jeff Gates, a former counsel for the Senate Committee on Finance, the present lack of transparency on the various sources of lobby money means that “the American public is ignorant of Israel’s all-pervasive influence.”

However, this opaqueness might also be slowly dissipating. A multiplicity of advocacy groups, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have grown up in the last ten years to publicize the brutal policies of the Israelis and U.S. complicity in them. Despite Giraldi’s opinion that challenge in the mainstream media is impossible, there has been movement even in this unlikely arena. For instance, consider the relatively wide coverage of Israel’s recent decision not to extend its settlement freeze and thereby threaten an end to the Obama administration’s efforts at peace talks. So, unlike ten years ago, one now can find articles and op-ed pieces critical of Israel and, by extension, AIPAC as well. And, while they do not yet appear frequently enough to create a tipping point in public awareness they are beginning to contribute to a slow but perceptible shift in public opinion. Even a recent poll conducted by the American Jewish organization, The Israel Project, suggests a steady decline in the number of American citizens who feel that the U.S. must continue to support Israel.

The truth is that the two approaches, one centered on the national capital and the other centered on main street, have to be pursued simultaneously. And, there is now movement at both levels. Yet the pace of change is agonizingly slow. And that fact raises the question of just how much of Palestine will be left when AIPAC’s influence is finally overcome? If the Israelis have their way what will be left is an emaciated Gaza and a rump area of the West Bank. Even though the Obama administration has promoted talks and called, unsuccessfully, for a continued settlement freeze, one suspects that it, and other foreseeable U.S. administrations, would be accepting of such a final outcome. It should be pretty clear to anyone who cares to see, that ruination is the preferred fate for any Middle East country that challenges either the U.S. or Israel. It is the adage “bomb them back to the stone age” made real. If you do not believe that, just ask an Iraqi refugee about what is left of their homeland now that the Americans have redone the landscape. Ask someone familiar with the present state of affairs in Gaza as well as the West Bank. Perpetual weakness and poverty is the fait accompli that Israel has in mind for Palestine on the day when AIPAC goes by the board. On that day they plan to have taken all that they desire and so even if Washington is persuaded to change its policies, it will no longer matter in Jerusalem.

What does all this mean for those involved in the fight against AIPAC’s influence in American foreign affairs? It means that the goal of displacing the Israel lobby is really not sufficient. The J Street people and those who are presently campaigning at the grass roots have argue the fate of U.S. national interests in broader terms.

It must be made clear that a rejuvenation of American interests in the Middle East and Muslim world is linked much more directly to the fate of Palestine than to Israel. If any final settlement fails to insure the creation of a viable Palestinian state, the U.S. will be blamed and our interests will continue to suffer whether we are still allied to Israel or not. It must be made clear that, as an advocate for the destruction of Palestine, AIPAC advocates the destruction of U.S. interests as well.

Why is this so? This is the way it is because the issue of justice is first and foremost in the minds of a billion Muslims and that at the core of this issue stands Palestine (and not head scarfs). If U.S. interests are to be forwarded in the lands with Muslim majorities, then the question of Palestine must be faced honestly and objectively. This simply cannot happen as long as a Zionist lobby has the power to monopolize policy formulation. The problem is not Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran. The problem is Israel and its American agents. They are the ones complicit in past disastrous policy decisions and they are the ones pushing for equally disastrous future ones.

In the face of these truths, J Street presently operates as if it is afraid of its own shadow. If J Street feels it cannot directly advocate for justice for Palestinians, then it should do so indirectly. That is, the organization should get specific about the fact that the Israel AIPAC so strongly defends is in the hands of leaders who represent a harshly anti-American ethic. Men like Avigdor Lieberman and the leaders of the Shas party are racists who want to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from as much territory as they can. For these Israeli leaders this is not a matter of security, it is a matter of religious purity. This is an utterly un-American goal. This has to be said loudly to both the American public and the Congress.

So you see that as we move ahead we must meld the liberation of the United States from AIPAC’s wholly negative influence with the revival of U.S. national interests in the broader Middle East and Muslim world, and that in turn with the viable future of Palestine. All three must be promoted as an interlinked package. If they are not, Washington will certainly some day be free of AIPAC, but Palestine will left under the pernicious shadow of Israel. For this we will always be blamed and our interests will always suffer.

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RB comment: I don’t think this J street is that much different than AIPAC. For American politics to be clear of any influences such lobbies no matter their views should not have such power to affect politics and politicians in the US. How is possible that the US is called a democracy yet the people’s vote doesn’t count? Whoever comes to the Whitehouse is at the mercy of these lobbies.

Petraeus Orders US to Expand Secret Military Acts in the Mideast!

Al Manar

25/05/2010 Again and again, more evidences reveal the secret schemes the US is preparing for the Middle East region under the pretext of saving and securing it. But a report published by The New York Times newspaper proves the US has no good intention. It says that the top American commander in the Middle East Gen. David H. Petraeus has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt “militant groups” or counter “threats” in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region as well as to pave the ground for any future US military attack, according to defense officials and military documents.  
 
The secret directive, signed in September by Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both “friendly and hostile nations” in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear program escalate.
 
“While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term,” officials said. Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al-Qaeda and other “militant groups”, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, the document said.
 
In broadening its secret activities, the United States military has also sought in recent years to break its dependence on the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies for information in countries without a significant American troop presence, the NYT report said.
 
General Petraeus’s order is meant for small teams of American troops to fill intelligence gaps about “terror organizations” and other “threats” in the Middle East and beyond, especially emerging groups plotting attacks against the United States, it added.
 
US RELATIONS WITH “FRIENDLY” GOVERNMENTS MAY DAMAGE
 
But some Pentagon officials worry that the expanded role carries risks. “The authorized activities could strain relationships with friendly governments like Saudi Arabia or Yemen — which might allow the operations but be loath to acknowledge their cooperation — or incite the anger of hostile nations like Iran and Syria. Many in the military are also concerned that as American troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees.”
 
PREPARING FOR IRAN ATTACK!
 
The document, a copy of which was viewed by The New York Times, provides few details about continuing missions or intelligence-gathering operations.
 
Several government officials who described the impetus for the order would speak only on condition of anonymity because the document is classified. Spokesmen for the White House and the Pentagon declined to comment for this article. The Times, responding to concerns about troop safety raised by an official at United States Central Command, the military headquarters run by General Petraeus, withheld some details about how troops could be deployed in certain countries.
 
The seven-page directive appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the country’s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive. “The Obama administration insists that for the moment, it is committed to penalizing Iran for its nuclear activities only with diplomatic and economic sanctions. Nevertheless, the Pentagon has to draw up detailed war plans to be prepared in advance, in the event that President Obama ever authorizes a strike.”
 
“The Defense Department can’t be caught flat-footed,” said one Pentagon official with knowledge of General Petraeus’s order.
 
The directive, the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, signed Sept. 30, may also have helped lay a foundation for the surge of American military activity in Yemen that began three months later.
 
Special Operations troops began working with Yemen’s military to try to dismantle Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The Pentagon has also carried out missile strikes from Navy ships into suspected militant hideouts and plans to spend more than $155 million equipping Yemeni troops with armored vehicles, helicopters and small arms.
 
Officials said that many top commanders, General Petraeus among them, have advocated an expansive interpretation of the military’s role around the world, arguing that troops need to operate beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
The order, which an official said was drafted in close coordination with Adm. Eric T. Olson, the officer in charge of the United States Special Operations Command, calls for clandestine activities that “cannot or will not be accomplished” by conventional military operations or “interagency activities,” a reference to American spy agencies.
 
While the C.I.A. and the Pentagon have often been at odds over expansion of clandestine military activity, most recently over intelligence gathering by Pentagon contractors in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there does not appear to have been a significant dispute over the September order, the report indicated.
 
A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to confirm the existence of General Petraeus’s order, but said that the spy agency and the Pentagon had a “close relationship” and generally coordinate operations in the field. “There’s more than enough work to go around,” said the spokesman, Paul Gimigliano. “The real key is coordination. That typically works well, and if problems arise, they get settled.”
 
During the Bush administration, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld endorsed clandestine military operations, arguing that Special Operations troops could be as effective as traditional spies, if not more so.
 
Unlike covert actions undertaken by the C.I.A., such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress, although Pentagon officials have said that any significant ventures are cleared through the National Security Council. Special Operations troops have already been sent into a number of countries to carry out reconnaissance missions, including operations to gather intelligence about airstrips and bridges, the NYT analyzed.
 
A Pentagon order that year gave the military authority for offensive strikes in more than a dozen countries, and Special Operations troops carried them out in Syria, Pakistan and Somalia. And now, the same view is repeated by General Petraeus’s September order but with a concealed if not obvious aims.

“Israel” spied on Iran, Syria from secret Turkish base

Sat, 30 Jan 2010, Press TV

Revelations of a secret Israeli spy base, which was allegedly set up in Ankara to gather classified information on Iran and Syria, has dragged Tel Aviv into a new spy scandal.

Sources in Turkey’s ruling party told Russia’s Mignews that Israeli spy agents ran an advanced electronic monitoring station from the Ankara military headquarters to keep tabs on communication networks in Iran and Syria.

According to the sources who were speaking on condition of anonymity, the Signals Intelligence station was solely managed by Israeli intelligence personnel and had become off-limits for members of the Turkish government.

Israeli military sources have refused to comment on the revelations, which are likely to spark an outcry in Turkey, now that they have been leaked to newspapers and media outlets.

This is not the first time Israel finds itself at the centre of a major spy scandal.

For years Israeli politicians have masterminded a wave of undercover operations and terror plots in numerous countries, including Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Switzerland, and the US.

However, much of Israel’s espionage operations are focused on the Tehran government, largely because of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities, which is seen by Israel as a mortal threat.

Israel, which is reported to have an arsenal of 200 nuclear warheads itself, accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons and routinely threatens to reduce the country’s enrichment sites to rubble.

This is while Iran, unlike Israel, is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has opened its enrichment facilities to UN inspection.

In mid-2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres paid a visit to Azerbaijan, one of Iran’s northern neighbors, and reportedly managed to persuade the Baku government into signing an unspecified “document” on the construction of a plant in Azerbaijan to manufacture spyware, satellite projects and pilotless military vehicles.

Israeli daily Haaretz quoted former Israeli Ambassador to Baku Arthur Lenk as saying that the deal got through after four years of negotiations.

US analysts believe Israel, having failed to win US support for a military attack on Iran, is now seeking to derail Iran’s uranium enrichment program by other means.

“With cooperation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key assets involved in the nuclear program and the sabotaging of the Iranian nuclear supply chain,” said Reva Bhalla, director of analysis with Strategic Forecasting also known as Stratfor, a Texas-based private intelligence company with close links to the US security establishment.

Bhalla claims that Israeli operatives target Iranian nuclear scientists as part of efforts to intimidate Iranians and prevent them from continuing enrichment work. She goes as far as saying that there was “strong intelligence” that one of Iran’s leading nuclear physicists, Ardeshir Hassanpour, was killed by the Mossad in January 2007.

Dr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, another Iranian nuclear scientist, is also believed to be assassinated by Israel’s Mossad spy agency in the Iranian capital, Tehran on January 12.

Broken Pledges:Obama’s Mid-East Mess

{Obama's slogans!} by Emad Hajaj-Al Ghad newspaper-Jordan

By FRANKLIN LAMB, counter punch

On November 4, 2009, the 30th anniversary of the student takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini gave a speech which is being much discussed in Washington DC.

The source of some of the angst at the While House and the State Department according to Congressional sources was that “the speech suggests that the Iranian government may be doing what it’s done many times over the past seven years. Which is to say that Iran may appear to agree, then hedge, then disagree, then appear to agree again somewhat, then pull back again, then ask for more time to consider details of the proposal, then finally present a counter-proposal, then say it wants cooperation but has serious doubts about the reliability of the other side and then say it will never give up on its rights, and on and on its goes.”

While omitting Iran’s take on recent events, some on Capitol Hill wondered if Iran’s Wali al Fique (supreme leader) was playing to his base or was using the speech to communicate directly and seriously with the Obama administration. Presumably he was doing both.

Aytollalh’s Khameni’s words were pointed and clear. He declared that Tehran may reject any talks backed by Washington because it is not to be trusted. He acknowledged that the US wanted to negotiate with Tehran “but its talks were full of threats … Every time they have a smile on their face, they are hiding a dagger behind their back. … Iran will not be fooled by the superficial conciliatory tone of the United States…This new American president repeatedly sent us oral and written messages to come and change the page — to come and cooperate in solving the problems of the world. We said we will not pre-judge. We will see their action and see what they do about the change…But in the past eight months what we have seen is contradictory to what they say. They are telling us to negotiate, but alongside the negotiation there is a threat that if the negotiation does not bear the desired results, then we will do this and we will do that…We do not want any negotiations, the result of which is pre-determined by the United States,” he said, adding that Tehran will always pursue its “scientific and technological rights and freedom,” and does not want a “sheep and wolf relation” with those with “ill-intentions” against Iran.

“Why don’t the Iranians trust us on the nuclear issue?” asked a staff member the House Foreign Affairs committee, who conceded he had not read the widely reported speech but he added that “ Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on 11/2/09 in Marrakech that the U.N. nuclear deal could not be altered so it is unclear what is left to negotiate about.”

Some American analysts have argued that Iran is quite right to be suspicious of US intensions and have identified a pattern of recent events that undermine the credibility of the Obama administration since the president’s June “open hand-clenched fist” speech in Cairo. A pattern that Iran’s leadership no doubt analyzes as it recalls, and resolves not to continue the half century of Arab-Muslim gullibility when it comes to American and Western promises and inducements.

Some recent examples come to mind:

• Clinton’s flip-flop on US demands for an Israeli settlement freeze and her throwing in the towel on the Obama administration assertion that Zionist settlement construction must stop. Her “Israel’s has made unprecedented concessions” statement was an obscenity to the ears of Palestinians and to much of the world including Iran. And it led to the 11/05/09 announcement by Mahmoud Abass that he would not seek reelection as President of the Palestinian Authority. All the White House could do was send its spokesman, Robert Gibbs, to the press room to praise Abass as a “true partner for the United States and Israel.”

• The October 21, 2009, “Juniper Cobra 10” launching of the largest ever joint US-Israel military maneuvers employing more than 1000 military personnel and 17 U.S. warships clearly aimed at threatening Iran which is to be targeted by Arrow, Patriot and Aegis missiles in case of conflict. This was coupled by the obtuse comment of a US naval commander that the US navy will defend Israeli occupied Haifa as if it were San Diego.

• The Obama administration has conspicuously refused to put the “Jundallah” (God’s soldiers) group on the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations while keeping Lebanon’s Waad and Jihad al Binna constructions companies on the T list alongside Lebanon’s senior Shia cleric, Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.

• In May 2009, “Jundallah” claimed responsibility for the killing of civilians in a mosque in Zahedan, the provincial capital of Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province. Last month, a Jundallah suicide bomber blew himself up at an Iran-supported gathering which was meant to foster closer community relations between Sunnis and Shi’ites in the area. What confidence can Iran’s leaders have in an Obama administration that continues the Bush-Cheney never-ending war on terror with its wrongheaded logic of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend?

• What message does this week’s House Congressional Resolution on the Goldstone Report send to Tehran and the World?

By a margin of 344-36, the US House of Representative quickly passed HR 867, an Israeli lobby resolution, crafted by AIPAC and staff members of Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that condemned the UN Goldstone report which has now been endorsed by the UN General Assembly with a vote of 114 to 18. The Goldstone Report now moves to the UN Security Council and perhaps the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

But according to the US House of Representatives and the vicious attack by the Anti-Defamation League hate group and its Director, Abe Foxman, the Report on wars crimes committed by Israel and Hamas is “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.” Many in Congress, who are strong advocates of an American Israel-centric foreign policy, vie with one another to demonstrate obeisance to Israel, not America. They urged President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton “to strongly and unequivocally oppose any discussion of the report or action on its findings in any international setting”, despite the fact that Judge Goldstone exposed many errors in Congressional criticism of the UN Report.

Ignoring Goldstone’s rebuttal to Israeli lobby attacks on the UN Report, Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer proclaimed:”I think the UN Goldstone report is unbalanced, and unfair, and inaccurate,” yet he refused to offer any facts to support his broadside attack while adding that “the UN is totally biased against Israel, which is as careful a government as there is in terms of prosecuting its own defense officials.” Hoyer and his colleagues apparently do not credit the work of B’tselem, who the day before the rushed passage of HR 867 documented that as of 11/04/09 not one Israeli government investigation has been opened regarding Israel’s policy during “Cast Lead” with respect to the selection of targets, the open-fire orders given to soldiers, the legality of the weapons used, the balance between injury to civilians and military advantage.

Additionally, more than half of 23 cases of Palestinians being killed while holding white flags and all the cases where Gazans were used as human shields were exposed by B’tselem not the Israeli military, whose position, like Hoyer and Ros-Lehtinen, is that these crimes did not happen despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Hoyer and Ros-Lehtinen are pillars of the fake US Congressional Human Rights Caucus, founded in l983 which in its quarter century of self congratulatory investigations of Human Rights abuses has yet to find a single human rights abuse by Israel, irrespective of any murders, slaughtering of innocents, home demolitions, political incarcerations, religious bigotry, illegal use of American weapons, illegal siege of Gaza, and serial invasions of Lebanon, and the continuing theft of Syria’s Golan heights. Over the past few years the CHRC has become an Iran-bashing forum for all manner of Zionist zealots and kooks spreading falsehoods and defamations against Islam and the Islamic Republic.

According to Ros-Lehtinen, “The Goldstone Report illustrates the anti-freedom, anti-Israel bias which deeply pervades the UN system, and it does not deserve consideration or legitimacy from responsible nations. Israel took every reasonable measure to minimize the risk of civilian casualties. It is clear that Israel had every right and duty to defend its citizens from the onslaught of rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas and other militants in Gaza,”

Both Hoyer and Ros-Lehtinen could have been deterred by the White House from creating this latest anti-Arab, anti-Islam House Resolution but they were given a green light by the Obama administration to push their screed. Obama joined in condemning the Goldstones Report and not much appears to be left of his pledge to break from the past and open a new chapter of civility with Iran.

Human Rights Watch which had urged lawmakers not to back the resolution, said that “Instead of denouncing the Goldstone report, the US Congress should urge Israel and Hamas to break the cycle of abuse and impunity, which for too long has fueled hatred and hindered efforts at peace.”

One can hardly expect Iran to believe that these US policy makers should be taken seriously or have any interest to advance their country’s interests rather than Israel’s. Questions of credibility rest more at the door of Barack Obama’s White House than at Iran’s Shura and Majlis.

U.S. Mid-East policy clearly in disarray, from Iran to Palestine. Time is running out if Obama’s claimed vision of dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and equality does not collapse into complete derision and caricature.

Franklin Lamb is Director of the Washington DC-Beirut Lebanon based Sabra Shatila Foundation.

Offering the carrot: New US thinking-Obama’s Nowruz Message

Obama’s Nowruz Message

Seriously we weren’t born yesterday, contrary to what some may think, we know the basics of US policy does not change but rather its tactics do. Bush and Cheney’s “war on terror” and “axis of evil” did not succeed to further and improve the conditions of US interest so here comes Obama with the new tactic.

We want our rights nothing more and to leave us be. If the US and the Zionists have a new plan so does the ones who opposite it in the region as you will read in the article below I don’t think Kerry’s thinking tank took into consideration the tactics of this opposition force. Injustice never prevails…

by Azmi Bishara analyses the direction of Washington’s diplomatic offensive across the region, Al Ahram Weekly

We had thought that the train of events from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon to its invasion of Gaza, the impression these events created in people’s minds and the growing disillusionment with forces favouring the current settlement process offered sufficient inspiration and impetus to revise official Arab approaches to that process. However, one remains compelled to wonder just how prepared the forces opposed to this approach are to seize the historic opportunity to put an end to that process, rather than to succumb to the current drive to contain them. After all, the US and its allies in the East and West are haunted by this very spectre — the fear of losing the settlement legacy — for which reason they have been waging a sustained diplomatic assault on the region since the Sharm El-Sheikh conference on the reconstruction of Gaza.

The previous US administration had come to the conclusion that the Palestinian leadership, alone, was incapable of reaching a permanent deal with Israel on Israeli conditions, or of keeping the internal Palestinian situation under control. It therefore encouraged its Arab allies to play a more active and determined role in supporting the current negotiating process, strengthening the PA security agencies and countering the resistance in Palestine and elsewhere. Although the allies did as asked, in Annapolis and later, Washington did not take their interests into account. Instead it drove them into a state of permanent self-defence in the face of their own public opinion. Take, for example, their stance during the war on Lebanon in 2006, their incomprehensible boycott of the Damascus summit in March 2008, their complicity in the siege on Gaza, and their position during the summit on Gaza in Doha. To every season its men and its governments: in these regimes there emerged politicians, intellectuals and media figures of the sort that are ready to take part in the “struggle” to resist the resistance, alongside Israel and the US. Of course, the structure and culture of these regimes and their adherents is totally at odds with the concept of resistance and its corollaries of self-sacrifice and risk. They are not constructed to struggle, whether for themselves or for the US and Israel. This is borne out by the failure of the coup against the national unity government and the elected legislative majority in Gaza and in Beirut in March 2008. It is this difference that distinguishes them, for example, from rightwing Lebanese forces of the past. These were fascist forces engaged in a “struggle” against the Palestinian resistance, sectarian militias prepared not only to fight and commit massacres, like the current anti-resistance forces, but also to die for the sake of a sectarian cause, as did fascist forces in Italy, and in Spain during the Spanish civil war in the 1930s. Such dedication is no more. It has been replaced by a type of commitment that has no compunction when it comes to committing crimes but speaks the language of rent and deference to money and material gain. In the latest phase of dialogue and containment on which the Obama administration has embarked these forces, too, find themselves in crisis.

***
The new US administration has stated repeatedly that it views the region from a perspective of Israeli security when it comes to Iran and uranium enrichment, as well as to resistance against Israeli occupation. It believes that Israel’s right to security is not connected with ending the occupation, that it has the right to be an occupying power and at the same time be safe and that it is the Arabs’ duty to sit quietly in their camps, under the conditions of the occupation and the economic boycott, watch the news bulletins on negotiations and rejoice at the Mitchell appointment.

The new administration has also decided that the PA proved itself by keeping the security situation in the West Bank under control during the Gaza crisis. Israel thinks likewise, regarding this as its first real harvest from the Oslo process, a vindication of its earlier claims that Arafat was never serious about security coordination. The nature of the Palestinian leadership has, indeed, changed since the assassination of Arafat. The nature and creed of the PA and the level of coordination of its agencies has changed since Israel stopped being the enemy and became a true partner. In US and Israeli eyes, this type of PA merits support. However, such support stops way short of meeting the demands of the Palestinian people and remains confined to financial and security support, which is what is meant by the term “capacity building”.
The new administration in Washington maintains that support for the PA leadership goes hand in hand with weakening the resistance axis. This has conditions:

– Taking the interests of subordinate Arab states into account.

– Holding talks with Iran to convince it to halt uranium refinement activities while seriously hinting at sanctions before resorting to the military option. This requires building an Arab-Israeli front against Iran which, in turn, requires talking with those Arab countries that “fall under Iranian influence” and, perhaps, taking these countries’ interests into account to a level worked out beforehand.

– In order to identify the interests of these countries within the framework of a cooperative arrangement against Iran for the sake of Israel and to resolve the Palestinian problem comprehensively a new regional roadmap must be drawn up.

– This regional roadmap would support and fortify the already existing Palestinian “roadmap” but it would be much broader and comprehensive, taking into account the interests of countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria in exchange, obviously, for abandoning Iran, and the resistance movements in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq (with special consideration paid to the existing reality in Lebanon).

The region can thus expect a new “roadmap” for years to come, whether or not it appears in text form or under this title. This is where Washington’s actions are meant to lead us, not to a settlement, permanent or otherwise, or to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This is what will keep us occupied for a long time unless something momentous intervenes, such as a resurgence of the resistance or another war.

***
In order to flesh out the hypothesis outlined above I will turn to a critical discussion of the lecture delivered by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry at the Saban Centre of the Brookings Institute on 4 March 2009. Senator Kerry is a former presidential candidate and a leading Democratic Party figure who came out early in favour of Barack Obama. His lecture followed a recent visit to the region, covering Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. By way of introduction, I will say that the new administration in Washington has taken on board the conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton committee, supported by the Defense Secretary Bill Gates, which is precisely why the Obama administration kept him on in this capacity. The US establishment has absorbed everything that needed to be deduced from the failure of the war policy that the Bush-Cheney administration pursued throughout Bush’s two terms, which is why that establishment backed Obama. Let us turn now to Kerry’s conclusions following his visit to the region.

In his opening remarks Kerry welcomed the election of Obama as an extraordinary chance to signal a new approach to the region because of his pragmatism and “willingness to listen and lead”. He pauses to recount the “emotional” impact of the visit, which effects are presented with carefully calculated selectivity. He felt compassion for the suffering of the settlement village of Sderot over the past eight years and also “deeply moved” by the sight of “little Palestinian girls playing in the rubble” where once an American school stood. (I must admit I have a problem with liberals who want to show how fair and even-handed they are. They make the victims look nice when they want to support some of them and a little girl playing in the ruins of a bombarded American school serves the purpose admirably. As for the occupying power, it is taken for granted in their camp that it is the real victim for perpetuity.). He then proceeds to enumerate four causes for hope, in spite of the election of Netanyahu and all the wars. As we shall see, he does not hope for a solution but he is very optimistic about reaching a new “roadmap”.

The first cause is a “tectonic shift in Middle East geopolitics”.

“The rise of Iran has created an unprecedented willingness among the moderate Arab nations to work with Israel. This re-alignment can help lay the groundwork for progress towards peace.”

Otherwise read, strategic cooperation between the Arabs and Israel precedes peace, which begs the question as to why Israel would need to work towards a solution with the Arabs when it is already cooperating strategically with them against a common enemy.

Second, he says, “the Arab Peace Initiative has emerged as the basis on which to build a Regional Road Map that enlists moderate Arab nations to play a more active role in peacemaking”.

Third, reiterating what every mid-level Israeli Labour Party activist has said and Olmert himself stated in his farewell interview with Yediot Aharanot of 13 October 2008, Kerry holds that “the outlines of a final status agreement are in fact clearer than ever”. In his opinion, the challenge is how to get there and his answer is “to move simultaneously on capacity-building in the West Bank and final status talks”. One can fail but notice that as clear as the outlines of a final status agreement are said to be, Kerry does not venture to spell them out. This is largely because to him the road to get there is what counts. Back to the process is everything, the goal nothing. Life is one never ending negotiation.

The fourth cause was the election of Obama. His administration presents an opportunity for “charting a new path that will empower moderates on all sides who have been lacking political cover and losing political ground”. This was intended as a criticism of the Bush administration which showed no appreciation for the particular circumstances and interests of the Arab “moderates” and failed to provide them sufficient support, thereby keeping them under constant pressure and in perpetual conflict with their political environment.

Somehow the Arab position has done a 360 degree turn. There was a time when the Arab nationalist position held that to separate the Palestinian cause from its Arab hinterland was to collude with designs against the cause. The cause was, in fact, severed from its greater Arab nationalist dimension in Camp David, and even more so in Oslo; however, the Palestinian leadership was incapable of reaching a solution with Israel. Then suddenly it was realised that the cause would have to be restored to its regional dimensions, not because of pressures from Arab nationalism but because Arab nationalism no longer presented a threat, and also because the official Arab order had long since abandoned any Arab nationalist dimension to the Palestinian cause. Now that is a complete reversal. This is why Kerry can be so confident in his assertion that the Palestinian cause was a regional problem that needed to be handled in a plan that covered other regional influential issues, contrary to the customary tactic of dealing with these issues separately. The approach is possible in Kerry’s view because, “Whereas once the Arab world voted unanimously for the three no’s — no dialogue with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no peace with Israel — there are now three very different no’s which dominate many discussions in the region: no Iranian nukes, no Iranian meddling, and no Iranian hegemony”. Then he adds, quite explicitly, that because of this perceived common threat, the moderate Arab states and Israel “are now cooperating in ways that were unimaginable just a couple of years ago”.

Kerry goes on to say that the Bush administration drew many red lines that it could not enforce (he was referring to that administration’s prohibitions against talking with Iran and Syria, among others). The Obama administration would change that. It would focus on what can be done and leave side issues alone. The regional aim is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms. Therefore, without foregoing the military option, we must move beyond the old red lines. According to the senator this entails talking with Iran about mutual interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and bringing Iran back into the international fold with recognition of its regional role in exchange for halting uranium refinement activities. There would also be talks with Syria, with the purpose of isolating and weakening Iran and its instruments such as Hezbollah. China and Russia would naturally be asked to help, though Kerry does not spell out how and what the US would have to pay in return. Russia has demands and interests extending from the Baltic in the north to Serbia in the south, and around the Caspian and Black Seas. China has an equally vast scope of interests. Would the US alienate and sacrifice the interests of its other allies in the world in order to please Russia and China, and all this in order to isolate and bring Iran to heel for the sake of Israel? Kerry did not bother following through on the questions his proposals beg.

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Kerry supports dialogue with Syria and believes its goals realistic. Syria has negotiated with Israel before, in the face of Tehran’s objections, he observes. Of course Syria will try to “play both sides of the fence for as long as it can” but ultimately “I think that President Assad understands that, as a secular Arab country with a Sunni majority population, Syria’s long-term interests lie not with Iran but with its Sunni neighbours and the West”.

But if this is where Syrian interests lay what has been keeping it from this realisation for so long? Could it be that Kerry had not made it as plain to Damascus as his lesson to it on the Syrian demographic composition? Or could it be that there is a meeting between Syrian national security and the concept of Arab national security that the policies of the US, Israel and their Arab allies helped enhance? That question too is left unanswered. But this is why the US has not opposed the attempt on the part of its Arab allies to embrace Syria and avoid angering it.

However, this is not enough. There are Syrian and Arab demands and interests that the US and Israel lack the flexibility to meet. But Syria apparently will be glad just to talk. It will play the game because it has a political and economic interest in breaking the blockade against it. Of course, there might be some among Syria’s ruling elite, though not yet in the highest decision making echelons, who have more to gain from dialogue. Kerry is aware of this, which is why he stressed linking Syria to the Western economy.
“How do we begin?” Kerry asks midway through his speech. The starting point is to encourage the Arabs to adhere to the Arab Peace Initiative which “bold step never received the focus it deserved when the Saudi King Abdallah proposed it in 2002”.

He sums up this initiative as essentially based on the formula of land in exchange for Arab recognition and normalisation with Israel. However, like Israel he still gives normalisation precedence over peace. For example, although there is the already existing Quartet “roadmap” for the Palestinian track, there is a need for a “regional roadmap” that will “require a sustained multilateral effort like the one that followed the first Madrid Conference in 1991”.

It is odd how everyone likes to recall that burst of activity, even though it brought the Arabs no closer to the solution of their demands. The “moderates” will also, according to Kerry’s vision, be expected to pressure Hamas into halting missile fire from Gaza and agreeing to a national unity government that conforms to the Quartet’s set conditions. In addition, Egypt has the task of stopping arms smuggling across its borders while Jordan will continue to train PA security agencies.

The only measure that Kerry offers the Arab allies in exchange for everything they are expected to do is to demonstrate “with actions rather than words, that we are serious about Israel freezing settlement activity in the West Bank”. At least, for once, there is some recognition that to all previous US administrations the position that settlement activity is an obstacle to peace was, indeed, mere words.

Perhaps the Kerry vision, as presented in his Saban Centre lecture, offers some insight into the current American diplomatic offensive in the region and some of the current Arab reconciliation movements. However, this leads us back to the question we asked at the beginning of this article. What are the supporters of a reconsideration of the entire settlement process doing at this moment? Do they have a strategy to counter the US diplomatic offensive? Until very recently conditions were favourable to them rather than to the pro-settlement process forces.