Spy vs. Spy, Israel vs. America

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Dark Side of the “Special Relationship”

By Justin Raimondo, http://intifada-palestine.com/

A silent battle has been raging right under our noses, a fierce underground struggle pitting the U.S. against one of its closest allies. For all its newsworthiness, the media has barely noticed the story — except when it surfaces, briefly, like a giant fin jutting above the waves. The aggressor in this war is the state of Israel, with the U.S., its sponsor and protector, playing defense. This is the dark side of the “special relationship” — a battle of spy vs. spy.

Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard — now serving a life sentence — stole secrets so vital that an attempt by the Israelis to get him pardoned was blocked by a massive protest from the intelligence and defense communities. Bill Clinton wanted to trade Pollard for Israeli concessions in the ongoing “peace process,” and he was only prevented from doing so by a threat of mass resignations by the top leadership of the intelligence community.

The reason for their intransigence: among the material Pollard had been asked by his Israeli handlers to steal was the U.S. attack plan against the Soviet Union. According to Seymour Hersh, then-CIA director Bill Casey claimed Tel Aviv handed over the information to Moscow in exchange for relaxation of travel restrictions on Soviet Jews, who were then allowed to emigrate to Israel.

The Pollard case is emblematic — but it was just the beginning of a years-long effort by U.S. counterintelligence to rid themselves of the Israeli incubus. Law enforcement was — and presumably still is — convinced Pollard was very far from alone, and that a highly placed “mole” had provided him with key information. In his quest to procure very specific information, Pollard knew precisely which documents to look for — knowledge he couldn’t access without help from someone very high in government circles.

In addition, the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted a phone conversation between an Israeli intelligence officer and his boss in Tel Aviv, during which they discussed how to get hold of a letter by then-secretary of state Warren Christopher to Yasser Arafat. The Washington spy suggested they use “Mega,” but his boss demurred: “This is not something we use Mega for,” he averred.

The search for Mega and his underlings continues to this day, as U.S. counterintelligence attempts to rip up what appears to be a vast Israeli spy operation by its very deep roots. That’s why they went after Ben Ami Kadish, who handed over U.S. secrets to Tel Aviv and shared a handler with Pollard, and why they indicted Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two top officials of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group. That’s why they were listening on the other end as Jane Harman promised an Israeli agent to intervene in the Rosen-Weissman case. And now a new front has been opened up in this subterranean war with the arrest of Stewart David Nozette, a top U.S. scientist who worked for the Pentagon, had access to the most closely guarded nuclear secrets, and was the lead scientist in the search for water on the moon.

Nozette’s case is interesting because of his impressive resume: he held top positions with the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and NASA, and he served on the White House National Space Council under George H.W. Bush. From 1989 until March 2006, he held “Q” clearance, which means he had access to “critical nuclear weapon design information” and vital information concerning 20 “special access programs” — secrets only a very few top government officials had knowledge of.

In other words, this wasn’t just some mid-level schmuck who wanted to sell out his country for cash: he was one of the big boys — the principal author of the Clementine biostatic radar experiment, which allowed U.S. scientists to discover water on the moon — a kind of J. Robert Oppenheimer figure, whose singular contributions to the U.S. space program and its military applications granted him security clearances available to a very select few.

The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint [.pdf] alleging espionage is terse, vague in parts, and brimming with implication. Taking their cues from the Department of Justice press release, most news reports state, “The complaint does not allege that the government of Israel or anyone acting on its behalf committed any offense under U.S. laws,” leaving out the last three words in the DOJ’s sentence: “in this case.”

In this particular case, it’s true, prosecutors are going after Nozette for violations that occurred while they were reeling him in, with a federal agent pretending to be a Mossad officer offering him money (not very much, by the way) in exchange for secrets. The real question, however, is what caused them to zero in on Nozette? A Washington Times piece cites Kenneth Piernick, a former senior FBI agent, who opined:

He must have made some kind of attempt, which triggered the FBI’s interest in him. They cut in between him and whoever he was trying to work with and posed as an intelligence officer, agent, or courier to handle the issue, and then when he delivered what he intended to deliver to that person, his contact was likely an undercover FBI agent or [someone from] another U.S. intelligence service.

Yet Nozette may have made more than a mere “attempt.” The affidavit alleges that, from 1998 to 2008, he served as a consultant to “an aerospace company wholly owned by the government of Israel,” during which time “approximately once a month representatives of the aerospace company proposed questions, or taskings, to Nozette.” He answered these questions, and, in return, received regular payments totaling $250,000.

This indicates the Feds had been on to Nozette for quite some time, and with good cause. The affidavit also notes that, at the beginning of this year, he traveled to “a different foreign country” in possession of two computer “thumb” drives, which seemed to have mysteriously disappeared upon his return some three weeks later. What was on the drives — and who were the recipients?

In 2007, federal authorities raided the offices of Nozette’s nonprofit company, the Alliance for Competitive Technology (ACT), purportedly because ACT, having procured several lucrative government contracts, had defrauded the federal government by overcharging. The affidavit cites an anonymous colleague of Nozette who recalled the scientist said that if the U.S. government ever tried to put him in jail he would go to Israel or another foreign country and “tell them everything” he knows.

Perhaps the real reason for the raid, however, had to do with the FBI’s growing suspicion — if not certainty — he was funneling U.S. secrets to Tel Aviv. ACT is a curious creation, a “nonprofit” group that nevertheless generated over half a million dollars last year according to documents filed with the IRS, with over $150,000 in salary and benefits paid out to Nozette. But it wasn’t just about money. ACT’s mission statement reads like a spy’s dream come true:

“The Alliance for Competitive Technology has been created to serve the national and public interest by conducting scientific research and educational activities aimed at expanding the utilization of National and Government Laboratory resources. The National Laboratories possess significant technology, technologists, and resources, of great potential value to growing U.S. industrial organizations, both small and large. Recent changes in national policy (the Stevenson-Wydler Act of 1986 and the NASA Technology Utilization Program) have sanctioned the pursuit of technology transfer from these organizations. However, the capabilities and resources present in National Laboratories are often difficult to access by small and medium sized organizations with limited resources. ACT will research the best mechanisms to facilitate this transfer through focused research on technology transfer mechanisms, and educational and instructive programs on technology transfer from National Laboratories. In addition, ACT will enable U.S. organizations to utilize the resources of National Laboratories through existing established mechanisms (e.g., the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Technology Affiliates Program). Transfer of commercially valuable technology is significantly enhanced by such direct support of private sector efforts.”

In short: ACT is all about technology transfer — from the U.S. to Israel. This, as is well-known, is one of the favored activities of the Israeli intelligence services, which regularly pilfer the latest American technology (especially military applications) to such an extent that a General Accounting Office investigation once characterized the effort as “the most aggressive espionage operations against the U.S. of any U.S. ally.”

ACT had contracts with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in Arlington, Va., and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. It is hardly a leap of faith to conclude that vital data flowing from these projects was fed directly into the waiting maw of the Mossad.

Nozette was a key figure in developing and promoting the “Star Wars” ballistic missile defense system. His colleague in the “High Frontier” movement — and the official director of ACT — is one Klaus Heiss, like Nozette an enthusiast [.pdf] of space colonization (who also has some strong views on other subjects).

Contacted by an FBI agent masquerading as an Israeli intelligence agent, Nozette didn’t blink when told his lunch companion was from the Mossad: “Good,” he said. “Happy to be of assistance.” This was well before the issue of money was raised. Later in the conversation, Nozette boasted of his top-level security clearances and the range and depth of his knowledge of U.S. secrets, adding, “I don’t get recruited by the Mossad every day. By the way, I knew this day would come.” Questioned further by the undercover agent, Nozette said, “I thought I was working for you already. I mean, that’s what I always thought [the foreign company] was — just a front.”

Which it no doubt was.

Nozette agreed to be a regular “asset,” yet he clearly felt his position was increasingly precarious. He inquired about the right of return and raised the possibility that he might go to Israel. He wanted a passport as part of his payment, in addition to the few thousand dollars the FBI was putting in a post office “dead drop” for him on receipt of stolen secrets.

Well, then, so what? Don’t all nations, even allies, spy on each other? What’s the significance of this particular case?

On the surface, our relationship with Israel is encompassed by the terms of the “special relationship, “which has so far consisted of the U.S. giving unconditional support to Tel Aviv’s every action, no matter how brutal [.pdf] or contrary to our interests — and tolerating, to a large degree, its extensive covert operations on U.S. soil (or, at least, keeping quiet about them). On a deeper level, however, the tensions in this one-way love affair have frayed the specialness of the relationship almost to the breaking point.

This is not just due to the election of Barack Obama, who is widely perceived in Israel as being biased against the Jewish state. These tensions arose during Bush’s second term, when U.S. policy began to perceptibly tilt away from Tel Aviv. A particularly telling blow to U.S.-Israeli relations was the decision by the U.S. to clamp down on visa requirements for Israelis entering the U.S.: potential visitors from Israel are now required to undergo an interview, restrictions on their length of stay have been extended, and admission to the U.S. is no longer assured.

In the secret world of spooks spying on one another, the U.S.-Israeli relationship is increasingly adversarial, while in the diplomatic-political realm, it has nearly reached the point of open hostilities. This is thanks to the objective conditions that determine relations among nations: in the post-Cold War world, Israel necessarily became much less of an asset to the U.S. In the post-9/11 world, as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have so trenchantly pointed out, it is an outright liability.

Our self-sacrificial policy of unconditional support for Israel has earned us implacable enemies in the Arab world and granted our adversaries a priceless propaganda prize — and the growing awareness of this disability is something the Israelis no doubt find disturbing. The distortion of our foreign policy by the power of the Israel lobby is also being widely noted, and this is their real Achilles heel.

In this case, too, the Lobby will no doubt rush to exert their influence to downgrade Nozette’s crime and even depict him as an innocent victim of entrapment. Defenders of the AIPAC duo conjured a vast “anti-Semitic” conspiracy within the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI to explain the alleged persecution of Rosen and Weissman, and the same tactics are bound to be trotted out in this instance.

That is nonsense. The FBI didn’t just pick Nozette arbitrarily and conjure his crimes out of thin air. Their target was already deeply involved with the Israelis, and this is what brought him to their attention in the first place.

The nature and extent of Israeli spying in the U.S. is not a subject you’ll see the “mainstream” media very often touch with so much as a 10-foot pole, but when it does the results can be ominously disturbing. I, for one, haven’t forgotten Carl Cameron’s four-part series on Israeli spying in the U.S., broadcast by Fox News in December 2001. According to Cameron, his sources in law enforcement told him the Israelis had been following the 9/11 hijackers and had foreknowledge of their plans but somehow neglected to tell us. And then there were those dancing Israelis, leaping for joy at the sight of the Twin Towers burning!

This is the dark side of the “special relationship,” so dark that hardly anyone wants to acknowledge it, let alone consider its implications.

12-3

(Former) Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Gaza

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sacramento– January 10th–(Ex-Representative) Cynthia McKinney spoke here at the Salam Center, a Community nucleus for the Islamic Community of the Greater Sacramento Area as part of a program put together by the new American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).  Before the speeches by Cynthia and Hatem Bazian (whose comments your journalist will report on in a future article), we ate a communal Halal dinner at the Center. 

McKinney is an Afro-American Person of the Book who served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives gaining the ire of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) for her strong support of the Islamic nations of Pakistan and Palestine. The two lobby organizations’ political “war chest” money and power cause her to lose her seat in a prominently Black District twice despite the fact she had served six terms in Congress. 

She has doubts facts about September 11th, 2001, also; so, she served on the Citizens Commission on 9/11.  After looking at the details of that day in New York City, she signed the 9/11 Truth Movement asking for new investigations on the unexplained aspects of that incident. 

While still in the Lower House, she presented Articles of Impeachment against former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and (then) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Further, Cynthia McKinney’s educational background and experience makes her solidly authoritative on foreign affairs.

During Tel Aviv’ attacks upon Gaza she attempted to enter the Strip with humanitarian supplies — twice unsuccessfully by sea and once successfully by land. 

On her first endeavor, the blockading Israeli Navy rammed her ship.  Mentioning that she was not a Palestinian, she asserted “That I [would] die is one of the [most] honorable [things] I could” do. 

On the second effort, McKinney found herself surrounded by Israeli War boats.  All the passengers and crew were “kidnapped” (captured), and imprisoned for ten days.  Cynthia was, additionally, banned from Israel for ten years – including the Occupied Territories (i.e., Palestine). 

After she was released from detention and deported, she received a call from the British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, who is the director of Viva Palestina which has entered Gaza with conveys of trucks containing relief supplies, called Ms. McKinney and asked her to come with his trucks across the Rafah crossing from Egypt into shattered Gaza.  The (prior) Congresswoman described that the horrible devastation of the diminutive State was over-powering, but, on the other hand,  she attested to the defiant spirit of the people.

“We have to resist” our (own) government (U.S.) “…like the Palestinians” the Israeli.  “Washington D.C. is ground Xerox,” too.  Describing her experience on the Coastal Strip, “I was the one whose spirit was uplifted…In my heart, I am a Palestinian!”

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Iran Blames US Agents for Scientist’s Murder

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fredrik Dahl

2010-01-13T123250Z_01_BTRE60C0YUZ00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-IRAN-BOMB-USA

An undated image released by Iran’s Fars News Agency of Tehran University professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi who was killed by a bomb in front of his home in north Tehran January 12, 2010.

REUTERS/FARS NEWS

TEHRAN (Reuters) – A remote-controlled bomb killed a Tehran University scientist on Tuesday, official media reported, in an attack Iran blamed on the United States and Israel.

Iranian officials and state media described professor Massoud Ali-Mohammadi as a nuclear scientist, and Iran’s cabinet said agents of the United States were behind his murder.

A State Department official in Washington said charges of U.S. involvement were absurd.

Western sources said Ali-Mohammadi, a physics professor, worked closely with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi and Fereydoun Abbassi-Davani, both subject to U.N. sanctions because of their work on suspected nuclear weapons development.

The U.N. nuclear agency is investigating Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is for generating electricity and not for building nuclear bombs as the West suspects.

Ali Shirzadian, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said Ali-Mohammadi, 50, had not played a role in the activities of the organization, which is at the center of the disputed nuclear program.

Shahram Amiri, a university researcher working for the atomic body, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Mecca in June, three months before Iran disclosed the existence of its second uranium enrichment site near the city of Qom. In December, Tehran accused Saudi Arabia of handing Amiri over to the United States.

“America’s spying and intelligence agents from one side abduct some Iranian citizens … and on the other side their treacherous agents kill an Iranian citizen inside the country,” an Iranian cabinet statement said, reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.

A list of Ali-Mohammadi’s publications on Tehran University’s website suggested his specialism was theoretical particle physics, not nuclear energy, a Western physics professor said.

The bombing — a rare attack in the Iranian capital — occurred at a time of heightened tension in the Islamic Republic seven months after a disputed presidential election plunged the oil producer into turmoil.

It also coincided with a sensitive juncture in Iran’s row with the West over its nuclear ambitions, with global powers expected to meet in New York on Saturday to discuss possible new sanctions on Tehran over its refusal to halt its atomic work.

Earlier, Iran’s Foreign Ministry blamed Israel and the United States.

“Signs of the triangle of wickedness by the Zionist regime (Israel), America and their hired agents, are visible in the terrorist act,” it said.

“Such terrorist acts and the apparent elimination of the country’s nuclear scientists will definitely not obstruct scientific and technological processes,” it said.
White House spokesman Bill Burton said the accusations were absurd. A senior Israeli official said Ali-Mohammadi was not known to have been a significant figure in any military nuclear program.

BOOBY-TRAPPED MOTORBIKE

English-language Press TV said Ali-Mohammadi was killed in a northern part of the capital by a booby-trapped motorcycle as he was leaving his home. It showed footage of blood stains, broken glass and other debris at the scene, with what appeared to be the dead man in a body bag taken away on a stretcher.

Fars said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered the intelligence and security services to use all their capabilities to find those behind the killing.

State broadcaster IRIB described al-Mohammadi as a “committed and revolutionary” professor, suggesting he backed Ahmadinejad’s government. Fars quoted one of his students as saying he had worked with the elite Revolutionary Guards until 2003.

But an opposition website, Jaras, said he was an opposition supporter whose name was among hundreds of academics who issued a statement in favor of moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi during the campaign for last June’s election.

Even if he had worked on Iran’s nuclear program, analysts doubted his death could set back Tehran’s aspirations.

“I have no reason to think that this is part of an Israeli or American strategy to deprive Iran of the brains of the enrichment process,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, chief proliferation analyst at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There are by now too many scientists and engineers with the requisite expertise”.
STRATFOR, a global intelligence firm, said Ali-Mohammadi was unlikely to have been a key figure in nuclear activities since his publishing record pointed to purely academic research.

“The relatively high visibility and volume of work in academia suggests that Ali-Mohammadi’s role, if any, in the nuclear program was not very significant,” STRATFOR said in an analysis. “Critical scientists involved in nuclear weapons programs usually are sequestered carefully and provided more security than Ali-Mohammadi was given.”

Fars quoted a foreign-based group, the Iran Monarchy Association, as claiming responsibility for Tuesday’s bombing. It did not say how it obtained the statement.
Iran has been convulsed by its most serious domestic unrest since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 as protests by opposition supporters against the election result have turned violent. Authorities deny opposition allegations that voting was rigged.

(Additional reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Mark Trevelyan)

12-3

FTC Announcement Regarding Debtor’s Rights

January 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The FTC has announced the largest penalty ever imposed on a debt collection agency for allegedly threatening and harassing consumers; disclosing their debts to third parties, and depositing postdated checks early, in violation of federal law.  The FTC has also released this consumer education video on debt collection so that consumers can be aware of their rights and debt collectors can be aware of their responsibilities under federal law.  The video is also available in Spanish.  The press release below provides details of the case and another link to the video. 

Please let me know if you have questions and if you plan on running a story about this. 

Regards,

Lisa

Lisa Lake

Bureau of Consumer Protection/Division of Consumer and Business Education

The Federal Trade Commission

601 New Jersey Avenue, NW — Drop:  NJ-2267

Washington, DC  20580

Direct:  202.326.2345; Fax:  202.326.3574

www.ftc.gov

January 7, 2009

Debt Collection Supervisors Settle FTC Charges

New FTC Video Explains Consumer Rights

Concluding a case that drew the largest civil penalty ever imposed on a debt collection business, the Federal Trade Commission settled with the two remaining individual defendants who allegedly misled, threatened, and harassed consumers; disclosed their debts to third parties; and deposited postdated checks early, in violation of federal law. The settlement order requires each of these senior managers to pay a civil penalty and bars them from future violations.

“The FTC wants to remind debt collectors of their responsibilities and obligations under the law. Abusive collection actions are illegal, and if debt collectors use abusive tactics they could face legal action,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “At the same time, we want consumers to understand their rights if their debts go into collection. Money matters, and the more people know about managing their debt and dealing with debt collectors, the better off they will be.”

According to the FTC’s complaint, filed by the Department of Justice on the FTC’s behalf, the defendants participated in, or controlled, the actions of debt collectors whose unlawful practices included false or deceptive threats of garnishment, arrest, and legal action; improper calls to consumers; frequent, harassing, threatening, and abusive calls; and unfair and unauthorized withdrawals from consumers’ bank accounts. The complaint also alleged that the defendants failed to adequately investigate consumer complaints or discipline collectors, and collectors who were terminated for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) often were rehired within a few months.

In 2008, Academy Collection Service, Inc. and its owner, Keith Dickstein, paid $2.25 million to settle FTC charges that Academy collectors violated the FTC Act and the FDCPA while collecting debts, and that Dickstein failed to stop the violations. The settlement order announced today, negotiated by DOJ and the FTC, imposed civil penalties of $375,000 and $300,000, respectively, on Albert S. Bastian and Keith L. Hurt III, who oversaw Academy’s Las Vegas collection center. The judgments were suspended upon payment of $7,500 each, based on their ability to pay. The full judgments will become due immediately if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

The order bars Bastian and Hurt from making false, deceptive, or misleading representations in debt collection efforts, such as that nonpayment will result in garnishment of wages, seizure of property, or lawsuits, or that they or their agents are attorneys. They also are prohibited from withdrawing money from consumers’ bank accounts without their express informed consent, and from depositing or threatening to deposit postdated checks before the date on the check. In addition, the pair are barred from improperly communicating with third parties about a debt; communicating with a consumer at any unusual time or place, including the
workplace; and harassing, oppressing, or abusing any person in connection with debt collection.

The Commission vote to authorize DOJ to file the consent decree was 4-0. The consent decree was entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

The Commission has released a video, at www.ftc.gov/debtcollection and www.youtube.com/ftcvideos, explaining consumer rights regarding debt collection. Consumers with questions about their rights under the FDCPA should refer to Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.

NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by these defendants of a law violation. A consent decree is subject to court approval and has the force of law when signed by a judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and
unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To
file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

January 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–Your author takes his title from John LeClare; a popular British spy novel by that new title above for the subject today is a former Central Intelligence (CIA) operative, Robert Baer, who had come in from the “Cold” for the purpose of promoting his book The Devil We Know.  Baer was an operative in the Middle East with an expertise with Iran shortly before the Iranian Embassy crisis had begun.  His career with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) spanned twenty-five years before he began to have second thoughts.  He had come to the University of California, one of his alumna maters, campus to talk about his book, and to comment on the Obama’s Administration’s intensely controversial policy relationship with Tehran.

Early in his career he was part of the team to determine who was responsible for the Embassy take over.  During this period, Lebanon was to become part of Persia’s sphere of influence.  “Iran is not so much an opponent to the States than with Israel.”  After the 2006 War with Hezbollah, both the United States and Israel’s influence was driven out of Beirut’s territory.  Iran, thus, has become hegemonic in the eastern reaches of the Middle East.  Essentially, Iran had beaten Israel through proxy (Hezbollah).   Effectively, Tel Aviv did not know what “hit it!”   They were unable to comprehend their own intelligence — which they had been fundamentally at War which they lost.  

Baer considers the Anti-Zionist Shia much more discipled than the Sunni.  Robert Baer has a great deal of respect geopolitically for the Iranians.  “We need Iran…for a peaceful Middle East!”  To come to blows with their million man army, would be suicidal.  According to Bob Baer, their armed forces consume up to 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Further, culturally, they are a more culturally sophisticated than us, for Islam is more flexible than the Occident. 

As Iran backs Hamas, “Al-Qaida is an ideanot an org” as R. Baer, also, stated on the BBC today (January 5th).”  For peace we require Iran!  We have to treat them as a power, hegemonic within their region.  “We can’t use the Bush [Utopian] Doctrine.”  For one thing, “Tehran is in competition with Saudi Arabia.”  Further, “Khomeini isn’t a true Ayatollah.”  His support is in the army.  Washington respects the Iranians as a dynamic power for a peace between us.

“The greatest threat [to Persia] is demographic.”  That is, the imbalance between the growth of the younger generations and the middle and senior age groups.  We should be looking as a partner with them within the Gulf instead of being competitors.  “Iran can become troublesome.”  Therefore, we should “…talk to our opponents…or fail.”

12-2

Afghan Attack: Was it Taliban Revenge?

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Suicide bombing at CIA camp in Afghanistan likely revenge attack by Taliban warlord – a former ally

By James Gordon Meek, Daily News Washington

alg_haqqani
Jalaluddin Haqqani in 1998 file photo. Once ally of CIA, he now supports Osama Bin Laden.

WASHINGTON – The suicide-bomb slaughter at a tiny CIA Afghanistan border camp was likely vengeance from a local Taliban tribal warlord who was once the agency’s ally.

Forward Operation Base Chapman in Khowst, where seven CIA officers died Wednesday, is a few miles from the ruins of Al Qaeda camps obliterated by U.S. missiles in a failed 1998 attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden.

“This will be avenged through aggressive counterterror operations,” an official said Thursday as drones blew up Al Qaeda goons in warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani’s territory across the border in Pakistan. “People at Langley are galvanized.”

The CIA backed Haqqani in the 1980s war against Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers.

Despite aligning with the CIA as a mujahedeen leader to fight the Soviets, Haqqani refused its overtures after 9/11 and sided with his old friend Bin Laden, whom he has sheltered on both sides of the Afganistan-Pakistan border.

My first visit to the classified outpost, also called Chapman Airfield, in late 2005, was in a chopper dropping off Special Forces soldiers wearing long beards.

The camp, a one-time Soviet airfield, is named for Green Beret Nathan Chapman, who was fighting alongside the CIA when he became the first U.S. soldier killed in the war eight years ago.

The next day, a one-eyed, one-armed man tried to set off his suicide vest at the gate but was stopped. It was one of the first suicide attacks tried in the Afghan war and gave everyone jitters.

Haqqani’s son Siraj, the Afghan Taliban’s top field commander, introduced suicide bombs as weapons in this war.

Chapman hosted a provincial reconstruction team and was home to “OGAs” – Other Government Agencies, a euphemism for spies.

The dangerous mission of these CIA paramilitaries, case officers and analysts was to hunt high-value targets from Al Qaeda and the local Haqqani Network.

It’s that work that set the camp’s fate for what has become a blood feud between the spy agency and the Haqqani family.

In the past year, CIA drones have killed Haqqani relatives in safehouses used by Al Qaeda leaders plotting strikes on U.S. interests globally.

“There is no doubt” Haqqani sees a motive for revenge, said Shir Khosti, an ex-Afghan official now living in Queens who often worked at Chapman with the CIA.
So does the CIA.

“If it wasn’t personal before, it sure as hell is now,” a furious counterterror official said Thursday.

jmeek@nydailynews.com

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In Yemen, Locals Worry About Obama Policy on Al-Qaeda

January 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Michael Horton, The Christian Science Monitor

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Yemeni family. (Photo: Richard Messenger / Flickr)

From smoky halls to the rugged mountains of Yemen, locals are worried that their country – threatened more by poverty and water shortages than terrorism, they say – could turn into another Afghanistan.

Sanaa, Yemen – Amid an intensifying US effort to curb Al Qaeda activity in Yemen, locals in this impoverished country are worried that a focus on military aid alone could backfire – spawning a more robust militant movement and potentially drawing the US into an Afghanistan-like war.

In a smoke-filled hall in the capital of Sanaa, where men gather to chew the mildly intoxicating leaves of the qat tree and smoke water pipes, most of the talk is about Al-Qaeda and American intentions in Yemen.

“By God, they want to turn this country into Afghanistan,” declares Mohammad al-Jaffi, a young man who says he fled the Arhab area, a mountainous region just north of Sanaa, after a recent attack on a suspected Al Qaeda hideout. On Monday, the government said it killed two Al Qaeda members in the Arhab region.

“We are not radicals here,” Mr. Jaffi adds, his cheek bulging with the pulpy green leaves that strict Salafis — the Muslim sect that Al Qaeda members belong to — consider forbidden. Holding up a qat branch, he yells, “Look at this. We all chew this here – in Afghanistan, in Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabis would kill us for chewing qat.”

But US and other foreign diplomats are clearly concerned. France, Germany, and Japan all closed their embassies Monday, following US and British closures the previous day, amid reports that a significant amount of explosives had gone missing from the Yemeni army.

“Exclusive Focus on Al Qaeda a Mistake”

With the reported surge in Al-Qaeda activity in Yemen, the Obama administration has reiterated its “partnership” with the increasingly vulnerable regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who faces a rebellion in the north and secessionists in the south. Gen. David Petraeus, who as head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) is overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced on Jan. 1 that the US would double military aid to Yemen after allocating a reported $70 million in 2009.

It has been widely reported that the US is also providing the Yemeni government with intelligence and military trainers. Britain, meanwhile, has announced that it will fund an antiterror police force. Such a sole focus on suspected terrorism is seen as a mistake by some experts as well as locals.

“I think an exclusive focus on Al Qaeda to the exclusion of every other threat in Yemen is a mistake,” says Gregory Johnsen, a Princeton PhD candidate who was recently in Yemen for his research on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). “Viewing this threat only through the prism of Al Qaeda induces exactly the kind of result the US is hoping to avoid.”

Locals in two provinces often cited as Al Qaeda strongholds, Al-Jawf and Marib, are more concerned with severe poverty – an issue they say the central government has done little to alleviate.

“This government does not care about us. Everything we have, we have to fight for – to get money for a school or medicine we have to block the road. This is all they listen to,” says Ahmad al-Nasri. “By God the tribe is all we have, it is what protects us.”

Mr. Johnsen says that development aid is “crucial” in Marib and Al-Jawf, but disputes the popular depiction of Yemen as a place with large areas that are totally ungovernable.

“The government doesn’t appear to be able to constantly control these areas,” he acknowledges, citing recent flare-ups between tribal leaders and the government. “But the image of Yemen being a Wild West … is not necessarily accurate.”

Yemeni government offices in Sanaa were closed and the Yemeni embassy in Washington was unable to comment before press time.

Water Shortages

A potentially greater destabilizing influence than militancy in Yemen is water shortages, which are already the root of a large percentage of the inter-tribal fighting that plagues the country.

The UN has ranked Yemen as one of the most water-scarce countries, and one local geology professor has estimated that Sanaa’s wells will go dry by 2015 at current usage rates. The country is in desperate need of investment in new drip irrigation systems and water conservation measures.

“Look at these apricot trees,” says Mohammad Faris, who owns an orchard on the outskirts of Sanaa that once flourished. “Half of them are dead from lack of water.”

“We don’t need more guns in this country,” declares Mr. Faris as he stands among the parched remains of what used to be fertile ground. “This village needs a new water pump and we need new trees that drink less water.”

Increased Sympathy for Al Qaeda?

Many locals emphasize that the country’s primary need is development aid, which has in the past been hampered by international concerns about government corruption. But some say they’re ready to fight if the US comes – a prospect that as yet looks unlikely, though Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) of Connecticut recently suggested that without preemptive action a future war may occur.

“We have a long history of fighting invaders here,” says Ismail Hadi, a village elder in the rugged mountainous province of Hajjah, not far from the sectarian war being fought against Houthi rebels. As he looks out over his terraces of qat trees that cascade down towards a deep canyon, he adds, “We fought the Turks, we fought the Egyptians, God willing we will fight the Americans when they come.”

Back at the Sanaa qat hall, Uithman al- Ansi echoes that sentiment.

“If the Americans want a fight they will get it,” says Mr. Ansi as he grabs the hilt of his jambiya, the traditional dagger carried by many men here. Another man who says he is from Marib, one of the two frequently cited Al Qaeda strongholds, suggests that US attacks or support for attacks on suspected militants could increase the number of Al Qaeda sympathizers in Yemen.

“The Americans don’t know our customs,” says the man. “When they attacked al-Harithi [a suspected Al-Qaeda member who was targeted by a US drone in November 2002] on our lands, his people became our guests. We have long memories.”

Christa Case Bryant contributed reporting from Boston.

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The Next Step: A Stealth Drone

January 4, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

AFP

beastofkandahar2 WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Air Force on Tuesday confirmed for the first time that it is flying a stealth unmanned aircraft known as the “Beast of Kandahar,” a drone spotted in photos and shrouded in secrecy. The RQ-170 Sentinel is being developed by Lockheed Martin and is designed “to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward deployed combat forces,” the air force said in a brief statement.

The “RQ” prefix for the aircraft indicates an unarmed drone, unlike the “MQ” designation used for Predator and Reaper aircraft equipped with missiles and precision-guided bombs. Aviation experts dubbed the drone the “Beast of Kandahar” after photographs emerged earlier this year showing the mysterious aircraft in southern Afghanistan in 2007.

The image suggested a drone with a radar-evading stealth-like design, resembling a smaller version of a B-2 bomber.

A blog in the French newspaper Liberation published another photo this week, feeding speculation among aviation watchers about the classified drone. The air force said the aircraft came out of Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works,” also known as Advanced Development Programs, in California — the home of sophisticated and often secret defense projects including the U-2 spy plane, the F-22 fighter jet and the F-117 Nighthawk.

The photo of the drone in Afghanistan has raised questions about why the United States would be operating a stealth unmanned aircraft in a country where insurgents have no radar systems, prompting speculation Washington was using the drones for possible spying missions in neighboring Iran or Pakistan.

The Sentinel was believed to have a flying wing design with no tail and with sensors built into the top side of each wing, according to published photos.

The RQ-170 is in line with Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ request for more intelligence and surveillance resources and with the Air Force chief of staff’s plans to expand the fleet of unmanned aircraft, the air force said.

The new drone is flown by the 30th Reconnaissance Squadron out of Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, which is under Air Combat Command’s 432nd Wing at Creech Air Base, also in Nevada. The United States has carried out an extensive bombing campaign against Al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan using the Predator and larger Reaper drones.

Robots or “unmanned systems” in the air and on the ground are now deployed by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Obama Moves to Boost U.S. Broadband Access

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By John Poirier

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration released details on Thursday of a $2 billion program in grants and loans to help dramatically expand Americans’ broadband Internet access and create tens of thousands of jobs.

The funds, to be released over the next 75 days, are among $7.2 billion set aside in President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic recovery package to bring broadband access to unserved or underserved U.S. communities.

Vice President Joe Biden, at an event in Dawsonville, Georgia, announced details of an initial $183 million investment in broadband projects in 17 states.

“New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country,” Biden said in a statement.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans have adopted broadband at home, while one-third have access but have not adopted it, and 4 percent say they have no access where they live, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Biden’s chief economist, Jared Bernstein, told reporters in a briefing the administration was unable to provide more precise figures on exactly how many jobs would be created, but White House officials said “tens of thousands of jobs” could be created in the near term.

The FCC held an open meeting on Wednesday to provide an update on its national broadband plan due to be submitted to Congress in February. FCC staff stopped short of making formal recommendations because they are still gathering data on which to base their final report.

‘PLATFORM FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY’

Officials said on Thursday that broadband expansion projects aimed to link communities to the “Internet backbone,” a network of large, high-bandwidth fiber-optic cables that span the country.

They said the grants and loans, being released by the departments of Commerce and Agriculture, would help expand broadband for education, healthcare and providing workers the flexibility to work from home.

“The community is part of the solution to the national broadband strategy,” said Craig Settles, president of broadband strategy consulting firm Successful.com.

With the rest of the U.S. economy stuck in the doldrums and shedding jobs, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said the technology sector has been going in the other direction.

“Because of its power to propel innovation, broadband can be our platform for economic prosperity,” Genachowski said in a December 1 speech on technology innovation.

Officials announced four different types of awards:

- $121.6 million to build and improve connections to communities lacking sufficient broadband access.
- $51.4 million to connect end users like homes, hospitals and schools to their community’s broadband infrastructure (the middle mile).
- $7.3 million to expand computer center capacity for public use in libraries, community colleges and other public venues.
- $2.4 million to fund innovative projects that promote broadband demand with population groups where the technology has traditionally been underutilized.

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No-Fault Espionage

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Philip Giraldi

It is interesting to note what happens to espionage cases in the United States. If you spy for China, or Cuba, or Iran you will be exposed, excoriated in the media, locked up and denied bail, convicted, and sentenced to many years in a federal prison. Spying is serious business and the harsh punishment most often fits the crime because when spies steal highly sensitive defense and policy information they are not only betraying their fellow citizens, they are also making all Americans less secure. And the spying is only slightly less serious when American technology is being targeted. When spies acting for a foreign country steal sensitive technology with commercial applications that is developed at great cost either by the US government or private companies, their betrayal is also taking away the livelihoods of thousands of American workers who rely on the competitive edge of US technology to keep their jobs.

Spies are traitors in every sense of the word, unless, of course, if one is spying for Israel. Israel aggressively spies on the US both to influence policy and steal high technology, but getting caught only very rarely has any consequences. Leading neoconservatives like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Stephen Bryen have all been detected in flagrante providing classified information to Israel but the investigations were halted and their security clearances were godfathered so they could continue to hold high office. FBI counter intelligence officer John Cole has reported on the frustration of his colleagues over the many cases of Israeli espionage that are dropped under orders from the Justice Department. He provides a “conservative estimate” of 125 worthwhile investigations into Israeli espionage in the US involving both American citizens and Israelis stopped due to political pressure from above. Israeli citizens and diplomats who are caught in the act spying are routinely freed without criminal charges and allowed to return home.

If you are an American who spies for Israel, a separate and unequal criminal justice system kicks in and the media quickly excuses your actions and then makes the story go away just as fast as it can. Most readers of Antiwar.com are familiar with the recent case of AIPAC officials Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two men were given information that they knew to be classified by Pentagon employee Larry Franklin, who perhaps not coincidentally worked for Doug Feith. They passed the information on to an intelligence officer at the Israeli Embassy with whom they were also in contact. The FBI set up a sting using Franklin and arrested all three of the men under the Espionage Act of 1917. The arrest was followed by a nearly three year long trial in which the AIPAC duo finally escaped any punishment after presiding Judge Thomas Ellis obligingly set conditions that made it impossible for the prosecution to proceed. Franklin, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 151 months in prison, was subsequently freed of his obligation to do any jail time by the same Judge Ellis. While the trial was going on, it was conspicuously underreported by the media.

Predictably, many in the media and in the neocon establishment criticized the arrests of Rosen and Weissman, commenting that exchanges of classified “information” were routine in Washington and that Israel is a good friend requiring the classified intelligence for its own security. The argument might not have convinced the American public, but it certainly convinced the barking dogs in the media and Judge Ellis, particularly as there might have been a little nudging from important politicians taking place. Congresswoman Jane Harman, who was caught on the phone trading favors with an agent working for Israeli intelligence promised to use her influence in the Rosen-Weissman case in return for Israel helping her obtain the position of chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a devil’s bargain if there ever was one.

The case of Ben-Ami Kadish is in some ways even more intriguing than that of the two AIPAC staffers. Kadish was arrested in New Jersey in December 2008 for “conspiracy to disclose to the government of Israel documents related to the national defense of the United States and… that he participated in a conspiracy to act as an agent of the government of Israel.” Kadish gave the same Israeli intelligence officer who ran convicted spy Jonathan Pollard classified documents that he had obtained while working at the US Army Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, New Jersey. Some of the documents were related to nuclear weapons development while others described highly classified aspects of the Patriot anti-missile defense system. Israel subsequently developed its own Arrow anti-missile system, possibly using classified information relating to the Patriot, thereby reducing its own costs and enabling it to market the Arrow internationally at a lower price than its US competitors, eliminating American jobs.

Ben-Ami Kadish was arrested in December but released on bail. He was supposed to reappear before Judge Douglas Eaton at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan two months later in February, but did not actually reappear until June. He was fined and given a suspended sentence, a slap on the wrist considerably less painful than a local businessman cheating on his income tax might have received in the same courtroom.

And there is a current spy case involving Israel which clearly is being swept under the rug. Stewart Nozette, a scientist working for the US government, was arrested on October 19th and charged with conspiring to commit espionage. Nozette was caught in an FBI sting operation in which the Bureau officer pretended to be an Israeli Mossad spy. Nozette enthusiastically embraced the offer to cooperate, demanding in return an Israeli passport and money for the information that he would provide. The US media quickly went into damage mode, the New York Times headlining its coverage “The Scientist Who Mistook Himself for a Spy.” Many in the media quickly noted that the FBI agent was not actually Mossad, meaning that Israel was not directly involved. The convenient spin ignored the fact the Nozette told the agent that he had already “communicated classified information” to Israel for many years through contacts in the Israel Aerospace Industries, for which he received $225,000. Nozette stated that he believed he had already been spying for Israel, telling the pretend Mossad but really FBI officer “I thought I was working for you already.”

So what has happened to Nozette, who, according to the court papers, “had regular, frequent access to classified information and documents related to the US national defense”? Well, as in the case of Ben-Ami Kadish, he seems to have disappeared. The media has dropped the story and Nozette did not appear again in court on November 10th as scheduled. He may have been consigned to that limbo where those who spy for Israel seem to wind up prior to being released. The Federal District Court for the District of Columbia’s website is giving nothing away. Nozette’s name does not appear anywhere and if one calls the court clerk and requests information on his status, the call will not be returned.

The point is that if Congress and the Justice Department think that when Americans are caught spying for Israel it is constitutionally protected activity, like free speech, perhaps they should say so publicly. A two-tier system relating to national security issues and rule of law is just not in the US national interest, no matter how one twists the facts. If you spy for Israel the consequences should be the same as if you spy for China or Cuba – arrest, conviction, and hard jail time. No exceptions, no excuses.

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Afghan War Costs

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A 30,000-person surge will coast at least $30 billion.

By Jo Comerford

This story first appeared on the TomDispatch website.

$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute. Keep that in mind—just for a minute or so.

After all, the surge is already on. By the end of December, the first 1,500 US troops will have landed in Afghanistan, a nation roughly the size of Texas, ranked by the United Nations as second worst in the world in terms of human development.

Women and men from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be among the first to head out. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into Afghanistan for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge.

By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum.

But perhaps this isn’t a time to quibble. After all, a job is a job, especially in the United States, which has lost seven million jobs since December 2007, while reporting record-high numbers of people seeking assistance to feed themselves and/or their families. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 36 million Americans, including one out of every four children, are currently on food stamps.

On the other hand, given the woeful inadequacy of that “safety net,” we might have chosen to direct the $30 billion in surge expenditures toward raising the average individual monthly Food Stamp allotment by $70 for the next year; that’s roughly an additional trip to the grocery store, every month, for 36 million people. Alternatively, we could have dedicated that $30 billion to job creation. According to a recent report issued by the Political Economy Research Institute, that sum could generate a whopping 537,810 construction jobs, 541,080 positions in healthcare, fund 742,740 teachers or employ 831,390 mass transit workers.

For purposes of comparison, $30 billion—remember, just the Pentagon-estimated cost of a 30,000-person troop surge—is equal to 80% of the total US 2010 budget for international affairs, which includes monies for development and humanitarian assistance. On the domestic front, $30 billion could double the funding (at 2010 levels) for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Or think of the surge this way: if the United States decided to send just 29,900 extra soldiers to Afghanistan, 100 short of the present official total, it could double the amount of money—$100 million—it has allocated to assist refugees and returnees from Afghanistan through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Leaving aside the fact that the United States already accounts for 45% of total global military spending, the $30 billion surge cost alone would place us in the top-ten for global military spending, sandwiched between Italy and Saudi Arabia. Spent instead on “soft security” measures within Afghanistan, $30 billion could easily build, furnish and equip enough schools for the entire nation.

Continuing this nod to the absurd for just one more moment, if you received a silver dollar every second, it would take you 960 years to haul in that $30 billion. Not that anyone could hold so much money. Together, the coins would weigh nearly 120 tons, or more than the poundage of 21,000 Asian elephants, an aircraft carrier, or the Washington Monument. Converted to dollar bills and laid end-to-end, $30 billion would reach 2.9 million miles or 120 times around the Earth.

One more thing, that $30 billion isn’t even the real cost of Obama’s surge. It’s just a minimum, through-the-basement estimate. If you were to throw in all the bases being built, private contractors hired, extra civilians sent in, and the staggering costs of training a larger Afghan army and police force (a key goal of the surge), the figure would surely be startlingly higher. In fact, total Afghanistan War spending for 2010 is now expected to exceed $102.9 billion, doubling last year’s Afghan spending. Thought of another way, it breaks down to $12 million per hour in taxpayer dollars for one year. That’s equal to total annual US spending on all veteran’s benefits, from hospital stays to education.

In Afghan terms, our upcoming single year of war costs represents nearly five times that country’s gross domestic product or $3,623.70 for every Afghan woman, man, and child. Given that the average annual salary for an Afghan soldier is $2,880 and many Afghans seek employment in the military purely out of economic desperation, this might be a wise investment—especially since the Taliban is able to pay considerably more for its new recruits. In fact, recent increases in much-needed Afghan recruits appear to correlate with the promise of a pay raise.

All of this is, of course, so much fantasy, since we know just where that $30-plus billion will be going. In 2010, total Afghanistan War spending since November 2001 will exceed $325 billion, which equals the combined annual military spending of Great Britain, China, France, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. If we had never launched an invasion of Afghanistan or stayed on fighting all these years, those war costs, evenly distributed in this country, would have meant a $2,298.80 dividend per US taxpayer.

Even as we calculate the annual cost of war, the tens of thousands of Asian elephants in the room are all pointing to $1 trillion in total war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan. The current escalation in Afghanistan coincides with that rapidly-approaching milestone. In fact, thanks to Peter Baker’s recent New York Times report on the presidential deliberations that led to the surge announcement, we know that the trillion-dollar number for both wars may be a gross underestimate. The Office of Management and Budget sent President Obama a memo, Baker tells us, suggesting that adding General McChrystal’s surge to ongoing war costs, over the next 10 years, could mean—forget Iraq—a trillion dollar Afghan War.

At just under one-third of the 2010 US federal budget, $1 trillion essentially defies per-hour-per-soldier calculations. It dwarfs all other nations’ military spending, let alone their spending on war. It makes a mockery of food stamps and schools. To make sense of this cost, we need to leave civilian life behind entirely and turn to another war. We have to reach back to the Vietnam War, which in today’s dollars cost $709.9 billion—or $300 billion less than the total cost of the two wars we’re still fighting, with no end in sight, or even $300 billion less than the long war we may yet fight in Afghanistan.

[Note: Jo would like to acknowledge the analysis and numbers crunching of Chris Hellman and Mary Orisich, members of the National Priorities Project’s research team, without whom this piece would not have been possible.]

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project.

US Students Rejoice Over Israel Boycott

December 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Hena Ashraf, IOL

WASHINGTON—Pro-Palestinian students in a US college are celebrating its decision to divest from firms serving the Israeli occupation of Palestine, a decision that has sparked a raging controversy.

“We were able to educate and mobilize an entire community, the majority of our community,” Aidan Kriese, an organizer from the Students for Justice in Palestine group (SJP) in Hampshire College, Massachusetts, told IslamOnline.net.

“And the majority has made a decision.”

On February 7, Hampshire College became the first US institute of higher education to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The groundbreaking decision was taken by the Committee on Investment Responsibility and approved by the College’s Board of Trustees.

The six companies are Caterpillar, Terex, Motorola, ITT, General Electric, and United Technologies.

They are believed to be directly providing the Israeli military with equipment and services in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

“We were interested in looking at the specific relationships that our particular institution had in the occupation,” Kriese said.

“We found we were linked specifically to the occupation through these corporations.”

Over 800 students, professors, and alumni have signed SJP’s “institutional statement” calling for the divestment from these firms.

Divestment efforts and academic boycotts of Israel have largely gained ground in the past few years.

The United Methodist Church has received five separate petitions calling for divestment from companies that support or profit from the Israeli occupation.

Victory

The divestment, widely covered in national media, has stirred a firestorm controversy leading the college’s administration to deny the issue had anything to do with politics.

But the students’ association insists that breaking ties with the six firms was specifically linked to helping the Israeli occupation.

“The SJP was asked by the administration what companies to avoid in the future in terms of the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” Kriese said.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a well-known supporter of Israel, has called for donors to divest from Hampshire College and halt contributions to the college until it clears up the situation.

After his column in the Israeli Jerusalem Post daily stirred a sandstorm, Hampshire College issued a statement acknowledging that the process was launched in response to the SJP proposal, but denied that the final decision had anything to do with Israel.

“For eight and a half months the only specific companies…that were discussed were the six companies SJP targeted,” the SJP said in a later statement.

“These facts prove that the decision was made on the grounds of the six companies’ involvement in the occupation of Palestine.”

Despite the controversy, the SJP still sees the college’s decision to divest from the pro-occupation companies a victory.

“It’s really clear to us that we’ve done our part in raising concerns about the occupation,” boasts Kriese.

For more info on the divestment project visit:

http://www.divestmentproject.org/

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Here’s an interview with on of the organizers in which he clearly explains the reasoning behind the project, something which is missing from this article.
(Part1)
http://www.iamthewitness.com/audio/Somerville.Project/CII.2008.11.28.Fri.1of2.Somerville.Project.mp3
(Part2)
http://www.iamthewitness.com/audio/Somerville.Project/CII.2008.11.28.Fri.2of2.Somerville.Project.mp3

U.S., Turkey Launch New Trade, Investment Forum

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

2009-12-21T113419Z_2140208691_GM1E5CL1I6101_RTRMADP_3_EU-TURKEY

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis (L) talks to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during a news conference at the European Union Council headquarters in Brussels December 21, 2009.    

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir  

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and NATO ally Turkey launched an initiative Monday aimed at boosting trade and investment ties, but said there were no plans for the two countries to negotiate a free trade agreement.

“We can … build on what is a good trade and commercial relationship and make it a much more robust one,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said at a press conference with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

The initiative creates a new Cabinet-level forum to discuss ways to expand bilateral trade and investment flows and to try to resolve disputes when they arise, similar to one the United States has with China.

“This framework … will be an important vehicle for expanding trade and investment and creating new jobs for the workers and the people” of both countries, said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

The announcement followed a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. plans to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Obama told reporters he believed Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country and long-time U.S. ally, could be an ‘important player’ in moving Iran toward resolving its dispute with the West over its nuclear program.

Erdogan said Turkey stands ready to do whatever it can to achieve a diplomatic solution on the nuclear issue.

Turkey, which has applied for membership of the European Union, is the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner in the Muslim world and 27th overall.

U.S-Turkey trade has dropped from a record of nearly $15 billion in 2008, but there is every reason to expect the two countries can surpass that “when the world economy gets back on its feet,’’ Locke said.

Babacan said the two countries would seek suggestions from business on how to increase trade in areas ranging from energy to agriculture to military equipment.
He downplayed the chances of Ankara using the forum to press Washington to reduce high U.S. tariffs that Turkey faces on textiles and some other exports.

Kirk said the initiative was not intended as a stepping stone to talks with Turkey on a free trade agreement. (Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Chris Wilson)

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Dubai Officials’ Confidence-Building Britain, US Trip

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Amran Abocar and Steve Slater

2009-12-16T115052Z_26914839_GM1E5CG1J5P01_RTRMADP_3_DUBAI

An investor looks at stock information at the Dubai Financial Market December 16, 2009.   REUTERS/Mosab Omar

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Two top Dubai officials are visiting Britain and the United States over the coming days to rebuild investor confidence after neighboring Abu Dhabi helped bail out the emirate’s flagship company.

A source close to the government said the officials were already in London and would be in New York on Thursday and Washington on Friday to meet financial and political leaders.

“This is the next step in Dubai’s commitment to greater transparency,” said the source.

“They will spend the next few days meeting financial, economic and political leaders in London, New York and Washington, D.C. to discuss the actions taken this week to stabilize global markets.”

The emirate, famous for its man-made islands in the shape of palms and for other infrastructure projects, rocked global markets on November 25 with a request for a standstill agreement on $26 billion of debt linked to Dubai World and its two main property units, Nakheel and Limitless World.

The roadshow is being led by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Committee and the uncle of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. Until recently he was best known as leader of the Emirates airline, but his public profile has risen since the debt crisis erupted.

Also on the trip is Mohammed al-Shaibani, deputy chairman of the same committee. He heads Sheikh Mohammed’s court and is chief executive of the Investment Corporation Dubai, which oversees the government’s investment portfolio.

‘Comprehensive Solution’

Earlier this week, Abu Dhabi, which produces 90 percent of the United Arab Emirates’ oil exports, provided $10 billion of financial aid to its fellow UAE member to meet the debt obligations of Dubai World until the end of April and to stave off a bond default by Nakheel.

Some $4.1 billion of the rescue funding helped Nakheel repay an Islamic bond, or sukuk, on Tuesday, a day after its due date.

The Abu Dhabi lifeline came in the form of bonds, at similar terms to a $10 billion bond issue to the UAE central bank in February, which carried a coupon of 4 percent per annum for the five-year, fixed-term issue.

Dubai also announced this week it would implement immediately an insolvency law modeled on U.S. and British practices in the event Dubai World needs to seek protection from its creditors. Meanwhile, Dubai’s ruler ordered the creation of a tribunal, headed by three international judges, to oversee any disputes between Dubai World and its creditors.

“They want to explain what happened this week,” said another source close to the government. “It’s very much the transparency message and to discuss the fact they presented a comprehensive solution.”

With the bond repayment out of the way, Dubai World must now agree a standstill with creditors, allowing it time to undergo a massive restructuring. It is slated to meet representatives from some 90 banks in Dubai on Monday.

(Editing by Andrew Callus and Kenneth Barry)

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US Sends Gitmo Detainee Home to Kuwait

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say a Kuwaiti citizen held at Guantanamo Bay has been brought back to his home country.

Justice Department officials say Fouad Mahmoud al-Rabiah was handed over to Kuwaiti authorities.

A federal judge had ruled in September that al-Rabiah must be released. His departure leaves 210 detainees at the Guantanamo naval base in Cuba. President Barack Obama has pledged to close the detention center, but the administration is expected to miss a deadline next month to complete the task.

Separately, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the New York federal courthouse, where he plans to put five accused plotters in the Sept. 11 attacks on trial. All five are currently held at Guantanamo.

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Obama, the Anti-Churchill?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

winston_churchill_01 If you take out just one sentence, Barack Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last week was all about focusing and limiting the scope of the U.S. mission in that country. The objectives he detailed were exclusively military: to deny al-Qaeda a haven, reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the Kabul government’s security forces. The nation that he was interested in building, he explained, was this one.

And then there was that one line: “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” Here lies the tension in Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge — send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down — is his answer to this dilemma.

This first year of his presidency has been a window into Obama’s worldview. Once most presidents get hold of the bully pulpit, they cannot resist the temptation to become Winston Churchill. They gravitate toward grand rhetoric about freedom and tyranny and embrace the moral drama of their role as leaders of the free world. Not Obama. He has been cool and calculating, whether dealing with Russia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama is a realist by temperament, learning and instinct. More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing resources to achieve them and keeping his eyes on the prize.

“In the end,” the president said last Tuesday, “our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.” He explained that America’s economic and technological vigor underpinned its ability to play a world role. At a small lunch with a group of columnists before his speech last week, he made clear to us that he did not want to run two wars. He seemed to be implying that the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the crucial path to America’s long-term security. He explained that challenges at home — economic growth, technological innovation, education reform — were at the heart of maintaining America’s status as a superpower. In fact, throughout history great nations have lost their way by getting bogged down in imperial missions far from home that crippled their will, strength and focus. (Sometimes even when they won they lost: Britain prevailed in the Boer War, but it broke the back of the empire.)

It is clear that Obama is attempting something quite ambitious — to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward something less extravagant and adversarial. That begins with narrowing the “war on terrorism”; scaling back the conflict with the Islamic world to those groups and countries that pose serious, direct threats to the United States; and reaching out to the rest. He has also tried to develop a better working relationship with major powers such as Russia and China, setting aside smaller issues in hopes of cooperation on bigger ones. This means departing from a bipartisan approach in which Washington’s role was to direct and hector the rest of the world, pushing regimes large and small to accept American ideas, and publicly chastising them when they refused. Obama is trying to break the dynamic that says that when an American president negotiates with the Chinese or Russians, he must return with rewards or concessions — or else he is guilty of appeasement.

For his policy to succeed, Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Afghanistan will not be transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. We can find ways to secure American interests in that region more manageably. By the end of 2011, the United States will have spent 10 years, thousands of lives and $2 trillion trying to create stable, democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the most difficult, divided countries in the world. It will be time to move on.

Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International. His e-mail address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

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U.S., Turkey Launch New Trade, Investment Forum

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States and NATO ally Turkey launched an initiative Monday aimed at boosting trade and investment ties, but said there were no plans for the two countries to negotiate a free trade agreement.

“We can … build on what is a good trade and commercial relationship and make it a much more robust one,’’ U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said at a press conference with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan.

The initiative creates a new Cabinet-level forum to discuss ways to expand bilateral trade and investment flows and to try to resolve disputes when they arise, similar to one the United States has with China.

“This framework … will be an important vehicle for expanding trade and investment and creating new jobs for the workers and the people’’ of both countries, said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

The announcement followed a White House meeting between President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and U.S. plans to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Obama told reporters he believed Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country and long-time U.S. ally, could be an “important player’’ in moving Iran toward resolving its dispute with the West over its nuclear program.

Erdogan said Turkey stands ready to do whatever it can to achieve a diplomatic solution on the nuclear issue.

Turkey, which has applied for membership of the European Union, is the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner in the Muslim world and 27th overall.

U.S-Turkey trade has dropped from a record of nearly $15 billion in 2008, but there is every reason to expect the two countries can surpass that “when the world economy gets back on its feet,’’ Locke said.

Babacan said the two countries would seek suggestions from business on how to increase trade in areas ranging from energy to agriculture to military equipment.
He downplayed the chances of Ankara using the forum to press Washington to reduce high U.S. tariffs that Turkey faces on textiles and some other exports.

Kirk said the initiative was not intended as a stepping stone to talks with Turkey on a free trade agreement. (Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Chris Wilson)

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Americans Deeply Involved In Afghan Drug Trade

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The U.S. set the stage for the Afghan (and Pakistan) war eight years ago, when it handed out drug dealing franchises to warlords on Washington’s payroll. Now the Americans, acting as Boss of All Bosses, have drawn up hit lists of rival, “Taliban” drug lords. “It is a gangster occupation, in which U.S.-allied drug dealers are put in charge of the police and border patrol.”

“U.S.-allied drug dealers are put in charge of the police and border patrol, while their rivals are placed on American hit lists.”

If you’re looking for the chief kingpin in the Afghanistan heroin trade, it’s the United States. The American mission has devolved to a Mafiosi-style arrangement that poisons every military and political alliance entered into by the U.S. and its puppet government in Kabul. It is a gangster occupation, in which U.S.-allied drug dealers are put in charge of the police and border patrol, while their rivals are placed on American hit lists, marked for death or capture. As a result, Afghanistan has been transformed into an opium plantation that supplies 90 percent of the world’s heroin.

An article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine explores the inner workings of the drug-infested U.S. occupation, it’s near-total dependence on alliances forged with players in the heroin trade. The story centers on the town of Spin Boldak, on the southeastern border with Pakistan, gateway to the opium fields of Kandahar and Helmand provinces. The chief Afghan drug lord is also the head of the border patrol and the local militia. The author is an undercover U.S.-based journalist who was befriended by the drug lord’s top operatives and met with the U.S. and Canadian officers that collaborate with the drug dealer on a daily basis.

The alliance was forged by American forces during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and has endured and grown ever since. The drug lord, and others like him throughout the country, is not only immune to serious American interference, he has been empowered through U.S. money and arms to consolidate his drug business at the expense of drug-dealing rivals in other tribes, forcing some of them into alliance with the Taliban. On the ground in Pashtun-speaking Afghanistan, the war is largely between armies run by heroin merchants, some aligned with the Americans, others with the Taliban.

The Taliban appear to be gaining the upper hand in this Mafiosa gang war, the origins of which are directly rooted in U.S. policy.

“It is a war whose order of battle is largely defined by the drug trade.”

Is it any wonder, then, that the United States so often launches air strikes against civilian wedding parties, wiping out the greater part of bride and groom’s extended families? America’s drug-dealing allies have been dropping dimes on rival clans and tribes, using the Americans as high-tech muscle in their deadly feuds. Now the Americans and their European occupation partners have institutionalized the rules of gangster warfare with official hit lists of drug dealers to be killed or captured on sight – lists drawn up by other drug lords affiliated with the occupation forces.

This is the “war of necessity” that President Barack Obama has embraced as his own. It is a war whose order of battle is largely defined by the drug trade. Obama’s generals call for tens of thousands of new U.S. troops in hopes of lessening their dependency on the militias and police forces currently controlled by American-allied drug dealers. But of course, that will only push America’s Afghan partners in the drug trade into the arms of the Taliban, who will cut a better deal. Then the generals were argue that they need even more U.S. troops.

The Americans created this drug-saturated hell, and their occupation is now doomed by it. Unfortunately, they have also doomed millions of Afghans in the process.

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Why the U.S. Kneels

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Philip Weiss

Gideon Levy in Haaretz tells America to stop sucking up to Israel. He leaves out the root cause. You can’t just tell the Americans to make better policy without dealing with the Israel lobby and, barring wider outrage among Americans, issues of Jewish identity.

Levy: Before no other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this. In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait?

But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.

Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don’t change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America’s automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world’s policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.

Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 – which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement – then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched.

It is true that unlike all the world’s other troublemakers, Israel is viewed as a Western democracy, but Israel of 2009 is a country whose language is force. Anwar Sadat may have been the last leader to win our hearts with optimistic, hope-igniting speeches. If he were to visit Israel today, he would be jeered off the stage. The Syrian president pleads for peace and Israel callously dismisses him, the United States begs for a settlement freeze and Israel turns up its nose. This is what happens when there are no consequences for Israel’s inaction.

When Clinton returns to Washington, she should advocate a sharp policy change toward Israel. Israeli hearts can no longer be won with hope, promises of a better future or sweet talk, for this is no longer Israel’s language. For something to change, Israel must understand that perpetuating the status quo will exact a painful price.

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Interview–Pakistan Wants Trade, not Aid

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Amena Bakr

DUBAI, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Pakistan plans to send an official delegation to the United States in mid-November to attract investment in a bid to revive its economy following a series of militant attacks, a senior official said on Sunday.

Last month, suicide bomb blasts targeted the United Nations, army headquarters, police and general public, killing more than 150 people.

“The recent attacks did have a negative impact on the perception (of the country), but at the same time Pakistan is a growing country and investors have to be in it for the long term,” Waqar Ahmed Khan, Pakistan’s minister of investment, told Reuters during a visit to Dubai.

A delegation headed by Khan, along with businessmen from Pakistan, will head to Washington on Nov. 18, he said.

“From the United States we are seeking trade, not aid, because that’s what’s going to really help stimulate our economy,” he said, adding that opening up trade between the two countries would support political stability.

“The growth of the economy and fighting terrorism go hand-in-hand and the government is committed to protecting investors’ interests.”

U.S. President Barack Obama has also said increased aid and trade will be tools to fight Islamic extremism both in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Congress has just approved a bill tripling aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year for the next five years, but with conditions attached that have unleashed a storm of protest from Pakistanis who say the country is being humiliated.

Investment Interest

Last month, a delegation headed by the Turkish prime minister was in Islamabad to discuss investment opportunities, said Khan.

“The Turkish investors are now in talks to establish textile factories, lease land for agriculture projects and are also looking at the livestock and dairy industries,” he said.

Pakistan’s GDP growth is expected to be between 2.5 and 3.5 percent in the fiscal year 2009/10, up from 2.0 percent in the previous year, the central bank said in its annual report released on Thursday.

“Despite all the recent attacks I think that the GDP will remain on the positive side this year, and I also expect foreign investment to increase during the forth quarter,” said Khan, without giving further details.

Net foreign investment in Pakistan fell 28.9 percent to $671.1 million in the first three months of the 2009/10 fiscal year, beginning on July 1, compared with $943.4 million in the same period a year earlier.

(Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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