Friday, October 26, 2007

US Imposes Unilateral Sanctions Against Iran; Nobody Listens

The Bush administration announced an unprecedented package of unilateral sanctions against Iran today, including the long-awaited designations of its Revolutionary Guard Corps as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction and of the elite Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism.
The United States is the world's greatest exporter of weapons of mass destruction and a proud supporter of terrorism virtually everywhere. Thus the pot calls the kettle black.

But we're reading Robin Wright in the Washington Post, where none of this context is deemed fit to print. This is the liberal media we're talking about, after all.
The package, announced jointly by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., [photo, courtesy NYT] marks the first time that the United States has tried to isolate or punish another country's military. It is the broadest set of punitive measures imposed on Tehran since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy, and included a call for other countries and firms to stop doing business with three major Iranian banks.
If the Iranians tried to persuade other countries and firms to stop doing business with American banks, it would be seen as an act of war, especially since the American economy is so tightly linked to its war machine.
The sanctions recognize that financing for groups like the Revolutionary Guard have become closely entwined with Iran's economy, making it difficult to disrupt the one without targeting the other.

The Revolutionary Guard "is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy, that it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC," Paulson said.
The hypocrisy is astonishing, or at least it would be if we hadn't seen so much of it lately.

But we still haven't seen any evidence of aggressive behavior from Iran. Such evidence may exist, but if so, where is it?

When was the last time Iran invaded a foreign country?

How many countries has the USA invaded since then? And how many times was it done on false pretexts?

As you can see, it is the Iranians who threaten world peace. Their nuclear "weapons" program could theoretically produce a bomb in another ten or twelve years, so they must be dangerous. Theoretically.

Helene Cooper and John H. Cushman Jr. wrote for the New York Times:
This is the first time that the United States has taken such steps against the armed forces of any sovereign government.
But this is not strictly true. As usual, the liberal media is leading us down the garden path. These sanctions are directed against the Iranian economy, that is to say they will hurt the Iranian people. The notion that they are "targeted" against the armed forces of Iraq is another pretext: How can these sanctions be bad if they are only directed against the terrorist-sponsors and the weapons-proliferators? That's how the sanctions are to be sold; what they will do is another matter entirely.

Mr. Paulson said that, in dealing with Iran, “it is nearly impossible to know one’s customer and be assured that one is not unwittingly facilitating the regime’s reckless behavior and conduct.”

“It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business” with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Mr. Paulson said.
If taken seriously, and applied fairly, these arguments would justify an economic quarantine of the United States by the rest of the world, which -- by doing business as usual with the unelected government of a former democracy -- is unwittingly (or otherwise) facilitating the regime’s reckless behavior.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice crammed as many lies as possible into a single sentence:
While Washington is open to a diplomatic solution, Ms. Rice said, “Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon, building dangerous ballistic missiles, supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israel off the map.”
It was not Iran but the United States which has spurned offers of negotiations. For more on this aspect of the multi-facted lie, see Esquire for John H. Richardson's "The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to Know" (excerpts to follow).

As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has every right to pursue nuclear power, even though the technology could eventually lead to a nuclear weapon. So do all other signatories to the treaty, and that's why we have inspectors. Iran is currently unable to produce a nuclear weapon and nobody seriously imagines they could do so within the next ten years. So what's the problem?

And who put the United States in charge of deciding which countries are allowed to build ballistic missiles? Or is it all right for a country which uses such things to deny others the right to even possess them?

Iran has long been accused of supporting Shia militants in Iraq, but no hard proof has ever been offered; similarly we have seen no proof of Iran supporting militants or terrorists in other countries, such as Afghanistan or Lebanon or the Palestinian territories; on the other hand we have undeniable evidence that Americans and Israelis have been waging war against these countries, unprovoked or on manufactured "provocations". How quaint.

The threat to wipe Israel off the map has been shown to be bogus: it's a mistranslation -- probably a deliberate mistranslation -- of a statement by a figurehead who has no power.

Some writers have been trying to bring these truths to the people who lack them, and Chris Floyd has been among the best of them. In an excellent piece for Saloon yesterday, he wrote:
We'll let professor Juan Cole of the University of Reality handle the "stupid things" known as facts: "President Ahmadinejad, whose job is more or less ceremonial, is not the commander-in-chief of the Iranian armed forces. He has never advocated 'genocide,' and his expressed wish that the 'occupation regime over Jerusalem' (i.e., the Israeli government) eventually vanish has been mistranslated. As for the rest, the candidates simply assume that Iran has a nuclear weapons research program, which has not been proven. It certainly does not have a nuclear weapon at present, and the National Intelligence Estimate indicates that if it were trying to get one, it would take until at least 2016 -- and then only if the international environment were conducive to the needed high-tech imports. (Ahmadinejad, by the way, will not be in power in 2016.) Also, someone really needs to let the Republicans know that Iran is Shiite, meaning it abhors Sunni fundamentalists and rejects the caliphate."
But none of this matters, because -- just as in the case of Iraq -- there is no intelligence driving the policy. The policy is driving the intelligence. In other words. the decision to wage war on Iran has already been made, and this announcement -- in addition to the damage it will do to the Iranian people -- is yet another step in the propaganda campaign intended to "justify" such a war.

And what if the sanctions cause injury and death -- what if they destroy the lives of innocent people?

Don't worry about that. Just remember, "the price is worth it" -- as long as somebody else is paying that price!


Here, as promised, extended excerpts from "The Secret History of the Impending War with Iran That the White House Doesn't Want You to Know"
In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm -- not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say.

"The hard-liners are upping the pressure on the State Department," says Leverett. "They're basically saying, 'You've been trying to engage Iran for more than a year now and what do you have to show for it? They keep building more centrifuges, they're sending this IED stuff over into Iraq that's killing American soldiers, the human-rights internal political situation has gotten more repressive -- what the hell do you have to show for this engagement strategy?' "

But the engagement strategy was never serious and was designed to fail, they say. Over the last year, Rice has begun saying she would talk to "anybody, anywhere, anytime," but not to the Iranians unless they stopped enriching uranium first. That's not a serious approach to diplomacy, Mann says. Diplomacy is about talking to your enemies. That's how wars are averted. You work up to the big things. And when U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had his much-publicized meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad this spring, he didn't even have permission from the White House to schedule a second meeting.

The most ominous new development is the Bush administration's push to name the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.
And that was done earlier today ...
Months before September 11, Mann had been negotiating with the Iranian diplomat at the UN. After the attacks, the meetings continued, sometimes alone and sometimes with their Russian counterpart sitting in. Soon they traded the conference room for the Delegates' Lounge, an airy two-story bar with ashtrays for all the foreigners who were used to smoking indoors. One day, up on the second floor where the windows overlooked the East River, the diplomat told her that Iran was ready to cooperate unconditionally, a phrase that had seismic diplomatic implications. Unconditional talks are what the U.S. had been demanding as a precondition to any official diplomatic contact between the U.S. and Iran. And it would be the first chance since the Islamic revolution for any kind of rapprochement. "It was revolutionary," Mann says. "It could have changed the world."

A few weeks later, after signing on to Condoleezza Rice's staff as the new Iran expert in the National Security Council, Mann flew to Europe with Ryan Crocker -- then a deputy assistant secretary of state -- to hold talks with a team of Iranian diplomats. Meeting in a light-filled conference room at the old UN building in Geneva, they hammered out plans for Iranian help in the war against the Taliban. The Iranians agreed to provide assistance if any American was shot down near their territory, agreed to let the U.S. send food in through their border, and even agreed to restrain some "really bad Afghanis," like a rabidly anti-American warlord named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, quietly putting him under house arrest in Tehran. These were significant concessions.

Mann interrupts herself. "This is off the record," she says. "This is going to have to be on background."

She's not allowed to talk about confidential documents or intelligence matters, but the topic of her negotiations with the Iranians is especially touchy.

"As far as they're concerned, the whole idea that there were talks is something I shouldn't even be talking about," she says.

All ranks and ranking are out. "They don't want there to be anything about the level of the talks or who was involved."

"They won't even let us say something like 'senior' or 'important,' 'high-ranking,' or 'high-level,' " Leverett says.

But the important thing is that the Iranians agreed to talk unconditionally, Mann says. "They specifically told me time and again that they were doing this because they understood the impact of this attack on the U.S., and they thought that if they helped us unconditionally, that would be the way to change the dynamic for the first time in twenty-five years."

Three weeks later, it was time for [Bush's] 2002 State of the Union address.

That was the speech in which Bush linked Iran to Iraq and North Korea with a memorable phrase:

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."

The Iranians had been engaging in high-level diplomacy with the American government for more than a year, so the phrase was shocking and profound.

After that, the Iranian diplomats skipped the monthly meeting in Geneva. But they came again in March. And so did Mann. "They said they had put their necks out to talk to us and they were taking big risks with their careers and their families and their lives," Mann says.

The secret negotiations with Iran continued, every month for another year.

Leverett plunged right into a dramatic new peace proposal floated by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

But the White House wasn't interested. Sharon already rejected it, Rice told Leverett.

At the Arab League meeting, Abdullah got every Arab state to sign his proposal in a unanimous vote.

The White House still wasn't interested.

In April, Leverett accompanied Colin Powell on a tour that took them from Morocco to Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon and finally Israel. Twice they crossed the Israeli-army lines to visit Arafat under siege. Powell seemed to think he had authorization from the White House to explore what everyone was calling "political horizons," the safely vague shorthand for a peaceful future

Then the phone rang. It was Stephen Hadley on the phone from the White House. "Tell Powell he is not authorized to talk about a political horizon," he said. "Those are formal instructions."

"This is a bad idea," Leverett remembers saying. "It's bad policy and it's also humiliating for Powell, who has been talking to heads of state about this very issue for the last ten days."

"It doesn't matter," Hadley said. "There's too much resistance from Rumsfeld and the VP. Those are the instructions."

Then came the moment that would lead to an extraordinary battle with the Bush administration. It was an average morning in April [2003], about four weeks into the [Iraq] war. Mann picked up her daily folder and sat down at her desk, glancing at a fax cover page. The fax was from the Swiss ambassador to Iran, which wasn't unusual -- since the U.S. had no formal relationship with Iran, the Swiss ambassador represented American interests there and often faxed over updates on what he was doing. This time he'd met with Sa-deq Kharrazi, a well-connected Iranian who was the nephew of the foreign minister and son-in-law to the supreme leader. Amazingly, Kharrazi had presented the ambassador with a detailed proposal for peace in the Middle East, approved at the highest levels in Tehran.

A two-page summary was attached. Scanning it, Mann was startled by one dramatic concession after another -- "decisive action" against all terrorists in Iran, an end of support for Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, a promise to cease its nuclear program, and also an agreement to recognize Israel.

This was huge. Mann sat down and drafted a quick memo to her boss, Richard Haass. It was important to send a swift and positive response.

Then she heard that the White House had already made up its mind -- it was going to ignore the offer. Its only response was to lodge a formal complaint with the Swiss government about their ambassador's meddling.

In response to questions from Esquire, Colin Powell called Leverett "very able" and confirms much of what he says.

On the general subject of negotiations with Iran, he responded with pointed politesse. "We talked to the Iranians quietly up until 2003. The president chose not to continue that channel."
This is what the administration spokesmen mean when they say "Iran has refused to negotiate."

Can we get these guys impeached already? Maybe we could, if enough of us cared enough.

But on this occasion, Hillary Mann has the final word:
"We're tired," Mann says. "Nobody listens."