Monday, October 5, 2015

The danger of renewed Cold War with Iran

   The 5+1 Treaty with Iran was a major victory - a step forward - for cooling down tensions in the Middle East and achieving world peace.  It was a break by Obama with past American belligerence and unilateralism toward Europe and others, a hope for less American carnage and destruction in the Middle East.  The agreement might also enable the US to work with Iran in fighting IS and in other matters of common interest, though Iran has allied with Russia in Syria.  Still the US and Russia have common interests against IS - but ones that will not be achieved by bombing.  Iran's ground forces, along with the courageous Kurds - currently being attacked by the Turkish government - are the only ones in a position to go after IS...


     This agreement would thus enable the US not to tie itself destructively, perhaps fatally to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the two most reactionary regimes in the region, belligerent aggressors, and the monstrous treatment of Palestinians by Israel.  It might encourage the US to move away from the Saudi aggression in Yemen which blew up 100 people at a wedding party last week (the US itself took out 19 people, including 3 children and 12 Doctors without Borders workers. in Northern Afghanistan two days ago...), and to begin to balance forces in the region diplomatically, to avoid further war.  It thus might also begin to limit US craziness with drones - murdering people, often children and bystanders in addition to "suspects" in countries the US is not at war with (along with making himself an accomplice to torturers, the worst - or most criminal - thing that Obama - as President of the Empire - has done).  The Treaty is thus  a great achievement in foreign policy weakening the intense threat of larger war in the Middle East and nuclear war likely to be spawned by the one nuclear power in the region, Israel...


    But the forces of American militarism as well as Israel seek to undermine the agreement. In tight relationship with what is worst in the US, Israel tests new weapons in Gaza and provides them as well as  "training" American police forces.  The cause of Black Lives Matter, the Palestinians, the Iranian dissidents/most Iranians (a US bombing, avoided by this agreement, would have strengthened the regime politically as a belligerent and reactionary force) is linked.  Further, democracy in America for all ordinary people is strengthened by international negotiation/cooperation and moving away from further war.


       The agreement is, in fact, harsh on Iran; nonetheless, it opens real possibilities of peaceful development.  Therefore the fight by AIPAC and Netanyahu, backed by those who want unending war in the Middle East - i.e. Republicans in the Senate and Republican Presidential candidates, baying, baying, baying (Scott Walker, Huckabee and Graham compete for who can say the stupidest thing, sock-puppets of Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate/bankroller of Romney and Netanyahu, and more deeply, the war complex).  The US government officially spends nearly a trillion dollars a year on war  (Chris Hedges recently estimated $1.7 in real terms) which could go to medical care, reconstituting the impoverished South, canceling student debt and the like; it needs "enemies" and constant wars, and is a large instrument inside the United States of the strengthening of inequality...


    But as Peter Beinart strikingly indicates below, Israel has already exacted a huge price in America for the agreement. AIPAC spent $40 million fighting the agreement, and Obama had to promise potentially belligerent Democrats to maintain restrictions on Iran in exchange for their vote.  He thus diminished the possibility of consolidating a move away from war in American politics, of pursuing joint purposes with Iran more explicitly (one may hope that he will do so, nonetheless).  In addition,  Obama's increased military "aid" to Israel, $4.5 billion per year, an increase from the already unparalleled $3 billion  (and Clinton's promise of even more) is even more dangerous.  It undermines the seriousness or straightforwardness  of the deal to Iranians and others.  Iran did not have to ally with Russia in Syria; the stupidity of the war complex instigated this.


    As Rob Prince underlines in the second article, Obama at least rightly opposes selling Israel bunker-buster nuclear weapons which the Bennett-Cardin bill (two Democratic Senatorial monsters - it is not just the Republican crew...) originally contained.  And he can resist it.   But as yet another price exerted by the war lobby, Obama  still crazily provides the Israeli government - upping the "aid", that is, sales by American weapons manufacturers subsidized with tax money taken from the American people  - with nearly everything else.  Bennett and Cardin are determined to douse any possibility of peace in the Middle East - and with Rand Paul having moved to the Right on Israel, Obama's new opening is under deep threat in the 2016 election.

"Dear Peter,

    Another terrific and sad article - the Jeremiah quote is beautiful and the points about Cold War (and hot wars) beautifully drawn.  It is grim that Obama had to lie about Iran; they are a nasty regime, but have not, lately invaded and occupied, for instance, Baja California and Canada whereas the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, its two neighbors.  However use of maps is not big in mainstream American politics/commentary.   And the Shia are but 7-10% of Muslims - again, never mentioned in the media - and thus, hardly likely to dominate the Sunnis in the Middle East.  I agree with your profound point that AIPAC/Netanyahu have undermined the possibility of a thaw between the US and Iran and seek a renewed Cold War in the interest of Israeli aggression/Occupation.  But despite "selling" more American weapons to Israel with taxpayer money  (the "aid" upped from 30 billion to 45 billion over the next 10 years...), I hope Obama's intent is still to develop things with Iran, at least with regard to continuing to fight IS.  And that this and other commonalities may lead, through openings for investment from others and US competition, to erosion of further sanctions and other openings over time.  Even Hillary was better than Rand Paul on this - hard work for Rand Paul to achieve... - but as you point out, if she is elected, she would work to kill this possibility; Bernie Sanders would be a lot better and possibly Biden - Bernie is a hope...But turning us from war will take a big movement from below...

          All the best,


From Peter Beinart

In the fight over the Iran nuclear deal, AIPAC has supposedly lost big. The organization will see “its power and reputation in Washington diminished,” declared The New York Times. In a column titled “The Iran Deal and the End of the Israel Lobby,” Jonathan Chait pronounced AIPAC’s lobbying efforts “almost completely ineffectual.” An article in The Nation suggests that in fighting the Iran agreement, AIPAC “may have destroyed itself.”

I disagree. For those of us who want America to spend less time fueling conflict in the Middle East, and more time resolving it, the harsh truth is this: If AIPAC lost, so did we.

The reason is that although AIPAC didn’t kill the nuclear deal, it has helped kill, at least for now, the prospect of a fundamentally different relationship between the United States and Iran. When the agreement was signed in July, top Obama administration officials suggested that it might not only curb Tehran’s nuclear program, but might also end America’s decades-long cold war with the Islamic Republic. “I know that a Middle East that is on fire is going to be more manageable with this [nuclear] deal, and opens more potential for us to be able to try to deal with those fires,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. U.S. President Barack Obama himself talked about a “foundation for continued progress.”

You don’t hear that anymore. In opposing the deal, AIPAC and its allies insisted that lifting sanctions would empower Iran to foment evil in the Middle East. The administration could have pushed back [!!]. After all, while Iran certainly supports bad actors in the region (Hezbollah and Hamas chief among them), so do U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia. In Syria, Iran’s ally President Bashar Assad is no worse than the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, or Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front), the Salafi groups that get support from the Sunni Gulf (and in al-Nusra’s case, from Israel). In Yemen, Iran is aiding the Houthis and their ally, former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh (a former client of the United States). But it’s Riyadh, not Tehran, that’s been accused of war crimes by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for its “indiscriminate” bombing of civilian areas. In Iraq, Iran is America’s most militarily potent ally against ISIS [actually, in action, it's the Kurds whom the US has sold out to Erdogan, the would be Turkish dictator...].

Contrary to the narrative being peddled by AIPAC, the wars in Iraq, Yemen and Syria aren’t morality tales about Iranian aggression and “destabilization.” Iraq, Yemen and Syria are weak states, which have become battlegrounds in a battle for regional power that pits Iran against Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies. The Sunni powers can’t win these wars on the battlefield, and we shouldn’t want them to. The best hope for ending the destruction is through a diplomatic process that includes Iran, the Gulf States and outside powers like the United States and Russia. And that’s more likely if Washington has a less hostile relationship with Tehran.

But neither the Saudis nor the Israelis want that. They’d rather see the civil wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen rage on than legitimize Iran's influence there. And they fear a better relationship between America and Iran because it reduces their leverage. After all, the more working relationships America has in the Middle East, the less reliant it is on its traditional allies.

That’s where AIPAC comes in. It may have lost the fight against the nuclear deal. But along with Saudi Arabia, it has won the fight to preserve the cold war between America and Iran. To win over Democrats being pressured by AIPAC to oppose the deal, the White House promised that even as it was lifting nuclear sanctions on Tehran, it would consider imposing new ones for Iran’s ties to terrorism and abuses of human rights (This despite the fact that Iran’s most prominent dissidents overwhelmingly oppose sanctions). The United States has reportedly provided Riyadh with some of the cluster bombs it is using in its brutal campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. According to the Rand Corporation’s Alireza Nader, America remains officially opposed to any Iranian role in the negotiations to end Syria’s civil war. And Hillary Clinton is promising that she’ll be even more hostile to Tehran than Obama. “This is not the start of some larger diplomatic opening,” she promised last week. Instead, America will “confront” Iran and its allies “across the board.”

To be fair, there are also powerful forces in Tehran that want to keep the U.S.-Iranian relationship icy. Iran’s conservatives, who have long used the supposed American threat to legitimize their brutal rule, know a warming relationship with Washington could erode their power. But that’s precisely why Iran’s democratic dissidents want the nuclear deal to lead to something more. And it’s part of the reason Americans should too.

Although hawks sometimes romanticize America’s half-century long conflict with the USSR, cold wars are ugly things. They turn entire countries into battlegrounds (Vietnam, Angola and Nicaragua in the 1970s and 1980s. Syria, Iraq and Yemen today). And they make it easier for dictatorships (and even democracies) to stifle dissent at home. 

Yes, AIPAC failed to stop the Iran nuclear deal. But in its broader mission of preserving the U.S.-Iranian cold war, AIPAC, with its strange bedfellows in the Persian Gulf, are still winning. And as long as they do, the United States is unlikely to help end the terrible wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen or to help the long-suffering Iranian people achieve freedom. In the words of Jeremiah, “Summer is gone. But we have not been saved.”


Rob Prince's blog:
The Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 – A Prescription for Fueling an Intensified Middle East Arms Race.
OCTOBER 1, 2015

       The Iran Deal: What the Obama Administration giveth, Congress (tries to) taketh away?

In the aftermath of Congress’s failure to sabotage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the agreement negotiated between six countries, the EU and Iran to limit the Iranian nuclear energy program in return for lifting sanctions – the Obama Administration, along with its partners in the agreement have pushed ahead to implement it. But is this a case of “What the Obama Administration giveth, the Congress taketh away? At the behest of neo-conservatives, AIPAC, Christians United For Israel, some in Congress, however, including some original Democratic supporters of JCPOA, are actively working to undermine the very same agreement.
Referred to as “AIPAC’s Plan B” by some, there are several threads to political sabotage effort.

• After endorsing the result of the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, Colorado’s Democratic Senator, Michael Bennet threw in his little caveat: along with Maryland’s U.S. Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland (who came out square against the Iran agreement) he, is sponsoring legislation that The Cardin-Bennet proposal adds weight to this two-track policy which might be entitled “Talking Peace While Still Planning For War” Still peddling the myth of the Iranian threat Cardin and Bennet called the “Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015,” which Cardin insists is “consistent with the administration’s interpretation of the agreement,” to the contrary, it is meant to throw a major monkey wrench into implementing the Iran deal. In Iran’s eyes it amounts to negotiating for peace with Teheran while simultaneously strengthening Israel’s ability to unilaterally attack Iran. The bill exudes hostility towards both Iran and the Iranian leadership. As it is written, it comes through more as a something threatening war rather than an attempt towards the normalization of relations. As such, it will more than likely draw strong objections from the White House as well as its P5+1 partners and Iran.

• Within the same “Iran Policy Oversight Act, another line of attack against the Iran deal was announced, and quickly supported by two icons of U.S Middle East militarism and interventionism, both longtime supporters of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies. Dennis Ross and David Petraeus published a joint oped in the Washington Post calling on the Obama Administration to add Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOPs) to an already promised $1.9 billion high-tech arms sale to Israel which entails, even without the MOP sales, the Israeli purchase of some 32100 high tech bombs and missiles, not a bad little haul. Ross is a former high level State Department official with close ties to Israel. Petraeus, former C.I.A. director, head of the U.S. Central Command and one of Washington’s key military leaders involved in the Iraq War. Joining these two known neo-cons is Robert Satloff, currently executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an AIPAC spin-off whose policy positions have a long history of a narrow pro-Likud-Israeli bent. All three, RossPetraeusSatloff opposed the Iran deal and did everything in their power to defeat it.

2. 30,000 pound bunker buster bombs – The new peace messenger?

An early draft of the Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015 raised hackles both in Teheran and Washington. It called for offering Israel the MOP as well as the means for delivering it; later drafts do not insist on this, nor do they discourage such weapons’ transfers. Even if the demand was recently dropped in subsequent drafts, watch how, like the proverbial bad penny, AIPAC and Co. will renew the call for giving Israel the MOPs, and along with it the B-52s or B-2 bombers necessary to launch the missile. The entire bill should be opposed and voted down, with or without the MOP system inclusion.

Massive Ordnance Penetrators – superbombs, reminiscent of the worst days of the Cold War. In times past, it was a race to see who could build the biggest nuclear weapon, the U.S. or the Soviets, with each one outdoing the other triggering yet another round of nuclear weapons insanity. Fast forward to 2015, now it is a race to see who can build the most explosive “bunker buster” bomb, which country can build one that can penetrate deeper in the ground with more explosive power to take out underground military and nuclear facilities like those in Iran. The earlier generation of 5000 pound bunker busters didn’t have enough firepower to destroy Iran’s underground military production system, so that one 6,7 times in size and with much greater penetration and explosive power was engineered and tested by the U.S. military. It is, by any standard, a weapon of mass destruction and should be banned, outlawed for use, not sold or offered for free to the Israelis. These bombs are so powerful, that while technically conventional they reach the firepower of tactical nuclear weapons (which were also conceived, among other things, as possible bunker busters).

The earlier generation of 5000 pound bunker busters didn’t have enough firepower to destroy Iran’s underground military production system, so that one 6,7 times in size and with much greater penetration and explosive power was engineered and tested by the U.S. military. The MOP, by any standard, a weapon of mass destruction and should be banned, outlawed for use, not sold or offered for free to the Israelis

At 30,000 pounds, the MOP – or as it is formally known – the GBU-57 (GBU=guided bomb unit) – is the largest non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. missile arsenal. The 30,000 pound massive ordnance penetrator, or MOP for short, is a bunker buster missile developed jointly by Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin in 2002. It burrows some 200 feet under the ground before detonating.The research got renewed energy though, when during the U.S. led 2003 invasion of Iraq it was discovered that an analysis of sites targeted with the then-existing bunker buster bombs “revealed poor penetration and inadequate destruction.” After U.S. Special Forces scoured Afghan caves looking for Osama Bin Laden, the program was intensified. An initial successful test explosion of one such bomb took place as early as March, 2007 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico where the first atomic bomb was tested, but the final product did not come off the production line until September, 2011 when the Air Force took delivery of 20 bombs. Shortly thereafter, in February 2012, Congress approved $81.6 million to further develop and improve the weapon
The research development of the MOP proceeded at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Munitions Directorate, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida with design and testing work performed by Boeing. With unprecedented explosive power, the MOP’s very size presents “delivery” problems. The bomb itself is so heavy that only the biggest bombers in the American fleet could even be considered – B-52s and B-2 bombers and they had to be retrofitted and strengthened to carry such a heavy workload.

3. The Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum of U.S. Middle East Wars: Petraeus and Ross?
The question of whether or not Israel should get the MOP bunker buster bombs was already on the table two years ago, in 2013, when the Obama Administration and Israel’s Netanyahu government were negotiating a major U.S. arms sale to Israel. Ross and Petraeus’ proposal is to “sweeten the deal” to include the MOP. That earlier weapons’ sale package, discussed below, included some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the American arsenal: aircraft for mid-air refueling and missiles that could cripple an adversary’s air defense system (and thus make the country more vulnerable to bombing).
As is often the case, the Israelis upped the ante and asked for more, specifically recently 2011 tested MOP bunker busters, the new giant bomb designed to penetrate earth and reinforced concrete to destroy deeply buried sites. But, alas the Obama Administration refused the Israeli request.
In May (2015), in part to soothe their stated concerns over the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama Administration authorized a $1.9 billion sale of highly sophisticated weaponry to Israel, much of it with “bunker buster” potential that can penetrate and destroy underground military sites such as Iran’s underground nuclear facilities. According to an article in the International Business Times, it included 3000 Hellfire missiles for Israeli Air Force Apache helicopters, as well as hundreds of laser guided bombs and missiles and two kinds of bunker buster bomb packages: 50 BLU-113 Super Penetrator and 700 BLU-109 Penetrator bunker buster missiles. (BLU= Bomb Live Unit).

The business newsletter, The Motley Foolprovides a more extensive list of what the $1.9 billion deal consists of. While some attention has focused on the possible sale of MOPs, very little discussion has centered on the rest. Being sold are:
       14,500 KMU-556C/B Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits, built by Boeing(NYSE:BA)and used to convert ordinary Mk-82, -83, and -84 “dumb” bombs into “smart bombs” guided by GPS
       4,500 actual 1,000-lb Mk-83 bombs
       3,500 500-lb Mk-82s
       (But apparently no 2,000-lb Mk-84s — which Israel is able to produce domestically)
       4,100 GBU-39 Small Diameter, precision GPS-guided glide-bombs (also from Boeing)
       50 BLU-113 5,000-lb “bunker buster” bombs from General Dynamics (NYSE:GD), each capable of penetrating through 20 feet of reinforced concrete
       1,500 Paveway laser-guidance kits from Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), which can be attached to the Mk-83 bomb
       700 similar Paveway kits for attachment to BLU-109 bunker busters (but no actual BLU-109s)
       3,000 AGM-114K/R Hellfire Missiles from Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT)
       250 AIM-120C Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles from Raytheon
       500 of Boeing’s DSU-38A/B Detector Laser Illuminated Target kits for guiding JDAM-modified smart bombs to their targets

The BLU-109 first came into service in 1985; it is still in use today and is a part of the military arsenals of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

The BLU-113 Super Penetrator, at 4400 pounds, was, until the development of the its 30,000 cousin, the largest bunker buster weapon in the U.S. arsenal. Produced by the National Forge Company, the weapon carries some 675 pounds of tritonal explosives. Tritonal mixes the traditional explosive TNT with aluminum powder to produce a greater explosive mix than TNT.

Like the stronger bunker busters, Hellfire missiles shot from helicopters are meant to penetrate hardened targets – such as tanks and underground bunkers. An earlier transfer of Hellfires was suspended in the summer of 2014 over concerns that Israel was using them against civilian targets during its attacks on Gaza.

In authorizing this sale, the U.S. Defense Department made a curious – and not particularly credible – statement:

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability…Israel, which already has these munitions in its inventory, will have no difficulty absorbing the additional munitions into its armed forces. The proposed sale of these munitions will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

4.  Signaling Iran that despite the nuclear agreement, the US and Israel are still preparing for war against Iran?

The Petraeus-Ross proposal, as is the Iran Policy Oversight Act it supports, is reckless in the extreme and would go far in fueling an already hot Middle East arms race that much further.

As an April, 2014 NY Times article pointed out:

“The weapon, called a Massive Ordnance Penetrator, weighs about 30,000 pounds — so much that Israel does not have any aircraft capable of carrying it. To do so, Israel would need a B-2 bomber, the stealth aircraft that the United States flew nonstop recently from Missouri to the Korean Peninsula to underscore to North Korea that it could reach its nuclear sites.” Having spent a good deal of time and money to upgrade the MOP, military sources told the Wall Street Journal that several bombs, dropped one on top of each other had the explosive power necessary to destroy fortified Iranian nuclear facilities
At the time, the 2014 NY Times article continued “The Obama administration [was] reluctant to even discuss selling such capability to the Israelis.” Nor are they anxious to make such a concession to Israel today. As Ross and Petraeus know well, to make the GBU-57 operational, the United States would also have to throw either B-52 or B-2 heavy bombers into the mix, a move which Ross, reaching a step beyond the limits of sanity, supports.

First of all transferring B-52s or B-2 bombers is in violation of the 2010 START Treaty which prohibits it. It is fantasy to think that the Iranians or Russians would stand idly by. As Kingston Reif noted in an on-line article at War on the Rocks notes, even some Israeli military figures are less than enthusiastic about receiving MOP weaponry:

“Transfer of the MOP to Israel would also be highly provocative. For example, retired IAF Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu, a former commander of the IAF, has said that introduction of the B-52s would trigger a whole different level of conventional arms race in the region and prompt Russia to sell “10 times more” of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran. Moreover, What signal would Washington be sending to Iran if one of its first moves after agreeing to the JCPOA were to greatly strengthen the ability of Israel to unilaterally attack Iran? Such a move would not be particularly conducive to getting implementation of the deal off on the right foot.”

For example, retired IAF Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu, a former commander of the IAF, has said that introduction of the B-52s would trigger a whole different level of conventional arms race in the region and prompt Russia to sell “10 times more” of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran. Moreover, What signal would Washington be sending to Iran if one of its first moves after agreeing to the JCPOA were to greatly strengthen the ability of Israel to unilaterally attack Iran?

But all this was too much for even the Obama Administration which has lobbied against including MOP weapons in the Bennet-Cardin bill. Lately Cardin has backed off a bit stating that “it is premature to speak of specific weapons systems that may be part of an enhanced regional security strategy.” “An enhanced regional security strategy”…a typically strange way of calling what is essentially an enhanced regional arms race by another name.

Furthermore, while tempting to upgrade its arsenal with such a weapon, Israel is lukewarm to the proposal as the technical challenges for supporting it are many. It has only one air base, Nevatim, that could handle such a missile program and its runways would have to be upgraded to support the larger bombers. As a U.S. News and World Report article added,“Israeli experts also warn that the tiny country would have to invest a fortune in related infrastructure — simulators, training, facilities, mechanical systems and experts — to handle such weapons.” On the other hand, should such a deal be finalized it would permanently draw in the United States military in such a manner that the U.S. military presence in Israel, already considerable, would be permanent.

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