Just because I haven’t written in a while doesn’t mean nothing is going on


Take this bit of news which must really upset the Orientalists bent on emasculating the once great Ottoman Empire.  Turkey has been agitating for some time to become a part of the European Union and Europe has succeeded in keeping them out based on the hypocritical notions that any country interested in joining the E.U. should’ unconditionally harmonize with E.U. values, effectively uphold fundamental principles, such as the rule of law, democracy, respect of international humanitarian law, the human rights declarations, minority rights, political asylum rights and civil liberties.’  Two countries heavily invested in denying Turkey entry, Germany and France, have the biggest problems with several of the above stated principles; just ask France’s Muslim and Germany’s Turks, but that’s neither here nor there. What Turkey has done is become another voice in the legitimization of opposition to Israeli hegemony in the Middle East, something which Israel considers an existential threat.Turkish ship Mavi Marmara

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that any formal reconciliation between Turkey and Israel is impossible without the lifting of the siege on Gaza.

The comments come in spite of frequent announcements from Turkish and Israeli officials that the two countries were only weeks away from reconciliation.

“What happens in Gaza is unacceptable, the occupation by Israel must end,” said Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan’s spokesman adding that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza needed to be addressed.

……..he added that on Monday that the two countries “do not agree 100 percent,” and that there were “still certain hurdles we must overcome.”

Israel and Turkey used be two of the staunchest allies in the Middle East with the former being the first Muslim-majority country to recognise Israel in 1949.

However, the killing of nine Turkish citizens on board the Mavi Marmara ship, which was attempting to break the siege of Gaza, in 2010 led to the severing of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

‘Nuff said??

prayingI ran across something that has an historical perspective for African-Americans and African-American Muslims as it deals with Malik Shabazz, aka Malcolm X. Many have said as long as Shabazz dealt with the very narrow minded and limited racism of the Nation of Islam and its pseudo religious bent he was harmless.  After all America is a country of racists, many far more virulent and oppressive than anything offered by Shabazz or his tutor Elijah Muhammad but when he left that movement and started identifying with the larger international Muslim movement the theory goes he was far more potent and dangerous. Shabazz seems to discount that notion in his own words below but no doubt his ability to attract listeners and perhaps even followers to his message meant he became a threat to more than one group of people. In the months before his death he undertook a tour of the Muslim world going to Saudi Arabia for hajj and on to other predominantly Muslim countries.  One stop he made and where the photo above was taken was to Geneva, Switzerland where he met with members of the nascent Muslim Brotherhood movement who wanted to make sure of Shabazz’s conversion to Islam.  This is what came out of that encounter

Taken from Al-Muslimoon Magazine, February, 1965

note – This set of responses to written questions from the Arabic-language monthly Al-Muslimoon, published by the Islamic Center in Geneva, Switzerland, is the last record of Malcolm’s thinking. He wrote most of the responses the night of the fire-bombing of his home and wrote the last two as he sat in a Manhattan hotel the night before his death.

AL-MUSLIMOON: The Black Muslim Movement is one of the most controversial movements in the United States. Having been for a considerable period [of time] its main organizer and most prominent spokesman, could you kindly give us some concise firsthand picture of the background of this movement, its history, its main ethics and its actual strength?

MALCOLM X: Elijah Muhammad allowed himself to become insanely jealous of my own popularity, which went even beyond his own followers and into the non-Muslim community, while his own prestige and influence was limited largely among his immediate followers. While I was still in the movement and blind to his faults by my own uncompromising faith in him, I always thought the jealousy and envy which I saw — constant signs of was stemming mainly and only from his immediate family, and it was quite shocking to me whenever members of his own family would warn me that it was their father (Elijah Muhammad himself) who had become almost insane with jealousy.

When Elijah learned that his son Wallace had told me how his father had seduced his teenage secretaries (by telling them that he was the prophet Muhammad, and making each of them think she was to be his favorite and most beautiful wife Aisha) Elijah feared that my position of influence in the movement was a threat to him and his other children who were now controlling the movement and benefiting from its wealth. Because they feared my popularity with the rank-and-file Muslims, they were careful about any immediate or open move to curtail my authority without good cause, so they patiently waited until they felt that my statement about the late President Kennedy’s assassination would give them the proper public support in any kind of action they’d take to curtail or remove me.

At the time they announced I was to be suspended and silenced for ninety days, they had already set in motion the machinery to have me completely ousted from the movement, and Elijah Muhammad himself had already given the order to have me killed because he feared I would expose to his followers the secret of his extreme immorality.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Should these differences be of a basically ethical nature and on essential matters of faith? What, in your opinion, are the prospects of radical reform within Elijah Muhammad’s followers now or in the future?

MALCOLM X: No, Elijah Muhammad himself will never change. At least I doubt it. He’s too old, dogmatic, and has already gone too far in teaching that he is a greater prophet than Muhammad ibn Abdullah. He is too proud to confess to his followers now that he has deliberately taught them falsehood. But as his well-meaning followers become exposed to the true religion of Islam, they themselves will leave him and practice Islam as it should be. This is why it is so important for centers to be established immediately where true Islam can be taught. And these centers should be located at this time primarily in Black communities, because at this particular time the American Blacks are the ones showing the most interest in [the] true religion.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Have any of Elijah Muhammad’s followers left the movement with you, and do you think that your breakaway from the movement has affected its main body in any considerable way?

MALCOLM X: Yes, many of Elijah’s followers could not go along with his present immorality, and this opened their eyes to the other falsities of his doctrine. But we have not been able to regroup and reorganize them as we should. It takes finance, and we left all treasuries and properties with Elijah, and he uses this wealth that we amassed for him to fight us and keep us from getting organized. He is fanatically opposed to American Negroes hearing true Islam, and has ordered his own well meaning followers to cripple or kill anyone of his followers who wants to leave him to follow true Islam. He fears that true Islam will expose and destroy the power of his false teachings.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Do you plan to just stop at voicing your opposition against Elijah Muhammad and his group or do you have any course of action in mind towards establishing some new organization in the field? If so, on what basis and for what specific near or distant goals?

MALCOLM X: With what little finance we could raise, we have founded the Muslim Mosque, Inc., with headquarters here in Harlem. Our sole interest is to help undo the distorted image [that] we have helped spread about Islam. Our mosque also is for those who want to learn how to live the life of a true Muslim.

However, since we live as Black Americans in a white racist society, we have established another organization which is non-religious, known as the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), and which is designed to unite all Black Americans regardless of their religious affiliation into a group that can fight against American racism and the economic, political, and social evils that stem from white racism here in this American society. With the Muslim Mosque we are teaching our people a better way of life, and with the OAAU we are fighting on an even broader level for complete respect and recognition as human beings for all Black Americans, and we are ready and willing to use any means necessary to see that this goal is reached.

AL-MUSLIMOON: What have you been actually doing since you broke away from Elijah Muhammad’s movement?

MALCOLM X: I have traveled to the Middle East and Africa twice since leaving Elijah Muhammad in March of 1964, mainly to get a better understanding of Islam and the African countries, and in turn to give the Muslim world a better understanding of problems facing those of us here in America who are trying to become Muslims. Also, in Africa to give our people there a better understanding of the problems confronting Black Americans in our struggle for human rights.

AL-MUSLIMOON: Is it true that even after your breakaway from Elijah Muhammad you still hold the Black color as a main base and dogma for your drive under the banner of liberation in the United States? How could a man of your spirit, intellect, and worldwide outlook fail to see in Islam its main characteristic, from its earliest days, as a message that confirms beyond doubt the ethnological oneness and quality of all races, thus striking at the very root of the monstrosity of racial discrimination. Endless are the texts of the Qu’ran (Koran) and prophetic sayings to this effect and nothing would testify to that more than the historic fact that heterogeneous races, nations, and linguistic entities have always mingled peacefully in the homeland.

MALCOLM X: As a Black American I do feel that my first responsibility is to my twenty-two million fellow Black Americans who suffer the same indignities because of their color as I do. I don’t believe my own personal problem is ever solved until the problem is solved for all twenty-two million of us.

Much to my dismay, until now, the Muslim world has seemed to ignore the problem of the Black American, and most Muslims who come here from the Muslim world have concentrated more effort in trying to convert white Americans than Black Americans……

AL-MUSLIMOON: Africa seems to have captured most of your attention and eager concern. Why? And now that you have visited almost every part of it, where do you think Islam actually stands? And what, in your opinion, could be done to save it from both the brainlessness of many, or rather most of those who are considered to be the champions of its cause, and from the malicious, resourceful alliance of Zionism, atheism, and religious fanaticism against Islam?

MALCOLM X: I regard Africa as my fatherland. I am primarily interested in seeing it become completely free of outside political and economic influence that has dominated and exploited it. Africa, because of its strategic position, faces a real crisis. The colonial vultures have no intention of giving it up without a fight. Their chief weapon is still “divide and conquer.” In East Africa there is a strong anti-Asian feeling being nourished among the Africans. In West Africa there is a strong anti-Arab feeling. Where there are Arabs or Asians there is a strong anti-Muslim feeling.

These hostilities are not initiated by the above-mentioned people who are involved. They have nothing to benefit from fighting among themselves at this point. Those who benefit most are the former colonial masters who have now supplanted the hated colonialism and imperialism with Zionism. The Zionists have outstripped all other interest groups in the present struggle for our mother continent. They use such a benevolent, philanthropic approach that it is quite difficult for their victims to see through their schemes. Zionism is even more dangerous than communism because it is made more acceptable and is thus more destructively effective.

Since the Arab image is almost inseparable from the image of Islam, the Arab world has a multiple responsibility that it must live up to. Since Islam is a religion of brotherhood and unity those who take the lead in expounding this religion are duty-bound to set the highest example of brotherhood and unity. It is imperative that Cairo and Mecca (the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs and the Muslim World League) have a religious “summit” conference and show a greater degree of concern and responsibility for the present plight of the Muslim world, or other forces will rise up in this present generation of young, forward-thinking Muslims and the “power centers” will be taken from the hands of those that they are now in and placed elsewhere. Allah can easily do this.

Indeed.

Muslims STOP apologizing for the sins of people who call themselves Muslim


muslim-americans-2Stop it now!!  No other group, nation, tribe, religion has borne the burden of the infamy of a small fraction of its associates like Muslims.  No group of people has had to explain the actions of people they don’t know except tangentially as Muslims have had to do and despite their explanations and protestations not have their exposition accepted.

Juan Cole asks, Must Muslim Americans condemn ISIL; see where he takes you to arrive at an answer

Asking people to take stances based on their ascribed identity (what they were born into most often) rather than on the basis of their individual choices in life goes against everything that modern human rights thinking stands for. It is like forcing all Russian-Americans to say publicly what they think about Vladimir Putin.

So if all this is correct, and it certainly is, why do right wing Americans continue to demand that Muslim-Americans condemn Muslim extremists in the Middle East? They have nothing to do with the latter and aren’t responsible for them. Some of the inhabitants of the American Southwest in the early modern period were secret Muslims from southern Spain who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism by the Inquisition. My birthplace, Albuquerque, is an Arabic word (al-Barquqi). Some 10% of the some 4 million Africans kidnapped and trafficked to Southern landowners as slaves in the US before the slave trade was abolished were Muslim. Hundreds of thousands of people practiced Islam in North America long before there was a United States. The White House was built with slave labor and likely some of that was Muslim labor. Some of the founding Fathers likely owned Muslim slaves. As late as the 1930s, elderly ex-slaves reported in interviews that they remembered their mothers bowing toward the east at dawn. Some Arab-American Muslims can trace their family roots in the US back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The religion is an American religion, deeply interwoven with American history and Muslim-Americans are not responsible for developments in the contemporary Middle East.

So they shouldn’t have to, but they do.

When Turkey’s Jews were asked to condemn the atrocities of Israel in Gaza their response was

No citizen of this country is under any obligation to account for, interpret or comment on any event that takes place elsewhere in the world, and in which he/she has no involvement. There is no onus on the Jewish community of Turkey, therefore, to declare an opinion on any matter at all.

“It is anyway not possible for a community of 20,000 to declare a unified opinion. No human community can be monolithic and the Jewish community is not. Its members include people of all kinds, with a great variety of views.

“In the same way the people of Turkey cannot be held responsible for the barbarity of what the Islamic State [of Iraq and Levent, ISIL] does because a number of Turks are among its fighters, the Jewish community of Turkey cannot be held responsible for what the state of Israel does. It is racism to hold a whole people responsible for the actions of a state and we wish to declare that we are opposed to this.

American Muslims  should be equally assertive in saying they are not responsible for nor do they need to explain the actions of people who are in faraway places of the world.  Even though Muslims do try to explain an Islamic position it has never been good enough to get people to accept what are in some cases detailed and pointed explanations of their positions so STOP it!  Stop it now!

 

Islam and democracy in the Arab world


Galip Dalay wrote what I thought was a very good explanation of Islam and democracy  and the conflict some people in today’s Arab/Muslim world think exists, entitled  Yet Another Instance of Islamic Exceptionalism, which I wanted to post excerpts of below

 

Tanks rolled down the street, state owned TV channels were taken over, dissenting media outlets tankswere raided and silenced, president’s office was surrounded, the first ever democratically elected president was put under house arrest, the constitution was suspended, and the head of army stood in front of cameras to try to justify these disgraceful deeds. As a citizen of Turkey, a country that has endured four military coups, these scenes were all too familiar; what has been taking place in Egypt was clear and obvious: a coup d’état.

Yet, the leaders of “democratic” countries did not describe the events in Egypt as a coup. The United States, which ostensibly squandered a great deal of finances and shed blood all in the name of “democracy” in greater Middle East and North Africa, failed to use “c” word…

Ashton

EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton

Likewise, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton refrained from using the “c” word in her statement on the overthrow of Morsi. In addition, her statement did not indicate any possible repercussions against the military’s grab of power from elected civilians….

This refusal to call a coup a coup has not been limited to the official circles. A significant part of the international media, pundits, and analysts also followed suit by not labeling the events as coup or condemning them. But why were the pundits so reluctant in defining the new millenium’s first televised coup by its name? Have we not all been applauding the irresistible shift towards democratization world-wide? Was not the Arab Spring a welcome development similar to the ones that had taken place in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 – 1990?

The excessive emphasis on the identity of the president and the characteristics of the party, in the international media and analysts’ discourse, seems to indicate the real reason for condoning the coup. morsiIIFinding an article that did not attempt to justify the military takeover of the Morsi government by references to his and his party’s Islamist identity and a detailed account of all the mistakes they made, supposedly due to their Islamist politics, has become a mission impossible. For some, this whole affair represented the confirmation of their long-held belief regarding the incompatibility of Islam and democracy. They eagerly spelled out the failure of Political Islam in playing by the rules of an open and democratic political system.

…the perennial debate on incompatibility between Islam and democracy has been a flawed one. This debate adopts an essentialist approach to both democracy and religion. It accounts for the existence of a functioning democracy more through the specific cultural, civilizational and religious codes than through the existence of strong and independent institutions, rules of law, and political experience…democracy was essentially and exclusively European due to its unique mix of cultural, civilizational and religious factors, thus it could not take root anywhere but the European-western world. This stance assumed that other regions, cultures or religions were impervious to democratization due to their exceptional circumstances and religious and cultural values, which were deemed to be incommensurate with democratic values.

vote….the revolutions in the Arab World rendered this latest form of exceptionalism obsolete as well. Thus, these experiences illustrated that Asians, Muslims and Arabs were no different in their demands for representative democracy and dignity than their European and American peers….

…when pundits question the compatibility of Islam and democracy, what they actually mean is whether Islam is compatible with liberalism. Given that Islamist movements are usually the best organized groups at the societal level in the countries they operate and that they share the value systems of the public at large, they have no qualms about electoral democracy–a stance they eagerly proved by seizing every opportunity for free and fair elections. In this respect, it becomes clear that what is meant by this question of compatibility is whether Islamists are ready to accommodate liberal demands and different (secular) life styles….

…it is the secularist elites and establishments that demonstrate incompatibility with democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. This region has not witnessed Islamists’ halting or crushing democratic processes. In fact, one may argue that the only exception might be the Iranian election of 2009 on a minor scale. Yet, the region witnessed many instances of secularist establishment’s and elites’ crushing of democratic processes: four coups by secular military – establishment in Turkey, Algerian army’s crushing of Islamic Salvation Front in 1992 election to prevent them from coming to power through democratic elections, Egyptian army’s present day crushing of a fledgling democratic experiment. conflictLikewise, in Syria, it is again the secularist Baathist regime that stifles peoples’ demands for freedom, democracy, and economic well-being. This raises the question as to why Middle Eastern and North African secularists demonstrate this inability to reconcile with democratic processes?

Renowned scholar Jose Casanova’s following observations are imperative in understanding this dilemma. “One wonders whether democracy does not become an impossible “game” when potential majorities are not allowed to win elections, and when secular civilian politicians ask the military to come to the rescue of democracy by banning these potential majorities, which threaten their secular identity and their power.” This observation does not only aptly capture the crux of challenges to the democratization in the region, it also elucidates why Middle Eastern and North African secularists prove unable to comply with democratic rules and procedures. Thus, the search for Islamist-proof democracy makes democracy itself a mission impossible to accomplish.

The Islamist identity of Morsi and his party seems to be the major reason for the reticence of the international community and media in defining this coup a coup! The future of democracy and upholding of rights and liberties of the citizens in the Middle East and North Africa are significantly contingent upon whether Islamists would be allowed to run in fair elections and rule, if they win. If we do not want Essam el Haddad’s words “…the message will resonate throughout the Muslim world loud and clear: democracy is not for Muslims” to form the mindset of new generation of Islamists in the region, then it is imperative to take a stance against this coup, which has the potential to stifle the emerging democratic experiments of the Arab Spring.

 

 

 

A Political Reality


Those who support democracy must welcome the rise of political Islam

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamists are gaining the popular vote. Far from threatening stability, this makes it a real possibility

Wadah Khanfar

Andrzej Krauze 2811

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the “problem” of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, there has been mounting tension between Islamists and secularists, who feel anxious about Islamic groups. Many voices warn that the Arab spring will lead to an Islamic winter, and that the Islamists, though claiming to support democracy, will soon turn against it. In the west, stereotypical images that took root in the aftermath of 9/11 have come to the fore again. In the Arab world, a secular anti-democracy camp has emerged in both Tunisia and Egypt whose pretext for opposing democratisation is that the Islamists are likely to be the victors.

But the uproar that has accompanied the Islamists’ gains is unhelpful; a calm and well-informed debate about the rise of political Islam is long overdue.

First, we must define our terms. “Islamist” is used in the Muslim world to describe Muslims who participate in the public sphere, using Islam as a basis. It is understood that this participation is not at odds with democracy. In the west, however, the term routinely describes those who use violence as a means and an end – thus Jihadist Salafism, exemplified by al-Qaida, is called “Islamist” in the west, despite the fact that it rejects democratic political participation (Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, criticised Hamas when it decided to take part in the elections for the Palestinian legislative council, and has repeatedly criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for opposing the use of violence).

This disconnect in the understanding of the term in the west and in the Muslim world was often exploited by despotic Arab regimes to suppress Islamic movements with democratic political programmes. It is time we were clear.

Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria against the regime of Hafez al-Assad in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe “strategic patience” instead.

Second, we must understand the history of the region. In western discourse Islamists are seen as newcomers to politics, gullible zealots who are motivated by a radical ideology and lack experience. In fact, they have played a major role in the Arab political scene since the 1920s. Islamic movements have often been in opposition, but since the 1940s they have participated in parliamentary elections, entered alliances with secular, nationalist and socialist groups, and participated in several governments – in Sudan, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. They have also forged alliances with non-Islamic regimes, like the Nimeiri regime in Sudan in 1977.

A number of other events have had an impact on the collective Muslim mind, and have led to the maturation of political Islam: the much-debated Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979; the military coup in Sudan in 1989; the success of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front in the 1991 elections and the army’s subsequent denial of its right to govern; the conquest of much of Afghan territory by the Taliban in 1996 leading to the establishment of its Islamic emirate; and the success in 2006 of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The Hamas win was not recognised, nor was the national unity government formed. Instead, a siege was imposed on Gaza to suffocate the movement.

Perhaps one of the most influential experiences has been that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, which won the elections in 2002. It has been a source of inspiration for many Islamic movements. Although the AKP does not describe itself as Islamic, its 10 years of political experience have led to a model that many Islamists regard as successful. The model has three important characteristics: a general Islamic frame of reference; a multi-party democracy; and significant economic growth.

These varied political experiences have had a profound impact on political Islam’s flexibility and capacity for political action, and on its philosophy, too.

However, political Islam has also faced enormous pressures from dictatorial Arab regimes, pressures that became more intense after 9/11. Islamic institutions were suppressed. Islamic activists were imprisoned, tortured and killed. Such experiences gave rise to a profound bitterness. Given the history, it is only natural that we should hear overzealous slogans or intolerant threats from some activists. Some of those now at the forefront of election campaigns were only recently released from prison. It would not be fair to expect them to use the voice of professional diplomats.

Despite this, the Islamic political discourse has generally been balanced. The Tunisian Islamic movement has set a good example. Although Ennahda suffered under Ben Ali’s regime, its leaders developed a tolerant discourse and managed to open up to moderate secular and leftist political groups. The movement’s leaders have reassured Tunisian citizens that it will not interfere in their personal lives and that it will respect their right to choose. The movement also presented a progressive model of women’s participation, with 42 female Ennahda members in the constitutional assembly.

The Islamic movement’s approach to the west has also been balanced, despite the fact that western countries supported despotic Arab regimes. Islamists know the importance of international communication in an economically and politically interconnected world.

Now there is a unique opportunity for the west: to demonstrate that it will no longer support despotic regimes by supporting instead the democratic process in the Arab world, by refusing to intervene in favour of one party against another and by accepting the results of the democratic process, even when it is not the result they would have chosen. Democracy is the only option for bringing stability, security and tolerance to the region, and it is the dearest thing to the hearts of Arabs, who will not forgive any attempts to derail it.

The region has suffered a lot as a result of attempts to exclude Islamists and deny them a role in the public sphere. Undoubtedly, Islamists’ participation in governance will give rise to a number of challenges, both within the Islamic ranks and with regard to relations with other local and international forces. Islamists should be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling overconfident: they must accommodate other trends, even if it means making painful concessions. Our societies need political consensus, and the participation of all political groups, regardless of their electoral weight. It is this interplay between Islamists and others that will both guarantee the maturation of the Arab democratic transition and lead to an Arab political consensus and stability that has been missing for decades.

Cause and effect


First this,

Jerusalem to punish Erdogan: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided to adopt a series of harsh measures in response to Turkey’s latest anti-Israeli moves, Yedioth Ahronoth reported

Another planned Israeli move is the facilitation of cooperation with Turkey’s historic rivals, the Armenians. During Lieberman’s visit to the United States this month, the foreign minister is expected to meet with leaders of the Armenian lobby and propose anti-Turkish cooperation in Congress.

Lieberman is also planning to set meetings with the heads of Kurdish rebel group PKK in Europe in order to “cooperate with them and boost them in every possible area.” In these meetings, the Kurds may ask Israel for military aid in the form of training and arms supplies, a move that would constitute a major anti-Turkish position should it materialize.

then there was this

A powerful car bomb explosion has rocked the Turkish capital, Ankara, killing three people and injuring 15 others, at least five seriously.

The bomb exploded Tuesday near government buildings and a secondary school, damaging cars and shops in the surrounding area and starting a fire.

Turkish officials say the blast appears to have been a terrorist attack. Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin said the intent was to inflict as much harm as possible as the blast occurred in an area of heavy car and pedestrian traffic.

No groups or individuals have claimed responsibility for the blast.

Kurdish rebels are fighting for their autonomy in the region and have escalated their attacks on Turkish targets. Turkish officials are threatening an incursion by ground forces against Kurdish rebel bases operating in northern Iraq.

and no one wants to see the connection between the two? Even Ray Charles can see that Israel is intimidating and threatening Turkey with such moves.  Would Israel accept a Turkish pronouncement that it would possibly provide military assistance to Israel’s Arab population or even to Palestinians?  And if you think Israel has nothing to do with internal Turkish politics, remember Lieberman’s last word on the matter

“We’ll exact a price from Erdogan that will prove to him that messing with Israel doesn’t pay off. Turkey better treat us with respect and common decency.”

World War III is at your doorstep America, courtesy of your only ally in the Middle East. Aren’t you tired of war yet?  Can we afford more war?

First Hand Account


I’m truly amazed not everyone in the Gaza Flotilla illegally interdicted by the IDF weren’t all killed.  Perhaps they didn’t have enough ammunition for that task. The second best alternative to keeping away from an enquiring public what happened would be to take all recording devices and destroy them, advance the recordings of the IDF and begin the process of discrediting eyewitnesses to the carnage.  Look for the latter to happen at any moment; however, now there is a lot that’s being said about what took place that fateful morning and none of it paints any type of picture of our friend and stalwart ally other than of murderer.

“I saw them carrying this one IDF guy down,” he recalls. “He looked terrified, like he thought he was going to be killed. But when a big Turkish guy, who had seen seriously injured passengers who had been shot by the IDF, charged over and tried to hit the commando, the Turkish aid workers pushed him off and pinned him to the wall. They protected this Israeli soldier.”

That was when he found the backpack which the soldier had dropped. “I figured I’d look inside and see what he was carrying,” Neish says. “And inside was this kind of flip-book. It was full of photos and names in English and Hebrew of who was on all the ships. The booklet also had a detailed diagram of the decks of the Mavi Marmara.”

Meanwhile, he says, more and more people were being carried down the stairs from the mayhem above—people who’d been shot, and people who were dying or people already dead. “I took detailed photos of the dead and wounded with my camera,” he says, adding, “There were several guys who had two neat bullet holes side by side on the side of their head–clearly they were executed.”

Neish smuggled his photos out of Israel to Turkey despite his arrest on the ship and imprisonment in Israel for several days. “I pulled out the memory card, tossed my camera and anything I had on me that had anything to do with electronics, and then kept moving the chip around so it wouldn’t be found,” he says. “The Israelis took all the cameras and computers. They were smashing some and keeping others. I put the chip in my mouth under my tongue, between my butt cheeks, in my sock, everywhere, to keep them from finding it,” he says. He finally handed it to a Turk who was leaving for a flight home on a Turkish airline. He says the card ended up in the hands of an organization called Free Gaza, and he has seen some of his pictures published, so he knows they made it out successfully.

Neish says that claims that the Israeli commandos were just armed with paint guns and 9 mm pistols are “Bullshit–at one point when I was in the stairwell, a commando opened a hatch above, stuck in a machine gun, and started firing. Bullets were bouncing all over the place. If the guy had gotten to look in and see where he was shooting, I’d have been dead, but two Turkish guys in the stairwell, who had short lengths of chain with them that they had taken from the access points to the lifeboats, stood to the side of the hatch and whipped them up at the barrell. I don’t know if they were trying to hit the commando or to use them to snatch away the gun, but the Israeli backed off, and they slammed and locked the hatch.”

“I never saw a single paint gun, or a sign of a fired paint ball!” he says.

He also didn’t see any guns in the hands of people who were on the ship. “In the whole time I was there on the ship, I never saw a single weapon in the hands of the crew or the aid workers,” he says. Indeed, Neish, who originally had been on a smaller 70-foot yacht called the Challenger II, had transferred to the Mavi Marmara after a stop in Cyprus, because his boat had been sabatoged by Israeli agents (a claim verified by the Israeli government), making it impossible to steer. “When we came aboard the big boat, I was frisked and my bag was inspected for weapons,” he says. “Being an engineer, I of course had a pocket knife, but they took that and tossed it into the ocean. Nobody was allowed to have any weapons on this voyage. They were very careful about that.”

What he did see during the IDF assault was severe bullet wounds. “In addition to several people I saw who were killed, I saw several dozen wounded people. There was one older guy who was just propped up against the wall with a huge hole in his chest. He died as I was taking his picture.”

Neish says he saw many of the 9 who were known to have been killed, and of the 40 who were wounded, and adds, “There were many more who were wounded, too, but less seriously. In the Israeli prison, I saw people with knife wounds and broken bones. Some were hiding their injuries so they wouldn’t be taken away from the others.” He also says, “Initially there were reports that 16 on the boat had been killed. The medical station said 16. There was a suspicion that some bodies may have been thrown overboard. But what people think now is that the the other seven who are missing, since we’re not hearing from families, may have been Israeli spies.”

Once the Israeli commandos had secured control of the Mavi Marmara, Neish says the ship’s passengers and crew were rounded up, with the men put in one area on deck, and the women put below in another area. The men were told to squat, and had their hands bound with plastic cuffs, which Neish says were pulled so tight that his wrists were cut and his hands swelled up and turned purple (he is still suffering nerve damage from the experience, which his doctor in Canada says he hopes will gradually repair on its own).

“They told us to be quiet,” he says. “But at one point this Turkish imam stood up and started singing a call to prayer. Everybody was dead quiet–even the Israelis. But after about ten seconds, this Israeli officer stomped over through the squatting people, pulled out his pistol and pointed at the guy’s head, yelling ‘Shut up!’ in English. The imam looked at him directly and just kept singing! I thought, Jesus Christ, he’s gonna kill him! Then I thought, well, this is what I’m here for, I guess, so I stood up. The officer wheeled around and pointed his gun at my head. The imam finished his song and sat down, and then I sat down.”

While the commandeered vessels were sailed to the Israeli port of Ashdot, the captives were left without food or water. “All we were given were some chocolate bars that the Israelis pilfered from the ship’s stores,” says Neish. “You had to grovel to get to go to the bathroom, and many people had to just go in their pants.”

Things didn’t get much better once the passengers were transferred to an Israeli prison. He and the other prisoners with him, who hadn’t eaten for more than half a day, were tossed a frozen block of bread and some cucumbers.

On the second day, someone from the Canadian embassy came around, calling out his name. “It turned out he’d been going to every cell looking for me,” says Neish. “My daughter had been frantically telling the Canadian government I was in the flotilla. Even though the Israelis had my name and knew where I was, they weren’t telling the Canadian embassy people. In fact the Canadians–and my daughter–thought I was dead, because people had said I’d been near the initial assault. The good thing is that as they went around calling out for me, they discovered two Arab-born Canadians that they hadn’t known were there.”

“Eventually they got to my cell and I answered them. The embassy official said, ‘You’re Kevin? You’re supposed to be dead.’”

After being held for a few days, there was a rush to move everyone to the Ben Gurion airport for a flight to Turkey. “It turned out that Israeli lawyers had brought our case to the Supreme Court, challenging the legality of our capture on international waters. There was a chance that the court would order the IDF to put us back on our ships and let us go, so the government wanted to get us out of Israel and moot the case. But two guys were hauled off, probably by Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency). So we all said, ‘No. We don’t go unless you bring them back.’”

The two men were returned and were allowed to leave with the rest of the group.

“I honestly never thought the Israelis would board the ship,” says Neish. “I thought we’d get into Gaza. I mean, I went as part of the Free Gaza Movement, and they had made prior attempts, with some getting in, and some getting boarded or rammed, but this time it was a big flotilla. I figured we’d be stopped, and maybe searched. My boat, the Challenger II, only had dignitaries on board including three German MPs, and then Lt. Col. Ann Wright and myself.

At one point in the Israeli prison, all the violence finally got to this man who had witnessed more death and mayhem than many active duty US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. “I broke down and started crying,” he admits. “This big Turkish guy came over and asked me, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Sixteen people died.’”

“He said to me, ‘No, they died for a wonderful cause. They’re happy. You just go out and tell your story.’”

Look for the Israeli investigation to completely whitewash all that has been spoken by those who were there and discredit them as well.

This is how it’s done


The western world, particularly America, keeps getting upstaged by these developing countries that are showing the international community how to behave on a global level.  First there was the murder of a Palestinian activist in Dubai, and the UAE’s meticulous handling of that murder investigation which was so spot on it penetrated the invicibility of the lawless and dreaded Mossad, led to the arrest of one person in Poland, the expulsion by Ireland of an Israeli diplomat, the unraveling of the purse strings behind Mossad operations, which sadly America has declined to follow up on and earned Dubai/UAE the respect of the international community.

Brazil and Turkey both brokered a deal with Iran, a deal the US was in favor of until the Israeli interests in the US government decided to go on with their stated program of regime change for Iran and implemented sanctions at the UN level.  What’s significant about the deal is it’s what America said would be necessary to avoid sanctions, but no one stepped up to the plate to forge it until Turkey and Brazil did which brought down upon them the wrath and scorn of the western world and Israel.

That leads us to the latest diplomatic coup and that is Turkey’s announcement they are freezing ties with Israel unless Israel agrees to an international investigation into the murder of at least 9 people aboard a Turkish ship, many of the victims Turkish nationals.  Turkish outrage was evident from the very beginning, yet the country carried itself with diplomatic aplomb; insisting the Israelis immediately release the hostages of the flotilla Israel had seized, providing transportation for those released and returning them first to Turkey and then to their country of origin; all of this under the watchful gaze and inaction of a seething West paralyzed by its fear of even the most  minimal response to an international atrocity.   The suspension of ties, if it’s carried out by Turkey, is complete from military to intelligence gathering and sharing to diplomatic.  The situation demands no less than that from any and all countries, yet because of a wholly unhealthy relationship between Israel and some of her allies, that country is literally able to get away with murder.  Turkey, and Dubai moderate countries and allies of America are once again giving a civics lesson in how to be good neighbors and friends to the rest of the world and it’s high time the world pay attention instead of dismissing them.  By demanding Israel follow the rule of law and have transparent investigations into their behavior with meaningful consequences for Israeli illegal activity, these countries are contributing to the health and stability of peace and international relations.  Unfortunately, there are far too many who believe dissent is the illegal activity and are not able to see where inaction against Israeli terrorism is doing more to aggravate tensions and instability than meaningful, constructive calls for action.  Turkey 2, Israel 0.

Obama’s Image with the International Community


GW Bush was such a bad president that anyone elected after him would be warmly received on the world’s stage and the new office holder would barely have to do anything to get such  adulation.  The fact that an African-America with a very exotic past and name would be the next president guaranteed him success even if his policies were/are as disastrous as those of Bush.

In his first year, Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize when all he did was make a speech in Cairo reiterating basic precepts that this country was founded on or has built up for the past 200 years, but such ideas were so denigrated or ignored by the Bush administration  that to hear them come from Obama after years of neglect and abuse sounded like a new country had been born on the North American continent.  Sure, there is no doubt that many people hoped the election of Obama would signal a change in the approach America would take towards the rest of the world but sadly such a change has yet to come to pass.

America is still stuck in two wars with no sign of either abating and there is a growing likelihood of a third front looming on the horizon with Iran . Regrettably, after a rather pitiful response to Israel’s massacre of aid activist, Obama doesn’t appear to be able to stave off such a possibility.

The Obama administration is celebrating its victory in getting the UN Security Council on Wednesday to approve a fourth round of economic sanctions against Iran. Obama also is expected to sign on to even more draconian penalties that should soon sail through Congress.

Obama may be thinking that his UN diplomatic achievement will buy him some credibility – and some time – with American neocons and Israel’s Likud government, which favor a showdown with Iran over its nuclear program……

Just as the neocons and Israel wanted “regime change” in Iraq, they have long hungered for “regime change” in Iran, too. A favorite neocon joke at the time of the Iraq War was to speculate on which direction to go next, to Syria or Iran, with the punch-line, “Real men to go (sic) Tehran!”

But the world has such high expectations of an Obama presidency that despite these shortcomings and many others people are still willing to place their hope in the American president’s ability to change the world for the better. Unfortunately these attempts are sorely misguided and very premature.

For example, why would the International Criminal Court  want the US, which is not a signatory or member, and thus not bound by the rules of the Court,  be the enforcer of the Court’s decisions while being out of reach of the purview of the Court?  Such an idead definitely sends the wrong signal to law abiding nations.  Over one hundred countries are members of the ICC, and while there is no lack of  international lawlessness and atrocities the world over for the Court to investigate and adjudicate, it has only managed to  work on cases from the African continent, something which no doubt offers the newly formed unified combat command  of the Defense Deparetment, AFRICOM,  a lot of encouragement and raison d’etre for years to come.

The United States has only recently ended eight years of a complete disregard for international bodies and their decision making processes, yet it is now being enlisted to enforce at the point of military action, internationally arrived at edicts?  Such is the proposal being considered by the ICC.  Perhaps in another time and another place something like this could be contemplated, but now it is too early to tell whether America is ready to assume the role of world leader or remain the world’s number one aggressor.  Judging by the her reaction to the Israeli pummeling of ally Turkey and the sabotaging of diplomacy as well as the reaction to raw power and murder occuring at the time of the ICC convention in Uganda ,of all places, now is not the time for America to enforce any law when it demonstrates abject violations of the law at every turn.  The ICC would be better off rethinking this idea and the sooner they dispel themselves of it, the better and safer we might all be.

Exposing the Lie


Much has been said about the murder of civilians on board the Turkish ship headed for Gaza.  The Israeli government would have you believe the brave soldiers of the IDF responded to an attack against them by violent protestors.  They were able to get away with that lie because they thought they had confiscated any and everything that could chronicle what happened on the ship.  In the void created when the IDF took all recording devices and during a time when the activists were secluded from public view, the Israeli spin machine went into high drive with tall tales of bloodthirsty activists pouncing on overwhelmed soldier who responded by killing just a view or using paintball guns that failed to stem the violent reaction to the IDF’s presence.

Of course nothing was farther from  the truth as the picture above and others found here will testify. In fact what really happened is activists disarmed some IDF soldiers and tended to their wounds.  One of the pictures even seems to show an activist directing a soldier to a triage area or defending that soldier from further attacks by enraged activists.  In any event, Israel stopped people from being able to disseminate information and then took its time and made up  scenarios completely from the sky.

The deaths of activists occurred on the Turkish ship and some of the deaths were of Turkish nationals.  Is it not apparent now, beyond the fact that Israel wantonly kills its opposition no matter who they are, that this act of murder on a Turkish ship was meant to send a signal to the Turkish government  their mediation with Brazil and Iran was not welcomed?  In order for the Israeli government to survive it must dominant the entire region and all the countries therein must abide by the Israeli meme which is to maintain unstable regimes in that part of the world. It, the massacre of activists, was a shot across the Turkish political bow to back off from trying to play any role in the Middle East or else.

Thomas Friedman, at it again!


NYT’s Friedman Rejects Iran Nuke Deal

By Robert Parry
May 27, 2010

Washington’s new “group think” on Iran – that the only possible approach is a heightened confrontation followed by “regime change” – is being shaped by the same opinion leaders who charted the way into the bloody disaster in Iraq and paid no career price.

On Wednesday, New York Times’ columnist Thomas L. Friedman rejoined the gang of tough-guy pundits by roughing up the leaders of Brazil and Turkey for daring to negotiate an agreement with Iran that would have it ship about half its low-enriched uranium out of the country and thus spur hopes for a peaceful settlement.

To Friedman, this deal was “as ugly as it gets,” the title of his column. However, others might think that seven-plus years of carnage in Iraq – the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, children with limbs blown off, and the 4,400 dead American soldiers and their grieving families – might be uglier.

But not Friedman, who like many of his fellow millionaire pundits cheered on the Iraq War as the only possible way to deal with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, just as they now are demanding “regime change” in Iran, rather than an agreement to ensure that Iran doesn’t produce a nuclear bomb, which Iran vows it doesn’t want anyway.

In his new belligerent column on Iran, Friedman makes clear that he isn’t really interested in nuclear safeguards; instead, he wants the United States to do whatever it can to help Iran’s internal opposition overthrow President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Islamic-directed government.

“In my view, the ‘Green Revolution’ in Iran is the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades,” Friedman wrote.

“It has been suppressed, but it is not going away, and, ultimately, its success — not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics — is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal.”

That argument, of course, runs parallel to the neocon case for war with Iraq, that “regime change” was the only acceptable outcome. False claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were just the means to get the American public to support that end, just as the exaggerated fears about Iran’s nuclear program are becoming the new excuse for another bid at “regime change.”

However, unlike Iraq which was ruled by dictator Saddam Hussein, the neocon goal of overthrowing Iran’s government faces the unacknowledged reality that Ahmadinejad almost certainly won the June 12, 2009, election – that he is a popularly elected leader.

The Election Fraud Myth

Though the U.S. press corps has refused to accept that fact – and routinely describes the election as “fraudulent,” “rigged” or “stolen,” the reality is there has been no serious evidence presented to support those claims.

Indeed, the overwhelming evidence is that Ahmadinejad, with strong support from the poor especially in more conservative rural areas, defeated the “Green Revolution” candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi by roughly the 2-to-1 margin of the official results.

For instance, an analysis by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes earlier this year concluded that most Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad and viewed his reelection as legitimate, contrary to claims made by much of the U.S. news media.

Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA – whether before or after the June 12 election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran – showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed Mousavi, a former prime minister, ahead or even close.

“These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. “But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over It!”]

If these and other scholarly examinations are correct – and there is no counter-evidence that they aren’t – what happened after the June 12 election is that Mousavi simply refused to accept the voters’ choice and – with the enthusiastic backing of the U.S. news media – undertook to reverse the results with massive street protests.

During those demonstrations, a few protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police (scenes carried on CNN but quickly forgotten by the U.S. news media) and security forces overreacted with repression and violence.

Though it’s fair to condemn excessive force used by Iran’s police, you can be sure that if the same factors were transplanted to an American ally, the U.S. news media’s treatment would be completely different. Suddenly, the security forces would be protecting “democracy” from anti-democratic mobs disgruntled over losing.

But Friedman and other neocon pundits have taken the false conventional wisdom – that Mousavi was the voters’ choice – and transformed it into a new casus belli.

This pattern of turning propaganda into political truth is eerily reminiscent of the black-and-white portrayals of the crisis with Iraq eight years ago. Then, neocons advanced the notion that violent confrontation with Iraq was the only way to remake the Middle East so it would be less threatening to Israeli and Western interests.

‘Tony Blair Democrat’

However, Friedman’s new column leaves out the historical context of Iraq. For instance, he doesn’t recall how enamored he was of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s glib rationale for invading Iraq and forcibly planting the seeds of “democracy” there.

In those days, Friedman dubbed himself a pro-war Democrat who favored “regime change” – what he called “a Tony Blair Democrat” in line with the widespread neocon belief that President George W. Bush was right to invade Iraq but that Blair’s crisp English-accented rhetoric presented the case better.

Today, it might seem that anyone foolish enough to call himself “a Tony Blair Democrat” – after Blair has gone down in history as “Bush’s poodle” on Iraq and set the stage for this year’s historic repudiation of his Labour Party – should have the decency to simply vacate the public stage and let some other aspiring pundit try his or her luck.

But that’s not how it works in the world of U.S. punditry. As long as you don’t disrupt what the Establishment wants to do, you can count on keeping your job. When the carousel circles around to another possible war, you’re poised to reach for another brass ring.

So it has been with Thomas Friedman, whose witty observation before Bush’s invasion of Iraq was that it was time to “give war a chance,” a flippant play on John Lennon’s lyrics to the song, “Give Peace a Chance.”

Then, when the war didn’t go as swimmingly as he and other neocons expected, Friedman became famous for his repetitious, ever-receding “six month” timelines for progress. Finally, in August 2006, he concluded that the Iraq War wasn’t worth it, that “it is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are babysitting a civil war.”

Friedman added “that means ‘staying the course’ is pointless, and it’s time to start thinking about Plan B – how we might disengage with the least damage possible.” [NYT, Aug. 4, 2006]

Yet, despite this implicit admission that the war was a waste, Friedman kept slighting Americans who had resisted the rush to war in the first place.

Twelve days after his shift in position, Friedman demeaned Americans who opposed the Iraq War as “antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in.” [NYT, Aug. 16, 2006]

In other words, according to Friedman, Americans who were right about the ill-fated invasion of Iraq were still airheads who couldn’t grasp the bigger picture that had been so obvious to himself, his fellow pundits and pro-war politicians who had tagged along with Bush and Blair.

As I noted in an article at the time, “it’s as if Official Washington has become a sinister version of Alice in Wonderland. Under the bizarre rules of Washington’s pundit society, the foreign policy ‘experts,’ who acted like Cheshire Cats pointing the United States in wrong directions, get rewarded for their judgment and Americans who opposed going down the rabbit hole in the first place earn only derision.”

More Regime Change

In the nearly four years since then, the twisted reality of Official Washington hasn’t changed. The mainstream U.S. media is still dominated by the editorialists and news executives who endorsed the invasion of Iraq – and who now are determined to seek “regime change” in Iran.

Friedman is back reprising his role as a neocon propagandist with a friendly “pro-democracy” rationale for confrontation. Interestingly, however, he is acknowledging what some neocon critics, such as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, have claimed, that the goal of the standoff with Iran isn’t really about its alleged nuclear-bomb desires, but rather about the desires for “regime change” among American neocons and Israeli hardliners.

Friedman is arguing that the Obama administration, instead of seeking an agreement that would ensure that Iran will live up to its word that it doesn’t want to build a nuclear bomb, should pursue “regime change” by supporting the Green Revolution and promoting “democracy.”

The fact that Ahmadinejad was the choice of the majority of the Iranian people doesn’t seem to matter much in Friedman’s “democratic” calculations. In that, Friedman seems to be expressing a view that he knows what’s best for the Iranian people, although he masks that paternalism with his bogus claim that Mousavi actually won.

Surely, Ahmadinejad, like Saddam Hussein, has contributed to his and his nations’ problems with wrongful actions and stupid rhetoric, making the work of neocon propagandists all the easier. But the truth is that actions of any national leader can be made to appear more outrageous or more reasonable depending on how the media frames these matters.

For example, Ahmadinejad, a little-educated populist from the Tehran’s “street,” has made obnoxious and ill-informed comments questioning the Holocaust against Jews during World War II (though I’m told he recognizes his mistake and has agreed to keep his mouth shut on this topic for months).

However, to extrapolate Ahmadinejad’s idiotic comments about the Holocaust into a readiness to attack Israel, a rogue nuclear state with hundreds of undeclared nukes, is the kind of logical overreach that we saw before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Back then, the Bush administration conjured up nightmare scenarios of Iraq flying unmanned planes over the United States to spray poison gases.

The game here is always to put what an “enemy” says or might theoretically do in the worst – or most alarmist – light. Similarly, if the goal is “regime change,” then the recent peace-seeking actions of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had to be condemned, not praised.

Rejecting a Breakthrough

In what could have been an important breakthrough over Iran’s nuclear program, Erdogan and Lula da Silva persuaded Ahmadinejad to accept an agreement, originally brokered by the Obama administration last fall, to send 2,640 pounds of Iran’s low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for higher-enriched uranium that could only be put to peaceful medical uses.

Yet, even before the revived agreement was announced on May 17, the neocon editors of the Washington Post were already mocking the Brazil-Turkey initiative as “yet another effort to ‘engage’ the extremist clique of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

After the joint Iran-Brazil-Turkey announcement in Tehran, the rhetorical abuse escalated with Washington pundits and administration hardliners, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, treating the leaders of Brazil and Turkey as unwelcome interlopers who were intruding on America’s diplomatic turf in an effort to grandstand.

Lula da Silva responded by challenging those Americans who insisted that it was “none of Brazil’s business” to act as an intermediary to resolve the showdown with Iran.

“But who said it was a matter for the United States?” he asked. “The blunt truth is, Iran is being presented as if it were the devil, that it doesn’t want to sit down” to negotiate, contrary to the fact that “Iran decided to sit down at the negotiating table. It wants to see if the others are going to go along with what (it) has done.”

What Friedman revealed in his Wednesday column was that the neocons have no particular interest in a negotiated settlement regarding Iranian nukes; they want an escalation of tensions that can set the stage for either internal upheaval in Iran or an external assault on its military infrastructure.

Friedman essentially tossed the leaders of Brazil and Turkey out of the civilized world and portrayed them as dupes of Ahmadinejad, writing:

“I confess that when I first saw the May 17 picture of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms — after their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons program — all I could think of was: Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?

“No, that’s about as ugly as it gets.”

Notice how Friedman reprised all the key propaganda points regarding Iran, including the “vote-stealing” canard.

President Obama’s Letter

This unrelenting hostility toward the Iran-Brazil-Turkey accord caught Brazilian and Turkish officials by surprise, in part because it turns out they had been encouraged by President Barack Obama to pursue this initiative.

After Friedman’s column and the other derogatory comments, Brazil released a three-page letter that President Obama sent to President Lula da Silva just last month in which Obama said the proposed uranium swap “would build confidence and reduce regional tensions by substantially reducing Iran’s” stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

The contrast between Obama’s support for the initiative and the anger from other voices in Washington caused “some puzzlement,” one senior Brazilian official told the New York Times. After all, this official said, the supportive “letter came from the highest authority and was very clear.”

Yet, this extraordinary incident may actually clarify two important points:

First, that American neocons and Israeli hardliners aren’t really interested in getting Iran to agree to a nuclear accord, but rather want to use the nuclear standoff as an excuse to press for “regime change.”

And second, that neocon opinion-shapers, like Friedman, remain very influential in the U.S. news media and have the clout to obliterate a peace initiative – even one favored by the President of the United States.

US/Israel Challenged on Iran


By Ray McGovern

They may think they are still in control, still the smart ones looking down at upstarts like the leaders of Turkey and Brazil who had the audacity to ignore U.S. warnings and press ahead with diplomacy to head off a possible new war, this one over Iran.

On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced success in persuading Iran to send roughly 50 percent of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for higher-enriched uranium that would be put to peaceful medical uses.

The tripartite agreement parallels one broached to Iran by Western countries on Oct. 1, 2009, which gained Iranian approval in principle but then fell apart.

That Monday’s joint announcement took U.S. officials by surprise betokens a genteel, ivory-tower-type attitude toward a world that is rapidly changing around them, like old British imperialists befuddled by a surge of anti-colonialism in the Raj or some other domain of the Empire.

Tellingly, U.S. officials and their acolytes in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) could not bring themselves to believe that Brazil and Turkey would dare pursue an agreement with Iran after Clinton and President Barack Obama said not to.

However, the signs were there that these rising regional powers were no longer willing to behave like obedient children while the United States and Israel sought to take the world for another ride into a Middle East confrontation.

Standing Up To Israel

In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was so upset with President da Silva’s advocacy of dialogue with Iran that he gave the upstart from South America a stern lecture. But the Brazilian president did not flinch.

Da Silva had grown increasingly concerned that, without some quick and smart diplomacy, Israel was likely to follow up a series of escalating sanctions by attacking Iran. Mincing no words, da Silva said:

“We can’t allow to happen in Iran what happened in Iraq. Before any sanctions, we must undertake all possible efforts to try and build peace in the Middle East.”

Turkey’s Erdogan had his own face-off with an Israeli leader – shortly after Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza from Dec. 17, 2008, to Jan. 18, 2009, in which some 1,400 Gazans and 14 Israelis were killed.

On Jan. 29, 2009, the Turkish president took part with Israeli President Shimon Peres on a small panel moderated by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius at the World Economic Summit at Davos, Switzerland.

Erdogan could not abide Peres’s loud, passionate defense of Israel’s Gaza offensive. Erdogan described Gaza as “an open-air prison,” and accused Peres of speaking loudly so as to hide his “guilt.”

After Ignatius allotted Peres twice as much time as he gave Erdogan, the latter was livid, and insisted on responding to Peres’s speech.

The final one-and-a-half minutes, captured on camera by the BBC, shows Erdogan physically pushing Ignatius’s outstretched arm down and out of the way, as Ignatius tries to cut him off with entreaties like, “We really do have to get people to dinner.”

Erdogan keeps at it, refers to “the sixth commandment — Thou Shalt Not Kill,” and adds, “We are talking about killing” in Gaza. He then alludes to barbarity “way beyond what it should be,” and strides off the stage saying, “I don’t think I’ll come back to Davos.”

The Brazilian government also condemned Israel’s bombing of Gaza as “disproportionate response.” It expressed concern that violence in the region had affected mainly the civilian population.

Brazil’s statement came on Jan. 24, 2009, just five days before Erdogan’s strong criticism of the Israeli president’s attempt to defend the attack. Perhaps it was then that a seed was planted to germinate and later grow into a determined effort to move forcefully to prevent another bloody outbreak of hostilities.

And that is what Erdogan did, with the collaboration of da Silva. The two regional leaders insisted on a new multilateral approach to head off a potential Middle East crisis, rather than simply acquiescing to the decision-making from Washington, as guided by the interests of Israel.

So, get over it, boys and girls in the White House and Foggy Bottom. The world has changed; you are no longer able to call all the shots.

Eventually you might even be thankful that some prescient grownups came by, rose to the occasion, and defused a very volatile situation from which no one — repeat, no one — would have profited.

Giving Hypocrisy a Bad Name

One might have even thought that the idea of Iran surrendering about half its low-enriched uranium would be seen as a good thing for Israel, possibly lessening Israel’s fears that Iran might get the bomb sometime soon.

By all rights, the surrender of half Iran’s uranium should lessen those concerns, but the bomb does NOT appear to be Israel’s primary preoccupation. You see, despite the rhetoric, Israel and its supporters in Washington do not view the current dispute over Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential threat.”

Rather, it is viewed as another golden opportunity to bring “regime change” to a country considered one of Israel’s adversaries, as Iraq was under Saddam Hussein. As with Iraq, the selling point for intervention is the accusation that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, a weapon of mass destruction that might be shared with terrorists.

The fact that Iran, like Iraq, has denied that it is building a nuclear bomb — or that there is no credible intelligence proving that Iran is lying (a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate in 2007 expressed confidence that Iran had halted such efforts four years earlier) — is normally brushed aside in the United States and its FCM.

Instead, the fearsome notion of Iran with nuclear weapons somehow sharing one with al-Qaeda or some other terrorist group is used to scare the American public once more. (That Iran has no ties to al-Qaeda, which is Sunni while Iran is Shiite, just as the secular Saddam Hussein despised al-Qaeda, is sloughed off.)

Yet, earlier this year, answering a question after a speech in Doha, Qatar, Secretary Clinton let slip a piece of that reality, that Iran “doesn’t directly threaten the United States, but it directly threatens a lot of our friends, allies, and partners” — read Israel, first and foremost among friends.

Clinton also would have us master the mental gymnastics required to buy into the Israeli argument that, were Iran to somehow build a single bomb from its remaining uranium (presumably after refining it to the 90 percent level required for a nuclear weapon when Iran has stumbled technologically over much lower levels), this would pose an unacceptable threat to Israel, which has 200-300 nuclear weapons along with missiles and bombers to deliver them.

But if it’s not really about the remote possibility of Iran building a nuclear bomb and wanting to commit national suicide by using it, what’s actually at stake? The obvious conclusion is that the scare tactics over Iranian nukes are the latest justification for imposing “regime change” in Iran.

That goal dates back at least to President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” speech in 2002, but it has an earlier precedent.  In 1996, leading American neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, prepared a radical strategy paper for Israel’s Netanyahu calling for a new approach to guaranteeing Israel’s security, through the removal or neutralizing of hostile Muslim regimes in the region.

Called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the plan envisioned abandoning “land for peace” negotiations and instead “reestablishing the principle of preemption,” beginning with the ouster of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and then tackling other regional enemies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran.

However, to achieve such an ambitious goal — with the necessary help of American money and military might — required making traditional peace negotiations appear foolish or impossible and then ratcheting up tensions.

Obviously, with President Bush in the White House and with the U.S. public outraged over the 9/11 attacks, new possibilities opened – and Saddam Hussein, the first target of “securing the realm,” was taken out by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

But the Iraq War didn’t go as easily as expected, and President Obama’s intentions to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process and to engage Iran in negotiations emerged as new obstacles to the plan. It became important to show how naïve the young President was regarding the impossibility of dealing with Iran.

Derailing a Deal

Many Washington insiders were shocked last Oct. 1 when Tehran agreed to send 2,640 pounds (then as much as 75 percent of Iran’s total) of low-enriched uranium abroad to be turned into fuel for a small reactor that does medical research.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, gave Tehran’s agreement “in principle,” at a meeting in Geneva of representatives of members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, chaired by Javier Solana of the European Union.

Even the New York Times acknowledged that this, “if it happens, would represent a major accomplishment for the West, reducing Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon quickly, and buying more time for negotiations to bear fruit.”

The conventional wisdom presented in the FCM today has it that Tehran backed off the deal. True; but that is only half the story, a tale that highlights how, in Israel’s set of priorities, regime change in Iran comes first.

The uranium swap had the initial support of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And a follow-up meeting was scheduled for Oct. 19 at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

However, the accord soon came under criticism from Iran’s opposition groups, including the “Green Movement” led by defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has had ties to the American neocons and to Israel since the Iran-Contra days of the 1980s when he was the prime minister who collaborated on secret arms deals.

Strangely, it was Mousavi’s U.S.-favored political opposition that led the assault on the nuclear agreement, calling it an affront to Iran’s sovereignty and suggesting that Ahmadinejad wasn’t being tough enough.

Then, on Oct. 18, a terrorist group called Jundullah, acting on amazingly accurate intelligence, detonated a car bomb at a meeting of top Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders and tribal leaders in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan in southeastern Iran. A car full of Guards was also attacked.

A brigadier general who was deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards ground forces, the Revolutionary Guards brigadier commanding the border area of Sistan-Baluchistan, and three other brigade commanders were killed in the attack; dozens of other military officers and civilians were left dead or wounded.

Jundullah took credit for the bombings, which followed years of lethal attacks on Revolutionary Guards and Iranian policemen, including an attempted ambush of President Ahmadinejad’s motorcade in 2005.

Tehran claims Jundullah is supported by the U.S., Great Britain and Israel, and retired CIA Middle East operations officer Robert Baer has fingered Jundullah as one of the “good terrorist” groups benefiting from American help.

I believe it to be no coincidence that the Oct. 18 attack – the bloodiest in Iran since the 1980-88 war with Iraq – came one day before nuclear talks were to resume at the IAEA in Vienna to follow up on the Oct. 1 breakthrough. The killings were sure to raise Iran’s suspicions about U.S. sincerity.

It’s a safe bet that the Revolutionary Guards went directly to their patron, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, arguing that the bombing and roadside attack proved that the West cannot be trusted.

Khamenei issued a statement on Oct. 19 condemning the terrorists, whom he charged “are supported by certain arrogant powers’ spy agencies.”

The commander of the Guards’ ground forces, who lost his deputy in the attack, charged that the terrorists were “trained by America and Britain in some of the neighboring countries,” and the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards threatened retaliation.

The attack was big news in Iran, but not big news in the United States, where the FCM quickly consigned the incident to the great American memory hole. The FCM also began treating Iran’s resulting anger over what it considered acts of terrorism and its heightened sensitivity to outsiders crossing its borders as efforts to intimidate “pro-democracy” groups supported by the West.

Still, Iran Sends a Delegation

Despite the Jundallah attack and the criticism from the opposition groups, a lower-level Iranian technical delegation did go to Vienna for the meeting on Oct. 19, but Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili stayed away.

The Iranians questioned the trustworthiness of the Western powers and raised objections to some details, such as where the transfer should occur. The Iranians broached alternative proposals that seemed worth exploring, such as making the transfer of the uranium on Iranian territory or some other neutral location.

But the Obama administration, under mounting domestic pressure on the need to be tougher with Iran, dismissed Iran’s counter-proposals out of hand, reportedly at the instigation of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and neocon regional emissary Dennis Ross.

Both officials appeared averse to taking any steps that might lessen the impression among Americans that Ahmadinejad is anything other than a rabid dog needing to be put down, the new most despised bête noire (having replaced the now deceased Saddam Hussein, who was hanged by the U.S.-installed government in Iraq).

Watching all this, da Silva and Erdogan saw the parallels between Washington’s eagerness for an escalating confrontation with Iran and the way the United States had marched the world, step by step, into the invasion of Iraq (complete with the same deeply biased coverage by the leading American news outlets.)

This spring, hoping to head off a similar result, the two leaders dusted off the Oct. 1 uranium transfer initiative and got Tehran to agree to similar terms last Monday. Both called for sending 2,640 pounds of Iran’s low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for nuclear rods that would have no applicability for a weapon.

Yet, rather than embrace this Iranian concession as at least a step in the right direction, U.S. officials sought to scuttle it, by pressing instead for more sanctions. The FCM did its part by insisting that the deal was just another Iranian trick that would leave Iran with enough uranium to theoretically create one nuclear bomb.

An editorial in Tuesday’s Washington Post, entitled “Bad Bargain,” concluded wistfully/wishfully:

“It’s possible that Tehran will retreat even from the terms it offered Brazil and Turkey — in which case those countries should be obliged to support U.N. sanctions.”

On Wednesday, a New York Times’ editorial rhetorically patted the leaders of Brazil and Turkey on the head as if they were rubes lost in the big-city world of hard-headed diplomacy. The Times wrote:

“Brazil and Turkey … are eager to play larger international roles. And they are eager to avoid a conflict with Iran. We respect those desires. But like pretty much everyone else, they got played by Tehran.”

Rather than go forward with the uranium transfer agreement, Brazil and Turkey should “join the other major players and vote for the Security Council resolution,” the Times said. “Even before that, they should go back to Tehran and press the mullahs to make a credible compromise and begin serious negotiations.”

Focus on Sanctions

Both the Times and the Post have applauded the Obama administration’s current pursuit of tougher economic sanctions against Iran – and on Tuesday, they got something to cheer about.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft [sanctions resolution] with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, making clear that she viewed the timing of the sanctions as a riposte to the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement.

“This announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide,” she declared.

Her spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, was left with the job of explaining the obvious implication that Washington was using the new sanctions to scuttle the plan for transferring half of Iran’s enriched uranium out of the country.

Question: “But you say that you’re supportive and appreciative [of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement], but don’t you think you handicapped it in any way? I mean, now by introducing the resolution the day after the agreement, you almost guarantee that Iran is going to react in a negative way.”

Another question: “Why, if, in fact, you think this Brazil-Turkey deal — Iran will prove that it is not serious and you don’t have a lot of optimism that it’s going to go forward and Iran will continue to show that it’s not serious about its nuclear ambitions, why don’t you just wait for that to play out and then you could get a tougher resolution and even presumably Brazil and Turkey would vote for it because Iran would have humiliated them and embarrassed them? Why don’t you just wait to see how that plays out?”

Yet another question: “The impression left, though, is that the message here — sure there’s a message to Iran, but there’s also a message to Turkey and Brazil, and that is, basically, get out of our sandbox, that the big boys and girls are playing here and we don’t need your meddling. Do you not — you don’t accept that?”

I almost found myself feeling sorry for poor P.J. Crowley, who did his level best to square these and other circles. His answers were lacking in candor, but did reflect an uncanny ability to stick to one key talking point; i. e., that the “real key,” the “primary issue” is Iran’s ongoing enrichment of uranium.  He said this, in identical or similar words no fewer than 17 times.

That the State Department at this moment has chosen to cite this single point as a showstopper is curious, at best. The proposed deal offered to Tehran last Oct. 1 did not require it to give up enrichment, either.

And the current emphasis on non-observance of Security Council resolutions – which had been demanded by the United States and its allies – is eerily reminiscent of the strategy for maneuvering the world toward the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Crowley said the administration has “no particular timetable” in mind for putting a resolution to a vote, saying, “it will take as long as it takes.” He added that President Obama “laid out a goal of having this done by the end of this spring” – about one month from now.

Counter-Initiative

Despite the efforts by Washington officialdom and neocon opinion-makers to derail the Iran-Brazil-Turkey plan, it still seems on track, at least for the moment.

Iranian officials have said they would send a letter confirming the deal to the IAEA within a week.  In a month, Iran could ship 2,640 pounds of its low-enriched uranium to Turkey.

Within a year, Russia and France would produce 120 kg of 20-percent enriched uranium to be used to refuel a research reactor in Tehran that produces isotopes to treat cancer patients.

As for Clinton’s claim that China, as well as Russia are part of a consensus on the draft Security Council resolution, time will tell.

There is particular doubt as to how firmly China is on board. On Monday, Chinese officials hailed the Iran-Brazil-Turkey proposal and said it should be fully explored. Russian officials also suggested that the new transfer plan be given a chance.

Also, the proposed new sanctions don’t go as far as some U.S. and Israeli hardliners wanted. For instance, it does not embargo gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran, a harsh step that some neocons had hoped would throw Iran into economic and political chaos as a prelude for “regime change.”

Instead, the proposed new sanctions call for inspections of Iranian ships suspected of entering international ports with nuclear-related technology or weapons. Some analysts doubt that this provision would have much practical effect on Iran.

Israel will be conferring with Washington before issuing an official response, but Israeli officials have told the press that the transfer deal is a ”trick” and that Iran had “manipulated” Turkey and Brazil.

There is every reason to believe that Israel will search deep into its toolbox for a way to sabotage the agreement, but it isn’t clear that the usual diplomatic tools will work at this stage. There remains, of course, the possibility that Israel will go for broke and launch a preemptive military strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

In the meantime, it’s a sure bet that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will apply all the pressure he can on Obama.

As a former CIA analyst, I hope that Obama would have the presence of mind to order a fast-track special National Intelligence Estimate on the implications of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey agreement for U.S. national interests and those of the countries of the Middle East.

Obama needs an unvarnished assessment of the agreement’s possible benefits (and its potential negatives) as counterweight to the pro-Israel lobbying that will inevitably descend on the White House and State Department.