10 Nov 11
The 10 Reasons We
Know Iran Wants the Bomb - UPDATED, realit-eu.org, Bruno
19 Nov 10 Worm Can Deal Double Blow to Nuclear Program, NYT, JOHN MARKOFF
18 Nov 10 Worm Was Perfect for Sabotaging Centrifuges, NYT, WILLIAM J. BROAD et al.
1.Okt 10 NATO:Bündnis gegen Cyberattacken, Tages-Anzeiger
29 Sep 10 In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue, NYT, JOHN MARKOFF et al.
27 Sep 10 Virus hits Iran nuclear programme, Financial Times, Daniel Dombey
26.Sep 10 A Silent Attack, but Not a Subtle One, NYT, JOHN MARKOFF
26.Sep 10 Der Trojaner: Rätselhaftes Schadprogramm Stuxnet, FAZ, Rüdiger Köhn
26.Sep 10 «Hier war ein Expertenteam am Werk», NZZ am Sonntag, Andreas Hirstein
20 May 09 U.S., Israel forming working group on Iran, Washington Times, Eli Lake
17 May 09 Israel’s Fears, Amalek’s Arsenal, NYT, JEFFREY GOLDBERG
12 May 09 Iran urges Iraqi action on Kurdish rebels, WP, Reuters
Mar 2009 Preventing a Cascade of Instability: Checking Iranian Nuclear Progress, Presidential Task Force, WINEP
11 Dec 08 Finally facing facts: A US nuclear umbrella against Iranian nukes?, Belmont Club, Richard Fernandez
27 Sep 08 New Debate Territory: Pakistan and Iran Policy, NYT, David E. Sanger
26 Sep 08 So what if the US turned down Israel's 'green light' request, Israel Matzav
25 Sep 08 Israel asked US for green light to bomb nuclear sites in Iran, Guardian, Jonathan Steele
19 Sep 08 It is time to act, carolineglick.com, 14 comments
22 Jul 08 US lawyer seeks to sue US over Iran threats, Press TV, Chris Gelken
18 Jul 08 Bombing Iran in order to Stave Off War, NYT, BENNY MORRIS
7 Jul 08 The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran, New Yorker, Seymour M. Hersh
14 Jun 08 G5+1 to Iran: Halt enrichment for talks, CASMII, Press TV
13 Jun 08 Swiss yellow card: UNSCR 255 & NPT incompatible with threats against non-nuclear weapon states,Motion 08.3402
11 Jun 08 U.S. behind Israel’s war threats on Iran, Workers World, Sara Flounders
9 Jun 08 Iran Responds to Mofaz's Threats, Iran Nuclear Watch, Carah Ong
9 Jun 08 War countdown to Bush-Cheney exit: What Could Happen If ... ?, Global Research, CASMII, Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
8 Jun 08 Iran protests to UN Security Council, Secretary-General over Israeli threat, IRNA
7 Jun 08 Tehran takes war case against Israel to U.N., Los Angeles Times, Borzou Daragahi, 10 comments
6 Jun 08 Israel threatens war on Gaza and Iran, Telegraph, Tim Butcher
31 May 08 High Noon in the Middle East: As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon, Daily Star, Joschka Fischer, 102 comments
28 May 08 'Bush gearing up to wage war on Iran', Press tv
14 May 08 Planned US Israeli Attack on Iran: Will there be a War against Iran?, Dandelion Salad, Michel Chossudovsky
23 Apr 08 Admiral Fallon: the Man Between War and Peace, Esquire, Thomas P.M. Barnett
4 Apr 08 Ritter: Iran war 80% probability, White House preparing for war in Iran, Rutland Herald, ED BARNA
15 Mar 08 The resignation of Admiral Fallon will provoke renewed fighting in Iraq, Voltairenet.org, Thierry Meyssan
12 Mar 08 Admiral William Fallon quits over Iran policy, The Times, Tim Reid, 17 comments
23 Sep 07 Secret US air force team to perfect plan for Iran strike, Sunday Times, Sarah Baxter, 235 comments
25 Feb 07 US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack, Sunday Times, Michael Smith et al., 851 comments
1 May 05 Planned US-Israeli Attack on Iran, Centre for Research on Globalisation, Michel Chossudovsky
30 Oct 74 Swiss interpretation of S/Res/255 as given to Parliament
10 Sep 68 Swiss juris consult explains legal effects & limits of S/Res/255
19 Jun 68 UN Security Council Resolution 255 (1968)
Question Relating to Measures to Safeguard Non-Nuclear-Weapon States Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
The Security Council,
Noting with appreciation the desire of a large number of States to subscribe to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and thereby to undertake not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly or indirectly, not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,
Taking into consideration the concern of certain of these States that, in conjunction with their adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, appropriate measures be undertaken to safeguard their security,
Bearing in mind that any aggression accompanied by the use of nuclear weapons would endanger the peace and security of all States,
1. Recognizes that aggression with nuclear weapons or the threat of such aggression against a non-nuclear-weapon State would create a situation in which the Security Council, and above all its nuclear-weapon State permanent members, would have to act immediately in accordance with their obligations under the United Nations Charter;
2. Welcomes the intention expressed by certain States that they will provide or support immediate assistance, in accordance with the Charter, to any non-nuclear- weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that is a victim of an act or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used;
3. Reaffirms in particular the inherent right, recognized under Article 51 of the Charter, of individual and collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.
(adopted at the 1433rd session by 10 against zero votes, with 5 abstentions (Algeria, Brasil, France, India and Pakistan)
US generals ‘will quit’ if Bush orders Iran attack
Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter, Washington
SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources.
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
“There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
The threat of a wave of resignations coincided with a warning by Vice-President Dick Cheney that all options, including military action, remained on the table. He was responding to a comment by Tony Blair that it would not “be right to take military action against Iran”.
Iran ignored a United Nations deadline to suspend its uranium enrichment programme last week. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that his country “will not withdraw from its nuclear stances even one single step”.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran could soon produce enough enriched uranium for two nuclear bombs a year, although Tehran claims its programme is purely for civilian energy purposes.
Nicholas Burns, the top US negotiator, is to meet British, French, German, Chinese and Russian officials in London tomorrow to discuss additional penalties against Iran. But UN diplomats cautioned that further measures would take weeks to agree and would be mild at best.
A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”
But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.
Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.
Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.
“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”
Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being “seriously careful” in the Gulf.
The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month.
According to a report in The New Yorker magazine, the Pentagon has already set up a working group to plan airstrikes on Iran. The panel initially focused on destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and on regime change but has more recently been instructed to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq.
However, army chiefs fear an attack on Iran would backfire on American troops in Iraq and lead to more terrorist attacks, a rise in oil prices and the threat of a regional war.
Britain is concerned that its own troops in Iraq might be drawn into any American conflict with Iran, regardless of whether the government takes part in the attack.
One retired general who participated in the “generals’ revolt” against Donald Rumsfeld’s handling of the Iraq war said he hoped his former colleagues would resign in the event of an order to attack. “We don’t want to take another initiative unless we’ve really thought through the consequences of our strategy,” he warned.
US air force team to perfect plan for Iran strike
Sarah Baxter, Washington
THE United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with “fighting the next war” as tensions rise with Iran.
Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War’s air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.
It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defence sources.
Checkmate’s job is to add a dash of brilliance to Air Force thinking by countering the military’s tendency to “fight the last war” and by providing innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for air, space and cyberwarfare.
It is led by Brigadier-General Lawrence “Stutz” Stutzriem, who is considered one of the brightest air force generals. He is assisted by Dr Lani Kass, a former Israeli military officer and expert on cyberwarfare.
The failure of United Nations sanctions to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which Tehran claims are peaceful, is giving rise to an intense debate about the likelihood of military strikes.
Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said last week that it was “necessary to prepare for the worst . . . and the worst is war”. He later qualified his remarks, saying he wanted to avoid that outcome.
France has joined America in pushing for a tough third sanctions resolution against Iran at the UN security council but is meeting strong resistance from China and Russia. Britain has been doing its best to bridge the gap, but it is increasingly likely that new sanctions will be implemented by a US-led “coalition of the willing”.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who arrives in New York for the United Nations general assembly today, has been forced to abandon plans to visit ground zero, where the World Trade Center stood until the September 11 attacks of 2001. Politicians from President George W Bush to Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner in the 2008 race for the White House, were outraged by the prospect of a visit to New York’s most venerated site by a “state sponsor” of terrorism.
Bush still hopes to isolate Iran diplomatically, but believes the regime is moving steadily closer to obtaining nuclear weapons while the security council bickers.
The US president faces strong opposition to military action, however, within his own joint chiefs of staff. “None of them think it is a good idea, but they will do it if they are told to,” said a senior defence source.
General John Abizaid, the former Centcom commander, said last week: “Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed Iran.”
Critics fear Abizaid has lost sight of Iran’s potential to arm militant groups such as Hezbollah with nuclear weapons. “You can deter Iran, but there is no strategy against nuclear terrorism,” said the retired air force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney of the Iran policy committee.
“There is no question that we can take out Iran. The problem is the follow-on, the velvet revolution that needs to be created so the Iranian people know it’s not aimed at them, but at the Iranian regime.”
Checkmate’s freethinking mission is “to provide planning inputs to warfighters that are strategically, operationally and tactically sound, logistically supportable and politically feasible”. Its remit is not specific to one country, according to defence sources, but its forward planning is thought relevant to any future air war against Iranian nuclear and military sites. It is also looking at possible threats from China and North Korea.
Checkmate was formed in the 1970s to counter Soviet threats but fell into disuse in the 1980s. It was revived under Colonel John Warden and was responsible for drawing up plans for the crushing air blitz against Saddam Hussein at the opening of the first Gulf war.
Warden told The Sunday Times: “When Saddam invaded Kuwait, we had access to unlimited numbers of people with expertise, including all the intelligence agencies, and were able to be significantly more agile than Centcom.”
He believes that Checkmate’s role is to develop the necessary expertise so that “if somebody says Iran, it says: ‘here is what you need to think about’. Here are the objectives, here are the risks, here is what it will cost, here are the numbers of planes we will lose, here is how the war is going to end and here is what the peace will look like”.
Warden added: “The Centcoms of this world are executional – they don’t have the staff, the expertise or the responsibility to do the thinking that is needed before a country makes the decision to go to war. War planning is not just about bombs, airplanes and sailing boats.”
William Fallon quits over Iran policy
Admiral Fallon had pressed for a speedier withdrawal from Iraq
Tim Reid in Washington
The top US military commander for Iraq and Afghanistan resigned last night after weeks of behind-the-scenes disagreements with the White House over the direction of American foreign policy.
Admiral William Fallon, the head of US Central Command, left his post a week after a profile in Esquire magazine portrayed him as a dove opposed to President’s Bush’s Iran policy.
The article, entitled The Man Between War and Peace, described Admiral Fallon as as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear programme.
Announcing the resignation, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, dismissed as “ridiculous” any notion that the departure signalled that the US was planning to go to war with Iran. He said there was a “misperception” that Admiral Fallon disagreed with the Bush Administration’s approach to Iran. “I don’t think there were any differences at all,” Mr Gates insisted.
Pentagon insiders said that Admiral Fallon’s departure was more the result of a turf battle between him and General David Petraeus, the US ground commander in Iraq. Admiral Fallon was General Petraeus’s commanding officer but for months Mr Bush has deferred to General Petraeus, against the objections of Admiral Fallon, who is believed to have been advocating a speedier withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Admiral Fallon is also understood to have been pressing for a greater allocation of troops to Afghanistan, but has been frustrated at the reluctance of the Administration — and General Petraeus — to withdraw significant numbers from Iraq in the short term.
In a resignation statement from Admiral Fallon read out by Mr Gates, he said: “Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the President’s policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the Centcom region.”
Admiral Fallon added: “And although I don’t believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America’s interests there.”
Mr Gates said that he had reluctantly agreed to the resignation but that it was “the right thing to do”. Admiral Fallon, the first naval officer to head Central Command, took up the post in March 2007, succeeding General John Abizaid.
Until a permanent replacement is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Admiral Fallon’s deputy, Lieutenant-General Martin Dempsey, of the US Army, would take over Centcom.
George Bush will play all he’s got
The resignation of Admiral Fallon will provoke renewed fighting in Iraq
by Thierry Meyssan*
Contrary to what has been written so far in the mainstream media, Admiral
William Fallon was not removed because he was opposing President Bush on
an attack against Iran. He resigned from his own initiative after the agreement
he had negotiated and concluded with Tehran, Moscow and Peking was sabotaged
by the White House. This decision by the Bush administration will provoke
renewed fighting in Iraq and exposes gravely the GI’s to a new Resistance
this time supported without restraints from the outside.
It was nearly 22h GMT, on Tuesday March 11th 2008 when commander in chief of Central Command, Admiral William Fallon announced from Iraq that he was presenting his resignation. Immediately afterwards in Washington, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and also his friend, declared, in an improvised press conference that he accepted that decision with regrets. In fact, the resignation of the admiral was apparently demanded by the White House following the publication of an article in the monthly Esquire  reporting “frank” comments of the officer concerning President Bush. In the same article one could read that the removing of the Admiral would be the last signal before the war.
Yet this interpretation is erroneous. It ignores the evolution of the equilibrium of forces in Washington. To understand what is at stake, let us go back a little bit. Our readers, which have been regularly informed in our columns of the ongoing debates in Washington, will remember Fallon’s threats to resign , the mutiny of high level officers , the inside story of Annapolis , and the infiltration of NATO in Lebanon  which we reported in our columns before everybody else; revelations which were contested when first published and which later well fully confirmed. We add here unpublished information on the negotiations conducted by Fallon.
The Fallon plan
While the United States establishment had approved going to war against Iraq hoping to gain substantial economic profits, progressively it lost all such illusions. The direct and indirect costs generated by this operation are beyond measure and only profits to a very few. Since 2006, the ruling class, worried, decided to bring this adventure to an end. It contested the over-deployment of soldiers, the increasing diplomatic isolation and the financial hemorrhage This opposition expressed itself through the Baker/Hamilton report which condemned the US plan for a Greater Middle East and proposed a military withdrawal from Iraq and a diplomatic rapprochement with Teheran and Damas.
Under this amiable pressure, President Bush was forced to fire Donald Rumsfeld and replace him with Robert Gates (member himself of the Baker/Hamilton commission). A bi partisan work group – the Armitage-Nye commission – was created to define consensually a new policy. But it turned out that the Bush/Cheney tandem had not renounced its projects and used this group to allay its rivals while at the same time continuing to wield its weapons against Iran. Cutting short those maneuvers Robert Gates gave carte blanche to a group of high level officers he had frequented in the times of Bush father. On December 3rd 2007, they published a secret services report discrediting the White House lies concerning the so called Iranian threat. Beyond, they tried to impose on President Bush a rebalancing of his Middle East policy, to the detriment of Israel.
Admiral William Fallon exerts a moral authority over that group which includes Mike McConnell (National Director of Intelligence), general Michael Hyden (CIA director), general George Casey (chief of staff of the lad army), and later Mike Mullen (head of the joints chief of staff). Cold blooded, and gifted with brilliant intelligence, he is one of the last great bosses of the armed forces to have served in Vietnam. Worried by the multiplication of operation theatres, by the dispersion of forces and the usury of troops, he openly contested a civilian leadership whose policies can only lead the US to defeat.
In the continuation of that mutiny, that group of high level officers
was authorized to negotiate an honorable end to the crisis with Iran and
to prepare the withdrawal from Iraq. According to our sources, they conceived
an agreement in three phases:
the US would have had the Security council to adopt a last resolution against Iran in order not to lose face. But this resolution would be empty and Teheran would accommodate to it.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would go to Iraq where he would reaffirm the regional interests of Iran. But that trip would be purely symbolic and Washington would accommodate to it.
Teheran would use all its influence to normalize the situation in Iraq, and to lead the groups of the armed resistance it supports towards political integration.
This stabilization would allow the Pentagon to withdraw its troops without defeat. In exchange, Washington would cease its support to armed groups of the Iranian opposition, in particular the Moudjahedine of the people.
Still according to our sources, Robert Gates and that group of officers, lead by General Brent Scowcroft (former National Security Adviser), solicited support from Russia and China for this process. In perplexity, before responding positively, Moscow and Peking first confirmed with the White House its forced agreement (to this process, noe), relieved to be able to avoid an uncontrollable conflict.
Vladimir Putin engaged himself not to seek advantage militarily from the US withdrawal, but demanded that the political consequences be drawn. I was agreed upon then that the Annapolis conference would lead to symbolic results, while a large conference on the Middle East would be organized in Moscow to unblock all the dossiers that the Bush administration had been poisoning. The same Putin accepted to facilitate the Iran-US compromise, but worried about a too strong Iran on its Russian borders. As guarantee, it was agreed upon that Iran would accept what it had always refused so far: not to fabricate alone its nuclear fuel.
Negotiations with Hu Jintao were more complex, the Chinese leaders being shocked to discover to what extent the Bush administration had lied a propos the so called Iranian threat. So, first, bilateral trust had to be re-established. Luckily Admiral Fallon who until recently commanded the PacCOM (pacific zone), had kept courtesy relations with the Chinese. It was decided that Peking would let a formal anti-Iranian resolution pass at the Security Council but that the formulation of that text would in no way hinder the Sino Iranian trade.
At first glance, all seemed to function. Moscow and Peking accepted to play roles at Annapolis and to vote resolution 1803 against Iran, while president Ahmadinejad savored his official visit to Baghdad where he secretly met US heads of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, to plan reduction of tensions in Iraq. But the Bush/Cheney tandem did not declare itself defeated. It sabotaged as soon as it could this well oiled mechanic.
Firstly, the Moscow conference disappeared in the moving sands of oriental mirages, before even having existed. Secondly, Israel launched its assault against Gaza and NATO deployed its fleet off the coast of Lebanon as a means to provoke the setting on fire of the Greater Middle East region, while Fallon was attempting to put out the fires one by one. Thirdly, the White House, usually so prompt to fire its own employees, refused to dump the People’s Mouhadjidines.
Exasperated, the Russians massed their fleet south of Cyprus to survey the NATO ships and send Sergei Lavrov on tour to the Middle East with mission to arm Syria, Hamas and the Hezbollah to reestablish the equilibrium in Levant. While the Iranians, furious of having been cheated, encouraged the Iraqi resistance to break the GIs. Seeing his efforts reduced to nothing, Admiral Fallon resigned as the only means for him to save his honor and his credibility vis a vis his interlocutors. The Esquire interview, published two weeks, ago is only a pretext here.
The hour of truth
In the next three weeks, the Bush/Cheney tandem will play all its cards in Iraq in an attempt to have weapons determine the outcome of the situation. General David Petraeus, will push to the extreme his counterinsurgency program in order to be able to come up to the next US congress, beginning Aprils, as victorious. Simultaneously, the Iraqi resistance, now supported by Teheran, Moscow and Peking, will multiply its ambushes and seek to kill a maximum occupiers.
It will then be up to the US establishment to draw the conclusions of the situation in the battle field. Either the Petraeus’ results on the ground will be deemed acceptable and the Bush/Cheney tandem will finish its mandate without further difficulties. Or, to avoid the spectrum of defeat, it will have to condemn the White House and restart in one way or the other, the negotiations that Admiral Fallon had carried out.
Simultaneously, Ehud Olmert will interrupt the negotiations started with Hamas via Egypt. He will heat up the region up to Bush’s visit in May.
This regional fever should stimulate the Bush apparatus, either through investments in the military-industrial domain of the Carlyle fund, whose real estate branch is on the verge of bankruptcy, or via the electoral campaign of Mc Cain.
Ritter says White House preparing for war in Iran
By ED BARNA Herald Correspondent
MIDDLEBURY — Scott Ritter, former head of weapons inspection in Iraq who protested there were no weapons of mass destruction to justify an invasion, believes the same is true for Iran.
But there is an 80 percent chance of war with Iran, he told about 200 people Wednesday at Middlebury College as part of a series of talks facilitated by the Vermont Peace and Justice Center.
The pattern of preparations for such a conflict has been steadily developing and involves Congress as well as the Bush-Cheney administration, he said.
People ask him if he feels vindicated by the absence of WMDs in Iraq, he said, but "there isn't any vindication in being right about this one." A war with Iran would hasten the ongoing decline of American standing in the world, and afterward Russia and China would be ready to take advantage of the resulting power vacuum, he said.
Among the war clouds Ritter cited were:
- Preemptive strikes against the two groups most likely to erupt if the United States invaded Iran, Hezbollah (unsuccessfully attacked by Israel) and Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army (unsuccessfully attacked in Basra by Iraq's central government).
- Ritter predicted a similarly disappointing showing if the American forces attacked Iran, a country 2-1/2 times as large and populous as Iraq that is much more unified culturally and did not have its army destroyed in a previous war with the United States.
- Recent visits to Middle Eastern allies by high officials, ostensibly for other purposes, but really to prepare them for the effects of such a war.
- The appearance of the "miracle laptop," as Ritter called it, a thousand pages of technical documents supposedly from a stolen Iranian computer, which dubiously had just the sort of information the administration needed to support a hard-line stand on Iran.
- Congressional supplementary funding for more "bunker-busting" bombs, with a contract completion deadline of April.
- Congressional supplementary funding for the extra bombers to carry those bombs, with a contract completion date of April.
- Cheney's order to send a third aircraft carrier battle group close to the Persian Gulf, a necessary bolstering of forces for a war with Iran.
Admiral William Fallon, the first admiral to be head of Central Command, said that level of naval forces was unnecessary and blocked the move. Ritter said that was "a heroic thing."
The main target of Ritter's criticisms was an American public that couldn't pass a test on the Constitution and understands little of international history and politics, and refuses to believe the life of an Iraqi is worth as much as the life of an American.
He began his talk, not by trumpeting the danger of war, but by talking about spring, and the birds that will soon have babies in their nests. Mother birds will forage, come to the nests, see open mouths begging for food, and puke into each one, he said.
Just so, Ritter said, people sit in front of their televisions every night and wait to be stuffed with mushy phrases like "The surge has been successful" and "Baghdad is 70 percent secure" and "We have apparently won the war."
"The reality of Iraq is that it is a broken nation," Ritter said. Groups like the Kurds and Shia are not unified groups, there is already a civil war, and most of the opposition to our presence comes from our being the invaders, he said.
"It is far too easy to look for people to blame," he said. For instance, "we blame the media, but the media simply give us what we're asking for."
Everyone needs to start understanding and caring about their Constitutional rights, and everyone needs to start finding the facts for themselves and taking strong individual stands, Ritter said. If you do nothing but take in what the TV and newspapers tell you, "all you're going to get in return is puke."
Admiral Fallon: the Man Between War and Peace
David Petraeus has been nominated to be the new chief of U.S. Central Command. Meet "Fox" Fallon,
the freethinking commander he will replace, who (officially, anyway) resigned last month --
hours after sounding off in our pages.
By: Thomas P.M. Barnett
If, in the dying light of the Bush administration, we go to war with Iran, it'll all come down to one man. If we do not go to war with Iran, it'll come down to the same man. He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran, and a man of strategic brilliance. His name is William Fallon, although all of his friends call him "Fox," which was his fighter-pilot call sign decades ago. Forty years into a military career that has seen this admiral rule over America's two most important combatant commands, Pacific Command and now United States Central Command, it's impossible to make this guy -- as he likes to say -- "nervous in the service." Past American governments have used saber rattling as a useful tactic to get some bad actor on the world stage to fall in line. This government hasn't mastered that kind of subtlety. When Dick Cheney has rattled his saber, it has generally meant that he intends to use it. And in spite of recent war spasms aimed at Iran from this sclerotic administration, Fallon is in no hurry to pick up any campaign medals for Iran. And therein lies the rub for the hard-liners led by Cheney. Army General David Petraeus, commanding America's forces in Iraq, may say, "You cannot win in Iraq solely in Iraq," but Fox Fallon is Petraeus's boss, and he is the commander of United States Central Command, and Fallon doesn't extend Petraeus's logic to mean war against Iran.
So while Admiral Fallon's boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century's Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it's left to Fallon -- and apparently Fallon alone -- to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: "This constant drumbeat of conflict...is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions."
What America needs, Fallon says, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage."
Those are fighting words to your average neocon -- not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to "nuclear holocaust."
How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?
The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.
Just as Fallon took over Centcom last spring, the White House was putting itself on a war footing with Iran. Almost instantly, Fallon began to calmly push back against what he saw as an ill-advised action. Over the course of 2007, Fallon's statements in the press grew increasingly dismissive of the possibility of war, creating serious friction with the White House.
Last December, when the National Intelligence Estimate downgraded the immediate nuclear threat from Iran, it seemed as if Fallon's caution was justified. But still, well-placed observers now say that it will come as no surprise if Fallon is relieved of his command before his time is up next spring, maybe as early as this summer, in favor of a commander the White House considers to be more pliable. If that were to happen, it may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year and don't want a commander standing in their way.
And so Fallon, the good cop, may soon be unemployed because he's doing what a generation of young officers in the U.S. military are now openly complaining that their leaders didn't do on their behalf in the run-up to the war in Iraq: He's standing up to the commander in chief, whom he thinks is contemplating a strategically unsound war.
It's not that Fallon is risk averse -- anything but. "When I look at the Middle East," he says late one recent night in Afghanistan, "I'd just as soon double down on the bet."
When Fallon is serious, his voice is feathery and he tends to speak in measured koans that, taken together, say, Have no fear. Let Washington be a tempest. Wherever I am is the calm center of the storm.
And Fallon is in no hurry to call Iran's hand on the nuclear question. He is as patient as the White House is impatient, as methodical as President Bush is mercurial, and simply has, as one aide put it, "other bright ideas about the region." Fallon is even more direct: In a part of the world with "five or six pots boiling over, our nation can't afford to be mesmerized by one problem."
And if it comes to war?
"Get serious," the admiral says. "These guys are ants. When the time comes, you crush them."
It was Rumsfeld's fall that led to Fallon picking up his greatest and, inevitably, final mission. Smart guy that he is, Robert Gates, the incoming secretary of defense, finagled Fallon out of Pacific Command, where he'd been radically making peace with the Chinese, so that he could, among other things, provide a check on the eager-to-please General David Petraeus in Iraq.
As the head of U.S. Central Command, his beat is the desert that stretches from East Africa to the Chinese border -- a fractious little sandbox with Iraq on one edge and Afghanistan on the other and tens of thousands of American boots already on the ground in both. Pakistan's there in one corner, threatening to boil over and spill its nuclear jihadists forth upon the world; in another, the Gaza Strip continues to hum like a bowstring; and up north, the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia, the 'Stans, rattle along under dictators who range from the merely authoritarian to the genuinely insane. And right in the middle lies Iran.
Where there's peace in the region, how do you keep it? Where there's war, how do you contain it or end it? Where there are threats, how do you counter them? For starters, you might want to make some friends. Which is what Fallon was doing recently on a tour of his area of responsibility.
It's late November in smoggy, car-infested Cairo, and I'm standing in the front lobby of a rather ornate "infantry officers club" on the outskirts of the old town center. Central Command's just finished its large, biannual regional exercise called Bright Star, and today Egypt's army is hosting a "senior leadership seminar" for all the attending generals. It's the barroom scene from Star Wars, with more national uniforms than I can count.
Judging by Fallon's grimace as his official party passes, I can tell that the cover story in this morning's Egyptian Gazette landed hard on somebody's desk at the White House. U.S. RULES OUT STRIKE AGAINST IRAN, read the banner headline, and the accompanying photo showed Fallon in deep consultation with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Fallon sidles up to me during a morning coffee break. "I'm in hot water again," he says.
"The White House?"
The admiral slowly nods his head.
"They say, 'Why are you even meeting with Mubarak?'" This seems to utterly mystify Fallon.
"Why?" he says, shrugging with palms extending outward. "Because it's my job to deal with this region, and it's all anyone wants to talk about right now. People here hear what I'm saying and understand. I don't want to get them too spun up. Washington interprets this as all aimed at them. Instead, it's aimed at governments and media in this region. I'm not talking about the White House." He points to the ground, getting exercised. "This is my center of gravity. This is my job."
Fallon was quietly opposed to a long-term surge in Iraq, because more of our military assets tied down in Iraq makes it harder to come up with a comprehensive strategy for the Middle East, and he knew how that looked to higher-ups. He also knows that sometimes his statements on Iran strike the same people as running "counter to stated policy." "But look," he says, "yesterday I'm speaking in front of 250 Egyptian businessmen over lunch here in Cairo, and these guys keep holding up newspapers and asking, 'Is this true and can you explain, please?' I need to present the threats and capabilities in the appropriate language. That's one of my duties."
Fallon explains his approach to Iran the same way he explains why he doesn't make Al Qaeda the focus of his regional strategy as Centcom's commander: "What's the best and most effective way to combat Al Qaeda? We tend to make too much or too little a deal about it. I want a more even keel. I come from the school of 'walk softly and carry a big stick.'"
Fallon is the American at the center of every circle in this part of the world. And it is a testament to his skill, and to the failure of American diplomacy, that so much is left for this military man to do himself. He spends very little time at Centcom headquarters in Tampa and is instead constantly "forward," on the move between Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and all the 'Stans of Central Asia.
He was with Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf the day before he declared emergency rule last fall. "I'm not the chief diplomat of this country, and certainly not the secretary of state," Fallon says in Kabul's Green Zone the next night. "But I am close to the problems." So, he says, that leaves him no choice but to work these issues, day in and day out.
Late that night, I am sitting with Fallon deep in the compound that encompasses the presidential palace and the International Security Assistance Force. We are alone inside the cramped office of ISAF's chief public-affairs officer.
Fallon had spent several hours with "Mushi" the day before in Islamabad, discussing his impending decision. The press coverage would emphasize how Fallon had sternly warned Musharraf not to impose emergency rule. But on this night, the admiral seems neither alarmed by the move nor resigned to its more negative implications. As he talks, Fallon casually takes off the elastic bands that clamp his camo pants to his regulation tan boots. He's beat after a long day that included meetings with President Karzai and a helicopter trip to Khost, Osama bin Laden's pre-9/11 Afghanistan stronghold. But it was the martial law next door in Pakistan that is the focus of the world. Fallon has been through this before.
"I didn't do any preaching," Fallon says about his talks with Musharraf. "In a previous life here, I had two extra constitutional events: a coup in Thailand, and a head of the military took over in Fiji. So I talked to the president for quite a while yesterday, both with the ambassador and then alone. He walked me through his rationale for what he was going to do and why he was going to do it and why he thought he had to do it. We talked about what planning he'd done for this, the downsides of this, what could happen, and how that could screw up a lot of things. At the end of the day, it's his country and he's the boss of it, and he's going to make his decision."
Before he walked into that room in Islamabad, Fallon had plenty of calls from Washington with instructions to pressure Musharraf down another path.
"I'll talk to him," Fallon replied. "There's an awful lot of china that could break. So I'll do it in a professional manner, because I still have to work with him."
As the admiral recounts the exchange, his voice is flat, his gaze steady. His calculus on this subject is far more complex than anyone else's. He is neither an idealist nor a fantasist. In Pakistan, he has the most volatile combination of forces in the world, yet he is deeply calm. "Did I tell President Musharraf this is not a recommended course of action? Of course. Did I tell him there are very negative effects that this could have? Of course. Is he aware of these? Yes.
"He's made his calculations. He feels very strongly that he's responsible for his country. His alternative is to step down. That would not be the most helpful thing for his country."
"It's a very immature democracy. Look at the history of the place. It's rough. Musharraf knows his country. He knows what he's got. Their factions, their tribes. There's that group of folks that wants nothing more than to start war with India, another group that wants to take over the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas], another group that wants to take over part of Baluchistan. He's got a tough road. Most guys in his position do."
As for Washington's notion that Benazir Bhutto's return to the country would fix all that, Fallon is pessimistic. He slowly shakes his head. "Better forget that."
Less than two months later, of course, his rueful prophesy will be confirmed when Bhutto is murdered by militants in Rawalpindi.
Meanwhile, Fallon argues that with U.S. plans in the offing to arm Pashtun tribes against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the FATA, now would not seem to be the time to be pushing the democracy agenda in Pakistan.
When Fallon asked Musharraf, "How long do you expect to have to do it?" the general answered, "Not long." And twenty-four hours later, Fallon counseled patience. After all, he said, think about how strong America's military relationship is with Egypt despite Hosni Mubarak's twenty-seven-year "emergency rule."
But that doesn't mean the relationship building remains limited to just Musharraf, and so the rest of Fallon's long day in Islamabad was spent networking with General Ashfaq Kayani, former head of Pakistan's much-feared Interservices Intelligence agency and new chief of army staff. If Musharraf were ever to step or be pushed aside, Kayani is a leading contender to replace him.
But more to the point for Fallon, Kayani becomes the operational point man for any increased collaboration between the U.S. military and the Pakistani army to tackle the issues of the FATA, which a Centcom senior intelligence official calls "the huge elephant in the closet."
That's putting it mildly. The tribal region is where, according to our own National Intelligence Estimate last year, Al Qaeda was reconstituting its operational capacity, and was now in its strongest position since 9/11.
As with Pakistan, Fallon keeps his powder dry when he deals with Iran. He doesn't react like Pavlov's dog to inflammatory rhetoric from inflammatory little men. He understands the basic rule of international diplomacy: Everybody gets a move.
"Tehran's feeling pretty cocky right now because they've been able to inflict pain on us in Iraq and Afghanistan." So the trick, in Fallon's mind, is "to try to figure out what it is they really want and then, maybe -- not that we're going to play Santa Claus here or the Good Humor Man -- but the fact is that everyone needs something in this world, and so most countries that are functional and are contributing to the world have found a way to trade off their strengths for other strengths to help them out. These guys are trying to go it alone in this respect, and it's a bad gene pool right now. It's not one with much longevity. So they play that card pretty regularly, and at some point you just kind of run out of games, it seems to me. You've got to play a real card."
And when the real cards finally get played, that's when Fallon will double down.
The first thing you notice is the face, the second is the voice.
A tall, wiry man with thinning white hair, Fallon comes off like a loner even when he's standing in a crowd.
Despite having an easy smile that he regularly pulls out for his many daily exercises in relationship building, Fallon's consistent game face is a slightly pissed-off glare. It's his default expression. Don't fuck with me, it says. A tough Catholic boy from New Jersey, his favorite compliment is "badass." Fallon's got a fearsome reputation, although no one I ever talk to in the business can quite pin down why. There are the stories of his wilder days as a young officer, not the partying stuff but more the variety of rules bent to the breaking point, and he's been known as anything but a dove in his various commands, which makes his later roles as champion for engagement with both China and Iran all the more strange.
In keeping with the naval-officer tradition of emasculating bluntness, Fallon can without remorse cut the nuts off peers and subordinates alike. But it is more the intimation of his ferocity than its exercise that has the greatest effect. And Fallon has recently discovered that his reputation can leave him open to stories that might sound true but are not. Last fall, it was reported in the press that Fallon had called General Petraeus an "ass-kissing little chickenshit" for being so willing to serve as the administration's political frontman on the Iraq surge. The old man had told reporters that it hadn't happened like that -- that that's not the way he operates, and, in fact, any time he talks with Petraeus, there are only two men in the room -- the admiral and the general -- and their exchanges remain private. And when they're not in the same room, "We e-mail each other constantly and talk by phone just about every day." Just the two of them, he says. No outsiders observing. The press sources had an overactive imagination, Fallon said. Now when the subject comes up, he dismisses it with a wave of his hand.
"Absolute bullshit," Fallon tells me.
Fallon and his executive assistant, Captain Craig Faller, say that they both suspect "staff agitation" to be behind the story. Interservice rivalry is mighty strong, and Admiral Fallon is the first navy man to be head of Centcom, so it's not hard for them to imagine somebody from the Army stirring the pot.
Fallon says the tip-off that the story was bogus was the word chickenshit. "My kids called me up laughing about that one, saying they knew the story wasn't true because I never use that word."
So put Fallon down as a "bullshit" and not a "chickenshit" kind of guy.
And in truth, Fallon's not a screamer. Indeed, by my long observation and the accounts of a dozen people, he doesn't raise his voice whatsoever, except when he laughs. Instead, the more serious he becomes, the quieter he gets, and his whispers sound positively menacing. Other guys can jaw-jaw all they want about the need for war-war with...whomever is today's target among D.C.'s many armchair warriors. Not Fallon. Let the president pop off. Fallon won't. No bravado here, nor sound-bite-sized threats, but rather a calm, leathery presence. Fallon is comfortable risking peace because he's comfortable waging war. And when he conveys messages to the enemies of the United States, he does it not in the provocative cowboy style that has prevailed in Washington so far this century, but with the opposite -- a studied quiet that makes it seem as if he is trying to bend them to his will with nothing but the sound of his voice.
So when, during a press conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, Fallon whispers, "The public behavior of Iran has been unhelpful to the region," with his pissed-off glare and his slightly hoarse delivery, he is saying, I'm not making you an offer; I'm telling you what your options are right now.
"Iran should be playing a constructive role," he continues. "I hear this from every country in the region."
Translation: I've got you surrounded.
He'd rather not do it, but if he has to go to war, there won't be any anguish. Whatever qualms Fallon had about using force were exorcised long ago in the skies over Vietnam.
"I try to be reasonably predictable to my own people and very unpredictable to potential adversaries," he tells me.
No wonder Fallon sticks out like a sore thumb with the neocons, who have the unfortunate tendency to come off as unpredictable to their allies and predictable to their enemies. Which is the opposite of strategy. He knows this stuff cold, because he's had his hand on the stick for a very long time. The oldest of nine kids, Fallon's old man was a mailman in Merchantville, New Jersey, following his World War II stint in the Army Air Corps. As a boy, Fallon delivered newspapers, bagged groceries, worked in the local Campbell's Soup plant, and would become the first in his family to attend college. His dad's military experiences, along with those of several of his mom's brothers, naturally pushed him in the direction of West Point.
But his local congressman screwed up his application, and so Fallon chose the naval ROTC program at nearby Villanova, a Catholic haven that has produced three Centcom commanders. More than thirteen hundred carrier landings later, Fallon began his long climb through various combat command experiences -- including Desert Storm and Bosnia -- to the pinnacle of his profession: four four-star assignments that include vice chief of Naval Operations, commander of the Atlantic Fleet, and then boss of Pacific Command and Central Command in rapid succession.
Sitting in his Tampa headquarters office last fall, I asked Fallon if he considered the Centcom assignment to be the same career-capping job that it'd been for his predecessors. He just laughed and said, "Career capping? How about career detonating?"
At the time, I took that comment to be mere self-effacement. I have since come to think that Fallon was deadly serious.
Weeks later, back in that hotel lounge in Kazakhstan, after a brutal eighteen-hour day of wall-to-wall summits and meetings, Fallon is in a more pensive mood, admitting that he never expected to stay this long in the service. At sixty-three, he's one of the oldest flag officers in uniform, and if you count his ROTC time, he's been in for a whopping forty-five years total. And at this cookie-cutter chain hotel deep in the 'Stans, Fallon wears an expression that is equal parts fatigue and bewilderment. "I expected to be running a start-up company by now," he says.
But something else came up.
When the admiral took charge of Pacific Command in 2005, he immediately set about a military-to-military outreach to the Chinese armed forces, something that had plenty of people freaking out at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. The Chinese, after all, were scheduled to be our next war. What the hell was Fallon doing?
Contrary to some reports, though, Fallon says he initially had no trouble with then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld on the subject. "Early on, I talked to him. I said, Here's what I think. And I talked to the president, too."
It was only after the Pentagon and Congress started realizing that their favorite "programs of record" (i.e., weapons systems and major vehicle platforms) were threatened by such talks that the shit hit the fan. "I blew my stack," Fallon says. "I told Rumsfeld, Just look at this shit. I go up to the Hill and I get three or four guys grabbing me and jerking me out of the aisle, all because somebody came up and told them that the sky was going to cave in."
But Fallon stood down the China hawks, because as much as military leaders have to plan for war, Fallon seems to understand better than most the role they also have to play in everything else beyond war. And like a good cop, Fallon doesn't want to fire his gun unless he absolutely has to. "I wouldn't have done what I did if I didn't think it was the right thing to do, which I still do. China is our most important relationship for the future, given the realities of people, economics, and location. We've got to work hard and make sure we do our best to get it right."
For Fallon, that meant an emphasis on opening new lines of communication and reducing the capacity for misunderstanding during times of crisis. But beyond that, it meant telling the Chinese, "If you want to be treated as a big boy and a major player, you've got to act like it."
If you want recognition of your power, then you have to accept the responsibility that comes with such power. That's the essential message Fallon delivered to the Chinese, and if that meant he was out of line with the Pentagon's take on rising China, then so be it. If it seemed as though Fallon was downplaying the threat of North Korea's missiles, it was because he preferred pushing a regional response that signaled a united front but still left the door open for North Korea to come in from the cold.
Fallon now brings the same approach to Iran in Central Command: "I want to go through something positive rather than a negative like Iran, which is a real problem." To that end, and right on the heels of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates's meetings with Middle Eastern ministers of defense, Fallon held a similar summit of Persian Gulf chiefs of defense in Tampa earlier this year, something Centcom has never attempted before.
Could Iran be a participant in something like this down the road?
"Oh, absolutely, eventually. It's like the Chinese," he says. "It would be great if Iran turned into a team that decided to play ball in the end."
So how does something like this happen?
How do you turn Iran into a responsible regional player? How can the United States even approach Iran when the regime seems populated by only hard-liners and ultraconservatives?
You start down low, says one of Fallon's senior intelligence officials. For example, there's the shared interest in stemming the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan to Iran. "Iran has a huge drug problem," so that's "a potential cooperative area." More recently, the Iranians promised to stop the flow of munitions into Iraq, arguably contributing to the dramatic decrease in U. S. casualties from roadside bombs. After three sets of talks with the Iranians last summer that went nowhere, another round is being teed up. To Fallon, this sort of engagement is crucial, given America's overall lack of experience in dealing with Iran.
"I don't know as much as I'd like about Iran," he says. "You've got to go elsewhere, to people in other countries. There aren't many Americans who've had extensive experience with these guys. So that puts us both at a disadvantage. Plus they're secretive -- intentionally so -- about us. It makes it more of a challenge."
Early in his tenure at Pacific Command, Fallon let it be known that he was interested in visiting the city of Harbin in the highly controlled and isolated Heilongjiang Military District on China's northern border with Russia. The Chinese were flabbergasted at the request, but when Fallon's command plane took off one afternoon from Mongolia, heading for Harbin without permission, Beijing relented.
The local Chinese commander was beside himself. It was the first time in his life he had ever met an American military officer, and here he was at the bottom of a jet ramp waiting for the all-powerful head of the United States Pacific Command to descend. Then, to his horror, he realized that Fallon had brought his wife, Mary, along for the trip. Scrambling to arrange the evening banquet, the Chinese commander brought his own wife out in public for the first time ever.
When the time came for dinner toasts, after the Chinese commander thanked Mrs. Fallon for coming, the admiral returned the favor by thanking the commander's wife for her many years of service as a military spouse. The commander's wife broke down in tears, saying it was the first time in her entire marriage that she had been publicly recognized for her many sacrifices.
And there was peace in our time.
Fallon is what is called a "four-star action officer," meaning he tries to do too many things himself. He spends no more than a week each month in Tampa, Centcom's headquarters. Captain Faller jokes that if it weren't for federal holidays, Fallon's staff wouldn't know what a day off even was.
Fallon travels at least three weeks out of each month, spending, on average, two weeks in theater, meaning the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, and Central Asia. He travels to Iraq and Afghanistan every month like clockwork.
It's an unseasonably warm early-winter morning in Kabul, and Fallon is out in the field, walking his beat. And short of the president of the United States himself, this convoy is the richest and most opportune terrorist target in the world at present. So everybody wears the heavy armor. Weighed down by a helmet that feels like twenty pounds -- applied directly to my forehead -- and a desert-camo flak jacket that's decidedly heavier, I climb into the back of an armored Suburban that'll play third-on-a-match in Fallon's three-vehicle convoy. We are told to expect a bumpy ride, as ours is the vehicle that will routinely swerve from side to side to position itself to ram any vehicle that might approach the command vehicle from the side.
It's like riding in a car with the biggest asshole in the world behind the wheel. We almost pass Fallon's vehicle -- time after time -- only to slam on the brakes, slip back behind, lurch over to the other side, and do the same thing. A word of advice: Don't do this on a heavy breakfast. Fallon's personal enlisted aide, strapped in next to us, says our driver is actually being fairly mellow, on the admiral's orders. That's good to hear, as the streets are full of women and children on foot.
Thirty minutes after we've left the maze of barricades that line every entrance into the Green Zone, giving the place a sort of Maxwell Smart sense of never-ending doors, we arrive at a military airport where two Black Hawk UH-60's await. I ride with Fallon's senior aides in the second one. I am strapped into a four-part harness, the body armor keeping me well cocooned. Minutes after takeoff, as is the universal custom among military personnel, everyone but the personal-security-detail soldiers is asleep.
I scan the moonscape that is the mountains west of Kabul.
Traveling at high speed, we've been dipping ever so gently around the mountains as we travel to Bamiyan Province, ancient home to the giant Buddhas that are no more -- parting shots from the once and future Taliban. I can spot Fallon's Black Hawk out the window, framed from above by the sky and below by the barrel of a large machine gun sticking out of our helicopter's side. It's manned by a rather short fellow whose face is almost completely obscured by his Star Wars blast shield.
The view is amazing and reminds me why banditry and smuggling remain dominant industries here. Every road seems to lie at the bottom of a narrow, meandering ravine, and every walled compound looks like a fort out of America's Wild West days. Most of the time, the only things moving across this barren landscape are the shadows from our helos.
We alight from the Black Hawks after touching down on a strip of asphalt located in the center of the wide, flat plain that is Bamiyan Valley. Immediately your eyes are drawn to the dominant geological feature: cliff walls as high as skyscrapers that run along the valley's northern edge as far as the eye can see. Carved into the stunning vertical cliff are two empty frames, each running fifteen or so meters deep into the rock. Here stood the gigantic stone Buddhas carved hundreds of years ago by monks who lived in a warren of caves connecting the statues.
We're met at the landing zone by the Kiwi colonel, Brendon Fraher, who leads a small unit of New Zealand's finest civil-affairs specialists operating out of a small fort a few clicks away. The camp is home to a Provincial Reconstruction Team manned by the Kiwis, who work hand in glove with U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and ISAF personnel in coordinating coalition reconstruction aid to this province.
As we head to a convoy of armored Ford F-350 pickups, Fallon says that Fraher reports two enemy rockets landed nearby yesterday, but other than that, all's quiet. We speed off to meet the only female provincial governor in Afghanistan. Pulling up to the local government building, we pile out of the pickups and file into a large receiving room blanketed by modest Persian rugs and surrounded by even more modest couches. Just inside, we strip off the helmets and vests and heap them into a pile of fabric-covered metal and ceramic in the corner, all of it too heavy to hang on any coatrack.
Fallon -- who's done this sort of thing so often, he seems to glide through the protocol -- zeroes in on Governor Habiba Sarabi, a middle-aged woman of average height who's dressed in a reform sort of way -- head covered but face exposed. Despite all our accompanying security, you've got to believe she's the biggest Taliban target in the room.
Tea is served and formal greetings are exchanged with no need for translation, as the governor speaks English with calculated fluency, a skill she demonstrates a half hour into the meeting, when Fallon makes clear that he wants to hear her complaints.
It's a tricky moment for Sarabi, because she's basically critiquing Western aid and the military agencies represented by the officials surrounding her now. It's like bitching about your parents in front of Child Protective Services: Strike the right note and you might suddenly find yourself free of them for good.
Speaking about a road long-promised by Kabul and the coalition that would connect this isolated valley to Afghanistan's central circular artery, the Ring Road, she suddenly blurts out, "This is three years that the Bamiyan people have been waiting for this road!"
Fallon aggressively queries the assembled officials in order, running from the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy to the USAID leader to the ISAF officers and, finally, the local Kiwi PRT commander. Each offers a typically complex, bureaucratic response in turn. Glancing at the governor, I can almost feel her anger rising.
With obvious passion, Sarabi interrupts the proceedings with a stream of complaints about the length and complexity of USAID's planning process. This is where her fluency in English suddenly falters, as Sarabi's sentences start trailing off, leading the assembled officials to fill in the blanks.
"It is very... "
"Long?" chimes in the USAID official.
"And there is such a lack of...ahh." Sarabi raises a finger to her chin, scanning the far wall as if the word lingers there.
"Coordination?" offers the deputy chief of mission.
"It all makes me so incredibly...how do you say?"
"Mad?" one officer suggests.
It's almost like an auction now as the bids keep rising. I'm just about ready to toss in my personal favorite, "pissed off," when Fallon weighs in with "frustrated" -- no question mark.
Sarabi turns toward the admiral, a sly smile passes across her face.
Fallon starts probing yet again, this time cutting off officials, as their answers obscure rather than illuminate.
Emboldened, the governor piles on with a new complaint: Every winter, a local river becomes impassable for a local migratory tribe that is then stranded outside the valley.
Fallon asks the deputy chief of mission, "Are you aware of this?"
The DCM replies, "No, I wasn't, and I promise to look into that."
Fallon's on a roll now, and the governor is beaming, but his efforts soon head into a bureaucratic cul-de-sac that no one in the room can fix. Kabul's central government simply does not prioritize this heartland province. Fallon asks the senior American ISAF officer if the coalition could arrange a Bailey pontoon bridge just for the winter months. In return, he gets a complex answer about past surveys.
Fallon cuts him off and turns to the governor. "I tell you what, I'm not getting a satisfactory answer here. I'll be honest. I don't think we can do anything for you this winter. However, I will try to get, from many miles away, a screwdriver big enough to push this process for next year."
The governor immediately thanks Fallon for his promise.
Fallon doesn't forget details like that. Six months earlier, he noticed that the American flag flying outside the Hyatt hotel in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, was frayed. He had told one of the defense attachés at the U.S. embassy to get it replaced. The beaten-up flag was still there when we arrived. It's late on the fifth straight day of nonstop travel that has taken Fallon's entourage from Florida to Qatar to Pakistan to Afghanistan and now to Kyrgyzstan. Tomorrow, Tajikistan, where he'll have to put up with the Putin clone who is president. So at the moment, maybe the flag is not all that's frayed. His gaze fixed on it, Fallon quietly repeats his order, his voice so low and so quiet that you can almost hear somebody's next promotion getting axed.
Unlike his Arabic-speaking predecessor, Army General John Abizaid, Fox Fallon wasn't selected to lead U.S. Central Command for his regional knowledge or cultural sensitivity, but because he is, says Secretary of Defense Gates, "one of the best strategic thinkers in uniform today."
If anything has been sorely missing to date in America's choices in the Middle East and Central Asia, it has been a strategic mind-set that consistently keeps its eyes on the real prize: connecting these isolated regions in a far more broadband fashion to the global economy. Instead of effectively countering the efforts of others (e.g., the radical Salafis, Saudi Arabia's Wahhabists, Russia's security services, China's energy sector) who would fashion such connectivity to their selfish ends, Washington has wasted precious time focusing excessively on transforming the political systems of Iraq and Afghanistan, as though governments somehow birth functioning societies and economies instead of the other way around.
Waiting on perfect security or perfect politics to forge economic relationships is a fool's errand. By the time those fantastic conditions are met in this dangerous, unstable part of the world, somebody less idealistic will be running the place -- the Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Indians, Turks, Iranians, Saudis. That's why Fallon has been aggressively hawking his southern strategy of encouraging a north-south "energy corridor" between the Central Asian republics and the energy-starved-but-booming Asian subcontinent (read: Islamabad down through Bangalore and then east to Kolkata), with both Afghanistan and Pakistan as crucial conduits.
On this trip, he's been shepherding a new bridge that links isolated Tajikistan with Afghanistan. The potential here is huge: Tajikistan is 95 percent mountainous and extremely food dependent. Its main asset is its untapped hydroelectric capacity. Afghanistan presents just the opposite picture -- food to export but most of the country lacks an effective electric grid.
So what should America be pushing first in both states? Free-and-clear elections for massively impoverished populations, or whatever it takes to get Tajikistan's resource with Afghanistan's resource? Which path, do you think, would scare the Taliban and Al Qaeda more? To Fallon, there isn't even a question to answer.
But this part of the world is defined by its fortresses, and is not known for willingly connecting to the outside world. Tajikistan's powerful security chief, Khayriddin Abdurahimov, had been doing his best to gum up the works on the just-finished bridge, which he allowed to open for business only four hours a day. Having just achieved control of the country's border-security agency, Abdurahimov believed the bridge made the country vulnerable to Afghanistan's dangerous drugs and nothing more.
On the eve of Fallon's arrival, President Emomali Rahmon intervened and extended the bridge's operating schedule to eight hours a day, admitting to Fallon in their first summit that he needs to do more to champion the economic potential.
But Fallon doesn't stop there. Immediately following his meeting with Rahmon, he meets face-to-face with the highly secretive Abdurahimov, who almost never meets with foreign officials.
Just as with Musharraf, Fallon does not preach. He suggests, he encourages, he cajoles, he offers, and he debates, but he does not preach -- save the gospel of economic connectivity. Even there, he is not eager to appear competitive with any regional power. "I don't want to create the impression that we're just replacing the Russians," he says.
He just wants a damn bridge.
Fallon gets his bridge.
Fallon's got a spread in a little town in Montana. The streams of this town seem to be full of eighteen-inch fish that he says he'd like to take a crack at someday soon. But the fish of Fallon's town are safe for the moment.
While Condoleezza Rice and the State Department manage a vague endgame on the two-state solution in Palestine, Gates and Fallon have begun the regional-security dialogue that's truly regional in scope.
The rollback of Al Qaeda seems to be both real and continuing, save for the border region of Pakistan. And to gain greater flexibility to plan for the region, Fallon says that he is determined to draw down in Iraq. One of the reasons Fallon says he banished the term "long war" from Centcom's vocabulary is that he believes real victory in this struggle will be defined in economic terms first, and so the emphasis on war struck him as "too narrow." But the term also signaled a long haul that Fallon simply finds unacceptable. He wants troop levels in Iraq down now, and he wants the Afghan National Army running the show throughout most of Afghanistan by the end of this year. Fallon says he wants to move the pile dramatically in the time he's got remaining, however long that may be. And he gets frustrated. "I grind my teeth at the pace of change."
Freeing the United States from being tied down in Iraq means a stronger effort in Afghanistan, more focus on Pakistan, and more time spent creating networks of relationships in Central Asia. With Syria and Lebanon recently added to Centcom's area of responsibility, look to see Fallon popping up in Beirut and Damascus regularly. And he says he is more than willing to take on Israel and Palestine to boot, which for now remains a bastard stepchild of European Command.
The Persian Gulf right now is booming economically, and Fallon wants to harness that power to connect the failed states that pockmark the landscape to the outside world. In this choice, he sees no alternative.
"What I learned in the Pacific is that after a while the tableau of failed, failing, or dysfunctional states becomes a real burden on the functional countries and a problem for their neighborhood, because they breed unrest and insecurities and attract troublemakers very well. They're like sewers, and they begin to fester. It's bad for business. And when it's bad for business, people tend to start restricting their investments, and they restrict their thinking, and it allows more barriers, so we're back to building walls again instead of breaking them down. If you have to build walls, it means you're moving backward."
Fallon has no illusion about solving the Middle East or Central Asia during his tenure, but he's also acutely conscious that with globalization's rapid advance into these regions he may well be the last Centcom commander of his kind. Already Fallon sees the inevitability and utility of having a Chinese military partnership at Centcom, and he'd like to manage that inevitably from the start rather than have to repair damage down the line.
"I'd like to continue to do things that will be useful to the world and its inhabitants," he says. "I've seen a lot of good things, and I've seen a lot of stupid things."
And then there is Iran. No sooner had the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei signaled a willingness to deal with any American but George W. Bush, and no sooner had Fallon signaled America's willingness to refrain from bombing Tehran, than a little international incident occurred.
Just the kind of incident that doughy neocons dream sweetly about. Right after the new year, three American ships were passing through the Strait of Hormuz, exchanging normal greetings with Gulf State navies, checking them out as they passed. The same with the Iranian navy. And then, suddenly, small Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boats started speeding toward the American ships, showing, the admiral says, "very stupid behavior, showboating, and provocative taunts. Given that it was a small boat that did in the USS Cole, this was very dangerous behavior."
The Iranians dropped boxes in the water, simulating mines.
"Remember," he says, "my first day on this job, I was greeted by the IRGC snatching the British sailors, and so it was a sense of here we go again. You wonder, Are they really acting on their own, because the pattern seems clear."
Fallon's eyes narrow and his voice becomes that whisper: "This is not how a country that wants to be a big boy in the neighborhood behaves. How are we supposed to take these guys seriously as players in the region? You'd like to deal with them as big-league players, but when they do this, it's very tough."
As before, there is the text and the subtext. Admiral William Fallon shakes his head slowly, and his eyes say, These guys have no idea how much worse it could get for them. I am the reasonable one.
And time will tell whether being reasonable will cost Admiral William Fallon his command.
'Bush gearing up to wage war on Iran'
The Bush administration is drawing up plans to launch a strike against Iran within the next two months, says a former top US diplomat.
The source, a retired US diplomat and former assistant secretary of state, said senior Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein of California and Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana have already been briefed on the attack plan.
Senator Feinstein, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, plan to go public with their opposition to the new Iran war plan in a New York Times editorial 'within days', Asia Times Online reported the source as saying on the condition of anonymity.
According to Asia Times Online, Feinstein and Lugar will attempt to offset the August attack by creating a furor about President George W. Bush's intentions of launching air strikes against the headquarters of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.
In September 2007, the US Senate approved a resolution by a 76-22 vote, calling on the White House to brand the IRGC a terrorist organization.
US echelons accuse Iran of contributing to the killing of American soldiers in neighboring Iraq. This is while the White House is yet to provide concrete evidence in support of its allegation.
Iran insists that it is committed to aiding Baghdad in its efforts to restore stability in the war-ravaged country.
The Bush administration also accuses Iran of developing nuclear arms, a claim which was rejected by 16 US intelligence agencies on December 3 when their assessment conceded that Tehran is not conducting a nuclear weapons program.
According to the most recent UN nuclear watchdog report on Tehran's nuclear program, there is no link between the use of nuclear material and 'the alleged studies' of weaponization attributed to Iran by Western countries.
High Noon in the Middle East
As things look, Israel may well attack Iran soon
By Joschka Fischer
31/05/08 "Daily Star" -- - As a result of misguided American policy, the threat of another military confrontation hangs like a dark cloud over the Middle East. The United States' enemies have been strengthened, and Iran - despite being branded as a member of the so-called "axis of evil" - has been catapulted into regional hegemony. Iran could never have achieved this on its own, certainly not in such a short time.
A hitherto latent rivalry between Iran and Israel thus has been transformed into an open struggle for dominance in the Middle East. The result has been the emergence of some surprising, if not bizarre, alliances: Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and the American-backed, Shiite-dominated Iraq are facing Israel, Saudi Arabia, and most of the other Sunni Arab states, all of which feel existentially threatened by Iran's ascendance.
The danger of a major confrontation has been heightened further by a series of factors: persistently high oil prices, which have created new financial and political opportunities for Iran; the possible defeat of the West and its regional allies in proxy wars in Gaza and Lebanon; and the United Nations Security Council's failure to induce Iran to accept even a temporary freeze of its nuclear program.
Iran's nuclear program is the decisive factor in this equation, for it threatens irreversibly the region's strategic balance. That Iran - a country whose president never tires of calling for Israel's annihilation and that threatens Israel's northern and southern borders through its massive support of proxy wars waged by Hizbullah and Hamas - might one day have missiles with nuclear warheads is Israel's worst security nightmare. Politics is not just about facts, but also about perceptions. Whether or not a perception is accurate is beside the point, because it nonetheless leads to decisions.
This applies in particular when the perception concerns what the parties consider to be threats to their very existence. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats of annihilation are taken seriously in Israel because of the trauma of the Holocaust. And most Arab governments share the fear of a nuclear Iran. Earlier this month, Israel celebrated its 60th birthday, and US President George W. Bush went to Jerusalem to play a leading part in the commemoration. But those who had expected that his visit would mainly be about the stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were bitterly disappointed. Bush's central topic, including his speech to Israel's Knesset, was Iran. Bush had promised to bring the Middle East conflict closer to a resolution before the end of his term this year. But his final visit to Israel seemed to indicate that his objective was different: he seemed to be planning, together with Israel, to end the Iranian nuclear program - and to do so by military, rather than by diplomatic, means.
Anyone following the press in Israel during the anniversary celebrations and listening closely to what was said in Jerusalem did not have to be a prophet to understand that matters are coming to a head. Consider the following:
First, "stop the appeasement!" is a demand raised across the political spectrum in Israel - and what is meant is the nuclear threat emanating from Iran.
Second, while Israel celebrated, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying that a life-and-death military confrontation was a distinct possibility.
Third, the outgoing commander of the Israeli Air Force declared that the air force was capable of any mission, no matter how difficult, to protect the country's security. The destruction of a Syrian nuclear facility last year, and the lack of any international reaction to it, were viewed as an example for the coming action against Iran.
Fourth, the Israeli wish list for US arms deliveries, discussed with the American president, focused mainly on the improvement of the attack capabilities and precision of the Israeli Air Force.
Fifth, diplomatic initiatives and UN sanctions when it comes to Iran are seen as hopelessly ineffective.
And sixth, with the approaching end of the Bush presidency and uncertainty about his successor's policy, the window of opportunity for Israeli action is seen as potentially closing.
The last two factors carry special weight. While Israeli military intelligence is on record as saying that Iran is expected to cross the red line on the path to nuclear power between 2010 and 2015 at the earliest, the feeling in Israel is that the political window of opportunity to attack is now, during the last months of Bush's presidency.
Although it is acknowledged in Israel that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would involve grave and hard-to-assess risks, the choice between acceptance of an Iranian bomb and an attempt at its military destruction, with all the attendant consequences, is clear. Israel won't stand by and wait for matters to take their course.
The Middle East is drifting toward a new great confrontation in 2008. Iran must understand that without a diplomatic solution in the coming months, a dangerous military conflict is very likely to erupt. It is high time for serious negotiations to begin.
The most recent offer by the six powers - the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany - is on the table, and it goes very far in accommodating Iran's interests. The decisive question, however, will be whether it will be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before these negotiations are completed. Should this newest attempt fail, things will soon get serious. Deadly serious.
Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005, led Germany's Green Party for nearly 20 years. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate-Institute for Human Sciences (c) (www.project-syndicate.org).
threatens war on Gaza and Iran
By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
Israel braced itself for conflict on two fronts against militants in
Gaza and an Iranian government persisting with its nuclear programme.
Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, said the "pendulum is closer" to a large scale military operation in Gaza after another Israeli civilian was killed by a mortar fired from Gaza on Thursday.
Amnon Roseberg was the 8th Israeli civilian to be killed by weapons fired from Gaza since Israel withdrew its settlers from the Gaza Strip two years ago.
While the number of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza by Israel in retaliatory strikes dwarfs Israeli casualties, Mr Olmert's government takes every Israeli civilian death very seriously.
When asked by reporters as he flew back to Israel after a three day visit to Washington about the chance of a negotiated ceasefire with Gaza's militants, Mr Olmert said he thought military action more likely than a ceasefire.
"We are always checking between the various possibilities of reaching complete quiet that will bring security to the residents of southern Israel without having to get into a violent and serious clash against the terror organizations in Gaza, and the impossibility of reaching such an arrangement, which is likely to bring us closer to an operation that would be a lot more serious and resolute against the terror organisations," he said.
"Based on the data as I see it now, this pendulum is closer to a decision for a serious operation."
Israel has tried large-scale military action in Gaza several times before to silence the rockets and mortars. While it sometimes creates a short-term lull, the inevitable loss of Palestinian civilian lives sparks yet more militant attacks.
But while the precedent is not encouraging, Mr Olmert cannot be seen by the Israeli people as doing nothing.
On the Iranian front, Mr Olmert privately pronounced himself happy after his visit to the White House that Israel and America are of one mind over the possibility of military intervention against Tehran's nuclear programme.
In President George W Bush, Israel has a firm ally who shares its belief that Iran must be stopped at all costs from becoming a nuclear power.
One of Mr Olmert's party deputies, Shaul Mofaz, kept up the pressure on Iran saying an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites looked "inevitable" given the apparent failure of diplomatic and economic sanctions on Tehran.
"If Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it," he said.
"The sanctions are ineffective. Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable."
It was the most explicit threat yet against Iran from a member of the Olmert government, which, like the Bush administration, has preferred to hint at force as a last resort should UN Security Council sanctions be deemed to have failed.
Israel has twice acted by itself to stop its regional enemies developing a nuclear capability, in Syria last year and Iraq in the 1980s.
Tehran takes war case against Israel to U.N.
Maybe he was just playing politics, painting himself as a hawk to take on his battered rival. Maybe he was revving up the world for war against the country of his birth.
In any case, an Israeli cabinet minister's remark calling a war against Iran "unavoidable" has had global repercussions, sending oil prices to record highs and drawing condemnation today at the United Nations and by the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz, in remarks published Friday, said Iran's drive to master the enrichment of uranium, a key component in creating a domestic nuclear weapon program as well as peaceful nuclear energy, guaranteed a war:
If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective. Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.
Of course, Iran has strenuously denied it is trying to develop nuclear weapons. This week, Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei reiterated his long-held position that nuclear weapons are against Islam. Israel, meanwhile, has hundreds of nukes. But many in the U.S., Israel and international arms control circles believe Iran is at least trying to have the capacity to quickly build nuclear weapons if it wanted them.
Mofaz, an Israeli of Iranian descent, is an ambitious fella. He's among those vying for the leadership of scandal-ridden Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party. What better way to grab the spotlight than to make some incendiary remarks about Iran?
Though Israeli and U.S. officials distanced themselves from Mofaz, his comments prompted Iran to demand that the U.N. Security Council take action.
Iran's envoy to the U.N., Mohammad Khazaee, sent a letter Friday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon calling the comment "unlawful."
The note was released today:
Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the charter of the United Nations, and, thus, requires a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.
U.S. and Israeli officials have often condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for the destruction of Israel.
Meanwhile, in an excerpt from an interview to be published next week in Germany's Der Spiegel, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei condemned threats of war with Iran to stop its nuclear program, like those made by Mofaz.
"With unilateral military actions, countries are undermining international agreements," he said. He also took Iran to task, saying that Tehran is sending "a message to the entire world: We can build a bomb in relatively short time."
Iran Responds to Mofaz's Threats
In response to Israel Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz’s comments last week regarding an imminent attack on Iran, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, delivered a letter on June 6 to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Below is the full text of the letter. Meanwhile Mofaz has come under fire for his threats from other Israeli officials at home.
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
6 June 2008
H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon Secretary General United Nations, New York
Upon instruction from my Government and in pursuance of the previous letters of this Mission, including the letters circulated as documents A/61/571-S/2006/884, A/61/954- S/2007/354 and A/62/705-S/2008/117, regarding the blatant violation of the most basic principles of international law by the Israeli regime in making threats against the Islamic Republic of Iran, I wish to draw your attention to the following:
Emboldened by the absence of any action by the Security Council, and in full contempt for the most basic provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the provisions which call for refraining "from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations", the Israeli regime's officials, in continuation of their aggressive policies and unlawful practices, have relentlessly and in full impunity continued to make threats of resorting to force against the Islamic Republic of Iran under false pretexts.
This Mission has, through previous communications in particular the above mentioned letters, brought to the attention of the Secretary General and the Security Council's Presidents some of the instances that the Israeli regime has threatened to use force against my country. Once again, as reported by the media on 6 June 2008, the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transportation, Shaul Mofaz, has repeated the same insolent threat of use of force against the Islamic Republic of Iran in an interview with an Israeli newspaper by saying that Israel "will attack Iran... attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable". Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign State and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and, thus, requires a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.
Threatening to resort to force by various officials of the Israeli regime against the Islamic Republic of Iran is indeed a manifestation of threat to international and regional peace and security by a regime whose policies and practices are based on aggression, state terrorism and defiance of all basic principles of international law.
Regrettably, the inaction of the Security Council in addressing such Israeli policies and the impunity with which the said regime has been allowed to insist on threatening other countries, has emboldened it to continue and even increase its unlawful behaviors and policies, to the extent that it engages as a matter of routine policy to openly threaten to use force against a member of the United Nations.
It is well known to the international community that the Israeli regime, which has never been a party to the international instruments on the prohibition of Weapons of Mass Destruction, has clandestinely developed nuclear weapons. Undoubtedly, nuclear weapons in the hands of an irresponsible regime with a long record of war crimes and crimes against humanity poses the most immediate and serious threat that the world and the region are facing.
Contrary to the baseless allegations fabricated by the Zionist regime, the Islamic Republic of Iran has unambiguously and vehemently rejected and opposed all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including the nuclear weapons. As a State Party to Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons ( NPT), the Islamic Republic of Iran has on many occasions officially declared that weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, as the most inhumane weapons, have no place in the defense doctrine of the country.
I wish to reiterate my Government's position that while the Islamic Republic of Iran has no intention to attack any other nations; nonetheless, in accordance with its inherent right under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, it would not hesitate to act in self- defense to respond to any attack against the Iranian nation and to take appropriate defensive measures to protect itself.
I am also sending an identical letter to the President of the Security Council. Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
behind Israel’s war threats on Iran
By Sara Flounders
The danger of a U.S. attack on Iran, either directly by the Pentagon or through Israel, was made more explicit in the first week of June.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Washington to say that Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped by “all possible means.” He and a host of U.S. politicians addressed a convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The presidential contenders from both imperialist parties as well as senators on top congressional committees all repeated the same theme. Democrats and Republicans seemed united as they lined up to express unequivocal support for Israel and to threaten Iran, presenting its totally legal development of nuclear energy as a dire threat to “world peace.”
This well-coordinated threat escalated after Olmert returned to Israel from the convention. Within hours of his return, Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz called war against Iran “unavoidable.” Mofaz, a former military chief and defense minister, has been Israel’s representative in a strategic dialogue on Iran with U.S. officials. He said that if Iran continues its nuclear program, Israel will attack because it has no choice as “options are disappearing and sanctions have proven to be ineffective.”
An international media uproar began over the provocative and threatening statement. The price of oil shot up to an unprecedented $138 a barrel. Prime Minister Olmert then fanned the flames and refused to discount the possibility of a military strike against Iran. “All options, including the military option, must remain on the table,” he said, echoing Bush.
This only confirmed that Israel is a tool of U.S. policy, especially when U.S. administrations are not in a position to take action directly.
Many times Washington has given its full military, political, economic and military support for Israel’s crimes: during Israel’s repeated wars to push back the rising tide of Arab nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s; its 1981 bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor; its training of death squads in Central America during the 1980s; its support for South African apartheid; its 2006 bombing of Lebanon, and its recent strike on Syria.
AIPAC serves U.S. corporate power
AIPAC has grown into a powerful lobby because it has always promoted policies that benefit the profit interests of the most powerful section of U.S. corporate power—the military and oil industries. It works in tandem with them. Time and again giant U.S. military industries have used AIPAC to influence policy inside the U.S. The Zionist group was one of a whole constellation of forces that pushed for the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Israel is totally tied to and dependent on the Pentagon. During 60 years, billions of dollars have gone in U.S. aid to Israel—mostly to buy U.S. weapons systems, jet aircraft, tanks, etc. This in turn fuels and justifies a new round of weapons purchases by U.S.-dependent Arab regimes.
Corporations like Lockheed Martin, General Electric Co., Northrop Grumman and Boeing are more than willing to give millions of dollars to military lobbyists and to AIPAC. They in turn give generous donations to politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, to secure multi-billion dollar weapons contracts and agitate for military strikes, expanding bases and endless wars.
Division in U.S. ruling class
Faced with the debacle of the U.S. occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, there is deep division within U.S. ruling circles and even within the top Pentagon brass on how and whether to proceed with an attack on Iran. This opposition is not based on any humanitarian concerns for the Iranian people, their own troops or working people in the U.S. It is based on the fear of a political explosion in the region.
Indecision and growing contention are the order of the day. The past two years have been full of leaks, in-depth exposés by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine and resignations of both civilian and military officials. Admiral William J. Fallon, head of the U.S. Central Command for the Middle East and South and Central Asia, was forced to resign after Esquire magazine wrote about his deep reservations regarding an attack on Iran.
A London paper reported over a year ago that some of the Pentagon’s most senior military commanders were prepared to resign if the White House ordered a military strike on Iran. (Sunday Times, Feb. 25, 2007)
The steamroller against Iran was set back by the release of a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate last December saying Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program and had not had one in more than five years.
The most recent top-level shakeup involved the forced resignations of Air Force Secretary Michael Wayne and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Mosley, purportedly over a “chain of failure” in the Air Force’s handling of U.S. nuclear weapons. Four crucial components of nuclear weapons were reportedly shipped by “mistake” to Taiwan. A B-52 bomber “mistakenly” armed with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles flew across the U.S. Both “mistakes” had been known for over a year. Does the shakeup have any connection to the rift over Iran?
Reports that the Bush administration plans to launch an air strike against Iran within the next two months continued in the May 28 Asia Times On-Line.
According to the article, two key U.S. senators briefed on the attack, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, plan to go public with their opposition to the move. But their projected New York Times op-ed piece has yet to appear.
Meanwhile former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz of June 1 that Bush and Olmert seem to be planning to end Iran’s nuclear program “by military, rather than by diplomatic means.” Fischer fears the Middle East is drifting towards a new, dangerous military conflict.
Iran’s right to nuclear energy
Iran’s envoy to the U.N., Mohammad Khazaee, lodged a protest with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council over Israel’s threats. Khazaee made the point that such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a violation of international law, contravenes the most fundamental principles of the U.N. Charter, and requires a resolute and clear response, particularly from the Security Council.
Iran has the right under international law to develop nuclear energy. It is a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The International Atomic Energy Agency has made numerous inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.
Israel, however, has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has refused any inspections of its widely known nuclear weapons program with more than 200 nuclear warheads.
The U.S. government has developed a whole new generation of tactical nuclear weapons, which also violates the agreements and treaties attempting to limit and restrict nuclear weapons.
Today the U.S. ruling class is realizing with rising panic that it is not in control of events. Events are controlling them—from the deepening and unsolvable economic crisis to an unwinnable war. This tends to make these global predators increasingly desperate, riddled with divisions, and prone to ever more desperate military adventures.
The only real opposition to the growing danger of a new war will come from the grassroots, not from the politicians. Such forces on a global basis must take seriously the increasing push for war and begin to mobilize.
Motion 08.3402 (13.Juni 2008)
Klarstellung zum Vertrag über die Nichtverbreitung von Atomwaffen
Der Bundesrat wird beauftragt, gegenüber den Nuklearwaffenstaaten und den Konfliktparteien im Nahen Osten unverzüglich, unmissverständlich und mit Nachdruck in Erinnerung zu rufen, unter welchen Bedingungen die Schweiz dem Vertrag über die Nichtweiterverbreitung der Atomwaffen NPT beigetreten ist, und sich allenfalls genötigt sehen könnte sich daraus zurückzuziehen (www.solami.com/NPT.htm). Es gilt an die Rechte und Pflichten zu erinnern, welche den Vertragspartnern weiterhin obliegen, wobei besonders auf die Sicherheitsrats-Resolution 255 vom 19.Juni 1968 hinzuweisen ist (.../255.htm), welche gemäss bundesrätlicher NPT-Botschaft ans Parlament vom 30.Oktober 1974 "eine Garantieerklärung gegen atomare Drohungen oder Angriffe der Kernwaffenmächte gegen Nichtkernwaffenstaaten enthält. Dieser Entschliessung waren entsprechende Garantieerklärungen der USA, der UdSSR und Grossbritanniens vorausgegangen (17. Juni 1968)."(.../12083.pdf, BBl 1974 II 1038). Und es gilt an das Interesse der Weltgemeinschaft an auch in Zukunft verlässlich verfügbaren Guten Diensten der Schweiz zu erinnern, welche von der Schweizer Diplomatie und Wirtschaft eine strikt neutrale Haltung und auch in wirtschaftlichen Belangen die unabdingbare Aufrechterhaltung des courant normal erfordern (z.B. zur wirksamen Vertretung der amerikanischen Interessen in Iran seit der Besetzung der US Botschaft in Teheran, zur allfälligen Organisation einer Nachfolgekonferenz der 1968er Genfer Konferenz der Nicht-Nuklearwaffen-Staaten, sowie zur Verwirklichung vertrauensfördernder Massnahmen auch und besonders auf dem Nuklearsektor: .../iran.htm#sesame).
eingereicht von: Freysinger Oskar - Mitunterzeichner:Baettig Dominique, Baumann J. Alexander, Bignasca Attilio, Dunant Jean Henri, Estermann Yvette, Kaufmann Hans, Nidegger Yves, Reimann Lukas, Reymond André, Stamm Luzi
Motion 08.3402 (13.Juni 2008)
Clarification regarding the Treaty Nuclear on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons
The Government is requested to remind nuclear weapon states and the
parties to the Near Eastern conflict without delay, unmistakably and persistently
of both the conditions under which Switzerland acceded to the Treaty
on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons NPT, and under which, in
the event, it may find itself compelled to withdraw from the NPT (www.solami.com/NPT.htm).
It is urgent to point out the rights and obligations which remain binding
on NPT member states, stressing the importance of Security
Council Resolution 255 of 19 June 1968 (.../255.htm) which, according
to the Government's NPT Message
to Parliament of 30 October 1974, "contains a guarantee declaration,
in favor of non-nuclear weapon states, against nuclear threats or aggressions
by nuclear weapon states. This Resolution was preceded by corresponding
guarantee declarations by the United States of America, USSR and the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (17 June 1968)." (.../12083.pdf,
BBl 1974 II 1038). And it is indicated to take note of the world community's
interest for Switzerland's Good Offices to remain reliable and available,
which requires Switzerland's diplomacy and economy to remain strictly neutral
and, in commercial matters, too, to maintain the indispensable courant
normal (e.g. for the effective representation of US interests in Iran
ever since the takeover of the US embassy in Teheran, for the eventual
organization of a follow-up to the 1968 Geneva Conference of Non-Nuclear
Weapon States, and for the realization of confidence-building
measures also and particularly in nuclear matters: .../iran.htm#sesame).
tabled by: Freysinger Oskar - co-signatories:Baettig Dominique, Baumann J. Alexander, Bignasca Attilio, Dunant Jean Henri, Estermann Yvette, Kaufmann Hans, Nidegger Yves, Reimann Lukas, Reymond André, Stamm Luzi
to Iran: Halt enrichment for talks
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana says the G5+1 package
calls for the suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment during negotiations.
"We continue to ask for suspension, suspension during the time of negotiations and we will (then) see the outcome of negotiations," Solana told reporters after meeting Iranian officials in Tehran.
Solana also expressed hope that Iran would soon respond to the nuclear incentives package offered by the six major world powers. "It is an offer that is going to be considered (by Iran) and we are waiting for the answer that they hope will be soon," he said. He also stressed the need to build trust in 'the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program'.
According to Solana, the offer is 'full of opportunities for Iran' and may become the 'starting point for real negotiations'. "We fully recognize Iran's rights to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," Solana said. "We want to have a fully normalized relationship in all the fields, in particular the nuclear field."
The Bush Administration steps up its secret
moves against Iran.
Preparing the Battlefield
Operations outside the knowledge and control of commanders
have eroded “the coherence of military strategy,” one general says.
by Seymour M. Hersh
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.
Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
Under federal law, a Presidential Finding, which is highly classified, must be issued when a covert intelligence operation gets under way and, at a minimum, must be made known to Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and the Senate and to the ranking members of their respective intelligence committees—the so-called Gang of Eight. Money for the operation can then be reprogrammed from previous appropriations, as needed, by the relevant congressional committees, which also can be briefed.
“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.
Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.
The request for funding came in the same period in which the Administration was coming to terms with a National Intelligence Estimate, released in December, that concluded that Iran had halted its work on nuclear weapons in 2003. The Administration downplayed the significance of the N.I.E., and, while saying that it was committed to diplomacy, continued to emphasize that urgent action was essential to counter the Iranian nuclear threat. President Bush questioned the N.I.E.’s conclusions, and senior national-security officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, made similar statements. (So did Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.) Meanwhile, the Administration also revived charges that the Iranian leadership has been involved in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq: both directly, by dispatching commando units into Iraq, and indirectly, by supplying materials used for roadside bombs and other lethal goods. (There have been questions about the accuracy of the claims; the Times, among others, has reported that “significant uncertainties remain about the extent of that involvement.”)
Military and civilian leaders in the Pentagon share the White House’s concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but there is disagreement about whether a military strike is the right solution. Some Pentagon officials believe, as they have let Congress and the media know, that bombing Iran is not a viable response to the nuclear-proliferation issue, and that more diplomacy is necessary.
A Democratic senator told me that, late last year, in an off-the-record lunch meeting, Secretary of Defense Gates met with the Democratic caucus in the Senate. (Such meetings are held regularly.) Gates warned of the consequences if the Bush Administration staged a preëmptive strike on Iran, saying, as the senator recalled, “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Gates’s comments stunned the Democrats at the lunch, and another senator asked whether Gates was speaking for Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Gates’s answer, the senator told me, was “Let’s just say that I’m here speaking for myself.” (A spokesman for Gates confirmed that he discussed the consequences of a strike at the meeting, but would not address what he said, other than to dispute the senator’s characterization.)
The Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose chairman is Admiral Mike Mullen, were “pushing back very hard” against White House pressure to undertake a military strike against Iran, the person familiar with the Finding told me. Similarly, a Pentagon consultant who is involved in the war on terror said that “at least ten senior flag and general officers, including combatant commanders”—the four-star officers who direct military operations around the world—“have weighed in on that issue.”
The most outspoken of those officers is Admiral William Fallon, who until recently was the head of U.S. Central Command, and thus in charge of American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March, Fallon resigned under pressure, after giving a series of interviews stating his reservations about an armed attack on Iran. For example, late last year he told the Financial Times that the “real objective” of U.S. policy was to change the Iranians’ behavior, and that “attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice.”
Admiral Fallon acknowledged, when I spoke to him in June, that he had heard that there were people in the White House who were upset by his public statements. “Too many people believe you have to be either for or against the Iranians,” he told me. “Let’s get serious. Eighty million people live there, and everyone’s an individual. The idea that they’re only one way or another is nonsense.”
When it came to the Iraq war, Fallon said, “Did I bitch about some of the things that were being proposed? You bet. Some of them were very stupid.”
The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. “The oversight process has not kept pace—it’s been coöpted” by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. “The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.”
Senior Democrats in Congress told me that they had concerns about the possibility that their understanding of what the new operations entail differs from the White House’s. One issue has to do with a reference in the Finding, the person familiar with it recalled, to potential defensive lethal action by U.S. operatives in Iran. (In early May, the journalist Andrew Cockburn published elements of the Finding in Counterpunch, a newsletter and online magazine.)
The language was inserted into the Finding at the urging of the C.I.A., a former senior intelligence official said. The covert operations set forth in the Finding essentially run parallel to those of a secret military task force, now operating in Iran, that is under the control of JSOC. Under the Bush Administration’s interpretation of the law, clandestine military activities, unlike covert C.I.A. operations, do not need to be depicted in a Finding, because the President has a constitutional right to command combat forces in the field without congressional interference. But the borders between operations are not always clear: in Iran, C.I.A. agents and regional assets have the language skills and the local knowledge to make contacts for the JSOC operatives, and have been working with them to direct personnel, matériel, and money into Iran from an obscure base in western Afghanistan. As a result, Congress has been given only a partial view of how the money it authorized may be used. One of JSOC’s task-force missions, the pursuit of “high-value targets,” was not directly addressed in the Finding. There is a growing realization among some legislators that the Bush Administration, in recent years, has conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.
“This is a big deal,” the person familiar with the Finding said. “The C.I.A. needed the Finding to do its traditional stuff, but the Finding does not apply to JSOC. The President signed an Executive Order after September 11th giving the Pentagon license to do things that it had never been able to do before without notifying Congress. The claim was that the military was ‘preparing the battle space,’ and by using that term they were able to circumvent congressional oversight. Everything is justified in terms of fighting the global war on terror.” He added, “The Administration has been fuzzing the lines; there used to be a shade of gray”—between operations that had to be briefed to the senior congressional leadership and those which did not—“but now it’s a shade of mush.”
“The agency says we’re not going to get in the position of helping to kill people without a Finding,” the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the legal threat confronting some agency operatives for their involvement in the rendition and alleged torture of suspects in the war on terror. “This drove the military people up the wall,” he said. As far as the C.I.A. was concerned, the former senior intelligence official said, “the over-all authorization includes killing, but it’s not as though that’s what they’re setting out to do. It’s about gathering information, enlisting support.” The Finding sent to Congress was a compromise, providing legal cover for the C.I.A. while referring to the use of lethal force in ambiguous terms.
The defensive-lethal language led some Democrats, according to congressional sources familiar with their views, to call in the director of the C.I.A., Air Force General Michael V. Hayden, for a special briefing. Hayden reassured the legislators that the language did nothing more than provide authority for Special Forces operatives on the ground in Iran to shoot their way out if they faced capture or harm.
The legislators were far from convinced. One congressman subsequently wrote a personal letter to President Bush insisting that “no lethal action, period” had been authorized within Iran’s borders. As of June, he had received no answer.
Members of Congress have expressed skepticism in the past about the information provided by the White House. On March 15, 2005, David Obey, then the ranking Democrat on the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee, announced that he was putting aside an amendment that he had intended to offer that day, and that would have cut off all funding for national-intelligence programs unless the President agreed to keep Congress fully informed about clandestine military activities undertaken in the war on terror. He had changed his mind, he said, because the White House promised better coöperation. “The Executive Branch understands that we are not trying to dictate what they do,” he said in a floor speech at the time. “We are simply trying to see to it that what they do is consistent with American values and will not get the country in trouble.”
Obey declined to comment on the specifics of the operations in Iran, but he did tell me that the White House reneged on its promise to consult more fully with Congress. He said, “I suspect there’s something going on, but I don’t know what to believe. Cheney has always wanted to go after Iran, and if he had more time he’d find a way to do it. We still don’t get enough information from the agencies, and I have very little confidence that they give us information on the edge.”
None of the four Democrats in the Gang of Eight—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, and House Intelligence Committee chairman Silvestre Reyes—would comment on the Finding, with some noting that it was highly classified. An aide to one member of the Democratic leadership responded, on his behalf, by pointing to the limitations of the Gang of Eight process. The notification of a Finding, the aide said, “is just that—notification, and not a sign-off on activities. Proper oversight of ongoing intelligence activities is done by fully briefing the members of the intelligence committee.” However, Congress does have the means to challenge the White House once it has been sent a Finding. It has the power to withhold funding for any government operation. The members of the House and Senate Democratic leadership who have access to the Finding can also, if they choose to do so, and if they have shared concerns, come up with ways to exert their influence on Administration policy. (A spokesman for the C.I.A. said, “As a rule, we don’t comment one way or the other on allegations of covert activities or purported findings.” The White House also declined to comment.)
A member of the House Appropriations Committee acknowledged that, even with a Democratic victory in November, “it will take another year before we get the intelligence activities under control.” He went on, “We control the money and they can’t do anything without the money. Money is what it’s all about. But I’m very leery of this Administration.” He added, “This Administration has been so secretive.”
One irony of Admiral Fallon’s departure is that he was, in many areas, in agreement with President Bush on the threat posed by Iran. They had a good working relationship, Fallon told me, and, when he ran CENTCOM, were in regular communication. On March 4th, a week before his resignation, Fallon testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that he was “encouraged” about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regarding the role played by Iran’s leaders, he said, “They’ve been absolutely unhelpful, very damaging, and I absolutely don’t condone any of their activities. And I have yet to see anything since I’ve been in this job in the way of a public action by Iran that’s been at all helpful in this region.”
Fallon made it clear in our conversations that he considered it inappropriate to comment publicly about the President, the Vice-President, or Special Operations. But he said he had heard that people in the White House had been “struggling” with his views on Iran. “When I arrived at CENTCOM, the Iranians were funding every entity inside Iraq. It was in their interest to get us out, and so they decided to kill as many Americans as they could. And why not? They didn’t know who’d come out ahead, but they wanted us out. I decided that I couldn’t resolve the situation in Iraq without the neighborhood. To get this problem in Iraq solved, we had to somehow involve Iran and Syria. I had to work the neighborhood.”
Fallon told me that his focus had been not on the Iranian nuclear issue, or on regime change there, but on “putting out the fires in Iraq.” There were constant discussions in Washington and in the field about how to engage Iran and, on the subject of the bombing option, Fallon said, he believed that “it would happen only if the Iranians did something stupid.”
Fallon’s early retirement, however, appears to have been provoked not only by his negative comments about bombing Iran but also by his strong belief in the chain of command and his insistence on being informed about Special Operations in his area of responsibility. One of Fallon’s defenders is retired Marine General John J. (Jack) Sheehan, whose last assignment was as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command, where Fallon was a deputy. Last year, Sheehan rejected a White House offer to become the President’s “czar” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “One of the reasons the White House selected Fallon for CENTCOM was that he’s known to be a strategic thinker and had demonstrated those skills in the Pacific,” Sheehan told me. (Fallon served as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific from 2005 to 2007.) “He was charged with coming up with an over-all coherent strategy for Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and, by law, the combatant commander is responsible for all military operations within his A.O.”—area of operations. “That was not happening,” Sheehan said. “When Fallon tried to make sense of all the overt and covert activity conducted by the military in his area of responsibility, a small group in the White House leadership shut him out.”
The law cited by Sheehan is the 1986 Defense Reorganization Act, known as Goldwater-Nichols, which defined the chain of command: from the President to the Secretary of Defense, through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and on to the various combatant commanders, who were put in charge of all aspects of military operations, including joint training and logistics. That authority, the act stated, was not to be shared with other echelons of command. But the Bush Administration, as part of its global war on terror, instituted new policies that undercut regional commanders-in-chief; for example, it gave Special Operations teams, at military commands around the world, the highest priority in terms of securing support and equipment. The degradation of the traditional chain of command in the past few years has been a point of tension between the White House and the uniformed military.
“The coherence of military strategy is being eroded because of undue civilian influence and direction of nonconventional military operations,” Sheehan said. “If you have small groups planning and conducting military operations outside the knowledge and control of the combatant commander, by default you can’t have a coherent military strategy. You end up with a disaster, like the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.”
Admiral Fallon, who is known as Fox, was aware that he would face special difficulties as the first Navy officer to lead CENTCOM, which had always been headed by a ground commander, one of his military colleagues told me. He was also aware that the Special Operations community would be a concern. “Fox said that there’s a lot of strange stuff going on in Special Ops, and I told him he had to figure out what they were really doing,” Fallon’s colleague said. “The Special Ops guys eventually figured out they needed Fox, and so they began to talk to him. Fox would have won his fight with Special Ops but for Cheney.”
The Pentagon consultant said, “Fallon went down because, in his own way, he was trying to prevent a war with Iran, and you have to admire him for that.”
In recent months, according to the Iranian media, there has been a surge in violence in Iran; it is impossible at this early stage, however, to credit JSOC or C.I.A. activities, or to assess their impact on the Iranian leadership. The Iranian press reports are being carefully monitored by retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy at the National War College and now conducts war games centered on Iran for the federal government, think tanks, and universities. The Iranian press “is very open in describing the killings going on inside the country,” Gardiner said. It is, he said, “a controlled press, which makes it more important that it publishes these things. We begin to see inside the government.” He added, “Hardly a day goes by now we don’t see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed.”
Earlier this year, a militant Ahwazi group claimed to have assassinated a Revolutionary Guard colonel, and the Iranian government acknowledged that an explosion in a cultural center in Shiraz, in the southern part of the country, which killed at least twelve people and injured more than two hundred, had been a terrorist act and not, as it earlier insisted, an accident. It could not be learned whether there has been American involvement in any specific incident in Iran, but, according to Gardiner, the Iranians have begun publicly blaming the U.S., Great Britain, and, more recently, the C.I.A. for some incidents. The agency was involved in a coup in Iran in 1953, and its support for the unpopular regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi—who was overthrown in 1979—was condemned for years by the ruling mullahs in Tehran, to great effect. “This is the ultimate for the Iranians—to blame the C.I.A.,” Gardiner said. “This is new, and it’s an escalation—a ratcheting up of tensions. It rallies support for the regime and shows the people that there is a continuing threat from the ‘Great Satan.’ ” In Gardiner’s view, the violence, rather than weakening Iran’s religious government, may generate support for it.
Many of the activities may be being carried out by dissidents in Iran, and not by Americans in the field. One problem with “passing money” (to use the term of the person familiar with the Finding) in a covert setting is that it is hard to control where the money goes and whom it benefits. Nonetheless, the former senior intelligence official said, “We’ve got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear. The Iranians will be able to make the argument that the opposition was inspired by the Americans. How many times have we tried this without asking the right questions? Is the risk worth it?” One possible consequence of these operations would be a violent Iranian crackdown on one of the dissident groups, which could give the Bush Administration a reason to intervene.
A strategy of using ethnic minorities to undermine Iran is flawed, according to Vali Nasr, who teaches international politics at Tufts University and is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Just because Lebanon, Iraq, and Pakistan have ethnic problems, it does not mean that Iran is suffering from the same issue,” Nasr told me. “Iran is an old country—like France and Germany—and its citizens are just as nationalistic. The U.S. is overestimating ethnic tension in Iran.” The minority groups that the U.S. is reaching out to are either well integrated or small and marginal, without much influence on the government or much ability to present a political challenge, Nasr said. “You can always find some activist groups that will go and kill a policeman, but working with the minorities will backfire, and alienate the majority of the population.”
The Administration may have been willing to rely on dissident organizations in Iran even when there was reason to believe that the groups had operated against American interests in the past. The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.
One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.
The C.I.A. and Special Operations communities also have long-standing ties to two other dissident groups in Iran: the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K., and a Kurdish separatist group, the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK.
The M.E.K. has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States. Some of the newly authorized covert funds, the Pentagon consultant told me, may well end up in M.E.K. coffers. “The new task force will work with the M.E.K. The Administration is desperate for results.” He added, “The M.E.K. has no C.P.A. auditing the books, and its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years. If people only knew what the M.E.K. is getting, and how much is going to its bank accounts—and yet it is almost useless for the purposes the Administration intends.”
The Kurdish party, PJAK, which has also been reported to be covertly supported by the United States, has been operating against Iran from bases in northern Iraq for at least three years. (Iran, like Iraq and Turkey, has a Kurdish minority, and PJAK and other groups have sought self-rule in territory that is now part of each of those countries.) In recent weeks, according to Sam Gardiner, the military strategist, there has been a marked increase in the number of PJAK armed engagements with Iranians and terrorist attacks on Iranian targets. In early June, the news agency Fars reported that a dozen PJAK members and four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash near the Iraq border; a similar attack in May killed three Revolutionary Guards and nine PJAK fighters. PJAK has also subjected Turkey, a member of NATO, to repeated terrorist attacks, and reports of American support for the group have been a source of friction between the two governments.
Gardiner also mentioned a trip that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made to Tehran in June. After his return, Maliki announced that his government would ban any contact between foreigners and the M.E.K.—a slap at the U.S.’s dealings with the group. Maliki declared that Iraq was not willing to be a staging ground for covert operations against other countries. This was a sign, Gardiner said, of “Maliki’s increasingly choosing the interests of Iraq over the interests of the United States.” In terms of U.S. allegations of Iranian involvement in the killing of American soldiers, he said, “Maliki was unwilling to play the blame-Iran game.” Gardiner added that Pakistan had just agreed to turn over a Jundallah leader to the Iranian government. America’s covert operations, he said, “seem to be harming relations with the governments of both Iraq and Pakistan and could well be strengthening the connection between Tehran and Baghdad.”
The White House’s reliance on questionable operatives, and on plans involving possible lethal action inside Iran, has created anger as well as anxiety within the Special Operations and intelligence communities. JSOC’s operations in Iran are believed to be modelled on a program that has, with some success, used surrogates to target the Taliban leadership in the tribal territories of Waziristan, along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. But the situations in Waziristan and Iran are not comparable.
In Waziristan, “the program works because it’s small and smart guys are running it,” the former senior intelligence official told me. “It’s being executed by professionals. The N.S.A., the C.I.A., and the D.I.A.”—the Defense Intelligence Agency—“are right in there with the Special Forces and Pakistani intelligence, and they’re dealing with serious bad guys.” He added, “We have to be really careful in calling in the missiles. We have to hit certain houses at certain times. The people on the ground are watching through binoculars a few hundred yards away and calling specific locations, in latitude and longitude. We keep the Predator loitering until the targets go into a house, and we have to make sure our guys are far enough away so they don’t get hit.” One of the most prominent victims of the program, the former official said, was Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior Taliban commander, who was killed on January 31st, reportedly in a missile strike that also killed eleven other people.
A dispatch published on March 26th by the Washington Post reported on the increasing number of successful strikes against Taliban and other insurgent units in Pakistan’s tribal areas. A follow-up article noted that, in response, the Taliban had killed “dozens of people” suspected of providing information to the United States and its allies on the whereabouts of Taliban leaders. Many of the victims were thought to be American spies, and their executions—a beheading, in one case—were videotaped and distributed by DVD as a warning to others.
It is not simple to replicate the program in Iran. “Everybody’s arguing about the high-value-target list,” the former senior intelligence official said. “The Special Ops guys are pissed off because Cheney’s office set up priorities for categories of targets, and now he’s getting impatient and applying pressure for results. But it takes a long time to get the right guys in place.”
The Pentagon consultant told me, “We’ve had wonderful results in the Horn of Africa with the use of surrogates and false flags—basic counterintelligence and counter-insurgency tactics. And we’re beginning to tie them in knots in Afghanistan. But the White House is going to kill the program if they use it to go after Iran. It’s one thing to engage in selective strikes and assassinations in Waziristan and another in Iran. The White House believes that one size fits all, but the legal issues surrounding extrajudicial killings in Waziristan are less of a problem because Al Qaeda and the Taliban cross the border into Afghanistan and back again, often with U.S. and NATO forces in hot pursuit. The situation is not nearly as clear in the Iranian case. All the considerations—judicial, strategic, and political—are different in Iran.”
He added, “There is huge opposition inside the intelligence community to the idea of waging a covert war inside Iran, and using Baluchis and Ahwazis as surrogates. The leaders of our Special Operations community all have remarkable physical courage, but they are less likely to voice their opposition to policy. Iran is not Waziristan.”
A Gallup poll taken last November, before the N.I.E. was made public, found that seventy-three per cent of those surveyed thought that the United States should use economic action and diplomacy to stop Iran’s nuclear program, while only eighteen per cent favored direct military action. Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to endorse a military strike. Weariness with the war in Iraq has undoubtedly affected the public’s tolerance for an attack on Iran. This mood could change quickly, however. The potential for escalation became clear in early January, when five Iranian patrol boats, believed to be under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, made a series of aggressive moves toward three Navy warships sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Initial reports of the incident made public by the Pentagon press office said that the Iranians had transmitted threats, over ship-to-ship radio, to “explode” the American ships. At a White House news conference, the President, on the day he left for an eight-day trip to the Middle East, called the incident “provocative” and “dangerous,” and there was, very briefly, a sense of crisis and of outrage at Iran. “TWO MINUTES FROM WAR” was the headline in one British newspaper.
The crisis was quickly defused by Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region. No warning shots were fired, the Admiral told the Pentagon press corps on January 7th, via teleconference from his headquarters, in Bahrain. “Yes, it’s more serious than we have seen, but, to put it in context, we do interact with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their Navy regularly,” Cosgriff said. “I didn’t get the sense from the reports I was receiving that there was a sense of being afraid of these five boats.”
Admiral Cosgriff’s caution was well founded: within a week, the Pentagon acknowledged that it could not positively identify the Iranian boats as the source of the ominous radio transmission, and press reports suggested that it had instead come from a prankster long known for sending fake messages in the region. Nonetheless, Cosgriff’s demeanor angered Cheney, according to the former senior intelligence official. But a lesson was learned in the incident: The public had supported the idea of retaliation, and was even asking why the U.S. didn’t do more. The former official said that, a few weeks later, a meeting took place in the Vice-President’s office. “The subject was how to create a casus belli between Tehran and Washington,” he said.
In June, President Bush went on a farewell tour of Europe. He had tea with Queen Elizabeth II and dinner with Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, the President and First Lady of France. The serious business was conducted out of sight, and involved a series of meetings on a new diplomatic effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium-enrichment program. (Iran argues that its enrichment program is for civilian purposes and is legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.) Secretary of State Rice had been involved with developing a new package of incentives. But the Administration’s essential negotiating position seemed unchanged: talks could not take place until Iran halted the program. The Iranians have repeatedly and categorically rejected that precondition, leaving the diplomatic situation in a stalemate; they have not yet formally responded to the new incentives.
The continuing impasse alarms many observers. Joschka Fischer, the former German Foreign Minister, recently wrote in a syndicated column that it may not “be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before they are completed. Should this newest attempt fail, things will soon get serious. Deadly serious.” When I spoke to him last week, Fischer, who has extensive contacts in the diplomatic community, said that the latest European approach includes a new element: the willingness of the U.S. and the Europeans to accept something less than a complete cessation of enrichment as an intermediate step. “The proposal says that the Iranians must stop manufacturing new centrifuges and the other side will stop all further sanction activities in the U.N. Security Council,” Fischer said, although Iran would still have to freeze its enrichment activities when formal negotiations begin. “This could be acceptable to the Iranians—if they have good will.”
The big question, Fischer added, is in Washington. “I think the Americans are deeply divided on the issue of what to do about Iran,” he said. “Some officials are concerned about the fallout from a military attack and others think an attack is unavoidable. I know the Europeans, but I have no idea where the Americans will end up on this issue.”
There is another complication: American Presidential politics. Barack Obama has said that, if elected, he would begin talks with Iran with no “self-defeating” preconditions (although only after diplomatic groundwork had been laid). That position has been vigorously criticized by John McCain. The Washington Post recently quoted Randy Scheunemann, the McCain campaign’s national-security director, as stating that McCain supports the White House’s position, and that the program be suspended before talks begin. What Obama is proposing, Scheunemann said, “is unilateral cowboy summitry.”
Scheunemann, who is known as a neoconservative, is also the McCain campaign’s most important channel of communication with the White House. He is a friend of David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. I have heard differing accounts of Scheunemann’s influence with McCain; though some close to the McCain campaign talk about him as a possible national-security adviser, others say he is someone who isn’t taken seriously while “telling Cheney and others what they want to hear,” as a senior McCain adviser put it.
It is not known whether McCain, who is the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been formally briefed on the operations in Iran. At the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in June, Obama repeated his plea for “tough and principled diplomacy.” But he also said, along with McCain, that he would keep the threat of military action against Iran on the table.
Using Bombs to Stave Off War
By BENNY MORRIS, Li-On, Israel
ISRAEL will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.
It is in the interest of neither Iran nor the United States (nor, for that matter, the rest of the world) that Iran be savaged by a nuclear strike, or that both Israel and Iran suffer such a fate. We know what would ensue: a traumatic destabilization of the Middle East with resounding political and military consequences around the globe, serious injury to the West’s oil supply and radioactive pollution of the earth’s atmosphere and water.
But should Israel’s conventional assault fail to significantly harm or stall the Iranian program, a ratcheting up of the Iranian-Israeli conflict to a nuclear level will most likely follow. Every intelligence agency in the world believes the Iranian program is geared toward making weapons, not to the peaceful applications of nuclear power. And, despite the current talk of additional economic sanctions, everyone knows that such measures have so far led nowhere and are unlikely to be applied with sufficient scope to cause Iran real pain, given Russia’s and China’s continued recalcitrance and Western Europe’s (and America’s) ambivalence in behavior, if not in rhetoric. Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran will reach the “point of no return” in acquiring the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in one to four years.
Which leaves the world with only one option if it wishes to halt Iran’s march toward nuclear weaponry: the military option, meaning an aerial assault by either the United States or Israel. Clearly, America has the conventional military capacity to do the job, which would involve a protracted air assault against Iran’s air defenses followed by strikes on the nuclear sites themselves. But, as a result of the Iraq imbroglio, and what is rapidly turning into the Afghan imbroglio, the American public has little enthusiasm for wars in the Islamic lands. This curtails the White House’s ability to begin yet another major military campaign in pursuit of a goal that is not seen as a vital national interest by many Americans.
Which leaves only Israel — the country threatened almost daily with destruction by Iran’s leaders. Thus the recent reports about Israeli plans and preparations to attack Iran (the period from Nov. 5 to Jan. 19 seems the best bet, as it gives the West half a year to try the diplomatic route but ensures that Israel will have support from a lame-duck White House).
The problem is that Israel’s military capacities are far smaller than America’s and, given the distances involved, the fact that the Iranian sites are widely dispersed and underground, and Israel’s inadequate intelligence, it is unlikely that the Israeli conventional forces, even if allowed the use of Jordanian and Iraqi airspace (and perhaps, pending American approval, even Iraqi air strips) can destroy or perhaps significantly delay the Iranian nuclear project.
Nonetheless, Israel, believing that its very existence is at stake — and this is a feeling shared by most Israelis across the political spectrum — will certainly make the effort. Israel’s leaders, from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert down, have all explicitly stated that an Iranian bomb means Israel’s destruction; Iran will not be allowed to get the bomb.
The best outcome will be that an Israeli conventional strike, whether failed or not — and, given the Tehran regime’s totalitarian grip, it may not be immediately clear how much damage the Israeli assault has caused — would persuade the Iranians to halt their nuclear program, or at least persuade the Western powers to significantly increase the diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran.
But the more likely result is that the international community will continue to do nothing effective and that Iran will speed up its efforts to produce the bomb that can destroy Israel. The Iranians will also likely retaliate by attacking Israel’s cities with ballistic missiles (possibly topped with chemical or biological warheads); by prodding its local clients, Hezbollah and Hamas, to unleash their own armories against Israel; and by activating international Muslim terrorist networks against Israeli and Jewish — and possibly American — targets worldwide (though the Iranians may at the last moment be wary of provoking American military involvement).
Such a situation would confront Israeli leaders with two agonizing, dismal choices. One is to allow the Iranians to acquire the bomb and hope for the best — meaning a nuclear standoff, with the prospect of mutual assured destruction preventing the Iranians from actually using the weapon. The other would be to use the Iranian counterstrikes as an excuse to escalate and use the only means available that will actually destroy the Iranian nuclear project: Israel’s own nuclear arsenal.
Given the fundamentalist, self-sacrificial mindset of the mullahs who run Iran, Israel knows that deterrence may not work as well as it did with the comparatively rational men who ran the Kremlin and White House during the cold war. They are likely to use any bomb they build, both because of ideology and because of fear of Israeli nuclear pre-emption. Thus an Israeli nuclear strike to prevent the Iranians from taking the final steps toward getting the bomb is probable. The alternative is letting Tehran have its bomb. In either case, a Middle Eastern nuclear holocaust would be in the cards.
Iran’s leaders would do well to rethink their gamble and suspend their nuclear program. Bar this, the best they could hope for is that Israel’s conventional air assault will destroy their nuclear facilities. To be sure, this would mean thousands of Iranian casualties and international humiliation. But the alternative is an Iran turned into a nuclear wasteland. Some Iranians may believe that this is a worthwhile gamble if the prospect is Israel’s demise. But most Iranians probably don’t.
Benny Morris, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Ben-Gurion University, is the author, most recently, of “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War.”
US lawyer seeks to sue US over Iran threats
By Chris Gelken, Press TV, Tehran
An American lawyer has offered to represent Iran in an international lawsuit against Israel and his own government in an effort to stop Washington and Tel Aviv from initiating further sanctions against Tehran.
Francis A. Boyle says following Washington's latest ultimatum to Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment within two weeks or face further isolation, Iran needs to act quickly.
At weekend talks in Geneva, the United States delivered what it describes as a “clear and simple message” that Iran must choose between cooperation or confrontation.
In an email interview with Press TV, Boyle urged Iran to begin drafting lawsuits for presentation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague before the two-week ultimatum expires.
Q. Precisely what would the charges against the US and Israel be? What are you hoping to achieve?
A. About two years ago Iran contacted me about a proposal I had made to sue the United States, Israel and the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for their repeated and public threats to launch a military attack upon Iran over its undoubted right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to engage in nuclear reprocessing.
My proposal was that Iran should sue these states immediately, convene an Emergency Hearing by the World Court, and ask the Court to indicate provisional measures of protection on behalf of Iran against the United States, Israel and the EU-3 -- basically a temporary restraining order.
I felt that these lawsuits would be able to prevent a military attack against Iran and also prevent the imposition of sanctions against Iran by the United Nations Security Council. In addition, by Iran submitting this entire matter to the World Court, it would make it clear to the entire world who the real culprits are here.
The threat and use of military force clearly violates Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. The Charter also mandates the peaceful resolution of international disputes. By filing these lawsuits Iran would prove to the entire world that it intends to resolve this matter peacefully and in accordance with international law.
I notice that just this week Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei publicly stated that he would sue the United States if it attacked Iran. I am proposing that we sue the United States immediately in order to prevent any attack upon or blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war.
Q. Why are you seeing to bring this action in an international court, rather than a domestic US court?
A. This would be a total waste of time. Based upon my prior experience, there is no way a United States court would rule against the United States government on a matter like this.
Q. You are proposing to represent Iran in a court action against the US and Israel - what are you seeking from Tehran - what mandate would they need to give you. Basically, how would this work?
A. Of course if Iran wants me to represent Iran in these lawsuits I would be happy to do so. But given the fact that I am a US national, Iran might prefer to have its own lawyers file these lawsuits. Iran already has a detailed Memorandum of Law from me on these lawsuits. The Iranian lawyers can simply use my Memorandum as they see fit. I would be happy to assist them in whatever way they desire.
Q. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been in the news recently regarding a prosecution against Sudan's leader, Omar al-Bashir. Explain the difference between the ICJ and the ICC.
A. The International Court of Justice deals with disputes between states, which the nuclear reprocessing dispute is all about. The International Criminal Court deals with the personal criminal responsibility of individuals. It has no authority to rule upon or settle disputes between states, which the ICJ can do.
Q. The US does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC - what is its relationship with the ICJ?
A. The ICJ would have jurisdiction to hear lawsuits by Iran against the United States, Israel and the EU-3 irrespective of the ICC.
Q. Israel regularly disregards international court verdicts and UN resolutions (the Separation Wall, settlement expansion etc.) What makes you believe there is value in another court action?
A. Israel has never been sued at the International Court of Justice -- the Wall was only an Advisory Opinion. By suing the United States and Israel together, Iran would make it very clear to the entire world what is really going on here by putting them in cahoots together. As of now the EU-3 are no longer threatening Iran with military force, so I would hold off from suing them at this time. But if they threaten Iran with military force, or support the United States and Israel with their threats, then of course they should be sued too.
Q. Assuming a mandate or commission is given by Tehran for you to represent them, what sort of timeline are we looking at before this goes before a judge, and then a verdict?
A. Based upon my prior experience at the World Court, it would take a few days to put the papers together and file them. We could get an Emergency Hearing by the Court within 2 weeks and an Order of Provisional Measures of Protection on behalf of Iran -- a temporary restraining order against the US and Israel -- within a week thereafter.
I filed the World Court lawsuit for Bosnia against Serbia over genocide on March 19, 1993, had the emergency hearing by the Court on April 1-2, and won the Order for Bosnia on 8 April 1993.
Given the inconclusive results at weekend talks in Geneva and the decision that Iran will be given another two weeks for its final answer, I respectfully submit that Iran should start moving on this process now. The Wall Street Journal has already reported moves for more unilateral, multilateral, and Security Council sanctions against Iran, including a blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war.
At a minimum, Iran should draft the Court documents now, then see what happens after Iran presents its "final offer" in two weeks.
Q. If you achieve positive verdict, how would you expect the verdict to be worded? Are there any sanctions against a state that does not abide by the ruling?
A. I would ask for Iran to be protected from a military attack by the United States and Israel in the most comprehensive language possible, including a blockade of Iran by the United States, a termination of all threats and use of military force, and of all measures of political, diplomatic and economic coercion against Iran.
The Order would go to the Security Council for enforcement.
If the US should exercise its veto, then we could try to take it to the United Nations General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace Resolution, where we would only need a two-thirds vote. In any event, this World Court Order would make it clear to the entire world who is right and who is wrong in this dispute.
Q. You have commented on the levels of rhetoric, what influence could this have on any court action?
A. I fully stand for a peaceful resolution of this dispute by means of diplomacy. But if the United States will not engage in good faith negotiations with Iran, then their and Israel's escalating threat and use of military force against Iran will only make it easier for me to win an Order from the World Court protecting Iran from the United States and Israel and, if necessary, the EU-3
Q. Another timeline question. Assuming this court action is aimed at preventing armed conflict, how urgent is it to commence the proceedings?
A. Apparently, according to CNN today, Iran has two weeks to prepare its final answer. That would be enough time to prepare all these documents. If the talks break down after Iran submits its "final offer," then we could immediately file the lawsuits, ask for an Emergency Hearing by the World Court, and request the Orders protecting Iran.
Back in early 1992, President Bush Snr. had the Sixth Fleet on military maneuvers off the coast of Libya planning for an attack and had US jet fighters penetrating Libyan airspace to provoke an attack over the Lockerbie matter.
We filed similar papers with the World Court on behalf of Libya against the United States and the United Kingdom, asking for an Emergency Hearing by the Court. President Bush Snr. then ordered the Sixth Fleet to stand down. There was no military attack against Libya then or later. Those World Court lawsuits eventually led to a peaceful resolution of the Lockerbie dispute between Libya, the United States and the United Kingdom, which now have normal diplomatic relations. Hopefully the same can be done here by means of these World Court lawsuits.
Q. During an appearance on Press TV's Middle East Today program in April this year you requested backing from Tehran for a court action against Israel on charges of genocide against Israel. Has there been any movement, any response? What is the current status?
A. This proposal is currently pending in the Office of President Ahmadinejad. The suffering of the Palestinians constitutes genocide. I am still willing to file that lawsuit if the President so desires. But given the urgency of the situation, and the threat of a terrible war, it might be best to get these nuclear-related lawsuits against the United States and Israel underway at this time, then act to protect the Palestinians from Israel later. Of course all this is for President Ahmadinejad to decide, not me.
Q. You successfully sued Serbia - but in the political atmosphere at the time, Serbia was widely perceived as the "bad guy" and frankly, the pro-Serbia lobby in the United States is insignificant. These cases are rather different, given popular support for Israel in the US. You will be representing what is widely regarded in the US as an unpopular or even hostile government against your own country and Washington's main ally in the Middle East.
How concerned are you regarding your professional reputation at home? Potentially, how damaging could this be for you - even with a successful outcome?
A. Back in 2004, the FBI/CIA put me on all the US government's so-called "terrorist watch lists" because I refused to become an informant for them on my Arab and Muslim clients, which would have violated their rights under the US Constitution and my ethical obligations as an attorney.
So I am sure there will be further repercussions. But under no circumstance do I want to see a war between Iran and the United States, which could readily degenerate into World War III.
With all due respect to Iran's leaders, they must not underestimate the ruthlessness and cruelty of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and their Straussian Neo-Conservative advisors when it comes to their willingness to use military force against Iran.
We must do everything in our power to prevent a war and obtain a peaceful
resolution of this dispute over nuclear reprocessing that in my opinion
can be resolved satisfactorily. These World Court lawsuits will contribute
towards a peaceful resolution of this dispute between Iran and the United
States, which will then order Israel to stand down.