Friday, 11 January 2008

Is Bush Losing Control Of The Military?

U.S. Navy report undermines Bush's drive to isolate Iran

TEHRAN: The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet has released a statement saying it cannot say with any certainty that threats to blow up its vessels actually came from Iranian Navy speedboats in Sunday's Straits of Hormuz incident.

The revelation tacitly supports the Iranian version of events, in that it was a normal challenge by Iranian naval officials for the American vessels to identify themselves, and at no time was there any serious danger of an escalation or any hostile action.

According to the commander of the Iranian naval forces, the patrol boats were on a regular patrol when they challenged the three American vessels to identify themselves and declare any helicopter activity in the area.

The U.S. quickly released a video showing Iranian speedboats in close proximity to the warships, with audio that the Iranians claimed was fake.

On Thursday the Iranian Navy released its own footage, taken on board one of the speedboats, showing a radio operator making clear requests in English for identification and activity reports.

One of the American vessels can be heard to reply; "This is coalition warship 73, I am operating in international waters."

Shortly after the challenge and the response, the Iranian speedboats left the area.

The incident came as President George W. Bush began his first ever visit to Israel, where he frequently cited the Hormuz incident as further evidence of Iran's belligerence.

The latest U.S. Navy report, however, appears to suggest quite the opposite, and undermines current efforts by Bush to isolate Iran and build an anti-Tehran alliance among its Arab neighbours.

But the question is; Did naval commanders opposed to escalating tension in the Persian Gulf deliberately rob their Commander-in-Chief of a timely stick to beat the Iranians with?

"There may have been tendency among the command levels to assume that those radio messages came from the Iranian boats, and their initial reports were based on their assumptions rather on what their equipment actually told them," said Carl Osgood, a Washington-based writer and political analyst.

"I think one possible reason why the admission was made is because there is concern in the American military command about going to war by accident," he said.

There is resistance among the highest levels of the United States military against a war with Iran, Osgood said, "and that could be the source, or a source, of that admission."

He pointed out that Admiral William Fallon, head of the U.S. Central Command, had expressed his opposition to escalating tension with Iran.

Fallon told al-Jazeera television in September, "This constant drum beat of conflict is what strikes me, which is not helpful and not useful.

I expect there will be no war and that is what we ought to be working for."

In February 2007, Fallon had expressed strong opposition to the deployment of a third carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf.

According to an article written by respected analyst Gareth Porter and published in May 2007, Fallon had once confided that "there would be no war with Iran while I am head of Central Command."

The electronic warfare and signals intelligence teams on the American warships should, at the very least, have been able to instantly identify the direction and relative distance from source of each and every signal coming in.

Therefore, it is fair to assume that they knew the Iranians were not responsible for the threats even as the first U.S. Navy reports of the incident were being released.

The U.S. Navy's subsequent admission would suggest that rather than being a correction to a report that was made in haste, in the heat of the moment; an order had come down the line to release the real facts of the incident, whether or not they damaged or contradicted statements being made by the President of the United States.

So is Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, losing control of the U.S. military?

Perhaps, given the growing opposition in the armed forces to expanding the war, and the fact that Bush's rhetoric against Iran is frequently at odds with reality.

"What we have to keep in mind is the intention of the Bush administration, particularly from Vice President Dick Cheney that for at least the past two years their intention has been to trigger another war in the region, this time targeting Iran," said Osgood, "and that's the background for this latest incident."

Osgood noted the historical precedents, such as the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that broadened America's involvement in South East Asia and the Vietnam War.

"In the United States there is definitely a political faction that is very concerned that this administration is looking for any pretext for war, and it is one of the elements of an impeachment resolution that was introduced into the House a couple of months ago in November, calling for the impeachment and removal from office of Vice President Dick Cheney," Osgood said, "so there are political splits over the question of war with Iran."

Article based on interviews conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV, Friday, 11 January 2008

Article first published by Ohmynews International

Reproduced on: Countercurrents.org, The Latest.com, OpEdNews.com, American Chronicle,
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Thursday, 10 January 2008

Bush has nothing new to offer Middle East

Lame duck President seeking last minute foreign policy success

TEHRAN: Since President George W. Bush arrived in Israel he has offered little more than rhetoric in his effort to jump-start the long stalled Middle East peace process. No new initiatives have been introduced, just empty platitudes of "time to seize this historic opportunity" and "both sides have the willingness to move forward."

In an interview with PressTV, Washington-based author and political analyst, Atef Jawad gives his take Bush's last gasp attempt to leave a foreign policy "legacy."


Bush describes Israel as Jewish State

PressTV: Has the President brought anything new to the table to give new life to the peace process?

Jawad: No, I don't think so. The President may have the best of intentions, but he doesn't have enough time to get anything done, and he is also undercutting his own efforts.

Let me just talk about three points briefly to illustrate how he is undermining his own peace plan.

Lets talk about his reference to Israel as being a Jewish State. By doing so, by giving Israel the right to claim that it is a Jewish State, the President is undercutting his own efforts in two ways.

Number one, he is pre-judging the right of return for millions of Palestinians, and the right of return,. as we all know, is one of the core issues that needs to be negotiated, not pre-judged.

But also by referring to Israel as being a Jewish State he is basically giving everybody, every religious group on Earth the right to claim a religious state of its own.

So can the President then pick and choose? Can he say okay, the Jews must have a Jewish State, but the Muslims cannot have an Islamic State, the Christians cannot have a Christian State?

He cannot pick and choose.

And number two is the roadmap, President Bush's own roadmap that calls on Israel to freeze settlement activity.

Israel is circumventing the roadmap by not building new settlements, but just expanding existing ones.

Now the president is silent about that, and yes he did urge Israel to remove the so-called wildcat outposts. These are tiny encampments. But he left the criticism of Israel's settlement activity to his Secretary of State. But the President, on location, meeting with Israelis, kept silent about that.

Then finally, the third and last thing. The fact that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert says there will be no peace agreement with the Palestinians as long as there are rockets being launched at Israel. Violence and terrorism, he said, must be stopped everywhere in the Palestinian territories.

Now we are going in a vicious circle. You must have all the Palestinians involved. Peace cannot endure between Israel and just 50 percent of the Palestinians. You have to have peace between Israel, and the entire Palestinian population both on the West Bank and Gaza.

Gaza is not included, so how can you have peace, how can you stop violence?


Siege of Gaza a tragic irony

PressTV: President Bush said he would not dictate what the new Palestinian entity would look like or how it was composed. That's a bit ironic don't you think considering the current siege of Gaza because people there had the temerity to elect a Hamas government?

Jawad: I would take it a little further, because the President - the one who is not planning to dictate any settlement - knows, as we all know, that Palestinians and Israelis left on their own will get nowhere. So unless an honest broker comes in to push both parties to try to reach a just a comprehensive peace, they won't get anything done.

But the President has ignored the peace process for seven years. Now that he's a lame duck, he can't get anything done domestically,.now its time for him to look overseas to try to boost his foreign policy record.


Bush to capitalize on Hormuz incident

PressTV: One of the stated aims of his Middle East tour was to drum up support among Arab leaders to isolate Iran. How much success do you think he will achieve?


Jawad: Unfortunately there was the recent incident between the Iranian boats and the three U.S. warships in the Straits of Hormuz.

Certainly the President is going to use this in his talks with Arab leaders to show them further that Iran is a threat.

But we all know, of course, that Bush's own intelligence agencies told them that the threat from Iran was not real, and that whatever nuclear program Iran had, they stopped it back in 2003.

But the President will go to Arab leaders now and point out what happened in the Straits of Hormuz and try to use that as a case to enhance his argument that Iran is a threat to the region.


Article based on television interview conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV, 10th January, 2008

Article reproduced on: Countercurrents.org, American Chronicle, The Latest.com,

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Sunday, 6 January 2008

No U.S. ties for now: Iran

Progress in Iraq security talks is key to future relationship, say analysts

TEHRAN, Iran: As U.S. President George W. Bush declared a primary goal of his upcoming tour of the Middle East was to drum up support for further isolating Iran, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyid Ali Khamenei said that restoring diplomatic ties with Washington at this time would be “detrimental to Iran’s interests.”

Speaking to a gathering in the central Iranian city of Yazd on Thursday, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “Severing diplomatic ties with the United States was one of Iran’s original principle policies, but Tehran has never said that it would pursue this policy forever.”

While the comments appear to open the door to a possible rapprochement between the two bitter enemies, political analysts agree that key to any future thaw would be progress in the Iraq security talks, one of the few occasions where the two sides actually sit down face-to-face.

“I think it all depends on what comes out of the negotiations between Iran and the United States concerning Iraq,” Ebrahim Yazdi, former Iranian Foreign Minister and Secretary General of the Freedom Movement of Iran told PressTV’s Middle East Today forum. “It’s a good start. If they could come up with some common interest, some common agreement, and if the American government shows some realistic approach and changes their policy, changes their attitude, then yes it [diplomatic ties] is possible.”

However, analysts are not optimistic there will be any serious breakthrough in the foreseeable future, and certainly not during the Bush presidency.

Dr. Robert Naiman, Senior Policy Analyst at the Oregon-based Just Foreign Policy Institute pointed out that the initiative for the security talks came from Baghdad, and not from Washington or Tehran.

“Keep in mind this was a dialogue that was requested by Baghdad,” he told Middle East Today, “The Iraqi government asked the United States and Iran to cooperate on helping bring about security and stability in Iraq.”

Naiman said that the Iraqi government obviously has good relations with the United States and Iran, and used this leverage to bring the two sides together.

“First of all,” he said, “Baghdad asked the U.S. and Iran to settle their differences elsewhere, do not settle them here, do not use Iraq as a proxy for fighting whatever you want to fight about.”

Out of their common respect for Iraq, Naiman said, Washington and Tehran were coaxed to the negotiating table to discuss security issues. “The fact is, the United States and Iran have many common interests in Iraq, so it would be very strange if they had spurned this request from the head of a friendly government to cooperate. “

And in the foreseeable future, Naiman said, “I see that as the most positive way forward in terms of U.S. and Iranian relations.”

Analysts agree, however, there needs to be a fundamental change in the way Washington formulates its overall foreign policy before any substantive progress can be made in relations with Iran.

“I am afraid the problem is that the United States has this general problem with every nation, it is not just Iran,” Professor William Beeman of Minnesota University told PressTV, “Look at the situation in Pakistan for example. The United States doesn’t have a clue about the political situation there, or in many other countries for that matter.”

Even as Bush prepares for his first presidential trip to Israel and other Middle East countries this week, Beeman said the foreign policy strategy for the final year of the Bush administration remains unclear, but at least a military strike against Iran now appears to be off the table.

“The Bush administration right now, I believe, has already decided that a military option against Iran will not accomplish anything. In fact, those of us who analyze the Middle East have been saying for a long time that we can’t understand what in the world a military attack on Iran would ever accomplish.,” he said.

But Beeman said despite the fact that the National Intelligence Estimate report verified Iran has no operative military nuclear program; the Bush administration is clinging to this idea that somehow Iran constitutes a danger in the region.

Painting a grim picture of Iran is a cornerstone of Washington’s Middle East policy, according to Dr. Hamid Golsharifi, a London-based political analyst.

“The strategy of the United States, and especially this administration, is to give a negative or black picture of what is going on in Iran, even when it comes to democracy,” he said.

“Now here we have the U.S. State Department spokesman saying Bush will use his Middle East visit to confront Iranian influence in the region. This means the United States does not want to see Iran participate in a balanced way. “

In contrast to many other analysts, Golsharifi says he believes it was a mistake for Iran to get involved in the security talks, saying Washington could manipulate the development and cite Iran’s participation as clear evidence of their influence in Iraq.

“I think this was a foreign policy mistake by Iran to engage themselves with the foreign policy of the United States because Washington will draw a negative picture that Iran has influence on Iraq, and has the ability to create stability or instability,” he said.

Former Foreign Minister Yazdi, meanwhile, expressed concern that Iran’s current crop of diplomats may not be up to the task of dealing with the United States.

“You see in any meaningful negotiation, in order for both sides to be satisfied, the diplomats must understand the present international situation so they could bargain properly in order to resolve the problem. I am afraid that the Iranian diplomats currently employed by the Foreign Ministry are not qualified for that negotiation,” he said.

However, Yazdi went on, “The point is that we cannot remain at odds with the American government forever. At this time and stage of the electronic revolution, in the global village we cannot discard or ignore our relationship with the United States, in the same way that the U.S. government cannot neglect efforts to improve its relationship with Iran. “

America is pursuing its own priorities, Yazdi said, and you cannot really blame them for that. But he was equally unimpressed with American diplomats and U.S. foreign policy goals, describing them as confused and badly researched.

“As far as I can see they are unable to understand what is going on inside Iran,” he said. “If you are not aware of ideological or Islamic movements in Iran, or have knowledge of the political groups in Iran, how can you pursue a proper and realistic policy?”

Election year in the United States is bringing some hope for a possible policy change.

"When you consider the results of the Bush foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, I believe that no matter whether a Republican or Democrat comes into office they have to implement some changes in these policies,” Yazdi said, “Of course as far as the choices are concerned, I think that the Democrats might be in a better position to improve or implement these changes."

Article based on television debate program "Middle East Today" hosted by author and first broadcast on PressTV, Saturday 5th January 2008

Article first published by Ohmynews International

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Thursday, 3 January 2008

Mukasey orders torture tape investigation

Mob-busting investigator to quiz CIA over al-Qaeda interrogation tapes

America’s top lawman has announced the launch of a criminal investigation into the CIA’s destruction of videotapes allegedly showing the violent interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects being held at a secret prison.


Attorney General Michael Mukasey has appointed a modern day ‘Untouchable’ to head up the investigation. But will mob-buster John Durham be tough enough to take on the Central Intelligence Agency and possibly even the White House?


“He’s a very solid guy,” New York journalist Lucy Komisar told PressTV in a satellite interview, “In fact one of his big successes was putting away a Republican governor for corruption. He’s also gone up against the FBI in Boston that was using mob informants in a way that ended up having some people killed that the FBI should have been protecting. So he doesn’t have a problem going after the agencies of government, powerful agencies at that.”


Durham will be investigating whether the CIA broke any laws when it destroyed the tapes that reportedly showed two high profile al-Qaeda prisoners, including Abu Zubaydah, being subjected to waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning.


According to a former CIA agent who spoke to ABC News late last year, Zubaydah broke after just 35-seconds.


Mukasey ordered the investigation based on a court order issued in 2005 that demanded the preservation of all evidence related to interrogations at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and criticism from the U.S. September 11th Commission which claims the CIA deliberately obstructed their investigation regarding the interrogation of suspects.


The commission told The New York Times that the CIA ignored their requests for information and did not notify them regarding the existence of the tapes.


“The commission went to the CIA and asked for anything that would shed light on al-Qaeda and its leaders,” Komisar told PressTV, “they were not told about these tapes and they asked in many different ways if there was any other information that they should have received.”


The case will likely bring the subject of torture back into sharp focus, and also highlight the question of America’s secret prison network, sometimes referred to as the American Gulag.


“We know there are at least eight of them,” Komisar said, “they are or were in Afghanistan, in Thailand and in a number of former East European countries, but we’re not getting any official information and it really depends on whether or not the people who have the information stonewall when Durham conducts his grand jury.”


Komisar explained that in the U.S. a grand jury is necessary to bring an indictment in a very serious criminal case.


“A grand jury’s proceedings are conducted in secret and the testimony that is taken is secret. So it really depends now on whether or not the administration people, the CIA people, are willing to talk,” she said.


But, Komisar pointed out that refusing to give information to a grand jury can result in a charge of contempt and even a jail sentence. “So this will be a difficult problem for a number of people,” Komisar said.


One of the first to face questioning will be former CIA official Jose Rodriquez who has been called to appear on Jan. 16.


“He’s been a CIA guy for some 30 years,” Komisar said, “He was at various times the station chief in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. He was the one who gave the order for the tapes to be destroyed, so if anyone is going to take the fall it is going to be him.”


Komisar said the main question now, however, is what he is being told by the people in government, and when or if he gets indicted.


“President Bush is in office for another year and he has a very interesting habit of issuing pardons to people who are clearly guilty of serious crimes,” Komisar said.


The clear intimation is that Rodriquez might be encouraged to fall on his sword for the sake of the agency, and then receive a pardon from the White House. But according to earlier reports, it’s not only the reputation of the Langley-based spy agency that is at stake.


President Bush has been accused of lying in regard to his knowledge of the tapes and their destruction. If Durham’s investigation reveals proof of Bush’s dishonesty, that could open up the way for impeachment.


“Technically yes,” agreed Komisar, “but the problem is this is an election year and the Democrats and Republicans are busy fighting over who is going to be the successor. So I am not sure that members of Congress, even Democratic members would want to get involved in a fight over impeachment. It would be a big distraction and it might bring down a lot of criticism on the Democrats, and they don’t want that.”




Above article based on television interview conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV on Thursday, 3rd January, 2008

Article first published by Ohmynews International


Reproduced by American Chronicle, OpEdNews.com, Countercurrents.org,
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