Archive for September 14th, 2009

ANALYSIS / Clock ticking for Iran as Israel appears ready for strike

ANALYSIS / Clock ticking for Iran as Israel appears ready for strike

Israeli attack on Iran ‘catastrophe’, says Sarkozy

Beating the War Drums for Iran

Beating the War Drums for Iran

When I started blogging back in January, one of my early posts questioned the belief that Obama’s election had ended talk of military action against Iran. I though this view was “almost certainly premature,” because I didn’t think a rapid diplomatic breakthrough was likely and I knew that advocates of a more forceful approach would soon come out of the woodwork and start pushing the new administration to get tough with Tehran.

Well, I hate to say I told you so, but … Right on cue, Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal had an op-ed from former Senators Dan Coats and Chuck Robb and retired Air Force general Chuck Wald, recommending that Obama “begin preparations for the use of military options” against Iran’s nuclear facilities. They argue that keeping the threat of force “on the table” is the only way to achieve a diplomatic solution, but they also make it clear that they favor bombing Iran if diplomacy fails. In their words, “making preparations now will enable the president, should all other measures fail to bring Tehran to the negotiating table, to use military force to retard Iran’s nuclear program.”

Will we ever learn? As other commentators have noted, many of the most vocal advocates of military action against Iran tend to be the same groups and individuals who saw 9/11 as a good excuse to invade Iraq and start trying to “transform” the Middle East. Plenty of people agree that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are a problem, but the loudest voices calling for the threat or use of force tend to be either Israeli hardliners or American neocons. Gee, who woulda thought! It’s equally unsurprising that the United Jewish Communities sponsored an “Iran Advocacy Day” in Washington yesterday, featuring appearances by key administration officials and prominent legislators. Its purpose, of course, was to highlight the danger of a nuclear Iran, put pressure on Obama to take a tough line, and to rally support for stiffer sanctions (at a minimum). M.J. Rosenberg called it just right: “it marks the start of the fall push on Iran.”

The Coats, Robb and Wald op-ed is based on a new report from the “Bipartisan Policy Center” (a relatively new inside-the-Beltway think tank) which is an updated version of a lengthy report released last summer. The earlier study presented an alarmist view of Iran’s capabilities and intentions and advocated a hard-line approach, including the use of “kinetic action” (i.e., military force) as a last resort. The director of the earlier study and its primary author were Michael Makovsky and Michael Rubin, two prominent neo-conservatives who previously worked on Iraq in the Bush Defense Department. Both are also hawkish defenders of Israel (among other things, Makovsky reportedly emigrated to Israel and served in the IDF before returning to the United States, and his brother David works for WINEP, the right-of-center pro-Israel think-tank that AIPAC created back in the early 1990s.)

Second, even though their earlier advocacy of the Iraq war proved disastrous, those who are now contemplating the use of force against Iran are hardly marginalized or discredited outsiders. The earlier BPC study was endorsed by a task force of mainstream figures that included my Kennedy School colleague Ash Carter (now in charge of acquisitions in the Pentagon) and Iraq hawk (and former WINEP official) Dennis Ross. Ross started out as Obama’s special envoy on Iran and then moved over to a senior Middle East position at the NSC. Ross has also expressed skepticism about the prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough in the past, but believed that trying diplomacy first would make it easier to sell a more forceful approach later.

The drumbeats for war may still be faint but they are getting louder, even though trying to disarm Iran by bombing its nuclear facilities is still a very bad idea. If you want to reunite Iran’s disaffected population behind the current dictatorship and give Ahmadinejad a real jolt of legitimacy, dropping bombs on their country is a good way to start. The Iranian people strongly support the nuclear research program, as does Mir Hussein Mousavi, the opposition candidate who was allegedly “defeated” in the recent election. Equally important, bombing Iran’s existing facilities will only delay the program for a few years, because Iran could reconstitute it in more dispersed, hidden, and protected sites. And bombing them now is hardly going to lessen their desire for a deterrent of their own. Wouldn’t any country that had been attacked in this fashion try to obtain the means to prevent a repeat in the future? Wouldn’t we? Iran’s government and population are also going to be hopping mad at us if we do this (or if we give Israel the green light to attack on its own), and they are bound to do whatever they can to pay us back. Again, wouldn’t we do the same thing if anyone attacked us?

And please remember: Iran does not have a single nuclear weapon today, and there is still no sign that it has an active weapons program or is enriching uranium to sufficient purity to permit them to build a bomb. (For a rebuttal of Coats et al’s claims on this point, see Daniel Luban here.) As of right now, they appear to looking for a “break out” capability that would enable them to get one rapidly if they decided it was necessary. If so, then it may — repeat, may — still be possible to persuade them not to weaponize. But the only course of action that stands a chance of doing that is the exact opposite of the one that the hawks are proposing. Instead of rattling sabers, setting deadlines, and mobilizing for war, as Coats et al suggest, we need to take the threat of force off the table entirely. Pointing a gun at their heads merely reinforces their desire for a reliable deterrent, and probably strengthens the hand of any Iranian officials who think they ought to get a bomb as soon as possible. It may still come to that — which would force us to fall back on deterrence and containment — but following the hawks’ prescription makes that outcome more likely.

Lastly, what about tougher sanctions? That will probably end up being the default option — because it lets the United States and its allies appear to be doing something — but it’s not going to work either. Russia doesn’t appear to be willing to go along, sanctions are rarely an effective means of coercion, and Iran has been facing them for years now without budging. If he’s not careful, Obama’s initial efforts to put relations with Iran on a new trajectory will morph back into the same strategy that the Bush administration followed, and will achieve the same results.


Ahmadinejad: No power will dare to invade Iran

Civil War(s) in Iraq/Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran

Israeli attack on Iran ‘catastrophe’, says Sarkozy

Fear In The (pro-Israel) Lobby

Trust in News Media Falls to New Low in Pew Survey

September 14, 2009

Trust in News Media Falls to New Low in Pew Survey

Trust in news media has reached a new low, with record numbers of Americans saying reporting is inaccurate, biased and shaped by special interests, according to a survey set to be released Monday.

The survey of 1,506 people interviewed in July by the Pew Research Center showed that self-described Republicans continued to take the dimmest view of news organizations, but discontent among Democrats was catching up.

On crucial measures of credibility, faith in news media eroded from the 1980s to the ’90s, then held fairly steady for several years, according to Pew surveys that have asked some of the same questions for more than two decades. But in the two years since the last survey, those views became markedly more negative.

In this year’s survey, 63 percent of respondents said news articles were often inaccurate and only 29 percent said the media generally “get the facts straight” — the worst marks Pew has recorded — compared with 53 percent and 39 percent in 2007.

Seventy-four percent said news organizations favored one side or another in reporting on political and social issues, and the same percentage said the media were often influenced by powerful interests. Those, too, are the worst marks recorded in Pew surveys.

Negative opinions grew since 2007 among both major parties, but significantly more so among Democrats. The percentage of Democrats calling the media inaccurate rose to 59, from 43; the percentage who said the media took sides rose to 67, from 54.

Views of some specific news organizations split sharply along partisan lines, with differences between Republicans and Democrats often approaching 30 percentage points. Asked about CNN, MSNBC or network television news, Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to rate them favorably, and Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to see them unfavorably. Fox News was seen much more positively by Republicans, and more negatively by Democrats.


Civil War(s) in Iraq/Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran (by Dr. Stephen Sniegoski)

Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran
Civil War (s) in Iraq:
Fragmentation of Iraq was Israel’s strategy:

Disinformation about the Iranian ‘Threat’ (by Dr. Stephen Sniegoski):

In-Depth Discussion: In Israel’s Interest – US Policy Influenced by Media and Neocon Agenda

Stephen Sniegoski’s lecture on his book, “The Transparent Cabal”
“Operation in Afghanistan is rooted in Israel (Lt.Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski interview about war with Iran):

Bin Laden: 9/11 Because of US Support for Israel

September 14, 2009

Bin Laden Addresses Americans in Tape


Two days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden apparently released a new audiotape, entitled “An Address to the American People,” news agencies reported Monday.

The tape appeared on As-Sahab, the Arabic-language Web site used by Al Qaeda to deliver its messages. The recording was reported and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group and IntelCenter, two groups in the United States that monitor jihadist Web sites.

SITE said the message, which was released on Sept. 13 and lasted 11 minutes, 20 seconds, offered reasons for Al Qaeda’s attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, and advised how the conflict between Al Qaeda and the United States might come to a close.

The group said the recording spoke of injustices against the Muslim world, mentioning American support for Israel.

IntelCenter said the message consisted of a still image of Bin Laden with a voice track underneath, news agencies reported. An employee of IntelCenter could not immediately be reached for comment about its translation of the tape, and it was not possible to verify that the recording was actually made by Mr. Bin Laden.

The last tape attributed to Mr. Bin Laden, the Qaeda leader who is widely thought to be hiding in the mountainous region along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, was issued June 3. That message, which came as President Obama was embarking on a tour of Muslim countries, warned the United States about its policies in Pakistan.

It said the new American administration had sowed new seeds of hatred among Muslims.

“I think the reports we’ve seen are consistent with messages we’ve seen in the past from Al Qaeda threatening the U.S. and other countries that are involved in counterterrorism efforts,” the White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said at the time. “But I don’t think it’s surprising that Al Qaeda would want to shift attention away from the president’s historic efforts and continued efforts to reach out and have an open dialogue with the Muslim world.”


Bin Laden’s Reading List for Americans


Bin Laden reportedly calls Obama ‘powerless’

CAIRO – Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden described President Barack Obama as “powerless” to stop the war in Afghanistan, and Americans’ inability to grasp why the Sept. 11 attacks occurred has “cost you a lot without any result whatsoever.”

The remarks by the terrorist leader were released two days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that he ordered. Bin Laden typically addresses the American people in a message timed around the Sept. 11 anniversary.

Bin Laden, who is believed to be hiding in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, said current White House officials are merely following the strategy of former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney to “promote the previous policies of fear to market the interest of big companies.”
“Rather than fighting to liberate Iraq — as Bush claimed — it (the White House) should have been liberated,” he said.

When Barack Obama became president and retained many of the Bush administration’s military leaders, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “reasonable people knew that Obama is a powerless man who will not be able to end the war as he promised,” bin Laden said.

“If you end the war, so to it,” bin Laden said. “But if it is otherwise, all we will do is continue the war of attrition against you on all possible axes.”

SITE Intelligence Group, a terrorist-monitoring firm, provided a translation of the tape, which was also translated by The Associated Press.

The al-Qaida leader sought to drive home key grievances often voiced in the Arab and Muslim world, where Washington’s policies are seen as blatantly favoring Israel at the expense of the rights of Palestinians and other Arabs.

“We have demonstrated and stated many times, for more than two-and-a-half-decades, that the cause of our disagreement with you is your support to your Israeli allies who occupy our land of Palestine,” bin Laden said.

“The delay in your knowing those causes has cost you a lot without any result whatsoever,” he said in the tape released by al-Qaida’s media wing, as-Sahab.

“This position of yours, combined with some other injustices, pushed us to undertake the events of (Sept. 11),” bin Laden said. He said that if Americans realized the extent of the “suffering from the injustice of the Jews …you will realize that both our nations are victims of the policies of the White House,” which he described as “a hostage” to interest groups and companies.

Dozens of releases
IntelCenter, another company that monitors terrorist propaganda, said the 11-minute video, which shows a still picture of bin Laden while audio of the address plays, is the 49th release from as-Sahab, in 2009. As-Sahab is averaging one release every five days so far in 2009, IntelCenter said.

The terror leader, who is believed to be hiding in the remote mountainous region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, argued against the claims that the wars spearheaded by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan are necessary for U.S. security.

Along with the direct threats, bin Laden also follows an approach he has embraced repeatedly, reaching out to Americans in a gesture of conciliation — or at least readiness to entertain one if the United States moves to re-evaluate its support for Israel.

“Ask yourselves to determine your position: is your security, your blood, your children, your money, your jobs, your homes, your economy, and your reputation dearer to you than the security of the Israelis, their children and their economy?” he said.

“If you choose your security and cessation of war, and this is what the polls have shown, this requires you to work to punish those on your side who play with our security. We are ready to respond to this choice on aforementioned sound and just bases.”


Bin Laden prods US to end ‘hopeless’ Afghan war



Rethink your ways, Bin Laden tells Americans Play Video AFP  – Rethink your ways, Bin Laden tells Americans

By PAUL SCHEMM, Associated Press Writer Paul Schemm, Associated Press Writer 43 mins ago

CAIRO – Osama bin Laden said in a new audiotape that President Barack Obama‘s strategy in Afghanistan is “hopeless” and called on Americans to resolve the conflict with al-Qaida by ending the war there and breaking the U.S. alliance with Israel.

In the message marking the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the al-Qaida leader avoided his usual rhetoric of jihad and instead took a more analytical tone, claiming its differences with the U.S. stemmed from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But analysts said Monday that the message’s tone and its unusually short length — only 11 minutes, far shorter than others released by al-Qaida to mark the anniversary — was an indication that al-Qaida was struggling to maintain interest eight years after its most shattering terror attacks.

“You might interpret this as a sign of weakness, the suggestion being that they don’t really want to fight the U.S.,” Jeremy Binnie, an analyst with Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, said of bin Laden’s tone.

Arabs and Muslims’ more positive feelings toward the new U.S. president are believed to have helped deflate al-Qaida’s anti-American rhetoric, which found a receptive audience during the administration of former President George W. Bush, who was widely resented in the region. Also, the Iraq war — once a main front for al-Qaida’s militants — has become less prominent as violence eased over the past two years and the presence of U.S. troops was reduced.

The main front now is Afghanistan, where the Obama administration is contemplating sending more troops to battle al-Qaida’s ally, the Taliban. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces said Friday he sees no signs of a major al-Qaida presence in the country.

In the audiotape, posted late Thursday on Islamic militant Web sites, bin Laden sought to depict Obama as merely continuing the policies of Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

“If you end the (Afghan) war, so be it, but otherwise we will continue the war of attrition against you,” he said, addressing the American people. “You are waging a hopeless and losing war, a war in which the end is not visible on the horizon.”

But bin Laden used most of the message to detail the reason for al-Qaida’s campaign against the United States.

“The cause of our disagreement with you is your support to your Israeli allies who occupy our land of Palestine,” he said, adding that this support “pushed us to undertake “the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

He argued that Washington — even under Obama — was under the thrall of “neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby.” He said Obama and White House officials “act like Cheney and Bush and promote the previous policies of fear to market the interests of big companies” and pull Americans into wars that he said have bankrupted the United States.

If America reconsiders its alliance with Israel, he said, al-Qaida will respond on “sound and just bases.”

The Saudi construction magnate’s son-turned “holy warrior” has frequently sought to wrap al-Qaida in the Palestinian cause, seeking to draw support in the Arab world, where the issue is one of the public’s top concerns.

However the Palestinians themselves — even the militant Hamas organization — have distanced themselves from al-Qaida and cracked down on those espousing a similar extremist ideology inside the Gaza Strip.

The short message was in sharp contrast to others issued around the Sept. 11 anniversary. In 2007, al-Qaida marked the anniversary with multiple videos by several of its leaders, including bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahri. Just last year, it issued a massive 90-minute opus summing up seven years of struggle around the world.

Evan Kohlman, a terrorism expert at, said al-Qaida appears to have been unable to come up with a way to confront the popularity of the new U.S. president. Obama has pursued a policy of seeking better ties with Arabs and Muslims, giving a landmark speech in Cairo in June, moving to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and taking a somewhat harder stance on Israel in the peace process.

“I would have thought for Sept. 11 he could have said something more ground breaking and significant,” said Kohlman.


Attacked Again? We Could Prevent Another Attack!

1996 Fatwa summary and full text

1998 Fatwa summary and full text