Tag Archives | Iran

Apres US Le Deluge!


Wow.  You’d think it was the Obama Administration that invaded Iraq the way opponents of US troop withdrawal tell it.  Republicans and some foreign policy pundits are wringing their hands over the withdrawal schedule negotiated by George Bush in 2008.  Incredibly, instead of cheering a decision made by an independent Iraqi government not to give immunity to US troops if some stayed behind,  conservatives are once again dragging out their bankrupt ‘slippery slope’ argument to cover their butts.   Saying President Obama had ‘failed’ to renegotiate the Status of Forces Agreement in which President Bush pledged that every US troop would be withdrawn by December 31, 2011, Republicans are setting President Obama up to blame for anything bad that happens in Iraq after US troops withdraw and into the future.  Mitt Romney goes so far as to say that US troop withdrawal threatens all the ‘gains we’ve made’ since 2003.  Lindsey Graham said the announcement of troop withdrawal is a victory for Iran!

Bad things could happen. But those same bad things would be possible whether the US withdraws now or in five years.  Maybe, on the other hand, good things will happen as Iraqis are free of the tension and humiliation of occupation and regain their shared heritage.   Or perhaps the withdrawal will prevent bad things from happening. After all, the Sadrists pledged to call up their militia again to fight any US troops left behind after this December.

Paternalism is thick in the conservative argument.  The people who got us into this war thought it would go a certain way, sort of a ‘cakewalk’ was the expression.  It didn’t.  And now they want the American people to trust them again?

I’d love to see Romney go after Obama face-to-face on withdrawal from Iraq in one the pre-election debates.  Running on keeping troops in Iraq is not a winning strategy.

UPDATE:  From L.A. Times

In Iraq, however, many associate the U.S. presence with instability, violence and suspect motives in a conflict that is believed to have cost at least 100,000 Iraqi lives. These critics view U.S. troops as a lightning rod for militia attacks.

A representative of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki‘s Shiite-led ruling coalition said Iraqis were “thankful” for the role of the U.S. and other nations in ousting Hussein, but another official added that the Americans “put the country on the brink of civil war.”

“They were part of the reason behind the ethnic and sectarian tension,” said Saad Muttalbi.

The Shiites have long been cool to U.S. troops in Iraq. But leading politicians from Sunni and Kurdish blocs who once welcomed the American presence now also agree that the U.S. must leave.

The largely Sunni Iraqiya bloc headed by Iyad Allawi has gone on record against extending the stay of U.S. troops beyond the end of the year.Even lawmakers from Iraqi Kurdistan, where U.S. forces were warmly received in 2003, no longer seem enthusiastic about American boots on the ground.

“An American presence is not a condition to solve our problems,” said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Kurdish coalition. “They’ve been here for years, and there are still problems in Iraq.”



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McCain Says: Let’s Jam US Troops Down Iraq’s Throat

In an interview with Christine Amanpour on ABC this morning, John McCain claimed that the Obama Administration didn’t really try to convince Iraq to keep a wresidual force (3,000 – 20,000) of American troops in Iraq past the legal deadline for withdrawal agreed to by the Bush Administration, December 31, 2011.  Upon questioning how he could make such a claim, McCain said “I was there.”  McCain then explained that  over six months before, when he spoke to different representatives of the Iraqi government, they seemed agreeable to discussing amending the SOFA and retaining some American troops.

Let’s look at the facts:

It has been broadly reported that some in the Iraqi government wanted to keep US troops past the deadline for withdrawal.  Others did not.

It has been broadly reported that the Administration entered talks on the subject months ag, with Maliki and the US Administration trying to work out some type of accommodation.

It has been broadly reported that the Iraqi government would not give American troops immunity past December 31, 2011, because it would violate their nation’s sovereignty and that the US could not accept leaving troops beyond the agreed-upon withdrawal date without this immunity

It has been widely reported that the Bush Administration invaded Iraq to ‘liberate it’ with the goal of leaving it a sovereign, independent nation and that Mr. McCain approved of and supported that invasion from the beginning.

The Iraqi government has spoken as a sovereign, independent nation.  Yet, instead of celebrating that fact, Mr. McCain believes the Obama Administration should impose US paternalism and dictate the number of troops and conditions of operations to the Iraqis.

Mr. McCain is not a very smart politician.  He knows that the US Embassy will have hundreds of contracted former soldiers defending it and its consulates in Iraq.  He knows the State Department will hire independent contractors to fill in for American soldiers to train the Iraqi military.  He knows the American people have no more stomach for the cost in lives and money of a continued war in Iraq.

A smart politician would have tried to take credit for the Bush strategy and insisted it worked.  Instead McCain’s attacks on Obama for implementing the Bush SOFA and fulfilling a campaign pledge to bring the troops home seems shallow and outdated.

McCain ignores the internal politics in Iraq itself.  He ignores the nationalist sentiment of Iraqis that has grown stronger the longer US troops have remained on the ground.  Most Iraqis consider the US presence in Iraq an occupation and believe that sectarian divisions will moderate when the occupation ends.  McCain ignores the Sadr movement, which vowed to challenge any remaining US troops militarily, that hold a sizable bloc of votes in the Iraqi Parliament.

By denouncing Obama for the Iraqi withdrawal, McCain displays his tin ear to the war fatigue of the American public and demands that the government focus on domestic concerns, not foreign policy adventures.

McCain is a figure of the past.  He no longer represents the base of the Republican Party.  But the American media is lazy and intellectually unable to keep up with foreign policy developments.  It’s easier to go with the false perceptions of the same old same old .






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Yesterday, I ran a comment by a reader criticizing Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers for implying Iran had a nuclear weapon.   Another reader writes:

I agree that he’s wrong that anyone is accusing Iran of wanting to assassinate the Saudi guy “with a nuclear bomb”, but you’re jumping on something that, in my mind, was probably more the case of poorly chosen wording (it’s hard to tell whether “with a nuclear bomb” is describing the act of assassination or of the nation directing the assassination) than anything ignorant or irresponsible.

This reader is right.  Reviewing the tape – as opposed to the dry transcript – supports the view that this was a syntax problem and that the quote refers to the nation, not the act of assassination.  I apologize to readers.  Thanks to reader Jesse for the comments.

However, for the record, I repeat, Iran does not possess a nuclear bomb.




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Quoted Here First

The tools of statecraft are simple: military action or diplomacy. Anything else – whether it is called containment, dual track, or carrot and stick – is nothing more than a tactic that delays the inevitable choice between these two options. The inconvenient truth of statecraft is that every conflict – even war – ends via negotiations; and everything before negotiations – including war – is for leverage. The effort to presumably delay this inevitable choice has only added pressure to escalate towards the worst outcome. – Reza Marachi, Director of Research, National Iranian American Council

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Iran Charges Shahkuri is Agent of Terrorist MEK

Today the government of Iran charged that one of the men named as a defendant in Iran Plot case is a member of MEK, a terrorist group fighting against the Islamic government that was sheltered by Saddam Hussein in a base in Iraq.

The defendant, Gholam Shakuri, identified by the Justice Department as an operative of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, is actually a “key member” of the Mujahedeen Khalq, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported.

The MEK began as an nationalist/Marxist oriented group that fought against the Shah in 1979.  According to Juan Cole:

The People’s Holy Jihadis was one of two prominent guerrilla groups active in Iran in the 1970s against the government of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the then king and a close US ally. The other was the Fedayan-i Khalq or ‘those who sacrifice themselves for the people,’ a Marxist group. The MEK for its part mixed Islam and Marxism and was headed by the charismatic Massoud Rajavi, to whom members had a fanatic devotion. I remember when I was in Iran in summer, 1976, the newspapers were full of jeremiads about the Islamic Marxists, and I was shown a bombed-out second story apartment in South Tehran, allegedly MEK work.

The MEK later turned to terrorism to fight the new Islamic Republic’s clerical leaders, killing scores of innocent Iranians as well as government officials and earning the condemnation of legitimate opposition movements such as 2009′s Green movement that protested election fraud.  Iran said that international police agency, Interpol, is a seeking Shahkuri.

What about the Al Quds connection?  The FBI charges that Shahkuri is a deputy prominant Al Quds commander Shalai, who has previously been linked to American deaths in Iraq.


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More on So-Called Iranian Plot

The more I read about the Iran Plot, the more I am disgusted and shocked at the Obama Administration.  The story has holes in it that make me shudder in the same way I did reading about Iraq’s WMD and seeing shaky US intelligence shipped around the world.

Not only are most Iranian experts registering skepticism, but now legal bloggers are adding their two cents worth.  From The Atlantic, Mary Wheeler writes:

The details provided about the $100,000 in the complaint also do not implicate Quds Force as strongly as they might. The complaint describes an unnamed person calling Arbabsiar to tell him the money would be transferred to “Individual #1.” And it describes Arbabsiar telling the informant that Individual #1 had received the money the morning before the first taped July 14 conversation. Then, it describes the money being sent from two different “foreign entities” through a Manhattan bank into an FBI account. The complaint doesn’t even specify that these two foreign entities were Iranian, much less tied to Quds Force.

Furthermore, the complaint doesn’t describe who Individual #1 is, though the way that the complaint is written suggests that he or she was not a member of Quds Force: three Quds Force members are described as “Iranian Officials” in the complaint and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani is named explicitly. More curiously, Individual #1, who allegedly served as middleman for the down payment on the planned assassination, was neither charged for his role nor was he among the five people sanctioned for this operation by the Treasury Department. What the complaint describes about this key piece of evidence, in other words, is money being transferred from someone not even charged in this case to the FBI. But if the plot began with the Quds Force hatching it in Iran and extended to Arbabsiar acting on their behalf in the U.S., and if the U.S. government appears to be either charging or sanctioning everyone involved, why would this middleman, Individual #1, go unnamed and untouched?

This next quote is from commondreams.org, a site I’ve never read before that was linked in a comment section from one I read everyday.  I can’t vouch for it, but the items it raises can all be fact-checked easily.  In essence, this article questions whether used-car salesman Arbabsiar may have been used to sting his cousin in the Al Quds force.  It poses the possibility that Arnbabsiar first implicated himself in a drug deal, mentioned that he knew Reza Shalai to the DEA and was then used by the FBI to entrap his Iranian cousin.

But the suggestion that forensic examination of the wire transfers could somehow show who had approved them is misleading. The wire transfers were from two separate non-Iranian banks in a foreign country, according to the FBI’s account. It would be impossible to deduce who approved the transfer by looking at the documents.

Pure, unadulterated speculation: Israel attacks Iran before year’s end.

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Iranian Plot: Was Response to Nuclear Assassinations?

The New York Times raises an interesting question: if the Iranian plot was real, it may  have been in retaliation for the low-level cyber and assassination warfare being played out with Israel and the US.  The money for the used-care salesman’s plot came a week after the third Iranian nuclear scientist in two years was assassinated outside his home.

“The Iranians absolutely believe the U.S. and Israel have been carrying out a covert campaign against them,” said Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University. “And clearly they are right.”

Knowing that bombing an Iranian nuclear facility is a no-win option for the US or Israel, both countries have been working together to undermine Iran’s advancement in nuclear technology though parts sabotage, computer viruses and picking off essential Iranian scientists.

Iran began its nuclear program with US help under Reza Shah Pahlavi.   A US-British coup against the first Iranian leader, Prime Minister Mosaddegh, democratically elected following independence, snuffed out a nascent Iranian parliamentary system.  However, US strategic support for a corrupt and brutal dictator once again backfired, as the Islamic Revolution overthrew the Shah’s regime in 1979.  The taking of hostages by Iranian students at the US embassy in Iran that year further flamed tensions.  Thirteen years after an elected PM tried to nationalize Iranian oil production, Khomeini succeeded.

Iranians took to the street in support of the US after 9/11.  The Iranian government offered to help the US in Afghanistan.  Incredibly, instead of testing the Iranian initiative the Bush Administration made the country a pillar of its so-called axis of evil.  The US-Iranian relationship of the past sixty years is an object lesson in short-sighted, reactive and ultimately defeating diplomacy.

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If You Have the Facts, Why Can’t We See Them?

The more the Administration and President Obama say they have the facts about the Iran plot, the more uneasy I get:

In his first public remarks on the issue since it was revealed on Tuesday, Mr. Obama sought to counter skepticism about whether Iran’s Islamic government directed an Iranian-American car salesman to engage with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States and carry out other attacks. Mr. Obama insisted that American officials “know that he had direct links, was paid by, and directed by individuals in the Iranian government.”

“Now those facts are there for all to see,” Mr. Obama said. “We would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations that are contained in the indictment.”

At the same time, State Department officials said United States officials had been in direct contact with the government of Iran over the accusations.

The possibilities:

1.  The whole plot story, as told by the Justice Department, is true.  The highest levels of the Iranian government knew of and/or planned the assassination.

2.  It was a rogue operation by a member or members of Al Quds, unknown to the Iranian government.

3,  It was a rogue operation and, despite not knowing about it, Iran needs to take responsibility for the action of rogue operatives, meaning arresting and trying them as criminal elements.

4.  The informant made up the story.

5.  The used car salesman, Mansour J. Arbabsiar , made up the story and/or exaggerated his ties to Gholam Shakuri the alleged Al Quds member.

If the State Department has been in contact with the Iranian government, then I go with #3.  But the State Department being in contact with the Iranian government opens another dimension to the incident.  Because the US and Iran do not have diplomatic relations, most issues of dispute are sent through the Swiss Embassy in Iran or discussed in asides at international conferences.  Direct contact would be unusual.

The Obama Administration is fighting back against a credibility problem when it comes to intelligence work.  The Bush Administration case against Iraq and MWD was initiated from the debriefing of an Iraqi émigré code-named ‘Curveball’.  Curveball once was  a CIA operative until the CIA became suspicious of Curveball’s veracity and dropped him.  The Defense Department stepped in, picked Curveball up and used his uncollaborated testimony about MWD to push for war.  The US lost as much credibility by finding no MWD in Iraq as a new car looses value the minute  you drive it off the lot.  You can never make it up.

Now the US government, this time the Obama Administration, again asks the American public and the international community to believe its narrative on the Iranian plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador.  Even the Justice and State Departments admit the whole story sounds like a Hollywood movie.  The facts of the case are fuzzy, key questions about Gholam Shakuri aren’t addressed, no details about the $100,000 wire transfer said to be from Al Quds has been turned over to journalists and independent Iran and National Security experts for assessment.

The stakes are enormous.  If the plot is real and directed by the Iranian Government, it throws the rationality of Iranian leaders into question.  If it is something less the US government should be held accountable for charging the Iranian government for planning the plot.  If it’s somewhere in between, let the world judge it.

“Just the facts, Ma’am!” we ask of Secretary Clinton and President Obama. “Show us the beef!”



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