“The West just has to cope with a strong and peaceful Iran, a country with thousands of years of civilization that is now a master of enrichment. I know it is hard for them to digest, but it is the reality. The language of American threats demonstrates a colonialist mentality. Threatening Iran with the Security Council, with more sanctions or military action further complicates the issue. It just doesn’t work.”
The current situation in the region was David Welch’s worst nightmare and he saw it coming!, explained a demonstrably frustrated US Embassy staffer in Beirut as she mused about what Hilary Clinton was really doing in the region this week.
Welch left his seat warm for its current occupant Jeffrey Feltman. Jeffrey is apparently chastened a bit given that US credibility is at a record low in the region, and even appearing less arrogant recently as Lebanon and Syria resume relations, nevertheless urged his boss to come over and “rattle the Mullah’s cage” and round up a posse to corral more UN sanctions to beef up 34 months of failed ones.
It cannot be denied that Madame Secretary of State tried this week.
Resurrecting her Presidential campaign slogan, “security umbrella”
(apparently against the Persian Muslim hoards), coined in 2007 by
WINEP’s Dennis Ross as she launched her quest for the White House
(today Ross is an advisor of sorts on how to ‘deal’ with Iran— his
recommendation is that Iran is best bombed sooner rather than later) ,
America’s top diplomat talked plenty tough. Clinton told al-Arabiyya
television aired on 2/17/10 that the US was seeking the “strongest”
possible UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on Iran over its nuclear
“We want to try to get the strongest sanctions we can out of the United Nations Security Council, mostly to influence their (Iran’s) decision-making.”
Forget all about Obama’s gesture ‘to extend an open hand ’, ‘ seeking the Muslim soul ’,‘ honest dialogue without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect’ rhetoric in last June’s Cairo speech. The lady came to declare that there will be no dialogue whatsoever- nada- until Iran’s nuclear program is history and it’s our way or take the bitter consequences.
And absolutely no copy cating the arguably successful approach of Richard Nixon’s 1972 offer to China’s Mao Tse Tung when he told the Great Helmsman after that stirring Chinese Opera performance in the Forbidden City of The East is Red, when the President had to nudge Henry Kissinger who had dozed off and began snoring: “We will listen to and discuss all of your concerns without any preconditions if you will listen to and discuss all of our concerns without any preconditions.” Nixon’s wimpy approach sounds downright Islamist these days since that is exactly what Iran has proposed.
Nope. The only thing that was China’s business on this trip is that they had better get on board quick with the soon to be presented fourth list of anti-Iranian sanctions at the UN Security Council or America’s Saudi friends may not supply China with oil to replace any lost shipments from Iran, if things go the way Israel & Co.hope and Iran is bombed.
When not bashing Iran, Ms. Clinton, acting as if she was Bashar Assad’s big sis, expressed regret that “Syrian arms supplies to Hezbollah will reflect negatively on Syria, and is not something positive for both Lebanon and Israel… Syria needs to focus on trying to resolve its differences with Israel, not aggravate them.”
At nearly every stop Clinton repeated her view that Iran’s government has been hijacked by its Revolutionary Guards, was becoming a ‘military dictatorship’, was horrible on human rights and had to be stopped now.
How many Iranian deaths from Sanctions would be ‘worth it’?
Evidently wanting to drive a wedge between “ordinary Iranians” and the privileged ‘ruling class” Mrs. Clinton intoned that a rift was growing within Iranian society and explained, “I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock, on leadership decisions should be disturbing to ordinary Iranians as well as to those of us on the outside.” Not a word about weekly Israel threats against the ‘ordinary Iranians, or Israel’s lock on US Middle East decisions. Not a word of concern for the human rights of the ‘ordinary Iranians’ who like their Iraqi neighbors in the recent past, will be the ones who will directly suffer from what she intends will be ‘crippling sanctions’, as they rally to support their government as they did when faced with US chemical weapons shipped to Saddam when the Reagan administration urged Iraq to invade Iran.
One wonders if the Secretary shares the views of her predecessor Madeline Albright who averred to CNN that the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians mainly children, due to harsh US initiated sanctions, was “worth it” since Saddam Hussein became ‘unreliable’ and needed to be overthrown.
The region, including the KSA’s King Abdullah appeared nonplused. About the only civil thing Secretary Clinton had to say was a vapid comment about “the importance of partnership between Washington and the Islamic world, saying she saw “a lot of common ground” between the United States and Islamic and Arab peoples.
What kind of diplomacy is this, some were left asking. Were the Washington rumors true that if Obama’s poll numbers dip below a 39% positive rating, Hilary Rodham, with Israel’s support, will save the Democratic party and challenge the President for the 2012 democratic nomination playing the ‘get tough with Iran/Syria/Hezbollah/Hamas’ card? Some in Tel Aviv and Washington are reportedly counseling her to do just that.
Hilary’s proposed solution to the alleged arms transferring of Iran, about which she offered no specific evidence during her three-day visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, is to create yet another (the eighth?) US Terrorism list. This one will be targeting certain individuals (more than 350 names will likely make up the first batch, according to one Bekaa valley source close to Tehran) with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who Clinton has gratuitously labeled, “the elite corps.”
If the US government moves to shut down Iran’s gasoline imports and its main civilian airport, named after the late Imam Khomeini, and perhaps some of Iran’s other 39 airports, claiming they are somehow connected to the RG organization, it might cause the US to run afoul of even more of its international legal obligations. Specifically those under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, (the Chicago Convention), which established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations which obligates its signatories (both the US and Iran) to comply with coordinating, protecting and regulating international air travel. The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and specifically exempts air fuels from taxes and US sanctions. Additionally, all 230 member airlines comprising the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) could be affected directly or indirectly.
Iran responded to Secretary Clinton’s barrage before she left the region. Following a largely peaceful 31st anniversary celebration of its 1979 Revolution, by nearly 20 million Iranians without the violence or strife which the Secretary was accused of hoping to exacerbate, Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, accused the United States of war-mongering and of turning the Persian Gulf into an “arms depot.”
President Ahmadinejad, hitting back at US accusations that the Islamic state was moving toward a military dictatorship, repeated that its nuclear program is solely to generate electricity and that surely it was the US that more resembled a military dictatorship given its various wars in the region and non-stop regional and international arms transfers.
Just who is doing the invading and the arms shipping?
With respect to who is and isn’t turning the Middle East into an arms depot, the available data, fairly comprehensive, appears to strongly favor the Iranian position. Much rhetoric is coming from Washington and Tel Aviv concerning Iranian arms shipments, but to date a paucity of probative evidence.
On the other hand, studies by the US Congressional Research Service, housed in the Madison Library on Capitol Hill, as well as Pentagon statistics make clear what the Bush and Obama administrations have been supplying and to whom.
According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the United States, in 2008, accounted for nearly $ 38 billion in weapons deals and transfers worldwide. This was close to 70% of every weapons sale on earth and is projected to rise each year. As Freida Berrigan, a keen and reliable student of this subject noted recently, “It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to recognize that, when one nation accounts for nearly 70% of weapons sales, the term “global arms trade” doesn’t quite cut it.” In fact the US so nearly totally monopolizes weapons transfers that the term “trade” and “competition” appear to be misnomers. The number two arms exporter is Italy with $ 3.7, followed by Russia with $ 3.5 billion. Nowhere among the top 80 countries is Iran to be found.
As visiting US officials to the region beat the ‘severe and crippling sanctions” drums and with the Middle East supposedly in urgent need of a US ‘security umbrella, not all countries are without protection. According to Pentagon figures the top five nations which made Foreign Military Sales agreements with the US in 2008 and accounted for more than $17 Billion in US arms transfers were:
Saudi Arabia $6.06 billion
Iraq $2.50 billion
Morocco $2.41 billion
Egypt $2.31 billion
Israel $3.32 billion
Meanwhile, Iran supplied no arms to these countries and an unproven amount to Syria as part of a defensive arrangement to deter Israeli attacks. Anything else is speculation until proved. The Pentagon is working to increase its lopsided market share by eviscerating US arms transfer regulations on open the weapon spigots wider. As expert Freida Berrigan has reported, “Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell explained in January 2010 that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to see “wholesale changes to the rules and regulations on government technology exports” in the name of competitiveness. Morell: “Tinkering with our antiquated, bureaucratic, overly cumbersome system is not enough to maintain our competitiveness in the global economy and also help our friends and allies buy the equipment they need to contribute to global security,” he continued, “[Gates] strongly supports the administration’s efforts to completely reform our export control regime, starting ideally with a blank sheet of paper.”
How much Military Aid is each American taxpayer sending to Israel?
With respect to US arms transfer to Israel, it is estimated that 9 out of 10 American tax payers have no idea that each of them donates $20 per year just for military aid to Israel or that total US aid to Israel amounts to approximately 10 million dollars per day—every day of the year-year after year.
American public ignorance about Israel is changing fast post-Gaza and opposition to funding Israel’s wars and brutal occupation is growing while Congress is trying to find ways to funnel more cash to Israel to pay for Israel’s just announced international “Image enhancing” PR campaign.
The Washington DC based U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, with more than 350 American affiliates, has recently launched a new website (http://www.aidtoisrael.org) that enables Americans to see how much money their state, congressional district, county, and city provide in military aid to Israel. The informative website also provides alternative ways the money could be used in each community for things such as healthcare, affordable housing, and education. The website also provides information about the impact of U.S. weapons transfers to Israel on Palestinian civilians.
The advocacy group points out that “between 2009 and 2018, the United States is scheduled to give Israel – the largest recipient of U.S. aid – $30 billion in military aid. Through its illegal 42-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, Israel misuses U.S. weapons in violation of U.S. law to kill and injure Palestinian civilians, destroy Palestinian civilian infrastructure, blockade the Gaza Strip, and build illegal settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
At his retirement dinner last year, David Welch is reported to have told his colleagues and friends that he considered himself an American patriot who did the best he could with the cards he was given by the ‘dealer’.
As grass roots organizations such as the Washington DC based End the Occupation and their hundreds of affiliates and others such as the US Council for the National Interest, seek to alter US policy and change the ‘dealer,’ hopefully America will engage with the Middle East on a basis of mutual respect, non-interference and peaceful co-existence.
Franklin Lamb is working with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign in Lebanon on drafting legislation which, after 62 years, would, if adopted by Lebanon’s Cabinet and Parliament grant the right to work and to own a home to Lebanon’s Palestinian Refugees. One part of the PCRC legislative project is its online Petition which can be viewed and signed at: http://www.petitiononline.com/ssfpcrc/petition.html. Lamb is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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