Monday, October 1, 2007

OIC Condemns US Senate
Plan To Split Iraq

DUBAI, Sept 30 (Bernama) -- The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has strongly condemned the US Senate plan to split Iraq along ethnic and religious lines.

OIC secretary-general Prof Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said such a move would only result in more disunity in Iraq and further exacerbation of social strife.

It could also create sectarian warfare among the people of the same nation, he said in a statement issued in Jeddah.

"What is needed now is not the division of the country but rather unity and a real national reconciliation," he said.

He stressed that no one has the right to decide the destiny of a country except the citizens themselves.

"And Iraq's destiny is an inalienable right of the Iraqi people exclusively and cannot be delegated to any party whatsoever," Ihsanoglu said.

He described the US Senate proposal as "full of imperfections and dangers that will intensify instability in the Middle East and the entire world."

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have also criticised the US Senate's non-binding resolution to divide Iraq on ethnic and religious lines, saying the move would complicate matters further in the war-torn country.

"The Bosnia-style plan, touted as a way out of the sectarian strife, which has risen steadily since the 2003 US-led invasion, would add new complications to the already difficult situation in Iraq," Arab News reported GCC secretary-general Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah as saying in a statement.

Instead of calling for a division, the causes that led to the current situation should be addressed, he said.

"These include (US-led) occupation, sectarian and ethnic quota system, absence of law and security and paralysed administration," the GCC head said.

Besides Saudi Arabia, the GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Bush At The UN: A War Criminal
Lectures The World On “Human Rights”

By Bill Van Auken

George W. Bush delivered his next to the last annual address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday. Taking the same podium that he used five years ago to condemn the world body to “irrelevance” if it failed to rubber stamp his plans for a war of aggression against Iraq, Bush cast his regime in Washington as the world’s greatest champion of human rights and its most generous and selfless benefactor.

That the assembled UN delegates could sit through and then politely applaud such a hypocritical harangue from a man who is without rival as the world’s greatest war criminal is testimony to the spinelessness and complicity of both the world’s governments and the United Nations itself.

While Bush made only the barest mention of either Iran or Iraq in his address, everyone in the hall was well aware that he is attempting once again to utilize the world body—much as his administration did five years ago in relation to purported Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction”—to secure a phony pretext for another war of aggression, this time against Iran.

No doubt Bush’s handlers in Washington recognized that to deliver a belligerent speech demanding action by the UN against Iran would only recall the lies and intimidation used by the US administration in 2002-2003 to prepare its war against Iraq.

Since then, an estimated 1 million Iraqis have been killed and nearly 4 million more turned into refugees as a result of the unprovoked US invasion with its “shock and awe” bombardments and the subsequent occupation that has destroyed every aspect of Iraqi society.

So instead, Bush came before the assembled delegates in the most improbable guise, as the apostle of liberty, equality and the rights of man.

He began his speech by hailing the founding document of the UN drafted more than six decades ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, asserting that this formal declaration in support of freedom, justice and peace “must guide our work in this world.”

“When innocent people are trapped in a life of murder and fear, the Declaration is not being upheld,” he declared. Who does the American president think he is kidding? Where on the face of the planet are more men, women and children “trapped in a life of murder and fear” than in US-occupied Iraq? The death toll for Iraqis has been estimated as high as 1,000 a week due to US military operations, the murderous rampage of mercenaries who kill with impunity and the sectarian violence unleashed by the country’s devastation at the hands of Washington.

Bush declared that the UN must work “to free people from tyranny and violence, hunger and disease, illiteracy and ignorance, and poverty and despair,” adding that “every member of the United Nations must join in this mission of liberation.”

In the Orwellian language favored by the right-wing ideologues in the Bush administration, “liberation” is continuously invoked as the description for the war to impose semi-colonial domination by the US over Iraq and its oil wealth. And it is this “mission” undertaken by means of an eruption of American militarism that Bush demands the world body sanction and support.

Bush continued by invoking the first article of the Universal Declaration, which affirms that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” The greatest threat to this principle, he claimed, comes from “terrorists and extremists.” Therefore, he argued, “all civilized nations” must join the US in its global war on terrorism.

Bush then moved on to other subjects, a wise move, given that a more detailed citation of the Universal Declaration would have sounded like a war crimes indictment against his own administration.

It includes, for example, the injunction that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” a principle that the Bush White House has explicitly repudiated, both by renouncing the Geneva Conventions and subjecting those detained in the US “war on terror” to waterboarding, beatings, sensory deprivation, sexual humiliation and other forms of torture and degrading treatment.

The declaration affirms that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile,” practices that the Bush administration has carried out with impunity, through the holding of detainees without charges, not only at the infamous detention facilities in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, but also at secret CIA prisons around the world. It has introduced “extraordinary rendition” into the lexicon of foreign policy, a discreet term for kidnapping people, drugging them and then sending them in hoods and chains to other countries so that they can be tortured.

And there is also the clause of the declaration asserting that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence.” This is a principle that the administration has explicitly violated in relation to the American people, not to mention the rest of the world, through the massive illegal domestic spying operation organized through the National Security Agency.

Given his administration’s infamous reputation, the world’s horror over the unfolding debacle in Iraq and the mounting fears that an even worse catastrophe is about to be unleashed in Iran, it appeared that those who drafted Bush’s speech thought it was a good time to change the subject.

Thus, a major thrust of his remarks—and the issue that garnered by far the greatest press coverage—was the American president’s announcement that he is ordering a tightening of economic sanctions against Myanmar (Burma).

He declared: “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear.” While no doubt the corrupt military regime that rules the country has carried out brutal repression against its people, the claim that “Americans are outraged” by these practices is belied by the fact that given the virtual failure of either the administration or the mass media to pay any attention to the developments there, most Americans know nothing about them.

Bush’s new measures were hardly sweeping, amounting to further restrictions on visas for Myanmar officials and their families and financial sanctions against the ruling junta and its backers.

The pretense that the Bush administration’s concerns lie with the aspirations of the people of Myanmar, who have taken to the streets in recent days in mass demonstrations, is farcical. The US government has supported and directly installed countless military dictatorships from Indonesia to Chile, helping them to carry out far worse atrocities than the Burmese junta in suppressing their own people.

Rather, under mantle of “liberation” and “democracy,” US imperialism is once again pursuing its own strategic interests, attempting to bring to power a pro-American government that would open up the country to exploitation by US capital. Given the Myanmar government’s close economic and political relations with neighboring China, such an exercise in regime change would significantly advance Washington’s attempts to challenge Beijing for supremacy in the region, while steadily working to militarily encircle China.

Also invoked as targets for the American-led “mission of liberation” were the governments of Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Belarus, North Korea and Syria, all of which Washington has presumably found guilty and sentenced to be overthrown.

Continuing with his invocation of the Universal Declaration, Bush cited a passage affirming that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food and clothing and housing and medical care.”

He used this clause to engage in a round of shameless and deceptive self-congratulation, proclaiming US benevolence in the distribution of food internationally and, in particular, in assistance to the campaign to combat AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

The reality, as the news agency Reuters reported earlier this month, is that “food donations to the world’s hungry have fallen to their lowest level since 1973.” The impending crisis, which threatens starvation for sections of the world’s 850 million people facing hunger, is driven by the capitalist market. Food prices have soared, in no small part due to the drive by the US to promote the production of corn-based ethanol as an alternative to gasoline.

As for AIDS funding, Bush’s presentation of Washington’s role obscures the fact that the US ranks fifth among donor nations relative to the size of their national economies. Inadequate funding for the programs—as well as restrictions imposed on the use of US aid crafted to please the Christian right—means that millions of Africans will be denied any treatment.

Meanwhile, US aid as a whole amounts to a paltry sum compared to the vast wealth that Wall Street appropriates from the rest of the world and is utilized largely as a weapon to facilitate this global looting process. In 1970, international donor nations signed an agreement that they would assign 0.7 percent of their national incomes to foreign aid. While no country has come close to donating this amount, in the US last year aid amounted to just 0.17 percent of gross national income.

Finally, Bush warmed up to his subject, citing the Universal Declaration’s assertion of the “right to work” and to “just and favorable conditions of work” as an argument for free-market capitalism and the tearing down of all barriers to the exploitation of the world’s economy by the transnational banks and corporations.

Bush closed his remarks with a demand that the UN reform itself, again invoking “the American people” and their supposed disappointment with the functioning of the world body’s Human Rights Council. In essence, Bush demanded that the council focus on denouncing Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Iran and halt its criticism of Israel for killing civilians in Lebanon and suppressing the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Behind Bush’s criticism is the embarrassing reality that Washington has chosen for the last two years not to seek a seat on the Human Rights Council for fear that it would fail to get the necessary votes.

The successive revelations over Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, extraordinary renditions and CIA torture—not to mention the continued use of the death penalty at home—makes the US the most fitting target for human rights charges. Yet it presumes to dictate to the world which countries should be investigated and which should not. Naturally those where Washington is seeking regime change—such as Iran, Cuba and Venezuela—are vilified, while those despotic regimes considered strategic allies of the US—Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, Washington’s chief ally in suppressing the Arab masses—are declared above suspicion.

Bush’s appearance before the UN General Assembly was an entirely predictable exercise in imperialist arrogance, rank hypocrisy and double-talk in service of American big business. In the final analysis, his speech was probably more significant for what it omitted than for the American president’s absurd posturing as a crusader for human rights and universal liberation. Behind the virtual silence on Iraq and Iran, new and more terrible crimes are being prepared.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Nippon Oil To Buy Iran Oil In Yen

Japanese firm Nippon Oil is to start paying for Iranian oil in yen, rather than in US dollars.

The first payments to be made in the new currency for crude oil contracts will take place in October 2007.

Iran has been increasingly selling oil in currencies other than the US dollar, which has fallen in value.

Iran, the fourth-biggest oil exporter, has made the shift in the light of political differences with the US over its nuclear programme.

While Iran says the project is for civilian purposes only, the US argues it is to develop nuclear weapons.

Last year, Iran inserted a clause into oil contracts enabling it to require payment in currency other than the US dollar.

Iran and other countries that rely heavily on oil exports have been hard hit by the decline in the dollar's value.

The move is not intended to change the original value of the oil contracts being traded. - BBC

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Australian Troops Carry Out
Provocations Against East Timor’s Fretilin

Richard Phillips
27 August 2007

Australian troops occupying East Timor vandalised and stole Fretilin flags from two villages in the country’s eastern districts of Baucau and Viqueque last week. The arrogant and crude provocation is part of the Australian government’s ongoing attempts to intimidate opponents of the recent appointment of Xanana Gusmao as East Timorese prime minister.

According to eyewitnesses, soldiers travelling in two Australian military vehicles on August 18 pulled down flags outside Walili, wiped their backsides with them and then drove off with the torn material. At Alala, in the Viqueque district, troops tried to pull a Fretilin flag away from its rope, dragged it onto the road and then drove over it.

Fretilin supporters were flying the flags in protest against the new government, which was appointed on August 6 by East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta after obvious prompting from Canberra. Gusmao heads an anti-Fretilin coalition government, despite the fact that Fretilin won 29 percent of the popular vote in the June 30 election and is the largest party bloc in the 65-member parliament.

The flag desecrations were immediately condemned by Fretilin vice president Arsenio Bano and Fretilin president and former prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

Bano correctly noted that the actions were not just carried out by “misguided individual soldiers” but were “another demonstration of the partisan nature of the Howard government’s military intervention in East Timor.” It reflected, he continued, the “cultural insensitivity and arrogance that typifies Australian military operations in the Pacific region.”

Alkatiri said that the Australian troops had been intimidating Fretilin supporters for an extended period. “They [Australian troops] came here to help us solve our problems but they came to give their backing to one side and fight against the other. They had better return home because they are not neutral,” he said.

Alkatiri’s claim that the Australian troops had come “to help us solve our problems” is patently false. The Fretilin leader himself was forced to resign as prime minister last year after a dirty tricks campaign orchestrated by Canberra and the Australian media. During his last visit to East Timor in July, Prime Minister John Howard arrogantly declared that Australian troops would remain in the country until there was “stability”.

From the outset, Australia’s intervention in the poverty stricken country has been a neo-colonial operation aimed at securing the largest share of the oil and gas resources in the Timor Gap, while preventing other regional powers from exercising influence.

Alkatiri’s tentative suggestion that the military should “return home”—the first time a Fretilin leader has publicly called for the withdrawal of Australian troops—is a pale reflection of the popular opposition to the open-ended Australian occupation.

Growing numbers of East Timorese people are hostile to Canberra’s meddling and its increasingly aggressive ultimatums. The protests that erupted following the appointment of Gusmao as prime minister were another indication of the extent of the anger, which Fretilin has attempted to both contain and use for its own immediate political ends.

When Ramos-Horta announced his appointment of Gusmao to head the government, Fretilin declared the new regime unconstitutional, threatened legal action and called for a parliamentary boycott by its MPs. Alkatiri suggested that “people power” might force Fretilin’s inclusion in a new “grand coalition”. But when the demonstrations condemning Gusmao and Ramos-Horta as Canberra’s puppets threatened to escalate out of control, the party leadership quickly moved to dissipate the widespread opposition.

After three days of protests and riots, in which scores of people were arrested, and refugee camps in Dili surrounded by Australian troops to prevent the residents from demonstrating, Alkatiri met with Ramos-Horta and Gusmao and pledged to calm the situation. Before the meeting, Ramos-Horta threatened to sack any civil servant who joined anti-government protests.

A week later, the Fretilin leadership dropped its threatened legal action against the government. The party’s leading personnel visited villages, telling local leaders that they would be held responsible for any violence. On August 13, Aniceto Lopes, leader of Fretilin’s parliamentary group, issued a statement appealing to party members and supporters to “guarantee stability” in the country and announced that MPs were ending their boycott.

As UN spokesperson Allison Cooper told SBS News: “We are very, very relieved and we welcome Fretilin’s decision to return into the parliament. They have a very valid and important role as the opposition and the opposition’s role in formulating policies and laws that will guide this country over the next five years...”

In other words, the Fretilin leadership is being relied upon to accept the anti-democratic appointment of an Australian-backed puppet regime, become its “loyal” parliamentary opposition, and collaborate with it in the continuing exploitation of the people and resources of East Timor.

Meanwhile, the Howard government’s provocations against Fretilin are continuing unabated.

In the eastern districts, Australian troops have reportedly been canvassing villages, telling residents they should stop supporting Fretilin and back the new government. Fernando Soares, a 35-year-old farmer and a well-known Fretilin member in Bucoli, said that at 8 p.m. on August 16, two days before the flag provocation, a group of Australian soldiers accompanied by a Timorese interpreter, came to his home and demanded to know whether he supported Fretilin or the Gusmao government.

When Soares said he supported Fretilin, he was told that he should back the new government and “influence” youth in his area to do the same. Other villagers have reported similar demands by Australian troop patrols over the past year. Fretilin’s response to this bullying has been to call for a Fretilin and United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor (UNMIT) investigation into Australian Defence Force operations.

Notwithstanding their differences with Gusmao and Ramos-Horta, the Fretilin leadership has no program to alleviate the mass poverty that afflicts the East Timorese people. Fretilin’s manoeuvres are directed toward demonstrating that it is the most effective political instrument for containing the East Timorese masses while appealing to one or another major power in Europe or Asia to counteract Australian domination.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

US Occupation Fuels Ethnic Cleansing
And Mass Repression In Iraq

By Patrick Martin
27 August 2007

Several reports on conditions in Iraq released last week confirm that the US troop surge in 2007 has accelerated the division of the Iraqi population along ethno-religious lines and dramatically increased the number of Iraqis held in barbaric conditions of imprisonment.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Organization reported that the number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled, from 499,000 to 1.1 million, since the latest US troop buildup began in February. According to the New York Times, “the scale of this migration has put so much strain on Iraqi governmental and relief offices that some provinces have refused to register any more displaced people, or will accept only those whose families are originally from the area.”

The vast majority of the displaced are Sunnis driven out of Shiite-dominated areas or Shiites driven out of Sunni-dominated areas: victims of ethnic cleansing carried out on the basis of religious sect.

According to a summary of the Red Crescent data in the Times, “The effect of this vast migration is to drain religiously mixed areas in the center of Iraq, sending Shiite refugees toward the overwhelmingly Shiite areas to the south and Sunnis toward majority Sunni regions to the west and north.”

The International Organization for Migration, an agency of the United Nations, found that the rate of displacement from Baghdad, the main target of stepped-up US military violence, has increased by a factor of 20, a rise so staggering that it seems the outcome of a deliberate US military policy of partitioning the Iraqi capital city. While Baghdad was once believed to have been divided roughly 60-40, with Sunnis in the majority, the current sectarian breakdown could be as much as 80-20 Shiite.

Violence, overwhelmingly along sectarian lines, was the leading cause of forced migration. The UN agency reported that, among Iraqi internal migrants who responded to a survey, 63 percent said they had fled neighborhoods because of direct threats to their lives. More than 25 percent said they had been forcibly expelled from their homes.

The third report came from the US military’s Task Force 134, which runs US detention operations in Iraq. It reported that since February the number of prisoners held by US and other foreign military forces has risen by 50 percent, from 16,000 in February to 24,500 now. Some 85 percent of those detained are Sunni Arabs, with the remainder mainly Shiites. Contrary to Bush administration propaganda, which portrays the armed resistance to US occupation as largely the work of foreign terrorists, only 280 of those detained are from outside Iraq, many of them citizens of states allied to the US, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Both the Red Crescent and the UN migration office suggested that the increased tempo of US military operations was directly correlated with the rapid growth in forced migration. According to Dr. Said Hakki, director of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, 100,000 people a month have been fleeing their homes since the US “surge” began.

The US troop surge, in point of fact, has generated more internal flight and population shift than the explosion of Sunni-Shiite violence after the bombing of the Shiite mosque of the golden dome in Samarra in February 2006, an event frequently (but falsely) cited by the Bush administration as the starting point of sectarian violence.

The internal population movement after the US escalation that began in February is greater than any in Iraq’s previous three decades of bloody conflict: the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, the Kurdish uprising of 1987-88, the first Gulf War in 1990-91, the failed Kurdish and Shiite uprisings of 1991, and the US invasion and conquest in 2003.

The Times noted, “The demographic shifts could favor those who would like to see Iraq partitioned into three semi-autonomous regions: a Shiite south and a Kurdish north sandwiching a Sunni territory.” The US newspaper delicately avoided identifying those who support partition, but it includes not only Shiite and Kurdish sectarian leaders, but much of the US political and military establishment, including leading figures in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Such a policy of forced population transfer along sectarian and ethnic lines, using violence and intimidation to stampede those unwilling to move, is a war crime under the principles laid down at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. Charges of ethnic cleansing could be brought against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and the rest of the leadership of the Bush administration, as well as their accomplices in Congress and the officer corps following its orders.

One leading Democrat, Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has gone so far as to make the demand for partition of Iraq—i.e., advocacy of a war crime—a major element of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The longer the US occupation continues, the bloodier the crimes will become. The intensifying crisis of the stooge government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has recently led a number of US officials, military and civilian, to call on the Bush administration to drop its pretense of establishing “democracy” in Iraq and establish an open military dictatorship that will take even more brutal measures against the Iraqi population.

Brig. Gen. John Bednarek, one of the commanders of the Task Force Lightning offensive in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, told CNN Wednesday, “Democratic institutions are not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future” of Iraq. The network cited this comment on its website, saying that “exasperated front-line U.S. generals talk openly of non-democratic governmental alternatives ...”

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of Task Force Lighting, said his goal was “an effective and functioning government that is really a partner with the United States and the rest of the world in this fight against the terrorists.” His soldiers were fighting for security, not democracy, he told CNN, “stating that democracy is merely an option that Iraqis are free to choose or reject.”

A leading House Republican, Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, echoed this sentiment Friday. In an appearance on local public television in Lansing, Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, declared, “The president has to be willing to say, ‘I’m going to take democracy off the table. We’re going to aim for safety and stability.’” Another Michigan Republican congressman, Mike Rogers, seconded Hoekstra’s sentiments, saying the US goal in Iraq should be “strategic victory” rather than democracy.

These developments underscore the falsity of the pro-war argument that is being increasingly raised by both the Bush administration and liberal apologists for the war—the claim that the United States must keep forces in Iraq, more or less indefinitely, to prevent a bloodbath among the civilian population.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, for instance, who has postured as a born-again opponent of the war he voted to authorize in 2002, declared that “the US must retain sufficient forces in the region to prevent a genocide.” Similar arguments have been made across the spectrum of the corporate-controlled media, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, as well as by the Bush White House.

The truth is that the bloodbath of civilians is taking place in Iraq right now, under the auspices of the US occupation. The longer the occupation continues, the greater the destruction of Iraqi society, and the greater the danger that the war will spread beyond the borders of Iraq to become a more general military conflagration.

The US invasion and conquest of Iraq is directly responsible for a death toll that will, long before Bush leaves office, exceed 1 million people. This war is one of the greatest crimes in history, and all those responsible for it must be held legally and criminally responsible.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

British Army Deploys New Weapon
Based On Mass-killing Technology

John Byrne

A new 'super-weapon' being supplied to British soldiers in Afghanistan employs technology based on the "thermobaric" principle which uses heat and pressure to kill people targeted across a wide air by sucking the air out of lungs and rupturing internal organs.

The so-called "enhanced blast" weapon uses similar technology used in the US "bunker busting" bombs and the devastating bombs dropped by the Russians to destroy the Chechen capital, Grozny.

Such weapons are brutally effective because they first disperse a gas or chemical agent which is lit at a second stage, allowing the blast to fill the spaces of a building or the crevices of a cave. When the US military deployed a version of these weapons in 2005, DefenseTech wrote an article titled, "Marines Quiet About Brutal New Weapon."

According to the US Defense Intelligence Agency, which released a study on thermobaric weapons in 1993, "The [blast] kill mechanism against living targets is unique--and unpleasant.... What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs.… If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents."

A second DIA study said, "shock and pressure waves cause minimal damage to brain tissue... it is possible that victims of FAEs are not rendered unconscious by the blast, but instead suffer for several seconds or minutes while they suffocate."

"The effect of an FAE explosion within confined spaces is immense," said a CIA study of the weapons. "Those near the ignition point are obliterated. Those at the fringe are likely to suffer many internal, and thus invisible injuries, including burst eardrums and crushed inner ear organs, severe concussions, ruptured lungs and internal organs, and possibly blindness."

British defense officials told the UK Guardian that British bombs were "different."

"They are optimized to create blast [rather than heat]", one said, speaking on the standard condition of anonymity in Britain. The official added that it would be misleading to call them "thermobaric."

Officials told the Guardian the new weapon was classified as a soldier launched "light anti-structure munition" and that the bombs would be more effective because "even when they hit the damage is limited to a confined area."

"The continuing issue of civilian casualties in Afghanistan has enormous importance in the battle for hearts and minds," said Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell in the article. "If these weapons contribute to the deaths of civilians then a primary purpose of the British deployment is going to be made yet more difficult."

According to Campbell, the deployment of the weapons was not announced to Parliament.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Provocation Against Tehran
Bush To Brand
Iranian Force As “Terrorist”

Peter Symonds

In a move with ominous implications, the Bush administration, according to articles in yesterday’s New York Times and Washington Post, has resolved to brand the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “specially designated global terrorist” organization. In doing so, Bush will use powers provided under a presidential order signed shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The highly provocative step not only sets the stage for intensified economic pressure on Tehran, but also formalises a potential casus belli for US military action against Iran.

The decision to unilaterally criminalise a major branch of the military of a sovereign nation is unprecedented. The IRGC, which was formed after the 1979 Iranian revolution, has an estimated 125,000 soldiers and other personnel in its land, sea and air forces.

The designation will place the IRGC in the same category as Al Qaeda, Lebanon’s Shiite militia Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups, all of which have been attacked either by the US military or its Israeli allies, and their members detained and tortured as “terrorist” suspects.

The pretext for the move is the unsubstantiated US claim that the IRGC is “interfering” in Iraq and Afghanistan and supporting “terrorist” groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Bush administration and Pentagon officials have been engaged in an escalating propaganda offensive in recent weeks claiming that the IRGC, in particular its elite Quds Force, has been arming, training and directing Shiite militias engaged in attacking US troops in Iraq. Washington further alleges that the IRGC has been assisting the Taliban and other anti-occupation forces in Afghanistan.

Even if one were to accept these allegations at face value, it is the height of hypocrisy for the gangsters of the Bush administration to brand a section of Tehran’s military as terrorist and proscribe it for “meddling” in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries on its border that are occupied by US-led forces. The US military has killed thousands of Afghanis and reduced Iraq to ruins over the past five years. American occupation forces have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, forced millions to flee the country and devastated the physical and social infrastructure. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been rounded up, detained indefinitely without charge and tortured.

No one deserves the designation of “terrorist” more than the Bush administration, which has utilised its vast military superiority to terrorise the Afghan and Iraqi peoples in an effort to stamp out the legitimate opposition to neo-colonial occupation.

The US propaganda against Iran bears an eerie resemblance to the lies used to justify the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. It is a concoction of bald assertions, half-truths and outright falsehoods, all riddled with unexplained contradictions. No evidence has been provided to rebut Iran’s repeated denial of any involvement in supporting Shiite militias in Iraq. No attempt is made to explain why Iran would be arming the Taliban and other Sunni extremists, who regard all Shiites, and the Tehran regime in particular, as heretics to be wiped out.

Iran may very well be providing aid to anti-US Shiite forces in Iraq, but the Bush administration’s suggestions that Tehran is the mastermind behind the Iraqi resistance and is using it to wage a proxy war against America are patently absurd, as are the entirely contradictory claims that the Sunni extremist Al Qaeda is the main source of attacks on US occupation forces and their Iraqi allies. According to the twisted logic of American imperialism, any Iraqis who oppose US domination of their country are, by definition, “anti-Iraqi” agents of external terrorist forces.

While Iranian intelligence agents are undoubtedly active in Iraq, so too are Saudi, Jordanian and other intelligence agencies. Saudi citizens, not Iranians, account for the majority of suicide bombings in Iraq. And while demanding ever tougher sanctions against Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program, the Bush administration has just concluded multi-billion dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Israel and other Middle Eastern allies that can only trigger an arms race in the volatile region.

The immediate effect of branding the IRGC as “specially designated global terrorist” organisation is economic. Any organisation or individual knowingly providing material support to the IRGC would be subject to criminal charges. Any US bank that uncovered IRGC resources would be compelled to hand them over to the Treasury Department.

The main impact would not be inside the US, which has maintained an economic blockade of Iran since 1981 and designated the regime as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984, but against foreign corporations with any relations with the IRGC’s extensive business interests.

According to the Washington Post, the Bush administration is considering unveiling the measure at next month’s session of the UN General Assembly. The timing is calculated to maximise pressure on Russia, China and the European powers to agree to US demands for tough new economic sanctions against Iran.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had already reportedly told European countries that the unilateral measure was necessary due to the delay in a new UN resolution—the result of Chinese and Russian opposition. “Anyone doing business with these people will have to reevaluate their actions immediately,” one US official told the Washington Post. “It removes the excuses for doing business with these people.”

Military confrontation

The purpose of the US move, however, goes far beyond economically penalising Iran and America’s European and Asian rivals, which have huge economic interests at stake. A mad logic is propelling the Bush administration towards a military confrontation with Iran despite the quagmires in which the US military is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having set out through its previous invasions to establish its untrammelled domination over the Middle East and its energy resources, the Bush administration now finds that it has only strengthened Iranian influence in the region by removing two of Tehran’s chief rivals—Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and the Taliban in Kabul.

The IRGC’s “terrorist” designation is one more sign that the internal debate in the White House is shifting in favour of a military adventure against Iran despite its potentially disastrous consequences for US imperialism. Over the past year, Rice’s diplomatic efforts to pressure Iran to bow to US demands have appeared to predominate. But, as the New York Times noted, “in recent months, there has been resurgent debate within the administration about whether the diplomatic path is working, with aides to Vice President Dick Cheney said to be pushing for greater consideration of military operations.”

An article syndicated last week in McClatchy Newspapers reported: “Vice President Dick Cheney several weeks ago proposed launching air strikes at suspected training camps in Iraq run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to two US officials who are involved in Iran policy.” It added: “Cheney, who’s long been skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, argued for military action if hard new evidence emerges of Iran’s complicity in supporting anti-American forces in Iraq: for example, catching a truckload of fighters or weapons crossing into Iraq from Iran, one official said.”

At his press conference last Thursday, President Bush bluntly threatened Iran, declaring: “When we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay.” He also made clear that recent meetings in Baghdad between US and Iranian ambassadors did not involve negotiations, but were to present US ultimatums to Tehran. “One of the main reasons that I asked Ambassador Crocker to meet with Iranians inside Iraq was to send the message that there will be consequences for... people transporting, delivering EFPs [roadside bombs]... that kill Americans in Iraq,” he said.

Bush publicly contradicted Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was visiting Tehran at the time and described Iran’s role in the region as constructive. “Now, if the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart-to-heart with my friend the prime minister, because I don’t believe they are constructive,” he said.

Maliki, whose government is dominated by Shiite parties with longstanding ties to Iran, may well be one of the first casualties of Washington’s sharpening conflict with Tehran. His cabinet has suffered a series of damaging defections in recent months and, amid rumours of a no-confidence motion when parliament resumes next month, Bush has been less than fulsome in publicly supporting his “friend.”

Cheney’s reported call for strikes on IRGC bases inside Iran in the event of the discovery of “a truckload of fighters or weapons” crossing into Iraq recalls comments earlier this year by former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, in which he mooted “a plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran.” In the midst of a scathing denunciation of Bush’s “war on terror” and its deleterious impact on US interests, Brzezinski suggested the following scenario: “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran, culminating in a ‘defensive’ US military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Brzezinski, a man with contacts at the highest levels of the US state apparatus and his own experiences in organising provocations, knows whereof he speaks. It is not difficult to imagine any number of incidents—from the Iranian capture of US sailors to a devastating attack on a US military base—that could be exploited by the Bush administration to whip up an atmosphere of hysteria and jingoism for the purpose of initiating plans that are already in place for a military attack on Iran. In fact, the declaration of the IRGC as a “terrorist” organization, along with the Bush administration’s increasingly inflammatory language, is calculated to incite sections of the Iranian regime to provide just such a pretext.

The Democrats, far from opposing a new war against Iran, have already indicated that they would rapidly fall into line and rubberstamp American aggression. None of the Democratic contenders for the presidency have ruled out the use of military force against Iran.

Significantly, Tom Lantos, Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, yesterday immediately welcomed the Bush administration’s move against the IRGC as the means for keeping Iran and its agencies “from destabilising global security.” While cautiously declaring that “we are far from exhausting all the peaceful options,” he went on to repeat the Bush administration’s litany of accusations against the IRGC, from its alleged involvement in nuclear weapons development to its alleged role in training “terrorists” in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. In the event of a military confrontation, all of the verbal caveats would quickly be torn up—just like the promises to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

With just over a year to the presidential elections, the Bush administration is under few restraints in aggressively pursuing its agenda—including a military attack on Iran as a desperate gamble to fulfill US ambitions to become the predominant power in the resource-rich region. All the signs indicate that it is not so much a question of if, but when US imperialism launches its next criminal war—this time against Iran.

See Also:

US military launches offensive against "Iranian-backed" militia in Iraq[16 August 2007]