Thursday, 31 May 2012

Covert Ops & Washington’s Contingency Plans for North Korea

As the long-standing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang remain enflamed, a media report accusing South Korean and US Special Forces of parachuting into North Korea to spy on underground military facilities has sparked further controversy. Journalist David Axe attended the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Florida, and claims to have heard Army Brigade General Neil Tolley discussing the difficulties of conducting human surveillance operations in North Korea, while speaking in the present tense, referring to current operations. Axe’s story “U.S. Commandos Spy on North Korea” was pulled from The Diplomat, which later posted a clarification suggesting that Tolley was referring to future plans, rather than current operations. Washington has vehemently denied these allegations and has accused Axe of fabricating the quotes. Brigade General Neil Tolley has since reviewed his presentation at the Special Forces Industry Conference and claims that he was “accurately quoted” by David Axe of The Diplomat.

While the details of future US-led reconnaissance operations on North Korean soil remain questionable, Washington’s legal doctrine and policy initiatives toward Pyongyang offer further insight into future US-led directives aimed at ultimately extinguishing the North Korean threat by force. A 2009 policy-paper authored by The Council on Foreign Relations entitled “Preparing for Sudden Change in North Korea” advocates the deployment of up to 460,000 foreign soldiers into a post-regime North Korea to maintain security and capture Pyongyang’s WMDs. The March 2005 “Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations” released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff envisages “contingency plans” for an offensive first strike use of nuclear weapons against both Iran and North Korea, providing the legal framework to carry out pre-emptive nuclear war, both in terms of military planning as well as defense procurement and production; the document cites:

“The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur. Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use.”

Recommended Articles:
Pentagon to Axe: You’re Right, War Is Boring, March 29, 2012 

Clarification on North Korea, The Diplomat, March 29, 2012

Context of the Korean Special Forces Story, War is Boring, March 28, 2012

US, South Korea soldiers parachute into North Korea for spying: Cmdr. PressTV, March 29, 2012

 Nile Bowie is an independent writer and photojournalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; he regularly contributes to Tony Cartalucci's Land Destroyer Report and Professor Michel Chossudovsky's Global Research Twitter: @NileBowie 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Laying the Foundations for Preemptive Nuclear War Against Iran

As prospects for a preemptive strike on Iran remain ever present, the recent round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Baghdad on May 23rd, 2012 have resulted in a familiar stalemate. As a precondition for any deal to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment, Tehran requested immediate relief from economic sanctions as a show of reciprocity [1]. Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili emphasized Tehran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while the P5+1 refused to scale back economic sanctions, insisting Iran suspend its 20% uranium enrichment program [2]. As leaders in Tel Aviv assert that Israel may conduct military strikes against Iran before the US Presidential elections in November [2], Major General Hassan Firouzabadi of the Iranian Armed Forces reiterated Iran’s commitment to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime and the continual support of Palestinian autonomy [3]. Even if Tehran reaches an agreement with the IAEA, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to rule out a military strike against Iranian facilities, demanding that Iran dismantle its uranium enrichment sites and use only imported fuel [4].

Although the recent conference in Baghdad failed to meet the expectations of its participants, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have agreed to hold another round of talks in Moscow on June 18th [5]. As a further indication of division between P5+1 participants, Germany has pledged to work toward a political and diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear energy issues by providing Tehran with technical assistance in developing a peaceful nuclear program [6], while the US Senate recently approved a new round of sanctions against Iran aimed at any country or company that provides technology or resources to develop Tehran’s oil and uranium resources [7]. The new legislation targets Iran’s national oil and tanker firms and widens sanctions on Iran’s energy sector to any international joint venture where Tehran is a substantial partner or investor. As the US continually pressures Beijing to join its oil embargo, the Chinese Foreign Ministry remains vocally opposed to the new package of economic sanctions against Iran [8].

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich blasted the US for imposing new unilateral sanctions against Iran, describing the move as an irrational measure intended to the harm pace of negotiations [9]. India has remained adamant against expanding sanctions on Iran [10], as New Delhi and Tehran agree to increase annual bilateral trade two thirds to $25 billion by 2015, confirming their intent to bypass US sanctions by making payments for a significant portion of its oil purchases from Iran in rupees [11]. As further cooperation between the US and the Persian Gulf monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) remains evident through their unanimous support of Syria’s armed opposition, Saudi Arabia remains a major beneficiary under the continued imposition of sanctions on Tehran from Washington. Japan and South Korea once accounted for 26% of Iran's oil exports [12], now both Seoul [13] and Tokyo [14] have sought stable supplies of crude oil from Saudi Arabia. As South Africa turns to Saudi Arabia after halting business with Iran [15], the kingdom’s crude output is at a thirty-year high [16], as shipments to the United States quietly rise to 25% [17].

As a result of sanctions on Iran, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund predicts that oil prices could spike as much as 30% and hover around $160 per barrel if Iran's crude oil exports fell sharply [18]. As Iranian production hits a ten-year low as of March 2012, industry-wide fears of a recession-fueled fall in demand have prompted the reduction of total world oil production through the imposition of embargoes on Iranian oil; higher prices triggered by a supply squeeze from the sanctions work to further benefit international oil companies and producers like Saudi Arabia [19]. In March 2012, the US granted Japan and 10 EU nations a six-month reprieve to gradually cut their imports of Iranian oil, lest they be subjected to their own financial sanctions and cut off from the US financial system [20]. Under the 2012 US National Defense Authorization Act, Barack Obama can impose financial sanctions on foreign banks that carry out financial transactions with Iran's central bank "for the purchase of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran" [21].

Given the fragile state of the European economy, the further implementation of financial sanctions on nations who fail to comply with the oil embargo on Iran is thoroughly unreasonable, with entirely negative implications for the European Union. Any further escalation of tensions with Iran would likely trigger inflated oil prices, which could further cripple the unstable economies of Greece and Portugal and potentially lead to those nations leaving the European Union. Despite Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi downplaying the negative effects of sanctions [22], inflation is soaring within Iran as the cost of food increases between 25% to 125%, with 60% of the population relying on cash subsidies handed out by Tehran [23]. Iran’s budget deficit for the 2011/2012 fiscal year is expected to be between $30 to $50 billion, as the Iranian rial continues to plunge after the imposition of the oil embargo, causing widespread panic buying of gold among the Iranian public [24].

As commodity prices in Iran continue to skyrocket, former Mossad director Efraim Halevy remarked, “The rial is going down, it's gone down by over 50 percent. It's almost impossible to describe the damage done," while former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami forewarns, "When a national currency loses 50% of its value in a matter of weeks, economic collapse is at hand.” [25][26]. As Iran struggled to replace it’s client base following the imposition of US-led economic sanctions, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spoke before the Israeli cabinet predicting the collapse of the Iranian economy [27]. Haaretz reports the remarks of an unnamed senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, "These aren't sanctions against Iran. Instead, they are sanctions imposed by the West to curb Israel's attack plans, had Israel not spoken out about its intention to attack, none of this would be happening. The Iranians are frightened. You have to understand what's going on there in stores; citizens grab food off the shelves because they are worried about an impending attack. Inflation is soaring and the currency has lost half its value. All this attests to fear." [28]

As the black market in Iran expands amid an increasing lack of public confidence in the rial, the role of the state is indirectly strengthened because smuggling imports requires strong connections within the regime, leaving the poor and lower middle class susceptible to poverty while the officials being targeted by sanctions themselves benefit from the embargo [29]. The fact that Obama administration chose to preemptively impose sanctions on Iran before the P5+1 meeting in Baghdad even took place indicates that the objective of US-Israeli policy toward Iran seeks not mutual agreement and reconciliation, but the further perpetuation of conflict to ensure that the question of Iran’s nuclear energy issue remains unsolved. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the scope for sanctions over Iran's nuclear program had been exhausted and any additional measures were intended to provoke discontent in the Iranian population [30].

As the United States and its allies offer unflinching support to armed opposition groups under cover of “democratic activism” in non-acquiescent countries in the region, any popular revolution in Iran would unquestionably be supported and used to pressure the government from within, even using the opportunity to launch an armed opposition insurrection. An articled published in The New Yorker by Seymour M. Hersh entitled, “Our Men in Iran?,” documents how members of Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group and US State Department-listed terrorist organization, were trained in communications, cryptography, small-unit tactics and weaponry by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at a base in Nevada starting in 2005 [31]. JSOC instructed MEK operatives on how to penetrate major Iranian communications systems, allowing the group to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran for the purpose of sharing them with American intelligence. The group has been implicated in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists [32] and the planting of the Stuxnet malware that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz [33].

MEK was founded in 1965 as a Marxist Islamic mass political movement aimed at agitating the monarchy of the US-backed Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The group initially sided with revolutionary clerics led by Ayatollah Khomeini following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but eventually turned away from the regime during a power struggle that resulted in the group waging urban guerilla warfare against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1981. The organization was later given refuge by Saddam Hussein and mounted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory, killing an estimated 17,000 Iranian nationals in the process [34]. MEK exists as the main component of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a “coalition of democratic Iranian organizations, groups and personalities,” calling itself a "parliament-in-exile” seeking to “establish a democratic, secular and coalition government” in Iran [35]. Following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, UN special representative in Iraq Martin Kobler organized efforts to relocate MEK insurgents to a former US military base near the Baghdad airport, with the full support of the US Embassy in Iraq and the State Department to avoid violent clashes between the MEK and the Shiite-led Iraqi government [36].

MEK has long received material assistance from Israel, who assisted the organization with broadcasting into Iran from their political base in Paris, while the MEK and NCRI have reportedly provided the United States with intelligence on Iran's nuclear program. Despite the documented cases of atrocities committed by MEK forces, elder statesmen such as former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley K. Clark, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former 9/11 Commission Chairman Lee Hamilton were paid $20,000 to $30,000 per engagement to endorse the removal of the Mujahideen-e Khalq from the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations [37]. NBC News reports that Israel provided financing, training and arms to Mujahideen-e Khalq, who are responsible for killing five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 using motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars [38]. A recent investigation by the US Treasury Department has indicated that Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization is financially sponsored by the Israeli regime and Saudi Arabia [39].

Upon launching a war against Iran, aggressor nations would likely utilize MEK forces as opposition insurgents and could even recognize the touted “parliament-in-exile”, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, as Iran’s legitimate representative, much like the how the Friends of Syria group has recognized the opposition Syrian National Council [40]. From her political base in Paris, exiled NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi is a strong candidate for Western support in contrast to internal opposition figures such as Mir-Hossein Mousavi, former Iranian Prime Minister turned political reformist and figurehead of the Green Movement demonstrations in 2009 following the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in elections widely perceived as a fraudulent [41]. Although Mousavi has advocated greater personal freedoms in Iran and the disbanding of religious police enforcers, he is a strong advocate of Iran’s nuclear energy program and would likely never yield the kind of acquiescence to Western policy that exiled figures such as Maryam Rajavi would uphold in exchange for political support and material assistance [42]. It is widely believed that Mousavi is currently held under house arrest without an arrest warrant, charge or trial [43].

While figures such as Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi publically renounce nuclear weapons [44], Iranian scientists claim to be enriching uranium to 20% to develop radiopharmaceuticals and industrial isotopes under the supervision of the IAEA inspectors [45]. On October 1, 2010, the IAEA proposed a deal according to which Iran would send 3.5% enriched uranium abroad and receive 20% enriched uranium from potential suppliers in return, namely France and the United States, who Tehran accused of stalling negotiations from the start [46]. Tehran was offered a deal at a time when its supplies of 20% enriched uranium were nearly depleted, however Iranian lawmakers rejected the deal after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, while suppliers had announced that they would not return fuel to Iran in any time less than seven months [47].

Iran has made efforts to ensure the transparency of its nuclear program by allowing IAEA probes to inspect Iranian sites such as the Parchin military complex where the agency has reported suspicious activities in the past [48]. The IAEA’s recent discovery of traces of uranium enriched up to 27% at Iran's Fordo enrichment plant sparked controversy, although the enrichment figure is still substantially below the 90% level needed to make the fissile core required in nuclear arms; officials conceded that the likely explanation for the increased level of enrichment was attributed to centrifuges initially over-enriching at the start as technicians adjusted their output [49]. It should be noted that former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Hans Blix has challenged the IAEA’s own reports on Iran’s nuclear activities, accusing the agency of relying on unverified intelligence from the US and Israel [50]; the IAEA’s most recent report cited Tehran's progress toward enrichment technology with complete cooperation with the agency and confirms the non-weaponized status of Iranian nuclear activities [51].

Clinton Bastin, former director of US nuclear weapons production programs, has sent an open letter to President Obama regarding the status of Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons [52]. Bastin reiterates, “The ultimate product of Iran's gas centrifuge facilities would be highly enriched uranium hexafluoride, a gas that cannot be used to make a weapon. Converting the gas to metal, fabricating components and assembling them with high explosives using dangerous and difficult technology that has never been used in Iran would take many years after a diversion of three tons of low enriched uranium gas from fully safeguarded inventories. The resulting weapon, if intended for delivery by missile, would have a yield equivalent to that of a kiloton of conventional high explosives” [53]. The US-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has recently released claims that Iran’s total production of enriched uranium over the past five years would be enough for at least five nuclear weapons stating, "This total amount of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride, if further enriched to weapon grade, is enough to make over five nuclear weapons." [54]

Bastin’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program further emphasizes the impracticality of weaponizing the hexafluoride product of Tehran’s gas-centrifuges, as the resulting deterrent would yield the equivalent explosive capacity equal to a kiloton of conventional explosives, producing a highly inefficient nuclear weapon. If Iran chose to produce nuclear weapons in this way, it would take several years to reach the 90% enrichment levels needed for a nuclear deterrent; Iran has complied with the IAEA and the United Nations on this issue and there is no substantial evidence indicating that Tehran has any intention of enriching uranium to 90% for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons. On March 23rd, 2012, Reuters released a special report entitled, “Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent”, concluding that the United States, its European allies and even Israel agree that Tehran does not have a bomb, it has not decided to build one, and it is years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead [55]. As the West continually implements an unyielding regime of sanctions against Iran when they themselves acknowledge the civilian nature of the Iranian nuclear program, the overwhelming motive behind their actions to pressure Iran into full-scale war on an unprecedented scale is self-evident.

The United States has produced more than 70,000 nuclear weapons between 1951 and 1998 [56], while Israel possess a nuclear weapons stockpile ranging from 75 to 400 warheads [57]. While the hazardous ramifications of Iran’s nuclear development pervade public consciousness, the fact that US legal doctrine has worked to further blur the line between conventional and nuclear warfare remains rarely acknowledged. The March 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff envisages “contingency plans” for an offensive first strike use of nuclear weapons against both Iran and North Korea, providing the legal mandate to carry out pre-emptive nuclear war, both in terms of military planning as well as defense procurement and production [58] The 2002 adoption of the Pentagon’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review by the US Congress marked the cease of prohibition on low yield nuclear weapons and provided funding allocations to pursue the development of tactical nuclear weapons, such as bunker buster (earth penetrator) mini-nukes [59].

The revised Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (March 2005) envisaged five scenarios where “the use of nuclear weapons might be requested,” namely, “to attack adversary installations including weapons of mass destruction, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons, or the command and control infrastructure required for the adversary to execute a WMD attack against the United States or its friends and allies” and “to counter potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces”. The doctrine further cites, “Responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today. The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur. Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use” [60].

The possibility of nuclear strikes against Iran pose staggeringly frightening implications for the human family, as the very nations crying foul about the danger of nuclear weapons have prepared the legal infrastructure to use them against others, preemptively. While trust towards the Iranian regime remains questionable among segments of the Iranian population and the international community, Tehran has complied with the IAEA and no evidence exists to implicate Iran with constructing a nuclear weapon. While the fiery rhetoric of Iranian and Israeli officials remains entirely counterproductive, Tel Aviv has shown the least initiative to constructively partake in diplomacy with Iran, as top Israeli officials refuse to even meet with US envoy to the P5+1, Wendy Sherman, who reportedly was sent to Tel Aviv to "reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security" [61]. As Israel aggressively employs an apartheid policy domestically, nuclear-armed Tel Aviv boasts its right to strike Iran without consent from any other nation [62]. As our species approaches the increasingly dangerous crossroads of the 21st Century, nations such as Germany, Russia, India and China must utilize their collective influence and technology to mediate this impending security crisis in the Middle East.

Although Iran has asserted its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology as a signatory to the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, its uranium-based fuel has wrought negative and inaccurate accusations regarding Tehran’s intentions to weaponize. To ensure the further deflection of erroneous accusations, Iran can truly make an example of itself by phasing out uranium-based nuclear technology and shifting to a liquid fuel based on molten-fluoride salts used in Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) nuclear technology powered by thorium, an obscure, mildly radioactive metal produced as a waste product from the mining of rare earth minerals. Thorium is plentiful, easily accessible and energy dense, a metric ton produces as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, or 3,500,000 tons of coal [63]. Thorium-based reactors consume their own hazardous waste and would serve Iran’s internal needs far more effectively than its current technology. As a nuclear fuel, thorium is both cleaner and safer than uranium and produces benign alpha radiation, unable to even penetrate skin [64].

The governments of China [65] and India [66] have expressed great interest in further developing thorium molten-salt reactor technology. Iran holds 9% of the world’s oil reserves and 17% of its natural gas reserves; the abundant supply of fossil fuel resources has indirectly discouraged the pursuit of alternative renewable energy sources [67]. Iran has enormous potential as a producer of geothermal energy, particularly in the provinces of Azerbaijan and Tehran [68]. There is no shortage of solutions to the current problems faced by the international community in its efforts to oversee peaceful energy technology in Iran. China, Germany and India could share their growing technical expertise with Iran to develop energy solutions that can never be used as a pretext for external military strikes. No credible basis exists to warrant the implementation of economic sanctions against Iran, which are ostensibly in place to coax social unrest and collapse the Iranian economy.

For all the belligerence exuded by the current Iranian regime, the unwavering aggression it receives from outside forces does nothing to offer the people of Iran any tangible solutions to better themselves and their standard of living. Although the further application of sanctions will inevitably have damaging effects on Tehran, inflated oil price fluctuations have the potential to fracture the fledging austerity-states of the European Union. The failure of emerging markets to adhere to full embargoes on Iran once they come into effect would send a strong message to the architects of such disastrous policy. As nations such as China and Russia acknowledge the imbalanced nature of power in the Security Council and the aggressive stance of the United States and Israel, these nations can best utilize their power by offering technological and diplomatic solutions to avert the detrimental social, economic and spiritual consequences of war.

[1] Iran accuses world powers of creating 'difficult atmosphere' in nuclear talks, Haaretz, May 24, 2012

[2] Iran claims ‘undeniable right’ to enrich Uranium: new talks, same deadlock, Russia Today, May 25, 2012

[3] Israel takes back promise to Obama not to attack Iran before the election, Russia Today, May 24, 2012

[4] Top Commander Reiterates Iran's Commitment to Full Annihilation of Israel, FARS, May 20, 2012

[5] Deal or no deal, Iran may be bombed – Israeli minister, Russia Today, May 23, 2012

[6] Germany Ready to Find Diplomatic Solution to Iran's N. Issue, FARS, May 25, 2012

[7] US Senate approves sanctions against Iran, New Straits Times, May 22, 2012

[8] China slams new US sanctions against Iran, PressTV, May 23, 2012

[9] Moscow Raps US New Sanctions against Iran as Irrational Move, FARS, May 25, 2012

[10] India against more sanctions on Iran, The Hindu, February 11, 2012

[11] India, Iran look at $25 billion trade by 2015, The Economic Times, March 12, 2012

[12] Japan to reduce oil imports, BBC, January 12, 2012

[13] Saudi oil minister pledges Seoul stable crude supply, The Korea Herald, February 3, 2012

[14] Japan to seek stable oil supply from Saudi Arabia, Reuters, May 7, 2012

[15] South Africa Engen buys Saudi crude to replace Iranian supplies, Al Arabiya, May 9, 2012

[16] Saudi Arabia says kingdom pumping 10 million bpd, the most in 5 months, Al Arabiya, May 8, 2012

[17] Exclusive: Iran sanctions seen spurring more Saudi oil sales to U.S. Reuters, March 16, 2012

[18] Iran: Meetings with IAEA Head Paves Way for Negotiations with 5+1, FARS, May 24, 2012

[19] Turkey cuts 20% of oil purchases from Iran, Financial Times, March 30, 2012

[20] U.S. exempts 11 states from Iran sanctions; China, India exposed, Reuters, March 21, 2012

[21] Ibid

[22] Iranian Minister Blames EU Sanctions for Hike in Oil Prices, FARS, March 25, 2012

[23] No One Can Afford Another Round of Iran Sanctions, OilPrice, May 21, 2012

[24] Iran raises interest rate on bank deposits, Financial Times, January 27, 2012

[25] Warning Iran, and lacerating Mitt Romney, a former Mossad chief steps out of the shadows, The Times of Israel, March 28, 2012

[26] Iran’s Nuclear Grass Eaters, Project Syndicate, April 4, 2012

[27] Steinitz: SWIFT sanctions may lead to Iran's economic collapse, YNET News, March 18, 2012

[28] Israeli threats of attack sparked new wave of Iran sanctions, officials say, Haaretz, March 16, 2012

[29] Iran’s Middle Class on Edge as World Presses In, The New York Times, February 6, 2012

[30] Q&A: Iran sanctions, BBC, February 6, 2012

[31] Our Men in Iran? The New Yorker, April 6, 2012

[32] Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran's nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News, MSNBC, February 9, 2012

[33] Stuxnet Loaded by Iran Double Agents, ISSSource, April 11, 2012

[34] Moqtada Sadr Reiterates Iraqis' Demand for Expulsion of MKO Terrorists, Fars News Agency, September 19, 2011

[35] About the National Council of Resistance of Iran, The National Council of Resistance of Iran, 2010

[36] Are the MEK’s U.S. friends its worst enemies? Foreign Policy, March 8, 2012

[37] Mujahideen-e Khalq: Former U.S. Officials Make Millions Advocating For Terrorist Organization, Huffington Post, August 8, 2011

[38] Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran's nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News, MSNBC, February 9, 2012

[39] Israel funds terrorist MKO: Investigation, PressTV, May 24, 2012

[40] Friends of Syria recognize SNC as 'legitimate representative', Russia Today, April 1, 2012

[41] Iran's supreme leader orders investigation into claims of vote fraud, Xinhua, June 15, 2009

[42] Iran's presidential candidates, BBC, June 12, 2009

[43] Iran: Further information: Opposition leaders arbitrarily held, Amnesty International, 2011

[44] Iran: We do not want nuclear weapons, The Washington Post, April 13, 2012

[45] Iranian Experts Place Fuel Plates into Heart of Tehran Research Reactor, FARS, May 23, 2012

[46] Ibid

[47] Ibid

[48] UN nuclear chief: Deal reached on Iran probe, Russia Today, May 22, 2012

[49] Traces of uranium enriched to higher than previous levels found at Iran site, Haaretz, May 25, 2012

[50] Blix: US, Israel source most of IAEA allegations, PressTV, March 25, 2012

[51] Envoy: UN Atomic Report Endorses Peaceful Nature of Iran's N. Activities, FARS, May 26, 2012

[52] Iran has a Nuclear Power, Not a Weapons Program, 21st Century & Technology, December 2, 2011

[53] Top US Nuclear Expert Tells Obama: There Is No Weapons Threat From Iran, LaRouche Pac, February 25, 2012

[54] 'Iran has enough enriched uranium for 5 nuclear bombs' The Times of India, May 26, 2012

[55] SPECIAL REPORT-Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent, Reuters, March 23, 2012

[56] 50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons, Brookings Institute, August 1998

[57] Nuclear Weapons - Israel, Federation of American Scientists, January 8, 2007

[58] Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff, March 2005

[59] Ibid

[60] Ibid

[61] U.S. sends senior envoy to Israel to brief government on Iran nuclear talks, Haaretz, May 25, 2012

[62] Bad news unwelcome: Israel refuses to listen to US envoy’s report on Iran, Russia Today, May 26, 2012

[63] How Iran can have nuclear power and the world can have peace, Russia Today, May 07, 2012

[64] Thorium: How to save Europe’s nuclear revival, Centre for European Reform, June 2011

[65] India plans 'safer' nuclear plant powered by thorium, The Guardian, November 1, 2011

[67] Renewable energy in Iran: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable development, International Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, Spring 2004

[68] Status of Geothermal Energy in Iran, 19th World Energy Congress, September 2004

 Nile Bowie is an independent writer and photojournalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; he regularly contributes to Tony Cartalucci's Land Destroyer Report and Professor Michel Chossudovsky's Global Research Twitter: @NileBowie 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal: Assessments & Perspectives

The historic verdict recently reached by Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal substantiates long-held accusations that the treatment of detainees held by the US military in Bagram, Guantanamo and Abu Gharib constitutes torture as understood and accepted by international law. The tribunal heard disturbing witness accounts from victims who suffered irreparable harm and injury at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, including testimony from Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee and Jameelah Abbas Hameedi, an Iraqi woman who was tortured in the infamous Abu Ghraib facility. At the end of the week-long hearing, the five-panel tribunal unanimously delivered guilty verdicts against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their key legal advisors, who were all convicted of war crimes for their authorization of torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Convention on torture 1949, the Convention against Torture 1984, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the US Constitution itself.

Although the Malaysian War Crimes Tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to prosecute the accused, the findings of the judiciary in Kuala Lumpur, along with a record of the tribunal’s proceedings, will be sent to the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the Security Council. While the verdicts of the War Crimes Tribunal cite highly documented and definite evidence indicting former Bush administration officials of war crimes, dwindling public confidence in institutions such as the International Criminal Court can be attributed to their failure to recognize these, and other conclusions reached by independent judiciaries. Practitioners of the alternative media and concerned individuals must do their part to publicize the findings of the Malaysian tribunal, to ensure that further momentum is gained toward the successful prosecution of those responsible for the unpardonable offenses described by former detainees. As the Obama administration continues to employ inhumane tactics of preemptive warfare in various regions of the world, the verdict reached by the tribunal remains a casually ignored reminder of the human cost attributed to increasingly aggressive American foreign policy. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Carnage & Crisis Aversion in the Sudan

By Nile Bowie

Following the United Nations’ recent approval of Resolution 2046 threatening the nations of Sudan and South Sudan with sanctions [1], the success of international attempts at conflict aversion in the region appear to be in question. Hostilities between the two nations have climaxed since South Sudanese forces captured the region of Heglig, an oil-producing site 70 kilometers into Sudanese territory [2]. South Sudanese forces have also maintained a presence in the long disputed border region of Abyei in Southern Kordofan, where Juba has recently vowed to withdraw its personnel from [3]. Although Khartoum has agreed to comply with the United Nations resolution, it has vowed to continue military operations against South Sudan’s troops as long as they remain within the territory of Sudan, “Sudan has declared its commitment to a United Nations resolution calling for an end to military operations, but the other side’s troops still remain on our territory; they have occupied two districts and have not stopped their hostile actions” [4].

As Juba denies Khartoum’s claims of occupying Sudanese territory, South Sudan’s newly released official map includes the Heglig region and six areas that are “contested and occupied” by Khartoum [5]. Amid the escalating regional tension, China has recently offered South Sudan an $8 billion development package set to allocate funds for road construction, hydropower, infrastructure and agricultural projects following South Sudanese President Salva Kiir’s visit to Beijing [6]. China has traditionally been a key partner to the government in Khartoum, but has steadily increased its influence in South Sudan since its independence in 2011, primarily through investments via state-owned Chinese oil companies China National Petroleum and Sinopec. As inflation rates in Sudan reportedly rise to 21% following increased military expenditure since clashes erupted with Juba in late March 2012 [7], China’s extensive economic engagement in the region offers the leverage needed to potentially play the role of a mediator in the Sudanese conflict.  

The emergence of South Sudan as an independent state came at a heavy price for Khartoum, as an estimated 85% of the country’s oil production came under Juba’s control. Although South Sudan holds a majority of oil reserves, Juba has relied on the Greater Nile Oil Pipeline for its oil exports, a pipeline operated by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) extending to Port Sudan on the Red Sea via Khartoum [8]. Under a barrage of economic sanctions, Khartoum sought to implement oil transit fees for the use of the Greater Nile Oil Pipeline, by charging Juba around $36 per barrel; Juba holds over $11 billion in oil transit debt and has refused the figures proposed by Khartoum, prompting Juba to suspend its oil production [9]. Juba has accused its northern neighbor of launching air strikes on its territories, while both sides also accuse each other of backing rebel militia, claims that Khartoum has denied [10]. Following the fiery rhetoric espoused by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir describing Juba’s ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement as “insects,” Bashir now concedes, "We look with wisdom and foresight to well-established relations between us and the people of South Sudan" [11].

As a climate of uncertainty persists beneath irresponsibly bellicose exchanges, the implementation of a campaign to unseat Omar al-Bashir and bring down the government in Khartoum has long been underway. A recent Op-Ed published in The New York Times by Dr. GĂ©rard Prunier entitled “In Sudan, Give War a Chance” reflects a predominately Western political school of thought which favors the prospect of full scale war to bring about regime change in Sudan. Prunier laments, “The international community has called for a cease-fire and peace talks, but the return of violence is not necessarily a bad thing,” before concluding “an all-out civil war in Sudan may be the best way to permanently oust Mr. Bashir and minimize casualties” [12]. Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity conducted in Sudan’s western Darfur region; ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of keeping millions of refugees in an environment resembling a “gigantic Auschwitz” [13].

Violence and infighting in Sudan has traditionally been a product of tension along ethnic lines, more so than religious differences. Although the modern Sudanese state has been divided along ethno-religious lines with the religiously Islamic and ethnically Arab government in Khartoum split from the ethnically African and religiously Christian government in Juba, tribal minorities such as the ethnically African and religiously Islamic Fur and Zaghawa groups in Sudan’s western Darfur region have long demanded reparations for the marginalization they’ve experienced from Khartoum [14]. In a recent report issued by Amnesty International entitled “Sudan: No End to Violence in Darfur,” the organization attributes China, former Soviet Union countries and Belarus for selling arms to the Government of Sudan. Amnesty International’s report omits any mention of Israel, who has reportedly provided heavy military logistical support to the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Darfur's most powerful armed rebel group [15].

Although the United Nations does not recognize the conduct of the Sudanese government in Darfur as “genocide” [16], mass media campaigns publicizing the alleged violence in Sudan have been embraced by celebrity personalities such as George Clooney. TIME magazine warns of the increased prospects for genocide in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains region, as rebels affiliated with South Sudan’s ex-rebel militia, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) take up arms against Khartoum once again [17]. Clooney has recently partnered with John Prendergast of The Enough Project to produce a promotional video depicting ethnic Nuba villagers displaying English language placards calling for the establishment of a “No-Fly Zone” and the prosecution of Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court [18]. The Enough Project was co-founded by US State Department Distinguished Service Award recipient John Prendergast and launched in 2007 under the Center for American Progress [19], an organization sponsored by billionaire investor George Soros and Peter Lewis of Progressive, a Fortune 500 insurance company, among others [20]. John Podesta, who heads the Podesta Group, a Washington lobbying firm representing the interests of weapon-manufacturers Lockheed Martin and oil conglomerates such as British Petroleum [21], also chairs the Center for American Progress [22].

In 2006, the Sudanese government barred 20,000 UN troops from running peacekeeping operations in Darfur, as then-Presidential Advisor Mustafa Osman Ismail argued that the UN mandate’s goal was the implementation of "regime change" in Khartoum [23]. The sources of weaponry and covert assistance received by rebel groups in Sudan are rarely a subject of speculation among religious and political organizations who have long supported the international campaign to pressure Sudan. In 2007, the American Jewish World Service and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum launched a “Save Darfur” coalition, which gained the support of adherents to intervention in Iraq, such as right-wing evangelical Christian groups and major organizational affiliates of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) [24]. According to The Jerusalem Post, the Save Darfur coalition launched a high-profile advertising campaign that included full-page newspaper ads, television spots and billboards calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Darfur with financial assistance the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, United Jewish Communities, UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs [25]. 

While the blame for violence in Sudan is laid squarely on Khartoum's shoulders, Israeli-led foreign elements have contributed to the training, financing, and arming of rebel militias and forces opposed to the Sudanese government within Sudan. Since 1969, Israel has reportedly trained recruits, shipped weapons, and offered support to South Sudanese SPLA rebels [26]. Prior to South Sudan’s independence, Israel relied primarily on a flight route to Entebbe, Uganda to supply SPLA with weapons [27], however Tel Aviv now transfers missiles, military equipment, and even mercenaries to Juba quite openly [28]. As Israel covertly operates in East Africa immune from international criticism following their bombing of Sudanese convoys in 2009 [29], the influence of Israeli think tanks such as The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS) toward the creation of AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, remains a significant indication of the foreign policy directives being taken by Tel Aviv and Washington in Africa [30].

The Sudan exists as sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil producer with over 6.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves [31]; an estimated 85% of those reserves have been ordained to Juba, in the Republic of South Sudan [32]. As China exists as Sudan’s largest trading partner by purchasing 40% of Sudan’s oil with the excess majority largely designated to Asian markets [33], reordering and monopolizing Sudan’s vast oil fields and mineral wealth is the capital incentive behind the unwavering support for the secession of South Sudan shown by US, EU, and Israeli officials. Members of the Sudanese opposition and various rebel separatist groups often visit Tel Aviv, Sudan’s main SPLA opposition even opened an office in Israel to promote its “policies and vision” in the region [34]. In reflection of Israel’s active support for the Southern opposition, South Sudanese citizens were seen waving Israeli flags during their Independence celebrations in July 2011 [35]. For the likely guarantee of support, the South Sudanese government in Juba applied for IMF membership in April 2011 before it had even officially gained independence from Sudan [36].

As Israel and Washington offer their support to the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur and various rebel militias opposed to the Sudanese government, China’s interests in the region come under direct attack from these very rebel groups, most prominently in JEM’s October 2007 attack on the Greater Nile Petroleum Company in Defra, Kordofan [37]. The World Bank has recently warned that South Sudan may collapse by its two-year anniversary, due to the ramifications of halting production of at least 75% of the regional oil in frustration with Khartoum's claims on oil-transit debt and revenue [38]. Apparently, authorities in Juba are either unprepared politically for independence or lacking the appropriate guidance to effectively manage its internal affairs. In a recent meeting between Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping and Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti, China urged the warring neighbors to settle their differences and negotiate [39].

As China would prefer to align with its traditional approach of non-interventionist diplomacy, Beijing has an opportunity to exploit its influence in the region to not only further its own interests, but to defer criticism from parties loyal to Washington who credit China with sponsoring bloodshed through its business interests [40] and political positions [41]. By pursuing the role of a mediator, China can preserve its interests by overseeing negotiations on trade regulations, citizens rights, demarcation and territory status between the neighboring Sudans’. As Juba depends on oil exports for 98% of its income [42], it must negotiate with Khartoum to settle its debts and agree on a mutual per-barrel fee for its use of the Greater Nile Oil Pipeline, as construction of a new pipeline from oil fields in South Sudan to a theoretical end point at the Kenyan port of Mombasa would take years to construct. While the current US Vice President Joseph Biden once called on the US to exert military force against Sudan [43], it remains crucial for the leaders of both Sudanese nation states to come to an agreement regarding the status of the Heglig region and other disputed areas claimed by both sides, lest peacekeeping forces internationally administer these contested zones.

Any attempts at imposing an arms embargo throughout the Sudan would be entirely disregarded by both sides, which are already adequately armed. While attempts to rally public support behind Western intervention in Sudan rely on emphasizing the human rights violations of Khartoum, claims of 6,000 people being slaughtered by Gaddafi used to justify NATO intervention in Libya remain unverified [44]. Given the distinct ethno-religious differences of South Sudanese society and long history of striving for autonomy, their existence as a nation state is warranted. It is irresponsible to deny both Khartoum’s unwarranted and brutal treatment of civilians within its territory and the US-Israeli policy of inflaming national and regional antagonisms in Sudan by arming rebel militias, to the benefit of corporations seeking to control and develop oil fields and mineral deposits. 

While the allied powers in Washington and Tel Aviv would prefer to advocate aggressive policy to ensure against the survival of the regime in Khartoum, the institutional influence of Russia and China in the UNSC provides an opportunity for emerging powers to exert an alternative model of non-aggressive crisis aversion. China may thinly support future economic sanctions on the Sudans in hesitation to involve itself in the domestic issues of other nations, however Beijing could best exercise its influence by urging Khartoum to meet with tribal leaders to guarantee a ceasefire and develop a true federal system that would allow for local autonomy. As the Sudanese leadership in Khartoum projects itself as an Islamic nation, it should recall the final great address of the Islamic Prophet at Mount Arafat, who called for the rejection of social distinctions based on ethnicity and color.

[3] South Sudan police to withdraw from Abyei, Sudan Tribune, April 29, 2012
[4] Sudan refuses to stop fighting with South Sudan, Russia Today, May 5, 2012
[6] China 'offers South Sudan $8bn for projects', Al Jazeera, April 29, 2012
[7] Sudan inflation up by 21% in Q1 2012, Sudan Tribune, May 4, 2012
[8] Focus on diplomacy and Sudan, APS Diplomat News Service, August 15, 2008
[9] Sudan inflation up by 21% in Q1 2012, Sudan Tribune, May 4, 2012
[10] Bashir says wants warm relations with South Sudanese, Chicago Tribune, May 6, 2012
[11] Ibid
[12] In Sudan, Give War a Chance, The New York Times, May 4, 2012
[13] Omar al-Bashir charged with Darfur genocide, The Guardian, July 10, 2010
[14] The Peoples of Darfur, Cultural Survival, 2010
[15] Sudan: Israel arming Darfur rebels, PressTV, February 2, 2009
[16] U.N. report: Darfur not genocide, CNN, February 1, 2005
[19] About Us, Enough Project, 2012
[20] John Podesta, Shepherd of a Government in Exile, The New York Times, November 6, 2008
[21] Hired Guns: The City's 50 Top Lobbyists, Washingtonian, June 1, 2007
[22] John Podesta, Center for American Progress, 2012
[23] Sudan says AU can stay in Darfur but not under UN, Sudan Tribune, September 4, 2006
[24] Darfur Advocacy Group Undergoes a Shake-Up, The New York Times, June 2, 2007
[25] US Jews leading Darfur rally planning, The Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2006
[26] Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Global Security, 2012
[29] U.S. Officials say Israel Struck Sudan, The New York Times, March 26, 2009
[30] AFRICOM: Control of Africa, VoltaireNet, 2012
[31] BP Statistical Review of World Energy, British Petroleum, June, 2008
[32] The secession of South Sudan, Tehran Times, July 11, 2011
[33] Oil for China, Guns for Darfur, BusinessWeek, March 14, 2008
[36] South Sudan formally applies for IMF membership, Sudan Tribune, April 21, 2011
[37] Darfur rebels spurn Chinese force, BBC, November 2007
[38] South Sudan Experiment Headed Toward Failure, OilPrice, May 08, 2012
[39] China / Politics   Xi pushes for Sudanese talks, China Daily, February 29, 2012
[40] China defends arms sales to Sudan, BBC, February 22, 2008
[42] Juba could face blackout in days - minister, Sudan Tribune, March 29, 2012
[43] Biden calls for military force in Darfur, MSNBC, April 11, 2007
[44] Israel and Libya: Preparing Africa for the “Clash of Civilizations,” Centre for Research on Globalization, October 11, 2011

 Nile Bowie is an independent writer and photojournalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; he regularly contributes to Tony Cartalucci's Land Destroyer Report and Professor Michel Chossudovsky's Global Research Twitter: @NileBowie