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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How Will a Culture of Permanent War Impact America's Future? (Doug Bandow) Cato

"The world today is an unruly mess. But Neocons are more responsible than anyone else for America being stuck in the chaos. Embarrassed at the havoc they have wreaked, they blame President Obama for every problem big and small. However, he is a worthy successor to the Neocon-friendly Bush. If there's anyone who can't be blamed for the status quo, it is libertarians.

We are living in The Neocon Moment, a testament to the foolishness and arrogance of those who believe themselves to be engineers of peoples, societies, and nations. Yet Washington officials have yet to tire of America's permanent state of war. Only when the American people insist that politicians make peace, not war, will The Libertarian Moment finally arrive.

Those who oppose a deal can be expected to step up their efforts to kill off the talks, with potentially drastic consequences

Iran nuclear talks extension raises risk of cataclysmic failure 

 Those who oppose a deal can be expected to step up their efforts to kill off the talks, with potentially drastic consequences 

Monday 24 November 2014 10.20 EST


 The longer the international standoff over Iran’s suspect nuclear programme continues, the more dangerous and volatile the situation becomes. All seven countries involved in Monday’s last-gasp negotiations in Vienna understood this, which is why they strove so hard and so long to forge a comprehensive agreement. 

 By extending the talks again they have avoided a total collapse, but they have also raised the stakes, ensuring that failure, if that is what eventually transpires, will be all the more cataclysmic. 

 The governments and leaders favouring a deal did not exactly lose in Vienna, but it is clear who came out ahead – the conservative rejectionists and clerical last-ditchers who dominate Tehran’s political establishment, parliament and media; the mostly Republican hardliners in the US congress who oppose an agreement at any price; Israel’s leadership and the Gulf Arab monarchies, who distrust everything Tehran says; and Islamist Sunni extremists in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, who exploit differences between Shia Iran and the west to pursue their vicious hegemonist fantasies. 

 Negotiators representing the Obama administration, Britain and European governments can justifiably claim important progress has been made in narrowing gaps in the nine months that followed last year’s interim agreement. Of greater significance, however, is the sense that a window briefly opened after the 2013 election of the centrist Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president is closing, and that a unique opportunity for a historic rapprochement has been, or is about to be missed. 

 Those opposing a deal can now be expected to intensify their efforts to kill the extended talks, while simultaneously blaming supposed Iranian intransigence and bad faith, and the naivety of Barack Obama and other western leaders, for the failure to achieve a breakthrough. Their argument is that a safe, sustainable and effective nuclear deal with Iran was always an impossible dream, and the latest failure to agree simply proves that contention. 

 “This camp believes that a deal, should it be reached, will enshrine Iran’s right to a nuclear programme in international law – an idea it finds an anathema,” said analyst Jeffrey Goldberg. “It thinks that Iran, once sanctions are lifted, will rebuild its economy and then ignore its nuclear obligations. 

It believes that the Iranian government is probably already cheating and obfuscating in its effort to go nuclear, and will redouble these efforts once a deal is signed. This group thinks that sanctions, combined with the credible threat of force, are the only means to keep Iran from going nuclear.” The alternative could be worse, Goldberg said: “The collapse of negotiations could move Iran and the west quickly towards confrontation that could end in disaster, and could set Iran on the fast and steady path to the nuclear threshold. 

There are no fail-safe choices here.” The possible negative consequences of a continuing impasse or total collapse of the negotiations include the following:

 • The newly installed and Republican-controlled US congress, which takes office in January, could impose a new tranche of sanctions. The push for new measures, tightening financial and economic curbs on Iran and targeting its links with Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, would be as much about domestic US politics as international policy as battle-lines are drawn with the much-weakened Obama administration ahead of the 2016 presidential election 
 • The pressure inside Iran to replace Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s west-friendly foreign minister, and other members of Tehran’s negotiating team as part of a larger effort to undermine Rouhani by his conservative opponents could become irresistible. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cannot be expected to protect Rouhani. His support for the talks has always been lukewarm. In such circumstances, Iran could even withdraw previous concessions and harden its stance on its “nuclear rights”, enrichment and cooperation with the IAEA 
 • Increased sanctions-busting, principally by China, which is Iran’s largest oil customer, and Russia, which has agreed to build a new generation of nuclear reactors in Iran. A senior Iranian official was quoted this month as saying that Tehran could play the “eastern” card. “We have always had good relations with Russia and China. Naturally, if the nuclear talks fail, we will increase our cooperation with our friends and will provide them more opportunities in Iran’s high-potential market,” the official said. “We share common views [with Russia and China] on many issues, including Syria and Iraq.” Such a scenario would destroy the UN security council consensus on Iran policy 
 • Israeli military action against Iran, egged on by US neo-conservatives and the Gulf Arab monarchies, principally Saudi Arabia, becomes more likely the longer the impasse continues. Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has distracted attention from the Palestinian question by using the spectre of a nuclear-armed Iran to rally domestic opinion and silence foreign critics. Obama has warned him off, but he reserves the right to take matters into his own hands in the interests of Israel’s security 
 • Any Israeli military action against supposed Iranian nuclear targets, however limited, could quickly suck in the Saudis and US forces in Bahrain, which might become the object of Iranian retaliation. Any such confrontation could also see Iran attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off western oil supplies and threatening a new global economic crisis 
 • The longer the negotiating process continues without results, the less likely that benefits accruing from a breakthrough will materialise. Such benefits potentially include the opening of Iran’s vast domestic market of 76 million people to western products, trade, travel and investment, the emergence of Iran as an alternative to Russia as a major oil and gas supplier to Europe, cooperation with the west in addressing regional problems such as Islamic State terrorism and the Syrian civil war, an exemplary success for international nuclear non-proliferation efforts, a prospective liberalisation of Iranian society and an end to Iran’s deeply damaging 35-year political, cultural and human isolation.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Netanyahu takes the steps to officiate the Apartheid State of Israel


Israeli cabinet approves legislation defining nation-state of Jewish people 

Opponents say proposed law would reserve ‘national rights’ for Jews and not for minorities that make up 20% of population 

Binyamin Netanyahu The Israeli PM, Binyamin Netanyahu, argues the law is needed because the notion of Israel as a Jewish homeland was being challenged. 

Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem Sunday 23 November 2014 14.08 EST 


 A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character. Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language. Arab Muslims and Christians make up 20% of Israel’s population. The cabinet passed the bill by a 14-7 majority after reports of rancorous exchanges during the meeting, including between the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and his justice minister, Tzipi Livni. 

The bill, which still requires the Knesset’s approval to become a law, comes as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians rise sharply, and friction within Israel’s Arab minority grows. Opponents include two of the more centrist parties in Netanyahu’s fragile coalition - which say the bill is being pushed through with forthcoming primaries in the prime minster’s rightwing Likud party in mind - and senior government officials including the attorney general. 

According to many critics, the new wording would weaken the wording of Israel’s declaration of independence, which states that the new state would “be based on the principles of liberty, justice and freedom expressed by the prophets of Israel [and] affirm complete social and political equality for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender”. 

Among those to voice their opposition was the finance minister, Yair Lapid, who said he had spoken to the family of Zidan Saif, a Druze policeman killed in last week’s deadly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. “What will we tell his family? That he is a second-class citizen in the state of Israel because someone has primaries in the Likud?” he asked. 

Netanyahu argued that the law was necessary because people were challenging the notion of Israel as a Jewish homeland. “There are many who are challenging Israel’s character as the national state of the Jewish people. The Palestinians refuse to recognise this and there is also opposition from within. “There are those, including those who deny our national rights, who would like to establish autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev. “Neither do I understand those who are calling for two states for two peoples but who also oppose anchoring this in law. They are pleased to recognise a Palestinian national state but strongly oppose a Jewish national state.” 

According to reports in the Hebrew media, the attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, has also expressed concern, shared by some ministers, that the new law would effectively give greater emphasis to Israel’s Jewish character at the expense of its democratic nature. A number of Israeli basic laws use the term “Jewish and democratic”, giving equal weight to both. The new law would enshrine only the Jewish character of the state. 

Netanyahu appeared to confirm that there would be differential rights for Israeli Jews and other minorities. He said that while all could enjoy equal civil rights, “there are national rights only for the Jewish people - a flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel and other national symbols.” 

Cabinet ministers, including Netanyahu, separately proposed stripping Palestinian attackers of their residency rights in occupied East Jerusalem in response to a wave of deadly violence. “It cannot be that those who harm Israel, those who call for the destruction of the state of Israel, will enjoy rights like social security,” Netanyahu said, adding that the measure would complement house demolitions and serve as a deterrent. 

Critics, however, have condemned the measures as racist said that they could further escalate tensions. 

The cabinet met as fresh reports of continuing violence emerged. In Gaza, the Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces had shot dead a Palestinian on Sunday, the first such fatality since a 50-day Gaza war ended in August. In the West Bank, a Palestinian home was torched on Sunday. No one was hurt in the fire, which gutted the home in the village of Khirbet Abu Falah near Ramallah, local residents said. “The settlers came here and they hit the door, but I refused to open,” said Huda Hamaiel, who owns the house. She said they then broke a terrace window and hurled a petrol bomb inside. “Death to Arabs” and another slogan calling for revenge were also painted on the walls of Hamaiel’s home, hallmarks of Jewish extremists’ so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinian dwellings and mosques and Christian church property.

Failure to reach a nuclear deal will drive Iran into Russia’s arms

As relations between the US and Russia deteriorate, Tehran has the scope to become an evermore decisive and divisive factor
  • By Ariane Tabatabai
  • Published: 20:00 November 22, 2014 Gulf News
Tehran and Moscow, facing similar political and economic pressures from the West, have developed strong ties since the Islamic Revolution. More recently, as relations between the US and Moscow have soured, the links have only intensified. But for Tehran, closer ties to Moscow are not so much a choice as the only viable option — and in the run-up to the deadline for a comprehensive international deal on the Iranian nuclear programme, Moscow’s influence looms dangerously large. Decisions made in the next few days by the US, China, France, the UK and Russia, plus Germany (the “P5+1”) and Iran, will determine whether that remains the case.
In fact, Iran’s interests today, as in the past, overlap more with those of the US than either side is willing to admit. It is true that since the 1979 revolution turned Iran from Washington’s ally to one of its most vocal opponents, Moscow has stepped into the void. The two countries co-operate on strategic matters including energy, technology, aerospace, defence and trade.
Moscow provides military equipment Iran cannot procure from the West, and also assists in civilian arenas. It is Iran’s sole nuclear partner, supplying technology and fuel. It stepped in when the West left the Bushehr nuclear power plant unfinished after the revolution. The two countries have recently concluded a deal to construct two further plants. US and Iranian interests are aligned in much of the Middle East. Yet in a number of areas they are unwilling to co-operate. As Tehran engages with the world powers on its nuclear dossier, domestic politics allow little scope also to co-operate openly with the West on regional security issues. For Washington, domestic constituencies such as a Republican-controlled Congress — and regional allies including Israel and Saudi Arabia — are expressing concern at the idea of the US striking a “bad deal” in order to tackle the issue of Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in co-operation with Iran.
Meanwhile, Tehran and Moscow are creating an axis of their own, and co-operating to push Daesh back. They have begun co-operating in Iraq. They are also on the same team — that of President Bashar Al Assad — on the Syrian civil war. They pledged at the 2014 Caspian Sea Summit not to let foreign powers intervene in the region, limiting Nato’s ability to deploy forces. Subsequently they conducted joint military drills in the area. To overcome sanctions, they are developing a plan to replace the US dollar with their national currencies in bilateral trade.
Iran is not forging closer ties with Russia because it believes Moscow is a viable, trustworthy partner, however. During the pro-reform protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, the revolutionary slogan “death to America” gave way to “death to Russia”, reflecting frustration at substandard technology believed to be endangering lives. Tehran’s insistence on developing indigenous nuclear technology and becoming self-sufficient stems from this. Iranians believe their country can neither meet its needs on the global market nor rely on Russia. This isolation has left Tehran no option but to turn to Moscow. And, as relations between the US and Russia have deteriorated, the state has the scope to become an evermore decisive and divisive factor. Failure to reach a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, and to lay the path for more normal economic and political relations with the world, would propel Tehran into Moscow’s arms. It would foster an even more powerful Russian-Iranian axis. This would be worrying for opponents of a deal on Capitol Hill, most of whom also do not want Russian influence to grow. By blocking the way to a deal, they could facilitate and accelerate what they want to prevent.
— Financial Times 
Ariane Tabatabai is an associate with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.