Category Archives: POLITICS

Newt repeats ‘second Holocaust’ warning!

By ALEXANDER BURNS |

1/27/12 11:40 AM EST

Newt Gingrich is standing by his warning that an Iranian nuclear weapon could cause a “second Holocaust.”

At a press conference here in Miami, a reporter noted to Gingrich that he was on the cover of casino mogul and Gingrich super PAC backer Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom. The headline declared that President Barack Obama’s policies could lead to another genocide against the Jews.

Asked if he would disavow that kind of rhetoric, Gingrich shrugged: “It’s probably my rhetoric.”

“I have said allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons … runs the direct risk of a second Holocaust. That is a fact,” Gingrich said.

However Jewish voters in Florida respond to his rhetoric, Gingrich’s most important audience for this kind of question is almost certainly Adelson, who has directed $10 million to the pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future.

Gingrich is scheduled to address a rally of the Republican Jewish Coalition — another organization Adelson supports — elsewhere in Florida this afternoon.

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The Consequences of a Strike on Iran: The IRGC Navy

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) is an integral component of Iranian defensive strategy and its forces are expected to be key players in any Iranian retaliatory strategy should the US attack Iranian nuclear facilities. IRGC-N doctrine is based on “access-denial” of the strategically vital Straits of Hormuz through which almost a third of all seaborne oil passes and could include directly targeting US warships, attacking merchant shipping, mining and attempting to close the Straits of Hormuz, as well as attacking various energy and strategic installations in and around the Persian Gulf. The net effort of IRGC-N forces is likely to impact global energy security but Iran is unlikely to be able to close the Straits of Hormuz, particularly for any extended period of time.

Iran has two navies – the Shah-era conventional Iranian Navy (IRIN) – and the IRGC-N, which emerged as an independent entity in the 1980s and came of age during the Iran-Iraq War with successful amphibious operations in southern Iraq. Following post-Revolution mistrust of all Shah-era military formations, the IRGC-N was promoted and today wields substantial influence with the Supreme Leader as well as with influential defense, government and clerical figures, as a result of which it has primacy in resource and funding allocations, and has acquired several new platforms and capabilities even as the IRIN fleet ages. Especially after the Tanker Wars of the late 1980s, Iranian strategic planners appear to have concluded that in the event of large-scale hostilities, Iran’s larger conventional fleet would be of limited use (during Operation Praying Mantis in 1988, US forces destroyed over 25 percent of Iran’s larger naval ships in one day) and as such have restructured their forces to wage asymmetric naval guerrilla warfare. This fleet is expected to be far more lethal than IRIN could hope to be and is now entrusted with “full responsibility” for operations in the critical Persian Gulf. The IRIN is now relegated to the Gulf of Oman and the Caspian Sea.

The IRGC-N seeks to operate at the lower end of the conflict spectrum and exploit vulnerabilities in the larger conventional forces of its US and Gulf Arab enemies. IRGC commander Brigadier General Jafaari explicitly stated, “The enemy is far more advanced technologically than we are, we have been using what is called asymmetric warfare methods… our forces are now well prepared for it.” The IRGC-N operates a sizable fleet of small boats, small submarines, mine-laying units, anti-ship missiles, and naval infantry units to conduct naval guerilla war. It will likely rely upon its “mosaic defense” strategy to decentralize its command and control apparatuses and allow operational zones to operate autonomously. IRGC soldiers and sailors are also generally expected to be more ideologically committed than regular forces and could even be used to conduct suicide attacks.

Iran is generally believed to be a rational player that recognizes the consequences of full-scale engagement with the US – not least of which is the effect on Iran’s 87 percent of imports and 99 percent of exports that transit by sea, most through the Straits of Hormuz. Iran has also generally abstained from escalating conflict in the Gulf beyond limited engagements, although has shown a willingness to engage in brinksmanship. In March 2007, IRGC-N forces captured 15 British marines for several days for ‘entering sovereign Iranian waters’ and Iranian small boats have occasionally harassed and provoked US warships. One such incident in 2008 may have been designed to test US rules of engagement and involved IRGC-N boats making threatening maneuvers as well as a radio transmission that stated, “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes.” It remains difficult to distinguish between Iranian rhetoric and reality, but the IRGC-N has carried out several wargames in recent years, and Iranian officials have sometimes threatened to close the Straits of Hormuz in the aftermath of tensions with the US.

Organizational Structure
The IRGC-N is under the command of Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, who was appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei in May 2010, to replace Rear Admiral Morteza Saffari. The Persian Gulf is divided into four main areas of responsibility.

District
Key Base, Location
Area of Responsibility
Commanding Officer
1st Naval District
Shahid Bahonar, Bandar Abbas
Straits of Hormuz
Reza Torabi
2nd Naval District
Shahid Mahalati, Bandar Bushehr
Central Persian Gulf
Ali Razmjou
3rd Naval District
N/A, Mahshahr
Northern Persian Gulf
Taghipour-Rezaei
4th Naval District
N/A, Babolsar
Caspian Sea
Seifolah Bakhtiarvand

Operating Bases
Click on the placemarks in the map for information on each base

The IRGC-N maintains operational control over the Persian Gulf and maintains several bases along the Persian Gulf as seen in the map below. The IRGC-N has also expanded its bases along the Sea of Oman towards the Pakistani border, moving outside its regional competency to potentially extend its “layered defense strategy” outside the Straits of Hormuz.

View IRGC Naval Bases in a larger map

Small Boat “Swarming” Attacks

The IRGC-N has prioritized the use of small missile-equipped craft to implement “swarming” tactics against warships and merchant shipping in the narrow Persian Gulf. Given US conventional superiority and air dominance, the IRGC-N is likely to have dispensed with ‘mass swarming’ tactics in favor of ‘dispersed swarming’ where highly agile small craft converge from various concealed bases to surprise and attack targets. Swarming is a crude but potentially effective asymmetric tactic to overwhelm superior conventional forces, particularly if coupled with effective anti-ship missiles. In a 2002 US Navy simulation “sunk” 16 ships including an aircraft carrier while copying Iranian asymmetric capabilities. Since then, obviously this need has been recognized, and amongst other changes, the US’s new Littoral Combat Ships are designed for precisely such encounters. In naval wargames, Iran often highlights its small-boat capacity.

The IRGCN operates a sizable fleet of small but heavily armed boats. These include the Azaraksh (China Cat) and Thondar (Hudong) fast-attack missile craft armed with the Kowsar and C-802 anti-ship missiles (ASM), the North-Korean acquired Peykaap I and II (IPS-16/IPS-16 modified) and Tir (IPS-18) missile boats, as well as patrol craft the Ashura, Tareq and Boghammer speedboats. The C-802 ASM is the same missile used to destroy an Israeli corvette during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Iran is also unveiling new lines of high-speed and “stealth” boats including the Ya Mahdi, Seraj and Zolfaghar craft and in a daring international scheme Iran acquired and intends to mass produce the Bladerunner-51, the world’s fastest speedboat.

Iranian small boats have obvious disadvantages and on their own are highly vulnerable to US firepower. Surprise will be their most important asset for any successful confrontation, a requirement acknowledged by the IRGCN. Many vessels are designed to be capable of being “launched discreetly…off the back of a flatbed truck under cover of darkness, during high tide without any special accommodations.” Many are dispersed along “small inlets, small fishing ports and hardened sites,” and the IRGC is believed to have a presence on many islands and coastal villages along the Persian Gulf.

Mining Operations

Iranian mine-laying craft Iran Ajr captured by US Navy in Sep. 1987
Iran operates multiple platforms capable of mining the Straits of Hormuz including at least three ships with dedicated mine-laying capabilities, three RH-53D Sea Stallion mine-laying helicopters, as well as the option of adapting virtually any other small boat, disguised fishing trawler or larger missile craft for the purpose of deploying mines. Submarines, particularly the Ghadir midget-class submarines are also ideal for mine-laying operations in the shallow coastal waters of the Persian Gulf. The Iranian stockpile is believed to consist of between 3,000-5,000 mines acquired from Russian, Chinese and North Korean sources, as well as developed indigenously notably the Chinese EM-11 and EM-52 and the Russian-made M-08, M-26 and MDM-6.

US and Gulf surveillance and naval capabilities make prolonged mine-laying operations exceeding difficult, but the possibility of mine-laying boats escaping undetected is not unlikely. Iran operates dhows disguised as fishing vessels in addition to regular craft, making detection difficult, and during the Tanker Wars of 1987-98, IRGC-N boats were able to lay 12 mines right in the path of Kuwaiti supertanker MV Bridgeton, while in visual range of escorting US navy warships.

Additionally, even a limited mine-laying operation would be economically costly. STRATFOR notes that even a 10 percent chance of a mine strike would entail the need to clear a Q-route, which could take a week or more, a substantial amount of time and disruption to energy flows and maritime insurance costs. Moreover, given the density of traffic transiting the Straits, it is possible that even a cleared route would restrict normal tanker traffic.

Amphibious Raiding

Iran’s amphibious raiding strategy would seek to replicate its successful operations in the southern Iraqi marshlands during the Iran-Iraq War to attack oil terminals, merchant ships and other strategic targets. Amphibious assaults would be highly vulnerable to US/Gulf military superiority, but Iran has made concerted efforts to deploy frogmen far out into the Gulf. The IRGC-N now maintains a brigade strength contingent of about 5,000 Iranian Marines, a large underwater training center at Bandar Abbas and the largest amphibious fleet amongst its Arab neighbors, barring the U.A.E. The IRGCN has modified logistics ships to deploy frogmen and sought to disguise its ships to resemble normal commercial traffic. Iran has also experimented with submersible-delivery vehicles including the Ghadir midget submarine, which contains provisions for mounting a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV).

Iranian Admiral Sajjad Kouchaki claimed that Iran has “1,500 special operation teams” with 23 landing ships and vessels, which all told could in theory transport a few thousands troops and tens of tanks. Iran also operates about 5 M-171 helicopters and could utilize civilian craft to move troops. In general, however, aside from intercepting merchant ships or attacking lightly defended areas in surprise attacks, Iran naval infantry forces are ill-equipped to move amphibious forces across the Gulf in combined operations.

“Static Warships” and Coastal Missile Batteries

The IRGC-N has geography to its advantage and is able to use the many islands dotting the Persian Gulf to create a crescent of shore-based missile batteries that ring the Straits of Hormuz. On these islands, a variety of anti-ship and ballistic missiles platforms are located using extensive networks of tunnels and underground missile bunkers that create “static warships” with which to attack enemy forces. In theory, the US could face a formidable threat with “several dozen batteries and several hundred anti-ship cruise missiles spread across an area roughly the size of Kosovo.” In reality, however, the IRGC-N may suffer from maintenance and training deficiencies, whereas US surveillance and countermeasure capabilities continue to improve.

Iranian coastal defense systems are armed with a variety of anti-ship missiles of varying sources and capabilities including but not limited to variants of the Chinese-made Silkworm (the HY-2 and HY-2G Seersucker), and the C-801 Sardine (Raad) and C-802 Saccade (Noor) missile based off the French Exocet missile. Iranian missiles have been adapted to several platforms including truck-mounted batteries, and it is not always easily apparent which service branch maintains operational control over specific coastal batteries. Some missiles are capable of hitting Gulf Arab ports, especially if forward-deployed on island chains.

Anonymous downs government, music industry sites in largest attack ever

Published: 20 January, 2012, 01:48
Edited: 20 January, 2012, 05:13

BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

TRENDS:SOPA

TAGS: LawInternetInformation Technology,USA

 

Hacktivists with the collective Anonymous are waging an attack on the website for the White House after successfully breaking the sites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America.

In response to today’s federal raid on the file sharing service Megaupload, hackers with the online collective Anonymous have broken the websites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA, Motion Picture Association of America and Warner Music Group.

“It was in retaliation for Megaupload, as was the concurrent attack on Justice.org,” Anonymous operative Barrett Brown tells RT on Thursday afternoon.

Only hours before the DoJ and Universal sites went down, news broke that Megaupload, a massive file sharing site with a reported 50 million daily users, was taken down by federal agents. Four people linked to Megaupload were arrested in New Zealand and an international crackdown led agents to serving at least 20 search warrants across the globe.

The latest of sites to fall is FBI.gov, which finally broke at around 7:40 pm EST Thursday evening.

Less than an hour after the DoJ and Universal sites came down, the website for the RIAA, or Recording Industry Association of America, went offline as well. Shortly before 6 p.m EST, the government’s Copyright.gov site went down as well. Thirty minutes later came the site for BMI, or Broadcast Music, Inc, the licensing organization that represents some of the biggest names in music.

Also on Thursday, MPAA.org returned an error as Anonymous hacktivists managed to bring down the website for the Motion Picture Association of America. The group, headed by former senator Chris Dodd, is an adamant supporter of both PIPA and SOPA legislation.

Universal Music Group, or UMG, is the largest record company in the United States and under its umbrella are the labels Interscope-Geffen-A&M, the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group and Mercury Records.

Brown adds that “more is coming” and Anonymous-aligned hacktivists are pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.”

Although many members of Congress have just this week changed their stance on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, the raid on Megaupload Thursday proved that the feds don’t need SOPA or its sister legislation, PIPA, in order to pose a blow to the Web.

Brown adds that operatives involved in the project will use an “experimental campaign” and search engine optimization techniques “whereby to forever saddle some of these congressmen with their record on this issue.”

As Powers Maneuver, Israel Says No Decision Yet to Attack Iran

JERUSALEM — Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel said on Wednesday that any decision on attacking Iran because of its nuclear program was “very far off,” apparently seeking to lower the tone of increasingly nervous discourse as powers maneuver in advance of European moves to intensify sanctions against Tehran.
Related

 

Iran Tightens Its Security for Scientists After Killing (January 18, 2012)

“Iran will fight to the death to protect its history and culture. Any war in Iran will make the Iraq war look like a romp in the park.”
James, St. Paul, MN.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia renewed his country’s aversion to sanctions and military threats against Tehran, while Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran said his country was ready to resume negotiations with the outside powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — trying to broker a settlement.

Mr. Salehi said during a visit to Turkey on Wednesday that negotiations were under way about the venue and date, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, and that the talks “will most probably be held in Istanbul.”

The previous negotiations — also in Istanbul — broke off a year ago when Iran presented its own set of preconditions, including a lifting of sanctions, that the West considered unacceptable.

Mr. Salehi made similar remarks about a resumption of the talks during a visit to Tehran two weeks ago by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, and some European officials have interpreted his remarks as an effort to buy time just days before European foreign ministers are to meet next week to discuss possible measures to curb Iran’s critical oil exports.

Speaking at an annual news conference in Moscow, Mr. Lavrov took issue with Western policy on Iran, saying a military strike would be a “disaster.”

He said sanctions now being proposed against Tehran had been couched in terms of nuclear nonproliferation but were “seriously intended to have a smothering effect on the Iranian economy and the Iranian population, probably in the hopes of provoking discontent.”

Mr. Barak was speaking in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio at time of high tension following the assassination on Jan. 11 of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy director of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site — an act blamed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday as the work of “the evil hands of arrogance and Zionist agents.” On Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered stricter security to protect Iranian scientists from what some experts have portrayed as a covert war against Iran’s nuclear program.

After the assassination, Israel’s leaders maintained a customary, cryptic silence while the White House condemned it and vigorously denied any responsibility. At least five Iranian scientists with nuclear connections have been killed since 2007.

Tehran says its uranium enrichment efforts are for peaceful civilian purposes, but that assertion jars increasingly with Western insistence, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iranian scientists have been working toward building nuclear weapons.

Twisting the spiral of regional tension, Israel has been pressing for more aggressive and immediate American-led sanctions against Iran while the Iranians have threatened to shut off the Strait of Hormuz, the maritime conduit for a fifth of the world’s oil.

Mr. Barak’s remarks also came ahead of an imminent visit to Israel by the American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. Israeli media commentators have suggested that General Dempsey was coming in part to warn Israel against going it alone in striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Mr. Barak denied that suggestion, saying that military chiefs “are concerned with formulating different military options and bringing their views to the political leadership, and don’t deal with delivering diplomatic messages.”

Still, efforts seem to be under way on both sides to reduce regional anxieties.

Israel and the United States agreed this week to postpone major joint missile-defense exercises that had been scheduled for the spring. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, cited “diplomatic and regional reasons, the tensions and instability,” as factors in the delay.

In the interview with Army Radio on Wednesday Mr. Barak reiterated the Israeli assessment that Iran has not started building nuclear weapons.

“The Iranians have not ended the oversight exercised by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said, adding, “They have not done that because they know that that would constitute proof of the military nature of their nuclear program and that would provoke stronger international sanctions or other types of action against their country.”

The official Islamic Republic News Agency confirmed on Tuesday that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency would visit Iran for three days starting Jan. 29.

Israel has kept open the possibility of military action against Iran, saying that a credible threat is necessary to back up the sanctions effort.

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Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, Ellen Barry from Moscow and Alan Cowell from London.

Another great link: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/atomic_weapons/index.html

The Mossad Vs. Ahmadinejad?

While most Israelis see covert war as the preferred method for stopping Iranian nukes, some question its effectiveness.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Joshua Mitnick Israel Correspondent

Tel Aviv — “Everyone knows that we’re behind this and we should be proud!”
The comment appeared on the Facebook page of the Israeli Defense Forces’ chief spokesperson following the assassination last week of an Iranian nuclear scientist. Despite the usual silence from Israeli officials, the quip reflected the widely held consensus that Israel’s Mossad was responsible for the hit.
Amid accusations abroad that the killing represents state-sponsored terrorism and the realization that such actions won’t necessarily stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the covert war is still seen the preferred method among many Israelis for fighting Tehran.
“Covert action definitely has an impact; the question is, how much,” said Ephraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “I am sure it slows [Iran] down. There were forecasts of them finishing much sooner. So far we’ve done rather well.”
The speculation comes amid heightened concern that Iran could reach the point of obtaining a nuclear weapon in the next year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told an Israeli parliamentary committee that Western sanctions on Iran would not be sufficient to stop its nuclear quest. On Tuesday, an Israeli general told reporters that a nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel against Hamas and Hezbollah.
The tension has escalated concern that Israel might decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear targets. But such an attack would not take the form of the one-and-out attacks on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear installations, say experts.
Because Iran’s nuclear program is highly dispersed at various sites around the country, an effective attack could likely last more than two weeks, said Uri Dromi, a former government spokesperson and air force pilot. Even then, it is not at all certain that Israel has the capacity to deal a fatal blow to the Iranian nuclear program, Dromi said.
In lieu of a high-risk attack on Iran, undercover sabotage is seen by many Israelis as the next best means of staving off the nuclear threat.
“If Israel indeed [killed the Iranian scientist], this is part of a clandestine war, fought in a pinpoint way with minimal losses to deny Iran a nuclear weapon,” said Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad official and a former head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. “From the Israeli standpoint, what is the alternative … all-out war? The fact is that Iran is the only country in the world that openly calls for Israel’s destruction, and is at the same time hard at work creating weapons of mass destruction.”
To be sure, a minority of experts disputed the effectiveness of the assassination campaign.
“There’s only one benefit — it might frighten scientists in the nuclear project, and they might take more counter measures,” said Ephraim Kam, a political science professor at Tel Aviv University. “I’m not sure there’s much other benefit. How many can you kill? I’m not sure it’s a very efficient way to stop the nuclear project.”
Meir Javedanfar, Tel Aviv-based Iran analyst, said that assassination of nuclear staff would not prompt Iran from altering its plans. However, he argued that the bite of crippling economic sanctions could produce an improvement because it threatens the rule of the Islamic regime.
Avner Cohen, an Israeli nuclear expert at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, wrote in Haaretz that the Israeli public doesn’t question the campaign because to do so would be seen as traitorous. He speculated that the covert campaign would harden the resolve of the Iranians to proceed with their efforts, however.
“It’s very possible that the damage of such assassinations are much larger than the utility,” he said.
Inbar was one of the few Israeli analysts to openly speculate that Israel probably had a hand in the assassination. He said the killing is reminiscent of Israeli efforts in decades past to sabotage weapons programs of enemy states, such as Egypt’s missile development program in the 1960s and the Iraqi nuclear project in the ‘70s.
More recently Israel is believed to have been behind the assassination of top Hamas and Hezbollah chiefs.
Inbar said that the current covert war, which is thought to include bombings of military installations and cyber-sabotage, was spearheaded by the recently resigned chief of the Mossad, Meir Dagan.
“We don’t have a clear address for the responsibility for the covert actions in Iran, but I don’t think you need to be too imaginative to realize that there are only a few security services that have such a capability.”
A total of four Iranian scientists have been assassinated in two years, and a fifth escaped a botched attempt. Over the same period, computers managing the enrichment efforts have been paralyzed by two software viruses. In recent months, three explosions have sown destruction at Iranian military sites believed to be linked to the nuclear program.
Iran vowed to take revenge for the assassinations. On Friday, Thai authorities arrested two Lebanese men who were allegedly part of a Hezbollah plot to attack Israeli tourists in Bangkok, prompting travel warnings from both the U.S. and Israel.
On Monday, an Israeli parliamentary committee reviewed attack preparedness at Israeli and Jewish sites around the globe. Reflecting the government’s policy of ambiguity surrounding covert attacks, Committee Chairman Danny Danon declined to acknowledge a link between heightened level of alert and the Tehran assassination.
Still, such a campaign is rooted in Israel’s aversion to inaction in the face of threats, and the willingness to take bold risks to overcome them. Acting preemptively to seize the advantage is a motif that stretches back through most of Israel’s military and political history.
The impulse to be proactive is also rooted in a psyche shaped by the trauma of helplessness during the Holocaust, said analysts.
“If there’s something that Israelis don’t like, it’s the feeling of being helpless,” said Dromi. Facing grave threats, he said, “You don’t just sit there.”

Iran’s nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered!

Killing our enemies abroad is just state-sponsored terror – whatever euphemism western leaders like to use!

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

Eurozone’s ‘big bazooka’ bail-Out fund is left in tatters by S&P downgrade

Plans for a €1 trillion “big bazooka” to stem the debt crisis were crushed on Monday night as Standard & Poor’s stripped the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) of its AAA credit rating.

Eurozone's 'big bazooka' bail-out fund is left in tatters by S&P downgrade

S&P said the EFSF’s rating would be cut again if member states’ creditworthiness eroded further. Photo: RPStudio / Alamy

10:37PM GMT 16 Jan 2012

The EFSF, which is tasked with supporting indebted countries, was itself hobbled as S&P gave it a AA+ rating, reflecting the downgrade of France and eight other eurozone countries on Friday.

As the standoff with Greece’s creditors continued and Italy pleaded for help to reduce the cost of borrowing, S&P said the EFSF’s rating would be cut again if member states’ creditworthiness eroded further.

Leaders appeared to abandon hopes for the EFSF and turned their focus on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) instead. Herman van Rompuy, co-president of the European Union, said he would assess the size of the ESM “without delay” and ensure it is operational by July.

Klaus Regling, chief executive of the EFSF, said the fund would have “sufficient means to fulfil its commitments under current and potential future adjustment programmes until the ESM becomes operational in July 2012”.

S&P was severely criticised across the eurozone, even before the EFSF decision was announced. Olli Rehn, an EU Commissioner, said ratings agencies are the tools of “American financial capitalism”.

Wolfgang Schauble, Germany’s finance minister, said rating agencies’ influence should be curbed and insisted German guarantees for the EFSF were sufficient. The governor of the Bank of France, Christian Noyer, said S&P’s mass downgrades “constitutes an additional challenge”.

A bigger hurdle was emerging as Greece’s international creditors warned that crucial talks would not resume without “progress” from Athens and the troika, made up of the nternational Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank (ECB) and EU.

Private holders of Greek bonds are thought to have urged Germany and France to use their weight to persuade troika officials to relax their demands.

Charles Dallara, director of the Institute of International Finance (IIF) who is negotiating on behalf of creditors, has argued that bondholders will accept 50pc losses on their debt but not artificially low coupons on new Greek paper. Efforts to reach a deal, which Greece must do to avert default in March, were suspended on Friday.

Frank Vogl, a spokesman for Mr Dallara, said: “Charles has a plan to go back to Athens but that depends on further progress from official parties that can lead to an agreement.”

The euro fell to an 11-year low against the yen and a 17-month low against the dollar. Stockmarkets rose marginally after a successful sale of French Treasury bills but the Paris faces a bigger test at a bond auction on Thursday.

A summit between Germany, France and Italy, scheduled for Friday in Rome, has been postponed until February.

Stresses in the European banking sector were shown by a record €493bn of deposits being parked with the ECB on Friday night. Latest figures showed that the central bank also bought €3.766bn of eurozone bonds last week, up from €1.104bn the previous week.

U.S. wants to ‘close down the Central Bank of Iran’ over nuclear concerns

WASHINGTON — The latest round of American sanctions are aimed at shutting down Iran’s central bank, a senior U.S. official said Thursday, spelling out that intention directly for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We do need to close down the Central Bank of Iran (CBI),” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity, while adding that the United States is moving quickly to implement the sanctions, signed into law last month.

The sanctions, broadly aimed at forcing Tehran to shift course on its nuclear program, targeted Iran’s crucial oil sector and required foreign firms to make a choice between doing business with Iran or the United States.

 

Foreign central banks that deal with the Iranian central bank on oil transactions could also face similar restrictions under the new law, which has sparked fears of damage to U.S. ties with nations like Russia and China.

“If a correspondent bank of a U.S. bank wants to do business with us and they’re doing business with CBI or other designated Iranian banks… then they’re going to get in trouble with us,” the US official said.

The measures were contained in a mammoth $662-billion defence bill, which President Barak Obama signed on December 31 at a time of rising tension with Tehran, which has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz — through which more than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes.

The United States has warned it will “not tolerate” such an interruption.

There are fears that increased sanctions on Iran’s central bank could force the global price of oil to suddenly soar, and actually give Tehran a financial windfall on its existing oil sales.

Rising oil prices could also crimp the fragile economic recovery in the United States and inflict pain on American voters in gas stations — at a time when Obama is running for reelection next year.

AFP

Full-Blown Civil War Erupts On Wall Street – Financial Elite Start Turning On Each Other

By David DeGraw – ampedstatus.org

Finally, after trillions in fraudulent activity, trillions in bailouts, trillions in printed money, billions in political bribing and billions in bonuses, the criminal cartel members on Wall Street are beginning to get what they deserve. As the Eurozone is coming apart at the seams and as the US economy grinds to a halt, the financial elite are starting to turn on each other. The lawsuits are piling up fast. Here’s an extensive roundup:

Time to put your Big Bank shorts on! Get ready for a run… The chickens are coming home to roost… The Global Banking Cartel’s crimes are being exposed left & right… Prepare for Shock & Awe…

Well, well… here’s your Shock & Awe:

First up, this shockingly huge $196 billion lawsuit just filed against 17 major banks on behalf of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Bank of America is severely exposed in this lawsuit. As the parent company of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch they are on the hook for $57.4 billion. JP Morgan is next in the line of fire with $33 billion. And many death spiraling European banks are facing billions in losses as well.

FHA Files a $196 Billion Lawsuit Against 17 Banks

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as conservator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), today filed lawsuits against 17 financial institutions, certain of their officers and various unaffiliated lead underwriters. The suits allege violations of federal securities laws and common law in the sale of residential private-label mortgage-backed securities (PLS) to the Enterprises.

Complaints have been filed against the following lead defendants, in alphabetical order:

1. Ally Financial Inc. f/k/a GMAC, LLC – $6 billion
2. Bank of America Corporation – $6 billion
3. Barclays Bank PLC – $4.9 billion
4. Citigroup, Inc. – $3.5 billion
5. Countrywide Financial Corporation -$26.6 billion
6. Credit Suisse Holdings (USA), Inc. – $14.1 billion
7. Deutsche Bank AG – $14.2 billion
8. First Horizon National Corporation – $883 million
9. General Electric Company – $549 million
10. Goldman Sachs & Co. – $11.1 billion
11. HSBC North America Holdings, Inc. – $6.2 billion
12. JPMorgan Chase & Co. – $33 billion
13. Merrill Lynch & Co. / First Franklin Financial Corp. – $24.8 billion
14. Morgan Stanley – $10.6 billion
15. Nomura Holding America Inc. – $2 billion
16. The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC – $30.4 billion
17. Société Générale – $1.3 billion

These complaints were filed in federal or state court in New York or the federal court in Connecticut. The complaints seek damages and civil penalties under the Securities Act of 1933, similar in content to the complaint FHFA filed against UBS Americas, Inc. on July 27, 2011. In addition, each complaint seeks compensatory damages for negligent misrepresentation. Certain complaints also allege state securities law violations or common law fraud. [read full FHFA release]

You can read the suits filed against each individual bank here. For some more information read Bloomberg: BofA, JPMorgan Among 17 Banks Sued by U.S. for $196 Billion. Noticeably absent from the list of companies being sued is Wells Fargo.

And the suits just keep coming…

BofA sued over $1.75 billion Countrywide mortgage pool

Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) was sued by the trustee of a $1.75 billion mortgage pool, which seeks to force the bank to buy back the underlying loans because of alleged misrepresentations in how they were made. The lawsuit by the banking unit of US Bancorp (USB.N) is the latest of a number of suits seeking to recover investor losses tied to risky mortgage loans issued by Countrywide Financial Corp, which Bank of America bought in 2008. In a complaint filed in a New York state court in Manhattan, U.S. Bank said Countrywide, which issued the 4,484 loans in the HarborView Mortgage Loan Trust 2005-10, materially breached its obligations by systemically misrepresenting the quality of its underwriting and loan documentation. [read more]

Bank of America kept AIG legal threat under wraps

Top Bank of America Corp lawyers knew as early as January that American International Group Inc was prepared to sue the bank for more than $10 billion, seven months before the lawsuit was filed, according to sources familiar with the matter. Bank of America shares fell more than 20 percent on August 8, the day the lawsuit was filed, adding to worries about the stability of the largest U.S. bank…. The bank made no mention of the lawsuit threat in a quarterly regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission just four days earlier. Nor did management discuss it on conference calls about quarterly results and other pending legal claims. [read more]

Nevada Lawsuit Shows Bank of America’s Criminal Incompetence

As we’ve stated before, litigation by attorney general is significant not merely due to the damages and remedies sought, but because it paves the way for private lawsuits. And make no mistake about it, this filing is a doozy. It shows the Federal/state attorney general mortgage settlement effort to be a complete travesty. The claim describes, in considerable detail, how various Bank of America units engaged in misconduct in virtually every aspect of its residential mortgage business. [read more]

Nevada Wallops Bank of America With Sweeping Suit; Nationwide Foreclosure Settlement in Peril

The sweeping new suit could have repercussions far beyond Nevada’s borders. It further jeopardizes a possible nationwide settlement with the five largest U.S. banks over their foreclosure practices, especially given concerns voiced by other attorneys general, New York’s foremost among them…. In a statement, Bank of America spokeswoman Jumana Bauwens said reaching a settlement would bring a better outcome for homeowners than litigation. “We believe that the best way to get the housing market going again in every state is a global settlement that addresses these issues fairly, comprehensively and with finality. [read more]

FDIC Objects to Bank of America’s $8.5 Billion Mortgage-Bond Accord

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is objecting to Bank of America Corp. (BAC)’s proposed $8.5 billion mortgage-bond settlement with investors, joining investors and states that are challenging the agreement. The FDIC owns securities covered by the settlement and said it doesn’t have enough information to evaluate the accord, according to a filing today in federal court in Manhattan. Bank of America has agreed to pay $8.5 billion to resolve claims from investors in Countrywide Financial mortgage bonds. The settlement was negotiated with a group of institutional investors and would apply to investors outside that group. [read more]

Fed asks Bank of America to list contingency plan: report

The Federal Reserve has asked Bank of America Corp to show what measures it could take if business conditions worsen, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation. BofA executives recently responded to the unusual request from the Federal Reserve with a list of options that includes the issuance of a separate class of shares tied to the performance of its Merrill Lynch securities unit, the people told the paper. Bank of America and the Fed declined to comment to the Journal. Both could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours. [
read more]

Bombshell Admission of Failed Securitization Process in American Home Mortgage Servicing/LPS Lawsuit

Wow, Jones Day just created a huge mess for its client and banks generally if anyone is alert enough to act on it. The lawsuit in question is American Home Mortgage Servicing Inc. v Lender Processing Services. It hasn’t gotten all that much attention (unless you are on the LPS deathwatch beat) because to most, it looks like yet another beauty contest between Cinderella’s two ugly sisters. AHMSI is a servicer (the successor to Option One, and it may also still have some Ameriquest servicing).

AHMSI is mad at LPS because LPS was supposed to prepare certain types of documentation AHMSI used in foreclosures. AHMSI authorized the use of certain designated staffers signing with the authority of AHSI (what we call robosinging, since the people signing these documents didn’t have personal knowledge, which is required if any of the documents were affidavits). But it did not authorize the use of surrogate signers, which were (I kid you not) people hired to forge the signatures of robosigners. The lawsuit rather matter of factly makes a stunning admission… [read more]

Fraudclosure: MERS Case Filed With Supreme Court

Before readers get worried by virtue of the headline that the Supreme Court will use its magic legal wand to make the dubious MERS mortgage registry system viable, consider the following:

1. The Supreme Court hears only a very small portion of the cases filed with it, and is less likely to take one with these demographics (filed by a private party, and an appeal out of a state court system, as opposed to Federal court). This case, Gomes v. Countywide, was decided against the plaintiff in lower and appellate court and the California state supreme court declined to hear it

2. If MERS or the various servicers who have had foreclosures overturned based on challenges to MERS thought they’d get a sympathetic hearing at the Supreme Court, they probably would have filed some time ago. MERS have apparently been settling cases rather than pursue ones where it though the judge would issue an unfavorable precedent

3. The case in question, from what the experts I consulted with and I can tell, is not the sort the Supreme Court would intervene in based on the issue raised, which is due process (14th Amendment). But none of us have seen the underlying lower and appellate court cases, and the summaries we’ve seen are unusually unclear as to what the legal argument is. [read more]

Iowa Says State AG Accord Won’t Release Banks From Liability

The 50-state attorney general group investigating mortgage foreclosure practices won’t release banks from all civil, or any criminal, liability in a settlement, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said. [read more]

Fed Launches New Formal Enforcement Action Against Goldman Sachs To Review Foreclosure Practices

The Federal Reserve Board has just launched a formal enforcement action against Goldman Sachs related to Litton Loan Services. Litton Loan is the nightmare-ridden mortgage servicing unit, a subsidiary of Goldman, that Goldman has been trying to sell for months. They penned a deal to recently, but the Fed stepped in and required Goldman to end robo-signing taking place at the unit before the sale could be completed. Sounds like this enforcement action is an extension of that requirement. [read more]

Goldman Sachs, Firms Agree With Regulator To End ‘Robo-Signing’ Foreclosure Practices

Goldman Sachs and two other firms have agreed with the New York banking regulator to end the practice known as robo-signing, in which bank employees signed foreclosure documents without reviewing case files as required by law, the Wall Street Journal said. In an agreement with New York’s financial-services superintendent, Goldman, its Litton Loan Servicing unit and Ocwen Financial Corp also agreed to scrutinize loan files for evidence they mishandled borrowers’ paperwork and to cut mortgage payments for some New York homeowners, the Journal said. [read more]

Banks still robo-signing, filing doubtful foreclosure documents

Reuters has found that some of the biggest U.S. banks and other “loan servicers” continue to file questionable foreclosure documents with courts and county clerks. They are using tactics that late last year triggered an outcry, multiple investigations and temporary moratoriums on foreclosures. In recent months, servicers have filed thousands of documents that appear to have been fabricated or improperly altered, or have sworn to false facts. Reuters also identified at least six “robo-signers,” individuals who in recent months have each signed thousands of mortgage assignments — legal documents which pinpoint ownership of a property. These same individuals have been identified — in depositions, court testimony or court rulings — as previously having signed vast numbers of foreclosure documents that they never read or checked. [read more]

JPMorgan fined for contravening Iran, Cuba sanctions

JPMorgan Chase Bank has been fined $88.3 million for contravening US sanctions against regimes in Iran, Cuba and Sudan, and the former Liberian government, the US Treasury Department announced Thursday. The Treasury said that the bank had engaged in a number of “egregious” financial transfers, loans and other facilities involving those countries but, in announcing a settlement with the bank, said they were “apparent” violations of various sanctions regulations. [read more]

This Is Considered Punishment? The Federal Reserve Wells Fargo Farce

What made the news surprising, of course, was that the Federal Reserve has rarely, if ever, taken action against a bank for making predatory loans. Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman, didn’t believe in regulation and turned a blind eye to subprime abuses. His successor, Ben Bernanke, is not the ideologue that Greenspan is, but, as an institution, the Fed prefers to coddle banks rather than punish them.

That the Fed would crack down on Wells Fargo would seem to suggest a long-overdue awakening. Yet, for anyone still hoping for justice in the wake of the financial crisis, the news was hardly encouraging. First, the Fed did not force Wells Fargo to admit guilt — and even let the company issue a press release blaming its wrongdoing on a “relatively small group.”

The $85 million fine was a joke; in just the last quarter, Wells Fargo’s revenues exceeded $20 billion. And compensating borrowers isn’t going to hurt much either. By my calculation, it won’t top $20 million. [read more]

Exclusive: Regulators seek high-frequency trading secrets

U.S. securities regulators have taken the unprecedented step of asking high-frequency trading firms to hand over the details of their trading strategies, and in some cases, their secret computer codes. The requests for proprietary code and algorithm parameters by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a Wall Street brokerage regulator, are part of investigations into suspicious market activity, said Tom Gira, executive vice president of FINRA’s market regulation unit. [read more]

And here’s part of the Collapse Roundup I wrote on August 25th, referenced in the beginning of this report – as you will see, I would probably make a lot more money as an investment adviser:

Collapse Roundup #5: Goliath On The Ropes, Big Banks Getting Hit Hard, It’s A “Bloodbath” As Wall Street’s Crimes Blow Up In Their Face

Time to put your Big Bank shorts on! Get ready for a run…

The chickens are coming home to roost. Reality is catching up with the market riggers (Fed, ECB, PPT, CIA) and the “too big to fail” banks are getting whacked. Trillions of dollars in bailouts and legalized (FASB) accounting fraud cannot save these insolvent zombie banks any longer. The Grim Reaper is on the horizon and his sickle will do what paid off politicians won’t, cut ‘em down to size. So get your silver stake ready, time to plunge it into their vampire squid hearts….

What about Warren Buffet? He saved Goldman Sachs with a bailout in 2008. Can he save Bank of America?…

Warren’s bailout will help BofA over the short run, but $5 billion is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to their problems. The only thing his $5 billion will accomplish is a temporary run up in stock value so everyone who has been killed on the plummeting stock price can then jump out without complete loss….

Trouble a-comin’…

Goldman Sachs TANKS After CEO Lloyd Blankfein Hires Famous Defense Lawyer

Is the Goldman Sachs CEO facing a new lawsuit?

The market seems to think so. Goldman Sachs just tanked in minutes before the close after news that Lloyd Blankfein hired a lawyer famous for defending vilified execs. It’s back up a bit since dropping over 5%, but the news is still concerning.

It’s unclear whether the lawyer is for him, Goldman Sachs, or both, but Goldman Sachs’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein hired Reid Weingarten, a high profile defense attorney who says “I’m used to these monstrously difficult cases where everybody hates my clients,” according to Reuters.

Reuters says the hire might have something to do with accusations of Blankfein’s committing perjury. Or something else:

One former federal prosecutor, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Blankfein may have hired outside counsel after receiving a request from investigators for documents or other information. [read full report]

Speaking of hiring lawyers…

The Global Banking Cartel’s Crimes Are Being Exposed Left & Right… Blowing Up In Their Face… Prepare for Shock & Awe… BOOM!

Moody’s exposed:

MOODY’S ANALYST BREAKS SILENCE: Says Ratings Agency Rotten To Core With Conflicts

A former senior analyst at Moody’s has gone public with his story of how one of the country’s most important rating agencies is corrupted to the core.

The analyst, William J. Harrington, worked for Moody’s for 11 years, from 1999 until his resignation last year.

From 2006 to 2010, Harrington was a Senior Vice President in the derivative products group, which was responsible for producing many of the disastrous ratings Moody’s issued during the housing bubble.

Harrington has made his story public in the form of a 78-page “comment” to the SEC’s proposed rules about rating agency reform….

Here are some key points:

* Moody’s ratings often do not reflect its analysts’ private conclusions. Instead, rating committees privately conclude that certain securities deserve certain ratings–but then vote with management to give the securities the higher ratings that issuer clients want.

* Moody’s management and “compliance” officers do everything possible to make issuer clients happy–and they view analysts who do not do the same as “troublesome.” Management employs a variety of tactics to transform these troublesome analysts into “pliant corporate citizens” who have Moody’s best interests at heart.

* Moody’s product managers participate in–and vote on–ratings decisions. These product managers are the same people who are directly responsible for keeping clients happy and growing Moody’s business.

* At least one senior executive lied under oath at the hearings into rating agency conduct. Another executive, who Harrington says exemplified management’s emphasis on giving issuers what they wanted, skipped the hearings altogether. [read full report]

Former Intelligence Analysts Urging Obama to Stop Rush to Iran War

A torrent of war propaganda against Iran is flooding the American political scene as U.S. neocons and Israeli hardliners see an opening for another war in the Middle East, a momentum that ex-CIA analysts Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray urge President Obama to stop.

 

By Ray McGovern and Elizabeth Murray

 

President Obama needs to put an abrupt halt to the game of Persian Roulette about to spin out of control in the Persian Gulf. If we were still on active duty at the CIA, this is what we would tell him:

This informal memorandum addresses the escalating game of chicken playing out in the waters off Iran and the more general issue of what can be done to put the exaggerated threat from Iran in some kind of perspective In keeping with the informality of this memo and our ethos of speaking truth to power, we may at times be rather blunt. If we bring you up short, consider it a measure of the seriousness with which we view the unfolding of yet another tragic mistake.

The stakes are quite high, and as former intelligence analysts with no axes to grind, we want to make sure you understand how fragile and volatile the situation in the Gulf has become.

We know you are briefed regularly on the play by play, and we will not attempt to replicate that. Your repeated use of the bromide that “everything is on the table,” however, gives us pause and makes us wonder whether you and your advisers fully recognize the implications, if hostilities with Iran spin out of control.

You have the power to stop the madness, and we give you some recommendations on how to lessen the likelihood of a war that would be to the advantage of no one but the arms merchants.

If your advisers have persuaded you that hostilities with Iran would bring benefit to Israel, they are badly mistaken. In our view, war with Iran is just as likely in the longer term to bring the destruction of Israel, as well as vast areas of Iran — not even to mention the disastrous consequences for the world economy, of which you must be aware.

Incendiary (but false) claims about how near Iran is to having a nuclear weapon are coming “fast and furious,” (and are as irresponsible as that ill-fated project of giving weapons to Mexican drug dealers).

In our view, the endless string of such claims now threaten to migrate from rhetoric to armed clashes to attempted “regime change,” as was the case nine years ago on Iraq. You know, we hope, that influential — but myopic — forces abound who are willing to take great risk because they believe such events would rebound to the benefit of Israel.  We make reference, of course, to the reckless Likud government in Israel and its equally reckless single-issue supporters here at home.

Inept Advisers

Judging by recent performance, your foreign policy and military advisers, including the top generals now in place, appear unable to act as sensible counterweights to those who think that, by beginning hostilities with Iran, they will help Israel do away with a key regional rival.

You are not stuck with such advisers. You’re the President; you deserve better. You need some people close to you who know a lot more about the outside world.

GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY

You may wish to think also about how the recent remarks of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, during an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe, reflect on the chairman’s acumen in the strategic matters in which he has been immersed for decades.

In the interview with Jaffe, Dempsey referred to his 20-year involvement with Iraq (where he made his mark) and, according to Jaffe, Dempsey acknowledged that “he and his Army did not fully understand the nature of the conflict they were fighting.”

Jaffe quotes a particularly telling lament by Dempsey: “People say, ‘For God’s sakes, you were a two-star general. How could you say you didn’t understand?’ … I don’t know how I can say it, but I lived it.  And I mean it.”

Suffice it to say that there are serious questions as to how much Gen. Dempsey understands about Iran and whether his meteoric rise to Chairman of the JCS is due more to the crisp salute with which he greets any idea voiced by those above him.

Discussing last week the possibility of military action against Iran, Dempsey said, “The options we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable, if necessary.” He added that his “biggest worry is that (Iranians) will miscalculate our resolve.”

That’s not our biggest worry. Rather it is that Dempsey and you will miscalculate Iran’s resolve. We haven’t a clue as to what, if anything, the Chairman is telling you on that key issue. Our distinct impression, however, is that you cannot look to him for the kind of stand-up advice you got from his predecessor, Adm. Mike Mullen.

The consummate military professional, Mullen pointed to the military and strategic realities — and the immense costs — associated with a war with Iran, which in turn buttressed those who successfully withstood pressure from President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for war with Iran.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs

During the Bush administration, Mullen argued strongly that there would be no way a “preventive war” against Iran would be worth the horrendous cost. He did all he could to scuttle the idea.

Mullen was among those senior officials who forced Bush and Cheney to publish the unclassified Key Judgments of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program — the NIE that judged “with high confidence that in the fall of 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

As Bush and Vice President Cheney have since acknowledged, that drove an iron rod through the wheels of the juggernaut then rolling off to war with Iran. And, as you know, that judgment still stands despite Herculean efforts to fudge it.

In his memoir, Decision Points, Bush, complains bitterly that, rather than being relieved by the surprising news that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003, he was angry that the news “tied my hands on the military side.”

In January 2008, Bush flew to Israel to commiserate with senior Israeli officials who were similarly bitter at the abrupt removal of a casus belli. Tellingly, in his book Bush added this lament:

“But after the NIE, how could I possible explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”

Israel’s Last Chance, Until Now

The new estimate on Iran did not stop the Israelis from trying. And in mid-2008, they seemed to be contemplating one more try at provoking hostilities with Iran before Bush and Cheney left office.

This time, with Bush’s (but not Cheney’s) support, Mullen flew to Israel to tell Israeli leaders to disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if they somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.

According to the Israeli press, Mullen went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident at sea like the deliberate Israeli attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967, which left 34 American crew killed and more than 170 wounded.

Never before had a senior U.S. official braced Israel so blatantly about the Liberty incident, which was covered up by the Johnson administration, the Congress, and Mullen’s Navy itself. The lesson the Israelis had taken away from the Liberty incident was that they could get away with murder, literally, and walk free because of political realities in the United States. Not this time, said Mullen. He could not have raised a more neuralgic issue.

Unintended Consequences

An Anxious Adm. Mike Mullen…

As long as he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Mike Mullen kept worrying, often publicly, over what he termed “the unintended consequences of any sort of military action against Iran.”

We assume that before he retired last fall he shared that concern with you, just as we tried to warn your predecessor of “the unintended consequences” that could flow from an attack on Iraq.

The Israelis, for their part, would not relent. In February of this year, Mullen returned with sweaty palms from a visit to Israel. On arrival there, he had warned publicly that an attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us.”

When Mullen got back to Washington, he lacked the confident tone he had after reading the Israelis the riot act in mid-2008. It became quickly clear that Mullen feared that, this time, Israel’s leaders did not seem to take his warnings seriously.

Lest he leave a trace of ambiguity regarding his professional view, upon his return Mullen drove it home at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22, 2011: “For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”

In 2008, right after Mullen was able, in late June, to get the Israelis to put aside, for the nonce, their pre-emptive plans vis-à-vis Iran, he moved to put a structure in place that could short-circuit military escalation. Specifically, he thought through ways to prevent unintended (or, for that matter, deliberately provoked) incidents in the crowded Persian Gulf that could lead to wider hostilities.

In a widely unnoticed remark, Adm. Mullen conceded to the press that Iran could shut down the Strait of Hormuz, but quickly added de rigueur assurance that the U.S. could open it up again (whereas the Admiral knows better than virtually anyone that this would be no easy task).

“These deployments of Carrier Strike Group are required to maintain the continuity and operational support missions.” –Pentagon spokesman George Little

Mullen sent up an interesting trial balloon at a July 2, 2008, press conference, when he suggested that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. But nothing more was heard of this overture, probably because Cheney ordered him to drop it. We think it is high time to give this excellent idea new life.  (See below under Recommendations.)

The dangers in and around the Strait of Hormuz were still on Mullen’s mind as he prepared to retire on Sept. 30, 2011. Ten days before, he told the Armed Force Press Service of his deep concern over the fact that the United States and Iran have had no formal communications since 1979:

“Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union. … We are not talking to Iran. So we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right, that there will be miscalculations.”

Playing with fire: With the macho game of chicken currently under way between Iranian and U.S. naval forces in the area of the Strait of Hormuz, the potential for an incident has increased markedly.

An accident, or provocation, could spiral out of control quickly, with all sides — Iran, the U.S. and Israel making hurried decisions with, you guessed it, “unintended consequences.”

… or Intended Consequences?

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh

With your campaign for the presidency in full swing during the summer of 2008, you may have missed a troubling disclosure in July by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

He reported that Bush administration officials had held a meeting in the Vice President’s office in the wake of the January 2008 incident between Iranian patrol boats and U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz. The reported purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to provoke war with Iran.

HERSH: There were a dozen ideas proffered about how to trigger a war. The one that interested me the most was why don’t we build in our shipyard four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy seals on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up. Might cost some lives.

And it was rejected because you can’t have Americans killing Americans. That’s the kind of — that’s the level of stuff we’re talking about. Provocation.

Silly? Maybe. But potentially very lethal. Because one of the things they learned in the [January] incident was the American public, if you get the right incident, the American public will support bang-bang-kiss-kiss. You know, we’re into it.

Look, is it high school? Yeah. Are we playing high school with you know 5,000 nuclear warheads in our arsenal? Yeah we are. We’re playing, you know, who’s the first guy to run off the highway with us and Iran.

… and Now Iran’s Responsibility for 9/11!

On the chance you missed it, this time your government is getting “incriminating” information from Iranian, not Iraqi, “defectors.” Iranian “defectors” have persuaded Manhattan Federal Judge George Daniels to sign an order accusing Iran and Hezbollah – along with al-Qaeda – of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

On Dec. 15, in response to a lawsuit brought by family members of 9/11 victims, Daniels claimed that Iran provided material support to al-Qaeda and has assessed Iran $100 billion in damages

Watching the blackening of Iranians on virtually all parts of the U.S. body politic, it is no surprise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, enjoying the strong support of our Congress, our largely pro-Israel media, and our courts as well. He sees himself in the catbird seat — particularly during the lead-up to the U.S. presidential election.

We know that you have said you have to deal with Netanyahu every day. But for those of us who have not had the pleasure, never did his attitude toward Washington come through so clearly as in a video taped nine years ago and shown on Israeli TV.

In it Netanyahu brags about how he deceived President Bill Clinton into believing he (Netanyahu) was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them. The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward — and wonderment at — a malleable America so easily influenced by Israel.

Netanyahu says it right out: “America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. … They won’t get in our way … Eighty percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy has written that the video shows Netanyahu to be “a con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes,” adding that such behavior “does not change over the years.”

On Dec. 29, the strongly pro-Israel Washington Times ran an unsigned editorial, “Tehran’s moment of truth: The mullahs are playing with fire in Strait of Hormuz.” After a fulsome paragraph of bragging about how the U.S. Navy capabilities dwarf those of Iran’s, the Washington Times editors inadvertently give the game away:

“A theater-wide response to the strait closure would involve air strikes on military and leadership targets throughout the country, and the crisis could be a useful pretext for international action against Iran’s nuclear program.”

Hopefully, pointing out Israel’s overarching objective will strike you as gratuitous. No doubt your advisers have told you that “regime change” (what we used to call overthrowing a government) is Israel’s ultimate goal. Just so you know.

Recommendations

We hope that, when we assume you wish to thwart Israel and any other party who might want to get the U.S. involved in hostilities with Iran, we are not assuming too much. With that as our premise, we recommend that you:

1- Make public, as soon as possible, a declassified version of the key judgments of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear development program, with whatever updating is necessary. You know that the Herculean efforts of U.S. intelligence to find evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iran have found nothing.

Do not insult Americans with Rumsfeldian nostrums like: “The absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence.” Rather, be up-front with the American people. Tell them the truth about the conclusions of our intelligence community.

Bush was helped to launch the aggressive war on Iraq by a deliberately dishonest National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction there. Let yourself be fortified by an honest NIE on Iran, and stand up to the inevitable criticism from Israelis and their influential surrogates.

2- Pick up on Adm. Mike Mullen’s suggestion at his press conference on July 2, 2008, that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. If there were ever a time when our navies need to be able to communicate with each other, it is now.

It was a good idea in 2008; it is an even better idea now. Indeed, it seems likely that a kind of vestigial Cheneyism, as well as pressure from the Likud Lobby, account for the fact that the danger of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation in the crowded Persian Gulf has still not been addressed in direct talks.

Cheney and those of his mini-National Security Staff who actually looked forward to such confrontations are gone from the scene. If the ones who remain persist in thwarting time-tested structural ways of preventing accidents, miscalculation and covert false-flag attacks, please consider suggesting that they retire early.

Order the negotiation of the kind of bilateral “incidents-at-sea” agreement concluded with the Russians in May 1972, which, together with direct communications, played an essential role in heading off escalation neither side wanted, when surface or submarine ships go bump in the night.

3- Get yourself some advisers who know more about the real world than the ones you have now, and make sure they owe allegiance solely to the United States.

4- Issue a formal statement that your administration will not support an Israeli military attack on Iran. Make it clear that even though, after Dec. 31, the U.S. may not be technically responsible for defending Iraqi airspace, you have ordered U.S. Air Force units in the area to down any intruders.

5- Sit back and look toward a New Year with a reasonable prospect of less, not more, tension in the Persian Gulf.

Happy New Year.