Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Foreign Office to face inquiry into role played by UK in Libya’s collapse

Matthew Weaver reports for The Guardian:

‘The Foreign Office is to face questions over Libya’s descent into a failed state, following the launch of an inquiry by an influential committee of MPs into Britain’s role in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and the troubled aftermath.

Launching the inquiry, the Tory chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Crispin Blunt, told the Guardian that the intervention and subsequent breakdown of the state had proved disastrous for Libya and posed a global security threat.

He said: “It has turned out to be a catastrophe for the people of Libya. And now it is a growing problem for us, with our undoubted enemy Isis beginning to establish control of areas of Libya. Plus the migration crisis – any area where state authority collapses obviously poses problems for us all over the world.”

Blunt, a former government minister, said the inquiry will investigate Britain’s capacity to conduct the necessary post-intervention planning.’

READ MORE…

Iran deal is about staving off the coming oil shock

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle Easy Eye:

[…] George Friedman, founder and CEO of private US intelligence firm Stratfor – which operates closely with the Pentagon and State Department – forecasted the US-Iran détente four years ago.

His prescient assessment of its strategic rationale is worth noting. Friedman explained that by reaching “a temporary understanding with Iran,” the US would give itself room to withdraw while playing off Iran against the Sunni regimes, limiting Iran’s “direct controls” in the region, “while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage”.

“This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it,” wrote Friedman.

Ultimately, though, the US is betting on the rise of Turkey – hence the latter’s pivotal role in the new anti-IS rebel training strategy, despite Turkey’s military and financial sponsorship of IS.

For the US, “the longer-term solution to the balance of power in the region will be the rise of Turkey,” which would “counterbalance Iran and Israel, while stabilising the Arabian Peninsula.” This will eventually generate “a new regional balance of power”.

Crucially, this regional balance of power would operate under the overarching sway of US military pre-eminence.

As Stephen Kinzer has pointed out, a US-Turkey-Iran axis would enhance the US ability to police Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Pakistan from a distance, while safeguarding oil and gas transportation routes to Europe.

But both Friedman and Kinzer missed another critical factor in these geopolitical considerations: the prospect of a global oil shock.’

READ MORE…

Gareth Porter on the Iran Deal: ‘Media Have Been Applying a False Narrative to the Entire Issue’

Gareth Porter was interviewed recently about the Iran deal on FAIR’s CounterSpin:

Gareth Porter: Well, of course there is a great deal that the media are missing about the background of this, because of the fact that the media have been basically applying a false narrative to the entire issue of the Iran nuclear program for so long, and that means that they are missing essentially the entire true history of the program.

In my focus on one particular issue, I don’t mean to suggest that this is by any means the only problem with the news media interpretation or take on the Iran nuclear deal. But what I thought was particularly appropriate at this point is to look back and see, how did the US come to the point where it was ready to negotiate a deal on the nuclear program with Iran? And the answer to that is certainly not something that you will learn from reading the news media accounts.

I’ve been following this for some years now, and what struck me about the relevant history here is that, in fact, if you go back to the 1990s, the people within Iran who are part of this very strong, the most powerful political faction in the country, really, the Rafsanjani faction–named after the former President Rafsanjani, who wanted to integrate Iran into the global capitalist economy, and realized that their only hope for doing that was to reach some kind of an agreement with the United States–really began in the late 1980s and early 1990s to engage the United States diplomatically and politically. And what happened was that the United States was simply not interested, either under the George H.W. Bush administration or the Clinton administration, and certainly not the George W. Bush administration.

Why did the United States not take any interest in diplomatic engagement with Iran? Because, at that point, Iran was simply too weak, and the disparity in power with the United States was simply too great. The United States government did not see any compelling strategic reason to have a negotiating process with Iran.

In my book, I point out quite precisely in the very early 1990s, when the Bush administration at that time basically shifted a policy that had been planned to be carried out by the White House to reciprocate a gesture by Rafsanjani in helping to release US hostages in Lebanon, by essentially making some public concession or gesture to Iran, and instead of doing that, in the wake of the victory over Iraq, the administration decided that they didn’t really need Iran at all in their plans for the Middle East, and simply embarked on a new period of hostility toward Iran. So that was the beginning of this 25-year period, essentially, of the US being much less interested in reaching agreement with Iran than Iran was.

That’s been misunderstood, because Iran has not simply said, United States, we’ll do whatever you want to have an agreement with you. They wanted the United States to lift the sanctions. And that was the primary issue for many years, and the United States wasn’t willing to do that. So it was not really until the second Obama administration that the United States really deigned to enter into a fundamental negotiating process with Iran. Up until that time, the posture of the United States was: We will put pressure on Iran to force it to give up  its nuclear program. Or, we’re really not interested in doing that; we will just carry out regime change, as was the case with the Bush administration.

What I’m really talking about here is the impact of the vast disparity in power between the United States and Iran, and how that has shaped the history of the whole question of the diplomatic engagement between the two countries.’

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW…

Anti-Iran Deal AIPAC Spin-off Relies on Iranian Ex-Terrorist Group

Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib writes for LobeLog:

CFNFI NCRI c2 640When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared war on the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers signed last week in Vienna, it put its money where its mouth is. AIPAC, Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobby reportedly plans on spending $20 million over the next two months urging Congress to vote against the deal. But its efforts at a full frontal attack on the accord, inked by the P5+1 (the US, China, France, Russia, the UK, and Germany) and Iran is leading to some politically awkward alliances.

As part of its efforts to kill the deal with a congressional vote, AIPAC launched a 501c4 advocacy group called Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran. The group, according to The New York Times, was “formed with the sole mission of educating the public ‘about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal,’” said spokesman Patrick Dorton. The Times reported that the $20 million budget would go to ad buys in as many as 40 states as well as other advocacy.

Now that the campaign is taking shape, the AIPAC spin-off appears to be relying on a typical, if troubling, ally of American groups and individuals opposed to diplomacy with Iran. Namely, two items on the website of Citizens for a Nuclear Iran, one of which was later removed, featured an exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

The MEK makes a cameo appearance in the television ad crafted by Citizens For a Nuclear Free Iran, the well-financed AIPAC spin-off, as well as on a now-removed news items on the group’s “Press Room” webpage—indicating that Nuclear Free Iran recognized a PR misstep by promoting the group.’

READ MORE…

Iran Deal: Obama Acts for America’s Interests

Eric Margolis, author of American Raj, writes:

shutterstock_274494032Barack Obama is the first American president to stand up to the Israel lobby since Dwight Eisenhower ordered Israel to withdraw from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in 1956-57.

Freed of re-election concerns and the need for vast amounts of cash, President Obama finally made the decision to put America’s strategic interests ahead of those of Israel by making peace with Iran. This was a huge accomplishment: the United States has waged economic and political warfare against the Islamic Republic since its creation in 1979.

Iran now looks likely to join Cuba in getting paroled from prison. Both refused to bow to Washington and paid a very heavy price that left them semi-crippled economically and isolated.

Unless the Israel lobby and its yes-men in Congress manage to block the nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers, Tehran will be re-integrated into the world economic system and reassert its regional power. Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of oil and a principal supplier to China and Japan.

Iran’s gradual return to unrestrained oil exporting may well spook markets that are already facing a severe glut of inventory that has driven down energy prices everywhere. So much for fears of “peak oil.”

It’s now time to begin dispelling the miasma of lies about Iran promoted by neoconservatives and their house media.’

READ MORE…

Is the ‘military option’ on Iran off the table?

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, writes for the Baltimore Sun:

[…] Looking for changes in official public statements was my bread and butter during a long tenure as a Kremlinologist. So on Wednesday, as I watched Mr. Obama defend the deal with Iran, I leaned way forward at each juncture — and there were several — where the timeworn warning about all options being “on the table” would have been de rigueur. He avoided saying it.

“All options on the table?” The open-ended nature of this Bush/Cheney-esque bully-type warning is at odds with Western international understandings spanning more than three and half centuries — from the treaties of Westphalia (1648), to the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) to the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal to the UN Charter (1945). Try raising that with Establishment Washington, though, and be prepared to be dismissed as “picky-picky,” or as quaint and as obsolete as the Geneva Conventions. Undergirding all this is the chauvinism reflected in President Obama’s repeated reminders that the U.S. “is the sole indispensable country in the world.”

But in the wake of last week’s accord with Iran in Vienna, it is possible now to hope that the “military option” is finally off the table — in reality, if not in occasional rhetorical palliatives for Israel.

Most Americans have no idea of how close we came to making war on Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration. Nor do they know of the essential role played by courageous managers of intelligence who, for the first time on the Iran nuclear issue, supervised a strictly evidence-based, from-the-bottom-up National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that concluded in November 2007 that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed that work.’

READ MORE…

The Next Gaza War

Max Blumenthal writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘“A fourth operation in the Gaza Strip is inevitable, just as a third Lebanon war is inevitable,” declared Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in February. His ominous comments came just days after an anti-tank missile fired by the Lebanon-based guerrilla group Hezbollah killed two soldiers in an Israeli army convoy. It, in turn, was a response to an Israeli air strike that resulted in the assassination of several high-ranking Hezbollah figures.

Lieberman offered his prediction only four months after his government concluded Operation Protective Edge, the third war between Israel and the armed factions of the Gaza Strip, which had managed to reduce about 20% of besieged Gaza to an apocalyptic moonscape. Even before the assault was launched, Gaza was a warehouse for surplus humanity — a 360-square-kilometer ghetto of Palestinian refugees expelled by and excluded from the self-proclaimed Jewish state. For this population, whose members are mostly under the age of 18, the violence has become a life ritual that repeats every year or two. As the first anniversary of Protective Edge passes, Lieberman’s unsettling prophecy appears increasingly likely to come true. Indeed, odds are that the months of relative “quiet” that followed his statement will prove nothing more than an interregnum between Israel’s ever more devastating military escalations.

Three years ago, the United Nations issued a report predicting that the Gaza Strip would be uninhabitable by 2020. Thanks to Israel’s recent attack, this warning appears to have arrived sooner than expected. Fewof the 18,000 homes the Israeli military destroyed in Gaza have been rebuilt. Few of the more than 400 businesses and shops damaged or leveled during that war have been repaired. Thousands of government employees have not received a salary for more than a year and are working for free. Electricity remains desperately limited, sometimes to only four hours a day. The coastal enclave’s borders are consistently closed. Its population is trapped, traumatized, and descending ever deeper into despair, with suicide rates skyrocketing.’

READ MORE…

New Probe Exposes Horrific Abuse of Palestinian Children by Israeli Forces

Sarah Lazare reports for Common Dreams:

Israeli border police arresting Ahmad Abu Sbitan, 11, in front of his school in East Jerusalem. (Photo: Majd Gaith/HRW)Israeli forces are choking, beating, and abusing Palestinian children as young as 11, arresting and coercing them into confessions without granting them access to lawyers or even informing their parents of their whereabouts, a new investigation from Human Rights Watch reveals.

The findings are contained in a report—Israel: Security Forces Abuse Palestinian Children—based on interviews with six children between the ages of 11 and 15, and corroborated by witness testimony and video evidence. All of the children were accused of throwing rocks between March and December 2014—a common charge that can lead to decades in prison.

“Israel has been on notice for years that its security forces are abusing Palestinian children’s rights in occupied territory, but the problems continue,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director for HRW. “These are not difficult abuses to end if the Israeli government were serious about doing so.”‘

READ MORE…

Endless enemies: How the US is supporting the Islamic State by fighting it

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

‘[…] So on the pretext of fighting Assad, the US armed and funded extremist Syrian rebels through its regional allies, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, which went on to spawn the “Islamic State”.

The US is now intent on fighting Assad’s enemy, IS, in turn bolstering Assad.

Simultaneously, Assad’s ambiguous strategic and energy relationship with IS is empowering the movement, and the US is coordinating with Assad to execute airstrikes against Assad’s chief regional enemy, IS.

But, the US is still working with its allies to arm a coalition of “moderate” rebels to fight both IS and Assad.

That “moderate” coalition, however, includes al-Qaeda’s Syria arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is being supported due to its rivalry with IS. Yet al-Nusra maintains tactical alliances with IS, while other FSA “moderates” also coordinate with IS to counter Assad, to the point that Western, Gulf and Turkish supplies to “moderates” are at risk of being systematically diverted to al-Nusra and IS.

If you have difficulty understanding this, don’t worry. I don’t understand it either. But what’s clear is that the ever shape-shifting US war on al-Qaeda, IS and Assad, is propping up al-Qaeda, IS and Assad.

On top of all this, the general Syrian population is increasingly cognisant of these contradictions, and disillusioned about the US-led strategy and its motives, not to mention angered at ongoing civilian casualties from airstrikes. That, too, is driving ordinary people into the arms of extremists.

It doesn’t really matter whether you think all this is a result of incompetence or conspiracy, or a bit of both. The upshot is unequivocal: This strategy is not going to eliminate terrorism or make us safer. On the contrary, it is a perfect recipe for endless war.’

READ MORE…

More than 2,800 people are dead in Yemen – so why aren’t we outraged?

Sophia Dingli writes for The Conversation:

In the summer of 2014, our screens were inundated with videos of the carnage from the streets of Gaza. The European media was outraged, and the sense of moral urgency was amplified across social media. Similar outrage greeted the destruction of UNESCO heritage sites in both Iraq and Syria with the condemnation of Islamic State’s barbarism reaching a crescendo when it overtook Syria’s majestic city of Palmyra.

Compare this coverage to the almost universal silence on the ongoing war in Yemen, which is largely absent from our TV screens, Facebook and Twitter trending topics sections and the front pages of broadsheet papers.

Admittedly, the Yemen conflict is a complicated matter, where the Saudi “bad guys” in the northern half of the country are looked upon as potential saviours in the southern half. The war includes a number of factions, and provides no easy narratives for the casual news watcher to follow.

Of course, neither the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor the Islamic State’s onslaught are simple matters, but the Western media has plenty of simplified narratives and stereotypes at its disposal to structure its coverage. And crucially, the media coverage of both Israel-Palestine and Islamic State is loud and clear in its condemnation of the human cost, both civilian and cultural.

So it may come as a surprise to learn the the damage inflicted upon Yemen and Yemenis since March 2015, when the Houthi rebels’ march toward Aden was met with a massive Saudi-led offensive, has already claimed more casualties than the last Israeli offensive in Gaza and has destroyed parts of a UNESCO world heritage site. Worse yet, it shows no signs of stopping.’

READ MORE…

Report: US to Give Israel Massive Increase in Military Aid for Iran Deal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Israeli media are quoting officials familiar with the situation as saying there are quiet talks going on between the Obama Administration and Israel’s new far-right government on a “massive compensation” boost in military aid for Israel’s acquiescence on the civilian nuclear deal with Iran.

The deal is expected to be spun in the US and Israel as a huge boost in military aid to keep Israel’s “competitive advantage” over Saudi Arabia after that nation buys new US weapons, though Israel of course isn’t on particularly bad terms with the Saudis to begin with.

In return, Israel would be allowed to keep publicly complaining about the Iran deal, but would privately tone down their efforts to undermine the deal.’

READ MORE…

How Three of the Iran Negotiations’ Toughest Issues Were Resolved

Gareth Porter, author of Manufactured Crisis, writes for Truthout:

Iranians holding their flag celebrate the announcement that Iran had reached a nuclear deal with world powers in Tehran, Iran, July 14, 2015. (Arash Khamooshi/The New York Times) The 159-page text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the six powers led by the United States does not contain any major surprises about the two central elements of the agreement – limits on the Iranian nuclear program and the timing and sequencing of lifting sanctions. And there is nothing in the text about the last major issue to be resolved – how the Security Council’s new resolution will deal with the arms embargo and ban on the Iranian ballistic missile program.

But details provided in the official text help confirm information available from other sources on the other two toughest issues: IAEA access to “suspicious sites” and the past allegations of Iranian work on nuclear weapons.

Below are brief accounts of what we now know about how these three major negotiating issues were resolved during the Vienna round of negotiations. The three issues are of particular interest because they have all been the most clearly linked to the politics of Israeli and Saudi opposition to the agreement.’

READ MORE…

British pilots took part in anti-ISIS bombing campaign in Syria

Josh Halliday, Ewen MacAskill and Frances Perraudin report for The Guardian:

British pilots have carried out air strikes in Syria, marking a significant expansion of the UK’s role in the campaign against Islamic State.

The UK pilots were embedded with coalition forces, including the US and Canada, and the number involved is understood to have been in single figures.

Details of British personnel’s involvement in strikes by allied nations’ forces were revealed by a freedom of information request from the pressure group Reprieve.

The House of Commons voted against military action in Syria in 2013 and parliamentary authorisation has so far only been given to UK air strikes against Isis in neighbouring Iraq.

[…] The revelation is likely to infuriate MPs who voted against the military intervention. John Baron, the Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay and a member of the foreign affairs select committee, called for the immediate end to UK military strikes in Syria and urged Fallon to explain himself to parliament.

“What this does show is at the very minimum an insensitivity to parliament’s will,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.’

READ MORE…

ISIS: Iraq conflict leaves nearly 15,000 civilians dead over last 16 months

The Associated Press reports:

Conflict in Iraq has led to nearly 15,000 civilian deaths and left 30,000 wounded during a 16-month period that ended on 30 April, according to a UN report.

The UN’s human rights office and its mission in Iraq said violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights abuses by the Islamic State group, which controls large swaths of Iraq’s north and west, may in some cases amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide.

Iraq is going through its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of US troops. Isis captured Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and the majority of western Anbar province in 2014 and still holds large parts of the country, though Iraqi forces have made progress in recent months with the help of a US-led air campaign.

During the 16-month period, the report said, more than 2.8 million people fled their homes and they remained displaced in the country, including an estimated 1.3 million children.

The UN officers did not break down who was responsible for the casualties.’

READ MORE…

U.S. Wants Drones in North Africa to Combat Islamic State in Libya

Gordon Lubold and Adam Entous report for the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. is in talks with North African countries about positioning drones at a base on their soil to ramp up surveillance of Islamic State in Libya in what would be the most significant expansion of the campaign against the extremist group in the region.

The establishment of such a base would help eliminate what counterterrorism officials described as one of the last and most pressing intelligence “blind spots” facing U.S. and Western spy agencies. Washington and its allies are seeking to contain the expansion of Islamic State beyond Iraq and Syria, where a U.S.-led military campaign against the group is already under way.

“Right now, what we are trying to do is address some real intelligence challenges,” a senior administration official said. A base in North Africa close to Islamic State strongholds in Libya would help the U.S. “fill gaps in our understanding of what’s going on” there, the official added.’

READ MORE…

Retired General: Drones Create More Terrorists Than They Kill, Iraq War Helped Create ISIS

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testifies during a hearing before the House (Select) Intelligence Committee February 4, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to examine threats to the U.S. from all around the world.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in a forthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that U.S. soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.

Flynn, who in 2014 was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.

But his enthusiasm for the application of force doesn’t extend to the use of drones. In the interview with Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan, set to air July 31, the former three star general says: “When you drop a bomb from a drone … you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Pressed by Hasan as to whether drone strikes are creating more terrorists than they kill, Flynn says, “I don’t disagree with that.” He describes the present approach of drone warfare as “a failed strategy.”

“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general says. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”’

READ MORE…

Netanyahu: Israel Won’t Be Bound by Iran Nuclear Deal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In between bouts of angrily shaking his fists at the sky about the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared today that he doesn’t believe his country is bound by the deal in the slightest, and remains free to attack Iran at any moment.

Netanyahu has been insisting a nuclear deal with Iran would mean the destruction of Israel throughout the talks, empty rhetoric during the long period when no one expected the talks to actually lead to any sort of deal. With a deal now not only possible but agreed to, Netanyahu is struggling to get his rhetoric on track.

Israel wasn’t involved in the nuclear deal, and has no obligations under it, so saying they are not bound by it is effectively meaningless. The threats to attack Iran are nothing new, but feel even emptier in the wake of the deal, as it would fuel an enormous international backlash against Israel, even if US hawks are okay with the idea.’

READ MORE…

Pentagon chief reassures Israel: We will use “military option” against Iran if necessary

Kristina Wong reports for The Hill:

Defense Secretary Ash Carter reassured Israel and other allies in the Middle East on Tuesday that the U.S. would utilize the “military option” against Iran if needed.

“We remain prepared and postured to bolster the security of our friends and allies in the region, including Israel; to defend against aggression; ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf; and check Iranian malign influence,” Carter said in a statement.

“We will utilize the military option if necessary,” he added.

“Our military — including tens of thousands of U.S. forces in the Middle East — are full speed ahead maintaining a strong presence in the Gulf.”

Carter’s remarks came after the administration announced it reached a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. ‘

READ MORE…

How a weaker Iran got the hegemon to lift sanctions

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

Now that Iran nuclear deal is completed, the attention of western news media and political commentators is predictably focused overwhelmingly on the opposition to the agreement within the US Congress and from Israel and the Saudi-led Sunni Arab coalition.

That media lens misses the real significance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is that Iran succeeded in negotiating an agreement with the United States that upheld its national right to a nuclear programme despite the obvious vast disparity in power between the two states. That power disparity between the global hegemon and a militarily weak but politically influential regional “middle power” has shaped not just the negotiating strategies of the two sides during the negotiations but, more importantly, how they came about in the first place.

The news media have adopted the Obama administration’s view that negotiations were the result of Iran responding to international sanctions. The problem with that conventional view is not that Iran wasn’t eager to get the sanctions removed, but that it was motivated to do so long before the United States was willing to negotiate.’

READ MORE…

Iran Deal Creates World’s Most Intrusive Inspection Regime: Interview with Lawrence Wikerson

Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and a former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is known for being critical of the Iraq War. (The Real News)

Could Historic Iran Nuclear Deal Transform the Middle East? Interview with Flynt Leverett

Flynt Leverett is the author of “Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran“. He is also professor of international affairs at Penn State. He served for over a decade in the U.S. government as a senior analyst at the CIA, a Middle East specialist for the State Department and as senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council. (Democracy Now!)

After years of talks, an Iran nuclear deal has been signed

Editor’s Note: You can view a timeline of the Iran nuclear talks here, and the full text of the agreement here.

Heather Timmons and Jason Karaian report for Quartz:

It has finally happened. Iran and six world powers have reached a deal to lift sanctions that have been in place for 12 years, in exchange for the nation’s agreement to limit its nuclear program.

Iran’s civil nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, sanctions against banks and exports will be lifted, and an arms embargo removed, to be replaced with five-year restrictions on arms-buying. In return, “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons,” the agreement states.

“No one ever thought it would be easy. Historic decisions never are,” read a joint statement from EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif:

We know that this agreement will be subject to intense scrutiny. But what we are announcing today is not only a deal but a good deal. And a good deal for all sides—and the wider international community.

READ MORE…

Wikileaks Revelations Expose US Tentacles: Interview with Michael Ratner

Michael Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and U.S. attorney for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. In this interview he breaks down the latest Wikileaks revelations. (The Real News)

A Mounting Humanitarian Catastrophe in Yemen: Interview with Farea Al-Muslimi and Matthieu Aikins

‘Aid groups are warning Yemen is on the brink of famine as the Saudi-led attack intensifies. More than 3,000 people, including 1,500 civilians, have died in Yemen since the U.S.-backed Saudi offensive against the Houthi rebel group began on March 26. According to the United Nations, 80 percent of Yemen’s 25 million people are now in need of some form of humanitarian aid, and more than one million Yemenis have fled their homes, as a Saudi naval blockade has cut off food and fuel supply lines for much of the country. Monday was reportedly the deadliest day since the fighting began, with over 176 people killed, including 30 people at a market in the northern province of Amran and 60 people at a livestock market in the southern town of al-Foyoush. To talk more about Yemen, we are joined by two guests. Farea Al-Muslimi is a co-founder of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies in Yemen. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. And here in New York is Matthieu Aikins, award-winning foreign correspondent. He’s a fellow at The Nation Institute. He was in Yemen last month reporting for Rolling Stone magazine.’ (Democracy Now!)

Yemen: the Ravaging of a Country

Cesar Chelala writes for CounterPunch:

Recent indiscriminate air attacks by Saudi Arabia on civilians in Harez (northwest of Yemen) have resulted in 33 civilian deaths and 67 people with serious injuries. Those numbers add up to what is increasingly becoming a national tragedy, as coalition forces continue their attacks on Houthi fighters. Cities on the northern border with Saudi Arabia are becoming emptied of inhabitants, whose displacement is saturating the villages further south.

Since the war began, more than 3,000 people have been killed and 14,300 have been wounded, plunging Yemen into a humanitarian crisis of great proportion. The limited success of the brutal air campaign against Yemeni rebels reminds one of the verses of the famous Yemeni poet Al-Baradouni, “They come with iron and fire, but they are weaker than straw”.

Saudi Arabia has been the leading member of the coalition fighting Houthi rebels.

The coalition it leads has been accused by Human Rights Watch of using cluster munitions supplied by the U.S. Although this kind of munitions is not banned by the U.S., Yemen or Saudi Arabia, its use is banned by 116 countries throughout the world. They are considered imprecise weapons that pose a long-term danger to civilians because of the unexploded remnants they leave behind.’

READ MORE…

Jihadis likely winners of Saudi Arabia’s futile war on Yemen’s Houthi rebels

Kareem Shaheen reports for The Guardian:

[…] The only groups poised to benefit from the war dragging on are the jihadis of Islamic State (Isis) and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the latter’s most powerful franchise, who are likely to gain influence amid the chaos.

Isis has claimed recent, bloody suicide bombings in Houthi mosques and Sana’a when it once had no known presence in the country, while AQAP has continued to seize territory in eastern Yemen unhindered by American drone strikes.

All the while the war is tearing at the fabric of Yemeni society. Southerners in Aden have formed local militias to fight off the Houthi advance, and many have lost loved ones to what they see as an invading force, wounds that may never be healed at the war’s end and threatening Yemen’s future unity.

It is increasingly apparent that Hadi, sheltered by the Saudis, is unlikely to ever return as Yemen’s president, and a political solution to the war is unlikely to be reached unless Riyadh alters its goal of reinstating him, largely given that all the Houthis need to do to “win” the conflict is to survive.’

READ MORE…

Iran Talks Stall Again Amid Reports Western Officials Change Demands

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, believed to be on the cusp of a final agreement, appear to have hit a brick wall today amid reports that various Western nations, particularly the US, are changing their positions and “walking back” previous concessions.

Iranian negotiators say that the talks are less and less a multilateral negotiation and more like five simultaneous bilateral negotiations, with every Western nation present Iran their own “red lines” on the deal. They say negotiators are often “flexible” on other nations’ red lines, but not their own.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed Iran’s assessment of the situation, saying Western nations were suddenly rejecting a draft resolution which others had suggested would be entirely successful, and saying the fault of the latest delay was not Iran’s.’

READ MORE…

Big loser in any nuclear deal with Iran may be Russia

Agnia Grigas and Amir Handjani report for Reuters:

As Iran and six world powers edge closer to solidifying an accord that puts limits on Tehran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, a unique opportunity presents itself for the West. The United States and its European partners could begin to decouple the unnatural Iranian-Russian alliance to reign in Moscow’s hegemonic ambitions, as well as bring Iran back into the global economic fold. Competition between Moscow and Tehran would reduce Russia’s influence in the Middle East, unlock Iran and may even serve Europe’s future interest as it looks for alternatives to Russian gas.

Iran and Russia share a complicated history rooted in both countries’ imperial past. In fact, over the past two centuries, Iran has ceded more territory to Russia than any other country. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union destabilized and encouraged separatist movements in the province of Iranian Azerbaijan, similar to what Moscow is doing in Ukraine. As recently as the 1980s, Iran backed Afghan rebels in their conflict against the Soviet Union.

The recent Russo-Iranian alliance has been more a marriage of convenience than a genuine partnership. Russia uses Iran as a geopolitical foothold in the energy-rich Persian Gulf and to poke a finger in the eye of U.S. allies in the region. In return, Iran takes advantage of Moscow’s veto power at multinational forums such as the United Nations. An Iran that is engaged with the West in areas such as energy, trade and peaceful nuclear power generation would no longer see Russia as protector of its interests. It is a fact that Iran’s fractured and vitriolic relationship with the West has driven it to form political, commercial and military ties with Russia. Those ties are still fragile, at best.’

READ MORE…

Document Reveals Billionaire Backers Behind United Against Nuclear Iran

Eli Clifton reports for LobeLog:

Among the many groups engaged in advocacy over a potential deal between Iran and world powers, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) stands apart as by far the most mysterious. Late last month, UANI announced it would launch a “multi-million dollar” ad campaign, noting “a growing concern that U.S. negotiators could be pressured into making dangerous concessions in order to cement a deal,” according to the group’s CEO, Mark Wallace.

As the ad buy suggests, UANI draws on a deep well of resources to fund fretful warnings about the dangers of compromising with Iran’s nuclear negotiators. But, despite piecemeal information unearthed in my previous reporting, a more comprehensive look at UANI’s funding has until now remained obscured by a US government-backed veil of secrecy: the group’s donor rolls were among the documents a plaintiff was seeking in a defamation case against UANI until the Justice Department quashed the suit with an invocation of state secrets.

Now, however, I’ve obtained and reviewed a comprehensive list of UANI’s major donors in UANI’s 2013 tax year, providing some answers about who is backing the group’s efforts.’

READ MORE…

Israel Attacked Gaza One Year Ago Today: Interview with Max Blumenthal

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

One year ago today, Israel invaded, bombed and shelled Gaza, and continued to do that for the next seven weeks. According to the U.N., at least 2,104 Gazans were killed — 1,462 of whom (69 percent) were civilians, including 495 children. A total of 6 Israeli civilians, and 66 soldiers, were killed. The shockingly high civilian death rate in Gaza included the now-iconic imagery of four young boys from the same family being killed by Israeli warships while they played on a beach in front of a hotel filled with foreign journalists.

Months after the attack concluded, U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon visited Gaza and labeled the destruction “beyond description,” far worse than prior Israeli attacks. At least 17,000 homes “were obliterated or severely damaged during the conflict,” and it will take two decades to rebuild them; that means that “nearly 60,000 people have lost their homes.” On countless occasions, entire large families of Gazans were instantly extinguished by Israeli violence. Because the population of Gaza is so young — 43 percent are under the age of 15, while 64 percent are under the age of 24 — the majority of its residents know little beyond extreme suffering, carnage, violence and war.

As harrowing as that data is, it tells only a small part of the story. Statistics like these have an abstract property to them: cold and clinical. Viewing the devastation of Gaza through their lens can have a distancing effect. They erase the most affecting facts: the stories of human suffering and devastation caused by this attack, the sadism and savagery that drove it.’

READ MORE AND LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW…