Category Archives: Iran

This is how a police state protects “secrets”

Marcy Wheeler writes for Salon:

This is how a police state protects "secrets": Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA and up to 80 years on circumstantial evidenceThe participants in the economy of shared tips and intelligence in Washington D.C., breathed a collective sigh of relief when, on January 12, the government announced it would not force James Risen to testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. “Press freedom was safe! Our trade in leaks is safe!” observers seemed to conclude, and they returned to their squalid celebration of an oppressive Saudi monarch.

That celebration about information sharing is likely premature. Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.’

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Jury Convicts Former CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling of Leaking to Journalist & Violating Espionage Act

Kevin Gosztola writes for The Dissenter:

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, of charges brought against him because the government argued he leaked classified information about a top secret CIA operation in Iran to New York Times reporter James Risen.

Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.’

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21st-century censorship: Governments around the world are using stealthy strategies to manipulate the media

Philip Bennett and Moises Naim report for Columbia Review of Journalism:

Two beliefs safely inhabit the canon of contemporary thinking about journalism. The first is that the internet is the most powerful force disrupting the news media. The second is that the internet and the communication and information tools it spawned, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, are shifting power from governments to civil society and to individual bloggers, netizens, or “citizen journalists.”

It is hard to disagree with these two beliefs. Yet they obscure evidence that governments are having as much success as the internet in disrupting independent media and determining the information that reaches society. Moreover, in many poor countries or in those with autocratic regimes, government actions are more important than the internet in defining how information is produced and consumed, and by whom.

Illustrating this point is a curious fact: Censorship is flourishing in the information age. In theory, new technologies make it more difficult, and ultimately impossible, for governments to control the flow of information. Some have argued that the birth of the internet foreshadowed the death of censorship. In 1993, John Gilmore, an internet pioneer, told Time, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Today, many governments are routing around the liberating effects of the internet. Like entrepreneurs, they are relying on innovation and imitation. In countries such as Hungary, Ecuador, Turkey, and Kenya, officials are mimicking autocracies like Russia, Iran, or China by redacting critical news and building state media brands. They are also creating more subtle tools to complement the blunt instruments of attacking journalists.

As a result, the internet’s promise of open access to independent and diverse sources of information is a reality mostly for the minority of humanity living in mature democracies.’

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War with Isis: The West is wrong again in its fight against terror

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Islamic State (Isis) will remain at the centre of the escalating crisis in the Middle East this year as it was in 2014. The territories it conquered in a series of lightning campaigns last summer remain almost entirely under its control, even though it has lost some towns to the Kurds and Shia militias in recent weeks.

United States air strikes in Iraq from 8 August and Syria from 23 September may have slowed up Isis advances and inflicted heavy casualties on its forces in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. But Isis has its own state machinery and is conscripting tens of thousands of fighters to replace casualties, enabling it to fight on multiple fronts from Jalawla on Iraq’s border with Iran to the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria.

In western Syria, Isis is a growing power as the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad loses its advantage of fighting a fragmented opposition, that is now uniting under the leadership of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Yet it is only a year ago that President Obama dismissed the importance of Isis, comparing it to a junior university basketball team.’

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Iran expands ‘smart’ Internet censorship

Michelle Moghtader reports for Reuters:

‘Iran is to expand what it calls “smart filtering” of the Internet, a policy of censoring undesirable content on websites without banning them completely, as it used to, the government said on Friday.

The Islamic Republic has some of the strictest controls on Internet access in the world, but its blocks on U.S.-based social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are routinely bypassed by tech-savvy Iranians using virtual private networks (VPNs).

Under the new scheme, Tehran could lift its blanket ban on those sites and, instead, filter their content.’

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Non-Dollar Trading Is Killing the Petrodollar — And the Foundation of US-Saudi Policy in the Middle East

Former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke writes for The Huffington Post:

‘A profound transformation of the global monetary system is underway. It is being driven by a perfect storm: the need for Russia and Iran to escape Western sanctions, the low interest rate policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep the American economy afloat and the increasing demand for Middle East oil by China.

The implications of this transformation are immense for U.S. policy in the Middle East which, for 50 years, has been founded on a partnership with Saudi Arabia.’

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U.S. State Deptartment Delays Release of Study on 1953 Iran Coup

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In 1953, the CIA orchestrated a coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadegh, installing Shah Reza Pahlavi.

It’s no secret that the CIA did it, and the US has admitted it time and again, but the State Department has announced it is once again delaying the release of its study on the coup, claiming the admission would undermine “ongoing negotiations with Iran.”’

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China is world’s worst jailer of the press; global tally second worst on record

Shazdeh Omari reports for the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Map of Imprisoned Journalists as of December 1, 2014‘The Committee to Protect Journalists identified 220 journalists in jail around the world in 2014, an increase of nine from 2013. The tally marks the second-highest number of journalists in jail since CPJ began taking an annual census of imprisoned journalists in 1990, and highlights a resurgence of authoritarian governments in countries such as China, Ethiopia, Burma, and Egypt.

China’s use of anti-state charges and Iran’s revolving door policy in imprisoning reporters, bloggers, editors, and photographers earned the two countries the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst and second worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Together, China and Iran are holding a third of journalists jailed globally—despite speculation that new leaders who took the reins in each country in 2013 might implement liberal reforms.’

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‘Coercive diplomacy’ and the failure of the Iranian nuclear negotiations

Gareth Porter writes for Middle Easy Eye:

‘After more than a year of negotiations between the United States and Iran, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement by the agreed deadline in July.  They have agreed to continue negotiating, but the failure to meet the deadline was clearly not caused by the lack of time.

To understand why the talks have remained deadlocked, it is necessary to review the Obama administration’s stance on diplomacy with Iran in the context of the long US history of favouring “coercive diplomacy” over traditional negotiations in managing conflicts with adversaries.

Reliance on coercive diplomacy is deeply imbedded in the strategic culture of US national security institutions. It has evolved over decades of US military and economic dominance in international politics, which has allowed the United States to avoid genuine diplomacy repeatedly.’

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Editor’s Note: The below interview with Gareth Porter, author of “Manufactured Crisis:The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” begins at around 16:05

Iran’s Non-Existent Nuke Program: Interview with Gareth Porter

Editor’s Note: Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist and historian who specialises on the Iranian nuclear issue. His latest book is ‘Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare‘. The below interview was recorded over two weeks ago. 

Thirty-five years after Iranian hostage crisis, aftershocks remain

Stephen Kinzer, author of The Brothers, writes for The Boston Globe:

‘Jimmy Carter has called Nov. 4 “a date I will never forget.” Other Americans may not remember the date, but as a nation we are still captive to the humiliating trauma that began unfolding precisely 35 years ago during Carter’s presidency. At 10:30 on the morning of Nov. 4, 1979, several hundred young Iranians climbed the walls of the American embassy in Tehran and stormed inside. By early afternoon, they had captured, blindfolded, and handcuffed dozens of American citizens and diplomats, including 52 who would remain in their hands for 444 days. Thus began a crisis that may now be seen as one of the crucial events in the modern history of both the United States and the Middle East.

Plenty has happened in the intervening decades to give Iran and the United States reason to mistrust each other. Each country has blamed the other for fomenting terror in the Middle East, and each has violently attacked the other’s vital interests. Yet when I recently asked one lifelong Washington insider to explain why the American political class remains so obsessed with isolating and punishing Iran, he immediately replied, “It all goes back to the hostage crisis.” The emotional legacy of that episode has proven astonishingly long-lasting.’

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Hawks Triumph in Senate; Will Push More Aggressive US Policy

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but much more important than which party took control is the nature of the incoming Senators from the new ruling party.

It’s not an influx of Tea Party members, reluctant to waste US funds on overseas adventures and suspicious of federal power, but rather a series of hawks in the model of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) that seized the reins of power last night.

The new senators are typified by Jodi Ernst (R – IA) and Tom Cotton (R – AR), who campaigned heavy on escalating the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria, as well as being more hawkish at essentially every opportunity.”

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Iranian Photojournalist Reportedly Detained After Covering Protest Against Acid Attacks

Robert Mackey reports for The New York Times:

‘An Iranian photojournalist was reported to have been detained on Friday, two days after his images of protesters deploring acid attacks on women in the city of Isfahan were published by news organizations around the world.

[…] Mr. Jafari had covered the demonstration on Wednesday outside the gates of a local judiciary office for the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency, which still features 20 of his images on its website. His photographs were also distributed internationally by Getty Images.’

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The U.S. Government War Against Reporter James Risen

Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler write for The Nation:

‘Ever since New York Times reporter James Risen received his first subpoena from the Justice Department more than six years ago, occasional news reports have skimmed the surface of a complex story. The usual gloss depicts a conflict between top officials who want to protect classified information and a journalist who wants to protect confidential sources. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sterling—a former undercover CIA officer now facing charges under the Espionage Act, whom the feds want Risen to identify as his source—is cast as a disgruntled ex-employee in trouble for allegedly spilling the classified beans.

But the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of US foreign policy. The recent announcement of Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general has come after nearly five years of the Obama administration extending and intensifying the use of the Justice Department for retribution against investigative journalism and whistleblowing.’

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Iran says nuclear suspicions are ‘fabricated ambiguities’

Frederik Dahl reports for Reuters:

‘Iran dismissed on Tuesday as “fabricated ambiguities” suspicions that it has carried out nuclear arms research, a day after it came under renewed Western pressure to help clear up U.N. watchdog concerns about its atomic energy program. Addressing an annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), senior official Behrouz Kamalvandi also said Iran was committed to trying to reach a negotiated solution to its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

“However, measures such as sanctions or double standard approaches certainly harm the negotiating process and cause further mistrust,” Kamalvandi, vice chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said. He urged world powers – which resumed talks with Iran in New York last week – to take “constructive and realistic approaches” and fully respect Iran’s nuclear rights in order to end what he called an “unnecessary” crisis.’

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Iranian FM: US ‘obsessed’ with sanctions against Tehran

AFP reports:

‘Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal.

“We are committed to resolving this issue,” Zarif told a Washington think-tank, but he argued the US was “infatuated” with sanctions and Congress was objecting to any deal “because they would have to lift the sanctions.”

“Iran has shown that we will live up to every agreement,” Zarif argued at a discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, just hours before the Iranian delegation was to meet in New York with US counterparts for fresh talks.’

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Israeli envoy: Nuclear Iran ‘a thousand times’ more dangerous than Islamic State

Ron Kampeas reports for The Times of Israel:

‘Saying a nuclear Iran would be a “thousand times” greater threat to the world than the Islamic State, Israel’s ambassador to the United States warned against including Iran in any coalition to derail the jihadist group.

Ron Dermer, speaking Wednesday to guests at a pre-Rosh Hashanah reception at his residence in suburban Maryland, also cautioned the US against accommodating Iran during the current effort to degrade IS.His urgent tone was the latest sign of a split between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over how to deal with Iran’s role in stopping IS, which is seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria.’

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The Geopolitics of World War III

Netanyahu suggested pitting ISIS against Iran

Michael Wilner reported for The Jerusalem Post in late June:

‘Threatening a borderless conflict between “extremist Shi’ites,” funded by leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and equally extreme Sunnis— a soft “alliance” between ISIS and al Qaeda— the Israeli prime minister suggested the United States should largely stay out of the fight, and instead allow the parties to weaken one another.

“Don’t strengthen either of them. Weaken both,” Netanyahu said.’

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Editor’s Note: What Netanyahu suggested is something a lot like the eight year blood bath that was the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s, a war which cost Iraq 500,000 lives and Iran over 750,000. Israel played a secret role by selling $75 million worth of weapons to Iran during Operation Seashell in 1981. The following year the United States started providing Iraq with weapons after Ronald Reagan removed them from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Everyone remembers the famous when Rumsfeld met Saddam moment from 1983. It’s a very dirty game and clearly the same kind of thinking still exists today, let your enemies kill each other while you sit back and enjoy the show. You can watch a documentary on the Iran-Iraq War here.

‘No plans’ for U.S. military coordination with Iran against Islamic State

Lazar Berman and AFP report:

The United States said Friday it has “no plans” for any military coordination with Iran in the fight against Islamic State fighters operating in Iraq and Syria “We are not going to coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran and have no plans to do so,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, reacting to reports that Tehran had approved such an arrangement.

Harf said that Washington was “open to engaging” with Iran as it had in the past on select issues, notably on Afghanistan in late 2001, when the two sides worked to put Hamid Karzai into power after the fall of the Taliban. “But we will not be coordinating our action together,” she added. The BBC earlier reported, citing unnamed sources in Tehran, that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved cooperation with the US in the fight against Islamic State. But Iran’s foreign ministry said the report was not correct.’

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New Sanctions Threaten Iran Nuclear Deal

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj writes for Lobe Log:

‘On Aug. 29 the US Treasury added 28 Iranian individuals and entities to its ever-expanding sanctions list. Expectedly, Tehran denounced the decision. “They are in conflict with the spirit of talks. They are unconstructive in my opinion,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an Aug. 30 news conference broadcast on State TV. “We should resist such an aggression with all might and power,” he said. “We consider some of the sanctions crimes against humanity.”

This is not the first time the United States has imposed sanctions on Iran since the historic interim nuclear deal achieved between Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China plus Germany) in November 2013, but Rouhani’s words mark a shift in Iran’s reaction. The Iranian president spent considerable time decrying the sanctions in a harsher tone than ever before. Rouhani was sending a message to the United States.

US sanctions on Iran, which have been consistently expanded by Congress and executive orders since 1997, have become so byzantine that they are hindering the activities of countless businesses, Iranian or multinational. The net of financial sanctions has been crafted with such a tight mesh that even harmless, routine trade is constrained and sanctioned.’

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Iran displays Israeli drone allegedly shot down near nuclear facility

The Jerusalem Post/Reuters reports:

‘The Iranian media released footage Monday of the Israeli spy drone it claimed to have shot down Sunday as it was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site. The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed Monday that it was working to extract intelligence and data from the drone’s remains. According to an Iranian military official, the drone was a Hermes model with a combat radius of 800 kilometers.

IRGC’s Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif was quoted by Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency as saying that some of the parts of the downed aircraft are working, “and our experts are studying the information and intelligence of these parts. We are now analyzing the information of this plane. The downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limits nuclear area in Natanz … but was targeted by a ground-to-air missile before it managed to enter the area,” state news agency ISNA said, citing a statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.’

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Nabucco: Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gas?

World Bulletin reports:

Iran to provide Europe with alternative to Russian gasAs the Ukraine crisis puts Russia and Europe at odds, leaving Europe with no choice but to search for alternative natural gas resources, Iran looks likely to fulfill Europe’s demand.

Iran’s deputy oil minister Ali Mejidi has indicated that the Nabucco Project, which was presented as an alternative to Russian gas with the potential of fulfilling a large proportion of Europe’s need before being put on hold last year, is now back on track. Speaking to Russian press, Mejidi confirmed that two separate delegations were sent to Europe. “With Nabucco, Iran can provide Europe with gas. We are the best alternative to Russia,” he said.

Mejidi also said that though a number of routes to deliver the gas to Europe were being considered, Turkey was the “right address.” The Nabucco project, which was first presented in 2002, plans to pump gas to Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. The project will also pump 31 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani and Iraqi natural gas to Europe.

Iran Denies Media Reports on $20 billion Oil Deal with Russia

Tasnim News Agency reports:

putin iran‘Iran’s Deputy Oil Minister for International and Trade Affairs denied the recent media reports on a $20-billion oil deal between Tehran and Moscow. Ali Majedi said reports carried by some foreign media about Russia signing a $20- billion agreement to purchase Iranian oil are incorrect. Moscow and Tehran signed a five-year memorandum of understanding on Monday aimed at boosting bilateral economic cooperation.

Later, the Reuters News Agency claimed that it included an oil-for-goods agreement worth up to $20 billion which would see Moscow buy Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods. Meanwhile the White House has said such a deal would raise “serious concerns” and would be inconsistent with the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran.

US Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen on Thursday said Washington may introduce sanctions against Russian companies due to the recently signed oil deal between Moscow and Tehran. Cohen added that Washington had warned Russia against such a deal under the threat of additional US sanctions.’

Remember when the U.S. shot down Iran Air Flight 655?

Oil-producing Iran looks to solar power

Ali Akbar Dareini reports for the Associated Press:

‘President Hassan Rouhani’s government has quintupled its spending on solar power projects in the last year, taking advantage of Iran’s 300-odd days of sunshine a year that make its vast sun-kissed lands one of the best spots on earth to host solar panels. While being good for the environment, the panels also offer rural Iran steady power amid uncertainty over the country’s contested nuclear program as it negotiates with world powers.

And as the Islamic Republic cuts back on subsidies that once made gasoline cheaper than bottled mineral water, a push toward self-sustaining solar power could help the government save money and bolster its sanctions-battered economy. “A big change is in the making in Iran,” said Saman Mirhadi, a senior official in charge of solar projects. Iran, home to some 77 million people, is a fossil-fuel powerhouse, even in the crude-oil rich Middle East. It is home to both the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves and massive natural gas reserves. However, sanctions have cut into the country’s refining and production capabilities.’

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US considers talks with Iran on Iraq security

From BBC News:

Map ‘Washington is considering direct talks with Iran on the security situation in Iraq, a US official has told the BBC. The move comes as US President Barack Obama weighs up options on action to take in Iraq… While the US and Iran are old adversaries, both have an interest in curbing the growing threat posed by ISIS and both are considering military support to the Iraqi government, says the BBC’s Rajini Vaidyanathan in Washington.

The US is said to be considering direct discussions with Tehran which could even take place as early as this week. The two countries are due to hold the latest round of talks on Iran’s nuclear programme in Vienna. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said he will consider co-operation if the US takes action in Iraq.

The USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier is already being deployed to the Gulf, accompanied by two more warships. But Washington says no US troops will be deployed on the ground. The US has also announced it is increasing security at its embassy in Baghdad and relocating some staff to safer areas. Meanwhile, there are reports that more than 130 Iranian Revolutionary Guards are in Iraq to provide training and advice.’

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Iran’s plan to double its population

Michael Cook writes for BioEdge:

‘Another challenge to be faced by bioethics in the decades ahead is the downstream consequences of falling birth rates. Once fertility begins to fall, it keeps falling to levels which once seemed (sorry) inconceivable. The replacement birth rate is 2.1 children per woman. But in South Korea, parts of Spain, and Russia it has fallen below 1.3. At that rate, population begins to decline fairly rapidly. A small population could have big political consequences.

This worries the leaders of Iran. The birth rate in Iran has fallen more swiftly than anywhere else in the world – from 6.4 in 1986 to a current low of 1.8. When they look into their crystal ball, they see a weak and depopulated nation. This is why the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently released a 14-point plan to reverse decades of propaganda for small families and double his country’s population to 150 million. His proposals include: increasing the birth rate to more than 2.3; lowering the age of marriage; an Islamic-Iranian lifestyle and opposing undesirable aspects of the Western lifestyle; and providing treatment for both male and female infertility.’

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Former top Iranian terrorist living under CIA protection in U.S., new book claims

Jeff Stein writes for Newsweek:

‘The senior former Iranian intelligence officer who quarterbacked the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut and killed scores of Americans was recently living under CIA protection in the United States, a book being published Tuesday says. Ali Reza Asgari was given asylum by the George W. Bush administration in 2007 after he defected in Turkey, according to The Good Spy, a biography of Robert Ames, a legendary CIA officer who was among those killed in the embassy bombing. In all, 63 people died, 17 of them Americans, including seven other CIA officers. Ames, who had been the agency’s Beirut station chief, was visiting the embassy as the CIA’s top Middle East analyst.

Asgari, a top commander of Iran’s shadowy Revolutionary Guards force in Lebanon, “remains in the United States, probably living under a CIA agent-protection program,” according to the book’s author, Kai Bird, who a shared Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2006 for his book American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The CIA did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment over the weekend, but on Monday evening flatly denied it had aided and abetted Asgari’s defection and resettlement.’

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John Bolton: Forget Syria, Pursue Regime Change in Iran

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

John-BoltonJohn Bolton is confused. After spending years berating the Obama administration for failing to take action in Syria’s bloody civil war, he has come out against such an intervention…kind of.

In a piece in the New York Post, Bolton criticizes the administration for “vacillating for three years on whether to arm ‘moderate’ opposition forces, by failing to uphold his ‘red line’ on chemical weapons and by indulging in rhetoric unaccompanied by action.” At the same time, he is coming out of the closet as against supporting the rebels or bombing Damascus: “Washington’s ability to affect the outcome in Syria is decidedly limited; aiding the rebels mainly increases the chances of an al Qaeda regime in Damascus — hardly preferable to the current bloodshed.”

Bravo! This is what non-interventionists have been saying since the beginning. But then, Bolton’s piece trades restraint in Syria for overthrowing the Iranian regime.

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