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Tightening the Noose on Iran

Over the past two weeks there has been something like a competition between Republicans and Democrats to see who can do more for Israel by hyping Iran as a threat. Mitt Romney fired the first shot while speaking [1] at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, accusing the president of “undermining” Israel and citing the Islamic Republic as the world’s greatest threat. Barack Obama fired back with a public signing [2] of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, coupled with a leaked report that his national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, had briefed [3] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the details of U.S. plans to attack Iran.

Romney then traveled to Israel, where he declared [4] Jerusalem to be its capital, dissed the Palestinians without mentioning them by name, and gave a green light for an Israeli attack on Iran, while pledging [4] to stop Iran from acquiring the capability to engineer a nuclear weapon — something it already has. And he promised to take steps soon, before Tehran can harden its nuclear sites.

Obama’s countermove was to send [5] Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Israel just after Romney departed to reassure the Israelis that the White House is serious about using force against Iran.

Moving on to phase two, Republicans and Democrats together are tightening the screws on Iran. On July 25, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hosted a session [6] on “Iran’s support for terrorism in the Middle East” that featured leading neoconservatives Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center, and Matthew Levitt of the AIPAC-spawned Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Six days later, President Obama issued an executive order blocking transactions from several Iranian banks and blacklisting other foreign banks that facilitate the purchase of Iranian oil, while the State Department issued its annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2011. Announcing the release of the report, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, State’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, opined [7] that “Iran is and remains the preeminent terrorism sponsor in the world.” On Wednesday there was a vote in the House of Representatives on the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, House Resolution 1095. It had 364 co-sponsors and passed by a vote of 421 to 6.  It will now go to the Senate where it could well pass unanimously.

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It should surprise no one that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been operating to increase pressure on Iran. There has been a series of letters and fact sheets advising Congress on the issue since the first draft of HR 1095 surfaced last year. It is generally believed [8] that the bill was actually written by AIPAC. The following letter was sent to every congressman on Tuesday, on the eve of the vote on the Iran Threat Reduction Act. It was sent out on AIPAC letterhead and was signed by Executive Director Howard Kohr and two other AIPAC officers:

July 31, 2012

Vote Yes – The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (H.R.1905)

Dear Representative,

We write in strong support of H.R. 1905, The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012. The legislation, authored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Howard Berman, will be considered by the House on Wednesday. We strongly urge you to vote YES.

In an effort to dissuade Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, the House overwhelmingly passed in December the Iran Threat Reduction Act which tightened sanctions on Iran. The version that has now emerged from House-Senate negotiations includes the strongest set of sanctions ever enacted to isolate any country with which we were not in armed hostilities. H.R. 1905 incorporates legislative initiatives of many members from both the House and Senate and will: place virtually all of Iran’s energy, financial, and transportation sectors under U.S. sanction. Companies conducting business with Iran in these sectors face losing access to U.S. markets; impose sanctions designed to prevent Iran from repatriating any proceeds from its oil sales, thus depriving Iran of 80 percent of its hard currency earnings and half of the funds to support its national budget; impose tough new sanctions on the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC); target Iran’s use of barter transactions to bypass sanctions, the provision of insurance to Iran’s energy sector, and the provision of specialized financial messaging services to the Central Bank of Iran;   click here to learn more about the legislation and how it will raise the pressure on Iran.

In the past six months, the United States and our international partners have substantially increased the economic pressure on Iran and engaged in several rounds of talks with Tehran. Unfortunately, Iran has rebuffed the opportunity for serious negotiations while stepping up the pace of its nuclear program.

America and our allies must unite in a tough response to Iran’s belligerent approach. We must continue to send a strong message to Tehran that it will face unremitting pressure until it complies with its international obligations and end its nuclear weapons quest.

We strongly support The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (H.R. 1905) and urge you to vote YES on Wednesday.

The letter demonstrates how AIPAC operates, and it makes several points to support its contention that Iran is a major threat, arguments that are either flat-out wrong or greatly exaggerated. Not surprisingly, these arguments have been picked up in the media and by members of Congress and have been repeated nearly verbatim as if they were fact.

The letter boasts of “the strongest set of sanctions ever enacted to isolate any country with which we were not in armed hostilities placing  virtually all of Iran’s energy, financial, and transportation sectors under U.S. sanction.” Why? “Because Iran has rebuffed the opportunity for serious negotiations” and it has not complied “with its international obligations and end its nuclear weapons quest.” After the vote, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who had co-sponsored the bill, echoed those sentiments, stating that the legislation “seeks to tighten the chokehold on the regime beyond anything that has been done before.”

The 144-page Iran Threat Reduction Act [9] enhances existing sanctions in a number of areas while also establishing new legal authority to go after anyone who provides equipment or technology or facilitates oil sales. The act’s critics claim [10] it does not go far enough, with Mark Dubowitz of the neocon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies calling for “comprehensive economic warfare. Everything must be prohibited unless it is permitted.” Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute puts it another way: “This is time for the mallet, not fine needle surgery … our purpose is to bring them to the table to give up their nuclear ambitions.”  Even J Street, which claims to support Israel while seeking peace in the Middle East, commended [11] the bill.

Lest there be any confusion, the new bill — coming on top of previous legislation and executive orders, not to mention the covert Stuxnet and Flame computer viruses — sets the stage for war against Iran, a country that has not attacked the United States nor threatened to do so unless it is attacked first. Supporters of the bill and many commentators on it copy the language used by AIPAC, citing Iran’s purported quest for a nuclear weapon as their fundamental argument for the sanctions regime and possible military intervention. If this seems reminiscent of the lead up to war against Iraq in 2003, it should.

There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear-weapons program. It is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, its nuclear sites are regularly inspected by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, none of its low-level enriched uranium has been diverted, it has a legal right to enrich uranium for use in power plants, and its political leadership has declared that it is not seeking a weapon. The CIA and Israel’s Mossad agree that Iran has no program to produce a nuke.

Regarding the negotiations [12] between Iran and the U.S. over its nuclear energy program, there is certainly enough mud to stick to everyone involved, but Iran has several times proposed compromise solutions whereby its uranium could be shifted out of the country for enrichment to a low level sufficient for its power-generating reactors. These approaches have been rebuffed by the United States, and it is difficult to believe that Washington is seriously seeking a diplomatic solution. Former intelligence officer and Iran specialist Hillary Mann Leverett notes [13] that the United States has hardly spoken to Iranian negotiators since 2008.

Finally, there is the terrorism issue. There is considerable disagreement over whether Iran has been behind recent terrorist attacks on Israeli targets, most particularly as the modus operandi fits al-Qaeda much better. The annual State Department terrorism report struggles to make a case for Iranian support of terrorism but has to resort to citing last year’s plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, an alleged conspiracy that has been thoroughly debunked [14].

The drive to demonize Iran might well be considered little more than Washington theater of the absurd in an election year, but it is deadly serious. War with Iran might unleash forces [15] best left undisturbed, and the consequences for U.S. forces in the Middle East could be grave. And then there is the frail global economy, which hardly needs an oil shock.

But the beat goes on about the threat posed by Iran, orchestrated by groups like AIPAC and repeated verbatim by politicians and the mainstream media. Evidently the half-truths and out-and-out lies have convinced a lot of people that Iran is rightfully the enemy. A recent poll reveals [16] that fully 80 percent of Americans believe that Iran’s nuclear program threatens the United States, while two thirds of the public thinks sanctions will be ineffective. Most Americans believe incorrectly that Iran already has a nuclear weapon.

To go to war a second time in ten years over nothing would be shameful, but it is clear that no one in Washington who matters is resisting the stampede.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest [17].

30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "Tightening the Noose on Iran"

#1 Comment By Erv Hill On August 3, 2012 @ 7:30 am

Taken from “Civilization or Caveman Economy” by Frank Chodorov in 1940; “It is the business of the government which prepares you for war to teach you to hate. It is the business of the government which prepares you for war to teach you not to trade with certain peoples because they have bad “ideologies.” It is the business of the government which prepares you for war to prevent information coming to you which might predispose you kindly toward the people whom you will be called upon to kill. It is the business of war to break down that free exchange of goods, services, and ideas which is indigenous to all civilizations at all times.”
Says it all with no modification required.

#2 Comment By Raskolnik On August 3, 2012 @ 7:32 am

There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear-weapons program. It is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, its nuclear sites are regularly inspected by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, none of its low-level enriched uranium has been diverted, it has a legal right to enrich uranium for use in power plants, and its political leadership has declared that it is not seeking a weapon. The CIA and Israel’s Mossad agree that Iran has no program to produce a nuke.

Thanks for this.

#3 Comment By Uncle Vanya On August 3, 2012 @ 8:13 am

Is it sad or funny watching one’s country self-destruct in real time? I haven’t decided.

#4 Comment By JoaoAlfaiate On August 3, 2012 @ 8:59 am

When Obama put 30,000 more guys into Afghanistan he ignored the
lessons of Vietnam. Well, that was 45 years ago. Now it looks like we
are going to ignore the lessons of Iraq, less than ten years ago.
Except that now we have spent all our money (and a good
deal of China’s too).

#5 Comment By Dr. Joe On August 3, 2012 @ 9:36 am

Republican warmongering may ensure the re-election of president Obama. He is most likely to get reelected if we are in a shooting war with Iran this fall.

#6 Comment By Nathan On August 3, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

There’s an hilarious quote in the June 25 issue of Aviation week attributed to an unnamed “third planning veteran” who said the following: “We should give Iran advanced warning that we will damage and likely destroy their nuclear facilities. It is not an act of qwar against Iran, the Iranian people, or Islam. It is a pre-emptive attack solely against their nuclear facilities and the military targets protecting them.” Let’s get this straight, we’re going to dump hundreds of tons of bombs on this country but no, it’s not an act of war? As if with us having done so, and since it really isn’t an act of war, no you really have no right to retaliate and close the straits and kick the world into a real depression, drive up the price of gas to maybe 8 dollars a gallon and unemployment in this country to maybe 20 percent? Unbelievable.

#7 Comment By sam adams On August 3, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

“[ …] ignored the lessons of Vietnam. […] Now it looks like we are going to ignore the lessons of Iraq”

As a Tea Party voter I regard the most serious ignored lesson as that concerning electing politicians who ignore the lessons above.

Kick them all out of office. End the corrupt Republican / Democrat duopoly and send real Americans representing real American interests to the House and Senate who will bring our troops home, police the borders, deport the illegals, break up “too big to fail” bailout companies and vigorously prosecute criminality on Wall Street.

#8 Comment By James Canning On August 3, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

Bravo, Philip. AIPAC for years has blocked any improvement in US relations with Iran, and it has done so not with a view toward benefiting the Americcan people.

#9 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On August 3, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

As bad as another pointless war on behalf of Israel would be, I can’t help thinking that the damage to our reputation as a civilized nation would be as bad. Who can trust a nation so lacking in self regard that it follows the dictates of a tiny rogue client. Such a nation might do almost anything and should itself be considered a rogue among the nations. I can think of nothing more likely to lead to the formation of competing power centers and blocks to our detrement. How can we blame normal countries from drawing apart from us?

#10 Comment By Uncle Vanya On August 3, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

I can think of nothing more likely to lead to the formation of competing power centers and blocks to our detrement. How can we blame normal countries from drawing apart from us?

As a believer in the American republic, this might be one of the best things for the United States.

As defeat of Germany was necessary to rid that country of their National Socialist regime, so defeat of the United States might be necessary to rid this country once and for all of the neocons and other empire-builders.

#11 Comment By hammersmith46 On August 3, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

Uncle Vanya asks: “Is it sad or funny watching one’s country self-destruct in real time? I haven’t decided.” This country. No question. Funny. And a relief.

#12 Comment By mark green On August 4, 2012 @ 2:21 am

Israeli fanaticism has become a cancer on America and the world.

#13 Comment By roger On August 4, 2012 @ 6:57 am

The purpose of a war with Iran is to destroy one of Israels enmies in the Middle East and to feed the militatry-industrial-banking complex at home.

#14 Comment By M.Sabir On August 4, 2012 @ 9:27 am

Thank G-d that Mr. Romney is clearly showing us the same mind set as then Democrat Presidential nominee Walter Mondale when he stated I would rather lose with the support of the Jews than to win without their support……well President Reagan continued in office looks like the same thing a comin.

#15 Comment By Flavius On August 4, 2012 @ 11:07 am

And no George Marshall or Cyrus Vance anywhere in government with the courage to protest. A nation of sheep, a government of bureaucrats and poltroons.

#16 Comment By James Canning On August 4, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

Iran this week said it hoped for a “clear response” from the P5+1 regarding Iran’s suggestions for a resolution of the nuclear dispute. Xinhua had a report Aug. 3rd. No coverage in US newspapers, or very little.

#17 Comment By Eric Siverson On August 4, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

maybe Iran would not bomb Israel with a nuclear bomb . They have not attack their own Jewish people . Seems their own jewish community would be the easiest to drive into the sea

#18 Comment By McBee On August 4, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

Here’s what an Israeli has to say about it in today’s New York Times:

“Mr. Netanyahu’s great political achievement” has been to make Israel a partisan issue and push American Jews into a corner. He has forced them to make political decisions based on calculations that go against what they perceive to be American interests. ”

So much for Romney standing “in lockstep” – as he put it – with Israel. He’s really standing with Mr. Netanyahu and his cynical, corrupt and increasingly undemocratic government, and with shady donors like Sheldon Adelson.

[18]

#19 Comment By Canadian On August 4, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

It is a tidy bit more complicated than that.Iran has become a major danger to our allies in the gulf.
Bombs away come November.kind of re-election insurance policy

#20 Comment By Donna On August 5, 2012 @ 8:40 am

Canadian says: “Iran has become a major danger to our allies in the gulf.”
Oh–you mean all those oil dictators? Yes, by all means, let’s bomb another country, kill their civilians, turn an entire population into refugees, bankrupt the American people–just to save a few rich dictators. What’s in the water in Canada?

#21 Comment By Enjoy Every Sandwich On August 5, 2012 @ 8:42 am

It’s unfortunate that so many Americans have so little awareness of history. The folly of giving another state a “blank check” in regards to war was amply demonstrated by World War I.

Wars are seldom caused by spontaneous hatreds between people, for peoples in
general are too ignorant of one another to have grievances and too indifferent
to what goes on beyond their borders to plan conquests. They must be urged to
the slaughter by politicians who know how to alarm them.
–H.L. Mencken

#22 Comment By Dave In Arizona On August 5, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

Tightening the noose on Iran? What’s Obama administration going to do cut back on sending Iran Christmas hams?

#23 Comment By delia ruhe On August 5, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

“Mark Dubowitz of the neocon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies calling for “comprehensive economic warfare. Everything must be prohibited unless it is permitted.” Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute puts it another way: “This is time for the mallet, not fine needle surgery … our purpose is to bring them to the table to give up their nuclear ambitions.” Even J Street, which claims to support Israel while seeking peace in the Middle East, commended the bill.”

What a bunch of sadists! They want soften up the Iranian public the way Iraq was softened up over 10 years of sanctions–including the starvation of 1.5 million kids. But they don’t want to spend 10 years doing it.

#24 Comment By Rossbach On August 5, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

I wouldn’t put it past Obama to commence hostilities against Iran as an “October Surprise” to win a close election. After all, most wars are fought for domestic political reasons and rarely have anything to do with national security.

#25 Comment By Fran Macadam On August 6, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

Wall Street really, really wants the oil that their despotic puppet Shah gave them before being popularly overthrown. Israel wants all its neighbors in chaotic, distressed condition, either under puppet tyrants paid by the west, or in permanent states of internal strife, certainly not as democracies that would reflect the interests of their own countries and in Israeli psychology, be threats.

It is a scenario designed for a permanent state of war, which is incidentally highly profitable to the stub remaining US manufacturing base, which is weapons manufacture and security.

#26 Comment By James Canning On August 6, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

Eric Siverson,

Jews living in Iran oppose any Israeli or US attack on their country.

#27 Comment By James Canning On August 6, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

Rossbach – – Didn’t Roosevelt try to keep the US out of the Second World War, for domestic political reasons? And didn’t Wilson try to keep the US out of the First World War, for domestic political reasons?

#28 Comment By James Canning On August 6, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

Canadian – – US “allies” in the Persian Gulf were and are concerned about Iranian enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. Why then, did the US ignore Iran’s offer in September last year, to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent?

#29 Comment By Charles On August 10, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

Charles says to Canning says
You typically stunted American historian. Don’t you know who pushed both Presidents into those wars. Did you share classes with Condi Rice at Stanford by any chance?

#30 Comment By Igor Alexander On August 17, 2012 @ 6:29 pm

“Didn’t Roosevelt try to keep the US out of the Second World War, for domestic political reasons?”

Are you kidding? Roosevelt did everything he could behind the scenes to incite a war in Europe and involve the United States, all the while telling voters that he was for peace, since the electorate was overwhelmingly against any U.S. participation in another European war. If what Roosevelt had been doing behind the scenes could’ve been proven at the time, he would have been impeached. Look up Mark Weber’s “President Roosevelt’s Campaign To Incite War in Europe: The Secret Polish Documents” for details.