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Saudi Arabia and Israel: Strange Bedfellows

Saudi Arabia and Israel: Strange Bedfellows

In the swirling, ever-changing but always-corrupt world of global political maneuverings, the jockeying for position in the Middle East is currently an area of international focus. This is caused mainly because Iran’s power and influence in that area of the world has been on the increase, much to the dismay of its bitter enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel. And whatever displeases Israel, displeases the government of the United States, thanks to the influential Israeli lobbies operating in the U.S.

We will first look at the key players in this ongoing drama: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S.

  • Iran has not invaded another nation since 1798. It has successfully defended itself against attacks, and has assisted its allies, most recently helping the democratically-elected government of Syria against foreign forces, supported by the U.S. and Israel, attempting to overthrow the government. Iran’s human rights record could be improved, but that statement is true about most of the countries on the planet.
  • Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is currently assisting the U.S. in the barbaric destruction of Yemen. Only in the last day or so has it allowed humanitarian aid to enter that country, where millions of children face death by starvation. A law was recently passed in the Saudi kingdom that will allow women to drive; this must be fully implemented by 2019. Women in Iran, on the other hand, have been driving since 1963. In July of this year, this writer visited Iran, and was greatly impressed by the freedom and independence of the women he observed there. This level of freedom, as manifested not only by driving, but by educational and employment opportunities, is not present in Saudi Arabia.
  • Israel, established in 1947 – 1948 on the brutal ethnic cleansing of over 750,000 Palestinians, and the savage murders of at least 10,000, including men, women and children, the elderly and infants not being spared, has one of the most dismal human rights records on earth. It is an apartheid regime, with separate laws, roads and neighborhoods for Palestinians. The roads and neighborhoods are far inferior to those for Israelis, and to say that the laws that are applied only to Palestinians are Draconian is a classic understatement. Unarmed Palestinian men, women and children are routinely murdered by Israeli soldiers and settlers living illegally in occupied territories, with nearly complete impunity. At least 500,000 Israeli settlers live on Palestinian land, in violation of international law.
  • The atrocities committed by Israel and Saudi Arabia are either supported and/or financed by the United States. It violates its own laws by granting aid to Israel, amounting to more than it gives all other nations combined; U.S. law states that aid cannot be given to nations that don’t meet a certain standard of human rights, a standard Israel falls far below, and aid cannot be given to undeclared nuclear nations. Domestically, the income gap between rich and poor in the U.S. is the largest of any nation in the world. Unarmed blacks are routinely shot and killed by white police officers, and any indictment for these murders is rare, with convictions even rarer. The current president was inaugurated despite losing the popular vote by more than 3,000,000 votes, mocking the very concept of democracy. Government officials appointed by the president are among the richest citizens in the country, and their policies are designed to further enrich them and their already-wealthy associates. The U.S. has been at war for over 210 years of its bloody 240-year history. Just since World War II, it is estimated that the U.S. has killed over 20,000,000 people. So while it supports the cruel, brutal regimes of foreign governments, it has not been idle in committing its own, heinous crimes.

Against this ugly background, Saudi Arabia and Israel have been holding ‘unofficial’ meetings, to determine how they can best work together to counter Iran’s growing power. The government of Saudi Arabia has long refused to recognize Israel, making such recognition contingent upon Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 borders (those established by the United Nations in 1947; the criminality and immorality of that decision is a topic for a different day), and the establishment of an independent Palestinian nation with East Jerusalem as its capital. This would require, among other things, the removal of the half-million settlers living illegally on Palestinian land, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sworn never to do; he has proclaimed that not even one will be removed, as he continues stealing Palestinian land and building more illegal settlements.

Could this be a positive development for Palestine? Does Israel want so desperately to receive diplomatic recognition from Saudi Arabia that it will agree to the terms and conditions established by international law? It seems unlikely. Saudi Arabia is just as desperate to ally with Israel against Iran, and will probably accept any Palestinian – Israeli ‘peace agreement’, despite how much it favors Israel and penalizes Palestine. Within Saudi Arabia, a clear alliance by the government with Israel, without a resolution of the Palestinian issue, would be seen as a major betrayal. And as little as the leaders of the Saudi kingdom care about their own people, they are not willing, at this point, at least, to risk a major uprising, the brutal and bloody defeat of which would be broadcast, if not through the news media, at least through social media, around the world. Those leaders could hardly then convince anyone that they need to ally with Israel to protect their people.

The U.S. has never been an honest broker between Palestine and Israel; it has always overwhelmingly favored the Zionist entity. President Donald Trump has promised to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move almost universally opposed by the international community. Thus far, he has refrained from doing so.

But he recently signed the largest weapons deal in history with Saudi Arabia; he refused to acknowledge that Iran is in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which all other signatories have done. He and his spokespeople have endorsed ‘regime change’ in Iran, while the U.S. has full diplomatic relations with the barbaric regimes of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Peace could be achieved in the Middle East by adherence to international law; that’s all it takes. But with the involvement of countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, who believe that such law does not apply to them, and the United States, which has always believed that it could create its own rules, and force others to comply while the U.S. itself ignores them at will, seeking resolution by a voluntary adherence to international law is naïve. However, with Iran increasing in power and influence across the Middle East, Israel becoming more globally ostracized, and the U.S. government in near-total disarray under the haphazard and confused leadership of Trump, there are some hopeful signs. Saudi Arabia’s potential betrayal of Palestine, and Palestine’s own weak, corrupt government, are impediments to peace and justice, but they are insufficient to prevent it. How and if Saudi Arabia and Israel align in an attempt to thwart Iran remains to be seen. But Iran does not operate in a vacuum; it, too, has powerful allies, not the least of which is Russia. In a contest of either diplomacy or war, between an allied Saudi Arabia and Israel on one side, and an allied Iran and Russia on the other, the smart betting would be on the latter.

Originally published by the American Herald Tribune.

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Commentary on ‘We the People’ Television News- PressTV

http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2017/09/25/536405/Donald-Trump-United-Nations-General-Assembly

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Trump and the United Nations

United States President Donald Trump brought his own peculiar bellicosity to the United Nations this week, threatening North Korea and Iran, and ignoring the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia and Israel. He proclaimed that each nation should have the right to pursue its own goals, and that the U.S. had no interest in forcing its brand of democracy (such as it is) on any other nation. Then he criticized the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, and harshly condemned both North Korea and Iran.

It is interesting that he seems to lump North Korea and Iran together. The former is a repressive, totalitarian regime with nuclear weapons, and the latter, with a democratically-elected president, has actually signed an international agreement saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. The U.S. is a signatory to that agreement, which Trump calls “the worst deal ever”.

This appears to be quite a contraction in the confused rhetoric of the U.S. president. He proclaims that Iran must never have nuclear weapons, and then wants to nullify the agreement that prevents that nation from creating them. What, one wonders, could be his motivation?

While it is next to impossible to determine at any given moment just what is happening in that pumpkin-like head, we will attempt to make some sense of this apparent contradiction.

At present, there are only a handful of countries in the Middle East that wield any great power: Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran.

The U.S. has full diplomatic relations with the barbaric, repressive Saudi regime. And it must always be remembered that oil trumps everything else: human rights, international law, even common decency take a back seat to sacred oil. The bottom line here is money.

Next is Israel, with whom the U.S. also has full diplomatic relations. But it is not oil that motivates this alliance, but powerful pro-Israel lobbies in the U.S. Israel’s barbaric occupation of Palestine, and its unspeakable treatment not only of Palestinians, but of any non-Israelis within its own dubious borders, is condemned worldwide. Even the U.S. pays lip service to condemning it. But once again, the bottom line is money, and almost all U.S. government officials benefit from the largesse of pro-Israeli lobbies. In return, they jump through whatever bloody hoops Israel chooses to hold. Regard for human rights? Bah! International law? Israel makes its own laws! Common decency? Upheld stringently, as long as it applies to Israelis; all others need not apply.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have been growing ever more cozy with each other, and that is fine with the U.S. As long as Israel has no objection, Saudi Arabia can continue doing whatever its leaders want it to do.

Now we get to Iran. This nation chooses not to share its natural resources with the U.S., and has no diplomatic ties to Israel; it fully condemns that regime’s cruel and illegal activities in Palestine. And thus we have the crux of the U.S.’s problems with Iran.

Increasingly, Israeli politicians see themselves as major forces of influence in the world, even as the reality of the occupation of Palestine is more fully recognized and condemned. Iran must not threaten Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East; no, any nation that has a human rights record superior to Israel’s (and it would be hard to find a worse one), cannot gain the upper hand. Such an event may only increase Israel’s growing international isolation, and provide support to those uppity Palestinians, who have spent decades demanding the most basic human rights, of which Israel denies them.

How fair, one might ask, is the U.S. assessment of the Middle East situation? It must be remembered that everything that U.S. government officials see in the Middle East is viewed through an Israeli lens. And U.S. reaction to anything Israel does is based on that skewed view.

One telling example occurred in 1988.

President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, had created a three-part plan to resolve the Palestine-Israel ‘conflict’. This included: 1) the convening of an international conference; 2) a six-month negotiating period that would bring about an interim phase for Palestinian self-determination for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and 3) a date of December, 1988 for the start of talks between Israel and Palestine for the final resolution of the conflict.

The response from Israel was not unexpected. Then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately rejected this plan, saying, incredibly, that it did nothing to forward the cause of peace. The U.S. response was puzzling; the U.S. reinforced economic and security agreements with Israel, and accelerated the delivery to Israel of seventy-five F-16 fighter jets. An Israel journalist expressed the message this sent to Israel:  “One may say no to America and still get a bonus.”[1] Things have only gotten worse since then.

So as the Great Pumpkin plied his bizarre trade at the U.N., he succeeded in pleasing his racist, ignorant U.S. base, which for generations feared Communism and now fears Islam (Iran, it must be remembered, has a majority Islamic population). He also satisfied Israel, with that nation’s leader, Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu, in his own speech later, lauding the U.S. president, as he condemned the U.N.

What can we take from all this? What conclusions can be drawn from Trump’s words that not only threatened North Korea and Iran, but also criticized the United Nations?

If anyone anywhere on the planet feels reassured by these words, they should not be allowed to handle sharp objects unsupervised. With Trumps words, the threat of nuclear war increased; experts agree that even a ‘limited’ nuclear war, if such a thing is even possible, would result in a global catastrophe, with up to a billion people dying from the war itself, and the years-long nuclear winter that would follow. Even short of a nuclear war, Trump’s words troubled many of the U.S.’s longest allies, which could have severe economic impacts on the U.S. And oppressed people around the world, striving for the basic human rights and dignity that so many people take for granted, could only be discouraged by the absence of any allusion to human rights in Trump’s address.

This is the leader of the free world. This is the man with the nuclear codes. This is the future of the U.S., which, with a deeply sordid past, cannot look to any change in the foreseeable future. It must be hoped that, at least, there is a future.

 

 

[1] Suleiman, Michael W. U.S. Policy on Palestine from Wilson to Clinton. Association of Arab-American Graduates, 1995.Page 185.

 

Originally published by Counterpunch.

 

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Observations in Iran

Iran is not a typical tourist destination for most North Americans. It is a mainly Muslim country, and to hear United States President Donald Trump and the various talking heads surrounding him describe Islam, all Muslims are terrorists.

I am not much influenced by the rantings of Mr. Trump and his ignorant, paranoid minions. So when invited to speak at the conference, ‘United States, Human Rights and Discourse of Domination’, sponsored by the  University of Tehran, in cooperation with Iranian World Studies Association, to be held in Tehran, I readily agreed.

I was able to spend four days in Iran. It seems from my observations there in Tehran over a period of two days that that city may not be exactly what the corporate-owned media proclaims it to be. It is a modern city: the downtown area is crowded, noisy and exciting, like most major cities. Yes, all women must wear headscarves, but they don’t need to cover their hair; many women have hair showing in front of their head. Additionally, all imaginable styles were worn by the women: blue jeans, slacks, dresses; high heeled shoes, sandals and sneakers.

During my two days there, I saw women driving, sometimes alone, sometimes accompanied by other women, and sometimes accompanied by men. Several women with Ph.Ds spoke at the conference; some attired in black with only their faces showing, and some wearing ‘Western’-style clothing, accompanied by a headscarf.

U.S. government officials are forever foaming at the mouth about the sorry state of affairs of women in Iran, yet they are silent about conditions for women in Saudi Arabia. If one were to visit that country, one would not see women driving, or wearing the array of clothing that this writer saw in Iran. Any conference in that country will not have educated women presenting; obtaining higher education  for women is next to impossible. And should that be achieved, women finding work in their field of expertise is almost unheard of.

Following the conference in Tehran, I flew to the city of Mashhad in the northern part of the country, for a second conference. Mashhad is Iran’s second largest city, and has far more religious significance than Tehran. I saw more Imams, not unusual considering the sacred significance of the city to Muslims. But in the two days I spent there, I saw no difference in the dress and treatment of women: some women dressed in black, with only their faces showing, and others with a variety of fashions.

Security in both cities was evident from a tourist perspective; this is hardly unusual, considering that Tehran experienced its first terrorist attack in years just weeks earlier. My luggage was scanned when entering my hotel in Tehran, and prior to entering the conference center in Mashhad, my briefcase was put through the scanner. I saw a single armed solider on two occasions, both times in the airport in Mashhad. I saw two other soldiers awaiting a flight at the airport,

One interpersonal experience is worth noting. I had guides with me, associated with the University of Tehran, in both that city, and Mashhad. When leaving Mashhad for the return trip to Tehran, my guide said something to several people standing in line to get on the plane. What he apparently asked was for someone to assist me in finding my contact once I arrived back in Tehran.

Certainly, I could have found my contact in Tehran, but there is something a bit intimidating about looking at the arrivals and departures boards, and understanding nothing; everything is written in Farsi. But I certainly appreciated the gesture. And since my guide in Mashhad had given his contact information to the gentleman who volunteered to assist me, that gentleman was able to call my guide in Mashhad, when I discovered on arrival in Tehran that I had left my wallet and cell phone at airport security in Mashhad. My guide was then able to retrieve those items, and is sending them to my home.

Another thing worthy of note is the traffic. Driving in downtown Tehran or Mashhad takes nerves of steel, quick reflexes and a working horn; each of my drivers’ was well-equipped in those areas. On major thoroughfares, with multiple lanes and speeding traffic, the white lines painted on the road are apparently there only for decoration. As such, they appear to serve the same purpose as the speed-limit signs.

So what does all of this mean? Perhaps, just perhaps, U.S. government officials are lying in implying that Iranians are so ‘different’, and we all know that in the parlance of U.S. Doublespeak, ‘different’ means inferior and probably violent. But perhaps women in Iran aren’t oppressed, the nation isn’t ‘backward’, and the people aren’t hostile to the U.S. ‘because of its freedoms’.

As a disclaimer, I want to state that I recognize that Iranian society isn’t a Utopian one. Much social media is not available there, homosexual activity can be a capital offense, and it’s likely that not all women, even if Muslim, are so devout as to want to wear a headscarf at all times. But unlike Saudi Arabia, with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations, women can drive, obtain higher education and work in their chosen fields. And it certainly appears that there is sufficient freedom of ideas and speech in Iran for people who want to work effectively for change to do so.

I never expected to visit Iran, but am very glad to have had the opportunity. If more U.S. citizens could have a similar opportunity, continued U.S. hostility toward Iran could not be sustained. And that would be a great benefit for the entire world.

Originally published by Warisacrime.org.

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Impressions of Iran

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity of visiting Iran. I spent time in the capital city of Tehran, the country’s largest city, and Mashhad, a large city in the northern part of Iran. I saw what I expected to see: each was a bustling city. The downtown area of each was crowded and busy, not unlike other cities I’ve visited in different parts of the world.

Where I gained the impression that Iran was a prosperous, modern nation before my visit, I don’t know. Prior to my departure, when I announced to friends and acquaintances that I would soon be visiting Iran, I was met with shocked reactions. Here are some of the questions I was asked at that time:

  • Is it safe?
  • Don’t you worry about being arrested?
  • Don’t people disappear there all the time?

Following my invitation to visit, but before the actual visit, Tehran experienced its first terrorist attack in several years. I was then asked if I was still going. My response: ‘London has had a few terrorist attacks, but if I were planning a visit there, I’d still go’. This seemed to make sense to my questioner.

Since my return, some of the questions I’ve been asked indicate that my view of Iran as a modern nation is not shared by everyone else. The following are some of the questions I’ve been asked about my visit to Iran:

  • How do the people there live?
  • Did you feel safe?
  • Did anyone stop you from taking pictures?
  • Were you afraid when visiting mosques?

The U.S. demonizes Iran, mainly because it is a powerful country in the Middle East, and Israel cannot countenance any challenge to its hegemony, and when Israel talks, the U.S. listens. Apparently, this demonization is working at least somewhat successfully, judging by the comments I received concerning my trip there.

I have to wonder how this is acceptable in the world community, but then again, there really isn’t much question. The U.S. uses its military might and its declining but still powerful economic strength to intimidate much of the world. This is why the Palestinians still suffer so unspeakably, but that is a topic for another conversation. The U.S. again, in the last few days, asserted that Iran is complying with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement that regulates Iran’s nuclear development program. Yet it continues to sanction Iran; for some bizarre reason, Iran must comply with its part of this agreement, but the U.S. government doesn’t feel any obligation to maintain its part. If Iran’s leaders were to say that, since the U.S. was not keeping to its word, Iran has no obligation to do so, the U.S.’s leaders would then say, ‘See? We told you so! Iran isn’t living up to the agreement!’.

The U.S.’s continued criticism and sanctions of Iran adds to the impression that it is a rogue nation, funneling all its money into the military, while its oppressed citizens cower in the streets, awaiting arrest for just about anything.

How much, however, does this impression actually mirror the U.S? A few facts are instructive:

  • Currently, the U.S. is bombing 6 nations; Iran, none.
  • The U.S. has used nuclear weapons, resulting in the horrific deaths of hundreds of thousands of people; Iran has never used such weapons.
  • Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has invaded, destabilized and/or overthrown the governments of at least 30 countries; Iran hasn’t invaded another country in over 200 years.
  • The U.S. has the largest per capita prison population in the world: 25% of all people imprisoned in the world are in prisons in the U.S. In the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’, 716 of every 100,000 people are in prison. Iran’s rate is 287 per 100,000.
  • The U.S. finances the brutal apartheid regime of Israel, and has full diplomatic relations with that rouge nation and Saudi Arabia, both of which have human rights records that are among the worst in the world. Iran supports Palestine, and the Palestinians’ struggle for independence.
  • The poverty rate in the U.S. is 13.1%; between 2009 and 2013, Iran’s poverty rate fell from 13.1% to 8.1% (that has increased somewhat since 2014, but details were not readily available).

Based on this limited information, it seems that despite its somewhat successful efforts to demonize Iran, the U.S. is, in fact, the more dangerous and threatening nation.

But such facts are not what interests Congress. Beholden first and foremost to the lobbies that finance election campaigns, and Israeli lobbies chief among them, truth, justice, human rights and international law all take a back seat. And so the propaganda continues, with Iran being portrayed as an evil empire, when all evidence contradicts that view.

It is unfortunate that not everyone in the U.S. is able to visit Iran, to learn for themselves that it is nothing like what the corporate-owned media, working hand-in-hand with the government, portrays. The U.S. government seems anxious to extend its wars to Iran; this would be a global disaster. It is to be hoped that such a catastrophe can be prevented.

 

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US is world’s largest source of terrorism, not Iran: American writer

http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/07/08/527833/US-is-worlds-largest-source-of-terrorism-not-Iran

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The United States is the world’s largest source of terrorism, not the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Robert Fantina, an American writer and political analyst who is based in Ontario, Canada.

Fantina, the author of Empire, Racism and Genocide: A History of US Foreign Policy, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Saturday when asked why does the US want to convince the world that Iran is exporting terrorism, when it itself is doing so.

“The United States for generations has proclaimed, against all evidence, that it is a beacon of liberty and freedom, respecting human rights and assisting the downtrodden around the world. In that context, it accuses Iran of what it itself does, to convince the world that Iran is a terrorist regime, in order to gain widespread support for an invasion,” Fantina said.

“Such an invasion of Iran would serve many purposes for the United States,” he stated.

“First, the US is the world’s largest exporter of weaponry; the more wars it wages, the more use there is for its products. Weapons manufacturers in the US make significant donations to elected officials for their election and re-election campaigns. It has been reported that, in Syria, different factions, both supplied by the US, are actually fighting each other.

“Second, and more importantly for the US, is the Israeli lobby, which donates far more to elected officials than weapons manufacturers. Israel has nuclear weapons, and with $4 billion annually from the US, has become a very powerful force in the Middle East and the world. The US will not allow Iran, a large and powerful country, to challenge ‘sacred’ Israel in any way.

“In addition, US government officials and the corporate-owned media, which can be seen as a branch of the government, have long tried, with some success, to convince the populace to fear Islam. By accusing Iran, an Islamic country, of exporting ‘terrorism’, this fear can be enflamed. This will enable the US to more strongly support Israel, thus pleasing Israeli lobbies and continuing the flow of money to officials running for re-election.

“Also, if the US can convince the world that Iran is exporting ‘terrorism’, it moves the focus away from its own terrorist activities, and points them elsewhere. This allows the US to continue terrorizing the world.

“The US citizenry always seems ready to go to war; once the wars start, and disillusionment sets in, they learn that starting wars is much easier than ending them. But as the US has destroyed Libya and Iraq, and is trying desperately, with only a modicum of success, fortunately, to do the same thing to Syria, the citizenry doesn’t seem to notice; once the US goes to war, they will wave the flag, ‘support the troops’, and climb on the murderous US bandwagon.

“But what they don’t realize is that an invasion of Iran will not be the same as the invasion of Iraq; the names of the countries are similar, but that is about the only thing they have in common. With a population of over 72 million, Iran is twice the size of Iraq. The Iranian military is far stronger than the Iraqi military ever was. Additionally, Iran is allied with Russia, which is unlikely to sit back and watch the US destroy Iran.

“US officials can say what they will about Iran, but the facts are clear: it is the US that is the world’s largest source of terrorism.”

Originally published by Press TV.

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