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Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Archive for February 2012

Whodunit: Revisiting the Roshan assassination

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Once again, I’d like to hark back to a prior post in light of new information on the assassination of Iranian scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan. That post, in summary:

Underlying the ramped-up rhetoric, military mobilization, and escalating espionage in Iran is a hidden economic war against Iran’s currency. The implication of this economic war is that the U.S. seeks to avoid military conflict with Iran. In fact, dollarizing Iran—which is what the U.S. is seeking to do with its economic sanctions—would be a hedge against an up-and-coming Iranian oil empire. Israel, unhappy with this prospect, seeks to start a conflict.

And this is what I proposed Israel was doing to foment that conflict:

To push the U.S. into a confrontation with Iran is desirable, if not necessary, for the security of the Israeli state. The assassination if an Iranian scientist—any scientist—is the means to that end. That’s because Iran thinks the death of Roshan can be linked to information gathered by UN investigators (here):

“Iran says as the UN Resolution 1747, adopted against Tehran in March 2007, cited Abbasi’s name as a ‘nuclear scientist,’ the perpetrators were in a position to trace their victim.”

As such, Iran will be compelled to disallow future UN investigation for its scientists’ safety. Allowing further monitoring, for all Iran knows, will result in a meticulous terror operation against its scientists—Israel will merely search for scientists’ names in UN reports and target them for assassination. But if Iran denies UN observers’ access, as Israel hopes, the U.S. will be forced to intervene on the grounds of nuclear non-proliferation. Problem solved.

In a recent NBC report, “U.S. officials” laid blame, once and for all, on Israel—clearly wanting to have nothing to do with the methods of the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan or the reasoning behind it. This, I think (taken in tandem with initial U.S. reaction, including the impromptu cancelation of the “Austere Challenge 12” wargames with Israel) seals the deal on whodunit:

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign but has no direct involvement.

The Iranians have no doubt who is responsible – Israel and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, known by various acronyms, including MEK, MKO and PMI.

Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describes what Iranian leaders believe is a close relationship between Israel’s secret service, the Mossad, and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

“The relation is very intricate and close,” said Mohammad Javad Larijani, a senior aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, speaking of the MEK and Israel.  “They (Israelis) are paying … the Mujahedin. Some of their (MEK) agents … (are) providing Israel with information.  And they recruit and also manage logistical support.”

Moreover, he said, the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, is training MEK members in Israel on the use of motorcycles and small bombs.

So I’d like to stress this once again: If there is anyone who wants a war, it’s not the U.S. and it’s not Iran—it’s Israel.

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Written by M. James

February 12, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Solutions to the vulnerability of a globalized world

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There are two solutions to threats against our global economy. The first is imperialism. The second is more complicated.

When people proclaim that “we live in a globalized world,” it is usually implied that to be “globalized” is a good thing—and it usually precedes some exhortation to learn a new language or something of the sort. But while “globalization” is so exhausted a word to mean nearly anything to anyone, I’d like to frame it as Noam Chomsky does: “international integration” (does that help any?).

“Globalization” just means international integration. No sane person is “anti-globalization” [“A World Without War”].

Chomsky’s point is that there is nothing wrong with an internationally integrated economy (any sane person would want it), but that it just happens to be—right now—in the wrong hands. Those wrong hands are the “masters of the universe,” or “the wizards of Davos”—a few movers and shakers with violent imperialist tendencies and essentially anti-democratic views. Chomsky makes no causal connection between an internationally integrated world economy and the World Economic Forum. He just doesn’t bother.

But if you bother to look at what an internationally integrated economy really means, you’ll realize that centralized, imperialistic power is—quite frankly—necessary.

Here’s what Janet Napolitano has to say (“The urgent need to protect the global supply chain”):

As I announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, the United States released a National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, the product of more than two years of collaboration across the U.S. government, and with international and domestic public and private partners.

The National Strategy, created with the input of more than 60 subject matter experts and hundreds of supply chain stakeholders, takes a whole-of-nation approach to global supply chain systems, with two explicit goals: promoting the efficient and secure movement of goods; and fostering resiliency.

The vulnerability of a globalized world? Logistics.

Every day, staggering numbers of air, land and sea passengers, as well as millions of tons of cargo, move between nations. International trade and commerce has long driven the development of nations and provided unprecedented economic growth. Indeed, our future prosperity depends upon it.

At the same time, threats to trade and travel — whether from explosives hidden in a passenger’s clothing or inside a ship’s cargo, or from a natural disaster — remind us of the need for security and resilience within the global supply chain. A vulnerability or gap in any part of the world has the ability to affect the flow of goods and people thousands of miles away. For instance, just three days after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear tragedies struck Japan last March, U.S. automakers began cutting shifts and idling some plants at home. In the days that followed, they did the same at their factories in more than 10 countries around the world.

With insecure or inefficient logistics, the global economy collapses. Does there seem to be a causal connection between this basic fact about globalization and the interests at Davos to “protect the global supply chain”? I think so too. Does “protecting the global supply chain” sound like imperialism? Ms. Napolitano’s words are too vague for it to be anything friendlier.

Solution #1 to the vulnerability of a globalized world: Imperialism.

But there’s another possible solution. A much more complicated, ideological solution. To see it, we need only ask: Where are the real logistical security threats to our globalized world coming from?

Are any of them liberal democracies?

Solution #2 to the vulnerability of a globalized world: Liberal democracy.

Written by M. James

February 12, 2012 at 1:32 am

Iranian rial weakens

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Iran’s Middle Class on Edge as World Presses In
Robert F. Worth; The New York Times; Feb. 6, 2012

TEHRAN — One measure of the profound anxiety now coursing through Iranian society can be seen on Manouchehri Street, a winding lane at the heart of this city where furtive crowds of men gather every day like drug dealers to buy and sell American dollars.

The government has raised the official exchange rate and sent police into the streets to stop the black marketeers, but with confidence in Iran’s own currency, the rial, collapsing by the day, the trade goes on.

In an interview, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an adviser to Mr. Ahmadinejad, also dismissed the sanctions as counterproductive, saying Iranians had suffered worse isolation during the 1980s and had always found ways around them. “This is not the way to approach us,” Mr. Javanfekr said. “You should instead speak to us with respect. You should win our heart.”

Some Iranian businessmen make similar comments, noting that there are always ingenious new ways to sell oil and to transfer money, and that the people who will suffer most from sanctions are not the ones who can pressure the government for change. “So you kill the pistachio trade in Iran,” one businessman said. “How does that stop nuclear enrichment?”

As I’ve argued already, the sanctions aren’t about stopping nuclear enrichment (or about pushing regime change)—they’re about dollarizing Iran by collapsing the rial. If the above reports are true, this attempt has already been met with some success.

Written by M. James

February 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Posted in News, Politics

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The real logic behind BMD

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The true efficacy of ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems is secondary to the significance of the physical military presence required by such systems. Though the following excerpt relates to Poland and Romania, the same could be said for Turkey, which plays host to NATO missile defense, purportedly against Iran. Or, if you ask Turkey, against nobody in particular.

From Stratfor:

Tensions between Moscow and Washington can be attributed to one primary issue: ballistic missile defense (BMD). The United States’ BMD systems are scheduled to become operational in Romania in 2015 and in Poland in 2018. It is not that Russia is concerned with the technical aspects of U.S.-led missile defense systems eroding or neutralizing Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Rather, BMD means a physical U.S. military presence in the region, showing Washington’s security commitment to Central Europe against a strengthening Russia. The United States claimed that the systems are intended to counter the rising threat from Iran, so in response, Russia offered to integrate its BMD system with NATO’s system. According to Moscow, such integration would strengthen Western defenses across Eurasia — indeed, all the way to East Asia. However, Washington rejected the offer, thereby confirming Moscow’s suspicions that the BMD system is more about Russia than the Iranian threat.

Written by M. James

February 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Arab League monitors report—nobody listens

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“If what [the Arab League monitors] have to offer is instead whitewashed or ignored by cynical political agendas – inside and outside the Arab world – it will not be their fault.”

Today’s top story on CBS is “Report: Demi Moore visited by Willis, Kutcher.”

Which is why you have to feel sorry for Elizabeth Palmer, who, on January 24th, made an honest contribution to journalism (“Why Arab League monitors didn’t fail in Syria”) on CBS’s site. Unfortunately, that contribution will never be acknowledged, shadowed as it is by the usual, misleading story about Syria printed by the New York Times and its ilk:

New York Times (“On a Tour Cut Short, Monitors in Syria See Little”):

A visit to Douma — where the observers seemed to be most needed — was out of the question.

CBS (“Why Arab League monitors didn’t fail in Syria”):

It’s also worth mentioning that the Syrian military never stopped us from going through any of their checkpoints, even when we were headed into Damascus’ most violent suburb, Douma.

New York Times (“Chief of Arab League’s Mission in Syria Is Lightning Rod for Criticism”):

…the mission has been mired in controversy, much of it focused on its leader: a Sudanese general who, rights activists say, presided over the same kind of deadly and heavy-handed tactics in Sudan that the Arab League mission is seeking to curb in Syria.

CBS (“Why Arab League monitors didn’t fail in Syria”):

A word in defense of the Arab League observers in Syria. They were getting bad press before they even set foot on Syrian soil.

Instead of focusing on the cowards and the inexperienced, Ms. Palmer maintains that “the observers were a mixed bag. Some of them were incompetent, frightened, uninterested. Others were excellent.”

The much-slandered Sudanese general heading the mission, Muhammad Ahmed al-Dabi, apparently agrees (from his report—here):

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

February 3, 2012 at 10:45 pm

The currency war in Iran

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To reinforce my claims in a prior post, here is William Clark on “The Real Reasons Why Iran is the Next Target”—from 2004:

The Iranians are about to commit an ‘offense’ far greater than Saddam Hussein’s conversion to the euro of Iraq’s oil exports in the fall of 2000. Numerous articles have revealed Pentagon planning for operations against Iran as early as 2005. While the publicly stated reasons will be over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there are unspoken macroeconomic drivers explaining the Real Reasons regarding the 2nd stage of petrodollar warfare – Iran’s upcoming euro-based oil Bourse.

Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. puppet in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

Similar to the Iraq war, upcoming operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of the `petrodollar recycling’ and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

But despite the fall from prominence of the Euro since the publication of the above article, Iran continues, to this day, to evade the dollar (Wikipedia outlines it well enough). For example, Iran is now “said to seek yen oil payments from India.”

Yet in the face of new sanctions, which include a ban on trading gold and silver with Iran (no surprise if this is a currency war), Iran has not yet dollarized. However, the rial’s ominous inflation rate does not bode well for its future. From Jeffrey Lewis, just yesterday (here):

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised interest rates on Iranian bank deposits to up to 21 percent on January 23rd, according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA. Iran’s central bank also urged Iranians to buy U.S. Dollars only if they were traveling abroad and not to hoard them as a hedge against economic uncertainty.

The move by the Iranian central bank exacerbated the already steep plunge in the Iranian Rial, which has lost more than 50 percent of its value against the price of U.S. Dollars in the open market over the last month.

The ominous slide in the Rial began in April when the Iranian central bank decided to cut rates to a range of between 12.5 to 15.5 percent in April, prompting people to put their money in safe havens like precious metals and the U.S. Dollar. Inflation in Iran is currently running at 20 percent.

For more on the dollarization of Iran in its current context, see here.

Written by M. James

February 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Toynbee on Turkey (1917)

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I picked from the library’s bookshelf, several months ago by now, this short volume by Arnold Joseph Toynbee, titled Turkey: A Past and a Future. Taken in context (1917), it’s somewhat interesting—though my sentiment might change if it were any longer than it is (it’s a delightfully short read).

The take-away:

Turkey, which claims the present in Western Asia, is nothing but an overthrow of the past and an obstruction of the future.

Written by M. James

February 2, 2012 at 1:04 am