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Posts Tagged ‘Israel

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

Hedging against a new Iran

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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.

Iran’s nuclear program has received a lot of attention in the last few weeks. While this attention may accompany legitimate concerns—and this may be an appropriate time to voice such concerns—careful observers should be uneasy about the apparent convenience of focusing on the “Axis of Evil” at this time. With (1) an Iraq devoid of American police and (2) a stubborn Syrian regime that feels an increasing affinity toward Iran, Iran stands to gain a lot (see my previous post, “Why Syria?”). And if Iran stands to gain, then Saudi Arabia (and its oil hegemony), the United States (and its reliance on Saudi oil hegemony), and Israel (and its mere existence) have a lot to be afraid of.

The headlines of the past few weeks have, of course, demonstrated this fear. But there is one news item in particular that I’d like to point out, just as an example of the absurdity of the rhetoric. For some, it may be déjà vu, though it isn’t being reported that way:

Iran starts enriching uranium to 20 pct – IAEA

In summary: “The International Atomic Energy Agency officially confirmed that Iran has started enriching uranium to the 20-percent level…”

But this same headline can be traced back to at least February of 2010, almost two blissful years ago. Here’s one from May 17th, 2010:

Iran says will continue 20 percent enrichment

Notice the word “continue.” This is nothing new. Credibility is all but lost when old news becomes, when reprinted, a sign of “further escalation” (read: casus belli):

“This is a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

Public subterfuge.

Cold War
As ZeroHedge artfully phrases it (here): “The geopolitical foreplay is getting ridiculous. At this point it is quite obvious that virtually everyone involved in the US-Israel-Iran hate triangle is just itching for someone else to pull the trigger.” And reading about the overt espionage, public subterfuge, and military muscle-flexing going on between the US and Iran, it may very well seem that itchy trigger fingers abound.

But while there are, quite clearly, warmongers in our midst, I don’t think it’s quite fair to characterize the standoff between Iran and the United States so simply. That’s because neither side really wants a war. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

January 19, 2012 at 2:03 am

Posted in News, Politics

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Why Syria?

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The Department of History, United States Military Academy.

In 333 B.C., Alexander the Great laid siege to the Mediterranean port of Tyre. It was early in the young Macedonian king’s campaign in Asia, and besieging an island fortress for several months wasn’t in the playbook. But Tyre simply couldn’t be ignored. It was the last Persian port in the Mediterranean—and leaving a Persian navy in the Mediterranean was not an option (as the Peloponnesian War demonstrated).

Which is why he sacrificed time, troops, and manpower building a kilometer-long stone causeway to the walls of the city, complete with siege towers and naval support. After more setbacks than he could have anticipated, Alexander breached the walls and concluded the siege, ending Tyre’s service as a Persian port and securing the Mediterranean from Persian naval power.

A few hundred miles up the coast and a couple thousand years later, the Syrian port city of Latakia faces a similar predicament—sans siege towers and brilliant generals. Latakia is the new Persian Empire’s (Iran’s) attempt at a naval base on the Mediterranean, and while it may not be as well-established, defensible, or suitable for a large naval presence (yet), it’s a port. Much to Israel’s chagrin, as you can see. Take away Iran’s Syrian port at Latakia and the new Persian Empire will have a hard time projecting power in the Mediterranean. Cue an unstable Syria.

But first, there’s more:

The Russians are willing to contribute towards the Iranian port’s defenses and looking forward to cooperation between the Russian, Iranian and Syrian fleets in the eastern Mediterranean opposite the US Sixth Fleet’s regular beat.

Tyre, Lebanon (A); Latakia, Syria (B); Tartus, Syria (C)

If anyone knows the value of a Mediterranean port, it’s Russia. Historically denied access to warm-water ports, Russia has never been granted legroom in the world’s oceans. Even now, Russia’s shipping industry relies on Turkish cooperation in the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. But what Russia does have is a Mediterranean naval port. It’s in Tartus, Syria—just south of Latakia. Considerably better developed and defended (complete with Russian surface-to-air missile system), Russia’s port in Tartus will not be given up easily—at least that’s what Admiral Kuznetsov says.

So, what this all adds up to is two NATO antagonists with ports in one unstable country. If the Syrian regime falls, it’s a probable BOGO for NATO and anyone who wants unilateral security (in the form of U.S. Nimitz-class supercarriers) in and around the Med. If Bashar stays, the George H.W. Bush might have to do more than “experience the rich history and culture of France”  the next time it’s in the 6th Fleet AOR.

But it isn’t just naval geopolitics driving foreign pressure against the Syrian regime, either. This is, after all, the Middle East, and no story would be complete without a sprinkling of sectarianism. Or, in this case, several helpings.

From the U.S. Department of State’s Jeffrey D. Feltman (here):

Iran continues to be complicit in the violence in Syria, providing material support to the regime’s brutal campaign against the Syrian people. Cynically capitalizing on the Syrian government’s growing alienation from its Arab neighbors, Iran is seeking to increase its influence in Syria and help Assad remain in power as a vital conduit to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The problem is that, with the recent U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Iran will be filling in the political and military void. And if Iran retains al-Assad’s Syria as a close ally—well—look at the map.

This map.

The only thing stopping the new Persian Empire from expanding its Shia-powered influence—continuously—from Iran to the Mediterranean (and to Israel’s doorstep), is a new, unfriendly Sunni government in Syria. All of the relevant actors know this. And if you ask Bashar al-Assad, they’re all doing their best to bring about that Sunni government as quickly as possible.

Which leads us to the next question: If sanctions, attempts to undermine the Syrian army, and foreign assistance (training and weapons) for the Free Syrian Army don’t weaken the Iran-friendly regime (or empower the resistance) enough, who will be the first to step in? Turkey certainly stands out for being the loudest, but if it is as the Turks say, havlayan köpek ısırmaz (a barking dog doesn’t bite).

So we wait.

Written by M. James

December 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Gaza bound: Update

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The apparent conclusion to the voyage of the Tahrir and the MV Saoirse:

Activists on the pro-Palestinian ships that aim to block the Israeli blockade on Gaza say two Israeli warships have surrounded the two boats and that they have lost all contact with the world.

The campaign organisers in Canada and the EU tweeted that they lost contact with all journalists onboad and suspect that the Israeli navy jammed the boats’ communications.

They also detailed that the boats are about 40 miles off of the Gaza shore, but still in international waters.

An hour earlier (12pm GMT) the Israeli navy made radio contact with one of the ships.

In a statement published on the Canada Boat to Gaza campaign website reads that an Israel navy officer warned the captain that Israeli navy ships would intercept them at any minute.

And intercepted they were.

Another blockade-breaker handled reasonably well by Israel. More opportunities to come, no doubt.

Written by M. James

November 7, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Posted in News

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“Where is NATO, where is Turkey in NATO?”

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From the Milliyet’s columnist, Kadri Gürsel, on the NATO/US missile-defense radar to be constructed near Kürecik. Translated by the Hürriyet:

It is only legitimate to ask this question at this point and time: Why would Turkey want, with such persistence, to protect that information from Israel, the one that would enable an earlier extinction while in air of a nuclear head that would cause immense civilian losses underneath it wherever it explodes?

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) diplomacy was not able to give a satisfactory answer to this question to this day. I assume this attitude stems from the efforts of the AKP government’s trying to establish an internal consistency in its Middle East policy: On the one hand it is trying to create political power and legitimacy in the Middle East by forming a relationship of contention with Israel, even daring a military conflict, at least in statements, while on the other hand it wishes not to have the image of supporting Israel’s strategic defense.

But Gürsel doesn’t go the extra mile to mention that it is by no means in the interest of Turkey to let Israel get nuked—that’d look bad for Turkey. The exercise of control over the radar information (with regard to Israel) is no more than a matter of “internal consistency” and an attempt to “create … legitimacy” in the eyes of its Middle Eastern audience.

Put simply, it’s just politics.

Written by M. James

October 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

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NATO gets minimal cooperation from Turkey

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Despite the expert orchestration of Turkey’s “Plans” over the past month, there has been one befuddling outlier—something that didn’t seem to be in the playbook. And if you read the usual headlines, you may have missed it.

Here’s the usual story:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

October 6, 2011 at 2:38 am

The best-laid “Plans” of Erdoğan

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It’s all happened so quickly:

The UN report on the Mavi Marmara incident was released, Israel didn’t apologize or make reparations, and Turkey promptly made good on its threats, putting into action “Plan B,” (which already demanded an end to the Gaza blockade) and now “Plan C.” Then Erdoğan ratcheted up the rhetoric, saying that the Israeli government is “the biggest obstacle against peace in the Middle East”  and that recognizing a Palestinian state in the UN is “not an option, [but] an obligation.” He said this in Cairo, of all places, at an Arab League summit. Quite a way to kick off his “‘Arab Spring’ tour.”

T-shirts and memorabilia available. But no concessions. (Reuters)

When Erdoğan was talking about having “Plans,” he wasn’t kidding. The plan for the last few weeks has clearly been drafted, redrafted, and drafted again. And Erdoğan has been executing it flawlessly. Israel is, all of a sudden, very alone as it faces the serious danger of a resentful (is that even the word?) Palestinian state springing up next door.

But how long, exactly, has this been in the works?

The following is from a post by Howard Eissenstat, Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History at St. Lawrence University. He claims that the Islamic Turkish NGO,  The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), has a very close working relationship with the AKP:

Despite claims that it had no role to play, there is little question that the Turkish government supported the flotilla, facilitating the IHH’s purchase of the Mavi Marmara ferryboat from the AKP-controlled Istanbul Municipal Government.

But why, oh why, would the Turkish government support the fateful voyage of the Mavi Marmara? Could it be that they knew exactly what they were doing?

Although the flotilla was certainly designed to prompt a confrontation that would embarrass Israel and weaken the embargo of Gaza, it seems unlikely that anybody had foreseen Israel’s clumsy attack on the flotilla, which left nine activists killed and dozens injured. Despite the high human costs, however, Turkey had the excuse it needed to finally end an awkward alliance with Israel, while its moral stature in the region was now unparalleled.

Before the Mavi Marmara even set sail from Antalya in May, 2010, the “Plans” were drawn up. And what ended up happening on May 31 was probably even better than Erdoğan could have hoped, a real (as real as it could have been) reason to start dropping some diplomatic dead weight. With Turkey’s former strategic relationship with Israel no longer in line with its own nebulous East-leaning agenda, it was time to stop pretending that cooperating with Israel was a possibility.

And as the vote for Palestinian statehood looms, we come to appreciate even more the well-orchestrated performance that Turkey has given us. Perfect timing—almost as if they… “Planned” it.

Autographs after the show. Rock on, Erdoğan.

Written by M. James

September 15, 2011 at 12:15 am