John Bolton considering bid for US president in 2012
In radio interview, former US ambassador to UN slams US foreign policy, says Obama trying to “restructure the American way of life.”
Speaking on Jerusalem-based Aaron Klein‘s WABC Radio show, Bolton said he was motivated to run for president over concern “about the direction of national security policy.”
When asked what factors he would consider in making his final decision, Bolton replied: “I think it’s very important on the Republican side that we have a candidate against [US President Barack] Obama who can address these national security issues and to be able to debate him as an equal when you get into the 2012 campaign.”
Earlier in the interview, Bolton, who also once oversaw US non-proliferation policy, came out strongly against the Obama administration’s foreign policy, saying that the US president seems to be ” very uncomfortable asserting American interests around the world.”
“He views national security as a distraction from his real priority, which is restructuring the American way of life. And his foreign policy really consists of making decisions, in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, only when he is forced to do it,” Bolton added.
Iranian state TV: Israelis killed nuclear scientist
“Agents of Zionist regime attacked 2 prominent university professors who were on their way to work,” report says; another scientist reported hurt.
“In a criminal terrorist act, the agents of the Zionist regime attacked two prominent university professors who were on their way to work,” Iran‘s state television network reported on its web site, referring to Israel.
Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the man killed was involved in a major project at the country’s chief nuclear agency, though he did not give specifics. Some Iranian media reported that the wounded scientist was a laser expert at Iran’s Defense Ministry and one of the country’s few top specialists in nuclear isotope separation.
Nuclear chief Salehi, issued a stern warning as he rushed to hospital to see the surviving scientist, Fereidoun Abbasi.
“Don’t play with fire. The patience of the Iranian nation has limits. If it runs out of patience, bad consequences will await enemies,” the official news agency IRNA quoted Salehi as saying as he met Abbasi at his hospital bedside. Salehi, one of Iran’s vice presidents, was apparently referring to Israel and the US, which Iran alleges are trying to damage its nuclear program.
Salehi also indicated that the scientist killed, Majid Shahriari, was involved in Iran’s nuclear activities. Teheran’s uranium enrichment program is at the center of a bitter row between Iran on one side and the US and its allies on the other. Uranium enrichment is a process that can be used to produce both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
The assailants, who escaped, drove by their targets on motorcycles and attached the bombs as the cars were moving. They exploded shortly thereafter, state TV reported.
Shahriari, the scientist who was killed, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Teheran. His wife, who was in the car with him, was wounded. Salehi, the nuclear chief who also heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Shahriari was one of his students and his death was a big loss.
“Shahriari had good cooperation with the AEOI. He was involved in one of the big AEOI projects which is a source of pride for the Iranian nation,” IRNA quoted him as saying. He didn’t provide any details on the project. But the AEOI is involved in Iran’s uranium enrichment program.
“The enemy took our dearest flower, but must know that this nation, through resistance and all its might, will make efforts to remove problems and achieve its desires,” Salehi said.
A second, separate attack in the capital Teheran wounded the nuclear physicist Abbasi. His wife was also in the car with him, and she was also wounded.
A pro-government website, mashreghnews.ir, said Abbasi held a Ph.D. in nuclear physics and was a laser expert at Iran’s Defense Ministry and one of few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation.
Isotope separation is the process of concentrating specific isotopes of a chemical element by removing other isotopes, for example separating natural uranium from enriched uranium. This is a crucial process in the manufacture of uranium fuel for nuclear power stations, and is also required for the creation of uranium-based nuclear weapons.
The site said Abbasi has long been a member of the Revolutionary Guard, the country’s most powerful military force. It said he was also a lecturer at Imam Hossein University, affiliated to the Guard.
The attacks bore close similarities to another in January that killed Teheran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor. He was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.
The latest attacks come a day after the release of internal State Department cables by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks, including several that vividly detail Arab fears over Iran’s nuclear program and its growing political ambitions in the region.
Analysis: Wikileaks vindicate, don’t damage, Israel
The US is clearly listening to what Middle Eastern leaders have to say about Iran – now what are they going to do about it?
For years now, top Israeli political and defense leaders have warned the world that a nuclear Iran is not just a threat to the Jewish state but is a threat to the entire region.
Well, now they can. According to one cable published by WikiLeaks on Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah “frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program” and to cut off the head of the snake.
According to another cable, King Hamad of Bahrain, a country with a majority Shi’ite population, urged in a meeting with former CENTCOM commander Gen.
David Petraeus that action be taken to terminate Iran’s nuclear program.
“That program must be stopped,” Hamad said, according to the cable. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”
Jordan, another country that voiced concern, is uncomfortable with the possibility that a nuclear Iran would provide an umbrella for opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is also challenged by Iran’s continued nuclear development, as shown by the conviction in April of 26 men who were spying for Hizbullah and plotting attacks in Egypt.
From an Israeli perspective, therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say that WikiLeaks may have done the country a service on Sunday. By presenting the Arab leaders as more extreme in their remarks than Israeli leaders, the cables show the dissonance in the region and the danger involved in allowing Iran to continue with its nuclear program.
While there were some comments made by Mossad director Meir Dagan regarding leaders in the Middle East – the emir of Qatar is “annoying,” and the king of Morocco is not interested in governing – that are slightly embarrassing, Israeli politicians were spared the more embarrassing analyses of their personalities that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi received.
The information revealed in the cables is vast and informative, providing an unprecedented insight into the way some of Israel’s top intelligence officials and politicians view the region and its challenges.
Dagan, for example, comes out looking much more than just the head of a spy agency, and according to the cables, is sought after by almost every senior US official visiting Israel. In one cable he met with a Homeland Security official, in another with the undersecretary of state. In another he met with officials from the Treasury Department and in another, Mossad officials met with US military officers.
In general and contrary to earlier predictions, the cables did not appear to contain information that could significantly harm Israeli national security.
Most Israeli officials, such as Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Dagan and Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen.
Amos Yadlin, appear to be careful in what they say in the meetings, which are clearly being documented by American aides in the room. In one cable, while Yadlin said that covert means needed to be used to stop Iran, he was quoted as refusing to elaborate.
At the end of the day, though, none of this has changed the state of affairs regarding global efforts to stop Iran. While the UN has ratcheted up sanctions and the US is threatening more and tougher ones, the Teheran regime is continuing to defy the international community and to enrich uranium, making it today just a jump away from creating a nuclear weapon whenever it wants.
Hariri says Lebanon won’t join int’l pressure on Iran
(AP) At of end of Lebanese PM’s visit to Teheran, Ahmadinejad says Islamic unity helps to foil efforts of dominant powers. Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri said on Monday that his country will not be part of any international group that aims to pressure Iran over its controversial nuclear program.
Hariri explained that Lebanon supports Iran’s right to have nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
Hariri spoke at the end of his three-day visit to Iran where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad said that increasing unity and brotherhood of Islamic nations helps to thwart efforts of hegemonic powers, Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported.
“Promotion of unity and brotherhood of Islamic states particularly unity of Iran and Lebanon foils plots of hegemonic powers,” Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with Hariri, according to the report.
“If the Lebanese government and resistance stand in a joint front, the country will go through the path of dignity, development and honor and the Zionist regime and its sponsors will not be able to harm the Lebanese nation,” the Iranian president said.
Ahmadinejad went on to say that “The Islamic Republic of Iran endorses progress and development of all countries and we believe that regional and international problems will be fixed easily if we stand by each other.”
Lebanese and Iranian officials signed several accords during Hariri’s visit.
Ahmadinejad: US planned Wikileaks release to pressure Iran
Iranian president responds to documents which exposed Arab calls for strike on country’s nuclear facilities, alleges leaks were an “organized” effort to “stir up trouble.”
According to the cables released Sunday by online whistle-blower Wikileaks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program and to stop Teheran from developing a nuclear weapon.
“We don’t give any value to these documents,” Ahmadinejad told a news conference “It’s without legal value. Iran and regional states are friends. Such acts of mischief have no impact on relations between nations.”
Ahmadinejad alleged the leaks were an “organized” effort by the US to stir trouble between Iran and Arab neighbors. When asked to comment on the documents, he said “the material was not leaked, but rather released in an organized way,” according to a Press TV report.
“The US administration released them and based on them they pass judgment …. [The documents] have no legal value and will not have the political effect they seek,” Ahmadinejad was further quoted as saying. He went on to say that the Wikileaks “game” is “not worth commenting upon and that no one would waste their time reviewing them.”
The comments came after Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri told Ahmadinejad that his country would not be part of any international group that aims to pressure Iran over its controversial nuclear program, seemingly in reaction to the Wikileaks exposure.
Among the first-published documents on Sunday night were nicknames for a number of world leaders. Ahmadinejad was referred to as “Hitler,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy as a “naked emperor,” the German Chancellor was called Angela “Teflon” Merkel and Afghan President Hamid Karzai as “driven by paranoia.” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, an “Alpha Male,” while President Dmitry Medvedev is “afraid, hesitant.”
Iran’s President Calls Leaked Documents U.S. Plot
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a news conference on Monday that Iran’s relations with its neighbors would not be damaged by the leaked documents.
(NYT) TEHRAN — In Iran’s first official reaction to leaked State Department cables quoting Arab leaders as urging the United States to bomb Tehran’s nuclear facilities, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the documents as American psychological warfare that would not affect his country’s relations with other nations, news reports said.
The documents seemed to show several Arab nations, notably Saudi Arabia, Iran’s rival for influence in the Persian Gulf, displaying such hostility that King Abdullah repeatedly implored Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.
Nonetheless, Mr. Ahmadinejad said at a news conference on Monday that Iran’s relations with its neighbors would not be damaged by the reports.
“Regional countries are all friends with each other. Such mischief will have no impact on the relations of countries,” he said, according to Reuters.
“Some part of the American government produced these documents,” he said. “We don’t think this information was leaked. We think it was organized to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals.”
News reports quoted Mr. Ahmadinejad as calling the documents “worthless” and without “legal value.”
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s news conference was scheduled before the leaked cables were published on Sunday and had been expected to focus on such issues as Iran’s scheduled negotiations on Dec. 5 with world powers over its nuclear program and plans at home to drastically reduce energy and food subsidies. Mr. Ahmadinejad said on Monday that while Iran and the world powers had agreed on a date, the venue was still under discussion.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes but many Western powers say it is designed to build nuclear weapons. That issue was one of the overarching themes of the first batch of leaked documents published in The New York Times and four European newspapers on Sunday.
With steadily increasing sanctions, outside powers have been seeking to persuade Iran to curb its uranium enrichment, a process that can lead to the production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel.
Mr. Ahmadinejad reiterated that Tehran’s enrichment program was legal and “non-negotiable,” Reuters said.
“The complete enrichment cycle and the production of fuel are basic rights” of member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, and “are non-negotiable,” Mr. Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.
Netanyahu taps Tamir Pardo as new Mossad chief
Former deputy chief of spy agency was member of elite IDF commando unit, will replace Meir Dagan after eight-year tenure.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday named Mossad veteran Tamir Pardo as his choice as the new head of Israel’s spy agency, to succeed Meir Dagan.
Pardo served in senior positions in the Mossad for many years, as well as in various operative units. He left the agency in 2009, before which he served as deputy Mossad chief.
Pardo’s appointment is still pending the approval of the committee which okays appointments to senior positions in the public service.
|Tamir Pardo, left, with Major General (res.) Uzi Dayan|
|Photo by: Ch. 10|
In a statement issued Monday, Netanyahu praised Pardo’s rich experience in the Mossad, and said he was certain that Pardo was the right man to lead the organization.
Netanyahu also expressed his appreciation of outgoing Mossad chief Meir Dagan and his contribution to Israel’s security.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the former head of the IDF and fellow member of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, also called Pardo on Monday to congratulate him on his apppointment.
“I have known Pardo for many years, from different operations in which we worked together,” Barak said. “Pardo is a highly experienced professional, and is very suitable for the position of Mossad chief.”
Barak also commended Dagan for his eight-year term as head of the Mossad. “The citizens of Israel owe many thanks to Meir Dagan,” he said.
Pardo also served in Sayeret Matkal with Netanyahu’s older brother, the late Yoni Netanyahu, and is a close friend of the prime minister’s family.
Palestinians: Gaza war claim exposed by WikiLeaks is untrue
Cable among hundreds of thousands revealed by WikiLeaks says that Israel tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with Fatah and Egypt.
(haaretz) There were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the Gaza war, a top aid to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday, refuting a WikiLeaks cable that claimed otherwise.
One of the documents included in the over 250,000 diplomatic cables between the United States and its allies which were leaked on Sunday said that Israel tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with both Fatah and Egypt.
In a June 2009 meeting between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and a U.S. congressional delegation, Barak claimed that the Israeli government “had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.”
“Not surprisingly,” Barak said in the meeting, Israel “received negative answers from both.”
|Mahmoud Abbas speaking during a press conference in Ramallah, Oct. 28, 2010.|
|Photo by: AP|
Top Abbas aid Saeb Erekat denied that Israel had notified the Palestinian Authority of the war before it happened.
“We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war,” Erekat said.
Several months before the fighting broke out, Abaas asked Israel’s then-prime minister, Ehud Olmert, not to go to war, Erekat said. Abbas told him “he would not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank,” Erekat added.
He said the exchange took place in a face-to-face meeting that he himself attended.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he wasn’t surprised to learn of Fatah cooperation with Israel.
“We have said several times that Fatah was implicated in this war, and that they wanted to return to Gaza on the back of Israeli tanks. But this information is behind us now. … We hope they will appreciate our position and step forward for real reconciliation,” Abu Zuhri said.
Hamas and Fatah have held several rounds of reconciliation talks since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. Earlier this month, the two groups failed to narrow sharp differences on security issues and ended their latest round of talks without setting a date for the next round.
Israel recruits citizen advocates in Europe
‘Allies and friends’ will promote government policy to press and public meetings as part of fresh PR drive
Israel has instructed its embassies in 10 European countries, including the UK, each to recruit 1,000 members of the public to act as advocates for its policies in a new public relations offensive.
A cable from the foreign affairs ministry was sent to embassies last week, with instructions from Avigdor Lieberman, the controversial and extreme right-wing foreign minister, to adopt a range of measures aimed at improving Israel’s standing in Europe.
The most unusual was the order to identify up to 1,000 people by mid-January to act as “allies” to Israel. One source described them as “friends who are willing not just to receive messages but to actively promote these messages”. These individuals – likely to be drawn from Jewish or Christian activists, academics, journalists and students – will be briefed regularly by Israeli officials and encouraged to speak up for Israel at public meetings or write letters or articles for the press.
Five European capitals have also been identified for a more conventional PR push. Israeli embassies in London, Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Rome will receive funds to hire professional PR firms and lobbyists.
PR companies will be asked to focus on political messages, such as: Israel’s position on talks with the Palestinians; subjects which can help “brand” Israel, such as tourism and technology; and regional issues to which Israel wishes to draw attention, such as human rights in Iran or Arab countries.
The foreign affairs ministry also suggested that embassies across Europe organise monthly high-profile public events to promote Israel and its government’s policies, and visits to Israel for influential individuals. Lieberman is planning to meet ambassadors to European countries next month to push the new PR offensive.
An Israeli official refused to comment on the disclosure but said: “Obviously we are always looking for ways to improve our communications, there’s nothing unusual in that,” adding: “There is anxiety about the way Israel is perceived abroad, and there is particular worry about certain countries in western Europe.”
Israel has previously launched drives to improve its image through hasbara – literally meaning explanation, although alternatively interpreted as public diplomacy, spin or propaganda. During its three-week war on Gaza, which began in December 2008, Israel launched a PR strategy through its national information directorate to co-ordinate key messages on a daily basis.
The Israeli government, military and various embassies are adept at using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to promote material. Organisations such as Bicom, the Britain Israel Communications Research Centre, in the UK and the Israel Project in the US, which describe themselves as independent, are dedicated to promoting Israeli policies. Both organisations offer regular briefings, contacts and tours to foreign correspondents based in Israel and Palestine, and all-expenses paid trips to Israel for journalists, including from the Guardian, based elsewhere.
Other countries undertake similar PR drives. Rwanda hired the London-based company Racepoint to feed positive stories to the media. Bell Pottinger, headed by Lord Bell, a former adviser to Lady Thatcher, represents Sri Lanka and Madagascar.
Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet today approved a plan to build a huge detention centre capable of holding up to 10,000 illegal immigrants and refugees near its border with Egypt. Israel began building a fence along the border earlier this month. The population and immigration authority has said between 1,200 and 1,500 people, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, have crossed the border each month this year, compared to 300 per month last year. “There is a swelling wave threatening Israeli jobs, a wave of illegal migrants that we must stop because of the harsh implications for Israel’s character,” Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told the cabinet today.
Also today, Major-General Uri Bar-Lev, the top policeman being investigated for alleged sexual assault and rape, said he was withdrawing his candidacy to become Israel’s police commissioner and taking an unspecified time of leave.
Israel tries to clean up its image abroad
Israel’s ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister is proposing a major new public relations drive in Europe aimed at bolstering Israel’s flagging image.
The campaign, expected to launch early in the new year, would rely on teams of volunteers in Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain to deliver Israel’s message, while professionals from public relations and lobbying firms would also be hired to for the rebranding initiative.
The campaign is the pet project of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Moldovan-born Foreign Minister, who is better known for his public relations gaffes than for his diplomacy.
Nevertheless, the move also reflects a growing sense among Israelis that they are misunderstood and misrepresented overseas. Many have smarted at international condemnation of the Gaza blockade and have vociferously defended two soldiers convicted in Israel for their treatment of a civilian during the Gaza War two winters ago, arguing that they were operating in difficult circumstances.
Moreover, Israeli officials have railed against media portrayals of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an unwilling partner for peace with the Palestinians, contending that the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state is as much of a stumbling block as is ongoing settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
“Israel’s public image today is dismal,” wrote Alon Ben-Meir, a New York University lecturer in a recent editorial in The Jerusalem Post. “The public relations problem is not due to a lack of attention. The entire world is watching Israel closely, but it does not like what it sees.”
Aryeh Green, head of the Israeli advocacy group MediaCentral, welcomed the new PR initiative, but said efforts should also remain focused on promoting accuracy of news reporting from Israel, rather than solely concentrating on putting across a message. The Foreign Ministry initiative, if it goes ahead, will join private advocacy efforts led by groups such as the Israel Project and British-led Bicom, which, among other things, lead tours examining threats to Israel’s security and fly over foreign journalists and commentators to meet politicians, decision-makers and analysts.
Other pro-Israel groups, such as Honest Reporting and the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America scour media reports to root out what they perceive as biased or incorrect reporting, and lead email campaigns against journalists or organisations regarded as prejudiced.
Whether Mr Lieberman’s plans can do more remains to be seen. At least one Israeli official has argued that such initiatives have failed before: “With every change of season, there will be a politician announcing unofficially a big PR campaign that will change Israel’s image,” the official said.
Others will likely question Mr Lieberman’s suitability for the role. A former nightclub bouncer with an assault charge to his name, he has alienated many foreign officials.
Many Israelis feel that there is little that can be done to improve Israel’s international image, particularly in Europe, where anti-Israel sentiment is seen to be on the rise.
In a recent poll conducted by Tel Aviv University, 56 percent of Israelis said they believed “the whole world is against us,” while 77 per cent said the world would always criticise their efforts to resolve the decades-long conflict.
US soldiers kill Iraqi civilian driver who failed to slow down as he neared troop convoy
(AP) U.S. troops who thought they were under attack killed an Iraqi airport employee Sunday as he drove near a military convoy on his way to work, officials said.
The driver, identified by colleagues as Baghdad International Airport worker Karim Obaid Bardan, failed to heed repeated signals to slow down or turn on his headlights as he neared the military convoy, said U.S. and Iraqi security officials.
“As a result, the vehicle was perceived as a threat and a decision was made to engage it with small-arms fire in order to stop it and to protect the convoy from a possible attack,” said Army Col. Barry Johnson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.
“Iraqi drivers know that they must use caution and avoid threatening behavior when approaching military vehicles,” Johnson said.
The shooting comes a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said U.S. troops would not be needed in Iraq beyond a December 2011 withdrawal deadline already in place between the two nations.
An Iraqi policeman confirmed the driver did not stop or slow. Two other Iraqi officials said the pre-dawn shooting happened near a security checkpoint on the road to the airport and described the shooting as a mistake.
All three Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The shooting is under U.S. investigation, and Johnson said the military “deeply regrets” the driver’s death.
Such so-called “escalation of force” self-defense shootings were common in the years immediately after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, and inflamed tensions between American forces and Iraqis who saw them as occupiers. But the tactic has been less frequent since U.S. soldiers scaled back their presence around Iraq, starting in June 2009, when they stopped patrolling cities without Iraqi forces with them.
Meanwhile, in a shocking killing north of Baghdad, police said gunmen wearing Iraqi security forces uniforms invaded the home of a Sunni sheik in a pre-dawn raid and shot him and his 15-year-old son.
A police officer in the village of al-Meshahda, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) north of the capital, said Sheik Abdul Kerim Talab Mutlak al-Halbussi was a leader of the local Sahwa, or Awakening council. The councils are the government-backed Sunni militias that joined forces with the United States against al-Qaida in one of the turning points of the war.
Two other people in the house were wounded in the shooting, said the police officer. A local hospital official confirmed the casualties. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.
Also, two high-profile officials were killed in separate attacks Sunday night in Baghdad, police officials said. The training and development director of the Sunni Endowment, a publicly funded religious organization, was killed when a bomb hidden on the underside of his car exploded. And an Iraqi army brigadier general was slain in a drive-by shooting.
Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats to Steal UN Officials’ Credit Card Numbers
‘National Humint Collection Directive’ Also Called for Them to Steal Passwords, DNA
One of the first eye-opening revelations from the massive WikiLeaks diplomatic logs release is the length to which the US State Department is being treated as just another of America’s many spying apparatus.
Among the leaks was something called the “National Humint Collection Directive,” a secret document signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last year. The document orders officials at the State Department to conduct mass surveillance and in some cases outright theft against high ranking UN officials.
Incredibly, beyond the simple collection of secret information about officials including UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the directive also calls for State Department officials to try to steal credit card data from a number of top officials, as well as passwords and personal encryption keys. They also sought to collect DNA samples from UN members.
The directive was sent to 33 US embassies across the world, and specified not just Ban, but his top advisers, the heads of all UN agencies, commanders of UN military missions and representatives of all the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
The State Department was chiefly responsible for this attempt, but they were also to enlist the CIA, FBI, and the US Secret Service in the collection of data if necessary. The 1946 UN Convention prohibits most if not all of the attempts at theft and surveillance detailed in the operation.
US Warned Turkey Not to Publicly Question Allegations on Iran
State Dept Demanded Officials ‘Rein In’ PM’s Criticism
In late 2009 the Obama Administration, it was revealed today, privately warned the Turkish government not to criticize unsubstantiated allegations against Iran’s civilian nuclear program, in particular warning that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comments made Turkey “vulnerable to international community criticism.
The documents, revealed today as part of the WikiLeaks Cablegate release, centered around Prime Minister Erdogan’s criticism of Obama’s allegations as “gossip,” and advised top Erdogan aides and Turkish President Gul to “rein in” the prime minister.
Another document expressed concern at Turkey’s interest in a working relationship with Iran, saying Turkey was missing an opportunity to weaken the Iranian government by not condemning the 2009 election and saying Turkey was motivated by a desire to avoid a region-wide war.
Though US officials have repeatedly accused Iran of making nuclear weapons they have never provided evidence of this assertion, and the IAEA has continually verified the non-diversion of Iran’s nuclear material.
Interestingly, the US mocked Turkey’s claims of “influence” with Iran by saying Turkey was unable to even convince Iran to sign the third party enrichment deal sought by the P5+1. Just months after the cable Turkey did succeed in getting Iran to sign the deal, sparking public US condemnation of Turkey and a refusal by the US to complete the proposed deal.
Iranian nuclear scientist killed, another injured in Tehran bombings
The explosions, which took place in front of Shahid Behesti University, are the latest in a string of recent assassination attempts in which five doctors and professors have been killed in Tehran.
Iranian authorities blamed foreign agents for the killings, saying they want to cause chaos in the country. But leading figures in Iran’s opposition movement accused the government of plotting the attacks in order to spread fear in the capital, where many oppose the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Undoubtedly the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved” in the attacks, Ahmadinejad told reporters in a news conference. He said the bombings would not stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear program.
According to Fars, scientists Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi were parking their cars in separate locations near the university campus about 7:45 a.m. local time when they were attacked.
Witnesses said each car was approached by a group of men on motorcycles, who attached explosives to the vehicles and detonated them seconds later, the news agency reported. Shahriari was killed instantly. Abbasi was wounded. Both men were with their wives, who were wounded as well.
Abbasi is a high-ranking defense ministry official who is involved in Iran’s nuclear program. He has been barred since 2007 from leaving the country, in accordance with United Nations Security Council sanctions, and is considered a main player in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile program.
Salehi said Shahriari was “in charge of one of the biggest projects” of Iran’s nuclear program, ISNA said, but did not specify which program.
“The enemy took our dearest flower, but must know that this nation, through resistance and all its might, will make efforts to remove problems and achieve its desires,” Salehi said.
Shahriari also was known for his involvement in a regional, non-nuclear scientific research project – called Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME – in which Israel also participated. He is the second Iranian scientist involved in that program to be assassinated in Tehran.
The SESAME project is based in Jordan, under the auspices of the United Nations. It includes scientists from several Middle Eastern countries. The involvement of both Iran and Israel makes the project unusual, because Israel is not recognized by Iran and has no ties to the Islamic republic. Palestinian scientists also participate.
Iranian and foreign scientists say the project has applications in industry, medicine, nanotechnology and other fields unrelated to nuclear power.
In January, another scientist involved in the SESAME project, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was killed in Tehran when a bomb attached to a motorcycle exploded in front of his house.
At the time, many thought Mohammadi had been supporting the opposition. Government officials, however, accused the United States and Israel of being behind the attack.
Fars, which has close ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards corps, alleged that foreign “enemies” were involved in Monday’s attacks – a charge Ahmadinejad echoed hours later.
“The enemies of the Iranian nation, who have lost hope in their pressure and sanctions projects, have once again, on the eve of negotiations with Iran, resorted to blind terrorist attacks so that they can advance their illegitimate and oppressive demands against the Iranian nation at the negotiating table,” the agency wrote.
Iranian officials are supposed to meet with representatives of other nations Dec. 5 for talks on nuclear and other issues.
Mullen: US Still Thinking About Attacking Iran
Doesn’t Believe for One Second Iran’s Program is Peaceful
Despite providing no new evidence to the contrary, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen says he “doesn’t believe for a second” that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and reiterated that the US is considering attacking Iran over it.
“We’ve actually been thinking about military options for a significant period of time,” Mullen insisted. Indeed the US has been threatening to attack Iran off and on for years, usually citing the civilian nuclear program as a justification.
The threat comes just weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admonished the US regarding Iran, saying that they needed to threaten to attack Iran much more often than they had been in recent months. The US had publicly rejected the call, saying they threaten Iran enough at present, but such a new, high profile threat suggests they may still be on the rise.
It also comes just a week before the planned P5+1 talks with Iran, which are supposed to be a meaningful effort involving US diplomats to kick-start talks designed to prevent a war with Iran. Timing the threat like this may suggest the talks aren’t going to amount to much.
Nasrallah: Evidence held by UN Hariri probe worthless
Hizbullah chief calls investigation a biased “Israeli project;” Netherlands-based tribunal may issue indictments this month.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS) The leader of Hizbullah said Sunday that evidence believed to be held by UN investigators implicating his militant group in the death of a former Lebanese prime minister is worthless.
The Netherlands-based tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of Rafik Hariri is expected to issue indictments possibly as soon as this month.
The court has kept silent on possible suspects but several media reports including a May 2008 report by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine said the court will indict Hizbullah members based mainly on the analysis of mobile phone calls in the run-up to Hariri’s assassination.
Nasrallah has also said he expects members of his group to be indicted, but has dismissed the court as biased and an “Israeli project.”
The UN tribunal set up to prosecute Hariri’s killers has caused deep divisions within Lebanon’s government, which includes Hizbullah along with pro-Western blocs led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the slain leader.
There are fears of an outbreak of violence if the court indicts members of Hizbullah.
Nasrallah has said his group will “cut the hand” of anyone who tries to arrest its members.
On Sunday, he said he is confident the indictments will be based on telecommunications evidence linking his group to the murder. But he said Israel, whom he blames for Hariri’s assassination, has infiltrated Lebanon’s mobile telecommunications network and can manipulate phone calls.
“You are heading toward indictments based on so-called telecommunications evidence. This is not evidence. Such evidence has absolutely no value,” said Nasrallah, addressing the UN-appointed prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare
Lebanese officials have confirmed that Israel has penetrated and has great control over Lebanon’s telecommunications networks. Earlier this year, authorities detained two senior employees of one of the country’s two cellular telecommunication companies on suspicion that they were spying for Israel. They remain in detention several months after their arrest.
Telecommunications minister Charbel Nahhas confirmed at a press conference held with experts in the field earlier this week that Israel was able to infiltrate Lebanon’s mobile telecommunications network and could manipulate phone calls and short messages.
Nasrallah repeated those claims in his speech Sunday and said Israel bugged the mobile phones of Hizbullah members, allowing it to make false phone calls and send false text messages and track the users’ movements.
“This court is amending its laws and work in a way that facilitates its issuing of a premeditated, politicized verdict,” Nasrallah said.
However, he said he was not worried about the indictments, adding his group was stronger and more confident than ever.
Hariri’s assassination in a truck bombing along Beirut’s Mediterranean waterfront on Feb. 14, 2005, transformed Lebanon and the country’s relationship with its larger neighbor, Syria, which is a main patron of the Shiite Hizbullah.
Immediately after the killing, suspicion fell on Damascus — leading to massive protests that ushered in the end of Syria’s nearly 30-year military presence and domination in Lebanon.
Damascus and Hizbullah have denied having any role in the killing.
Muslim Brotherhood protests alleged fraud in Egypt vote
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)–Hundreds demonstrate outside of vote-counting stations; independent monitors barred; gov’t candidates hand out cash and food to voters. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters protested outside vote counting stations, scuffling with police and denouncing what they called widespread fraud in Egypt’s parliament elections on Sunday, as the government appeared to determined to ensure its monopoly on the legislature in uncertain political times.
The protests in Cairo and in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria capped a day of voting in which many independent monitors were barred from polling stations amid reports of ballot box stuffing and vote buying. In some places, government candidates were seen passing out cash and food to voters near polling stations.
Overhanging Sunday’s parliamentary vote was the more significant presidential election set for next year. For the first time in nearly 30 years, there are questions over the presidential vote. The 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak has had health issues, undergoing surgery earlier this year. His party says he will run for another six-year term, but that hasn’t resolved the speculation over the future of the country’s leadership.
Fueling the sense of unease, Egyptians the past year have grown increasingly vocal in their anger over high prices, low wages, persistent unemployment and poor services despite economic growth that has fueled a boom for the upper classes.
Amid the uncertainty, opponents say the ruling party in this top U.S. ally aims to sweep parliament almost completely to prevent any future platform for dissent. In the run-up to Sunday’s voting, at least 1,200 supporters of the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood — the ruling party’s only real rival — were arrested and many of its candidates saw their campaign rallies broken up repeatedly.
In the last parliamentary election, in 2005, the Brotherhood stunned the government by winning a fifth of the legislature, its strongest showing ever. But officials from the ruling National Democratic Party warned heading into Sunday that the Brotherhood would not keep nearly as many in the new, 508-seat parliament.
Sunday’s voting saw sporadic violence — police fired tear gas in one southern Cairo district after police shut down a polling station, and in the southern city of Qena, Brotherhood supporters threw firebombs at police who barred them voting.
But a heavy presence of security forces, along with gangs of intimidating young men hanging around outside polling stations, seemed to scare off most opposition supporters. Only a trickle of voters, far less than in 2005, was seen throughout the day at most Cairo and Alexandria polls.
“People are scared to leave their homes. Anyone is afraid of the thugs,” said Abeer Fathi, a 32-year old housewife in Cairo who nonetheless was able to vote for her Brotherhood candidate. “The authorities are reassured because they know people won’t turn up after they scared them ahead of the vote.”
After polls closed Sunday evening, around 800 Brotherhood supporters massed outside a police station where ballots were being counted in Alexandria, chanting, “No to fraud.” They were confronted by several hundred riot police and truckloads of civilians touting long sticks. Brief scuffles broke out, though some Brotherhood supporters tried to pull their colleagues out of any fighting.
Several hundred others marched toward a counting center in the Cairo district of Shubra el-Kheima but were blocked by a heavy security force. Some protesters threw bottles at police, shouting, “No god but God! No to vote rigging.”
At a press conference after polls closed, NDP spokesman Sameh Kashaf shrugged off accusations of fraud as “not worthy of comment.”
“The Egyptians today have used their democratic right,” he said, saying “a few violations” were dealt with.
Throughout the day, independent monitors from human rights groups were barred entry from many polling stations, leaving only low-level officials from the government-run election committee and police to supervise voting. Under constitutional amendments passed in 2007, independent judges who once acted as monitors no longer observe the vote.
In some places visited by The Associated Press, violations appeared to take place openly.
“The security is running the show,” said Hosny Ragab, a monitor who told AP he was ordered out of a polling center at Alexandria’s al-Raml district despite having accreditation from the election commission.
At one point, busloads of women were brought into the al-Raml polling station, and their escorts were heard telling them to vote for NDP candidate Abdel-Salam Mahgoub. Several of the women told AP they were being paid around $7 each to vote for him. Speaking outside the station to the AP, Mahgoub denied any irregularities. The Brotherhood candidate in the district was beat up by alleged government supporters, appearing to reporters bruised with blood on his shirt.
In the downtown Cairo neighborhood of Abdeen, a plainclothes policeman in a polling station acknowledged to an AP reporter that many ballot boxes were “fixed.” The officer refused to give his name. Fawzi Mahgoub, a poll representative for the district’s Muslim Brotherhood candidate, said his phone was confiscated after he took footage of an officer at the same center stuffing the boxes with ballots.
In nearby back alleys, candidate representatives were seen negotiating with recruiters who promise to bring in a set number of votes — around $9 a vote was the going price at the moment.
“No one votes without being paid,” said one voter who would identify himself only as Mohammed. “My leg hurts, and if there was no money I wouldn’t have come.”
NDP candidates appeared to have a free hand to sway voters entering the stations. In several locations in Cairo, supporters of NDP candidates were seen handing out bags of food to voters inside the polling center or at tents set up in alleys nearby.
Egypt has 41 million registered voters, but turnout has traditionally been very low — around 25 percent in 2005. Secular opposition parties are weak, with little public support and limited resources.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Egypt rejected U.S. calls to allow foreign monitors to observe the election, accusing its ally of trying to play the role of “overseer.”
Egypt argued there were enough local monitors to do the job. But civil society groups say the election committee authorized only dozen monitors. It appeared Sunday that even some of those with papers were being turned away.
The government sensitivity over the vote appears to stem from the uncertainty over the presidential election.
Mubarak, who underwent gall bladder surgery in Germany last spring, has not said whether he intends to run for another, six-year term, though senior ruling party figures insist he will. Even if he runs, a new term would take him nearly to the age of 90, raising questions whether he would complete it.
The president is widely thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him. But the 46-year-old investment banker-turned-senior party leader faces some opposition within the party and there is widespread resistance to “inheritance” of power among the public.
Lansing man who burned Quran was drunk, angry
The wife of the man who burned a Quran on the night before Sept. 11 and left it on the doorstep of the Islamic Center of East Lansing doesn’t allow him to get drunk in the house. That’s why he was getting drunk on his mountain bike that night. He left his house on the east side of Lansing about an hour before sundown, stopping off at a Speedway gas station to buy a 24-ounce can of Icehouse.
He was 46 years old, making his living “scratch and scrape” doing odd jobs. And that day in particular, he was “pretty haired up,” he would later tell police, “because it was the anniversary of 9/11 and I’m still, I’m still pissed off.”
He’d already decided what he was going to do. If the Florida pastor Terry Jones wasn’t going to burn a Quran, he would. He carried a copy with him that night in a plastic grocery bag.
He wanted to make a statement “of defiance, a statement of disrespect,” he told the police. “I want them to know that we’re not just gonna roll over for this (expletive).”
But a drunken act of provocation – directed, in this instance, against a community that had publicly denounced the 9/11 attacks and any number of terrorist acts before and since – doesn’t speak so clearly.
The incident made its way into the national news as just another piece of flotsam on a rising tide of Islamophobia, but it provoked outrage in East Lansing, not least because it ran against the city’s image of itself as a diverse community comfortable in its diversity.
The city put up a $10,000 reward.
The man responsible turned himself in. And then, nothing. He wasn’t charged with a hate crime. He wasn’t charged with littering.
Just what had happened that night and why it didn’t add up to a crime, those questions remained mostly unanswered.
The details of that night are contained in police reports obtained by the Lansing State Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request. The man’s name and other identifying information were redacted from those reports because, East Lansing police said, to reveal them would be an unwarranted invasion of the man’s privacy.
The Journal identified him through other means, but chose not to print his name because he hasn’t been charged with a crime. He did not respond to an invitation to be interviewed for this article.
It’s hard to ride a bike while carrying more than one can of beer, the man told police. He stopped five or six times that night to buy more.
He was “pretty rock’n” by the time he reached the bridge where Marsh and Haslett roads intersect. Underneath it, down by the railroad tracks, he started ripping pages of Quran, set it on fire.
And then he pointed his bike back toward East Lansing. He said he didn’t stop at the Islamic Center, just tossed burnt pieces of the book onto the front sidewalk and kept riding, scattering pages as he went.
He would brag about what he did on Facebook, where his profile picture was one of the Danish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
“Hey mang, wassup???” read a post from Sept. 12. “Burnt me a coran [sic] yesterday and dropped the half-charred cover at the front door of the mosk [sic] here in town!!! Spread a bunch of pages from hell to breakfast in the rain!!! hoho-hehe-haha!!! (Expletive)-EM!!! LOL”
The reaction of the man’s wife, when she learned about the incident from a newspaper report, was to ask him “Is this you?”
At her urging, he turned himself in.
When it comes to the question of what is protected speech under the First Amendment, the law distinguishes between acts of symbolic expression and acts of intimidation.
In the 2003 case Virginia v. Black, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Virginia law banning cross burning was unconstitutional because it ignored “all of the contextual factors that are necessary to decide whether a particular cross burning is intended to intimidate,” as former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor put it.
But the court said laws against cross burning with an intent to intimidate could pass constitutional muster.
In essence, “You don’t have the right to make a threat,” said Jeannine Bell, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and author of the book “Policing Hatred: Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Hate Crime.”
The man didn’t damage anyone else’s property. The Quran he burned was his own. He didn’t make physical contact with another person. So proving he had threatened to do one of those things, and that there was a reasonable expectation that he would, would have been the only way to charge him under Michigan’s ethnic intimidation law.
Even if the burnt Quran is understood as a threat, said Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III, the standard is whether there is a reasonable expectation that those actions will occur, “not might occur, not might be hypothetically believed it might implicitly happen.”
In this case, there was “no evidence of that whatsoever,” Dunnings said.
Bell is less certain. Context matters in these cases, she said.
The fact that the Quran burning took place the night before Sept. 11, that the charred remains were left on the doorstep of the Islamic Center, the man’s words, the Danish cartoon, “all of those issues can be put to a jury or a judge and they can make the determination that this is an explicit threat,” she said.
There was one other crime the man might have been charged with: littering.
East Lansing officials decided not to try, because it “would have trivialized the offense,” said assistant city attorney Tom Yeadon.
There was another factor, too, he said, though a minor one. After news of the case spread, police received e-mails from “extremists on both sides.”
Charging the man with anything would have made his name part of the public record.
“Part of the thought process I had was ‘Do we really want to endanger this person’s life for a littering charge?’ ” Yeadon said.
Mahmoud Mousa, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing, has said that the man who burned the Quran “caused tremendous grief to a lot of people.” But when the decision not to charge him was announced, the community accepted it.
“We really want the whole area to live in harmony,” Mousa said. “We don’t want to create animosity among different groups or different religions.”
But the act, however isolated, left a mark.
“We never put cameras outside the building, because we never really thought anything could happen,” Mousa said.
Now, “We are looking at the options.”
Fire damages mosque bomb suspect attended
Update: FBI investigating Corvallis arson attack, reward offered
(Portland Tribune) An early Sunday morning arson fire damaged the mosque that the Pioneer Square bomb suspect attended in Corvallis.
The Corvallis Fire Department said the fire at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center was intentionally set. It was reported by a police officer on duty at 2:15 a.m. and quickly extinguished.
The FBI is investigating the attack on the center, located at 610 NW Kings Boulevard in Corvallis. The agency is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.
“We have made it quite clear that the FBI will not tolerate any kind of retribution or attack on the Muslim community,” said Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “We are working very closely with the leadership at the mosque. We will find the person responsible for this attack and bring the full force fo the federal justice system to bear. In the meantime, the FBI remains absolutely committed to protecting each and every American’s right to live, work and worship in a free and safe society.”
Islamic center leader Imaam Yosof Wanly confirms that Mohamed Osman Mohamud occasionally attended the mosque, but did not seem to be particularly devout in his beliefs.
Mohamud, a Somali-American, was raised in Beaverton and had been attending Oregon State University. Wanly condemned Mohamud’s involvement in the plot to bomb the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Pioneer Square on Friday afternoon.
According to the FBI, Mohamud came up with the plot but was working with undercover agency operatives to accomplish it. He parked a van with a fake bomb near the square and was arrested when he tried to detonate it with a cell phone as the event was beginning.
Mohamud is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning.
Israeli police cleared in American protester’s case
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli police officers who fired a tear gas canister that caused American protester Emily Henochowicz to lose an eye were cleared following a police investigation.
The finding of no criminal wrongdoing by the Judea and Samaria district police was announced Sunday.
Henochowicz, a student at Cooper Union in New York who was studying at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy, was hit in the eye on May 31 by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during a protest at a Jerusalem roadblock against Israel’s interception of an aid flotilla headed for the Gaza Strip. Nine Turkish citizens were killed during confrontations between Israeli Navy commandos and pro-Gaza activists on board one of the flotilla’s ships.
Following surgery at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem to remove her damaged eye, Henochowicz returned to the United States for more surgeries and to complete her studies.
Henochowicz’s family, who alleged that the police fired the canister directly at her, filed a complaint with the district police, which is responsible for investigating the operational activity of the Border Police in the West Bank.
A Border Police internal probe showed that the tear gas canister hit a wall and then Henochowicz, and that she was not targeted.
U.S. citizen Tristan Anderson, 38, lost an eye and suffered brain damage when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister during a West Bank protest in March 2009.
Appeals court defangs author of phony wolf memoir
(JTA) — A publisher does not have to pay writer Misha Defonseca for her false memoir about surviving the Holocaust with the help of wolves, a Massachusetts appeals court ruled.
A panel of judges ruled Nov. 24 that Mt. Ivy Press owner Jane Daniel does not have to pay Defonseca $22.5 million, but that the publisher owes $10 million to ghost writer Vera Lee, who did not know that the story was a hoax. A lower court had awarded the money to the authors in a dispute over the best-selling book’s profits.
In “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years,” Defonseca wrote that she was Jewish and had survived the Holocaust as a child by wandering through Europe under the protection of a pack of wolves.”
The book was translated into 18 languages and made into a feature film in France before Defonseca admitted in February 2008 that she had made up the stories in the book and was not even Jewish.