Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Speeches And Statements

Statement on H Res 1194, “Reaffirming the support of the House of Representatives for the legitimate, democratically-elected Government of Lebanon under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.”

May 20, 2008

March to War in Lebanon?

Madam Speaker I rise in opposition to H. Res. 1194 because it is dangerously interventionist and will likely lead to more rather than less violence in the Middle East.

I have noticed that this legislation reads eerily similar to a key clause in the 2002 Iraq war bill, H J Res 114, which authorized the use of force.

The key resolved clause in H. Res. 1194 before us today reads:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives

(6) urges–

(A) the United States Government and the international community to immediately take all appropriate actions to support and strengthen the legitimate Government of Lebanon under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora;

The Iraq war authorization language from 2002 is strikingly similar, as you can see here:

(a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to–

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq ;

I am concerned that this kind of similarity is intentional and will inevitably result in US military action in Lebanon , or against Syria or Iran .

I am also concerned over the process of bringing this resolution to the Floor for a vote. I find it outrageous that H. Res. 1194, which calls for more risky US interventionism in the Middle East , is judged sufficiently “non-controversial” to be placed on the suspension calendar for consideration on the House Floor outside of normal order. Have we reached the point where it is no longer controversial to urge the president to use “all appropriate actions” — with the unmistakable implication that force may be used — to intervene in the domestic affairs of a foreign country?

Mr. Speaker, the Arab League has been mediating the conflict between rival political factions in Lebanon and has had some success in halting the recent violence. Currently, negotiations are taking place in Qatar between the Lebanese factions and some slow but encouraging progress is being made. Regional actors – who do have an interest in the conflict – have stepped up in attempt to diffuse the crisis and reach a peaceful solution, and press reports today suggest that a deal between the rival factions may have been reached. Yet at this delicate stage of negotiations the US House is preparing to pass a very confrontational resolution pledging strong support for one side and condemning competing factions. US threats in this resolution to use “all appropriate actions” to support one faction are in fact a strong disincentive for factions to continue peaceful negotiations and could undermine the successes thus far under Arab League moderation.

This legislation strongly condemns Iranian and Syrian support to one faction in Lebanon while pledging to involve the United States on the other side. Wouldn’t it be better to be involved on neither side and instead encourage the negotiations that have already begun to resolve the conflict?

Afghanistan continues to sink toward chaos with no end in sight. The war in Iraq, launched on lies and deceptions, has cost nearly a trillion dollars and more than 4,000 lives with no end in sight. Saber rattling toward Iran and Syria increases daily, including this very legislation. Yet we are committing ourselves to intervene in a domestic political dispute that has nothing to do with the United States.

This resolution leads us closer to a wider war in the Middle East . It involves the United States unnecessarily in an internal conflict between competing Lebanese political factions and will increase rather than decrease the chance for an increase in violence. The Lebanese should work out political disputes on their own or with the assistance of regional organizations like the Arab League. I urge my colleagues to reject this march to war and to reject H. Res. 1194.

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Behind the Headlines by Justin Raimondo

February 8, 2008


Spies, lies, and “conspiracy theories” – what’s behind the Middle East internet outage

I was skeptical, at first, of speculation over the cutting of two cables linking the Middle East with the Internet, which had it as part of some Vast Neocon Conspiracy to isolate the region prior to a US military assault. However, when two more cables – this time, in the Persian Gulf – were mysteriously cut, I began to wonder ….

In a piece headlined “Cable cutter nutters chase conspiracy theories,” The Register goes out of its way to laugh off the prospect that what we are witnessing is a military operation, or the prelude to one, sniffing “there’s little more than suspicions to work with” since we’ve yet to reach the damaged cables. Yet, given the sort of government we are dealing with – a regime that lied us into one war, and is not-so-subtly trying to finagle us into yet another one – why shouldn’t we be suspicious? We’d have to be crazy not to be.

The Economist follows suit, sneering at “internet conspiracy theories” and denouncing the whole brouhaha as an “online frenzy” that is “way out of line.” Yet one has to wonder: four cable cuts in the past week? I’m with Steven Bellovin, a computer science professor at Columbia University, who avers:

“As a security guy, I’m paranoid, but I don’t understand the threat model here. On the other hand, four accidental failures in a week is a bit hard to swallow, too. Let’s hope there will be close, open examination of the failed parts of the cables.”

First it was supposed to be a ship’s anchor that caused the damage, and yet the Egyptians have said there were no ships in the vicinity, which they regularly monitor: besides which, that entire area near Alexandria is off-limits to all shipping. Another reason to suspect a deliberate act: this politically-sensitive region is an Internet choke-point, as ABC News points out. “The route connecting Europe to Egypt, and from there to the Middle East” is tenuous:

“Today, just three major data cables stretch from Italy to Egypt and run down the Suez Canal, and from there to much of the Middle East. (A separate line connects Italy with Israel.) A serious cut here is immediately obvious across the region, and a double cut can be crippling.”

Yet theories that this incident prefigures a US attack on Iran don’t comport with the facts: Iran, far from being isolated by the cuts, may have enjoyed better connectivity as a result of the events. The areas hardest hit were Kuwait, Egypt, and especially Pakistan – this last being a likelier target for isolation than Iran, and certainly more current

Another, and far more plausible, theory is that the seemingly coordinated cuts resulted from efforts to tap into the cables – a spying operation. Go here for an exhaustive and very convincing case for viewing this as “special warfare.”

The Register cites Prof. Bellovin, but fails to note the real gist of his remarks. While he’s skeptical of the above-cited link, which posits a scenario whereby the USS Jimmy Carter, present whereabouts unknown, uses its specially designed facilities to tap directly into the cables, Bellovin poses an alternative scenario:

“If if wasn’t a direct attempt at eavesdropping, perhaps it was indirect. Several years ago, a colleague and I wrote about link-cutting attacks. In these, you cut some cables, to force traffic past a link you’re monitoring. Link-cutting for such purposes isn’t new; at the start of World War I, the British cut Germany’s overseas telegraph cable to force them to use easily-monitored links. One of the messages they intercepted — and cryptanalyzed — was the Zimmerman telegram, which asked Mexico to join Germany in attacking the US, in exchange for financial support and recovery of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Instead, public outrage in the US contributed to the decision to enter the war against Germany.”

“The problem with this scenario,” he adds, “is that the benefit is short-lived: the cables will be repaired in a few weeks.” Yes, but long enough to have accomplished – what? We can’t know, of course, but Prof. Bellovin certainly raises some interesting possibilities, none of which can be discounted by clueless journalists who sniff at “conspiracy theories” – as if we have no reason whatsoever to suspect covert action, by the US or whomever, in that area of the world. As Prof. Bellovin and a co-author point out in this paper on the subject: “Attacks on the routing system, with the goal of diverting traffic past an enemy-controlled point for purposes of eavesdropping or connection-hijacking, have long been known.”

Given the context in which these cable cuts are occurring – heightened tensions in the region, and not only with Iran – I think it is probable that they are deliberate, and that the diversion of internet traffic for purposes of eavesdropping is clearly the intent. After all, ask yourself this question: which is more plausible, an “accidental” cutting of four cables in one week in an area of the world which is the current focus of US military and diplomatic efforts, or the scenario outlined by Prof. Bellovin?

None of this is at all surprising. The US government currently claims the right to spy on Americans, in their own country, as well as when they’re in communication with overseas individuals. They don’t hide this, but proclaim it from the rooftops: does anyone doubt they are capable of commandeering the world’s internet cable network in order to utilize it for their own purposes? You don’t have to quaff the “conspiracy theorist” Kool-Aid to find this credible: a dose of realism will do.


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Barry Lando


Much of the reporting of President Bush’s trip to the Middle East is shadow play, an incredible con game. The suckers are the American public.

Today’s headline, for instance, has Bush telling Saudi King Abdullah that the high price of oil is hurting the U.S. economy. This, the White House press people, reporters and editors apparently all agree, is front page material. But who are they kidding?

The Saudi leaders and their good, old family friend, George Bush have known for ages about the havoc that rocketing oil prices are wreaking on the U.S. economy.  All along, in fact, the Bush administration has been cautiously attempting to convince the Saudis, OPEC’s largest producer, to keep prices down. To no avail.

Back in April 2005, for instance, in Crawford Texas, when Bush last met King Abdullah face to face before he took over the Saudi throne, the subject of high oil prices came up. Oil then was selling for $54 a barrel. It’s now $94.

What new leverage does George W. Bush suddenly have?

Instead, he comes bearing gifts. To thank the Saudis for supporting the latest, feeble U.S. peace efforts in the Middle East, Bush is promising them 20 billion dollars in sophisticated weapons—including 121 million dollars worth of precision guided bombs.

But to defend the Saudis against whom? Iran? Does anyone really think the mullahs in Tehran are going to dispatch their forces to attack the Saudis? Or are the Saudis supposed to use those arms against Iraq’s shattered forces?  Or is it just a great way for the Saudis to recycle some of their petroleum wealth back to U.S. industry?

Which brings us to another irony of the current Bush trip. A few days ago in Abu Dhabi, trying to whip up support for U.S. policy, he gave a speech condemning Iran and extolling the virtues of democracy from the cavernous marble auditorium of a 3 billion dollar gold plated hotel.

A strange choice of venue: the rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the rest of the emirates give short shrift to democracy themselves.

They still run their lands as tribal domains, hundreds of billions of dollars pouring into the coffers of a few thousand incredibly wealthy individuals. One after another, their new, high walled, sprawling mansions line the broad residential avenues in Abu Dhabi.

The tribal sheiks maintain their hold over the 4 million residents of the Emirates by distributing enough of their vast wealth to the small proportion—only 17%- of their population, who are actually citizens, to keep them fat and happy, and unconcerned about such issues as freedom of the press. There are estimates, for instance, that the average citizen of Abu Dhabi is a millionaire.

Their rulers, on the other hand, are not dumb. Many have been educated in top U.S. and European universities.

Ironically, while George W. Bush has consistently avoided the tough policy decisions that would be necessary to wean American from its dependence on petroleum, the oil producing states, who face the problem themselves, have been no where as passive.

The rulers of Dubai for instance, realizing that their oil deposits are rapidly running out, have launched a massive investment program to transform the Emirate into one of the worlds major destinations for international business and tourism.

They’ve also spent billions to launch their own airline and what will soon be the largest airport in the world. Their neighbors in Abu Dhabi though they have much greater petroleum deposits, are following suit.

At this moment, more than 2.3 trillion dollars is being spent on the construction of new apartment complexes, skyscrapers, high speed monorails and highways in just Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

To carry out this vast enterprise they’ve enlisted tens of thousands of expats, professionals from around the world who have flocked to the Gulf to manage and profit from the spectacular economic boom.

The expats enjoy salaries, spacious homes with servants and maids and drivers and schools. But no real hope of ever becoming citizens of the countries they are transforming. After a few years, they’re out.

They in turn oversee an underclass of millions of temporary migrants primarily from India, Pakistan Sri Lanka and the Philippines, the ones actually building the startling new skyline that so awed George W. Bush. These foreign workers, admitted without their wives, make two or three hundred dollars a month, and send much of it back home.

You don’t see them in the sprawling new shopping malls, the surrealistic hotel lobbies, indoor ski domes, or wide boulevards. They live apart in distant military-style barracks, transported back and forth to work in large busses.  Their visas are tied directly to their employers, which means, if the construction workers or maids or drivers become too uppity, complain about salaries or living conditions, unpaid wages, or being raped or brutalized by their employers, they’re expelled. In any case, they’re out after a couple of years.

As even the U.S. State Department pointed out, abuses are legion:
“trafficking in women and children; legal and societal discrimination against women and non citizens; corruption and lack of government transparency; common abuse of foreign domestic servants; and severe restrictions on and abuses of workers’ rights.”

One would think that the ability of the Emirate’s rulers (and the Saudi princes) to continue milking the region, as their fortunes swell from the hundreds of billions to the trillions, would have to be limited. After all, they are just a few thousand immensely rich living in a vast swathe across the Middle East and Central Asia now ravaged by poverty and political turbulence.

Indeed, that same political chaos has proved a gold mine for the Emirates. Wealthy Lebanese, for instance, have fled their own once prosperous now shattered land to invest in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The same is true for Iraqis, Egyptians, Pakistanis and Afghans—and even Saudis, leery of future stability in their own country.

The U.S. threat to freeze suspicious accounts from Middle East states has also convinced many wealthy Arabs they are safer investing at least a part of their fortunes much closer to home in the Emirates.

But still the question remains: how much longer before the whole surreal economic edifice in the Gulf comes tumbling down?

That’s, of course, the fear that George W. Bush aims to exploit to fortify an alliance against Iran, just as Saddam Hussein did with the same sheiks when he sought their support against Iran in the 1980’s. (Remember, from the very beginning, Khomeini railed against the corrupt, feudal rulers of the Gulf, threatening to expand the Shiite revolution across the Gulf. At that time, of course, the U.S. enlisted Saddam to head the anti-Khomeini coalition.)

But though, on one level, the sheiks may fear their Iranian neighbor, they know that Iranian leaders also have a major financial stake in the Emirates’ well-being. Iranian government leaders and businessmen —-often one and the same—are investing huge sums of money in the Emirates.

While U.S. authorities do their best to banish Iranians from the international banking system, in fact Iranians don’t have to put their money into accounts in the Emirates. They put their billions to work buying and selling the huge apartments , condominiums and office buildings sprouting like mushrooms all along the Gulf coast and making enormous profits in the process.

Al Qaeda, it is whispered, also speculates in the booming real estate market.

But rather than being upset about such involvement, the Emirate sheiks are supposedly delighted.  As an American ex pat banker told me, “It’s the best insurance the sheiks have got,”

At the same time, it’s also said that Islamic militants receive huge “protection” payments from the Emirate Sheiks.

Otherwise, how explain the fact that though the sumptuous modern hotels and malls, nightclubs and bikini-clad beach resorts would, in theory, be ideal targets for Islamic terrorists, there’s been not a single attack.

The West should be as lucky.

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By Dr. Ellen Hodgson Brown

Global Research, January 12, 2008
In the latest escalation of tensions with Iran, on January 5, 2008 five Iranian patrol boats surrounded three U.S. ships in the Strait of Hormuz, coming within a “threatening” 200 meters. A voice with a thick accent then said in English, “I am coming at you – you will explode in a couple of minutes.” The U.S. ships prepared to strike, when the patrol boats backed off. That is how the Pentagon told it, but Iranians have questioned where the threatening voice came from, and Pentagon officials have admitted that they could not confirm that it came directly from the Iranian crews involved. They have also admitted that the voice and the video film were recorded separately, adding to the mysterious circumstances. 1

Skeptical observers might think that the two countries were being goaded into World War III – either that, or that someone wanted to convince American viewers that Iran indeed remained a threat, despite a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) finding that the country is not engaged in a nuclear weapons program as formerly alleged. Before President George W. Bush left for his Middle East visit on January 8, he told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, “Part of the reason I’m going to the Middle East is to make it abundantly clear to nations in that part of the world that we view Iran as a threat, and that the NIE in no way lessens that threat.” 2 Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said in a recent MSNBC news broadcast that there is still a “great possibility” of nuclear action against Iran. The target has just shifted from nuclear power plants to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has been declared a terrorist organization. Paul said, “[T]here are still quite a few neoconservatives who want to go after Iran under these unbelievable conditions.” 3

The question is, why? One popular theory holds that the push for war is all about oil; but many countries have oil, and we don’t normally invade them to get their assets. Why go to war for Iran’s oil when we can just buy it?

Continue reading the story here.

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