Israel seeks all clear for Iran air strike

original article

by Con Coughlin in Tel Aviv
Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran’s nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon. [Ed. note: so much for Iraqi sovereignty]

A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an “air corridor” in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.

“We are planning for every eventuality, and sorting out issues such as these are crucially important,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

“The only way to do this is to fly through US-controlled air space. If we don’t sort these issues out now we could have a situation where American and Israeli war planes start shooting at each other.”

As Iran continues to defy UN demands to stop producing material which could be used to build a nuclear bomb, Israel’s military establishment is moving on to a war footing, with preparations now well under way for the Jewish state to launch air strikes against Teheran if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the crisis.

The pace of military planning in Israel has accelerated markedly since the start of this year after Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, provided a stark intelligence assessment that Iran, given the current rate of progress being made on its uranium enrichment programme, could have enough fissile material for a nuclear warhead by 2009.

Last week Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, announced that he had persuaded Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad for the past six years and one of Israel’s leading experts on Iran’s nuclear programme, to defer his retirement until at least the end of next year.

Mr Olmert has also given overall control of the military aspects of the Iran issue to Eliezer Shkedi, the head of the Israeli Air Force and a former F-16 fighter pilot.

The international community will increase the pressure on Iran when senior officials from the five permanent of the United Nations Security Council and Germany meet at an emergency summit to be held in London on Monday.

Iran ignored a UN deadline of last Wednesday to halt uranium enrichment. Officials will discuss arms controls and whether to cut back on the $25 billion-worth of export credits which are used by European companies to trade with Iran.

A high-ranking British source said: “There is a debate within the six countries on sanctions and economic measures.”

British officials insist that this “incremental” approach of tightening the pressure on Iran is starting to turn opinion within Iran. One source said: “We are on the right track. There is time for diplomacy to take effect.”

US funds terror groups to sow chaos in Iran

original article

By William Lowther in Washington DC and Colin Freeman, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:30am GMT 25/02/2007

America is secretly funding militant ethnic separatist groups in Iran in an attempt to pile pressure on the Islamic regime to give up its nuclear programme.

In a move that reflects Washington’s growing concern with the failure of diplomatic initiatives, CIA officials are understood to be helping opposition militias among the numerous ethnic minority groups clustered in Iran’s border regions.
The operations are controversial because they involve dealing with movements that resort to terrorist methods in pursuit of their grievances against the Iranian regime.

In the past year there has been a wave of unrest in ethnic minority border areas of Iran, with bombing and assassination campaigns against soldiers and government officials.

Such incidents have been carried out by the Kurds in the west, the Azeris in the north-west, the Ahwazi Arabs in the south-west, and the Baluchis in the south-east. Non-Persians make up nearly 40 per cent of Iran’s 69 million population, with around 16 million Azeris, seven million Kurds, five million Ahwazis and one million Baluchis. Most Baluchis live over the border in Pakistan.

Funding for their separatist causes comes directly from the CIA’s classified budget but is now “no great secret”, according to one former high-ranking CIA official in Washington who spoke anonymously to The Sunday Telegraph.

His claims were backed by Fred Burton, a former US state department counter-terrorism agent, who said: “The latest attacks inside Iran fall in line with US efforts to supply and train Iran’s ethnic minorities to destabilise the Iranian regime.”

Although Washington officially denies involvement in such activity, Teheran has long claimed to detect the hand of both America and Britain in attacks by guerrilla groups on its internal security forces. Last Monday, Iran publicly hanged a man, Nasrollah Shanbe Zehi, for his involvement in a bomb attack that killed 11 Revolutionary Guards in the city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan. An unnamed local official told the semi-official Fars news agency that weapons used in the attack were British and US-made.

Yesterday, Iranian forces also claimed to have killed 17 rebels described as “mercenary elements” in clashes near the Turkish border, which is a stronghold of the Pejak, a Kurdish militant party linked to Turkey’s outlawed PKK Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

John Pike, the head of the influential Global Security think tank in Washington, said: “The activities of the ethnic groups have hotted up over the last two years and it would be a scandal if that was not at least in part the result of CIA activity.”

Such a policy is fraught with risk, however. Many of the groups share little common cause with Washington other than their opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose regime they accuse of stepping up repression of minority rights and culture.

The Baluchistan-based Brigade of God group, which last year kidnapped and killed eight Iranian soldiers, is a volatile Sunni organisation that many fear could easily turn against Washington after taking its money.

A row has also broken out in Washington over whether to “unleash” the military wing of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group with a long and bloody history of armed opposition to the Iranian regime.

The group is currently listed by the US state department as terrorist organisation, but Mr Pike said: “A faction in the Defence Department wants to unleash them. They could never overthrow the current Iranian regime but they might cause a lot of damage.”

At present, none of the opposition groups are much more than irritants to Teheran, but US analysts believe that they could become emboldened if the regime was attacked by America or Israel. Such a prospect began to look more likely last week, as the UN Security Council deadline passed for Iran to stop its uranium enrichment programme, and a second American aircraft carrier joined the build up of US naval power off Iran’s southern coastal waters.

The US has also moved six heavy bombers from a British base on the Pacific island of Diego Garcia to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which could allow them to carry out strikes on Iran without seeking permission from Downing Street.

While Tony Blair reiterated last week that Britain still wanted a diplomatic solution to the crisis, US Vice-President Dick Cheney yesterday insisted that military force was a real possibility.

“It would be a serious mistake if a nation like Iran were to become a nuclear power,” Mr Cheney warned during a visit to Australia. “All options are still on the table.”

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany will meet in London tomorrow to discuss further punitive measures against Iran. Sanctions barring the transfer of nuclear technology and know-how were imposed in December. Additional penalties might include a travel ban on senior Iranian officials and restrictions on non-nuclear business.

Additional reporting by Gethin Chamberlain.

UK doubles naval presence in Persian Gulf

original article

UK doubles naval presence in Persian Gulf

By Damien McElroy in Manama, Bahrain
Last Updated: 4:04pm GMT 25/02/2007

Britain’s senior naval officer in the Persian Gulf has revealed that Royal Navy deployments in the region have doubled since October in a build-up that matches the rapid escalation of American maritime firepower.

Commodore Keith Winstanley, who serves as deputy commander of coalition maritime operations for US Central Command, has told The Daily Telegraph that British trade and strategic interests dictate the necessity of a high and sustained commitment to patrol the seas around the Middle East.

“If you look at the UK component we have almost doubled it,” he said in an interview aboard HMS Sutherland in Mina al-Salman port.

“Most of these ships are here on training missions but there is no doubt that we could use the warfighting capabilities they possess.”

Cdre Winstanley said there was a message for Iran in the expansion of the coalition fleet in the waters of the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman and Arabian Sea.

More ships on patrol would have strategic effects that went beyond the operational benefits of increased patrols.

Royal Navy commanders insist the build-up in the Gulf has not been ordered by the Ministry of Defence in direct response to Teheran’s pursuit of an atomic weapons programme in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

But there are hopes that additional vessels will intensify pressure on the regime in Tehran to abandon its nuclear activities.

The additional Royal Navy vessels sent to the Gulf include HMS Cornwall, a type 22 frigate, two mine sweepers, HMS Ramsey and HMS Blythe, and a vessel from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The British ships will work in an American-led coalition of naval vessels, which has expanded rapidly in recent weeks with the arrival of a second aircraft carrier battle group, led by USS Stennis.

While most of the coalition is engaged in routine patrols, Cdre Winstanley refers to the area of operations as the “battle-space”.

Commitments include protecting Iraq’s southern oil terminals against attack until the Iraqi navy can prove its competence to ensuring the six miles of shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormuz remain open.

Up to 80 per cent of Europe’s trade with the Far East and a substantial proportion of the world’s oil and gas is shipped through local waters.

Cdre Winstanley said British strategic and economic self-interest dictated a strong Royal Navy commitment to the region.

“We have a vested interest in the freedom of the high seas,” he said.

“We can’t do that alone but we can make a contribution. There is a threat of widespread economic attack that I don’t see diminishing.”

Nineteen countries belong to the coalition led by US Admiral Patrick Walsh and his deputy, Cdre Winstanley.

Maps at the command centre show the position of 45 naval vessels from the southern coast of Pakistan to the east coast of Africa.

Terrorist threats and piracy loom large in operational plans.

Al-Qa’eda has attacked and destroyed US vessels in Arabian ports and its leaders repeatedly called for strikes against oil platforms and loading docks.

British developed computer software, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracks vessels bigger than 300 tonnes throughout 2.5 million square miles.

Unlike traditional radar systems, the AIS gives naval planners a three dimensional view of the seas that enables detection of any unusual movements.

Commodore Bruce Williams who commands Task 150, the southern segment of the coalition, said the concentration of naval firepower has steadily reduced the risk to commercial shipping.

“There are no guarantees,” he said.

“This is an area of economic vulnerabilities but we can cause the environment to shift to make it harder for those who would attack us to do their business.”

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence.

Telegraph.co.uk

Defend Palestinian Students Free Speech at SFSU

General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) www.sfgups.org 415-338-1908
San Francisco State University

Palestinian Mural in Jeopardy!

In April 2005, the General Union of Palestine Students at San Francisco State University proposed something revolutionary, to begin a process of implementing a mural paying tribute to Edward Said and Palestinian culture on the University campus. This is the first mural of its kind at a university in the United States. After over a year of painstaking efforts by the mural committee to follow the established process, the President of San Francisco State University, Robert A. Corrigan, prematurely denied the mural just before the final stage. It is 2007 and the mural is in jeopardy and needs your immediate help.

The SF State president, Robert Corrigan claims the mural represents a “culture of violence” and “hatred toward Jews.” He is saying that the Palestinian house key and Handala are offensive but he does not explain why or what to support his claim. He allowed other murals up on the Cesar Chavez Student Center, such as the Malcolm X mural, the Cesar Chavez mural, the Filipino Mural, the Pan Asian and Pacific Islander Mural that have representation of refugees and resistance to colonial occupation. However the administration has been trying to stop our mural since day one before they knew anything about it.

Take action now by signing the latest online petition, writing a letter to President Corrigan from you or your organization, or financially support the legal process. President Corrigan has to understand that our mural is not just a couple of students in the back of a classroom that he can just shut up, but that the whole community supports the mural and all its elements including the Palestinian house key and Handala!


[Handala is “an iconic symbol of Palestinian identify” and resistance to Israeli occupation. See the Wikipedia article]


[The Handala image drawn by the students shows him holding a Palestinian house key in one hand, and a fountain pen in the other. In a previous version he had a pen in the shape of a sword, to invoke the saying and the spirit of Edward Siad “the pen is mightier than the sword.” The latest version removes any ambiguity by showing him holding a fountain pen.]

The final version of the mural may be seen at:
http://www.sfgups.org/

To read more about the situation, see these articles from the campus newspaper:
http://xpress.sfsu.edu/archives/news/006524.html
(This article shows a previous version of the mural.)
http://xpress.sfsu.edu/archives/news/007117.html

What You Can Do

1. Sign the New Online Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/mural/

2. Write a Letter or email SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan: (corrigan@sfsu.edu, gups@sfsu.edu, cortez@sfsu.edu)

President Robert Corrigan
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
(email: corrigan@sfsu.edu)

PLEASE CC:

General Union of Palestine Students
1650 Holloway Ave
Business Office, M100B
San Francisco, CA 94132
(email: gups@sfsu.edu)

and CC:

Maria Liliana Cortez
1650 Holloway Ave
Business Office, C-134
San Francisco, CA 94132
(email: cortez@sfsu.edu)

Occupation Project – campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FEBRUARY 5, 2007
11:31 AM

CONTACT: Voices for Creative Nonviolence/CODEPINK
Jeff Lays, Voices for Creative Nonviolence (202) 422 8555
Gael Murphy, CODEPINK (202) 412 6700

The Occupation Project: A Campaign of Sustained Nonviolent Civil Disobedience to End Iraq War Funding Launches February 5th

WASHINGTON – February 5 –

WHAT: Social justice advocates will launch the Occupation Project, an eight week long campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience to end funding for the Iraq war. Concerned citizens all over the country will begin occupying their representatives office, pressuring them to end funding for the Iraq war.

Featured speakers at the Washington, D.C. launch include: Kathy Kelly (Executive Director of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and just returned from two months living and working with Iraqi refugees in Amman, Jordan); Gael Murphy (Co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, Steering Committee of United for Peace and Justice); Gordon Clark (Communications Director of Peace Action and Convener of National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance), Garett Reppenhagen (Chairman of the Board of Iraq Veterans Against the War) and Ellen Barfield (Board Member of Veterans for Peace).

Following the press event, campaign participants will commence the first Congressional office occupation of the national campaign at Senator McCain’s office. Gael Murphy of CODEPINK states, “We are starting this campaign of ‘extralegal lobbying’–nonviolent civil disobedience–at the offices of our Representatives and Senators who refuse to publicly pledge their vote against Bush’s request for an additional $100 billion for the war in Iraq.”

“The U.S. war in Iraq has created a humanitarian catastrophe, with Iraqis forced to flee for safety to Jordan–only to be rejected and forgotten by the international community. We owe an obligation to Iraqis: to stop funding the war and to fully fund war reparations to Iraq so they might be able to rebuild their country after these past16 years of economic and military warfare,” says Kathy Kelly, Co-Coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and recently returned from Iraq.

WHERE: Press Conference Launch at the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave NE, Washington, D.C. followed by additional press availability at the first Congressional office occupation of the national campaign at Senator McCain’s office, SR 241.

WHEN: 1:00 p.m., Monday, February 5. Additional Press availability at 1:30pm at Sen. McCain’s office Russell 241.

WHO: The Occupation Project is being organized by Voices for Creative Non-violence, CODEPINK, United for Peace & Justice, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Peace Action affiliates, Gold Star Families for Peace and many local peace and justice groups. Local campaigns are being organized in 20+ states: New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Maine, Oregon, Alabama, Arizona, California, Washington and Alaska.

FURTHER INFORMATION: May be found in the Occupation Project section on the websites of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org) and of CODEPINK (www.codepinkal

Gary Tyler still paying with his life

February 1, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
A Death in Destrehan
By BOB HERBERT

Destrehan, La.

On the afternoon of Oct. 7, 1974, a mob of 200 enraged whites, many of them
students, closed in on a bus filled with black students that was trying to
pull away from the local high school. The people in the mob were in a
high-pitched frenzy. They screamed racial epithets and bombarded the bus
with rocks and bottles. The students on the bus were terrified.

When a shot was heard, the kids on the bus dived for cover. But it was a
13-year-old white boy standing near the bus, not far from his mother, who
toppled to the ground with a bullet wound in his head. The boy, a freshman
named Timothy Weber, died a few hours later.

That single shot in this rural town about 25 miles up the Mississippi River
from New Orleans set in motion a tale of appalling injustice that has lasted
to the present day.

Destrehan was in turmoil in 1974 over school integration. The Supreme
Court?s historic desegregation ruling was already 20 years old ? time
enough, the courts said, for Destrehan and the surrounding area to comply.
But the Ku Klux Klan was still welcome in Destrehan in those days, and David
Duke, its one-time imperial wizard, was an admired figure. White families in
the region wanted no part of integration.

When black students were admitted to Destrehan High, they were greeted with
taunts, various forms of humiliation and violence. Some of the black
students fought back, and in the period leading up to the shooting there had
been racial fights at a football game and inside the school.

While the Weber boy was being taken to a hospital, authorities ordered the
black students off the bus and searched each one. The bus was also
thoroughly searched. No weapon was found, and there was no evidence to
indicate that the shot had come from the bus. The bus driver insisted it had
not come from the bus, but from someone firing at the bus.

One of the black youngsters, a 16-year-old named Gary Tyler, was arrested
for disturbing the peace after he talked back to a sheriff?s deputy ? one of
the few deputies in St. Charles Parish who was black. It may have been young
Tyler?s impudence that doomed him. He was branded on the spot as the
designated killer.

(Later, at a trial, the deputy, Nelson Coleman, was asked whose peace had
been disturbed by Mr. Tyler?s comments. ?Mine,? he replied.)

Matters moved amazingly fast after the shooting. Racial tension gave way to
racial hysteria. A white boy had been killed and some black had to pay. Mr.
Tyler, as good a black as any, was taken to a sheriff?s substation where he
was beaten unmercifully amid shouted commands that he confess. He would not.

It didn?t matter. ‘n just a little over a year he would be tried, convicted
by an all-white jury and sentenced to death by electrocution.

The efficiency of the process was chilling. Evidence began to miraculously
appear. Investigators ?found? a .45-caliber pistol. Never mind that there
were no fingerprints on it and it turned out to have been stolen from a
firing range used by the sheriff?s deputies. (Or that it subsequently
disappeared as conveniently as it was found.) The authorities said they
found the gun on the bus, despite the fact that the initial search had
turned up nothing.

The authorities found witnesses who said that Mr. Tyler had been the gunman.
Never mind that the main witness, a former girlfriend of Mr. Tyler?s, was a
troubled youngster who had been under the care of a psychiatrist and had a
history of reporting phony crimes to the police, including a false report of
a kidnapping. She and every other witness who fingered Mr. Tyler would later
recant, charging that they had been terrorized into testifying falsely by
the police.

A sworn affidavit from Larry Dabney, who was seated by Mr. Tyler on the bus,
was typical. He said his treatment by the police was the ?scariest thing?
he?d ever experienced. ?They didn?t even ask me what I saw,? he said. ?They
told me flat out that I was going to be their key witness. … They told me
I was going to testify that I saw Gary with a gun right after I heard the
shot and that a few minutes later I had seen him hide it in a slit in the
seat. That was not true. I didn?t see Gary or anybody else in that bus with
a gun.?

Mr. Tyler was spared electrocution when the Supreme Court declared
Louisiana?s death penalty unconstitutional. But in many ways he has in fact
paid with his life. He?ll turn 50 this year in the state penitentiary at
Angola, where he is serving out his sentence of life without parole for the
murder of Timothy Weber.

Blackwater thrives in Iraq

Bush’s mercenaries thrive in Iraq
President relies on thousands of private soldiers with little oversight, a troubling example of outsourcing of U.S. military
January 29, 2007
Jeremy Scahill

As U.S. President George W. Bush took the podium to deliver his State of the Union address last Tuesday, five American families received news that has become all too common: Their loved ones had been killed in Iraq.

But in this case, the slain were neither “civilians,” as the news reports proclaimed, nor were they U.S. soldiers. They were highly trained mercenaries deployed to Iraq.

The company made headlines in early 2004 when four troops were ambushed and burned in the Sunni hotbed of Fallujah – two charred, lifeless bodies left to dangle for hours from a bridge.

That incident marked a turning point in the war, sparked multiple U.S. sieges of Fallujah and helped fuel the Iraqi resistance that haunts the occupation to this day.

Now, Blackwater is back in the news, providing a reminder of just how privatized the war has become.

Last Tuesday, one of the company’s helicopters was brought down in one of Baghdad’s most violent areas.

The men who were killed were providing diplomatic security under Blackwater’s $300-million State Department contract, which dates to 2003 and the company’s initial no-bid contract to guard administrator Paul Bremer in Iraq.

Current U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who is also protected by Blackwater, said he had gone to the morgue to view the men’s bodies, asserting the circumstances of their deaths were unclear because of “the fog of war.”

Bush made no mention of the downing of the helicopter during his speech. But he did address the issue that has made the war’s privatization a linchpin of his Iraq policy – the need for more troops.

The president called on Congress to authorize an increase of about 92,000 active-duty troops over the next five years.

He then slipped in a mention of a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps.

“Such a corps would function much like our military reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them,” Bush declared.

This is precisely what the administration already has done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs.

Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster. Already, private contractors constitute the second-largest “force” in Iraq.

At last count, there were about 100,000 contractors there, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

These soldiers have operated with almost no oversight or effective legal constraints and are an undeclared expansion of the scope of the occupation. Many of these contractors make up to $1,000 a day, far more than active-duty soldiers. What’s more, these forces are politically expedient, as contractor deaths go uncounted in the official toll.

The president’s proposed Civilian Reserve Corps was not his idea alone. A privatized version of it was floated two years ago by Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, conservative owner of Blackwater USA and a man who for years has served as the Pied Piper of a campaign to repackage mercenaries as legitimate forces.

In early 2005, Prince – a major bankroller of the president and his allies – pitched the idea at a military conference of a “contractor brigade” to supplement the official military.

“There’s consternation in the (Pentagon) about increasing the permanent size of the army,” Prince declared. Officials “want to add 30,000 people, and they talked about costs of anywhere from $3.6 billion to $4 billion to do that. Well, by my math, that comes out to about $135,000 per soldier.” He added: “We could do it certainly cheaper.”

And Prince is not just a man with an idea; he is a man with his own army. Blackwater began in 1996 with a private military training camp “to fulfill the anticipated demand for government outsourcing.”

Today, its contacts run from deep inside the military and intelligence agencies to the upper echelons of the White House.

It has secured a status as the elite Praetorian Guard for the global war on terror, with the largest private military base in the world, a fleet of 20 aircraft and 20,000 soldiers at the ready.

From Iraq and Afghanistan to the hurricane-ravaged streets of New Orleans to meetings with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger about responding to disasters in California, Blackwater envisions itself as the FedEx of defence and homeland security operations.

Such power in the hands of one company, run by a bankroller of the president, embodies the “military-industrial complex” president Dwight Eisenhower warned against in 1961.

Further privatizing America’s war machine – or inventing new back doors for military expansion with fancy names like the Civilian Reserve Corps – would represent a devastating blow to the future of American democracy.

Jeremy Scahill, a fellow at the Nation Institute, a New York-based think-tank dedicated to the promotion of free speech, is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. This article first ran in the Los Angeles Times.