January 2012 Archives

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This report came in via my friend, Father Labib Kobti.

My concern is that in attempting to appear even-handed, the Bishops give the impression that the Israel/Palestine conflict is a battle between two equally matched opponents, which is certainly not the case.  Even so, it is encouraging to see that the Catholic Episcopacy is not standing back from the conflict, as so many of their ecclesiastic peers seem to be doing!

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Bishops: Being Pro-Israeli Must Mean Being Pro-Palestinian

Say There Are Signs of Hope in the Holy Land

LIVERPOOL, England, JAN. 13, 2012 (Zenit.org…).- The international group of bishops that makes an annual visit to the Holy Land has returned home saying there are signs of hope, but emphasizing that "to be pro-Israeli has to mean being pro-Palestinian."

In their final statement the bishops of the Holy Land Coordination, who have met in the Holy Land since 1998, noted the faith of the Christians of the region, but also their "insecurity, fear and frustration," which "dominate the life of people across this land."

"Blaming the other is an abdication of responsibility and a failure of leadership, a leadership that the people so desperately need," the bishops declared. "We have heard and we make this conviction our own: to be pro-Israeli has to mean being pro-Palestinian. This means being pro-justice for all, whose certain fruit is lasting peace."

The bishops, who come from England, the United States, Canada, Spain, Germany, France and other nations, affirmed the importance of resumed dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. "A negotiated agreement is urgently required," they stated, lamenting that dialogue is "threatened and undermined by extremism and intolerance of the other, the signs of which are only too apparent in the attitudes, judgments and actions of far too many in the world today."

"This is a concern for both sides," the bishops continued, "and we appeal for tolerance and courageous leadership, able to show forgiveness and humility, to promote peaceful co-existence."

Encouraged

The bishops also recognized signs of hope, mentioning the synod on the Middle East, increased tourism, interreligious dialogue and cooperation, and various humanitarian and charity projects.

"Above all our hope is nourished by the continuing witness of the Christian communities we met and with whom we celebrated our faith in Gaza, Nablus, Jerusalem and Galilee," they added. "We also recognize the progress being made on negotiations between Israel and the Holy See, with hopes for a resolution soon."

The bishops’ statement concluded with a call to political leaders of both sides and from the bishops’ own countries to "show courage, resolve and creativity so the simple hopes of the majority for peaceful co-existence are realized. The fidelity to their way of life of Jews, Christians and Muslims should always be such that there is deep-seated openness to all others."
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On the Net:
Full statement: www.us…

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This report, originally published in The Independent, came to me via Sam Bahour.

Sam says he has privately seen the report and that it is both long-overdue and shocking.

Certainly their message is clear – "if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever" – but will it be heard?

EU on verge of abandoning hope for a viable Palestinian state  

Israel’s foreign ministry denied that Israeli settlers were taking water resources from the West Bank 

Donald Macintyre Thursday, 12 January 2012 

The Palestinian presence in the largest part of the occupied West Bank – has been, "continuously undermined" by Israel in ways that are "closing the window" on a two-state solution, according to an internal EU report seen by The Independent

The report, approved by top Brussels officials, argues that EU support, including for a wide range of building projects, is now needed to protect the rights of "ever more isolated" Palestinians in "Area C", a sector that includes all 124 Jewish settlements – illegal in international law – and which is under direct Israeli control. It comprises 62 per cent of the West Bank, including the "most fertile and resource rich land". 

With the number of Jewish settlers now at more than double the shrinking Palestinian population in the largely rural area, the report warns bluntly that, "if current trends are not stopped and reversed, the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders seem more remote than ever". 

The 16-page document is the EU’s starkest critique yet of how a combination of house and farm building demolitions; a prohibitive planning regime; relentless settlement expansion; the military’s separation barrier; obstacles to free movement; and denial of access to vital natural resources, including land and water, is eroding Palestinian tenure of the large tract of the West Bank on which hopes of a contiguous Palestinian state depend. 

International brokers are trying to persuade both sides to reach a peaceful settlement through talks, which had stalled over the building of Israeli settlements and the Palestinians’ recent declaration of statehood at the UN. 

The report points out how dramatically the settler population – now at 310,000 – of Area C has increased at the expense of Palestinian numbers – estimated at around 150,000. In 1967, there were between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians in just the agriculture-rich Jordan Valley part of the zone. 

Area C is one of three zones allocated by the 1993 Oslo agreement. Area A includes major Palestinian cities, and is under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Area B is under shared Israeli-Palestinian control. 

Although Area C is the least populous, the report says "the window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and access restrictions for Palestinians in Area C [which] compromises crucial natural resources and land for the future demographic and economic growth of a viable Palestinian state". 

It says the EU needs "at a political" level to persuade Israel to redesignate Area C, but in the meantime it should "support Palestinian presence in, and development of the area". The report says the destruction of homes, public buildings and workplaces result in "forced transfer of the native population" and that construction is effectively prohibited in 70 per cent of the land – and then in zones largely allocated to settlements of the Israeli military. 

In practice, it says Palestinian construction is permitted in just 1 per cent of Area C, "most of which is already built up". The EU report’s short- and medium-term recommendations include calling on Israel to halt demolitions of houses and structures built without permits – of which there have been 4,800 since 2000. But there is also a call for the EU to support a building programme that includes schools, clinics, water and other infrastructure projects. 

The EU should also be more vocal in raising objections to "involuntary population movements, displacements, evictions and internal migration". 

The report says Area C – along with East Jerusalem – has not benefited from the gradual reversal of the West Bank economic collapse since the beginning of the intifada in 2000 which saw growth of 9 per cent in 2010. It also claims Palestinian economic activity is mainly "low intensity" agriculture in contrast to specialised, export-directed farming by Jewish settlers in the Jordan Valley "which uses most of the water resources in the area", and that it is of "great concern" that cisterns and rainwater structures have been destroyed by the Israeli authorities since January 2010 – a claim which Israel’s foreign ministry denied. 

www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/eu-on-verge-of-abandoning-hope-for-… a-viable-palestinian-state-6288336.html#  

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Salt writes There is no question that Syria needs to reform but anyone who thinks that the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are campaigning against Syria for the cause of reform is living in a dream world.” This is spot on!

Indeed “the west is on the hunt for another war in the Middle East”. Whether it starts in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, there’s little doubt that all three will be pulled into the fray, and the whole world along with them. Perhaps even another Israeli attack on Gaza will accomplish the same end!

What is it that is driving this blood-lust?  Surely the leaders of the U.S., Britain and Israel know where this aggression is taking us!

Truth about Syria: Crazy Men in Grey Suits

The west is on the hunt for another war in the Middle East.

By Jeremy Salt

January 13, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — – In his speech to university students this week, Bashar al Assad spoke of a conspiracy against Syria. Use another word if you like, but of course there is one. The foot soldiers in the campaign to bring down the Syrian government are the armed men calling themselves the Free Syrian Army and the random armed gangs. None of them could maintain their violent campaign without outside support. Short of open armed intervention from the outside, they cannot overthrow the Syrian government. All they can do is keep killing and causing chaos in the hope that it will eventually collapse. Their sponsors are the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Syrian National Council, assorted ‘activists’ in exile, some closely linked to the British Foreign Office and the US State Department, and every salafist across the region. Reform is not the issue. Their agendas vary but converge at one point: their determination to destroy the Baathist government. For the US, Britain and France – ‘the west’ – the destruction of a government and a political party that has long got in their way is the issue. For Saudi Arabia, the issue is confronting Iran and containing Shiism across the region. For the Muslim Brotherhood, the issue is revenge for Hafez al Assad’s repression of their revolt in 1982, the destruction of a secular government and the installation of a sharia-based substitute which they expect to dominate. For both the Muslim Brotherhood and the salafists the issue is also the destruction of the Alawis as a socio-political force in Syria.

For the US and Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are three parts of the same problem. Saudi Arabia regards Iran as the ‘head of the snake’ and wanted it attacked in the last years of the Bush administration, but a direct attack, removing the veil from the covert war already being involved, would be enormously dangerous to the countries waging it. This is what hinders them from going ahead, not the catastrophe that such a war would be for the people of Iran and the region. (It is extraordinary that although Iran has lived under the threat of such an attack for years, the western media still has not deal with the consequences of a military attack on live nuclear reactors.) Iran would be seriously weakened by successful open (as opposed to the covert war presently being waged) armed intervention in Syria. Such an attack would have much the same immediate effect as a direct attack on Iran. In 2006 the two countries signed a defence agreement to confront ‘common threats’, and Iran would regard open intervention in Syria as the prelude to an attack on itself. The most likely form of armed intervention would be the declaration of a no-fly zone or a ‘humanitarian corridor’ just over the Turkish-Syrian border. The template for this kind of war was Libya, where up to 50, 000 people were killed after France, Britain, the US and their lesser allies decided to attack in the name of maintaining a no-fly zone. Russia and China have indicated that they would block any moves at the UN Security Council to set up such arrangements. In the light of these difficulties, destabilising Syria with the aim of achieving the same objectives as an open attack is a second best option. Bringing down the Syrian government, rupturing its strategic relationship with Iran and Hizbullah, is an end in itself for the US and its western and gulf allies. Insofar as Iran is concerned, removing Syria from the calculus of war by throwing it into such turmoil that it could not respond would significantly strengthen the US-Israeli position and perhaps make war more likely.

Since the beginning of the year the geopolitical map of the region has been significantly redrawn. Islamist parties have come or are coming into government in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, and are likely to do well when elections are held in Libya. What parties say when in opposition and what they feel obliged to do in office are usually two different things and the Islamist parties are no different. On the critical question of relations with Israel, Rashid Ghannushi, the leader of Tunisia’s Al Nahda party has held quiet talks with the Israelis in Washington and has indicated that Palestine will not be a priority for the new Tunisian government. Conflicting signals are coming from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. According to the US State Department, the brotherhood has given an assurance that it will uphold the 1979 treaty with Israel. Almost immediately this was denied, with senior brotherhood figures saying that the treaty could not be regarded as sacrosanct and repeating the possibility of a referendum being held so the people could decide. This will be the trickiest of questions for the new government to handle but as the new Egyptian government will need the billions of dollars of aid pledged by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the IMF (last year an offer of $3 billion was not taken up but will be discussed again this January), pragmatism is likely to win out, in the short term and perhaps for as long as Israel itself does not put the treaty at risk through another savage attack on Gaza or Lebanon.

In this rapidly changing environment Syria is a holdout state, standing firm against the US and Israel on the one hand and the rising Islamist/salafist trend on the other. The peaceful opposition was swamped in violence a long time ago, with the army still battling ‘defectors’ and the armed gangs the media keeps telling us are an invention of the state. The western media has yet to interview the families of the thousands of soldiers and civilians who have been killed by ‘defectors’ and other armed bands to see what they think about what is happening in their country. Relying on the unverified accusations of ‘activists’ or suspect sources outside Syria, the media has played a critical role in the development of a false narrative. Last week the Guardian hit a new low point with the accusation by of a London-based ‘activist’ that the Syrian security forces are packing detainees into container ships and dumping them at sea. It had no evidence for this claim, but then this is how the Guardian has been ‘reporting’ this crisis throughout. When Damascus was bombed, both the Guardian and the BBC led with the claim that these bombings were the work of the government – according to activists. They had no evidence for this accusation either, literally made while Syrians were still washing the blood off the streets and picking up the body parts of the civilians who had been killed. When the Arab League issued an interim statement on the work of its monitors in Syria, it called for an end to the violence by the state and by armed gangs. On its web page, the BBC reported only that it called on the Syrian government to end the violence.

The west is on the hunt for another war in the Middle East. This is the essence of the campaign against Syria. Iran is being provoked every other day. This week another nuclear scientist was assassinated. The clear intention is to goad Iran into retaliating, providing the pretext for the armed attack that many in Israel and the US want. There is no question that Syria needs to reform but anyone who thinks that the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are campaigning against Syria for the cause of reform is living in a dream world. Every wild accusation made by activists and dutifully reported by the media is grist to their mill. They don’t want the violence to end. They want it continue until the Syrian government is destroyed, and they have the resources to keep this going virtually endlessly. If they take the plunge and launch an open attack on Syria or Iran they are likely to trigger off a regional war and, in the view of some, a global war. In their grey suits and pastel ties, these people are as crazy as any fascist in a brown uniform.

– Jeremy Salt teaches the history of the modern Middle East in the Department of Political science, Bilkent University, Ankara. He previously taught at Bogazici (Bosporus) University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne. His publications include The Unmaking of the Middle East: A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands (University of California Press, 2008). He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com….

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Here’s an essay from a high-schooler that is simultaneously inspiring and depressing!

Jesse Lieberfeld won a Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Award for this entry.  God bless Jesse for his courage and integrity.

It seems tragic to me that he feels he has to walk away from his religious roots in order to maintain his commitment to justice. I remember, as a young man, sensing myself to be in a similar dilemma as a Christian, but then discovered that a commitment to justice and peace was at the heart of Biblical religion!


Dietrich College News

January 2012

2012 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards

Prose: High School

First Place (Tie)

Fighting a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong

By Jesse Lieberfeld 11th grade, Winchester Thurston

I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world—and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed intelligence, and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.

Although I was fortunate enough to have parents who did not try to force me into any one set of beliefs, being Jewish was in no way possible to escape growing up. It was constantly reinforced at every holiday, every service, and every encounter with the rest of my relatives. I was forever reminded how intelligent my family was, how important it was to remember where we had come from, and to be proud of all the suffering our people had overcome in order to finally achieve their dream in the perfect society of Israel.

This last mandatory belief was one which I never fully understood, but I always kept the doubts I had about Israel’s spotless reputation to the back of my mind. “Our people” were fighting a war, one I did not fully comprehend, but I naturally assumed that it must be justified. We would never be so amoral as to fight an unjust war. Yet as I came to learn more about our so-called “conflict” with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned. I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases, and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. “Genocide” almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms. Whenever I brought up the subject, I was always given the answer that there were faults on both sides, that no one was really to blame, or simply that it was a “difficult situation.” It was not until eighth grade that I fully understood what I was on the side of. One afternoon, after a fresh round of killings was announced on our bus ride home, I asked two of my friends who actively supported Israel what they thought. “We need to defend our race,” they told me. “It’s our right.”

“We need to defend our race.”

Where had I heard that before? Wasn’t it the same excuse our own country had used to justify its abuses of African-Americans sixty years ago? In that moment, I realized how similar the two struggles were—like the white radicals of that era, we controlled the lives of another people whom we abused daily, and no one could speak out against us. It was too politically incorrect to do so. We had suffered too much, endured too many hardships, and overcome too many losses to be criticized. I realized then that I was in no way part of a “conflict”—the term “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” was no more accurate than calling the Civil Rights Movement the “Caucasian/ African-American Conflict.” In both cases, the expression was a blatant euphemism: it gave the impression that this was a dispute among equals and that both held an equal share of the blame. However, in both, there was clearly an oppressor and an oppressed, and I felt horrified at the realization that I was by nature on the side of the oppressors. I was grouped with the racial supremacists. I was part of a group that killed while praising its own intelligence and reason. I was part of a delusion.

I thought of the leader of the other oppressed side of years ago, Martin Luther King. He too had been part of a struggle that had been hidden and glossed over for the convenience of those against whom he fought. What would his reaction have been? As it turned out, it was precisely the same as mine. As he wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail, he believed the greatest enemy of his cause to be “Not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who…lives by a mythical concept of time…. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” When I first read those words, I felt as if I were staring at myself in a mirror. All my life I had been conditioned to simply treat the so-called conflict with the same apathy which King had so forcefully condemned. I, too, held the role of an accepting moderate. I, too, “lived by a mythical concept of time,” shrouded in my own surreal world and the set of beliefs that had been assigned to me. I had never before felt so trapped.

I decided to make one last appeal to my religion. If it could not answer my misgivings, no one could. The next time I attended a service, there was an open question-and- answer session about any point of our religion. I wanted to place my dilemma in as clear and simple terms as I knew how. I thought out my exact question over the course of the seventeen-minute cello solo that was routinely played during service. Previously, I had always accepted this solo as just another part of the program, yet now it seemed to capture the whole essence of our religion: intelligent and well- crafted on paper, yet completely oblivious to the outside world (the soloist did not have the faintest idea of how masterfully he was putting us all to sleep). When I was finally given the chance to ask a question, I asked, “I want to support Israel. But how can I when it lets its army commit so many killings?” I was met with a few angry glares from some of the older men, but the rabbi answered me. “It is a terrible thing, isn’t it?” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do. It’s just a fact of life.” I knew, of course, that the war was no simple matter and that we did not by any means commit murder for its own sake, but to portray our thousands of killings as a “fact of life” was simply too much for me to accept. I thanked him and walked out shortly afterward. I never went back. I thought about what I could do. If nothing else, I could at least try to free myself from the burden of being saddled with a belief I could not hold with a clear conscience. I could not live the rest of my life as one of the pathetic moderates whom King had rightfully portrayed as the worst part of the problem. I did not intend to go on being one of the Self-Chosen People, identifying myself as part of a group to which I did not belong.

It was different not being the ideal nice Jewish boy. The difference was subtle, yet by no means unaffecting. Whenever it came to the attention of any of our more religious family friends that I did not share their beliefs, I was met with either a disapproving stare and a quick change of the subject or an alarmed cry of, “What? Doesn’t Israel matter to you?” Relatives talked down to me more afterward, but eventually I stopped noticing the way adults around me perceived me. It was worth it to no longer feel as though I were just another apathetic part of the machine.

I can obviously never know what it must have been like to be an African-American in the 1950s. I do feel, however, as though I know exactly what it must have been like to be white during that time, to live under an aura of moral invincibility, to hold unchallengeable beliefs, and to contrive illusions of superiority to avoid having to face simple everyday truths. That illusion was nice while it lasted, but I decided to pass it up. I have never been happier.

www.hss.cmu.edu…

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A mildly encouraging sign – that Obama has distanced the US somewhat from Israel’s sabre-rattling towards Iran

 

In Signal to Israel and Iran, Obama Delays War Exercise

Analysis by Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe*

Jan. 16, 2012

 

WASHINGTON, Jan 16, 2012 (IPS) – The postponement of a massive joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise appears to be the culmination of a series of events that has impelled the Barack Obama administration to put more distance between the United States and aggressive Israeli policies toward Iran.

The exercise, called “Austere Challenge ’12” and originally scheduled for April, was to have been a simulation of a joint U.S.-Israeli effort to identify, track and intercept incoming missiles by integrating sophisticated U.S. radar systems with the Israeli Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome anti-missile defence systems.

U.S. participation in such an exercise, obviously geared to a scenario involving an Iranian retaliation against an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, would have made the United States out to be a partner of Israel in any war that would follow an Israeli attack on Iran.

Obama and U.S. military leaders apparently decided that the United States could not participate in such an exercise so long as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to give the administration any assurance that he will not attack Iran without prior approval from Washington.

The official explanation from both Israeli and U.S. officials about the delay was that both sides agreed on it. Both Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Mark Regev, spokesman for Netanyahu, suggested that it was delayed to avoid further exacerbation of tensions in the Gulf.

The spokesman for the U.S. European Command, Capt. John Ross, and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Laura Rozen of Yahoo News Sunday that the two sides had decided on the postponement to the second half of 2012 without offering any specific reason for it.

However, Rozen reported Monday that “several current and former American officials” had told her Sunday that the delay had been requested last month by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak. One official suggested privately that there is concern that the alleged Barak request could be aimed at keeping Israel’s options open for a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the spring.

But it would make little sense for Netanyahu and Barak to commit Israel to war with Iran before the shape of the U.S. presidential election campaign had become clear. And Barak would want to have knowledge gained from the joint exercise in tracking and intercepting Iranian missiles with the U.S. military before planning such a strike.

Moreover, the Israeli Air Force was still touting the planned manoeuvres as recently as Thursday and, according to Israeli media, was taken by surprise by Sunday’s announcement.

The idea that the Israelis wanted the postponement appears to be a cover story to mask the political blow it represents to the Netanyahu government and to shield Obama from Republican charges that he is not sufficiently supportive of Israel. Nevertheless, the signal sent by the delay to Netanyahu and Barak, reportedly the most aggressive advocates of a strike against Iran in Israel’s right-wing government, could hardly be lost on the two leaders.

Obama may have conveyed the decision to Netanyahu during what is said to have been a lengthy telephone discussion between the two leaders Thursday night. Iran policy was one of the subjects Obama discussed with him, according to the White House press release on the conversation.

The decision to postpone the exercise may have been timed to provide a strong signal to Netanyahu in advance of this week’s visit to Israel by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. Dempsey reportedly expressed grave concern at a meeting with Obama last fall about the possibility that Israel intended to carry out a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities without consulting with Washington in advance.

Obama has been quoted as responding that he had “no say” in Israel’s policy, much to Dempsey’s dismay.

The coincidence of the announced delay with Dempsey’s mission thus suggests that the new military chief may inform his Israeli counterpart that any U.S. participation in a joint exercise like “Austere Challenge ’12” is contingent on Israel ending its implicit threat to launch an attack on Iran at a time of its own choosing.

This apparent rift between the two countries comes in the wake of a series of moves by Israel and its supporters here that appeared aimed at ratcheting up tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

In November and December, U.S. neoconservatives aligned with Netanyahu’s Likud Party and what is sometimes called the Israel lobby engineered legislation that forced on the Obama administration a unilateral sanctions law aimed at dramatically reducing Iranian crude oil exports and “collapsing” its economy.

The administration’s reluctant embrace of sanctions against the oil sector and the Iran’s Central Bank led in turn to an Iranian threat to retaliate by closing off the Strait of Hormuz. The risk of a naval incident suddenly exploding into actual military conflict suddenly loomed large.

Netanyahu and Barak are widely believed to have hoped to provoke such conflict with a combination of more aggressive sanctions, sabotaging Iranian missile and nuclear facilities, and assassinations against individual scientists associated with the nuclear programme.

Amid tensions already reaching dangerous heights, Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was assassinated in Tehran in a bombing Jan. 11. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor immediately condemned the assassination and vehemently denied any U.S. involvement in that or any other violence inside Iran.

It was the first time the U.S. government had chosen to distance itself so dramatically from actions that mainstream media has generally treated as part of a joint U.S.-Israeli policy.

U.S. officials told Associated Press Saturday that Israel was considered responsible for the killing, and the London Times published a detailed account of what it said was an Israeli Mossad operation.

The killing of the nuclear scientist also came in the context of what appears to be an intensification of diplomatic activity that most observers believe is designed to lay the groundwork for another P5+1 meeting (the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany). It has been widely assumed for the past week or so that here another P5+1 meeting will be held with Iran by the end of this month or early next.

While recent published stories about Washington’s communicating with Tehran through intermediaries stressed U.S. warnings about its “red lines” in responding to any Iranian move to close the Strait of Hormuz, those same communications may also have conveyed greater diplomatic flexibility on the nuclear issue in the hope of achieving some progress toward an agreement.

Mossad is believed to have assassinated at most a handful of Iranian nuclear scientists – not enough to slow down the Iranian programme. And the timing of those operations has strongly suggested that the main aim has been to increase tensions with the United States and sabotage any possibility for agreement between Iran and the West on Iran’s nuclear programme, if not actually provoke retaliation by Iran that could spark a wider conflict.

The assassination of nuclear scientist Majid Shariari and attempted assassination of his colleague, Fereydoon Abbasi on Nov. 29, 2010, for example, came just a few days after Tehran had reportedly agreed to hold a second meeting with the P5+1 in Geneva Dec. 6-7.

A major investigative story published Friday on the website foreignpolicy.com… quoted former CIA officials as saying that Mossad operatives had been impersonating CIA personnel for several years in recruiting for and providing support to the Sunni terrorist organisation Jundallah, which operated inside Iran. That Israeli policy also suggested a desire to provoke Iranian retaliation against the United States.

__________________

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

Jim Lobe’s blog on U.S. foreign policy can be read at www.lobelog.com…