Monday, April 19, 2010


Juan Cole in his Informed Comment gives cogent arguments why U.S. sanctions against Iran will never work. Furthermore, Cole dismisses, as I do, any positive benefit from a military strike against Iran. Obama, forget sanctions. Don't even think of military bombing. We need to negotiate with Iran and discuss more than just its nuclear program.

Writes Cole:

"The Obama administration is now moving tighten economic sanctions on Iran, as an alternative to a more direct approach. These measures include pressuring countries and firms not to buy Iranian petroleum and gas; pressuring them not to sell gasoline to Iran; and attempting to make it difficult for Iranian banks to interface with the world economic system.

"While these measures could impose costs on Iran, these costs can easily be borne by the country, and more especially by the regime."

Sanctions hardly work. They have not worked in Cuba and not have disturbed Fidel Castro's grip on power. They did not work in Iraq. And they will not work in Iran. Sanctions just raise the hackles on the backs of Iranians who would surely resent an outside nation (i.e., the U.S.) trying to force their government to change its nuclear development policy.

Observes Cole:

"Very few sanctions regimes have actually produced regime change or altered regime behavior. The US could not even accomplish this goal with regard to a small island 90 miles off its shores, Cuba. That an oil giant half way around the world with a population of 70 million that is as big as Spain, France and Germany can be effectively bludgeoned with sanctions is not very likely.

"The US needs to engage in comprehensive security talks with Iran, in hopes of striking a grand bargain. Because as Admiral Mullen rightly says, there are no good military options here."

I agree fully with Juan Cole. Both sanctions and military action are ineffective and counter-productive.

We need to sit down and talk with Iranian leaders. And we cannot continue to insist that we first come to an agreement on Iranian nuclear development before we will talk on other issues. Such pre-conditions are silly, without rational basis, and are insulting to Iranians, as they would be to anyone. By talking with Iranian leaders, we show respect to Iran and the Iranian people that we respect them because they are Iranians, a great people with thousands of years of culture and tradition.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


At Iran's nuclear summit today in Tehran, Pres. Ahmadinejad called for an end to all nuclear weapons including those possessed by the U.S. and Israel. He also said no nation (i.e., the U.S.) should threaten another (Iran) with nuclear weapons. He said that talks on nuclear weapons should from now on be controlled by nations that don't have nuclear weapons. Can Pres. Obama or anyone disagree with him?

Thomas Erdbrink reports today in The Washington Post on the Iranian conference.

Writes Erdbrink:

"Ahmadinejad took particular aim at President Obama's announcement this month of a new U.S. policy that does not rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea.

""Threatening with nuclear weapons only dishonored the American government officials and more fully exposed their inhumane and aggressive policies," he said."

Ayatollah Khamanei also sent a message to the attendees, reports Erdbrink:

"In a statement to the Tehran conference, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the top political and religious authority in the predominantly Shiite state, reiterated a fatwa, or religious edict, he had issued earlier against the use of nuclear weapons. He called the United States' nuclear weapons "tools of terror and intimidation."

"Fatwas are binding only on followers of the religious authority that issues them and can be changed if the situation requires, religious experts here say."

Ahmadinejad also complained about the veto power wielded exclusively by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. He said that each U.N. member should also be able to block or veto proposals that are unfair.

Erdbrink writes:

"Taking direct issue with the consensus reached in Washington to take steps to reduce the world's stock of nuclear weapons, Ahmadinejad called for more rigorous action.

"He demanded an end to what he called the United States' "blind support" for Israel, which he said has 200 atomic warheads yet has not signed a nonproliferation treaty. Ahmadinejad also called for veto power for all members of the United Nations, a right now accorded only to the five permanent members of the Security Council.

"Talks on nuclear disarmament should from now on be controlled by states that do not have atomic weapons, Ahmadinejad said, adding, "The involvement of the government of America will prevent any new treaty from being fair.""


I don't understand the criticism of Judge Richard Goldstone for his Report on the Israeli attack on Palestinians in Gaza in January 2009. The U.S. State Department, the NYT's David Brooks, as well as the liberal J Street group -- all say that the Goldstone Report is biased against Israel. But they never say why or give examples. Have any of these critics ever read the Report? If so, they need to cite examples by giving page numbers and specific overstatements or untruths. Otherwise, their comments are what we called in law school worthless and "conclusionary."

Barry Bearak writes in The New York Times on some fallout faced by Judge Goldstone in his desire to attend his grandson's bar mitzvah in Johannesburg.

Writes Bearak:

"Judge Goldstone, 71, is certainly no grandpa retreating into retirement. After the end of apartheid, he served on South Africa’s highest court until 2003. He was also the chief prosecutor for the United Nations’ war crimes tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

"In early 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council selected him to lead an investigation into possible violations of international law during the three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. He said he was “shocked, as a Jew” to be chosen.

"The Goldstone Report, released last September, concluded that, based on the available evidence, both Israel and Hamas had taken actions amounting to war crimes. But the findings focused mostly on the Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel later said, “We face three major strategic challenges: the Iranian nuclear program, rockets aimed at our civilians and Goldstone.”

"Here in the judge’s home country, many Jews suddenly viewed him as a heretic. He was accused of faulty reasoning. He was accused of being co-opted. He was accused of being the worst kind of anti-Semite, a self-hating Jew."

The point of all of this is that these critics of Goldstone and his Report are engaging in all sorts of name-calling and slander. If a person disagrees with the Report, it is not enough to say that Goldstone is biased or self-hating Jew. The most important part of any argument especially this one is what follows "because," as in, "This report is biased against Israel because . . ."

Saturday, April 10, 2010


What's Hillary Clinton's problem with Cuba and the Castros? Obama needs to order the blockade to be lifted so that normal relations can begin. To say that Cuba must institute reforms before the embargo is removed is too humiliating for Cuban leaders and the Cuban people, and they will not comply as a matter of national pride.

The BBC reports on Clinton's latest statement:

"Cuba's leaders do not want to normalise ties with the US because then they would lose their excuse for the state of the country, says Hillary Clinton.

"Cuba's response to recent US efforts to improve relations had revealed "an intransigent, entrenched regime" in Havana, said the US secretary of state.

"The Cuban authorities have long blamed a 48-year US trade embargo for holding back the country's development.

"The US says the embargo will remain until Cuba improves human rights."

Why is every government that disagrees with policies of the U.S. called a "regime," and why is the Cuban government "intransigent" and "entrenched?"

Clinton never explains. All of Latin America is calling for the U.S. to lift the embargo which hurts the common Cubano trying to make a living. Medicines from the U.S. are scarce and spare parts on American products are impossible to get. This embargo has been going on for 48 years, and what has it produced? Just misery and deprivation for the ordinary Cuban.

The history of Cuban sanctions proves an important point. Sanctions hardly ever work in bringing about political change. The U.S. tried to bring down Fidel Castro by punishing ordinary Cubans economically. But the Castros are still in power. So where is Barack Obama on all of this? And where is his commitment to negotiate instead of waging war, albeit economic war?

The current U.S. policy as enunciated by Hillary Clinton and approved by Barack Obama is a huge failure and an embarassment in all of Latin America.


The recent events in Kyrgyzstan point up the continuing lack of realism in the State Department and thus in the Obama administration's foreign policy. The people in Bishek, Kyrgyzstan's capital, rose up to throw out a corrupt leader, and the only response from the United States was one of wondering whether the U.S. would be allowed to keep its airbase in the country.

Luke Harding reports for The Guardian:

"Protesters said they had been driven to revolt by the decision to raise communal charges for water and electricity. The hikes had been the last straw in the country of five million people already wrestling with mass unemployment and widespread poverty. The unrest began in provincial cities on Tuesday, with locals seizing regional government buildings, before riots erupted in Bishkek.

"Opposite the White House, Melis Deripasov was still incredulous at the security forces' reaction. "So many boys died. Two of my friends died. A young girl died just over there. The government used snipers against us," he said. "I'm unemployed. There is no work and no factories. Bakiyev stole everything. All that was left was the air we breathe.""

Friday, April 2, 2010


I call upon Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Brazilian President Lula to block the foolish and hypocritical drive by the west, especially by Barack Obama and the U.S., to impose sanctions on Iran. Sanctions will harm the Iranian economy and the Iranian people. The U.S. is unjustly seeking to block another nation from developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

Chris McGreal and Julian Borger report in The Guardian today on Obama's push for sanctions.

Write McGreal and Borger:

"Barack Obama has urged Beijing to "ratchet up the pressure" on Iran over its nuclear programme after a breakthrough for the US administration in persuading China to agree to talks on fresh sanctions against Tehran.

"Obama told CBS news that Iran was increasingly diplomatically isolated and that international unity was essential to ensuring it did not develop nuclear weapons.

""The idea is to keep turning up the pressure," Obama said. "We're going to ratchet up the pressure and examine how they respond but we're going to do so with a unified international community.""

The U.S. has been unilaterally imposing sanctions on Iran for the last 30 years and look at the result. Ditto for Cuba. And how about Israel's sanctions on the Palestinians in Gaza - a total blockade of life's necessities for 1.5 million Palestinians. Sanctions harm the ordinary populace and are immoral.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


The purpose of proposed American sanctions on Iran is to prevent Iran from exercising independent political power in the Middle East. So sanctions try to prevent Iran from developing refined gasoline plants. The U.S. cannot stand a country that has a sphere of influence independent of American interests. The U.S. like the school bully tries to maintain its military and political hegemony.

Julian Borger and Ewan Mac Askill write in today's The Guardian:

"The US had originally sought broad sanctions against Iran's energy sector. Russia and China have said the measures are targeted against individuals and institutions directly linked with Iran's nuclear and missile programme.

"Three rounds of sanctions have already been imposed on Iran. The US claims Tehran is covertly seeking nuclear weapon capability, while Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says the country's nuclear industry is for peaceful power generation."

I say, stop this foolish talk of sanctions on Iran and Iranians. For one thing, sanctions hurt only the ordinary people. Sanctions deny gasoline, medicine, food imports and other necessities of life. Sanctions never work. Consider the harsh sanctions on the Cuban people over the last 30 years. All sanctions do is create animosity and hatred towards the U.S. and Americans.

Second. Sanctions on Iran are hypocritical. Why can't Iran develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes? The U.S. government claims that Iran is developing nuclear weapons but to date there has been no credible evidence showing that this is so. Yet the U.S. and Obama don't apply sanctions on those nations with proven nuclear bombs in their arsenals. Consider Israel, China, Pakistan, India, France, Great Britain, Russia and the U.S. itself. So why should the U.S. punish Iran for nuclear weapons it does not have, yet not punish all the rest?

Obama, stop all this talk of sanctions, instead commit the U.S. to diplomacy. You claim that Ayatollah Khamanei did not respond to your letter for negotiation. But neither did you acknowledge Pres. Ahmadinejad's congratulatory letter to you personally upon your political victory in 2008.