Report: Israeli Cybersecurity Tools Used for Repression Abroad

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Naomi LaChance.

Israeli cybersecurity companies sold lucrative surveillance systems to countries that then committed human rights violations, according to a report by Haaretz published Friday. The programs were used to prosecute LGBT citizens, detain human rights activists and discriminate against Muslims, according to 100 sources in 15 countries.

Intelligence experts who previously served in the Israeli Defense Force’s Unit 8200 went on to take new products to market, according to the report. A sprawling, lucrative, largely unregulated industry, based in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of Herzliya Pituah, sells to foreign governments that then use the products to spy on their citizens’ electronic communications.

One source who worked for the company Verint, which makes a range of surveillance products, in Latin America: “There was one time that I was teaching people how to collect information from the social networks. I’m working with the trainees and explaining things to them, when suddenly they ask me to run a check on [political] demonstrators. Just like that, in the middle of the training session.”

Israeli equipment has been used to monitor dissidents in South Sudan, Nigeria and Colombia. It was also used to monitor social networks in Angola and Malaysia.

According to an anonymous source who works in the Israeli cybersecurity field:

<blockquote>Even when limitations are placed over the capabilities of the computer programs, the companies don’t know who they will be used against. Everyone in this field knows that we are manufacturing systems that invade people’s lives and violate their most basic rights. It’s a weapon— like selling a pistol. The thing is that in this industry, people think about the technological challenges, not about the implications. I want to believe that the Defense Ministry supervises exports in the right way.</blockquote>

“I can’t constrict my client’s capabilities,” another Israeli cybersecurity expert said. “You can’t sell someone a Mercedes and tell him not to drive faster than 100 kilometers an hour. The truth is that the Israeli companies don’t know what use will be made of the systems they sell.”

 

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America Has Stood by Saudi Arabia Through Countless Crises

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by TAMER FAKAHANY / The Associated Press.

LONDON — The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has enjoyed the ultimate protected status from the United States throughout its short history.

Riyadh has had a special relationship with the U.S., from President Franklin D. Roosevelt meeting Saudi Arabia’s first King Abdul Aziz on Valentine’s Day in 1945 to the kingdom becoming America’s main Mideast ally following the downfall of Iran’s shah in 1979.

Israel, Jordan and Egypt — sworn enemies who later signed peace deals — as well enjoy such a special status with the U.S. But none are the world’s top supplier of crude oil, able to swing the global energy market.

With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hastily dispatched on a damage-limitation mission to Riyadh, behind-the-scenes efforts are in full flow to preserve the Saudi-U.S. relationship in the wake of the disappearance and alleged killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Some initial comments from President Donald Trump suggested a strong desire to get to the bottom of the globally followed case as furor gained in intensity, with “severe punishment” threatened for any egregious act.

On Monday a new tale began to emerge: Trump floated the idea without publicly presenting any evidence that “rogue killers” were behind the possible assassination.

Realpolitik kicked in and the new arc of the story sounded distinctly written, directed and produced by the ultraconservative Saudi hierarchy, where no decision of any weight is made without the authority of the ruling Al Saud family.

Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, is well known and thought of in the halls of power — a face respected in many quarters to put to an alleged crime. That alone may have propelled the outrage surrounding his disappearance.

What binds Washington and Riyadh with such fervency and kinship, and why have previous perceived Saudi outrages not caused such seismic ripples?

IRAN, THE GULF AND BEYOND

From the moment Ayatollah Khomeini’s plane circled above Tehran in February 1979, heralding the return from Paris of the exiled cleric who founded the Islamic Republic, new regional lines were drawn in the sand.

Khomeini cast America as the “Great Satan,” the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis and a failed rescue followed, effectively torpedoing President Jimmy Carter’s hopes for re-election. Iraq, led by Saddam Hussein with Saudi money funding the effort, then launched a ruinous war with Iran that spanned most of the decade.

Saudi Arabia was the first among American’s Persian Gulf friends in times of trouble. When Saddam invaded Kuwait and the royal family fled to Saudi Arabia until the U.S. invaded and removed Iraqi forces, Saudi Arabia played host to American forces on its bases. This infuriated many in the Arab world given the Saudi monarchy’s custodianship of Islam’s two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

Ties were especially close between King Fahd and his successor King Abdullah with President George W. Bush. That’s even after Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida launched the Sept. 11 attacks, in part over America’s military presence in the kingdom. Saudi support for the 2003 Iraq War was less fulsome publicly, but logistical support remained undimmed.

Saudi Arabia, along with Israel, was most opposed to the thaw in relations between Tehran and Washington that led to the nuclear deal. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now at the center of the Khashoggi crisis, alleged by some to be its guiding bloody hand, spoke loudest, calling Iran’s ayatollah a modern-day Hitler. Candidate Trump had railed against one of former President Barack Obama’s signature geopolitical successes, and the nuclear accord was duly ripped up by President Trump.

The U.S. also stood by Saudi Arabia in the war it is prosecuting with Gulf allies against neighboring Yemen. With civilians bombarded and killed and famine spreading, questions have resurfaced about what some detractors of the young crown prince have termed a reckless and bloody adventure.

OIL TO SELL AND WEAPONS TO BUY

When Saudi state media lashed out as Trump’s stance took a briefly harsher tone, a state-linked satellite news channel suggested the kingdom could use its oil production as a weapon.

Benchmark Brent crude is trading at around $80 a barrel, and Trump has criticized OPEC and Saudi Arabia over rising prices. Higher oil prices mean higher gas prices for Americans who vote. Critical mid-term elections are only three weeks away.

America has long been a major importer of Saudi oil and things haven’t always been roses. In 1973, OPEC, with Saudi Arabia a key member, imposed an embargo lasting five months against Washington in and around the 1973 Middle East War as a punishment for Washington’s backing of Israel. The world economy, already in recession, reeled. Key stakeholders want to avoid such an oil crisis ever recurring.

The Saudis are keen buyers of American weapons, using them in the Yemen War. The Trump administration says a proposed $110 billion deal would bolster the U.S. economy by creating tens of thousands of jobs and they do not want to risk that contract. But with Khashoggi feared dead, some want that transaction revisited. Congress could step in and try to obstruct the sale.

9/11 AND THE SAUDI ATTACKERS

Fifteen of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Much has been said of the Bush administration’s decision to apportion no blame to the kingdom. The uncomfortable truth that Wahhabism, the ultraconservative Islamic doctrine Saudi Arabia follows, has been linked to extremists at home and overseas has been carefully navigated by Washington and Riyadh.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR HAJJ STAMPEDE

An Associated Press count in 2015 found that 2, 411 Muslim pilgrims died at Mina in the deadliest crush in the history of the annual pilgrimage. This was three times the number of deaths acknowledged by the kingdom. There has been neither a public investigation, nor accountability.

Saudi Arabia rebuffed criticism from Iran and efforts by other countries to join a probe into the deaths. And while King Salman did order an investigation into the tragedy almost immediately, few details have been made public since. The matter has since long drifted from public discourse. Something the Saudis will perhaps hope follows after the Khashoggi storm passes.

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Israel Is Captive to Its ‘Destructive Process’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Chris Hedges.

As protesters continue to be killed at the Gaza border, Truthdig is reposting a July 14, 2014, column by Chris Hedges on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A new article by Hedges will appear on Truthdig later this week.

 

Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

“The process of destruction [of the European Jews] unfolded in a definite pattern,” Hilberg wrote. “It did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. No bureaucrat in 1933 could have predicted what kind of measures would be taken in 1938, nor was it possible in 1938 to foretell the configuration of the undertaking in 1942. The destructive process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead.”

There will never be transports or extermination camps for the Palestinians, but amid increasing violence against Palestinians larger and larger numbers of them will die, in airstrikes, targeted assassinations and other armed attacks. Hunger and misery will expand. Israeli demands for “transfer”—the forced expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territory to neighboring countries—will grow.

The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. They live with massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.

“A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently of the Palestinians. “They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.”

Ayelet Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, on her Facebook page June 30 posted an article written 12 years ago by the late Uri Elitzur, a leader in the settler movement and a onetime adviser to Netanyahu, saying the essay is as “relevant today as it was then.” The article said in part: “They [the Palestinians] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

The belief that a race or class is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. The despised group can never be redeemed or cured—Hannah Arendt noted that all racists see such contamination as something that can never be eradicated. The fear of the other is stoked by racist leaders such as Netanyahu to create a permanent instability. This instability is exploited by a corrupt power elite that is also seeking the destruction of democratic civil society for all citizens—the goal of the Israeli government (as well as the goal of a U.S. government intent on stripping its own citizens of rights). Max Blumenthal in his book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” does a masterful job of capturing and dissecting this frightening devolution within Israel.

The last time Israel mounted a Gaza military assault as severe as the current series of attacks was in 2008, with Operation Cast Lead, which lasted from Dec. 27 of that year to Jan. 18, 2009. That attack saw 1,455 Palestinians killed, including 333 children. Roughly 5,000 more Palestinians were injured. A new major ground incursion, which would be designed to punish the Palestinians with even greater ferocity, would cause a far bigger death toll than Operation Cast Lead did. The cycle of escalating violence, this “destructive process,” as the history of the conflict has illustrated, would continue at an accelerating rate.

The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, one of Israel’s most brilliant scholars, warned that, followed to its logical conclusion, the occupation of the Palestinians would mean “concentration camps would be erected by the Israeli rulers” and “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.” He feared the ascendancy of right-wing, religious Jewish nationalists and warned that “religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism.” Leibowitz laid out what occupation would finally bring for Israel:

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police— mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.

Israel is currently attacking a population of 1.8 million that has no army, no navy, no air force, no mechanized military units, no command and control and no heavy artillery. Israel pretends that this indiscriminate slaughter is a war. But only the most self-deluded supporter of Israel is fooled. The rockets fired at Israel by Hamas—which is committing a war crime by launching those missiles against the Israeli population—are not remotely comparable to the 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs that have been dropped in large numbers on crowded Palestinian neighborhoods; the forced removal of some 300,000 Palestinians from their homes; the more than 160 reported dead—the U.N. estimates that 77 percent of those killed in Gaza have been civilians; the destruction of the basic infrastructure; the growing food and water shortages; and the massing of military forces for a possible major ground assault.

When all this does not work, when it becomes clear that the Palestinians once again have not become dormant and passive, Israel will take another step, more radical than the last. The “process of destruction” will be stopped only from outside Israel. Israel, captive to the process, is incapable of imposing self-restraint.

A mass movement demanding boycotts, divestment and sanctions is the only hope now for the Palestinian people. Such a movement must work for imposition of an arms embargo on Israel; this is especially important for Americans because weapons systems and attack aircraft provided by the U.S. are being used to carry out the assault. It must press within the United States for a cutoff of the $3.1 billion in military aid that the U.S. gives to Israel each year. It must organize to demand suspension of all free trade and other agreements between the U.S. and Israel. Only when these props are knocked out from under Israel will the Israeli leadership be forced, as was the apartheid regime in South Africa, to halt its “destructive process.” As long as these props remain, the Palestinians are doomed. If we fail to act we are complicit in the slaughter.

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Israel Is Captive to Its ‘Destructive Process’

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Chris Hedges.

As protesters continue to be killed at the Gaza border, Truthdig is reposting a July 14, 2014, column by Chris Hedges on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A new article by Hedges will appear on Truthdig later this week.

 

Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

“The process of destruction [of the European Jews] unfolded in a definite pattern,” Hilberg wrote. “It did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. No bureaucrat in 1933 could have predicted what kind of measures would be taken in 1938, nor was it possible in 1938 to foretell the configuration of the undertaking in 1942. The destructive process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead.”

There will never be transports or extermination camps for the Palestinians, but amid increasing violence against Palestinians larger and larger numbers of them will die, in airstrikes, targeted assassinations and other armed attacks. Hunger and misery will expand. Israeli demands for “transfer”—the forced expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territory to neighboring countries—will grow.

The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. They live with massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.

“A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently of the Palestinians. “They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.”

Ayelet Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, on her Facebook page June 30 posted an article written 12 years ago by the late Uri Elitzur, a leader in the settler movement and a onetime adviser to Netanyahu, saying the essay is as “relevant today as it was then.” The article said in part: “They [the Palestinians] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

The belief that a race or class is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. The despised group can never be redeemed or cured—Hannah Arendt noted that all racists see such contamination as something that can never be eradicated. The fear of the other is stoked by racist leaders such as Netanyahu to create a permanent instability. This instability is exploited by a corrupt power elite that is also seeking the destruction of democratic civil society for all citizens—the goal of the Israeli government (as well as the goal of a U.S. government intent on stripping its own citizens of rights). Max Blumenthal in his book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” does a masterful job of capturing and dissecting this frightening devolution within Israel.

The last time Israel mounted a Gaza military assault as severe as the current series of attacks was in 2008, with Operation Cast Lead, which lasted from Dec. 27 of that year to Jan. 18, 2009. That attack saw 1,455 Palestinians killed, including 333 children. Roughly 5,000 more Palestinians were injured. A new major ground incursion, which would be designed to punish the Palestinians with even greater ferocity, would cause a far bigger death toll than Operation Cast Lead did. The cycle of escalating violence, this “destructive process,” as the history of the conflict has illustrated, would continue at an accelerating rate.

The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, one of Israel’s most brilliant scholars, warned that, followed to its logical conclusion, the occupation of the Palestinians would mean “concentration camps would be erected by the Israeli rulers” and “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.” He feared the ascendancy of right-wing, religious Jewish nationalists and warned that “religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism.” Leibowitz laid out what occupation would finally bring for Israel:

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police— mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.

Israel is currently attacking a population of 1.8 million that has no army, no navy, no air force, no mechanized military units, no command and control and no heavy artillery. Israel pretends that this indiscriminate slaughter is a war. But only the most self-deluded supporter of Israel is fooled. The rockets fired at Israel by Hamas—which is committing a war crime by launching those missiles against the Israeli population—are not remotely comparable to the 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs that have been dropped in large numbers on crowded Palestinian neighborhoods; the forced removal of some 300,000 Palestinians from their homes; the more than 160 reported dead—the U.N. estimates that 77 percent of those killed in Gaza have been civilians; the destruction of the basic infrastructure; the growing food and water shortages; and the massing of military forces for a possible major ground assault.

When all this does not work, when it becomes clear that the Palestinians once again have not become dormant and passive, Israel will take another step, more radical than the last. The “process of destruction” will be stopped only from outside Israel. Israel, captive to the process, is incapable of imposing self-restraint.

A mass movement demanding boycotts, divestment and sanctions is the only hope now for the Palestinian people. Such a movement must work for imposition of an arms embargo on Israel; this is especially important for Americans because weapons systems and attack aircraft provided by the U.S. are being used to carry out the assault. It must press within the United States for a cutoff of the $3.1 billion in military aid that the U.S. gives to Israel each year. It must organize to demand suspension of all free trade and other agreements between the U.S. and Israel. Only when these props are knocked out from under Israel will the Israeli leadership be forced, as was the apartheid regime in South Africa, to halt its “destructive process.” As long as these props remain, the Palestinians are doomed. If we fail to act we are complicit in the slaughter.

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Nikki Haley, We Hardly Knew Ye

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Scott Ritter.

Nikki Haley surprised the American and international foreign policy establishment by announcing on Oct. 9 her intention to resign as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, effective at the end of this year. While President Donald Trump indicated he had known of her desire in this regard for some time, the announcement took virtually everyone else in the Trump administration—including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton—by surprise. Unlike previous senior-level administration departures, which were charged with acrimony and angst, Trump went out of his way to praise Haley, holding a news conference at which he complimented her for her work.

The reasons for her decision are stated as “personal,” and speculation abounds about potential causal factors. But at the end of the day, Haley’s resignation was a political act carried out by a political person for her own personal political gain.

To back up this assertion, here’s a bit of background about her political evolution. The daughter of Sikh immigrants, Nimrata “Nikki” Haley was schooled as an accountant and cut her teeth as a businesswoman by assuming various positions in her mother’s upscale women’s clothing establishment. Born and raised in South Carolina, Haley became a rising star for women in the Republican Party, a woman of color who embraced the conservative Christian-based ethos of the deep South. She was a non-threatening figure in the eyes of those who would become her target demographic once she left her family business for a career in politics. In 2004, she won a seat in the South Carolina state legislature, where she campaigned on a GOP-friendly platform of reducing taxes.

Haley was, by all accounts, a deft and capable political operator, pursuing conservative policies across the board. In 2009, encouraged by then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Haley announced she would run for governor of South Carolina. She won the election after receiving the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, vice presidential running mate of presidential candidate Sen. John McCain and (at the time) the darling of the American conservative establishment.

Once established in her role, Haley eschewed national politics—at first. She turned down an opportunity to be  Romney’s running mate in the 2012 U.S. presidential election; instead, she ran for reelection in 2014, winning handily. As governor, she backed conservative causes as she sought to further South Carolina’s fortunes. She oversaw the emergency response to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and she faced controversy when she ordered the Confederate flag removed from the State Capitol in the aftermath of the racially motivated 2015 mass shooting at a Charleston church. Her status as a minority female, combined with her record of capable conservative governance, made her an ideal candidate for national-level politics, and she was widely touted as vice presidential material in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She was an early supporter of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and later, after Rubio withdrew, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

In a moment of significant national exposure, Haley was chosen by the GOP to deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address, during which she singled out then-presidential candidate Trump for criticism. “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference,” she stated. “That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume.” Later, during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show, Haley observed that “Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk.” Later still, after she incurred the Twitter-borne wrath of Trump by calling for him to release his tax returns, she kept her response short and Southern: “Bless your heart.”

Yet once her former adversary emerged as the Republican candidate, Haley was quick to jump on the Trump train. After Trump won the 2016 election, she interviewed for a Cabinet-level position and was tapped to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

It was a job for which she was singularly unqualified.

An ambitious politician in her own right, it was no secret that Haley viewed herself as someone who could one day take the top job at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and thus she knew  a high-profile assignment at the United Nations would not only increase her visibility nationally but would also help her gain critical national security and foreign policy experience, both of which her resume clearly lacked. Under normal circumstances, heading up the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN) would be an ideal place to carry out on-the-job training in the field of international relations. Foreign policy is made in Washington, D.C., and implemented in New York, where the United Nations is headquartered. The job of the USUN, a facilitator and implementer of policy as opposed to conceiving and framing policy, is to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives to the rest of the world—the perfect setting for a novice to cut her teeth while being guided by a seasoned staff of experts.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is not traditionally a Cabinet-level position per se. However, starting with the Ford administration in the 1970s, the position had been granted Cabinet-level status. This practice ended under President George H.W. Bush, only to be reinstated under Bill Clinton. Like his father, George W. Bush rescinded Cabinet status; then Obama reinstated it. In a break from past Republican practice, Trump agreed to keep it a Cabinet-level post, acceding to one of Haley’s preconditions for accepting the job.

Typically, the detrimental consequences of appointing someone without any foreign policy experience to a Cabinet-level diplomatic post could be offset by ensuring they are adequately back-stopped by the rest of the national security/foreign policy team, especially a strong, experienced secretary of state. Trump’s initial appointment of Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department, along with Mike Flynn as national security advisor, represented the antithesis of such a move. These factors, combined with the wholesale flight of veteran diplomats from the State Department following Trump’s election, meant Haley would be assuming her post lacking the kinds of bureaucratic and procedural checks and balances one would normally expect to see in place prior to her starting date.

The USUN is one of the most sensitive and complex diplomatic posts in the American foreign service, requiring a firm but deft hand combined with tact and patience. By design, it is not intended to be used as a blunt instrument of American foreign policy—again, not under normal circumstances. But there has been nothing normal about the presidency of Donald Trump. In late 2016, after the outgoing Obama administration refused to employ a veto to block U.N. action targeting Israel, then president-elect Trump condemned the action (or lack thereof), bemoaning on Twitter the U.N. had “such great potential,” but it had become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” He later ominously noted “things will be different after January 20th,” referring of course to the date of his inauguration.

Tillerson was never able to establish firm footing as secretary of state, overseeing, as he was, a department comprised of staffers whose morale was collectively in free-fall and undercut at every step by a president who viewed himself as America’s most senior, all-knowing diplomat. Haley, on the other hand, thrived in her role as the administration’s mouthpiece at the United Nations. On matters of foreign policy, there was no semblance of originality vis-à-vis the White House emanating from USUN, or even an effort to take into consideration the viewpoints of the rest of the world. In the my-way-or-the-highway global view of Trump, the U.N. became little more than a podium from which America issued its demands and organized its retribution for anything less than absolute subservience. Haley played her role to a T, issuing dictates, threats and demands without displaying any notable grasp of the underlying issues or her office’s past negotiating history. In the fact-free world of the Trump administration, in which inciting global angst is considered a good thing, Haley’s purportedly muscular diplomacy played well—until it didn’t.

Haley was a loyal soldier to Trump, aggressively advocating for what passed for policy. In this she was no different than those who had preceded her. Indeed, there was little to separate her condemnation of Syrian President Bashar Assad, or Russia’s support of the Assad regime, from that of her predecessor, Samantha Power, when it came to tone and content. But the difference between the two was discernable. Power—an Ivy League-educated foreign policy wonk whose book on the Rwandan genocide garnered her a Pulitzer Prize and the attention of her future boss, Barack Obama—was at least conversant in multiple aspects of a given issue and able to engage  a wide variety of topics freely and without notes.

Ambassador Haley, on the other hand, carefully operated from a script prepared by others, reading her notes and rarely venturing into the world of free thinking. She had no experience to draw upon, lacking both academic and practical preparation. She was the dutiful puppet, unashamedly raising her hand to be the sole vote cast against a resolution condemning Trump’s precipitous decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and then woodenly holding up the images of stricken Syrian civilians as part of an orchestrated campaign to justify military action against the Syrian government. She lambasted the Russians and Chinese, insulted virtually every other nation and international institution, and threatened to “take names” when nations dared oppose the policies she fronted.

Haley was at the forefront of America’s retreat from multilateral engagement, leading the charge as the United States withdrew from U.N. treaties and agreements (the Paris Accords and the Iran Nuclear Agreement foremost among them), slashed America’s financial contributions to the U.N. and its affiliates, and otherwise denigrated anything that didn’t directly benefit the U.S. In her defense, she was not the author of these policies, only the face the Trump administration used to sell them to the rest of the world. But as every able politician understands (and Haley is, if anything, an able politician), perception is its own reality, and as the individual who gave voice and presence to these actions, she now owns them forever.

Under any rational standard, Haley would (and should) be mocked and reviled for her performance as America’s ambassador to the United Nations. Her tenure was an exercise in pathos, the living embodiment of American power and influence in decline. Her speeches, if viewed in isolation, were one step removed from a “Saturday Night Live” send-up. At the end of the day, Haley was little more than a polished cipher put forward to sell bad policy, something Trump himself alluded to when he credited Haley with making the job of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. “a more glamorous position than it was two years ago.”

It’s not as though Haley was constitutionally incapable of independent thought—far from it. Her experience as South Carolina’s governor proved she can be a savvy and self-reliant politician, able to weigh costs and benefits when making difficult decisions. Perhaps the most difficult decision Haley had to make, then, was to allow herself to be used in such an egregious fashion so that she could build a resume capable of sustaining and supporting her own aims. She showed flashes of independence, not on matters of policy but rather personal morality, challenging the president on his Muslim ban and insisting that women who claim to have been sexually assaulted have a right to be heard.

But these isolated moments of autonomy could not hide the reality that at the end of the day, Ambassador Haley was little more than a puppet. Her days were numbered with the resignation of Tillerson and the departure of H.R. McMaster as national security advisor. In the confusion that reigned in the White House during the transition from Tillerson to Pompeo, Haley got caught out as she advanced a policy position regarding Russian sanctions that was outdated, prompting a comment from within the White House she was “confused.” “I don’t get confused,” she snapped back. This was in April 2018, about the same time she reportedly first indicated to the president she was looking to leave.

Unlike Tillerson and McMaster, Pompeo and Bolton ran a tighter ship. Bolton in particular was opposed to the idea of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. enjoying Cabinet-level status, having noted during his time at USUN that “it overstates the role and importance the U.N. should have in U.S. foreign policy,” adding that “you shouldn’t have two secretaries in the same department.”  There could be only one voice fronting for U.S. foreign policy on behalf of the president, and it would no longer be Haley’s.

Trump did his part to make Haley’s exit appear dignified and positive. She, too, played her prescribed role, making it known she was not positioning herself to become Trump’s political rival in 2020 while also offering she planned to make her opinions on policy matters known from time to time. Perhaps she will assemble a team of foreign policy experts to help her better shape these opinions, allowing her to continue the artifice that she somehow possesses depth when it comes to issues of diplomacy and foreign relations. In the shallow world of current American politics, Haley is a master at shaping perception.

One thing is for certain—barring some unforeseen turn in her career trajectory, this isn’t the last the American people will be seeing of Haley. She is far too ambitious, far too intelligent and far too “glamorous” to simply fade away. Trump hinted at a possible future role in his administration—perhaps secretary of state during a hypothetical second Trump term. And there is always 2024. Haley would be 55 years old, ideally situated in the prime of her life to make a run for the most powerful job in the world—that is, if America still retains the status of unmatched global superpower.

Present circumstances suggest this may not prove to be the case. For all his rhetoric about “making America great again,” Trump is presiding over the greatest loss of power and prestige in American history, not insignificantly because of policies Haley helped promote and implement. And while her departure from the role of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. appears perfectly timed to insulate her, at least in the minds of the American electorate, from the consequences of any future political catastrophe that might befall Trump, the rest of the world is not so easily confused, possessing superior memory and a grasp of a reality to which Haley’s ambition seems to have blinded her.

 

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The Shameless Opportunism of Nikki Haley

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Jacob Bacharach.

In the Coen brothers’ acerbic spy-thriller send-up, “Burn After Reading,” George Clooney, playing an unfaithful, fitness-obsessed blockhead, disabuses his lover, a vicious Tilda Swinton, that her CIA analyst husband has quit his job to pursue “a higher patriotism.” “Yeah,” he tells her, “well, most of the people in this town who quit were fired.”

It is a truism wrapped in an falsehood. John Malkovich’s Princetonian analyst, the perfectly named Osborne Cox, did in fact quit, but only because he was about to be fired, or at least severely demoted.

Widely considered a minor Coen feature, “Burn After Reading” received mostly lukewarm reviews in that hopey-changey year of 2008 for its bleak, even misanthropic tone. One dissenting voice has been The New Republic’s Jeet Heer, who, in an extraordinarily prescient take on the future Trump Era, judged the film a small masterpiece.

<blockquote>More than just a satire on espionage, the movie is a scathing critique of modern America as a superficial, post-political society where cheating of all sorts comes all too easily. Unlike movies such as Citizen Kane, Burn After Reading doesn’t offer any easy one-to-one character analogies to Trump and his cronies. Rather, it captures the amorality that leads people to become entangled in mercenary treason. </blockquote>

And so we come to Nikki Haley, our soon-to-be ex-U.N. ambassador, who, as of this weird, warm week in October, was either fired or quit.

The poor New York Times Editorial Board—a collection of self-important, moron-despising Osborne Coxes if ever there was one—seemed close to tears. “Indeed,” they bleated, “a replacement in her mold may be the best to hope for from Mr. Trump.” Operating on the scant evidence that Haley once sententiously proclaimed, “I don’t get confused,” after some daily—hell, hourly—confusion of the administration for which she worked and the anecdotal and frankly unbelievable tale that she “developed a good relationship” with the U.N. secretary-general, the Editorial Board clutches at a last brick of normalcy in the wreckage of its antiquated worldview.

Why did she go? After six years as governor of South Carolina and two as ambassador, Haley said she simply needed time off. It is certainly an odd feature of Washington that some people can go years—and even decades—evincing no particular dedication to family, then suddenly acquire a yearning to spend more time with theirs, whereas others—a Chuck Grassley, who managed to be both somnolent and indefatigable in “plowing” through the Supreme Court nomination of an alleged sex abuser—can spend 60 years in official life without the slightest indication that they ever intend to retire.

Of course, it is far more stressful, busy and taxing to be a governor, even of a small state, than to be a U.S. senator, a member of a body that exists in a condition of collective torpor bordering on catatonia, a towering retirement community without the charm of bingo or the stimulating activity of bus trips to the local symphony.

Ordinarily, a U.N. ambassador falls far to the Senate side of active life. One need only show up to make the occasionally requisite bellicose speech, to harangue some little country for doing what the United States of America does a hundred times a week. But Trump’s foreign policy team, especially Rex Tillerson, his first secretary of state, made the aquatic pace of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson look positively rocket-like. It does seem clear that Haley functioned as something closer to a shadow secretary and national security adviser, at least until Mike Pompeo maneuvered his way into Tillerson’s spot and John Bolton waddled back ashore from the spume of a frigid sea.

Haley did not actually do much in her tenure. The Trump administration has been remarkably successful at the Washington nomination game and at dismantling the American regulatory state where its only opposition is the Democrats, but the world has proven less feckless. The U.S. military has continued to bomb where it would have under a Clinton presidency—where it had been bombing under Obama—but the great deal-maker president has mostly gotten fleeced. He was outmaneuvered by North Korea. China defies him. The renegotiated NAFTA treaty may not survive a new president in Mexico or federal elections in Canada.

Across the Atlantic, Europe is slowly pulling away, despite its exposure to U.S. financial markets and France’s Trump-manqué Emmanuel Macron making grandiose declarations about internationalism any time he notices a microphone in his vicinity. Even the Iran deal, which Haley condemned and Trump tore up, has really just returned to the status quo ante: not ideal, certainly, not good, but something. The best chronicler of this chronic bombast combined with stagnant policy has probably been Daniel Larison, the conservative Trump critic at The American Conservative, who took Haley particularly to task for her ceaselessly aggressive rhetoric.

The Trump administration did manage to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, or at least announce that it was going to do so, although like so much else with this administration it is hard to tell if there is any real “doing” behind the announcing. It cruelly and unnecessarily announced it would block any Palestinian from a senior U.N. post, and apologized ceaselessly for Israel’s reckless violence in Gaza. But even this—a sop to the Evangelical base—evaporated into the endless hot air of Trump-world.

Hard-line support for Israel has been Haley’s one consistent foreign policy position during her political career. Beyond that, it is hard to know precisely what she believes, if she believes anything at all. Her conservatism in South Carolina seemed moderate, at least by our increasingly bonkers standards. She did not support gay marriage, but neither did she endorse a South Carolinian “bathroom bill.” She was broadly pro-business, but she also removed the Confederate flag from the state capitol in the wake of the Dylann Roof shooting in Charleston.

Why she felt so strongly about Israel is anyone’s guess—mine, admittedly, is that it began as pure political calculation, a not-so-subtle signal to the conservative Christian electorate in her state that she, a woman of Sikh heritage who still practices the faith, along with Christianity, was reliably one of them. It’s a remarkable feature of our American Christianity that regular churchgoing is lesser proof of faith than an ostentatious love of the Jewish state.

In another telling coincidence, her own original gubernatorial candidacy was saved by the intervention of that marvelous proto-Trump, Sarah Palin, who swept in to endorse Haley when she was running last in a contested primary. Then, several years later, when Trump appeared as a presidential contender, Haley began as a critic, calling for him to release his taxes and drawing his ire on Twitter, to which she famously responded, “bless his heart.” That was taken as a sign of authenticity and gumption, but in reality she was no less an opportunist than any of the rest of them, ping-ponging from Rubio supporter to Cruz partisan as they appeared to mount creditable challenges to the Trump phenomenon before signing on with Trump when the inevitable, inevitably occurred.

It is rumored that she befriended Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, at least if Michael Wolff is to be believed, and I see no reason to doubt the point. In resigning, she praised them as heroes and Kushner as a genius. I see no reason either to suspect that she was the “anonymous” author behind the masturbatory anti-Trump insider op-ed, especially given her own public writing against it. But I find it hard to imagine that she did not, like the president’s fool daughter and son-in-law, see herself as one of the real adults, a deft and more sophisticated character entirely than the volcanic, mercurial president. In this, they all resemble the bumbling gym employees who form official Washington’s opposite number in “Burn After Reading”: Greed and overestimation of their own abilities lead them—most of them—to death and destruction at the hands of the very people they think they’re outsmarting.

There are of course other rumors that Haley will mount some kind of political challenge to Donald Trump, an absolute fantasy. She will, I suspect, reinvent herself in precisely the mold of a John Bolton, a peripatetic cable news beast who will lurk through whatever modest Democratic backlash Trump’s insanity unleashes, until a cleverer and subtler fascist in the early 2020s achieves power again and brings her back into the fold. “This is our opportunity,” says Frances McDormand in one of the film’s best scenes, “You don’t get many of these. You slip on the ice outside of, you know, a fancy restaurant . . . or something like this happens.”

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U.S. Student Detained in Israel Over Alleged Boycott Support

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by By ISABEL DEBRE / Associated Press.

JERUSALEM (AP) — In a groundbreaking case, Israel has detained an American graduate student at its international airport for the past week, accusing her of supporting a Palestinian-led boycott campaign against the Jewish state.

The case highlights Israel’s concerns about the boycott movement and the great efforts it has made to stop it. The grassroots campaign has made significant inroads in recent years, particularly among university students and millennials.

Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old U.S. citizen with Palestinian grandparents, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport last Tuesday with a valid student visa. But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions she is a boycott supporter.

An Israeli court has ordered that she remain in custody while she appeals. The weeklong detention is the longest anyone has been held in a boycott-related case, and it was not immediately clear on Tuesday when a final decision would be made.

In the meantime, she has been spending her days in a closed area with little access to a telephone, no internet and a bed that was infested with bedbugs, according to people who have spoken to her.

Alqasem, from the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Southwest Ranches, Florida, is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group is a branch of the BDS movement, whose name comes from its calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

BDS supporters say that in urging businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to resist unjust policies toward Palestinians. Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize or destroy the Jewish state.

“Lara served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the U.S.,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who spearheads the Israeli government’s efforts against the boycott movement. “Israel will not allow entry to those who work to harm the country, whatever their excuse.”

The ministry said that during Alqasem’s involvement with Students for Justice in Palestine, the club advocated a boycott against Sabra hummus, an Israeli-owned brand of chickpea dip.

On Tuesday, Erdan floated a possible compromise, saying in a radio interview that he would rethink his decision to expel her if she apologizes and renounces her support for BDS.

“If Lara Alqasem will tomorrow in her own voice, not through all kinds of lawyers or statements that can be misconstrued, say that support for BDS is not legitimate and she regrets what she did, we will certainly reconsider our position,” he said.

Israel enacted a law last year banning any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” from entering the country. It also has identified 20 activist groups from around the world whose members can be denied entry upon arrival. It so far has blocked 15 people from entering, according to Erdan’s ministry.

The ministry uses a variety of sources to identify BDS activists, including tips from informants and social media posts. The ministry says its suspicions were deepened after learning that Alqasem recently deleted all of her social media accounts.

In her appeal, Alqasem has argued that she never actively participated in boycott campaigns, and promised the court that she would not promote them in the future.

“We’re talking about someone who simply wants to study in Israel, who is not boycotting anything,” said her lawyer, Yotam Ben-Hillel. “She’s not even part of the student organization anymore.”

Alqasem is registered to study human rights at Israel’s Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The university has thrown its support behind her, announcing on Monday it would join Alqasem’s appeal.

She also received a boost from her former Hebrew professor at the University of Florida, who described her as an exceptional and curious student. In a letter to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Dror Abend-David said she had an “open and positive attitude toward Judaism, Jews, and the State of Israel.”

In an interview from Florida, her mother, Karen Alqasem, affirmed her daughter’s tolerance and intellectual drive.

“Studying and getting to know the country was Lara’s dream for as long as I can remember,” she told The Associated Press. “She may have been critical of some of Israel’s policies in the past but she respects Israeli society and culture. To her, this isn’t a contradiction.”

Karen Alqasem said her daughter graduated from the University of Florida in May with degrees in Arabic and international studies and studied Hebrew with hopes of becoming a lawyer.

She said the Israeli government is exaggerating her daughter’s involvement in the university student group, saying she only belonged to it for a semester. She said her daughter has never made any threats against Israel and is not religious.

“She is being treated like a criminal but she is not a criminal,” she said.

Her lawyer and a group of opposition lawmakers have visited Alqasem and say she is in safe, but subpar, conditions.

In a conversation with her daughter last Friday, Alqasem said Lara complained of a bedbug infestation in her cell. With her phone confiscated and communication mostly restricted to calls with her lawyer, Lara has felt “completely cut off from the world,” she said.

The United States Embassy said it has visited Alqasem in detention to ensure that she has food and water. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the government is aware of the case, but “ultimately, it is up to the government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country.”

Mossi Raz, an opposition lawmaker who visited her, said she told him that without books or any forms of entertainment, she spends her time talking with other women being held in the same cell for various visa-related issues.

In addition to the anti-BDS campaign, Israel has detained or interrogated a number of vocal Jewish critics, both Israeli and foreign, about their political views while entering the country in recent months. These tactics, along with legislation curbing the influence of anti-occupation advocacy groups, have raised concerns that the nationalist government is trying to stifle dissent.

The Strategic Affairs Ministry says it deals only with BDS cases. The Shin Bet, which oversees security procedures at border crossings, says it stops people only over security matters, not their political views.

___

Susannah George in Washington and Terry Spence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida contributed reporting.

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U.S. Student Detained in Israel for Alleged Boycott Support

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by ISABEL DEBRE / The Associated Press.

In a first-of-its-kind case, Israel has held an American graduate student at its international airport for a whole week, accusing her of supporting a Palestinian-led boycott movement against the Jewish state.

Lara Alqasem, a 22-year-old American citizen with Palestinian grandparents, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport last Tuesday with a valid student visa.

But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she supports a campaign that calls for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel.

An Israeli court has ordered that she remain in custody while she appeals. The weeklong detention is the longest anyone has been held in a boycott-related case, and it was not immediately clear on Tuesday when a decision would be made.

Alqasem is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that supports the boycott movement.

The grassroots boycott campaign, known as BDS, has targeted Israeli businesses, cultural institutions and universities in what it says is nonviolent resistance to unjust and racist Israeli policies. But Israel says its true goal is to delegitimize and even destroy the country.

Israel enacted a law last year banning any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” from entering the country.

“Lara served as president of a chapter of one of the most extreme and hate-filled anti-Israel BDS groups in the U.S.,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who is charge of the Israeli government’s efforts against the boycott group. “Israel will not allow entry to those who work to harm the country, whatever their excuse.”

On Tuesday, Erdan floated a possible compromise, saying in a radio interview that he would drop his efforts to expel her if she apologizes and renounces her BDS support.

The ministry says that during Alqasem’s involvement with Students for Justice in Palestine, the club advocated a boycott against Sabra hummus, an Israeli-owned brand of chickpea dip.

In her appeal, Alqasem has argued that she never actively participated in boycott campaigns, and promised the court that she would not promote them in the future.

“We’re talking about someone who simply wants to study in Israel, who is not boycotting anything,” said her lawyer, Yotam Ben-Hillel. “She’s not even part of the student organization anymore.”

Alqasem is registered to study human rights at Israel’s Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The university has thrown its support behind her, announcing Monday that it would join her appeal.

She also received a boost from her former Hebrew professor at the University of Florida, who described her as an exceptional and curious student. In a letter to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Dror Abend-David said Alqasem had an “open and positive attitude toward Judaism, Jews, and the state of Israel.”

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Teenager Among 3 Palestinians Killed in Gaza Protest

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by The Associated Press.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says Israeli forces have shot dead three Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, as thousands of people protested along the fence dividing the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The ministry said the boy was struck in the chest, a 24-year-old man was shot in the back and another man, 28, succumbed to his wounds at hospital Friday.

It added that 126 protesters were wounded by live fire.

Responding to calls by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, thousands of Palestinians thronged five areas along the fence, burning tires, throwing rocks and chanting slogans against a stifling Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the territory.

The Israeli military said about 20,000 protesters participated. They threw explosive devices and grenades toward the troops which used tear gas and live fire to, it added.

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Benjamin Netanyahu Is No Friend to America

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Scott Ritter.

Benjamin Netanyahu is no stranger to the American spotlight. A career Israeli politician who attended school in the United States, he specializes in the kind of rhetoric that his American counterparts revel in—a kind of narcissism that’s more used car salesman than educator.

Netanyahu specializes in selling danger to the American people. This is an art he has practiced on numerous occasions, whether it be at the gatherings of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), his many appearances before the U.S. Congress, at televised events or during the general debate in the United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering of global leaders and diplomats where each nation’s representative is provided the opportunity to address their counterparts and the world on issues they deem to be of particular import.

Bibi (as he is known, affectionately or otherwise) delivered his latest address to the General Assembly on Sept. 27. Like others he had delivered previously, this one was a tour de force of angst, fear and anger with a nearly singular focus on the issue that has seized Netanyahu for more than two decades—Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program.

In his 1995 campaign autobiography, “Fighting Terrorism,” Netanyahu, preparing to run for the office of Prime Minister of Israel, asserted that Iran was “three to five years” away from having a nuclear bomb. Bibi repeated this claim several times over the next 20-plus years, apparently unconcerned by the fact that his self-appointed timetable kept coming and going without the Iranian nuclear threat manifesting itself.

In September 2002, when he briefly found himself a private citizen, Netanyahu shifted his aim to Iraq, which he confidently asserted had a nuclear weapons program as he touted the benefits of removing Saddam Hussein from power—this during so-called “expert” testimony before the U.S. Congress. He was wrong on both counts, a fact that seems to slip the minds of those who continue to assign him a semblance of credibility given his proximity to Israel’s vaunted intelligence service.

As someone who spent four years (from 1994 to 1998) working closely with Israel’s intelligence service to uncover the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, I can attest that Israeli intelligence is better than most at what it does, but far from perfect. For every good lead the Israelis delivered to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), for which I was working at the time, they provided a dozen or more that did not pan out. Their detailed analysis about the alleged organization and structure of Iraq’s covert nuclear program proved to be far removed from the truth. It got names wrong, affiliations wrong, locations wrong—in short, the Israelis made the exact same mistakes as any other intelligence service, operating with far less clarity about its ultimate target.

Iraq was a denied area, made less so by the presence of UNSCOM weapons inspectors like me, who had unprecedented access to the most sensitive national security sites in the country. And still the Israelis got it wrong. They did so not because of “bad intelligence,” but because they, like the CIA and other intelligence agencies around the world, were privy to the vast amount of information and data collected by UNSCOM inspectors about the true state of Iraq’s proscribed weapons and related programs. They suffered from the same lack of imagination as did the others that postulated a nuclear-armed Iraq circa 2002, unwilling to consider the possibility that Hussein might be telling the truth about not having retained any weapons and related capabilities prohibited by the Security Council resolution. This same lack of imagination appears to fuel Netanyahu’s increasingly wild claims about Iran.

It is no secret that Netanyahu has opposed the Iran nuclear deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA—since the possibility of a negotiated solution to the stand-off between Iran and the rest of the world was put on the table by the Obama administration in 2012. He lobbied hard against the agreement, interjecting himself in American domestic politics in an unprecedented fashion to undermine the negotiations.

When Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Netanyahu found a kindred spirit whose intellectual curiosity would not permit any effective challenge to the narrative constructed by the Israeli prime minister. And when Trump faced resistance from his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and his national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, he simply replaced them with more compliant persons, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton respectively.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA was facilitated not by any supporting brief from the U.S. intelligence community, which held fast to the assessment that Iran was fully compliant with its obligations under the JCPOA, but rather by intel provided by Israel that featured wild claims of an operation in the heart of Tehran; hundreds of thousands of documents purported to outline a nuclear program that Iran insisted did not exist. In April 2018, Bibi unveiled the existence of what he termed Iran’s “Atomic Archive” as he detailed some of its contents, allegedly recovered during an Israeli operation.

While Netanyahu’s dramatic presentation proved to be enough to help push Trump into withdrawing from the JCPOA the following month, it failed to convince the rest of the world that Iran was operating in bad faith when it came to declaring the totality of its nuclear program. One of the main reasons for this is that the tale put forward by Bibi simply didn’t add up. Documents he presented as being derived from the newly captured archive were recognized by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—which, along with supporting governments, is responsible for implementing the JCPOA—as matching those presented to the agency more than a decade ago. That cache of documents was allegedly recovered from a laptop computer sourced to an Iranian opposition group by Israeli intelligence.

At best, there is nothing new in these materials, and all the underlying issues alleged to have been “exposed” had already been discussed and rectified by the IAEA and Iran prior to the rectification of the JCPOA. At worst, Netanyahu was lying about the Israeli intelligence operation, and simply recycling old material—which may have been manufactured by Israel to begin with back in 2004—simply to provide political cover for Donald Trump.

Netanyahu spent much of his Sept. 27 address before the General Assembly detailing an alleged “Atomic Warehouse,” supposedly uncovered by Israeli intelligence in the heart of Tehran. As was the case with the “Atomic Archive” facility, Netanyahu made grand claims about Iranian malfeasance: The site contained “15 ship containers full of nuclear-related equipment and material,” along with “15 kilograms of radioactive material” that Iran allegedly evacuated from the site to evade detection. (Netanyahu seems to have overlooked the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy, prior to the JCPOA and in anticipation of such a scenario, “evacuated” nuclear material from one of its facilities during an exercise, only to have evidence of its existence uncovered by inspectors wielding the same detection capabilities as the IAEA.)

Netanyahu alleged that Iran was maintaining both an “Atomic Archive” and an “Atomic Warehouse” so that it could reconstitute its nuclear weapons program when the “time is right,” ostensibly when the sunset clauses of the JCPOA, which limit the number of centrifuges Iran can operate, expire. As with the “Atomic Archive” story, however, outside of Trump and his inner circle of anti-Iranian acolytes, informed American officials aren’t buying the Israeli leader’s tale, noting that Netanyahu has exaggerated the scope and scale of the warehouse in question. (These officials claim that the “material” being stored there is documentary in nature, a far cry from the “equipment” claimed by Netanyahu.)

Netanyahu bemoaned the fact that the world was promised “anywhere, anytime” inspections in Iran, and yet the IAEA has failed to take any steps to investigate the revelations provided by Israel. The reality is that the JCPOA promised no such thing. “Anywhere, anytime” was an artificial construct cobbled together by opponents of the deal by denigrating the investigatory capabilities of the IAEA. Moreover, the IAEA is intimately familiar with the quality of the intelligence information provided by Israel in the past, having spent months with Iran carefully deconstructing the claims contained within. The agency is hesitant to fall victim to Israeli exaggerations and falsifications again, and rightfully so.

More importantly, the JCPOA has a detailed mechanism in place to investigate claims such as those put forth by Israel. But by precipitously withdrawing from the JCPOA, the Trump administration has removed itself from that process. This means that Israel would need to turn to the Europeans, Russians or Chinese to plead its case. And the fact that neither France nor Germany nor the United Kingdom has picked up the mantle of Israel’s claims points to the inherent weakness of its intelligence. Netanyahu may be able to play siren to Trump’s Ulysses in order to crash America’s ship onto Iranian shoals, but the rest of the world is not following suit.

The American people should not tolerate this continued intrusion into their affairs by an outsider whose previous lies, prevarications and provocations helped get the United States entangled in one war, all the while advocating for our involvement in another. Bibi Netanyahu has a problem with telling the truth, and we give power to his words and deeds by not calling him out for what he truly is—a habitual liar with the blood of thousands of our fellow citizens on his hands. Netanyahu claims he is a friend of the American people. He is, in fact, the furthest thing from it.

 

Scott Ritter is the author ofDealbreaker: Donald Trump and the Unmaking of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” published by Clarity Press, October 2018.

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