British Journalist denied flight to U.S. because she was born in Iran

We can’t go to your cousin’s birthday party…

Amid confusion over new United States visa rules intended to deter terrorists, a British journalist who works for the BBC was denied permission to board a flight to New York at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday because she was born in Iran.

The journalist, Rana Rahimpour, had hoped to surprise her brother in New Jersey this week by appearing at his son’s sixth birthday party with her daughter, but was turned away from her flight because of a new regulation that requires European Union citizens who are dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan, or have traveled to those countries in the past five years, to obtain a visa in advance. Other Europeans are able to travel to the United States for up to 90 days through a longstanding visa waiver program.

Ms. Rahimpour, who has not been able to travel to Iran for many years because of her work for the BBC’s Persian-language service in London, said in an email that her request for the sort of routine visa waiver that British citizens are entitled to was not denied until she appeared at the airport.

Secretary of State John Kerry had assured Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, last month that the Obama administration would try to keep the new rules from penalizing dual nationals or Europeans who wanted to visit Iran for business or tourism after sanctions were lifted as part of the recently completed nuclear accord.

❝“To be told that I can’t fly despite the assurances that Secretary Kerry gave in a letter to Foreign Minister Zarif that this won’t affect ordinary Iranians is just crazy,” Ms. Rahimpour wrote. “Here I am denied a flight, because I am by birth an Iranian citizen — something I can’t change even if I wanted to.”

I can’t fathom how this helps U.S. security not to mention its image among the Iranian public,” she wrote.

There are two levels of explanation to the problem: first, our bureaucratic chain of communications is less-than-competent. Hey, that’s the way it is.

Second, we’re Americans and whatever we feel like doing to anyone else is OK. USA, USA, USA!

Sad, but, true.

Saudi-initiated confrontation with Iran nears a danger point

Oil, oil and more oil

Saudi Arabia’s drastic decision to behead the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr marks a point of no return in the bitter Sunni-Shia conflict engulfing the region. It is a dangerous escalation in the Kingdom’s struggle with Iran for regional hegemony.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has vowed swift and harsh revenge, promising to bring down the Saudi dynasty in short order to avenge this “medieval act of savagery”.

Brent crude jumped to a three-week high of $38.91 a barrel as traders began to price in the first flickers of political risk. Roughly a fifth of global oil supply passes through the Strait of Hormuz, where tankers would in extremis have to run the gauntlet past Iranian warships…

Helima Croft, from RBC Capital Markets, said investors have yet to wake up to the full danger. “If we’d had scenes five years ago of the Saudi embassy in flames in Tehran there would have been a big move in the price, but right now there is so much over-supply and people just seem to think this is all noise. They have yet to get their heads around what can go wrong,” she said.

The risk for the Saudis is that the execution of Sheikh Nimr for what is essentially peaceful political protest ignites a long-simmering revolt by an aggrieved Shia minority, who make up 15% of the population and are sitting on top of the giant Saudi oil fields in the Eastern Province. There were violent protests in the Sheikh’s home-town of Qatif on Monday, with at least one protestor shot dead by police…

Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, said the mass executions have set in motion a fateful chain of events that nobody can now control. “It will likely trigger a bloody civil war that won’t end until the Saudi monarchy ceases to exist. This cycle of violence will not spare anyone or anything, including the coveted oil installations,” he said…

The Kingdom is more vulnerable today as it bites the bullet on austerity, slashing subsidies in an assault on the cradle-to grave welfare net. Crumbling oil revenues have forced it to scrap the social contract that has kept a lid on dissent for decades…

There’s a fair piece of the article that sounds more like TELEGRAPH than Croft. If we’re lucky, we might catch an interview with her on TV from the UK or North America. Incredibly knowledgeable; but, not as likely to leap off into conservative wishful thinking as the TELEGRAPH.

No, Iran still hasn’t conquered the nations south of Texas

Republicans may call Ollie North to testify as an “expert”

On March 12, Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of the United States Southern Command, alerted the Senate Armed Services committee to the growing threat posed by Iran. According to his statement, the Islamic Republic has “established more than 80 ‘cultural centers’” in Central and South America and the Caribbean — “a region with an extremely small Muslim population.” The scare quotes signal that Kelly has seen right through the cultural façade to Iran’s real project: terrorism sponsorship.

To close observers, Kelly’s conspiracy theory will have a familiar ring. Conservatives have been warning us about the Iranian subversion of Latin America for years.

At a 2009 Congressional hearing, Norman A. Bailey — a veteran of Ronald Reagan’s national security affairs — painted a grim picture of Iran’s “penetration into the Western Hemisphere through Venezuela.” Not only had the Iranians commandeered Venezuelan tractor and bicycle factories to store drugs, weapons “and other items useful to them and their terrorist clients,” they had even “opened a ‘maintenance’ facility in Honduras for the ‘tractors’ produced in Venezuela.”

As if this weren’t enough, they had also established embassies in a smattering of Latin American nations…

Writing in Foreign Policy in 2010, the American Enterprise Institute’s Roger Noriega — whose career highlights include involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal — said blah, blah, blah, de-blah, blah.

As might be expected, the hysteria is not limited to Americans. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon once warned of the frightening existence of commercial air travel between Latin America and Iran: “We know that there are flights from Caracas via Damascus to Tehran.” A true detective…

The real purpose of the hype is to bring the Iranian threat home, justifying the increased militarization of our backyard and Iran’s in one stroke.

Of course, Latin American history has seen plenty of state-sponsored terror, including the disappearance of 30,000 suspected leftists during the Argentine dirty war of 1976-83, many of whom were dropped from airplanes into the river or the ocean.

A recently published memo confirms that U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave the Argentine junta the “green light” to commence the disappearances. A number of key participants in this and similar regional projects were trained at the notorious School of the Americas, then located in Panama and run by — you guessed it — not Iran…

Lost in all the ruckus, of course, is a question that should be obvious: Why is the U.S. allowed to militarize the globe — including Iran’s immediate neighborhood…It’s the same playbook Reagan drew on when he warned that the Sandinistas were “just two days’ driving time from Harlingen, Texas.” Such rhetoric means more money for the defense and border fortification industries, and preemptively validates any eventual Israeli or U.S. aggression against Iran.

And, now, the world reacts with hope and support for the potential of a US-Iran Nuclear Accord. Yes, Obama will blather about protecting the whole world and UN involvement; but, when push comes to shove, this is one more example of the United States and our agitprop aircraft carrier floating above Middle East oil reserves – Israel – lined up against a nation where we already have a history of regime change. Iran.

Days to come will show me one of the more interesting facets of the negotiating process between the White House and Congress. A process that will demonstrate to the rest of the world how little real foreign policy changes from generation to generation in the United States. Obama prides himself in a quest for nuclear disarmament – but, not at the expanse of Israel or Exxon.

We will get to see which of the Blue Dog Democrats will advertise their cowardice and opportunism and side with Republican neo-cons and fundamentalist nutballs alike opposing the nuclear treaty just negotiated.

Thanks, Tom

Nixon set the policy: OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons but not Iran

Nice to see continuity in American foreign policy, eh?

Iranian officials sometimes respond to accusations that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability by replying that, not only do they not want a bomb, they’d actually like to see a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East. Yes, this is surely in part a deflection, meant to shift attention away from concerns about Iran’s nuclear activities by not-so-subtly nodding to the one country in the region that does have nuclear weapons: Israel.

But could Iran have a point? Is there something hypocritical about the world tolerating Israel’s nuclear arsenal, which the country does not officially acknowledge but has been publicly known for decades, and yet punishing Iran with severe economic sanctions just for its suspected steps toward a weapons program? Even Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its implacable enemy and made its accommodations with Israel long ago, often joins Tehran’s calls for a “nuclear-free region.” And anyone not closely versed in Middle East issues might naturally wonder why the United States would accept Israeli warheads but not an Iranian program…

The single greatest factor explaining how Israel got the world to accept its nuclear program may be timing. The first nuclear weapon was detonated in 1945, by the United States. In 1970, most of the world agreed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which forbids any new countries from developing nuclear weapons. In that 25-year window, every major world power developed a nuclear weapon: the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China. They were joined by exactly one other country: Israel.

The Israeli nuclear program was driven in many ways by the obsessive fear that gripped the nation’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, in which the new country fought off Egyptian and Jordanian armies, Ben-Gurion concluded that Israel could survive only if it had a massive military deterrent — nuclear weapons…

But Israel of the 1950s was a poor country. And it was not, as it is today, a close political and military ally of the United States. Israel had to find a way to keep up with the much wealthier and more advanced world powers dominating the nuclear race. How it went about doing this goes a long way to explaining both why the United States initially opposed Israel’s nuclear program and how the world came around to accepting Israeli warheads…

…First, in 1968, Israel secretly developed a nuclear weapon. Second, and perhaps more important, was a White House meeting in September 1969 between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. What happened during that meeting is secret. But the Nixon’s administration’s meticulous records show that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said to Nixon, in a later conversation about the Meir meeting, “during your private discussions with Golda Meir you emphasized that our primary concern was that Israel make no visible introduction of nuclear weapons or undertake a nuclear test program.”

That meeting between Nixon and Meir set what has been Israel’s unofficial policy ever since: one in which the country does nothing to publicly acknowledge or demonstrate its nuclear weapons program, and in exchange the United States would accept it. The Nixon administration had concluded that, while it didn’t like the Israeli weapons program, it also wasn’t prepared to stop it…

“Essentially the bargain has been that Israel keeps its nuclear deterrent deep in the basement and Washington keeps its critique locked in the closet,” Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy explained.

What do Americans do about a bankrupt policy put in place by one of the most corrupt presidents in American history? Not a damned thing.

Point out we are the world’s only military superpower, known for arrogance and hypocrisy – I think the average American would try to deflect the criticism by coming up with rationales to excuse our hypocrisy, redefine it as expediency, something done to “protect” our nation.

It ain’t a new ploy. Everyone from dictators to democrats employs the strategy. The only thing that counts is that ordinary citizens accept every lie and don’t seek to change anything.

The only difference in political parties, who sits in the White House, is the quality of the lies. Either flavor still accepts the Nixonian policy.

Women in Iran taking off the hijab

Click to visit “My Stealthy Freedom”

Women across Iran are posting photos of themselves without the hijab to a dedicated Facebook page called “My Stealthy Freedom”…The Facebook page was set up just over a week ago, and already has 130,000 “likes”. Almost all are from people in Iran, both men and women.

So far the page has around 150 photos. They show women on the beach, on the street, in the countryside, alone, with friends or their partners – but crucially – all without the headscarf. Most include a few words, for example: “I loathe the hijab. I too like the feel of the sun and the wind on my hair. Is this a big sin?”

Ever since the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago, it has been illegal for a woman to leave the house without wearing a headscarf. The punishment ranges from a fine to imprisonment. “My hair was like a hostage to the government,” says Masih Alinejad, an Iranian political journalist who lives in the UK and who set up the Facebook page. “The government still has a lot of hostages,” she adds.

Alinejad got the idea after she posted some photos of herself without the hijab to her own Facebook page. The images were liked thousands of times. So many women began to send her their own pictures that she decided to set up a dedicated page. Though she’s well-known for being critical of the government in Iran, she insists the page is not political. “These are not women activists, but just ordinary women talking from their hearts…”

The hijab is a controversial issue in Iran. A recent billboard campaign reminding women to cover themselves up, was mocked on social media for comparing women to chocolates in a wrapper. But many support the wearing of the hijab, arguing it’s an important part of Islamic law – there was a demonstration in Tehran last week, with protesters calling for a more strict implementation of the rules.

Letting religion order your clothing, your nutrition – or lack thereof – is absurd. I can’t say much more than that because this is the kind of question I sorted out well before I left my teens. That was a very long time ago.

So, folks who get hung up into deep discussions about the flavors that differentiate religion really aren’t getting a whole boatload of commentary from me. Difficult enough restraining my native crankiness. 🙂

Thanks #BBCtrending

Secret talks set the stage for US-Iran nuclear deal

William Burns, Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan – negotiators in secret

The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.

The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.

But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.

President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort – promised in his first inaugural address – to reach out to a country the State Department designates as the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism.

The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.

The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran…

The AP was tipped to the first U.S.-Iranian meeting in March shortly after it occurred, but the White House and State Department disputed elements of the account and the AP could not confirm the meeting. The AP learned of further indications of secret diplomacy in the fall and pressed the White House and other officials further. As the Geneva talks appeared to be reaching their conclusion, senior administration officials confirmed to the AP the details of the extensive outreach.

The Geneva deal provides Iran with about $7 billion in relief from international sanctions in exchange for Iranian curbs on uranium enrichment and other nuclear activity. All parties pledged to work toward a final accord next year that would remove remaining suspicions in the West that Tehran is trying to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal.

Iran insists its nuclear interest is only in peaceful energy production and medical research.

The diplomatic gamble with Iran, if the interim agreement holds up and leads to a final pact preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, could avert years of threats of U.S. or Israeli military intervention. It could also prove a turning point in decades of hostility between Washington and Tehran – and become a crowning foreign policy achievement of Obama’s presidency.

First off, RTFA for the details. The AP has done a professional job outlining the chronology of this comparatively recent – and successful – effort.

The rest of the world will keep the whole history of relations between Iran and the United States in mind even though the average American hasn’t a clue. A condition perpetuated by what passes for news in our media-as-entertainment only, history in our schools.

It starts with the United States, the CIA and Iranian royalists combining to crush the first democratically-elected government in Iran back in 1953. No one in Iran, no one in the Middle East forgets how American greed for oil trumped democracy with violence. No one in the world seriously believes the United States has abandoned the imperial premises that brought about that coup.

The possibility of the detente that started during the Clinton years continuing – were abruptly halted, intentionally or otherwise – by George W. Bush announcing to the world how he demanded the Iranian people vote in elections in 2005. Only an old-fashioned fool in the mold of Colonel Blimp would expect a nation to bow their heads and say, “Yes, boss” to such arrogance. And, so, the Iranian nation ended up with a fool in charge to match the clown in the White House.

We are fortunate that one of the few promises kept by Barack Obama since his election was the one made about negotiating with Iran. No less arrogant than George W, as dedicated as ever to the premises that keep a right-wing government in power in Israel, nevertheless, through the good graces of the Sultan of Oman – communications were continued and expanded until this important first step moved forward yesterday evening.

The usual shitheads are upset. From Lindsay Graham in South Carolina to Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, from Tea Party trollops to Chuck Shumer, the senator from Tel Aviv – right-wingers and liberals alike in their dedication to imperial greed from the United States and our client state in Israel are pissed off.

That is as it should be. Another sign of positive accomplishment.

RightWing nutballs get culture as wrong as they get history – Iranians mock Netanyahu

World Leaders Attend UN General Assembly

Iranians have used social media to mock Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after he suggested they were not allowed to wear jeans.

In an interview with BBC Persian TV Mr Netanyahu said that if Iranians were free they would wear blue jeans, and listen to Western music.

Hundreds of Iranians both in Iran and abroad reacted on social media sites…Many posts showed mainly young Iranians wearing jeans and listening to Western music, some in comic poses.

Others mocked up scenes from ancient Persian history with the protagonists wearing denim.

Jeans are not banned in Iran, where an Islamic dress code requires women to cover their hair and wear modest outer clothing. Some Western music or Western-style music is tolerated.

One picture on social media sites showed a young boy in jeans whispering into the ear of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Another is a doctored photograph of Mr Netanyahu’s address at the UN last year in which he drew a red line across a sketch of a bomb, to warn that Iran was moving closer to the metaphorical “red line” of gaining enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb.

In the mocked-up picture, widely-shared on Twitter, the bomb has been replaced with a picture of a female figure wearing jeans, with the Israeli prime minister appearing to draw a red line across the thighs.

One Iranian response on a Facebook page that has attracted hundreds of followers read: “He thinks he saw our bomb but he hasn’t seen our jeans.”

Most Americans probably can legitimately claim to be ignorant of the role our nation played in suppressing democracy in Iran – laying the groundwork for an Islamic revolution. Israelis really can’t. They can’t avoid a certain amount of history and knowledge. Though, obviously, their right-wing prime minister tries hard to portray himself as the theocratic village idiot.