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Posts Tagged ‘ Mark Kirk ’

  • 22 April 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions

Nuclear fishing boats and further proof that Congress is losing it on Iran

It is no secret that some of the most hawkish U.S. policies and positions towards Iran over its disputed nuclear program have come not from the Executive branch, but from Congress. Spurred on by AIPAC and other powerful pro-war lobbies and organizations, Congress has become a cesspool for blatant and often bizarre war-mongering Iran resolutions. Indeed, bills currently in circulation in congressional committees seek to do everything from removing waiver authority for sanctions on Iran; requiring that nuclear sanctions can’t be lifted until Iran becomes a democracy; goading Israel to start war with Iran and promising U.S. money and troops to do it; sanctioning anybody who engages in ANY form of trade with Iran (including humanitarian trade); and even  removing Iran from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (a treaty that obligates Iran to not build nuclear weapons).

Now, if you are wondering why Congress has been pursuing such counterproductive and overly aggressive policies towards Iran, you have to look no further than some of the people Congress is getting their Iran related information from.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing a few weeks ago that in large part dealt with Iran, the several so-called experts called upon to inform our congressional representatives bordered on flat out deception in their testimonies to members of Congress.

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey, one of the panelists at the hearing, stated that Iran could assemble something that “passed for a nuclear weapon within a matter of very few months.” Now, Woolsey is certainly in a position to know the facts regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Namely, that Iran is not currently developing a nuclear weapon, does not have any uranium enriched to weapons grade levels (that producing a bomb would require a significant quantity of), and that even if it did decide to suddenly break out towards building the bomb, this would become immediately evident to both IAEA inspectors and to Western intelligence agencies. All of this has been corroborated numerous times by US and Israeli intelligence, and even in the latest testimonies of the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Needless to say, Woolsey is evidently not concerned with portraying a realistic and grounded picture of Iran’s nuclear program to Congress. He goes on to play the fear card by making several outlandish comments about how Iran’s putting of a satellite into space presents a risk to U.S. national security in terms of Iran eventually being able to explode a bomb in sub-orbit. Woolsey stated that such an explosion would have an “extremely strong decisive impact on the eclectic grid.”  He then recommended that the U.S. “get busy shielding [its] electric grid.”

Woolsey went onto to make his most brazen claim–that Iran could nuke the U.S. from a fishing boat. He acknowledged that  Iran does not currently possess a delivery system for a nuclear weapon, nothing would stop an Iranian “scud in freighter” coming within a few hundred miles of the east coast and shooting a nuclear missile towards the United States. “We need a missile system that can catch it,” Woolsey said, “If an Iranian fishing boat did this, we can do nothing unless we have these systems.” So, the lesson he is giving Congress here is to spend billions of dollars on some sort of defense system that guards again Iranian missiles being launched from fishing boats of the east coast.

Unfortunately, hyping up fictitious threats was not where this hearing ended. In his questioning of the panelists, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, stressed to the panel that the U.S. has not done enough to support the people in Iran. He specifically highlighted the Azeri, Baluch, and Turkmen ethnic groups within the country. Woolsey took up the honor of answering Rohrabacher’s plea for essentially supporting ethnic separatism inside Iran.

“We need to show people and let people know what side we are on in respect to Iran,” he said. “But in terms using economic power, using embargoes, using sanctions, taking gloves off completely in respect to those, doing everything we can to bring down their economy. I think that’s something we can at least make a very good effort at, and could use as part of the rallying cry for the American people and the people who have oppressed by Iran.”

Simply stated, the logic here is outstanding: Woolsey  thinks that by effectively destroying the financial livelihoods of people in Iran, the Iranian people will come to understand that we are on their side. This is when all the reporting and polling coming out of Iran is increasingly suggesting that the once friendly to America sentiment in the nation is eroding as a result of our policies towards the country.

Henry D. Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, topped off this committee hearing by telling members of Congress to avoid “conceding per-say rights to these and other states.”

“I believe our government and most our allies have gotten into the lazy habit of portraying the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) as a deal, that demands and supplies 3 things equally, nonproliferation safeguards, disarmaments, and the sharing of peaceful nuclear technology. This breezy three point NPT pitch, although popular, I think lacks historical or legal substance, it also I think, defies common sense,” Sokolski said.

The NPT is essentially the only legal document that Iran is signed onto that obligates it to not develop a nuclear weapon. Thus far, Iran’s nuclear program has operated under the framework of the NPT. Efforts to remove or provoke Iran to remove itself from the NPT will surely results in exactly what the West does not want, Iran actively going after a nuclear bomb. It is important to note that other states which have developed nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan, India, and Israel, are not signatories of the NPT.

The situation in Congress has certainly reached a fever pitch in regards to Iran. There is little reason to doubt that if many members of Congress could have had their way, a disastrous war with Iran would have begun a long time ago. Now, just as negotiations are showing signs of hope, Congress is seemingly doing all it can to derail them. While they are clearly heavily influenced by agenda-driven lobbies and individuals, it is important that they hear the voice of the majority of the American people, which have long been against war with Iran and for negotiations.

  • 30 July 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions, UN

Congressional push for sanctions on food and medicine

It’s that time of year again–when Republicans and Democrats in Congress takes a break from wringing each other’s necks to pass a piece of legislation to “tighten the noose” around Iran just in time for campaign season.

For those just checking in, here’s an example of what our current sanctions are already doing on the ground in Iran (via Tehran Bureau):

The board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society has informed the World Federation of Hemophilia that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs, a consequence of international economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian Hemophilia Society notes that U.S., EU, and UN sanctions technically do not ban medical goods.  In fact, there is a so-called “humanitarian exemption” in U.S. sanctions that is supposed to exempt humanitarian goods like medicine, medical goods, and food.

And yet medicine is not getting in to Iran as “sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods.”

It turns out that imposing the broadest, most indiscriminate, crippling-est, noose tightening sanctions ever (did I miss anything in there?) means that a few piecemeal exemptions for food or medicine, or even  Internet communication tools, don’t really stand up.

  • 9 March 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • Sanctions

Dumb and Dumber Sanctions

What happens when Senator Mark Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman — the two leading advocates in Congress for sanctions that deliberately hurt the Iranian people — get together to design a new Iran sanctions package with the neoconservative “Foundation for Defense of Democracies”?

The result is legislation that would impose extraterritorial sanctions on all Iranian banks and make foreign central banks subject to a U.S. sanctions if they engage in any significant transaction with Iran.  These sanctions would build on the already draconian sanctions on Iran’s central bank that Congress passed last year, and would further compound problems that those sanctions are already causing.

Despite having an exemption for humanitarian items, the sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank are choking off sales of food, medicine, and medical devices — including even those explicitly licensed by the U.S. Treasury.  The chilling effect has been so strong that foreign banks simply won’t facilitate the transactions even though they’re perfectly legal and have the U.S. government’s stamp of approval.  Extending the extraterritorial sanctions to all Iranian banks would be the nail in the coffin for trade in these humanitarian items because there simply wouldn’t be any Iranian banks that could transfer the money needed to actually pay for these goods.

Of course, Iran and foreign countries will set up elaborate workarounds for lucrative oil sales and other major transactions, but it is much less certain whether ordinary Iranians will be able to continue purchasing imported medicine and medical devices.  After all, why would an American company even bother to apply to get a license to sell a medical device in Iran if there is no way to actually sell the device in Iran?

It is unclear if this will concern the bill’s sponsors.  After all, Israeli officials recently went on the record advocating for sanctions to literally starve ordinary Iranians in order to try to get the regime to capitulate on the nuclear issue.

As for sanctioning other countries’ central banks, the downsides are obvious enough.  Imagine how the following conversation might end:

“Hey China, stop trading with Iran or we’ll sanction your central bank. Yes, your central bank…  Umm yeah, I know you have a trillion U.S. Treasury bills…”

Soon enough we’ll hear that these sanctions are necessary to make diplomacy work and won’t spike the price of gas.  When that happens, just remember the words of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Executive Director, Mark Dubowitz, who has said that the sanctions he is advocating for “would quash any hopes for progress through engagement” and “could also shock the oil markets, possibly causing considerable political trouble for Obama in an election year.”

  • 1 March 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Sanctions

Collective punishment was always the point of crippling Iran sanctions

A YNet article, “Israeli officials: Starve Iranians to stop nukes” is reopening the debate about what is the goal of our broad sanctions regime against Iran, with some saying such sentiments reek of collective punishment.

But really, the cat has been out of the bag on this one for a long time.  Broad, indiscriminate, “crippling” sanctions on Iran have always been designed to inflict pain on ordinary Iranians.  The leading supporters of crippling sanctions admitted years ago that  collective punishment was exactly the point.

See the rationale for crippling sanctions as explained by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), when he was asked in August 2010 why the Obama Administration was resisting his aggressive push for an oil embargo on Iran:

Q: The oil embargo or quarantine sounds like a very plausible alternative … why the opposition from the administration?

Kirk: Um, in a discussion I recently had with administrative officials they said we would feel worried that it would hurt the Iranian people… (laughs)

But it’s that actual pain that I think has to be imposed, in my view, a gasoline quarantine would immediately trigger anti-American demonstrations in downtown Tehran, organized by the regime.

But over time the regime fears large groups of people gathering because as you know a mob can turn very quickly.

When you hear that you can’t get enough gasoline that day, and you read in the state controlled paper that it’s Barack Obama’s fault, you’ll be mad at Barack Obama that week.

But as your factory closed down and as the refrigerator starts to run out, the naturally tendency of any people is turn to their own leader and say “fix this”.

I cannot feed a nuclear weapon to my family. It is more important to feed my family than eat nuclear weapons. And that’s the dilemma you want to put them in.

And don’t forget Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), author of legislation aimed at crashing Iranian civilian planes, who explained:

“Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people.  Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”

The irony here is that, particularly in Kirk’s case, the supporters of crippling sanctions all claim to be supporters of human rights in Iran.  They just don’t support the right for Iranians to eat.

It is also interesting to note the two shining examples of broad sanctions we have seen over the last two decades: Iraq – where a ruthless dictator thrived while his people died under brutal sanctions, and ultimately was only toppled through trillion dollar U.S. military invasion and occupation; and North Korea – where a ruthless regime continues to stay fat,  happy, and nuclear armed while its subjects starve to death.

  • 19 October 2011
  • Posted By Sina Kashefipour
  • 3 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Neo-Con Agenda, Sanctions, US-Iran War

The nuclear option: central bank sanctions

Last August, a letter pushed by AIPAC from Mark Kirk (R-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), 92 Senators called for the White House to impose sanctions on Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi.

Though the Wall Street Journal reported that such action could be considered an act of war, Kirk posed an ultimatum to the Obama Administration–either issue sanctions or we’ll pass legislation to force your hand:

“The administration will face a choice of whether it wants to lead this effort or be forced to act,” Mr. Kirk said.

Now, in the aftermath of the alleged assasination plot, the White House is signaling that it may be going forward with the central bank sanctions.

Such sanctions–if heeded by the international community–would destabilize the rial, Iran’s currency, and make it nearly impossible for Iranians to to import and access basic foodstuffs and medical supplies.

It is clear that the Iranian government, as it is now, receives little to no legitimacy from democratic consent. Yet the strategy going forth is to actively punish the population with sanctions on Bank Markazi, Iran Air, Mahan Air et al and not the government with the expectation that punishing the people is holding the government responsible for its failings and violence.

Kirk says that if we can impose enough punishment on ordinary Iranians, it will spark a revolution that would topple Iran’s government.  Such arguments are not supported by the evidence.  Look at the sanctions in place against North Korea, where the population today is starving.  Or the sanctions against Saddam–some of the most stringent, economically devastating sanctions imaginable against Iraq’s oil exports and banking system.  They did nothing to displace Saddam’s regime, which managed to deflect all of the suffering onto the population.  Ultimately those measures killed half a million ordinary Iraqis and ultimately paved a path to a disastrous war.

Such a step is effectively collective punishment of the people of Iran.  But literally starving average Iranians is just fine according to Kirk, who moonlights as a human rights supporter (as long as supporting human rights means ratcheting up hawkish Middle East policies, not actually protecting human rights).

  • 26 May 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Neo-Con Agenda, Sanctions

Toxic sanctions

On Tuesday, the Obama Administration announced a new round of sanctions against seven companies that were found in violation of Iran energy sanctions  passed into law last year.

One of the companies, PDVSA, was sanctioned for selling Iran a compound called reformate—which is used to make gasoline burn cleaner.

As reported in December by the Washington Post, U.S. sanctions have prevented Iran from importing gasoline, which has led Iran to turn out a lower quality, locally produced gas mixture.  The local gas is highly toxic and has caused a spike in air pollution that has been linked to a rise in repertory disorders and even cancer.

Now, the U.S. has imposed sanctions on a company for selling Iran reformate that can used to detoxify that gas.

Administration officials were asked about the move by a BBC Persian reporter yesterday:

“We’ve been getting lots of reports of medical experts in Iran saying what Iran is producing inside in haste is not clean and it’s causing cancer…Now, you’re targeting a company that is selling them an equipment to clean that up. How do you justify that, telling the Iranian people that we want to make sure the gasoline you’re driving on is not even clean?

The official response was that “the Administration is charged with implementing the law, and the law is very clear that refined products, including reformate, are subject to the sanctions.”

So that begs the question for lawmakers like Senator Mark Kirk, who presents himself as a champion of human rights in Iran while simultaneously calling for draconian nuclear sanctions:  how can you claim to support the Iranian people while at the same time working to poison the air they breathe?

  • 5 March 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Election 2010, Events in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions

Mark Kirk’s Fuzzy Iran Logic

On February 19, Mark Kirk, a Republican Congressman from Illinois running for a promotion to the US Senate, delivered a speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs to share his views on Iran policy.  While initial reports didn’t indicate anything much new was said by the Representative, who has been calling for a gasoline “quarantine” on Iranians since 2007, audio from the event has just been released that reveals some troubling insights into Kirk’s gasoline embargo rationale.

During the Q&A, Kirk brushed aside concerns that a gasoline embargo will hurt innocent Iranians and stated that, in fact, the US should punish innocent Iranians as a means to engineer anti-government protests in Iran:

Q: The oil embargo or quarantine sounds like a very plausible alternative … why the opposition from the administration?

Kirk: Um, in a discussion I recently had with administrative officials they said we would feel worried that it would hurt the Iranian people… (laughs)

But it’s that actual pain that I think has to be imposed, in my view, a gasoline quarantine would immediately trigger anti-American demonstrations in downtown Tehran, organized by the regime.

But over time the regime fears large groups of people gathering because as you know a mob can turn very quickly.

When you hear that you can’t get enough gasoline that day, and you read in the state controlled paper that it’s Barack Obama’s fault, you’ll be mad at Barack Obama that week.

But as your factory closed down and as the refrigerator starts to run out, the naturally tendency of any people is turn to their own leader and say “fix this”.

I cannot feed a nuclear weapon to my family. It is more important to feed my family than eat nuclear weapons. And that’s the dilemma you want to put them in.

So, the Kirk Plan, in a nutshell, is to cut off gasoline for Iranians and triggering anti-American protests in Iran.  Sounds bad so far.  But then, eventually, Kirk says, the “mobs” will turn and Iranians will suddenly start protesting against their own government.

I’m not sure if Kirk has been following Iran for the past nine months, but somebody better tell him that Iranians are already standing up to their government. And they didn’t even need Mark Kirk to engineer their discontent.

  • 23 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran

House Denounces Treatment of Baha’is in Iran

The House of Representatives passed a resolution yesterday condemning the persecution of Baha’is by the government of Iran. House Resolution 175 was sponsored by Rep. Mark S. Kirk (R-IL), and passed with a vote of 407-2. The resolution condemns the Iranian government for violating the rights of members of the Baha’i minority, and also calls on Iran to release seven leaders of the Baha’i community who were arrested during the Spring of 2008.

In statement made after the resolution passed, Rep. Kirk said “Today, the House of Representatives sends a signal to the Iranian regime…To the dictators in Iran we say, release your political prisoners, especially release your Baha’i prisoners, and end your ignorant and uncultured persecution of the peaceful Baha’is.”

The seven Baha’i coordinators, Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Mahvash Sabet, Vahid Tizfahm, Raha Sabet, Sasan Taqva, and Haleh Roohi, were arrested by the Iranian government and accused of being linked to foreign elements. However, the Baha’i International Community has maintained that they were detained as a result of their religious affiliation.

Members of the Baha’i faith represent Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious group. Iranian Baha’is have suffered from government persecution since the 1979 Revolution.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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