Thursday, 26 August 2010

Does Palestinian non-violent resistance pose a greater existential threat to Israeli apartheid than Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran combined?

Baroness Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, yesterday issued an unusually sharp rebuke to Israel over a military court's conviction of a Palestinian activist prominent in unarmed protests against the West Bank separation barrier.
Lady Ashton said she was "deeply concerned" that Abdallah Abu Rahma was facing a possible jail sentence "to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the separation barriers in a non-violent manner". ...
He is in jail, awaiting sentencing next month. He was detained last December by troops who arrived at his Ramallah home at 2am in seven jeeps as part of what anti-barrier activists say has been an escalating wave of arrests of protesters in West Bank villages, angry about the barrier and settlements encroaching on Palestinian land.
Pointing out that the European Union regarded the barrier as "illegal" where – as at Bil'in – it was built on Palestinian land, the EU's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy said the EU considered Mr Abu Rahma, who works as a teacher at a private school, to be "a human rights defender committed to non-violent protest".
Donald Mcintyre, writing in today's Independent chronicles the arrest, trial and sentencing of Abu Rahma, leader of the anti-barrier protests that take place in Bil'in each week.
Read more of his report on how the Israeli authorities are vainly trying to suppress non-violent resistence to their illegal occupation of Palestine.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

McCarthyism in Israeli Universities

Shlomo Gazit is a former head of Military Intelligence, director-general of the Jewish Agency and president of Ben-Gurion University. In this outspoken plea,'Shut Down the Universities' published by Haaretz, he challenges the rise of McCarthyism in Israel. He warns that 'Israeli society is on the verge of being consumed by a menacing wave of McCarthyism stoked by nationalist movements and publicity-hungry legislators.'

More than 20 years have passed since I served as president of Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, but I still take an interest in what's happening there. So a recent headline in this newspaper caught my eye: "Im Tirtzu threatens Ben-Gurion University with donor boycott" (August 17 ). I asked myself how I would have reacted if I had faced such a predicament as the school's president. Afterward I heard my colleague, BGU President Rivka Carmi, condemn the threat in a radio interview, but in the next breath she played down the significance of Im Tirtzu's demand to fire left-leaning professors. Carmi holds the view that the university should ignore the organization and its letter.

I pondered her statements and came to a completely different conclusion: The threat posed by Im Tirtzu does not stand in a vacuum. Israeli society is on the verge of being consumed by a menacing wave of McCarthyism stoked by nationalist movements and publicity-hungry legislators. If we ignore this wave and it's not stopped immediately, it will endanger - perhaps even destroy - Israeli democracy.

According to Wikipedia, McCarthyism is the "political action of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence." Unfortunately, this is what has been taking place here recently.

It is particularly sad that the authorities have kept quiet on the matter. No one is condemning this phenomenon, nor will anyone act to thwart it. We have not heard any remarks on this issue from the president, prime minister, Knesset speaker, chairman of the Knesset Education Committee or Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Council for Higher Education's Planning and Budgeting Committee.

I must acknowledge that I have my own criticisms of many of the people who have been "denounced and besmirched." I utterly reject their statements and positions. Nonetheless, I absolutely oppose any attempt to silence them. What is being tested now is not their positions but the shutting of mouths.

Apart from the New Israel Fund, most of the pressure is being put on the universities - certain departments and lecturers who are being pilloried for the sin of showing a lack of loyalty to the state, Zionism and the people.

If I were the university's president today, I would demand that we immediately hold a conference that would include the heads of all the major academic institutions and the Council for Higher Education to discuss the situation. My proposal would be the most serious threat possible to shake up the system. I would demand that the government and Knesset act immediately to stop this dangerous snowball from gaining momentum. Failure to do so would result in the closure of all institutions of higher education, and the new academic year would not open.

Im Tirtzu handed down an ultimatum to the university: Fire leftist professors or we'll dissuade donors from giving money. The donors, who include some of the university's good friends, will have to understand what the universities are fighting for and why they are shutting down. The danger of McCarthyism speaks to them even more than to the Israeli public. They will be the first to support the struggle for democracy; they will be the first to threaten to turn off the spigot of donations to Israel, and not just to the universities.

If we don't act immediately, and with all the tools the law provides, we will find McCarthyism inside our homes.
 Source: Haaretz

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Super Nikon Lens for Sale 80-400mm

I'm selling one of my superb Nikon lenses.

Nikon 80-400mm F4.5-5.6D AF VR Lens
Boxed and in superb condition. Very little use. Read Ken Rockwell's assessment if in any doubt. One Vicar owner. You are welcome to view before purchase. Complete with both end caps, hood, tripod collar, manual, warranty card and soft case. Fully insured shipping by Royal Mail Special Delivery or willing to deliver within M25. Buy here on Amazon for £770 or direct for £745 + postage.

View pictures taken with this lens here

Monday, 16 August 2010

Holy Land Pilgrimage: 21st - 30th October 2011

A comprehensive 10-day half-term pilgrimage based in Jerusalem and the Galilee.

In the Middle East, the reality on the ground is often far removed from what we see and read in the news. Places of pilgrimage are open and welcoming visitors. We have planned our programme for late October during the half-term holidays, which is considered to be a lovely time to visit the Holy Land. We will have the opportunity to worship with the local Christian community in Jerusalem on the Sunday morning and on our journey through the Holy Land to seek them out and to offer our support and encouragement.

Visits will include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea and Qumran, as well as allowing free time for relaxation and private exploration. We will walk along the Via Dolorosa, sail on the Sea of Galilee, float on the Dead Sea and ascend the Mount of Masada by cable car. The Holy Land is unique in offering so many highlights and contrasts in such a compact area. Each day of our pilgrimage will be very different from the previous one.

The pilgrimage will include opportunities to meet with the Living Stones, the indignous Christians of the Holy Land, as well as Jewish and Muslim peacemakers. We hope to meet with ICAHD (Israel Committee Against House Demolitions) or World Vision. We will also encounter the Separation Wall and possibly a Jewish settlement, a Palestinian refugee camp and staff of the Bethlehem Arab Rehabilitation Centre in Beit Jala.

We stay in two family owned and managed hotels. In Jerusalem, the three star Golden Walls Hotel overlooks the Old City walls and is walking distance of the Holy Sepulchre. In Tiberias, we stay at the four star Ron Beach Hotel in a wonderful situation right on the lakeside. The tour is on a half-board basis with buffet breakfast and table d’hote evening meal included daily. Touring is in air-conditioned coaches and we will be accompanied by a local guide who will share leadership responsibilities and look after the formalities of hotel check-ins etc. All entrance fees are included. Flights are with EL AL Israel Airlines between Luton Airport and Tel Aviv and returning from Tel Aviv into London Heathrow.

For more information download the brochure from here

With God on our Side: Autumn US Tour

With God On Our Side - Trailer 2 from Porter Speakman Jr on Vimeo.
Check out the venues for the US Autumn Tour here

With God on our Side is now rated 5th on Amazon's religious films.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Christian Zionism in the Dock: Christianity Today Review

Christian Zionism in the Dock
Two documentaries take on the controversial theology.

If two new documentary films are any indication, Christian Zionism is officially on notice. The filmmakers of Waiting for Armageddon (First Run Features) and With God on Our Side (Rooftop Productions) explore problems with believing that God has a special plan for ethnic Israel and thus politically advocating on behalf of the modern state of Israel. The first film probes the movement from the inside—the politically powerful (and potentially explosive) alliance between evangelicals and Israel. The second is more of an outsider's perspective, examining the situation from a Palestinian point of view.

The three directors of Armageddon are non-Christians concerned about the "unlikely relationship" between Christians and Israel. To learn more, they seek out Christian Zionist professors, pastors, authors, families—even a tour group in Israel. The interviewees explain that the Jewish people must reclaim all of Israel for Jesus to return to earth.

Also interviewed are Jews in Israel who, interestingly, are ambivalent toward their Christian allies. They admit they like the money and political clout the alliance brings, but they resent being seen as pawns in a Christian endgame.

The directors' lack of familiarity with their subject matter both helps and hinders the film. On the plus side, Armageddon steps back and lets Zionists speak for themselves, giving viewers fuller pictures of them as people. Especially revealing is the manner in which the Zionists express their beliefs. 

One Zionist describes the Apocalypse with the seething language of Revelation in an utterly matter-of-fact tone. Another man sounds flippant. The emotional disconnect is striking. Since the film forgoes narration, the gaze of the camera at the juxtaposition feels like an open-mouthed gape. 

But while Armageddon delivers vivid close-ups, it distorts the big picture. Most glaringly, it assumes that all evangelicals hold Christian Zionist convictions. So the film's implied cry to the public—"Look out, there are 50 million people in America itching to ignite Armageddon!"—is grossly misleading.

Still, there are many evangelical Zionists, which is why Porter Speakman Jr. made With God on Our Side. A Christian pastor, Speakman asks such Zionists to reevaluate their absolute support of Israel. He presents historical context, theological perspective, and on-the-ground impressions.
A scene from 'With God on Our Side'
A scene from 'With God on Our Side'

The film's history primer clearly traces the roots of Christian Zionist thinking to the 19th-century "father of dispensationalism," John Nelson Darby, and recaps key political turning points in the Holy Land. Such history suggests that Palestinians' claims to the land cannot be easily dismissed.
For people like John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, these muddy political waters are cleared up by Scripture. Both documentaries are framed with clips of Hagee shouting Zionist exhortations to energized crowds. It's sensational material. But to its credit,  

With God on Our Side also interviews Hagee, letting him articulate his position: The Abrahamic covenant's promise of land, he argues, still applies today and trumps all else.

Hagee's dissenters then step in and distinguish between his two-covenant theology (ethnic Israel plus the church) and a one-covenant theology (believing Gentiles grafted into believing Israel). It's not difficult to figure out which camp Speakman belongs to, but he gives both sides their due. This basic theological contextualization is sorely needed for Christians who are divided by this issue.

Speakman works hardest to show how ordinary Palestinians, including fellow Christians, are being hurt by Israel's policies, particularly in the West Bank. Some might consider this segment slanted, since Israelis get little screen time, but Speakman is telling a story he thinks his intended audience has not heard. Whether one agrees with Speakman or not, his challenging glimpses remind us that people are at stake here.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Two Great Nikon Lenses for Sale

I am pruning my Nikon lens collection and wish to sell my 28mm-200mm f/3.5-5.6 D IF AF for £199.

Ken Rockwell says "This lens is far better than you think. Selling for $500 it covers an enormous range of focal lengths, and works far better that it has any right to...It is also the best made lens you can get for your Nikon"

I am also selling my 24-85mm F3.5-4.5 G for £185.  Ken Rockwell says this is "the best priced mid-sized zoom" ... "This is a tiny, fun and easy-to-use cheesy plastic zoom lens that is also the best performing midrange zoom I've ever used! It is clearly superior to the older 24-85mm f/2.8-4 AF-D, 24-120mm Streetsweeper and 28-105mm AF-D lenses I also bought or tried before I bought this one."

Both are boxed and in 'like new' condition. If you are interested or want to try either out first, let me know.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Former US Intelligence Officers warn Israel may attack Iran this month

The Washington Report along with the Council for the National Interest have jointly published a letter to the US President from former US Intelligence Officers warning of the consequences of an attack on Isran which they regard as imminent.

We write to alert you to the likelihood that Israel will attack Iran as early as this month. This would likely lead to a wider war. Israel’s leaders would calculate that once the battle is joined, it will be politically untenable for you to give anything less than unstinting support to Israel, no matter how the war started, and that U.S. troops and weaponry would flow freely. Wider war could eventually result in destruction of the state of Israel. This can be stopped, but only if you move quickly to preempt an Israeli attack by publicly condemning such a move before it happens.

We believe that comments by senior American officials, you included, reflect misplaced trust in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Actually, the phrasing itself can be revealing, as when CIA Director Panetta implied cavalierly that Washington leaves it up to the Israelis to decide whether and when to attack Iran, and how much “room” to give to the diplomatic effort. On June 27, Panetta casually told ABC’s Jake Tapper, “I think they are willing to give us the room to be able to try to change Iran diplomatically … as opposed to changing them militarily.”

Similarly, the tone you struck referring to Netanyahu and yourself in your July 7 interview with Israeli TV was distinctly out of tune with decades of unfortunate history with Israeli leaders. “Neither of us try to surprise each other,” you said, “and that approach is one that I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to.” You may wish to ask Vice President Biden to remind you of the kind of surprises he has encountered in Israel.

Blindsiding has long been an arrow in Israel’s quiver. During the emerging Middle East crisis in the spring of 1967, some of us witnessed closely a flood of Israeli surprises and deception, as Netanyahu’s predecessors feigned fear of an imminent Arab attack as justification for starting a war to seize and occupy Arab territories. We had long since concluded that Israel had been exaggerating the Arab “threat” – well before 1982 when former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin publicly confessed:

“In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”

Israel had, in fact, prepared well militarily and also mounted provocations against its neighbors, in order to provoke a response that could be used to justify expansion of its borders.

Given this record, one would be well advised to greet with appropriate skepticism any private assurances Netanyahu may have given you that Israel would not surprise you with an attack on Iran.

Netanyahu’s Calculations

Netanyahu believes he holds the high cards, largely because of the strong support he enjoys in our Congress and our strongly pro-Israel media. He reads your reluctance even to mention in controversial bilateral issues publicly during his recent visit as affirmation that he is in the catbird seat in the relationship. During election years in the U.S. (including mid-terms), Israeli leaders are particularly confident of the power they and the Likud Lobby enjoy on the American political scene.

This prime minister learned well from Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu’s attitude comes through in a video taped nine years ago and shown on Israeli TV, in which he bragged about how he deceived President Clinton into believing he (Netanyahu) was helping implement the Oslo accords when he was actually destroying them. The tape displays a contemptuous attitude toward – and wonderment at – an America so easily influenced by Israel. Netanyahu says:

“America is something that can be easily moved. Moved in the right direction. … They won’t get in our way. … Eighty percent of the Americans support us. It’s absurd.”

Israeli columnist Gideon Levy wrote that the video shows Netanyahu to be “a con artist … who thinks that Washington is in his pocket and that he can pull the wool over its eyes,” adding that such behavior “does not change over the years.” As mentioned above, Netanyahu has had instructive role models.

None other than Gen. Brent Scowcroft told the Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized,” that “Sharon just has him “wrapped around his little finger.” (Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and told never again to darken the White House doorstep.)

If further proof of American political support for Netanyahu were needed, it was manifest when Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Graham visited Israel during the second week of July. Lieberman asserted that there is wide support in Congress for using all means to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including “through military actions if we must.” Graham was equally explicit: “The Congress has Israel’s back,” he said. More recently, 47 House Republicans have signed onto H.R. 1553 declaring “support for Israel’s right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by Iran … including the use of military force.”

The power of the Likud Lobby, especially in an election year, facilitates Netanyahu’s attempts to convince those few of his colleagues who need convincing that there may never be a more auspicious time to bring about “regime change” in Tehran. And, as we hope your advisers have told you, regime change, not Iranian nuclear weapons, is Israel’s primary concern.

If Israel’s professed fear that one or two nuclear weapons in Iran’s arsenal would be a game changer, one would have expected Israeli leaders to jump with up and down with glee at the possibility of seeing half of Iran’s low enriched uranium shipped abroad. Instead, they dismissed as a “trick” the tripartite deal, brokered by Turkey and Brazil with your personal encouragement, that would ship half of Iran’s low enriched uranium outside Tehran’s control.

The National Intelligence Estimate

The Israelis have been looking on intently as the U.S. intelligence community attempts to update, in a “Memorandum to Holders” of the NIE of November 2007 on Iran’s nuclear program. It is worth recalling a couple of that Estimate’s key judgments:

“We judge with high confidence that in fall of 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. … We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons….”

Earlier this year, public congressional testimony by former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair (February 1 and 2) and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Ronald Burgess with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright (April 14) did not alter those key judgments. Blair and others continued to underscore the intelligence community’s agnosticism on one key point: as Blair put it earlier this year, “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build a nuclear weapon.”

The media have reported off-the-cuff comments by Panetta and by you, with a darker appraisal – with you telling Israeli TV, “all indicators are that they [the Iranians] are in fact pursuing a nuclear weapon,” and Panetta telling ABC, “I think they continue to work on designs in that area [of weaponization].” Panetta hastened to add, though, that in Tehran, “There is a continuing debate right now as to whether or not they ought to proceed with the bomb.”

Israel probably believes it must give more weight to the official testimony of Blair, Burgess, and Cartwright, which dovetail with the earlier NIE, and the Israelis are afraid that the long-delayed Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE will essentially affirm that Estimate’s key judgments. Our sources tell us that an honest Memorandum to Holders is likely to do precisely that, and that they suspect that the several-months-long delay means intelligence judgments are being “fixed” around the policy – as was the case before the attack on Iraq.

One War Prevented

The key judgments of the November 2007 NIE shoved an iron rod into the wheel spokes of the Dick Cheney-led juggernaut rolling toward war on Iran. The NIE infuriated Israel leaders eager to attack before President Bush and Cheney left office. This time, Netanyahu fears that issuance of an honest Memorandum might have a similar effect.

Bottom line: more incentive for Israel to preempt such an Estimate by striking Iran sooner rather than later.

Last week’s announcement that U.S. officials will meet next month with Iranian counterparts to resume talks on ways to arrange higher enrichment of Iranian low-enriched uranium (LEU) for Tehran’s medical research reactor was welcome news to all but the Israeli leaders. In addition, Iran reportedly has said it would be prepared to halt enrichment to 20 percent (the level needed for the medical research reactor) and has made it clear that it looks forward to the resumption of talks.

Again, an agreement that would send a large portion of Iran’s LEU abroad would, at a minimum, hinder progress toward nuclear weapons, should Iran decide to develop them. But it would also greatly weaken Israel’s scariest rationale for an attack on Iran. Bottom line: with the talks on what Israel’s leaders earlier labeled a “trick” now scheduled to resume in September, incentive builds in Tel Aviv for the Israelis to attack before any such agreement can be reached. We’ll say it again: the objective is regime change. Creating synthetic fear of Iranian nuclear weapons is simply the best way to “justify” bringing about regime change. Worked well for Iraq, no?

Another War in Need of Prevention

A strong public statement by you, personally warning Israel not to attack Iran, would most probably head off such an Israeli move. Follow-up might include dispatching Adm. Mullen to Tel Aviv with military-to-military instructions to Israel: Don’t even think of it.

In the wake of the 2007 NIE, President Bush overruled Vice President Cheney and sent Adm. Mullen to Israel to impart that hard message. A much-relieved Mullen arrived home that spring sure of step and grateful that he had dodged the likelihood of being on the end of a Cheney-inspired order for him to send U.S. forces into war with Iran.

This time around, Mullen returned with sweaty palms from a visit to Israel in February 2010. Ever since, he has been worrying aloud that Israel might mousetrap the U.S. into war with Iran, while adding the obligatory assurance that the Pentagon does have an attack plan for Iran, if needed. In contrast to his experience in 2008, though, Mullen seemed troubled that Israel’s leaders did not take his warnings seriously.

While in Israel, Mullen insisted publicly that an attack on Iran would be “a big, big, big problem for all of us, and I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences.”

After his return, at a Pentagon press conference on Feb. 22 Mullen drove home the same point. After reciting the usual boilerplate about Iran being “on the path to achieve nuclear weaponization” and its “desire to dominate its neighbors,” he included the following in his prepared remarks:

“For now, the diplomatic and the economic levers of international power are and ought to be the levers first pulled. Indeed, I would hope they are always and consistently pulled. No strike, however effective, will be, in and of itself, decisive.”

Unlike younger generals – David Petraeus, for example – Adm. Mullen served in the Vietnam War. That experience is probably what prompts asides like this: “I would remind everyone of an essential truth: War is bloody and uneven. It’s messy and ugly and incredibly wasteful….” Although the immediate context for that remark was Afghanistan, Mullen has underscored time and again that war with Iran would be a far larger disaster. Those with a modicum of familiarity with the military, strategic, and economic equities at stake know he is right.

Other Steps

In 2008, after Mullen read the Israelis the riot act, they put their preemptive plans for Iran aside. With that mission accomplished, Mullen gave serious thought to ways to prevent any unintended (or, for that matter, deliberately provoked) incidents in the crowded Persian Gulf that could lead to wider hostilities.

Mullen sent up an interesting trial balloon at a July 2, 2008, press conference, when he indicated that military-to-military dialogue could “add to a better understanding” between the U.S. and Iran. But nothing more was heard of this overture, probably because Cheney ordered him to drop it.

It was a good idea – still is. The danger of a U.S.-Iranian confrontation in the crowded Persian Gulf has not been addressed, and should be. Establishment of a direct communications link between top military officials in Washington and Tehran would reduce the danger of an accident, miscalculation, or covert, false-flag attack.

In our view, that should be done immediately – particularly since recently introduced sanctions assert a right to inspect Iranian ships. The naval commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly has threatened “a response in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz” if anyone tries to inspect Iranian ships in international waters.

Another safety valve would result from successful negotiation of the kind of bilateral “incidents-at-sea” protocol that was concluded with the Russians in 1972 during a period of relatively high tension.

With only interim nobodies at the helm of the intelligence community, you may wish to consider knocking some heads together yourself and insisting that it finish an honest Memorandum to Holders of the 2007 NIE by mid-August – recording any dissents, as necessary. Sadly, our former colleagues tell us that politicization of intelligence analysis did not end with the departure of Bush and Cheney… and that the problem is acute even at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which in the past has done some of the best professional, objective, tell-it-like-it-is analysis.

Pundits, Think-Tanks: Missing the Point

As you may have noticed, most of page one of Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section was given to an article titled, “A Nuclear Iran: Would America Strike to Prevent It? – Imagining Obama’s Response to an Iranian Missile Crisis.” Page five was dominated by the rest of the article, under the title “Who will blink first when Iran is on the brink?” A page-wide photo of a missile rolling past Iranian dignitaries on a reviewing stand (reminiscent of the familiar parades on Red Square) is aimed at the centerfold of the Outlook section, as if poised to blow it to smithereens.

Typically, the authors address the Iranian “threat” as though it endangers the U.S., even though Secretary Clinton has stated publicly that this is not the case. They write that one option for the U.S. is “the lonely, unpopular path of taking military action lacking allied consensus.” O Tempora, O Mores! In less than a decade, wars of aggression have become nothing more than lonely, unpopular paths.

What is perhaps most remarkable, though, is that the word Israel is nowhere to be found in this very long article. Similar think pieces, including some from relatively progressive think-tanks, also address these issues as though they were simply bilateral U.S.-Iranian problems, with little or no attention to Israel.

Guns of August?

The stakes could hardly be higher. Letting slip the dogs of war would have immense repercussions. Again, we hope that Adm. Mullen and others have given you comprehensive briefings on them. Netanyahu would be taking a fateful gamble by attacking Iran, with high risk to everyone involved. The worst, but conceivable case, has Netanyahu playing – unintentionally – Dr. Kevorkian to the state of Israel.

Even if the U.S. were to be sucked into a war provoked by Israel, there is absolutely no guarantee that the war would come out well. Were the U.S. to suffer significant casualties, and were Americans to become aware that such losses came about because of exaggerated Israeli claims of a nuclear threat from Iran, Israel could lose much of its high standing in the United States. There could even be a surge in anti-Semitism, as Americans conclude that officials with dual loyalties in Congress and the executive branch threw our troops into a war provoked, on false pretenses, by Likudniks for their own narrow purposes. We do not have a sense that major players in Tel Aviv or in Washington are sufficiently sensitive to these critical factors.

You are in position to prevent this unfortunate but likely chain reaction. We allow for the possibility that Israeli military action might not lead to a major regional war, but we consider the chances of that much less than even.

Footnote: VIPS Experience

We VIPS have found ourselves in this position before. We prepared our first Memorandum for the President on the afternoon of Feb. 5, 2003, after Colin Powell’s speech at the UN. We had been watching how our profession was being corrupted into serving up faux intelligence that was later criticized (correctly) as “uncorroborated, contradicted, and nonexistent” – adjectives used by former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Jay Rockefeller after a five-year investigation by his committee. As Powell spoke, we decided collectively that the responsible thing to do was to try to warn the president before he acted on misguided advice to attack Iraq. Unlike Powell, we did not claim that our analysis was “irrefutable and undeniable.” We did conclude with this warning [.pdf]:

“After watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”

We take no satisfaction at having gotten it right on Iraq. Others with claim to more immediate expertise on Iraq were issuing similar warnings. But we were kept well away from the wagons circled by Bush and Cheney. Sadly, your own vice president, who was then chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, was among the most assiduous in blocking opportunities for dissenting voices to be heard. This is part of what brought on the worst foreign policy disaster in our nation’s history.

We now believe that we may also be right on (and right on the cusp of) another impending catastrophe of even wider scope – Iran – on which another president, you, are not getting good advice from your closed circle of advisers.

They are probably telling you that, since you have privately counseled Prime Minister Netanyahu against attacking Iran, he will not do it. This could simply be the familiar syndrome of telling the president what they believe he wants to hear. Quiz them; tell them others believe them to be dead wrong on Netanyahu. The only positive here is that you – only you – can prevent an Israeli attack on Iran.

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
Phil Giraldi, directorate of operations, CIA (20 years)

Larry Johnson, directorate of intelligence, CIA; Department of State, Department of Defense consultant (24 years)

W. Patrick Lang, colonel, USA, Special Forces (ret.); Senior Executive Service: defense intelligence officer for Middle East/South Asia; director of HUMINT Collection, Defense Intelligence Agency (30 years)

Ray McGovern, U.S. Army intelligence officer; directorate of intelligence, CIA (30 years)

Coleen Rowley, special agent and Minneapolis division counsel, FBI (24 years)

Ann Wright, colonel, U.S. Army Reserve (ret.), (29 years); Foreign Service officer, Department of State (16 years)


See also Gwynne Dyer, Attacking Iran: US Options