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Journal Archives

Former Insiders Criticise Iran Policy as U.S. Hegemony

By Gareth Porter Reprint

Review of Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett's "Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran" (Metropolitan Books, 2013)

WASHINGTON, Feb 25 2013 (IPS) - “Going to Tehran” arguably represents the most important work on the subject of U.S.-Iran relations to be published thus far.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett tackle not only U.S. policy toward Iran but the broader context of Middle East policy with a systematic analytical perspective informed by personal experience, as well as very extensive documentation.

More importantly, however, their exposé required a degree of courage that may be unparalleled in the writing of former U.S. national security officials about issues on which they worked. They have chosen not just to criticise U.S. policy toward Iran but to analyse that policy as a problem of U.S. hegemony.

Their national security state credentials are impeccable. They both served at different times as senior coordinators dealing with Iran on the National Security Council Staff, and Hillary Mann Leverett was one of the few U.S. officials who have been authorised to negotiate with Iranian officials.

- See more at: http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/former-insiders-criticise-iran-policy-as-u-s-hegemony/#sthash.IGi6nRkp.dpuf

Democracy Now: Billionaires for Austerity: With Cuts Looming, Wall Street Roots of "Fix the Debt"

Campaign Exposed.

With $85 billion across-the-board spending cuts, known as "the sequestration," set to take effect this Friday, a new investigation reveals how billionaire investors, such as Peter Peterson, have helped reshaped the national debate on the economy, the debt and social spending. Between 2007 and 2011, Peterson personally contributed nearly $500 million to his Peter G. Peterson Foundation to push Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — while providing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Peterson’s main platform has been the Campaign to Fix the Debt. While the campaign is portrayed as a citizen-led effort, critics say the campaign is a front for business groups. The campaign has direct ties to GE, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Peterson is the former chair and CEO of Lehman Brothers and co-founder of the private equity firm, The Blackstone Group. For more, we speak to John Nichols of The Nation and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy. [includes rush transcript]


John Nichols, political writer for The Nation. His latest article is "The Austerity Agenda: An Electoral Loser."

Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy and an editor of Pete Peterson Pyramid, a new website that connects the dots between billionaire Pete Peterson and the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

AARON MATÉ: We begin with the Capitol Hill showdown over the $85 billion across-the-board budget cuts taking effect this Friday. The White House and analysts fear the so-called "sequester" could jeopardize hundreds of thousands of jobs. While Republicans and Democrats largely agree the cuts are ill-advised, they are far from reaching any sort of agreement. President Obama wants Republicans to end tax breaks, mostly for the wealthy; Republicans are insisting government spending be cut first. This is House Speaker John Boehner.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester. Well, Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington. Instead of using our military men and women as campaign props, if the president was serious, he’d sit down with Harry Reid and begin to address our problems. The House has acted twice. We shouldn’t have to act a third time before the Senate begins to do their work.

in full: http://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/26/billionaires_for_austerity_with_cuts_looming

Israel's democracy myth

February 13, 2013

Israel's attack of a Hezbollah convoy is more complicated than we think, writes Perry.

Back in 1993, just months before signing the Oslo Peace Accords with Yasser Arafat in Washington, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was asked by a group of journalists which Arab leader he trusted the most. He didn't hesitate when he said: "Hafez Assad." The answer took some in the group by surprise - Rabin had not only never met Assad, he'd spurned an American suggestion the year before that concluding a peace agreement with Syria would be easier than concluding one with the Palestinians.

But Rabin was adamant. "Hafez Assad keeps his word," he explained and then, after a moment's hesitation, he added, "and he knows how to deal with Islamists." Rabin's matter-of-fact statement needed no further explanation, for everyone knew what he meant: nary a single shell had been fired from Syria into Israel since Assad had agreed to a ceasefire with Israel in the wake of the 1973 war - and when threatened with an uprising by Islamist groups in Hama in February 1982, he sent his younger brother Rifat into the city, along with 12,000 troops, to crush it. The resulting "Hama Massacre" levelled the city and took the lives of more than 20,000 Hama residents - and 1,000 of the regime's soldiers.

If Rabin had made his declaration in America, and in public, it might have become known as "the Rabin Doctrine" and extolled as a sanguine expression of "realpolitik" - that, given a choice, the Government of Israel not only prefers Arab dictators to Arab democracies, but finds dealing with Arab democracies (something it has not had to do until very recently) messy and unpredictable.

'Israel's Arab Spring problem'

From Israel's point of view, this makes perfect sense: the Rabin Doctrine not only keeps intact Israel's irksome claim to be "the only democracy in the Middle East" (updated, now, to "the only real democracy in the Middle East" - whatever that means), it makes Israel's neighbours pliable, which is just how Israeli leaders like them. Put another way, Israel found it commonly easy to deal with, say, an Egypt ruled by Hosni Mubarak because it believed what he believed: that the best place for an Islamist was in a jail cell - or swinging from a gallows.

in full: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/02/2013210102718996794.html

New route to justice for poorest being denied to millions

February 5, 2013

People who have their economic, social and cultural rights routinely trampled on are set to gain a fresh route to justice via the UN – but once in force it will only immediately apply to citizens of 10 nations, Amnesty International said.

The new complaints mechanism, established by the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (the Protocol), will allow individuals and groups to seek justice from the UN if their rights – including adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, health, work, social security and education – are violated and their government fails to provide justice.

“Access to justice is essential for victims of all human rights violations and the Protocol is a key step towards accomplishing this,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Almost 40 years after the equivalent Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force we have finally achieved parity between the two treaties and meaning to the principle of indivisibility of all rights.

in full: http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/new-route-to-justice-for-poorest-being-denied-to-millions

Inequality Is Holding Back the Recovery

Joseph Stiglitz

The re-election of President Obama was like a Rorschach test, subject to many interpretations. In this election, each side debated issues that deeply worry me: the long malaise into which the economy seems to be settling, and the growing divide between the 1 percent and the rest — an inequality not only of outcomes but also of opportunity. To me, these problems are two sides of the same coin: with inequality at its highest level since before the Depression, a robust recovery will be difficult in the short term, and the American dream — a good life in exchange for hard work — is slowly dying.

Politicians typically talk about rising inequality and the sluggish recovery as separate phenomena, when they are in fact intertwined. Inequality stifles, restrains and holds back our growth. When even the free-market-oriented magazine The Economist argues — as it did in a special feature in October — that the magnitude and nature of the country’s inequality represent a serious threat to America, we should know that something has gone horribly wrong. And yet, after four decades of widening inequality and the greatest economic downturn since the Depression, we haven’t done anything about it.

A fifth of our kids live in poverty — an aberration among rich nations.

There are four major reasons inequality is squelching our recovery. The most immediate is that our middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically driven our economic growth. While the top 1 percent of income earners took home 93 percent of the growth in incomes in 2010, the households in the middle — who are most likely to spend their incomes rather than save them and who are, in a sense, the true job creators — have lower household incomes, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1996. The growth in the decade before the crisis was unsustainable — it was reliant on the bottom 80 percent consuming about 110 percent of their income.

Second, the hollowing out of the middle class since the 1970s, a phenomenon interrupted only briefly in the 1990s, means that they are unable to invest in their future, by educating themselves and their children and by starting or improving businesses.

in full: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/19/inequality-is-holding-back-the-recovery/
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