Quote of the Day: Noam Chomsky

American decline is real, though the apocalyptic vision reflects the familiar ruling class perception that anything short of total control amounts to total disaster. Despite the piteous laments, the United States remains the world dominant power by a large margin, and no competitor is in sight…

— Noam Chomsky (MIT)

What to Read on Iran

Iran’s Ties to the Taliban — Mohsen Milani

Iran’s views of the Taliban have changed considerably since 2001. Iran did not recognize the Taliban government and considered them an ideological nemesis and a major security threat that was created by Pakistan’s ISI, with generous financial support from Saudi Arabia partly for the purpose of spreading Wahhabism and undermining Iran. When the Taliban were in power in the 1990s, Iran, along with India and Russia, provided significant support to the Northern Alliance, which was the principal opposition force to Taliban rule and eventually dislodged them. Iran also contributed to dismantling the Taliban regime and to establishing a new government in Kabul in 2001.

Ironically, the strategic interests of Tehran and Taliban have converged today, as each, independent of the other and for different reasons, oppose the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and demand their immediate and unconditional withdrawal.

A Taliban-dominated government is clearly not in Iran’s long-term interests, since it would generate considerable tension and conflict between Iran and Afghanistan and would inevitably lead Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Saudi Arabia, becoming dominant foreign powers in Afghanistan, which Tehran vehemently opposes. At the same time, Tehran has for many years maintained that political stability in Afghanistan can be achieved only if the government reflects the rich ethnic and sectarian diversity of Afghanistan itself. Iran, more than anything else, wants to see a stable and friendly government in Kabul. Tehran now seems convinced that without Taliban participation in the government, as a partner but not as the main force, stability would be unattainable.

Tehran has attempted in vain to convince Karzai to call for the withdrawal of Western troops. Tensions between the two neighbors are likely to increase if there is a new agreement between Washington and Kabul about establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

Mousavian: Iran Is Ready to Negotiate…If — Semira Nikou

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,…does not object to transparency because he already issued a fatwa in 1995 against weapons of mass destruction. But he is against discrimination, suspension [of uranium enrichment], and the deprivation of Iran’s rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

On the nuclear issue, the end state for the Iranians is full rights under the NPT, without discrimination over enrichment. Other countries enrich but do not face sanctions. The nuclear impasse will not be resolved as long as U.N. resolutions are enforced because they require Iran to indefinitely suspend enrichment and provide access to sites and scientists for an indefinite period. These conditions extend beyond the framework of NPT.

Iran views indefinite suspension as a way for the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) to buy time for a long-term ban on Iran’s enrichment program and ultimately its discontinuation.

Iran and al-Qa’ida: Can the Charges Be Substantiated? — Flynt Leverett & Hillary Mann Leverett

[The] Iranians raised, almost immediately after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the problem of al-Qa’ida personnel trying to make their way from Afghanistan into Iran…

…Tehran documented its detention of literally hundreds of suspected al-Qa’ida operatives, repatriated as many of these detainees to their countries of origin as it could, and requested U.S. assistance in facilitating repatriations of detainees whose governments did not want to cooperate (a request the Bush Administration denied).

…Iranian officials acknowledged that a small group of al-Qa’ida figures had managed to avoid capture and enter Iranian territory, most likely through Sistan-Balochistan, in 2002. The Iranian government located and took some of these individuals into custody and said that others identified by the United States were either dead or not in Iran. At the beginning of May 2003, after Baghdad had fallen, Tehran offered to exchange the remaining al-Qa’ida figures in Iran for a small group of MEK commanders in Iraq, with the treatment of those repatriated to Iran monitored by the International Committee for the Red Cross and a commitment not to apply the death penalty to anyone prosecuted on their return. But the Bush Administration rejected any deal.

Of the six al-Qa’ida operatives sanctioned by the Treasury Department last week, only one is alleged to be physically present in Iran — and, by Treasury’s own account, he is there primarily to get al-Qa’ida prisoners out of Iranian jails. Moreover, the United States apparently has no hard evidence that the Iranian government is supportive of or even knowledgeable about the alleged al-Qa’ida network in the Islamic Republic.

What to Read on Rick Perry

In Texas, Perry Rides an Energy Boom — Clifford Krauss

[The] state’s economic health came at a steep price: a long-term hollowing out of its prospects because of deep cuts to education spending, low rates of investment in research and development, and a disparity in the job market that confines many blacks and Hispanics to minimum-wage jobs without health insurance.

When Mr. Perry succeeded Mr. Bush, a barrel of oil was $25. [During] his first term, global market forces began driving oil prices up. They peaked at $147 a barrel in 2008 and have largely remained above $80 over the last two years.

The oil and gas industry now delivers roughly $325 billion a year to the state, directly and indirectly. It brings in $13 billion in state tax receipts, or roughly 40 percent of the total, financing up to 20 percent of the state budget.

The federal government has also helped support Texas. Federal spending in the state, home of NASA and large Army bases, more than doubled over the last decade to over $200 billion a year.

[Before Perry entered office,] the Legislature enacted tight restrictions on mortgage lending, which helped Texas avoid the kind of real estate bubble that devastated states like Florida and Arizona.

The Ten Weirdest Ideas in Rick Perry’s “Fed Up” — Matthew Yglesias

10. Social Security is evil.
9. Private enterprise blossomed under conscription and wartime price controls.
8. Medicare is too expensive but must never be cut.
7. All bank regulation is unconstitutional.
6. Consumer financial protection is unconstitutional.
5. Almost everything is unconstitutional.
4. Federal education policy is unconstitutional.
3. Al Gore is part of a conspiracy to deny the existence of global cooling.
2. Not only is everything unconstitutional; activist judges are a problem.
1. The Civil War was caused by slaveowners trampling on Northern states’ rights.

Rick Perry’s Neocon Friends — Robert Dreyfuss

…Perry declares that “exceptional” America has to be prepared for war with China and India.

Perry is consorting with left-over neocons from the Bush administration,…such as Douglas Feith, the uber-hawk who oversaw the war in Iraq, and Bill Luti, Feith’s compatriot in the Bush White House, who joined with Vice President Cheney to persuade Bush that an unprovoked attack on Iraq was the right thing to do, and Dan Blumenthal, another Bush veteran…

Rick Perry’s Budget Sleight-of-Hand — Suzy Khimm

The Texas governor…used accounting sleights-of-hand that deferred payments and papered over enormous expenditures that will soon come due…though not until the 2012 election is over.

Perry’s budget assumes that the student population will remain constant, when more than 160,000 new students are projected to enroll in Texas public schools over the next two years.

Perry’s budget only covers Medicaid funding through the spring of 2013, coming up $4.8 billion short.

Finally, Perry’s budget ignores a $4.5 billion structural deficit that happens every year due to a 2006 tax reform that’s never generated as much revenue as expected.

Rick Perry’s Environmental Record — Dylan Matthews

[Unlike] Mitt Romney, [Perry] does not believe in the science behind climate change…

He filed a lawsuitagainst the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions regulations on behalf of the state, a suit widely expected to fail. Perry has said that he prays daily for the EPA rules to be reversed. He has consistently defended oil and coal interests in Texas, notably dubbing the BP oil well blowout an “act of God” and opposing the Obama administration’s efforts to regulate offshore drilling in the wake of the disaster. He also fast-tracked environmental permits for a number of coal plants in 2005, cutting in half the normal review period. His transportation agenda similarly does not reflect any concern about emissions, as he did not compete for federal high speed rail funding and has kept state funds focused on roads rather than mass transit.

Rick Perry’s Medicaid Record — Sarah Kliff

Perry [said] that he’d “like to see the states be given the opportunity to opt out of the Medicaid program that we are looking at today.”

In 2008,…Texas applied for a waiver allowing it to limit the number of beneficiaries and create a comparatively sparse benefits plan, among other changes.

The Bush administration rejected Texas’s…waiver request. There was “no precedent,” an administration official said in explaining the decision, in approving an “annual benefit limit as low as” the Perry administration proposed.

Perry Threatens Bernanke — ThinkProgress

…Perry said, “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treasonous in my opinion.” Treason is a capital offense.

What to Read on Pakistan

How Dare They Bomb Pakistan, That’s Our Job — Scott A. Hill

According to the Brookings Institution, for every militant that is killed “10 or so civilians” can also consider themselves victims. It is a little known fact that President Obama has drastically increased these attacks since taking office.

For too long now, the West has been murdering innocent Pakistani civilians…whilst criticizing Taliban or al-Qaeda attacks that have killed analogous numbers…

Playing the China Card: Has the Obama Administration Miscalculated in Pakistan? — Dilip Hiro
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To supply the 100,000 American troops now in Afghanistan, as well as 50,000 troops from other NATO nations and more than 100,000 employees of private contractors, the Pentagon must have unfettered access to that country through its neighbors. Among the six countries adjoining Afghanistan, only three have seaports, with those of China far too distant to be of practical use. Of the remaining two, Iran — Washington’s number-one enemy in the region — is out. That places Pakistan in a unique position.

Obama Troop Surge Decision Ignored Pak-Taliban Ties — Gareth Porter

…Pakistan was determined to avoid an Afghan government “led by a Pashtun sympathetic to India” — i.e., Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The conclusion was that the Pakistanis would continue to aid the insurgency the U.S. was trying to defeat.

The NIE on Afghanistan concluded that the United States was unlikely to succeed in Afghanistan unless Pakistan changed its policy to take military action against insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan. But the estimate on Pakistan made it clear that no such change in Pakistani policy could be expected.

But Obama approved a plan for 30,000 additional troops anyway…

What to Read on Israel and Palestine

What Lies Behind Netanyahu’s Bluster on “1967 Borders” — Juan Cole

Lots of countries are unhappy with their borders. Saddam Hussein annexed Kuwait in 1990 in part because he felt that the British had erred in not giving modern Iraq a deep water port, which made Iraq ‘indefensible’ and put it at an economic disadvantage. Pakistan believes that its failure to secure the headwaters of the Indus Valley rivers in Kashmir in 1947 puts it at a permanent disadvantage vis-a-vis India and makes the country overly vulnerable (‘indefensible’). Netanyahu’s immoral argument that a country just has to take by main force whatever it feels will make it more secure is astonishing and is a standing danger to world peace if it were taken seriously by other countries.

“Bibi” Votes Republican — Patrick J. Buchanan

Obama was not saying the 1967 borders were to be the end of negotiations but the starting point. Indeed, where else would one begin land negotiations if not from the last recognized map?

Palestine’s Hidden History of Nonviolence — Yousef Munayyer

It wasn’t until nonviolent protests were met with severe repression that Palestinian guerrilla movements began.

Here Comes Your Nonviolent Resistance — The Economist

So now we have an opportunity to see how Americans will react. We’ve asked the Palestinians to lay down their arms. We’ve told them their lack of a state is their own fault; if only they would embrace non-violence, a reasonable and unprejudiced world would see the merit of their claims. Over the weekend, tens of thousands of them did just that, and it seems likely to continue. If crowds of tens of thousands of non-violent Palestinian protestors continue to march, and if Israel continues to shoot at them, what will we do? Will we make good on our rhetoric, and press Israel to give them their state? Or will it turn out that our paeans to non-violence were just cynical tactics in an amoral international power contest staged by militaristic Israeli and American right-wing groups whose elective affinities lead them to shape a common narrative of the alien Arab/Muslim threat? Will we even bother to acknowledge that the Palestinians are protesting non-violently? Or will we soldier on with the same empty decades-old rhetoric, now drained of any truth or meaning, because it protects established relationships of power? What will it take to make Americans recognise that the real Martin Luther King-style non-violent Palestinian protestors have arrived, and that Israeli soldiers are shooting them with real bullets?

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