Quote of the Day: Glenn Greenwald

The U.S. has long had Iran virtually encircled as a result of the American occupation of Afghanistan on Iran’s Eastern border, its invasion of Iraq on its Western border, its NATO ally Turkey hovering on Iran’s Northwestern border, some degree of military relationship with Turkmenistan on Iran’s Northeastern border, and multiple U.S. client states sitting right across the Persian Gulf (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, where the massive U.S. Fifth Fleet is stationed). Additionally, some combination of the U.S. and Israel has bombarded Iran with multiple acts of war over the last year, including explosions on Iranian soil, the murder of numerous Iranian nuclear scientists (in which even one of their wives was shot), and sophisticated cyberattacks… In the past decade, the U.S. and/or Israel have invaded, air attacked, and/or occupied Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (to say nothing of the creation of a worldwide torture regime, a system of “black site” prisons around the world to which people were disappeared, and a due-process-free detention camp in the middle of the Caribbean Ocean where many people remain encaged for almost a full decade without charges). During this same time period, Iran has not invaded, occupied or air attacked anyone. Iran, to be sure, is domestically oppressive, but no more so — and in many cases less — than the multiple regimes funded, armed and otherwise propped up by the U.S. during this period. Those are all just facts.

But — despite all of these facts — all Serious people in the U.S. know that Iran is the Aggressor, the Modern Nazis, a True Menace, while the U.S. and Israel are its innocent peace-loving victims.

— Glenn Greenwald (Salon)

What to Read on Herman Cain

On the Ropes With Herman Cain — T. A. Frank

In October, Cain had to undo damage from the following: a suggestion to put up an electrified fence on the Mexican border, statements endorsing a woman’s right to choose, an apparent unfamiliarity with the terms “right of return” and “neoconservative,” a tentative thumbs-up to negotiating with Al Qaeda for prisoners and news stories of a completely mismanaged campaign.

Now allegations of sexual harassment have drowned out pretty much anything else related to Herman Cain. And if that’s in any way a blessing, it’s only because it diverted attention from what may have been some serious violations of campaign-finance laws.

Herman Cain gets away with stuff like this — stuff like being inconsiderate or egomaniacal, or just stuff like saying absolutely the wrong thing. An ordinary candidate wouldn’t recover from saying that he wouldn’t appoint Muslims to his cabinet…

Most of [Cain’s] former staff members…speak of a man so egotistical that careful self-policing would never really enter into the realm of consideration.

They also speak — bitterly — of a candidate with zero interest in policy… They speak of unrelenting self-absorption, even by the standards of a politician.

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan: $210k Tax Cut for Richest 1%, $2k Tax Hike for Bottom Three-Fifths of Taxpayers — Citizens for Tax Justice

Cain’s proposed tax plan would replace all existing federal taxes with three new taxes: a flat nine percent individual income tax, a flat nine percent “business tax,” and a nine percent national sales tax.

Moreover, under the 9-9-9 plan, the United States government would collect about $340 billion less in revenue in 2011 alone.

Herman Cain: Nein, Nein, Nein! — Justin Raimondo

[Cain wrote] that the “war on terrorism” is a conflict that “will be fought forever.”

Cain promotes the views of Pastor Rod Parsley, an evangelical nut-job who not only teaches Islam is an “anti-Christ religion” based on “deception,” and that the prophet Mohammed was a “demon spirit,” but also claims “America was founded in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”

[Cain believes] that “World War III” has already started…: “In WW III, our enemy is the irreconcilable terrorist wing of a religion — Islam — and a handful of nations that harbor terrorists and fund their activities. Those nations include Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea.”

I’m sure Hugo Chavez will be very surprised to learn he’s been lording it over a Muslim country rather than a staunchly Catholic one — and I can only imagine the look on Kim Jong Il’s face when he he hears the muezzin’s call to prayer ring out over the streets of Pyongyang.

The Flat-Tax Fraud — Robert Reich

[The] non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates that Cain’s plan (the only one out there so far) would lower the after-tax incomes of poor households (incomes below $30,000) by 16 to 20 percent, while increasing the incomes of wealthier households (incomes above $200,000) by 5 to 22 percent, on average.

Under Cain’s plan, fully 95 percent of households with more than $1 million in income would get an average tax cut of $487,300. And capital gains (a major source of income for the very rich) would be tax free.

Quote of the Day: Robert Fisk

Please note that no tribunals have called for the princes and emirs of the Gulf, or the Plucky Little King of Jordan, or the weird President Bouteflika of Algeria and his henchmen, or the much creepier President of Iran, to be put on trial.

It all depends, I think, on whether criminals are our friends (Stalin at the time) or our enemies (Hitler and his fellow Nazis), whether they have their future uses (the Japanese emperor) or whether we’ll get their wealth more easily if they are out of the way (Saddam and Gaddafi). The last two were or are wanted for killing “their own people” — in itself a strange expression since it suggests that killing people other than Iraqis or Libyans might not be so bad.

— Robert Fisk (The Independent)

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.