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Syria accused of war crimes by Amnesty International

14 June 2012 Last updated at 05:44 GMTHelp

The Syrian government has been accused of war crimes and adopting a scorched earth policy by the human rights group, Amnesty International.

The group says the regime is deliberately ravaging some areas, killing or torturing civilians, shooting livestock and burning crops and homes.

Amnesty said its researchers had spoken to more than 200 residents in 23 Syrian towns and villages since the middle of April.

The claims come as an open diplomatic row intensifies between Russia and the United States over arms exports to the region.

Tom Esslemont reports.

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Edited by Len Colby
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You need to understand that Steve's tether to reality is quite tenuous. // end COLBY

He who has the bigger stick has the better chance of imposing his definitions of reality.

Peter Berger, "The Social Construction of Reality", p. 109, 1966. SEE BELOW

Anglo-American 1957 Secret Plan to Assassinate the Syrian President. Déjà Vu?

Thanks for proving my point. There is no reason to associate the 1957 plot with current events. The current regime is not the political heir of the 1957 gov't a number of coups in the last 50 odd years put various factions in power.


Geopolitical Destabilization and Regional War: The Road To Tehran Goes Through Damascus

Written by Nile Bowie Posted: 14 July 2012 14:43


Between the chaos and artillery fire unfolding in Homs and Damascus, the current siege against the Ba’athist State of Bashar al-Assad parallels events of nearly a century ago. In efforts to maintain its protectorate, the French government employed the use of foreign soldiers to smother those seeking to abolish the French mandated, Fédération Syrienne. While former Prime Minister Faris al-Khoury argued the case for Syrian independence before UN in 1945, French planes bombed Damascus into submission.


Today, the same government – in addition to the United States and its client regimes in Libya and Tunisia – enthusiastically recognize the Syrian National Council as the legitimate leadership of Syria. Although recent polls funded by the Qatar Foundation claim 55% of Syrians support the Assad regime, the former colonial powers have made a mockery of the very democratic principles they tout.

Irrespective to the views of the Syrian people, their fate has long been decided by forces operating beyond their borders. In a speech given to the Commonwealth Club of California in 2007 retired US Military General Wesley Clark speaks of a policy coup initiated by members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Clark cites a confidential document handed down from the Office of the Secretary of Defense in 2001 stipulating the entire restructuring of the Middle East and North Africa. Portentously, the document allegedly revealed campaigns to systematically destabilize the governments of Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Iran.Under the familiar scenario of an authoritarian regime systematically suppressing peaceful dissent and purging large swaths of its population, the mechanisms of geopolitical stratagem have freely taken course.

Syria is but a chess piece being used as a platform by larger powers. Regime change is the unwavering interest of the US-led NATO block in collaboration with the feudal Persian Gulf Monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This is being accomplished by using Qatar-owned media outlets such as Al-Jazeera to project their version of the narrative to the world and by arming radical factions of the regions Sunni-majority population against the minority Alawi-Shia leadership of Assad. Since 2005, the Bush administration began funding Syrian opposition groups that lean toward the Muslim Brotherhood and their aspirations to build a Sunni-Islamic State. The Muslim Brotherhood has long condemned the Alawi-Shia as heretics and historically attempted multiple uprising in the 1960’s. By arming radical Sunni factions and importing Iraqi Salafi-jihadists and Libyan mercenaries, the NATOGCC plans to topple Assad and install an illegitimate exiled opposition leader such as Burhan Ghaliun (leader of the Syrian National Council) to be the face of the new regime.

The recent example of implementing foreign policy by arming Al-Qaeda fighters in Libya has proved disastrous - as the rule of law passes from the NATO-backed Libyan Transitional Council to hundreds of warring guerilla militias. At a meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Hillary Clinton, Davutoglu pledged to find ways outside the United Nations Security Council to pressure Assad. In addition to bolstering longstanding sectarian divides in Syria, the US is smuggling arms into Syria from Incirlik military base in Turkey and providing financial support for Syrian rebels. Syrian opposition forces led by defected Syrian colonel Riad al-Assad have been trained on Turkish soil since May 2011. Exclusive military and intelligence sources have reported to Israel’s DEBKAfile that British and Qatari special operations units are assisting rebel forces in Homs by providing body armor, laptops, satellite phones and managing rebel communications lines that request logistical aid, arms and mercenaries from outside suppliers.

Although the UK has vehemently denied these reports, Qatar’s leader Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani recently suggested sending troops into Syria to battle Assad’s forces. Military bases situated near Turkey’s southeastern border with northern Syria have become a crucial hub used for the delivery of outside supplies. Unmarked NATO warplanes near Iskenderum have received fighters from Libya’s Transitional National Council wielding weapons formerly belonging to Gaddafi’s arsenal. Abdel Hakim Belhaj, (former leader of the extremist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group turned NTC military governor at the directive of NATO) is leading the infiltration of Libyans into Syria in person with the help of the Turkish government. It has also been reported that Mahdi al-Harati, resigned from his functions as deputy chief of the Military Council in Tripoli to oversee the Free Syrian Army.

Syrian press has also reported that armed terrorist groups brandishing up-to-date American and Israeli weapons have roamed the countryside of Damascus committing blind acts of terror by setting off explosive devices and kidnapping civilians. As the NATOGCC continue to insist that Assad is committing acts of genocide against unarmed civilians, one must draw correlations between events reported by the Syrian state media and recent statements released by the leadership of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, praising the arrival of Iraqi fighters in Syria and advising rebels to use roadside bombs. Paradoxically, Al-Qaeda front man Ayman al-Zawahri has called on Muslims from across the Arab World to mobilize and support the Free Syrian Army after the disappointing Russian and Chinese veto at the UNSC. Few things are more absurd than the notion of Al-Qaeda terrorists – unanimously portrayed as ostensible “savages” by virtually all-Western media sources - entrust the apparatus of the United Nations and their capacity to resolve the Syrian conflict. The true purpose of Al-Qaeda and its role in influencing foreign policy has never been more evident.

Surely, Assad accusing foreign-sponsored terrorist groups of fomenting violence in Syria is simply evidence of his illegitimacy - as Western and Gulf allies assert. Even as Syrian state TV broadcasts reports showing seized weapons stockpiles and confessions by terrorists describing how they obtained arms from foreign sources, the NATOGCC continues to draft legislation in an effort pressure the Assad regime into dissolution. In the face of an outright campaign of foreign-funded sabotage, Syrian hackers have targeted Al-Jazeera’s "Syria Live Blog", which provides ongoing coverage of the unrest. The hacker-ring boldly denounced Al Jazeera for broadcasting "false and fabricated news to ignite sedition among the people of Syria to achieve the goals of Washington and Tel Aviv."

Through the fiery rhetoric of Susan Rice and her relentless condemnation of Assad - like Gaddafi before him - the United States is again attempting to invoke the Right to Protect (R2P) doctrine to take direct action against the Assad regime. In another parallel to the Libyan conflict, the UN’s astounding official death toll in Syria is taken solely from human rights groups, backed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Criminal Court and the Syrian National Council. The official numbers rely exclusively on an obscure organization known as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) - based in London, not Damascus - whose evidence is largely reliant on hearsay, pixelated YouTube videos and activist Twitter feeds. SOHR’s disputed reports present evidence that would not hold up in any court of law, much less should it be the basis of United Nations resolutions. The Observatory's director Rami Abdelrahman collaborates directly with British Foreign Minister William Hague and derives legitimacy solely from connections with corporate/foundation-funded civil society networks. Claims that Assad’s security forces indiscriminately kill scores of newborn babies are palpably a product of Britain’s foreign office.

As a further indication of the on-going media war in Syria, none is more telling than the report produced by the Arab League’s observer mission into Syria. The contents of the report were completely ignored by the corporate-media after Qatar disputed its findings, the only nation to do so in the Arab League's Ministerial Committee. The report unalterably concluded that the Syrian government was in no way lethally repressing peaceful protestors. Furthermore, the report credits armed gangs with the bombing of civilian buses, trains carrying diesel oil, bombing of police buses and the bombing of bridges and pipelines. During an interview with Arab League observer Ahmed Manaï, he praises the Sino-Russian veto at the UNSC and encouraged the Syrian leadership to implement reforms. Manaï states, “The Arab League is entirely discredited by burying the report of its own observers’ mission and its appeal to the Security Council. It missed the opportunity to participate in the settlement of the Syrian affair. All it can offer in the future will be worthless.”

While the initial observer report is predictably absent from mainstream media coverage and cited as inept (presumably for contradicting the official line of the allied Western-Gulf powers), Arab League mission leader Mohammed al-Dabi officially resigned, stating, "I won’t work one more time in the framework of the Arab League, I performed my job with full integrity and transparency but I won’t work here again as the situation is skewed.” The United Nations and the Arab League are now considering what was originally a joint observer mission – now referred to as a peacekeeping mission. The Arab League, in tandem with Saudi Arabia is preparing a nearly identical resolution calling for an armed peacekeeping council to present to the UN. Much like the indistinguishable saber rattling seen before Libyan intervention, the new resolution condemns Assad for lethal repression and calls for a transitional shift to democracy. The resolution is expected to create similar Sino-Russian divisions over its implementation, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, previously scorned the document as "the same unbalanced draft resolution text."

The conflict in Syria has brought light to longstanding Cold War divisions between world powers. The Sino-Russian veto of the UNSC resolution calling for intervention has blocked the opportunity for Western powers to exert overt aggression, as demonstrated by NATO in Libya. Instead, it appears that the Assad regime will be destabilized through covert mercenary groups bent on committing blind acts of terrorism by means of sniper assassinations and roadside bombs. Learning from the Libyan experience, Russia and China perceive the UN Human Rights Report authored by Karen Koning AbuZayd, a director of the Washington-based corporate-funded think-tank, Middle East Policy Council - to be explicitly comprised; victims among the civilian population are a result of armed paramilitaries doing battle with the Syrian military in residential areas. In an interview with former Russian Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov pledges that Russia will protect Iran, Syria, and the world from American fascism. In a show of support for the Syrian government, Russia has sent a large naval force into the region and China has further warned against a strike on Syria.

It is truly a paradox that the countries least fit to dictate principles of human rights, do so largely unhindered on the world stage. Without hesitation Hillary Clinton proclaimed, “What happened yesterday at the United Nations was a travesty” referring to the Sino-Russian veto. She then called for the formation of an international alliance between the war-profiteering elite of the West and absolutist Wahhabi Persian Gulf monarchies - amusingly titled, the Friends of Syria. International calls to abstain from violence have done little to influence the Gulf Cooperation Council and their brutal crackdown against Shiites in Bahrain. Incredibly, Saudi Arabia has entered the dialogue on human rights and democracy promotion – perhaps the world’s most defining feudalistic theocracy, a nation that prohibits political parties and national elections and executes those who apostatize Islam.

Iran’s Press TV news network has reportedly leaked intelligence exposing the American agenda in Syria. The report calls for the recognition of the Syrian National Council as the legitimate government and their positioning in Turkey to work against the Assad regime. Washington would then task Turkey with sending troops into Syria to arm the opposition forces, followed by Wahhabi fighters and Libyan mercenaries. Ominously, the intelligence stipulates that Israel will enter the fray to carry out military operations against Syria. If the regime fails to dissolve, Syrian state television channels will be taken down and Assad will be assassinated. Considering how other enemies of the West have faired in recent times, the sequence of events reported by Press TV would be largely unsurprising. The Wahhabis of the Persian Gulf are playing junior to American aggression in an effort to dominate the Shia-Alawi religious faction presently upheld by the leadership of Syria and Iran, but also to secure their places as regional powers.

Domestic affairs in Syria are of little consequence to the powers trying to topple the nation; the real priority is to further isolate Iran by eliminating its Shia-Alawi ally in Damascus. Israel reaps enormous benefit from toppling the Assad regime, as the Syrian Nation Council pledges to cut ties with Iran and discontinue arms shipments to Hezbollah and Hamas. If Syria falls and Iran is directly threatened, the potential for a regional conflict of the utmost seriousness exists, assuming China and Russia move in to defend Iran. Such a conflict would create detrimental implications for the global economy, potentially triggering a hyper-inflationary financial crisis. William Hague and billionaire financiers behind the civil society groups bestowing legitimacy to violent opposition actors are not the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. Although the reforms have been slow, the Assad government is in the midst of drafting a new constitution. Syria’s sovereignty has come under direct fire from powers claiming to be defending Syria’s people. An attempt on the life of Bashar al-Assad may have similar consequences to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. As the Syrian National Council familiarly calls for the implementation of a no-fly zone over, those members of the International Community with any integrity left must work diligently to diffuse conflict in the region.

Edited by Steven Gaal
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Syria accused of war crimes by Amnesty International

14 June 2012 Last updated at 05:44 GMTHelp

The Syrian government has been accused of war crimes and adopting a scorched earth policy by the human rights group, Amnesty International.

The group says the regime is deliberately ravaging some areas, killing or torturing civilians, shooting livestock and burning crops and homes.

Amnesty said its researchers had spoken to more than 200 residents in 23 Syrian towns and villages since the middle of April.

The claims come as an open diplomatic row intensifies between Russia and the United States over arms exports to the region.

Tom Esslemont reports.

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Amnesty International: An Instrument of War Propaganda?

by Felicity Arbuthnot 8/10/12



Amnesty International


From SourceWatch

Amnesty International (AI) is "a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights."[1] AI has an international secretariat and while national affiliated sections are responsible for their own affairs, "major policy decisions are taken by an International Council made up of representatives from all national sections." [2] Amnesty was founded by Peter Benenson, Louis Blom-Cooper, Eric Baker and David Astor, and launched after an appeal was published on 28 May 1961 in The Observer newspaper.[3]


1 About AI

2 Criticism & AI's Contributions to Disinformation

2.1 Assessment by a former AI-USA board member

2.2 Participation in propaganda campaign leading up to the 1991 Gulf War

2.3 Duped Again?

2.4 Buying Humanitarian Bombing?

2.5 Selling yet another war

2.6 Business Ethics?

2.7 Film Festival Censorship (2003)

2.8 AI pulls out of UNESCO meeting

2.9 Not Challenging Apartheid

2.10 Blind on Haiti

2.11 Group Manipulation

2.12 Odd Bedfellows

2.13 Double Standards

2.13.1 Legal gibberish

2.13.2 The mysterious POC designation

2.14 Right on time selective Human Rights reports

2.15 Criticizing WikiLeaks

3 Staff or Directors

4 Directors and Personnel

4.1 International Secretariat

4.1.1 Secretary Generals

4.1.2 Other

4.2 Country Sections

4.2.1 United States

4.3 AI USA Board Members

4.4 Business Ethics Directors

4.5 Staff (AI International section)

5 PR companies working for AI

6 Contact

6.1 International Secretariat

7 Books

8 Resources and articles

8.1 Related Sourcewatch

8.2 References

8.3 External links

About AI

From AI's website[4]:

"AI's vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards."

"AI is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government or political system, nor does it support or oppose the views of the victims whose rights it seeks to protect. It is concerned solely with the impartial protection of human rights."

"AI has a varied network of members and supporters around the world. At the latest count, there were more than 1.5 million members, supporters and subscribers in over 150 countries and territories in every region of the world. Although they come from many different backgrounds and have widely different political and religious beliefs, they are united by a determination to work for a world where everyone enjoys human rights."

"AI is a democratic, self-governing movement. Major policy decisions are taken by an International Council made up of representatives from all national sections."

AI's national sections and local volunteer groups are primarily responsible for funding the movement. No funds are sought or accepted from governments for AI's work investigating and campaigning against human rights violations." (NB: this operating parameter was violated on a number of occasions by receiving covert British funding [3])

Criticism & AI's Contributions to Disinformation

Assessment by a former AI-USA board member

Prof. Francis A. Boyle (Professor of International Law, Univ. of Illinois, Champaign) from an interview with Dennis Bernstein:

"Amnesty International is primarily motivated not by human rights but by publicity. Second comes money. Third comes getting more members. Fourth, internal turf battles. And then finally, human rights, genuine human rights concerns. To be sure, if you are dealing with a human rights situation in a country that is at odds with the United States or Britain, it gets an awful lot of attention, resources, man and womanpower, publicity, you name it, they can throw whatever they want at that. But if it's dealing with violations of human rights by the United States, Britain, Israel, then it's like pulling teeth to get them to really do something on the situation. They might, very reluctantly and after an enormous amount of internal fightings and battles and pressures, you name it. But you know, it's not like the official enemies list."

Participation in propaganda campaign leading up to the 1991 Gulf War

There were some curious episodes in the lead up to the 1991 Gulf War. Hill & Knowlton launched a major propaganda campaign [5] to change US citizens’ attitudes about a possible US intervention in Kuwait. Part of this campaign produced the “throwing the babies out of the incubators” hoax presented by the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in the US. As part of this propaganda campaign President Bush (Senior) appeared on national TV holding a copy of AI’s press release pertaining to the incubator story. It was portrayed as further proof of the incident.

… Of course the worst instance is well known, and that's the Kuwaiti dead babies report. I was on the AI USA board at that time, it was the late Fall of 1990 and, as you know, we were on the verge of going to war. There was going to be a debate coming up in the United States Congress, and a vote. And at the end of November or so, mid-November, since I was a board member, I got a pre-publication copy of the Amnesty report on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So I immediately read through this report and it was sloppy, it was inaccurate even its statement of applicable law. It did not seem to me that it had gone through the normal quality control process.

As for the allegation about the Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and putting them on the floor of the hospital where they did, I didn't know if that was true or not, but it certainly sounded very sensationalist to me. And as a result of that, I made an effort to hold that report back for further review, on those grounds that I gave to you. And indeed I also enlisted a fellow board member for the same reason, and he and I both tried, and I made the point, even if this story about the dead babies is true, it's completely sensationalist, and it is simply going to be used in the United States to monger for war, and could turn the tide in favor of war. And so you know, we really need to pull back on this, further review, more study.

They wouldn't do it. It was clear it was on the fast track there in London. This was not AI USA, this was in London. And it had been put on the fast track, they were ramming it through. They didn't care. Finally, I said look, let us at least put out an Errata report to accompany it on those aspects that are clearly wrong. They refused to do that either. They then put the report out, and you know what a terrible impact that had in terms of war propaganda. Of the six votes in the United States Senate that passed the resolution to go to war, several of those senators said that they were influenced by the Amnesty report. Now I want to make it clear this was not a job by Amnesty International but by London, and what happened then, when the war started, at the next AI USA board meeting, I demanded an investigation. By then it had come out that this was Kuwaiti propaganda put together by the PR firm, Hill & Knowlton, and I demanded an investigation.

Absolutely nothing happened. There was never an investigation, there was total stonewalling coming out of London. They refused ever to admit that they did anything wrong. There has never been an explanation, there has never been an apology. It's down the memory hole like 1984 and Orwell. My conclusion was that a high-level official of Amnesty International at that time, whom I will not name, was a British intelligence agent. Moreover, my fellow board member, who also investigated this independently of me, reached the exact same conclusion. So certainly when I am dealing with people who want to work with Amnesty in London, I just tell them, "Look, just understand, they're penetrated by intelligence agents, U.K., maybe U.S., I don't know, but you certainly can't trust them."

— Prof. Francis Boyle, Interview with Dennis Bernstein, CovertAction Quarterly Number 73 Summer 2002, pp. 9-12, 27.

Duped Again?

During the Balkan wars, AI seems to have pushed yet another propaganda piece used to justify the bombing of Serbia, and to assist Croatia and the Bosnian Muslims. From Diana Johnstone's Fool's Crusade, Pluto Press 2002, p. 81:

Regardless of such discrepancies, Cigelj became a feminist heroine. In June 1993, she was honored by the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights "for outstanding contributions to international women's rights" and the Minneapolis Star Tribune identified her as a "Bosnian Muslim victim". In 1996, she was featured in a documentary film, "Calling the Ghosts: A Story of Rape, War and Women", launched by Human Rights Watch in June 1996 at its annual film festival and distributed by Women Make Movies. Amnesty International thereafter sponsored a 25-city U.S. tour. The promotional blurb stated "Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivac, childhood friends and legal professionals, lived the lives of ordinary women in Bosnia-Herzegovina, until one day their neighbors became their tormentors. This film documents mass rapes as a wartime tactic, focusing on these two survivors, whose personal struggles transform into a larger fight for justice against the backdrop of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague." Two women, one of them a professional propagandist for the Tudjman regime, became documentary evidence for "mass rapes as a wartime tactic". The film was shown on university campuses as part of programs on Yugoslavia with such celebrities as General Wesley K. Clark, Bosnian ambassador to the UN Muhamed Sacirbey, and Bianca Jagger.

A political activist such as Cigelj, working for the propaganda agency of one of the parties to the conflict, and who tells an inconsistent story, cannot be considered the most reliable witness. There was naiveté on the part of the women's groups, and sloppiness on the part of the journalists, to accept without question such a partisan source.

NB: Amnesty has not issued an apology for playing along in this deception. Furthermore, at the time there were grave doubts about Cigelj's accounts given the mounting inconsistencies. No bar for an AI sponsored 25-city tour of the US.

Buying Humanitarian Bombing?

In 1999, AI did not reject and played along when State Dept. officials proposed the "humanitarian bombing of Serbia". When an AI director was asked to explain this decision, she answered "AI is not an anti-war organization".

Selling yet another war

In May 2012, Amnesty International participated in a campaign to sell the war in Afghanistan under the logo: "NATO: Keep the Progress Going". Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley discuss this campaign and the appointment of Suzanne Nossel, the new head of AI-USA and the possible source of this campaign.[6] Philip Weiss discusses the reason Amnesty might have embraced this campaign, and it has all to do with the appointment of Suzanne Nossel.[7]

AI poster in Chicago during the NATO conference in May 2012

Business Ethics?

In 1991, AI set up a Amnesty Business Group. It was meant to monitor human rights observance by corporations. However, the curious thing is that it chose Sir Geoffrey Chandler to head this unit. NB: Chandler was a Shell company director, and the head of the Sustainability Council. The second curious aspect of this AI unit is the issuance of a report about a controversial oil pipeline. It is quoted as follows on its website: "Launch of Human Rights on the Line Report into the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project and the Host Government Agreement between BP and the Turkish Government." Note that this pipeline was beset by controversy because BP overlooked the rights and interests of all the people in the path of the pipeline.

Film Festival Censorship (2003)

AI sponsors an annual film festival focused on human rights issues. During its 2003 festival it banned the film The Revolution Will Not Be Televised under dubious circumstances. This is what Macdonald Stainsby had to say about it:

"Beginning Thursday, November 6th until Sunday the 9th, Amnesty International held their annual film festival on Human Rights in Canada. The listings were much of the usual fare for AI: Films on Tibet, Burma, Pinochet's 1973 coup in Chile, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, even a film on Israel's secret nuclear weapons program. The festival had one other film scheduled to be the last one shown. That film had been broadcast on the CBC's 'Passionate Eye' program (twice). It had won more awards than any other film on the list of films to be put on screen at the film festival. It has been shown across Europe, including the BBC. It was removed two days before the festival, and AI still hasn't clarified why or who convinced them to do this. The film is "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", and citing a series of contradictory reasons, the film was banned from the festival by Amnesty International, after it had already been booked and listed in all of the AI programs."

"A controversy immediately ensued, and it was Venezuelans who support the film who first noticed that the very people from Venezuela that the film exposed as human rights violators had launched a campaign against it globally, wherever people might see it. Don Wright, local region (BC Yukon) coordinator of AI, was interviewed on 'Democracy Now', a radio program in New York run on the station Pacifica. There, the arguments given were (quote): "...when we choose films we strive to choose films that are nonpartisan and nonpolitical to reflect the mandate of our organization."[8] That is a rather bizarre statement, to say the least, for an organization dealing with human rights and coming from a film festival that included topics such as a successful coup in Chile and discussions of Israeli nuclear programs. Perhaps nuclear weapons in the Middle East and military coups in South America are non-political and failed coups in South America are? I guess I'm missing something here. And nonpartisan, well – I guess the Chinese government will be invited to talk on why it maintains sovereignty over Tibet next year, no doubt that we need balance here."

— Macdonald Stainsby, After the Censorship by Amnesty International, we Need to See The Revolution Will Not Be Televised More Than Ever, Venezuelanalysis.com, Nov. 12, 2003.

There is more information on this controversy on the website of the producer of the film. NB: what appears now on the website is an abridged version of the long exchange between AI and the producer; that has now been removed.

AI pulls out of UNESCO meeting

On May 17, 2004, AI pulled out of a UNESCO meeting. UNESCO refused to translate and publish AI International Executive Chair's article/statement. See details [9]. NB: Hoffman and Schulz have made a number of remarks indicating that AI will qualify its defense of human rights during the "war on terror". It is not clear where all this is going, but there are many questions. See John Pilger's article about this. It is these issues that may have had a bearing on the UNESCO squabble.

Not Challenging Apartheid

Dennis Bernstein: Now, having said that about these connections between the U.S., British and Amnesty International foreign policy…

Francis Boyle: Sure, you’ll see a pretty good coincidence of the enemies that Amnesty International goes after and the interests of both the United States and British governments. Let’s take an older example — apartheid in South Africa under the former criminal regime in South Africa. Amnesty International refused adamantly to condemn apartheid in South Africa. Despite my best efforts while I was on the board, and other board members, they would not do it. They are the only human rights organization in the entire world to have refused to condemn apartheid in South Africa. Now they can give you some cock-and-bull theory about why they wouldn’t do this. But the bottom line was that the biggest supporter, economic and political supporter of the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa was the British government, followed by the United States government. And so no matter how hard we tried, no matter what we did, they would not condemn apartheid in South Africa. Now I just mention that as one among many examples.

— Prof. Francis Boyle, Interview with Dennis Bernstein, CovertAction Quarterly Number 73 Summer 2002, pp. 9-12, 27.

Kirsten Sellars writes in her book about Peter Berenson's partial measures and reports on South Africa during the early 1960s.[10]

Blind on Haiti

The human rights situation in Haiti in the months leading up to the coup against Jean Bertrand Aristide, and after the coup is atrocious. Joe Emersberger reports:

Aristide was twice elected President (in 1990 and in 2000). His first government was overthrown in a coup in 1991. The outcome of the 1991 coup was horrific and well documented. Thousands were murdered; tens of thousands were raped and tortured; hundreds of thousands were driven into hiding. The victims were overwhelmingly supporters of Aristide and his Lavalas movement. The 1991 and 2004 coups were both the work of the US government, Haiti's elite and their armed servants. Canada and France collaborated extensively with the planning and execution of the second coup.[11]

Various human rights organizations sent delegations to Haiti and reported on the situation, and they also found that a government-associated group (which was also instigated by US-directed groups (IFES and/or USAID)), the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), were hostile to Aristide government (before the coup), and, after the coup, hostile to the Aristide-Lavalas movement. The human rights organizations which visited Haiti after the coup found that NCHR was compromised and biased, and proceeded to inform AI about the dubious nature of NCHR. Even though AI had been forewarned about NCHR, AI (1) utilized NCHR information, and (2) adopted the same hostility shown by NCHR towards the Aristide/Lavalas movement. While AI had protested the imprisonment of one of the leaders of the Tontons Macoute (a notorious gang/death squad under the Duvalier dictatorship), AI didn't issue any criticism or condemnation for imprisonment or torture of the legitimate Lavalas elected officials. AI never designated any Haitian prisoners with their special "prisoner of conscience" label.[12]

Group Manipulation

Several AI chapters connected with universities in the U.S. have been taken over by groups with their own agenda. Their interest is to block criticism of certain countries, and to create a false impression that AI favors their position. There have been instances where manipulators sent "news releases" using AI letterhead (of the local group) to push their agenda. On Oct. 2002, AI-London stated that it is not their business to censor these groups (statement by Donatella Rovera when she was asked about this).

Odd Bedfellows

On 10 December 2003, AI co-hosted the following event:

Catastrophe in Chechnya: Escaping the Quagmire

With nearly 250 persons in attendance and presentations by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Ruud Lubbers, the conference was the largest event of its kind dedicated solely to Chechnya to be held in Washington DC.

Hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and co-sponsored by The American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, the Jamestown Foundation, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, this event promises to be of great potential significance in articulating a new American attitude toward Russo-Chechen conflict.

Why is AI co-sponsoring this event? NB: all the other co-sponsors are right-wing and dubious organizations.[13]

Double Standards

Legal gibberish

In 2 July 2004, AI called for the suspension of weapons sales to Sudan. On 16 February 2005 it called for a suspension of weapons sales to Nepal. However, although AI has shown that while it is willing to issue such calls regarding several countries, it is not willing to request an embargo of weapons sales to Israel. Donatella Rovera, the chief researcher on Israel-Palestine offered the following explanation:

"The situations in Sudan and in Israel-Occupied Territories are quite different and different norms of international law apply, which do not make it possible to call for an arms embargos on either the Israeli or the Palestinian side. The West Bank and Gaza Strip are under Israeli military occupation (not the case for the Darfour region in Sudan). Hence, certain provisions of international humanitarian law, known as the laws of war (notably the 1907 Hague Convention and the Fourth Geneva Convention) apply in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (and not in the Darfour region)." (email communication 5 July 2004).

AI is couching its double standards in dubious legalese, but consider what Prof. Francis Boyle (Professor of International Law at Univ. of Illinois Champaign) has to say about Rovera's statement:

This is total gibberish. When I was on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA near the end of my second term in 1990-92, we received the authority to call for an arms embargo against major human rights violators, which Israel clearly qualified for at the time and still does -- even under United States domestic law. Of course no one at AI was going to do so because pro-Israel supporters were major funders of Amnesty International USA, which in turn was a major funder of Amnesty International in London. He who pays the piper calls the tune -- especially at AIUSA Headquarters in New York and at AI Headquarters in London.[14]

The mysterious POC designation

Amnesty International became famous for standing up for eggregious individual cases of basic rights violations, and as a matter of fact, AI was established to release two Portuguese students who had been blatantly abused and thrown in jail by the pro-Fascist Salazar government. Ever since AI has sought to get AI activists around the world to work on behalf cases of Prisoners of Conscience (POC), individuals designated by AI as remarkable individuals who engaged in a non-violent fashion to work for "human rights". Amnesty's official and US websites contains a continuously updated list of Cuban prisoners of conscience[15], and several right-wing Cuban émigré websites reproduce AI's Cuban POC list. Several of the individuals on AI's POC list received direct funding from the US government, but this was no bar for bestowing a POC designation on them. While AI is quick to update its Cuban POC list and to often write on behalf of these prisoners, it doesn’t have similar lists of POC for other national cases. For example, AI doesn’t publish a list of Palestinian POC, and when asked about this double standard, Donatella Rovera, AI's principal on Israel and the OPT, stated that AI doesn’t make such lists available[16]. In fact, it is very difficult to find Palestinians who have the POC designation even though there are hundreds of Palestinian "administrative detainees" who are held in Israeli jails without being charged, with dubious legal procedures or without proper legal recourse, and for indeterminate imprisonment sentences. The grand majority of such prisoners don't list as POC.

On 12 May 2010, Amnesty International issued a press release about the arbitrarily imprisoned Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian human rights advocate who is a citizen of Israel, urging his release[17]. Therein AI states:

"His arrest and continued detention smacks of pure harassment, designed to hinder his human rights work. If this is the case, we would regard him as a prisoner of conscience call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Notice that Makhoul hasn’t been designated a POC, but his case could be considered one in the future. The key distinction between being listed as a POC and simply being considered a possible POC is that hundreds of activists would write letters on his behalf if he appeared in the official POC list, but the same activists will not be asked to do anything about Makhoul because he merely "could be considered" to be a POC.

When queried about this seeming double standard, Malcolm Smart, AI's Director of Middle East and North Africa Programme, replied:[18]

Some of those held under such orders are prisoners of conscience and we can be sure of that, but it is uncertain in many other cases whether individual detainees are to be considered prisoners of conscience, according to the common criteria used by Amnesty International, or not. By its nature, the Israeli administrative detention system is a secretive process, in that the grounds for detention are not specified in detail to the detainee or his/her legal representative; inevitably, this makes it especially difficult for the detainee to challenge the order for, by example, contesting the grounds on which the detention was made. In the same way, it makes it difficult or impossible for Amnesty International to make a conclusive determination in many cases whether a particular administrative detainees can be considered a prisoner of conscience or not.

So, because Israel doesn't spell out why an individual was imprisoned arbitrarily, Amnesty will not do anything about their case. Paul de Rooij discusses Smart's other points.[19]

Right on time selective Human Rights reports

On 9 March 2005, AI released a human rights report on the abuse of Kurdish human rights in Syria [20]. What is odd about the report is:

1.Impecable timing. The report appears at the time the U.S. and Israel are exerting massive pressure on Syria.

2.Selectivity about Kurds. Although Kurds reside in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, the report only deals with human rights violations in Syria. At present, according to KHRP, far more systematic violations of Kurdish human rights are occuring in Iraq and Turkey than in Syria, but AI studiously ignores what is happening here.

Criticizing WikiLeaks

On 10 August 2010, a "coalition of human rights organizations" including Amnesty International, issued an appeal to Wikileaks to remove the names of Afghan informants from the disclosed material.[21] The unfortunate implication of this request is that it plays along with US General Mattis suggestion that "Wikileaks has blood on its hands". These human rights organizations made their appeal despite Assange's assurances that all releases had gone through a damage minimization process, and thus the names of the informers had already been removed. On 12 August 2010, Julian Assange commented on AI's criticism, and stated that it seems that low-level AI staff contacted other HR groups, and engaged with Wikileaks about their concerns. Instead of continuing with the discussion, the letters/emails were leaked to the Wall Street Journal.[22] The senior personnel at the human rights organizations involved in criticizing Wikileaks did not dissociate themselves from the earlier comments. There is no public indication, as of August 15, 2010, that AI is investigating human rights violations based on the information made available by Wikileaks.

Staff or Directors

Directors and Personnel

International Secretariat

Secretary Generals

Salil Shetty – Secretary General (July 2010 - )[23]

Claudio Cordone – Interim Secretary General (Dec. 2009 - July 2010) and member of Senior Leadership team [24]

Irene Zubaida Khan — Secretary General (2004 - Dec. 2009)

Martin Ennals – Secretary General (1968 to 1980)[25]


AI former principals and personnel

AI Board members 2012

AI Board members 2007

AI Board members 2005

Country Sections

United States

William Schulz — Former Executive Director Amnesty International USA

Larry Cox, Executive Director Amnesty International USA

Curt Goering — Deputy Executive Director Amnesty International USA

Maureen Greenwood, Advocacy Director for Europe and the Middle East, Amnesty International USA

Adotei Akwei Former Senior Advocacy Director for Africa at Amnesty International USA

Suzanne Nossel Exec. director of AIUSA since January 2012

AI USA Board Members

AIUSA Board members 2008

AIUSA Board members 2012

Business Ethics Directors

Geoffrey Chandler Originator of the Business Ethics group, former Shell director, since resigned

Chris Marsden — Chair of the Business Group of Amnesty International UK [26]

Ulf Karlberg — Ulf was founding Chair of the Amnesty International Swedish Section Business Group, and continues to serve as an active board member of that Group.

Staff (AI International section)

Donatella Rovera - AI principal researcher on Israel/Occupied Palestine (2004)

Neil Sammonds - AI principal researcher on Syria and Jordan (since 2003).

Melvin Coleman - UK Finance Director of Amnesty International and is a member of its Senior Management Team with responsibilities for Finance, IT, and Company Secretarial and legal matters. He was a member of the international committee devising Amnesty International's strategic plan for the period 2004-2010, and also sits on the task force studying the method of funding the organisation's international budget.

Malcolm Smart - AI's Director of Middle East and North Africa Programme

Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Interim Director for the Middle East and North Africa.[27]

Ann Harrison - Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Carsten Jurgensen - Libya researcher for Amnesty International[28]

PR companies working for AI


Free Range Graphics

Mother -- London-based ad agency[29]

Saatchi & Saatchi S[30]


International Secretariat

Amnesty International

Telephone +44-20-74135500

Address 1 Easton Street

London WC1X 0DW, UK

Website www.amnesty.org


Stephen Hopgood, Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International, April 2006, ISBN 0-8014-7251-2

Kirsten Sellars, The Rise and Rise of Human Rights?, April 2002, Sutton Publishing, ISBN: 0750927550

Kirsten Sellars, Peter Benenson and Amnesty International, published in: David P. Forsythe, The Encyclopedia of Human Rights, Vol. 1, pp. 162-165, Oxford University Press, New York, 2009.

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch

Bush administration flip flops: Amnesty International

Amnesty International USA

Patricia Whaley

Sarah Burton - former campaign director

Anna Stuttard - former staff


1.↑ [1]

2.↑ Amnesty International USA, "Our Mission", accessed November 2007.

3.↑ 3.0 3.1 Kirsten Sellars, Peter Benenson and Amnesty International, published in: David P. Forsythe, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HUMAN RIGHTS, Vol. 1, pp. 162-165, Oxford University Press, New York, 2009.

4.↑ [2]

5.↑ on behalf of the Kuwaiti royal family

6.↑ Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley, Amnesty's Shilling for US Wars, ConsortiumNews, 18 June 2012.

7.↑ Philip Weiss, Amnesty Int'l collapse: new head is former State Dept official who rationalized Iran sanctions, Gaza onslaught, Mondoweiss, 22 June 2012.

8.↑ [3]

9.↑ here

10.↑ Kirsten Sellars, The Rise and Rise of Human Rights?: Amnesty International's stance on South Africa, April 2002, Sutton Publishing, pp. 99-100.

11.↑ Joe Emersberger, Amnesty International's Track Record in Haiti since 2004, ZNet, 7 February 2007.

12.↑ Emersberger, ibid.

13.↑ [4] (Link not active any more... Verified 8 April 2008)

14.↑ [5]

15.↑ Amnesty International, Cuba: List of prisoners of conscience declared by Amnesty International (Accessed: 23 July 2010)

16.↑ This statement was made by Donatella Rovera at a AI meeting on 8 July 2008 where she was a panelist at a presentation by Saree Maqdisi.

17.↑ Amnesty International, Israel must stop harassment of human rights defender, 12 May 2010.

18.↑ Malcolm Smart, Letter: Amnesty International's Prisoner of Conscience lists and the reason for double standards, 9 August 2010.

19.↑ Paul de Rooij, Reply to Malcolm Smart about Amnesty International's double standards pertaining Palestinian human rights, 11 August 2010.

20.↑ [6]

21.↑ Jerome Taylor, Human rights groups ask Wikileaks to censor files, The Independent, 11 Aug 2010.

22.↑ Julian Assange replying to a question about Amnesty International at the How Wikileaks is Changing Journalism, Frontline Club, 12 August 2010.

23.↑ New Amnesty International chief calls on governments to respect rights of world's most vulnerable people, Amnesty International, 1 July 2010.

24.↑ AI: About Us: International Secretariat Senior Leadership Team Accessed: 17 February 2012

25.↑ biography, HURIDOCS, accessed August 14, 2007.

26.↑ [7]

27.↑ Israeli decision to release Palestinian detainee in April ‘insufficient’ AI Press Release, 21 February 2012

28.↑ Frontline Club Event: profile (Accessed: 14 February 2012)

29.↑ Paul McCann, "Branding: Saving the world in one easy move", The Independent, 7 November 2005.

30.↑ PR Watch Green PR Guy Adam Werbach Sells Out to 'Saatchi & Saatchi S' (Accessed 8 April 2008)

External links

To properly appreciate AI as an institution, one must read the following articles:

Nabeel Abraham, et al.; International Human Rights Organizations and the Palestine Question, Middle East Report (MERIP), Vol. 18, No. 1, Jan.-Feb. 1988, pp. 12 – 20. The article reviews the history and the coverage of Palestinian human rights by ten different organizations – one of them is AI. It clearly indicates that several organizations were biased. It is a seminal article in the analysis of what is now called "the politics of human rights."

Nabeel Abraham, Torture, Anyone?, Lies of Our Times, May 1992, pp. 2 – 4. Article discusses the reticence of several human rights groups in mentioning (let alone covering) Israeli torture practices. AI took decades before it finally covered it, and even so, the coverage has been sparse. AI was forced to cover the issue because it appeared in a reputable source and in detail. If the Sunday Times could cover it, then why was AI silent?

The New Flag, "Amnesty International on Behalf of Imperialism", 1996. Part 3

Dennis Bernstein's interview with Prof. Francis Boyle, CAQ, Summer 2002. NB: Boyle is a professor of international law at Univ. of Illinois, a former AI-USA board member, and someone who threatened to sue AI-USA over its biased coverage.

Alexander Cockburn, How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?, CounterPunch newsletter, April 1-15, 1999. Discusses how several human rights organizations fell into line about the bombing of Serbia.

Diana Johnstone, Fool's Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions, Pluto Press 2002. Contains a good discussion of the propaganda campaign used to launch the wars in the Balkans. The "rape camps" were the foremost campaign, and AI had a role in propagating it.

Siva Naguleswaran, "Amnesty International and Political Culture: Double standards in human rights discourse", Znet, September 07, 2002.

Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity, Pluto Press 2004. This book contains several examples of AI's dubious way of defending "human rights". In particular, the examples discussed deal with (1) the US-Iraq war 2003; (2) War in the Balkans.

Paul de Rooij, AI: Say It Isn't So, CounterPunch, Oct. 31, 2002.

Paul de Rooij, AI: The Case of a Rape Foretold, CounterPunch, Nov. 26, 2003.

Paul de Rooij, AI: A false beacon?, CounterPunch, Oct. 13, 2004. This article contains a reading list that is pertinent to a critical understanding of AI.

Paul de Rooij, Ted Honderich: A Philosopher in the Trenches, CounterPunch, Dec. 4, 2002. An interview with Honderich primarily dealing with violence and justifications of violence. However, the interview addresses various aspects of AI's position on human rights.

Macdonald Stainsby, "Coup at Amnesty International: Venezuelan Human Rights, Canadian film festivals, and censorship", Socialism and Democracy, 2004.

Reading list of articles dealing with the "Politics of Human Rights".

Stephen Hopgood, "Amnesty International: the politics of morality", Open Democracy, 8 June 2006.

David R. Henderson, "Why I Won't Renew With Amnesty International", AntiWar, June 19, 2006.

Joe Emersberger, "Amnesty International's Track Record in Haiti since 2004", HaitiAnalysis, May 2007.

Salim Lamrani, "The Contradictions of Amnesty International", Znet, June 3, 2008.

Michael Parenti and Alicia Jrapko, "Cuban Prisoners, Here and There", MRZine, April 15, 2010.

Stephen Gowans, "Amnesty International botches blame for North Korea’s crumbling healthcare", What's Left, July 20, 2010.

Salim Lamrani, Cuba and the rhetoric of human rights, ZNet, 1 August 2010.

Franklin Lamb, "Failing the Burden of Proof: Amnesty International’s Flawed Syrian Hospitals “Investigation”", Counterpunch, November 01, 2011.

Glen Ford, “Human Rights” Warriors for Empire, Black Agenda Report, February 15, 2012.

Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley, "Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars", consortiumnews, June 18, 2012.

Joe Emersberger, "Debating Amnesty About Syria and Double Standards", MRZine, July 7, 2012.

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Nothing there relevant to your hysterical claims. // end COLBY


Guess you didnt read 2007 story at bottom of my post.


WHATS THE WORST instigator of violence ?? ANSWER : RELIGIOUS STRIFE.


Efforts to curb Iran’s influence have involved the United States in worsening Sunni-Shiite tensions. Depending on the country Christian = Muslim violence can also occur from this plan. (Gaal)



Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/03/05/070305fa_fact_hersh#ixzz23PzaJMR5


n the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”

After the revolution of 1979 brought a religious government to power, the United States broke with Iran and cultivated closer relations with the leaders of Sunni Arab states such as Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. That calculation became more complex after the September 11th attacks, especially with regard to the Saudis. Al Qaeda is Sunni, and many of its operatives came from extremist religious circles inside Saudi Arabia. Before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, Administration officials, influenced by neoconservative ideologues, assumed that a Shiite government there could provide a pro-American balance to Sunni extremists, since Iraq’s Shiite majority had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein. They ignored warnings from the intelligence community about the ties between Iraqi Shiite leaders and Iran, where some had lived in exile for years. Now, to the distress of the White House, Iran has forged a close relationship with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

from the issue

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Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. “We haven’t got any of this,” he said. “We ask for anything going on, and they say there’s nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, ‘We’re going to get back to you.’ It’s so frustrating.”

The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney. (Cheney’s office and the White House declined to comment for this story; the Pentagon did not respond to specific queries but said, “The United States is not planning to go to war with Iran.”)

The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.

The new strategy “is a major shift in American policy—it’s a sea change,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. The Sunni states “were petrified of a Shiite resurgence, and there was growing resentment with our gambling on the moderate Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “We cannot reverse the Shiite gain in Iraq, but we can contain it.”

“It seems there has been a debate inside the government over what’s the biggest danger—Iran or Sunni radicals,” Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has written widely on Shiites, Iran, and Iraq, told me. “The Saudis and some in the Administration have been arguing that the biggest threat is Iran and the Sunni radicals are the lesser enemies. This is a victory for the Saudi line.”

Martin Indyk, a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration who also served as Ambassador to Israel, said that “the Middle East is heading into a serious Sunni-Shiite Cold War.” Indyk, who is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, added that, in his opinion, it was not clear whether the White House was fully aware of the strategic implications of its new policy. “The White House is not just doubling the bet in Iraq,” he said. “It’s doubling the bet across the region. This could get very complicated. Everything is upside down.”

The Administration’s new policy for containing Iran seems to complicate its strategy for winning the war in Iraq. Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran and the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued, however, that closer ties between the United States and moderate or even radical Sunnis could put “fear” into the government of Prime Minister Maliki and “make him worry that the Sunnis could actually win” the civil war there. Clawson said that this might give Maliki an incentive to coöperate with the United States in suppressing radical Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

Even so, for the moment, the U.S. remains dependent on the coöperation of Iraqi Shiite leaders. The Mahdi Army may be openly hostile to American interests, but other Shiite militias are counted as U.S. allies. Both Moqtada al-Sadr and the White House back Maliki. A memorandum written late last year by Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser, suggested that the Administration try to separate Maliki from his more radical Shiite allies by building his base among moderate Sunnis and Kurds, but so far the trends have been in the opposite direction. As the Iraqi Army continues to founder in its confrontations with insurgents, the power of the Shiite militias has steadily increased.

Flynt Leverett, a former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that “there is nothing coincidental or ironic” about the new strategy with regard to Iraq. “The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,” Leverett said. “This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.”

President George W. Bush, in a speech on January 10th, partially spelled out this approach. “These two regimes”—Iran and Syria—“are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq,” Bush said. “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

In the following weeks, there was a wave of allegations from the Administration about Iranian involvement in the Iraq war. On February 11th, reporters were shown sophisticated explosive devices, captured in Iraq, that the Administration claimed had come from Iran. The Administration’s message was, in essence, that the bleak situation in Iraq was the result not of its own failures of planning and execution but of Iran’s interference.

The U.S. military also has arrested and interrogated hundreds of Iranians in Iraq. “The word went out last August for the military to snatch as many Iranians in Iraq as they can,” a former senior intelligence official said. “They had five hundred locked up at one time. We’re working these guys and getting information from them. The White House goal is to build a case that the Iranians have been fomenting the insurgency and they’ve been doing it all along—that Iran is, in fact, supporting the killing of Americans.” The Pentagon consultant confirmed that hundreds of Iranians have been captured by American forces in recent months. But he told me that that total includes many Iranian humanitarian and aid workers who “get scooped up and released in a short time,” after they have been interrogated.

“We are not planning for a war with Iran,” Robert Gates, the new Defense Secretary, announced on February 2nd, and yet the atmosphere of confrontation has deepened. According to current and former American intelligence and military officials, secret operations in Lebanon have been accompanied by clandestine operations targeting Iran. American military and special-operations teams have escalated their activities in Iran to gather intelligence and, according to a Pentagon consultant on terrorism and the former senior intelligence official, have also crossed the border in pursuit of Iranian operatives from Iraq.

At Rice’s Senate appearance in January, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, of Delaware, pointedly asked her whether the U.S. planned to cross the Iranian or the Syrian border in the course of a pursuit. “Obviously, the President isn’t going to rule anything out to protect our troops, but the plan is to take down these networks in Iraq,” Rice said, adding, “I do think that everyone will understand that—the American people and I assume the Congress expect the President to do what is necessary to protect our forces.”

The ambiguity of Rice’s reply prompted a response from Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, who has been critical of the Administration:

Some of us remember 1970, Madam Secretary. And that was Cambodia. And when our government lied to the American people and said, “We didn’t cross the border going into Cambodia,” in fact we did.

I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee. So, Madam Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the President is talking about here, it’s very, very dangerous.

The Administration’s concern about Iran’s role in Iraq is coupled with its long-standing alarm over Iran’s nuclear program. On Fox News on January 14th, Cheney warned of the possibility, in a few years, “of a nuclear-armed Iran, astride the world’s supply of oil, able to affect adversely the global economy, prepared to use terrorist organizations and/or their nuclear weapons to threaten their neighbors and others around the world.” He also said, “If you go and talk with the Gulf states or if you talk with the Saudis or if you talk with the Israelis or the Jordanians, the entire region is worried. . . . The threat Iran represents is growing.”

The Administration is now examining a wave of new intelligence on Iran’s weapons programs. Current and former American officials told me that the intelligence, which came from Israeli agents operating in Iran, includes a claim that Iran has developed a three-stage solid-fuelled intercontinental missile capable of delivering several small warheads—each with limited accuracy—inside Europe. The validity of this human intelligence is still being debated.

A similar argument about an imminent threat posed by weapons of mass destruction—and questions about the intelligence used to make that case—formed the prelude to the invasion of Iraq. Many in Congress have greeted the claims about Iran with wariness; in the Senate on February 14th, Hillary Clinton said, “We have all learned lessons from the conflict in Iraq, and we have to apply those lessons to any allegations that are being raised about Iran. Because, Mr. President, what we are hearing has too familiar a ring and we must be on guard that we never again make decisions on the basis of intelligence that turns out to be faulty.”

Still, the Pentagon is continuing intensive planning for a possible bombing attack on Iran, a process that began last year, at the direction of the President. In recent months, the former intelligence official told me, a special planning group has been established in the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged with creating a contingency bombing plan for Iran that can be implemented, upon orders from the President, within twenty-four hours.

In the past month, I was told by an Air Force adviser on targeting and the Pentagon consultant on terrorism, the Iran planning group has been handed a new assignment: to identify targets in Iran that may be involved in supplying or aiding militants in Iraq. Previously, the focus had been on the destruction of Iran’s nuclear facilities and possible regime change.

Two carrier strike groups—the Eisenhower and the Stennis—are now in the Arabian Sea. One plan is for them to be relieved early in the spring, but there is worry within the military that they may be ordered to stay in the area after the new carriers arrive, according to several sources. (Among other concerns, war games have shown that the carriers could be vulnerable to swarming tactics involving large numbers of small boats, a technique that the Iranians have practiced in the past; carriers have limited maneuverability in the narrow Strait of Hormuz, off Iran’s southern coast.) The former senior intelligence official said that the current contingency plans allow for an attack order this spring. He added, however, that senior officers on the Joint Chiefs were counting on the White House’s not being “foolish enough to do this in the face of Iraq, and the problems it would give the Republicans in 2008.”


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Questions of Hersh's reliability aside he was talking about the Bush Administration in 2007 not the Obama one in 2012. Worse (for you) he never indicated they were intentionally stirring up trouble between Shiites and Sunnis.

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Efforts to curb Iran’s influence have involved the United States in worsening Sunni-Shiite tensions. Depending on the country Christian = Muslim violence can also occur from this plan.

The new American policy, in its broad outlines, has been discussed publicly. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is “a new strategic alignment in the Middle East,” separating “reformers” and “extremists”; she pointed to the Sunni states as centers of moderation, and said that Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah were “on the other side of that divide.” (Syria’s Sunni majority is dominated by the Alawi sect.) Iran and Syria, she said, “have made their choice and their choice is to destabilize.”

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That sentence can be read in two ways a) the US was getting involved in the relations which were getting worse on their own or B) they were causing the relations to worsen. Since nothing else in the text supports the latter he presumably meant the former. In any case they are the claims of a reporter of questionable reliability talking about the previous administration's policies in another country.

Edited by Len Colby
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February 2008

Sectarian Identities or Geopolitics? The Regional Shia-Sunni Divide in the Middle East

This publication examines the geopolitical situation unfolding in Middle Eastern politics since the onset of the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It focuses on the notions of the Sunni-Shia divide and the "Rise of the Shia." The author explains how and why geo- and power politics reinforce the sectarian divide on the basis of several international relations theories and explores the formation of a regional US-led anti-Iranian "alliance."


The United States is determined to maintain its relative power in the Middle East.Playing a significant role in regional politics includes engaging in alliances in order tobalance with different enemies. Bringing sectarian divisions to the surface has beena by-product of this game of power balancing at the regional level, and the UnitedStates has engaged in ‘the sectarian game’ both intentionally and unintentionally.The divisions forged by the United States are based on whether a country isperceived as an ally or an enemy (in the ‘US camp’ or in the ‘Iran camp’). For thispurpose,the current administration has introduced the terms ‘moderate states’ and‘radical states’ as attributes of its own allies and Iran’s allies respectively. Therhetorical style is the same as that of the War on Terrorism: with us or against us.

One would have to intentionally not understand intentionally. (Gaal)

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