Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 16, 2024.  The president of the United States meets the prime minister of Iraq and they discuss regional and other issues, the US called it "genocide" in Darfur but refuses to do the same with Gaza, we look at two vapid airheads in the US who contribute nothing of value, and much more.

The '00s promised so much.  Blogs were around and they were going to focus on real issues.  We were going to get reality and grown up discussions in the US.  The gas baggery was over.  The chat & chews were on the run.  And I committed the heresy of wondering if cutting off the head of Cokie Roberts didn't just mean that a thousand more heads would immediately sprout?

Which brings us to THE VANGUARD.  

What's worse than Cokie Roberts?  THE VANGUARD.

Apparently, Zac does a hilarious Robert Kennedy Junior send up in yesterday's hour plus segment.  I don't know.  I heard I had to see it but when I tried to watch, I couldn't wade through the 20 plus minutes of garbage that kicked off the segment.

Cokie and her gang at their worst on ABC's THIS WEEK couldn't have offered less facts and more garbage than Zac and Gavin did. 

Melina Abdullah was the focus of their garbage.  

Cornel West picked her to be his running mate last week.  The two appeared on Tavis Smiley's radio program.  They discussed a great deal.  I emphasized her Muslim identity in our coverage of that here because she emphasized it in the interview and Cornel did as well.

It clearly mattered to the two of them.

Not to Zac and Gavin.  Didn't matter to them.  They even floated the charge of identity politics.


I get it now, wasn't aware Zac didn't go to college, it explains a lot, including his lazy arguments, I get it now.

Let me explain something to the dunces of THE VANGUARD, Muslims are under attack.  The US government has spent the entire 21st century attacking them.  It didn't take Cornel West speaking about this for years and years for me to understand this.  But, yes, Cornel has spoken of it at length for years.

At a time when your government has launched a never ending war on Muslims, you running for president and picking a Muslim as your running mate?  That's a very strong message.

I doubt one issue or aspect alone determined the choice for Cornel; however, I am certain, from his many past statements about this war and how Muslims have been treated in the 21st century, that this choice did result from him wanting to use his position to send a message of unity.

And forget his past statements, just go to that interview with Tavis and it should be clear.

But that would require actual work and it's also true that Tavis is African-American and THE VANGUARD bros pose as lefties very well but they really struggle.  Marianne Williamson goes on with anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, transphobe Bill Maher and refuses to push back on his transphobia and Zac and Gavy think that was 'brilliants' -- she didn't let herself get bogged down!

She didn't defend those under attack.  That's not brilliant.  Zac and Gavin are cowards and idiots.

And I don't see how people don't get this.  I had to shut if off after one 30 second series of rants about "the guy."

Zac couldn't shut up about how wrong Melina was and how "the guy" that Cornel should have picked should have been this and should have been that.

Six times in thirty second, Zac mentioned "the guy" that Cornel should have picked instead of the woman Melina that he did.

Melina might be many things but, as Zac noted in his meltdown, she couldn't ever be "the guy."

The two stooges are never afraid to flaunt their stupidity and they were flashing yesterday.

"The game."  Cornel did not know how to play "the game" either.

You do that, Zac and Gavin explained, by picking someone with a name.  That's how you lift your ticket.  That's how you get media attention.

Media attention?  Like what Zac and Gavin were providing because back in the '00s we believed we were responsible for creating the content we provided.

Zac and Gavin offered nothing about the positions that Melina or Cornel as candidates were advocating.  They offered nothing of value, nothing would have required actual work on their own.  Instead they just jaw boned and gas bagged.

First off, it's not a "game."  It's an election.  And your turning into a horse race is something that we all decried before either you sprouted pubes.  You have no idea how horrifying you are to people who thought that the discourse was changing.

Cornel is never, Zac and Gavin wanted you to know, going to win (he's probably not) and now he's not even going to get 5% so what's the point!!!!!

Idiots, he's not got a political party.  He's running as an independent.  If he were running as one party's candidate, yes, 5% might matter because it would get the party on the ballot in the next election.  But he's running as an independent, you stupid, stupid gas bags.

Instead of issues, we got from the two dough boys that Cornel was going too Black.  Again, they're not leftists.  Expect both to bolt within a decade or two.

Cornel, they insisted, needed to cater his message so that everyone knew they were welcome, his ticket, they insisted, would only appeal to 5,000 people.  So about 3,000 more people than streamed THE VANGUARD segment?

It really is something to watch two White punks who have accomplished nothing and who beg on air for money -- while one of them brags about not going to college (maybe Zac's been tutored by Roseanne?) -- get bent out of shape because one African-American candidate chooses another African-American to be his running mate.  It's just a bit too much color for the albinos Gavin and Zac to handle.

Cornel may have picked Melina to raise her profile.  He may think she's a great leader - I would assume he does, he picked her -- and that one thing his campaign can accomplish is to raise her profile.

It's an offensive segment on every level -- the sexism, the racism and the sheer overwhelming vapid nature of the entire conversation which couldn't address one issue or even one position that Cornel is taking as a presidential candidate.  But they yack on for 20 minutes-plus about nonsense.  

Maybe Cornel doesn't want to win maybe he wants to drop out maybe maybe maybe . . .

Just shut the f**k up.  Your worthless and you're serving up worthless.  I would be embarrassed to be so stupid and vapid that I thought gossip and speculation as I tried to enter someone's mind made up for addressing real issues.  

They dumb down the world because they're two dummies.  In all that sugary crap that they served up, they offered not one vitamin, not one iota of fiber.  It was just junk food that left us all a little worse off.

As part of Cornel's platform, he is advocating for many things.  These are his points on workers justice:

  • Establish a workers bill of rights that includes the end of right-to-work states 
  • Greater protections for workers who attempt to unionize 
  • Requirement for all non-profit organizations to allow for the unionization of workers and collective bargaining 
  • One year limit on contract negotiations - if the contract is not completed in one year, the demands of the workers will be immediately codified 
  • 33% minimum worker representation for all Boards of Directors
  • Transform Paid Family Leave to mandate a minimum of six-months fully paid time off
  • End all pay discrepancies based on race, gender identity, disability status, etc.
  • Establish a federal commission to institute a four-day work week
  • Review all U.S. trade agreements and cancel any provisions that exploit workers domestically and internationally
  • National free pre-K childcare

    Let's note a press release -- a joint one from the governments of Iraq and the US:

    The delegation of the Republic of Iraq, led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning Mohammed Tamim, and the delegation of the United States Government, led by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, co-chaired a meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee today, April 15, in accordance with the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. The two sides reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral partnership and Iraq’s critical role in regional security and prosperity. The delegations expressed the desire to expand the depth and breadth of the relationship between our two countries, including in the areas of energy independence, financial reform, services for the Iraqi people, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and enhancing educational and cultural relations. Representatives from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government also participated.

    The U.S. and Iraqi delegations shared the view that Iraq has the potential to harness immense natural gas resources, invest in new energy infrastructure and renewables, and achieve energy self-sufficiency by 2030. The United States commended Iraq for its progress on gas capture and work on commercializing associated gases. Significant gas potential in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) is a key component of Iraq’s energy security, as is increased private sector investment. To allow Iraq to benefit from the U.S. private sector’s leading technology and expertise, the United States and Iraq announced the signing of new memoranda of understanding (MOUs) to capture and process flared gas and turn it into usable electricity for the Iraqi people. Also, the two sides stressed the importance of resuming oil exports via the Iraq-Turkiye Pipeline (ITP).

    The United States commended Iraq for its considerable work on increasing regional connectivity, particularly in energy interconnections with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. After years of work to build its interconnection with Jordan, Iraq is receiving 40 megawatts of electricity for the Iraqi people; future phases would increase capacity to 900 megawatts. Iraq affirmed that enhanced ties based on shared mutual interests with neighbors are essential to domestic prosperity. Iraq and the United States discussed Iraq’s interest in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including emerging nuclear technologies.

    The two sides discussed the significant progress Iraq has made in modernizing its financial and banking sector, which has expanded correspondent relationships with banks in the United States and Europe. Iraq and the United States committed to ongoing collaborative financial reform efforts that will allow Iraq to encourage foreign investment and continue expanding international banking relationships. These reforms will fight corruption and prevent illicit use of Iraq’s financial sector, allowing local banks to serve as engines of inclusive economic growth. The two sides resolved to strengthen cooperation through an enhanced engagement plan between the U.S. Treasury and key Government of Iraq stakeholders. Iraq and the United States also noted the importance of improving Iraq’s investment climate and combatting corruption, key pillars of Prime Minister Sudani’s reform efforts. To bolster the development of private business in Iraq, the United States International Development Finance Corporation will provide a $50 million loan facilitated by USAID to the National Bank of Iraq to expand its lending to micro, small, and medium enterprises, with a focus on previously unbanked and women-led businesses.

    Iraq renewed its commitment to its ongoing efforts on accession to the World Trade Organization and protecting intellectual property rights. The United States also committed to support a series of International Visitor Leadership Program projects for Iraqis to develop expertise in these areas. Both parties recognized the importance of strategic and infrastructural projects in Iraq that will support regional integration and boost international trade.

    The United States expressed concern about the impacts of climate change being felt by the Iraqi people and pledged continued support to resolve Iraq’s water crisis and improve public health. The United States commended the Supreme Water Committee’s work to improve management of Iraq’s water resources. Both countries intend to work closely together as Iraq addresses climate change and water scarcity and ends gas flaring to reduce methane emissions. The United States applauded Iraq’s pending release of its National Action Plan and encouraged Iraq to prepare a more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement ahead of the 29th UN Climate Change Conference. USAID committed to working with Iraq at the local government level to improve water and waste management services. The United States also committed to an International Visitor Leadership Program and an Ambassador’s Water Expert Program to share technical expertise on water management and other needs.

    The Iraqi delegation also expressed interest in cooperating with American companies to exchange expertise in health insurance programs, hospital management, and cancer research.

    The Government of the United States welcomed the Government of Iraq’s commitment to respecting freedom of expression in accordance with Iraqi law as guaranteed by Iraq’s constitution. The two delegations discussed how the United States could best support the Iraqi government to advance justice for survivors and victims of the 2014 genocide committed by ISIS in accordance with the rule of law. The two sides also discussed the importance of the stability of Sinjar. The United States reaffirmed its continued intention to support Iraq in advancing its Trafficking in Persons strategy. The United States applauded recent positive developments in support of minority communities. The two sides also took note of the impressive progress Iraq has made in repatriating more than 8,000 of its citizens from al-Hol displaced persons camp in northeastern Syria. The United States thanked Iraq for its commitment to accelerate the pace of repatriations.

    In the higher education and cultural discussion, the two governments discussed U.S. support for the Prime Minister’s reinvigorated scholarship program intended to bolster the number of Iraqi students studying overseas. The Government of Iraq intends to send 3,000 students to study in the United States out of 5,000 it plans to send to study abroad. The two nations also welcomed initiatives to expand English language instruction and student advising for Iraqi students interested in, or bound for, study in the United States. The two delegations also reviewed progress on their mutual efforts to preserve Iraq’s rich cultural heritage and religious diversity and reaffirmed their intent to continue facilitating the return of Iraqi cultural property to its rightful place in Iraq. Accordingly, during the HCC, the Department of State facilitated the transfer of one ancient Sumerian artifact repatriated to Iraq by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and committed to future repatriations of Iraqi artifacts.

    The two countries affirmed the strides Iraq has made in bolstering its security, stability, and sovereignty and noted their mutual determination to deepen the strong ties between their two peoples. The United States welcomed the opportunity to reaffirm and strengthen its partnership with Iraq.

    Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani, prime minister of Iraq since October 2022, made his first trip to the US yesterday and met with US President Joe Biden.  

    RUDAW notes:

    US President Joe Biden on Monday called on the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to resolve their issues through dialogue during a meeting with an Iraqi delegation led by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani, according to a Kurdish member of the delegation. 

    "We heard President Biden emphasizing that Erbil and Baghdad should resolve their issues through dialogue. Erbil and the [Kurdistan] Region are important for the US. The stability of the Region, Iraq and the region is important for America,” Safeen Dizayee, Head of KRG's Department of Foreign Affairs, told Rudaw’s Diyar Kurda. 

    Dizayee is among the KRG representatives in the Iraqi delegation currently in Washington DC. 

    The closed door meeting between the two leaders covered many topics.  We'll note that the issue of human rights was covered with Joe explaining that the push in Iraq to outlaw gay people would bar Iraq from many opportunities.  AP notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani was visiting for talks intended to focus primarily on U.S.-Iraq relations, which had been scheduled well before the Iranian strikes. But Saturday’s drone and missile launches, including some that overflew Iraqi airspace and others that were launched from Iraq by Iran-backed groups, have underscored the delicate relationship between Washington and Baghdad. "

    The prime minister of Iraq met with the president of the US as an American citizen was sentenced for crimes carried out in Iraq.  The US Justice Dept issued the following yesterday:

    A Pennsylvania man was sentenced today to 70 years in prison for torturing an Estonian citizen in 2015 in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and for the illegal export of weapons parts and related services.

    According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Ross Roggio, 55, of Stroudsburg, arranged for Kurdish soldiers to abduct and detain the victim at a Kurdish military compound, where Roggio suffocated the victim with a belt, threatened to cut off one of his fingers, and directed Kurdish soldiers to repeatedly beat, choke, tase, and otherwise physically and mentally abuse the victim over a 39-day period. The victim was an employee at a weapons factory that Roggio was developing in the Kurdistan region of Iraq that was intended to manufacture automatic rifles and pistols.

    “Ross Roggio had his victim abducted and detained at a Kurdish military compound in Iraq, where Roggio and others physically and mentally tortured the victim over the course of 39 days,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “During that time, Roggio suffocated the victim and directed others to beat, choke, and tase him. Roggio’s victim worked at a weapons factory in Iraq, where Roggio illegally sent weapons parts and illegally provided services, in violation of export controls laws. Today’s sentence—following the second-ever conviction under the federal torture statute—shows that, no matter where such deplorable acts occur, the United States is committed to holding the perpetrators accountable.”

    “The sentence imposed by the court demonstrates the seriousness of Ross Roggio’s crimes and brings some measure of justice for his torture victim,” said U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “Violence against the dignity and human rights of any victim cannot be tolerated and our office will continue to prioritize and pursue those who would do so in violation of federal law. Ross Roggio was also convicted of United States export laws related to illegally producing firearms in Kurdistan, Iraq. Though more technical in nature, these laws are no less important and are designed to take into account human rights considerations on a larger scale, to limit access to our most sensitive technologies and weapons, and to promote regional stability. I commend all the prosecutors and law enforcement agents who worked tirelessly to bring justice in this matter.” 

    In connection with the weapons factory project, Roggio exported firearms parts and tools without the required approvals by the U.S. government. He also illegally trained foreign persons in the operation, assembly, and manufacturing of the M4 automatic rifle.

    “Torture is among the grievous crimes the FBI investigates and this is the second time we have been able to bring justice under the federal torture statute,” said Executive Assistant Director Timothy Langan of the FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. “Our investigation into Roggio’s abominable crimes and today’s sentencing would not be possible without the sheer courage of the victim to tell his story. The FBI and our international partners stand with victims by standing up to human rights violations wherever they occur.” 

    “Today’s sentence highlights our commitment to stopping those who commit human rights abuses and threaten the security of the U.S. and partner nations,” said Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “Thanks to our close interagency and international cooperation, Roggio has been brought to justice.”

    “Export evasion is often not a standalone crime,” said Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod of the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). “Here, the same defendant who was illegally exporting weapons parts to his Iraqi weapons factory was also brutally torturing one of his employees there.”

    A federal jury convicted Roggio in May 2023 of 33 counts of torture, conspiracy to commit torture, conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, exporting weapons parts and services to Iraq without the approval of the U.S. Department of State, exporting weapons tools to Iraq without the approval of the U.S. Department of Commerce, smuggling goods, wire fraud, and money laundering.

    Roggio was the second defendant to be convicted of torture since the federal torture statute went into effect in 1994.

    The FBI and HSI investigated the torture and were joined in the investigation of the arms export violations by BIS’ Office of Export Enforcement.

    Trial Attorney Patrick Jasperse of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Scott A. Claffee of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd K. Hinkley for the Middle District of Pennsylvania prosecuted the case.

    The Estonian Internal Security Service, Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, and Pennsylvania State Police also provided valuable assistance.

    Members of the public who have information about human rights violators in the United States are urged to contact U.S. law enforcement through the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or the HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE, or complete the FBI online tip form or the ICE online tip form 

    Of course, the US carried out torture in Iraq constantly.  That's just one case above.  Brett Wilkins (COMMON DREAMS) notes a trial that began yesterday:

      Two decades after they were tortured by U.S. military contractors at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, three Iraqi victims are finally getting their day in court Monday as a federal court in Virginia takes up a case they brought during the George W. Bush administration.

    The case being heard in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Al Shimari v. CACI, was first filed in 2008 under the Alien Tort Statute—which allows non-U.S. citizens to sue for human rights abuses committed abroad—by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of three Iraqis. The men suffered torture directed and perpetrated by employees of CACI, a Virginia-based professional services and information technology firm hired in 2003 by the Bush administration as translators and interrogators in Iraq during the illegal U.S.-led invasion and occupation.

      Plaintiffs Suhail Al Shimari, Asa'ad Zuba'e, and Salah Al-Ejaili accuse CACI of conspiring to commit war crimes including torture at Abu Ghraib, where the men suffered broken bones, electric shocks, sexual abuse, extreme temperatures, and death threats at the hands of their U.S. interrogators.

    "This lawsuit is a critical step towards justice for these three men who will finally have their day in court. But they are the lucky few," Sarah Sanbar, an Iraq researcher at Human Rights Watch, wrote on Monday. "For the hundreds of other survivors still suffering from past abuses, their chances of justice remain slim."

    "The U.S. government should do the right thing: Take responsibility for their abuses, offer an apology, and open an avenue to redress that has been denied them for too many years," Sanbar added. 

    Turning to the War Crimes taking place in Gaza, let's note this from yesterday's DEMOCRACY NOW!

    AMY GOODMAN: The Middle East is bracing for possible retaliation from Israel after Iran launched 300 drones and missiles at Israel in response to Israel’s recent bombing of the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, Syria. The Iranian attack caused little damage inside Israel, which intercepted nearly all the drones and missiles, with help from the United States, Britain, France and Jordan. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for maximum restraint Sunday at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting.

    SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES: The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating, full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and deescalate. Now is the time for maximum restraint.

    AMY GOODMAN: As we broadcast, Israel’s war cabinet is reconvening to debate how to respond to Iran’s first-ever direct attack. Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz has vowed Israel will retaliate against Iran.

    BENNY GANTZ: [translated] In the face of the Iranian threat, we will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us. And most importantly, faced with the desire of our enemies to harm us, we will continue to unite and become stronger.

    AMY GOODMAN: President Biden has reiterated his, quote, “ironclad” support for Israel, but he reportedly told Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States will not participate in any retaliatory strikes against Iran.

    At the United Nations Sunday, Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Saeid Iravani defended the missile and drone attack on Israel, saying it was done in self-defense.

    SAEID IRAVANI: These countries, especially the United States, have shielded Israel from any responsibility for the Gaza massacre. While they have denied Iran’s inherent right to self-defense against the Israeli armed attack on our diplomatic premises, at the same time they shamefully justify the Israeli massacre and genocide against the defenseless Palestinian people under the pretext of self-defense.

    AMY GOODMAN: Iran’s attacks on Israel may add new momentum for the U.S. Congress to approve more aid for Israel as the House returns to session today.

    For more, we go to Tehran, where we’re joined by Reza Sayah, freelance journalist based in Tehran, where he joins us from. Trita Parsi is executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, joining us from Washington, D.C. And later we’ll speak with Gideon Levy, award-winning Israeli journalist and author in Tel Aviv. He’s columnist for the newspaper Haaretz, a member of its editorial board. His most recent piece is headlined “If Iran Attacks Israel, the Blame Lies on Israel’s Irresponsible Decision-makers.”

    We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Reza Sayah, let’s begin with you in Tehran. Can you talk about the response there in Iran’s capital after Iran retaliated against Israel for bombing the Iranian Consulate in Damascus?

    REZA SAYAH: Well, the people of Iran have had a variety of responses and sentiments. And I think it’s important to remind everyone that neither myself nor any journalist can sit here and tell you that a population, an entire population, has a single feeling, a single voice, a single sentiment, but this is what you hear oftentimes in Western news media, are journalists describing what an entire population is feeling or saying. That’s simply not the case. There are different competing sentiments in every population, and that is the case here in Iran.

    There’s a segment of the population here in Iran that are staunch supporters of the clerical establishment, staunch supporters of the supreme leader. They believe that it’s the duty of every Muslim to support and help the oppressed, and they view Gazans and Palestinians as the oppressed. They’re following very closely the events in Gaza over the past six months. They were outraged when Iran’s Consulate was attacked in Syria. And they cheered Iran’s response over the weekend when they fired those rockets and those drones in Israel. That’s one segment of the population.

    There’s another segment of the population in Iran that are staunch critics of the government. They have a very different view. They want reform in the government. Some want the government gone. They don’t mind when senior officials of the Revolutionary Guard are assassinated. They don’t mind when the establishment is undermined, when the Revolutionary Guard is undermined. They believe that the Iranian government, instead of funding Hezbollah and Hamas, should help the people. So they were — they are and they remain critical of Iran’s role in this conflict.

    But it’s important to point out that most people here in Iran are, remarkably, continuing their lives. Obviously, some people are worried. They see the headlines. They wonder what’s going to happen. But remarkably, they continue their lives. Schools are open. Stores are open. Businesses are open. And I think that speaks to the resilience of the Iranian people, who’ve faced so many challenges over these last 40-plus years — the isolation, a horrible economy, inflation, a lack of jobs. But somehow they continue living while monitoring what’s happening.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about who died in the attack on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus? At least two Iranian generals. Is that right?

    REZA SAYAH: Yeah, these were two Iranian generals that had significant roles in Iran’s presence in Syria and the reported operations that Iran has conducted against U.S. targets in the region, in Syria and Iraq. And it’s important to note that many people within the government continue to remind everyone that this was an act of war by Israel, even though Israel has not confirmed that it conducted the attack on the Iranian Consulate. Iran continues to remind the international community — they did it at the U.N. Security Council meeting — that Iran’s attack on Israel was a response to an act of war that Israel carried out against the Iranian Consulate, which is seen as Iranian soil.

    It is also important to point out that Iran’s response took two weeks. And that is in line with how Iran has reacted to similar incidents and assassinations in recent years. You’ll recall the assassination of General Soleimani, the top-ranking Revolutionary Guard general, in Iraq in 2020. You’ll recall Iran’s response was to attack a U.S. airbase in Iraq, but just as they did with this attack in Israel, they took a lot of time. It is reported that they even announced what they were going to do. And that’s a clear indication that Iran does not want to escalate matters with Israel and the U.S. and regional allies, that this was, as many say, a performative operation to send a message, and calculated in a way where Iran doesn’t want to escalate matters. And you saw Iranian officials explicitly say that, for them, the matter is over. Now we wait to see if Israel agrees, if it’s over for them, if they retaliate, and what Iran does after that.

    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, interviewed on CNN.

    WOLF BLITZER: Give us your assessment of an appropriate Israeli response to what Iran has now done.

    JOHN BOLTON: Well, what Iran did tonight that I think was most significant was the firing of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles from its territory directly at Israel. Almost certainly at this point, none of those missiles contained a nuclear warhead. But you never can tell when the next firing, the next salvo of ballistic missiles might contain a nuclear warhead. So, I think among the many targets Israel should consider, this is the opportunity to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program. And I hope President Biden is not trying to dissuade Prime Minister Netanyahu from doing that.

    AMY GOODMAN: So, that was John Bolton speaking on CNN. We’re also joined by Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, speaking to us from Washington, D.C. Trita, can you respond to what Bolton said and also how Washington is responding right now?

    TRITA PARSI: Well, I think you saw there, in John Bolton’s response, he used the word “opportunity.” And this is how some of the hawks view this. They see this as an opportunity to materialize the war between the United States and Iran and Israel that they have been seeking for more than 25 years. And that includes Bibi Netanyahu. I think it should not be forgotten that Netanyahu has been trying to start a war between the United States and Iran for more than two decades and has seen him being actually rebuffed by several presidents in a row, who may have been very hawkish on Iran, who may themselves have contemplated the idea of going to war with Iran, but who nevertheless rejected the pressure from Netanyahu to do so on behalf of Israel. But Bolton is reflecting that view, the idea that this is an opportunity to have a much larger war in the Middle East.

    AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about President Biden saying that Israel has the “ironclad” support of the U.S., but telling Netanyahu after this attack that the U.S. would not participate in any kind of retaliation, though the U.S. intercepted, I think they said, how many drones and something like six missiles and 90 drone strikes on the — with the Iranian attack? Jordan also participated, as did Britain and France.

    TRITA PARSI: I think what Biden is saying here is quite contradictory, because at the end of the day, there will be no distinction between offensive and defensive measures in the second the war actually breaks out. So, consider this scenario. The United States does not support and does not participate in Israel’s counterstrikes against Iran, and the Israelis may follow Bolton’s advice and try to target Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Iranians then respond in kind with a much larger barrage of missiles. Clearly what they did this time around was choreographed to minimize damage and make sure that there’s no casualties. Next time around, they won’t do that. Once the Iranians have started their counterstrikes, then the United States is dragged into the war, because Biden said that he will participate in the defensive measures. And then, regardless of what the previous measure was by the United States, the U.S. will be at war in the Middle East. And as a result, Netanyahu now has a clear pathway on how to drag the United States into this war. All he needs to do is to escalate further. The U.S. will reject that, but then the U.S. will be there once the Iranians are responding. And at that point, any distinction between offensive and defensive is meaningless.

    If Biden instead makes it very, very clear that it does not lie in the U.S.’s interest to have any escalation in the region and draws a red line in front of Iran and in front of Israel, he will then not need to come to the defense of Israel, because there will not be a war to begin with. That would be a much better pathway that serves U.S. interests, that prevents any regional escalation. But so far we have seen that Biden, even though he apparently is frustrated privately, he does not feel comfortable to draw any red lines for Israel publicly. And the ones that he has drawn privately, Netanyahu has systematically ignored for the last seven months.

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Trita Parsi, who’s executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, has written several books on Iran and the United States. We’re going to continue with him and Reza Sayah, freelance journalist in Tehran, and we’ll be joined by Gideon Levy, who is Haaretz columnist, on the editorial board of Haaretz, wrote the article “If Iran Attacks Israel, the Blame Lies on Israel’s Irresponsible Decision-makers.” Back in 30 seconds.


    AMY GOODMAN: “Khooneye Ma,” “Our House,” by Marjan Farsad. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

    The Middle East is bracing for Israel to retaliate amidst claims — calls for restraint after Iran fired over 350 drones and missiles at Israel in response to Israel’s attack on the Iranian Consulate in Syria that killed two Iranian generals and a number of other military officers. We are joined by guests in Tehran and Washington, D.C., and now to Tel Aviv, where we’re joined by Gideon Levy, an award-winning Israeli journalist and author, columnist for the newspaper Haaretz and a member of its editorial board, his most recent piece headlined “If Iran Attacks Israel, the Blame Lies on Israel’s Irresponsible Decision-makers.”

    In it, Gideon writes, quote, “For several years now, Israel has provoked Iran constantly, in Lebanon, Syria and also on Iranian soil, and has not paid any price. It would be foolish to believe that the rope Israel has stretched will not break. That moment may have come.” He ends by writing, “Just don’t say, again, that there was no choice. There was a choice: not to kill. Even if it is deserved, even if it is permitted and even if it is possible. The person who sent the assassins put Israel at risk of war with Iran.”

    Gideon Levy, you are joined — you are joining Reza Sayah, a freelance journalist in Tehran, Iran, and Trita Parsi, one of the heads of the Quincy Institute. Can you respond to Iran’s attack and what Israel did to provoke that, the bombing of the Iranian Consulate in Damascus? Did that surprise you?

    GIDEON LEVY: Nothing surprised here. The only thing which surprised, really, was the defensive capability of Israel, together with its allies. It was really impressive. But it’s not a guarantee for the future. When I wrote my article, it was before the attack came. And still I thought that the assassination in Damascus was unnecessary. The problem with the Israeli armed forces and intelligence organizations is that whenever they see an opportunity, they take it, without thinking about the consequences, without thinking about the price. And until now it was working for them, because Iran didn’t react ’til now directly on Israel, only through its proxies. But it was very clear that this cannot last forever.

    So, those who send the assassinators to assassinate on Iranian soil, on an Iranian diplomatic mission, those two generals and five more, those had to think what will be the next day. And the next day came, and we were attacked. And luckily enough, we didn’t suffer out of this attack. The only conclusion right now should be: No, don’t you dare to retaliate now, because then we will be in a regional war, and that’s a new game.

    AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what Benny Gantz said — as we broadcast right now, the war cabinet, Israel’s war cabinet, has reconvened — what Netanyahu said. Of course, they are competing with each other. If Netanyahu were to go down, it’s perceivable Benny Gantz would become the next prime minister. But talk about what’s happening within that war cabinet.

    GIDEON LEVY: Amy, it’s for long time that I claim that those who want to get rid of Netanyahu are obviously right, but the hope that the alternative will be any better on core issues — for many issues it will be much better, but on core issues, like apartheid, the occupation, continuing the war in Gaza, will be very, very disappointed. And here we go. Benny Gantz, who is the alternative, who is the liberal alternative, who is the dovish alternative of Israel, he speaks exactly like Netanyahu and would act exactly like Netanyhau when it comes to core issues or core questions like launching an assassination, like launching a war, like using the military power of Israel. And that’s really very, very depressing that there is no alternative thinking in Israel and no lessons out of the experience. All the assassinations that Israel committed, all of them, never led to anywhere. Nothing good came out of them, except of the ego of the organizations who stood behind it. And here comes this Benny Gantz, the big hope of the liberal Israel, and suggests to continue the war, to make it worse, to go for a regional war with Iran. That’s really, really, very depressing.

    AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned, Gideon Levy, that what’s happening with Iran now is taking attention away from what’s happening in Gaza, where the death toll just continues to mount, over — close to 34,000 people, just the official death toll, is expected to be much higher, and where the resistance was mounting in the United States, for example, on President Biden not to arm Israel, given what’s happening in Gaza, that now the House, which is notoriously divided, is perhaps coming together around giving more aid to Israel?

    GIDEON LEVY: It goes without saying, Amy. Not only Gaza is forgotten. Also look what is happening in the West Bank — pogrom after pogrom, and nobody cares anymore. The army collaborates in those pogroms. We have videos from the last days in which the army not only stands aside, but many times take part of those pogroms against the Palestinians. And nobody pays attention to it — not to speak, obviously, about Gaza — because everyone is now concerned about Iran. But Gaza is still starving and bleeding, and we shouldn’t forget it, even not for a moment, like we shouldn’t forget the hostages who are still there. But it seems that now everyone is only concerned about retaliating Iran. This would be such a major, maybe fatal, mistake.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring back in Reza Sayah. You were based in Cairo, Egypt, when you covered the negotiations between Israel and Hamas in 2014 as Israel launched its assault on Gaza then. Can you talk about what unfolded back then and how it compares to the negotiations that are taking place, what, in Doha and Cairo now for a ceasefire?

    REZA SAYAH: Well, obviously, back then, what took place, as is taking place right now on a smaller scale, was the killing of lots of innocent civilians. But one thing that sticks out in my mind in 2014, in covering that conflict, was the Israeli government’s flat-out refusal to negotiate. There were so many instances when I was talking to Hamas leaders who were in Cairo. And in these instances, they would tell me that the Israeli officials who were supposed to show up for those negotiations simply would not show up. And this was something that was not widely reported by Western and U.S. media, the Israeli government’s seeming unwillingness to negotiate with Hamas. Eventually, there was negotiations, and that war ended, but in subsequent years leading up to this conflict, the cycle of war continued. But that’s something that sticks out in my mind in that 2014 conflict.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask about Jordan’s position in all of this, Trita Parsi, what role it plays. You had the United States, Britain, Jordan, France all intercepting some of these drones and missiles.

    TRITA PARSI: Yes, numerous countries participated in the interception of these missiles. And the only reason they could do so was because the Iranians had given them 72 hours’ heads-up, deliberately, because the entire purpose of this exercise was not to inflict damage but to restore what the Iranians believe is their deterrence and showcase their capability. And as Gideon said, the shooting down of these missiles was quite impressive, but I think we also have to keep in mind that there might be a different scenario in the future in which there is no forewarning of these attacks, and as a result, France, Britain and the United States will not be able to prepare for and participate, in this extent, in the shooting down of the missiles. And then, as a result, it’s not entirely clear to what extent the Israeli air defenses would be capable of handling what would likely be a much larger barrage of missiles shot at Israel. So, I think the Israelis may have also picked up that at the end of the day, a military confrontation, even though Israel, of course, is much stronger than Iran, and certainly the U.S. is, but, nevertheless, will be very, very damaging to Israel, as well. And that, I think, is one of the key messages the Iranians were trying to send.

    The Jordanians are, of course, caught in the middle there, because all of these different things are then flying over Jordanian airspace. And the Jordanian position has been that they’re defending their airspace. They are not defending Israel. This is not done in order to necessarily help the Israelis. It’s to make sure that Jordan asserts that no war should be taking place on its territory or in its airspace. That, nevertheless, is a tough position for the Jordanians to take, given the very, very strong sentiments that are now boiling over inside of Jordan because of the population’s frustration with what is happening in Gaza and their perception that the Jordanian government, and the Arab world at large, have been helpless and not done enough to prevent the slaughter.

    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask Gideon Levy if you’ve been surprised by the amount of conversation going on between Iran and the United States, perhaps not directly. And also I want to put that question to Reza Sayah. But where the result is, you have United States saying they will not participate in Israel’s retaliation, if they retaliate against Iran?

    GIDEON LEVY: First of all, I would say we always portray Iran as a crazy state, as an insane state. It might be described like this. But in this case, it was very measured. Very measured. I wish the United States and Iran would have spoken much more. I wish the agreement, the nuclear agreement, would be still valid, and we would be in a much better place and safer place, rather than what both Donald Trump and Netanyhahu arranged us, canceling this agreement, which was the best way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. The more they speak, the better — under the table, above the table, behind the curtains, any way to talk to them. I still believe that every regime has its own interests, and dialogue is, by the end of the day, the best way, even if it’s the Satan of Iran.

    AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk, as you talked about what’s happening also on the West Bank, if you can talk about the most recent news about the death of one of the most prominent Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli prison, died of cancer, novelist Walid Daqqa, who spent the past 38 years locked up for his involvement in an armed group that abducted and killed an Israeli soldier in 1984, rights groups pressuring Israel to release him, saying he was in dire need of medical attention, Amnesty International calling for his release, saying that since October 7th he had been tortured, humiliated and denied family visits? You’ve written about this.

    GIDEON LEVY: I’m following this story for many, many years. I even visited Walid once in jail many years ago. It’s one of those horrible stories which tells you much more than the story itself. Walid Daqqa is an Israeli. He is not a Palestinian from the West Bank. He’s an Israeli Palestinian. He, by the way, didn’t murder. He participated in a group which kidnapped an Israeli soldier and then killed him, some of them. He was not involved in it. But he was charged for murder and everything fined. He sat 37 years for this murder, much more than any murderer in the world — in Israel, not in the world. He, in this period, changed his — declared that he had enough with terror, declared that he regrets any terror actions. He’s exactly the style of leadership that we should look forwards, those Palestinians who change their minds and clear terror as a tool.

    But, no, for Israel, no Palestinian is good enough, and here, in the last years, started really a sadistic behavior toward him and his family. No visits. When he started to be ill in cancer, when he got no visits half the year now, they didn’t even inform the family that he’s dying. They didn’t even inform the family he died. And now it’s already 10 days. They don’t even return the body, and don’t let them mourn in their home. I mean, what is more sadistic than this? And what is more the face of this current government of Israel? When it comes to Palestinians, Israeli Palestinians or Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza, sadism is the name of the game.

    AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to give Reza Sayah the last word. In U.S. media, we don’t often hear from people in Tehran. You’re a freelance journalist there in the capital of Iran. You’ve been covering Iran’s relationship with Hamas, particularly in the aftermath of October 7th. Could you expand on this, and what you think it’s most important for people to understand outside of Iran, and particularly here in the United States?

    REZA SAYAH: Well, I think, from the people’s standpoint, the people here are resilient. Most of them are peace-loving people who do not want war.

    And I want to follow up on Mr. Levy’s thought about how Iran is often portrayed in Western media to the American and Western audience as a radical, reckless, violent government. And I think a lot of thoughtful analysts will tell you that a radical entity, a radical government, would not last for 45 years like the Islamic Republic has. And these analysts will tell you that the reason that they have survived for these 45-plus years is that they’re not reckless, that they’re very calculating and they’re measured.

    And they understand, at this very high-stakes juncture, that there are forces that perhaps Israel wants to bait them into a wider war. And I think Iran understands that that would be a mistake. I think many here understand that if they get baited into a wider war, it would be a distraction to what’s happening in Gaza, that has served the establishment here well by getting them a lot of political clout. And it would also potentially galvanize and unite Israel with its Western allies, Western allies that have been critical of Israel in their operation in Gaza.

    So, at this hour, they’re waiting to see what Israel does, if Israel retaliates. But history has shown that if Israel retaliates, Iran is going to be aware of what their responses could cost, and they’re going to take a measured response. It’s obviously a very high-stakes chess game, and a lot of people anxious to see what happens in the coming days.

    AMY GOODMAN: Reza Sayah, I want to thank you so much for being with us, freelance journalist in Tehran, Iran; Gideon Levy, a Haaretz columnist, member of its editorial board, and we’ll link to your articles; and Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

    My old boss Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, bravely said recently what Joe Biden has been afraid to: “Palestinian civilians do not deserve to suffer for the sins of Hamas, and Israel has a moral obligation to do better. The United States has an obligation to do better.”

    The ongoing violence, Schumer noted, threatens not just the lives of Palestinians but the security of Jewish people worldwide by alienating global allies appalled by the bloodshed. If Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to desist, he concluded, the US must start “shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage” – which obviously includes military, diplomatic and economic aspects.

    What drove Schumer to such an unprecedented interference in Israel’s domestic politics is the appalling humanitarian devastation inflicted on Gaza. Whether or not one believes genocide has occurred, the death rate in Gaza has equaled or exceeded that in three other recent cases that US presidents did call “genocide”. Americans may reject such comparison on grounds that Israel is responding in self-defense to terrorism. But they probably are unaware that historically the vast majority of genocides, unlike the Holocaust, similarly have been responses to rebel or terrorist attacks – including in the three most recent cases.

    This morning, ALJAZEERA reports:

    Gaza’s “once-vibrant health system” and aid efforts have been decimated by Israel, and the population faces “famine, malnutrition, and infectious disease outbreaks”, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partners warned in a statement.

    Projections by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health indicate that even with an immediate ceasefire, up to nearly 12,000 people would die in Gaza as a result of disease, the statement also read.

    “No hospitals in Gaza are fully functioning any longer. IRC staff and partners in Gaza continue to witness devastation in the health facilities that are left,” said Dr Seema Jilani, IRC’s senior health technical adviser for emergencies.

    “While there have not been large-scale epidemics in Gaza for over a decade, the population has now been left vulnerable to infectious diseases such as flu, COVID, pneumonia, bacterial dysentery, cholera, polio, measles and meningitis,” she added.

    The IRC reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire and unfettered aid access to prevent the total collapse of public health in the besieged Gaza Strip.

    Israeli forces were surrounding Mahdi Al Shawa school in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza and firing at displaced Palestinians sheltering inside, media and witnesses say.

    Mahmoud Hamdan, 30, told The National: “The occupation started a large-scale military operation after midnight and the vehicles advanced towards Beit Hanoun while we and thousands of people were present inside the schools.”

    He said there were about 3,000 Palestinians inside the school.

    In the past two weeks, some people have returned to their homes in Beit Hanoun, he said. But many of those at the school are reluctant to leave the building for fear of being shot.

    “The army completely surrounded the school last night and people were unable to leave except for a few," Mr Hamdan said on Tuesday. "I, along with some guys, managed to escape with difficulty and reached Jabalia camp.”

    Gaza remains under assault. Day 193 of  the assault in the wave that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse."  THE NATIONAL notes, "At least 33,843 Palestinians have been killed and 76,575 injured in Israel's war on Gaza, the enclave's health authorities said.  They added that 46 people were killed and 110 injured in the past 24 hours."  Months ago,  AP  noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  February 7th, Jeremy Scahill explained on DEMOCRACY NOW! that "there’s an estimated 7,000 or 8,000 Palestinians missing, many of them in graves that are the rubble of their former home."  February 5th, the United Nations' Phillipe Lazzarini Tweeted:

    April 11th, Sharon Zhang (TRUTHOUT) reported, "n addition to the over 34,000 Palestinians who have been counted as killed in Israel’s genocidal assault so far, there are 13,000 Palestinians in Gaza who are missing, a humanitarian aid group has estimated, either buried in rubble or mass graves or disappeared into Israeli prisons.  In a report released Thursday, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said that the estimate is based on initial reports and that the actual number of people missing is likely even higher."

    As for the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."

    Over 13,800 children have been killed in Gaza in the last six months while many more have been left injured.  ALJAZEERA notes:

    Children in Gaza have become the faces of the continuing war as their stories paint a “harrowing picture” of the human consequences of the conflict, a UNICEF official says.

    “Children are wearing a tremendous share of the scars of this war,” UNICEF communications specialist Tess Ingram – who left Gaza on Monday after spending two weeks there – told a UN press briefing in Geneva.

    More than 12,000 children were injured in Gaza since October 7, 2023, she said, and this is “almost certainly an underestimate”.

    “With at least 70 children injured every day, we need the number of medical evacuations to increase so children can access the care they urgently need. And with one child killed or injured every 10 minutes, above anything else we need a ceasefire.”

    A lasting truce “is the only way to stop the killing and maiming of children”.

    The following sites updated: