Tuesday, April 9, 2019

West of Eden: Listing Terrorists

Brian Hook, a State Department Iran policy adviser,  on NPR to propagandize for Trump's (or Prime Minister Netanyahu's, or Crown Prince Mohammad's, depending who you ask) decision to list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization, offered a list of terrorist things they're said to have been responsible for, including the 1983 bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Beirut, which killed 305 people including 241 US military,  the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 29 including four Israeli employees and 25 Argentines, the 1994 bombing of the Associación Mutual Israelita Argentina building in Buenos Aires, a local Jewish community center, killing 85, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 US Air Force personnel and a Saudi national, and detaining US citizens—

Wait, what? Not that I approve of these cruel and unlawful imprisonments, which include four or five people still jailed at the time of writing, but is it the IRGC that did it, as opposed to other organs of the Iranian government, and is it correctly described as terrorism?
T]he term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents. (US Code, via Wikipedia)
“Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based” and anyone who questions the King or the government or supports any group, party, organization other than that of the ruling elite inside or outside the Kingdom is a terrorist (Saudi Arabia, same source) 
Also, Trump's best friend Kim Jong-un runs a government that's holding US citizen Kim Dong-chul on bogus charges with a 10-year prison sentence, and Vladimir Putin's Russia has held Paul Whelan since December.

But if you leave it out, it looks like 22 years since the IRGC was involved in any terrorist acts, by the US State Department's count, which makes listing it as a terrorist organization now seem like some peculiar timing. Especially since it's election day in Israel, whose embattled prime minister (under threat of indictment for bribe-taking) jumped in to make sure voters understood it as an example of his pull in Washington, Trump's personal favor to him:
“Thank you, my dear friend, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, for having decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization,” he wrote in Hebrew on Twitter on Monday. “Thank you for responding to another of my important requests, which serves the interests of our countries and countries of the region.”
Jameh Mosque, Isfahan, via.

Some other slightly random notes:

I want to note that attribution to Iranian agents of most of the incidents listed above is itself at least somewhat controversial; of the Beirut barracks bombing,
according to President Reagan's Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger "We still do not have the actual knowledge of who did the bombing of the Marine barracks at the Beirut Airport, and we certainly didn't then".[124] Weinberger mentions lack of certainty about Syria or Iran's involvement as the reason why America did not take any retaliatory actions against those states.[125] 
For Khobar Towers,
[British journalist] Abdel Bari Atwan wrote:[23]" ... The Saudi authorities were at pains to implicate Shi'i militants backed by Iran in this attack, since the embarrassing truth that they had their very own homegrown militancy problem was inadmissible; they did not want to give the impression that there was domestic opposition to the deployment of US troops on Saudi soil." ....William Perry, who was the United States Secretary of Defense at the time that this bombing happened, said in an interview in June 2007 that "he now believes al-Qaida rather than Iran was behind a 1996 truck bombing at an American military base."[27]
As for the 1994 Buenos Aires case, which is obscured in the murk of Argentine politicians' attempts to put one another in jail,
James Cheek, United States Ambassador to Argentina at the time of the bombing, told [Gareth Porter of The Nation], "To my knowledge, there was never any real evidence [of Iranian responsibility]. They never came up with anything." The hottest lead in the case, he recalled, was an Iranian defector named Manoucher Moatamer, who "supposedly had all this information." But Moatamer turned out to be only a dissatisfied low-ranking official without the knowledge of government decision-making that he had claimed. "We finally decided that he wasn't credible," Cheek recalled.[113]
Jason Rezaian, who counts his own unjust imprisonment as "IRGC terrorism", also counts the 603 US combat deaths in Iraq attributed to Iranian-planned IEDs between 2003 and 2011, which I think—sorry if this sound cold—doesn't meet any definition. On the other hand Rezaian also thinks listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization is a terrible idea, and he's not alone:
Yes, it’s true that the IRGC has a presence in Syria, Iraq and Yemen that is in many ways opposed to U.S. interests. And it’s also true that the IRGC plays a major role in repression within Iran’s borders. Yet the organization is also a conventional military force that we have in fact worked with when it made sense to do so, as in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State.
This is probably why our top military commanders and intelligence officials are advocating caution.
(The opponents cited being Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the whole of the CIA; the chief advocates are of course anti-Iran maniacs John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.)

Ishaan Tharoor writes,
“This so-called ‘maximum pressure’ strategy demonstrates that not a lot of thought was given about the complexities involved in the designation, such as the fact that the IRGC is not a monolith and is also made up of conscripts who have no choice but to serve,” Holly Dagres, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, said to Today’s WorldView. She added that this was part of the reason the national security establishment in Washington long resisted making the move.
The White House’s targeting of Iran also betrays its deep ideological animus toward Tehran. It has entertained no similar measures for the military intelligence services in Pakistan or the Persian Gulf monarchies, which, at various points, have maintained their own networks of support for a host of extremist groups with blood on their hands. Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, argued that the latest decision was “championed by the lurid duo of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo” — Trump’s national security adviser and secretary of state, respectively — neoconservatives who are leading the president “willy-nilly, to a fresh conflict in the Middle East.”
The more blatant that bias in favor of the Sunni monarchies (and the Israeli far right) gets, in my opinion, the more likely it is to lead to some really unpleasant blowback. I'm against it too.

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