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Middle East: Stupid is the Order of the Day

The stupid Attack Iran obsession seems to have infected virtually all discussion of the Middle East.

Marc Lynch  of G.W. University said something stupid…then Amnesty International said something stupid…and how about those stupid Islamic terrorist plots?

I have already written about Marc Lynch’s rather terminal and embarrassing misunderstanding of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the matter of Syria, a major problem since he presents threatening Assad and his cohorts with prosecution by the ICC as the cornerstone for his vision of coercive diplomacy.

Largely because of the insistence of the United States, the ICC does not enjoy universal jurisdiction. It cannot pursue crimes against humanity regardless of where they occur; it can only act 1) in the case of “state parties” – nations that have both signed and ratified the Rome Statute, thereby binding themselves to submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC or 2) when the UN Security Council decides that the superseding demands of world peace and security dictate that a malefactor, whether or not he or she belongs to a “state party” should be turned over to the court.

As long as Syria—a signatory but not ratifier of the Rome Statute—is shielded in the Security Council by Russia and China, Lynch’s riposte to Syrian recalcitrance, the threat of ICC prosecution, appears ludicrous.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the West will refuse to accept defeat and simply try to change the rules under which non-state-party despots are exposed to ICC jeopardy.

Andrea Bianchi and Stephanie Barbour try to do their best to expand the ICC’s reach, despite a rather sobersided piece of reporting by AP that highlights the limits to ICC jurisdiction in the matter of Syria:

“Experts said the list is likely to be more of a deterrent against further abuses than a direct threat to the Assad regime. Syria isn’t a member of the ICC so its jurisdiction doesn’t apply there, and Russia would likely block any moves in the U.N. Security Council to refer the country to the Hague-based tribunal.

“But Andrea Bianchi, a professor of international law at Geneva’s Graduate Institute, said anyone on the U.N. list might still be arrested and prosecuted if they traveled from Syria to a country that has signed up to the international court.

“‘Personally, if I were on that list I would worry,’ he said.

“Human rights group Amnesty International urged that the list be kept secret to prevent suspects from being tipped off.

“‘If in the future there is to be any potential to issue sealed arrest warrants the list has to remain confidential,’ said Stephanie Barbour, coordinator of the group’s campaign for international justice.”

Personally, if I was of the opinion that the ICC was basically an arbitrary tool against dictators that the United States and its allies doesn’t like, I guess I’d worry, too.

And if I was a professor at some Geneva institute of higher education, or a coordinator at AI, I’d be rather ashamed that I wasn’t spending some time highlighting the fact that the United States has gone even further than Syria in removing itself from the ICC’s jurisdiction.

But that’s just me.

Here in Connect-the-Dots-Istan, we were also struck by the parallels between the stupid Muslim assassin in Washington story and the stupid Iranian terrorists in Thailand, Georgia, and India story.

Foreign Policy tells us about the long and winding path to arrest of the Moroccan who tried to assassinate President Obama with a bogus suicide vest thoughtfully provided by the FBI:

A would-be suicide bomber was arrested on Capitol Hill today after accepting what he thought was an explosive vest from undercover agents. Roll Call’s Emma Dumain has the details:

“The arrest was the culmination of a lengthy and extensive operation,” the statement continued. “At no time was the public or Congressional community in any danger.”[…]

Local reports by Fox News describe the individual in custody as “a man, in his 30s and of Moroccan descent” who has been a target of a lengthy FBI investigation. Fox News reported that the suspect believed the undercover FBI agents assisting him were al-Qaida operatives.

Roll Call notes that the story is similar to that of Rezwan Ferdaus, who was arrested last September in the midst of a plot to attack the Capitol with a remote-controlled aircraft. Ferdaus was also in communication with FBI agents posing as al Qaeda members.

The case is also similar to that of Farooque Ahmed, who thought he was going to blow up the DC Metro system in 2010, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who thought he was going to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland Oregon in 2010, David Williams, who thought he was going to blow up a Bronx synagogue in 2009, and the “Fort Dix Five,” who thought they were going to attack a New Jersey military base in 2006.

In each case, undercover FBI agents spent months communicating and providing fake resources to the suspects before springing the trap. …

The increasing frequency of these operations is bound to raise some questions about whether law enforcement agencies are pushing along the development of plots that the individuals involved might never have acted on without the longterm encouragement of their “al Qaeda contacts.”

Now, I don’t have any special insights into the concurrent anti-Israeli bomb plots with Iranian principals that were simultaneously busted in Georgia, India, and Thailand, but Arshin Adib-Moghaddam wrote in Counterpunch to offer a perspective on the conspiracies:

Let’s assume that sections of the military and security apparatus in Iran are responsible for the string of bombings in Georgia, Thailand and India. What would be the motive? The argument that Iran is retaliating for the murder of five civilian nuclear scientists in Iran is not plausible. If Iran wanted to target Israeli interests, it has other means at its disposal. It is hard to imagine that the Iranian government would send Iranian operatives to friendly countries, completely equipped with Iranian money and passports – making the case against them as obvious as possible.

If the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are as professional, highly trained and politically savvy as we have been told repeatedly by Israeli politicians themselves, if they have successfully trained and equipped the cadres of Hezbollah and other movements with paramilitary wings in the region, then why would they launch such a clumsy and self-defeating operation?

And why India, Georgia and Thailand, three countries that Iran has had cordial relations with during a period when Iran is facing increasing sanctions spearheaded by the United States? A few days ago, India agreed a rupee-based oil and gas deal with Iran and resisted US pressures to join the western boycott of the Iranian energy sector. As a net importer of 12% of Iranian oil, India’s total trade with Iran amounted to $13.67bn in 2010-2011. What would be the motive for damaging relations with one of Iran’s major trading partners and regional heavyweights?

For Iran it doesn’t make sense to risk alienating India by launching an assassination attempt in the capital of the country. Similarly, Iran has good economic and political relations with Georgia and Thailand. Why would the leadership in Tehran risk a major crisis with these countries during this sensitive period when IAEA inspectors are moving in and out of Iran to investigate the country’s nuclear program?

Good, good questions. Especially when it was recently revealed that the Israeli intelligence agencies were mounting false flag operations, convincing Balochistan militants that their attacks against Iranian targets were being orchestrated by the CIA, not Mossad.

I would also not hesitate to draw the conclusion that US and Israeli security services have a sizable roster of extremist dingdongs on tap, available to incite and detain as the needs of public safety and anti-Muslim/anti-Iran diplomacy require.

PETER LEE has spent thirty years observing, analyzing, and writing on international  affairs. Lee can be reached at peterrlee-2000@yahoo.com

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Peter Lee edits China Matters and writes about Asia for CounterPunch.  

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