Murder in Tehran – Listening Post – Al Jazeera English

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[Al Jazeera English] Murder in Tehran could be the title of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but this is not a movie.

On January 11, the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be assassinated in two years was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. And while the media did not reveal Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan’s assassin, they did reveal their own agendas and double standards.

Iranian media instantly pointed the finger at Israel. As ever, the Israelis neither confirmed nor denied. Over in the US and the UK, mainstream media outlets used his death as yet another beat in the drum roll for war against the Islamic Republic.

In this week’s News Divide, we look at what the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist says about the news media and their own agendas.

Murder in Tehran – Listening Post – Al Jazeera English.

The Cost of Terror

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This is just the rehearsal for the 2012 Olympics. I can’t imagine how much this whole charade is going to cost the British taxpayer. None of this would be necessary if the Brits weren’t such experts at making enemies, and such cowards about acknowledging past mistakes. Arresting Tony Blair as a war criminal would be a good start. Instead, they are handing over British Citizens like student Richard O’Dwyer to America. Let it be noted both the UK and the United States are party to Geneva Convention on Human Rights which is supposed to protect, not facilitate, civilians from deportation.

Kim Dotcom’s arrest & Anon’s attack. Just so.. Hollywood Capitalist

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Hollywood Sign

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What I find truly scary is confusing “free” or “open” internet with making money out of sharing illegal content by breaking copyright rules, then launching attacks to defend that profit centre. Megaupload is a profit-based operation, same as a TV company, record label or film studio. Anonymous dashing to the rescue is just one type of enforcement battling against another, but with the same goals – to protect a capitalistic business model. They aren’t fighting over content or the right to access  and share it, they are fighting over making money out of content.

That the United States chose a time when major internet players and users were up in arms against the SOPA/PIPA legislation is an obvious ploy. They are showing the world that they don’t need more legislation than they already have. Why then are we all being riled up and distracted by the SOPA shenanigans? Probably so we don’t notice how incredibly awful the US presidential candidates are. Too late, we already looked, and are universally traumatized.

The organizations that are able to harness the power of international law enforcement to protect their profitability – New Zealand and Great Britain are only two recent examples – are the same ones who own and control the majority of international broadcast media – still the most popular and widely-used source of news and information in the world. Where they choose to shine their spotlight is where we all inevitably end up focusing our attention – regardless of the “power” of social media – we are being spoon-fed flavour-of-the-day of their favorite brand of manure, and lapping it up like day-old pups.

Quite often I feel suspicious when a new event strikes a chord in my memory of some other news item, which takes on a different meaning in the light of the event. In this case, it is the statement I read on Wired.com on 12 Jan by General Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, that the US defense network is currently “not defensible”. I thought at the time that was a rather strange admission from a senior member of the US Military. Why would anyone advertise your vulnerability to the world like that, much less the head of the NSA? Now I see it as one way to explain the apparent ease of “Anonymous” being able to DDOS the FBI website, in addition to other, as-yet unreported events, potentially of greater magnitude.

I think we should also ask ourselves, with the benefit of hindsight, and the recent experience of how much time and effort it took to enact a major online event like the internet blackout – is the speed of the revenge attack on US government and media industry websites really feasible? I know I was half-expecting that Anonymous would step into action on January 18 and implement an “enforced blackout” on sites that didn’t join in, by using DDOS or defacements. That didn’t happen. I am still puzzled by the apparent lack of interest in the blackout operation from the blackout masters of the interwebs; the very group who should feel most at risk from internet censorship and be first in line to defend it were as inconspicuous on the big day as they were super-evident around the Kim Dotcom arrest. Perhaps they had been planning a major DDOS attack for 18 Jan and couldn’t get it together in time, but were able to nimbly harness those reserves on 19 Jan so their efforts were put to some use. No one is ever going to know, and I wouldn’t trust anyone who pretended that they did know.

For some time, since the advent of groups claiming to be part of Anonymous started posting names, addresses, emails, and credit card information, I have considered that Anonymous as an entity or a concept can be so easily infiltrated, misrepresented, subverted or abused, it has long past the point of usefulness or validity within the original framework of “internet defenders for the greater good” and has inexorably devolved into “internet vigilantes for the lulz”. The whole central pillar of Anonymous is anonymity: there can be no identifiable individuals representing Anonymous. Ever. Once that happened, Anonymous was polluted as far as I am concerned.

Here’s that Hollywood-style arrest story:

New Zealand police on Friday seized a pink Cadillac and a sawn-off shotgun, and froze millions of dollars in cash, after a raid on the fortified mansion of an Internet guru accused of online piracy.

Armed officers swooped on an Auckland property occupied by “Kim Dotcom”, whose website Megaupload.com is alleged by US authorities to be involved in one of the largest cases of copyright theft ever.

Dotcom, also known as Kim Schmitz, a 37-year-old German [some say Dutch] citizen with New Zealand and Hong Kong residency, was denied bail with three other men on Friday when they appeared in an Auckland district court, police said.

According to New Zealand reports, Dotcom’s lawyer initially objected to media requests to take photographs and video inside the courtroom. But the accused said he did not mind “because we have nothing to hide”.

In a statement, police said they raided 10 Auckland premises, including the Megaupload founder’s property known as Dotcom Mansion, after liaising with US authorities.

In addition, police said NZ$11 million in cash held in New Zealand financial accounts was frozen pending the outcome of legal proceedings.

Detective Inspector Grant Wormald said the Megaupload founder tried to retreat to a fortified safe room when police arrived.

“Mr Dotcom retreated into the house and activated a number of electronic locking mechanisms,” he said.

“While police neutralised these locks he then further barricaded himself into a safe room within the house which officers had to cut their way into.

“Once they gained entry into this room they found Mr Dotcom near a firearm which had the appearance of a shortened shotgun — it was definitely not as simple as knocking at the front door.”

Dotcom and the three other arrested men — Dutchman Bram van der Kolk and Germans Finn Batato and Mathias Ortmann — were denied bail and are scheduled to reappear in court on Monday.

US authorities are seeking their extradition to the United States.

They accuse the Megaupload website, which allows downloading of large files, of generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and causing “more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners”.

Its closure sparked retaliatory cyber-attacks from the “Anonymous” hacktivist group on the FBI and Justice Department websites, as well as music and recording industry websites seen as supporting the clampdown.

AFP

No mention of the many gigabytes of user-created content that has now been taken offline, or whether it will be released to the owners. All premium users of MegaUpload who used it to store their own content have effectively now had that material stolen by the FBI acting on behalf of the anti-piracy lobby.

In the wake of all this, don’t you sometimes feel like you are just being entertained in a rather patronizing – yet equally dramatic and titillating – way? Do take a look at the first link below, which surely offers a reasonably simple explanation for why MegaUpload was really shut down.

Greece & UAE shipping firms help Syria send oil to Iran

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Help for Syria From Some Surprising Sources

(via WSJ) U.S. officials have uncovered an effort by Iran to help Syria mask its oil exports and evade an American and European embargo.

U.S. officials and shipping executives said Iran, through a Dubai-based company, Sea Enterprises Ltd., chartered a Greek-owned tanker, the Mire, to ship more than 91,000 metric tons of crude. The Mire loaded the oil from Nov. 19 to 21 at the Syrian port of Baniyas with the intention of delivering it to Iran’s Ras Bahregan oil terminal, the officials and executives said.

The Treasury Department was able to get the Mire’s insurance and registration pulled after telling company executives that the ship was carrying a product sanctioned by the U.S. and EU.

The Mire, like many international oil tankers, uses American insurance, is registered in Liberia and flies under a Liberian flag. The Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry ordered the Mire’s owners to desist from delivering the oil to Iran, said Scott Bergeron, CEO of the Liberian company. But the owners ignored the order and discharged the shipment in Iran before eventually returning to the United Arab Emirates.

Liberia issued a notice of violation against the Mire’s owner, Eurotankers Inc. of Greece, in accordance with Liberian civil-penalty procedures. The company declined to comment.

Meanwhile…

The bloodshed continues, the Arab League observers are coming to the end of their tour – under the constant barrage of complaints that their observations are not also offering any form of protection. There are reports that the Arab League might consider an extension of the current mission for a further four weeks.

Debates on Syria’s future continue unabated, but the talk about sending Arab League troops – though they have no operational force, and would need considerably more than the estimated 3,500 troops organized under Syria [oh, the irony] back in 1948 – has quietened down a little. Al Jazeera Arabic’s poll that I posted a link to has been removed. Bassam Haddad writing in the opinion section of Al Jazeera English describes how any external military intervention would destabilise Syria, due to both intended and unintended consequences. Last word on this post surely belongs to former Syria political prisoner, released in November 2011 half way through a 12-year sentence under an al-Assad amnesty [more irony] – the dissident doctor Kamal al-Labwani:

“Time is blood now, not money. It means more victims, torture and destruction of our country.”

 

#Iran agrees to UN IAEA visit 28 Jan 2012

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English: Flag of the International Atomic Ener...

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A HIGH-LEVEL UN nuclear agency delegation will visit Iran late this month to try to clear up claims of covert weapons activities that have stoked tensions between Tehran and the West.

The trip led by International Atomic Energy Agency chief inspector Herman Nackaerts and the agency’s number two Rafael Grossi would last from January 28 through the first week of February, one Western diplomat said last night.

Another envoy also said the visit, two months after an IAEA report on Iran took suspicions to a new level that Tehran is developing nuclear weapons, would “likely” be from January 28, although it was not yet definite.

There was also some “ambiguity” on whether the delegation would merely hold talks with Iranian officials or be able to visit sites covered in the IAEA’s bombshell November 8 report, the second diplomat said.

“It may be that the Iranians just want a short discussion in Tehran, which would not be what the IAEA is looking for,” the envoy said.

An IAEA spokesman declined to comment. Iran’s ambassador, Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, who said in December he would hold talks with the IAEA in Vienna this month about a visit, was not immediately available to say any more.

The delegation would include alongside the Belgian Mr Nakaerts and the Argentine Mr Grossi – IAEA head Yukiya Amano’s chief of staff – the body’s senior legal official Peri Lynne Johnson, a US citizen, envoys said.

“The aim of this mission is to try to get answers once and for all to all the questions raised by the IAEA’s report in November,” the first diplomat said.

Iran is already subject to regular safeguards inspections of its uranium enrichment facilities, with IAEA inspectors having already visited the country this year.

But this trip could cover sites where other activites are alleged to have taken place that could be relevant to the development of a nuclear bomb. The last time Mr Nackaerts visited was in the second half of last year.

Iran denies seeking atomic weapons, saying its program is peaceful, but Western countries strongly suspect otherwise and the UN Security Council has slapped four rounds of sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Ali Larijani, the influential speaker of Iran’s parliament, said on Thursday during a visit to Turkey that his country stood ready for negotiations with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

In its November 8 report, rejected as “baseless” by Iran, the IAEA had said it was able to build an overall impression that Tehran “carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device”.

The evidence included a bus-sized steel container visible by satellite for explosives testing and weapons design work, including examining how to arm a Shahab-3 missile, capable of reaching Israel, with a nuclear warhead.

Since the publication of the report, Western countries have sought to increase pressure on Iran, with Washington and Brussels taking aim at Iran’s oil industry and its central bank, while pressing Japan and China to join in.

Iran, where a judge on Monday reportedly sentenced to death a US-Iranian former Marine for “membership of the CIA”, has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for 20 per cent of the world’s oil.

Also on Monday the IAEA said that Iran had starting enriching uranium to purities approaching that needed for a nuclear weapon inside a mountain bunker at Fordo near the holy city of Qom.

This was a “very significant step”, Oliver Thraenert from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin said, saying he was not optimistic that the upcoming IAEA visit would achieve much progress.

“We are already in a confrontation between the West … and Iran, with more and more escalation going on on both sides,” he said.

“The Iranians are becoming much more nervous, this is obvious.

“But both sides are reluctant about escalating the situation to a point where a military confrontation would become unavoidable … particularly prior to US presidential elections (in November).”

Iran says the 20-per cent enriched uranium is for medical purposes but Washington called the start of operations at Fordo “a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations”.

On Wednesday Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a deputy director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant, died in a car bomb blast that Tehran blamed on the US and Israel, the third scientists to meet such a fate in the past two years. Thousands attended his funeral in Tehran last night.

AFP

Iran agrees to UN inspectors visit | The Australian.