“It was not immediately clear how close the U.S. military recon jet was flying near Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between NATO allies Poland and Lithuania. This fall, Russia moved nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad, putting some European capitals in strike range.” — Armed Russian jet comes within 5 feet of US recon jet
“At the end, we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals — Kennedy was rational, Castro was rational, Khrushchev was rational — came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today. The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is this: The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations.” –U.S. Vietnam “War” Defense Sec. Robert McNamara, The Fog of War
So, is it just “Nuclear Chicken” – or is it Russian Roulette? Or maybe both?
Iran has freed four dual-nationality prisoners, including an American/Iranian pastor and an American/Iranian Washington Post reporter who had been accused of working for the U.S. to foment regime change in Iran. The release was part of a prisoner swap, in which seven Iranians imprisoned in the U.S. over sanction violations were also freed. A fifthAmerican was freed by Iran outside of the swap.
Within hours of the release, devastating international sanctions on Iran were lifted after international inspectors verified its compliance with the terms of last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers.
Taken together, the prisoner swap, Iran’s compliance with its nuclear-deal commitments, and the sanction relief mark what may be a historic thaw in relations between the U.S. and Iran. This, however, should not be exaggerated, as the U.S. continues many belligerent policies directed at Iran, especially in the realm of proxy warfare (see below).
The developments at least mark a short term political triumph for the chief negotiators of the nuclear deal: the administrations of U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani was elected on the basis of his campaign promise to negotiate detente with the U.S. and to accomplish economic relief from sanctions for the Iranian people. Parliamentary elections in Iran will be held late next month, making the lifting of the sanctions exceedingly well-timed for Rouhani’s political party.
Conversely, the thaw is a supreme setback to Rouhani’s political rivals, the hardliners in Iran who have strenuously opposed the nuclear deal.
The hardliners in the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia are certainly furious as well.
“And for all I knew about the Israel-Palestine crisis, I was not prepared to come in to such intimate contact with so much human destruction. And to really come to grips with the fact that the Gaza Strip is an open-air prison, and it’s not hyperbolic to say so. We’re not just saying this for rhetorical effect.
In order to enter Gaza, you pass through the Erez terminal with your government press office credential, which means you’re one of very few people who can get in or get out. And you wander down a long corridor, which is a cage, and then you arrive at a metal door at a concrete wall. The metal door opens, it shuts behind you, and you’re inside what is effectively a walled-off ghetto.
You look down this endless wall, to your right, and you see a remote-controlled machine gun perched on the wall. That’s the spot and strike system, which is operated by an all-female unit of Israeli soldiers in the Negev Desert, tens of kilometers away, by remote. And what they do is, they watch the buffer zone?—?this 300-kilometer area that Palestinians are forbidden from entering inside the Gaza Strip. And anyone who enters who they determine to be a “terrorist,” they eliminate with the push of a joystick button from a remote-controlled machine gun. It’s just that dystopian.”
Tomorrow is Nakba Day, which commemorates the mass dispossession of Palestinians that accompanied the foundation of the State of Israel. Read “The more Israel represses the Nakba, the stronger the memories” by Gideon Levy in Haaretz. Use the printer-friendly or Google cache version to bypass the paywall.
“But the truth is that there is no greater proof of Israel’s insecurity about the justness of its cause than the battle waged to forbid marking the Nakba. A people confident in its path would respect the feelings of the minority, and not try to trample on its heritage and memories. A people that knows something terrible is burning under its feet sees every reference to what happened as an existential threat.”