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Archive for January 16th, 2007

Jury selection ends for day in Libby perjury trial


Potential jurors dismissed after offering opinions of Bush administration

WASHINGTON – Nine potential jurors were interviewed – and three of them dismissed after being asked their opinions of the Bush Administration – in the first day of the perjury and obstruction trial against former White House aide “Scooter” Libby.

I. Lewis Libby, who served as an adviser to President Bush and chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding outed CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her identity was leaked to reporters in 2003 after her husband criticized the Bush administration’s prewar intelligence on Iraq.

“Do any of you have feelings or opinions about the Bush administration or any of its policies or actions, whether positive or negative, that might affect your ability to give a former member of the Bush administration a fair trial?” U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton asked a panel of about 60 potential jurors.

Juror responsesOf the nine potential jurors interviewed, six were asked to return Wednesday and three were dismissed.

Of the those three, one woman was let go after being asked about her views of the Bush administration. She answered, “I am completely without objectivity. Nothing they can say or do would make me think anything positive about them.”

A male financial analyst was also dismissed after he told the defense he would not be able to put Vice President Dick Cheney on the same footing as other witnesses. “I don’t have the highest opinion of him, the potential juror said, “He has done a lot for the country, but I don’t think it would process what I think of him.”

When ask if he would be able to separate in his mind the negative feelings he has for Cheney, the man replied, “In some subjective way maybe. I don’t know about Mr. Libby, as I know about Mr. Cheney.”

When asked about the Bush administration use of prewar intelligence, he answered, “I don’t think they intentionally tried to mislead. The intel they used was the most convenient for their cause. Freeing Iraq from tyranny was not the first thing. Weapons of mass destruction sold the American public. It was a scary thought.”

A third juror, a female, was dismissed because she is a freelance photographer and could not afford to spend six weeks at trial. The judge said he will have her called again for a shorter case.

NBC News: How the CIA leak case began

Questioning the jurors

All the prospective jurors were asked 38 questions by the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, in an effort to narrow the pool. The questions ranged from opinions about Bush administration officials – like Vice President Dick Cheney, who is expected to testify at the trial – to their opinions of the news media.

Cheney is expected to be a key defense witness. Presidential historians believe it would be the first time a sitting vice president testified in a criminal case.

The judge asked the pool of jurors if they believed the news media and felt that they are credible. But the judge did not specially ask jurors about the Iraq war. Questions about the war and pre-war intelligence were pointedly asked by Libby’s defense attorneys.

The judge also asked the jury pool if they would have any difficulty fairly judging the believability of former or present members of the Bush administration.

Walton asked, “Do any of you have any feelings or opinions about Vice President Cheney, whether positive or negative, that might affect your ability to be fair in this case or that might affect your ability to fairly judge Vice President Cheney’s believability?”

After the group was asked the 38 questions, each juror was then scheduled to take the stand for follow-up questions from defense attorneys, prosecutors and the judge.

William Jeffress, one of Libby’s attorneys, asked a juror if the vice president misled the nation of pre-war intelligence leading up to the war. The juror responded that she was not sure if that was the case.

In the process known as voire dire, lawyers and the judge posed questions to potential jurors.

Among other jurors’ responses:

A woman, a former journalism student, who said, without prompting, that she voted for President George W. Bush. She also replied that she thought the administration was, “I think, as honest as they could be” about reasons for the war.

Another woman, a former opera singer and mother of three sons said, “I think he (Bush) genuinely felt he was doing the right thing. Asked if she felt others mislead him or gave bad information, she replied, “Yes” and then further stated, “There seems to be a bit of a credibility gap” that she is “not real comfortable with it.” referring to the war, but she indicated she felt she could judge Libby fairly.

A third woman who does work in the Watergate apartment building and spoke about knowing that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lives there “on the 5th floor.” When asked about the war, said she has a female cousin serving in Iraq. When asked about her personal feelings about war in Iraq, she said, “I think Bush should let them come home. I think he’s been a little harsh. No offense,” adding, “I think he should let them come home and their loved ones would love to see them.” She went on to say, “Bush knows this. He don’t let the troops come home and just rest for a while. He wants the war and I think he (Bush) should just relax for a while and just see what happens.” Asked about the vice president as a likely witness, she replied, “Cheney is with Bush sometimes, he agree with Bush.” This potential juror recognized Libby, she said from TV, saying “Yep, that’s him.”

There was also extensive questioning about issues relating to the presumption of innocence.

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Jury selection ends for day in Libby perjury trial


Potential jurors dismissed after offering opinions of Bush administration

WASHINGTON – Nine potential jurors were interviewed – and three of them dismissed after being asked their opinions of the Bush Administration – in the first day of the perjury and obstruction trial against former White House aide “Scooter” Libby.

I. Lewis Libby, who served as an adviser to President Bush and chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding outed CIA officer Valerie Plame. Her identity was leaked to reporters in 2003 after her husband criticized the Bush administration’s prewar intelligence on Iraq.

“Do any of you have feelings or opinions about the Bush administration or any of its policies or actions, whether positive or negative, that might affect your ability to give a former member of the Bush administration a fair trial?” U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton asked a panel of about 60 potential jurors.

Juror responsesOf the nine potential jurors interviewed, six were asked to return Wednesday and three were dismissed.

Of the those three, one woman was let go after being asked about her views of the Bush administration. She answered, “I am completely without objectivity. Nothing they can say or do would make me think anything positive about them.”

A male financial analyst was also dismissed after he told the defense he would not be able to put Vice President Dick Cheney on the same footing as other witnesses. “I don’t have the highest opinion of him, the potential juror said, “He has done a lot for the country, but I don’t think it would process what I think of him.”

When ask if he would be able to separate in his mind the negative feelings he has for Cheney, the man replied, “In some subjective way maybe. I don’t know about Mr. Libby, as I know about Mr. Cheney.”

When asked about the Bush administration use of prewar intelligence, he answered, “I don’t think they intentionally tried to mislead. The intel they used was the most convenient for their cause. Freeing Iraq from tyranny was not the first thing. Weapons of mass destruction sold the American public. It was a scary thought.”

A third juror, a female, was dismissed because she is a freelance photographer and could not afford to spend six weeks at trial. The judge said he will have her called again for a shorter case.

NBC News: How the CIA leak case began

Questioning the jurors

All the prospective jurors were asked 38 questions by the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, in an effort to narrow the pool. The questions ranged from opinions about Bush administration officials – like Vice President Dick Cheney, who is expected to testify at the trial – to their opinions of the news media.

Cheney is expected to be a key defense witness. Presidential historians believe it would be the first time a sitting vice president testified in a criminal case.

The judge asked the pool of jurors if they believed the news media and felt that they are credible. But the judge did not specially ask jurors about the Iraq war. Questions about the war and pre-war intelligence were pointedly asked by Libby’s defense attorneys.

The judge also asked the jury pool if they would have any difficulty fairly judging the believability of former or present members of the Bush administration.

Walton asked, “Do any of you have any feelings or opinions about Vice President Cheney, whether positive or negative, that might affect your ability to be fair in this case or that might affect your ability to fairly judge Vice President Cheney’s believability?”

After the group was asked the 38 questions, each juror was then scheduled to take the stand for follow-up questions from defense attorneys, prosecutors and the judge.

William Jeffress, one of Libby’s attorneys, asked a juror if the vice president misled the nation of pre-war intelligence leading up to the war. The juror responded that she was not sure if that was the case.

In the process known as voire dire, lawyers and the judge posed questions to potential jurors.

Among other jurors’ responses:

A woman, a former journalism student, who said, without prompting, that she voted for President George W. Bush. She also replied that she thought the administration was, “I think, as honest as they could be” about reasons for the war.

Another woman, a former opera singer and mother of three sons said, “I think he (Bush) genuinely felt he was doing the right thing. Asked if she felt others mislead him or gave bad information, she replied, “Yes” and then further stated, “There seems to be a bit of a credibility gap” that she is “not real comfortable with it.” referring to the war, but she indicated she felt she could judge Libby fairly.

A third woman who does work in the Watergate apartment building and spoke about knowing that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lives there “on the 5th floor.” When asked about the war, said she has a female cousin serving in Iraq. When asked about her personal feelings about war in Iraq, she said, “I think Bush should let them come home. I think he’s been a little harsh. No offense,” adding, “I think he should let them come home and their loved ones would love to see them.” She went on to say, “Bush knows this. He don’t let the troops come home and just rest for a while. He wants the war and I think he (Bush) should just relax for a while and just see what happens.” Asked about the vice president as a likely witness, she replied, “Cheney is with Bush sometimes, he agree with Bush.” This potential juror recognized Libby, she said from TV, saying “Yep, that’s him.”

There was also extensive questioning about issues relating to the presumption of innocence.

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Bank sees February or March timeline if Israel strikes

Warning that investors might be “in for a shock,” a major investment bank has told the financial community that a preemptive strike by Israel with American backing could hit Iran’s nuclear program, RAW STORY has learned.

The banking division of ING Group released a memo on Jan. 9 entitled “Attacking Iran: The market impact of a surprise Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities.”

ING is a global financial services company of Dutch origin that includes banking, insurance, and other divisions. The report was authored by Charles Robertson, the Chief Economist for Emerging Europe, Middle East, and Africa. He also authored an update in ING’s daily update, Prophet, that further underscored the bank’s perception of the risks of an attack.

ING’s Robertson admitted that an attack on Iran was “high impact, if low probability,” but explained some of the reasons why a strike might go forward.

The Jan. 9 dispatch, describes Israel as “not prepared to accept the same doctrine of ‘mutually assured destruction’ that kept the peace during the Cold War. Israel is adamant that this is not an option for such a geographically small country….So if Israel is convinced Iran is aiming to develop a nuclear weapon, it must presumably act at some point.”

Sketching out the time line for an attack, Robertson says that “we can be fairly sure that if Israel is going to act, it will be keen to do so while Bush and Cheney are in the White House.”

Robertson suggests a February-March 2007 timeframe for several reasons. First, there is a comparable situation to Israel’s strike on Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political troubles within Israel. Second, late February will see Iran’s deadline to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1737, and Israel could use a failure of Iran and the UN to follow through as justification for a strike. Finally, greater US military presence in the region at that time could be seen by Israel as the protection from retaliation that it needs.

In his Jan. 15 update, Robertson points to a political reason that could make the assault more likely – personnel changes in the Bush administration may have sidelined opponents of attacking Iran.

Preisdent Bush recently removed General John Abizaid as commander of US forces in the Middle East and John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, both of whom have said attacking Iran is not a priority or the right move at this time. The deployment of Patriot missile batteries, highlighted in President Bush’s recent White House speech on America’s Iraq policy, also pointed to a need to defend against Iranian missiles.

The ING memo was first sent to RAW STORY as an anonymous tip and confirmed Monday by staff in the bank’s emerging markets office, who passed along the Jan. 15 update. The full PDF documents can be downloaded at this link for the Jan. 9 report, and this link for the Jan. 15 update. A screenshot of the first page is provided below.

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When Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff goes on trial Tuesday on charges of lying about the disclosure of a CIA officer’s identity, members of Washington’s government and media elite will be answering some embarrassing questions as well.

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s case will put on display the secret strategizing of an administration that cherry-picked information to justify war in Iraq and reporters who traded freely in gossip and protected their own interests as they worked on one of the big Washington stories of 2003.

The estimated six-week trial will pit current and former Bush administration officials against one another and, if Cheney is called as expected, will mark the first time that a sitting vice president has testified in a criminal case. It also will force the media into painful territory, with as many as 10 journalists called to testify for or against an official who was, for some of them, a confidential source.

Besides Cheney, the trial is likely to feature government and media luminaries including NBC’s Tim Russert, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, columnist Robert D. Novak and Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward.

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s investigation into the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity became a popular spectator sport in Washington in the summer of 2004, when reporters were first ordered under threat of jail to reveal their anonymous sources in the administration. In October 2005, Libby was indicted on charges of perjuring himself before a grand jury, making false statements to investigators and obstruction of justice (though he was not one of the leakers to Novak, who first disclosed Plame’s identity).

U.S. v. Libby boils down to two drastically different versions of the same events in the spring and summer of 2003. The government alleges that Libby was involved in a concerted White House effort to discredit Plame’s husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had publicly accused the Bush administration of twisting information he provided on Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. Wilson led a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger a year earlier and found no grounds for claims that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium there.
Eight days after Wilson went public with his claims, Plame’s identity as a CIA officer appeared in Novak’s column.

The defense says that neither Libby nor the White House sought to retaliate against Wilson and that Libby misspoke to investigators looking into the disclosure because he was overwhelmed by a crush of national security and other matters. He has said he had no motive to lie about the details or timing of conversations he had with reporters.

The case has largely played out in below-the-radar court hearings as prosecutors and defense lawyers have mapped the boundaries of the trial. Despite speculation at cocktail parties and in law-firm lunchrooms that Bush would pardon Libby to avoid the spectacle of a trial, the date has arrived.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton and lawyers for both sides will begin selecting 12 jurors along with alternates Tuesday. It is not expected to be an easy task, given the heavy publicity and the involvement of two institutions — the government and the news media — low in the public’s esteem. Preparing for strong feelings from some D.C. residents, Walton has assembled 100 prospective jurors and has a pool of 100 more standing by.

Walton has also girded for intense media coverage, last week issuing unusually strict orders that bar attorneys from commenting publicly during the trial.

Fitzgerald’s probe focused on a tense time in Washington, starting in May 2003, when the administration sought to defend its invasion of Iraq even as U.S. troops failed to find weapons of mass destruction, which the administration had cited as one of the main reasons for deposing Saddam Hussein. That month, reporters began writing about anonymous accusations from Wilson that Bush had sold the war to the American public using intelligence Wilson had found to be groundless. Wilson went public with his accusations during the first week of July.

On July 14, Novak published a column identifying Wilson’s wife, Plame, as a CIA employee who helped arrange her husband’s trip to investigate the Iraq claim. He cited two administration sources.

The government alleges that before Novak’s column appeared, Libby set out to discredit and silence Wilson after Cheney shared his irritation about Wilson’s claims and Plame’s role at the CIA. Libby asked State Department and CIA officials for more information about Wilson’s mission and Plame, prosecutors say, then shared Plame’s role with a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller. At the time, Miller was trying to defend her own reporting, which had asserted evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

“It is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to ‘punish’ Wilson,” Fitzgerald wrote in a court filing last year.

Later, when a leak investigation was opened, prosecutors allege that Libby lied to FBI agents, telling them that he had learned about Plame from Russert in a telephone call on July 10 or 11 and that he had passed along that information as unconfirmed gossip to two other reporters.

The plainspoken Russert will be a star government witness. He has told Fitzgerald that Libby fabricated parts of a conversation with him. He has said that when he spoke with Libby in mid-July, Plame never came up as Libby complained that MSNBC host Chris Matthews had an antiwar slant.

Russert has said he did not know about Plame until he read Novak’s column. A source familiar with the case says his version will be corroborated by testimony from NBC News’s former president, Neal Shapiro. Russert told Shapiro about Libby’s complaint soon after the call, the source said, saying nothing about Plame.

Miller also will be a key, if hostile, government witness. She chose to go to jail for 85 days rather than reveal her conversations with Libby. After details of her reporting methods were revealed in Fitzgerald’s probe, she was assailed by media critics and eventually left the Times.

Another crucial set of witnesses is the eight people who worked in the administration with Libby, who collectively describe him as meticulous about details and keen to obtain and spread information about Wilson and Plame before his July 10 call to Russert.

Randall D. Eliason, a former chief of public corruption cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the evidence appears to make it difficult for Libby to claim forgetfulness. “You have the vice president cutting out a section of the newspaper, circling it and saying, ‘Let’s find out about this.’ You don’t rise to the level of being the vice president’s chief of staff by letting that kind of thing slip your mind.”

The defense contends that Libby forgot how he learned Plame’s identity and misspoke when questioned twice by the FBI and twice by a grand jury about his conversations with reporters. He insists that there was no cabal to “get” Wilson and that Cheney wanted him only to rebut what he saw as inaccuracies by Wilson. That Novak first learned about Plame from Richard L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state and a skeptic of the war, proves there was no conspiracy, the defense maintains.

“Mr. Libby will counter by showing that when he spoke to the FBI and the grand jury, he knew that he was not a source for the public disclosure of Ms. Wilson’s employment,” his defense lawyers wrote in a recent filing.

Libby’s attorneys have said they plan to call Cheney as a witness, presumably to help establish that Libby was indeed engulfed by national security matters and had no motive to lie. It is a bold move, because Cheney would be questioned by prosecutors. Lawyers around town say they would pay for a seat in court when Fitzgerald, one of the best trial prosecutors in the country, cross-examines the vice president, a sharp-tongued debater.

Another key witness for the defense will be Woodward, who after the bulk of the probe was over told Fitzgerald that, a month before Novak’s column appeared, he learned of Plame’s CIA role from an offhand comment Armitage made while Woodward was interviewing him for a book. He has said he interviewed Libby soon thereafter and cannot rule out the possibility that he talked to Libby about Plame’s identity.

That could buttress Libby’s claim that Plame’s identity was already known by reporters, so there was no reason for him to lie about discussing it with them.
Woodward apologized in November 2005 for not telling his editor about the crucial information, saying he did not want to be drawn into a case in which some colleagues had been threatened with jail for protecting their sources.

Charles Tobin, who heads the media law practice for Holland & Knight, said that the case already has had serious consequences for journalists by forcing them to reveal their sources and that it will continue to hurt newsgathering.

“There’s certainly going to be a hesitation among sources as they see this trial unfold and watch what happens with Libby,” Tobin said. “Will they have conversations with reporters if they think those conversations can be used to prosecute them?”

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U.N.: 34,000 Iraqis killed last year


BAGHDAD, Iraq – The United Nations said Tuesday that more than 34,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in sectarian violence last year, nearly three times the number reported dead by the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi Health Ministry did not comment on the report, which was based on information released by the Iraqi government and hospitals. The government has disputed previous figures released by the U.N. as “inaccurate and exaggerated.”

The same day the figure was released, two back-to-back explosions struck a used motorcycle marketplace in central Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding 74.

The first bomb was attached to a motorcycle in the market. As the curious gathered to look at the aftermath, a suicide car bomber drove into the crowd and blew up his vehicle. Authorities said at least three policemen were among the dead.

The blast appeared to target the mainly Shiite neighborhood near the market but also was near the Sheik al-Gailani shrine, one of the holiest Sunni locations in the capital.

Raad Abbas, a 26-year-old who received shrapnel wounds in the attacks, said he had gone to the market because the city had been quieter over the past two weeks.

“Shortly after midday, I heard an explosion. Motorcycles were flying in the air, people were falling dead and wounded,” he said from his hospital bed.

The U.N. figure was released as Baghdad braces for a major security operation to be launched by the Iraqi government and U.S. forces aimed at quelling the rampant sectarian violence that has been on the rise since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra.

Cabinet ministers and legislators loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were instructed to end their six-week boycott of the political process, a parliamentarian in the political bloc said Tuesday, indicating that the decision was linked to the new security drive.

“We might be subjected to an attack and we should try solve the problem politically. We should not give a chance for a military strike against us,” said the legislator, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information was not yet public.

The lawmaker said the group’s return was conditional, including demands that the government set up a committee to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a second that would set a date by which Iraqi forces were to take control of security nationwide.

The demands would give the government one month to put such a measure before parliament.

Until the walkout, the al-Sadr faction was an integral part of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s governing coalition. Six Cabinet ministers and 30 legislators who belong to the movement called the boycott after al-Maliki met with President Bush in Jordan in late November.

Much of the violence has been blamed on Shiite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army militia loyal al-Sadr. Dozens of bodies turn up on the streets of Baghdad daily, many showing signs of torture.

Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq in Baghdad, said 34,452 civilians were killed and 36,685 were wounded last year.

Iraqi government figures announced in early January put last year’s civilian death toll at 12,357. When asked about the difference, Magazzeni said the U.N. figures were compiled from information obtained through the Iraqi Health Ministry, hospitals across the country and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad.

“Without significant progress in the rule of law sectarian violence will continue indefinitely and eventually spiral out of control,” he warned.

Hakim al-Zamili, a deputy health minister, declined to comment on the figures, referring questions to the Baghdad morgue, which could not be reached for comment.

Magazzeni said 6,376 civilians were killed violently in November and December — 4,731 of those in Baghdad, most as a result of gunshot wounds. He noted that was a slight decrease from the previous two month period, during which UNAMI recorded a total of 7,047 civilians killed.

The mission’s latest bimonthly report also noted that some figures were not yet included in the total for December.

The U.N. report also said that 30,842 people were detained in the country as of Dec. 31, including 14,534 in detention facilities run by U.S.-led multinational forces.

It pointed to killings targeting police, who are seen by insurgents as collaborating with the U.S. effort in Iraq. The report said the Interior Ministry had reported on Dec. 24 that 12,000 police officers had been killed since the war started in 2003.

The report also painted a grim picture for other sectors of Iraqi society, saying the violence has disrupted education by forcing schools and universities to close as well as sending professionals fleeing from the country.

At least 470,094 people throughout Iraq have been forced to leave their homes since the bombing in Samarra, according to the report.

The developments came a day after the Iraqi government hanged two of Saddam Hussein’s henchmen in an execution that left many of the ousted leader’s fellow Sunni Muslims seething after one of the accused was decapitated on the gallows.

A thickset Barzan Ibrahim plunged through the trap door and was beheaded by the jerk of the thick rope at the end of his fall, in the same execution chamber where Saddam was hanged a little over two weeks earlier.

Dozens of people, mostly schoolchildren, read Quranic verses at the graves in Tikrit as mourning continued for Ibrahim, Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court under Saddam.

Some 150 youths also staged a demonstration in Saddam’s hometown, 80 miles north of Baghdad, chanting “down with the pro-Iranian government” and “glory to Barzan,” but it was calmer than the day before when at least 3,000 angry Sunnis assembled for the burials.

A government video of the hanging, played at a briefing for reporters, showed Ibrahim’s body passing the camera in a blur. The body came to rest on its chest while the severed head lay a few yards away, still wearing the black hood pulled on moments before by one of Ibrahim’s five masked executioners.

At least 13 other people were killed or found dead in Iraq on Tuesday, according to police, including four who died when a roadside bomb struck a police patrol in a predominantly Shiite area of downtown Baghdad.

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Bank sees February or March timeline if Israel strikes

Warning that investors might be “in for a shock,” a major investment bank has told the financial community that a preemptive strike by Israel with American backing could hit Iran’s nuclear program, RAW STORY has learned.

The banking division of ING Group released a memo on Jan. 9 entitled “Attacking Iran: The market impact of a surprise Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities.”

ING is a global financial services company of Dutch origin that includes banking, insurance, and other divisions. The report was authored by Charles Robertson, the Chief Economist for Emerging Europe, Middle East, and Africa. He also authored an update in ING’s daily update, Prophet, that further underscored the bank’s perception of the risks of an attack.

ING’s Robertson admitted that an attack on Iran was “high impact, if low probability,” but explained some of the reasons why a strike might go forward.

The Jan. 9 dispatch, describes Israel as “not prepared to accept the same doctrine of ‘mutually assured destruction’ that kept the peace during the Cold War. Israel is adamant that this is not an option for such a geographically small country….So if Israel is convinced Iran is aiming to develop a nuclear weapon, it must presumably act at some point.”

Sketching out the time line for an attack, Robertson says that “we can be fairly sure that if Israel is going to act, it will be keen to do so while Bush and Cheney are in the White House.”

Robertson suggests a February-March 2007 timeframe for several reasons. First, there is a comparable situation to Israel’s strike on Iraq’s nuclear program in 1981, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s political troubles within Israel. Second, late February will see Iran’s deadline to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1737, and Israel could use a failure of Iran and the UN to follow through as justification for a strike. Finally, greater US military presence in the region at that time could be seen by Israel as the protection from retaliation that it needs.

In his Jan. 15 update, Robertson points to a political reason that could make the assault more likely – personnel changes in the Bush administration may have sidelined opponents of attacking Iran.

Preisdent Bush recently removed General John Abizaid as commander of US forces in the Middle East and John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, both of whom have said attacking Iran is not a priority or the right move at this time. The deployment of Patriot missile batteries, highlighted in President Bush’s recent White House speech on America’s Iraq policy, also pointed to a need to defend against Iranian missiles.

The ING memo was first sent to RAW STORY as an anonymous tip and confirmed Monday by staff in the bank’s emerging markets office, who passed along the Jan. 15 update. The full PDF documents can be downloaded at this link for the Jan. 9 report, and this link for the Jan. 15 update. A screenshot of the first page is provided below.

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