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Iran War Weekly
August 26, 2012
Hello All – Once again the front-burner drama this week re: Iran’s nuclear program was the debate within Israel about whether it should attack Iran’s nuclear sites, and especially whether Israel would/should attack before the US presidential election. As noted below, elite opinion in Israel is running strongly against Netanyahu and the bombs-away camp; and increasingly Israelis are accusing Netanyahu of attempting to intervene in the US election to help out Mitt Romney. While US experts largely discount the possibility of an Israeli attack, I think it’s a pretty unstable situation.
Iran War Weekly
August 19, 2012
Hello All – Once again the civil war in Syria and the question of whether or not Israel will bomb Iran before the US elections captured the media spotlight this week. There were no negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program, as both parties (the United States and Iran) focused on whether the sanctions were “working” and what impact they were having. As has been true for months, the issue of “Iran” was largely submerged in the US presidential elections. Each of these issues is explored in some good/useful reading linked below.
Iran War Weekly
August 12, 2012
Hello All – Negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program remain suspended, as the US-led opposition to Iran focuses on the effect of sanctions (economic war) on Iran and the possibility that the sanctions will coerce Iran to modify it negotiating positions. The good/useful reading linked below includes several essays on the devastating and (often) hidden impact of sanctions on ordinary people.
Iran War Weekly
August 5, 2012
Hello All – Diplomacy and peace making are just about going, going, … almost gone from Syria’s civil war and the international stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program. Nuclear negotiators from Iran and the European Union talked briefly (by phone) this week and agreed to get back in touch “later,” “at the end of the month,” etc. The press release (dissected below) suggests that the US and its allies are content to see if and how sanctions affect Iran’s willingness to change its positions on its right to enrich uranium (not very likely). Meanwhile, the Obama team sees the short-term importance of sanctions in terms of enhancing its re-election prospects, keeping the EU in line, Israel on the leash, and Mitt Romney off balance.
July 29, 2012
Hello All – Last week’s lower-level talks in Istanbul between representatives of the EU and Iran about Iran’s nuclear program came and went with little indication about “progress” and no time set for a further meeting. It appears that the US-led side of the negotiations is waiting to see if and how the strong economic sanctions (economic warfare) imposed on Iran four weeks ago weakens Iran’s negotiating stance. Updates on the negotiations and the sanctions’ impact are linked below, as are articles about the growing USmilitary presence in the Persian Gulf.
July 22, 2012
Hello All – The US/Israel–Iran conflict over Iran’s nuclear program was overshadowed this week by a dramatic increase in the fighting in Syria. With the armed insurgency now reaching inside Damascus and Aleppo, and inflicting mortal wounds on the Assad regime’s inner circle, some of the good/useful reading linked below addresses the question of the implications for the war in Syria on Iran, and the possibilities that the fighting will spill over into the region.
Iran War Weekly
July 15, 2012
Hello All – Negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program are on pause while the United States and its European allies assess the impact of the new round of sanctions – in reality, of economic warfare – against Iran. In this week’s good/useful reading linked below, NB especially the overview article by Conn Hallinan on sanctions; an excellent article by Mohammad Ali Shabani about the impact of sanctions, and a packet of articles about the next round of sanctions just unveiled by the Obama administration.
Iran War Weekly
July 8, 2012
Hello All – Nuclear diplomacy stepped into the background this week. The focus of the US-Iran standoff is now the new round of economic sanctions against Iran and the possible effect/non-effect of these sanctions on Iran’s negotiating positions about its nuclear program. Iran views the sanctions as economic warfare, and an indication that the US-led diplomacy in the UN Security Council and with its European partners is aimed at regime change, and not simply Iranian compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The discourse in “the West” seems to be shifting from “diplomacy or sanctions?” to “sanctions or military action?”
July 2, 2012
Hello All – It seems now that negotiations to resolve the conflicts in/around both Iran and Syria will be put on hold until more “facts on the ground” alter the relative power of the contending forces. Regarding Iran, the failure of the recent negotiations in Moscow indicates to many analysts that the United States has decided to see if the new round of economic sanctions against Iran and its oil will weaken Iran’s negotiating stance on its nuclear program. And the lack of progress on Syrian issues at last week’s meeting in Geneva, along with the rejection by the Syrian armed resistance of any negotiated outcome that would not banish the Assad family from power, indicates that fighting will continue to escalate, with potential dangers for the entire region.
June 24, 2012
Hello All – As expected, the talks between the Iran and the US-led “P5+1” in Moscow last week produced nothing that could be called “progress.” Neither side changed their positions from those offered at the equally inconclusive talks in Baghdad last month. Yet it cannot be said that the talks “broke down,” as the parties agreed to meet in two weeks for lower-level, “technical” talks. What is going on?
Iran War Weekly
June 17, 2012
Hello All – The third round of negotiations re: Iran’s nuclear program begins tomorrow in Moscow. They are scheduled to last two days. Though the initial round in Istanbul produced lots of optimism, the second round in Baghdad was viewed by all parties as a failure. While “the West” maintained that the negotiations failed because of Iran’s intransigence, most analysts not associated with “Western” governments thought that the inflexible and ungenerous bargaining position of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) was the reason for failure.
June 10, 2012
Hello All – The third round of negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program – between Iran and the “P5+1” (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) – is scheduled to resume in Moscow on June 18-19. The apparent success of the first meeting in Istanbul was followed by the failure of the second meeting (in Baghdad) to produce even the most minimal agreement. While the United States and the EU – and the mainstream media – blamed Iran for the failure of the Baghdad negotiations, many observers felt that the responsibility for failure lay with the inflexible US negotiating position, which failed to offer Iran any incentives for cooperation.
June 4, 2012
Hello All – With two weeks to go before the next round of negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program, the “P5+1” shows no sign of making the accommodations necessary for some kind of deal. Instead, the US-led P5+1 has refused to consider lifting sanctions and reiterated its threats of military action. The pessimism that followed the unsuccessful talks in Baghdad has only deepened. It looks like the US-led coalition wants to wait and see whether the European Union anti-Iran oil embargo, due to go into effect on July 1, will cause Iran to agree to US/Israeli demands to end its nuclear program.
Iran War Weekly
May 27, 2012
Hello All – Last week’s meeting in Baghdad – the second round in renewed negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) – had few silver linings. The only clearly positive outcome was that the parties agreed to meet again in Moscow on June 18; in terms of substance, the meeting was a failure, as the US-led coalition offered Iran little, while demanding that Iran essentially agree to end its nuclear program. The front-burner question is, why did the United States choose to put forward demands certain to end in no agreement? I’ve listed some more questions below, as well as insightful essays and reviews of the conference and its outcome.
May 20, 2012
Hello All – The next round of negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program will take place in Baghdadbeginning on May 23. Following on the first meeting in Istanbul last month, the atmosphere leading up to the Baghdad meeting has exuded optimism. I hope I’m wrong, but I think the official optimism reflected in the US mainstream media is excessive. I’ve indicated some of my reasons for concern and foreboding down below.
May 13, 2012
Hello All – With talks between the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) and Iran scheduled to resume on May 23, the media blackout on the negotiating strategies and changes (if any) in the positions of the several parties to the negotiations has been nearly complete. As indicated in a statement by the P5+1 chief negotiator Catherine Ashton, “the West” still approaches the issue as one of eliminating an already existing Iran nuclear weapons program, while Iran maintains that its program is for peaceful purposes, and that it has the right to enrich uranium to accomplish this.
May 6, 2012
Hello All – With a second round of negotiations re: Iran’s nuclear program scheduled to take place in Baghdad on May 23, most of the preparatory work is taking place off-the-record and behind-the-scenes. As reported last week, and as reiterated by James Risen’s New York Times article just below, the April meeting in Istanbul was generally interpreted as a “success,” and all parties (except outsider Israel) are speaking optimistically about a negotiated outcome. Yet as Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett state on their website “Race for Iran” (linked below), the Obama administration does not seem to have decided to accept the basic changes in its position that are necessary for a negotiated outcome to succeed.
April 29, 2012
Hello All – With negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program set to resume in Baghdad on May 23, the broad outlines of a possible settlement have begun to emerge. The terms of an agreement – or at least a suspension of an escalation of the conflict – would include no new sanctions against Iran in exchange for no increase in the scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment programs. Also, Iran would agree to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s “Additional Protocol,” which would allow the IAEA to inspect sites inside Iran in addition to those which Iran has “declared.”
April 22, 2012
Hello All – Iran war news this week was focused on last weekend’s talks between the P5+1 and Iran. The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) reopened talks with Iran, for the first time in 15 months, over Iran’s alleged violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and over Iran’s refusal to obey the UN Security Council Resolutions to halt its uranium enrichment program.
April 15, 2012
Hello All – This weekend’s meeting in Istanbul significantly – but temporarily? – lowered tensions in the diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program. While few details are so far available, the conference was deemed successful enough to schedule a second and more substantive meeting in Baghdad on May 23rd.
April 8, 2012
Hello All – The purpose of the “Iran War Weekly” is to provide antiwar activists with information and analysis about the diplomatic and military crisis that has followed from US and Israeli opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. The many dimensions of this crisis – which now includes the domestic and international conflicts arising from Syria’s internal uprising and civil war – are a challenge to the antiwar movement. The mainstream media has responded to the complexity of this crisis by framing events in black and white terms, and presenting them from the perspective of the US government. My goal is to help with the development of an alternative analysis by drawing on dissenting and antiwar sources of information. This is a learning process for me also, and I very much welcome suggestions and (friendly) criticism, as well as recommendations for content and better presentation.
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
This morning’s New York Times included a front-page article by White House insider David Sanger, “U.S. Defines Its Demands for New Round of Talks With Iran.” The talks, set to begin soon between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, are the first since January 2011, and have been described by the Obama administration as Iran’s “last chance” to resolve outstanding differences peacefully. What is striking is that the “demands” now include the closure and eventual dismantlement of Iran’s new uranium enrichment plant at Fordo, seen as a threat to Israel because it is built into a mountain and would be hard to destroy militarily. Another new issue raised by the “demands” is that Iran ship out of the country its supply of uranium enriched for use in medical treatment and research, and that it cease production of such enriched uranium. The significance of these “demands,” in my view, is that they indicate that the negotiations with Iran are intended to fail, and in their failure to justify further sanctions and/or make it appear that military action against Iran is the only practical, remaining option for the United States and Israel.
While the uprising/civil war in Syria has its roots in longstanding civilian grievances and the inspiration of the Arab Spring, the “internationalization” of the conflict forces opponents of war with Iran to understand the role of Syrian events in the chances of peace or war with Iran. Pasted in below are several articles that illustrate the internal dimensions of the Syrian conflict, as well as excellent overviews by Gil Achcar, Alain Gresh, and Vijay Prashad. Next week we will learn whether the “cease fire” perhaps brokered by the UN’s Kofi Annan and the Arab League will make a difference, and/or whether the military steps initiated by the recent “Friends of Syria” meeting in Turkey will escalate the conflict.
Thinking the Unthinkable on Iran
By Jonathan Schell, The Nation [April 3, 2012]
---- Bush accompanied his policy on Iraq with a great deal of neo-imperialist rhetoric that is absent from Obama’s statements, but the fundamentals have been the same—a militarization of disarmament leading to a policy of what could be called disarmament wars. Disarmament wars threaten or occur when force becomes the chosen instrument for preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Yet to conclude that Obama merely inherited this policy from Bush would be too simple, for Bush, in spite of all his preoccupation with 9/11, was not its originator, either. That distinction goes to Bill Clinton, who in a widely forgotten episode went to the brink of war in 1993 to prevent North Korea from reprocessing plutonium for nuclear weapons. In other words, disarmament wars are not the invention of Obama or even Bush; they have been “on the table” of US policy for almost two decades. The fact is that after the cold war ended the United States, by an almost unnoticed cumulative process, turned for the first time in the nuclear age to a policy of using force to stop proliferation. http://www.thenation.com/print/article/167196/thinking-unthinkable-iran
The Real Nuclear Outlaws: How the US and Israel are Shredding the NPT
By Carl Boggs, Counterpunch [April 4, 2012]
---- While United States and Israeli leaders, duly assisted by a warmongering media, ramp up war talk against Iran, two troublesome pieces of information are ritually ignored. First, even American intelligence reports conclude that Iran is not close to building a nuclear-weapons program. Second, it is the U.S. and Israel – not Iran – that stand in flagrant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/04/the-real-nuclear-outlaws/
Our Men in Iran?
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker [April 6, 2012]
---- The M.E.K.’s ties with Western intelligence deepened after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and JSOC began operating inside Iran in an effort to substantiate the Bush Administration’s fears that Iran was building the bomb at one or more secret underground locations. Funds were covertly passed to a number of dissident organizations, for intelligence collection and, ultimately, for anti-regime terrorist activities. Directly, or indirectly, the M.E.K. ended up with resources like arms and intelligence. Some American-supported covert operations continue in Iran today, according to past and present intelligence officials and military consultants. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/04/mek.html
Also useful: Juan Cole, “USPentagon Trained Iranian terrorists in Nevada,” Informed Comment [April 7, 2012] http://www.juancole.com/2012/04/us-pentagon-trained-iranian-terrorists-in-nevada-hersh.html; and Sheila Musaji, ”The MEK and terrorism double standards,” The American Muslim [April 7, 2012] http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/some-terrorist-groups/0019034
(Video)Iranian diplomat says IAEA undermined recent talks to satisfy Israel and West
An interview with Gareth Porter, from the Real News Network [April 3, 2012] – 17 minutes
(Video)Iran, China’s Rise, and American Strategy
From Aljazeera [April 6, 2012] – 25 minutes
---- The Obama Administration has committed itself to a policy under which it will be under enormous pressure to sanction important Chinese companies and financial institutions of the People’s Republic does not cut off—or at least radically reduce—its trade relations with the Islamic Republic. Does the administration really believe that, by threatening such sanctions, it can compel Beijing to do serious damage to Chinese interests—and surrender its strategic independence, to boot—by cooperating with unilaterally asserted U.S. and European sanctions, which are already driving up the price of oil? The Iranian nuclear issue is likely to turn out to be, on many levels, a major turning point for America’s relative standing as a great power, in the Middle East and globally. http://www.raceforiran.com/iran-chinas-rise-and-american-strategy
By Trita Parsi, The Daily Beast [April 3, 2012]
---- The Obama administration and the US military strongly oppose an Israeli preventive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Their opposition, of course, is not rooted in any sympathy with the repressive regime in Tehran. Nor is it necessarily rooted in America’s already compromised military position in the region. It is because a strike would not destroy Iran’s nuclear program. It would instead increase the likelihood of a nuclear armed Iran down the road. It would unravel the international consensus against Iran. It would undermine the Iranian pro-democracy movement and fortify the regime’s grip on power. And, perhaps most importantly, it would eliminate the current insight we have into the Iranian nuclear program and provide the Iranians with a dash-out capability. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/03/self-defeating.html
The Increasingly Transparent U.S.-Israeli Conflict of Interest
By Paul Pillar, The National Interest [March 29, 2012]
---- Given—as several Israelis who have been senior figures in the country's security establishment have noted—that an Iranian nuclear weapon would not pose an existential threat to Israel, one has to look to other reasons for the Israeli agitation about the Iranian nuclear program. Besides Netanyahu's personal obsession, there are the broader Israeli fears and emotions, the desire to maintain a regional nuclear-weapons monopoly and the distraction that the Iran issue provides from outside attention to the Palestinians' lack of popular sovereignty. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/the-increasingly-transparent-us-israeli-conflict-interest-6712
Don’t Fear a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East
BY Steven A. Cook, Foreign Policy [April 2, 2012]
---- Despite its flimsiness, it is hard to ignore the utility of the Middle East's nuclear dominoes theory. For those who advocate a preventive military strike on Iran, it provides a sweeping geopolitical rationale for a dangerous operation. But the evidence doesn't bear this argument out: If Washington decides it has no other option than an attack, it should do so because Iran is a threat in its own right, and not because it believes it will thwart inevitable proliferation in places like Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. It won't, for the simple reason that there is no reason to believe these countries represent a proliferation risk in the first place. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/02/don_t_fear_a_nuclear_arms_race?page=full
U.S.Defines Its Demands for New Round of Talks With Iran
By David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger, New York Times [April 8, 2012]
---- The Obama administration and its European allies plan to open new negotiations with Iran by demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain. They are also calling for a halt in the production of uranium fuel that is considered just a few steps from bomb grade, and the shipment of existing stockpiles of that fuel out of the country. That negotiating position will be the opening move in what President Obama has called Iran’s “last chance” to resolve its nuclear confrontation with the United Nations and the West diplomatically. The hard-line approach would require the country’s military leadership to give up the Fordo enrichment plant outside the holy city of Qum, and with it a huge investment in the one facility that is most hardened against airstrikes. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/world/middleeast/us-defines-its-demands-for-new-round-of-talks-with-iran.html?ref=world
Also useful: David Ignatius, “Obama’s signal to Iran,” Washington Post [April 5, 2012] http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/obamas-signal-to-iran/2012/04/05/gIQApVLDyS_story.html; and Jason Ditz, “Clinton Issues New Demands For ‘Commitments’ From Iran,” Antiwar.com [April 3, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/04/03/clinton-issues-new-demands-for-commitments-from-iran/
U.S.intelligence gains in Iran seen as boost to confidence
By Joby Warrick and Greg Miller, WashingtonPost [April 7, 2012]
---- The surveillance has been part of what current and former U.S. officials describe as an intelligence surge that is aimed at Iran’s nuclear program and that has been gaining momentum since the final years of George W. Bush’s administration. At a time of renewed debate over whether stopping Iran might require military strikes, the expanded intelligence collection has reinforced the view within the White House that it will have early warning of any move by Iran to assemble a nuclear bomb, officials said. The expanded espionage effort has confirmed the consensus view expressed by the U.S. intelligence community in a controversial estimate released publicly in 2007. That estimate concluded that while Iran remains resolutely committed to assembling key building blocks for a nuclear weapons program, particularly enriched uranium, the nation’s leaders have opted for now against taking the crucial final step: designing a nuclear warhead. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-sees-intelligence-surge-as-boost-to-confidence/2012/04/07/gIQAlCha2S_print.html
A 'closing window' on Iran blocks out realistic diplomacy
By Tony Karon, The National [United Arab Emirates] [April 4, 2012]
---- 'I believe there is a window of time to solve this diplomatically but that window is closing," President Barack Obama said last week about the nuclear standoff with Iran. … There may be three related elements at work. First, there is Israel threatening unilateral military action based on its own red lines and on its own timetable unless Iran yields. Then there's the fact that Mr Obama's Iran strategy was designed by Dennis Ross, who has since returned to his old job at a think tank created by the pro-Israel lobby Aipac. And then there's Mr Obama's concern with securing his re-election in November, which requires tough-guy posturing on Iran to counter charges from his Republican opponents, egged on by Israel's alarmism, about being "weak" in the face of an Iranian "danger". http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/a-closing-window-on-iran-blocks-out-realistic-diplomacy#full
State-dominated media and Iran
By Glen Greenwald, Salon.com [April 5, 2012]
---- The New York Times this morning is prominently featuring a long article documenting the Terroristic aggression of Iran, as evidenced by that country’s attempts to exert influence and foment unrest in Afghanistan: because, as all decent people know, only tyrannical fanatics would attempt to interfere in Afghanistan. http://www.salon.com/2012/04/05/state_dominated_media_and_iran/singleton/
Israeli Experts Mum on Iran Attack to Support Bibi’s Bluff
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [April 03, 2012]
----- A striking feature of the Israeli political landscape in recent months has been the absence of a serious debate among national security figures on the issue of the threat of war with Iran. It is well-known that many prominent former military and intelligence officials believe an attack on Iran would be disastrous for Israel. After an initial blast at the idea of striking Iran by two former high-ranking officials last year, however, very little has been heard from such national security figures. The reason for this silence on the part of the national security sector, just as the Israeli threat of war was escalating sharply, appears to be a widespread view among Israeli national security analysts that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to attack is a highly successful bluff. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2012/04/02/israeli-experts-mum-on-iran-attack-to-support-bibis-bluff/
Also useful: Gareth Porter, (Video) “Is Netanyahu Bluffing?” Gareth Porter interviewed on the Real News Network [April 6, 2012] – 13 minutes - http://warincontext.org/2012/04/06/video-is-netanyahu-bluffing/; and
Inside Bibi’s mind is a war waiting to start
By Larry Derfner, 972 Magazine [March 24, 2012]
---- Netanyahu (and not just he) seems to have talked himself into believing a war with Iran will be relatively painless The question of whether Israel will attack Iran or not has come down to a guessing game of what’s inside Bibi Netanyahu’s head. He’s certainly given every indication that he wants to do the deed. The idea that he’s bluffing is, I think, pretty stupid; he’s been talking about bombing Iran for 10 years, and he’s hardly alone among Israeli leaders. http://972mag.com/bibis-mind-is-made-up-for-war/39128/
Israelis to protest Iran attack amid growing web campaign
Haggai Matar, 972 Magazine [March 20, 2012]
---- Following a growing number of online grassroots peace initiatives, activists are calling for the first significant demonstration against the sounding war drums. First came the Iranian women, with a series of video clips made especially for International Women’s Day, speaking out against war from a feminist perspective. Then came the Israeli reply, with the Coalition of Women for Peace publishing a declaration stating they “oppose the inflammatory rhetoric of war mongers and the recently advertised plan of the Israeli government to attack Iran. Such an assault is not likely to stop the Iranian nuclear plan, but is likely to lead to regional war, loss of human life and a long term environmental damage.” To this the Iranian group responded with enthusiasm, and called for an end to militarization and sanctions. In an interview with Ha’aretz (Hebrew), one of the Iranian women said that while her group began the struggle, resistance to the war is spreading throughout many groups in Iran. http://972mag.com/israelis-set-to-protest-iran-war-amid-growing-web-campaign/38878/
As Nuclear Talks Near, Iran Softens Criticism of Turkey
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [April 6, 2012]
---- Without specifically referring to Mr. Erdogan or the nuclear talks, Mr. Mehmanparast said that the “remarks made by different people should not have any negative effects on bilateral relations.” He added that Mr. Erdogan’s meeting with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had been “very positive and constructive.” The substance of Mr. Erdogan’s discussions with Ayatollah Khamenei have not been disclosed. But Mr. Erdogan visit came just after he met with President Obama at a summit meeting in South Korea. There has been speculation since that Mr. Erdogan carried a message from Mr. Obama to Iran’s leaders on the nuclear issue. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/07/world/middleeast/iran-softens-criticism-of-turkey-as-nuclear-talks-approach.html?ref=world
Impact of Iran Sanctions Widens
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [April 4, 2012]
---- The Iran sanctions effort led by the United States appeared to be causing new fractures in the Iranian economy on Tuesday, with leading oil companies in South Africa and Greece suspending imports of Iran’s crude oil, further signs of emergency self-reliance emerging in Iran, and an influential former Iranian president publicly challenging his country’s anti-American stoicism.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/05/world/middleeast/impact-of-iran-sanctions-widens.html?ref=world
Also useful: Howard LaFranchi, “What do Iran sanctions cost you? About 25 cents a gallon, experts say,” The Christian Science Monitor [April 5, 2012] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2012/0405/What-do-Iran-sanctions-cost-you-About-25-cents-a-gallon-experts-say; and Juan Cole, “Why Romney is Lying about the Causes of high Prices at the Pump,” Informed Comment [April 4, 2012] http://www.juancole.com/2012/04/why-romney-is-lying-about-the-causes-of-high-prices-at-the-pump.html
India and the Iran sanctions
By Ramesh Thakur, JapanTimes [April 2, 2012]
---- India must balance relations with Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. India's defense minister recently paid an official visit to Riyadh, the first such ever, and the two sides have agreed to draft a road map for defense cooperation. But India also does have good relations with Iran based on shared trade and security interests. Iran supplies about 12 percent of India's oil imports. Delhi has also had a long-standing interest in building a gas pipeline from Iran to India, but that would have to run through Pakistan and therefore leave India exposed to its enemy's good will in a future emergency. There has been an equally long-standing convergence of strategic interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan that will outlast the Western military involvement in Afghanistan. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/eo20120402rt.html
Two months ago, Syria expert Patrick Seale outlined the multi-dimensional crisis in and with Syria as follows:
"It’s at least a two- or possibly a three-stage crisis. Internally in Syria, the situation is getting worse by the day. At a higher level, there is a struggle between the United States, on the one hand, and its allies, and its opponents like Russia and China... Then there’s a third level, possibly, of Arab Gulf states like Qatar, for example, even Saudi Arabia behind it, who are obsessed and worried by Iran, and they think that Iran might stir up Shia communities in the region." http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/7/a_struggle_for_regional_supremacy_syria
If anything, the layers of complexity have deepened. The Arab League, as reflected in its recent meeting in Baghdad, is deeply divided. The Kofi Annan/UN peace plan, endorsed by the Arab League meeting, was immediately followed by steps to escalate the war taken at the “Friends of Syria” meeting in Turkey. Whether the Assad regime will act on its commitment to withdraw heavy weapons and troops from urban areas by April 10th, and whether there will be a ceasefire on April 12, remains to be seen.
'There’s a fear that the fall of Assad would lead to worse for Western interests and Israel.”
An interview with Gilbert Achcar, ZNet [April 5, 2012]
---- The Syrian National Council is a heterogeneous combination of people, from the Muslim Brotherhood to people on the left, especially the People’s Democratic Party, with a number of figures linked to Western governments, the US or France in particular. The SNC is held together by the pressure of various states intervening in the Syrian situation. These states are actually pushing for a broader coalition to include other groups, in addition to those who are already in the SNC. They are aiming at some form of unification of the opposition, which would make it even more heterogeneous than what the SNC already is. This said, the important point is that the SNC is not a homogeneous rightwing force as depicted in some circles. Within the council, there are some people who cannot be classified as rightwing, but are rather progressives. http://www.zcommunications.org/there-s-a-fear-that-the-fall-of-assad-would-lead-to-worse-for-western-interests-and-israel--by-gilbert-achcar
Civil War or Foreign Intervention? Deadlock over Syria
By Alain Gresh, Le Monde diplomatique [April 3, 2012]
---- The Ba’athist regime believed Syria’s position within the axis of resistance meant it was safe from the revolutionary movement that engulfed the region in 2011. But that was to reduce the conflict over Syria to its geopolitical dimension, as a confrontation between the imperialist and anti-imperialist camps, and to underestimate the changes brought about by the Arab revolutions and the aspirations of the Syrians. The regime miscalculated, because Syria has the same flaws as others in the region: an authoritarian and arbitrary government, a greedy elite, neoliberal policies that impoverish its people, and an inability to respond to the aspirations of the young, who are more numerous and better educated than their elders. Should we do nothing? There are other options than military intervention. http://mondediplo.com/2012/04/03syria
Straining NATO on Short Syrian Leash
By Vijay Prashad, AsiaTimes [April 05, 2012]
---- On February 18, I asked the Indian ambassador to the United Nations, Hardeep Singh Puri, why there was no appetite for a strong UN resolution on Syria. After all, the violence in Syria seemed to have already exceeded that in Libya. If the UN could pass Resolution 1973 (on Libya), why was it reticent to pass a similar resolution on Syria? Puri pointed his finger directly at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) states. They had exceeded the mandate of Resolution 1973, moving for regime change using immense violence. All attempts to find a peaceful solution were blocked. The African Union's high-level panel was prevented from entering Libya as the NATO barrage began. Any UN resolution that was sharply worded and that was not explicitly against a humanitarian intervention would open the door to a NATO-style attack. That seems to be the fear. http://www.zcommunications.org/straining-nato-on-short-syrian-leash-by-vijay-prashad
A Secret Plot in Syria
By Andy Warner, Slate [April 4, 2012]
---- An illustrated guide to the 1949 coup—possibly CIA-assisted—that plunged the country into decades of political turmoil. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history/2012/04/syrian_violence_was_the_cia_involved_in_the_1949_coup_that_plunged_the_country_into_decades_of_turmoil_.html
Loyalty to Syrian President Could Isolate Hezbollah
By Anne Barnard, New York Times [April 5, 2012]
---- Syria’s conflict is testing Hezbollah’s longstanding contradictions. It relies on public support, yet sometimes behaves autocratically; it is a national group founded to fight Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, but owes its military might — and the funds that rebuilt the south after the 2006 war — to Iran’s desire to project power; and it styles itself pan-Islamic, but it depends on rock-solid support from Lebanese Shiites for whom it won long-denied power as it became the Middle East’s most formidable militant group and Lebanon’s strongest political force.Most of all, Hezbollah won respect by sticking to its principles, even among rival sects and the leftist cafe regulars in Beirut who are skeptical of its religious conservatism. Now it is paying a price for its politics of pragmatism in Syria. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/06/world/middleeast/hezbollahs-syria-policy-puts-it-at-risk.html?ref=world
Kurdish Bloc Withdraws From Syrian Rebel Council
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [April 5, 2012]
---- Kurdish factions have been struggled to find a side in the Syrian Civil War, with the militant PKK openly backing the Assad government, and threatening to escalate attacks on Turkey if the nation invades. Indeed, Turkey’s decision to abandon their long-time allies in the regime and endorsing the SNC instead was seen by many analysts as chiefly a function of the SNC’s more nationalist ambitions, with the hopes that they would tamp down secessionist fervor in Syrian Kurdistan. The loss of the Kurdish bloc from the SNC could weaken the rebels significantly in the nation’s northwest, and could put the Kurds in a better bargaining position if the rebel faction eventually collapses. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/04/05/kurdish-bloc-withdraws-from-syrian-rebel-council/
Syria: The virtue of civil disobedience
By Donatella Della Ratta, Aljazeera [April 6, 2012]
---- Civil disobedience is the only way to mobilise people in big cities that are deemed to be regime strongholds in Syria. Syrians' non-violent struggle is indeed inspired by a Syrian scholar, Jawdat Said, who has been incarcerated many times for his writings on resisting oppression through non-violence. In 2001, he wrote: "We live in a world in which four fifths of its population live in frustration while the other fifth lives in fear." Jawadat Said, born in 1931, lives in the Syrian Golan Heights and works as a farmer. I wonder what he thinks of these youth, engaged in their civilised struggle against Goliath, far away from media spotlight, maybe closer to their people. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/20124283638298672.html
A PLETHORA OF MEETINGS
Syria’s Assad Endorses April 10 Peace Deadline
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [April 2, 2012]
---- Faced with calls from the international community to see some sort of progress on a negotiated settlement, Syrian President Bashar Assad has agreed to an April 10 deadline to start implementing Kofi Annan’s UN-backed plan. The deadline would have Syrian government forces withdrawing from cities and granting humanitarian access, as well as moving toward a full ceasefire within 48 hours of the deadline. The first part should be easy enough. The second part would require the rebel factions to stop fighting — and there’s no indication so far they would consider doing so. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/04/02/syrias-assad-endorses-april-10-peace-deadline/print/
(Video) Arab League meeting in Iraq shows deep divisions over Syria
Vijay Prashad interviewed on the Real News Network [April 6, 2012]
Russia Accuses Group of Undermining Peace Plan in Syria
By Anne Barnard and Rick Gladstone, New York Times [April 5, 2012]
---- On Wednesday, differences seemed to deepen between the United States and Russia over a solution to the crisis, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov renewing his denunciation of Western and Arab leaders grouped in the so-called “Friends of Syria” coalition. The grouping of dozens of countries met Sunday in Istanbul along with exiled opponents of President Assad, and moved closer to direct intervention in the fighting, with Arab nations pledging $100 million to pay opposition fighters and the Obama administration agreeing to send communications equipment to help rebels organize and evade Syria’s military. Russia did not participate in the meeting and Mr. Lavrov on Wednesday accused the body of undermining the peace proposal put forward by Kofi Annan, the special envoy representing the Arab League and the United Nations.
(Video) “Friends of Syria” push civil war
---- An interview with Vijay Prashad, from the Real News Network [April 4, 2012] – 9 minutes
April 1, 2012
The just-concluded meeting of “Friends of Syria” appears to have ended without agreeing to any interventionist measures, whether arming the resistance fighters, creating a “buffer zone” or “humanitarian corridor,” or recognizing the Syria National Council as the sole representative of the nonviolent Opposition. Instead, the Conference reaffirmed Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which is given lip service by the Syrian government and rejected by the SNC as failing to call for regime change. We can assume that unpublicized negotiations on the sidelines of the conference addressed military and economic (sanctions) issues re: Iran (not at the Conference), in preparation for a new round of negotiations with Iran scheduled for two weeks from now. The Conference will undoubtedly be analyzed in depth on Aljazeera News [www.aljazeera.com].
Prior to the Conference, US Secretary of State Clinton met with leaders of Saudi Arabia to discuss, among other things, the Saudis’ willingness to increase their production of oil, seen as necessary to stabilize oil/gasoline prices as President Obama announced a tightening of sanctions against Iranian-produced oil. As noted below, the increased price of gasoline makes this an election-year risk for Obama.
Also below are links to interesting articles by the New York Times’ James Risen about the effects of the CIA etc. intelligence disasters re: Iraq’s WMDs on the intelligence agencies’ evaluations of Iran; by Gareth Porter on the unacknowledged vulnerability of Israel to weapons that Iran might use in retaliation to an Israeli attack; and the (disputed) news that Israel has gained access to military facilities in Azerbaijan that would be useful/necessary if it were to attack Iran. The short video talk by Flynt Leverett (Race for Iran) about the uselessness of economic sanctions is also very good; though NB the myth that sanctions might force Iran to comply with US and UN orders re: its nuclear program is a major deterrent (along with direct US orders) to an Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
(Video)Left Forum Panel on Peace and War
From David Swanson [March 22, 2012] – 90 minutes
---- Panelists include David Swanson, Medea Benjamin, and Glen Ford
US POLICY & POLITICS
Hard Line on Iran Places White House in a Bind
By Mark Landler, et al., New YorkTimes [March 30, 2012]
---- As American and European diplomats prepare for crucial negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the White House finds itself caught in a bind: for the diplomatic effort to work, American officials say, the Iranian government must believe that President Obama is ready and willing to take military action. Yet tough talk, necessary as it might be for successful diplomacy, contributes to a sense that war may be unavoidable. And it masks the fact that Mr. Obama, and his military commanders, remain deeply worried about the consequence of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, either by Israel alone or a strike that could draw in the United States. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/world/middleeast/hard-line-on-iran-places-white-house-in-a-bind.html?_r=1&ref=world
Obama Finds Oil in Markets Is Sufficient to Sideline Iran
By Annie Lowrey, New YorkTimes [March 30, 2012]
---- After careful analysis of oil prices and months of negotiations, President Obama on Friday determined that there was sufficient oil in world markets to allow countries to significantly reduce their Iranian imports, clearing the way for Washington to impose severe new sanctions intended to slash Iran’s oil revenue and press Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The sanctions pose a serious challenge for the United States. Already, concerns over a confrontation with Iran and the loss of its oil — Iran was the third-biggest exporter of crude in 2010 — have driven oil prices up about 20 percent this year… By certifying that there is enough supply available, the administration is also trying to gain some leverage over Iran before a resumption of negotiations, expected on April 14. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/business/global/obama-to-clear-way-to-expand-iranian-oil-sanctions.html?pagewanted=1&hpw
US seeks coordinated Gulf strategy on Iran, Syria
By Bradley Klapper, Associated Press [March 29, 2012]
---- The Obama administration is seeking to advance talks among Saudi Arabia and its neighbors on a missile defense system against Iran, while slowing any plans among ArabGulf states to intervene militarily in Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met for almost two hours with Saudi King Abdullah on Friday, conferring on regional military strategy and how to increase oil sanctions against Iran while ensuring ample global petroleum supplies. Governments are under pressure to reduce purchases of Iranian crude, and the U.S. hopes Saudi supplies can ease the transition. http://news.yahoo.com/us-seeks-coordinated-gulf-strategy-iran-syria-235840866.html;_ylt=Al6veh8IJL1vTj9.5BvWXmtvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTNmZ2x0cW80BG1pdAMEcGtnAzdiYWFlOWJmLTRkMDItMzM5My04MjZkLTUwNjg1YjQxYzE0YwRwb3MDMQRzZWMDbG5fTWlkRWFzdF9nYWwEdmVyA2MyM2Y0MmQwLTdhYzQtMTFlMS1iZWRiLWViNDVhOWI5ODMyYw--;_ylv=3
IraqCasts a Pall Over U.S. Effort to Fathom Iran
By James Risen, New YorkTimes [March 31, 2012]
---- Analysts and others at the C.I.A. who are struggling to understand the nuclear ambitions of Iran are keenly aware that the agency’s credibility is again on the line, amid threats of new military interventions. The intelligence debacle on Iraq has deeply influenced the way they do their work, with new safeguards intended to force analysts to be more skeptical in evaluating evidence and more cautious in drawing conclusions. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/01/world/middleeast/assessing-iran-but-thinking-about-iraq.html?_r=1&hp
ISRAELI POLICY & POLITICS
Israel’s Plan to Attack Iran On Hold for 2012
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [March 29, 2012]
---- After viewing the results of a Pentagon war simulation and securing more military funding from the U.S., Israel has decided to put off any plans for a unilateral strike on Iran until at least next year, according to reports. The so-called war game was classified but details have been reported about its revealing implications after a preventive Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. It forecasted that a “strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States” and would immediately get at least 200 Americans killed in Iran’s retaliation. Amir Oren, writing for Ha’aretz, reported that “the meaning of this U.S. scenario is that the blood of these 200 would be on Israel’s hands,” and therefore any Israeli attack in 2012 has been called off. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/03/29/israels-plan-to-attack-iran-on-hold-for-2012/
IsraelShields Public from Risks of War with Iran
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [March 30, 2012]
---- The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been telling Israelis that Israel can attack Iran with minimal civilian Israeli casualties as a result of retaliation, and that reassuring message appears to have headed off any widespread Israeli fear of war with Iran and other adversaries. But the message that Iran is too weak to threaten an effective counterattack is contradicted by one of Israel’s leading experts on Iranian missiles and the head of its missile defense program for nearly a decade, who says Iranian missiles are capable of doing significant damage to Israeli targets. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2012/03/29/israel-shields-public-from-risks-of-war-with-iran/
Israel's Secret Staging Ground
By Mark Perry, Foreign Policy [March 28, 2012]
---- Senior diplomats and military intelligence officers say that the United States has concluded that Israel has recently been granted access to airbases on Iran's northern border. To do what, exactly, is not clear. "The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan." Senior U.S. intelligence officials are increasingly concerned that Israel's military expansion into Azerbaijan complicates U.S. efforts to dampen Israeli-Iranian tensions, according to the sources. … Israel's deepening relationship with the Baku government was cemented in February by a $1.6 billion arms agreement that provides Azerbaijan with sophisticated drones and missile-defense systems. At the same time, Baku's ties with Tehran have frayed. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/03/28/israel_s_secret_staging_ground
Also: From Haaretz [Israel] [March 29, 2012] “Azerbaijan denies granting Israel access to air bases on Iran border,” http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/azerbaijan-denies-granting-israel-access-to-air-bases-on-iran-border-1.421562?trailingPath=2.169%2C2.216%2C2.217%2C; and Philip Giraldi, “Israel Encircles Iran,” American Conservative [March 27, 2012]http://www.theamericanconservative.com/blog/israel-encircles-iran/
Turkeyvoices support for Iran nuclear programme
From Agence France Presse [March 29, 2012]
---- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday voiced his country's unwavering support for Tehran's nuclear ambitions in a meeting with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to an official statement. ,,, Turkey relies on Iran for 30 percent of its oil imports, and has refused to go along with sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe, saying it will observe only UN-mandated restrictions on Iran. However, Turkey is also a NATO member, and it has agreed to deploy parts of an anti-missile shield that could be used against Iran, a point that has generated friction in the past with its neighbour. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jn2SasjxH4BFhQmtmdcHUw_ijDFA?docId=CNG.5bba548bbefdc22a21bbb7b6c36d505a.a01
(Video)Flynt Leverett (Race for Iran) on Effects of Sanctions- 5 minutes
What if Israel bombs Iran?
By GarySick, CNN [March 30, 2012]
---- If sustained over more than a few weeks, the scramble to replace large volumes of Persian Gulf and Caspian oil would drive up the price of oil, and gasoline, to unprecedented heights. That would constitute a huge tax on the world's economies, just at the moment when they were showing signs of recovery from the Great Recession. Extremely vulnerable economies, such as the southern European states, could be tipped into bankruptcy, but all states would face significant challenges as a surge in transportation and manufacturing costs rippled through all aspects of their industries. This is Iran's true weapon of mass destruction. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/30/opinion/sick-israel-iran/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7
Iran’s Centrifuge ‘Workshops’ Complicate Raid Planning
By Viola Gienger and Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News [March 28, 2012]
---- Iran’s “workshops” for making nuclear centrifuges and components for the devices are widely dispersed and hidden, adding to the difficulties of a potential military strike by Israel, according to a new report by U.S. congressional researchers. Neither Israel nor the U.S. is certain of the locations of all such facilities, analysts at the Congressional Research Service wrote in the report obtained today. The analysts cited interviews with current and former U.S. government officials familiar with the issue who weren’t identified. Israel’s capability to halt or set back Iran’s nuclear program through a military strike has been central to the debate over whether Israel should undertake such a mission alone. http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/30854?type=bloomberg
SYRIAAND THE REGION
Top 5 Dangers that the Syria Conflict could Destabilize its Neighbors
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [March 2012] http://www.juancole.com/2012/03/top-5-dangers-that-the-syria-conflict-could-destabilize-its-neighbors.html
Military Intervention in Syria is a Bad Idea
By Stephen Zunes, Antiwar.com [March 30, 2012]
---- Although the impulse to try to end the ongoing repression by the Syrian regime against its own people through foreign military intervention is understandable, it would be a very bad idea. Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that international military interventions in cases of severe repression actually exacerbate violence in the short term and can only reduce violence in the longer term if the intervention is impartial or neutral. Even putting aside the recent historical record, however, virtually anyone familiar with Syrian politics and history can recognize the fallacy of such foreign support for the armed struggle. Many nonviolent protesters have tragically been killed as will many more. However, proportionately a far greater number of armed resisters have been killed and will continue to be killed. The question is not whether thousands will continue to die but what is the best way for the Syrian people to overthrow the hated regime, end the violence, and bring democracy and social justice. http://original.antiwar.com/zunes/2012/03/30/military-intervention-in-syria-is-a-bad-idea/
Why Syria’s Peace Process is a Continuation of War By Other Means
By Tony Karon, Time [March 29, 2012]
---- Annan’s plan does not claim to be a program to reconcile the regime and its opponents or to resolve their differences. Instead, it’s a plan to demilitarize Syria’s power struggle and restrict it to political means. The regime’s goals, and those of its opponents, remain fundamentally irreconcilable: Assad is determined to remain in power, while the opposition finds a consensus that eludes it on so many other issues when it comes to demanding his immediate ouster. http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2012/03/29/why-syrias-peace-process-is-a-continuation-of-war-by-other-means/
Resources on Syria
Aljazeera – “Syria: The War Within” http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/syria/
The Guardian [UK] on Syria - http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/syria?INTCMP=SRCH
SyriaComment – Joshua Landis - http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/
War in Context – Paul Woodward – www.warincontext.org
War is a Crime – Steve Lendman & David Swanson - http://warisacrime.org/