Iran War Weekly - August 5, 2012
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.
At the start of 2012, when US-Israeli diplomacy seemed to be focused on preventing Israel from attacking Iran without US permission, and thus allowing President Obama’s re-election campaign to focus on domestic issues, the possibility of a late-inning Israeli attack on Iran was pondered by many pundits. Given the state of Israel’s military hardware, they said, Israel simply couldn’t destroy Iran’s nuclear industry by itself; the United States would have to help. Did Obama give Israel a post-election war guarantee, if Israel didn’t disrupt the re-election campaign by attacking Iran? Possibly; but why would Israel trust Obama to keep such a promise? And so many pundits reflected that, if Israel were to attack Iran in the few weeks before the election, and perhaps suffered from Iranian retaliation, the Obama administration would have no choice but to come to Israel’s aid/defense; and thus Israel would get its US-supported war. So here we are, in what one Israeli commentator called the “sweet spot,” a few months before the US election, with bluff and counter-bluff. Does the Bulgaria bus bombing give Israel enough “justification” to attack Iran? Several articles linked below explore this question.
Among the many good/useful articles linked below, I especially call your attention to the essay by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, whose new book, The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir is the most useful book I know of in helping us to understand Iran’s perspective on its nuclear diplomacy. I also recommend the essay linked from The Race for Iran, whose website has published many insightful essays on the broader context of the Iranian regime-change aspirations of the US-led camp. I also recommend the essay and video interview by/with Charles Glass on the situation in Syria; Peter Jenkins’ article on how an Iranian bomb would not start a Middle East arms race; another good review of the interesting new book on the life and times of Iran’s Muhammad Mossadegh, and two good essays on the role of Israel/Iran in the US presidential election campaigns.
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Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
The Iranian Nuclear Dispute: Origins and Current Options
By Hossein Mousavian, Arms Control Law [July 25, 2012]
---- After a pause of more than a year, the seven countries that are holding talks on Iran’s nuclear program resumed their discussions in April, with subsequent meetings in May and June. As the countries—Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States)—prepare for their next meetings, efforts to find pathways to a resolution need to take into account the origins of Iran’s nuclear program and the sources of the ongoing dispute over it. Western countries have major concerns about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program as they try to deduce whether it is a peaceful energy program or is designed to build nuclear weapons someday. This article addresses a different concern: whether pressure from the West has resulted in the Iranians accelerating and expanding their nuclear activity and capability. The history of Iran’s nuclear program suggests that the West is inadvertently pushing Iran toward nuclear weapons. There were seven key steps in this process. http://armscontrollaw.com/2012/07/25/hossein-mousavian-in-act/
Is Iran “The Most Destabilizing Nation in the World” or an Essential Partner for Building Stability in the Middle East?
From The Race for Iran [August 1, 2012]
---- If Washington accepted the principle and reality of internationally safeguarded enrichment in Iran, it would become eminently possible—not to say relatively easy—to negotiate a satisfactory resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue. But the United States—even under the Obama Administration—does not want to do that, for recognizing Iran’s right to enrich implies recognizing the Islamic Republic as a legitimate political entity representing legitimate national interests. We think that is unlikely to change after the U.S. presidential election in November, regardless of whether Romney or Obama wins. http://www.raceforiran.com/is-iran-%E2%80%9Cthe-most-destabilizing-nation-in-the-world%E2%80%9D-or-an-essential-partner-for-building-stability-in-the-middle-east
Iranand a Middle East Nuclear Arms Race
By Peter Jenkins, Lobelog [July 31, 2012]
---- Since the collapse of the European effort to persuade Iran to renounce uranium enrichment, it has become a trope in British statements that if left unchecked, Iran’s nuclear programme will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Even the Chief of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) reportedly believes this. There seems to be a similar emphasis in US statements on Iran. This March, President Barak Obama said that an Iranian nuclear weapon “would trigger a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the world” during a joint Press Conference with UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. Similar statements have been made by other officials over the years, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. So it may be worth subjecting the arms race claim to a little analysis. http://www.lobelog.com/iran-and-a-middle-east-nuclear-arms-race/
A Crass and Consequential Error
By Roger Cohen, New YorkReview of Books [August 16, 2012]
[FB – A review of Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup, by Christopher de Bellaigue]
---- Two years after Mossadegh’s nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) in 1951, the CIA unloosed Kermit Roosevelt and his fellow American agents on Tehran to oust him. The operation, code-named TPAJAX, carried forward to a bloody denouement what Britain’s MI6 had first plotted. The objectives of a rising America and a declining Britain diverged; they overlapped just sufficiently for both to do their worst. Mossadegh, even if he had been spared such execrable meddling, may not have been able to control the swirling currents of communism, Islamism, monarchism, and militarist despotism that the CIA fanned. Iran was fragile, and Mossadegh’s constitutionalism was a nuanced idea in an environment where bazaar toughs with nicknames like Brainless Shaban whipped up crowds. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/aug/16/crass-and-consequential-error/?pagination=false&printpage=true
Reading between lines of Ashton’s Iran statement
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [August 2, 2012]
---- European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told her Iranian counterpart Thursday that Iran needs to agree soon on a plan to stop its 20% enrichment, or there wasn’t much prospect of the current diplomatic track continuing as such indefinitely. That, anyway, seemed to be the message between the lines of a stark four-line statement she made after a phone call Thursday with Dr. Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Her statement (and my annotations) below: http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/08/1539/reading-between-lines-of-ashtons-iran-statement/
Panetta: Iran Sanctions Not Working, But We’re Sticking With Them
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [July 30, 2012]
---- US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted on Monday that increasingly harsh economic sanctions on Iran have not altered Iran’s position, but he still argued for more of it. The sanctions placed on the Iranian economy have ushered in runaway inflation, cuts in government subsidies, and high unemployment. The supposed purpose behind the economic warfare is to pressure Iran away from developing nuclear weapons, even though Washington admits Iran has no weapons program and has not made the decision to start one. The harsh and irrational economic measures could also have the effect of making conflict more likely. Columbia University Professor Gary Sick has called the sanctions effort ”the equivalent of a blockade. It’s an act of war.” Trita Parsi, of the National Iranian American Council, wrote back in March that “the sanctions strategy on Iran will very soon reach [the] point” of escalating the situation with Iran to one of “two policies: Regime change or war. Or Both.” http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/30/panetta-iran-sanctions-not-working-but-were-sticking-with-them/
IranDiplomacy Runs Into Sanctions-Happy US Congress
By Jasmin Ramsey, Antiwar.com [July 31, 2012]
----Congress’s rush to pass new sanctions against Iran ahead of the August recess comes amid an intensified drive to pin the Iranian government to deadly acts of international terrorism and amplified moves by U.S. politicians to demonstrate their support for Mideast ally Israel ahead of the November presidential election. The push to implement more punitive measures against an increasingly demonized Iran could undermine efforts to resolve the longstanding impasse over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully. But while the full traditional legislative process has now been bypassed so the pending Iran sanctions can be passed before Friday, the details of the bill in question have been waiting to be finalized for more than half a year. …. On July 27, President Barack Obama’s signing into law of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which gives Israel an additional $70 million in military aid and expands military and civil cooperation, coincided with the presumptive Republican White House Nominee Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel for the foreign-policy focused portion of his campaign. http://original.antiwar.com/ramsey/2012/07/30/iran-diplomacy-runs-into-sanctions-happy-us-congress/
New Iran Sanctions Push U.S and Iran Closer Toward War
From the Friends Committee on National Legislation [August 1, 2012]
---- The Friends Committee on National Legislation strongly opposes the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (H.R. 1905). We believe this legislation would undermine human rights in Iran and cripple the accountability of the diplomatic process now underway to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, pushing the U.S. and Iran closer toward a devastating war. War is the ultimate human rights violation, and this bill lays the groundwork for war by escalating the scale of economic warfare that Congress would impose on ordinary Iranian citizens. As in the case of the decades of U.S. and U.N. sanctions against Iraq that culminated in a U.S. invasion of that country, economic warfare punishes civilians, emboldens hardliners in Iran’s regime, and forecloses diplomatic options to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and war. http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/new_iran_sanctions_push_us_and_iran_closer_toward_war/
Also useful - Mohammad Sadeghi Esfahlani and Jamal Abdi, “Sanctions cripple Iran's middle class, not the regime,” Foreign Policy [August 2, 2012] http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/08/02/sanctions_cripple_irans_middle_class_not_the_regime; and Kourosh Ziabari, “Ordinary Citizens: Silent Victims of Anti-Iranian Sanctions,” Iran Review [August 3, 2012] http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Ordinary-Citizens-Silent-Victims-of-Anti-Iranian-Sanctions.htm
IRANAND THE US PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Made in Israel: Romney’s Iran Campaign
By Jeff Klein, Counterpunch [July 30, 2012]
---- As Mitt Romney completes his electoral swing through Jerusalem, it is tempting to view this as just a cynical campaign maneuver. No doubt the candidate – in an effort coordinated the Republican Jewish Coalition and Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel — aims to peel off some Jewish support from Obama, especially in states like Florida, and to seek votes from the large right-wing Israeli-American expat community. Also, a fundraising affair in Jerusalem ($50,000 minimum ticket) promises to add quite a few shekels to his campaign coffers. But that’s only part of the story. Romney is no Willard-come-lately when it comes to serving the interests of Israel. His ties to the Israeli Right and especially Likud Party President Benjamin Netanyahu go back many years. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/30/romneys-iran-campaign/
Carville’s Push to Tighten Sanctions on Iran
By Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch [August 3, 2012]
---- According to two congressional insiders, the quick witted maneuver by the Obama campaign is a key reason their candidate currently leads in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania while reminding the media that no presidential candidate since 1960 has won the White House without carrying two of these three states. Meanwhile, Romney operatives are seeking alternative ways to convince Israel to maintain its support and cash for his campaign during the next nine weeks of what “Slick Jimmy” is calling, “American Democracy at work.” http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/03/carvilles-push-to-tighten-sanctions-on-iran/
Is Israel fixing the intelligence to justify an attack on Iran?
By Ray McGovern, The Baltimore Sun [July 30, 2012]
---- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's strong pro-Israel statements over the weekend, including his endorsement of Jerusalem as Israel's capital (a reversal of long-standing U.S. policy), increases the pressure on President Barack Obama to prove that he is an equally strong backer of Israel. The key question is whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will interpret the presidential campaign rhetoric as an open invitation to provoke hostilities with Iran, in the expectation that President Obama will feel forced to jump in with both feet in support of our "ally" Israel. Mr. Netanyahu broke all records for speed in blaming Iran and Hezbollah for the recent terrorist attack that killed five Israelis in Burgas, Bulgaria, and in vowing that "Israel will react powerfully against Iranian terror." But what is the evidence on Iranian or Hezbollah involvement? http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-israel-iran-20120730,0,200221,print.story
Also useful– Nicholas Kulish, “After Bus Bombing, Bulgaria’s Ties With Israel Are at Risk,” New York Times [July 31, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/world/europe/after-bombing-bulgarias-ties-with-israel-at-risk.html?ref=world&pagewanted=print; and Mariya Petkova, “Bulgaria bombing catches country unprepared” Aljazeera [July 31, 2012] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/20127308251786378.html
Ehud Barak Admits Iran Has Defensive Posture, No Weapons Program
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [August 3, 2012]
---- The most important and most frequently ignored distinction in the debate about Iran and its nuclear program is that Iran’s current postures are defensive in nature, not offensive. Right-wing pundits constantly harangue about Iran’s supposed intentions to annihilate Israel, wipe Israel off the map, and so on – and this, they claim, is why it’s so important to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. This assumes Iran would want a nuclear weapon for offensive purposes, which is incorrect. http://antiwar.com/blog/2012/08/03/ehud-barak-admits-iran-has-defensive-posture-no-weapons-program/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+AWCBlog+%28Antiwar.com+Blog%29
Where are Iran's reformists?
By D. Parvaz, Aljazeera [August 1, 2012]
---- The latest round of sanctions has been lethal to the middle class. Iran has been slow to shift millions of barrels of oil, military tensions are building in the Gulf over the country's talk of shutting down the Strait of Hormuz (a major oil choke point) and Iran's controversial nuclear programme continues to draw an ebb and flow of threats from Israel. Then there is Syria, where Iran has been siding with the government, which has waged pitched, bloody battles against the opposition for 17 months. With politicians already jostling for influence in the lead up to presidential elections in 2013, this is a critical time for the reformists, a network of groups, both political and social, that calls for more press freedoms, rights for women and minorities and government transparency. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/07/2012721201249368389.html
Turkey’s Role in Defusing the Iranian Nuclear Issue
By Aylin Gürzel
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
The announcement by Koffi Annan that he will resign his peacekeeping mandate at the end of August will be a milestone in Syria’s descent into civil war. The United States is determined to frame UN diplomacy with a non-negotiable demand that Assad relinquish power. Conversely, Russia and China will veto any Security Council resolution that includes regime change as a pre-condition, rather than as one of the possible outcomes. What happens next depends on the success or failure of the Free Syria Army’s assaults on Aleppo and Damascus. And what follows that is anyone’s guess; though as Phyllis Bennis points out below, the last thing on the minds of those regimes – notably the United States – that are pushing for outside intervention is the welfare of the Syrian people.
There are now many news sites that provide an alternative perspective on Syria to that of the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc. For good day-to-day coverage of what’s happening on the ground in Syria, I recommend the blog by Joshua Landis, “Syria Comment” (www.joshualandis.com/blog), Paul Woodward’s “War in Context” (www.warincontext.org), links to articles about Syria at US Labor against the War (http://www.uslaboragainstwar.org/article.php?list=type&type=151); Bartolo’s blog/Syria News (http://warisacrime.org/blog/47631), and the daily news programs from Al-Jazeera, (www.aljazeera.com).
Military Intervention in Syria: No
By Phyllis Bennis, Foreign Policy in Focus [August 2, 2012]
---- The brave, non-violent Syrian challenge to a brutal dictatorship emerged as part of the Arab risings across the region. But that short Syrian spring of 2011 has long since morphed into an escalation of militarization and death. The International Committee of the Red Cross acknowledged what many already recognized: Syria is immersed in full-scale civil war. As is true in every civil war, civilian casualties are horrific and rising. Certainly the regime has carried out brutal acts against civilians, including war crimes. The armed opposition is also responsible for attacks leading to the deaths of civilians. Indications are growing of outside terrorist forces operating in Syria as well. Of course the normal human reaction is “we’ve got to do something!” But however dire the situation facing Syrian civilians, the likelihood that any outside military attacks would actually help the situation is very remote. http://www.zcommunications.org/military-intervention-in-syria-no-by-phyllis-bennis
Syriacan be preserved by the subtle route of compromise
By Charles Glass, The Guardian [July 29, 2012]
---- The choice confronting the world is not between the Assad regime and the opposition, but between two oppositions. One seeks international military intervention to enable it to overthrow the regime. The other strives for change through civil disobedience and dialogue and rejects military interference by foreign powers whose hostility to Syria pre-dates their recent discovery of the country's woes. … For outsiders, whose own countries will not be the chessboard on which this game is played, war makes more political capital than the more subtle and difficult route of negotiation and compromise. Yet which is more likely to preserve Syria, its secularism, its economy and the healthy relations among its communities – civil war, as in Spain, Lebanon and Yugoslavia or the example of Nelson Mandela meeting the enforcers of apartheid? When the British government and the Irish Republican Army swallowed pride and distaste to negotiate seriously, rather than win outright, the war in Northern Ireland ended. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/29/syria-route-of-compromise?intcmp=239
Also useful – From Democracy Now! “(Video) Charles Glass: With Annan’s Exit & Influx of Foreign Arms, Syria’s Violence "Seems the Only Way Out" [August 3, 2012] http://www.democracynow.org/2012/8/3/charles_glass_with_annans_exit_influx
State Department and Pentagon Plan for Post-Assad Syria
By Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker, New York Times [August 4, 2012]
---- The State Department effort is being coordinated by Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, who worked in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau during the planning for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, when the department clashed with the Pentagon over what to do after Mr. Hussein’s fall. The department has created a number of separate cells devoted to aspects of a post-Assad Syria, including humanitarian issues, economic reconstruction, security, the stockpiles of chemical weapons and a political transition. The Pentagon, along with Central Command, has established a similar group of planning cells, known as “crisis action teams,” focused on contingencies that could involve the American military. Senior officials declined to give the number and emphasized that such cells are created whenever potential crises emerge. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/world/middleeast/state-dept-and-pentagon-planning-for-post-assad-syria.html?ref=world
Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian [July 30, 2012]
---- Religious and sectarian rhetoric has taken a leading role in the Syrian revolution from the early days. This is partly because of the need for outside funding and weapons, which are coming through well-established Muslim networks, and partly because religion provides a useful rallying cry for fighters, with promises of martyrdom and redemption. Almost every rebel brigade has adopted a Sunni religious name with rhetoric exalting jihad and martyrdom, even when the brigades are run by secular commanders and manned by fighters who barely pray. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/30/al-qaida-rebels-battle-syria
Also useful - Nicolas Dot-Pouillard, “Syria Divides the Arab left,” http://mondediplo.com/2012/08/04syrialeft; Deepak Tripathi, “All Eyes on Syria: A Powder Keg in the Middle East,” [July 30, 2012] http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/30/all-eyes-on-syria/; and Israel Shamir, “Israel’s Plan for Syria: The Somalia Model,” Counterpunch [July 30, 2012] http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/30/israels-plan-for-syria/