Iran War Weekly - July 22, 2012
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.
One illustration of the hair-trigger tensions in the region was the immediate Israeli threat to respond against Iran and/or Hezbollah for their alleged role in the terrorist bombing in Bulgaria. This is examined below as an example of the way that media bias reflects the power interests of ruling elites in the United States and Israel, greasing the path to war in the absence of critical thought.
Also among the good/useful reading linked below, I especially recommend the essay by two Iranian scholars on why Iran does not want a nuclear weapon, Trita Parsi’s essay on the dynamics that make war with Iran appear “inevitable,” and the several essays on Syria’s armed opposition and the complexities of the uprising against the Assad regime.
Once again, I appreciate the help that many of you have given in distributing the Iran War Weekly and/or linking it on websites. Previous “issues” of the IWW can be read at http://warisacrime.org/blog/46383. If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
The Enmity Conspiracy or How War with Iran Became ‘Inevitable’
By Trita Parsi, The Diplomat [July 21, 2012]
---- The U.S.-Iran conflict has acquired an air of inevitability. The last ten years appear as a slow-motion prequel to a pre-destined outcome: War. While structural factors have helped push the two actors towards confrontation, there has never been anything inevitable about this conflict. Rather, a long series of miscalculated escalations have brought the two states to the current deadlock. Iran and the United States are entrapped in a paradigm of enmity. Within the mindset of this paradigm, both assume the worst about the other's intentions. The two countries are on the brink of war due to this vicious cycle of unending escalation and counter-escalation, born from their unquestioned assumptions and conclusions about each other. Only by revisiting these assumptions and questioning these conclusions can a path towards peace be found. If this pattern is not broken, however, then open war is indeed a likely outcome. But there has never been anything inevitable about this man-made disaster.
Trita Parsi is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. He is the author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States and A Single Roll of the Dice – Obama's Diplomacy with Iran.
At the Precipice of War The Military Build-Up in the Persian Gulf
By Ben Schreiner, Counterpunch [July 16, 2012]
---- The familiar menace of U.S. war drums have resumed at a fevered pitch, as Iran finds itself once again firmly within the Pentagon’s cross hairs. According to multiple reports, the U.S. is currently in the midst of a massive military build-up in the Persian Gulf on a scale not seen in the region since prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The military surge reportedly includes an influx of air and naval forces, ground troops, and even sea drones. Lest one forgets, the U.S. already has two aircraft carriers and their accompanying striker groups in the region. A growing sense of Iran war fever can also be seen mounting in Washington. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/16/at-the-precipice-of-war/
Also useful - Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, “Pentagon Bulks Up Defenses In The Gulf,” Wall Street Journal [July 17, 2012] – NB – Unfortunately the WSJ is available on-line only by subscription. The story is summarized by the authors as: “The Pentagon is building a missile-defense radar station at a secret site in Qatar and organizing its biggest-ever minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf, as preparations accelerate for a possible flare-up with Iran, according to U.S. officials. The radar site will complete the backbone of a system designed to defend U.S. interests and allies such as Israel and European nations against Iranian rockets, officials told The Wall Street Journal. The minesweeping exercises, in September, will be the first such multilateral drills in the region, and are expected to be announced by U.S. officials Tuesday.”
IRANIAN POLICY AND STRATEGIES
Iranleft to ponder its next move in the Arabian Gulf
By Michael Theodoulou, The National [UAE] [July 2012]
---- Iran’s fractious leadership is locked in a vigorous internal debate over whether to stoke tensions in the heavily-militarised Arabian Gulf in response to ever-tightening western sanctions choking its vital oil sector. Tehran’s strategy is to keep desultory nuclear talks ticking over until the US elections in November, hoping Barack Obama, the US president, will win a second term. Then, presumably less restrained by Republican and Israeli pressure, Tehran hopes he can offer it a better deal. The US and its Western allies also seem content to play a waiting game, relying on the growing pain of sanctions to force an Iranian compromise on its nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is solely peaceful in nature. What is questionable, however, is how much punishment Iran can passively soak up before November without looking weak at home and abroad. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/iran-left-to-ponder-its-next-move-in-the-arabian-gulf
An Iranian Nuclear Weapon?
There is now a mini-controversy within elite academic circles stimulated by an article by international relations scholar Kenneth Waltz, who argued that the Middle East would be more, not less, stable if Iran had a nuclear weapon. (This debate is summarized by John Glaser at http://antiwar.com/blog/2012/07/19/the-elite-debate-on-iran/.) In the last issue of the IWW I linked an article by Richard Falk arguing that Waltz was wrong in thinking that “mutual deterrence” would be helpful in the Middle East (http://www.zcommunications.org/the-danger-of-nuclear-deterrence-by-richard-falk). In the article below, two Iranian scholars go further, arguing that Waltz’s “realist” argument for nuclear weapons is blind to the realities of both the Middle East and Iran. - FB
Eight Reasons Why Waltz Theory On Nuclear Iran Is Wrong
By Hossein Mousavian and Kaveh Afrasiabi, Al-Monitor[July 16, 2012]
---- In a recent influential article in Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Waltz has challenged the conventional wisdom on Iran’s nuclear program and asserted that Iran “should get the bomb.” Written by one of America’s most influential international-relations theorists, Waltz’s article makes a strong case for Iranian nuclear proliferation. He argues that this would bring more stability to the Middle East by ending Israel’s destabilizing nuclear monopoly and introducing a much-needed nuclear balance in the turbulent region. Coinciding with the imposition of fresh oil and financial sanctions on Iran by the US and the European Union, Waltz’s theoretical contribution challenges western and Israeli policy makers to re-think the wisdom of their coercive approach toward Iran. He argues that sanctions have actually added to Iran’s national security threats and thus fueled the country’s purported proliferation drive. Although Waltz’s arguments — particularly about the destabilizing effects of Israel’s nuclear arsenal — make sense, the main problem is that his core assumptions about Iran are simply wrong and do not correspond with Iran’s behavior and intentions.
Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University and former Iran nuclear negotiator and author of the new book, Iranian Nuclear Crisis, A Memoir. Kaveh Afrasiabi is a former political science professor at Tehran University, author of books on Iran’s foreign affairs and former advisor to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team from 2005 to 2006.
Netanyahu Refuses Explicit Iran Attack Threat
By Gareth Porter, Antiwar.com [July 19, 2012]
---- The perception that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities unless sanctions and diplomacy succeed in shutting them down has been the driving force in the Iran crisis. But although Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have made some tough statements, especially over the past several months, there is still one gaping hole in the record of their rhetoric on Iran: neither Netanyahu nor Barak has ever made an explicit public statement threatening to attack Iran. The public reticence of Netanyahu and Barak may reflect the fact that the two leaders are not in a position to commit the Israeli government publicly to an attack on Iran. Press reports have portrayed Netanyahu and Barak as representing a distinct minority on the issue in Israel’s nine-member “security cabinet.” http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2012/07/18/netanyahu-refuses-explicit-iran-attack-threat/
THE BULGARIA BOMBING
As of today, we don’t know the identity of the terrorist who killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. The US mainstream media’s instant willingness to channel Israel’s claims that the bomber was working for Iran, Hezbollah, etc. is a good illustration of our propaganda system at work. It also illustrates how “accidental” war is not simply “random,” but is structured by power interests of states, in this case the United States and Israel. If Israel chooses to “retaliate” against Iran or Hezbollah, the facts of what actually happened in Bulgaria will be quickly buried under an avalanche of biased reporting.
Journalism v. propaganda
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com [July 20, 2012]
---- Almost immediately after a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on Wednesday, Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blamed Iran, an accusation uncritically repeated by most Western media outlets even as Bulgarian investigators warned it would be a “mistake” to assign blame before the attack could be investigated. Now, Israel, along with the U.S., is blaming Hezbollah and, therefore, Iran for the attack. Today’s New York Times article by Nicholas Kulish and Eric Schmitt – headlined “Hezbollah Is Blamed for Attack on Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria” – uncritically treats those accusations as confirmed fact despite no evidence being offered for it: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/20/journalism_v_propaganda/
Also useful – Gareth Porter, “Why the Buenos Aires Bombing is a False Indicator on Bulgaria,” LobeLog [July 22, 2012] http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/22-5; and Nima Shirazi, “The Insanity of Anti-Iran Propaganda,” Wide Asleep in America [July 21, 2012] http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2012/07/the-insanity-of-anti-iran-propaganda.html
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
The sharp escalation of fighting against the Syrian regime, and its penetration of Damascus and Aleppo, has raised questions about the military capacity of the Syrian government to remain in power. The Obama administration has now made explicit what was formerly only implicit, that it does not see a negotiated outcome as possible, and that it will support the overthrow of the Assad regime by insurgent forces. The New York Times and other mainstream media reflected this new gestalt in their coverage this week, writing about plans for a post-Assad Syria. News sources outside the White House’s orbit, however, suggest that an insurgent victory is far from certain, and is at least quite distant. The question of US/NATO and/or Israeli intervention, therefore, is still on the front burner. In the articles and essays linked below, I’ve compressed those reporting the fighting in and around Syria, giving more space to stories addressing the role of Iran in the conflict, and the implications for Iran of the changing relation of forces within Syria.
For very good day-to-day coverage of what’s happening on the ground in Syria, I recommend the blog by Joshua Landis, “Syria Comment,” and Paul Woodward’s “War in Context.” Also very useful are Juan Cole’s”Informed Comment” and the daily news programs from Al-Jazeera, clustered at “Inside Syria.” – FB
Syria: The War on the Ground
Backing Horses in Syria: The Battle of Damascus
By Binoy Kampmark, Counterpunch [July 19, 2012]
---- While the Russians are being painted as international law’s bogeymen, indifferent to choosing sides in a conflict when the only side to pick can only ever be that of peace, the Syrian opposition forces are nibbling, if not slaughtering their way, into view with their recent killings in Damascus. There is little doubt that the killings being inflicted by the Assad regime are reprehensible and need to cease, but that is ultimately a matter that Syria will have to contend with. When civilians die at the hands of government forces, quivers of indignation and rage are felt outside the country by anti-Assad regimes who express a partisan interest in the conflict while simulating disinterestedness. But the Syrian opposition has also relinquished its credentials as a body of peace makers. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/19/the-battle-of-damascus/
(Video) Back from Syria, Reporter David Enders Says Assad Regime Crumbling to "Grassroots Rebellion"
From Democracy Now! [July 19, 2012]
---- As the battle for Damascus rages on, we’re joined by reporter David Enders, special correspondent for McClatchy, based in Beirut, Lebanon. He has been to Syria four times this year, most recently in June, and is returning there shortly. "The [Syrian] government [is] crumbling under the weight of a massive rebellion. It simply can’t put it down," Enders says. "Without the aid of the international community, Syrians are largely doing it themselves.” http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/19/back_from_syria_reporter_david_enders
(Video) What is Really Happening in Syria?
By Tariq Ali, Stop the War Coalition [July 18, 2012] – 4 minutes http://www.zcommunications.org/what-is-really-happening-in-syria-by-tariq-ali
Also useful – Juan Cole, “Top Ten Implications of the Damascus Bombing,” Informed Comment [July 19, 2012] http://www.juancole.com/2012/07/top-ten-implications-of-the-damascus-bombing.html; Democracy Now! “Bomber Strikes Syrian Regime in Damascus, Killing Assad’s Defense Minister, Brother-in-Law,” [July 18, 2012] http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/18/bomber_strikes_syrian_regime_in_damascus; Aljazeera ‘Syrian conflict: The beginning of the end?” – 25 minutes http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2012/07/20127189020730553.html; Robert Fisk, “Assassinations On An Epic Scale,” The Independent [UK] [July 19, 2012] http://www.zcommunications.org/assassinations-on-an-epic-scale-but-syria-rebels-will-not-claim-their-greatest-prize-by-robert-fisk
Problems of the Syrian Opposition
Syria’s rebels gaining momentum, but U.S. officials still can’t identify a leader
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers [July 20, 2012]
---- As rebels rack up important victories that could hasten the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials are still struggling to identify a credible opposition authority to keep fragile Syria from civil war once the leader is gone. The main opposition groups Washington supports lack cohesion, credibility and, most importantly, command over the armed rebels who on Friday said they were sending reinforcements to Damascus for battles that could determine whether the four-decade Assad family dynasty survives. Syrian academics and technocrats – almost all of them exiles – who were tasked with creating a shadow government don’t appear to have real support on the ground in Syria, in Washington or at the United Nations, according to analysts and published remarks by officials. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/07/20/157053/syrias-rebels-gaining-momentum.html
Syria opposition has power struggles of its own
By Los Angeles Times Staff, Los AngelesTimes [July 20, 2012]
---- For months, opposition leaders who were at the forefront of the uprising when it began have been trying to parlay their activism into more prominent roles on the political front and in groups such as the Syrian National Council, the leading opposition bloc. But even as they have led the early protest movements, helped form armed militias and become local leaders, they have been overshadowed by exiles in Egypt and Turkey who, many activists say, are out of touch with the revolution and country they claim to speak for. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-opposition-20120721,0,717590,full.story
Also useful – Patrick Martin, “Islamic fighters flocking to Syria,” The Globe and Mail [Canada] [July 20, 2012] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/islamic-fighters-flocking-to-syria/article4432160/; and Robert Fisk, “Sectarianism Bites into Syria's Rebels,” The Independent [UK] [July 22, 2012] http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/22-1
US Policy and Strategy
Washington Begins to Plan for Collapse of Syrian Government
By Helene Cooper, New York Times [July 19, 2012]
---- With the growing conviction that the Assad family’s 42-year grip on power in Syria is coming to an end, Obama administration officials worked on contingency plans Wednesday for a collapse of the Syrian government, focusing particularly on the chemical weapons that Syria is thought to possess and that President Bashar al-Assad could try to use on opposition forces and civilians. Pentagon officials were in talks with Israeli defense officials about whether Israel might move to destroy Syrian weapons facilities, two administration official said. The administration is not advocating such an attack, the American officials said, because of the risk that it would give Mr. Assad an opportunity to rally support against Israeli interference. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/19/world/middleeast/washington-begins-to-plan-for-collapse-of-syrian-government.html
US Refuses to help Syrian rebels until after election
By Peter Foster, The Telegraph [UK] [July 16, 2012]
---- Despite mounting fury from the Syrian rebels, who are seeking assistance for their efforts to overthrow the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the White House has refused all requests for heavy weapons and intelligence support. Syrian lobby groups in Washington, who only a few weeks ago were expressing hope that the Obama administration might give a green light to the supply of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, said they had now been forced to “take a reality pill” by the US government. … All their requests were rejected. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9404452/US-refuses-to-help-Syrian-rebels-until-after-election.html
The ‘Day After’ plan for post-Assad Syria
By Paul Woodward on July 21, 2012
---- One of the ironies of the anti-interventionist perspective is that it focuses on the dangers of the U.S. being too actively engaged in the Middle East at a moment when the administration is more afraid of those critics who say it is disengaged. For that reason, the administration actually wants to play up its level of engagement rather than mask it. Thus we get the theatrics at the United Nations where supposedly the noble efforts of the U.S. and its allies are repeatedly being thwarted by Russia and China. Don’t expect anyone to openly acknowledge this, but Washington may secretly welcome these diplomatic shackles. If let loose, it would probably have a much harder time explaining why it is so reluctant to become more deeply involved in the crisis. http://warincontext.org/2012/07/21/the-day-after-plan-for-post-assad-syria/
Iranian Policy and Strategy
Does Iran have a Syria Strategy?
By Farideh Farhi, LobeLog [July 16, 2012]
---- Like other countries with a stake in Syria’s future, Iran is now faced with an ally that’s essentially in the throes of what will likely be a long, drawn out and for now, worsening civil war. Various voices are warning about what could lie head. The prospect of Syria repeating the gruesome Algerian civil war of the 1990s has been raised, while for Mohammad Ali Sobhani, Iran’s former ambassador to Lebanon, the fear is more about Syria’s disintegration along the lines of the former Yugoslavia. Others worry about a spillover into and further destabilization of Iraq, particularly into the adjacent Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Ninewa. But expressions of fear do not make up for the lack of a visionary policy. http://www.lobelog.com/does-iran-have-a-syria-strategy/
Also useful – Farideh Farhi, “More on the Islamic Republic’s Syria Policy,” LobeLog [July 21st, 2012] http://www.lobelog.com/more-on-the-islamic-republic%E2%80%99s-syria-policy/; and Mehdi Mohammadi, “Syria’s Developments and Iran's National Security Equation,” Iran Review [Iran] [July 22, 2012] http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Syria-s-Developments-and-Iran-s-National-Security-Equation.htm
Israeli Policy and Strategy
Barak Orders Israeli Military to Prepare for Syria Invasion
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [July 20, 2012]
---- In an interview with Israeli Channel 10 today Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that he has ordered the military to prepare for a full-scale invasion of neighboring Syria, with the goal of seizing weapons from the Syrian military, currently embroiled in a civil war. Barak sought to justify the move, saying that it was possible Syria might transfer “anti-aircraft missiles” or even chemical weapons to Hezbollah, a militant faction operating out of neighboring Lebanon. Early this week it had been reported Israel was considering such a step, and that Pentagon officials had been dispatched to try to talk Israel out of the invasion, warning it would bolster Assad’s position. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/20/barak-orders-israeli-military-to-prepare-for-syria-invasion/
Russian Policy and Strategy
Delaying the Syrian endgame
By Larbi Sadiki, Aljazeera [July 19, 2012]
---- There are four compelling arguments for allowing Russia to prevent liberal intervention in Syria. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012719124548403526.html