Iran War Weekly - July 7, 2013
Iran War Weekly
July 7, 2013
Hello All – The few reporters and writers who remained at their posts over this sweltering July 4th weekend have been focused primarily on the events in Egypt, and there is relatively little new news about Iran, its nuclear program, and/or the prospects for war or peace. The events in Egypt, of course, have some bearing on events in Syria and thus with Iran, and I will address them below.
Although newly elected President Rowhani will assume Iran’s presidency on August 3, there are still no signs that the United States intends to modify its negotiating position re: Iran’s nuclear program; nor, indeed, do the “P5+1” seem anxious to get back to the negotiating table at all. As a reminder of how unrealistic are the US “offers” now on the table, I’ve linked below their “confidence building” proposals from last March.
Indeed, rather than indicating a “reverse course” toward Iran, Washington is plunging ahead on the familiar path of sanctions and demonization. A Tehran spokesman expressed disappointment last week that a new round of sanctions – this time against Iranian financial institutions – went ahead as scheduled on July 1. And the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives just forwarded to the President an AIPAC-crafted document calling on him to implement a new round of economic sanctions to put a stop to “Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity.” More on this below.
Much of the writing in the blogosphere about Iran is still focused on how and why Rowhani won the presidential election, and what his presidency might mean for Iran and for its future relations with “the West.” I’ve linked several interesting essays on these topics below.
On Syria- One recent think tank report described the Syrian cockpit as having completed the transition from a Syrian war with regional implications to a regional war based in Syria. The news from Syria this week points to increasing disarray in the Opposition camp; with all this, of course, taking place against the backdrop of steady gains by the Assad government in its fighting with the Opposition.
In response to the last issue of the IWW, which reported on the election of Rowhani, I received an email from a friend asking if it wasn’t time to rename the Iran War Weekly to (perhaps) the Iran News Weekly, something more in tune with the optimism afforded by the new regime in Iran. I replied in part by recalling that, when the IWW began in early 2012, the title was intended to reflect the actuality of the “low-level” war then underway, with US sanctions, Stuxnet, assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, and CIA activity in (at least) the Baluchistan region of Iran. Of these acts of aggression, sanctions (at least) continue, now escalated to unprecedented economic warfare in “peacetime.” Also, as noted above, we have yet to see any indication that Washington is prepared to take advantage of the supposed “moderation” of Rowhani by changing its negotiating positions to something that could conceivably lead to an accommodation between the two sides. Barring such changes, it is still reasonable to frame the US strategy towards Iran as one of seeking regime change, rather than simply focused on Iran’s nuclear program. Needless to say, I would be the first to rejoice in the disappearance of any need for an Iran War Weekly, when I could retire to my country estate and read novels.
Once again I would like once again to thank those of you who have forwarded this newsletter or linked it on your sites. This “issue” and previous issues of the Iran War Weekly are posted at http://warisacrime.org/blog/46383. If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at email@example.com
NEGOTIATIONS ABOUT IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Russia worried by lack of progress towards Iran nuclear talks
By Alissa de Carbonnel, Reuters [July 4, 2013]
---- Russia voiced concern on Thursday that no progress has been made towards organizing new talks between Iran and six world powers on Tehran's nuclear program, despite the election of a relative moderate as Iran's president. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said a diplomatic push had been launched to arrange a new round of talks after Hassan Rouhani was elected president on June 14 but made clear there had been no breakthrough. "There is no agreement now on when and where the next round will be. That worries us," Ryabkov told Interfax news agency. "After the election of the Iranian president, we stepped up work in preparation for a new round of talks but so far the work is not being done transparently." The last high-level talks between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany were held in the Kazakh city of Almaty in April. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/04/us-nuclear-iran-russia-idUSBRE9630AZ20130704
The P5+1 nuclear proposal to Iran in Almaty: Document
From Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [June 9, 2013]
IRAN’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Return of Old Guard Marks a New Stage in Iran’s Politics
By Yasaman Baji, Inter Press Service [July 1, 2013]
---- The victory of Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s Jun. 14 election marked a significant shift in Iranian politics, occasioned by the forceful return of the two most important political factions of the Islamic Republic – traditional conservatives and reformists. These two factions had been sidelined in the past decade. In fact, many had assumed that they had permanently lost their significance, giving way to either a more radical version of conservatism or the personal dictatorship of Leader Ali Khamenei. But the alliance that was created in support of Rouhani’s candidacy by three key figures of the Islamic Republic – former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, as well as former speaker of the Parliament and presidential candidate Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri – set the stage for the return of both traditional conservatism and reformism to Iranian politics. These two factions were effectively the founding pillars of the Islamic Republic. In the 1980s, they were identified as the right and left wings of the Islamic Republic because of their disagreements over the economic direction of the country. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/return-of-old-guard-marks-a-new-stage-in-irans-politics/
The Rise of the Iranian Moderates
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Al-Monitor [July 5, 2013]
---- With Rouhani’s victory, politics of Iran will shift toward the center and reduce 16 years of factionalism in the administration. Rouhani — a moderate centrist — believes the government cannot be ruled by one faction, neither Reformist nor Principalist. Instead, he advocates for the full utilization of the best and most capable public servants from both factions. … Rouhani’s victory and moving the political spectrum to the center will have wide socioeconomic and political implications for Iran. The domestic and foreign policies of the country from 2013 to 2017 will ensure the pendulum does not swing toward the extremes; instead, it will be based on moderate policies in all arenas. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/07/rise-iranian-moderates.html
Region by Region breakdown of Iran presidential election vote
[FB – An interesting region-by-region interactive map showing the electoral support for each candidate.]
Also interesting on Iranian politics and the election – Reza Marashi, “Parsing Rouhani’s Victory,” Lobe Log [July 1, 2013]http://www.lobelog.com/parsing-rouhanis-victory/; By Ali Reza Eshraghi and Amir Hossein Mahdavi, “How 'Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's candidate' lost the election,” Tehran Bureau [July 4, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2013/jul/04/iran-ayatollah-ali-khamenei-election?CMP=twt_gu; Ali Reza Eshraghi, “A Prudent Triumph,” Lobe Log [July 2, 2013]http://www.lobelog.com/a-prudent-triumph; and Milad Odabaei, “On ‘the Moderate Choice’: Thoughts on the Political Significance of the Iranian Elections,” Jadaliyya [July 5, 2013] http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/12688/on-%E2%80%98the-moderate-choice%E2%80%99_thoughts-on-the-political
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A ROWHANI PRESIDENCY
Iran’s Next Leader Advocates a Less Intrusive State
By Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times [July 3, 2013]
---- Iran’s president-elect, Hassan Rowhani, repeated in a speech on Wednesday his promises of more freedoms for Iranians, saying the government should not interfere in people’s private lives. “We need a strong society,” Mr. Rowhani told a group of Shiite Muslim clerics during the speech in Tehran, which was broadcast live, telling them to trust the people, whom he called the owners of the Islamic republic. “We should talk to the people,” he said. “We should hear what they say. We should kindly hear what they say. We should lessen the chances of total rule by the government.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/world/middleeast/irans-next-leader-Hassan-Rowhani-advocates-a-less-intrusive-state.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fworld%2Findex.jsonp&_r=1&
Why Iran looks set to lighten up under Rohani
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [July 3, 2013]
Iran's President-Elect Rohani Talks Economic Reform
By Ladane Nasseri, Business Week [July 3, 2013]
US POLICIES AND STRATEGIES
Why does Washington always get Iran wrong?
By Trita Parsi and Reza Mrashi, Aljazeera [July 1, 2013]
---- Some said the elections were irrelevant because whatever the outcome, Khamenei would be the winner. Yet the frequency with which conventional wisdom in Washington gets Iran wrong is striking. Why is that? And how can Washington's ability to read Tehran be improved? Rouhani's resounding victory sheds light on at least three factors contributing to a systemic misreading of Iran. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/2013630111133190971.html
Why Have An Intelligence Community When AIPAC Knows Better?
By Jim Lobe, Lobe Log [July 3, 2013]
---- I guess that’s one of the things that occurred to me when I received [a] Press Release and [a] letter to the president from the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) yesterday. All but one of the 47 members of the Committee signed on. The letter, which was initially drafted in the offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), calls for a whole new round of sanctions to be imposed against companies and countries doing business with Iran, notably in its mining, engineering and construction-based sectors, as well as other measures that will “increase the pressure on Iran in the days ahead.” While noting that president-elect Hassan Rouhani was “widely perceived as the most moderate of the candidates” running in last month’s election and that its outcome “reflected considerable dissatisfaction by the Iranian people with an autocratic and repressive government that has internationally isolated Iran,” it stressed that the election “unfortunately has done nothing to suggest a reversal of Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity.” “[T]here appears nothing ‘moderate’ about [Rouhani's] nuclear policies…” http://www.lobelog.com/why-spend-50-billion-for-an-intelligence-community-when-aipac-knows-better/
Also interesting– Paul Pillar, “Iran South of the Border,” The National Interest [June 28, 2013] http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/iran-south-the-border-8680?page=show
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
Introduction: Egypt and Syria
---- The pundit and blogosphere debate this weekend is whether events in Egypt were a military coup that took advantage of the chaos of a popular uprising against President Morsi, or was it a revolution assisted in its final stage by the intervention of the army. Because US legislation requires aid to Egypt to be cut off if a “coup” has taken place, this issue will undoubtedly dominate the Beltway debates in the immediate future. Far more interesting, of course, is what happens next in Egypt; but for the modest mission of the IWW, our main concern is how the ouster of President Morsi might affect events in Syria, and thus the prospects for war between the United States/Israel and Iran.
I do not know whether ex-president Morsi’s pledge of support to the Syrian opposition had advanced beyond rhetoric before his overthrow. As noted below, one interpretation of the Army’s move against him was the concern generated within its ranks by Morsi’s calling at a rally on June 15th for military intervention and a holy war against the “infidels” in Syria. As also noted below, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps the largest organized force of the Syrian opposition inside Syria, regards Morsi’s overthrow as a serious blow. And it is perhaps significant, as Anne Barnard writes below, that the candidate backed by Qatar, the leading supporter of the Brotherhood in Syria, was defeated in last week’s election to head the (external) Syrian National Coalition; his opponent was supported by Saudi Arabia, which is strongly anti-Muslim Brotherhood. - FB
Out of Control: the Syrian Rebels and the US
[An Interview With Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad]
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [July 3, 2013]
---- Syria is convinced the US cannot control the rebel groups it is arming and will be unable to get them to declare a ceasefire that would be central to any successful peace talks, says the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister. This puts a further obstacle in the way of negotiations in Geneva proposed by the US and Russia which seem the best chance of ending the Syrian civil war. It now appears they will either not take place, or if they do, they will achieve nothing. Faisal Mekdad says in an interview in Damascus that the Americans “provide arms and money but they have absolutely no control. Nobody will listen. The US has been trying to unify this opposition for two years and you can see the results: more disintegration.” Mr Mekdad has been at the centre of Syrian foreign policy at a time when the country has been progressively isolated, while still managing to retain crucial allies. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/03/out-of-control-the-syrian-rebels-and-the-us/
Why Iran’s Gambit in Syria Might Not Pay Off
By David Shams, Muftah [July 3, 2013]
---- In a June 11 report in the Washington Post, journalist Liz Sly writes that the Islamic Republic of Iran is “emerging as the biggest victor in the wider regional struggle for influence that the Syrian conflict has become” and that “the regional balance of power appears to be tilting in favor of Tehran, with potentially profound implications for a Middle East still grappling with the upheaval wrought by the Arab Spring revolts.” Despite Ms. Sly’s assertion, which echoes claims made elsewhere in the media, Iran might not be quite the winner she imagines it to be. http://muftah.org/why-irans-gambit-in-syria-might-not-pay-off/
Trying to End Rifts, Syria Opposition in Exile Elects President
By Anne Barnard, New York Times [July 6, 2013]
---- But questions remained about whether Mr. Jarba, elected with a narrow majority amid new challenges for the coalition, could help unify the group. Mr. Jarba, seen as close to the government of Saudi Arabia, defeated Mustafa Sabbagh, a businessman viewed as an ally of Qatar, in a runoff election in Istanbul. Hanging over the election was the ouster last week of Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The coalition has suffered from criticism that it is dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the best-organized exile group. The choice of a president close to Saudi Arabia, which is hostile to the Brotherhood, was seen as a counterweight to its influence. Mohammed Farouk Tayfour, a Brotherhood member, was elected one of three vice presidents. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which backs the Brotherhood, are two of the main financiers of the Syrian uprising and have wrestled for influence over the movement. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/world/middleeast/trying-to-end-rifts-syria-opposition-in-exile-elects-president.html?ref=world
Morsy role at Syria rally seen as tipping point for Egypt army
From Reuters [July 3, 2013]
---- Army concern about the way President Mohamed Morsy was governing Egypt reached tipping point when the head of state attended a rally packed with hardline fellow Islamists calling for holy war in Syria, military sources said. At the June 15 rally, Sunni Muslim clerics used the word "infidels" to denounce both the Shi'ites fighting to protect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-Islamists that oppose Morsy at home. Morsy himself called for foreign intervention in Syria against Assad, leading to a veiled rebuke from the army, which issued an apparently bland but sharp-edged statement the next day stressing that its only role was guarding Egypt's borders. http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/morsy-role-syria-rally-seen-tipping-point-egypt-army