Iran War Weekly - June 24, 2012
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?
As indicated in the articles linked below, the United States is not willing to concede Iran’s opening demand, that it be acknowledged that Iran has the right, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enrich uranium. Is this simply a wise-or-unwise negotiating tactic by the United States, or is this a permanent “red line” – the Israeli position? If it is the latter, of course, negotiations are pointless. Some analysts suggest that the United States’ intransigence reflects its belief that sanctions against Iran – with a new and very harsh set scheduled to go into effect at the end of the month – will eventually force Iran to capitulate. Others argue that the Obama strategy – as a re-election tactic – is to not concede any ground to Iran before the US presidential election.
Of course these two analyses are not incompatible; and the question then arises, at what point will Israel – and “hawks” in the United States – be able to argue persuasively that sanctions have “failed,” and only military action will stop Iran’s march toward acquiring nuclear weapons? And why is Iran cooperating with the negotiations charade, if that is what it is? Again, some analysts think that Iran is willing to accommodate itself to the US election calendar, in the belief that a re-elected Obama will for some reason “reward” Iran for its patience. Meanwhile, as two articles linked below indicate, the US Congress continues its attempts to close negotiating possibilities. It is hard to see the Obama we know putting much daylight between his domestic political calculations and the steps that the US might take to resolve the US/Israel-Iran standoff peacefully.
It is increasingly clear that – via arms transfers and political support – Syria’s civil war may be internationalized beyond repair. Friday’s incidence in which a Turkish surveillance plan was shot down by Syria after it briefly crossed into Syrian air space appears to be being resolved without escalation, but it underscores the volatility of events in the region and how easily war could come. In addition to several articles about arms and funding for the rebels, I’ve also linked a very interesting article by an Associated Press team that visited some of the rebel units inside Syria.
Other articles linked below include a useful piece on the status of the UN discussions about a “nuclear free zone” in the Middle East; a set of articles about the latest US “cyberwar” attacks; and an interesting review article about the life of Iranian reformer Muhammad Mossadegh. Also this week, I learned of the very useful daily summary of the Israeli press at http://www.peacenow.org/news-nosh/; check it out.
Finally, I very much 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)
WHAT HAPPENED IN MOSCOW?
Iran nuclear talks yield only one agreement: Let's meet again
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [June 20, 2012]
---- Iran and world powers have agreed to continue negotiations at a technical level over Iran's nuclear program, staving off a collapse of talks after two days of difficult discussions in Moscow, where hard-line positions did not budge. Both sides portrayed the other as having a "choice" to pursue diplomacy and avert a war over Iran's advanced nuclear program. Diplomats on both sides used similar language to describe "significant gaps" that remain, and to question how long this process of talks can be sustained. Absent from the five marathon sessions in Moscow were any new incentives, from either side, to signal that compromise is imminent or even possible. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0620/Iran-nuclear-talks-yield-only-one-agreement-Let-s-meet-again
What to Make of Moscow?
By Farideh Farhi, PBS [June 223, 2012]
---- Analyses of the Moscow talk results have been quite varied. For some, the agreement to meet again in two weeks but only at the expert level suggested an attempt to continue the process away from the spotlight in the hope that a more limited agreement on Iran's 20 percent enriched uranium would eventually serve as a confidence building measure for other steps. For others, it was just a way of covering up what was an abject failure to close the gap between adamantly maintained positions. For yet another set of observers, the agreement reflected a conscious effort on the part of all parties involved to give the appearance of talking -- talking that will somehow be stretched until after the U.S. presidential election, when presumably the American negotiators will be less vulnerable to the charge of appeasement. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/06/analysis-what-to-make-of-moscow.html#ixzz1yixMgCOm
Prospects for the Future
Where are the Iran talks heading after Moscow?
By Peter Jenkins, Lobelob [June 24th, 2012]
---- To anyone trying to guess where this year’s re-engagement of Iran by the Obama administration is likely to lead, … the administration appears to have thought better of the idea of tolerating uranium enrichment, even at low levels, in Iran. In Moscow, the US and its EU allies once more placed emphasis on the suspension of enrichment (a so-called “international obligation” which Iran must implement fully to secure a deal) and they declined to give Iran the assurance it wants that these talks will eventually result in the West tolerating enrichment. Without that assurance Iran is unwilling to embark on the process of concession-making that is diplomatically termed “confidence-building”.
The U.S. and Iran's Mistaken Path to War
By Trita Parsi, Huffington Post [June 20, 2012]
---- There was neither a breakdown nor breakthrough in the Moscow talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1). The P5+1 and Iran negotiated but could not make any headway. No one should be surprised by this result -- after all, the two sides only had the ability to make demands. They -- particularly the U.S. -- lacked the political will to put real concessions on the table. But without a breakthrough, are we heading towards war? The EU's oil embargo and U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil sales will formally come into effect at the end of the month. And as unprecedented as these measures are, the U.S. will move shortly thereafter to impose even more sanctions to strangle Iran's oil exports. The pattern of the past 10 years clearly shows that when one side escalates, the other side counter-escalates. Neither side has had a particularly elaborate or sophisticated strategy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/trita-parsi/the-us-and-irans-mistaken_b_1612874.html
Also useful– Scott Peterson, ”Russia warns that Iran nuclear talks too slow to forestall conflict,” Christian Science Monitor [June 22, 2012] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0622/Russia-warns-that-Iran-nuclear-talks-too-slow-to-forestall-conflict; Rouzbeh Parsi, “Stereomoronophonic: Iran and the West,” Institute for Security Studies [June 2012] http://www.iss.europa.eu/uploads/media/Iran_RP_final.pdf, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative“Experts Urge Powers to Shift Tack on Iran Strategy,” [June 22, 2012] http://www.nti.rsvp1.com/gsn/article/experts-urge-powers-shift-tack-iran/?mgh=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nti.org&mgf=1
Bipartisanship and Iran: senators join together to demand a harder line against Iran
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com [June 18, 2012]
---- Several days ago, a letter was sent to President Obama urging a harder-line on Iran, including ever-harsher sanctions and more aggressive threats of war in the event that the current negotiations fail to produce a quick and total resolution. What makes the letter notable is that it was not sent by AIPAC (at least not nominally), but rather by 44 Senators, exactly half of whom (22) are Democrats. This implication is clear: a military attack by the U.S. on Iran is at least justified, if not compelled, if a satisfactory agreement is not quickly reached regarding Iran’s nuclear program. At the same time, the letter itself virtually ensures no such agreement is possible because the conditions it imposes as the “absolute minimum” are ones everyone knows Iran will never agree to (closing the Fordow facility and giving up its right to enrich uranium above 5 percent). It also declares that it is not only Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon that is “unacceptable” — diplomatic code for “we’ll go to war to stop it” — but its mere “capability” to build one. http://www.salon.com/2012/06/18/bipartisanship_and_iran/singleton/
Understanding Iranian Defiance
By Parvin Shirzad, PBS [June 21, 2012]
---- I have spent most of this year in Tehran. In conversations with people from all over this city of more than eight million people, from the poor to the rich, from people who dislike the government to those who support it, the prevalent attitude is that Tehran should not just give in to the West to end the standoff. In fact, the fiercest defenders of Iran's right to nuclear energy are some of its biggest critics -- the millions of young, educated, and generally pro-Western Iranians. The more Iranians perceive that they are being bullied, the more nationalistic they become. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/06/opinion-understanding-iranian-defiance.html
A NUCLEAR FREE ZONE IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
By Martin B. Malin, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [May 28, 2012]
---- Gearing up for the proposed 2012 Middle East WMD-Free Zone Conference, Finland, the host country for the event, has had trouble in securing all states' participation -- the most likely holdouts are Israel and Iran. After decades of proliferation and conflict in the Middle East, the conventional wisdom is that the current round of efforts will fail, but regional developments may prove that wisdom to be outdated. Changes in the Middle East are affecting Israeli and Iranian calculations as they consider their participation in a WMD-free zone conference. As negotiations with Iran over the future of its nuclear program inch toward a possible deal, another intractable Middle East problem with a nuclear dimension is likely to start getting more serious attention. It is the question of whether there is any chance that Israel, Iran, and their Arab neighbors will agree to discuss establishing a regional zone free of all nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and their delivery systems. http://thebulletin.org/web-edition/op-eds/unconventional-wisdom
Blame Israel and AIPAC for a U.S. war in Iran
By Larry Derfner, +972 Magazine [June 18, 2012]
---- I never went along with the argument that the Israel lobby, taking its directions from Jerusalem, pushed the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. But Iran is different. Israel and AIPAC have been leading the charge on this one for years, and they’re hardly hiding it - the Israeli campaign for America to get tough, tougher, toughest on Iran has been as bombastic as could possibly be. If America ends up bombing Iran first (unlikely), or being drawn into a war as a result of Israel’s bombing Iran first (much more likely), that American war will be stamped “Made In Israel” This is new. For all the Israel lobby’s power over U.S. policy in the Middle East, it has never led the U.S. into a war the White House and Pentagon clearly did not want to fight. http://972mag.com/blame-israel-and-aipac-for-a-u-s-war-in-iran/48652/
Why weren’t they grateful?
By Pankaj Mishra, LondonReview of Books [June 2012]
[FB – A review of Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Very British Coupby Christopher de Bellaigue]
----- In Christopher de Bellaigue’s politically astute biography, Mossadegh is not the ‘dizzy old wizard’ and ‘tantrum-throwing Scheherazade’ of countless Anglo-American memoirs and press reports, but a member of ‘that generation of Western-educated Asians who returned home, primly moustachioed, to sell freedom to their compatriots’: ‘Beholden to the same mistress, La Patrie, these Turks, Arabs, Persians and Indians went on to lead the anticolonial movements that transformed the map of the world.’ But he was less successful than his heroes, Gandhi and Nehru; he was nearly seventy, an elderly hypochondriac, by the time he became Iran’s prime minister in 1951. It was his misfortune to be a liberal democrat at a time when, as Nehru remarked, looking on as British gunboats directed the course of Egyptian politics, ‘democracy for an Eastern country seems to mean only one thing: to carry out the behests of the imperialist ruling power.’ http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n12/pankaj-mishra/why-werent-they-grateful
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
UN's Annan: Iran should be part of Syria solution
By John Heilprin, Associated Press [June 22, 2012]
---- U.N. envoy Kofi Annan said Friday that Iran should be involved in efforts to end the escalating violence that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Annan, the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy, told reporters that he is working to convene a so-called "contact group" meeting on Syria in Geneva on June 30. The United States has vehemently opposed the involvement of Iran, which Russia has demanded. Annan said the composition of the meeting is one of the sticking points that may not be resolved until next week. http://www.thestate.com/2012/06/22/2326848/uns-annan-iran-should-be-part.html
House Bill Would Prohibit Any Intervention in Syria
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [June 21, 2012]
---- A bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives which would prohibit any kind of intervention in Syria, amid widespread calls for military intervention and additional reports of the Obama administration secretly aiding the Syrian rebel fighters. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has introduced the bill - HR 5993 The Syria Non-Intervention Act of 2012 – which is “modeled after the famous Boland Amendments of the early 1980s that were designed to limit the president’s assistance to the Contras in their attempt to overthrow the government of Nicaragua,” Paul said in a statement. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/06/21/house-bill-would-prohibit-any-intervention-in-syria/
The Syrian Opposition
Saudi Arabiaplans to fund Syria rebel army
By Martin Chulov, et al.,The Guardian [UK] [June 22, 2012]
---- Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from the military and increasing pressure on the Assad regime, the Guardian has learned. The move, which has been discussed between Riyadh and senior officials in the US and Arab world, is believed to be gaining momentum as a recent flush of weapons sent to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and Qatar starts to make an impact on battlefields in Syria. Officials in the Saudi capital embraced the idea when it was put to them by Arab officials in May, according to sources in three Arab states, around the same time that weapons started to flow across the southern Turkish border into the hands of Free Syria Army leaders. Turkey has also allowed the establishment of a command centre in Istanbul which is coordinating supply lines in consultation with FSA leaders inside Syria. The centre is believed to be staffed by up to 22 people, most of them Syrian nationals. The Guardian witnessed the transfer of weapons in early June near the Turkish frontier. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/22/saudi-arabia-syria-rebel-army
Associated Press trip finds Syria rebels without leader, disorganized, willing to kill prisoners
By Associated Press, WashingtonPosts [June 23, 2012]
[FB – One of the most extensive reports so far on the armed opposition inside Syria.]
Also useful – From Agence France Presse, “Turkeydenies arms shipment to Syria opposition,” [June 22, 2012] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-denies-arms-shipment-to-syria-opposition.aspx?pageID=238&nID=23797&NewsCatID=338
The Turkish Airplane Shoot-Down
Turkey-Syria Spat Over Downed Plane Threatens to Escalate the Conflict
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [June 23, 2012]
Turkey’s president said Saturday that his country would do “whatever is necessary” in response to Syria’s shooting down of a Turkish military jet, adding to concerns about a an internationalization of the conflict in Syria. In statements on Friday, Syria said that its military forces had shot down a Turkish jet that had entered its airspace. Turkey says the jet’s presence over Syrian territory was intended to be brief and not meant as a hostile act. Syrian officials tried to ease the tension. “We have no hostile intentions against Turkey,” said Jihad Makdessi, a spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/06/23/turkey-syria-spat-over-downed-plane-threatens-to-escalate-the-conflict/
Also useful – Dalal Mawad and Rick Gladstone, “Syria Shoots Down Turkish Warplane, Fraying Ties Further,” New York Times [June 22, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/world/middleeast/mass-killing-reported-in-syria-apparently-a-rebel-ambush.html?ref=world; and Suzan Fraser, “Syria: downing of Turkish plane not a hostile act,” Daily Star [Lebanon] [June 24, 2012] http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Jun-23/177900-gul-says-downed-turkish-warplane-may-have-violated-syrian-airspace.ashx#ixzz1yidWpO7w
“Cyberwar”; “Cyber Sabotage”; “Cyberterrorism” – what’s in a name? The US introduction of cyberwar into the world might have happened without the US/Israel-Iran conflict. The US introduction of nuclear weapons into the world might have happened even if, in 1945, Japan had surrendered before the Bomb was ready to use. Or perhaps not. At any rate, in order to gain a small advantage in its standoff with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, the United States and Israel have opened Pandora’s Box. I think the atomic bomb/cyberwar parallel is very powerful; it’s explored below by Kennette Benedict. And as “terrorists” throughout history have learned, once you are caught bombing or whatever, you can be blamed for bombings anywhere, anytime, even if it is the police who are setting off the bombs. Thus, as noted below, immediately after the failure of the Moscow talks, Iran charged the United States with another wave of cyber attacks. Did the United States even respond? Why would they bother; who would believe their denials now? Historians may one day speculate that the most important consequence of the Iranian nuclear conflict was the enabling of the “best and the brightest” who wanted to try out cyberwar, to see if it worked. The Black Rain will fall.
Iran Detects ‘Massive Cyber Attack’ After Failed Moscow Talks
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [June 21, 2012]
---- Iranian officials say they have detected a planned “massive cyber attack” against its nuclear facilities from the US, Britain, and Israel just days after talks with world powers failed to reach a settlement on Iran’s nuclear program. “Based on obtained information, America and the Zionist regime along with the MI6 planned an operation to launch a massive cyber attack against Iran’s facilities following the meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Moscow,” said Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/06/21/iran-detects-massive-cyber-attack-after-failed-moscow-talks/
"Flame" can sabotage computers, attack Iran: expert
By Jim Finkle, Reuters [June 21, 2012]
---- The powerful Flame computer virus is not only capable of espionage but it can also sabotage computer systems and likely was used to attack Iran in April, according to a leading security company, Symantec Corp. Iran had previously blamed Flame for causing data loss on computers in the country's main oil export terminal and Oil Ministry. But prior to Symantec's discovery, cyber experts had only unearthed evidence that proved Flame could spy on conversations on the computers it infects and steal data. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/22/us-cyberwar-flame-idUSBRE85K1U020120622
Stuxnet and the Bomb
By Kennette Benedict, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists [June 15, 2012]
---- With confirmation that the United States was behind the 2010 cyberattack on Iran's nuclear enrichment facility, the world has officially entered a new era of warfare. Over the past decade, US experts have strenuously warned about the ominous possibility of other nations, rogue states, or even terrorist groups attacking US infrastructure through the Internet. As it happens, however, it is the United States that has developed malicious software in secrecy and launched it against another country -- in this case, Iran. http://www.thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/kennette-benedict/stuxnet-and-the-bomb
Also useful – Ellen Nakashima, et al., “U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say,” Washington Post [June 19, 2012] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-israel-developed-computer-virus-to-slow-iranian-nuclear-efforts-officials-say/2012/06/19/gJQA6xBPoV_print.html; Mark Clayton, “Stuxnet cyberweapon set to stop operating,” Christian Science Monitor [June 23, 2012] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/0623/Stuxnet-cyberweapon-set-to-stop-operating; and (for background/overview) Mark Clayton, “The new cyber arms race,” Christian Science Monitor [March 7, 2011] http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Military/2011/0307/The-new-cyber-arms-race.