Iran War Weekly - June 4, 2012
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.
The disclosures this week about the US role in unleashing the “Stuxnet” computer virus into Iran’s nuclear industry computer systems will only increase Iran’s distrust about US intentions. Historians may well view the US “first use” of “cyberwar” as one of the stupidest and most reckless actions of this century; rather than negotiating means to avoid potentially devastating cyberwars, the United States has now opened a Pandora’s Box that could cause enormous damage. In the short-term, the apparent confirmation that the United States was responsible for Stuxnet can hardly be expected to mellow the negotiating climate when talks with Iran resume in Moscow.
Closely related to the heightening tensions with Iran is the apparent political and military impasse in Syria. There is little left of the Arab League/UN peace plan headed by Kofi Annan. The US last week made contradictory statements about its readiness to use military force absent a UN Security Council authorization, adding to the tension.
Below I’ve pasted in links to good/useful articles and essays illuminating the above-mentioned topics. Also below are links to articles about the IAEA demands to inspect Iran’s military base at Parchin, and the on-going legal efforts of the MEK to be removed from the US “terrorist” list.
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. David Swanson has kindly given me blog space on his site “War Is a Crime,” and so you can read previous “issues” of the IWW 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)
NEGOTIATIONS: TOWARD ROUND 3 IN MOSOW (June 17th)
The Arrogance of Power
By Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy [May 25, 2012]
---- Will the U.S. and the rest of the P5+1 manage to turn a potential diplomatic breakthrough with Iran into another counterproductive failure? It's too soon to tell, but betting on failure has been the smart wager in the past. The Baghdad talks between Iran and the P5+1 apparently got a lot of serious issues on the table, but didn't achieve a breakthrough, let alone an agreement. The main reason is the hardline position adopted by the United States and its partners, and especially our refusal to grant any sort of sanctions relief. The parties will resume discussions in Moscow in June. From a purely strategic point of view, this situation is pretty simple. Iran is not going to give up its right to enrich uranium. Period. If the West insists on a full suspension, there won't be a deal. It's that simple. http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/05/25/the_arrogance_of_power
By not lifting sanctions, West and Obama are helping Iran enrich uranium
By Yousaf Butt, Christian Science Monitor [May 25, 2012]
---- The West just blew its latest chance of reining in Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
Iranian officials expressed willingness to comply with some of the major demands being made by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the “P5+1” (the permanent five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). But, evidently, these countries just could not take “yes” for an answer. By refusing to ease sanctions on Iran in any meaningful way, the P5+1 offered no meaningful reciprocity in return for Iranian compliance. The P5+1's attitude of “take but not give” directly led to the failure of the talks. And by derailing the possibility of a deal with Tehran, these global powers are essentially helping Iran stockpile even more enriched uranium. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0525/By-not-lifting-sanctions-West-and-Obama-are-helping-Iran-enrich-uranium
Also useful – Jason Ditz, “Clinton Demands Iran Offer Concessions Before Moscow Talks,” Antiwar.com [June 1, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/06/01/clinton-demands-iran-offer-concessions-before-moscow-talks/; and Thomas Erdbrink, “After Talks Falter, Iran Says It Won’t Halt Uranium Work,” New York Times [May 27, 2012]
Panetta: Pentagon ‘Ready’ to Attack Iran
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [May 27, 2012]
---- Speaking today on ABC’s This Week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta reiterated comments made in the past by other officials that the US is “ready” to launch a military attack on Iran and will do so as soon as President Obama decides to. “We will do everything we can to prevent Iran from developing a weapon,” Panetta added, ignoring that US intelligence agencies agree Iran is not attempting to do anything of the sort. Panetta claimed only last week that an attack was not being considered. Panetta’s comments come just days after the end of the last round of diplomatic talks with Iran, which ended with no agreement, but a promise to meet for more talks next month in Moscow. An expected deal fell apart when the US announced that it would never accept Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment. Panetta went on to say that the “international community’s been unified” on the move, and that the Pentagon is ready for any possibilities of an attack on Iran. Despite this claim, it seems clear that neither Russia nor China is “united” on the call to war. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/27/panetta-pentagon-ready-to-attack-iran/
House Requires Report on Consequences of Military Strike on Iran
From JStreet [May 2012]
---- Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the reporting requirement as an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 5743). The amendment, which passed by voice vote this afternoon, requires the Director of National Intelligence to submit to Congressional intelligence committees a report containing an assessment of the consequences of a military strike against Iran within 60 days of the passage of the overall bill. The House’s action is the latest indication of a Congressional shift in dealing with concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. http://jstreet.org/blog/post/house-requires-report-on-consequences-of-military-strike-on-iran
Also useful– Carlos Munoz, “Pentagon has military plans ready to prevent nuclear Iran, says Panetta,” The Hill [May 27, 2012] http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/policy-and-strategy/229693-pentagon-has-military-plans-ready-to-prevent-nuclear-iran-says-panetta-
At the base of US negotiating “strategy” with Iran appears to be the belief that an embargo against Iran’s oil – especially the embargo by the European Union that is scheduled to begin on July 1 – can have the effect of crippling Iran’s economy and the cut the economic resources of its government. Is this realistic? Analysis and speculation – and which is which? – propose wildly different conclusions. The useful essays below illustrate the lack of consensus on whether an oil embargo could be effective.
Iran, Saudi Arabia, and a Global Game of Risk
By Andrew Scott Cooper, PBS [May 31, 2012]
---- A year ago, a senior member of the Saudi royal family threatened to drop a financial super bomb on Iran's economy. Prince Turki al-Faisal, former chief of Saudi intelligence, explained to NATO officials that if "dysfunctional" Iran tried to take advantage of unrest in the Middle East and persisted with its uranium enrichment program, the Saudis were prepared to take decisive action. The Iranian regime's "hold on power is only possible if it is able, as it barely is now, to maintain a level of economic prosperity that is just enough to pacify its people." Flooding world oil markets with surplus Saudi crude would drive oil prices down and deny Tehran the billions required to balance its budget, finance its nuclear ambitions, and maintain social harmony. Fast forward to May 2012 and oil is still priced at over $100 per barrel, Iran's nuclear program is moving forward, and the Saudis have not moved against the oil markets. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/05/comment-iran-saudi-arabia-and-a-global-game-of-risk.html#ixzz1wTMXuyNX
Oil Output Soars as Iraq Retools
By Tim Arango and Clifford Krauss, New York Times [June 2, 2012]
---- Despite sectarian bombings and political gridlock, Iraq’s crude oil production is soaring, providing a singular bright spot for the nation’s future and relief for global oil markets as the West tightens sanctions on Iranian exports. Energy analysts say that the Iraqi boom — coupled with increased production in Saudi Arabia and the near total recovery of Libya’s oil industry — should cushion oil markets from price spikes and give the international community additional leverage over Iran when new sanctions take effect in July. The country’s improving oil fortunes are well timed to compensate for Iran’s declining oil output, which according to OPEC fell by 12 percent in the first three months of the year as India, China and other Asian nations have gradually cut purchases under pressure from the United States and Europe. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/world/middleeast/crude-oil-output-is-soaring-in-iraq-easing-markets.html?_r=1&ref=world
New York Times correspondent David Sanger’s article last week about the US and Israeli cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program – “Stuxnet” – is drawn from his soon-to-be-published book. Other than giving semi-authoritative support to the supposition that the United States and Israel were behind the attack, the article lacked details needed for understanding what the United States did and when. But a few points can be made. First, Stuxnet was plugged into Iran’s nuclear network computers at the same time that President Obama was moving toward a “new diplomacy” with Iran. In contrast to the intransigence of President Bush, the world welcomed Obama’s initiatives, and Iran made overtures toward the United States for better relations. Iran having learned that they were suckered, the possibilities for trust between the two countries are now greatly diminished. Secondly, though Sanger’s chronology is too imprecise for sound conclusions, it looks like President Obama made the decision to allow Stuxnet to continue in the spring of 2010, even though the virus had escaped from Iran’s nuclear network, at precisely the time when the Turkish/Brazilian initiative had succeeded in forging the Tehran Agreement, in which Iran gave the United States what it had been demanding, but which Obama then rejected. Did the wish to learn what Stuxnet could do in terms of cyberwar play a role in the US rejection of a treaty with Iran? Finally, it is arguable that what Sanger says the United States did to Iran is an act of aggression under the UN Charter, and according to a Pentagon finding last year, would merit “retaliation” if it happened to us. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304563104576355623135782718.html).
Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran
By David E. Sanger, New York Times [June 1, 2012]
---- From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program. It appears to be the first time the United States has repeatedly used cyberweapons to cripple another country’s infrastructure, achieving, with computer code, what until then could be accomplished only by bombing a country or sending in agents to plant explosives. By the time Mr. Bush left office, no wholesale destruction had been accomplished. Meeting with Mr. Obama in the White House days before his inauguration, Mr. Bush urged him to preserve two classified programs, Olympic Games and the drone program in Pakistan. Mr. Obama took Mr. Bush’s advice. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/world/middleeast/obama-ordered-wave-of-cyberattacks-against-iran.html?hp
Obama Ordered Stuxnet to Continue After Bug Caused It to Spread Wildly
By Kim Zetter, Wired [June 1, 2012]
---- The story provides new details that expand on a story that Sanger reported in January 2011 when he wrote that Bush had authorized the cybersabotage plan against Iran before he left office, but that Obama had accelerated it once he was inaugurated in January 2009. Sanger had previously written in 2011 that Israel and the United States had worked on the plan in partnership, and had tested it using centrifuges that had been seized from Libya’s defunct nuclear enrichment operations in 2003, which were the same model of centrifuges being used at Natanz. Sanger’s latest story gets a little confusing in places. It jumps around in time and the organization of it makes it sound as if centrifuges were destroyed at Natanz before Bush left office at the beginning of 2009.But reports from the U.N.’s nuclear monitoring agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, indicate that centrifuges weren’t destroyed until much later, likely beginning in the early fall of 2009, after Obama took office. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/06/obama-ordered-stuxnet-continued/
Obama’s Secret War Against Iran Dooms Diplomacy and Imperils American Interests
By Flynt Leverett, Race for Iran [June 1, 2012]
---- Two things strike us as significant here. First, our May 2009 analysis was right on the money. If anything, we may have underestimated the degree to which Obama was prepared to let half-baked schemes undermine any chance he might have had, at least in theory, to pursue serious diplomacy with Iran. Obama apologists, see for example here, want us to believe that the President meant well on engaging Tehran, but that what they describe (with no evidence whatsoever) as the Islamic Republic’s “fraudulent” 2009 presidential election and the resulting “disarray” within the Iranian leadership stymied Obama’s benevolent efforts. This is utterly false. Second, the Sanger article makes undeniably clear—if it were not sufficiently evident already—that the reason for the President’s hostility toward Iran has nothing to do with American security. Rather, Obama’s aggressiveness—which carries with it a willingness to put significant long-term American interests at risk—is motivated by a perceived imperative to prevent the Israelis from doing something that they cannot credibly do in the first place: namely, strike and destroy Iran’s nuclear program. http://www.raceforiran.com/obama%E2%80%99s-secret-war-against-iran-dooms-diplomacy-and-imperils-american-interests
Also useful– “How a Secret Cyberwar Program Worked,” http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/01/world/middleeast/how-a-secret-cyberwar-program-worked.html?src=me&ref=world; David E. Sanger, “Mutually Assured Cyberdestruction?” New York Times [June 2, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/sunday-review/mutually-assured-cyberdestruction.html?ref=world; Megha Rajagopalan, “Behind the US/Israeli Cyberattacks on Iran,” [June 3, 2012] http://www.juancole.com/2012/06/behind-the-usisraeli-cyberattacks-on-iran.html; and Robert Windrem, “Was Flame virus that invaded Iran's computer networks made in USA? NBC News [May 29, 2012] http://openchannel.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/29/11945479-was-flame-virus-that-invaded-irans-computer-networks-made-in-usa
IRAN’S MILITARY BASE AT PARCHIN – A “NUCLEAR SITE”?
The IAEA and Parchin: do the claims add up?
By Robert Kelley, SIPRI [May 23, 2012]
---- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has an extremely difficult time in evaluating alleged nuclear weapons studies in Iran. While it has done an excellent job in verifying the nuclear material production activities in Iran’s uranium enrichment plants, the IAEA also appears to be willing to risk its technical credibility by insisting on visiting a military site called Parchin, near Tehran. The IAEA renewed its call to be granted access to Parchin during the past week’s negotiations with Iran on a new framework agreement for resuming its investigation of suspected military nuclear activities in the country. For its part, Iran has dismissed the IAEA’s concerns about the Parchin site, claiming that it wassufficiently inspected by the agency in 2005. http://www.sipri.org/media/expert-comments/the-iaea-and-parchin-do-the-claims-add-up
Also useful – Jason Ditz, “Construction Activities at Military Site Fuel Latest Round of Iranian Nuclear Fears,” Antiwar.com [May 31, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/31/construction-activities-at-military-site-fuel-latest-round-of-iranian-nuclear-fears/; and Scott Peterson, “Satellite images suggest Iran cleaning up past nuclear weapons-related work,” Christian Science Monitor [May 31, 2012] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0531/Satellite-images-suggest-Iran-cleaning-up-past-nuclear-weapons-related-work
MORE ON THE MEK
By Owen Bennett-Jones, LondonReview of Books [May 2012]
[A review of Raymond Tanter,Terror Tagging of an Iranian Dissident Organisation]
---- Raymond Tanter’s book is part of the MEK’s image management campaign, a briefing document for advocates of delisting. Tanter, a long-time supporter of the group, has produced a compact guide, complete with colour pictures and transcripts of speeches by paid MEK advocates. … He argues that the MEK offers the best hope of a so-called third option: a way for the US to achieve regime change without relying on sanctions or war. But this exposes a flaw in the argument of the pro-MEK lobbyists. If [MEK] really has given up violence, would it not make more sense for the US to back the peaceful protesters who have a proven capability to mobilise huge numbers in contemporary Iran – the Green Movement? In reality the MEK’s US backers believe the organisation has potential precisely because of its history of using force. That’s what they think will shift the mullahs from power. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n11/owen-bennett-jones/terrorists-us
Also useful– Associated Press, “Court Presses U.S. on a Terror Listing[June 1, 2012]
INTERVENTION IN SYRIA?
Dempsey: Atrocities in Syria Make Military Intervention More Likely
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 28, 2012]
---- The chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that continued atrocities in Syria could make military intervention more likely, as the United Nations envoy Kofi Annan restarted negotiations in the capital, Damascus. In response to the massacre of over 100 people in the Houla area of central Syria, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called said the “horrific” and “atrocious” act could prompt a military intervention, but warned such a policy may cause more havoc. “A big part of why the Annan peace plan has failed is because foreign powers continue to intervene in Syria for their own benefit. Russia and Iran continue to arm the Assad government, just as the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf arm and aid the insurgent militias. The aid emboldens both sides and hinders any viable peace. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/28/dempsey-atrocities-in-syria-make-military-intervention-more-likely/
(Video)Is it time for the U.S. to intervene in Syria?
From Aljazeera [June 2, 2012] – 25 minutes
Also useful – Jason Ditz, “Panetta: US Won’t Attack Syria Without UN OK,” Antiwar.com [June 1, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/06/01/panetta-us-wont-attack-syria-without-un-ok/
City on the Edge of Darkness: Damascus Sweats Fear from Every Pore
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [June 4, 2012]
---- Damascus feels like a city expecting the worst to happen and seeing no way to avoid it. War is spreading across the country and is unlikely to spare the capital. Rebels speak of stepping up attacks in the city and could easily do so in the next few weeks. I spent the last week in Damascus and the atmosphere reminds me of Beirut in 1975 at the start of the 15-year civil war. Again and again in conversations, people realistically laid out for me the nasty things that are all too likely to happen, but few were able to produce plausible ideas on how disaster might be averted. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/06/04/city-on-the-edge-of-darkness/
Syria: Famine and Civil War
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [May 29, 2012]
---- The Syrian government massacre at Houla has probably killed the faltering Annan peace plan, which envisioned a ceasefire between the Syrian Baath army and the rebel Free Syrian Army that would be monitored by UN observers. The ceasefire not only has not held, the fighting has intensified as the regime has insisted on using tank and artillery barrages against urban quarters that the FSA controls. Having UN observers watch the carnage isn’t useful. http://www.juancole.com/2012/05/syria-famine-and-civil-war.html
Also useful – Peter Lee, “Is Assad Losing Control?: Sorting Out the Houla Massacre,” Counterpunch [May 31, 2012] http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/31/sorting-out-the-houla-massacre/; and Agence France Presse, “More than 13,000 killed in Syria since March 2011: NGO,” [May 2012] http://news.yahoo.com/more-13-000-killed-syria-since-march-2011-160413768.html
War Spills Into Lebanon
Lebanon: A Victim of The Arab Spring
By: Marc J. Sirois, English Al-Akhbar [Lebanon] [May 29, 2012]
---- More than a year after it began, what we Westerners have taken to calling the Arab Spring has finally come to Lebanon – and like much of the country’s economy and politics, it arrives as an import that can benefit only the very few. Predictably, understanding what is happening – and what is not happening – in Lebanon requires reference to neighboring Syria. Just six years removed from mass protests and heavy Western pressure that ended its “tutelage” in Lebanon after almost 30 years, Damascus now faces an open revolt at home, one which, involving the use of heavy weapons on both sides and a death toll of approximately 10,000, now qualifies as a civil war. http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/lebanon-victim-arab-spring