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Iran War Weekly - March 12, 2013


By Frank Brodhead - Posted on 18 March 2013

Iran War Weekly

March 12, 2013

 

Hello All – With one round of negotiations accomplished, analysts and diplomats are assessing February’s talks in Kazakhstan and preparing for a second round in April.  In many quarters, especially among the “P5+1,” there is broad agreement that the February talks were grounds for optimism and that some progress was made.  One reason for optimism was that, until recently, it was widely assumed that Iran would not engage in serious talks until after its presidential election, scheduled for June.  That Iran agreed to talks, and quickly scheduled two more (in March and April), was interpreted by analysts and diplomats as an indication that Iran was “serious” about negotiations. A second reason for optimism is that the P5+1 unexpectedly offered some concessions in its bargaining proposal, withdrawing one of its demands (that Iran close its underground enrichment plant at Fordow).  The several parties will soon hold “technical talks” in Istanbul, presumably to discuss modalities to accomplish things so far on the table; and at their April session in Kazakhstan Iran’s response to the P5+1 will be the main item on the agenda.

 

Whatever optimism abounds, however, is only in relation to the total failure to make any progress in these negotiations since talks about Iran’s nuclear program resumed a year ago.  Moreover, little was offered by the P5+1 in the way of lifting sanctions, and there is no indication coming from Washington that lifting significant sanctions from Iran will be on the agenda soon.  The most important question, in my view, is whether the United States is willing and – given its domestic politics – capable of achieving a settlement with Iran that would allow Iran to develop its nuclear program and achieve mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle, even under the most stringent IAEA monitoring conditions.  President Obama’s new national security team – centered here in John Kerry and Chuck Hagel – gives no sign of deviating from the well-established line of military threats and economic sanctions.  The US Senate (as noted in articles linked below) appears willing to outsource to Israel the decision of whether or not to declare war against Iran; and the House of Representatives is preparing yet another round of economic sanctions. As in so many areas of policy, it may be that President Obama simply wants to kick the nuclear-Iran can down the road for a while and hope, like Dickens’ Mr. Micawber, “that something will turn up.”

 

Previous “issues” of the Iran War Weekly are posted at http://warisacrime.org/blog/46383If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at fbrodhead@aol.com.

 

Best wishes,

Frank Brodhead

 

OVERVIEWS AND PERSPECTIVES

Iran Crisis is More Stable Than it Seems

By Nader Mousavizadeh, Financial Times [March 10, 2013]

---- The long-running crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme has met its moment of truth. This is the year when war or peace will break out – or so at least a remarkable global consensus seems to suggest. Far more likely, however, is a 2013 defined by another period of sustained stalemate, one driven by an unspoken preference on the part of all the key participants for a pragmatic equilibrium that excludes both war and peace. The see-saw of threats and talks, escalation and negotiation continues, inevitably leading to warnings of showdowns. This is mostly all theatre. The reality is that for each of the principal parties, the status quo – Iran isolated diplomatically, crippled economically, boxed in militarily – is preferable to the available alternatives. An all-out war including weeks of strikes on suspected nuclear installations and widespread Iranian retaliation through conventional and unconventional means is, for most, anathema. It is also true, though unacknowledged by the west, that a genuine peace with Tehran is equally unattractive. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/14cf3774-8660-11e2-ad73-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz2NG7Z8bbq

 

Iran and the United States—What Really Matters to Middle Eastern Publics?

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett Huffington Post March 8, 2013

[FB – Here the Leveretts comment on James Zogy’s new book, Looking at Iran:  How 20 Arab and Muslim Nations View Iran and Its Policies.]

---- While Zogby highlights data from his 2012 survey showing that a majority of respondents now think that Iran’s nuclear program “makes the region less secure” and that there should be a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, he fails to put regional attitudes about Iran’s nuclear activities in a comparative context.  If he had, he might well have gotten results like those obtained by the University of Maryland’s annual Arab Public Opinion Surveys, showing that, by orders of magnitude, Arabs identify Israel and the United States as much bigger threats to them than Iran.  He might also have gotten results like those obtained by Arab researchers, showing that support for a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East is driven by concern over Israel’s nuclear arsenal and that, until Israel foreswears nuclear weapons, regional publics think other countries have the right to pursue them, too. http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13160

 

NEGOTIATIONS ABOUT IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

World Powers Must Cut a Deal with Iran Before it's too Late

By Yousaf Butt / March 6, 2013

---- For the first time in several years, some sparks of hope flew in negotiations between the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – and Iran over its nuclear program. Whether these sparks are quickly extinguished or grow into a self-sustaining flame of ongoing cooperation depends delicately on decisions the world powers make in the coming weeks. Another round of formal negotiations are scheduled for April. To build trust, a small – but important – deal that addresses just the very top concerns of both sides should be attempted first. Less important factors should be shelved for later discussions. http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2013/0306/World-powers-must-cut-a-deal-with-Iran-before-it-s-too-late

 

Tehran Mulls Almaty II amid Hopes for More Give and Take

By Farideh Farhi, Inter Press Service [March 10, 2013]

---- The meeting between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) that took place in late February in Almaty, Kazakhstan was described as positive and even a “turning point” by Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili. This positive reception has set the stage for the meeting of lower-level representatives from the two sides in Istanbul this coming week to iron out technical details for a second high-level meeting Apr. 5 and 6 back in Almaty. Irrespective of what the results of the next meetings will turn out to be, two aspects of the February Almaty agreements are worth noting. First was the decision by Iran to agree to quick follow-up meetings, a development that appears to have genuinely surprised Iran’s great-power interlocutors. Having been led to believe that the upcoming June presidential elections will lead to particularly contentious times in Tehran, the common wisdom had it that Iran would shy away from direct and substantive negotiations until after the vote.The decision in favour of quick meetings constituted a clear signal that the nuclear talks are considered a vital interest of the state and are thus not to be affected by Iran’s intense intra-elite political competition.

A second related message has been conveyed by the complete lack of commentary on the part of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regarding what happened in Almaty. If anyone had any doubts that the office of the current president no longer has any input into the discussion of how Tehran will handle its side of the nuclear negotiations, Almaty should have put them to rest. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/03/tehran-mulls-almaty-ii-amid-hopes-for-more-give-and-take/

 

Did Somebody Blink? : The P5+1 Meeting with Iran

By Sasan Fayazmanesh, Counterpunch [March 7, 2013]

---- Essentially we’re now in a vicious cycle. In order to calm the Israelis down and get them to back away from their intense interest in taking care of the [Iranian nuclear] program militarily, we are ratcheting up sanctions that essentially are aimed at Iran’s economic jugular. We are doing that on the theory that the more pressure we put on them, the more we bring their economy to its knees, the more likely the Iranians are to cry uncle, to blink, to say, OK, we’ll negotiate meaningful curbs on our nuclear program. . . And unless somebody blinks, I’m afraid it’s going to lead to a confrontation. It seems that after many years of this “three-way game of chicken” somebody finally blinked; and that somebody was not Iran. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/03/07/the-p51-meeting-with-iran/

 

Iranian Views on the Kazakhstan Meetings

Khamenei Downplays Progress in Nuclear Talks

By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [March 7, 2013]

---- Iranian officials have been cheering the progress from last week’s talks, declaring them a “turning point” in years of negotiations with the P5+1. Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seems considerably less optimistic. “The Westerners did not do any substantial work that could be interpreted as concessions,” Khamenei said in comments broadcast on Iranian state media, adding “they minimally admitted part of the rights of the Iranian nation, only.” Khamenei did say that the talks would continue, saying only that he will “judge the intentions of the West in the next talks,” likely the scheduled side talks in Istanbul or next month’s talks in Kazakhstan. As Supreme Leader Khamenei has the final say on any nuclear deal, though his pessimism may reflect similarly pessimistic comments from US officials, who have insisted that no deal is close and that time is “running out,” but they stand in stark contrast to Iran’s top diplomats, who seem convinced something can be worked out. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/03/07/khamenei-downplays-progress-in-nuclear-talks/

 

Iran and P5+1: Outlook of 2nd Meeting in Almaty

An interview with Hassan Beheshtipour, Iran Review [March 6, 2013]

---- After three rounds of fruitless talks and a subsequent eight-month interregnum, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton met in the Kazakh city of Almaty on February 26-27, 2013, to try their chance one more time. Although none of the two parties have revealed the details of the negotiations after the talks were over, their positive comments have led most analysts to be optimistic about the results of negotiations between Tehran and the P5+1 group – comprising the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China, plus Germany. Iranian Diplomacy has reviewed this issue in the following interview with the analyst of international issues, Hassan Beheshtipour.http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Iran-and-P5-1-Outlook-of-2nd-Meeting-in-Almaty.htm

 

The IAEA Talks

US, Canadian Envoys Storm Out of IAEA After Iran Criticizes Israel

By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [March 6, 2013]

---- After railing against Iran’s “commitment to deception and defiance” of US demands, newly appointed US Ambassador to the IAEA Joseph Macmanus stormed out of the meeting in anger, along with Canadian and Australian counterparts, during Iranian envoy Ali Soltanieh’s comments. The record of the closed-door meeting was not made public, but Soltanieh reported referred to an Israeli policy of “genocide” during his comments, at which time the envoys got up and left in unison. In comments after the meeting, Soltanieh reiterated Iran’s opposition to IAEA demands for access to military sites without any relation to their nuclear program, and complained that the bureaucrats in Vienna have been trying to micromanage the IAEA’s operations in Iran, instead of letting the inspectors and negotiators on the ground actually have the authority to make deals. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/03/06/us-canadian-envoys-storm-out-of-iaea-after-iran-criticizes-israel/

 

US POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES

A Back Door to War

By Kate Gould, Friends Committee on National Legislation [March 7, 2013]

---- As of this writing, nearly half the Senate has signed on to what has been called the "Back Door to War" resolution, since it calls for the U.S. to pledge military support for a potential Israeli attack on Iran. This bipartisan resolution (S. Res. 65) introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Robert Menendez (NJ) signals a green light for a U.S.-aided Israeli war that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned could “prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.” Senator Graham admitted that this move in Congress is designed to lay the groundwork for legislation that would commit the U.S. to launch a war against Iran. In an interview with the WashingtonPost, Sen. Graham highlighted how this resolution will be a stepping stone to a binding authorization for U.S. military force against Iran. http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/a_back_door_to_war/

 

More on this – Matthew Duss, “A Blank Check for Israel? Bad Idea.” The America Prospect [March 6, 2013] https://prospect.org/article/blank-check-israel-bad-idea

 

IRANIAN POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES

Iran's Khamenei Seen Tightening His Grip in Vote to Replace Ahmadinejad

By Babak Dehghanpisheh, Reuters [March 6, 2013]

---- The presidential campaign season in Iran this year started with a warning. During a visit to the holy city of Qom in mid-January, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a packed crowd that both internal and external enemies may try to undermine the vote. "Those who may offer general advice about the elections - and it could be out of compassion - that the elections should be like this or that, should take care not to further the goal of the enemy," Khamenei said.  That warning was followed by a series of rare public lashings and executions in cities across Iran. And in late January, a dozen journalists were arrested for allegedly being part of a network aiming to destabilize the country. The last time Iranians voted for president in 2009, the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to massive street protests, put down by force in the most tumultuous period of internal unrest the 34-year-old Islamic Republic has seen. This time, the authorities are expected to take no chances. Moussavi and Karroubi have been under house arrest for two years, and no candidate is expected to take up their reformist banner. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/06/us-iran-elections-campaign-insight-idUSBRE9251GA20130306

 

A Forgotten Anniversary: Iran’s First Revolution and Constitution

Amir-Hussein Firouz Radjy, Open Democracy [March 8, 2013]

---- Too often the history of Iran is reduced to a string of despotisms interrupted by moments of fanatical violence and foreign intervention. With the New Year came and passed the forgotten anniversary of a seminal event in Iranian and Asian history: the anniversary of Iran’s first revolution and Asia’s oldest parliament, whose centenary came and passed some years ago without a murmur.  Remembering that event today would do much to elucidate Iran’s present situation, as well as the vexed relations of Iranians with both their government and the outside world. The zero hour was late on the night of December 30, 1906, when the dying emperor of Iran, Muzaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, signed into law the country’s first constitution, launching a brave experiment in liberal and parliamentary government.  http://www.opendemocracy.net/print/71409

 

MILITARY THINKING AND ACTION

We Have Prepared a Military Option for Iran, US general Says

By Aaron Kalman [March 5, 2013]

---- Sanctions are not preventing Iran’s nuclear progress, the US Army commander in the Middle East told Congress on Tuesday, adding that he had prepared a military option. A simple “No, sir” was General James Mattis’s response when asked whether “the current diplomatic and economic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capability” were working. “I think we have to continue sanctions, but have other options ready,” said Mattis, of the Central Command, to the Armed Services Committee during an official hearing.  “Between economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and encouragement of behavior that does not cost them such a degree of political support that they end up losing power, there may yet be a way to bring them to their senses,” the general stated. http://www.timesofisrael.com/sanction-on-iran-arent-working-top-us-general-says/

 

Also on Mattis’ Testimony- Aaron Kalman, “‘If Iran reaches critical point in nuke drive, Israel will attack,’Times of Israel [March 6, 2013] http://www.timesofisrael.com/if-iran-reaches-critical-point-in-nuke-drive-israel-will-attack/

 

SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN

Innocent Iranians Off the Agenda in Almaty

By Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi, Huffington Post [March 6, 2013]

---- As a new round of talks between permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran came to a close, both sides expressed cautious optimism on the road ahead. Despite this positive momentum to start 2013, by no means was the agenda in Almaty comprehensive. Both sides should be held accountable for a glaring omission during the talks: failing to address the medical supply shortages caused by sanctions and exacerbated by Iranian government mismanagement. Innocent people are deprived of access to vital medicine as a result of the shortage, with some even paying the ultimate price -- even though they are neither responsible for or have influence over Tehran's nuclear policies. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reza-marashi/iran-sanctions_b_2817955.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

 

Sanctions Benefit Iran’s Rich and Powerful

By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran March 8, 2013

---- Private business owners in Iran say international sanctions over the country’s nuclear power programme are fuelling a rentier economy that benefits company owners with links to powerful officials while private companies and ordinary people suffer. David S. Cohen, the US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence who oversees the sanctions regime, said last month that sanctions were meant to “intensify the economic pressure against the Iranian regime”. Instead, many Iranians say the opposite is happening. The banking and oil sanctions imposed by the US and EU have led to a dramatic fall in the Iranian rial, which has dropped by about 60 per cent since January last year, and led to the creation of a multiple currency system, which is exploited by those with links to the political elite. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/ae8c8308-80d9-11e2-9fae-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2NLJ6fSt1

 

The Iran-Pakistan Pipeline

Will the US Block an Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline?

By Jen Alic, Christian Science Monitor [March 5, 2013]

---- On 11 March, Pakistani officials braved the “international community” by announcing that “groundbreaking” work on the 780-kilometer pipeline would begin on the Pakistani side of the border, marking the start of construction by an Iranian-Pakistani consortium. The Pakistani portion of the pipeline will cost around $1.5 billion. This is the key here because the 900-kilometer Iranian portion of the pipeline is already nearing completion. The pipeline will go ahead largely because Pakistan’s energy crisis dictates that it must. And even US sanctions won’t prevent it, and threats emanating from Washington (largely through the US mainstream media) are only working to increase already volatile anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0305/Will-the-US-block-an-Iran-Pakistan-gas-pipeline

 

More on the pipeline – From Reuters, “Pakistan Starts Work on Iranian Gasline Opposed by U.S.”  [March 11, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/03/11/world/middleeast/11reuters-iran-pakistan-gas.html?ref=world; and Juan Cole, “Pakistan, Iran Defy US Sanctions to Inaugurate Gas Pipeline,” Informed Comment [March 12, 2013]  http://www.juancole.com/2013/03/sanctions-inaugurate-pipeline.html

 

CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

The Last Thing Syrians Need is More Arms Going to Either Side

By Charles Glass, The Guardian, [March 4 2013]

---- Russia and Iran are providing weapons and ammunition to Syria's President Assad, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar deliver arms through Turkey to his opponents. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has just announced that the US is increasing its non-lethal assistance to the rebels by a further $60m. Britain is asking the EU to lift its embargo on arms sales to the opposition. None of this seems designed to end a conflict that, for a moment, seemed to be heading hesitantly towards negotiation. … Rather than lift the US-European arms embargo on lethal aid, as Britain proposes, why not ask the Russians and Iranians to join it? http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/04/syrians-arms-embargo-ask-russia-iran/print

 

Also useful/interesting – Kurt Pelda, “Aleppo at War: Everyday Life in the Death Zone,” Der Spiegel [Germany] [March 2013] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/civil-war-makes-life-a-struggle-in-aleppo-in-northern-syria-a-887265.html; Robert Fisk,Alawite History Reveals The Complexities Of Syria That West Does Not Understand,” The Independent [UK] [March 6, 2013] http://www.zcommunications.org/alawite-history-reveals-the-complexities-of-syria-that-west-does-not-understand-by-robert-fisk; and Juan Cole,Humanitarian Catastrophe in Syria: Why don’t We Hear More, Do More?” Informed Comment [March 10, 2013] http://www.juancole.com/2013/03/humanitarian-catastrophe-syria.html

 

West Training Syrian Rebels in Jordan

By Julian Borger and Nick Hopkins, The Guardian [March 8, 2013]

---- Western training of Syrian rebels is under way in Jordan in an effort to strengthen secular elements in the opposition as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, and to begin building security forces to maintain order in the event of Bashar al-Assad's fall. Jordanian security sources say the training effort is led by the US, but involves British and French instructors. British officials have made it clear that they believe new EU rules have now given the UK the green light to start providing military training for rebel fighters with the aim of containing the spread of chaos and extremism in areas outside the Syrian regime's control. According to European and Jordanian sources the western training in Jordan has been going on since last year and is focused on senior Syrian army officers who defected. … For western and Saudi backers of the opposition, Jordan has become a preferable option through which to channel aid than Turkey. Ankara has been criticised for allowing extremist groups, such as the al-Nusra Front, become dominant on the northern front while it focused on what it sees as the growing threat of Kurdish secessionism. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/08/west-training-syrian-rebels-jordan

 

Also on Jordan – Jason Ditz, “US Troops Training Syrian Rebels in Jordan,” Antiwar.com [March 10, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/03/10/report-us-troops-training-syrian-rebels-in-jordan/

 

(Video) What is Hezbollah's role in Syria?

From Aljazeera [Inside Syria] [March 4, 2013]

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidesyria/2013/03/2013338151970551.html

 

(Video) Syria: Military gains and diplomatic pains?

From Aljazeera [Inside Syria] [March 10, 2013]

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidesyria/2013/03/201331074843354248.html

 

 

 

 

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