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Iran War Weekly - November 20, 2012


By Frank Brodhead - Posted on 28 November 2012

Iran War Weekly

November 20, 2012

 

Hello All – Buried first by Hurricane Sandy and then by the US presidential election, this week the story of the international conflict over Iran’s nuclear program lies in the deep shadow of the Israeli attack on Gaza.  Nevertheless, there were some important developments regarding both Iran’s program and the prospects for negotiations, which are discussed in some of the good/useful readings linked below.

 

It is tempting to search for links between Israel’s attack on Gaza and its threats against Iran, and I’ve included a few such comments below.  But it is premature, I think, to conclude that the present war increases or decreases the chances for a peaceful resolution of the US-Israel-Iran conflict.  Despite the ease with which Israel is killing and destroying in Gaza, and the potential justification for war provided by Hamas’ alleged use of Iranian medium-range rockets, the Gaza war has revealed clear limits on Israel’s potential to conduct a successful war against Iran.  In addition to the changed role of Egypt, and the effect of Egypt’s new orientation on the US (private) concern that an Israeli ground invasion would be a disaster, the US and Israel must view the strong stand of Turkey, the turmoil in Jordan, the “activism” of the Arab League, and the protests in the West Bank with alarm.  While the “Arab Spring” has not diminished Israel’s military capacity, it has further reduced Israel’s ability to wage war against Iran without very serious regional consequences.

 

On the other hand, news reports from Israel suggest that it would be very hard for Netanyahu to conclude a popular ceasefire with Gaza,in light of the fear generated by the handful of missiles that have reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  Reporting on Aljazeera and elsewhere stresses the Israeli public’s support for “finishing the job.”  Unless Netanyahu can find a way to combine a ceasefire with a widely applauded “victory lap,” I have difficulty seeing how a re-elected (in January) Prime Minister Netanyahu would be more accommodating toward the United States and less aggressive towards Iran when negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program resume.  All this may become clearer in the next week or two.

 

In other developments, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest quarterly report this week.  While, as in the past, the report (linked below) found no improper diversion of enriched uranium, the questions it raises and the information it provides give sustenance to both the critics of Iran and its supporters.  (NB it is interesting to compare the political spin in David Sanger’s report in the New York Times with the more technical analysis of the report provided by the US Arms Control Association.) The report will form the basis of the next meeting between the IAEA and Iran, which will take place on December 13.  Additionally, prospects for bilateral talks between the United States and Iran continue to be hinted at, with Moscow (for the first time) urging that such talks take place.

 

Another important reportwas released this week by the Federation of American Scientists.  The report and useful commentary, linked below, address the cost to the global economy for different levels of US aggression against Iran, from continuing the sanctions to full-scale war. 

 

Among other good/useful reading linked below, I encourage you to read the “regional perspectives”; the essay by Gary Sick on negotiations with Iran as a possible path towards regional progress; and the important report on economic sanctions and the availability of medicine in Iran.  Regarding developments in Syria, Joshua Landis of “Syria Comment” has a lengthy assessment of the leader of the newly formed Syria National Coalition.

 

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 fbrodhead@aol.com.

 

Best wishes,

Frank Brodhead

Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)

 

REGIONAL PERSPECTIVES

Gaza and Iran

By Farideh Farhi, LobeLog [November 19, 2012]

---- What a difference four years can make! Almost a week into Operation Pillar of Defense and the Israelis have yet to make the case for the necessity of continuing the attacks on Gaza in order to prevent Iran’s expansion of its influence in the region. It is possible that I am speaking too soon and, like the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead, once the human costs and efficacy of attacks in terms of stated objectives begin to be questioned, the narrative will shift and the argument for sustenance of war, refusal of ceasefire, or the “need for a hard enough blow to Hamas to restore Israel’s deterrence” will shift and Iran will somehow be brought into the equation. Certainly, the reported use of Iranian-made Fajr 5 rockets creates that potential. But there are also reasons to think otherwise. Clearly, the completely changed political landscape of the region has something to do with this. The tragedy in Syria and Hamas’ public break with Iran over the latter’s Syria policy makes it hard to see a hard blow to the former in terms of implications for Iran. But more importantly, it is the changed dynamics of the region that has made Iran irrelevant or of no use at this moment. All eyes and pressures are on Egypt’s President Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood. http://www.lobelog.com/gaza-and-iran/

 

Also useful – Amir Oren, “For Netanyahu, Gaza escalation could pave the way to Iran strike,” Haaretz [Israel] [November 16, 2012] http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/week-s-end/for-netanyahu-gaza-escalation-could-pave-the-way-to-iran-strike.premium-1.478369/for-netanyahu-gaza-escalation-could-pave-the-way-to-iran-strike.premium-1.478369

 

Redrawing the Middle East map: Iran, Syria and the new Cold War

By Roxane Farmanfarmaian, Aljazeera [November 15, 2012]

---- As the First Cold War wound down with the demise of the Soviet Union, the Middle East expanded eastward. The war in Afghanistan set the course; the newly independent Central Asian states, many of them Muslim, continued the trend. In the process, Iran became another heart. Together with Syria, these two states straddling the centre of the Middle East shatterbelt are setting the stage for an emergent second Cold War. The reincarnation of the Arab Cold War is the first sign. Often called the Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy war, it is a sectarian confrontation that mirrors the First Arab Cold War, when Nasser's secular Egypt led radical, pro-Soviet neighbours Syria and Iraq against a pro-US moderate front of religiously vested monarchies nominally headed by Saudi Arabia.  Today, the second Arab Cold War has a different tinge. The Saudi-led moderates have changed little; the radicals however are now no longer secular, but Islamist, and primarily Shia, led by Iran's anti-Western, anti-Israeli ideology. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/11/2012111311424048459.html

 

NEGOTIATIONS OVER IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Moscow urges direct US-Iran talks

By James Blitz and Charles Clover, Financial Times [November 11, 2012]

---- The Russian government has for the first time publicly encouraged the US and Iran to begin direct one-to-one negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear programme, arguing that the creation of a negotiating channel between Washington and Tehran could help avert conflict. As the US considers its next negotiating move over Iran, Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Moscow would like to see Washington and Tehran enter direct diplomatic contact in order to avert an Israeli attack on the Iranian programme. http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b7f54dee-2c1a-11e2-a91d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ByX0x8Ro

 

The November 2012 IAEA Report

The IAEA Report – November 2012

http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Iran_safeguards_report_November_2012.pdf

 

The November 2012 IAEA Report on Iran and Its Implications

ByKelsey Davenport, Daryl G. Kimball, and Greg Thielmann, Arms Control Now [November 16, 2012]

---- The new quarterly report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program, which is now in circulation, finds that Tehran has continued to install more centrifuges for uranium enrichment at its underground complex at Fordow. The November 16 IAEA report says that Iran has installed an additional 644 centrifuges at Fordow and 991 at Natanz, both of which are regularly inspected by the Agency. However, the total number of operating centrifuges at Fordow (696) has not yet increased, according to the Agency. The IAEA report also notes that while Iran continues to experiment with advanced and more efficient types of centrifuges, it is not yet using them for production-scale operations. The IAEA also reports that Iran has continued enriching uranium to the 20% level at the previously reported rate and that its stockpile of 20% material has increased moderately—by 43 kg. http://armscontrolnow.org/2012/11/16/the-november-2012-iaea-report-on-iran-and-its-implications-2

 

Also useful – David E. Sanger, “Iran’s Fordo Nuclear Complex Reaches Capacity,” New York Times [November 16, 2012]  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/world/middleeast/irans-fordow-nuclear-complex-reaches-capacity.html?ref=world

 

Problems with Iran’s Nuclear Program

Iran's First Nuclear Plant May Have Suffered New Setback

By Fredrik Dahl, Reuters [November 17, 2012]

---- Iran unloaded nuclear fuel from its first atomic power plant last month, a United Nations report said on Friday, a few months after the Russian builder said the long-postponed reactor was operating at full capacity. The reason for the unexpected move was unclear but it could be a sign of a new problem in running the Russian-built, 1,000-megawatt reactor near the Gulf city of Bushehr. http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/11/16/iran-nuclear-bushehr-idINDEE8AF0DU20121116

 

Iran Delays Opening of Nuclear Reactor By More Than a Year

By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [November 17, 2012]

---- Iran has announced that the planned opening of a nuclear research reactor has been delayed by about a year and a half, according to a United Nations report. The heavy water plant near the town of Arak was due for activation in 2013, but Iran has postponed that opening until late 2014, without giving a reason. The delay is another illustration of how undeveloped Iran’s nuclear program is. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/11/17/un-iran-delays-opening-of-nuclear-reactor-by-more-than-a-year/

 

US POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES

Mideast Peace Starts with Talking to Iran

By Gary Sick, Special to CNN [November 16, 2012]

---- When Obama came into office four years ago, he courageously promised to engage Iranian leaders. He made a genuine attempt, but he quickly pulled back in the face of Iran's brutal suppression of a civil uprising, Israeli demands for an early deadline on the nuclear issue and the fact that he had a lot on his domestic plate. Trita Parsi evocatively describes that episode in the book "A Single Roll of the Dice." There was no staying power. Instead, the United States reverted to its default position of sanctions while maintaining the framework for serious negotiations with Iran as part of the so-called P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia) plus one (Germany). The sanctions did their job. Iran has gladly accepted the invitation of the P5+1 to return to the negotiating table. However, in the run-up to the presidential election, the United States was unwilling to put a meaningful offer on the table, and the negotiating track languished in a kind of limbo.http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/opinion/sick-mideast/index.html?hpt=hp_bn7

 

Responding to Iran: It’s a matter of vision

By Vali Nasr, The Globe and Mail [Toronto] [November 12, 2012]

---- Dealing with Iran’s nuclear program will be one of the most pressing foreign policy issues facing Barack Obama as he begins his second term. While the focus thus far has been on whether America is ready to go to war if aggressive economic sanctions fail to bend Iran’s will, his administration should also prepare to deal with the sanctions’ potential success. There’s evidence that the measures are seriously hurting Iran’s economy, and that this is changing Tehran’s posture. What will Mr. Obama do if Iran agrees to negotiate? http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/responding-to-iran-its-a-matter-of-vision/article5176056/

 

US Considers Offering 'More for More' to Iran

By Barbara Slavin and Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [November 12, 2012]

---- Al-Monitorhas also learned that the US is mulling the expansion of a “more for more” offer: more verifiable nuclear curbs from Iran in exchange for greater US concessions, including some sanctions relief. The “more for more” offer, according to one source apprised of administration deliberations before the US elections, would update the “stop, ship, and shut” offer regarding 20% uranium enrichment to get more verifiable limits on the rest of Iran’s nuclear program. The US has not yet briefed its partners in the P5+1 but will get a chance to do so when political directors from the group meet in Brussels on Nov. 21. Another multilateral meeting with Iran could follow shortly after that. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/usirantalks.html

 

Also useful - (Video) “Petraeus resignation reveals divisions over Iran” [An interview with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern], War in Context [November 13, 2012] http://warincontext.org/2012/11/13/video-petraeus-resignation-reveals-divisions-over-iran/; and from Reuters, “U.S. denies visas to Iran officials for U.N. meeting,” [November 18, 2012] http://news.yahoo.com/u-denies-visas-iran-officials-u-n-meeting-175007466.html

 

IRANIAN POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES

Iranian Leadership Split on Call for Talks With US

By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [November 13, 2012]

---- With Iran’s Intelligence Ministry taking the unusual step last week of issuing a public report on negotiations with the international community being “necessary,” there was a lot of speculation that Iran’s appetite for talks was growing. But while this report and the public comments from a lot of Iranian officials tell this story, other senior officials are said to be opposed to the idea, or at least pessimistic enough about the prospect that they don’t believe it is the right time to bother with direct talks with the US. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/11/13/iranian-leadership-split-on-call-for-talks-with-us/

 

Also useful – From Al-Monitor, “Iran’s Hard-Liners Ready to Talk,” [November 2012] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/iranhardlinetalk.html; and Steve Gutterman, “Iran says U.S., powers must be more constructive in atom talks,” Reuters [November 19, 2012] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/19/us-nuclear-iran-russia-idUSBRE8AI0I420121119

 

Chinese-Iranian Ties in the Face of the Nuclear Crisis

By Alireza Nader, The BBC [November 9, 2012]

---- For now, Iranian-Chinese ties may remain strong. China is in principle opposed to sanctions against Iran, and could veto any UN Security Council resolution that authorizes the use of force against the Islamic Republic. However, ties between Iran and China, two important regional powers that oppose U.S. power in their respective regions, are also defined by a certain degree of tension that could prevent a true strategic partnership between the two nations. But any perceived hostility toward China from the next U.S. administration could lead to greater Chinese intransigence on the Iranian nuclear issue. China’s key challenge is to balance its close economic partnership with the United States and its allies with its geopolitically advantageous ties to the Islamic Republic. http://www.rand.org/commentary/2012/11/12/BBC.html

 

Don't Abandon Iran's Internet Generation to Online Oppression

By “Contributor,” PBS – Tehran Bureau [November 14, 2012]

---- Beheshti's tragic death underlines the deeply besieged mentality of Iran's theocratic regime and how far it will go to suppress any voice of popular opposition. The aftermath of the 2009 election impressed on the government the grave danger posed to it by a free flow of information and an informed citizenry. An enormous amount of money was allocated to the acquisition of some of the world's most sophisticated systems for monitoring and tracking electronic communications, restricting the Internet, and jamming satellite broadcast signals. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/11/opinion-dont-abandon-irans-internet-generation-to-online-oppression.html#ixzz2CDDZoJmr

 

SANCTIONS ON IRAN

Iran Sanctions may be ‘Crippling,’ but they are not ‘Working’

By Ladan Cher, Informed Comment [November 18, 2012]

---- On Iran and sanctions, a necessary clarification: “Crippling” is not synonymous for “working” The events of the last few weeks have reignited a spotlight on the issue: sanctions are hitting Iranians drastically harder than before by limiting civilian access to life saving medicines, and within hours of President Obama’s reelection a new round of sanctions against Iran related to media censorship went into effect. However, the problem is not the question of whether sanctions are “working”, which is a perfectly reasonable inquiry, but rather the way in which it is answered. The response to this question, and general discourse about the consequences of sanctions, is plagued by a causal connection between the immediate effects of sanctions crippling the Iranian economy and sanction “working.” http://www.juancole.com/2012/11/iran-sanctions-may-be-crippling-but-they-are-not-working-cher.html

 

Sanctions' Ill Effects - Part 1: The Disappearance of Lifesaving Drugs

From PBS – Tehran Bureau [November 2012]

---- International sanctions, intended to compel Iran into reversing the development of its nuclear program, have brought not only straitened economic conditions for ordinary Iranians, they have made access to a host of vital pharmaceuticals difficult or impossible. … The European Union and the United States have both declared that they have not prohibited the export of medical goods to Iran in their sanctions protocols.  Even so, many Iranians say the ban on financial transactions and a prohibitive exchange rate keep the situation from improving for them. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/11/sanctioning-sickness-part-1-the-disappearance-of-lifesaving-drugs.html

 

Sanctions' Ill Effects - Part 2: A Looming Catastrophe

From PBS – Tehran Bureau [November 2012]

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/11/dispatch-part-2-a-looming-catastrophe.html#ixzz2CiMToSef

 

HYPOTHETICAL WAR

Introduction

A new effort to put a price tag on a US war against Iran was published this week by the Federation of American Scientists.  Two months ago, a dozen leading figures in the US foreign policy establishment signed on to a cautionary report issued by the Woodrow Wilson Center.  (“Weighing the Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran” [September 13, 2012] http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/weighing-the-benefits-and-costs-military-action-against-iran.)  [And see the commentary in the IWW for September 16, 2012.] The new report estimates the costs of different levels of warfare.  For example, a full-scale blockade of Iranian exports would cost the world’s economy of $325 billion, while an all-out war and ground invasion would cost $1.7 trillion.  It is noteworthy that the report estimates that a serious de-escalation of the conflict by the United States would benefit the global economy to the tune of $60 billion. 

For the report:Federation of American Scientists, “The United States and Iran: Anticipating Possible Effects of Conflict on the Global Economy,” http://www.fas.org/press/events/20121029_iranconflict.html

 

Commentary

US Escalation against Iran Would Carry High Cost for Global Economy

By Jasmin Ramsey, Inter Press Service [November 17, 2012]

---- The world economy would bear substantial costs if the United States took steps to significantly escalate the conflict with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme, according to the findings of a Federation of American Scientists’ (FAS) special report released here Friday. Based on consulations with a group of nine bipartisan economic and national security experts, the findings showed the effects of U.S. escalatory action against Iran could range from 64 billion to 1.7 trillion dollars in losses for the world economy over the initial three-month term. The least likely scenario of de-escalation, which would require U.S. unilateral steps showing it was willing to make concessions to resolve the standoff, would result in an estimated global economic benefit of 60 billion dollars. http://original.antiwar.com/ramsey/2012/11/17/us-escalation-against-iran-would-carry-high-cost-for-global-economy/

 

Also useful– Jennifer Rizzo, “Putting a Price Tag on War with Iran,” CNN [November 19, 2012] http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/15/world/iran-warcost/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_latest+%28RSS%3A+Most+Recent%29

 

CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

A Week in Syria

By Paul Woodward, War in Context [November 17, 2012]

---- During the week running from November 10 till November 16, 876 Syrians (including 33 women and 49 children) were killed by government forces. (Statistics compiled by the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.) http://www.lccsyria.org/en/

 

The Khatib Controversy – How Liberal is He? More Countries Recognize National Coalition

By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment [November 16, 2012]

http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=16718

 

Pentagon Says 75,000 Troops Might Be Needed to Seize Syria Chemical Arms

By David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, New York Times [November 15, 2012]

---- The Pentagon has told the Obama administration that any military effort to seize Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would require upward of 75,000 troops.  The estimated size of the potential effort called into question whether the United States would have the resources to act quickly if it detected the movement of chemical weapons and forced President Obama, as he said in August, to “change my calculus” about inserting American forces into Syria. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/world/middleeast/pentagon-sees-seizing-syria-chemical-arms-as-vast-task.html?ref=world

 

Syria and Iran

Iran starts building $10 billion gas pipeline to Syria to boost energy sector

By Associated Press, [November 19. 2012]

---- Iran has started construction on a $10 billion natural gas pipeline to key ally Syria, a news agency reported Monday, in an apparent nod of support to President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime and a further attempt by Tehran to boost energy exports battered by international sanctions. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/report-iran-starts-building-10-billion-gas-pipeline-to-syria-to-boost-its-energy-sector/2012/11/19/500244dc-322b-11e2-92f0-496af208bf23_story.html

 

Iran Hosts Meeting on Syrian conflict

From Reuters [November 18, 2012]

---- Iran, the closest ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, hosted a conference in Tehran on Sunday to seek a resolution to the civil war in Syria. Iranian officials said about 200 Syrian "political characters" had participated but there was no indication that the Syrian National Coalition, a new umbrella opposition group led by Sunni Muslim cleric Mouaz Alkhatib, had attended.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/18/us-iran-syria-meeting-idUSBRE8AH0J820121118

 

Syria and Turkey

Turkey to ask NATO for missiles on Syria border

From the Daily Star [Lebanon] [November 17, 2012]

---- Turkey will formally ask NATO on Monday to set up missiles on its border with Syria due to growing concern about spillover from the civil war in its neighbour, a German newspaper reported on Saturday. The Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung also said that up to 170 German troops could be deployed as part of the mission. Turkey said on Friday it had intensified talks with NATO allies on how to shore up security on its 900-km frontier with Syria after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its territory. http://dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Nov-17/195352-turkey-to-ask-nato-for-missiles-on-syria-border-report.ashx#ixzz2CZxU8eeR

 

Syria and Jordan

Protests in Jordan Continue, With Calls for Ending the King’s Rule

By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times [November 15, 2012]

---- Thousands of young men poured into the streets of Jordan’s cities and towns for a third night of scattered protests against King Abdullah II, as the United States expressed support for the monarch. Thursday’s protests around the country, most of which involved exchanges of rocks and tear gas, were set off this week by anger at a reduction in public fuel subsidies. Unlike previous demonstrations here, this week’s protests for the first time have also called for ending the rule of King Abdullah II. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/world/middleeast/protesters-in-jordan-call-for-ending-king-abdullah-iis-rule.html?ref=world

 

Also useful – Jodi Rudoren, ”Riots Erupt Across Jordan Over Gas Prices,” New York Times [November 13, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/world/middleeast/jordan-faces-protests-after-gas-price-proposal.html?ref=world&_r=0

 

 

 

 

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