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Iran War Weekly - September 10, 2012

By Frank Brodhead - Posted on 10 September 2012

Iran War Weekly

September 10, 2012


Hello All – Nuclear talks between Iran and the United States-led “P5+1” remained stalled this week, with expectations that nothing will happen until after the UN convenes later this month.  The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) appears to be relying on economic sanctions to force Iran to bargain on terms that would essentially bring Iran’s nuclear program to a halt.  While minor issues, such as the alleged nuclear activity at Iran’s military base at Parchin (see below), continue to be in play, Iran’s offers to resume negotiations have been ignored.


For the last month or so the political turmoil inside Israel, and between Israel and the United States, over fears that Israel would attack Iran’s nuclear sites before the US elections have been front-burner issues in the international media.  This week temperatures seem to have cooled – seem to have cooled – as the Netanyahu government appears to be digesting the strong opposition from both the United States and from its own political and military elite to any military attack on Iran.  Indeed, the Israeli press has been reporting incidents of disturbingly erratic behavior by Israel’s prime minister (see below).   Is this Nixon’s “mad man theory” redux, or the genuine article?


Among the good/useful readings linked below, I especially recommend the interesting essays by Noah Shachtman on a recent assessment of what would be involved if the United States were to attack Iran (lots); by Gareth Porter on the US diplomatic offensive to bring Israel to heel; and by Yousaf Butt on the counterproductive outcome of Israel’s strike on Iraq’s nuclear site in 1981 (often referenced to justify the value of a preventive military attack).  I’ve also pasted in links to several interesting articles on what’s going on inside Iran today, and some perspectives on the significance of the Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran a week ago.


Regarding Syria, links between the civil war in Syria and the Western campaign against Iran became stronger this week, with US accusations that Iraqwas allowing Iran to conduct overflights of planeloads of military equipment for the Syrian government, and demands from the United States that Iraq put a stop to this.  I’ve also linked two interesting articles about the spillover of Syria’s civil war into Lebanon, and the dangers that this poses for Lebanon.


A reminder that for those who would like user-friendly daily updates re: Iran and Syria, I recommend the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMI) [UK] -, and Syria Comment -


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  If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at


Best wishes,

Frank Brodhead

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Push to unclog nuclear talk ‘gridlock’ awaits Iranian president at United Nations

By Associated Press, [September 8, 2012]

---- As Iran’s president crafts his talking points for his annual trip to New York, one message is likely to remain near the top: Tehran has not closed the door on nuclear dialogue and is ready to resume negotiations with world powers. The offer is not very different from those coming out of Washington and other capitals. The challenge is figuring out how to overcome the huge divides after three rounds of high-level meetings since April failed to make headway. Questions over whether the diplomatic effort still has a pulse will closely follow Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his time at the U.N. General Assembly later this month — his last as Iranian president before elections next June for his successor.


Was Iran’s Military Base at Parchin a Nuclear Site?

Pink Shrouds Aimed to Draw Attention to Iran Military Site, Analysts Say

By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [September 7, 2012]

---- Diplomats from an unidentified country and a Washington research organisation considered close to the International Atomic Energy Agency have alleged in recent weeks that Iran has covered two buildings at a military site to hide a clean-up of evidence of nuclear weapons related testing. But two former intelligence analysts with experience in interpreting satellite photographs of military facilities say the coverings on the two buildings in published images of the site don’t appear to be aimed at hiding anything. The images show bright pink coverings on the buildings, which the former intelligence officers say are a clear signal of an Iranian desire to focus U.S. and Western attention on the site – probably to ensure that it would not be focused on activities at another site at the huge Parchin military base.


IAEA shows diplomats images of suspected Iran nuclear clean-up

From Reutres [September 9, 2012]

---- The U.N. nuclear watchdog showed a series of satellite images on Wednesday that added to suspicions of clean-up activity at an Iranian military site it wants to inspect, Western diplomats said, but Tehran's envoy dismissed the presentation. The pictures, displayed during a closed-door briefing for member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), indicated determined efforts in recent months to remove any incriminating evidence at the Parchin site, the diplomats said.



U.S.Attack on Iran Would Take Hundreds of Planes, Ships, and Missiles

By Noah Shachtman, Wired [September 7, 2012]

---- Should the U.S. actually take Benjamin Netanyahu’s advice and attack Iran, don’t expect a few sorties flown by a couple of fighter jocks. Setting back Iran’s nuclear efforts will need to be an all-out effort, with squadrons of bombers and fighter jets, teams of commandos, rings of interceptor missiles and whole Navy carrier strike groups — plus enough drones, surveillance gear, tanker aircraft and logistical support to make such a massive mission go. And all of it, at best, would buy the U.S. and Israel another decade of a nuke-free Iran. [Based on the recent analysis by Anthony Cordesman.]


Nuclear Mullahs

By Bill Keller, New York Times [September 9, 2012]

---- This strikes me as a good time to address an unnerving question that confronts any concerned student of this subject: Can we live with a nuclear Iran? Given a choice of raining bunker-busting munitions on Iran’s underground enrichment facilities, or, alternatively, containing a nuclear-armed Iran with the sobering threat of annihilation, which is the less bad option?


Democratic Platform on Iran


GOP Platform on Iran


The United States and Israel

To Calm Israel, U.S. Offers Ways to Restrain Iran

By David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, New York Times [September 2, 2012]

---- With Israel openly debating whether to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming months, the Obama administration is moving ahead with a range of steps short of war that it hopes will forestall an Israeli attack, while forcing the Iranians to take more seriously negotiations that are all but stalemated.

Already planned are naval exercises and new antimissile systems in the Persian Gulf, and a more forceful clamping down on Iranian oil revenue. The administration is also considering new declarations by President Obama about what might bring about American military action, as well as covert activities that have been previously considered and rejected.


After Dempsey Warning, Israel May Curb War Threat

By Jim Lobe and Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [September 5, 2012]

---- President Barack Obama’s explicit warning that he will not accept a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran may force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step back from his ostensible threat of war. Netanyahu had hoped that the Obama administration could be put under domestic political pressure during the election campaign to shift its policy on Iran to the much more confrontational stance that Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have been demanding. But that political pressure has not materialised, and Obama has gone further than ever before in warning Netanyahu not to expect U.S. backing in any war with Iran.


Also useful – John Glaser, “Israeli Leaders Dial Back Iran War Rhetoric after Meetings with US Military Officials,” [September 6, 2012]; and Tony Karon, “Worried About Israel Bombing Iran Before November? You Can Relax,” Time [September 5, 2012]; and John Glaser,”Obama Denies Deal With Iran: Won’t Back Israeli Strike if Iran Steers Clear of US Assets in Persian Gulf,” [September 3, 2012]


US complicit in Israel war plans for Iran
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times [September 2012]
---- After supplying Israel with the massive bunker-buster bombs that would be critical in any Israeli military strike on Iran, the US government now wants to have it both ways, trying to shield itself from any backlash by insisting it would not be "complicit" in such an Israeli gambit. Henceforth, the only scenario whereby Iran would not retaliate against the US would be a US guarantee that the US-made bombs would not be used by Israel, i.e., a virtual impossibility.



An Israeli strike won’t delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It will start it.

By Yousaf Butt, Christian Science Monitor [September 6, 2012]

---- Recent analysis shows that a previous Israeli strike – in 1981, on Iraq’s civilian Osirak nuclear reactor complex – led Saddam Hussein to demand a nuclear deterrent and was actually the trigger for Iraq launching a full-scale effort to weaponize. A decade later, by the time of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was on the verge of a nuclear weapons capability. As researcher Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer explains in a recent International Security article, such ostensibly “preventive attacks can increase the long-term proliferation risk posed by the targeted state.” Her research suggests that the conventional wisdom that Israel’s 1981 attack on Osirak denied Iraq a nuclear weapons capability no longer holds up: The strike actually created unprecedented pressure inside the Iraqi national security apparatus to pursue the bomb more vigorously than ever.


Turmoil Inside Israel
Israeli army names new operations chief, signaling reduced likelihood of Iran attack

By Times of Israel [September 4, 2012]

---- The Israeli army is making a series of high-level appointments, including naming a new operations chief, after previously delaying the top-level reshuffle amid talk of a possible Israeli military strike on Iran. News of the fresh appointments, released on Tuesday, was interpreted by military commentators as an indication that the likelihood of an imminent Israeli military strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities had receded. “You don’t appoint a brand new operations chief when you’re about to go to war,” said Alon Ben-David, military analyst at Israel’s Channel 10 News.


Netanyahu Angrily Breaks Up Key Cabinet Meeting on Iran, Citing Leaks

By John Glaser, [September 5, 2012]

---- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily broke up a key cabinet meeting on Iran on Wednesday, accusing one participant of leaking details of the secretive meetings to the press. Israel’s Security Cabinet meeting convened on Tuesday to discuss regional threats, primarily Iran. When the group reconvened on Wednesday, Netanyahu sent everyone home saying whoever spoke to the media violated “the most basic trust.” Netanyahu didn’t specify what information was leaked, but Israel’s top newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, did report that Israeli intelligence organizations disagreed over Israel’s ability to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities effectively on its own.


Also useful – Herb Keinon, “Netanyahu considering polygraph tests for cabinet,” JerusalemPost [September 5, 2012]; Jason Ditz, “Israeli Judge Winograd Warns against Iran Attack,” [September 2, 2012]; and Meir Javedanfar, “Israel Finance Minister Wants Military Deadlines to Be Issued To Iran,” Iran-Israel Observer [September 7, 2012]


Israel and Saudi Arabia

Unspoken Israeli-Saudi alliance targets Iran
By Chris Zambelis, Asia Times [September 8, 2012]

---- The boilerplate rhetoric out of Washington and US media regarding Iran is well known. But sorting through the cacophony of public threats of war, psychological operations, and propaganda broadcast by Israel and Saudi Arabia - Iran's primary regional adversaries - is equally crucial toward understanding the geopolitics surrounding the Iranian nuclear question and, in a broader sense, Iran's place in the region. Alongside the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have taken the lead in articulating a litany of purported threats emanating from the Islamic Republic.



Iranian People Act More Resigned Than Revolutionary These Days

By Barbara Slavin, Al-Monitor [September 2012]

---- For an American returning to Tehran after four years, what is most striking is the growing feeling that life will not get better anytime soon. Iran seems to have become a nation of Scarlet O’Hara’s who live for today and try not to think about the future. This pessimism contrasts with sentiment in the 1990s and early 2000s that Iran could overcome its post-Islamic Revolution difficulties. Iranians who left the country before the 1979 overthrow of the secular shah or during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war began returning in the '90s to reclaim property, see relatives and start businesses. Adult children of diaspora Iranians came back to work for foreign companies eager to buy Iranian oil and sell manufactured goods to a growing middle class. Under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, the direction of the flow has reversed.


To Participate or Boycott? Challenges of the 2013 Election and the Iranian Opposition

By Mohammad Ali Kadivar, Jadaliyya [September 4, 2012]

---- The upcoming 2013 presidential election in Iran seems to be activating and deepening the fissures within the Iranian opposition. While parts of the opposition have started deliberating and discussing about participation in the election, other sections oppose participating on principle. A prominent reformist strategist, for example, suggested that election is “an opportunity for organizing and action.” Meanwhile, another famous activist journalist wrote that the only possible election in 2013 is one with the participation of regime “insiders” and no chance for pro-democracy forces to participate. These debates about the opportunities and constraints of the 2013 election reflect a deeper divide in the Iranian opposition about the most effective strategies to transform the polity and build a democratic regime in the future.


Also useful Associated Press, “Afghanistan and Iran sign deal giving land-locked Afghanistan access to major seaport,” [September 5, 2012]


The Effect of Sanctions on Iran

US-Led Iran Sanctions Blocking Medical Treatment to Thousands of Infirm

By John Glaser, [September 4, 2012]

---- The sweeping US-led economic sanctions being imposed on Iran are blocking necessary pharmaceuticals and medical treatment for Iran’s sick and infirm, in what appears to be a cruel for of collective punishment that deliberately puts innocent lives at risk. Although the sanctions don’t target medicine and humanitarian needs, they are “increasingly hitting vulnerable medical patients as deliveries of medicine and raw materials for Iranian pharmaceutical companies are either stopped or delayed,” reports the Washington Post.


In Iran, Sanctions Take Toll on the Sick

By Najmeh Bozorgmehr, WashingtonPost [September 4, 2012]

---- The tightening of U.S. banking sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program has had an impact on all sectors of the economy but is increasingly hitting vulnerable medical patients as deliveries of medicine and raw materials for Iranian pharmaceutical companies are either stopped or delayed, according to medical experts. The effect, the experts say, is being felt by cancer patients and those being treated for complex disorders such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and thalassemia, as well as transplant and kidney dialysis patients, none of whom can afford interruptions or delays in medical supplies.


Also usefulGulf States News, “Sanctions target Tehran, but it is West that is losing goodwill,” [August 30, 2012]


Iran’s Economy

IranOil Exports Plummet as Prices Rise

By Jason Ditz, [September 7, 2012]

---- The Obama Administration is worried. About a lot of things really, but in this case about the rising cost of oil, spiking both on inflation fears and a seriously tight supply, with officials warning that even tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would provide at best a very temporary benefit. Unspoken in all this concern about supply shortages is that one of the world’s largest oil producers, Iran, saw their exports drop nearly 45 percent in July as US and EU sanctions kept that oil off the market at a time when it is desperately needed.


Iran's Currency Falls to Record Low Against Dollar

By The Associated Press [September 9, 2012]



Three Revelations from the Non-Aligned Summit

By Farideh Farhi, LobeLog [September 4, 2012]

---- The Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran highlighted three aspects about Iran’s foreign relations and domestic politics. First, given Iran’s geographic location and resources, many countries in the neighborhood believe it is simply not good business to isolate Iran. Second, the presence of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and new Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi reflected the benefit of engaging Iran directly. Third, the NAM summit revealed that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sees himself in charge of implementing Iran’s foreign policy—not just setting the general direction of the country and then letting the president execute his directives.


Also useful – Armin Azad, “The Non-Aligned Movement Meeting Strengthened Iran’s Hand vs. US, Israel,” Informed Comment [September 4, 2012]



Canada Severs All Ties With Iran, Expels Diplomats

By Jason Ditz, [September 7, 2012]

---- Much to the delight of Israeli hawks, the Canadian government announced today that it is severing all diplomatic ties with Iran, closing its Tehran embassy and expelling every Iranian diplomat from Canada.  Foreign Minister John Baird, detailing the move, condemned Iran as a “threat to global security” and insisted the move was a response to Iran’s hostility toward Israel. Israel has regularly been threatening to attack Iran, though in recent days it is suggested that they are climbing down off that threat.


Canada's cut ties with Iran: Who will pay?

By D. Parvaz, Aljazeera [September 10, 2012]

---- Lost in the power plays between Canada's Conservative government, which has taken an increasingly hard-line view of Iran in recent months, and Iran's apparent refusal to budge on thorny issues such as Syria and Israel, are the roughly 500,000 Iranian-Canadians who call Canada home.


Also useful – Kaveh Afrasiabi, “Canada appeases Israel on Iran,” Asia Times [September 10, 2012]



U.S.intervention in Syria appears unlikely, say officials

By Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post [September 2, 2012]

---- A sharp escalation in fighting and civilian deaths in Syria, pleas for help from rebel fighters and a tide of war-zone refugees are focusing American attention on a high-stakes Mideast conflict nine weeks before the U.S. presidential election. Yet, as bad as the Syrian fighting looks, with an estimated 20,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries, intervention by the United States or international authorities appears remote. Even a limited expansion of the minimal U.S. role is unlikely for the next several months and perhaps beyond, according to American and foreign officials.


Iranian Soft Power, Lakhdar Brahimi, and the Prospects for Peace in Syria

From The Race for Iran [September 2, 2012]

---- Twenty years ago, Harvard University’s Joseph Nye famously defined soft power as the ability to get others to “want what you want,” which he contrasted with the ability to compel others via “hard” military and economic assets.  Hillary Mann Leverett’s CNN interview explores what we have called the Islamic Republic’s “soft power offensive” in the context of the geopolitical and sectarian (Shi’a-Sunni) rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.  As Hillary points out, Iran’s rise is fundamentally about soft power.  “We always think of Iran as a military dictatorship, but the Iranian message is clear:  they want free and fair elections” in countries like Egypt, Afghanistan, and Iraq.


Also useful- Antonin Amadoo and Marc de Miramon, “Syria’s Propaganda War,” Le Monde Diplomatique [France] September 07, 2012; and Robert Fisk, “For the first time, a Western journalist has been granted access to Assad's military prisoners,” The Independent [UK] [September 2, 2012]


Syria, Iran, and Iraq

Iraq the Latest Dragged Into Syria Proxy War Intrigue

By Jason Ditz, [September 5, 2012]

---- Few wars in recent history have been such overt proxy wars as the Syrian Civil War. The Assad regime is clearly losing popularity domestically, and reliant on foreign backing to keep itself in power. And while the rebels try to claim some connection to the anti-Assad protests, it is clear that they are more interested in selling themselves to the international community than to the public of cities they capture. Even nations that seem keen to stay out of the proxy war are getting dragged in, with Iraq suddenly finding itself accused of backing Assad, who they’ve never particularly cared for in the first place, on the grounds that are allowing their close ally Iran to use their airspace for shipments to Syria. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I – CT) blasted Iraq, warning that their ties with the US, which occupied them from 2003-2011, were at risk.


Iran Supplying Syrian Military via Iraqi Airspace

By Michael R. Gordon, New York Times [[September 4, 2012]

---- Iran has resumed shipping military equipment to Syria over Iraqi airspace in a new effort to bolster the embattled government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, according to senior American officials. The Obama administration pressed Iraq to shut down the air corridor that Iran had been using earlier this year, raising the issue with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq. But as Syrian rebels gained ground and Mr. Assad’s government was rocked by a bombing that killed several high officials, Iran doubled down in supporting the Syrian leader. The flights started up again in July and, to the frustration of American officials, have continued ever since.


Also useful – Karen DeYoung, “U.S. calls on Iraq to inspect Syria-bound Iranian planes for arms,”  Washington Post [September 5, 2012]; and Bradley Klapperlara Jakes, “Iraq's role in Syria war poses problems for US,” Business Week [September 5, 2012]


Syria and Lebanon

Will Lebanon Be Sucked Into the Syrian Vortex?

By Graham Usher, The Nation [September 2012]

---- Syria ruled Lebanon ruthlessly for nearly three decades, ending its occupation only in 2005. Yet whatever grip Damascus once had on Lebanese politics is clearly weakening, as the Syrian regime sinks deeper into crisis. One reason for Lebanon’s new relative freedom lies in history, especially in the differences between the Syrian and Lebanese civil wars. The Syrians have only recently entered theirs, which is becoming a bloody fight to the finish. The Lebanese remember theirs as a collective nightmare that no party or sect wants to revisit.


Is the Syrian Crisis Being Leveraged to Weaken Hezbollah?

By Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch [September 3, 2012]

---- Pressures, often intense, resulting in being sucked into the vortex of the powerful maelstrom and violent whirlpool of Lebanese and regional politics can’t be bringing much pleasure to Lebanon’s National Resistance led by Hezbollah and that includes this observer’s Dahiyeh neighborhood. Following their one on one meeting last weekend, US secretary of state Clinton and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogon Hezbollah are seeking to intensify pressure on both Hezbollah and Syria. One project is reported to be US instructions to their March 14 allies to force a vote in Lebanon’s Parliament allowing the deployment of international troops along Lebanon’s northern border with Syria.




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