Iran War Weekly
May 27, 2012
Hello All – Last week’s meeting in Baghdad – the second round in renewed negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) – had few silver linings. The only clearly positive outcome was that the parties agreed to meet again in Moscow on June 18; in terms of substance, the meeting was a failure, as the US-led coalition offered Iran little, while demanding that Iran essentially agree to end its nuclear program. The front-burner question is, why did the United States choose to put forward demands certain to end in no agreement? I’ve listed some more questions below, as well as insightful essays and reviews of the conference and its outcome.
In Syria,of course, the violence continues at a high level, with a terrible massacre this week increasing the calls for military intervention. I’ve linked an Aljazeera round-up of the week’s news from Syria; another good source for what’s happening this week is Syria Comment, at http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/ .
Also linked below are two good articles on Saudi Arabia’s (failed) attempt to impose greater political unity – or more accurately greater hegemony – on the small kingdoms in the Gulf; a good assessment of the US lobbying of the designated-terrorist organization MEK; and the story-so-far on the IAEA’s report that some uranium at Iran’s Fordo plant had been tested to show it had been enriched in excess of 20 percent, probably a technical glitch says the IAEA. (And I’ve also linked this week’s IAEA quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program – check it out, to get a sense of the kinds of issues that are on the table for the UN inspectors.)
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)
Iran: War Is Not Even the Question
By David Swanson, War is a Crime [May 24, 2012]
---- Iran has never threatened the United States or any of its allies. Since the United States overthrew Iran's democratically elected government in 1953, Iranians have had an interest in recovering both democracy and independence. They have progress to make, as do we in the United States. But attacking a nation empowers anti-democratic forces within it. And attacking a nation because it is not an ideal democracy fails as a pretended motivation as long as the United States is funding and supporting dictatorships, including right nearby in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc, not to mention our own democratic failures which we'd prefer not to be bombed over. http://warisacrime.org/content/iran-war-not-even-question 
Congress 'Un-Declares' War with Iran
By Kate Gould, Friends Committee on National Legislation [May 22, 2012]
---- All 535 members of Congress are now on the record declaring that they have not authorized the use of military force against Iran in the latest round of legislation passed in the House and the Senate. This unanimous 'un-declaration' of war by Congress is a crucial victory, with particular significance given its passage on the eve of the U.S.-Iran talks in Baghdad. http://fcnl.org/blog/2c/congress_un_declares_war_with_iran/ 
P5+1 AND IRAN NEGOTIATIONS IN BAGHDAD
In this section, I’ve pasted in links to some useful/interesting articles that appeared before the Baghdad meeting, reflecting the optimism generated by the April meeting in Istanbul. Then there are several good essays that evaluate the extent of the failures in Baghdad and why things went wrong. Further below I’ve pasted in links reflecting perspectives from within the United States, Iran, and Israel on the Baghdad meeting.
In attempting to understand the US negotiating strategy, I think there are two main questions. The first concerns the refusal to offer any suspension or lifting of sanctions in exchange for Iranian cooperation, especially in light of the scheduled European Union embargo of Iranian oil scheduled to begin on July 1. Did the United States expect any progress absent a willingness to modify the sanctions on Iran, whether UN, US, or EU? Will sanctions be on the table at the June meeting, the last one before the European embargo goes into effect? Does the United States intend to refuse to lift or modify sanctions against Iran until after the US presidential election? Or does the United States believe that the sanctions are hurting Iran so much that Iran will concede its right to enrich uranium in order to have the sanctions lifted or modified?
A second question concerns the role of Israel. The US negotiating position essentially echoed that of Israel’s Netanyahu, who stated in a recent speech that Israel must suspend enrichment, end its operations at the (underground) Fordo plant, and ship its supply of uranium enriched to 20 percent out of the country. It seems significant that the US negotiators flew immediately to Israel at the conclusion of the Baghdad meeting in order to brief Netanyahu on the results; i.e., before briefing officials in Washington. Are the United States and Israel simply engaged in parallel play, with both sharing the same goals and objectives? Or has the Obama administration determined to comply with Israel’s wishes re: Iran, (perhaps) knowing that negotiations will fail if they do so? And if so, will Israel continue to shape US negotiating policy re: Iran after the US election?
Another question concerns the negotiations between the IAEA director Amano and Iran concerning access to the Parchin military site, where the IAEA has been led to believe that “suspicious” nuclear activity has taken place in the past. As discussed in previous newsletters, this has always been a faux issue, with claims based largely on what Iran claims are forged documents, and Iran’s objection to access based on their claim that Parchin is not a nuclear site. I find it interesting, now that “access” is apparently about to happen, that the United States is not more excited about this, and the possibility of discovering a “smoking gun.” I think the explanation lies in the fact that the US knows that there is nothing to see or learn at Parchin, perhaps because they know that the documents initiating this line of inquiry are forgeries.
Setting the Scene
World powers forge joint approach to Iran talks
By Paul Richter, Los AngelesTimes [May 18, 2012]
---- The United States and five other countries have agreed to offer a joint proposal to Iran at a high-level meeting next week in an effort to open a path for negotiations to curtail Tehran's disputed nuclear program and to ease the threat of war. When they meet in Baghdad on May 23, the six powers will offer to help Iran fuel a small reactor used for medical purposes, and to forgo imposing further United Nations economic sanctions. In exchange, Iran must agree to halt producing 20% enriched uranium, which could be upgraded into fuel for nuclear weapons, and to surrender its stockpile of the material. The proposal also calls for Iran to halt operations at an underground enrichment facility, near the city of Qom, that is relatively invulnerable to military attack. The joint position eases concerns about rifts within the six-nation group, which has clashed over policy toward Iran in the past. But diplomats acknowledged Iranian negotiators are highly unlikely to accept the opening bid without seeking significant conditions or concessions of their own. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/05/world-powers-forge-joint-approach-to-iran-talks.html 
Also useful – Matthew Bunn and Abbas Maleki, “How to Avoid a War With Iran,” Foreign Policy [May 21, 2012] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/21/how_to_avoid_a_war_with_iran%20?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full ; and the Oxford Research Group, “How to Break the Deadlock on Iran’s Nuclear Impasse,” [May 21, 2012] http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/middle_east/press_release_how_break_deadlock_iran%E2%80%99s_nuclear_impasse_new_report_oxford_r 
Is the Israeli Position Softening? No.
Israel inches closer to compromise on Iran uranium enrichment, officials say
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz [Israel] [May.21, 2012]
---- Senior Israeli official says that publicly, Israel will continue to talk tough on Iran to make sure the six powers don't rush into an agreement with Tehran.
Netanyahu: Iran Must Stop All Uranium Enrichment, Give Away Existing Uranium
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [May 21, 2012]
---- Just one day after his government hinted at a compromise, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying Israel was willing to accept Iran’s civilian enrichment of uranium up to 3.5 percent, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a new speech in which he rescinded the offer and issued new demands. In his new speech, Netanyahu is now demanding that Iran not only close the Qom facility, but stop all enrichment of uranium and agree to give away all of its existing fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor and the Bushehr power plant. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/21/netanyahu-iran-must-stop-all-uranium-enrichment-give-away-existing-uranium/print/ 
IAEA Negotiations with Iran
U.N. Nuclear Monitor Says Deal With Iran Is Near
By Alan Cowell et al., New York Times [May 22, 2012]
---- In an apparent breakthrough, the leader of the United Nations nuclear monitoring arm said on Tuesday that despite unspecified differences, he expects to sign a deal with Iran “quite soon” on the arrangements for an investigation into potential military applications of Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. During his visit to Tehran, Mr. Amano said, there was an “important development” on the agency’s push to reach what it calls a “structured agreement” to determine how its inspectors would conduct an investigation into possible military applications of the Iranian program. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/world/middleeast/un-nuclear-monitor-strikes-deal-with-iran-reports-say.html?_r=1&hp&pagewanted=all 
(Video)IAEA Near Iran Inspection Deal but will US Insist on End to Enrichment?
From The Real News Network [May 22, 2012]
---- Gareth Porter: If US demands Iran give up its right to enrich for peaceful purposes, no real agreement is possible. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmHclDqfRDY&feature=autoplay&list=UUrmm_7RDZJeQzq2-wvmjueg&playnext=1 
Also useful – Jason Ditz, “Iran Pressed IAEA Chief on Leaks, Assassinations,” Antiwar.com [May 21, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/21/report-iran-pushed-iaea-chief-on-leaks-assassinations/ ; and John Glaser, “US Officials: IAEA-Iran Deal Won’t Interrupt Sanctions,” Antiwar.com [May 22, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/22/us-officials-iaea-iran-deal-wont-interrupt-sanctions/print/ 
What Happened in Baghdad?
U.S.Hard Line in Failed Iran Talks Driven by Israel
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [May 25, 2012]
---- Negotiations between Iran and the United States and other members of the P5+1 group in Baghdad ended in fundamental disagreement Thursday over the position of the P5+1 offering no relief from sanctions against Iran. The two sides agreed to meet again in Moscow Jun. 18 and 19, but only after Iran had threatened not to schedule another meeting, because the P5+1 had originally failed to respond properly to its five-point plan. The prospects for agreement are not likely to improve before that meeting, however, mainly because of an inflexible U.S. diplomatic posture that reflects President Barack Obama's need to bow to the demands of Israel and the U.S. Congress on Iran policy. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=107920 
Irannuclear talks a 'complete failure,' says Iranian diplomat
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [May 25, 2012]
---- After two days of withering and sometimes combative nuclear talks, Iran and six world powers put a positive spin on the outcome. Both Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers spoke of "some common ground" – most importantly a willingness by Iran to address its sensitive 20 percent uranium enrichment program, which is technically not far from weapons grade – that will drive the next round of talks set for mid-June in Moscow. Yet even the official statements pointed toward a chasm of mismatched expectations that has only widened in Baghdad, in Iran's view at least. The setback risks future deadlock that could trigger another Mideast war: Israel  has threatened military strikes against Iran's nuclear program, if it is not verifiably limited to peaceful purposes. "I think it was a complete failure, in terms of content," says an Iranian diplomat inside the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The more they talk, the worse it gets," said the diplomat about one of the final sessions. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0525/Iran-nuclear-talks-a-complete-failure-says-Iranian-diplomat 
The Nuclear Talks with Iran
By Flynt Leverett, Race for Iran [May 25, 2012]
---- Flynt appeared yesterday on Ian Masters’ Background Briefing, a nationally syndicated public affairs program, to discuss the nuclear talks between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic; you can hear him here . One of Flynt’s basic points is that the Obama Administration seems no more prepared to deal with the big issues that will determine diplomatic success or failure—namely, accepting the principle and the reality of internationally safeguarded enrichment in Iran and recognizing that a negotiated solution will necessarily entail significant sanctions relief—than it was during its initial experience in multilateral negotiations with the Islamic Republic during 2009-2010. Until that changes, the chance for anything other than failure or, at best, an extremely narrow deal of little strategic significance—is negligible. http://www.raceforiran.com/flynt-leverett-on-the-nuclear-talks-with-iran 
Iran and the West’s Taxi Meter
By Meir Javedanfar, The Diplomat [May 26, 2012]
---- So why is it taking its time? And what does this strategy tell us? First and foremost, the fact that the P5+1 are in no hurry to make a viable offer to Iran is a clear sign that the Obama administration, as well as other members of the P5+1, don’ believe that Iran is making a bomb – at least not yet. Otherwise, a much better offer than the one made in Baghdad would have been made to stop enrichment at 20 percent now, before it’s too late. It also suggests that the P5+1 clearly believe that Israel isn’t going to attack Iran’s facilities this year, giving them more time to negotiate with Tehran. But the behavior of the P5+1 also indicates that they believe that sanctions are working, and that biding their time could therefore serve them better. Now that very costly sanctions have been imposed against Iran, it seems that the West wants the clock to keep ticking away. And, as the U.S seems to believe that Khamenei isn’t currently pursuing a bomb, the West seems determined to run the meter so high that Iran will eventually be forced to ask the U.S to stop, and negotiate on its terms.http://the-diplomat.com/2012/05/26/iran-and-the-west%E2%80%99s-taxi-meter/ 
Also useful – Juan Cole, “Iran, UNSC talks have the effect of Averting War,” Informed Comment [May 24, 2012] http://www.juancole.com/2012/05/iran-unsc-talks-have-the-effect-of-averting-war.html ; Laura Rozen, “Iran Nuclear Talks in Baghdad Almost Foundered in Final Hours,” Al-Monitor [May 26, 2012] http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/05/iran-nuclear-talks--in-baghdad-almost-foundered-in-final-hours/ ; John Tirman, “Iran Nuke Talks: Don't Blow It,” MIT Center for International Studies [May 25, 2012] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-tirman/iran-nuclear-talks_b_1546013.html ; and “Iran insists on right to continue uranium enrichment at Baghdad nuclear talks,” Haaretz [Israel][May.24, 2012] http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/iran-insists-on-right-to-continue-uranium-enrichment-at-baghdad-nuclear-talks-1.432496 
The United States
The Containment Trap:Three things the Obama Administration should avoid
By Michael Singh, Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy [May 24, 2012]
---- Avoiding containment, therefore, has less to do with declarations about the future, and far more to do with sound strategy today: We must prevent ourselves from being maneuvered into a corner where we have little choice other than to accept containment as our de facto Iran policy. Instead of emphasizing what we may do if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, or is on the cusp of doing so, the U.S. should focus on denying Tehran the necessary building blocks to reach that point -- in other words, a nuclear weapons capability.
USSenate approves new Iran sanctions bill
From Reuters [May 22, 2012]
---- The US Senate unanimously approved on Monday a package of new economic sanctions on Iran's oil sector just days ahead of a meeting in Baghdad between major world powers and Tehran. The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in December and now the Senate and House must work out their differences in the legislation. The new sanctions build on penalties signed into law by US President Barack Obama in December against foreign institutions trading with Iran's central bank. Those sanctions already have cut deeply into Iran's oil trade. The new package would extend sanctions to cover dealings with the National Iranian Oil Co and National Iranian Tanker Co, aiming to close a potential loophole that could have allowed Tehran, the world's third-largest petroleum exporter, to continue selling some of its oil. http://www.jpost.com/IranianThreat/News/Article.aspx?id=270919 
Difficult Path to a Nuclear Agreement
By Hassan Vazini, IranReview [Iran] [May 26, 2012]
---- One may say that holding three intense sessions in Baghdad in addition to more bilateral talks on the sidelines followed by an agreement to continue negotiations in Moscow, are all good indications that both sides are trying to make something come out of nuclear talks. Although this willingness to make negotiations successful is per se promising, it should be noted that Iran’s nuclear case has not evolved into an international concern so easily as to be resolved with such speed. The main reason for the failure was West’s demands which are still imbalanced and do not take Iran’s realities and national interests into account. Their proposed package still considers Iran’s nuclear program a red line while a comprehensive approach is necessary for reaching an agreement. In other words, resolution of this dispute totally depends on the West which should include a host of economic, political, legal and regional issues as well as Iran’s discontent with the past behavior of the West in its package. http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Difficult_Path_to_a_Nuclear_Agreement.htm 
(Video)Iran nuclear negotiations
[FB – Christiane Amanpour interviews an Iranian nuclear expert]
Also useful – Ben Blanchard, “Iran's Ahmadinejad to visit as China slams new sanctions,” Reuters [May 23, 2012] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/23/us-china-iran-idUSBRE84M05A20120523 
Obama, Israel, and Iran
By Ira Sharkansky, JerusalemPost [May 27p, 2012]
---- Ha'aretz is the paper of Israel's intellectual establishment. And befitting that status, it is left of center, and generally critical of government policy. The posture of its editors affects their treatment of news as well as opinion. Ari Shavit is not among the most predictably left-wing writers of Ha'aretz, but he does carry the title of Senior Corespondent and is a member of the Editorial Board. Thus, we should pay attention to his recent piece… “The international community and international public opinion are preoccupied with King Netanyahu these days - will he or won't he attack? But instead of focusing on a statesman who isn't supposed to save the world from Iran's nuclear program, it would be better to focus on the leader whose historic role is just that. In the past 40 months Barack Obama has been betraying his office. Will he wake up in the next four months, come to his senses and change his ways ?" http://www.zcommunications.org/obama-israel-and-iran-by-ira-sharkansky 
No gaps exist between the U.S. and Israel on Iran nuclear program, says official
From Haaretz [Israel] [May 26, 2012]
---- Senior official involved in Baghdad talks says U.S. is pressuring Iran because it perceives it as a real threat to world security, not because of Israeli pressure. The American team had a three-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with National Security advisor Yaakov Amidror, and a number of other senior Israeli officials who deal with the Iran issue, in order to update them on the talks in Baghdad. According to the U.S. official, the Israeli government was the first to be updated by them on what happened in Baghdad after the talks were over. "We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government," the official said. "This shows how much trust and security we have in our ties with Israel." http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/diplomania/no-gaps-exist-between-the-u-s-and-israel-on-iran-nuclear-program-says-official-1.432748# 
Also useful – Michael Adler, “Israel Likely to Strike Iran Reactor If Plutonium Risk Rises,” [May 24, 2012] http://defense.aol.com/2012/05/24/israel-likely-to-strike-iran-reactor-if-plutonium-risk-rises ; and (Video) “Israeli military leaders speak out against Iran strike,” 8 minutes [May 24, 2012] http://warincontext.org/2012/05/24/video-israeli-military-leaders-speak-out-against-iran-strike/ 
I fear this terrible massacre will be the beginning of a long civil war in Syria
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent [UK] [May 27, 2012]
---- Parts of Syria are convulsed by civil war, while in other areas life continues almost as normal. At the same moment as more than 30 children had their throats cut and dozens of civilians were killed by shelling in Houla in central Syria on Friday, people in Damascus were picnicking on the slopes of Mount Qassioun, overlooking the capital.Could the present stalemate change as a result of the death of all those people in Houla on Friday? Internationally, the atrocity, if confirmed in detail, will increase pressure for foreign support for the insurgency and tighter sanctions on Syria. Weapons from Saudi Arabia are now reportedly reaching the rebels and their degree of co-ordination in the fighting at Rastan is greater than a few months ago. A better-armed opposition will be too strong to be suppressed by the government, but the outcome is most likely to be prolonged civil war rather than a clear victory by either side. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-i-fear-this-terrible-massacre-will-be-the-beginning-of-a-long-civil-war-in-syria-7791348.html 
(Video)Inside Syria: The peace that never came
From Aljazeera [May 27, 2012] – A review of events from the past week.
Also useful – John Glaser, “US Prepares to Vet Syrian Rebels for Indirect Shipments of Arms,” Antiwar.com [May 24, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/24/us-prepares-to-vet-syrian-rebels-for-indirect-shipments-of-arms/ ; and New York Times, “Conflict Rooted in Syria Spreads to Lebanon’s Capital,” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/world/middleeast/syrian-unrest-sparks-gun-battles-in-lebanon.html?ref=world 
SAUDI ARABIAAND THE PERSIAN GULF COUNTRIES
Gulf Union Put Off
By Rasheed Abul-Samh,
---- Perhaps it was because of the outcry among citizens of many Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, worried that their unique social and political systems would be steamrollered by their giant neighbour Saudi Arabia, that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal announced Monday night in Riyadh, after a GCC summit meeting, that the planned union of GCC states had been put off until December. Last year Saudi Arabia led a GCC force of 1,500 troops that went into Bahrain at the request of the ruling Al-Khalifa family to help put down a rebellion by the majority Shia population. The GCC, which was formed in 1981 following the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the onset of the Iran-Iraq war, is composed of the six Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. … With so many doubts and fears in the minds of GCC citizens, it remains to be seen how Saudi Arabia can pull off a union that manages to maintain the unique differences of each Gulf state, while at the same time bringing the benefits of unified economic and military policies in a region that is far from calm and friendly. http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2012/1098/re6.htm 
Also useful – Robert Haddick, “The Persian Gulf Needs Its Own NATO And America needs to lead it,” Los Angeles Times [MAY 18, 2012] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/05/18/the_persian_gulf_needs_its_own_nato?print=yes&hidecomments=yes&page=full 
THE NEW IAEA REPORT ON IRAN
U.N. Finds Uranium in Iran Enriched to Higher Level
By William J. Broad, New York Times [May 25, 2012]
---- International atomic inspectors in Iran have detected traces of uranium enriched to levels of purity higher than the Iranians have previously disclosed, according to a new report on Tehran’s nuclear program made public on Friday. The report, by the International Atomic Energy Agency, an arm of the United Nations based in Vienna, said its inspectors had taken environmental samples at a uranium-enrichment plant in a mountain bunker and discovered purities up to 27 percent. Diplomats and nuclear experts said the rise appeared in fact to reflect honest technical missteps rather than evidence that Iran had embarked on secret enrichments at higher purities. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/26/world/middleeast/un-finds-uranium-in-iran-enriched-to-higher-level.html?_r=1&ref=world 
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security
Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran
By the IAEA Director General [May 25, 2012]
Q&A: IRAN SANCTIONS
---- The United States and European Union have imposed new sanctions targeting Iranian oil sales as part of a drive to increase international pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
What international sanctions are already in place on Iran? Which individual countries have imposed sanctions on Iran? Will there be a worldwide embargo on Iranian oil sales? Which countries are opposed to an embargo?http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15983302 
MORE ABOUT THE MEK
Banned Iranian terror group lobbies for legitimacy on Capitol Hill
By Chris McGreal, The Guardian [May 22, 2012]
---- A banned terrorist group is conducting what members of Congress describe as one of the most effective lobbying campaigns seen on Capitol Hill, winning support from politicians even in the face of a government investigation of its legality. Former heads of the CIA, FBI, homeland security and the US military have joined members of Congress of both major parties in backing a legal action by the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran , known as the MEK, to be removed from the US list of proscribed terrorist organisations. But the openness of the campaign and the large amounts of money backing it, with donations to congressional campaign funds and large payments for speeches in support of the MEK, has prompted an investigation into potential breaches of laws against financial dealings with banned organisations and whether the campaign amounts to material support for terrorism. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/22/iranian-terror-group-lobbies-capitol-hill