July 29, 2012
Hello All – Last week’s lower-level talks in Istanbul between representatives of the EU and Iran about Iran’s nuclear program came and went with little indication about “progress” and no time set for a further meeting. It appears that the US-led side of the negotiations is waiting to see if and how the strong economic sanctions (economic warfare) imposed on Iran four weeks ago weakens Iran’s negotiating stance. Updates on the negotiations and the sanctions’ impact are linked below, as are articles about the growing USmilitary presence in the Persian Gulf.
Perhaps the most important new development in the US/Israel – Iran stand-off over the last week was the growing salience of the Iran issue in the US presidential campaign. While it seems unlikely that “Iran” will have any impact on the actual election, outside perhaps of Florida, the pledges by both Romney and Obama to “stand by Israel” etc. will only increase tensions and provide further impediments to negotiations.
Again this week, the civil war in Syria dominated the Middle East news, though as Robert Fisk (linked below) reaffirms, much of the US-inspired action around Syria is actually directed at Iran and its nuclear program. In the Syria section below, I’ve linked useful information about the current state of the fighting, US strategies, and two useful analyses of the Russian perspective on Syrian events.
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 email@example.com .
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Iran: Nuclear Negotiators Meet; No Progress Reported
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [July 25, 2012]
---- Envoys for Iran and the group of six nations negotiating with it over its nuclear program met in Istanbul on Tuesday in an effort to narrow differences. There was no indication whether they made progress, and no indication when another meeting might be held. The discussions followed a meeting on July 3 between lower-level technical experts from both sides. The six nations, the five permanent Security Council members and Germany, have demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, export its stockpile and close a heavily fortified enrichment facility. Iran, which has insisted its nuclear program is peaceful, has indicated a possible willingness to discuss these demands but wants all sanctions terminated and an acknowledgment of its right to enrich uranium. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/world/middleeast/iran-nuclear-negotiators-meet-no-progress-reported.html?ref=world&pagewanted=print 
Poncein the Gulf Iran and the Time of "Last Resort"
By Vijay Prashad, Counterpunch [July 25, 2012]
---- In early July, the United States Navy moved a converted transport ship, USS Ponce, into the Persian Gulf to its temporary home off Bahrain’s waters. The Ponce is a floating forward base for military operations in the region. This ship, originally built in 1966 but now retrofitted, is a platform for U.S. Special Forces in the region. It uses an array of helicopters as well as marine divers whose putative work is to assist minesweeping ships but whose other purpose is underwater sabotage. The arrival of the Ponce, the first of a number of “afloat forward staging bases”, raises the capacity of the U.S. forces in the region. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/25/ponce-in-the-gulf/ 
US, Iranian Militaries' Growing Focus on the Persian Gulf
By Paul Mutter, PBS, [July 28, 2012]
---- The Iranian military is now downplaying the bombast, as the United States is making a new show of force in the region ahead of a large U.S.-Israeli defense exercise set for October. Tensions in the strategic chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz have increased ahead of that and another U.S.-led military exercise in the region scheduled for the autumn. Earlier this week, the U.S. Navy confirmed the "early deployment" of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis to the Persian Gulf. The Stennis will replace one of the two carriers currently operating in the region, which along with their escorts are to be augmented by more minesweepers, ostensibly to participate in the "International Mine Countermeasures Exercise, 2012." The new deployments come just days after a tense moment when a U.S. Navy ship mistakenly shot up a fishing boat out of the UAE, killing one of the fishermen. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2012/07/xxx-us-iranian-militaries-growing-focus-on-the-persian-gulf.html#ixzz222h4MQ2c 
Also useful- John Glaser, “Amid Threats to Iran, US Air Force Says Bunker-Busters Ready To Go”
Antiwar.com [July 26, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/26/amid-threats-to-iran-us-air-force-says-bunker-busters-ready-to-go/ ; Jason Ditz, “With Eye on Further Escalation, US Paints Iranian Naval Defenses as Threat,” Antiwar.com [July 26, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/26/with-eye-on-further-escalation-us-paints-iranian-naval-defenses-as-threat/print/ ; and Nasser Karimi, “Iran: No Plans to Close Strategic Strait of Hormuz,” Associated Press [July 23, 2012] http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/iran-plans-close-strategic-strait-hormuz-16834578#.UA6NPaA_e9U 
Sanctions and the shaping of Iran’s “Resistance Economy”
By Farideh Farhi July 27th, 2012
---- The International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) has published a useful brief aptly subtitled, “Killing them softly”, about the impact of sanctions on the lives of ordinary people who live in Iran, particularly women and other vulnerable groups such as Afghan refugee women and children. I recommend it to everyone who thinks that sanctions can be potential instruments for positive change in Iran. The ICAN brief, while using the words of activists in Iran, does a good job of explaining how draconian sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union ultimately harm Iranians who are caught in a battle that has very little do with their dreams of living decent lives and impacting their government’s policies through civil activism. www.lobelog.com/sanctions-and-the-shaping-of-iran%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cresistance-economy%E2%80%9D/ 
Iranians Protest Sanctions’ Impoverishing Effects
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [July 23, 2012]
---- Iranians protested in the streets in Nishabur on Monday, about 600 miles east of Tehran, in a rally against the steep hike in food prices which has intensified since new US-led economic sanctions took hold months ago. The sanctions are having impoverishing effects on millions of innocent Iranians. The harsh and irrational economic measures could also have the effect of making conflict more likely. Columbia University Professor Gary Sick has called the sanctions effort ”the equivalent of a blockade. It’s an act of war.” Trita Parsi, of the National Iranian American Council, wrote back in March that “the sanctions strategy on Iran will very soon reach [the] point” of escalating the situation with Iran to one of “two policies: Regime change or war. Or both.” http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/23/iranians-protest-sanctions-impoverishing-effects/ 
IRANAND THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIN
Most Likely to Attack Iran
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com [July 27, 2012]
---- In his Bloomberg column this morning, Goldberg argues that Israeli officials should pray for Obama’s victory in the November election. … In other words, Obama will be freer to attack Iran than Romney would be because Democrats, progressives, and the “international community” (that’s neocon for: Europeans) passively accept or even cheer for violence, aggression and executive power abuses when ordered by a sophisticated, urbane, Constitutional Law Professor with Good Progressivism in his heart, and only cause a messy ruckus when done by an icky, religious, overtly nationalistic Republican. www.salon.com/2012/07/27/most_likely_to_attack_iran/ 
Romney to Back Israel’s Right to Strike Iran, Aide Says
By Ashley Parker, New York Times [July 29, 2012]
---- In a speech here Sunday evening, Mitt Romney plans to assert that he respects Israel’s right to take pre-emptive action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear capabilities that could be used for a weapon.
Dan Senor, a senior Romney foreign policy adviser who helped orchestrate Mr. Romney’s stop here, told reporters in a briefing before the speech that Mr. Romney would express — several times — that it was “unacceptable” for Iran to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons, including his view that Israel reserves the right to take action against Iran. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/romney-to-back-israels-right-to-strike-iran-aide-says/?hp 
Also useful– From Reuters, “Israel denies report Obama aide shared Iran war plan,” [July 29, 2012] http://news.yahoo.com/obama-aide-tells-israel-iran-attack-plan-paper-061444925.html ; and Barak Ravid, “One day before Romney's visit, Obama to sign act expanding military cooperation with Israel,” Haaretz [Israel] [July 26, 2012] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/one-day-before-romney-s-visit-obama-to-sign-act-expanding-military-cooperation-with-israel-1.453860 
Barak: Nuclear Iran far more dangerous than preemptive Israeli strike
By Gili Cohen, Haaretz [July 25, 2012]
---- Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted Wednesday that Israel may attack Iran if sanctions fail to rein in Tehran's nuclear program. Speaking during a lecture at the IDF's National Security College, Barak said Israel might have to make "tough and crucial decisions" about its security. "I am well aware of the difficulties involved in thwarting Iran's attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon," Barak said. "However, it is clear to me that without a doubt, dealing with the threat itself will be far more complicated, far more dangerous and far more costly in resources and human life." http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/barak-nuclear-iran-far-more-dangerous-than-preemptive-israeli-strike-1.453645 
Also useful – Amos Harel, “Regarding Iran, U.S. and Israel not on the same page at all,” Haaretz [Israel][July 18, 2012] | http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/regarding-iran-u-s-and-israel-not-on-the-same-page-at-all-1.451796 
THE BULGARIAN BOMBING
The main import of the Bulgarian terrorist bombing lies in Israel’s success or failure in pinning the responsibility on Iran (or Hezbollah, etc.), In his video report, Gareth Porter gives a good overview of the lack of evidence behind Israel’s claims; and his two articles provide much greater detail about the strategy behind Israel’s accusations. On a more mundane level, there is still little understanding of the identity of the bomber, though Bulgarian authorities presented arguments this week that the bombing was not the work of a lone attacker, with the bomb itself being exploded from a remote location.
(Video) Bulgaria Bombings and Iran
From Real News Network, an interview with Gareth Porter [July 27, 2012]
Also useful – Gareth Porter, ”Which ‘Terror Plots’ are Relevant to Burgas?” Inter Press Service [July 28, 2012] http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2012/07/27/which-terror-plots-are-relevant-to-burgas/ ; Gareth Porter, “Israel Pins Bombing on Hezbollah to Get EU Terror Ruling,” Inter Press Service [July 24, 2012] http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/israel-pins-bombing-on-hezbollah-to-get-eu-terror-ruling ; Agence France Press, “EU rejects Israeli request to blacklist Hezbollah,” [July 25, 2012] http://news.yahoo.com/eu-refuses-israeli-request-blacklist-hezbollah-001813930.html ; John Glaser, ”Israel, Iran Trade Accusations Over Bulgaria Bombing,” Antiwar.com [July 26, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/26/israel-iran-trade-accusations-over-bulgaria-bombing/ ; and Novinte [press service] [Bulgaria], “Headshots of Bulgarian Bus Terrorist Attack Perpetrator Leaked,” [July27, 2012’ http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141747 
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
The unsuccessful effort by the United States, ten days ago at the United Nations, to impose a new round of sanctions against Syria – with the possibilities of military intervention built into the resolution – signaled the collapse of near-term prospects that might end the fighting in Syria via negotiations. As illustrated by the commentaries linked below, there is a wide range of perspectives on how the fighting is going and how long the Assad regime will be able to hold out. For good day-to-day coverage of what’s happening on the ground in Syria, I recommend the blog by Joshua Landis, “Syria Comment” (www.joshualandis.com/blog ), Paul Woodward’s “War in Context” (www.warincontext.org ), Bartolo’s blog/Syria News (http://warisacrime.org/blog/47631 ), and the daily news programs from Al-Jazeera, www.aljazeera.com .
Syrian War of Lies and Hypocrisy
By Robert Fisk, The Independent [UK] [July 29, 2012]
---- Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare. … And all the while, we forget the "big" truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!
Syria embodies the end of colonialism
By Rami G. Khouri, The Daily Star [Lebanon] [July 21, 2012]
---- The battles in Damascus, the lethal bombing of the meeting of top security officials Wednesday, and the Free Syrian Army’s capture of several border posts on Thursday indicate that the situation in Syria will continue to evolve as it has for the past 16 months: Incremental and continuing military and diplomatic advances by the opposition groups will combine with the government’s inability to do anything beyond using brute force to quell the rebellion, leading to the steady contraction of the regime’s control of Syrian land and people. Everything going on at the U.N. Security Council is now irrelevant, and has been for about a month, for the center of gravity of this political struggle shifted some time ago to military developments inside Syria. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Columnist/2012/Jul-21/181417-syria-embodies-the-end-of-colonialism.ashx#axzz21xHVY1BK 
The anti-war left's concerns over Syria are understandable, but ill-founded
By Richard Seymour, The Guardian [July 26, 2012]
---- One of the major sources of hesitation over the revolt has been its militarisation. The co-ordinating committees have tended to argue against this trend, as it is the ground on which Assad is decidedly stronger. Assad's military crackdowns were, however, inevitably going to produce an armed response. Even if politics, rather than military might, is the deciding factor here, it seems implausible that people can defeat such a regime without being armed….The evidence is that despite attempts at co-optation, this is still very much a popular revolution, and the initiative lies with the citizens organized in the committees and militias. And their victory would be a defeat for everyone who thinks Arabs are incapable of freeing themselves from oppression. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/26/antiwar-left-syria-uprising 
The Fighting Inside Syria
From Jadaliyya [July 2012]
---- In Damascus, members of various local coordinating committees have been organizing for three days to find shelter for residents of areas of the city which have witnessed heavy clashes between the the Syrian regime army and the Free Syrian Army. Activists have been circulating maps on social networking sites showing refugees the best paths to schools that have been reopened in the past few days as shelters. They have mostly been bringing people to safety on foot, as there is very little petrol left for cars. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/6518/damascus-developments_updated 
(Video) Aleppo: Syria's key battleground?
From Aljazeera [July 29, 2012] – 25 minutes
---- As the Free Syrian Army makes gains in Aleppo, we analyse the government's strategy to retake the border province. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidesyria/2012/07/20127298523817590.html 
US deepens support for armed Syrian rebels
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [July 28, 2012]
---- The U.S. government has authorized a U.S. group to provide financial and logistical support to the armed Syrian resistance. The waiver was received from the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) last week, Brian Sayers, of the Syrian Support Group, told Al- Monitor in an interview Friday. But one Syrian source, speaking anonymously, suggested the Syrian Support Group’s mission is not only about lobbying the US government to provide support to the FSA, but also the reverse: to help turn the FSA into a more organized entity that could receive intelligence and other assistance from Western security agencies. To that end, all nine members of the FSA’s military command this week signed on to a previously unpublished “Declaration of Principles” pledging their commitment to pluralism and democracy. http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/07/1464/us-deepens-support-for-armed-syrian-rebels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-deepens-support-for-armed-syrian-rebels 
In Syria conflict, U.S. struggles to fill intelligence gaps
By Greg Miller and Joby Warrick, WashingtonPost [July 23, 2012]
---- Sixteen months into the uprising in Syria, the United States is struggling to develop a clear understanding of opposition forces inside the country, according to U.S. officials who said that intelligence gaps have impeded efforts to support the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. spy agencies have expanded their efforts to gather intelligence on rebel forces and Assad’s regime in recent months, but they are still largely confined to monitoring intercepted communications and observing the conflict from a distance, officials said. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-syria-conflict-us-struggles-to-fill-intelligence-gaps/2012/07/23/gJQAW8DG5W_print.html 
Also useful – From the Los AngelesTimes,”CIA absence from Syria a setback for U.S., officials say,” http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-cia-20120725,0,6946873.story 
Other External Forces
Russia's Fear of Radical Islam Drives Its Support for Assad
By Amal Mudallali, Al-Monitor [July 27, 2012]
---- It was no coincidence that Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution on Syria just hours after twin attacks killed a moderate Muslim official and injured the Mufti in the central Russian republic, Tartarstan, last week. Russia sees the assassination as a direct attack on moderate Islam by Islamic radicals. And the veto, Russia’s third since the Syrian crisis began, is grounded in a deep-rooted policy of war against one enemy: Islamic radicals. Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because of a strategic relationship  and what it views as the same fight in Syria and Russia against the Salafi and extremist Islamic threat. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/russias-muslim-problem-is-preven.html 
It's Time to Engage Iran, Russia on Syria
By Andrew Parasiliti, Al-Monitor [July 25, 2012]
---- The civil war in Syria should give pause to those who are fixated on a timeline for Assad's fall. The Syrian president has taken some hits in the past week but has settled in for a no-holds-barred fight to hold onto power. Absent a substantial military intervention by the US or others, the military balance remains with Assad, including in Aleppo, where anti-regime militias have made a major push to seize control. Another reason reports of Assad's demise may be premature is because of the regional power struggle that is playing out in Syria. The US has until now subcontracted the armed insurgency to the patronage of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Many in the Gulf Cooperation Council states consider Syria a sectarian battlefield to check Iranian and Shiite power and influence. … http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/battle-for-syria-just-getting-st.html