Historians Against the War

Sign the Statement

HAW Conference

Speakers Bureau

Press Releases and Statements

Virtual Movement Archive


Teaching Resources

GI Resistance

Civil Liberties and Academic Freedom


Join our Listserv

Download HAW images


About us / Contact us

Sunday, July 29, 2012

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - July 29, 2012

Historians Against the War is posting Frank Brodhead's "Iran War Weekly,' as a helpful resource for our members and friends. Frank earned a PhD in history at Princeton University and has co-authored several books on US foreign policy. He is a scholar and political activist who has worked with peace and social justice movements for many years. In 2010-2011 he produced the "Afghanistan War Weekly," which was widely used by antiwar groups across the country.
Iran War Weekly
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 US military 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 fbrodhead@aol.com.
Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
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
Ponce in 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.
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.
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."
Most Likely to Attack Iran
---- 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 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," 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," [July 27, 2012' http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=141747
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
Damascus Developments
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 Strategies/Perspectives
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, Washington Post [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 Angeles Times,"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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

[haw-info] Update: 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill

Update: 2013 Defense Appropriations Bill
Thanks to folks who made the calls!
There were a long list of amendments to this bill, most of which were brought to a vote. Perhaps the most important was an amendment by Barbara Lee, which would have limited expenditures for Afghanistan to the safe and orderly withdrawal of all US troops. This amendment was defeated with 107 Ayes,312 Noes and 12 not voting. One bright spot is that by a small margin, the majority of Democrats supported the Lee amendment, putting themselves in direct opposition to the White House on this crucial issue.
For roll-call on the Lee Amendment see:
The overall defense bill was whittled down by $1 billion as the result of a bipartisan amendment co-sponsored by Reps. Frank and Mulvaney, This still left a Pentagon budget of $606 billion for the next fiscal year.(In case anyone thinks this is a small amount of money to keep us all safe and sound, bear in mind that nuclear weapons, military construction and some other items are not included.They are in other appropriations bills.)
The not so inspiring total for the overall Defense Appropriations bill, which includes $88 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan was 326 Ayes,90 Noes and 15 Not voting. For the roll-call on the overall Defense Appropriations see:
Is this the end of the process? No.
This will still have to go to the Senate and will ultimately become part of a big budget fight, perhaps as late as the "lame duck" session in November. This is not more of the usual. Because of the Budget Control Act, passed last August, appropriations for the military, which exceed a cap (as this bill does)will come directly out of discretionary domestic spending.
Carolyn Eisenberg for the HAW Steering Committee

Sunday, July 22, 2012

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - July 22, 2012

Historians Against the War is posting Frank Brodhead's "Iran War Weekly,' as a helpful resource for our members and friends. Frank earned a PhD in history at Princeton University and has co-authored several books on US foreign policy. He is a scholar and political activist who has worked with peace and social justice movements for many years. In 2010-2011 he produced the "Afghanistan War Weekly," which was widely used by antiwar groups across the country.

Iran War Weekly
July 22, 2012
Hello All – The US/Israel–Iran conflict over Iran's nuclear program was overshadowed this week by a dramatic increase in the fighting in Syria.  With the armed insurgency now reaching inside Damascus and Aleppo, and inflicting mortal wounds on the Assad regime's inner circle, some of the good/useful reading linked below addresses the question of the implications for the war in Syria on Iran, and the possibilities that the fighting will spill over into the region. 
One illustration of the hair-trigger tensions in the region was the immediate Israeli threat to respond against Iran and/or Hezbollah for their alleged role in the terrorist bombing in Bulgaria.  This is examined below as an example of the way that media bias reflects the power interests of ruling elites in the United States and Israel, greasing the path to war in the absence of critical thought.
Also among the good/useful reading linked below, I especially recommend the essay by two Iranian scholars on why Iran does not want a nuclear weapon, Trita Parsi's essay on the dynamics that make war with Iran appear "inevitable," and the several essays on Syria's armed opposition and the complexities of the uprising against the Assad regime.
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)
The Enmity Conspiracy or How War with Iran Became 'Inevitable'
July 21, 2012
---- The U.S.-Iran conflict has acquired an air of inevitability. The last ten years appear as a slow-motion prequel to a pre-destined outcome: War. While structural factors have helped push the two actors towards confrontation, there has never been anything inevitable about this conflict. Rather, a long series of miscalculated escalations have brought the two states to the current deadlock. Iran and the United States are entrapped in a paradigm of enmity. Within the mindset of this paradigm, both assume the worst about the other's intentions. The two countries are on the brink of war due to this vicious cycle of unending escalation and counter-escalation, born from their unquestioned assumptions and conclusions about each other. Only by revisiting these assumptions and questioning these conclusions can a path towards peace be found. If this pattern is not broken, however, then open war is indeed a likely outcome. But there has never been anything inevitable about this man-made disaster.
Trita Parsi is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. He is the author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States and Single Roll of the Dice – Obama's Diplomacy with Iran.
At the Precipice of War The Military Build-Up in the Persian Gulf
By Ben Schreiner, Counterpunch [July 16, 2012]
---- The familiar menace of U.S. war drums have resumed at a fevered pitch, as Iran finds itself once again firmly within the Pentagon's cross hairs. According to multiple reports, the U.S. is currently in the midst of a massive military build-up in the Persian Gulf on a scale not seen in the region since prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.  The military surge reportedly includes an influx of air and naval forces, ground troops, and even sea drones.  Lest one forgets, the U.S. already has two aircraft carriers and their accompanying striker groups in the region. A growing sense of Iran war fever can also be seen mounting in Washington.  http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/16/at-the-precipice-of-war/
Also useful - Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, "Pentagon Bulks Up Defenses In The Gulf," Wall Street Journal [July 17, 2012] – NB – Unfortunately the WSJ is available on-line only by subscription. The story is summarized by the authors as: "The Pentagon is building a missile-defense radar station at a secret site in Qatar and organizing its biggest-ever minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf, as preparations accelerate for a possible flare-up with Iran, according to U.S. officials. The radar site will complete the backbone of a system designed to defend U.S. interests and allies such as Israel and European nations against Iranian rockets, officials told The Wall Street Journal. The minesweeping exercises, in September, will be the first such multilateral drills in the region, and are expected to be announced by U.S. officials Tuesday."
Iran left to ponder its next move in the Arabian Gulf
By Michael Theodoulou, The National [UAE] [July 2012]
---- Iran's fractious leadership is locked in a vigorous internal debate over whether to stoke tensions in the heavily-militarised Arabian Gulf in response to ever-tightening western sanctions choking its vital oil sector. Tehran's strategy is to keep desultory nuclear talks ticking over until the US elections in November, hoping Barack Obama, the US president, will win a second term. Then, presumably less restrained by Republican and Israeli pressure, Tehran hopes he can offer it a better deal. The US and its Western allies also seem content to play a waiting game, relying on the growing pain of sanctions to force an Iranian compromise on its nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is solely peaceful in nature. What is questionable, however, is how much punishment Iran can passively soak up before November without looking weak at home and abroad. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/iran-left-to-ponder-its-next-move-in-the-arabian-gulf
An Iranian Nuclear Weapon?
There is now a mini-controversy within elite academic circles stimulated by an article by international relations scholar Kenneth Waltz, who argued that the Middle East would be more, not less, stable if Iran had a nuclear weapon. (This debate is summarized by John Glaser at http://antiwar.com/blog/2012/07/19/the-elite-debate-on-iran/.)  In the last issue of the IWW I linked an article by Richard Falk arguing that Waltz was wrong in thinking that "mutual deterrence" would be helpful in the Middle East (http://www.zcommunications.org/the-danger-of-nuclear-deterrence-by-richard-falk). In the article below, two Iranian scholars go further, arguing that Waltz's "realist" argument for nuclear weapons is blind to the realities of both the Middle East and Iran. - FB
Eight Reasons Why Waltz Theory On Nuclear Iran Is Wrong
By Hossein Mousavian and Kaveh Afrasiabi, Al-Monitor [July 16, 2012]
---- In a recent influential article in Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Waltz has challenged the conventional wisdom on Iran's nuclear program and asserted that Iran "should get the bomb." Written by one of America's most influential international-relations theorists, Waltz's article makes a strong case for Iranian nuclear proliferation. He argues that this would bring more stability to the Middle East by ending Israel's destabilizing nuclear monopoly and introducing a much-needed nuclear balance in the turbulent region. Coinciding with the imposition of fresh oil and financial sanctions on Iran by the US and the European Union, Waltz's theoretical contribution challenges western and Israeli policy makers to re-think the wisdom of their coercive approach toward Iran. He argues that sanctions have actually added to Iran's national security threats and thus fueled the country's purported proliferation drive. Although Waltz's arguments — particularly about the destabilizing effects of Israel's nuclear arsenal — make sense, the main problem is that his core assumptions about Iran are simply wrong and do not correspond with Iran's behavior and intentions.
Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University and former Iran nuclear negotiator and author of the new book, Iranian Nuclear Crisis, A Memoir. Kaveh Afrasiabi is a former political science professor at Tehran University, author of books on Iran's foreign affairs and former advisor to Iran's nuclear negotiation team from 2005 to 2006.
Netanyahu Refuses Explicit Iran Attack Threat
By Gareth Porter, Antiwar.com [July 19, 2012]
---- The perception that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening to attack Iran's nuclear facilities unless sanctions and diplomacy succeed in shutting them down has been the driving force in the Iran crisis. But although Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have made some tough statements, especially over the past several months, there is still one gaping hole in the record of their rhetoric on Iran: neither Netanyahu nor Barak has ever made an explicit public statement threatening to attack Iran. The public reticence of Netanyahu and Barak may reflect the fact that the two leaders are not in a position to commit the Israeli government publicly to an attack on Iran. Press reports have portrayed Netanyahu and Barak as representing a distinct minority on the issue in Israel's nine-member "security cabinet." http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2012/07/18/netanyahu-refuses-explicit-iran-attack-threat/
As of today, we don't know the identity of the terrorist who killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.  The US mainstream media's instant willingness to channel Israel's claims that the bomber was working for Iran, Hezbollah, etc. is a good illustration of our propaganda system at work.  It also illustrates how "accidental" war is not simply "random," but is structured by power interests of states, in this case the United States and Israel.  If Israel chooses to "retaliate" against Iran or Hezbollah, the facts of what actually happened in Bulgaria will be quickly buried under an avalanche of biased reporting.
Journalism v. propaganda
July 20, 2012]
---- Almost immediately after a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on Wednesday, Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blamed Iran, an accusation uncritically repeated by most Western media outlets even as Bulgarian investigators warned it would be a "mistake" to assign blame before the attack could be investigated. Now, Israel, along with the U.S., is blaming Hezbollah and, therefore, Iran for the attack. Today's New York Times article by Nicholas Kulish and Eric Schmitt – headlined "Hezbollah Is Blamed for Attack on Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria" – uncritically treats those accusations as confirmed fact despite no evidence being offered for it: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/20/journalism_v_propaganda/
Also useful – Gareth Porter, "Why the Buenos Aires Bombing is a False Indicator on Bulgaria," LobeLog [July 22, 2012] http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/22-5; and Nima Shirazi, "The Insanity of Anti-Iran Propaganda," Wide Asleep in America [July 21, 2012] http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2012/07/the-insanity-of-anti-iran-propaganda.html
The sharp escalation of fighting against the Syrian regime, and its penetration of Damascus and Aleppo, has raised questions about the military capacity of the Syrian government to remain in power.  The Obama administration has now made explicit what was formerly only implicit, that it does not see a negotiated outcome as possible, and that it will support the overthrow of the Assad regime by insurgent forces.  The New York Times and other mainstream media reflected this new gestalt in their coverage this week, writing about plans for a post-Assad Syria.  News sources outside the White House's orbit, however, suggest that an insurgent victory is far from certain, and is at least quite distant.  The question of US/NATO and/or Israeli intervention, therefore, is still on the front burner.  In the articles and essays linked below, I've compressed those reporting the fighting in and around Syria, giving more space to stories addressing the role of Iran in the conflict, and the implications for Iran of the changing relation of forces within Syria.
For very good day-to-day coverage of what's happening on the ground in Syria, I recommend the blog by Joshua Landis, "Syria Comment," and Paul Woodward's "War in Context."  Also very useful are Juan Cole's"Informed Comment" and the daily news programs from Al-Jazeera, clustered at "Inside Syria." – FB
Syria: The War on the Ground
Backing Horses in Syria: The Battle of Damascus
By Binoy Kampmark, Counterpunch [July 19, 2012]
---- While the Russians are being painted as international law's bogeymen, indifferent to choosing sides in a conflict when the only side to pick can only ever be that of peace, the Syrian opposition forces are nibbling, if not slaughtering their way, into view with their recent killings in Damascus. There is little doubt that the killings being inflicted by the Assad regime are reprehensible and need to cease, but that is ultimately a matter that Syria will have to contend with.  When civilians die at the hands of government forces, quivers of indignation and rage are felt outside the country by anti-Assad regimes who express a partisan interest in the conflict while simulating disinterestedness.  But the Syrian opposition has also relinquished its credentials as a body of peace makers. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/19/the-battle-of-damascus/
(Video) Back from Syria, Reporter David Enders Says Assad Regime Crumbling to "Grassroots Rebellion"
From Democracy Now! [July 19, 2012]
---- As the battle for Damascus rages on, we're joined by reporter David Enders, special correspondent for McClatchy, based in Beirut, Lebanon. He has been to Syria four times this year, most recently in June, and is returning there shortly. "The [Syrian] government [is] crumbling under the weight of a massive rebellion. It simply can't put it down," Enders says. "Without the aid of the international community, Syrians are largely doing it themselves." http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/19/back_from_syria_reporter_david_enders
(Video) What is Really Happening in Syria?
By Tariq Ali, Stop the War Coalition [July 18, 2012] – 4 minutes
Also useful – Juan Cole, "Top Ten Implications of the Damascus Bombing," Informed Comment [July 19, 2012] http://www.juancole.com/2012/07/top-ten-implications-of-the-damascus-bombing.html; Democracy Now! "Bomber Strikes Syrian Regime in Damascus, Killing Assad's Defense Minister, Brother-in-Law,"  [July 18, 2012] http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/18/bomber_strikes_syrian_regime_in_damascus; Aljazeera 'Syrian conflict: The beginning of the end?" – 25 minutes http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2012/07/20127189020730553.html; Robert Fisk, "Assassinations On An Epic Scale," The Independent [UK] [July 19, 2012] http://www.zcommunications.org/assassinations-on-an-epic-scale-but-syria-rebels-will-not-claim-their-greatest-prize-by-robert-fisk
Problems of the Syrian Opposition
Syria's rebels gaining momentum, but U.S. officials still can't identify a leader
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers [July 20, 2012]
---- As rebels rack up important victories that could hasten the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials are still struggling to identify a credible opposition authority to keep fragile Syria from civil war once the leader is gone. The main opposition groups Washington supports lack cohesion, credibility and, most importantly, command over the armed rebels who on Friday said they were sending reinforcements to Damascus for battles that could determine whether the four-decade Assad family dynasty survives. Syrian academics and technocrats – almost all of them exiles – who were tasked with creating a shadow government don't appear to have real support on the ground in Syria, in Washington or at the United Nations, according to analysts and published remarks by officials.  http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/07/20/157053/syrias-rebels-gaining-momentum.html
Syria opposition has power struggles of its own
By Los Angeles Times Staff, Los Angeles Times [July 20, 2012]
---- For months, opposition leaders who were at the forefront of the uprising when it began have been trying to parlay their activism into more prominent roles on the political front and in groups such as the Syrian National Council, the leading opposition bloc. But even as they have led the early protest movements, helped form armed militias and become local leaders, they have been overshadowed by exiles in Egypt and Turkey who, many activists say, are out of touch with the revolution and country they claim to speak for. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-syria-opposition-20120721,0,717590,full.story
Also useful – Patrick Martin, "Islamic fighters flocking to Syria," The Globe and Mail [Canada] [July 20, 2012] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/islamic-fighters-flocking-to-syria/article4432160/; and Robert Fisk, "Sectarianism Bites into Syria's Rebels," The Independent [UK] [July 22, 2012] http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/22-1
US Policy and Strategy
Washington Begins to Plan for Collapse of Syrian Government
By Helene Cooper, New York Times [July 19, 2012]
---- With the growing conviction that the Assad family's 42-year grip on power in Syria is coming to an end, Obama administration officials worked on contingency plans Wednesday for a collapse of the Syrian government, focusing particularly on the chemical weapons that Syria is thought to possess and that President Bashar al-Assad could try to use on opposition forces and civilians. Pentagon officials were in talks with Israeli defense officials about whether Israel might move to destroy Syrian weapons facilities, two administration official said. The administration is not advocating such an attack, the American officials said, because of the risk that it would give Mr. Assad an opportunity to rally support against Israeli interference. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/19/world/middleeast/washington-begins-to-plan-for-collapse-of-syrian-government.html
US Refuses to help Syrian rebels until after election
By Peter Foster, The Telegraph [UK] [July 16, 2012]
---- Despite mounting fury from the Syrian rebels, who are seeking assistance for their efforts to overthrow the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the White House has refused all requests for heavy weapons and intelligence support. Syrian lobby groups in Washington, who only a few weeks ago were expressing hope that the Obama administration might give a green light to the supply of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, said they had now been forced to "take a reality pill" by the US government. … All their requests were rejected. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/9404452/US-refuses-to-help-Syrian-rebels-until-after-election.html
The 'Day After' plan for post-Assad Syria
By Paul Woodward on July 21, 2012
---- One of the ironies of the anti-interventionist perspective is that it focuses on the dangers of the U.S. being too actively engaged in the Middle East at a moment when the administration is more afraid of those critics who say it is disengaged. For that reason, the administration actually wants to play up its level of engagement rather than mask it. Thus we get the theatrics at the United Nations where supposedly the noble efforts of the U.S. and its allies are repeatedly being thwarted by Russia and China. Don't expect anyone to openly acknowledge this, but Washington may secretly welcome these diplomatic shackles. If let loose, it would probably have a much harder time explaining why it is so reluctant to become more deeply involved in the crisis. http://warincontext.org/2012/07/21/the-day-after-plan-for-post-assad-syria/
Iranian Policy and Strategy
Does Iran have a Syria Strategy?
By Farideh Farhi, LobeLog [July 16, 2012]
---- Like other countries with a stake in Syria's future, Iran is now faced with an ally that's essentially in the throes of what will likely be a long, drawn out and for now, worsening civil war. Various voices are warning about what could lie head. The prospect of Syria repeating the gruesome Algerian civil war of the 1990s has been raised, while for Mohammad Ali Sobhani, Iran's former ambassador to Lebanon, the fear is more about Syria's disintegration along the lines of the former Yugoslavia. Others worry about a spillover into and further destabilization of Iraq, particularly into the adjacent Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Ninewa. But expressions of fear do not make up for the lack of a visionary policy. http://www.lobelog.com/does-iran-have-a-syria-strategy/
Also useful – Farideh Farhi, "More on the Islamic Republic's Syria Policy," LobeLog [July 21st, 2012]
Israeli Policy and Strategy
Barak Orders Israeli Military to Prepare for Syria Invasion
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [July 20, 2012]
---- In an interview with Israeli Channel 10 today Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that he has ordered the military to prepare for a full-scale invasion of neighboring Syria, with the goal of seizing weapons from the Syrian military, currently embroiled in a civil war. Barak sought to justify the move, saying that it was possible Syria might transfer "anti-aircraft missiles" or even chemical weapons to Hezbollah, a militant faction operating out of neighboring Lebanon. Early this week it had been reported Israel was considering such a step, and that Pentagon officials had been dispatched to try to talk Israel out of the invasion, warning it would bolster Assad's position. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/20/barak-orders-israeli-military-to-prepare-for-syria-invasion/
Russian Policy and Strategy
Delaying the Syrian endgame
By Larbi Sadiki, Aljazeera [July 19, 2012]
---- There are four compelling arguments for allowing Russia to prevent liberal intervention in Syria.