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[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - July 15, 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 15, 2012
Hello All – Negotiations about Iran's nuclear program are on pause while the United States and its European allies assess the impact of the new round of sanctions – in reality, of economic warfare – against Iran. In this week's good/useful reading linked below, NB especially the overview article by Conn Hallinan on sanctions; an excellent article by Mohammad Ali Shabani about the impact of sanctions, and a packet of articles about the next round of sanctions just unveiled by the Obama administration.
Most of the media action this week focused on the intractable conflict within and around Syria. There is a greater awareness now, I think, that the simplistic coverage of the mainstream media has drifted pretty far from reality, as the number of contending parties inside Syria grows by the day. I've linked two useful articles below that address our information/disinformation problem: one focusing on media coverage, and one spotlighting the backgrounds of individuals frequently appearing as spokespersons for the Syrian opposition. I've also included links to articles about two other front-burner issues this week: the attempt by Kofi Annan to integrate Iran into his plans for a Syrian peace settlement, and the US opposition to any Iran participation; and the more forceful intervention of Russia into the Syrian conflict, sending a flotilla of naval ships to Syria, presumably to deter armed intervention by NATO.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Iran, EU deputy nuclear negotiators to meet July 24
July 9, 2012[
---- The deputy nuclear negotiators for Iran and the six-nation P5+1 negotiating group will meet in Istanbul on July 24th, a European Union spokesman said Monday. Deputy EU foreign policy chief Helga Schmid will meet with her Iranian counterpart Ali Bagheri in Turkey to try to find a way to bridge significant gaps in the two sides' positions. The meeting plans come a week after nuclear experts from the seven nations met in Istanbul for over 15 hours last week to discuss the technical details of a P5+1 confidence building proposal. That proposal, first presented to Iran in Baghdad in May, asks Iran to halt its 20% enrichment activities, ship out its 20% stockpile, and decommission the highly fortified Fordo enrichment facility, built into a mountain near Qom, in exchange for fuel and safety upgrades for Tehran's medical and civilian reactors and spare parts for its civilian aircraft. Negotiations between senior diplomats from the P5+1 and Iran stalled in Moscow last month over wide gaps between the two sides' positions. Iran had expressed willingness to discuss halting its 20% enrichment activities, but sough recognition in turn for its right to enrich to 3.5%, while raising objections to the two other international demands. Iran has since made public the proposal it made to the P5+1 in Moscow. Negotiators thus proposed holding the sequence of lower level discussions among technical experts and then the political deputies before scheduling another senior political director level meeting. http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/07/iran-eu-deputy-negotiators-to-meet-july-24/
SANCTIONS: ECONOMIC WAR AGAINST IRAN
War By Other Means: Attacking Iran Through Sanctions
By Conn Hallinan, Counterpunch [July 13, 2012]
----Now that the talks with Iran on its nuclear program appear to be on the ropes, are we on the road to war? The Israelis threaten it almost weekly, and the Obama administration has reportedly drawn up an attack plan. But in a sense, we are already at war with Iran. The United States has already made it difficult for countries to deal with Iran's Central Bank, and the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would declare the Iranian energy sector a "zone of proliferation concern," which would strangle Tehran's ability to collect payments for its oil exports. Other proposals would essentially make it impossible to do business with Iran's other banks. Any country that dared to do so would find itself unable to conduct virtually any kind of international banking. But the "war" has already gone far beyond the economic sphere. In the past two years, five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. The hits have been widely attributed to the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, and the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), an organization the U.S. State Department designates as "terrorist." It is no secret—indeed, President Obama openly admitted it—that under the codename "Olympic Games," the United States has been waging cyber war against Iran. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/13/attacking-iran-through-sanctions/
Living under siege in Iran
By Mohammad Ali Shabani, Aljazeera [July 11, 2012]
---- Hassan is in his late 40s. He has worked at an Iranian state bank all his life and is about to retire. His son is in his late teens and his daughter is still in primary school. Two years ago, around the same time a fourth round of UN sanctions was imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. After extensive treatment in Tehran, which included chemotherapy, he beat the disease.
But late this spring, the cancer came back - with a vengeance. The drugs he needed were nowhere to be found. I joined her in her hunt all around Tehran for the needed medicines, to no avail. Repeatedly, we were told that there was a shortage of many foreign drugs because of the sanctions, even though the West's punitive measures don't directly target supplies such as medicines. This is only one of the many stories of how ordinary Iranians are bearing the brunt of the West's economic war against the Islamic Republic. Since Iran came under scrutiny over its nuclear energy programme in 2002, it has come under several sets of UN Security Council sanctions, and life has become progressively more difficult for all but the wealthy. In Tehran, the dominant perception is that the aim of the sanctions is to create pressure from below so the leadership will back down on the nuclear issue. In this context, how are Iranians to interpret the US and the EU's move to target oil exports and shipping; the main artery of Iran's economy? http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/2012710132416172713.html
Congress and Obama Escalate the Sanctions
Obama Piles New Sanctions Against Iran
By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service [July 15, 2012]
---- In the latest ratcheting up of pressure on Iran, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday imposed new financial sanctions against Iranian and other companies whose operations allegedly support the country's nuclear and ballistic-missile programmes. "The question is how much escalation can be tolerated before the whole diplomatic process falls apart, and, if it falls apart, what comes next," noted Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the author of two highly-regarded books on U.S.-Iranian diplomacy. The latest sanctions follow the application late last month of other U.S. sanctions – approved by Congress last December – punishing foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank. On Jul. 1, a European Union (EU) ban on all oil imports from Iran to its member states also took effect. http://truth-out.org/news/item/10336-obama-piles-new-sanctions-against-iran
Also useful – Mark Landler, "U.S. Imposes New Rules to Tighten Vise on Iran," New York Times [July 12, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/world/middleeast/united-states-imposes-additional-sanctions-on-iran.html?ref=world; Jason Ditz, "US Announces More Iran Sanctions, Sparking War Fears," Antiwar.com [July 12, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/12/us-announces-more-iran-sanctions-sparking-war-fears/; and USIP, "New U.S. Sanctions Target 50 Iranian Entities," [July 12, 2012] http://iranprimer.usip.org/BLOG/2012/JUL/12/NEW-US-SANCTIONS-TARGET-50-IRANIAN-ENTITIES
Will Congress pass new Iran sanctions this year?
By Josh Rogin, The Cable [July 11, 2012]
---- Legislation that would impose a new regime of sanctions against Iran appears stalled in Congress, but behind the scenes both chambers are working to come up with a package that can be signed into law this summer. The Senate passed the Johnson-Shelby Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012 in May, legislation that would punish any entity that provides Iran with equipment or technology that facilitates censorship or the suppression of human rights, including weapons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and other riot control equipment -- as well as communications jamming, monitoring, and surveillance equipment. It also calls on the Obama administration to develop a more robust Internet freedom strategy for Iran and speed new assistance to pro-democracy activists in the country.
The Oil Markets
Amid Iran threats of blockade, Gulf states open pipeline bypassing Strait of Hormuz
By The Associated Press [Jul.15, 2012]
Turkey reportedly skirting sanctions by paying for Iranian oil in gold
July 10, 2012]
---- As economic sanctions tighten around Iran, the Islamic Republic has turned to accepting alternative currencies as a way to receive payments for oil exports, the Financial Times reported on Monday. Although Turkey has reduced Iranian oil imports under EU and American pressure, Iran still provides 40 percent of Turkey's petroleum, and between March and May, Turkey exported 58 tons of gold to the Islamic Republic, an increase of over 500%. According to the Financial Times, the gold exports were "sent in place of dollars for oil." http://www.timesofisrael.com/report-turkey-pays-iran-gold-for-oil/
Floating Base Gives U.S. New Footing in the Persian Gulf
By Thom Shanker, New York Times [July 11, 2012]
---- One of the Navy's oldest transport ships, now converted into one of its newest platforms for warfare, arrived in waters off Bahrain late last week, a major addition to the enlarged presence of American forces in the Persian Gulf designed as a counter to Iran. The keel for the ship, the Ponce, was cast in 1966, and the vessel, nearing the end of its service, was to have been scrapped. But the Ponce was reborn as a floating forward base for staging important military operations across the region — the latest example of the new American way of war. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/12/world/middleeast/the-navy-ship-ponce-reflects-the-new-united-states-way-of-war.html?_r=1&ref=world
Iran's Military Exercises
By , [ , 2012]
IS AN IRANIAN NUCLEAR WEAPON OK?
While the mainstream arguments in the antiwar movement insist that there is no evidence that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, a less-visible discussion has asked, "What would it matter if Iran did get a nuclear weapon?" The United States and the Soviet Union, the argument goes, created what turned out to be a stable system of nuclear deterrence that has lasted for decades. Why wouldn't an Iranian nuclear weapon similarly stabilize the Middle East, now dominated militarily by Israel's nuclear arsenal? This discussion was recently given a boost in elite policy discussion circles by an article in Foreign Policy by Kenneth Waltz, "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb." In the article below, Richard Falk takes issue with Waltz and with the idea that an Iranian nuclear weapon would contribute to regional military stability, and thus to peace. - FB
The Danger Of Nuclear Deterrence
By Richard Falk, Aljazeera [July 9, 2012]
---- It seems surprising that the ultra-establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, would go to the extreme of publishing "Why Iran Should Get the Bomb" by the noted political scientist, Kenneth Waltz, as a lead article in its current issue. It is actually not the eye-catching title, but the reasoning of the article that flies in the face of the anti-proliferation ethos that has been the consensus lynchpin of nuclear weapons states. Waltz takes pains to avoid disavowing his mainstream political identity. He repeats the escalating assumption that Iran is currently seeking nuclear weapons without pausing, although he concedes it might be only trying to have a "breakout" capability - the capacity in a national emergency to assemble a few bombs in a matter of months - enjoyed by Japan and several other countries. Nowhere does Waltz allude to the recently publicised agreement among the 14 American intelligence agencies, which concludes there is no evidence that Iran has decided to resume its abandoned 2003 military programme. Coupled with some of the other arguments he puts forth, Waltz signals his general support for the American approach to Israeli security. Make no mistake: Waltz is neither a political dissenter nor a policy radical. http://www.zcommunications.org/the-danger-of-nuclear-deterrence-by-richard-falk
Report Details Steady Erosion of Iranian Justice System
---- While Iran's human rights record has "never been satisfactory", since the 1979 Islamic Revolution the situation has deteriorated daily, according to Iranian Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi. A report on the issue was published in "tribute" to her, Iran's "Green Movement" and other Iran human rights advocates this week by the PeaceJam Foundation, a U.S. advocacy group with 13 Nobel Peace Laureates on its board, including Ebadi. PeaceJam's 39-page report includes a compilation of cases of politically motivated arrests and human rights abuses previously reported by organisations such as Amnesty International and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as well as interviews with individuals associated with Iranian rights movements such as Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari. The report stresses that a "systematic crackdown" on lawyers considered threatening to the ruling elite since the 2009 unrest demonstrates how "(t)he administration of justice in Iran has significantly deteriorated since the 1979 Islamic Revolution." http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/report-details-steady-erosion-of-iranian-justice-system/
Tehran Abuzz as Book Says Israel Killed 5 Scientists
By Artin Afkhami, New York Times [July 11, 2012]
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
Syria: To oppose, or not to oppose?
By Maher Arar, Aljazeera [July 11, 2012]
---- Deciding whether or not to oppose Syria's rulers has been the recent dominant preoccupation of many anti-imperialist and left-leaning movements. This hesitant attitude towards the Syrian struggle for freedom is nurtured by many anti-regime actions that were recently taken by many Western and Middle-Eastern countries, whose main interest lies in isolating Syria from Iran. However, I believe a better question to ask with respect to Syria is whether the leftist movement should support, or not support, the struggle of the Syrian people. What I find lacking in many of the analyses relating to the Syrian crisis, which I find oftentimes biased and politically motivated, is how well the interests of the Syrian people who are living inside are taken into account. Dry and unnecessarily sophisticated in nature, these analyses ignore simple facts about why the Syrian people rebelled against the regime in the first place.
[Defector] Nawaf Fares: 'The Syrian regime is dead'
--- So, why did Fares, once known as a confidant of the president, change sides? What is really going on inside the corridors of power in Damascus? And what does he make of the latest diplomatic moves as rival draft resolutions are exchanged at the UN - in the aftermath of yet another massacre which some say may have killed as many as 200 people? Inside Syria, with presenter James Bays, speaks exclusively to Nawaf Fares, the former Syrian ambassador to Iraq.
Red Cross ruling raises questions of Syrian war crimes
By Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters [July 14, 2012]
---- The Red Cross now views fighting in Syria as an internal armed conflict - a civil war in layman's terms - crossing a threshold experts say can help lay the ground for future prosecutions for war crimes. The independent humanitarian agency had previously classed the violence in Syria as localized civil wars between government forces and armed opposition groups in three flashpoints - Homs, Hama and Idlib.
Syria and the Mainstream Media: Information and Disinformation
Covering Syria: The information war
By Aisling Byrne, Antiwar.com [July 12, 2012]
---- The narrative that has been constructed by the Western mainstream media on Syria may seem to be self-evident from the scenes presented on television, but it is a narrative duplicitously promoted and coordinated so as to conceal and facilitate the regime-change project that is part of the war on Iran. What we are seeing is a new stage of information war intentionally constructed and cast as a simplistic narrative of a struggle for human rights and democracy so as deliberately to exclude other interpretations and any geo-strategic motivation. The narrative, as CNN puts it, is in essence this: "The vast majority of reports from the ground indicate that government forces are killing citizens in an attempt to wipe out civilians seeking [President Bashar] al-Assad's ouster" - the aim being precisely to elicit a heart-wrenching emotional response in Western audiences that trumps all other considerations and makes the call for Western/Gulf intervention to effect regime change. But it is a narrative based on distortion, manipulation, lies and videotape. It was also a narrative that from the outset, according to a recent report in Time magazine, that the US has facilitated by providing training, support and equipment to Syrian opposition "cyber-warriors". http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NG12Ak01.html
For example – Neil MacFarquhar, "Details of a Battle Challenge Reports of a Syrian Massacre,"
The Syrian opposition: who's doing the talking?
By Charlie Skelton, The Guardian [July 12, 2012]
---- This is a story about the storytellers: the spokespeople, the "experts on Syria", the "democracy activists". The statement makers. The people who "urge" and "warn" and "call for action". It's a tale about some of the most quoted members of the Syrian opposition and their connection to the Anglo-American opposition creation business. The mainstream news media have, in the main, been remarkably passive when it comes to Syrian sources: billing them simply as "official spokesmen" or "pro-democracy campaigners" without, for the most part, scrutinising their statements, their backgrounds or their political connections. It's important to stress: to investigate the background of a Syrian spokesperson is not to doubt the sincerity of his or her opposition to Assad. But a passionate hatred of the Assad regime is no guarantee of independence. Indeed, a number of key figures in the Syrian opposition movement are long-term exiles who were receiving US government funding to undermine the Assad government long before the Arab spring broke out. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/12/syrian-opposition-doing-the-talking
Iran and the Peace Negotiations
Annan Seeks Iran Backing to Solve Syria Crisis
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [July 9, 2012]
---- With Western nations mostly looking for ways to insinuate themselves into the growing Syrian Civil War, UN special envoy for Syria Kofi Annan is pushing for Iran to help him come up with some sort of peace plan. Annan has been trying to get Iran involved for awhile, with the US and other NATO members angrily condemning any efforts to recruit Iran into meetings to negotiate on general principle. But Iran seems to be approaching the matter with more seriousness than we've seen out of a lot of countries, and said that while they support Assad they want free elections in Syria with an eye toward replacing him "by 2014." So far there's been no reaction either from the Assad regime or from the rebels, but neither side seems particularly open to a negotiated settlement, and letting the people decide is likely an alien concept to both blocs, which would prefer to impose their own position militarily and then call that the "will of the people." http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/09/annan-seeks-iran-backing-to-solve-syria-crisis/
White House slams notion of Iranian role in Syria talks
By Carlo Munoz, Antiwar.com [July 10, 2012]
---- The Obama administration on Tuesday slammed the idea of Iranian participation in Syrian peace negotiations just as United Nations-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan insisted Tehran's role would be critical in resolving the growing crisis. The former U.N. secretary general said he had "received [the] encouragement and cooperation [of] the minister and the [Iranian] government" for his new plan to end the violence in Syria between Assad's regime and forces seeking his removal from power. A previous peace plan brokered by Annan in March has largely been considered a failure, particularly after U.N. observers were pulled out of the country after being attacked by Syrian forces. But on Tuesday, Annan said his new "approach," which was crafted with Assad during a visit to Damascus on Monday, required help from the Iranian government. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/10/white-house-outraged-at-un-call-to-include-iran-in-syria-talks/
Russia and Syria
Opposition's hopes fade as Russian warships sail to aid Assad regime
By Loveday Morris, The Independent [July 12, 2012]
---- Hopes that Russia might distance itself from Bashar al-Assad's regime diminished yesterday as the head of the main Syrian opposition group left talks in Moscow angered and a flotilla of Russian warships was dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean. In a powerful signal of military might the 11 warships, some of which will dock in the Syrian port of Tartus where Russia has a naval base, set sail to safeguard Russian merchant ships from "interference" as they continue to deliver air-defence systems and helicopters to Syria, said Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, the deputy head of Russia's military technical co-operation agency. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/oppositions-hopes-fade-as-russian-warships-sail-to-aid-assad-regime-7936443.html#
Russians Strongly Oppose Military Intervention in Syria
By Mark Adomanis, Forbes [July 7, 2012]
---- Looking at the numbers, it would appear that Putin's decision to categorically reject any attempted Western military involvement in Syria is popular among Russians. There is just very little enthusiasm for "responsibility to protect" style military engagements, which is hardly surprising considering the sort of people that are soon going to be running Libya (hint: they're Islamists!) and Russia's own severe problems with violent Islamic extremism. Many Russians, for better or worse, have a very different understanding of the way the world ought to work and simply don't agree with the Western consensus. In the United States the discussion isn't over whether we ought to "do something" in Syria, it's a tactical argument over how we should intervene. Should it be sanctions? Arms shipments to the rebels? Targeted airstrikes? A massive anti-government bombing campaign? In Russia, however, most people really don't see the need to do anything at all and they certainly don't think that there ought to be a military campaign a la Libya. http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2012/07/07/russians-strongly-oppose-military-intervention-in-syria/
Turkey and Syria
Turkish Military: 'No Evidence' Downed Warplane Was Hit by Syrian Missile
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [July 12, 2012]
---- The June 22 downing of a Turkish warplane which had just violated Syrian airspace set off a war of words and escalations which has both sides pouring tanks to their mutual border and had Turkish officials pressing NATO for a formal declaration that the loss of the plane amounted to an attack by Syria on the alliance in general. But the bizarre narratives that have emerged since then have made little sense, and now the Turkish military is throwing the whole story into doubt by saying that they have zero evidence that the plane ever got hit by a missile in the first place. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/07/12/turkish-military-no-evidence-downed-warplane-was-hit-by-syrian-missile/