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[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - August 12, 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
August 12, 2012
Hello All – Negotiations about Iran's nuclear program remain suspended, as the US-led opposition to Iran focuses on the effect of sanctions (economic war) on Iran and the possibility that the sanctions will coerce Iran to modify it negotiating positions. The good/useful reading linked below includes several essays on the devastating and (often) hidden impact of sanctions on ordinary people.
To lead off this section, I've included a recent article by Joy Gordon, the author of the main studies on the impact of sanctions on Iraq from 1990 to 2003. These sanctions are estimated to have killed ("premature deaths") as many as 1.7 million people (in a country one-third the size of Iran). Gordon's analysis is a cautionary tale of what could/might happen in Iran – if we allow it. Publicity about the human cost of sanctions, and a need to end them asap, could be a useful peace movement activity, beginning now. Few Americans will understand the nuts and bolts of debates about 3.5% enriched uranium, but everyone can understand that it's wrong to inflict suffering on ordinary Iranians by cutting off their food and medicine.
Some other essays give interesting insights into what's going on inside Iran that might affect Iran's diplomacy around its nuclear program. Iran will hold its next presidential election in June 2013, and an article linked below profiles one of the likely candidates. Two other essays profile some of the history of Iran's nuclear diplomacy, underscoring the sharp change of course brought by the Ahmadinejad presidency (2005).
Based on reports in the Israeli media this week, the "bomb Iran" issue has set off another political meltdown within the Israeli political elite. Once again Netanyahu and Barak's pro-war posture has been met by strong criticism from retired (and some active-duty) military and intelligence leaders. One puzzling note was Barak's statement that a "new" US intelligence estimate placed Iran as being much closer to getting a nuclear weapon than previous US intelligence estimates. But no one in the United States seems to be aware of this "new" estimate. ("What is Obama hiding?") And this new flurry of war talk comes just after Mitt Romney's visit to Israel. Will our "October Surprise" come from the Netanyahu/Romney team? Not impossible. There are some interesting reports on all this linked below.
Regarding Syria, we wall-to-wall conflict spilling throughout the region. Clinton's recent visit to Turkey could presage an escalation in foreign military intervention – or not. Largely unnoticed in "Western" media this week was the meeting re: Syria in Tehran, which attracted a reasonable number of participants and is attempting to develop an alternative consensus to a negotiating position that is pre-conditioned on Assad leaving. Can the United States maintain its coalition of supporters re: Syria if a principle of unity is to exclude Iran from any role in peace negotiations?
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)
Five Myths about the U.S.-Iran Conflict
By Reza Marashi and Reza Sanati, The National Interest [August 6, 2012]
---- The United States and Iran don't need any help when it comes to not getting along. The institutionalized enmity goes back three decades—sometimes in spite of the people in Washington or Tehran and other times exacerbated by misperceptions of their respective national interests. Iran and the United States, after all, are geographically distant, operate on very different systems, and both carry complex cultural and political baggage. All of this misunderstanding combines to foster incomplete or false narratives that can take on a life of their own. Here are five of the most damaging myths—from one or both sides—that have facilitated and exacerbated U.S.-Iran hostility. http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/five-myths-about-the-us-iran-conflict-7294
The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran
By Barbara Slavin, Al-Monitor [August 6, 2012]
[FB - This is a useful review of the new book by David Crist, The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict With Iran. Crist's account is primarily about the Bush years. He is well connected and the son of one of the early leaders of US Central Command (CENTCOM). I found the book annoying and unreadable, but Barbara Slavin does us a service by summarizing it and highlighting some of its useful information.]
---- A new book on the long confrontation between the US and Iran blames the George W. Bush administration for squandering opportunities to improve relations with Tehran and invading Iraq in 2003 without recognizing that Iran would wind up being the power broker in that country. Crist argues that the US has been too soft when it should have retaliated for Iran-backed terrorism, and too hard when it should have embraced Iranian diplomatic overtures. The book is based on reams of US government documents, private papers and interviews with 400 former officials and includes severally previously unreported nuggets. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/the-secret-history-of-americas-t.html
Iran and the Petrodollar Threat to U.S. Empire
By Christopher Doran, New Left Project [August 11, 2012]
---- Iran poses a far more serious threat to the U.S. than its disputed nuclear aspirations. Over the last few years, Iran has unleashed a weapon of mass destruction of a very different kind, one that directly challenges a key underpinning of American hegemony: the U.S. dollar as the exclusive global currency for all oil transactions. It began in 2005, when Iran announced it would form its own International Oil Bourse (IOB), the first phase of which opened in 2008. … The latest round of U.S. sanctions targets countries that do business with Iran's Central Bank, which, combined with the U.S. and EU oil embargoes, should in theory shut down Iran's ability to export oil and thus force it to abandon its nuclear program by crippling its economy. But instead, Iran is successfully negotiating oil sales via accepting gold, individual national currencies like China's renmimbi, and direct bartering. http://www.zcommunications.org/iran-and-the-petrodollar-threat-to-u-s-empire-by-christopher-doran
US sanctions against Iran have been in place since the Iranian revolution of 1979. Following the referral of the "Iran File" by the IAEA to the UN Security Council in 2006, additional sanctions against Iran – ranging from targeted sanctions against persons involved in Iran's nuclear program to restrictions on Iran's imports and exports – have been imposed by the Security Council, the United States, and the European Union. With the current "pause" in the nuclear negotiations that were re-started last spring between Iran and the "P5+1" (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany), the "success" or "failure" of the sanctions in terms of forcing Iran to agree to the negotiating position of the P5+1 – most importantly agreeing to a suspension of nuclear enrichment activities – has reached the front burner of media attention. Supporters of immediate military action against Iran's nuclear sites argue that the sanctions have not – and will not in the near term – affected Iran's nuclear program. Those seeking an alternative to military action – or at least to defer military action until after the US presidential election – argue that the sanctions are "beginning to bite." So "the truth" about the effect of sanctions on Iran is highly politicized.
The impact of the UN sanctions against Iraq following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 is both a cautionary tale and a template for what could/will go wrong with sanctions against Iran. The main study of what happened in Iraq is by Joy Gordon, The Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions (2010). Gordon, whose research is supported by many other analysts, recounts the bureaucratic sadism of the UN committee set up decide on "allowable" imports to Iraq under the "oil-for-food" program, with the US representative vetoing just about everything. The sanctions are thought to be responsible for 1.7 million "excess deaths" in Iraq between 1990 and the end of the war (not occupation) in 2003. Below I've pasted in a link to a summary essay by Gordon about what happened in Iraq, as well as links to a Democracy Now! interview and a review of Gordon's book by Andrew Cockburn. And further below I've linked several good essays from the past week that examine what's happening in Iran as a result of the sanctions.
Lessons we should have learned from the Iraqi sanctions
By Joy Gordon, Foreign Policy [July 8, 2012]
---- As the U.S. drives the UN Security Council to tighten sanctions on Iran and the world's attention momentarily focuses on the Gaza blockade, decision makers could benefit from hearing an untold story about the role played by the U.S. in the almost forgotten Security Council sanctions imposed on Iraq for over a decade. Coming on the heels of the massive bombing strikes of the 1991 Gulf War, the sanctions had a catastrophic humanitarian impact, preventing Iraq from rebuilding or even maintaining its infrastructure. Electricity production, agriculture, water treatment, telecommunications, transportation, health care, and education were all crippled. A UN envoy described the situation in 1991 as "near apocalyptic." The best estimate of "excess child mortality" -- the number of children under five who died during the sanctions who would not have under Iraq's economy and policies before sanctions -- is between 670,000 and 880,000. http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/07/08/lessons_we_should_have_learned_from_the_iraqi_sanctions
Sanctions: Diplomacy's Weapon of Mass Murder
By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, War is a Crime [August 4, 2012]
---- In 1945, the United States of America dropped two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagaski immediately killing 120,000 civilians. Unlike the shock and horror which accompanied the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, there were no images of the 500,000 Iraqi children whose lives were cut short by sanctions to jolt the world into reality. Not only has America taken pride in the mass killing of innocent children, but encouraged by silence and the surrender to its weapon of choice, it has turned diplomacy's weapon of mass murder on another country – Iran. There has been little resistance to sanctions in the false belief that sanctions are a tool of diplomacy and preferable to war. Enforcement of this belief has been a major victory for American public diplomacy. The reality is otherwise. http://warisacrime.org/content/sanctions-diplomacy%E2%80%99s-weapon-mass-murder
Iran's strategy under new sanctions
By Roxane Farmanfarmaian, Aljazeera [August 10, 2012]
---- The sanctions are designed to force Iran to halt its nuclear programme. The West accuses Iran of using its programme to build a bomb. Iran claims it is only for energy and medical use.
Iran has officially responded in three ways:
1. It has threatened to use its enriched uranium to fuel a submarine and to convert its Navy to nuclear power (which would require 92 per cent purity), an example of its uncanny ability to cross red lines before the West even realises there is a red line to be crossed.
2. It has released a position paper outlining its views and goals, and calling for three-monthly talks, an acknowledgement that promises on either side must wait until the upcoming presidential elections.
3. It has embarked on what the media is calling a "charm offensive". Its UN Ambassador has offered assurances it will not ratchet up conflict, a signal it won't immediately close the Strait of Hormuz - though, as sanctions reduce its flows of oil export and goods import, its own cost for doing so drops.
Iran's mild response to the draconian sanctions regime fits what Hossein Mousavian, research scholar at Princeton University and former Iranian nuclear negotiator, calls Iran's post-revolutionary character. Revolutionary idealism, he says, explains Iran's failure to adopt typical realpolitik approaches to threats from other states, such as its failure to respond in kind to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq War. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/08/201288142724224103.html
NEGOTIATIONS ON IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Tale of a Missed Opportunity
By Peter Jenkins, Lobelog [August 6, 2012]
---- When two or more aficionados of the Iranian nuclear controversy are gathered together, the conversation will turn at some point to whether opportunities for resolving the issue peacefully have been missed. Some see a missed opportunity in the first George W. Bush administration's refusal to countenance an Iranian negotiating proposal transmitted by Switzerland in May 2003. Others lament the inability of France, Germany and the United Kingdom to accept the limited resumption of uranium enrichment in Iran, in 2005, in return for a range of confidence-building measures and safeguards against the diversion of nuclear material to military purposes. I regret that it occurred to no one in the autumn of 2003 to link Iran's voluntary suspension of work on the development of an enrichment capacity to completion of International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) verification under the Additional Protocol, a voluntary but advanced nuclear safeguards standard introduced in the mid-1990s. http://www.lobelog.com/tale-of-a-missed-opportunity/
Key advisor to Supreme Leader may seek Iran presidency
By , Al-Monitor [August 5, 2012]
---- Ali Akbar Velayati, the longtime foreign policy advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is likely to run for Iran's presidency next year, and if elected would take a more pragmatic stance to ease soaring tensions with the West that have isolated Iran and hurt its economy, a former Iranian diplomat told Al Monitor. The former diplomat expressed optimism that Iran would reach a negotiated solution with the West over its nuclear program by June of next year, when Iranian presidential elections are due to be held. He also said the Iranian foreign ministry may take a larger role in handling Iran's negotiations with the P5+1 over its nuclear program in the future. The larger message the former diplomat conveyed is that Khamenei, at 73, does not want the end of his legacy in Iranian history books to be having brought economic hardship to the Iranian people. http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/08/1551/key-advisor-to-supreme-leader-may-seek-iran-presidency/
Iran eyes role as post-Arab Spring 'anchor'
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times [August 7, 2012]
---- Dr Abbas Maleki, former deputy foreign minister of Iran and currently senior Wilhelm Fellow on Energy Policy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was an important voice in Iran's foreign policy decision making process for many years. In an interview with Asia Times Online, Maleki sheds light on how Iran conceptualizes foreign policy, while challenging negative Western perceptions of Iran's behavior. He emphasizes Iran's role in regional crisis-management, particularly in Syria, and explains why the upcoming summit of leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, to be held this month in Tehran, is so important for Iran.
Kaveh Afrasiabi: How would you describe Iran's regional diplomacy?
Abbas Maleki: Well, the best word to describe this is regionalism. Regionalism forms the core of Iran's foreign policy approach, one that seeks to integrate the different, and complex, dimensions of Iran's trans-border relations. This is based on Iran's multi-region geography - and identity - that encompasses the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, the Central Asia-Caucasus regions and Iran's numerous neighbors and near-neighbors. In this context, Iran's policy is to have good-neighborly relations and a calm environment at its borders while pushing the arch of regional cooperation through a variety of bilateral and multilateral channels, such as the Economic Cooperation Organization. Often this means a delicate balancing act between and among the welter of economic, geopolitical, strategic, and national security considerations in a very dynamic and even fluid setting, given the nature of compound problems of insecurity, foreign intervention, and inadequate institution-building in Iran's vicinity, which co-exist with tremendous opportunities for cooperation and mutual advancement. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NH07Ak02.html
Iran's National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy: An Insider's Take
By Farideh Farhi, LobeLog [August 7, 2012]
[FB – This book (in Persian) complements the recent account of Iran's nuclear diplomacy by Seyed Hossein Mousavian, The Iranian Nuclear Crisis. The author of the book under review was Mousavian's boss, and provides an additional perspective and strong critique of Iran's diplomatic disasters after the election of Ahmadinejad (2005). Several articles by Mousavian have been linked in earlier issues of the IWW.]
---- National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy was published in Iran during the autumn of 2011 but most people only learned about it a few months ago after it was made available during Tehran's International Book Fair in May. It's significant because the author is Hassan Rowhani, the country's nuclear negotiator for 22 months during the Khatami presidency – just one of the many positions he has held since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The details revealed in Rowhani's book about how decisions were made in restarting Iran's nuclear program in the late 1980s, as well as in negotiations with the EU 3 (Britain, Germany and France) are very interesting. http://www.lobelog.com/irans-national-security-and-nuclear-diplomacy-an-insiders-take/
MELTDOWN IN ISRAEL OVER ATTACKING IRAN
The miraculous antiwar uprising of the Israeli establishment
By Larry Derfner, 972 Magazine [August 10, 2012]
---- People don't realize what a miracle is taking place in this country. A revolt by the Israeli military/intelligence establishment and Israel's best reporters, helped along by President Shimon Peres and ultimately enabled by the Obama administration, is stopping an insane war from being launched by Israel's two ideologically insane political leaders, a war they've been planning for years. Not coincidentally, this shift comes as the heads of all the military and intelligence branches continue to stand solid as a rock against Bibi and Barak's plans. … Another blast of bad news for Bibi/Barak is that Obama has opened up a substantial lead over Romney; he's in front by 4% in the polls, and way ahead in most of the "battleground states." At this point, Israel's two ubermenschen have to assume that they're going to have Obama to deal with for a second term when he has no re-election to worry about, and that an attack on Iran on the eve of the November election would look like a Hail Mary attempt to save it for Romney, whom Bibi is making no secret of supporting. In short, Bibi and Barak's ship continues to sink. http://972mag.com/the-israeli-establishments-miraculous-antiwar-uprising/52611/
Also useful – Noam Sheizaf, "'Anonymous decision maker' advocating war with Iran is Ehud Barak," 972 Magazine [August 10, 2012] http://972mag.com/anonymous-decision-maker-advocating-war-with-iran-is-ehud-barak/52617/; Pepe Escobar, "Bomb Iran Fever," Asia Times [August 8, 2012] http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NH08Ak02.html; and David Samuels, "The Call -- Hey, Israel Might Actually Strike Iran!," Gatestone Institute [August 5, 2012] http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3252/the-call-something-has-changed-in-israeli
U.S. still believes Iran not on verge of nuclear weapon
From Reuters [August 9, 2012]
---- The United States still believes that Iran is not on the verge of having a nuclear weapon and that Tehran has not made a decision to pursue one, U.S. officials said on Thursday. Their comments came after Israeli media reports claimed U.S. President Barack Obama had received a new National Intelligence Estimate saying Iran had made significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability. Later, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggested that the new U.S. report, which he acknowledged might be something other than a National Intelligence Estimate, "transforms the Iranian situation into an even more urgent one." But a White House National Security Council spokesman disputed the Israeli reports, saying the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran's nuclear activities had not changed since intelligence officials delivered testimony to Congress on the issue earlier this year. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/09/us-israel-iran-usa-idUSBRE8781GS20120809
Israel Beefs Up Military Readiness
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [August 11, 2012]
---- Israel's Defense Force is said to be beefing up its defensive capacities and preparing for the possibility of an armed conflict on several fronts, just days after top Israeli officials got in another diplomatic clash on how imminent a threat Iran presents. The military is "dispersing rations, munitions and strategic supplies among facilities nationwide in order to protect them during wartime," reports the Israeli Ynet News. While these could be somewhat ordinary military preparations in what is a hyper-militarized state, some have interpreted these actions as preparations for possible retaliatory strikes from Iran or its allies following some potential Israeli attack on Iran. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/08/11/israel-beefs-up-military-readiness/
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
As the first several articles linked below demonstrate, Syria is now a disaster scene with little hope of quick recovery or a peaceful resolution. But I thought this week's meeting re: Syria in Tehran was an interesting development. Though it attracted little media coverage and no sympathy in "the West," it assembled a reasonable number of countries unwilling to lock themselves into a US-led quagmire. The main issue, of course, is whether Assad's departure is a precondition of negotiations or a possible outcome of negotiations. The "precondition" perspective of the US and much of the armed opposition is a definite non-starter. The meeting (and the "Western" boycott) also underscores the extent to which the isolation and defeat of Iran is regarded by the United States as a red line that can't be crossed in addressing the crisis in Syria, an indication of the larger issues at play in "Syria."
Intervention is now driving Syria's descent into darkness
By Seumas Milne, The Guardian [UK] [August 7, 2012]
---- The destruction of Syria is now in full flow. What began as a popular uprising 17 months ago is now an all-out civil war fueled by regional and global powers that threatens to engulf the entire Middle East. As the battle for the ancient city of Aleppo grinds on and atrocities on both sides multiply, the danger of the conflict spilling over Syria's borders is growing. The defection by Syria's prime minister is the most high-profile coup yet in a well-funded programme, though unlikely to signal any imminent regime collapse. But the capture of 48 Iranian pilgrims – or undercover Revolutionary Guards, depending who you believe – along with the increasing risk of a Turkish attack on Kurdish areas in Syria and an influx of jihadist fighters gives a taste of what is now at stake. Driving the escalation of the conflict has been western and regional intervention. This isn't Iraq, of course, with hundreds of thousands of troops on the ground, or Libya, with a devastating bombardment from the air. But the sharp increase in arms supplies, funding and technical support from the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others in recent months has dramatically boosted the rebels' fortunes, as well as the death toll. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/07/intervention-syria-descent-into-darkness
U.S. Syria policy in shambles a year after Obama told Assad to step down
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers [August 10, 2012]
---- On Aug. 18 last year, President Barack Obama issued a statement that for the first time demanded that Syrian leader Bashar Assad step aside. Similarly worded statements came from Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the European Union that same day. Nearly a year and thousands of dead later, U.S. policy on Syria's crisis remains an enigma. American officials refuse to acknowledge openly that they support the rebels, but they provide the fighters with nonlethal aid and look the other way as U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf send them weapons and ammunition. U.S. decision-makers still talk about a peaceful resolution, though the notion seems quaint as both sides dig in for a protracted civil war that's lured Islamist extremists from throughout the region and sent the death toll to 20,000 or more. Washington's grim choices and lukewarm support for the rebels seem light-years away from the Obama administration's early cheerleading of the uprising, which began 17 months ago as a challenge to the Assad dynasty's 40 years of authoritarian rule. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/08/10/161622/us-syria-policy-in-shambles-a.html
(Video) Can Iran help end the Syrian crisis?
[FB - Guests on this program include: Khalid Saleh, a member of the Syrian National Council executive office; Paul Rogers, a professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University; and Seyed Mohammad Marandi, the head of North American Studies at the University of Tehran.]
---- While civilians and opposition fighters in Aleppo faced the most serious and sustained shelling and some contend the main battle for Syria's second city is well underway, Iran hosted a summit on Thursday to try to end the fighting. Attended by 30 countries, including China and Russia, it was meant to provide an alternative to international meetings hosted by the western-led Friends of Syria. Proposing a potential ceasefire, Tehran said that some of Syria's opposition groups were ready to take part in a meeting with the Syrian government without preconditions. Precious few details have come out of these talks, but it seems that Iran is now taking a much more public role in Syria's future than at any time during this nearly 18-month long conflict. So does Iran hold the master key for the Syrian crisis?