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Sunday, September 02, 2012

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - September 2, 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
September 2, 2012
Hello All – A report this week on Iran's nuclear program re-charged the debate on whether Israel should or would attack Iran before the US presidential election in November.  The quarterly report of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlighted what it said was a significant jump in Iran's nuclear enrichment capacity.  However, a closer look at the report (as in several articles linked below) shows that the IAEA's conclusion is simply not true.  Some analyses of the report, the treatment of the report by the New York Times and other mainstream media, and a critical assessment of what's actually happening in Iran can be found in the good/useful reading linked below.
A second significant development this week was the public distancing of the Obama administration from the threats of Israel's President Netanyahu to attack Iran.  The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey's public statements, and the decision by the Obama administration to downsize its joint naval maneuvers with Israel, scheduled for October, were greeted with anger and dismay by Israel's political leadership. Whether these moves by the Obama administration will have repercussions in the US presidential election remains to be seen; but the US-Israel conflict over what to do about Iran's nuclear program will certainly peak in September, when both Israeli President Netanyahu and President Obama are due to address the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
Also in the news this week was the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, an organization of more than 100 mostly third-world nations that had its origins during the Cold War.  The summit took place in Tehran; and while its agenda was supposedly focused on economic development, the outside world's media focused especially on the meeting's support for Iran's nuclear program and its largely negative attitude towards Iran's ally Syria; and on the failure of the United States and Israel to prove that Iran "stood isolated in the world" by urging world leaders not to attend. Several good/useful essays below survey these developments; and I especially recommend the article by V. J. Prashad (immediately below) that presents an interesting perspective on Iran's geo-political activities that have little to do with either its nuclear program or Syria.
Also among the other essays linked below, I especially recommend Gareth Porter's three-part investigative spectacular on the Dehli terrorist attack on the Israeli embassy that has been falsely attributed to Iran; Franklin Lamb's interesting article on US plans for a "post-Israel" Middle East; Leonardo Maugeri's report on the world's surplus capacity to produce oil; and Charles Glass's report on the many communities of Syria.
For those who would like user-friendly daily updates re: Iran and Syria, I recommend the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMI) [UK] - http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/, and Syria Comment - http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/.
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 Iran-India-Afghanistan Riddle
By Vijay Prashad, Asia Times [August 30, 2012]
---- At the sidelines of the 16th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Tehran, Iran, the governments of Afghanistan, India and Iran will hold a small conclave. Commercial issues are at the top of the agenda. Not far down the list, however, are significant political matters. These are of great interest as the Israelis and the United States power up their aircraft for a bombing raid on Iran's Fordo nuclear bunker, and as the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) begin their obligatory withdrawal from more than a decade-long occupation in Afghanistan. …Afghanistan remains under US occupation. India seeks a close equation with the US. Iran and the US are hostile powers. Yet, these three countries, with very different relations with the US, now find that geography is their destiny. A pragmatic foreign policy built on the urgency of economic development draws these states together. Afghanistan needs access to a port and oil, as well as manufactured goods. Iran needs to sell its oil. India wants to find markets for its manufactured goods, and to find a ready supply of oil. Such linkages are hard to ignore. http://www.zcommunications.org/the-iran-india-afghanistan-riddle-by-vijay-prashad
Oil: The Unprecedented Upsurge of Oil Production Capacity and What it Means for the World
By Leonardo Maugeri, Belfar Center [Harvard] [August 21, 2012]
---- The oil market is already adequately supplied. Global oil spare capacity (the difference between the world's total oil production capacity that can be reached within 30 days – and sustained for 90 days – and the actual global production), is probably at about 4 mbd, which seems capable of absorbing a major disruption from a big oil producer such as Iran. In fact, the mere dynamics of supply, demand, and spare capacity cannot explain the high level of oil prices today. At more than $100 per barrel, the international benchmark crude Brent is $20 to $25 above the marginal cost of oil production. Only geopolitical and psychological factors (above all, a major crisis related to Iran) and a still deep-rooted belief that oil is about to become a scarce commodity, can explain the departure of oil prices from economic fundamentals. http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/Oil-%20The%20Next%20Revolution.pdf
This week the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its much-anticipated quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program. As usual, especially under the direction of new IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, the report was highly critical of Iran's lack of cooperation on a long list of (mostly) well-established concerns, but stated that Iran had not diverted any enriched uranium to military purposes.
The IAEA report itself (14 pages and for the most part not requiring much technical expertise to read) can be read at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/08/31/world/middleeast/iaea-report-on-iran-nuclear.html.  A useful paragraph-by-paragraph critique of the report by Cyrus Safdari (Iran Affairs) can be read at http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/12896.  (Also useful is "IAEA: Iranian 'Nuclear Danger' Decreased," at http://www.moonofalabama.org/2012/08/iaea-iranian-nuclear-danger-decreased.html.)
In the real world, what the IAEA report actually says must share a lot of space with how the report is presented and interpreted by the mainstream media.  In the case of the current report, for example, the New York Times printed several front-page alarmist articles on the IAEA report.  I've linked two of these articles below, as well as a number of critiques of the Times' reporting on this issue.
A focus of the Times' reports was on the IAEA's finding that Iran had moved several hundred additional centrifuges into its "secure" nuclear enrichment facility at Fordow.  This is a relatively new site buried under hundreds of feet of rock near the Iranian holy city of Qom.  The site itself is "controversial" because it is apparently beyond the capacity of Israel to destroy it by bombing, and so as Fordow approaches its full capacity for nuclear enrichment, Israel sees a window closing that would allow it to destroy Iran's nuclear program militarily. Additionally, the plant at Fordow has been designated by the Iranians for use in enriching uranium to 20 percent, the level needed for its nuclear medicine program.  Alarmists point out that 20 percent is closer to the 95 percent enriched uranium needed for nuclear weapons than is the 3.5 percent needed for nuclear power, and thus the build-up of Fordow moves Iran closer to "nuclear weapons capability," Israel's "red line."
The importance given by the IAEA report to the developments at Fordow is explored in two analyses of the report from two perspectives, which are linked below. The immediate question is, to what extent do the Fordow developments increase Iran's capacity to suddenly "break out" from an apparently peace nuclear program to one that would build nuclear weapons?   In the first analysis, Gareth Porter says it does not; in the second, Anthony Cordesman of the [very establishment] Center for Strategic and International Studies says that it does.  We report, you decide.
What Does the Report Really Say?
The August 2012 IAEA Report on Iran: An Initial Assessment
By Tom Z. Collina and Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association [August 30, 2012]
---- The IAEA's latest quarterly report on Iran, now in circulation, finds that Tehran has installed more machines for uranium enrichment in its Fordow underground facility, but has not started to use them. This means that Iran has not significantly increased its rate of enrichment at this facility since the IAEA's previous report from May. Moreover, although Iran has enriched additional uranium to almost 20%–a level that could be more quickly turned into weapons material–Tehran has converted much of this material to reactor fuel. Thus Iran's available stockpile of 20% enriched uranium (91 kg) is essentially unchanged from May. http://armscontrolnow.org/2012/08/30/the-august-2012-iaea-report-on-iran-an-initial-assessment/
The IAEA Report and the New York Times
Nuclear Inspectors Confirm Iranian Progress
By David E. Sanger, New York Times [August 31, 2012]
---- Iran has already installed three-quarters of the nuclear centrifuges it needs to complete a deep-underground site for the production of nuclear fuel, international nuclear inspectors reported on Thursday. The finding is likely to affirm the belief of Israeli officials that President Obama must make clear his intention to halt Iran's program or give tacit approval for Israel to act on its own. The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the last to be issued before the American presidential election, lays out in detail how Iran has used the summer to double the number of centrifuges installed deep under a mountain near the holy city of Qum, while cleansing another site where the agency has said it suspects that the country has conducted explosive experiments that could be "relevant" to the production of a nuclear weapon. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/31/world/middleeast/nuclear-inspectors-confirm-iranian-progress.html?_r=1&hp
Report on Iran Nuclear Work Puts Israel in a Box
By Jodi Rudoren and David E. Sanger, New York Times [August 31, 2012]
---- For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday offered findings validating his longstanding position that while harsh economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation may have hurt Iran, they have failed to slow Tehran's nuclear program. If anything, the program is speeding up. But the agency's report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack. With the report that the country has already installed more than 2,100 centrifuges inside a virtually impenetrable underground laboratory, and that it has ramped up production of nuclear fuel, officials and experts here say the conclusions may force Israel to strike Iran or concede it is not prepared to act on its own. www.nytimes.com/2012/08/31/world/middleeast/report-on-iran-nuclear-work-puts-israel-in-a-box.html?pagewanted=all
Burying the Most Important News on Iran's Nuclear Program?
By Peter Hart, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) [August 31, 2012]
--- The release of a new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran was greeted as an ominous development by some major outlets. But are they playing down what could be the most important news in the report? … But what should be the most important news in the IAEA report is being buried.  Deep in the August 30 Times piece, readers learn this: "Some of the 20 percent fuel is in a form that is extremely difficult to use in a bomb, and most of the stockpile is composed of a fuel enriched at a lower level that would take considerably longer to process for weapons use." Those findings are quite a bit at odds with the ominous talk of Iran crossing some sort of red line, and the need to strike sooner rather than later.
Editor vs. Editor
From Wide Asleep in America [August 25, 2012]
---- New York Times' Rosenthal Ignores Ombudsman's Advice on Responsible Journalism Regarding Iranian Nuclear Program.
The IAEA Report and Iran's "Breakout" Capacity
IAEA Report Shows Iran Reduced Its Breakout Capacity
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [September 1, 2012]
---- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report made public Thursday reveals that Iran has actually reduced the amount of 20-percent enriched uranium available for any possible "breakout" to weapons grade enrichment over the last three months rather than increasing it. Contrary to the impression conveyed by most news media coverage, the report provides new evidence that Iran's enrichment strategy is aimed at enhancing its bargaining position in negotiations with the United States rather than amassing such a breakout capability. That higher level enriched uranium has been the main focus of U.S. diplomatic demands on Iran ever since 2009, on the ground that it represents the greatest threat of an Iranian move to obtain a nuclear weapon capability. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2012/09/01/iaea-report-shows-iran-reduced-its-breakout-capacity/
Further Moves toward an Iranian Nuclear Weapons Breakout Capability
By Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies [August 30, 2012]
---- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report today that highlights the growing urgency of successful negotiations, if they are to be an alternative to some form of preventive strike or massive exercise in improving deterrence and military containment. The report makes it clear that repeated efforts by the IAEA have not led to any meaningful progress in revolving the nuclear weapons issues that the IAEA raised in detail in the military annex to its report of November 6, 2011. Despite the intensified dialogue between the Agency and Iran since January 2012, efforts to resolve all outstanding substantive issues have achieved no concrete results: Iran, in an initial declaration, simply dismissed the Agency's concerns in connection with the issues…. identified in Section C of the Annex to GOV/2011/65; Iran has not responded to the Agency's initial questions on Parchin and the foreign expert; Iran has not provided the Agency with access to the location within the Parchin site to which the Agency has requested access; and Iran has been conducting activities at that location that will significantly hamper the Agency's ability to conduct effective verification. http://csis.org/publication/further-moves-toward-iranian-nuclear-weapons-breakout-capability-new-iaea-report-iran
More on Iran's Nuclear Program
U.N. nuclear watchdog team to examine Iran program
By Fredrik Dahl, Reuters [August 29, 2012]
----The U.N. nuclear watchdog is establishing a specialized team to inspect and investigate Iran's nuclear program, which diplomats say is expanding despite tough Western sanctions and the threat of an Israeli attack. The U.N. agency announced the establishment of an Iran Task Force shortly before it is expected to issue a report showing that the Islamic state has installed more than 300 new uranium enrichment machines in a fortified underground facility. Its latest report on Iran's nuclear work, due to be released on Thursday or Friday, also is likely to highlight deep concern about suspected efforts to remove any evidence of illicit atomic activity at an Iranian military complex, diplomats say. The statement on concentrating the agency's Iran experts in a dedicated team, seen by Reuters, was made separately to staff on Wednesday. Previously, the Iran dossier was handled by a department that also was responsible for other countries. http://news.yahoo.com/u-n-nuclear-watchdog-sets-iran-task-force-122604731.html?_esi=1
Iran rejects IAEA charges over Parchin military base
From Agence France-Presse [August 31, 2012]
---- Iran on Friday rejected allegations in a new International Atomic Energy Agency report that it was frustrating UN inspection of a suspect military site by apparently scrubbing it clean. "These statements have no technical basis. Anyone who has expertise in this area knows that these statements are mere pretexts and that one cannot clean a site" of nuclear work, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the ISNA news agency. The restricted report, seen by AFP on Thursday, says the IAEA's ability to inspect Parchin has been "significantly hampered" by the clean-up. http://news.yahoo.com/iran-rejects-iaea-charges-over-parchin-military-101606557.html
Iran might let diplomats visit suspected nuclear site
By Yeganeh Torbati and Fredrik Dahl, Reuters [August 2012]
Diplomats confer ahead of Ashton-Jalili call
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [August 29, 2012]
---- Diplomats from the 5+1 conferred Tuesday ahead of an expected conversation next week between the top international and Iran negotiators, diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor. Political directors from the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China held a conference call Tuesday with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, to determine exactly what she should say when she speaks with Iran's Saeed Jalili. An exact date for the Ashton-Jalili call has not been finalized. US negotiator Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, is in Washington this week, the State Department said, after traveling earlier this month to China, Russia and London for consultations with her P5+1 counterparts on Iran and Syria. http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/08/1742/diplomats-confer-ahead-of-ashton-jalili-call/
Russia says Iran's nuclear power plant fully operational
From Reuters [August 31, 2012]
---- Iran's first atomic power plant, a symbol of what the Islamic Republic says is its peaceful nuclear ambition, is now operating at full capacity, Russia's state nuclear corporation Rosatom said on Friday.
The Russian-built 1,000-megawatt reactor near the Gulf city of Bushehr, was plugged into Iran's national grid last September, ending years of delays and suspicions that Moscow was using the project as a diplomatic lever. Bushehr was started by Germany's Siemens before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and was taken over by Russian engineers in the 1990s. The United States for years urged Russia to abandon the project, fearing it could help Tehran develop nuclear weapons. Those concerns were eased by an agreement under which Russia will supply enriched uranium for the reactor and repatriate spent fuel that could be reprocessed into weapons-grade plutonium. http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/russia-says-irans-nuclear-power-plant-fully-operational/
America Planning for a Post-Israel Middle East?
By Franklin Lamb, Information Clearing House [August 28, 2012]
---- So what is all the fuss about? It's a paper entitled: "Preparing For A Post Israel Middle East," an 82 page analysis that concludes that the American national interest in fundamentally at odds with that of Zionist Israel. The authors concludes that Israel is currently the greatest threat to US national interests because its nature and actions prevent normal US relations with Arab and Muslim countries and, to a growing degree, the wider international community. The study was commissioned by the US Intelligence Community comprising 16 American intelligence agencies. A sampling of the findings includes the following: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article32304.htm
Mitt Romney's coming War on Iran: A Tale of Two Conventions
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [August 29, 2012]
---- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's "arrogant" pressure on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon not to go to the Non-Aligned meeting in Tehran is said to have backfired, causing Ban to insist on attending.
Other defiance came from New Delhi. India is committed to remain among Iran's largest oil markets, and is resisting US pressure and sanctions. It is even talking about allowing Iranian banks to operate in India, despite heavy-handed US threats. Romney, who thinks Obama is not doing enough against Iran despite the latter's current unprecedented financial blockade of that country, will likely come into fairly severe conflict with India over Iran. Egypt's new Muslim fundamentalist president Muhammad Morsi insisted, likewise, on going to Tehran, signaling his independence from Washington and a desire for Egypt to play a more wide-ranging role in the region. There is talk of Egypt restoring diplomatic relations with Iran. http://www.juancole.com/2012/08/mitt-romneys-coming-war-on-iran-a-tale-of-two-conventions.html
Reports: Egypt wouldn't fire on Iran ship
From UPI [August 27, 2012]
---- Egypt's Navy refused a U.S. request to fire on an Iranian weapons ship heading for violence-torn Syria through the Suez Canal, al-Arabiya reported. "The Suez Canal is a narrow waterway and it is impossible for military action to take place there," Mohab Mamish, recently appointed chairman of the Suez Canal Authority and former Egyptian Navy commander told al-Arabiya. The U.S. request was made recently, the report said. The Egypt Independent had a similar report, saying it was told by Mamish the Navy refused a United States request to "strike" the Iranian ship. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/08/27/Reports-Egypt-wouldnt-fire-on-Iran-ship/UPI-61221346066601/#ixzz24xoC3Mdd
The recent terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria prompted accusations that Iran was behind the attack, and that it was in response to Israeli assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, the Stuxnet and other computer viruses, etc.  Indeed, Israeli announced that it had proof of Iran's responsibility even before Bulgarian police had identified the suicide bomber, and connected the suicide bomber to other attacks on Israelis in several other countries.  One of these attacks took place in India; and in a very interesting three-part bit of armchair detective work, IPS reporter Gareth Porter suggests that the India story, at least, is a deliberately contrived hoax, and that Iran was not involved. - FB
Evidence in Delhi Embassy Bombing Suggests Journalist Was Framed
---- In "The Delhi Car Bombing: How the Police Built a False Case", a three-part series beginning today, award-winning investigative journalist Gareth Porter dissects the Delhi police accusation against an Indian journalist and four Iranians of involvement in the Feb. 13 bombing of an Israeli embassy car. New Delhi police officials have released hundreds of pages of documents from their investigation into the Feb. 13 bombing of an Israeli Embassy car. The documents aimed to show that a well-known Indian Muslim journalist aided an Iranian conspiracy to plan and carry out the bombing. But a review by IPS of the evidence filed in the case suggests that the Indian journalist accused in the case has been framed by the police, at least in part to implicate the Iranians in the terror plot. http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/evidence-in-delhi-embassy-bombing-suggests-journalist-was-framed-part-1/#; http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/police-case-for-iranian-bomb-plot-based-on-tainted-evidence-part-2/; and http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/08/within-special-cell-of-delhi-police-a-history-of-falsifying-evidence-part-3/
Iran to hold major air defense drill to simulate emergency situations
By Reuters and The Associated Press [September 1, 2012]
---- Iranian commander says drill to include both the army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; it follows a series of large-scale military simulations such as the 'Great Prophet 7' missile exercises which took place in July. http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/iran-to-hold-major-air-defense-drill-to-simulate-emergency-situations-1.462051
For the past several weeks, the Israeli and US media has been awash in stories about the debate within Israel over whether or not Israel will/should attack Iran militarily, and if this attack might take place before or after the US election on November 6.  As noted in previous newsletters, the level of dissent from the government's signals that it might attack Iran without US participation or permission is extraordinary.
Israel's political crisis was heightened this week by several new developments.  First, as noted above, the mainstream interpretation of the IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program framed the on-going Iranian nuclear activities as closing a window of opportunity for Israel, which if it did not strike Iran soon, it would no longer be able to destroy critical parts of Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Equally ominous for Israel appeared to be the public distancing of the United States from any such attack on Iran by Israel (at least until the election).  One instance of this was the highly publicized remarks of US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey; a second was the decision by the Obama administration to downgrade the level of US participation in joint US-Israeli military exercises scheduled for October. - FB
General Demsey Speaks Out Against "Complicity"
Israelis Puzzled by Dempsey Comments Opposing Strike on Iran
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [September 1, 2012]
---- On Thursday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said he did not want to be "complicit" in an Israeli military strike on Iran, which he said would be dangerous and counterproductive.
He warned that an attack by Israel would "clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear program." This falls in line with previous analysis by the Obama administration and experts that Iran's nuclear enrichment is too redundant to be completely destroyed by Israeli attacks and that such a move may encourage the Iranians to actually start making weapons to serve as a deterrent for further strikes.
For now, Dempsey said, whether Iran even wants nuclear weapons is inconclusive. But he did warn that diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran "could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely." http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/01/israelis-puzzled-by-dempsey-comments-opposing-strike-on-iran/
Also useful - Richard Norton-Taylor, "Israeli attack on Iran 'would not stop nuclear programme,'" The Guardian [August 30, 2012] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/30/israeli-attack-iran-not-stop-nuclear?newsfeed=true
Joint Military Exercises Reduced
Exclusive: U.S. Scales-Back Military Exercise with Israel, Affecting Potential Iran Strike
By Karl Vick and Aaron J. Klein, Time []
---- Seven months ago, Israel and the United States postponed a massive joint military exercise that was originally set to go forward just as concerns were brimming that Israel would launch a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. The exercise was rescheduled for late October, and appears likely to go forward on the cusp of the U.S. presidential election. But it won't be nearly the same exercise. Well-placed sources in both countries have told TIME that Washington has greatly reduced the scale of U.S. participation, slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile interception systems at the core of the joint exercise.  "Basically what the Americans are saying is, 'We don't trust you,'" a senior Israeli military official tells TIME. http://world.time.com/2012/08/31/exclusive-u-s-scales-back-military-exercise-with-israel-affecting-potential-iran-strike/
Also useful – From Haaretz [Israel], "Report: US scales back joint military exercise with Israel," [August 31, 2012] http://www.israeli-occupation.org/2012-09-01/report-us-scales-back-joint-military-exercise-with-israel/; and Anshel Pfeffer, "The last-minute attempt to prevent an Israeli strike," Haaretz [Israel] [September 1, 2012] http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/the-axis/the-last-minute-attempt-to-prevent-an-israeli-strike.premium-1.462054
Other Signs of US-Israel Conflict re: Iran
Israel Pressured Not To Strike Iran Alone
By Crispian Balmer, Reuters [August 31, 2012]
---- Israel is facing growing international pressure not to attack Iran unilaterally, with the United States in particular making clear its firm opposition to any such strike. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will speak out about the dangers of Iran in an address next month to the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He is also expected to hold talks with U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit. A senior Israeli official told Reuters this month that Netanyahu would be looking for a firm pledge of U.S. military action if Iran does not back down. However, the meeting might well be icy. Israel's top-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that there had been an "unprecedented" and "angry" exchange between Netanyahu and the U.S. ambassador in Tel Aviv earlier this month over Iran. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/31/iran-nuclear-program-israel_n_1845816.html?view=print&comm_ref=false
Martin Indyk: Israel "cried wolf"
By Marsha B. Cohen, LobeLog [August 27th, 2012]
---- Having pulled all the stops to avert an Israeli attack against Iran last spring that never happened, has the Obama administration given all that it has to Israel's hawkish leaders only to learn that it has been played? If so, how might this affect the US response to Israeli warnings that it will attack Iran before the 2012 presidential election? … It's not clear whether Indyk is working for or against the President in suggesting that the Obama administration feels it was played by Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Or, by stating that after having been misled about Israel's intentions, the administration remains committed to preventing Iran from developing  nuclear weapons but views Israel as "the boy who cried wolf" and is therefore taking less seriously the hyperbolic hints that Israel will attack Iran prior to the US election. http://www.lobelog.com/martin-indyk-israel-cried-wolf/
Also useful – Jason Ditz, "Israeli Vice PM: US 'Undermining' Push for Iran War," Antiwar.com [August 31, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/08/31/israeli-vice-pm-us-undermining-push-for-iran-war/; and John Glaser, "Israeli Official: Obama 'Will Make Netanyahu Pay' If Reelected," Antiwar.com [September 1, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/01/israeli-official-obama-will-make-netanyahu-pay-if-reelected/
Is Israel's Nuclear Arsenal Beyond Discussion?
West urges Arabs not to target Israel at U.N. nuclear meet
By Fredrik Dahl, Reuters [Aug 29, 2012]
---- Arab states scored a diplomatic victory in 2009 when IAEA members narrowly endorsed a resolution urging Israel to join the NPT and place all its atomic sites under agency supervision. Brought up again in 2010 to keep up pressure on Israel, the resolution was defeated after a bruising diplomatic battle, in which Washington and its allies argued that zeroing in on Israel would harm any hope of banning nuclear arms in the region. In June this year, Arab states asked for the "Israeli Nuclear Capabilities" issue to be put on the conference agenda, but it remains unclear whether they will follow that with a proposed resolution or refrain, as they did in 2011. http://news.yahoo.com/west-urges-arabs-not-target-israel-u-n-105335646.html
What about Israel's nuclear weapons? [On the media]
By Paul Woodward, War in Context [September 2, 2012]
Also useful – Jason Ditz, "Israel Rails against IAEA Vote on Nuclear Arsenal," Antiwar.com [August 28, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/08/28/israel-rails-against-iaea-vote-on-their-nuclear-arsenal/
Inside Israel
Israelis Brace Dubiously for War with Iran
---- For months now, the Israeli news cycle has been dominated by talk about an "Iranian threat" and whether or not Israel would strike Iranian nuclear facilities. In Israel, the response to a potential Israel-Iran war has been mixed. According to a July opinion poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) and Tel Aviv University, known as the Peace Index, 61 percent of Jewish-Israelis don't think that Israel should attack Iran without help from the United States. The survey also found that 60 percent of respondents believed that Israel should accept that it can't prevent Iran's nuclear programme, and should instead change its policies to reflect that it may soon no longer be the only nuclear power in the Middle East. http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/09/israelis-brace-dubiously-for-war-with-iran/
Religious Party Not on Board With Netanyahu's War
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [August 30, 2012]
---- Despite reports for weeks that he has been courted to endorse the conflict by the Israeli Defense Ministry, the religious leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has declined to endorse the war in Iran, and the party appears to be the largest roadblock inside the current coalition against such a conflict. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/08/30/israeli-coalition-party-shas-weary-of-iran-war/
Gathering Hope in Tehran
By Kaveh Afrasiabi, New York Times [August 23, 2012]
---- Tehran wants to seize this opportunity to neutralize Western-imposed isolation over its nuclear efforts and to defend its program, which has been consistently supported at past Nonaligned Movement summits as well as by Nonaligned countries in the International Atomic Energy Agency. Concurrent with the Tehran summit will be a new round of Iran-I.A.E.A. talks in Vienna that holds out the promise of greater nuclear transparency by Iran. Unfortunately, the United States and a number of other Western countries have adopted a purely negative approach toward the Tehran summit, going even as far as urging Ban to boycott it since the host nation is in defiance of U.N. resolutions on the nuclear issue. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/opinion/gathering-hope-in-tehran.html?_r=2&hpw
(Video) Did the NAM summit backfire on Iran?
From Aljazeera – 25 minutes
Isolating Iran?
By Najmedin Meshkati and Guive Mirfendereski, Los Angeles Times [August 28, 2012]
---- The 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran this week will draw dignitaries and representatives from more than 100 countries — 35 heads of state, including Mohamed Morsi, the current chair of the movement and the first democratically elected president of Egypt, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. For the next three years, Iran will serve as the chair of the movement, which was formed in 1961 to counterbalance the superpowers. In early August, Iran hosted a high-level meeting that included Russia on the crisis in Syria. All this points to the abject failure of the U.S. policy in the last 30 years to "isolate" Iran. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-meshkati-iran-isolation-20120828,0,3764322.story
Also useful – Thomas Erdbrink, "Nonaligned Nations Back Iran's Nuclear Bid, but Not Syria," New York Times [August 31, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/01/world/middleeast/iran-criticizes-egypts-mohamed-morsi-over-syria-comments.html?ref=world; and Peter Jenkins, "Can Iran's NAM Presidency help Resolve the Nuclear Dispute?" LobeLog [August 28th, 2012] http://www.lobelog.com/can-iran%E2%80%99s-nam-presidency-help-resolve-the-nuclear-dispute/
The Country That Is the World: Syria's Clashing Communities
By Charles Glass, World Affairs Journal [July/August 2012]
The population of Syria is so inharmonious a gathering of widely different races in blood, in creed, and in custom, that government is both difficult and dangerous. —Sir Mark Sykes, Dar Ul-Islam: A Record of a Journey through Ten of the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey (1904)
---- The world of communities dwelling in Syria includes its Sunni Muslim Arab majority alongside a multitude of minorities: Sunni Kurds; Armenian and Arab Christians of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant denominations; Assyrians; Circassians; Kurdish Yazidis, with their roots in the teachings of Zoroaster; and the quasi-Shiite Muslim sects of Druze, Ismailis, and Ala-wites. The Syrian population included several thousand Jews, descendants of ancient communities, until President Hafez al-Assad lifted restrictions on their right to emigrate in 1992. The country is one of the few places where Aramaic, the regional lingua franca at the time of Christ, is still spoken. In one Aramaic-speaking village, Maalula, it was not unusual for Muslim women to pray with Christians for the births of healthy children at the convent of Saint Takla. www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/country-world-syria%E2%80%99s-clashing-communities
Why the Neocon Clamor For Intervention in Syria Is About Israeli Regional Dominance
By Mitchell Plitnick, LobeLog [August 23, 2012]
---- As fighting in Syria continues to rage, the Obama administration's wait-and-see approach to the conflict is coming under increasing assault. Not coincidentally, the advocates for US intervention in Syria are represented by a coalition of the same strange bedfellows that pushed for an invasion of Iraq a decade ago: neoconservatives and liberal hawks. And, like the Iraqi misadventure, their calls are guided by misconceptions, a lack of understanding of the region and a blurring of US, global political and Israeli interests. http://www.alternet.org/print/world/why-neocon-clamor-intervention-syria-about-israeli-regional-dominance
Also useful – David Rieff, "History Resumes: Sectarianism's Unlearned Lessons," World Affairs Journal [July/August 2012] http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/article/history-resumes-sectarianism%E2%80%99s-unlearned-lessons; and from the International Crisis Group, "Syria's Mutating Conflict" [August 1, 2012] http://www.crisisgroup.org/~/media/Files/Middle%20East%20North%20Africa/Iraq%20Syria%20Lebanon/Syria/128-syrias-mutating-conflict
Iran, Egypt, and Syria
Iran said to send troops to bolster Syria
By News Sources on August 30, 2012
---- The Wall Street Journal Reports: Iran is sending commanders from its elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and hundreds of foot soldiers to Syria, according to current and former members of the corps. The personnel moves come on top of what these people say are Tehran's stepped-up efforts to aid the military of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with cash and arms. That would indicate that regional capitals are being drawn deeper into Syria's conflict—and undergird a growing perception among Mr. Assad's opponents that the regime's military is increasingly strained. A commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, appeared to offer Iran's first open acknowledgment of its military involvement in Syria. http://warincontext.org/2012/08/30/iran-said-to-send-troops-to-bolster-syria/
Flawed News Reporting on Iran
By Farideh Farhi, LobeLog [August 29th, 2012]
---- On Monday the Wall Street Journal published a breathless article about Iran sending troops to bolster Syria. Quite a bit of the piece is a re-write of a previous story based on anonymous sources and speculation about Iranian hostages in Syria, some of whom are reportedly retired members of Iranian Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC). But the part of the more recent story that created the sensational headline is really based on one quote that is attributed to an IRGC commander in the Qazvin Province. http://www.lobelog.com/flawed-news-reporting-on-iran/
Egyptian Leader Adds Rivals of West to Syria Plan
By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times [August 26, 2012]
---- Staking out a new leadership role for Egypt in the shaken landscape of the Arab uprisings, President Mohamed Morsi is reaching out to Iran and other regional powers in an initiative to halt the escalating violence in Syria. The initiative, centered on a committee of four that also includes Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is the first foreign policy priority taken up by Mr. Morsi, the Islamist who became Egypt's first elected leader two months ago. Following failed efforts by the Arab League and United Nations to stop Syria's descent into civil war, Mr. Morsi's plan sets a notably assertive and independent course for an Egypt that is still sorting out its own transition. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/27/world/middleeast/egyptian-president-seeks-regional-initiative-for-syria-peace.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=world&pagewanted=print
NATO Interventions
France Urges Creation of Interim Syrian Government, Pledging Recognition
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times [August 27, 2012]
---- France will recognize a provisional Syrian government as soon as it has been formed, President François Hollande said on Monday, urging Syria's fractured political opposition to establish one as soon as possible. … The French leader also reiterated a warning made by President Obama a week ago, seconded a few days later by Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, that military intervention could be justified if the Syrian government used unconventional weapons or moved them in a threatening fashion. Syria has said that it would use such weapons only in the event of an external attack. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/world/middleeast/rebels-claim-to-shoot-down-syrian-helicopter.html
UK support for military action in Syria is not in America's best interest
By Sarwar Kashmeri, The Guardian [UK] [August 26, 2012]
---- The last time a British prime minister endorsed an American president's plans for military intervention, it resulted in the US invasion of Iraq – one of the worst foreign policy blunders in recent American history.
That is why last week's endorsement by David Cameron of a warning by Barack Obama that even the threat of chemical weapons by Syria could trigger a military intervention should be viewed with alarm on both sides of the Atlantic. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/26/uk-support-us-military-action-syria
Islamists Interventions
Radical Salafis Overrunning the Syrian Revolution
By Emile Nakhleh, Inter Press Service [August 31, 2012]
---- The recent visit by Abd al-Halim Murad, head of the Bahraini Salafi al-Asalah movement, to Syria to meet with Syrian rebels is an attempt by him and other Gulf Salafis to hijack the Syrian revolution. Sadly, the Saudi and Bahraini governments have looked the other way as their Sunni Salafis try to penetrate the Syrian opposition in the name of fighting Assad, Alawites, Shia, Hizballah and Iran. The Assad regime has pursued a sectarian strategy that has resulted in promoting violent "jihadism" in order to bolster his narrative that the opposition to his regime is the work of foreign radical Salafi terrorist groups. Despite Assad's self-serving claims, violent Salafi activists are nevertheless exploiting instability and lawlessness in some Arab countries, Syria included, to preach their doctrine and force more conservative social practises on their compatriots. http://www.ips.org/blog/ips/radical-salafis-overrunning-the-syrian-revolution/
Also useful - Zvi Bar'el, "Al-Qaida threatens Hezbollah over its support of the Syrian regime," Haaretz [Israel] [September 2, 2012]  http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/al-qaida-threatens-hezbollah-over-its-support-of-the-syrian-regime.premium-1.462076


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