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[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - October 14, 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
October 14, 2012
Hello All – With the end of the endless presidential campaign finally in sight, all parties to the dispute about Iran's nuclear program have signaled their interest in re-starting negotiations, which have been suspended since last summer. As indicated in some of the articles linked below, while Iran has proposed a plan to end medium-enriched uranium (20 percent) in exchange for a guaranteed supply of that fuel, the United States and its allies (the "P5+1") have not budged from their more inclusive demands. During the negotiations in the fall of 2009, such an offer might have settled the conflict, but the "West" has raised its sights and is putting forth demands that everyone agrees are non-starters.
If/when negotiations resume, two major developments since last summer may affect the negotiating strategies of the parties. It appears that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has succumbed to massive internal and external (US) pressures to not even think about attacking Iran without US approval and support; and he has decided to hold early elections to re-stabilize his governing coalition, now in disarray. Also, the economic upheaval rocking Iran over the last several weeks has led many to conclude that the "sanctions are working" and that regime change may be accomplished without the use of military force. Many commentators believe that this will make the United States less anxious to make an offer that Iran would accept.
Because the issue is so pressing, I've linked an expanded section of articles about the impact of sanctions on Iran, and also about Iran's currency crisis. The gist of the links article, imo, is that there is no evidence in the historical record that economic sanctions ever "work"; that while the sanctions are causing great hardship to Iran's people, by themselves the sanctions don't seem likely to deny the government sufficient revenue to govern; and that Iran's currency crisis is due only in part to the sanctions, with blame for most of the currency crisis due to mismanagement by the government. To the extent that this latter view is shared by much of Iran's electorate, it could lead to significant political changes in next June's presidential election.
Is a war between Turkey and Syria possible/likely? The consensus among informed commentators is "no"; but the events of the past two weeks have put into question just exactly what Turkey wants out of this crisis. Cross-border artillery shots and the forced landing of a plane carrying Russian equipment of some kind to Syria doesn't seem like much of a cause for war. Yet there are the tanks, on the border. I especially recommend VJ Prashad's article linked below; and for daily updates, the website Syria Comment is especially helpful (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 email@example.com.
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
NEGOTIATIONS ON IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Back to Basics [On bias at the IAEA]
By Peter Jenkins, LobeLog [October 12, 2012]
[FB - Peter Jenkins is a former British envoy to the IAEA.]
---- Perhaps one can legitimately say that the case for seeing Iran as an enemy and as a threat to our homelands is unproven. So what? Perhaps it is unreasonable to see Iran in these terms, but does that matter? Yes, because it colors the Western approach to the nuclear problem. It leads us to place undue weight on the application of pressure to induce Iran to submit to our wishes; to misrepresent evidence to justify additional pressure; and to advance contentious interpretations of Iran's safeguards agreement, the IAEA Statute, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the UN Charter, to prejudice the international community against Iran and justify measures that harm Iran. http://www.lobelog.com/back-to-basics/
Global powers launch new push to end Iran nuclear crisis
By Julian Borger, The Guardian, [October 11, 2012]
[FB - This lengthy article includes a useful overview – from the "Western" perspective – of the recent course of negotiations about Iran's nuclear program.]
---- Six global powers will launch a diplomatic drive after the US elections aimed at defusing the Iranian nuclear crisis in the next few months and avoiding the eruption of a new Middle East conflict next year. A "reformulated" proposal will offer limited relief from existing sanctions and other incentives for Iran to limit the level of enrichment of its uranium stockpile. … If the step-by-step approach fails there could be an attempt to "go big" with an ambitious, comprehensive settlement that would allow Iran to continue producing uranium at low levels (under 5%) of enrichment but under stricter international monitoring and controls. … In an effort to ratchet up the pressure, European foreign ministers are due to meet in Luxembourg on Monday to agree a further tightening of sanctions, imposing bans on more Iranian banks and closing loopholes in shipping restrictions imposed in the summer. The diplomatic opening is expected to close again in the spring, as the Iranian leadership is likely to be distracted by the campaign for the country's own presidential elections in June. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/11/diplomatic-defusing-iranian-nuclear-crisis
(Video) Iran FM Salehi: Iran nuclear bomb would decrease Iran's security
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [October 2, 2012] – 70 minutes video
--- Iran's foreign minister said Monday that Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon would threaten Iran's security and be destabilizing for the region. Ali Akbar Salehi, the MIT-educated PhD engineer who previously served as Iran's longtime envoy to the UN atomic watchdog agency, said that Iran acquiring one or two nuclear bombs would dramatically increase the threats Iran faces, and not be a deterrent to nuclear powers with far larger nuclear stockpiles. "Had Iran chosen to [go] nuclear in the sense of weaponization, it would not be a deterrent for Iran," Salehi, speaking in English, told foreign policy experts at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York Monday. "It would attract more threats from the other side. http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/10/2403/iran-fm-salehi-iran-nuclear-bomb-would-destabilize-iran/
Also useful – From Reuters, "Iran to enrich uranium to 60 percent if nuclear talks fail," [October 2, 2012] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/02/us-iran-nuclear-uranium-idUSBRE8910VJ20121002; David E. Sanger, "Iran Offers Plan, Dismissed by U.S., on Nuclear Crisis," New York Times [October 4, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/05/world/middleeast/iranians-offer-9-step-plan-to-end-nuclear-crisis.html?hpw; Thomas Erdbrink, "Iran Denies Plan to End Nuclear Standoff," New York Times [October 6, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/world/middleeast/iran-denies-report-of-plan-to-end-nuclear-standoff.html?ref=world&pagewanted=print; from Reuters, "Iran offers to halt 20 percent enrichment if given fuel for research reactor," [October 13, 2012] http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/iran-offers-to-halt-20-percent-enrichment-if-given-fuel-for-research-reactor-1.469758; and Ilan Ben Zion, "Iran's FM offers to limit uranium enrichment if world guarantees supply of fissile fuel," Times of Israel [October 7, 2012] http://www.timesofisrael.com/irans-foreign-minister-suggests-limiting-enrichment-in-exchange-for-more-uranium/
With 'sabotage' charge, Iran takes hostile tone with U.N. watchdog
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post [October 7, 2012]
UNITED STATES POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
New Senate Push to Pledge Unconditional Support for Israeli Preventive War on Iran
From Huffington Post [October 11, 2012]
---- Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is planning to press the Senate next month to pledge U.S. troops, money, and political support to Israel should Bibi Netanyahu launch a preventive war on Iran. Graham's mendacity on Iran policy should by now be notorious. His most recent victory was to convince Congress to endorse Netanyahu's redline for war with Iran instead of the redline laid out by the president. The trick was that, in pushing that measure, Graham disingenuously claimed that Obama's redline was nuclear weapons "capability." And Congress bought it. In reality, the president very clearly rejected that redline and said the U.S redline was to prevent Iran from actually getting the bomb, not getting an amorphous "capability." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamal-abdi/israel-iran_b_1959607.html
Mitt Romney Remarks at Virginia Military Institute
[FB - This is an excerpt from Romney's speech, in which he discusses Iran and the Middle East.]
… The relationship between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel, for example, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains. The president explicitly stated that his goal was to put daylight between the United States and Israel, and he's succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran. Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies and to us. … I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran and will -- and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf. And I'll work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions, not just words, that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/us/politics/mitt-romney-remarks-at-virginia-military-institute.html
Whatever Happened to that Iranian Bomb Plot Case?
By Michael Kaufman, Counterpunch [October 10, 2012]
---- It becomes hard for the audience to concentrate on the intended theme– The Iranians are plotting against us– when fundamental questions of common sense are crowding the mind: Why would the Iranians be so careless as to use Arbabsiar, a man who seems singularly unqualified to carry out such a mission? Why would they initiate such a dangerous escalation? What tangible benefits would be gained from killing the Ambassador? http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/10/whatever-happened-to-that-iranian-bomb-plot-case/
IRANIAN POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Iran's Murky Political Future: An Interview with Farideh Farhi
From the Council on Foreign Relations [October 4, 2012]
---- The Iranian election will happen in June 2013, and at this particular moment it's not at all clear who the candidates will be. But there is no doubt that, given the kind of dynamics that have occurred in Iran and the reality that Ahmadinejad's presidency has raised questions about the management of the economy, accountability, as well as better relations with the outside world, have come to the fore. Individuals like Rafsanjani, who are known in Iran for essentially representing the technocratic approach to the management of the economy as well as better relations for Iran abroad, have gained more prominence. People have begun speculating about whether the Iranian election would essentially be an election that would bring forth a candidate that would represent ideas that are similar to Rafsanjani's and whether that candidate would be a successful one. http://www.cfr.org/iran/irans-murky-political-future/p29205
(Video) An Interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
From Charlie Rose program [September 28, 2012] – 33 minutes
UN report finds Iran's crackdown expanding
By Peter James Spielmann, Associated Press [October 11, 2012]
---- The U.N.'s human rights expert on Iran is condemning the Islamic Republic's reliance on stoning as a form of capital punishment, citing that as just one of a number of ''deeply troubling'' Iranian rights violations, many of which are ''systemic in nature,'' according to a report circulating among U.N. delegations. Ahmed Shaheed, the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on Iran, also called for an ''extensive, impartial and independent investigation into the violence in the weeks and months that followed the presidential election of 2009." The document will be the basis for a General Assembly resolution critical of Iran's human rights violations, which will probably be voted on in December. http://www.boston.com/news/world/united-nations/2012/10/11/report-finds-iran-crackdown-expanding/x0HuTAfr6KW6CIrkMpzQaO/story.html
Are Sanctions "Working"?
Sanctioning society: From Iraq to Iran
By Murtaza Hussain, Aljazeera [October 2012]
---- Untargeted sanctions against a country is not an alternative to war, but a form of war in and of themselves. After over three decades of service with the United Nations, working across the world on development and humanitarian assistance projects, in 1998 the UN Chief Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Denis Halliday turned in his resignation to the organisation. Halliday wrote that he could no longer continue administering a programme which he said "satisfied the legal definition of genocide". In later interviews he further explained his rationale for resigning from the organisation to which he had given over three decades of his life, and about the horrors that economic sanctions had visited upon the civilian population of Iraq:
"My innate sense of justice was and still is outraged by the violence that UN sanctions have brought upon and continues to bring upon, the lives of children, families - the extended families, the loved ones of Iraq. There is no justification for killing the young people of Iraq, not the aged, not the sick, not the rich, not the poor. Some will tell you that the leadership is punishing the Iraqi people. That is not my perception, or experience from living in Baghdad. And were that to be the case - how can that possibly justify further punishment, in fact collective punishment, by the United Nations?"
Today as the United States continues to intensify its international economic sanctions programme against Iran, it is worth revisiting the catastrophic harm which a previous sanctions campaign against Saddam Hussein's Iraq had upon that country. While the sanctions failed to remove Saddam from power and by many accounts helped him solidify his grip on the country by keeping the overwhelming majority of the population focused purely on subsistence, they took a calculatedly devastating toll on Iraqi civilians. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/201210373854792889.html
The Temptation of Regime Change
By Paul Pillar, The National Interest [October 3, 2012]
---- Resistance to any lessening of sanctions as part of a negotiated agreement with Iran on the nuclear question has, unfortunately, already been strong, even before the newest protests. That resistance has been reflected in the relatively inflexible negotiating posture to date of the United States and its partners of the P5 +1. A hope in some quarters that economic pressure will hasten the demise of the current Iranian regime no doubt is one of the causes of that resistance, even though that is not explicitly an official objective of the sanctions. The more that street protests in Tehran sustain that hope, the stronger is likely to be resistance in the United States to any sanctions relief, and the more politically difficult it will be for any American administration to strike a nuclear deal, which would require such relief. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/the-temptation-regime-change-7554
The Currency Crisis
War By Other Means: The Forces Behind Iran's Currency Crisis
By Sasan Fayazmanesh, Counterpunch [October 11, 2012]
---- In September and early October of 2012 the Iranian currency, rial, was in a state of free fall relative to the value of major world currencies and gold. The government of Iran, as well as the Central of Bank of Iran appeared to be helpless in stopping the nosedive. There have been, indeed, various explanations as to what caused the recent economic crisis in Iran, particularly the free fall in rial. But, for the most part the explanations seem to concentrate on the effect of draconian sanctions imposed on Iran by Israel's allies, the US and EU, as well as the ineptness of the Iranian government, led by President Ahmadinejad, in dealing with the sanctions. Which one is more to blame would depend on the political perspective of the analyst. … The September-October 2012 currency crisis in Iran is therefore not new. Such crises have been coming in waves. But each time a new lower value for rial is established. Like many economic crisis elsewhere, past or present, it is difficult to say what is causing these waves. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/11/the-forces-behind-irans-currency-crisis/
Iran Bazaar Strikes signal Misery, not Sanctions 'Victory'
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [October 4, 2012]
---- On Wednesday, the Tehran covered bazaar was closed, and the traditional market in some other cities such as Mashhad also went on strike, with demonstrators protesting the collapse of the Iranian currency, the rial. Until last November, the rial was about 10,000 to the dollar. Then it fell to 12,000. Last summer it hit 16,000. Some merchants were offering 35,000 to the dollar on Wednesday and expected the rial to decline further. Although the US, the EU and Israel's government will gloat that 'sanctions are working,' it is unclear that any such thing is true. http://www.juancole.com/2012/10/iran-bazaar-strikes-signal-misery-not-sanctions-victory.html
Also useful – Peter Beaumont,"A collapse in the rial, greeted with glee by some, is a cause not for celebration but for fear," The Guardian [UK] [October 2, 2012] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/02/the-currency-war-on-iran; Mohammad Ali Shabani, "Iran's Currency Faces Pressures Beyond the US-Led Sanctions," Al-Monitor [September 15, 2012] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/more-than-sanctions-depressing-i.html#ixzz28jYwCrFc; and BBC News, "Iran's parliament to reconsider subsidy reform," [October 7, 202] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19863486
MILITARY THREATS AND MANEUVERS
U.S. Suspects Iran Was Behind a Wave of Cyberattacks
By Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger, New York Times [October 13, 2012]
---- American intelligence officials are increasingly convinced that Iran was the origin of a serious wave of network attacks that crippled computers across the Saudi oil industry and breached financial institutions in the United States, episodes that contributed to a warning last week from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta that the United States was at risk of a "cyber-Pearl Harbor." After Mr. Panetta's remarks on Thursday night, American officials described an emerging shadow war of attacks and counterattacks already under way between the United States and Iran in cyberspace. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/world/middleeast/us-suspects-iranians-were-behind-a-wave-of-cyberattacks.html?ref=world
Robert Gates: War on Iran Would Be 'Catastrophic,' Make Tehran Nukes 'Inevitable'
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [October 4, 2012]
---- A US or Israeli attack on Iran would "prove catastrophic" and "make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable," former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in a speech Wednesday night. Neither the United States nor Israel is capable of wiping out Iran's nuclear capability, Gates said, and "such an attack would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable. They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert." Not only would Iran be likely to reconstitute its defunct nuclear weapons program, but Tehran might also respond by disrupting world oil traffic in the Persian Gulf and launching a wave of terrorism across the region, Gates claimed. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/10/04/robert-gates-war-on-iran-would-be-catastrophic-and-make-a-nuclear-iran-inevitable/print/
A WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East?
Middle East Security at the Crossroads: Urgent Need for a WMD-free Zone
By Kate Hudson, Aljazeera [October 12, 2012]
[FB - Dr Kate Hudson is general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a leading anti-nuclear and anti-war campaigner.]
---- As tensions mount in the Middle East, so do the demands for a regional WMD-free zone. Nearly 40 years after such a zone was first proposed on the floor of the United Nations, the need is as urgent as ever. So it's good news that finally some tentative steps are being made to move forward on outlawing the Middle East's weapons of mass destruction. This December, the Finnish government is hosting a conference in Helsinki, on behalf of the UN, with experienced diplomat and politician Jaakko Laajava bringing together the region's states to discuss this most elusive but necessary goal.Many will see this proposal as a pipedream, but Nuclear Weapons-Free Zones (NWFZs) are highly successful forms of collective security across large parts of the world. Currently, 115 states and 18 other territories belong to 5 regional treaties, covering a majority of the earth's surface, including almost the entire southern hemisphere. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/2012101012117473948.html
ISRAELI POLICY AND PERSPECTIVES
How Netanyahu's bomb Iran ploy failed
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [October 4, 2012]
---- Binyamin Netanyahu's explicit aim was to get the US to adopt his "red line" - meaning that it would threaten military force against Iran if it does not bow to a demand to cease enrichment. The rest of the world can stop worrying about Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's supposed threat to bomb Iran. Netanyahu's speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week appears to mark the end of his long campaign to convince the world that he might launch a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear programme. The reason for Netanyahu's retreat is the demonstration of unexpectedly strong pushback against Netanyahu's antics by President Barack Obama. And that could be the best news on the Iran nuclear issue in many years. The evidence now available indicates that the Netanyahu campaign about a unilateral strike on Iran was from the beginning a bluff aimed at pressuring President Barack Obama to adopt both "crippling sanctions" against Iran's oil export sector and an explicit threat of war if Iran did not end its nuclear programme. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/201210493522531400.html
Israel versus America versus Iran
By Shlomo Ben Ami, Aljazeera [October 8, 2012]
[FB - Former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami is vice president of the Toledo International Centre for Peace.]
---- For Israel, war with Iran is not about neutralising an existential threat; it is about reasserting its regional status. Israel's leaders see their country's standing in the region being seriously threatened by the emergence of a hostile Islamist regime in Egypt; the possibility that a similarly hostile regime will eventually emerge in Syria; the fragility of traditionally friendly Jordan; and the dangerous boost that the regional Islamist awakening has given to Israel's sworn enemies, Hamas and Hezbollah. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/2012107151246788109.html
Netanyahu Calls for Early Elections in Israel
By Jodi Rudoren, New York Times [October 9, 2012]
---- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Tuesday called for elections early next year instead of as scheduled in October 2013, saying that conversations with his coalition partners had proved it would be impossible to pass "a responsible budget" with deep cuts. A victory around the same time that the United States is either inaugurating a new president or starting a second Obama term would probably embolden the prime minister, allowing him to continue his aggressive approach toward Iran, while mostly ignoring the Palestinian conflict. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/10/world/middleeast/netanyahu-calls-for-early-elections-in-israel.html?ref=world
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
Syria's Islamist rebels join forces against Assad
By Mariam Karouny, Reuters [October 11, 2012]
[FB – On "Syria Comment," this article is described as "the most important article of the month."]
---- Powerful Syrian Islamist brigades, frustrated at the growing divisions among rebels, have joined forces in what they say is a "liberation front" to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Mistrust and miscommunication have been a feature of the rebel campaign against Assad. Differences over leadership, tactics and sources of funding have widened the rifts between largely autonomous brigades scattered across Syria. After more than a month of secret meetings, leaders of Islamist brigades - including the Farooq Brigade that operates mainly in Homs province and the heavyweight Sukour al-Sham brigade of Idlib - formed the "Front to Liberate Syria". http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/11/us-syria-crisis-rebels-idUSBRE89A0Y920121011
The Turkey-Syria Confrontation
What Will Ankara Do?
By Vijay Prashad, Asia Times [October 12, 2012]
---- Death has escaped from Syria. The numbers within its borders have climbed to near 30,000. But over the past few months, death has scaled the borders into Lebanon, threatening, as the Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati put it, to "drown" the country in its neighbor's flood. Turkey has not been immune from the escalating violence either. Syrian refugee camps have been targeted by the Syrian government's forces, and yesterday a mortar attack into the Turkish town of Akcakale killed at least five people and wounded eight. These numbers are miniscule compared to the dead Syrians, and to the dead Turkish Kurds (30,000 killed, including in "operational accidents"). Nevertheless, they have set Turkey on edge. http://www.zcommunications.org/what-will-ankara-do-by-vijay-prashad
(Video) Is a Turkey-Syria conflict inevitable?
From Aljazeera [October 7, 2012]
Also useful – Liz Sly, "Turkey says Syrian jet carried Russian arms, drawing Moscow deeper into crisis," Washington Post [ http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/syria-accuses-turkey-of-air-piracy-after-plane-incident/2012/10/11/34674b1e-1381-11e2-be82-c3411b7680a9_print.html; Roy Gutman, "Turkey says cargo aboard Syria-bound plane violated rules, but won't say what was found," McClatchy Newspapers [October 11, 2012] http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/10/11/171213/turkish-report-cargo-aboard-seized.html; Patrick Cockburn, "Syria's suffering opens a door for Washington," The Independent [October 7, 2012]
US Troops Are Now in Jordan
U.S. Military Is Sent to Jordan to Help With Crisis in Syria
By Michael R. Gordon and Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times [October 9, 2012]