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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - November 28, 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
November 28, 2012
Hello All – The Gaza war, the US presidential election, and a recently released IAEA report critical of Iran will provide the context for a new round of talks about Iran's nuclear program scheduled to begin in mid-December.  How will these factors shape the next round of talks and, more generally, the possibility of escalating or de-escalating the war against Iran?  Each of these issues is addressed in the good/useful readings linked below.
Many commentators on the Gaza war, especially those outside the United States, maintain that Israel lost the war, with the winners being Hamas and arguably Iran.  This is a widely held view in Israel itself, where Netanyahu's failure to destroy Gaza's ability to launch rockets against Israeli cities was deeply upsetting to many.  The fact that some of these weapons were of Iranian origin only adds to the distress.  While further fighting is not expected before mid-January's presidential election in Israel, where the outcome is expected to return Netanyahu's coalition to power, there is little confidence that the ceasefire will be long-lasting.  Discontent with the outcome of the Gaza war will be one of the factors influencing Israel's approach to the next round of Iran nuclear negotiations.
Does the re-election of President Obama portend a more favorable climate for negotiations about Iran's nuclear program?  While the administration seems to be encouraging "diplomacy," and hinting at face-to-face negotiations with Iran, there has been no public softening of the US negotiating terms, nor any reason to think that the United States is backing away from its goal of regime change.  Nor, in light of on-going congressional action to strengthen sanctions against Iran, does it seem likely that the United States will be willing put reducing sanctions on the table in exchange for concessions from Iran.  But with the election behind him, Obama may be able to put Israel on notice that it will not support military action against Iran; or, in the words of former National Security Advisor Brzezinski noted below, it has "no implicit obligation to follow like a stupid mule" an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites.
Controversy continued this week over the meaning and accuracy of the recent IAEA report about Iran's nuclear program.  This is important, in that the report will serve as "the West's" database during the up-coming negotiations in assessing what Iran is doing.  Following up on the controversy reported in last week's IWW, Gareth Porter has published an important analysis of the mainstream media's misreading of the IAEA report, which he claims greatly overstates the significance of Iran's increased enrichment capacity, while neglecting the significance of its conversion of much of its enriched uranium to a form useful only as nuclear fuel.  In other news, Parchin is back again this week; and the Associated Press is treating as a "scoop" a document – a graph – that shows how a nuclear explosion works.  Both items, imo, fit the Chomsky-Herman media model definition of "flack"; more on this below.
Regarding Syria, I've included some links to recent reports and assessments of how the war is affecting Syria's neighbors.  To keep up-to-date with developments in Syria and their implications for the war on Iran, I recommend www.syriacomment.com and www.warincontext.org.
Once again, I appreciate the help that many of you have given in distributing the Iran War Weekly and/or linking it on websites.  Previous "issues" of the IWW can be read at http://warisacrime.org/blog/46383.  If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at fbrodhead@aol.com.
Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Iran and Hamas Winners In Gaza Conflict
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Al-Monitor [November 2012]
---- Israel did not achieve the goal it had publicly declared: the destruction of Hamas's rocket capability. Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations were able to continue rocket attacks into Israel, reaching further targets with neighborhoods in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the first time. The latest Israeli failure was replayed during the 33-day war with Hezbollah in 2006 and the 22-days war with Hamas in 2008-9 respectively. While seemingly a repetition of past conflicts, the latest Israeli-Hamas duel occurred in a fundamentally different regional reality that will have major repercussions for Israel and Arab leaders, while Iran stands to gain the most. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/gazawarregionaleffects.html
Gaza, Iran and Israel's Never-ending War with Reality
By Farideh Farhi, LobeLog [November 21, 2012]
---- The Gaza problem, in the minds of the Netenyahu-Barak duo, is caused by Iran, according to Salam Masalha, writing in Haaretz: "[t]he current operation can be called "the little southern Iranian operation," since it's designed to paralyze Iran's southern wing. The next operation will be "the little northern Iranian operation ": It will try to destroy Iran's Lebanon wing." Israeli officials must be feeling like they're losing their public relations war on Gaza. … After all, it is not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is calling Israel a "terrorist state" these days, but Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. http://www.lobelog.com/gaza-iran-and-israels-never-ending-war-with-reality/
Also useful Trita Parsi, "Gaza is testing the limits of Iran's Mideast ambitions," The Globe and Mail [Canada] [November 21, 2012] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/gaza-is-testing-the-limits-of-irans-mideast-ambitions/article5518938/and Meir Javedanfar, "The Gaza War Was Not Iran's War," Al-Monitor [November 22, 2012] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/gaza-war-iran-influence-israel.html#ixzz2DSSHm9tw
For Israel, Gaza Conflict Is Test for an Iran Confrontation
By David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, New York Times [November 22, 2012]
---- The conflict that ended, for now, in a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel seemed like the latest episode in a periodic showdown. But there was a second, strategic agenda unfolding, according to American and Israeli officials: The exchange was something of a practice run for any future armed confrontation with Iran, featuring improved rockets that can reach Jerusalem and new antimissile systems to counter them. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/world/middleeast/for-israel-gaza-conflict-a-practice-run-for-a-possible-iran-confrontation.html
Also useful – Michael Kelley, "Officials: Israel's Gaza Offensive Was Training For A Possible Fight With Iran," Business Insider [November 23, 2012] http://www.businessinsider.com/israel-gaza-iran-strike-2012-11#ixzz2DLB1Hc7U; Hassan Illeik, "How Hamas Gets its Weapons," Al-Akhbar [November 19, 2012] http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/how-hamas-gets-its-weapons; and Thomas Erdbrink, "Iranian Missiles in Gaza Fight Give Tehran Government a Lift," New York Times [November 21, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/world/middleeast/iran-missiles-in-gaza-give-tehran-government-a-lift.html?ref=world
Window of opportunity may open in U.S.-Iran nuclear standoff
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times [November 24, 2012]
---- A multi-front campaign to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon has been stalled for months by the distractions of a U.S. presidential campaign, Tehran's stop-and-go negotiating tactics and its role in deadly clashes in Syria and Gaza.  Now that President Obama has a fresh four-year mandate and Iran's influence with Middle East neighbors seems to be fading, Tehran is expected back at the negotiating table soon and, some observers believe, in a more constructive mood to resolve the nuclear standoff. http://latimes.com/news/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-iran-nuclear-outlook-20121123,0,6872116.story
News Media Misled by IAEA Data on Sensitive Iranian Stockpile
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [November 20, 2012]
---- News stories on the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report suggested new reasons to fear that Iran is closer to a "breakout" capability than ever before, citing a nearly 50% increase in its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium and the installation of hundreds of additional centrifuges at the Fordow enrichment installation. But the supposedly dramatic increase in the stockpile of uranium that could theoretically be used to enrich to weapons grade is based on misleading figures in the Nov. 16 IAEA report. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2012/11/20/news-media-misled-by-iaea-data-on-sensitive-iranian-stockpile/
Also useful – Fredrik Dahl,"Fill brought to Iran site IAEA wants to inspect: diplomats," Reuters [November 21, 2012] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/21/us-nuclear-iran-iaea-idUSBRE8AK12X20121121 [FB - First Iran was covering the site with pink tarpaulins, now dirt; where will they stop?]
AP Presents Shoddy Evidence From Dubious Sources as Proof of Iranian Weapons Program
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [November 27, 2012]
---- An Associated Press report by a journalist with a reputation for speculative and misleading coverage of Iran's nuclear program claims that a shoddy Iranian diagram, leaked by "a country critical of Iran's atomic program" suggests the Islamic Republic is working on a nuclear weapon.  "The diagram was leaked by officials from a country critical of Iran's atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran's nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon," reports George Jahn. "The officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named." The diagram is proof of nothing except that Iranian nuclear scientists may be doing nuclear work and possess knowledge of the processes. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/11/27/ap-presents-shoddy-evidence-from-dubious-sources-as-proof-of-iranian-weapons-program/
For the AP article – George Jahn, "AP Exclusive: Graph suggests Iran working on bomb," Associated Press [November 27, 2012] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/ap-exclusive-graph-suggests-iran-working-bomb
NFZ Conference Canceled
Iran Censures US Decision to Cancel NFZ Conference
From Iran Review [November 27, 2012]
---- Iran has censured the US decision to cancel an international conference on banning nuclear weapons in the Middle East, calling it a blatant violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In a unilateral move, the US has announced that the conference, originally scheduled to be held in Finland's capital, Helsinki, in December, should be postponed. [Iran's] Soltanieh emphasized that the decision is also a breach of the nuclear treaty mandate, which was approved through consensus during the NPT Review Conference in New York in 2010. http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13054
Also useful – Fredrik Dahl, "Iran, Arabs criticize delay of Middle East nuclear talks," Reuters [November 26, 2012] http://news.yahoo.com/iran-criticizes-u-over-delayed-middle-east-atomic-141240328.html
What Obama's Re-Election Means for U.S.-Iran Negotiations
By Barbara Slavin, US News and World Report [November 20, 2012]
---- Optimism when it comes to diplomacy with Iran is usually misplaced. But the re-election of Barack Obama has opened a new window for negotiations with the Islamic Republic and there is reason for modest hope that the current crisis over Iran's nuclear advancement can be defused. Had Mitt Romney won on November 6, both U.S. and Iranian diplomats would have been loath to make concessions to seal a deal that an incoming Republican administration might have repudiated. … A re-elected Obama has greater flexibility to cut a deal, while the Iranians have the comfort of dealing with a known quantity.
US Can Deter and Contain Iran, Brzezinski Says
By Barbara Slavin, Al-Monitor [November 26, 2012]
---- Former White House national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said Monday that the United States has "no implicit obligation to follow like a stupid mule" an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites and that a US or an Israeli attack on the Islamic Republic would be "the worst option" should negotiations fail. He fleshed out his arguments in favor of what amounts to a containment strategy as the "least bad" alternative in the event that Iran develops a nuclear weapon. During the recently concluded presidential election campaign, both President Barack Obama and his losing challenger Mitt Romney insisted that containment of Iran was not an option and that they were prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear weapons threshold. However, Brzezinski said that the problem of Iran's advancing nuclear program pales in comparison to the consequences of an attack, which he called "an act of utter irresponsibility and potential immorality" given the civilian casualties that would likely ensue. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/brzezinskiusiran.html
[Video of the Brzezinski talk] "Diplomats and Experts Discuss Way Forward With Iran"
Also useful – Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, "Liberal Shamelessness on Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran," Race for Iran [November 15, 2012] http://www.raceforiran.com/liberal-shamelessness-on-nuclear-diplomacy-with-iran; and Neil MacFarquhar, "U.S. Sees Gains by Sunnis as Chance to Curb Iran's Power," New York Times [November 27, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/world/middleeast/sunni-leaders-gaining-clout-in-mideast.html?hp&_r=0
Sattar Beheshti: When an Islamic Republic goes to 'the abyss of hell'
By Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University [November 20, 2012]
---- People who care about the life and liberty of those millions of Iranians trapped inside a Godforsaken Islamic Republic and thus categorically oppose the imposition of crippling economic sanctions and, a fortiori, a military strike against them - which means the overwhelming majority of Iranians themselves except a sliver minority among the so-called "expat opposition", who are willing to destroy their own homeland and subject millions of human beings to catastrophe just to go back to rule it - now face a seeming conundrum. If they oppose these sanctions and the military strike they anticipate then they must keep quiet about the massive human rights abuses in Iran from fear of not fuelling the fire that Binyamin Netanyahu and his AIPAC-funded propaganda machinery wish to keep aflame, and if they do underline those abuses they become implicated in these vicious warmongerings. 
Years of Torture in Iran Comes to Light
By Kristen McTighe, New York Times [November 21, 2012]
---- The Iran Tribunal, an independent tribunal set up in 2007 by survivors and families of victims, has ruled that the Islamic Republic committed crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights during the 1980s. The ruling, which has no legal standing and is symbolic in nature came after a three-day hearing in The Hague and was based on testimonies and evidence gathered by a truth commission in July in London, where 75 witnesses, including survivors and families of victims, testified to widespread patterns of brutality and disregard for basic human rights as well as extrajudicial executions throughout the country. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/world/middleeast/years-of-torture-in-iran-comes-to-light.html?ref=world
Also interesting - [Book Review] Gary Sick, "Original Sins" Fuelled U.S.-Iran Enmity," Inter Press Service [November 26, 2012] http://www.lobelog.com/book-review-original-sins-fuelled-u-s-iran-enmity/
Blisters and Sanctions
By Shahriar Khateri and Narges Bajoghli, Middle East Report [November 25, 2012]
---- I feel ashamed because I know I cannot help them. It is not only Reza and Ali whose lives are in danger because of the shortage of medicine in Iran now; there are many thousands of survivors of chemical weapons, both civilians and veterans, who have the same problems. My mind goes to the US presidential debates in the preceding weeks. President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney were in a race to promise the most "crippling" sanctions on Iran. And all I wish to do is to ask them: Maybe the "international community" has said it is "legal" to cripple a population to this extent. But is it moral? Is it right? http://www.merip.org/blisters-sanctions#.ULKqWN81Zn9.facebook
Turkey: so it IS gold for gas after all
By Daniel Dombey, Financial Times [November 23, 2012]
---- One of the strangest recent developments in Turkey has been gold sales to Iran, which have soared, so helping improve the country's trade and balance of payments figures. … What has been murkier, however, is the precise reason for the gold sales. It is clear that they have come amid a scramble in sanctions-hit Iran for hard currency and its equivalents; as the rial has fallen and inflation has risen, Tehran has banned gold exports, for instance. But the Turkish government has denied that Ankara is paying in gold for its imports of Iranian gas, the biggest ticket item in the two countries' trading relationship. … So what happens next? It seems to be a case of an unstoppable force, in the form of ever tougher sanctions, and an immovable object, in the guise of the gas trade. At stake are the Turkish economy, the country's relationship with Iran and power politics, in every sense of the phrase. http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/11/23/turkey-so-it-is-gold-for-gas-after-all/#axzz2DGk08HSs
Despite the sabre-rattling, an attack on Iran is now unlikely
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent UK] [November 25, 2012]
---- If the Israelis wanted to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities, they have probably left it too late. No sooner was Israel's bombardment of Gaza over than Israeli and US officials started to ratchet up the prospects of an Israeli air attack on Iran in the next few months. This is scarcely surprising. The threat has served Tel Aviv and Washington well in the past because it enabled them to persuade the rest of the world to impose swingeing sanctions on Iran as the only alternative to war. Even so, claims that a final confrontation with Iran is only months away are looking a bit dog-eared, given that this must be one of the most frequently postponed wars in history. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/despite-the-sabrerattling-an-attack-on-iran-is-now-unlikely-8348299.html
Iran Complains to UN About Illegal US Overflights
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [November 23, 2012]
---- The Iranian government has sent letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Security Council today complaining about "illegal and provocative acts" carried out by the US Navy along their coast. The complaint included the US drone overflight earlier this month, which US officials claimed was just barely outside of Iranian airspace and which Iranians say was just barely inside it. The drone was fired on, but not damaged. The Iranian Ambassador said there were seven other US overflights before the drone incident, all centered on the coastal city of Bushehr (the home of a Russian-built nuclear reactor), and all of which ignored radio warnings. The US has yet to comment on the letter, but it seems to put the firing on the US drone in a different context if US overflights had happened several times in the month leading up to it. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/11/23/iran-complains-to-un-about-illegal-us-overflights/
Key UN committee approves resolution condemning 'gross' human rights violations by Syria
From the Associated Press [November 27, 2012]
---- A key U.N. committee has overwhelmingly approved a resolution strongly condemning "gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms" by Syrian authorities and government-controlled militias and demanding an immediate halt to the violations and attacks on civilians. The resolution urges Syrian authorities to immediately release all detainees and calls for a prompt independent international investigation into abuses and violations of international law. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/key-un-committee-approves-resolution-condemning-gross-human-rights-violations-by-syria/2012/11/27/62b4ef6e-38eb-11e2-9258-ac7c78d5c680_print.html
Syria and Israel
Israel's View of the Syrian Crisis
From Brookings [November 26, 2012]
---- In early 2011, the outbreak of the Syrian crisis that has since descended into civil war sparked a rethink of Israel's policy toward its neighbor. While Israel may have once preferred the Assad regime to remain in power rather than take its chances with an unknown successor, this "the devil we know" approach is no longer valid. After Israel had found itself frustrated by developments beneficial to Iran and its "Resistance Axis" throughout the Arab Spring—most notably the fall of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak—the increasing pressure on the Syrian regime has represented a blow to Iran and its allies. Thus, while recognizing that Israel has little to no influence on the course of events in Syria, Israel's leaders have largely reached a consensus that Assad's departure from power is preferable.
Syria and Lebanon
A Precarious Balancing Act: Lebanon and the Syrian Conflict
From the International Crisis Group [November 22, 2012] – 40 pages
Syria and Iraq
Iraq tensions rise as Syria crisis deepens
By Lauren Williams, Daily Star [Lebanon] [November 28, 2012]
--- The crisis in Syria is threatening to rupture Iraq's precarious sectarian divide, which some say may re-ignite into a civil war. Wedged between Syria's greatest ally, Iran, and its greatest foe, Turkey, with its own volatile ethnic makeup, oil riches and fresh out of years of civil strife, Iraq is desperately clinging to a neutrality on the Syrian crisis. That policy is being increasingly put to the test as players from across Iraq's fragile political spectrum begin to take sides in a war of increasing sectarian dimensions. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Nov-28/196348-iraq-tensions-rise-as-syria-crisis-deepens.ashx#ixzz2DWRGTl7C
Instability in Jordan
Jordan Protesters Dream of Shift to King's Brother
By David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times [November 21, 2012]
---- The political tremors are disconcerting for American policy makers because of the role Jordan has played as a dependable ally and a stabilizing buffer zone in a volatile region. Jordan is the only Arab country besides Egypt to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and, in contrast to Egypt, the Islamist party in Jordan that has made up the principal political opposition has staunchly opposed the pact. Also, Jordan sits between Iraq and Syria, and it has absorbed vast numbers of refugees, including hundreds of thousands fleeing the Syrian strife. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/world/middleeast/jordan-protesters-dream-of-shift-to-prince-hamzah.html?pagewanted=1&ref=world
Also useful – Jason Ditz, "Gaza War Adds to Jordan King's Struggles," Antiwar.com [November 21, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/11/21/gaza-war-adds-to-jordan-kings-struggles/; and Jason Ditz, "Jordan Spurns Iran's Offer of 30 Years of Free Oil for Tourism Access," Antiwar.com [November 23, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/11/23/jordan-spurns-irans-offer-of-30-years-of-free-oil-for-tourism-access/


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