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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

[haw-info] HAW Notes, 1/29/13: Conference; Iraq report; links to recent articles of interest

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

Here a couple of notes, plus links to recent articles of interest.

1. Information about the April 5-7 HAW conference on "The New Faces of War," in Baltimore, is at www.historiansagainstwar.org/conf2013. The site contains a link to the registration page (the early registration fee is $50, or $30 at the student-or-low-income rate).  The full program is not yet posted, but will be soon; panels that are either complete or almost complete have a total of more than 70 participants.

2. Mike Zweig of US Labor Against the War has placed on-line his report-back on a December 2012 trip to take part in the fourth Iraq Civil Society Solidarity Inititiative conference, with over 100 images as the backdrop to his talk.  It is at

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

"'Disturbing and 'Misleading'"

By Steve Coll, New York Review of Books, February 7 issue
On the treatment of torture in the film Zero Dark Thirty

"The Force: How Much Military Is Enough?"
By Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, posted January 28
The author teaches history at Harvard University

"Kirakou and Stuxnet: The Danger of the Still-Escalating Obama Whistleblower War"
By Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, posted January 27

"How Did the Gates of Hell Open in Vietnam?"
By Jonathan Schell, TomDispatch.com, posted January 17
Review of Nick Turse's new book Anything That Moves

"Eight Things I Miss about the Cold War"
By Jonathan Wiener, TomDispatch.com, posted January 15
The author teaches history at the University of California, Irvine

"America's Strategic Stupidity: Obama's New Foreign Policy Team Must Beware of Generals Bearing Predictions"
By Andrew J. Bacevich, The Spectator, posted January 13
The author teaches history and international relations at Boston University

"Obama's Empire: Has America's Commitment to a Global Reign Deepened?"
By Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, USA Today, posted January 13
Peter Kuznick teaches history at American University

"The War in Libya Was Seen as a Success, Now Here We Are Engaging with the Blowback in Mali"
By Owen Jones, The Independent, posted January 13

"Waking Up in Tehran"
By David Swanson, War Is a Crime.org, posted January 11
Sheds light on the story depicted in the movie Argo

"Oliver Stone, Obama, and the War in Vietnam"
By Michael D. Yates, CounterPunch.org, posted January 10

Thanks to Rosalyn Baxandall, Mim Jackson, James Swarts, and Jerry Lembcke for suggesting articles included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - January 27, 2013

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
January 27, 2013
Hello All – As President Obama puts his new national security team into place, the likelihood is increasing that no meaningful negotiations about Iran's nuclear policy will take place before Iran's presidential election in June.   There are several reasons to think this.  During his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry gave no indication that President Obama's policy towards Iran was deviating from "all options are on the table," and there was no indication that the administration was about to relax its (to Iran, unacceptable) negotiating position.  Second, as noted in some articles linked below, it is becoming clear that, in separate talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran is not about to allow an inspection of its military base at Parchin (an IAEA demand) until a more comprehensive negotiating framework is developed in the parallel negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.
If there are no negotiations between the Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany), there is little likelihood that sanctions against Iran will be lessened.  I've linked several essays below about the recently augmented sanctions, with several essays stressing the terrible effect that the sanctions are having on supplies of medicine, and thus health.
While the results of last week's election in Israel are still being clarified, it would appear that Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Right have suffered a setback.  But the election campaigns paid little attention to either Iran or to Palestinian issues, and the new centrist party that is a likely member of Netanyahu's governing coalition has not (to my knowledge) expressed any reservations to Netanyahu's war-like policy towards Iran.  Will a weaker Netanyahu be less of a danger?  And what do we make of outgoing Defense Minister Barak's statement at Davos indicating that Israel was no longer considering a unilateral military attack on Iran?  I've pasted in links to some preliminary election assessments below.
While Syria's civil war still seems to be stalemated militarily and politically, Iran this week stated that it would consider an attack on Syria to be an attack on Iran.  As Syria's horrendous refugee crisis and escalating casualty figures generate more calls for "humanitarian intervention," the danger of a regional war seems more likely than ever.
Once again I would like to thank those of you who have helped 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 wants a nuclear deal, not war
By Hossein Mousavian, The Guardian [January 21, 2013]
--- The latest round of talks in January between the watchdog and Iran have not resulted in a deal. The IAEA and the P5+1 have a number of major demands, including the implementation of the additional protocol to the non-proliferation treaty, which mandates greater access for inspectors; co-operation on issues related to the "possible military dimension" of Iran's nuclear activities; capping uranium enrichment at 5%; and exporting enriched uranium not consumed domestically. … Those familiar with the realities of nuclear negotiations know very well that Iran has both publicly and in private meetings with the P5+1 indicated its readiness to accept all the above major demands. In return Iran expects recognition of its legitimate right to enrichment under the NPT and the lifting of sanctions – but unfortunately the western powers among the P5+1 have not signed up to such a deal. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/22/iran-wants-nuclear-deal-not-war
More on the "Report" – In the above essay, Mousavian critiques a recent report issued by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, a neo-conservative think tank, which called for a more aggressive US policy towards Iran.  Several essays and links about the report, and the FDD, were included in the last issue of the IWW.  For another critique, see Kaveh L Afrasiabi, "US think tank fuels Iran nuclear crisis," Asia Times [January 25, 2013] http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/OA25Ak02.html.
Building Blocks: The obsession that is preventing a nuclear deal with Iran
By Yousaf Butt, Foreign Policy [January 26, 2013]
---- Following two days of talks last week, officials from Iran and the IAEA threw in the towel, failing again to clinch a deal on access to sites, people, and documents of interest to the agency. The IAEA's immediate priority is to get into certain buildings at the Parchin military base near Tehran, where they suspect Iran may have conducted conventional explosives testing -- possibly relevant to nuclear weaponry -- perhaps a decade or so ago. There is no evidence of current nuclear work there (in fact, the agency has visited the site twice and found nothing of concern). But by inflating these old concerns about Parchin into a major issue, the agency risks derailing the more urgent negotiations that are due to take place between Iran and the P5+1 countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany). http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13127
(Audio) An Interview with Yousaf Butt
By Scott Horton, Antiwar.com [January 23, 2013] – 29 minutes
---- Yousaf Butt, a scientific consultant to the Federation of American Scientists, discusses the unsubstantiated claims about nuclear activity at Iran's Parchin military base that could derail upcoming P5+1 talks on Iran's uranium enrichment program; how UN Security Council demands on Iran go far beyond the scope of international law; Iran's good faith gesture of converting some contentious 20% enriched uranium into fuel rods that can't be weaponized; and why nobody knows how, when, or why Iran sanctions will be lifted. http://scotthorton.org/2013/01/24/12313-yousaf-butt/
Obama's Moment of Truth on Iran
By Reza Marashi, Foreign Policy [January 22, 2013]
---- The United States must come to grips with the fact that some sanctions must be lifted. For nearly a full calendar year, the P5+1 has made its negotiating position vis-à-vis Iran crystal clear: Iran must cap its uranium enrichment at the 5 percent level, ship its stockpile of higher-enriched uranium to a third-party country, and scrap its deeply buried uranium-enrichment facility. But what Iran would get in return remains up in the air -- the P5+1 has been vague on the package of incentives it would offer to reciprocate such concessions. A feasible solution is to match verifiable Iranian limitations on uranium enrichment with a lifting of Europe's existing oil embargo. This would add time to the negotiation clock and allow the necessary political space for diplomacy to run its course. Privately, European diplomats note that they await a signal from the United States on whether to begin seriously considering an end to the embargo. If the Obama administration approves, there is unlikely to be serious resistance -- but the EU will not act without prior American acquiescence. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/22/obamas_moment_of_truth_on_iran
Iran narrows gaps between two talks
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times [January 2013]
---- The first round of scheduled nuclear negotiations between Iranian officials and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2013 ended in Tehran on January 17. At first, the results appeared inconclusive; now it is emerging that Iran has moved an important chess piece forward. On the day after the talks, Iran's representative described the two days of intensive and technical talks between Iran and the IAEA as "progressive", while Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi took the opportunity to remind the West that no date or venue has been set for the next round of negotiations with the "P5 +1" nations (the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany). It's becoming clear that the fate of the IAEA talks, which revolve around reaching a new "modality for cooperation" whereby the atomic agency's inspectors would be allowed to visit suspected sites such as the one at the Parchin military complex, is now being directly linked by Tehran to broader multilateral negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/OA23Ak01.html
The IAEA and Iran's Military Base at Parchin
Dominance, Not Deals: Why Diplomacy With Iran Has Failed
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [January 23, 2013]
---- The IAEA again wants access to the site because of secret evidence, provided by unidentified third-party intelligence agencies, implying that conventional explosives testing relevant to nuclear weaponization may have taken place a decade or so ago at Parchin. The agency has not showed Iranian officials this evidence, which has led Iran to insist that it must have been fabricated. (This could well be true, given that forged documents were also passed on to the IAEA before the 2003 Iraq war.) As Robert Kelley, an American weapons engineer and ex-IAEA inspector, has stated: "The IAEA's authority is supposed to derive from its ability to independently analyze information….At Parchin, they appear to be merely echoing the intelligence and analysis of a few member states." And anyways, the allegations of weapons development at Parchin are that Iran was conducting work there a decade ago. http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/01/23/dominance-not-deals-why-diplomacy-with-iran-has-failed/
Iran, EU Trade Blame as Talks Pushed Back to February
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [January 25, 2013]
---- Planned January talks between the P5+1 and Iran are not going to happen. … EU officials are accusing Iran of "dragging their feet," saying they have not been able to present their offer for January talks successfully so far. Iranian officials, on the other hand, say they are more than willing for such a talk, and that the EU simply isn't ready for the meeting yet. At the core of the dispute are the very different ways in which the two groups behave diplomatically, with Iran often raising its proposed venues in public statements to the international press, comments which the US and European Union often treats as if they never happened, insisting on secret proposals delivered through formal channels. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/01/25/iran-eu-trade-blame-as-talks-pushed-back-to-february/
Also useful - Rick Gladstone, "Iran Is Accused of Delaying Resumption of Nuclear Talks," New York Times [January 23, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/world/middleeast/iran-is-accused-of-delaying-resumption-of-nuclear-talks.html?ref=world
Media Tutorial
When Fact Becomes Opinion: Half-Truths, Non-Truths & the Phony Objectivity of the Associated Press
From Wide Asleep in America [January 20, 2013]
---- An Associated Press report from this past week demonstrates how plain facts and provable, documented historical events are often described as subjective perceptions and matters of perspective in the mainstream media whenever an honest presentation and assessment of those facts would serve to reduce the fear-mongering propaganda over Iran's nuclear energy program. … The readers of this AP report are therefore intentionally left with the perception that these are simply Iranian contentions and therefore automatically suspect, dubious, disputed or otherwise easily dismissed; after all, the comments all came out of an Iranian government spokesman's mouth and the mainstream media (and politicians, of course) has spent decades training its readers to believe nothing the Iranian government says or does can be trusted. http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/
Disinformation from the Library of Congress!
---- A ProPublica article linked in last week's IWW exposed a report produced by an obscure division of the US Library of Congress that made outlandish claims about Iranian intelligence capability, and named some "spies." [http://www.propublica.org/article/government-study-iran-30000-intelligence-ministry]  After widespread outrage from scholars and policy makers, the Library of Congress "pulled" the report. A follow-up story this week by Justin Elliot in ProPublica [http://www.propublica.org/article/widely-cited-government-study-on-iranian-spies-pulled-for-revisions] makes it clear that the report was a MEK-authored or –inspired disinformation project.  Needless to say, despite the fact that the report has been disavowed by the Library of Congress, it has been and will continue to be cited as "scholarly" proof for whatever an anti-Iran writer wants to prove. - FB
Obama's second inaugural and America's foreign policy challenges
By Hillary Mann Leverett and Flynt Leverett, Aljazeera [January 24, 2013]
---- In the Middle East, Obama promised to engage Iran, make resolving the Palestinian issue a top priority, and redefine America's posture toward the Muslim world. Obama's approach to engaging Tehran entailed reiterating the same demands on the nuclear issue as his predecessor while intensifying the coercive aspects of American policy (eg, sanctions, covert operations, and cyber-attack) when Iran did not surrender. If, in his second term, Obama launches another war to disarm yet another Middle Eastern country of weapons of mass destruction it does not have, this will be a disaster for America's position in the Middle East. But this is where Obama's current strategy inexorably leads. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013123152359422963.html
Obama's Inaugural and the Danger of an Iran War
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [January 22, 2013]
---- President Obama addressed the big issues of war and peace in his inaugural address, and despite the vagueness of some of his pronouncements, they contain strong clues to his foreign policy agenda in the Middle East. His announced policy will be one of ending US military engagements abroad, multilateral cooperation with allies to face security challenges, negotiation, and avoidance of further military entanglements in the Middle East. In other words, Syrians are on their own, France can have Mali, and Iran is probably not going to be bombed. http://www.juancole.com/2013/01/obamas-inaugural-danger.html
Also interesting – Jim Rutenberg, "Secret Donors Finance Fight Against Hagel," New York Times [January 26, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/us/politics/secret-donors-finance-fight-against-hagel.html?ref=us
Cyberwar Leaks Investigated
FBI is increasing pressure on suspects in Stuxnet inquiry
By Peter Finn, Washington Post [January 26, 2013]
---- Federal investigators looking into disclosures of classified information about a cyberoperation that targeted Iran's nuclear program have increased pressure on current and former senior government officials suspected of involvement, according to people familiar with the investigation. The inquiry, which was started by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last June, is examining leaks about a computer virus developed jointly by the United States and Israel that damaged nuclear centrifuges at Iran's primary uranium enrichment plant. The U.S. code name for the operation was Olympic Games, but the wider world knew the mysterious computer worm as Stuxnet. The Obama administration has prosecuted six officials for disclosing classified information, more than all previous administrations combined. But the Stuxnet investigation is arguably the highest-profile probe yet, and it could implicate senior-level officials. Knowledge of the virus was likely to have been highly compartmentalized and limited to a small set of Americans and Israelis. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-is-increasing-pressure-on-suspects-in-stuxnet-inquiry/2013/01/26/f475095e-6733-11e2-93e1-475791032daf_print.html
Iran's Window for Nuclear Diplomacy Closing
By Mohammad Ali Shabani, Al-Monitor January 25, 2013]
---- Although attention in the West remains focused on Iran's nuclear program, talk among the Iranian elite has already turned toward Iranian presidential elections that could have a major impact on the current diplomatic impasse and the Islamic Republic's relations with the United States. On a just-concluded visit to Tehran, I talked to dozens of current and former officials, think-tank scholars and journalists. With more than five months to go until the polls, Iran is already abuzz with rumors about who is going to be the next president of the Islamic Republic — and the implications of that choice. … What follows from this line of thinking is that whatever dialogue might resume after June will likely seek to address not only the nuclear program but the larger issue of relations with the United States. The sanctions have arguably accelerated recognition of this dilemma, with the taboo about normalization of ties with the United States broken in the public debate in recent months. The best that can be expected until the summer is to keep the nuclear issue from spiraling out of control. When and if Iran and the P5+1 finally meet this winter, they will likely continue driving down the diplomatic track in first gear.
Iran nuclear advisor sets out 'maximalist' stance as Iran mulls new talks
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [January 22, 2013]
Iran tries to calm fears over nuclear power plant
By Michael Theodoulou, The National [UAE] [January 24, 2013]
---- Tehran insists it will guarantee safety at the "quake-proof" plant which was plugged into the national grid in September 2011. Iran dismisses as western propaganda claims that Bushehr is unsafe, or that its own operators are not competent enough to take over from the Russians. A recent opinion piece in The New York Times warned that "haphazard planning and ongoing technical problems" at Bushehr could make it the "next Chernobyl, igniting a humanitarian disaster and explosive economic damage across the oil-rich region". http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/iran-tries-to-calm-fears-over-nuclear-power-plant
Also interesting – Rick Gladstone, "Iran Currency Falls Further on Concerns Over Bank," New York Times [January 22, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/middleeast/iran-currency-falls-further-on-concerns-over-bank.html?ref=world; and from The Guardian [UK] "Iran's morality police crack down on coffee shops," [January 23, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2013/jan/23/iran-camera-coffee-shops
Israeli Official Hints Pentagon Plans May Make Lone Strike on Iran Unnecessary
By Isabel Kershner, New York Times [January 26, 2013]
---- Israel's departing defense minister, Ehud Barak, said that the Pentagon had prepared sophisticated blueprints for a surgical operation to set back Iran's nuclear program should the United States decide to attack — a statement that was a possible indication that Israel might have shelved any plans for a unilateral strike, at least for now. … Herbert Krosney, an American-Israeli analyst and the author of a book about the arming of Iran and Iraq, said Mr. Barak's statement now "indicates that there is close cooperation" between Israel and the United States following months of tension between the country's leaders (though military and intelligence services continued to work together closely). "I think there is a realization in Israel that it would be extremely difficult for Israel to operate alone," he said.
Israel's Election
A Loss for Netanyahu
By Uri Avnery, The Progressive [January 26, 2013]
Netanyahu says preventing nuclear Iran his primary challenge
From Reuters [January 22, 2013]
---- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an election victory speech on Wednesday, said preventing a nuclear-armed Iran would be the primary challenge facing the new government he intends to form. http://news.yahoo.com/netanyahu-says-preventing-nuclear-iran-primary-challenge-224614429.html
For more on the election - +972 Magazine, "Israeli Elections," http://972mag.com/special/israeli-elections/
New Sanctions on Iran and Neo-Big Stick Diplomacy
By Erich C. Ferrari and Samuel Cutler, Lobe Log [January 2013]
--- Contained in the Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013, and signed into law by President Obama on January 2, are sweeping new sanctions targeting Iran over its disputed nuclear program. The new measures target foreign entities engaging in a wide array of transactions with Iran, including the sale of any goods supporting Iran's energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors, the sale of raw materials such as aluminum, steel, and coal, the provision of insurance, or underwriting services in support of any activity for which Iran has been subjected to US sanctions. Lawmakers quoted by the Wall Street Journal said that the new sanctions move closer to a complete trade embargo on Iran.  http://www.lobelog.com/new-sanctions-on-iran-and-neo-big-stick-diplomacy/
Also Useful on Sanctions – John Glaser, "Iran Sanctions Passed the Point of Effectiveness, Says Expert," Antiwar.com [January 24, 2013] http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/01/24/iran-sanctions-passed-the-point-of-effectiveness-says-expert/; and Peter Hart, "Sanctions Not Really Hurting Ordinary Iranians, Says Anonymous U.S. Official," Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [FAIR] [January 22, 2013] http://www.fair.org/blog/2013/01/22/sanctions-not-really-hurting-ordinary-iranians-says-anonymous-u-s-official/
The Effect of Sanctions on Medical Supplies
Who is Responsible for Medicine Shortages in Iran?
By Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log [January 21, 2013]
---- There is no way that sanctions which are imposed on a country's financial system and Central bank can be described as not designed to harm people. The Treasury Department's efforts to get around the blunt and ferocious effects of the sanctions regime may be laudable, but none of these efforts address the costs imposed on the Iranian economy as a whole, even if these so-called manageable problems had a more competent government in charge to deal with them. Consider, for example, that although the export of food and medicine to Iran is not banned, at minimum, financial sanctions still increase the cost of importing goods to Iran, which results in higher prices for consumers. http://www.lobelog.com/who-is-responsible-for-medicine-shortages-in-iran/
US-led economic sanctions strangle Iran's drug supply
By Dara Mohammadi, The Lancet [UK] [January 26, 2013]
---- US-led sanctions—imposed to force Iran's hand into negotiations over its uranium-enrichment programme—have sent the country's economy into a tailspin, taking the national drug supply with it. Although exemptions are in place for the trade of medical and humanitarian goods, the plummeting value of the rial (down 80% against the dollar since the beginning of 2012) and the reluctance of pharmaceutical companies and banks to risk severe fines or their reputation by dealing with Iran, have left the country severely short on drugs. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2960116-6/fulltext
More on Sanctions and Health - By Amir Taheri, "US: We are not sanctioning medical supplies to Iran," The Real Amir Taheri, [January 27, 2013] http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13129
The US / Qatar Alliance: Collusion or Conflict of Interests?
By Nicola Nasser, Counterpunch [January 23, 2013]
---- Since the eruption of the bloody Syrian crisis two years ago, the Qatari opening up to regional pro – Iran state and non-state powers was exposed as merely a tactical maneuver to lure such powers away from Iran. In the Syrian and Hezbullah cases, the failure of this tactic has led Qatar to embark on a collision course with both Syria and Iran, which are backed by Russia and China, and is leading the country to a U-turn shift away from its long maintained regional balancing act, a shift that Doha seems unaware of its threat to its very survival under the pressure of the international and regional conflicting interests as bloodily exposed in the Syrian crisis. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/23/the-us-qatar-alliance/
Attack on Syria would be seen as attack on Iran: Tehran
From Reuters [January 26, 2013]
---- Iran would consider any attack on Syria an attack on itself, a senior government official was quoted as saying on Saturday, in one of Tehran's most assertive defenses of its ally yet. Iran is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is fighting a near two-year-long revolt. Tehran has already repeatedly warned the West against intervening in the conflict against Assad. "Syria has a very basic and key role in the region for promoting firm policies of resistance ... For this reason an attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran and Iran's allies," said Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to the Mehr news agency. http://news.yahoo.com/attack-syria-seen-attack-iran-tehran-aide-070052918.html#
On Syria: What to Do in 2013
By Richard Falk, ZNet [January 21, 2013]
---- Another initiative that could be taken, with great positive potential, but against the grain of current of Western, especially American, geopolitics, would be to take the Iran war option off the table. Such a step would almost certainly have major tension-reducing effects in relation to regional diplomacy, and would be a desirable initiative to take quite independent of the Syrian conflict. The best way to do this would be to join with other governments in the region, including Iran, to sponsor a comprehensive security framework for the Middle East that features a nuclear weapons free zone, with an insistence that Israel join in the process. http://www.zcommunications.org/on-syria-what-to-do-in-2013-by-richard-falk
Hamas Maintains Ties With Iran, Despite Difference Over Syria
By Abeer Ayyoub, Al-Monitor [January 25, 2013]
---- Neither Hamas nor Iran were interested in completely cutting ties. Hamas wanted to keep ties with a large Islamic power like Iran, while Tehran wanted to stay beside Hamas as an Islamic armed group fighting its arch-enemy, Israel. The dire situation in Syria was not the main reason behind Hamas reshuffling its cards. The Islamists found it more profitable to go with what it perceived as the stronger, emerging power in the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than being dragged into a long-term conflict in Syria. As an offshoot of the Brotherhood, Hamas found it a moral must to leave Syria as the Syrian chapter was a direct and opposing force of the Assad regime. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/01/hamas-iran-ties.html#ixzz2J6xKOAwm
Jihadists and Secular Activists Clash in Syria
By Hania Mourtada and Anne Barnard, New York Times [January 26, 2013]
---- The tensions had been simmering for months in the northern Syrian town of Saraqib. Civilian antigovernment activists had complained of rebel fighters who needlessly destroyed a milk factory and treated residents disrespectfully. A growing contingent of jihadist fighters from the ideologically extreme and militarily formidable Nusra Front was suspicious of the activists' secular, nonviolent agenda. On Thursday, mistrust erupted into confrontation. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/world/middleeast/syria-war-developments.html?ref=world&_r=0

Sunday, January 20, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - January 20, 2013

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
January 20, 2013
Hello All – Iran's nuclear program, and the possibilities of war against Iran, will likely be prominent in the  Senate confirmation hearings of President Obama's new national security team, particular in the case of the proposed Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.  While Hagel, Kerry (State), and Brennan (CIA) are all expected to be confirmed, Senate Republicans have served notice that (especially in the case of Hagel), the nominees will be scrutinized to see if they are prepared to keep the sanctions screwed on tightly against Iran and, if necessary, go to war.
What I think we should watch for is how the nominees characterize the present state of Iran's nuclear program (is this a nuclear weapons program?), whether sanctions are helping or hurting the possibilities of a negotiated resolution to outstanding issues in dispute, and whether Iran is a threat to Israel.  It will also be interesting to see if the existence of Israel's nuclear arsenal is acknowledged.
As indicated in some of the good/useful readings linked below, there is a consensus among most observers of the P5+1 – Iran negotiations that little progress will or can be made until the P5 + 1 is willing to put some modification of sanctions on the table at the outset, rather than demanding that Iran first take steps to reduce or abandon its nuclear fuel-cycle activities.  Also needed is an acknowledgement from the P5 + 1 that Iran has the right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium.  It will also be interesting to see, therefore, whether the Obama national security nominees indicate that the United States has any intention to accommodate Iran's bottom lines regarding its nuclear program.
Earlier this week negotiations between the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran concluded without making any progress, other than to schedule another meeting for mid-February.  One of the main issues in the Iran-IAEA negotiations is the Agency's demand to inspect the Iranian military site at Parchin, where the Agency claims that Iran may have conducted explosives tests using uranium.  In a very interesting article below, Robert Kelly presents an authoritative and user-friendly primer on the issues involved in this dispute, and why the claim that Iran conducted nuclear tests at Parchin has little credibility.  More generally, it also seems that Iran wants to defer permission for the IAEA to visit Parchin (not normally under the purview of the IAEA) until a comprehensive negotiating framework is developed between the P5+1 and Iran.  While diplomats have expressed the hope that P5+1 – Iran negotiations can be resumed at the end of January, no date has yet been set.
One of the main anti-Iran advocates making the case for nuclear activity at Parchin, David Albright, was in the news again this week as the co-author of a report by the rightwing, pro-Israel organization Foundation for Defense of Democracy (FDD).  The report, which received a fair amount of media coverage, is analyzed critically below; and I have also included a link to a thorough report on the FDD and its role in the neo-conservative campaign for war against Iran.
Among other good/useful reading linked below, I especially recommend Patrick Cockburn on "the war against the Shia"; an interview with analyst Gareth Porter on the prospects for a deal with Iran during Obama's second term; an interesting legal analysis of whether the Iranian leader's "fatwa" against nuclear weapons could be made as legally binding as a treaty; some good articles analyzing whether the recent cyber attacks against major US banks were made by Iran or by "persons unknown"; more about the effectiveness (or not) of the economic sanctions against Iran; and an assessment of the (volatile) state of relations between Iran and Turkey.  I have also linked David Remnick's interesting article from The New Yorker that describes the political take-over of Israel's right wing by the settler movement, an important force in next week's elections in Israel.
As has been the case for the last few months, the civil war in Syria, which has such an important impact on the status of Iran within the region, continues to be a stalemate, with neither a military nor a negotiated resolution on the horizon.  In addition to some useful essays linked below, I recommend the websites War in Context, Syria Comment, and Juan Cole's Informed Comment as good places to follow day-to-day developments.
Once again I would like to thank those of you who have helped 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.
The West's Strange Bedfellows: The War Against the Shia
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [January 14, 2013]
---- It is a ferocious war waged by assassination, massacre, imprisonment and persecution that has killed tens of thousands of people. But non-Muslims – and many Muslims – scarcely notice this escalating conflict that pits Shia minority against Sunni majority. Sunni-Shia friction has a long history but took its most vicious form after the overthrow of the Shah by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 and the creation of a revolutionary theocratic Shia state in Iran. The Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 appeared to end Iranian hopes of spreading the revolution to its neighbour, but after the US invasion of 2003 – to the dismay of the White House and to the horror of Saudi Arabia – Iraq became a Shia-run state. "We are the first Arab state to be controlled by the Shia since the Fatimids ran Egypt 800 years ago," one Iraqi Shia activist exulted to me at the time. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/14/the-war-against-the-shia/
(Audio) An Interview with Gareth Porter
From Scott Horton's program [January 11, 2013] – 33 minutes
---- Independent journalist and historian Gareth Porter discusses a possible deal on Iran's nuclear program during Obama's second term; how Congress and the national security state could cramp Obama's negotiating room; the evolution from "smart" sanctions on Iran's elite to "crippling" sanctions on the poor and elderly; and why it's past time to cross Iran off the US "enemy of the state" list. http://scotthorton.org/2013/01/12/11113-gareth-porter/
The Middle East needs to be a nuclear-weapons-free zone
By NAJ Taylor, Aljazeera [January 12, 2013]
---- In April 1962, an informal grouping of Israeli intellectuals and scientists, self-proclaimed as the Committee for the Denuclearisation of the Middle East, acted in their private capacities in issuing a statement to the effect that nuclear weapons "constitute[d] a danger to Israel and to peace in the Middle East". Whilst the Committee's raison d'être must be primarily viewed as an effort by concerned citizens to draw the public's attention to Israel's clandestine nuclear weaponisation programme, as well as - in the words of the Committee - to preserve what they termed the "Zionist experiment", the grouping was notable for emphasising the dual-importance of non-state actors in achieving that vision, and the facilitating role that would be required of extra-regional actors, particularly the United Nations and related bodies. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013141248927573.html
Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran
[FB – The Leverett's new book has just been published.  This is a brief note about it from the main British website opposing war with Iran.  I will try to have a review of the book in the next issue of the IWW.]
Iran Balks at Nuclear Talks Without Sanctions, Rights on Agenda
By Barbara Slavin, Al-Monitor [January 14. 2013]
---- Iran wants the agenda for a new round of nuclear talks to refer explicitly to sanctions relief and what it views as its right to enrich uranium, Al-Monitor has learned. An Iranian source who declined to be identified told Al-Monitor that a lack of agreement on these issues was slowing a resumption of talks, which had been expected this month. … The same issues that stymied negotiators during three fruitless rounds last year appear to be preventing progress now and making it hard for the negotiators even to get back to the table. The Iranian source told Al-Monitor that Iran wants its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to be stated in the agenda, "which means there will not be any restriction for enrichment …The second request is to decrease the sanctions from [the] UN not America and Europe." If these two items are included, the source continued, Iran "will be in the position to discuss about a general agreement which includes any matters … interesting for IAEA [the International Atomic Energy Agency] and [the] 5+1 countries." http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/01/iran-talks-nuclear-sanctions-us.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#ixzz2HzofQ6Gs
The IAEA – Iran Meeting Last Week
Iran nuclear inspections remain stalled as latest talks with IAEA end
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [January 18, 2013]
---- Two days of talks between Iran and UN nuclear inspectors have failed to find a way to let investigations of alleged nuclear weapon research move forward. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said new talks were set for Feb. 12, but that the latest round in Tehran did not yield permission by Iran to visit a military base at Parchin – a top priority declared by inspectors – nor a work plan to resolve other long-standing issues. The setback comes after a year of effort to reach a framework deal between Iran and the IAEA. That process, however, has been conducted in the shadow of strategic nuclear talks between Iran and world powers known as the P5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany). Iranian diplomats have stated that they will resolve issues with the IAEA in the context of a broader Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal, which is meant to lay down parameters for Iran's nuclear work that ensure it can't push for an atomic bomb. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0118/Iran-nuclear-inspections-remain-stalled-as-latest-talks-with-IAEA-end
For more about the meetings – From Reuters, U.N. Agency and Iran Fail Again to Reach Nuclear Deal"  [January 18, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/01/18/world/middleeast/18reuters-iran-nuclear-iaea.html?ref=world; and Associated Press, "Iran: No Breakthrough in Nuclear Talks" [January 18, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/18/world/middleeast/iran-no-breakthrough-in-nuclear-talks.html?ref=world.  For an interesting Iranian perspective on the talks: Hassan Beheshtipour, "Negotiations for Some Seasons," Iran Review [January 18, 2013] http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Negotiations-for-Some-Seasons.htm
The IAEA Demand to Inspect Iran's Parchin Facility
The International Atomic Energy Agency and Parchin: questions and concerns
By Robert E. Kelley, SIPRI [January 18, 2013]
---- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran failed again in two days of intensive talks held in Tehran this week to secure a deal to unblock the IAEA's long-stalled investigation into alleged atom bomb research in Iran. Agency inspectors were also refused access to visit a large military complex at Parchin that they have sought to visit for nearly a year. As tensions mount, it is worth considering why the Parchin visit has become such a hot-button issue in the dispute and whether it is really so important for addressing concerns about Iranian nuclear activities with possible military dimensions. http://www.sipri.org/media/expert-comments/18jan2013_IAEA_Kelley
Iran and the Fallacy of Saber-Rattling
By Paul R. Pillar, National Interest [January 10, 2013]
---- Among several broadly held misconceptions about Iran is that to get Iranians to make concessions we want them to make at the negotiating table the United States must credibly threaten to inflict dire harm on them—specifically, with military force—if they do not make the concessions. Some in the United States (and some in Israel) who are especially keen on promoting this notion would welcome a war. If war preparations and brinksmanship used to communicate such a threat lead the two nations to stumble into an accidental war—and there is a real danger they might—so much the better from their point of view. But the belief in saber-rattling as an aid to gaining an agreement in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program extends to many who actually want an agreement and are not seeking a war. We have heard more about this lately in connection with Chuck Hagel's nomination to be secretary of defense. People ask whether this nominee, who has evinced an appreciation of the huge downsides of a war with Iran, would be able to rattle the saber as convincingly as the same people think a secretary of defense ought to rattle it. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/iran-the-fallacy-saber-rattling-7958?page=show
Obama urged to step up diplomacy on Iran
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [January 17, 2013]
[FB - This is a useful round-up of the several papers and proposals from think tanks and advocacy groups now circulating in the Beltway blogosphere.]
New Push in US for Tougher Sanctions, War Threats Against Iran
By Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service [January 17, 2013]
---- Four U.S. non-proliferation specialists are urging the Obama administration to impose tougher economic sanctions against Iran and issue more explicit threats to destroy its nuclear programme by military means. In a 155-page report, the specialists, who were joined by the head of a right-wing pro-Israel lobby group, the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD), said Washington should declare its intent to institute a "de facto international embargo on all investments in, and trade with" Iran, excepting food and medicine, if it does not freeze its nuclear-related work. … The recommendations appeared to reflect more the position held by Israel than that of the Obama administration, which has suggested that it will not necessarily insist on a total suspension of uranium enrichment – a demand that Iran has consistently rejected and which many Iran specialists believe is a deal-killer – as a condition for possible sanctions relief. http://original.antiwar.com/lobe/2013/01/16/new-push-in-us-for-tougher-sanctions-war-threats-against-iran/
More critiques of this report – Peter Jenkins, "Questioning Recent Iran Policy Prescriptions,"
By Peter Jenkins, Lobe Log [January 18, 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/questioning-recent-iran-policy-prescriptions/; and Muhammad Sahimi, "David Albright and Company Call for Intensifying War on the Iranian People," Antiwar.com [January 19, 2013] http://original.antiwar.com/sahimi/2013/01/18/david-albright-and-company-call-for-intensifying-war-on-the-iranian-people/.  For a comprehensive rundown on the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, here is a link to the "Right Web" entry (sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies) - http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Foundation_for_Defense_of_Democracies
A Fistful of Tomans: Iran's Currency Wars
By Kevan Harris, London Review of Books [January 24, 2013]
---- The danger is that the US believes it has already won. There is, however, little chance of unconditional surrender; as has been evident in Gaza, collective punishment doesn't produce the outcome Western (or Israeli) policymakers desire. Sanctions limit the power of those inside Iran to challenge the government's course and force them to cling to the state for survival. The idea that the country has an autonomous civil society ready and waiting to replace a regime we don't like is a profound misreading of events in Iran, as it was in Iraq a decade ago. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n02/kevan-harris/a-fistful-of-tomans
Iran official: opposition leaders out of election
From the Associated Press [January 16, 2013]
---- A semi-official Iranian news agency is reporting that the country's two main opposition leaders are not competent to run as candidates in the presidential election in June. Fars news agency is quoting State Prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei as saying Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi have committed "atrocities against the ruling system and the nation" and will be barred from running in the June 14 election, unless they repent. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/16/3185465/agency-son-of-iran-opposition.html#storylink=cpy
The Leader's "Fatwa" Against Nuclear Weapons
Iran: Khamenei's ban on nuclear weapons binding
By Ali Akbar Dareiini, Associated Press [January 15, 2013]
---- Iran sought Tuesday to spell out in its clearest terms yet that it is not seeking nuclear weapons, highlighting a religious decree issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that bans nuclear weapons. The latest reference to Khamenei's declaration is seen as a bid to close the door on debates that Iran may have carried out atomic bomb trigger tests as inspectors from the U.N. atomic watchdog were on their way to Tehran for a new round of discussions. http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2013/01/15/iran-khameneis-ban-of-nuclear-weapons-binding
"International Lawifying" the Supreme Leader's Fatwa
By Daniel Joyner Friday, January 18, 2013
---- One of [Iran's Minister of Foreign Affairs] Salehi's answers in the interview was particularly interesting from a legal perspective. It regards Iran's willingness to "secularize" the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's fatwa prohibiting the government of Iran from possession or use of nuclear weapons: "We are ready to recognize the concerns of the West and to try to mitigate them using all the possible instruments that are available, such as additional Protocol 3.1, translating the fatwa of the Supreme Leader into a secular, binding document that would bind the government to this fatwa, to which it is already bound, but which some in the West argue is a religious document, not a secular one." My main interest in this idea is in the more technical legal question of precisely what mechanism could be used to translate the Supreme Leader's edict into a binding, international legal obligation on Iran. http://armscontrollaw.com/2013/01/17/international-lawifying-the-supreme-leaders-fatwa/
The settlers move to annex the West Bank—and Israeli politics.
By David Remnick, The New Yorker [January 21, 2013]
---- What Bennett's rise, in particular, represents is the attempt of the settlers to cement the occupation and to establish themselves as a vanguard party, the ideological and spiritual core of the entire country. Just as a small coterie of socialist kibbutzniks dominated the ethos and the public institutions of Israel in the first decades of the state's existence, the religious nationalists, led by the settlers, intend to do so now and in the years ahead. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/01/21/130121fa_fact_remnick#ixzz2I3ZwP000
US Attack Could Only Set Iran's Nuclear Program Back Slightly
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [January 16, 2013]
---- A US military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would not be a quick and easy process, but a long and drawn out campaign that would only end up setting back Tehran's program by a few years, according to retired US Admiral William Fallon. Fallon spoke to the American Security Project, a research institute, and echoed warnings that the military and intelligence community has been making for a long time. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/01/16/us-attack-could-only-set-irans-nuclear-program-back-slightly/
Iran Navy Plans Fresh Mediterranean Mission
From The Daily Star [Lebanon] [January 17, 2013]
---- Iran plans to dispatch a small naval fleet to the Mediterranean in line with its intention of boosting its presence in international waters, its navy chief was cited by the media Thursday as saying. The deployment will mark Iran's third mission since the 1979 Islamic revolution to the Mediterranean. Iranian warships docked at Syrian ports in 2011 and 2012. The fleet will go through "the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, Bab al-Mandeb, the Red Sea, Suez Canal and then into the Mediterranean Sea in a three-month mission," navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari told the Fars news agency. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2013/Jan-17/202675-iran-navy-plans-fresh-mediterranean-mission-media.ashx#axzz2IKWtYvzp
How a Government Report Spread a Questionable Claim About Iran
By Justin Elliott, ProPublica [January 14, 2013]
---- Several media outlets reported this month on an alarming finding from a new U.S. government study: Iran's intelligence ministry, as CNN put it, constitutes "a terror and assassination force 30,000 strong."
The claim that the intelligence ministry has a whopping 30,000 employees, first reported by a conservative website, spread to other outlets. So how did the government researchers come up with the number? http://www.propublica.org/article/government-study-iran-30000-intelligence-ministry
Was Iran Behind the Cyber Attacks on US Banks?
Banks Seek U.S. Help on Iran Cyberattacks
By Siobhan Gorman and Danny Yadron, Wall St. Journal [January 15, 2013]
---- Major U.S. banks are pressing for government action to block or squelch what Washington officials say is an intensifying Iranian campaign of cyberattacks against American financial institutions. Financial firms have spent millions of dollars responding to the attacks, according to bank officials, who add that they can't be expected to fend off attacks from a foreign government. Defense officials have said Iran's government is behind the assault. Officials from several affected banks, including PNC Financial Services Group Inc., SunTrust Banks Inc. and BB&T Corp., are urging the U.S. government to stop or mitigate the attacks, according to investigators. U.S. officials have been weighing options, including whether to retaliate against Iran, officials say. The topic was discussed at a high-level White House meeting a few weeks ago, a U.S. official said, adding, "All options are on the table."
Iran May Not Be Behind Bank Cyberattacks
By Paul Wagenseil, TechNewsDaily [January 11, 2013]
---- There's really not much evidence that the government of Iran is behind the ongoing wave of cyberattacks on U.S. bank websites, say many security experts. "I don't consider any attack I can do in my spare time as 'nation-state-sponsored,'" said Robert David Graham, chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Errata Security. "[It] could just as well be a loose group of those sympathetic to Iran and the Middle East and angry as hell at U.S. involvement there," said George Smith, a senior fellow at the Alexandria, Va.-based think tank GlobalSecurity.org. A front-page story in The New York Times Wednesday (Jan. 9) repeated what politicians and unnamed government officials have been saying for months: Iran has to be behind the attacks.  Yet the officials have failed to offer any proof. (Tehran denies any involvement.) Instead, the Times article cited several experts who said the size and sophistication of the distributed of denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks was unprecedented and hence implied the backing of a nation-state. http://www.technewsdaily.com/16343-iran-bank-cyberattacks.html
For a More Geeky Analysis – Dan Goodin, "DDoS attacks on major US banks are no Stuxnet—here's why," Arstechnica [October 3, 2012] http://arstechnica.com/security/2012/10/ddos-attacks-against-major-us-banks-no-stuxnet/
Is Iran on the Brink?
By Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log [January 16, 2013]
---- In the past few days there have been a string of reports regarding the harmful impact of sanctions on the Iranian population. Issues related to rising prices, the inability to import medicine for life threatening diseases because of financial sanctions and even life threatening pollution caused by domestically-produced gasoline, have all received ample attention in the Western press. Inside Iran, one parliamentarian went so far as to suggest that Western sanctions are moving toward the direction of the Iraqi food for oil program. Meanwhile, political institutions seem to be in complete deadlock over the direction of economic policy. … All this brings attention to the questions of how bad the economic situation really is in Iran and whether we are finally witnessing a country that is on the brink. However, a study done for the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies suggests that these are the wrong questions to ask; they lead Iran watchers to ignore important debates and changes that are taking shape in order to counter the impact of sanctions. http://www.lobelog.com/is-iran-on-the-brink/
As IAEA arrives in Tehran, Iran braces for full force of US sanctions
By Roshanak Taghavi, Christian Science Monitor [January 15, 2013]
---- The new US Treasury sanctions, which go into effect Feb. 6, will formally regulate global banking constraints that Iranian banks and businesses have been facing, on an informal basis, for more than two years. The aim of Washington's February sanctions measure is for Tehran's oil revenues to become largely "shackled" within any country buying oil from Iran, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen declared at a conference in Washington last month. This means Iran's international oil customers – even those with State Department waivers exempting them from US Treasury penalties for purchasing Iranian oil – will officially be at risk of being cut off from the US banking system if they allow transfers of Iran's oil revenues back to Tehran's Central Bank. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0115/As-IAEA-arrives-in-Tehran-Iran-braces-for-full-force-of-US-sanctions?nav=88-csm_category-leadStory
Iran-Turkey Relations Heading into a Tough Year
By Richard Javad Heydarian, Lobe Log [January 2013]
---- Since the advent of the Syrian Revolution and tightening transatlantic sanctions against Iran in 2011, Tehran and Ankara have had a particularly tough time maintaining a facade of mutual amity and cooperation. … These tit-for-tat expressions of disenchantment underline the degree to which Turkish-Iranian relations have entered a renewed period of estrangement, after years of progressive rapprochement between Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Iran's clerical establishment, which saw Ankara emerge as Tehran's key energy partner as well as interlocutor with Washington. … Yet one thing that continues to bind the two countries is the simple, old-fashioned issue of hydro carbon riches. This is precisely why both sides continue to exercise caution with their mutual engagements, including Syria's future, despite occasional rhetorical flare-ups. http://www.lobelog.com/iran-turkey-relations-heading-into-a-tough-year/
Tangle in the Caucasus: Iran and Israel Fight for Influence in Azerbaijan
By Alex Vatanka, Foreign Affairs [January 15, 2013]
---- Although the Israeli presence in Azerbaijan is a significant security concern for Iran, it represents only one aspect of Tehran's interests in the South Caucasus. In fact, the three countries of the region view their large southern neighbor through very different lenses. Iran enjoys cordial ties with Georgia and intimate relations with Armenia, which has helped Tehran evade sanctions through its banking sector. As the Western standoff with Iran plays out over the next year, scholars and policymakers alike cannot afford to ignore the parallel developments in the South Caucasus. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/138753/alex-vatanka/tangle-in-the-caucasus
Revealed: America's Arms Sales To Bahrain Amid Bloody Crackdown
By Justin Elliott, ProPubica [January 15, 2013]
---- Despite Bahrain's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, the U.S. has continued to provide weapons and maintenance to the small Mideast nation. Defense Department documents released to ProPublica give the fullest picture yet of the arms sales: The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system. http://www.propublica.org/article/americas-arms-sales-bahrain-crackdown
The New Cold War in the Middle East
By Mohammed Ayoob, National Interest [January 16, 2013]
---- Syria has thus become a part of a region-wide tussle that is essentially about the re-calibration of two interrelated balances of power: one between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf; the second the overall regional balance of power between the American-Israeli axis and Iran. Syria is merely a sideshow of these wider and strategically much more important struggles. Iran's support for Assad and the US-Saudi support for his opponents can only be understood in the context of these larger struggles for power and influence. The resolution of the Syrian crisis is, therefore, linked to what happens in these other arenas and cannot be separated from them.  http://server1.nationalinterest.org/commentary/the-new-cold-war-the-middle-east-7974
Syria: Is It Too Late?
By Frederic C. Hof, The Atlantic Council [January 14, 2013]
---- Syria is dying. Bashar al-Assad has made it clear that the price of his removal is the death of the nation. A growing extremist minority in the armed opposition has made it clear that a Syria of citizenship and civil society is, in its view, an abomination to be killed. And those in the middle long begging for Western security assistance are increasingly bemoaning that it is already too late. Between the cold, cynical sectarianism of Assad and the white-hot sectarian hatred of those extremists among his opponents Syria already is all but gone, a body politic as numbingly cold and colorless as the harsh wintry hell bringing misery and hopelessness to untold numbers of displaced Syrians. http://acus.org/viewpoint/syria-it-too-late
Syrian Rebels Find Hearts and Minds Elusive
By Anne Barnard, New York Times [January 15, 2013]
---- On Sunday, Russia's foreign minister pointedly called on the opposition to offer specific counterproposals for a political solution rather than complain about Mr. Assad's refusal to negotiate. And on Monday, Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, chided the United States and Russia for not working harder to bring the sides together, warning that the opposition's insistence that Mr. Assad step down before any negotiations begin is perpetuating a stalemate and risking a descent into chaos. .... They are shared by a growing chorus of Middle East analysts, Syrian intellectuals and a former Syria adviser to the Obama administration.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/world/middleeast/syrian-opposition-finds-hearts-and-minds-are-elusive.html?ref=world
US: We Do Not Believe Syria Used Chemical Weapons
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [January 16, 2013]
---- The State Department on Wednesday said that the US does not believe the Syrian military used chemical weapons on its own people, despite reports to the contrary.Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday that a secret State Department cable sent last week from the US consulate in Istanbul found that the Syrian regime probably used what is technically considered a chemical weapon during an attack in the city of Homs in December. But State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland on Wednesday said the report "did not accurately convey the anecdotal information that we had received from a third party regarding an alleged incident in Syria in December." http://news.antiwar.com/2013/01/16/us-we-do-not-believe-syria-used-chemical-weapons/