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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.]
NEGOTIATIONS ABOUT IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
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
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
UNITED STATES: POLICIES & PERSPECTIVES
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
[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,"
IRAN: POLICIES & PERSPECTIVES
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/
ISRAEL: POLICIES & PERSPECTIVES
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."
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
SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN
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
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
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/