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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


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