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
February 11, 2013
Hello All – After a long slumber, diplomacy about Iran's nuclear program has awakened. Yet none of the factors that stymied agreement in the past has significantly changed. The United States still couples diplomacy with its "all options are on the table" bravado, a stance that precludes a climate conducive to negotiations. And the United States still refuses to recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to consider lifting or suspending economic sanctions in exchange for concessions by Iran. Moreover, the window for negotiations, which was closed during the US election campaign, will soon close again, perhaps as soon as March, as Iran prepares for its own presidential election.
There are now three arenas of negotiations. One arena is that of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany), who will meet with their Iranian counterparts in Kazakhstan on February 26. This set of negotiations was broken off at the June meeting in Moscow in disarray. It is in this arena that the suspension of parts of Iran's nuclear program, and the lifting of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, will be negotiated.
A second set of talks – direct talks between the United States and Iran – was proposed by Vice President Biden last week at a security conference in Munich. Bi-lateral talks have been off the agenda, but many analysts think that only by talking about a broad range of issues, and not just Iran's nuclear program, can relations between the two countries be improved. However, Iran's Supreme Leader rejected such talks on the ground that the United States' coercive actions against Iran (sanctions, cyberwar, assassinations) and threats to use military force make negotiations impossible. But, as former diplomat Peter Bergen notes in an essay linked below, the Supreme Leader's statements make clear that bi-lateral talks would be welcome if the United States would cease its aggression.
A third arena for negotiations is that between the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. The front-burner issue here is the (imo unfounded) allegations by the IAEA that Iran experimented with military applications of uranium a decade ago. The focus of the IAEA demands is access to Iran's military base at Parchin. It is unlikely that Iran will accede to the IAEA demands re: Parchin unless they become part of a larger agreement in the P5+1 arena.
With negotiations between the disputing parties seemingly going nowhere, the main centers of action are in the debates about UN, US, and EU economic sanctions against Iran. As described in articles linked below, it is evident that the sanctions are causing serious distress to many Iranians, but it is also clear that the sanctions have had, and are unlikely to have, any impact on Iran's negotiating positions about its nuclear program. As this becomes recognized among the US policy-making elite, the question arises: Will sanctions be maintained indefinitely, will new diplomatic offers be forthcoming, or will military action against Iran become more attractive?
In addition to some good/useful articles about each of the three negotiating arenas, I've linked below a set of essays on sanctions, on internal developments within Iran, and of course on recent developments in Syria. I also recommend the essays by Hossein Mousavian and Trita Parsi on negotiating opportunities; the Arms Control Association "briefing book" on Iran's nuclear program; and Gareth Porter's essay on the new developments in the terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, now "linked" to Hezbollah and indirectly to Iran.
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Iran's Successes and Failures - 34 Years Later
By Daniel Brumberg, Iran Primer [February 9, 2013]
---- On February 11, Iran will mark the 34th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. What are Iran's successes? The Islamic Republic is now a regional power, thanks to three decades of social, economic, diplomatic, and military advancements. But not all of these successes are clear-cut. Many of Iran's achievements actually created new challenges or even led to political and diplomatic failures. http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2013/feb/09/iran%E2%80%99s-successes-and-failures-34-years-later
Embrace the Fatwa
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Foreign Policy [February 7, 2013]
---- As the Western media reported it, the future of U.S.-Iranian nuclear negotiations suffered a major setback on Feb. 7 when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seemed to reject Vice President Joseph Biden's offer of direct talks. But Ayatollah Khamenei's statement can also be read as an invitation for genuine negotiations -- negotiations that are not conducted in the shadow of increasingly draconian sanctions and that take seriously Iran's legitimate interests and rights. … The supreme leader's recent statement notwithstanding, that breakthrough is within reach, though it will require looking beyond the NPT to a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khamenei in 2003 that bans nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. … One immediate area where the fatwa offers a way around the current deadlock is on the issue of Parchin. Talks between Iran and the IAEA have hit a roadblock over demands to visit the military complex located outside Tehran, with both sides unwilling to back down. Under the fatwa, however, Iran could invite a non-IAEA international team of experts to visit Parchin and present their technical findings. Such an initiative would be voluntary, allowing Iran to break the current artificial deadlock. But it would also increase transparency and allay Western fears about what's going on at the base. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/02/07/Embrace_the_Fatwa_Iran?wp_login_redirect=0
(Video) Biden's Tepid "Overture" to Iran Continues to Reflect America's "Imperial Turn" in the Middle East
From Russia Today, with Flynt Leverett and Hillary Man Leverett, Going to Tehran [February 3, 2013]
Washington And Tehran's Perpetual Search For The Upper Hand
---- Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, just poured cold water on the idea of bilateral talks between the US and Iran. Although the Obama administration has sought talks, both Washington and Tehran agree on one point: They are both skeptical about the prospects of future diplomacy and suspicious of the other's intentions and capabilities for peace making. With Khamenei's negative statement and Iran's pre-negotiation wrangling delaying the next round of talk till February 26, Washington's strategy of manufacturing a climax to force Iran's hand may have boomeranged. If the window for diplomacy before the Iranian elections is missed, Obama's political space for talks will close once more with an accompanying increase in risk of war. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/07/washington-and-tehran-s-perpetual-search-for-the-upper-hand.html
"Solving the Iranian Nuclear Puzzle:" An ACA Briefing Book
From The Arms Control Association [February 2013]
---- As the United States and other international leaders continue to pursue a range of strategies to head-off the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, the non-partisan Arms Control Association has produced a comprehensive, entry-level guide to Iran's nuclear program and its capabilities, and the risks, benefits, and limitations of the available policy options. This 42-page briefing book is designed to provide an overview of Iran's nuclear history, the status of its nuclear program, the role of international nonproliferation sanctions, the realities of potential military options, and the history and challenges of diplomatic efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. [FB – The "Briefing Book" includes two appendices useful for education/agitation: a timeline of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, and a history/listing of official proposals on the Iranian nuclear issue.] http://www.armscontrol.org/files/ACA_Iran_Briefing_Book_2013.pdf
NEGOTIATIONS RE: IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
---- What would a workable agenda for the February 26th meeting look like? When the P5+1 meeting for February 26 was announced, a liberal US arms control think tank, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, suggested the following:
Iran would be asked to:
- Limit the enrichment of uranium to lower than 5 percent, the level needed for energy production,
- Deposit all 20 percent enriched uranium overseas with a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT),
- Dismantle the uranium enrichment capability of the Fordow nuclear facility,
- Oxidize or deposit overseas with an NPT State a substantial (more than 60 percent) portion of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, and
- Implement the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol.
In return, the P5+1 must be willing to offer incentives including:
- Suspending the implementation of existing unilateral and multilateral sanctions, including those against the Central Bank of Iran and the oil sector; however, these measures would be automatically reintroduced if Iran violates the aforementioned agreement, and
- Freezing the introduction of new sanctions for a brief, but fixed period.
Whether this would induce Iran to bargain remains to be seen, as it does not include all of Iran's stated conditions; but by putting the suspension of ALL the sanctions on the table, imo it qualifies as a serious offer. The point, to repeat, is whether or not the United States will suspend sanctions upon Iran's agreement to do something, rather than agree to lift or suspend sanctions only after Iran has carried out (in the opinion of the P5+1) what it agrees to do. - FB
The Question of Bi-lateral (US & Iran) Direct Talks
Don't Rule Out Bilateral Talks with Iran
By Peter Jenkins, Lobe Log [February 8, 2013]
---- I was in Berlin on Monday when Iran's Foreign Minister, MIT-educated Ali Akbar Salehi, spoke to a large audience at the premises of the German Association for Foreign Policy (DGAP). I heard Minister Salehi repeat what he had said the previous day in Munich — that Iran is ready to respond positively to Vice President Joe Biden's offer of bilateral talks — and spell out the expectations with which Iran would approach such talks. Reports of a statement by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, on 7 February have suggested a subsequent contradiction of the Foreign Minister's statement and that the Leader has closed the door to bilateral talks. I do not believe this to be the case. http://www.lobelog.com/dont-rule-out-bilateral-talks-with-iran/
(Video) US and Iran: Can talks take place?
From Aljazeera [Inside Story] [February 8, 2013] – 25 minutes
--- Guests include Flynt Leverett.
Also about bi-lateral talks – Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, "Munich conference breaks Iran-US ice," Asia Times [February 5, 2013] http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/OB05Ak02.html; Scott Peterson, "Iran's supreme leader shuts down possibility of direct nuclear talks with US," Christian Science Monitor [February 7, 2013] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0207/Iran-s-supreme-leader-shuts-down-possibility-of-direct-nuclear-talks-with-US-video; Juan Cole, "Ahmadinejad: US must Cease Militarily Targeting Iran before Direct Negotiations," Informed Comment [February 11, 2013] http://www.juancole.com/2013/02/ahmadinejad-targetting-negotiations.html; and David E. Sanger, "Supreme Leader of Iran Rejects Direct Talks With U.S.," New York Times [February 7, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/world/middleeast/irans-supreme-leader-ayatollah-ali-khameini-rejects-direct-talks-with-us.html?ref=world
The P5+1 Talks in Khazakstan (February 26)
A return to nuclear diplomacy with Iran
By Julian Borger, The Guardian [UK] [February 3, 2013]
---- The fact that it took two months to agree on where to meet gives some idea of the trials ahead
So the talking begins again in Kazakhstan on February 25. At least, it probably does. Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced it as "good news" he was bringing the Munich Security Conference over the weekend. The office of Cathy Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief whose job it is to help organise such talks, says it is still waiting to hear from the man who leads the Iranian delegation, Saeed Jalili, before declaring a date.These talks were supposed to begin after the US presidential election, but got bogged down in procedure, almost certainly to mask Iranian uncertainty over whether a new round of talks was in its interests. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/julian-borger-global-security-blog/2013/feb/03/iran-nuclear-centrifuges/print
Kerry Threatens Iran Ahead of Upcoming Talks
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [February 8, 2013]
---- With P5+1 talks with Iran just two weeks away, Secretary of State John Kerry took a little time out of his schedule to threaten Iran, insisting that while the US is "prepared to talk" with Iran at the meeting they will take no option off the table, including military force. Kerry went on to insist that Iran has to address all US concerns or it would face further isolation and other unspecified actions, adding that the US will do "whatever it takes" to stop their nuclear program. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/02/08/kerry-threatens-iran-ahead-of-upcoming-talks/
The IAEA-Iran Issue re: Parchin Military Base
Iran and the IAEA at Parchin
By Aslı Bâli, Middle East Report [February 7, 2013]
---- Few foreign policy issues garner as much interest in the American press as the Iranian nuclear program. Yet despite all of this attention, some stories concerning Iran's nuclear program manage to slip through the cracks. Tellingly, the stories that fall flattest are those that contain evidence challenging the received wisdom that the Iranian nuclear program has "military dimensions" (or as the International Atomic Energy Agency prefers to put it, "possible military dimensions"). One such story that has been bubbling in the blogosphere but is curiously underplayed by the mainstream media is the assessment offered by Robert Kelley of the dispute between the UN nuclear watchdog and Iran over access to the military production complex located at Parchin, near Tehran. http://www.merip.org/iran-iaea-parchin
Other Nuclear Issues
Iran nuclear fuel move may avert mid-year crisis
By Myra MacDonald and Fredrik Dahl, Reuters [February 10, 2013]
---- Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, diplomats say, a process which if expanded could buy time for negotiations between Washington and Tehran on its disputed nuclear program. The possibility of Iran converting enriched uranium into fuel - slowing a growth in stockpiles of material that could be used to make weapons - is one of the few ways in which the nuclear dispute could avoid hitting a crisis by the summer. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/10/us-iran-nuclear-conversions-idUSBRE91907O20130210
Yet Another Estimate of When Iran Will Have the Bomb
By Kevin Jon Heller, Opinio Juris [January 28, 2013]
---- McClatchy reports that Israel now believes Iran will not be able to produce a nuclear weapon until 2015 or 2016. That is progress of a sort; Netanyahu had previously been claiming that Iran would have the bomb no later than late summer 2013 — around six months from now. But Israel is still insisting that Iran is only two or three years away from nuclear capability, so I think it is useful to recall and update the timeline I mentioned early last year of breathless Israeli and Western claims about Iran's nuclear program: http://opiniojuris.org/2013/01/28/yet-another-estimate-of-when-iran-will-have-the-bomb/
Iran's Missile Program And Its Implications For U.S. Missile Defense
BY Greg Thielmann, Arms Control Association [February 5, 2013]
IRANIAN POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Iran marks revolution anniversary with soaring, defiant rhetoric
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [February 10, 2013]
Khamenei bound by domestic politics in nuclear negotiations
Ali Reza Eshraghi, The National [United Arab Emirates] [February 6, 2013]
---- It is a mistake to think that Iran's opposition groups agree to unconditional negotiations over the nuclear issue. On January 1, six prominent members of the opposition National-Religious Coalition, in an open letter addressed to Ayatollah Khamenei, indicated that talks with the US were not appropriate under the circumstances because Iran would have no choice but to surrender to US demands and give up on its interests. Last October, when there was a rumour that the Supreme Leader's adviser Ali Akbar Velayati had secretly met with the US officials, the flagship website of the opposition Green Movement, Kaleme, warned that the regime must not agree to humiliating compromises on national interests for the sake of short-term benefits. The website reprinted an article by Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading reformist candidate in the 2009 presidential election who is now under house arrest, in which he protested the UN Security Council's new round of sanctions. http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/khamenei-bound-by-domestic-politics-in-nuclear-negotiations#ixzz2KWQqGWjv
As the US prepares to leave Afghanistan, Iran is moving in
From Marjalla [February 2013]
---- Worried about the possible resurgence of its old enemies, the Taliban, Iran is seeking to strengthen its economic links with Afghanistan while reaching out to the US and India. As the Obama administration prepares its Afghan exit strategy scheduled for 2014, Iran too is weighing its options in Afghanistan. Tehran's basic objective is to retain a dominant role in its eastern neighbor, but it faces both domestic Afghan opposition and regional rivals—such as Pakistan—equally determined to influence the course of events in the troubled state. As it intensifies its Afghan efforts, Tehran appears to be relying on two principle approaches. First, it is increasingly touting it intervention as inevitable, an economic necessity for Afghanistan. Secondly, Tehran is looking to create the maximum possible agreement with those regional states that share some or all of Tehran's interests in Afghanistan. On that list, India stands out.
President Ahmadinejad and Parliament
As Iran's elections near, Ahmadinejad refuses to leave office quietly
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [February 5, 2013]
---- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Cairo today, marking the first visit to Egypt by an Iranian president since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. Four months before presidential elections that will choose his successor, Mr. Ahmadinejad has made clear that he is disregarding orders to end his second term quietly, and instead is publicly taking on a host of political enemies in parliament and across Iran's Islamic regime. A key Ahmadinejad ally and hardline former Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, was arrested and taken to Evin prison overnight yesterday after a bruising parliamentary fight the day before over his confirmation for a high-level post. Ahmadinejad fought back from the parliament podium by accusing Speaker Ali Larijani and his brothers of corruption, and then played a secretly recorded video of one brother, Fazel, meeting with Mortazavi and apparently peddling family influence. The audio was scratchy, and Fazel Larijani later claimed it to be fake. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0205/As-Iran-s-elections-near-Ahmadinejad-refuses-to-leave-office-quietly-video?nav=87-frontpage-entryLeadStory
Supreme showdown in Tehran
By Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar Foreign Policy [February 4, 2013]
---- Four months before the next presidential election, Iran's conservative establishment is facing a security threat: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Four years ago, a controversial election that reinstated President Ahmadinejad brought millions of Iranians into a face-to-face confrontation with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now, it is Ahmadinejad who is coming face-to-face with the very man who lifted him out of obscurity and granted him worldwide fame and unparalleled support against all pillars of the Islamic Republic. During an unprecedented debate at the parliament, which ended in mayhem and the dismissal of the labor minister, Ahmadinejad played a video that implicated the powerful Larijani brothers, two of whom head the judiciary and legislative bodies, of corruption and nepotism. http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/02/04/supreme_showdown_in_tehran
U.S. and Allies Conduct Drills in Persian Gulf, a Signal to Iran
By Thom Shanker, New York Times [February 7, 2013]
---- Deterring Iran is a delicate balance of diplomacy, sanctions and military muscle-flexing, all intended to send a strong signal – without proving so provocative that the region is pushed toward war. One piece of the effort – halting the proliferation of illicit weapons – got a practice run in the Persian Gulf this week.
US Budget Woes Compound Differences with GCC
By Barbara Slavin, Al-Monitor [February 7, 2013]
---- Deep insecurity on the part of smaller Gulf nations about their importance to the United States underlies their ambivalence about nuclear negotiations, which are scheduled to resume in Kazakhstan Feb. 26. The announcement Wednesday [Feb. 6] that the U.S. Navy has indefinitely postponed deployment of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group to the Gulf — leaving the John C. Stennis as the sole carrier force in the area — only underlines what LeBaron called a Gulf perception of US "inconsistency." The Obama administration has kept two carrier groups in the Gulf since 2010 to project strength against Iran and support other regional operations. But the need to plan for a drastic cutback in U.S. government spending — the so-called sequestration scheduled to go into effect March 1 — required the deployment delay, said Pentagon spokesman George Little. "This prudent decision enables the U.S. Navy to maintain these ships to deploy on short notice in the event they are needed," he said. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/02/persian-gulf-fleet-aircraft-carrier-pentagon-budget-woes.html#ixzz2KWXapb57
US Announces Yet More Sanctions in 'Economic War' Against Iran
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [February 6, 2013]
---- With P5+1 talks set for later this month, the Obama Administration has predictably announced yet another round of sanctions against Iran, which officials termed "a significant turning of the screw" in the economic war against the nation. The latest rounds include sanctions against the Iranian press, as well as efforts to make it even harder for the nation to export oil abroad. The lack of access to international banking has already pushing Iran to trade oil for gold, and the new sanctions will make barter even more necessary. The sanctions also targeted a major Iranian electronics company, accusing them of being responsible for eavesdropping inside Iran, and the Iranian Cyber Police, who monitor online behavior and filter web sites. Analysts say the newest round of sanctions, like those of the past, will likely have little impact, primarily harming the private economy and civilians while the government continues to have the infrastructure to circumvent the worst of it. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/02/06/us-announces-yet-more-sanctions-in-economic-war-against-iran/
Some Mechanics of Sanctions
Is Iran's December Oil Export Hike Permanent?
By Sara Vakhshouri, Lobe Log [February 2013]
---- Sanctions against Iran by the European Union and the United States, which aim to change Iran's attitude toward its nuclear program, have increased pressure on its oil export and revenue. This resulted in the reduction of Iran's oil exports from 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in late 2011 to around between 900 thousand to slightly above 1 million bpd until October 2012. On 30 January 2013, Reuters reported that Iran's crude oil exports hit its highest level in December, at around 1.4 million bpd since EU sanctions took effect last July. What was the reason for this sudden hike? http://www.lobelog.com/is-irans-december-oil-export-hike-permanent/
Turkey will not halt gold flow to Iran, demand may fall
By Asli Kandemir and Evrim Ergin, Reuters [February 7, 2013]
---- Turkey will not be swayed by U.S. sanctions pressure to halt gold exports to Iran but Tehran's demand for the metal may fall this year, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said on Thursday. U.S. officials are concerned that Turkey's gold sales, which allow Iran to export natural gas, provides a financial lifeline to Tehran, which is largely frozen out of the global banking system by Western sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme. Trade in Turkish gold bars to Iran via Dubai is drying up as banks and dealers increasingly refuse to buy the bullion to avoid sanctions risks associated with the trade.
The Impact of the Sanctions
Iran's Economy After Devaluation
By Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Lobe Log [February 7, 2013]
---- Four months after the collapse of the rial earlier this fall, Iran's economy is still reeling from its effects. The rial lost 40% of its value in one week late last September, succumbing to accumulating pressures from free spending by the Ahmadinejad government, overvaluation caused by years of booming oil revenues, and international sanctions. Financial sanctions imposed by the United States against third-party countries that trade with Iran have seriously disrupted Iran's international trade, reducing its ability to sell its oil or spend the revenues from what it can sell. Sanctions have inflicted enormous pain on millions of Iranians, who have watched the boom of the last decade deteriorate into stagnation, inflation triple and critical items such as medicine disappear from stores. Iranians are meanwhile unsure who to blame, those who have imposed the collective punishment or their own government. http://www.lobelog.com/irans-economy-after-devaluation/
Sanctions and Medical Supply Shortages in Iran
By Siamak Namazi, The Wilson Center [February 2013] - 9 pages
---- The pronounced role of sanctions in creating shortages of life-saving medical supplies and drugs in Iran may have been unintentional, but it is also irrefutable. Iran's own mismanagement of the situation has aggravated the problem, but it is not the root cause of it. While the list of issues leading to the supply crunch is long and complicated, at the heart of it all are the obstacles that sanctions have created in denying Iran the necessary banking operations and limiting its access to hard currency. Namazi presents findings based on a recent study that he and a number of Iranian consultants carried out. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/sanctions-and-medical-supply-shortages-iran
Appeals to End the Sanctions
"Iranian Mothers for Peace" Alert the World on Sanctions and Shortage of Medicines
by Farid Marjai and Mehrnaz Shahabi, Monthly Review [February 2013]
---- "Iranian Mothers for Peace," in an open letter of January 2013 to Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, and Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Heath Organization, have alerted the responsible world bodies and human rights organizations to the critical shortage of vital medication due to the US/EU-led sanctions on Iran and their deadly impact on the lives and health of the Iranian population.
"Iranian Mothers for Peace" is a non-profit forum, well known and respected in Iran's civil society. In 2006 a number of social activists came together to form this forum. "Mothers for Peace" is not a political party and organizationally it has a flexible structure. "Mothers for Peace" takes pride that its 700 participants come from very diverse political backgrounds and different social classes. It affirmatively celebrates diversity which it considers a reflection of the tolerance the group espouses. [The letter follows.] http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2013/ms010213.html
A Letter to President Obama
Friends [Quaker] Committee on National Legislation (and 25 national organizations) [February 4, 2013]
---- FCNL led a broad coalition of 25 national organizations calling on President Barack Obama to take action to ensure that Iranian civilians are not blocked from accessing food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods under existing U.S. sanctions. According to recent reports, a growing number of Iranians are facing difficulties accessing food and medicine, in part due to sanctions imposed by the United States. The Iranian government's mismanagement and lack of economic transparency has also worsened the situations for Iranian patients, but there are still simple actions that the U.S. government can take to ensure that Iranians are not blocked from accessing food and medicine due to the U.S. sanctions regime. [Read the letter at:] http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/coalition_calls_on_obama_not_to_block_food_medicine_to_iran/
STIRRING THE POT
A Rush to Judgment in Bulgarian Blast?
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [February 10, 2013]
---- Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov's dramatic announcement last Tuesday on the Bulgarian investigation of the July 2012 terror bombing of an Israeli tourist bus was initially reported by Western news media as suggesting clear evidence of Hezbollah's responsibility for the killings. But more accurate reports on the minister's statement and the only details he provided reveal that the alleged link between the bomb suspects and Hezbollah was merely an "assumption" rather than a conclusion based on specific evidence. … None of the details provided by Tsvetanov, according to press reports, involved evidence showing that two of the alleged conspirators belonged to Hezbollah or to Hezbollah financing of the terror plot. The most important piece of evidence cited by Tsvetanov was the lengthy stays in Lebanon by two of the three alleged participants in the bombing and driver's licenses that were forged in Lebanon. … Those connections between the alleged conspirators and the bombing by themselves could hardly support an assumption of Hezbollah responsibility for the bombing. Al-Qaeda terrorist cells have been operating in Lebanon for years, and have the technical capability for such a bombing plot. Furthermore, Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist bombings involving Israeli tourists in the past, whereas there is no known case of a Hezbollah bombing of Israeli tourists, as a Hezbollah spokesman pointed out Wednesday. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/bulgarian-charge-of-hezbollah-bombing-was-an-assumption/
The New York Times Version - Nicholas Kulish and Matthew Brunwasser, "Europeans Await Report on Bus Blast in Bulgaria," New York Times [February 4, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/world/europe/europe-await-report-on-bulgaria-bombing-for-hezbollah-link.html?ref=world; Nicholas Kulish, et al., "Bulgaria Implicates Hezbollah in July Attack on Israelis," New York Times [February 5, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/world/europe/bulgaria-implicates-hezbollah-in-deadly-israeli-bus-blast.html?ref=world&pagewanted=print; and Matthew Brunwasser and Nicholas Kulish, "Multinational Search in Bulgaria Blast," New York Times [February 6, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/world/europe/two-still-sought-in-bulgarian-bus-blast.html?ref=world. For a short video of the alleged bomber, http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/19/video-shows-suspected-bomber-before-deadly-attack-on-israelis-in-bulgaria/?ref=europe
Seizure of Antiaircraft Missiles in Yemen Raises Fears That Iran Is Arming Rebels There
By C. J. Chivers and Robert F. Worth, New York Times [February 8, 2013]
---- Photographs recently released by the Yemeni government suggest that an interdiction last month by the United States Navy and Yemen's security forces seized a class of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles not publicly known to have been out of state control. … Neither Yemen nor the United States has fully described the boarding of the dhow, including how it was detected or the precise roles of the security services and vessels that were involved. The dhow's shipping documents, if they exist, have also not been made public, nor has any information obtained from the vessel's navigation devices, logbooks or charts. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/09/world/middleeast/weapons-seizure-in-yemen-raises-worries-of-irans-influence.html?ref=world
Six Killed in Shelling of Iranian Refugee Camp in Iraq
By Yasir Ghazi, New York Times [February 9, 2013]
---- In an e-mail sent to news media outlets in Iraq, the military wing of Hezbollah in Iraq, a militant organization believed to have connections to the main Lebanese group and to Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack and warned that others would follow. Although Hezbollah in Iraq was active during the American military presence there, attacks by the group died down after the Americans left, and its leaders said they would lay down arms and join the political process. But in an ominous sign that a recent spate of deadly sectarian conflicts in Iraq might escalate, the group announced at a recent news conference that it was establishing a militia to fight Sunni groups that had been attacking Shiites. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/world/middleeast/mortars-kill-several-in-a-refugee-camp-in-iraq.html?ref=world
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
Syria's Secular Revolution Lives On
BY Omar Hossino, Foreign Policy [February 4, 2013]
---- The secular and nationalist spirit that initially sparked the Syrian revolution is also still alive and well. Many grassroots activists and religious leaders are working to forge a country that is built on secular principles, against sectarian revenge, and supportive of equal rights for all its citizens. Even some of the sharia courts that have sprung up to administer justice in areas the Syrian government has abandoned contain surprising, nonsectarian trends. Whether such a movement can survive as the uprising drags on is not yet clear. For the time being, however, these figures embody the sliver of hope that Syria may avoid an all-out sectarian war. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/02/04/syria_s_secular_revolution_lives_on?page=full&wp_login_redirect=0
Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria in event that Assad falls, officials say
By Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick, Washington Post [ , 2013]
[FB – This story appeared just as I was about to send out this newsletter. IMO it needs to be read with caution and skepticism, but I think it raises the prospect that Obama, having rejected the proposals of Panetta, Clinton, et al. last fall to arm the rebels, may be reconsidering.]
---- Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve and protect their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad's government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials. The militias are fighting alongside Syrian government forces to keep Assad in power. But officials think Iran's long-term goal is to have reliable operatives in Syria in case the country fractures into ethnic and sectarian enclaves. A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria.
"Syria Comment" on Syria's Islamists
Israel Attacks Syria
How Israel is Fueling the Syrian Fire
By Nicola Nasser, Counterpunch [February 6, 2013]
---- The timing of the Israeli air raid early on January 30 on a Syrian target, that has yet to be identified, coincided with hard to refute indications that the "regime change" in Syria by force, both by foreign military intervention and by internal armed rebellion, has failed, driving the Syrian opposition in exile to opt unwillingly for "negotiations" with the ruling regime, with the blessing of the U.S., EU and Arab League.
The Israeli military intervention at this particular timing fuels a Syrian fire that has recently started to look for firefighters among the growing number of the advocates of dialogue, negotiations and political solutions both nationally, regionally and internationally. The escalating humanitarian crisis and the rising death toll in Syria have made imperative either one of two options: A foreign military intervention or a political solution. Two years on since the U.S., EU, Turkish and Qatari adoption of a "regime change" in Syria by force, on the lines of the "Libyan scenario," the first option has failed to materialize. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/06/how-israel-is-fueling-the-syrian-fire/
Narrative on Israeli air strike on Syria starts to unravel
By February 3, 2013]
More on the Israeli attack – Roula Khalaf, "Israel and Assad raise stakes on Syria," The Financial Times [UK] [February 2013] http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/aab3be8e-6e16-11e2-983d-00144feab49a.html#axzz2KWEeIePO; Ben Schreiner, "Targeting the Iranian Threat to "Stability": Israel Enters Syria," Counterpunch [February 7, 2013] http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/07/israel-enters-syria/; David Sanger, et al., "Israeli Strike Into Syria Said to Damage Research Site," New York Times [February 3, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/world/middleeast/syrian-weapons-center-said-to-be-damaged.html?ref=world; John Glaser, "'Apocalyptic' Iranians Refuse Assad's Request to Bomb Israel," Antiwar.com [February 4, 2013] http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/02/04/apocolyptic-iranians-refuse-assads-request-to-bomb-israel/; and Jason Ditz, "Ahmadinejad: Iran Won't Attack Israel," Antiwar.com [February 6, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/02/06/ahmadinejad-iran-wont-attack-israel/
Conflicts Within the US Over Arming Rebels
Senate Hearing Draws Out a Rift in U.S. Policy on Syria
By Michael R. Gordon and Mark Landler, New York Times [February 7, 2013]
---- Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta acknowledged that he and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, had supported a plan last year to arm carefully vetted Syrian rebels. But it was ultimately vetoed by the White House, Mr. Panetta said, although it was developed by David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director at the time, and backed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state. Neither Mr. Panetta nor General Dempsey explained why President Obama did not heed their recommendation. But senior American officials have said that the White House was worried about the risks of becoming more deeply involved in the Syria crisis, including the possibility that weapons could fall into the wrong hands. And with Mr. Obama in the middle of a re-election campaign, the White House rebuffed the plan, a decision that Mr. Panetta says he now accepts. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/us/politics/panetta-speaks-to-senate-panel-on-benghazi-attack.html?ref=world&_r=0
Islamic leaders back Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi plan for Syria talks
From Reuters, [February 8, 2013]
---- A final statement after a two-day summit of the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation backed an initiative by Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to broker negotiations to stop the bloodshed in which at least 60,000 people have died. The statement did not call on Syria's president Bashar Al Assad to step down, but the summit exposed conflicting views among Muslim and Arab nations about the Syrian civil war. In the past, many nations at the summit, including Egypt, have demanded that the Syrian leader step aside. Mr Morsi criticised the Syrian regime in his address to the summit, but did not directly call for the Syrian leader to leave as he had in past comments. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/islamic-leaders-back-egypt-turkey-iran-and-saudi-plan-for-syria-talks
Assad Can Avoid Trial by Leaving, Coalition Says
By Hania Mourtada and Rick Gladstone, New York Times [February 4, 2013]
---- Syria's opposition coalition gave qualified backing on Monday to its leader's surprise offer last week for a dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad to end the civil war, pressing him to respond definitively and even offering the added inducement that he could avoid trial if he resigned and left the country.
Sheik Khatib, a respected Sunni cleric in exile who once was the head imam at the historic Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, said he would engage in dialogue with Mr. Assad's government only if it released 160,000 political prisoners and renewed all expired passports held by members of the Syrian diaspora, which includes large numbers of dissidents. Sheik Khatib sought to strengthen his political credentials at a regional security conference held in Munich over the weekend. He met separately with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, the Assad government's strongest foreign supporters. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/world/middleeast/syria-assad.html?ref=world