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Monday, February 18, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - February 18, 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
February 18, 2013
Hello All – Prospects for renewed negotiations on Iran's nuclear program – now set for February 26th in Kazakhstan – diminished this week, as the United States revealed its negotiating "carrot": to roll back new economic sanctions which they placed on Iran last week!  "You are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said of the United States. "But you should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these threats."
Indeed, as Iranian former negotiator Hossein Mousavian expresses in a video interview linked below, a negotiated agreement is there for the taking, but the United States and its partners are unwilling to recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium and refuse to put meaningful sanctions reduction on the table.  Instead, they hold out prospects for the lifting of sanctions after Iran has essentially abandoned its quest for an integrated and independent civilian nuclear program.
Yet bargaining of a sort continued this week.  For the second time, Iran reduced its stockpile of uranium enriched to the 20 percent level by converting it into fuel rods (and thus rendering it even theoretically unusable for later conversion to nuclear-weapon material).  In doing so, Iran signaled that it would not amass a stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium beyond a level that Israel maintains is one of its "redlines."  And underscoring its claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, Ayatollah Khamenei restated in a lengthy speech his belief that nuclear weapons were sinful and "a crime against humanity."
In Syria, meanwhile, the civil war and foreign intervention showed still greater potential to become a regional war.  European foreign ministers are meeting today to consider proposals for arming at least parts of the armed rebellion against the Syrian government.  In a related matter, the United States and Israel added to the pot a demand that the European Union designate Lebanon's Hezbollah as a "terrorist organization."  New "evidence" for Hezbollah terrorism is advanced today in the New York Times, where US National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon accuses Hezbollah as being the instigator of last summer's terrorist attack on Israel tourists in Bulgaria.  In an important and impressive piece of detective work, linked below, Gareth Porter dissects the US-Israeli-Bulgarian claims and shows how they are constructed out of scraps of ambiguous factoids.  And in a further dissection of last week's Big Story that the Iranians were training a 50,000-man Syrian militia, commentators linked below show how this story was also fabricated.
Finally, in respect to US sanctions against Iran and especially the life-threatening harm caused by the inability of Iranians to import essential medicines, I would like to call your attention to a new campaign by Haavar, a grassroots organization of Iranians, US-Iranians, and their supporters.  Their petition calls on CEOs of major US banks to enable the humanitarian exemptions allowed in US sanctions legislation, rather than (as is usually the case) refusing to deal with Iranian pharmaceutical importers at all.  For more information and to sign the petition, go to www.haavar.org.
Previous "issues" of the Iran War Weekly are posted 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)
Risky equilibrium in Iran nuclear crisis
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times [February 16, 2013]
---- The Iran nuclear crisis has now reached a new and potentially dangerous equilibrium between stiff Western sanctions on the one hand and the rapid progress of Iran's nuclear program on the other.
Avoiding escalation will require careful nuclear diplomacy by both sides. It is hoped this will been seen in Kazakhstan on February 26 when an Iranian delegation with meet with representatives of the five permanent UN Security Council members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - and Germany, known as the Iran 5+1. The equilibrium has been generated by the confluence of several
inter-related factors, including the US's decision to escalate the pressures on Iran through new unilateral sanctions targeting Tehran's heavy reliance on petrodollars. http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13139
(Video) An Interview with Hossein Mousavian
From BBC HARDtalk [February 13, 2013] - 25 minutes
---- Can there be a negotiated way out of the high-stakes stand-off between Iran and the West over the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions? A new round of talks is planned for later this month but the basic facts have not changed: Iran's enrichment programme gets ever more sophisticated, international sanctions on Tehran bite deeper and the warnings from the West grow darker. Guest is former Iranian negotiator on the nuclear issue, Hossein Mousavian. Does diplomacy have a chance? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IU7sqMFowo&noredirect=1
Is Iran a Rogue State?
By Peter Jenkins, LobeLog [February 2013]
---- Speaking on 12 February about the latest North Korean nuclear test, the outgoing US Defense Secretary said (according to the BBC): "We're going to have to continue with rogue states like Iran and North Korea." Does Iran deserve to be bracketed with North Korea? Is Iran a rogue state? Unlike North Korea, Iran has remained a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It has continued to submit to international inspection the nuclear material in its possession. It has never expelled the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It has never tested a nuclear explosive device. It is assessed to be acquiring a capability to make nuclear weapons, but to be undecided and open to persuasion to refrain from their manufacture. http://www.lobelog.com/is-iran-a-rogue-state/
The Myth of Iranian Nuclear Coercion
By Paul R. Pillar, National Interest [February 14, 2013]
---- One of the most oft-repeated, widely accepted and habitually unquestioned beliefs about the Iranian nuclear issue is that if Iran got a nuclear weapon then Tehran would—merely by possessing such a weapon, even if it never detonated one—throw its weight around in the region in ways that it wouldn't or couldn't do without a nuke. A nuclear-armed Iran, according to the belief, would coerce and influence neighbors in untold ways we are not seeing now from a non-nuclear-armed Iran. This belief is shared by a wide variety of people who disagree on other aspects of Iran and its nuclear program. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/the-myth-iranian-nuclear-coercion-8110
Why the Iran threat assessment may be easing – for now
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [February 13, 2013]
---- Analysts are toning down threat assessments on Iran as several developments coincide to lower the drumbeat of fears about Iran's nuclear intentions. From slower-than-expected missile progress, to resumed conversion of Iran's most sensitive enriched uranium stockpile, along with the apparent easing of a years-long, Israel-led covert war against Iran, they signal a partial de-escalation that could yield more room for diplomacy. On the surface it may appear to be business as usual: United Nations nuclear inspectors arrived in Iran for discussions to access suspect sites; nuclear talks with six world powers are to resume on Feb. 26. There are few expectations of any breakthroughs. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0213/Why-the-Iran-threat-assessment-may-be-easing-for-now?nav=87-frontpage-entryNineItem
Iran: UN chief violates principle of impartiality on Iran nuclear issue
By Hassan Beheshtipour, Press TV [February 18, 2013]
The P5+1 Meeting in Kazakhstan, February 26th
Iran Analysis: The US Makes a Non-Offer on the Nuclear Talks
By Scott Lucas, Enduring America [February 16, 2013]
---- Appearing alongside the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers in the nuclear talks with Iran, new US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Washington said he looked forward to Ashton's "critical effort" in high-level discussions with the Iranians on 26 February in Kazakhstan. However, the Secretary of State's rhetoric was put in context by the revelation from "Western officials" of the offer to be made to Iran. In exchange for Tehran's steps to close its enrichment plant at Fordoo, which produces 20% uranium, the US and its allies will lift sanctions. Well, not all sanctions. Not the sanctions levied in 2010, following the American rejection of the Iran-Brazil-Turkey offer in the Tehran Declaration. Not the sanctions levied in 2011 or 2012, including last July's European cut-off of oil imports from Iran and insurance for Iranian oil tankers anywhere in the world. Not the restrictions on Iran's financial and banking sectors, including international transactions via the SWIFT system and payments in Euros or dollars. No, the only sanctions that may be removed --- in exchange for the "stop, ship, and shut" demand of the US and Europe over 20% uranium, --- are those imposed by Washington ten days ago. http://www.enduringamerica.com/home/2013/2/16/iran-analysis-the-us-makes-a-non-offer-on-the-nuclear-talks.html
See also – From Reuters, "Big powers to offer easing gold sanctions at Iran nuclear talks" [February 15, 2013] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/15/us-iran-nuclear-gold-idUSBRE91E0TP20130215
The IAEA – Iran Meeting in Tehran
Iran May Allow UN Team to Visit Key Military Site
By The Associated Press [February 12, 2013]
---- Iran's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday raised prospects that Tehran may allow inspectors from the U.N. nuclear agency to visit a military site where the country is suspected of conducting nuclear-related experiments. … A senior IAEA official predicted hard work ahead for the U.N. team in the Tehran talks. The two sides are trying to agree on the rules of how the probe should be conducted, with the Iran resisting an IAEA push that the investigation be open-ended. http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2013/02/12/world/middleeast/ap-iran-nuclear.html?ref=world
Iran concedes 'some points' on nukes
From Agence France Presse [February 14, 2013]
---- Iran agreed on "some points" in talks with UN atomic experts in Tehran, two weeks ahead of negotiations with world powers aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to end a standoff over its nuclear ambitions. "Some differences were resolved and agreement on some issues in the modality was reached," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency. "New proposals," Mr Soltanieh said, had been put forward in the meeting but they would be discussed at "future meetings." He did not say if a date had been agreed for the resumption of talks with the IAEA. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/iran-concedes-some-points-on-nukes/story-e6frg6so-1226577654633
Also on the talks – Alan Cowell, "Nuclear Watchdog Says No Deal Reached With Iran," New York Times [February 14, 2013]  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/world/middleeast/nuclear-watchdog-says-no-deal-reached-with-iran.html?hp
Iran Converts Nuclear Fuel
Iran Confirms Conversion of Uranium Into Reactor Fuel
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [February 12, 2013]
---- Iranian Foreign Ministry officials have confirmed weekend speculation that they have resumed the conversion of uranium into reactor fuel, a move which will keep their stockpile from growing in the near term. Most of Iran's enrichment is to 3.5 percent, meant for its power plant in Bushehr, while a smaller amount is produced to the 20 percent level. This 20 percent uranium, still far short of the 90-plus percent needed for weapons, has Western officials condemning Iran, but it is the level needed for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Once the uranium is converted into the rods it is effectively useless for further enrichment, and out of the "stockpile" equation. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/02/12/iran-confirms-conversion-of-uranium-into-reactor-fuel/
Also on the fuel conversion – Alan Cowell, "Iran Converts Enriched Uranium to Reactor Fuel, Reports Say," New York Times [February 12, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/world/middleeast/iran-converts-enriched-uranium-to-reactor-fuel-reports-say.html?hp&_r=0
Iran Leader: Having Nukes is 'Crime Against Humanity'
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [February 18, 2013]
---- The USG Open Source Center translated the entirety of Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's speech in Tabriz on Saturday. In it, Khamenei for the nth time called nuclear weapons a 'crime against humanity' and affirmed that Iran does not want them. Although this speech was covered by US media such as the New York Times, its editors gave the article the confusing title of "Ayatollah Says Iran Will Control Nuclear Aims" instead of just saying, as The Guardian and others did, that he renounced making or having nuclear weapons. http://www.juancole.com/2013/02/sanctions-actually-enrichment.html
The New York Times version – Thomas Erdbrink, "Ayatollah Says Iran Will Control Nuclear Aims" [February 16, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/world/middleeast/supreme-leader-says-iran-not-seeking-nuclear-arms.html?ref=world
Iranians Support Nuclear Program, Blame West for Sanctions, Says Poll
From Al-Monitor [February 2013]
---- A recent Gallup poll shows that 63% of Iranians think their government should continue its efforts to develop nuclear capabilities — even though more than eight out of 10 say their personal livelihoods have been hurt by the West's sanctions. At the same time, 47% of the poll's respondents primarily blame the United States for the penalties Iran faces. In comparison, one in 10 point the finger at their own government. The poll, which was conducted between Dec. 26 and Jan. 10, bases its results on telephone interviews with 1,000 adults throughout Iran. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/02/iranian-poll-support-nuclear-program-blame-sanctions.html#ixzz2LBkHU2Fu
View from Iran: World Needs Rules on Cyberattacks
By Alireza Miryousefi and Hossein Gharibi, Christian Science Monitor [February 14, 2013]
---- The US believes that cyberattacks from another country can constitute an 'act of war.' This begs the question of whether the US can unilaterally engage in an unprovoked act against Iran that, according to its own standards, is unacceptable. The world needs global rules on cyberattacks, regardless of where we live and how we think, say Iran's UN diplomats. http://www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/print/Commentary/Opinion/2013/0214/View-from-Iran-World-needs-rules-on-cyberattacks-video
The Ahmadinejad – Khamenei Standoff
Is Iran's Ahmadinejad going rogue as his term ends?
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor [February 12, 2013]
---- Embedded in Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rhetoric of Iran's soaring greatness and the collapse of the West – typical themes on the Islamic Republic's 34th birthday party – was a renewed political challenge to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and lesser pillars of the regime, as Iran prepares for presidential elections in June. Four months before the vote, the highest echelons of Iran's Islamic regime are embroiled in political infighting and a power struggle, have taken steps to quell potential dissent, and fear a repeat of the post-election violence that engulfed Iran in 2009 after the last disputed presidential vote. Analysts say the recent arrest and harassment of journalists and questioning this week of a son and daughters of key opposition leaders, who remain under house arrest, are just some of the signs of deep insecurity and uncertainty now afflicting the regime. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0212/Is-Iran-s-Ahmadinejad-going-rogue-as-his-term-ends?nav=87-frontpage-entryNineItem
See also – Yasaman Baji, "Khamenei Looks Off-Balance after Dramatic Week," Inter Press Service [February 12, 2013] http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/khamenei-looks-off-balance-after-dramatic-week/; and Brian Murphy, "Iran's leader steps deeper into the political fray," Associated Press [February 17, 2013]  http://news.yahoo.com/irans-leader-steps-deeper-political-fray-182822302.html
Reform Leaders Under Pressure
UN Rights Experts Urge Immediate and Unconditional Release of Opposition Leaders
From Iran Human Rights [February 11, 2013]
---- On the second anniversary of the house arrest, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the immediate release of two key opposition leaders in Iran, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi and their family members. The Special Rapporteurs also expressed concerns about the detention of two daughters of Mr Mossavi, Ms Zahra Mossavi and Ms Nargis Mossavi, who were reportedly detained today after speaking out against their parents' house arrest. http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/02/un_experts/
Also on this topic – Barbara Slavin, Karroubi's Son: Iranian Regime Afraid of Green Movement Return," Al-Monitor [February 11, 2013] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/02/iran-medhi-karroubi-hossein-mousavi-prison-green-movement.html#ixzz2LB0o1bv1; BBC, "Iran opposition leader Mousavi's daughters arrested" [February 11, 2013] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle- east-21409666?print=true.  For the full statement from the human rights organizations about the detentions of the reform leaders, "End arbitrary house arrests of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Rahnavard; free all prisoners of conscience" [February 13, 2013], see http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/02/house_arrest_joint_statement
Civil Liberties
Cultural Censorship: Cinema and Iran, A Separation
By Bronwen Robertson, Small Media [February 2013]
----- There have always been red lines in the Iranian cinema industry both before and after the revolution; however, it now seems that the space in which to make films is shrinking even further and this is having disastrous effects on the industry and the future of Iranian cinema. Although by no means all, many films are becoming popular today in Iran not because of their quality, but merely because they have been banned or heavily censored. A trend is emerging in which quality is being overshadowed in importance by the tabooness of the topic addressed. http://storify.com/smallmedia/cultural-censorship-cinema-and-iran-a-separation
Netanyahu: Iran's New Centrifuges Near 'Red Line'
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [February 11, 2013]
---- In what has become virtually a weekly attempt to spin a war with Iran as getting closer, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited Iran's development of improved centrifuges for uranium enrichment as proof that Iran is nearing the "red line" he has established for them. Netanyahu established the artificial "red line" last year, under which he believes a global war against Iran should immediately be launched if the nation has enough low-enriched uranium in its civilian program that, if hypothetically enriched to weapons grade, it might conceivably be enough for one small atomic bomb. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/02/11/netanyahu-irans-new-centrifuges-near-red-line/
In Iran, Sanctions Speak Louder Than Words
By Nima Shirazi*, Wide Asleep in America [February 15, 2013]
---- "You are pointing the gun at Iran and say either negotiate or we will shoot," Khamenei said of the United States. "But you should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these threats." Khamenei's reaction to Biden's conditional offer was widely viewed as evidence of Iranian obstinacy and unwillingness to engage substantively over the nature of its nuclear program – this, notwithstanding the fact that multilateral talks between Iran and the P5+1 (Russia, China, France, Britain, the United States, and Germany) will resume in Kazakhstan at the end of this month. At least one crucial detail was routinely excluded from commentary related to Khamenei's statements: the ongoing U.S.-led economic war against Iran. http://muftah.org/in-iran-sanctions-speak-louder-than-words/
Also on sanctions - From Democracy Now! (Video) "Despite Offer of Direct Talks, U.S. Intensifies "Sanctions-Centric" Economic War Against Iran" [February 11, 2013] http://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/11/despite_offer_of_direct_talks_us; and Franklin Lamb, "Sanctions are Inhumane and Immoral," Counterpunch [February 12, 2013] http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/02/12/hilary-and-joe-coming-clean-on-iran/
---- Last week's issue of the IWW linked an article by Gareth Porter pointing out the very tentative quality of Bulgaria's assertions that Hezbollah was behind last summer's terrorist attack against Israeli tourists at a sea-side spot in Bulgaria.  Even so, the serviceability of Bulgaria's accusation can be seen in today's New York Times, where US National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon calls on European foreign ministers, meeting today to discuss arming the rebels in Syria, to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization, which for a long time has been a major goal of the United States and Israel.  In this week's article, Porter knocks major holes in the official story, and suggests that it was "guided" by US and Israeli intelligence services. - FB
Bulgarian Revelations Explode Hezbollah Bombing "Hypothesis"
---- When European Union foreign ministers discuss a proposal to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov will present his government's case for linking two suspects in the Jul. 18, 2012 bombing of an Israeli tourist bus to Hezbollah. But European ministers who demand hard evidence of Hezbollah involvement are not likely to find it in the Bulgarian report on the investigation, which has produced no more than an "assumption" or "hypothesis" of Hezbollah complicity.
Major revelations about the investigation by the former head of the probe and by a top Bulgarian journalist have further damaged the credibility of the Bulgarian claim to have found links between the suspects and Hezbollah. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/bulgarian-revelations-explode-hezbollah-bombing-hypothesis/
More on the Bulgaria bombing – Belen Fernandez,"Framing Hezbollah for the Bulgaria bombing?" Aljazeera [February 15, 2013] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/02/201321395948332662.html; Thomas E. Donilon [US National Security Adviser], "Hezbollah Unmasked," New York Times [February 17, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/opinion/hezbollah-unmasked.html?ref=opinion; and Associated Press, "Hezbollah says no comment on Bulgarian report blaming it for killing Israelis in July,"  [February 16, 2013] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/hezbollah-refuses-to-comment-on-bulgarian-report-on-july-bombing-that-killed-5-israelis/2013/02/16/6c958248-784f-11e2-b102-948929030e64_print.html
---- A hazard of international tensions involving the least amount of "science" is that falsehoods or fabrications can easily generate media hysteria and imperil peace.  As a FAIR media analyst points out below, a good example was the affair of the "aluminum tubes" during the run-up to the Iraq war.  Last week, the Washington Post reported that Iran had ordered 100,000 "ring magnets," presumably for 50,000 centrifuges; such an order would indicate a massive expansion of Iran's uranium enrichment program, portending "break out" and possibly a nuclear weapon.  But, as with the case of the aluminum tubes, when the "science" is looked at scientifically, the ring-magnet affair illuminates more about the US mass media than it does about Iran's nuclear program.  As has often been the case (e.g., the "pink tarpaulins" at Parchin), David Albright at ISIS started the ball rolling. - FB
Ring Magnets for IR-1 Centrifuges
By David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security [February 13, 2013]  http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/iran_ring_magnet_13Feb2013.pdf
Iran's bid to buy banned magnets stokes fears about major expansion of nuclear capacity
By Joby Warrick, Washington Post [February 13, 2013]
---- Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability. Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets — which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions — from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said. It is unclear whether the attempt succeeded. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iranian-buying-spree-raises-concerns-about-major-expansion-of-nuclear-capacity/2013/02/13/2090805c-7537-11e2-8f84-3e4b513b1a13_story.html
Iran Buys Magnets That DO NOT FIT Its Centrifuges
From Moon of Alabama [February 2013]
---- The paranoid David Albright of ISIS, the Institute of Scary Iran Stories (formerly the Institute of Scary Iraq Stories), has issued a new report. The report alleges that one of 70 million Iranians once made an inquiry to buy magnets that DO NOT FIT for Iran's uranium enrichment centrifuges. The Washington Post's Joby Warrick, one of Albright's favorite stenographers, took notes. .. The lines set in bold are simply lies which Albright planted with Warrick: Barium strontium ferrite magnets are of NOT "unusual alloy"; The magnets in question are NOT "highly specialized magnets"; The dimensions of the magnets do NOT "match precisely — to a fraction of a millimeter — those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1"; There was NO "purchase order" only an inquiry… http://www.moonofalabama.org/2013/02/iran-buys-magnets-not-fit-for-centrifuge-production.html
Media Tutorial
Are Iranian Magnets the New Aluminum Tubes?
By Peter Hart, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [FAIR] [February 15, 2013]
---- In the run up to the Iraq War, the New York Times famously reported on an Iraqi scheme to procure special aluminum tubes that could only have one purpose:  Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein was attempting to "buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes," and the "diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they were meant for Iraq's nuclear program." The claims were false–Iraq, as it turned out, had no nuclear program–but still hugely influential. Yesterday, on the front page of the Washington Post, reporter Joby Warrick has the scoop on what Iran is evidently up to: "Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability." http://www.fair.org/blog/2013/02/15/are-iranian-magnets-the-new-aluminum-tubes/
Investigate PMOI raid, U.N. tells Iraq
From UPI [February 11, 2013]
---- The Iraqi government is called on to investigate an attack on Iranian dissidents at their enclave near Baghdad, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. Several Iraqi police officers were wounded and six other people were killed when Iranian dissidents came under mortar attack at the exile camp, formerly Camp Liberty, near Baghdad. The facility houses members of the dissident People's Mujahedin of Iran.
A statement from Ban's office said attacks on the dissident community were unacceptable. … U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the attack on the dissidents. The United States last year removed the group for its list of foreign terrorist organizations. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/02/11/Investigate-PMOI-raid-UN-tells-Iraq/UPI-45961360596065/#ixzz2KhPvs5TG
U.N. Rights Panel Says Violence in Syria Is Mounting
By Nick Cumming-Bruce, New York Times [February 18, 2013]
---- After nearly two years of bloody conflict in Syria, United Nations investigators reported on Monday that violence is still rising, conditions for civilians are deteriorating rapidly and the international community needs to take more robust action to bring those responsible to account. Armed conflict has escalated, "aggravated by increased sectarianism," radicalized by the growing presence of foreign fighters and "permeated by opportunistic criminality," the panel of four investigators led by Paulo Pinheiro of Brazil said in a report to the Human Rights Council on Monday. It says the conflict was also "becoming more militarized because of the proliferation of weapons and types of weapons used." http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/19/world/middleeast/un-rights-panel-says-violence-in-syria-is-mounting.html?ref=world
(Video) Can dialogue end Syria's crisis?
From Aljazeera [Inside Syria] [February 10, 2013] – 25 minutes
(Video) Inside Syria
From Aljazeera [February 17, 2013] – 25 minutes
---- Guests include Joshua Landis.
Syrian Opposition Group Is Open to Talks, With Conditions
By Anne Barnard, New York Times [February 15, 2013]
---- Syria's main opposition body on Friday formally endorsed an initiative to pursue a political solution through talks with members of the Syrian government — provided that Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, and security and military leaders involved in his bloody crackdown are excluded. The group's president, Moaz al-Khatib, had faced intense criticism from fellow opposition members after proposing the talks, a departure from the opposition's longstanding refusal to negotiate with the government until after Mr. Assad steps down or is removed. The opposition group, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, made the announcement after its 12-member politburo met in Cairo overnight. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/world/middleeast/syrian-opposition-group-is-open-to-talks-if-assad-is-excluded.html?ref=world&pagewanted=print
The United States and Syria
Obama Administration Reveals Deep Divisions on Syria Policy
By Samer Araabi, Antiwar.com [February 15, 2013]
Iran in Syria
The Washington Post on Iran in Syria: The Lens Reflects a Mirror
By Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log [February 2013]
---- This Washington Post article about Iran and Hezbollah building networks in Syria in the event of Bashar al-Assad's fall is certainly eye-catching. It's also suggestive of Iranian shrewdness in trying to make the best out of every situation they face in the region. Citing "Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria," the official said. "It's a big operation… The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it's important for Iran to have a force in Syria that's reliable and can be counted on." To boot, a senior Arab official agrees that Iran's strategy has two tracks, "one is to support Assad to the hilt, the other is to set the stage for major mischief when it collapses." What is most bothersome about reports like these — which highlight Iran's shrewdness and sinister designs in benefitting from every situation that the US finds unable to address or control — is the full regurgitation of the US government position. Not to mention the failure to challenge the core paradox that exists in the elevation of the Iranian threat while consistent policies deal with Iran as mostly a nuisance, open to pressure, and certainly not worthy of treating with adequate respect for its leverage in the region. http://www.lobelog.com/wapo-on-iran-in-syria-the-lens-reflects-a-mirror/
The Real Story of "Syria's Iran-Hezbollah 50,000-Man Militia" in 3 Easy Steps
By Scott Lulcas, Enduring America [February 12, 2013]
---- By citing the 50,000-man militia as a "fact" and asserting that Iran was spending "millions" in the effort, Washington could reap a bonus: not only could it jab at the Assad regime, it could maintain the pressure for sanctions on Tehran. And so on Sunday, only four days after the US Government implemented more measures to choke off Iran's financial transactions and hinder its energy sector and other industries, [The Washington Post] presented dramatic "news" which had been circulating in Iran since the previous summer. http://www.enduringamerica.com/home/2013/2/12/syria-iran-follow-up-the-real-story-of-syrias-iran-hezbollah.html
Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander killed in Syria: Rebel claim
By Dominic Evans and Mariam Karouny, Reuters / February 14, 2013
---- An Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander has been killed inside Syria by rebels battling Iran's close ally President Bashar al-Assad, Iranian officials and a rebel leader said on Thursday. Syrian rebels have repeatedly accused Tehran of sending fighters to help Assad crush the 22-month-old uprising, a charge Iran has denied. The Iranian embassy in Lebanon said the dead man, Hessam Khoshnevis, was in charge of Tehran's reconstruction assistance in Lebanon. It said he was killed by "armed terrorist groups," a label used by the Syrian government to describe Assad's foes, on the road to Lebanon as he returned from Damascus. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Latest-News-Wires/2013/0214/Iranian-Revolutionary-Guard-commander-killed-in-Syria-Rebel-claim
Israel and Syria
Netanyahu Vows to Stop Hezbollah from Acquiring Syrian Arms
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [February 11, 2013]
---- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations with comments that hint at more operations against Syria, saying his government "cannot allow" Syria to transfer weapons to Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon. Two weeks ago Israel attacked multiple targets inside Syria, reportedly based on a fear that anti-aircraft missiles would be transferred to Hezbollah, making future Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon less convenient. The attack was endorsed by the US, as were future attacks.


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