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
May 5, 2013
Hello All – It is too soon to tell whether Israel's weekend bombing of Syria will irrevocably change the course of the war and engulf the region in death and fire. Israel has intimated that further attacks are on the way, and the Obama administration has stated that US strikes against Syria's air defenses and air fields are under discussion. Syria (via the Arab League) seems about to take the issue to the UN Security Council, where we can expect the United States to defend Israel by blocking discussion. What will Syria then do after further Israeli aggression?
This newsletter, of course, attempts to track the war being waged – "low intensity" so far – against Iran. But from the outset most observers agreed that one of the forces motivating the United States and its allies to support the revolt against Syria's Assad was the hope that it would weaken the "main enemy," Iran. Now the tail is wagging the dog, and what was thought to be a means to an end has become an end in itself. Unless Israel disengages itself quickly, which seems unlikely, it is hard to see the Obama administration withstanding pressures from Israel, the neo-cons, and Congress to intervene militarily in Syria. What Iran will do then, of course, we don't know.
Beyond the obvious insanity of military intervention, a significant problem for the Hawks is the strong popular opposition in the United States to such a war. Depending on the question asked, polls show popular opposition to US military intervention or involvement running about 2-1 or 3-1. Given the state of our democracy, public opposition to war is a weak reed; but we can expect sustained media attention to "WMD"-type non-issues such as the threat of chemical weapons, or Hezbollah's involvement, or Iran's supposed nuclear weapons program as reasons why the United States must go to war against Syria. US peace advocates have a role to play in trying to counter this war propaganda.
Meanwhile, the US-Iranian stand-off over Iran's nuclear program continues to unfold. On May 15 Iran and the IAEA will hold another meeting in Istanbul to discuss unresolved issues, especially those related to "further military studies" and allegations that nuclear-related military tests were conducted at Iran's military base at Parchin. On the sidelines of this meeting the P+5 representative Catherine Ashton will meet her Iranian counterpart Saeed Jalili to discuss further steps in the negotiations that might reduce economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iranian concessions or modifications of its nuclear enrichment program. The status of these negotiations, as well as further issues about Iran's nuclear program, US media coverage about Iran, sanctions against Iran, the recent US arms sale to Israel, Iran's presidential election, and much more are addressed in some good/useful readings linked below.
Once again I would like to thank those who you who have forwarded this newsletter or linked it on your sites. This "issue" and 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
OVERVIEWS AND PERSPECTIVES
The Iranian Nuclear Issue: What's at Stake for the BRICS
By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, Going to Tehran [April 30, 2013]
---- The controversy over Iran's nuclear activities has at least as much to do with the future of international order as it does with nonproliferation. For this reason, all of the BRICS have much at stake in how the Iranian nuclear issue is handled. Conflict over Iran's nuclear program is driven by two different approaches to interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); these approaches, in turn, are rooted in different conceptions of international order. Which interpretation of the NPT ultimately prevails on the Iranian nuclear issue will go a long way to determine whether a rules-based view of international order gains ascendancy over a policy-oriented approach in which the goals of international policy are defined mainly by America and its partners. And that will go a long way to determine whether rising non-Western states emerge as true power centers in a multipolar world, or whether they continue, in important ways, to be subordinated to hegemonic preferences of the West—and especially the United States. http://goingtotehran.com/whats-at-stake-for-non-western-powers-in-the-iranian-nuclear-issue
New Study Examines Media Coverage of Iranian Nuclear Program
By Nima Shirazi, Wide Asleep in America [May 3, 2013]
---- Late last month, The University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM) released an extensive new report examining the mainstream media's coverage of the Iranian nuclear program and its attendant developments and implications over the past four years. The study, entitled "The Media & Iran's Nuclear Program: An analysis of U.S. and U.K. coverage, 2009-2012," … analyzes over 1,200 articles, editorials and opinion commentary pieces published in six leading, well-respected and influential English-language news outlets over the course of four three-week time periods between 2009 and 2012. Drawing direct parallels to the irresponsible, inadequate, inaccurate and dangerously ideological media malpractice during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the CISSM report concludes that press coverage of the Iranian nuclear program has been – and continues to be – similarly distorted and dishonest, confusing and contradictory. http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2013/05/new-study-examines-media-coverage-of.html
(Video) Fuelling geopolitics: The oil saga
From Aljazeera [Empire] [April 29, 2013]
---- Thanks to the nationalisation of oil reserves around the world, the old Seven Sisters are no longer the only ones controlling the production, processing and distribution – they are competing with mega players such as the National Iranian Oil Company, China's CNPC, Russia's Gazprom and their counterparts in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Further disrupting the old order is the ongoing financialisation of oil markets with oil speculations sending prices on a roller coaster ride, decoupled from the dictates of actual supply and demand. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/empire/2013/04/201342882137322376.html
(Video) How to Become an Expert in Iran's Nuclear Program (in less than four minutes)
By Scott Lucas, EA Worldview [April 30, 2013]
NEGOTIATIONS ABOUT IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
P5+1 Package Seeks Transparency in Iran
By Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association [May 2013]
---- The proposal six world powers brought to the April 5-6 talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear program contains transparency measures, including provisions that would require Iran to give inspectors increased access to facilities and provide information to address allegations of possible activities related to making a nuclear bomb, according to a former Iranian nuclear negotiator and two Western diplomats. In an April 17 e-mail, Seyed Hossein Mousavian said that the proposal presented by the six countries known as the P5+1 would require Iran to address International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands for transparency. The inclusion of these transparency elements in the P5+1 proposal has not previously been reported. Two officials from P5+1 countries who are familiar with the negotiations confirmed the accuracy of Mousavian's description. … Other provisions in the new proposal require Iran to stop producing 20 percent-enriched uranium, but would allow Iran to keep part of its stockpile of that material to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor. Iran may also be allowed to produce enriched uranium at its Fordow facility in the future, Mousavian and the two officials said. The previous P5+1 proposal from the 2012 talks required Iran to shut the Fordow enrichment plant permanently and ship its entire stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium out of the country. http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2013_05/P5%201-Package%20Seeks-Transparency-in-Iran
Ashton to meet Iran's Jalili in follow up nuclear talks
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [May 2, 2013]
---- Chief international negotiator Catherine Ashton will meet Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul on May 15th, the office of the European Union foreign policy chief said Thursday. The meeting is the "follow up to the last round of negotiations" between six world powers and Iran held in Almaty, Kazakhstan April 5-6, Ashton's spokesperson Michael Mann said in a two-line statement Thursday. … Iran is also due to have a meeting with the IAEA on May 15th. http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2013/05/5142/ashton-to-meet-irans-jalili-in-follow-up-nuclear-talks/
US POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Chorus grows against Obama administration's sanctions-heavy Iran policy
By Christian Science Monitor [April 25, 2013],
---- The Obama administration has implemented a host of crippling sanctions on Iran targeting its central bank and lifeblood oil exports. The goal has been to pressure Iran into giving up its most sensitive nuclear work, which could be a pathway to an atomic bomb. But a year of high-profile talks between Iran and world powers has yielded little progress. Now a number of senior former US officials and analysts say a White House obsession with the pressure track may be backfiring, and are calling for a pivot toward the diplomatic track to reestablish balance.
(Video) Dissecting America's Iran Debate
By Flynt Leverett, Going to Tehran [May 5, 2013]
The United States and Israel
Hagel to Israel: Attacking Iran Will Be Considered After June Vote
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [May 3, 2013]
---- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has reportedly reassured Israel about the ongoing threats to attack Iran militarily, saying that they will start seriously considering it again after Iran's June 14 elections. The election will choose a replacement for outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the US and Israel have scheduled a "joint assessment" for after the result is announced to decide how it impacts the ongoing threats to attack them. Bizarre, to say the least, because Iran's president has limited power over the nation's civilian nuclear program, and even less on the P5+1 negotiations. Rather, while Ahmadinejad's rhetoric is often cited as an excuse for war, his actual ability to implement changes in Iranian policy is comparatively minimal. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/03/hagel-to-israel-attacking-iran-will-be-considered-after-june-vote/
US Arms Sale Sends Mixed Messages to Israel
By Mitchell Plitnick, Lobe Log [April 2013]
----US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel may have insisted that the latest sale of US arms to Israel sent a strong message to Iran, but the actual message was a bit more restrained. Hagel made a point of emphasizing that the arms sale reaffirmed the close ties between the nations and repeated the Obama Administration's mantra that Israel has the right to defend itself. The actual sale, though, gave the US another lever of control over a potential Israeli attack. http://www.lobelog.com/us-arms-sale-sends-mixed-messages-to-israel/
IRANIAN POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Iran Mulls Over Many Presidential Candidates
By Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log [May 2013]
---- Iran's June 14 presidential election, only about a month and a half away, will get ample attention — and more than a dose of speculation — from everyone interested in the big picture items: whether there will be an actual choice of candidates, whether the result will have an impact on the way the nuclear file will be approached, whether Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will go out quietly, and so on. But smaller, parallel events are fascinating because they reveal the kind of dilemmas the country's political class faces as it tries to manage the strange institutional hybrid that it oversees. Let's take the case of the Guardian Council, which is in charge of vetting candidates for the presidency. http://www.lobelog.com/iran-mulls-over-many-presidential-candidates/
Iran Softens Tune on Israel
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times [April 30, 2013]
---- With the Iranian presidential elections only two months away, foreign policy issues are hotly debated in the crowded field of candidates, and a chorus of prominent voices is aiming to lower the temperature with Israel. The rising softer tone may reflect a new elite consensus that a revised approach toward Israel is in the nation's interests, in light of Tel Aviv's powerful influence in Western capitals, Turkey's normalization of relations with Israel, and the Arab world's indifference toward the Palestinian problem, compared with Iran's traditional "overcommitment". http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-02-300413.html
Another resource – I found some interesting articles at the eclectic website/blog Iran Opinion. Check it out at http://iranopinion.com/
ISRAELI POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Israel's 'Dove' and Hawk in its War against Iran
By Muhammad Sahimi, Antiwar.com [April 22, 2013]
SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN
New Study Exposes Deterioration of Economic and Social Rights
From the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran [April 29, 2013]
---- The international community should target sanctions more effectively to impose costs on the Iranian government and not its citizens, and the Iranian government should end its policies that worsen the crisis in access to medicines, foods, and other essential imports, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. According to a new study the Campaign released today, international sanctions and Iranian government policies are combining to bring about a severe deterioration in the ability of many Iranians to pursue their economic and social rights to healthcare, employment, and adequate nutrition. http://www.iranhumanrights.org/2013/04/growing_crisis/
Iran Parks Millions of Oil Barrels on Tankers
From Reuters [April 24, 2013]
---- Iran is storing millions of barrels of oil on tankers in its territorial waters as Tehran struggles with tougher Western sanctions on its vital seaborne export trade, ship industry sources say. Iran's oil revenues have fallen by about 50 percent since tough EU and US measures were imposed last year, hurting business and cutting living standards for ordinary Iranians. http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-parks-millions-of-oil-barrels-on-tankers-310937
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
As can be seen by scanning the various articles linked below, discussions about US policy toward Syria underwent a significant change after Israel bombed Syria twice over the weekend. Earlier in the week, voices from the military and political Establishment counseling prudence seemed to be prevailing in the elite media discourse. With Israel's aggression against Syria, and with the likelihood of further attacks, the tabling of a UN Security Council resolution by the Arab League, and – possibly – an armed response by Syria against Israel, there is growing doubt that a terrible and widening war can be contained.
The dilemmas for both those pressing for war and those working for peace can be separated into several not-quite-discrete arenas. Over the course of the last week, President Obama's apparent reluctance to arm the Syrian opposition appeared to be weakening. At the same time, as it became clear that the President had painted himself into a corner with his talk of chemical weapons as a "red line," his remarks seemed to be aimed at distancing himself from automatic retaliation against Syria if chemical weapons residue were found in a soil sample, for example. Yet in the wake of Israel's first attack on Syria, on Friday, anonymous White House spokespeople were talking about the possibility of US military strikes against Syria, aimed to take out missile defenses and cripple Assad's air power. Although these remarks were framed (absurdly) in terms of preventing Assad from flying his chemical weapons from point A to point B, the taking-out-the-air-defenses scenario is simply the textbook play preceding sustained aerial bombardment and perhaps an invasion.
We have to assume that Israel's attacks on Syria were made with US approval/permission. Why would Israel do this, and why would the United States support them? As noted below, Israel claims that its only interest is in preventing Hezbollah from gaining advanced weapons, especially ground-to-ground missiles and anti-aircraft missiles. What exactly Israel bombed on Friday, as well as back on January 31, remains debatable. Friday's bombing, for example, was initially reported to be against a convoy of missiles to Hezbollah. Later reports say that it was against a warehouse at the Damascus airport, allegedly "under the control" of Hezbollah and/or Iran, which contained ground-to-ground missiles bound for Lebanon. But US sources pointed out that the missiles supposedly in the warehouse were also used by Syria; so it's not obvious that their end-user was intended to be Hezbollah. Similar doubts were raised by in February about what was bombed by Israel, and why? It is very difficult at this point to tell what Israel is doing, and therefore it is hard to tell what the United States hopes to gain by supporting it. An ominous thought is that Israel hopes to break the deadlock within the United States about armed intervention, and that Israel is collaborating with its allies in Congress and among the neo-cons. That is, a foreign policy "coup" against the waffling Obama.
US Policy and Policy Dilemmas
A Terrible Idea: Arming the Syrian Rebels
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 2, 2013]
---- There are rumors going around that President Obama "is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian opposition," although he has said no such thing publicly. Nevertheless, the rumors are sparking a new debate on the wisdom of directly arming the Syrian rebels. I say "directly" because Washington has been arming the rebels through proxies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar for a very long time as it is. In fact, just acknowledging this should pull the rug out from under those who think arming the rebels directly is even remotely a good idea. Simply increasing the amount of weapons the Syrian rebels receive will prolong the conflict and probably make things a lot worse before they get better. Indeed, foreign meddling is a big reason the conflict has gone on so long in the first place. http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/05/02/a-terrible-idea-arming-the-syrian-rebels/
Obama Seen Unlikely to Sharply Escalate Intervention in Syria
---- Despite renewed pressure by hawks in Congress and the media, U.S. President Barack Obama appears determined to avoid sharply escalating U.S. involvement in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
While administration officials insist that all options for responding to the recent alleged use by the Syrian military of chemical weapons against anti-government strongholds remain on the table, insiders suggest that the likeliest choice will be, at most, to begin supplying selected groups of rebels with "lethal" defensive weapons, albeit nothing like the surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank rockets they have been calling for. http://truth-out.org/news/item/16162-obama-seen-unlikely-to-sharply-escalate-intervention-in-syria
Syria: US Involvement Could Make Things Even Worse
By Stephen Zunes, Santa Cruz Sentinel [May 5, 2013]
---- The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left policymakers scrambling to think of ways our governments could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to "do something" has led to increasing calls for the United States to provide military aid to armed insurgents or even engage in direct military intervention, especially in light of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. The question on the mind of almost everyone who has followed the horror as it has unfolded over the past two years is, "What we can do?" The short answer, unfortunately, is not much. https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/05/05
(Video) U.S. Syria policy promotes endless civil war
From The Real News Network [May 3, 2013]
The Chemical Weapons "Red Line"
Syria's Chemical Weapons...Iraq Redux?
By Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies [May 3, 2013]
---- The allegations of chemical weapons being used in Syria have given rise to a whole escalating campaign for direct US military intervention. That's a very dangerous problem. First, even though this issue is usually relegated to secondary or even tertiary consideration, let's start with the "even if" argument. Use of chemical weapons is certainly a war crime; there are separate international laws prohibiting such weapons, and any use is undoubtedly illegal. But just what would be accomplished by escalating the rest of the war with more arms …? Second, we should note that even the US government officials themselves acknowledge they don't have solid evidence chemical weapons were used at all. Third, this is now a partisan issue. … So what should the US do?
Should use of chemical weapons in Syria be a 'game changer?'
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor [April 25, 2013]
---- Last month President Obama called chemical weapons use by Syria a 'game changer,' but why should the US commit itself to war with Syria on the basis of whether it used chemical weapons? There's an unspoken assumption that chemical weapons are a special horror that requires special responses, but the underpinnings for this are rarely explored. Both Obama's people and his more hawkish critics in congress appear to be in agreement that greater US action will be mandated by the use of chemical weapons in Syria. So what's the quality of evidence? http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2013/0425/Should-use-of-chemical-weapons-in-Syria-be-a-game-changer
Syria: The horrific chemical weapons attack that probably wasn't a chemical weapons attack
By Tracey Shelton and Peter Gelling, Global Post [April 30, 2013]
Also useful on chemical weapons – Stephen Zunes, "The US and Chemical Weapons: No Leg to Stand On," Foreign Policy in Focus [May 3, 2013] https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/05/03-0; Peter Baker, et al., "Off-the-Cuff Obama Line Put U.S. in Bind on Syria," New York Times [May 4, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/05/world/middleeast/obamas-vow-on-chemical-weapons-puts-him-in-tough-spot.html?hp; from Reuters, "Israel: Syrian chemical arms safe, Hezbollah does not want them," [May 4, 2013] http://news.yahoo.com/israel-syrian-chemical-arms-safe-hezbollah-does-not-172258199.html; and Gareth Smyth, "Iran's foreign minister fuels war of words over Syria," Tehran Bureau [May 1, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2013/may/01/iran-minister-syria
Israel Bombs Syria: Why and What Next?
Timeline: Israeli attacks on Syrian targets
By Ben Piven, Aljazeera [May 5, 2013]
Accusations and Escalation Fears After Syrian Strikes
By Anne Barnard, et al., New York Times [May 5, 2013]
---- Israeli experts said that Israel had no interest in getting involved in the Syrian conflict beyond looking after Israel's own, immediate interests, and that the latest strikes appeared to have more to do with Israel's cardinal standoff against Iran. "This shouldn't be seen as Israel intervening on behalf of the rebels or against Bashar," said Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "This is an escalation in a conflict we know about, and that is the conflict between Israel and Iran, the long shadow war, as people call it. This is an incident in that war." http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/world/middleeast/after-strikes-in-syria-concerns-about-an-escalation-of-fighting.html?pagewanted=1&hp
Syria, Israel, and Hezbollah
Hezbollah Leader Defends Involvement in Syria
By Jean Aziz, Al-Monitor [May 2, 2013]
---- Over the past two days, Beirut has been busy pondering a key question: Why did Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah choose to give a speech this week, after he had been scheduled to make a televised appearance to Hezbollah media, from an unknown location, on May 9? What recent developments made it necessary reschedule the speech to April 30? … Beirut circles familiar with Hezbollah's thinking said that Nasrallah addressed his supporters to assert that the war he is waging — in Sayyeda Zeinab's shrine, Qusayr, and of course in south Lebanon — is legitimate. That legitimacy rests on three grounds: First, that the war on Syria aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause and thus the war falls within Hezbollah's doctrine of fighting Israel. Second, that some Lebanese parties are directly involved in the Syrian conflict, as Nasrallah asserted. The third ground is purely religious: to defend Sayyeda Zeinab's shrine. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/hezbollah-nasrallah-speech-involvement-syria.html
Gauging Hezbollah's role in Syria
From Aljazeera [May 2, 2013]
---- Hassan Nasrallah, secretary general of the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, has promised not to let the government of neighbouring Syria fall, saying it has "real friends in the region". Nasrallah's televised address on Wednesday angered the Syrian opposition who have accused his group of supplying assistance to the forces of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president. The Hezbollah leader's comments not only re-ignited a war of words in the Syrian conflict, it also raised renewed questions about the involvement of foreign groups on either side of the Syria issue
The United States, Jordan, and Syria
(Video) Jordan: Straddling Syria sensitivities
From Aljazeera [Inside Syria] [May 5, 2013]
More than 470,000 Syrian refugees have already crossed into Jordan but UN officials expect that number to pass the one million mark this year – a figure that is nearly a sixth of Jordan's total population. Chuck Hagel, US defence secretary, says Washington is deploying up to 200 troops to Jordan with the aim to contain the violence on the Syrian border. He also spoke of the possibility of setting up a buffer zone across the area. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidesyria/2013/05/20135562034627900.html