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Friday, June 28, 2013

[haw-info] Please sign your name to this letter in support of anti-war activists

Dear Members of HAW,

Below is a letter to Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General, and Gary Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Illinois  that we hope you will sign.  If you would like to sign the letter, please send your name, title, and affiliation to Tracy Molm at t.lorraine.molm@gmail.com 


The letter asks Holder and Shapiro to officially end the investigation of 23 anti-war and international activists.  Here's a bit of background.  In September 2010 the FBI raided the homes of these activists and carted away box loads of these individuals' materials, including computers, photos, and documents.  Although most of these materials have been returned, and the FBI has had three years to conduct this investigation, no charges have been brought against the 23 people, nor has the investigation been dropped.   The letter basically asks the investigation to be closed.  As members of HAW, we think it is important to oppose this FBI/government harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists, which is why we are asking you to sign this letter.





Margaret Power for HAW

Eric Holder, Attorney General, United States of America

Gary Shapiro, Acting U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Illinois

July 1, 2013

 Dear Sirs:

We, the undersigned, are elected officials, educators, and activists within governmental, labor, religious, academic, and community-based organizations. All of us, in our own ways, have been involved for many years in the fight for human rights and equality for people of the United States and throughout the world.

We join in writing to you to request that your specific criminal investigation into the First Amendment protected activities of anti-war and international solidarity activists – which was initiated well before September 2010 – be terminated and that your office make a formal announcement of that termination.

As you are aware, 23 anti-war activists living in Minneapolis and Chicago have been subpoenaed to testify before a Federal Grand Jury empaneled in the Northern District of Illinois. Indeed, the homes of nine of these activists were raided by the FBI in September 2010, and their personal property was seized, including thousands of books, pamphlets, photographs and other personal materials, all protected by the First Amendment. Though most of these possessions have been returned to the owners, the search warrants authorizing these raids falsely alleged that the families targeted were involved in "providing material support for terrorism."

The individuals subpoenaed refused to testify before the Grand Jury, asserting their constitutional rights and stating that they believed that the government was using the grand jury to chill the exercise of their political right to question U.S. foreign policies, including those directly affecting the people of Palestine or Colombia.

Nearly three years have passed. This certainly is ample time for the government to fully investigate allegations of criminal conduct by any of the people targeted. However, the investigation and the chilling effect upon political freedom continue. The people subpoenaed suffer under a cloud of unresolved accusations by the Federal Government and fear of criminal charges. This unjustly impairs their rights to be politically active and criticize government policies. It's well past time for this investigation to end.

We emphatically request that your office move ahead swiftly with the termination of this investigation. We look forward to receiving notification regarding the end of this process.



Margaret Power
Professor of History
Department of Humanities
Illinois Institute of Technology
3301 S. Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60616

Sunday, June 23, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - June 23, 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
June 23, 2013
Hello All – Iran's presidential election offers "the West" an opportunity to extricate itself from the dangerous political and military logjam it has created with its opposition to Iran's nuclear program.  The question, therefore, is whether the Obama administration and its allies will grasp this chance for a diplomatic outcome that recognizes Iran's right to enrich uranium, albeit under a rigorous regime of safeguards and inspections, or will it hew to the alternative path of using the dispute over Iran's nuclear program as a wedge to push for regime change?
Needless to say, even if the Obama regime wishes to reverse course on Iran – which is far from certain – many obstacles remain.  Israel has been outspoken in its claims that the Iran's election has changed nothing, and that Iran's nuclear program is intended to build weapons.  The US Congress and its obsession with regime change is another challenge to a reverse-course strategy; and it would be only with great difficulty that Obama could reduce and eliminate many of the economic sanctions imposed by congressional legislation.  Given President Obama's political stalemate with Congress, it is hard to see him using his dwindling political capital to push back against the powerful forces working for confrontation with Iran.
The presidential election has also provides some raw data to clarify another aspect of the policy debate within the US military and foreign policy elite, which is the "nature of the Iranian regime."  As Gary Sick notes in an essay linked below, the election belies a policy-debate cliché that Iran is a monolithic regime in which the Supreme Leader controls everything.  The reality is far more nuanced, as several analysts explain.
The war in Syria, however, may pose the greatest obstacle of all to any change of course re: Iran.  Over the last two weeks the United States has clearly signaled that it remains committed to the overthrow of the Assad government, and that it will arm the Syrian opposition to prevent its military defeat.  Moreover, by conceding to the demand to provide arms to the opposition, Obama now faces the next milestone, which is the demand coming from the rebels and much of Congress to implement a "no-fly zone" over Syria.  This step would clearly be an act of war, and an irretrievable disaster; but it is hard to see how Obama can resist this next step (that is, presuming he doesn't wish it himself) if the military defeat of the armed opposition continues.  Perhaps an early signal of Obama's intentions toward Rowhani's Iran will be if the United States issues an invitation to join the "Geneva II" peace negotiations (if they ever take place).
I apologize for the several-week gap since the last issue; I hope we are back on schedule.  And 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 fbrodhead@aol.com
Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
Is The Supreme Leader Really So Supreme?
By Gary Sick, Lobe Log [June 20, 2013]
---- With the surprising Iranian election over, and the moderate Hassan Rouhani elected by a clear majority, a new narrative is emerging. It asserts that absolutely nothing has changed, that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, let the election proceed for his own devious reasons, and that only he can make decisions about Iran's strategic policies, regardless of who is president. This is a facile and self-serving argument. After Friday's election, which reversed all predictions, those of us who watch Iran closely should ask ourselves whether the supreme leader is as supreme as he pretends.  http://www.lobelog.com/is-the-supreme-leader-really-so-supreme/
(Video) Iran's New President
---- An informative interview with Hillary Mann Leverett – 5 minutes
Syria's critical role in the Iranian presidential election
By Linda Heiden, Open Democracy [June 21, 2013]
---- Syria's agony has been a critical factor in the surprise outcome of Iran's presidential election. Iran's Supreme Leader has risked a second opening to the west by allowing Dr Hassan Rouhani's election to stand. The west must respond urgently in kind. Syria's terrifying descent into carnage has had one positive outcome: the spectre of civil unrest being hijacked and transformed into a catastrophic war has enabled hope to re-emerge through the ballot box in Iran. http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/linda-heiden/syria%E2%80%99s-critical-role-in-iranian-presidential-election
The Election and Iran's Domestic Politics
By Muhammad Sahimi, Antiwar.com [June 21, 2013]
---- Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric, was elected Iran's president in a landslide on June 14, 2013. Much has been said about him and his past, and what his election means for Iran, its nuclear program and the standoff with the West over the program, and the future of the Middle East. The War party in the United States and its Israel lobby ally have already panicked over the emergence of a moderate, soft-spoken Iranian President that is an expert on the nuclear issues, was deeply involved in Iran's nuclear program for two decades, and promised in his first press conference as the President-Elect more transparency regarding the program and Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency. As if it has learned nothing, the Obama administration is already spinning Rouhani's election as a result of the illegal tough sanctions that it has imposed on Iran. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Rouhani's election had nothing to do with the sanctions, but everything to do with Iran's domestic politics.  http://original.antiwar.com/muhammad-sahimi/2013/06/21/how-will-washington-respond-to-the-iranian-peoples-aspirations/
More useful interpretations of the election – Farideh Farhi, "Why the Reformist-Centrist Alliance in Iran is Important," Lobe Log [June 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/why-the-reformist-centrist-alliance-in-iran-is-important/; Farideh Farhi, "Should Iran's Election Really be Discounted?" Lobe Log [June 8, 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/should-irans-election-really-be-discounted/; Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, "Iran's Presidential Election and the Real Dynamics of Iranian Politics," Going to Tehran [June 13, 2013] http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/13252; Hillary Mann Leverett, "Rouhani won the Iranian election. Get over it." Aljazeera [June 16, 2013] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/201361681527394374.html; Jasmin Ramsey and Jim Lobe, "On Iran, Wrong but Right," Lobe Log [June 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/on-iran-wrong-but-right/; Hamid Dabashi, "Ballot wars: The Iranian public strikes back," Aljazeera [June 17, 2013] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/2013617181047210499.html; Mohammad Ali Kadivar, "A New Oppositional Politics: The Campaign Participants in Iran's 2013 Presidential Election," Jadaliyya [June 22, 2013] http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/12383/a-new-oppositional-politics_the-campaign-participa; and Arang Keshavarzian, "Wrapped in Surprise, Stuffed with Politics," Middle East Report [June 17, 2013] http://merip.org/wrapped-surprise-stuffed-politics
Iran's Post-Election Nuclear Prospects
By Peter Jenkins, Lobe Log [June 20, 2013]
---- Rouhani's image as a man of wisdom and moderation will make it easier for Western leaders to contemplate a nuclear deal. … Of course, it would be a big mistake to assume that because Rouhani is pragmatic and moderate, he will also be a soft touch. He won't be. His advent will not change the fundamentals of the Iranian position on the nuclear issue. ,,, Rouhani's image will make it harder for Israel's Prime Minister and his Israeli and US acolytes to scare-monger. Back in 2005, the "mad mullah" campaign was losing credibility. Ahmadinejad's arrival at the head of the Iranian state was a god-send. It was easy to convince the public that such a president might be capable of even the most suicidal of follies…. The Iranian nuclear issue is like the stables of King Augeas. It is littered with evil-smelling heaps of distrust, suspicion, fear and resentment. For the last eight years, Ahmadinejad has given Western leaders an excuse to leave their shovels in the tool-shed. Now, though, they have as good an opportunity to emulate Hercules as they are ever likely to get… http://www.lobelog.com/irans-post-election-nuclear-prospects/
How to End the Stalemate With Iran
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Mohammad Ali Shabani, New York Times [June 18, 2013]
--- The stunning election of a pragmatic former Iranian nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, has offered the Obama administration a once-in-a-lifetime chance to end the atomic stalemate with Iran. In the West, Mr. Rowhani is widely seen as a turbaned politico from inside the establishment. One of us has worked for him directly, as his deputy in nuclear talks. The other has conducted research at the think tank he runs. We can attest that he is wary of a purely ideological approach to foreign policy and is driven by more than simple expediency in pursuit of the national interest. After seeing the nuclear deal he was attempting to negotiate with the European Union fall apart in 2005, Mr. Rowhani is now seeking to resolve the nuclear issue once and for all, and also to redeem himself politically. Mr. Rowhani's victory demonstrates that there is now real momentum toward the initiation of direct talks between Iran and the United States. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/19/opinion/how-to-end-the-stalemate-with-iran.html?hp
Other views on "a change of course?" – Paul Pillar, "The Iranian People Challenge the West," National Interest [June 16, 2013] http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/the-iranian-people-challenge-the-west-8608; Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, "How Washington Should Engage Iran's New President,"  Huffington Post [June 17, 2013] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/flynt-and-hillary-mann-leverett/iran-new-president_b_3456007.html; and Jonathan Steele, "Iran has changed course. Now the US must do the same," The Guardian [UK] [June 16, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/16/iran-changed-course-us-must-do-same?CMP=twt_gu
Iran's National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy: An Insider's Take
By Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log [August 7, 2012]
FB – This is a review of Rowhani's book, published last year, about his work as Iran's nuclear negotiator.  As far as I know the book is not available in English.  Some insight into Rowhani's story can be gleaned from Seyed Hossein Mousavian's book, The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir, which was published last year; Mousavian assisted Rowhani at the P5+1 and IAEA negotiations.]
---- National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy was published in Iran during the autumn of 2011, but most people only learned about it a few months ago, after it was made available during Tehran's International Book Fair in May. It's significant because the author is Hassan Rowhani, the country's nuclear negotiator for 22 months during the Khatami presidency — just one of the many positions he has held since the inception of the Islamic Republic of Iran. http://www.lobelog.com/irans-national-security-and-nuclear-diplomacy-an-insiders-take/
What Should be Expected From President Rowhani?
By Sasan Fayazmanesh, Counterpunch [June 18, 2013]
---- Even if President Rowhani makes concessions on the issue of Iran's nuclear program, the P3+2 will ask for more; and if the P3+2's intention continues to be "regime change," no concession from Iran will satisfy them. Moreover, the removal of draconian sanctions imposed by the US Congress on Iran is so difficult that we should not expect real "sanctions relief" any time soon.  The best that can be expected from Rowhani is the appointment of a more competent team of negotiators who can make it difficult for the P3+2 to carry out its "regime change" plan. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/18/what-should-be-expected-from-president-rowhani/
Iran's 'diplomat sheikh' brings new tone to nuclear talks
By Scott PetersonChristian Science Monitor [June 21, 2013]
---- Despite Hassan Rohani's impressive revolutionary pedigree, it is his quarter-century of involvement with Iran's nuclear program that will most interest the US and Israel. As the top nuclear negotiator from 2003-05, Mr. Rohani oversaw the only nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, earning him the nickname "diplomat sheikh" and impressing his European counterparts as a smart and able negotiator. … That nuclear history is crucial to understanding Rohani's promises of "moderation" and recalibrating antagonistic relations with the West. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0621/Iran-s-diplomat-sheikh-brings-new-tone-to-nuclear-talks?nav=87-frontpage-entryLeadStory
Other views – Roy Gutman, "Iran's president-elect may shift country's policies toward Persian Gulf, Israel," McClatchy [June 9, 2013]; Hassan Rouhani, "Iran's New Leader: Reasonable, With No Illusions About Obama," ZNet [June 20, 2013] http://www.zcommunications.org/iran-s-new-leader-reasonable-with-no-illusions-about-obama-by-hassan-rouhani; Juan Cole, "Iran's President Rouhani News Conference: Transparency on Nukes and Talks with US," Informed Comment [June 20, 2013] http://www.juancole.com/2013/06/rouhani-conference-transparency.html; Scott Peterson, "Rohani vows to reset Iran's relations with the world,"  Christian Science Monitor [June 17, 2013]  http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2013/0617/Rohani-vows-to-reset-Iran-s-relations-with-the-world?nav=87-frontpage-entryNineItem; and Barbara Slavin, "Rouhani Win Could Bring Dividends in Syria," Atlantic Council [June 20, 2013] http://www.acus.org/viewpoint/rouhani-win-could-bring-dividends-syria
(Video) Iran Elects Moderate President Hassan Rouhani — Will U.S. Respond by Easing Crippling Sanctions?
From Democracy Now! [June 17, 2013]
---- In what is being hailed as a victory for reform and moderation inside Iran, the cleric Hassan Rouhani has won the Iranian presidential election. A former nuclear negotiator, Rouhani has called for greater engagement with Western countries, while urging respect for Iran's right to nuclear energy. Reza Marashi of the National Iranian American Council says Rouhani's win marks a victory for Iran's "Green Movement" and one that puts the onus for diplomacy on the U.S. after years of crippling economic sanctions. http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/17/iran_elects_moderate_president_reza_marashi
Also on US policy – Mark Landler and Allison Kopicki, "Skepticism Over U.S. Involvement in Foreign Conflicts," New York Times [June 6, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/07/world/americans-skeptical-of-involvement-in-foreign-conflicts-poll-finds.html?ref=world; and Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, "Iran and the NSA's secret tool to track global surveillance data," The Guardian [June 9, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/08/nsa-boundless-informant-global-datamining.
Israeli Leaders Respond with Scowls to Rouhani's Election
By Marsha B. Cohen, Lobe Log [June 18, 2013]
---- For most Israeli politicians, the news of the election of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran, is not good. That it is considered good news by anyone else makes it that much worse. In Poland last Wednesday, two days before Iranians went to the polls, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that the results would bring about no meaningful change in Iran. ,,, Regardless of the outcome of any Iranian election offering the possibility of change — admittedly not the prospect or an outright promise — Israeli politicos will be displeased, and for the wrong reasons. Expect to hear more from them in the days and weeks ahead in the media, and from the Israel Lobby in the United States. http://www.lobelog.com/israeli-leaders-respond-with-scowls-to-rouhanis-election/
Looking for 'a new devil,' Israeli leaders and supporters left scrambling after election of moderate Rouhani
By Nima Shiraz, Wide Asleep in America [June 17, 2013]
---- Hassan Rouhani's unexpected victory in this weekend's Iranian election has sent Israeli hasbara into a tailspin. The desire for an Iranian bogeyman is so intense in the warmongering mainstream of Israeli and neoconservative discourse that any attempt to mask their pre-election desires and post-election frustration has been futile. Their entire game plan has been on display -- every Iranian leader is a New Hitler and every New Hitler must be stopped.  The whole point is to stave off any possible reconciliation or even minor deflation of tensions between Iran and the West, namely the United States, so as to maintain permanent Israeli hegemony over the region and American largesse and diplomatic cover. http://mondoweiss.net/2013/06/supporters-scrambling-election.html
Also useful – Nathan Guttman, "Iran Leader Hassan Rowhani's Moderate Stance Poses Dilemma to Israel Backers," Jewish Daily Forward [June 21, 2013] http://forward.com/articles/178992/iran-leader-hassan-rowhanis-moderate-stance-poses/?p=all#ixzz2X4qsnHCa
(Video) Iran: The real cost of sanctions
From Aljazeera [Inside Story] [June 5, 2013]
Also on sanctions - Kate Gould and Rebecca Gould, "Obama Moves to 'Unblock' Medicine to Iran," Common Dreams [June 17, 2013] https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/17-4; and Rick Gladstone, "Group Keeps Watch on Iran and Possible Sanction Violations," New York Times [June 20, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/world/middleeast/group-keeps-watch-on-iran-and-possible-sanction-violations.html?ref=world.
Syria: We Need to Stop a New War in the Middle East
By Phyllis Bennis, Red Pepper [June 5, 2013]
---- Plans for an international peace conference on Syria are looking very shaky. Even as the US and Russia continue collaborating on plans for such a meeting, arms shipments on all sides continue to threaten even greater escalation. Arms flows to Syrian rebel forces from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Turkey and Jordan continue, Britain and France forced the European Union to end its prohibition on sending arms to the opposition, the United States cheered the EU decision, Russia announced it is sending Damascus advanced anti-aircraft missiles, and Israel made clear it would bomb those missiles if they arrive in Syria. And the Obama administration has reportedly requested the Pentagon to prepare plans for imposing a 'no-fly' zone in Syria in support of rebel fighters and even for direct multilateral military engagement inside Syria. https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/05-11

How to Help Syria Now
By Chris Toensing, Inter Press Service [May 29, 2013]
---- The appalling civil war in Syria is well into its third year. With upwards of 70,000 dead, countless numbers maimed and injured, and millions of refugees, there are recurrent calls for the United States to "do something" to end the mayhem. That "something" is usually defined as military intervention -- imposing a no-fly zone, arming the rebels, even sending the Marines. The Obama administration should have the wisdom to resist these calls. There are other "somethings" that have a better chance of doing good. http://www.merip.org/newspaper_opeds/oped052913
The Syrian Target: Why Only an All-Out War Can Depose Assad
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [June 17, 2013]
---- Syria is close to following Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as the target of a major Western military intervention. It certainly looks that way after the American decision last week to send weapons to the rebels in a move that can only deepen the conflict. The supposed aim of the United States arms supply is to "tip the balance" in favour of the insurgents and force Bashar al-Assad's government to negotiate its departure from power. But Assad holds all but one of Syria's cities and large towns, so, to transform the military situation on the ground the US, Britain and France would have to become the main fighting force of the rebels and engage in a full-scale war. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/17/the-syrian-target/
Also useful/interesting – Joshua Landis, "Obama Owes Syrians and Americans a Vision of Syria's Future," Syria Comment [June 15, 2013] http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/19363/; and Robert Worth, "The Price of Loyalty in Syria," New York Times Magazine [June 19, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/the-price-of-loyalty-in-syria.html?ref=world
Syria and Chemical Weapons
UN expert says still no proof who used Syria chemical arms
From Agence France-Presse [June 21, 2013]
---- The head of a UN human rights investigation on Syria said Friday it was still impossible to tell for sure who has used chemical weapons in the country's devastating conflict. Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the investigation committee, said he would not comment on evidence sent by the United States, Britain and France to UN experts which they say shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have used chemical arms. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130621/un-expert-says-still-no-proof-who-used-syria-chemical-arms
The Chemical Weapons Pretext for War on Syria
By Ben Schreiner, Counterpunch [June 17, 2013]
---- Using the tired menace of weapons of mass destruction, the White House Thursday claimed with "high confidence" that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons, specifically the nerve agent sarin, against rebel fighters. Washington's announcement of "credible evidence" of chemical weapons use by Syrian forces, coming despite a dearth of actual hard evidence revealed, is now being used as the justification for providing direct U.S. military aid to the Syrian rebels. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/17/the-chemical-weapons-pretext-for-war-on-syria-2/
In Syrian chemical weapons claim, criticism about lack of transparency
By Colum Lynch and Joby Warrick, Washington Post [June 20, 2013]
---- Despite months of laboratory testing and scrutiny by top U.S. scientists, the Obama administration's case for arming Syria's rebels rests on unverifiable claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people, according to diplomats and experts. The United States, Britain and France have supplied the United Nations with a trove of evidence, including multiple blood, tissue and soil samples, that U.S. officials say proves that Syrian troops used the nerve agent sarin on the battlefield. But the nature of the physical evidence — as well as the secrecy over how it was collected and analyzed — has opened the administration to criticism by independent experts, who say there is no reliable way to assess its authenticity. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-syrian-chemical-weapons-claim-criticism-about-lack-of-transparency/2013/06/20/fa799e6e-d925-11e2-a016-92547bf094cc_story.html
Arming the Syrian Opposition
U.S. Is Said to Plan to Send Weapons to Syrian Rebels
By Mark Mazzetti, et al., New York Times [June 13, 2013]
---- The Obama administration, concluding that the troops of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria have used chemical weapons against rebel forces in his country's civil war, has decided to begin supplying the rebels for the first time with small arms and ammunition, according to American officials. … A flurry of high-level meetings in Washington this week underscored the divisions within the Obama administration about what actions to take in Syria to stop the fighting. The meetings were hastily arranged after Mr. Assad's troops, joined by thousands of fighters from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, claimed the strategic city of Qusayr and raised fears in Washington that large parts of the rebellion could be on the verge of collapse. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/world/middleeast/syria-chemical-weapons.html?hp&pagewanted=all
Sending arms to Syria is irrational and dangerous
By John Glaser, Aljazeera [June 19, 2013]
---- The Syrian civil war long ago became more than just an established regime pitted against an armed rebellion seeking its overthrow. Syria is an arena for competing foreign powers to fight for regional influence, and the Obama administration's dangerous escalation of US involvement in this sectarian powder keg holds the potential to trigger an even worse calamity. … Iran also continues to back the Assad regime with resources and manpower, sending money, weapons and reportedly thousands of troops - reports that Iran has since denied. Not only has Assad been a reliable ally of Iran, but Syria has also served as a conduit for Iranian support of Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, a policy that affords Iran considerable approval in a Middle East filled with US-backed dictatorships acquiescent to Israel's brutal occupation of Palestinian lands.  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/201361961057751564.html
Also useful – Jason Ditz, "Syrian Rebels Demand 'Heavy Weapons' and No-Fly Zone," Antiwar.com [June 20, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/06/20/syrian-rebels-demand-heavy-weapons-and-no-fly-zone/
The Widening War
Senators Vow Support for 'Decisive' Attack on Syria
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [June 18, 2013]
---- President Obama's intention to start sending weapons to the Syrian rebels is no longer enough, insisted three hawkish US Senators in an open letter (pdf) to the White House today. In the letter, Sens. Bob Menendez (D – NJ), Carl Levin (D – MI), and John McCain (R – AZ) called for the US to launch "decisive" military attacks on Syria, including air strikes against several sites. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/06/18/senators-vow-support-for-decisive-attack-on-syria/
Syrian war intensifies Lebanon's divisions
By Nour Samaha, Aljazeera [June 17, 2013]
Israel Stirs the Pot in Syria
By Jonathan Cook, Counterpunch [June 17, 2013]
---- For much of the past two years Israel stood sphinx-like on the sidelines of Syria's civil war. Did it want Bashar al-Assad's regime toppled? Did it favour military intervention to help opposition forces? And what did it think of the increasing visibility of Islamist groups in Syria? It was difficult to guess. In recent weeks, however, Israel has moved from relative inaction to a deepening involvement in Syrian affairs. It launched two air strikes on Syrian positions last month, and at the same time fomented claims that Damascus had used chemical weapons, in what looked suspiciously like an attempt to corner Washington into direct intervention. Last week, based on renewed accusations of the use of the nerve agent sarin by Syria, the US said it would start giving military aid directly to the opposition.
Iran To Send 4,000 Troops To Aid President Assad
By Robert Fisk, The Independent [UK] [June 19, 2013]
---- A military decision has been taken in Iran – even before last week's presidential election – to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces against the largely Sunni rebellion that has cost almost 100,000 lives in just over two years. Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad's regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic's security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new 'Syrian' front on the Golan Heights against Israel. In Arab eyes, Israel's 2006 war against the Shia Hizballah was an attempt to strike at the heart of Iran. The West's support for Syrian rebels is a strategic attempt to crush Iran. But Iran is going to take the offensive. Even for the Middle East, these are high stakes. Against this fearful background, the Palestinian tragedy continues.  http://www.zcommunications.org/iran-to-send-4-000-troops-to-aid-president-assad-by-robert-fisk

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

[haw-info] HAW Notes 6/19/13: Links to recent articles of interest

Links to Recent Articles of Interest
By David Bromwich, New York Review of Books, June 20 issue

"The Terror Diaspora: The U.S. Military and the Unraveling of Africa"
By Nick Turse, TomDispatch.com, posted June 18

By Juan Cole, History News Network, posted June 17
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan

"Yes, PRISM Really Is a Big Deal"
By John Prados, History News Network, posted June 12

"Mass Surveillance in America: A Timeline of Loosening Laws and Practices"
By Cora Currier, Justin Elliott, and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica.org, posted June 7

"Is It the End of Sykes-Picot? Patrick Cockburn on the War in Syria and the Threat to the Middle East"
By Patrick Cockburn, London Review of Books, posted June 6

"How the Pentagon Removes Entire Peoples"
By David Swanson, War Is a Crime.org, posted June 6

"Ronald Reagan's Secret, Genocidal Wars"
By Noam Chomsky, Alternet.org, posted June 6

"Syria as a Prisoner of Western History"
By Gregory Harms, Informed Comment blog, posted June 4

"Daniel Ellsberg: I'm Sure President Obama Would Have Sought a Life Sentence in My Case"
Interview by Timothy Lee, Washington Post "Wonkblog," posted June 3

Thanks for Steve Gosch, Rusti Eisenberg, and Rosalyn Baxandall for suggesting articles included in the above list. Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

[haw-info] Speak Up Now! $638 Billion for Pentagon in 2014 NDAA- Please criculate quickly

Please Forward Widely and Quickly
The House of Representative is poised to vote on HR 1960, FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, containing another $638 billion for the Pentagon (including $85.8 billion for the "winding down" war in Afghanistan). Isn't this just the same bad bill, Historians Against the War opposes every year? No its much worse!
Here's why: by busting through the sequester limits on the military, the House leadership aims to double the cuts on domestic discretionary spending. Across the country states and cities are already struggling with painful reductions in unemployment benefits, meals for the elderly, public housing, job training and Head Start. This bill compounds the damage.
Can we count on President Obama to veto this legislation, as he just warned? Not if past experience is any guide.
Elected Representatives need to hear from us today !
Call Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Let them know that you are opposed to spending $638 billion for unnecessary wars and weapons systems. Tell them to support Lee/ McGovern amendment to accelerate US withdrawal from Afghanistan
Most Important: Urge your member of Congress to vote "No" on the 2014 Defense Authorization bill (HR 1960) and to restore the domestic cuts, which are damaging our communities.
Carolyn Rusti Eisenberg
for HAW Steering Committee
PS Let us know if you made the call

Thursday, June 06, 2013

[haw-info] HAW Notes 6/6/13: More on the Left Forum

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,

In a "HAW Notes" earlier this week, an incorrect link was given for the home page of this weekend's Left Forum in New York City; the correct Web address is http://www.leftforum.org. The schedule (at http://www.leftforum.org/2013/schedule) includes an extraordinary range of diverse sessions.

As mentioned earlier, HAW will have a literature table Friday evening and Saturday (probably not Sunday). Jeri Fogel is the coordinator, and her cell phone number is 518-530-8917.

An final note related to the Left Forum is that the Saturday evening plenary session, 7:30 - 9:30,  features a panel on "The Untold Story of the United States," with Peter Kuznick, Oliver Stone, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Donna Murch, and Greg Wilpert.


Tuesday, June 04, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - June 4, 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
June 4, 2013
Hello All – Negotiations about Iran's nuclear program remain on hold, awaiting the outcome of Iran's presidential election, which will take place on June 14th.  But the related issue of Iran-Syria and Syria's civil war threatens to boil over, expanding into Lebanon amidst claims by the French government that they have obtained "proof" that Syria used chemical weapons.  Meanwhile the hoped-for peace negotiations initiated by the United States and Russia ("Geneva II") may not happen at all, largely due to the disarray in the anti-Assad armed opposition. Now the $64 question is, What is the US strategy for the region? For the past year, the ruling views on both Syria's civil war and Iran's nuclear program have been those of Dickens' Mr. Micawber: to await the future in the confidence "that something will turn up." But what seems to be "turning up" are a string of false starts and disasters.
Towards Iran, over the last four years, the Obama administration has built its strategy around comprehensive economic sanctions (with several more rounds added this week).  While sanctions have caused distress for ordinary Iranians, there has been no apparent weakening of the Iranian political elite's determination to continue their nuclear program, and none of the candidates running for president have made the nuclear program/economic sanctions an issue.  Though US intelligence reports and IAEA inspection reports are clear that Iran is not making and does not seem to want to make nuclear weapons, the US political and media elite has persuaded itself otherwise.  There is no sign that, when nuclear negotiations are re-started after Iran's presidential election, the Obama administration will significantly change its bargaining strategy that has so far proved useless.  What then?
Once again, because developments in Syria are deeply connected with the possibilities of peace or war between the United States and Iran, I have included a substantial selection of good/useful articles and essays about Syria further down in this newsletter.  During the past week the parameters of the Syrian civil war changed significantly.  The events in Turkey raise the possibility of a less active role for that country in supporting the Opposition against the Assad government.  The greater role of Hezbollah inside Syria, and the beginnings of what may be a civil-war-by-contagion inside Lebanon are also significant, not least because Hezbollah is viewed as a main enemy (and an extension of Iran) by Israel, and as the embodiment of pure evil by the United States.  The failure of the Syrian opposition to establish any unity at its conference in Istanbul, and its (at the moment) rejection of the US invitation to attend a peace conference in June ("Geneva II"), means that what seemed to be the current US strategy towards Syria is going down in flames.  The decision by the European Union to end the arms embargo against all parties in Syria, and the announcement by Russia that it will send advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries to the Syrian government, were also added to the tempest this week.
As I was about to send this newsletter out, the French government announced that it has "irrefutable proof" that the Assad government has used sarin gas against the armed opposition and civilian populations.  How sound this claim is can't be known just yet, but if the issue is brought to the UN Security Council there will be further pressure on President Obama to acknowledge that one of his "red lines" had been crossed, and that he must take military action.  With US public opinion polls showing a 3-1 opposition to doing anything in Syria, there will be an important role for peace activists in speaking out and protesting against the pressures for war.
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 fbrodhead@aol.com
Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
Reading Iranian Minds
By Paul Pillar, National Interest [May 29, 2013]
---- Many who offer opinions on policy toward Iran, and particularly on how to handle negotiations over its nuclear program, implicitly claim an unusual ability to read the minds of Iranian decision-makers. Assertions are made with apparent confidence about what the Iranians want, fear or believe, even without any particular evidence in support. Several possible explanations can account for the misplaced confidence. http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/reading-iranian-minds-8531
(Video) The Self-Defeating Dynamics of American Hegemony in the Middle East
An interview with Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett [May 27, 2013] – 60 minutes
Resources – For those wishing to follow developments in Iran more closely, here are two useful resources:  The Gulf/2000 Project (an email list-serve moderated by Columbia University's Gary Sick); more info at http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/about.shtml.  And The Tehran Bureau, an independent project hosted by several sites, including http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/series/tehran-bureau.
Three Factors Set to Rescue Iran Nuclear Talks
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian [May 19, 2013]
---- The west is eagerly awaiting the results of the upcoming June presidential elections in Iran to determine whom they will be working with in Tehran for the foreseeable future. Certainly the nuclear issue will remain a high priority for world powers and Iran. Over a decade of negotiations with Tehran, world powers have challenged Iran's legitimate rights for enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), yielding no outcome. The world powers have continued hitting the hammer on the same nail and it is time for a renewed look at the status quo. http://en-maktoob.news.yahoo.com/opinion-3-factors-set-rescue-iran-nuclear-talks-121852685.html#
Other issues reflecting the latest IAEA report – From Reuters, "IAEA concerned about finding nothing at Iran site after 'clean-up'" [June 3, 2013]  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/03/us-iran-nuclear-iaea-idUSBRE95209U20130603; and Fredrik Dahl and Dan Williams, "Iran's Arak reactor looms into Israeli, Western view," Reuters [June 2, 2013] http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE95103920130602?irpc=932
Ryan Crocker says U.S. is fumbling on Iran's nuclear program
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times [May 25, 2013]
Engage with Iran in Afghanistan
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian, National Interest [May 30, 2013]
---- The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan provides another opportunity for practical reengagement with Iran. After nearly a decade of involvement in the region, Washington should consider Tehran as a potential strategic partner to enhance the prospects for a peaceful exit and stable Afghanistan. http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/engage-iran-afghanistan-8528
Coercive Sanctions and Military Threats Push Iran Closer to the Nuclear Threshold
By Andrea Ó Súilleabháin and David Cortright [May 20, 2013]
---- Iran's nuclear activities are being portrayed in an alarmist and irrational way in the United States, and political rhetoric only pushes Iran closer to creating a nuclear weapon, said David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an expert on nuclear dangers and sanctions. http://isnblog.ethz.ch/international-relations/coercive-sanctions-and-military-threats-push-iran-closer-to-the-nuclear-threshold
U.S. Targets Iran's Petrochemical Industry
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [May 31, 2013]
---- The Obama administration on Friday escalated efforts to isolate Iran economically, blacklisting Iranian companies in the petrochemical industry for the first time and punishing five businesses in four other countries for conspiring to evade American sanctions aimed at restricting Iranian oil sales and air transportation. The new steps came a day after the administration issued sanctions against a top aide of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and more than 50 other Iranian officials for what it called their efforts to repress dissent and free speech in Iran, where presidential elections are scheduled in two weeks. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/world/middleeast/us-targets-irans-petrochemical-industry.html?ref=world
U.S. Adds to Its List of Sanctions Against Iran
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [June 3, 2013]
---- The Obama administration escalated sanctions pressure against Iran on Monday for the third time in a week, taking actions that could further weaken the country's already-devalued currency and seriously disrupt its automotive industry, a significant domestic employer and revenue generator for the Iranian government. The latest actions, contained in an executive order effective July 1, were a response to what a White House statement called Iran's "continued failure to meet its international obligations," a reference to its disputed nuclear energy program. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/04/world/middleeast/us-adds-to-its-list-of-sanctions-against-iran.html?ref=world
More on sanctions – Jason Ditz, "Obama Sanctions Iran's Auto Industry," Antiwar.com [June 3, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/06/03/obama-sanctions-irans-auto-industry/; Rick Gladstone, "U.S. Blacklists 37 Companies in Iran Dispute," New York Times [June 4, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/world/middleeast/us-sanctions-37-companies-in-iran-dispute.html?hp&_r=0; and Editorial, New York Times, "A Smart Change in Iran Policy," The New York Times [June 3, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/04/opinion/the-us-makes-a-smart-change-in-its-iran-policy.html?ref=opinion
With the nominal leadership of the reform movement under house arrest, it looked like no presidential candidate would pose any serious threat to Iran's political elite.  The entry of former president Rafsanjani into the race, and his speedy disqualification by Iran's Guardian Council, appeared to confirm that the presidential election would (for example) be similar to an American presidential election, focused on personalities and with little substantive difference among the leading candidates.  But Iran's elections have traditionally been surprising and volatile, as the commentators linked below point out.
Decision Time in Tehran
By Farideh Farhi, Lobe Log [May 31, 2013]
---- It is fair to say that since Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's disqualification, a good section of the Iranian pubic has been in a state of shock and silence. A friend who is also a keen observer of Iranian politics described the mood not only in Tehran but also the capital of a province she visits often as eerie silence.
The excitement that was generated by Hashemi Rafsanjani's candidacy was unexpected, perhaps even to him. In all likelihood, it was also the reason for his disqualification. Iran's conservative establishment would have preferred yet another Rafsanjani defeat at the polls as in 2005. But the potential for voter mobilization along the lines of 2009 made that route too risky. So now the question of what to do must be on the minds of people who identify with the reformists and centrists. Their two key leaders — former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hahsemi Rafsanjani — have been silent on this since the disqualification. http://www.lobelog.com/decision-time-in-tehran/
It Ain't Easy Being Green
By Kelly Golnoush Niknejad, Tehran Bureau [June 3, 2013]
---- For many who remember the 1979 revolution and the purge and massacre of the opposition -- including secularists, socialists, communists, and Kurdish groups -- any notion that the country is a democracy is a storybook fantasy. … But to a generation of baby boomers with no collective memory of that period, it's a different story. These Iranians came of age with greater access to higher education, satellite TV, and the Internet. The heady promise of a freer society presented to them by the "reformist" faction of the ruling establishment captured their imagination and turned them into a political force to be reckoned with. This bloc led the "Green Movement" protests following Iran's 2009 election -- but now with its leaders under house arrest or barred from running in the upcoming election, they find themselves trying to weather this period of even greater conservative dominance. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/06/03/green_movement_iran_elections?wp_login_redirect=0
Also interesting – Reza Marashi, "Making Lemonade Out of Lemons in Tehran?" National Iranian American Council [May 2013] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/20135287714548311.html; and Asad Hashim, "Iran's foreign policy: Issues to watch," Aljazeera [May 28, 2013] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/05/20135237261364277.html
The Campaign
Iran's presidential candidates debate justice and a 'resistance economy'
By Scott PetersonChristian Science Monitor [May 31, 2013]
Iranian election: do the Revolutionary Guards have a candidate?
By Afshon Ostavar, Tehran Bureau [June 3, 2013]
---- While many people wonder which of the eight candidates for the Iranian presidency will appeal most to voters, the more pressing question is which will be most favoured by the ruling establishment's power brokers, such as the powerful Revolutionary Guards. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been a dominant player in Iranian politics since the revolution. Its broad-ranging influence transcends that of an exclusively military institution. The organisation does not directly dictate policy or single-handedly choose presidents, but it has enough power within the regime to block major initiatives and promote its own hardline agenda. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2013/jun/03/iranian-election-revolutionary-guards-candidate
More angles on the campaign - Ali Akbar Dareini and Brian Murphy, "Brash Iran campaign stirs echoes of Ahmadinejad," Associated Press [June 2, 2013] http://news.yahoo.com/brash-iran-campaign-stirs-echoes-ahmadinejad-062757065.html#; Mohammad Ali Shabani, "Iranian Candidates Vie For 'Party of the Wind,'" Al-Monitor [June 3, 2013] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/iran-party-of-wind.html; Aljazeera, "Iran presidential candidate's staff arrested," [June 3, 2013] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/06/201362154730758278.html; Jason Ditz, "Iran Court Imposes Ban on State-Run Newspaper for Six Months," Antiwar.com [June 2, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/06/02/iran-court-imposes-ban-on-state-run-newspaper-for-six-months/
FB – There are many ways that the civil war in Syria could break all bounds of restraint and evolve quickly into a regional war involving some/many states, including the United States.  A repeat of Israel's bombing of Hezbollah/Syria would likely be sufficient, as Syria has warned that it will target Tel Aviv if Israel attacks again.  Of course Israel would respond massively to such an attack, and it would be difficult for a weak US president to stand aside from the ensuing conflict.  Another route to war: While the delivery of advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria from Russia seems to be not imminent, Israel has warned/postured that this would occasion an Israeli attack, which would likely result in casualties among the Russian technicians accompanying the equipment.  Yet another route: Today, in the United States, Condoleezza Rice spoke out in support of the John McCain/Neo-Con demands that the United States intervene in Syria by establishing a "no-fly" zone."  As this can only be done by first eliminating the Syrian anti-aircraft defenses, establishing a "no-fly zone" could (a few months from now) bring the United States into military conflict with the Russians as well. In any case, it would be an act of war.
And in tonight's news the French government announced that it had "irrefutable proof" that the Assad government had used sarin gas against civilian populations/the rebels.  While some commentators have cautioned that the French "case" needs to be treated with caution – on the basis of "chain of custody," the fact that the samples were acquired and tested by an interested party (France) in the dispute, etc. – if France brings its claims to the UN, as it says it will, there will be growing pressure on President Obama to acknowledge that one of his "red lines" had been crossed, and that something must be done. As the Security Council is unlikely to support intervention against Syria, what then?
Two weeks ago it seemed that the something that must be done was the "Geneva II" peace conference, jointly planned between the United States and Russia.  While the Russians have succeeded in getting a pledge from the Assad government to attend the peace conference, the Opposition – both political and military, inside Syria and outside Syria – is in disarray, and at a "unity" conference in Istanbul rejected both participation in the conference and any negotiations not premised on Assad leaving power.  With the peace conference now unlikely to take place at all, or at least not soon, will the United States be more likely to consider increased/overt military assistance to the Opposition, or even direct military intervention?
A relatively new factor in Syria's civil war – the intervention of Hezbollah forces from Lebanon – may provide Washington with an issue that both enables it and forces it towards military escalation.  As a major foe of Israel, Hezbollah is a name synonymous with Evil in the USA; and while many Americans can't find Syria on a map, the claim that Hezbollah is again threatening Israel may be sufficient to force Obama's hand.  At the same time, attacks by the Syrian armed opposition on Shiite populations on the Lebanese border and inside Lebanon itself, as well as attacks on Shiite religious sites inside Syria, were important factors in Hezbollah's decision to intervene. In the real world, as essays by Robert Fisk and others linked below discuss, the intervention of Hezbollah into Syria is a high risk both for them and for Lebanon itself, where already there are signs of an incipient civil war reflecting the conflict in Syria and, indeed, in much of the Middle East. 
A final note: A personal interest of mine is to learn more about the incredible nonviolent movements in Syria and how they succumbed to an armed opposition, whether such an outcome was/is inevitable, and how the nonviolent movement is faring now, in the midst of civil war.  I have linked a few pieces bearing on this in previous newsletters, and I encourage you to read the essay linked below by "Edward Dark," "How we lost the Syrian revolution."
How We Lost The Syrian Revolution
By Edward Dark, Al-Monitor [May 28. 2013]
---- So what went wrong? Or to be more accurate, where did we go wrong? How did a once inspirational and noble popular uprising calling for freedom and basic human rights degenerate into an orgy of bloodthirsty sectarian violence, with depravity unfit for even animals? Was it inevitable and wholly unavoidable, or did it not have to be this way? … This is what it has come down to in Syria: It's us versus them everywhere you go. Opposition versus regime, secular versus Islamist, Sunni versus Shiite, peaceful versus armed, city versus rural, and in all of that cacophony the voice of reason is sure to be drowned out. Whatever is left of Syria at the end will be carved out between the wolves and vultures that fought over its bleeding and dying corpse, leaving us, the Syrian people to pick up the shattered pieces of our nation and our futures. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/syria-revolution-aleppo-assad.html
Why the West and the Sunni Monarchies Want to Fuel the War
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [June 3, 2013]
---- The explanation for the actions of the Western states may be that they do not want the war to end except as a victory for their allies. This certainly is the view of many in the Middle East, such as Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the former Iraqi National Security Adviser, who told me the civil war "is the best option for the West and Israel because it knocks out Syria as an opponent of their policies and keeps Iran busy. Hezbollah is preoccupied by Syria and not with Israel. Turkey's idea of a new Ottoman empire is gone with the wind." This is a cynical but probably correct explanation for why the US, Britain, France and the Sunni monarchies do not want the war to end until they can declare victory. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/03/who-gains-from-syrian-bloodbath/
Also by Patrick Cockburn – "Is it the end of Sykes-Picot?" London Review of Books [May 23, 2013] http://www.lrb.co.uk/2013/05/23/patrick-cockburn/is-it-the-end-of-sykes-picot; How Syria Became a More Dangerous Quagmire Than Iraq," Counterpunch [May 31, 2013]
Responding to The Syrian Challenge
By Richard Falk, ZNet [May 29, 2013]
---- The issue facing the U.S. Government at this stage is not one of whether or not to intervene, but to what extent, with what objectives, and with what likely effects. More precisely, it is a matter of deciding whether to increase the level and overtness of the intervention, as well as taking account of what others are doing and not doing on the Assad regime side of the conflict. Roughly speaking, there have been interventions by Turkey, the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the EU on the insurgent side, and by Russia, Iran, Hezbollah on the regime side, with a variety of non-Syrian 'volunteers' from all over being part of the lethal mix. From an international law perspective the issues are blurred and controversial, both factually and jurisprudentially. http://www.zcommunications.org/responding-to-the-syrian-challenge-by-richard-falk
More useful perspectives – Phyllis Bennis, "Syrian War Moving Outward, Obama Looks Inward,"  Institute for Policy Studies [May 31, 2013] http://www.zcommunications.org/syrian-war-moving-outward-obama-looks-inward-by-phyllis-bennis; Paul Rogers, "Israel and Syria, an unstable relationship," Open Democracy [May 30, 2013] http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/israel-and-syria-unstable-relationship; Gregory Harms, "Syria as a Prisoner of Western History," Informed Comment [June 4, 2013] http://www.juancole.com/2013/06/prisoner-western-history.html; and
Some Regional Dimensions
Sectarian War a Two-Way Street For Iraq and Syria
By Feisal Amin Rasoul al-Istrabadi, Al-Monitor [May 28, 2013]
---- There is much wringing of hands by officials in Washington and Baghdad over the influence that the civil war in Syria is supposedly having over Iraq's own fractious politics. Americans are certain that the sectarian barbarity in Syria will spill over into Iraq, while members of Iraq's ruling Shiite religious coalition are terrified at the precedent of a Shiite regime falling to a Sunni rebellion. But officials in both capitals should consider that precisely the opposite may be occurring: Iraq's newly empowered majority is contributing to the ferocity of the fighting in Syria by its absolute unwillingness to make meaningful compromises with the minority that fell from power. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/sectarian-struggle-iran-syria.html
More regional issues – Tim Arango, et al., "As Syrians Fight, Sectarian Strife Infects Mideast," New York Times [June 1, 2013]  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/world/middleeast/sunni-shiite-violence-flares-in-mideast-in-wake-of-syria-war.html?ref=world; and Robert Tait, "Iran cuts Hamas funding over Syria," The Telegraph [UK] [May 31, 2013] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/10091629/Iran-cuts-Hamas-funding-over-Syria.html
Inside Syria
Balance of power in Syria shifting Assad's way
By Zeina Karam and Barbara Surk, Associated Press [May 31, 2013]
      As hopes for a Syrian peace conference fade and the opposition falls into growing disarray, President Bashar Assad has every reason to project confidence. Government forces have moved steadily against rebels in key areas of the country over the past two months, making strategic advances and considerably lowering the threat to the capital, Damascus. With army soldiers no longer defecting and elite Hezbollah fighters actively helping, the regime now clearly has the upper hand in a two-year civil war that has killed more than 70,000 people. http://news.yahoo.com/balance-power-syria-shifting-assads-way-195006073.html
See also - Nick Cumming-Bruce, "U.N. Panel Reports Increasing Brutality by Both Sides in Syria Conflict," New York Times [June 4, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/world/middleeast/un-panel-reports-increasing-brutality-by-both-sides-in-syria.html?ref=world
The Opposition in Disarray
Chaos in the Ranks: Syrian Rebels Turn on Their Political Leadership
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [May 30, 2013]
---- Syrian rebel groups have strongly criticised their political leadership outside Syria, saying it has no real connection to the rebellion and calling for half of its members to be drawn from fighters inside the country. The rebuke follows a chaotic week for the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and is likely to further undermine the standing of the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad which has been treated by its foreign backers as if it were capable of replacing Mr Assad and its regime. A meeting of the exiled SNC in Istanbul has still not decided if it will attend a peace conference in Geneva, tentatively planned for June, and, if so, who should attend. It is also deadlocked about Western-supported proposals to broaden the membership of the 60-member coalition with more secular representatives.
Syrian stalemate fuelled by opposition's bitter infighting
By Hassan Hassan, The National [UAE] [May 29, 2013]
---- The Syrian political opposition, in its current form, is a hopeless case. Members of the opposition have been holding intensive talks to expand the National Coalition for nearly a week, with little progress. The meetings in Istanbul are meant to discuss the inclusion of more members, mostly moderates, in the coalition to make it a more representative and balanced political body. As it stands now, the political body is controlled by one group that has a tenacious monopoly over the decision-making process. … Members of the opposition have shown during the Istanbul talks that they put their interests above and beyond the interests of the people they claim to represent. http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/syrian-stalemate-fuelled-by-oppositions-bitter-infighting
Also useful – Jason Ditz, "Rebel Syrian National Coalition Admits Liberal Bloc," Antiwar.com [May 31, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/31/rebel-syrian-national-coalition-admits-liberal-bloc/
US Strategy and Perspectives
White House: Priority in Syria Is to Oust Assad
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [May 31, 2013]
---- Fighting in Syria's civil war is, as ever, stalemated. The most recent fighting on the ground has seen government troops retaking some territory from the rebels, but it's a slow and arduous journey, suggesting that the war is likely to go on for a long time to come without a real resolution. The prospect of the war lasting years longer is what initially brought Russia and the US together to agree to work on a transition out of war. Yet even that effort, which is supposed to be capped at June's Geneva Conference, is not looking promising. Syria's rebels have rejected the idea of attending, though the Assad government has agreed to take part. The US looks like it is throwing the idea of a negotiated settlement under the bus as well, with the White House insisting today that its top priority in Syria is to impose a regime change including Assad's ouster. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/31/white-house-priority-in-syria-is-to-oust-assad/
(Video) The US strategy for Syria
From Aljazeera [Inside Story Americas] [June 2, 2013]
---- Plans by the United States and Russia to hold peace talks for Syria are being thrown into doubt as the opposition vows not to attend. … To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Nancy Soderberg, a former US ambassador to the United Nations; Flynt Leverett, a professor of international relations at Penn State University and co-author of the books Going to Tehran and Inheriting Syria; and Najib Ghadbian, a Syrian opposition representative to the US. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestory/2013/06/2013611213894717.html
Americans Oppose U.S. Military Involvement in Syria
By Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup [May 31, 2013]
---- Sixty-eight percent of Americans say the United States should not use military action in Syria to attempt to end the civil war there if diplomatic and economic efforts fail, while 24% would favor U.S. military involvement. http://www.gallup.com/poll/162854/americans-oppose-military-involvement-syria.aspx
The Geneva II Conference
The road to Syria peace talks
By James Bays, Aljazeera [May 30, 2013]
---- New chances that international peace talks will take place in Geneva in the next month hang in the balance of ongoing diplomatic maneuvering. Syria has expressed its intention, in principle, to attend. But Russia is warning that the decision of a divided EU to allow its arms embargo to lapse threatens the prospects for the conference. The Syrian opposition, which has never been united, still has not decided if it will attend. It is, however, worth looking at what is planned in Geneva. When analysts consider the importance of the meeting if it were to take place, the reasons for all the current wrangling become much clearer. Some of the key issues include: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/05/201352911333878979.html
Syrian Rebels Spurn Peace Talks, Issue More Demands
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [May 30, 2013]
---- Next month's Geneva Conference looks like it will have to do without the rebel Syrian National Coalition (SNC). After announcing they would take part last Friday, then saying they hadn't decided Wednesday, the SNC now says they won't be there. The latest statement came from SNC acting President George Sabra, who says that the group won't even consider taking part in the peace talks unless Hezbollah and assorted other pro-government militias unilaterally withdraw from Syria first. In the end, the Geneva conference seems like to center around the US and Russia debating a settlement to someone else's war with no way of actually making the deal happen. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/30/syrian-rebels-spurn-peace-talks-issue-more-demands/
Also useful – Fred H. Lawson, "How the US Can Facilitate Peace in Syria: Talking to All Sides including Iran," Informed Comment [June 3, 2013] http://www.juancole.com/2013/06/facilitate-talking-lawson.html; and Mohammad Khajouei, "What Is Required for Success of Geneva 2 Conference? Iran Review [May 30, 2013] http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/What-Is-Required-for-Success-of-Geneva-2-Conference-.htm
Military Equipment/Outside Intervention
Europe Seeks to Press Russia and Syria on Arms
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times [May 28, 2013]
---- The European Union's decision to lift its arms embargo on Syria, after a bitter, 13-hour debate in Brussels, is intended to put pressure on Russia and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria before peace talks scheduled in Geneva next month, with a message that the West will not allow the rebels to be defeated, senior European diplomats said Tuesday. The decision is also intended to bolster the more Western-aligned opposition and break the perception that it is being abandoned, while the radical Islamists of Al Nusra Front and its allies continue to get support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the diplomats said. The decision to let the arms embargo lapse appears to be part of a broader effort by the pro-Assad and pro-rebel sides to enter the talks in Geneva next month with a stronger hand. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/world/middleeast/decision-to-end-syrian-arms-embargo-angers-russia.html?ref=world
More on ending the EU arms embargo – Ian Black, "US pushes Europe to amend arms embargo on Syrian rebels," The Guardian [UK] [May 22, 2013]
Israeli PM Threatened to Destroy Syria's Missiles if Russia Delivers Them
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [May 31, 2013]
---- During his recent visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to have threatened to destroy Russia's S-300 anti-aircraft systems if they attempt to deliver them to Syria. Russian officials were reportedly "shocked by the audacity" of Netanyahu's threats, but in the end Russia still says they are willing to deliver the purely defensive weaponry to Syria. Though there are rumors of Russia being willing to temporarily delay such shipments, they are said to only be willing to do that if Western nations stop threatening Syria, and have also suggested they would accelerate the shipments if Israel keeps attacking Syria. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/05/31/israeli-pm-threatened-to-destroy-syrias-missiles-if-russia-delivers-them/
More on Russian weapons to Syria – Juan Cole, "The Coming Israeli-Russian War?" Informed Comment [May 29, 2013] http://www.juancole.com/2013/05/coming-israeli-russian.html; Steven Lee Myers and Michael R. Gordon, "Kerry Castigates Russia Over Syria-Bound Missiles," New York Times [May 31, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/world/middleeast/kerry-castigates-russia-over-syria-bound-missiles.html?ref=world; and Juan Cole, "Syria needs a dozen S-300 batteries to protect itself – Russian general," Informed Comment [June 1, 2013] http://www.juancole.com/2013/06/batteries-general-denounces.html
Issues around Hezbollah
Hezbollah Has Been Lured Into Unknown Territory In Syria As It Wages Costly Battle For Survival
By Robert Fisk, The Independent [June 3, 2013]
More on Hezbollah and Syria – Anne Barnard,"By Inserting Itself Into Syrian War, Hezbollah Makes Dramatic Gamble," New York Times [May 27, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/world/middleeast/by-inserting-itself-into-syrian-war-hezbollah-makes-historic-gamble.html?ref=world; and Philip Greaves, "Why is the UK Pushing the EU to Designate Hezbollah a Terrorist Group?" Counterpunch [May 28, 2013] http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/28/why-is-the-uk-pushing-the-eu-to-designate-hezbollah-a-terrorist-group/