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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
OVERVIEWS AND PERSPECTIVES
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.
IRAN'S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
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
US POLICY TOWARD IRAN
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
SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN
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
IRAN'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (June 14)
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
Iran's presidential candidates debate justice and a 'resistance economy'
By , Christian 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/
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
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]
http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/31/how-syria-became-a-more-dangerous-quagmire-than-iraq/; and "Chaos in the Ranks: Syrian Rebels Turn on Their Political Leadership," Counterpunch [May 30, 2013] http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/30/syrian-rebels-turn-on-their-political-leadership/
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," 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
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/