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Sunday, July 21, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - July 21, 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
July 21, 2013
Hello All – Iran's newly elected president will take office on August 3, and negotiations about Iran's nuclear program are expected to begin in early September.  In the interim, intense and possibly important debates are taking place within the US policy-making elite about whether developments in Syria and Iran should prompt the United States to make more positive and creative diplomatic approaches toward Tehran.
Among the most important efforts for a more positive diplomatic effort by the United States is a statement urging such an approach signed by (as of today) 131 members of the House of Representatives, the largest number of signatories ever received by a "pro-Iran-negotiations" congressional effort.  Among the 131 signers were a majority of the House Democrats.  Also, on July 15 a letter signed by 29 "former policymakers, diplomats, military officials, and experts" called on President Obama to recognize the opportunities for diplomacy signaled by Rouhani's victory in Iran's presidential election.  Both of these documents, along with some discussion, are linked below.
Needless to say, the "bomb Iran" crowd hasn't taken this lying down.  Their most significant effort came in an appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on the CBS program "Face the Nation," which the New York Times echo chamber immediately characterized as "Israel Increases Pressure on U.S. to Act on Iran" (the statement by a majority of the governing party was not characterized by The Times as putting pressure on anybody).  I've linked several good/useful analyses of Israel's post-(Iran) election dilemmas below.
I've also linked several good/useful articles on essays on Iran's election (free and fair?); the significance of the election for Iranian politics, and what we might expect/hope for from a Rouhani presidency in terms of relations with the United States.
Along with Iran's president election, the other event that may pressure the United States and its allies toward a nuclear accommodation with Iran is the apparently unstoppable disaster in Syria.  Again this week we learned of further disarray among the Syrian armed opposition, with the United States and the United Kingdom now hesitating to act on their stated intentions to send arms to the opposition, uncertain how to navigate among the more than 1,000 armed groups now active in Syria.
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
For a New Approach to Iran
By William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering, and Jim Walsh, New York Review of Books [August 15, 2013]
---- Could this be the year for an engagement with Iran that "is honest and grounded in mutual respect," as President Obama proposed over four years ago? That goal seems unlikely without a shift in Iranian thinking and without a change in American diplomatic and political strategy. But two developments, one in Iran and one in the region, provide reason to think that diplomatic progress might be possible. The first is Iran's recent presidential election…. The second development is the war in Syria, which has the potential to grow into a region-wide Shia–Sunni conflict. This poses a direct threat to Iran's vital interests, giving Tehran an incentive to reduce tensions with the international community. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/aug/15/new-approach-iran/
Netanyahu's Crying Wolf on Iran
By Gary Sick, CNN [July 18, 2013]
[There are more articles on Netanyahu's presentation linked below.]
---- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a subtle man. When he has an objective in mind, he is not above resorting to hyperbole, exaggeration, or apocalyptic scenarios to make his point. He has been crying wolf nearly as long as he has been in politics. For a very good reason: It works. And it works. And it works. More than 20 years ago, Mr. Netanyahu solemnly informed us that, unless someone intervened, Iran would have a nuclear weapon within five years. That was one of the origins of the "three to five year" mantra. Almost every year since the early 1990s, senior political figures, intelligence specialists and respected commentators have assured us that Iran would surely have a nuclear weapon in three to five years, sometimes less, unless Iran were forced to stop its mad dash for the bomb. http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/18/opinion/sick-netanyahu-on-iran/index.html
Five Options for Iran's New President
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Cairo Review [July 9, 2013]
---- Nuclear negotiations lasting more than a decade between Iran and world powers have failed. The talks have been unable to reconcile the concerns voiced by the United States and other parties that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon with Iran's insistence that its program is strictly peaceful and only intended for civilian energy production. The window for a diplomatic breakthrough will be most opportune during the second term of President Barack Obama who, in his 2013 State of the Union address, called on Iran's leaders to "recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution." The election of a new Iranian president in June also offers the prospect of a fresh approach to negotiations. There is, however, a risk that if the current American/Western policy of pressure politics continues, we will inch toward a military confrontation. In a broader sense, the outcome of the nuclear negotiations will have a profound impact on vital issues such as global nuclear non-proliferation, and the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) and Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East. http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=374
A Counter-view – Nima Shirazi, "Relax, Iran Isn't Going to Withdraw from the NPT," Wide Awake in America [July 11, 2013] http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2013/07/iran-withdraw-npt-mousavian.html
Going to Tehran
---- Perhaps the most important recent book about the contemporary US-Iran standoff is Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett.  As readers of the IWW are aware, I've linked many of their articles and video interviews, and I think they are among the most able presenters of the arguments for a just and peaceful resolution of the current conflict.  Much of their book is also valuable in this respect; but I find their historical writing, especially their presentation of Iran's revolution and counter-revolution in the 1980s, to be appalling, and their polemic against the reform-protesters following the 2009 election to be devoid of understanding re: how social movements work. My conflicted outlook is now paralleled by a debate in the New York Review of Books.  Last month the Review published a scathing critique of Going to Tehran, by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen.  It was called "Ruthless Iran: Can a Deal Be Made?" http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/06/ruthless-iran-can-deal-be-made/.  In a recent issue of the Review, the Leveretts replied and Cohen replied to their reply: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jul/11/going-which-iran/.  I think the debate raises many issues that are active within the US antiwar movement as well, and comments are welcome. - FB
The summer issue of Cairo Review is focused on "The Iran Dilemma," and includes many interesting essays (two of which are linked below).  The Review is online at http://www.aucegypt.edu/GAPP/CairoReview/Pages/intheJournal.aspx?issid=11.
US Holds Line on Nuclear Talks "Onus Is on Tehran"
From Enduring America [July 15, 2013]
---- In a conference call with journalists on Friday, a "senior US administration official" held the line on Iran's nuclear programme, saying Washington noted the "positive tone and remarks" of President-elect Hassan Rouhani but looked for "actions that indicate a desire to deal seriously". Tehran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany) are expected to meet this autumn, their first high-level discussions since April. Both February and April negotiations in Almaty in Kazakhstan brought no advance on key issues like Iran's enrichment of 20% uranium, recognition of the Islamic Republic's right to enrich, and the widespread US and European sanctions on Tehran. The US official spoke ahead of a meeting of the political directors of the 5+1 Powers on Tuesday. The official — possibly Wendy Sherman, the lead US negotiator in the talks — said the 5+1 Powers are likely to ask Iran to give a "concrete response" to a "confidence-building proposal" put forward in February, rather than make any modified or new offers. http://eaworldview.com/2013/07/iran-today-us-holds-line-on-nuclear-talks-onus-is-on-tehran/
Other nuclear-program issues – Nima Shirazi, "MEK Re-Ups 3 Year Old Nuclear Propaganda," Wide Awake in America [July 13, 2013] http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2013/07/dirty-laundry-mek-nuclear-propaganda.html; Jason Ditz, "Israel Warns Arabs Against Complaining About Nukes at IAEA Meeting," Antiwar.com [July 9, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/07/09/israel-warns-arabs-against-complaining-about-nukes-at-iaea-meeting/; and George Jahn, "Arabs ready anti-Israel resolution over nukes," July 15, 2013] http://www.timesofisrael.com/arabs-ready-anti-israel-resolution-over-nukes/
131 House members sign letter supporting U.S. diplomacy with Iran
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [July 18, 2013]
---- Though the letter doesn't take a position on sanctions or the possible use of military force by the United States or its allies, it cautions that "we must also be careful not to foreclose the possibility of such progress by taking provocative actions that could weaken the newly elected president's standing relative to Iran's hardliners." It also says that while members may have different views about those issues, "we should all be able to agree on the need for a renewed diplomatic push as part of our broader strategy toward Iran." http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2013/07/5744/over-100-house-members-sign-letter-supporting-u-s-diplomacy-with-iran/
Former Officials Call on Obama to Reinvigorate Iran Diplomacy
From the National Iranian American Council [J
---- Twenty-nine prominent former government officials, diplomats, military officers, and national security experts are calling on the White House to pursue direct negotiations with Iran once the country's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is inaugurated. In a letter to President Obama today, the group called the election of Iran's new president "a major potential opportunity to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program." 
Advocates of Iran Engagement Get Unexpected Boost
By Jim Lobe, Lobe Log [July 20, 2013]
---- For the first time in many months, supporters of intensified diplomatic engagement with Iran appear to be gaining strength here. Following last month's surprise election of Hassan Rouhani – widely considered the most moderate of a field of six candidates – as the Islamic Republic's next president, the possibility of a deal over Iran's nuclear programme has become more widely accepted. That was reflected most dramatically this week by the fact that 131 members of the hawkish, Republican-led House of Representatives – including a majority of House Democrats – signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to "reinvigorat(e) U.S. efforts to secure a negotiated nuclear agreement". The letter, whose signatories included 17 Republicans, suggested that Washington should be prepared to relax bilateral and multilateral sanctions against Iran in exchange for "significant and verifiable concessions" at the negotiating table. It also implicitly warned against adding new sanctions at such a sensitive moment. http://original.antiwar.com/lobe/2013/07/20/advocates-of-iran-engagement-get-unexpected-boost/
Disregarding Iran's Election: A Taxonomy
By Marsha B. Cohen, Lobe Log [July 2013]
---- Appearances to the contrary, the narrative underlying much news coverage of Iran's recent election is still unfolding. While media attention has been diverted to the George Zimmerman trial domestically and to events in Egypt internationally, efforts to malign Iranian president-elect Hassan Rouhani and to strangle any hopes for an improvement in U.S.-Iran relations continue unabated. The vacuum at the highest levels of U.S. foreign policy analysis is being filled by an echo chamber of self-styled and mutually reinforcing "experts". Certain themes and talking points have been constant. They have been crafted and honed by AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which published these talking points 4 days after Rouhani won) and its spin-off think-tank WINEP (the Washington Institute), the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a host of other hawkish think-tanks and advocacy groups such as the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Heritage Foundation and the Gatestone Institute. Consider some examples:
Also useful – Nima Shirazi, "The Language of [Samantha] Power: Obama's "Humanitarian Hawk" & Israel's New Gladiator at the UN," Wide Awake in America [July 18, 2013] http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2013/07/samantha-power-israels-new-gladiator-un.html; Ali Vaez, "US must not miss new opportunity to engage with Iran," International Crisis Group [July 16, 2013] http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2013/0716/US-must-not-miss-new-opportunity-to-engage-with-Iran; and the Editorial, "Next Steps With Iran," New York Times [July 20, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/next-steps-with-iran.html
Netanyahu's Intervention
Israel Increases Pressure on U.S. to Act on Iran
By Jodi Rudoren and David E. Sanger, New York Times [July 14, 2013]
---- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ramped up pressure on the White House on Sunday to put the buildup of Iran's nuclear program ahead of other crises in the Middle East, complaining of a lack of urgency on the issue and saying that the Obama administration must demonstrate "by action" to Iran's newly elected president that "the military option which is on the table is truly on the table." Speaking via satellite on the CBS News program "Face the Nation," Mr. Netanyahu expressed concern that Iran was pursuing "alternate routes" to a nuclear weapons capability, including a plutonium bomb, even while stopping just short of the specific enriched-uranium levels he had set in a speech at the United Nations last year as a "red line" for military action. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/world/middleeast/israel-calls-for-new-urgency-on-iran.html?ref=world
Top 10 Reasons Americans should Dismiss Israel's Netanyahu on Attacking Iran
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [July 19, 2013]
Netanyahu Cries 'Wolf'...Again
By Nima Shirazi, Wide Asleep in America [July 16, 2013]
More on Netanyahu's intervention – Peter Jenkins, "Israel's Strategic View of Iran: Time for a Change?" Lobe Log [July 17, 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/israels-strategic-view-of-iran-time-for-a-change/; and Jim Lobe, "Israel Resumes Threats Against Iran as Experts Urge Patience," Lobe Lob [July 15, 2013] http://original.antiwar.com/lobe/2013/07/15/israel-resumes-threats-against-iran-as-experts-urge-patience/
Washington promises Israel: More pressure on Iran, not less
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz [Israel] [July 13, 2013]
---- U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has assured Israeli officials that the United States will not ease pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear program following the election of Iranian President Hassan Rohani, U.S. diplomatic sources said. The U.S. assurances were conveyed during a series of consultations between American officials and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's aides in Jerusalem following Rohani's election. Senior U.S. officials involved in the matter told Haaretz that the United States made clear to Israel that although it sees Rohani's victory as a positive development, it will not ease the pressure on Iran unless Iran takes steps to demonstrate a "change in attitude." http://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/washington-promises-israel-more-pressure-on-iran-not-less.premium-1.535571?trailingPath=2.169%2C2.216%2C2.217%2C
AIPAC & OFAC Ratchet-Up US Sanctions Targeting Syria and Iran's Populations
By Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch [July 12, 2013]
---- The Obama administration has no interest in public participation or input as it targets the civilian populations of Syria and Iran. … The US-led sanctions increasingly target the Iranian and Syrian people for purely political purposes in order to ignite civil unrest which the Obama Administration hopes will lead to regime chance.  They are immoral, illegal, ineffective at achieving regime change, and they are doing incalculable damage to millions of innocents while further squandering whatever respect for our country still exists abroad and increasingly even within our own boarders as evidenced by the recent spate of protests on a number of subjects sending the message to Washington that it is time to come home and rebuild our society. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/12/aipac-ofac-ratchet-up-us-sanctions-targeting-syria-and-irans-populations/
"Terror" Plots
No Evidence for Charge Iran Linked to JFK Terror Plot
By Gareth Porter, Antiwar.com [July 11, 2013]
---- Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who was prevented by Argentine President Cristina Kirchner from testifying before a U.S. House subcommittee investigating alleged Iranian terrorist networks in the Americas here this week, claimed in a recent report that Tehran was involved in a 2007 plot to blow up fuel tanks at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. But his report offers no actual evidence that Iran was ever even aware of the airport plot, and the official documents in the case indicate that the U.S. government found no such evidence either. http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2013/07/11/no-evidence-for-charge-iran-linked-to-jfk-terror-plot/
Rowhani's Challenge
By Nader Hashemi, Cairo Review [July 21, 2013]
---- Iran's pro-democracy movement has welcomed the election of Hassan Rowhani. Many members of the movement remain in a state of euphoria, partly because of their ability to mobilize support for the one candidate with whom the Iranian hardliners were most uncomfortable with. They view this election result as small yet significant victory in the struggle for democracy because the Iranian regime has been forced to make a tactical concession due to pressure from below. There are now huge expectations of Iran's new president-elect. Will he be able to live up to them? A sense of Iran's recent political history suggests cause for caution rather than optimism. http://www.aucegypt.edu/gapp/cairoreview/Pages/articleDetails.aspx?aid=382
The Presidential Election
An "Electoral Uprising" in Iran
By Kevan Harris, Middle East Report [July 19, 2013]
---- Rouhani's victory is indeed fragile. "All the election did," a journalist muttered, "was to open up a tiny crack for us." The United States could smooth the road ahead or roughen it. Either way, Iran's election was a surprise. To understand it without recourse to casuistry, two questions are critical: What precipitated the collapse of right-wing solidarity and the separation from favored son Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? And how did reformist politicians and their centrist allies win with the odds stacked so highly against them? http://www.merip.org/mero/mero071913
Prospects for a Rouhani Presidency
What Will Rouhani Inherit Next Month?
By Reza Akhlaghi, Foreign Policy [July 20, 2013]
---- Can Rouhani keep and fulfill his promises? Does the Islamic political system have the ability to adapt to the new Iranian and international environment? In these uncertain times, one fact stands out: the election of Rouhani has raised many hopes and expectations in Iran and elsewhere. Is he able to unlock Iran's foreign policy and bring prosperity to his fellow citizens with the symbolic key he carried during his election campaign? http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2013/07/20/what-will-rouhani-inherit-next-month/
Also useful – Arash Karami, "Iran Becoming 'Uninhabitable,' Says Former Agriculture Minister," Iran Pulse [July 9, 2013] http://iranpulse.al-monitor.com/index.php/2013/07/2353/iran-becoming-uninhabitable-says-former-agriculture-minister/; and Thomas Erdbrink and Rick Gladstone,"Iran's Next President Faults Ahmadinejad on Economy," New York Times [July 15, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/world/middleeast/irans-president-elect-describes-a-bleak-economy.html?ref=world
Directions for Iran's Nuclear Diplomacy
A Directive for Maintaining Positive Atmosphere in Iran-US Relations
By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Editor of Iran Review [July 21, 2013]
---- These new signals sent by the United States, especially in combination with reports about the decision to postpone enforcing new sanctions against Iran up to October, have led to hot debates in the Iranian media. The common denominator among those debates is that, regardless of pessimistic or optimistic views of the experts, all of them have pointed to the necessity of adopting a cautious approach to the United States signals. This issue, per se, is indicative of the maturity and dominance of realism among Iranian political experts. With the above facts in mind, the following points may prove useful in this regard. http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/A-Directive-for-Maintaining-Positive-Atmosphere-in-Iran-US-Relations.htm
Also useful – "Tehran Should Trust West One More Time," an interview with Hassan Beheshtipour, Iran Review [July 20, 2013] http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Tehran-Should-Trust-West-One-More-Time.htm
Interview on the Syrian Revolution
By Noam Chomsky and Mohammed Attar, Heinrich Boll Stiftung [July 13, 2013]
---- During his recent visit to Beirut, American thinker and philosopher Noam Chomsky met with a group of independent Syrian media activists, aid workers and individuals active in cultural and economic spheres. Chomsky had made it clear that he had come to listen to them; to lend an ear to their different views on the current situation in Syria. … The discussion ranged over positions that Chomsky has subscribed to in previous interviews concerning his view of the complex situation in Syria, Hezbollah's involvement, the American and Israeli stances towards revolutionary Syria and other related issues. http://www.zcommunications.org/interview-on-the-syrian-revolution-by-noam-chomsky
Syria's communal tensions are fuelled by politics not theology
Robin Yassin-Kassab, The National [UAE] [July 11, 2013]
---- As in the conflicts in Iraq, Palestine, Israel or Northern Ireland, the conflict in Syria is not about theology but about group fears and resentments. Ultimately, it's about power. Communal tensions are the result not of ancient enmities but of contemporary political machinations. And nothing is fixed in time. Syria's supposedly "Sunni rebellion", which in fact contains activists and fighters of all sects, becomes more or less Islamist in response to rapidly-changing political realities. A few months ago, for example, Islamist black flags dominated demonstrations in Raqqa, in the east of the country; now, Raqqa's demonstrations are as likely to be against Jabhat Al Nusra, the extremist militia which nominally controls the city, as against the regime. This is not an Islamist rebellion but a popular revolution. As in Egypt, if Islamists oppress the people or fail to deliver, they too will be rebelled against. http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/syrias-communal-tensions-are-fuelled-by-politics-not-theology#full
A month after U.S. pledged more help, Syrian rebels in worse shape
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy [July 12, 2013]
---- A month after the Obama administration pledged stepped-up support for Syria's armed opposition, the government of President Bashar Assad's position has improved, with U.S. assistance to the rebels apparently stalled and deadly rifts opening among the forces battling to topple the Assad regime. Government forces appear close to forcing rebels from the key city of Homs after a 10-day offensive, while an al Qaida-linked rebel group on Thursday assassinated a top commander from the more moderate, Western-backed Supreme Military Council, signaling what one British newspaper dubbed a "civil war within a civil war." And that's only some of the recent setbacks for the Syrian opposition's two-track struggle toward improved fighting capabilities and greater political legitimacy. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/07/12/196581/a-month-after-us-pledged-more.html#.UeG6qqz-rfV
Will There Be a Peace Conference?
Russia says Syrian opposition blocking peace conference
From Reuters [July 10, 2013]
---- A Syrian opposition leader is undermining chances for proposed peace talks by saying that foes of President Bashar al-Assad will only attend if they make military headway first, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday. Ahmad Jarba, the new president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, told Reuters on Sunday it would not go to the conference that Russia and the United States are trying to convene in Geneva unless its battlefield fortunes improve. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/10/us-syria-crisis-russia-idUSBRE9690ME20130710
US Policy and Arming the Opposition
No Quick Impact in U.S. Arms Plan for Syria Rebels
By Mark Mazzetti, et al., New York Times [July 14, 2013]
---- A month ago Obama administration officials promised to deliver arms and ammunition to the Syrian rebels in the hope of reversing the tide of a war that had turned against an embattled opposition. But interviews with American, Western and Middle Eastern officials show that the administration's plans are far more limited than it has indicated in public and private. In fact, the officials said, the administration's plans to use the C.I.A. to covertly train and arm the rebels could take months to have any impact on a chaotic battlefield. Many officials believe the assistance is unlikely to bolster the rebellion enough to push President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to the negotiating table. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/15/world/middleeast/no-quick-impact-in-us-arms-plan-for-syria-rebels.html?hp&_r=0
Tentative Support in US Congress for Arming Syria's Rebels
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [July 15, 2013]
---- Secret Congressional briefings have apparently borne some fruit, and the Obama Administration has reportedly gained "tentative" support from Senators who were opposed to arming Syria's rebels. How the administration answered criticisms of its plan to arm rebels, which came under criticism for getting the US involved in an open-ended civil war and potential having the arms end up in the hands of al-Qaeda fighters, is unclear. But as US officials are getting less cautious, one of the most outspoken international advocates for the scheme, British Prime Minister David Cameron, is said to have scrapped his own plans, leading rebels to accuse him of "betraying" them. http://news.antiwar.com/2013/07/15/tentative-support-in-us-congress-for-arming-syrias-rebels/
More on US policy - Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart, "Congress delaying U.S. aid to Syrian rebels," Reuters [July 8, 2013] http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/08/us-usa-syria-arms-idUSBRE96713N20130708; John Glaser, "In Syria, U.S. Arms Go To Pro-Assad Militias and Jihadists," Washington Times [July 12, 2013] http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/john-glaser-intelligence-foreign-policy-world/2013/jul/12/syria-us-arms-go-pro-assad-militias-and-jihadists/; John Glaser, "Obama Lawyers Said Arming Syrian Rebels Would Be Illegal, Prompt War," Antiwar.com [July 15, 2013] http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/07/15/obama-lawyers-said-arming-syrian-rebels-would-be-illegal-prompt-war/; and Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, "U.S. Intelligence Official Says Syrian War Could Last for Years," New York Times [July 20, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/world/middleeast/us-intelligence-official-says-syrian-war-could-last-for-years.html?ref=world
The Syrian Opposition in Disarray
(Video) Syria: A war within a war
From Aljazeera [Inside Syria] [July 21, 2013]
New front opens in Syria as rebels say al Qaeda attack means war
By Mariam Karouny and Oliver Holmes, Reuters [July 2013]
---- Syrian rebels said on Friday the assassination of one of their top commanders by al Qaeda-linked militants was tantamount to a declaration of war, opening a new front for the Western-backed fighters struggling against President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Rivalries have been growing between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamists, whose smaller but more effective forces control most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria more than two years after pro-democracy protests became an uprising. http://news.yahoo.com/front-opens-syria-rebels-al-qaeda-attack-means-082038413.html
Where Does Jabhat al-Nusra End, and the Islamic State of Iraq & ash-Sham Begin?
[FB – An interesting and in-depth series on these groups.]
By Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, Syria Comment [July 13 and 18, 2013] http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/
More on the Syrian opposition - Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtada, "Opposition in Syria Continues to Fracture," By New York Times [July 7, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/08/world/middleeast/tension-between-rebel-groups-intensifies-in-syria.html?ref=world; Jason Ditz, "Syrian Rebel PM Resigns After Failing to Form Cabinet," Antiwar.com [July 8, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/07/08/syrian-rebel-pm-resigns-after-failing-to-form-cabinet/; Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, "Syrian Rebel Infighting Undermines Anti-Assad Effort," New York Times [July 12, 2013] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/13/world/middleeast/syrian-rebel-infighting-undermines-anti-assad-effort.html?hp&_r=0; and Martin Chulov, "Free Syrian army clashes with jihadists in wake of commander's assassination," The Observer [July 13, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/14/free-syrian-army-jihadists-clashes-aleppo
Another Israeli Attack in Syria
Israel Airstrike Targeted Advanced Missiles That Russia Sold to Syria, U.S. Says
By Michael R. Gordon, New York Times [July 13, 2013]
---- Israel carried out an air attack in Syria this month that targeted advanced antiship cruise missiles sold to the Syria government by Russia, American officials said Saturday. The officials, who declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports, said the attack occurred July 5 near Latakia, Syria's principal port city. The target was a type of missile called the Yakhont, they said. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/world/middleeast/israel-airstrike-targeted-advanced-missiles-that-russia-sold-to-syria-us-says.html?ref=world
More on the Israeli attack – Three articles by Jason Ditz, "US Officials: Israel Behind Recent Syria Attack," Antiwar.com [July 12, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/07/12/us-officials-israel-behind-recent-syria-attack/; "Israel Used Turkish Base to Attack Syria," Antiwar.com [July 15, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/07/15/report-israel-used-turkish-base-to-attack-syria/; and "Officials: Israel Puzzled by US Decision to Confirm Syria Attack," Antiwar.com [July 15, 2013]
Were Chemical Weapons Used?
Poison Gas & Arabian Tales
By Conn Hallinan, Counterpunch [July 5, 2013]
---- Western intelligence services want us to believe that Damascus deliberately courted direct U.S. intervention for something totally marginal to the war. Maybe the Assad regime has lost its senses. Maybe some local commanders took the initiative to do something criminal and dumb. Maybe the whole thing is a set-up. http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/05/poison-gas-arabian-tales/
Russia Says Study Suggests Syria Rebels Used Sarin
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [July 9, 2013]
---- Russia said that its scientific analysis of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria on March 19 showed it probably had been carried out by insurgents using sarin nerve gas of "cottage industry" quality delivered by a crudely made missile. The finding contradicted conclusions presented by Western nations, including the United States, that the Syrian government had been responsible. Mr. Churkin said the Russian investigators had found evidence of crudely manufactured sarin, a nerve agent, delivered via an unguided projectile with a crude explosive charge — not the sort of munitions stockpiled by the Syrian military. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/10/world/middleeast/russia-says-study-suggests-syria-rebels-used-sarin.html?hp
Also on chemical weapons – "Syrian rebels reject Russian claims on chemicals," http://news.yahoo.com/syrian-rebels-reject-russian-claims-chemicals-152354678.html; and Jason Ditz, "UK Report Warns Chemical Weapons 'Catastrophe' Looms if Assad Falls," Antiwar.com [July 10, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/07/10/uk-report-warns-chemical-weapons-catastrophe-looms-if-assad-falls/

Friday, July 19, 2013

[haw-info] HAW Notes 7/19/13: Links to recent articles of interest

By Alfred W. McCoy, TomDispatch.com, posted July 15
The author teaches history at the University of Wisconsin

"Demystifying the NSA Surveillance Program"
By John Prados, History News Network, posted July 15

"The Korean War: Forgotten, Unknown, and Unfinished"
By H. Patricia Hynes, TruthOut.org, posted July 12

"The Danger in Egypt Is Real"
By Juan Cole, History News Network, posted July 8
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan

"Still Preparing for Nuclear War"
By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted July 8
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany

"Snowden Made the Right Call When He Fled the U.S."
By Daniel Ellsberg, Washington Post, posted July 7

"What Have Snowden and Greenwald to Do With Gandhi?"
By Suhankar Bannerjee, CommonDreams.org, posted June 30

"Daniel Ellsberg, the Original Big Leaker: Why a Decades-old Act of Defiance Still Hasn't Been Surpassed"
By Michael Kazin, The New Republic, posted June 26
The author teaches history at Georgetown University

"Obama's Informants"
By Melvin A. Goodman, CounterPunch.org, posted June 25
This article by a former CIA analyst discusses the use of informant networks, historically and in the Bush and Obama administrations

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

Sunday, July 07, 2013

[haw-info] Iran War Weekly - July 7, 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
July 7, 2013
Hello All – The few reporters and writers who remained at their posts over this sweltering July 4th weekend have been focused primarily on the events in Egypt, and there is relatively little new news about Iran, its nuclear program, and/or the prospects for war or peace.  The events in Egypt, of course, have some bearing on events in Syria and thus with Iran, and I will address them below.
Although newly elected President Rowhani will assume Iran's presidency on August 3, there are still no signs that the United States intends to modify its negotiating position re: Iran's nuclear program; nor, indeed, do the "P5+1" seem anxious to get back to the negotiating table at all.  As a reminder of how unrealistic are the US "offers" now on the table, I've linked below their "confidence building" proposals from last March.
Indeed, rather than indicating a "reverse course" toward Iran, Washington is plunging ahead on the familiar path of sanctions and demonization.  A Tehran spokesman expressed disappointment last week that a new round of sanctions – this time against Iranian financial institutions – went ahead as scheduled on July 1.  And the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives just forwarded to the President an AIPAC-crafted document calling on him to implement a new round of economic sanctions to put a stop to "Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity."  More on this below.
Much of the writing in the blogosphere about Iran is still focused on how and why Rowhani won the presidential election, and what his presidency might mean for Iran and for its future relations with "the West."  I've linked several interesting essays on these topics below.
On Syria - One recent think tank report described the Syrian cockpit as having completed the transition from a Syrian war with regional implications to a regional war based in Syria.  The news from Syria this week points to increasing disarray in the Opposition camp; with all this, of course, taking place against the backdrop of steady gains by the Assad government in its fighting with the Opposition.
In response to the last issue of the IWW, which reported on the election of Rowhani, I received an email from a friend asking if it wasn't time to rename the Iran War Weekly to (perhaps) the Iran News Weekly, something more in tune with the optimism afforded by the new regime in Iran.  I replied in part by recalling that, when the IWW began in early 2012, the title was intended to reflect the actuality of the "low-level" war then underway, with US sanctions, Stuxnet, assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, and CIA activity in (at least) the Baluchistan region of Iran.  Of these acts of aggression, sanctions (at least) continue, now escalated to unprecedented economic warfare in "peacetime."  Also, as noted above, we have yet to see any indication that Washington is prepared to take advantage of the supposed "moderation" of Rowhani by changing its negotiating positions to something that could conceivably lead to an accommodation between the two sides.  Barring such changes, it is still reasonable to frame the US strategy towards Iran as one of seeking regime change, rather than simply focused on Iran's nuclear program.  Needless to say, I would be the first to rejoice in the disappearance of any need for an Iran War Weekly, when I could retire to my country estate and read novels.
Once again I would like once again to thank those of 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
Russia worried by lack of progress towards Iran nuclear talks
By Alissa de Carbonnel, Reuters [July 4, 2013]
---- Russia voiced concern on Thursday that no progress has been made towards organizing new talks between Iran and six world powers on Tehran's nuclear program, despite the election of a relative moderate as Iran's president. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said a diplomatic push had been launched to arrange a new round of talks after Hassan Rouhani was elected president on June 14 but made clear there had been no breakthrough.  "There is no agreement now on when and where the next round will be. That worries us," Ryabkov told Interfax news agency. "After the election of the Iranian president, we stepped up work in preparation for a new round of talks but so far the work is not being done transparently." The last high-level talks between Iran and the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany were held in the Kazakh city of Almaty in April. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/04/us-nuclear-iran-russia-idUSBRE9630AZ20130704
The P5+1 nuclear proposal to Iran in Almaty: Document
From Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [June 9, 2013]
Return of Old Guard Marks a New Stage in Iran's Politics
---- The victory of Hassan Rouhani in Iran's Jun. 14 election marked a significant shift in Iranian politics, occasioned by the forceful return of the two most important political factions of the Islamic Republic – traditional conservatives and reformists. These two factions had been sidelined in the past decade. In fact, many had assumed that they had permanently lost their significance, giving way to either a more radical version of conservatism or the personal dictatorship of Leader Ali Khamenei. But the alliance that was created in support of Rouhani's candidacy by three key figures of the Islamic Republic – former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, as well as former speaker of the Parliament and presidential candidate Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri – set the stage for the return of both traditional conservatism and reformism to Iranian politics. These two factions were effectively the founding pillars of the Islamic Republic. In the 1980s, they were identified as the right and left wings of the Islamic Republic because of their disagreements over the economic direction of the country. http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/07/return-of-old-guard-marks-a-new-stage-in-irans-politics/
The Rise of the Iranian Moderates
By Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Al-Monitor [July 5, 2013]
---- With Rouhani's victory, politics of Iran will shift toward the center and reduce 16 years of factionalism in the administration. Rouhani — a moderate centrist — believes the government cannot be ruled by one faction, neither Reformist nor Principalist. Instead, he advocates for the full utilization of the best and most capable public servants from both factions. … Rouhani's victory and moving the political spectrum to the center will have wide socioeconomic and political implications for Iran. The domestic and foreign policies of the country from 2013 to 2017 will ensure the pendulum does not swing toward the extremes; instead, it will be based on moderate policies in all arenas. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/07/rise-iranian-moderates.html
Region by Region breakdown of Iran presidential election vote
[FB – An interesting region-by-region interactive map showing the electoral support for each candidate.]
Also interesting on Iranian politics and the election – Reza Marashi, "Parsing Rouhani's Victory," Lobe Log [July 1, 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/parsing-rouhanis-victory/; By Ali Reza Eshraghi and Amir Hossein Mahdavi, "How 'Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's candidate' lost the election," Tehran Bureau [July 4, 2013] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iran-blog/2013/jul/04/iran-ayatollah-ali-khamenei-election?CMP=twt_gu; Ali Reza Eshraghi, "A Prudent Triumph," Lobe Log [July 2, 2013] http://www.lobelog.com/a-prudent-triumph; and Milad Odabaei, "On 'the Moderate Choice': Thoughts on the Political Significance of the Iranian Elections," Jadaliyya [July 5, 2013]
Iran's Next Leader Advocates a Less Intrusive State
By Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times [July 3, 2013]
---- Iran's president-elect, Hassan Rowhani, repeated in a speech on Wednesday his promises of more freedoms for Iranians, saying the government should not interfere in people's private lives. "We need a strong society," Mr. Rowhani told a group of Shiite Muslim clerics during the speech in Tehran, which was broadcast live, telling them to trust the people, whom he called the owners of the Islamic republic. "We should talk to the people," he said. "We should hear what they say. We should kindly hear what they say. We should lessen the chances of total rule by the government." http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/world/middleeast/irans-next-leader-Hassan-Rowhani-advocates-a-less-intrusive-state.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fworld%2Findex.jsonp&_r=1&
Why Iran looks set to lighten up under Rohani
By Scott PetersonChristian Science Monitor [July 3, 2013]
Iran's President-Elect Rohani Talks Economic Reform
By Ladane Nasseri, Business Week [July 3, 2013]
Why does Washington always get Iran wrong?
By Trita Parsi and Reza Mrashi, Aljazeera [July 1, 2013]
---- Some said the elections were irrelevant because whatever the outcome, Khamenei would be the winner. Yet the frequency with which conventional wisdom in Washington gets Iran wrong is striking. Why is that? And how can Washington's ability to read Tehran be improved? Rouhani's resounding victory sheds light on at least three factors contributing to a systemic misreading of Iran. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/2013630111133190971.html
Why Have An Intelligence Community When AIPAC Knows Better?
By Jim Lobe, Lobe Log [July 3, 2013]
---- I guess that's one of the things that occurred to me when I received [a] Press Release and [a] letter to the president from the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) yesterday. All but one of the 47 members of the Committee signed on. The letter, which was initially drafted in the offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), calls for a whole new round of sanctions to be imposed against companies and countries doing business with Iran, notably in its mining, engineering and construction-based sectors, as well as other measures that will "increase the pressure on Iran in the days ahead." While noting that president-elect Hassan Rouhani was "widely perceived as the most moderate of the candidates" running in last month's election and that its outcome "reflected considerable dissatisfaction by the Iranian people with an autocratic and repressive government that has internationally isolated Iran," it stressed that the election "unfortunately has done nothing to suggest a reversal of Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capacity." "[T]here appears nothing 'moderate' about [Rouhani's] nuclear policies…"
Also interesting – Paul Pillar, "Iran South of the Border," The National Interest [June 28, 2013] http://nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/iran-south-the-border-8680?page=show
Introduction: Egypt and Syria
---- The pundit and blogosphere debate this weekend is whether events in Egypt were a military coup that took advantage of the chaos of a popular uprising against President Morsi, or was it a revolution assisted in its final stage by the intervention of the army.  Because US legislation requires aid to Egypt to be cut off if a "coup" has taken place, this issue will undoubtedly dominate the Beltway debates in the immediate future.  Far more interesting, of course, is what happens next in Egypt; but for the modest mission of the IWW, our main concern is how the ouster of President Morsi might affect events in Syria, and thus the prospects for war between the United States/Israel and Iran.

I do not know whether ex-president Morsi's pledge of support to the Syrian opposition had advanced beyond rhetoric before his overthrow.  As noted below, one interpretation of the Army's move against him was the concern generated within its ranks by Morsi's calling at a rally on June 15th for military intervention and a holy war against the "infidels" in Syria.  As also noted below, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps the largest organized force of the Syrian opposition inside Syria, regards Morsi's overthrow as a serious blow.  And it is perhaps significant, as Anne Barnard writes below, that the candidate backed by Qatar, the leading supporter of the Brotherhood in Syria, was defeated in last week's election to head the (external) Syrian National Coalition; his opponent was supported by Saudi Arabia, which is strongly anti-Muslim Brotherhood. - FB
Out of Control: the Syrian Rebels and the US
[An Interview With Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad]
By Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch [July 3, 2013]
---- Syria is convinced the US cannot control the rebel groups it is arming and will be unable to get them to declare a ceasefire that would be central to any successful peace talks, says the country's Deputy Foreign Minister. This puts a further obstacle in the way of negotiations in Geneva proposed by the US and Russia which seem the best chance of ending the Syrian civil war. It now appears they will either not take place, or if they do, they will achieve nothing. Faisal Mekdad says in an interview in Damascus that the Americans "provide arms and money but they have absolutely no control. Nobody will listen. The US has been trying to unify this opposition for two years and you can see the results: more disintegration." Mr Mekdad has been at the centre of Syrian foreign policy at a time when the country has been progressively isolated, while still managing to retain crucial allies.
Why Iran's Gambit in Syria Might Not Pay Off
By David Shams, Muftah [July 3, 2013]
---- In a June 11 report in the Washington Post, journalist Liz Sly writes that the Islamic Republic of Iran is "emerging as the biggest victor in the wider regional struggle for influence that the Syrian conflict has become" and that "the regional balance of power appears to be tilting in favor of Tehran, with potentially profound implications for a Middle East still grappling with the upheaval wrought by the Arab Spring revolts." Despite Ms. Sly's assertion, which echoes claims made elsewhere in the media, Iran might not be quite the winner she imagines it to be. http://muftah.org/why-irans-gambit-in-syria-might-not-pay-off/
Trying to End Rifts, Syria Opposition in Exile Elects President
By Anne Barnard, New York Times [July 6, 2013]
---- But questions remained about whether Mr. Jarba, elected with a narrow majority amid new challenges for the coalition, could help unify the group. Mr. Jarba, seen as close to the government of Saudi Arabia, defeated Mustafa Sabbagh, a businessman viewed as an ally of Qatar, in a runoff election in Istanbul. Hanging over the election was the ouster last week of Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. The coalition has suffered from criticism that it is dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the best-organized exile group. The choice of a president close to Saudi Arabia, which is hostile to the Brotherhood, was seen as a counterweight to its influence. Mohammed Farouk Tayfour, a Brotherhood member, was elected one of three vice presidents. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which backs the Brotherhood, are two of the main financiers of the Syrian uprising and have wrestled for influence over the movement. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/world/middleeast/trying-to-end-rifts-syria-opposition-in-exile-elects-president.html?ref=world
Morsy role at Syria rally seen as tipping point for Egypt army
From Reuters [July 3, 2013]
---- Army concern about the way President Mohamed Morsy was governing Egypt reached tipping point when the head of state attended a rally packed with hardline fellow Islamists calling for holy war in Syria, military sources said. At the June 15 rally, Sunni Muslim clerics used the word "infidels" to denounce both the Shi'ites fighting to protect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the non-Islamists that oppose Morsy at home. Morsy himself called for foreign intervention in Syria against Assad, leading to a veiled rebuke from the army, which issued an apparently bland but sharp-edged statement the next day stressing that its only role was guarding Egypt's borders. http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/morsy-role-syria-rally-seen-tipping-point-egypt-army