Iran War Weekly – May 13, 2012

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Hello All – With talks between the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) and Iran scheduled to resume on May 23, the media blackout on the negotiating strategies and changes (if any) in the positions of the several parties to the negotiations has been nearly complete.  As indicated in a statement by the P5+1 chief negotiator Catherine Ashton, “the West” still approaches the issue as one of eliminating an already existing Iran nuclear weapons program, while Iran maintains that its program is for peaceful purposes, and that it has the right to enrich uranium to accomplish this.

Peripheral or secondary issues, however, have had a lively media presence over the last week.  Once again Israeli politics have forced analysts to reconsider whether an Israeli attack on Iran is imminent.  In Syria, the terrorist bombings have raised the specter of a new, jihadist entity injecting itself into the incipient civil war, and today’s news has Syrian-related violence spilling over into Lebanon.  More positively, it appears that the United Arab Emirates may be trying to diffuse its conflict with Iran over the three small,contested islands in the Straits of Hormuz.

In addition to good/useful articles and analyses linked below that discuss all these issues, I especially encourage a look at the essay directly below on “Iran and the US Antiwar Movement”; Gareth Porter’s essay that unravels US claims about Iran’s links with al-Qaeda; and a video/interview with US political scientist Steve Walt about US policy toward Israel.

Finally, I very much appreciate the help that many of you have given in distributing theIran War Weekly and/or linking it on websites.  David Swanson has kindly given me blog space on his site “War Is a Crime,” and so you can read previous “issues” of the IWW athttp://warisacrime.org/blog/46383.  If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at fbrodhead@aol.com.

Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
 
FEATURED ESSAYS
Iran and the US Anti-War Movement
By Manijeh Nasrabadi, Jadaliyya.com [May 13, 2012]
—- The increased sanctions and growing threats of military intervention against Iran – all those options President Obama keeps reminds us are “on the table” — demand that we rise to the occasion and urgently rebuild an anti-war movement that can resonate with millions of people in the US, in Iran, in the Arab countries, and around the world. This article offers perspectives for not just opposing war but also standing in solidarity with a new wave of popular struggle. http://www.zcommunications.org/iran-and-the-us-anti-war-movement-by-manijeh-nasrabadi
 
Perceptions of Persia: The Persistent & Pervasive Orientalism of the West’s IranPolicy
By Nima Shirazi, Wide Asleep in America [May 5, 2012]
—- In their second volume of “Major Problems in American Foreign Relations,” published in 2010, Dennis Merrill and Thomas Paterson explain that Western cultural representations of the Third World are so steeped in “‘orientalist’ tones – exotic yet primitive, weak, female, childlike, racially inferior, and in need of supervision” that “ColdWar era policymakers were themselves socially conditioned and often viewed others through the Orientalist lens” and “tended to perceive fiery Third World nationalists…as emotionally unstable, politically immature, and threatening to U.S. interests.”  Consequently, “[t]hese perceptions justified policies designed to control Third World nationalism and equated self-interested U.S. intervention with parental or civilizational duty.” As renewed negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 over the former’s IAEA-supervised nuclear energy program are set to continue on May 23 in Baghdad, politicians, pundits and the press have been energetically reinforcing the Orientalist narrative.
OVERVIEWS/NEGOTIATIONS
Roundtable on Iran Crisis
By Mouin Rabbani, Jadaliyya [May 9 2012]
—- The cacophony of voices discussing and debating the merits of sanctions against, negotiations with, and war on Iran has been deafening.  For two years the expanding sanctions regime has been presented as an alternative to conflict, while it threatens to be a mere prelude to war. The only remaining question being who would attack Iran on account of its purported nuclear weapons program.  Largely absent from this debate has been analysis based on knowledge of Iranian politics and history. With this in mind, Jadaliyya has turned to two experts of Iranian politics and society to reflect on the prospects and eventual consequence of military confrontation, and the challenges confronting meaningful negotiations. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5451/introduction-to-roundtable-on-iran-crisis
 
Part 1: War on Iran in 2012?
By Eric Hooglund, Jadaliyya [May 9, 2012]
—- The US and Israeli public preoccupation with an imagined nuclear weapons program in Iran is a cover for Washington’s real political objective: regime change in Tehran. This goal has been an implicit policy objective since at least 1993, when the Clinton administration inaugurated its dual containment policy of Iran and Iraq, and has been explicit policy since 2002, when George W. Bush named Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, as members of an ‘axis of evil’ in his State of the Union address. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5442/roundtable-on-iran-crisis-part-1_war-on-iran-in-20
Roundtable on Iran Crisis, Part 2: On Attacking Iran
By Farideh Farhi, Jadaliyya [May 9, 2012]
—- Unless the Obama Administration recognizes the acute dangers of its relentless campaign to isolate Iran and strangle its economy, no meaningful dialogue can take place. This must entail genuine negotiation rather than the repetition of a demand that has repeatedly been rejected. Iran cannot and will not accept the demand for the suspension of its enrichment program. It is too heavily invested in it economically, and politically it cannot afford the appearance of surrender to external demands.http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5450/roundtable-on-iran-crisis-part-2_on-attacking-iran
 
Nuclear Negotiator Seeks ‘Beginnings of the End’ of Iran Dispute
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [May 11, 2012]
—- The lead negotiator for the six-nation group bargaining with Iran over its contentious uranium enrichment program said Friday that she hoped to achieve “the beginnings of the end” of the dispute at the next meeting, to be held in Baghdad on May 23. The negotiator, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, did not offer specifics about the substance of the next meeting, the second since Iran and the so-called P5-plus-1 nations — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — announced on April 1 that they were resuming discussions after a lapse of more than a year. Both sides described the first meeting in Istanbul on April 13 and 14 as constructive. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/12/world/middleeast/nuclear-negotiator-seeks-beginnings-of-the-end-of-iran-dispute.html?ref=world
A Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East
Israel Double Standard Jeopardizing Nuclear Weapons–Free Zone Talks
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 8, 2012]
—- Talks on establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East appeared to be thrown in doubt on Tuesday as the Western official organizing negotiations said he could not secure the needed attendance of all countries in the region. The statement by Finnish diplomat Jaakko Laajava at a meeting in Vienna did not specify which countries had so far refused to attend, but Israel has repeatedly objected to giving up its position as the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the region. Media reports are suspecting that Iran also has not agreed to attend the talks, but top Iranian officials have repeatedly voiced their support for a NWFZ. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/08/israel-double-standard-jeopardizing-nuclear-weapons-free-zone-talks/
SANCTIONS
Introduction
While U.S. and UN sanctions against Iran target a broad array of Iranian individuals, institutions, and economic infrastructure, the main focus of this week’s news about sanctions was on the impact of the sanctions on Iranian oil exports.  If sanctions are effective in reducing Iranian exports – and European Union countries are supposed to ban Iranian oil imports beginning July 1 – the price of oil should rise.  Another source of price increase is uncertainty about future supply, as a consequence of the threat of waragainst Iran.  Conversely, increased production by other countries, especially Saudi Arabia, would tend to lower the cost of oil; and reduced demand, as a consequence of the world economic recession, would also lower the price of oil.  Yet economic recession and a rising price of gasoline are very bad for politicians running for re-election in 2012, which may or may not contribute to pressure to weaken or offset sanctions.  Too many variables!  Here are some links to this week’s oil/sanctions news:
 
Oil likely to stay high despite good supply: IEA
By Christopher Johnson, McClatchey.com [May 11, 2012]
—- Tension between Iran and the West is likely to keep oil prices high despite a dramatic improvement in world supply and a big build in stocks, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday. The agency, which advises 28 industrialized nations on energy policy, said soaring global oil supply from OPEC countries and the United States far outpaced global demand, curbed by poor economic activity in developed nations. But the IEA said in its monthly Oil Market Report that uncertainty remained and the agency, which last year released strategic oil stocks to compensate for the outage of Libyan production, would be ready to act if necessary.
“The path of market fundamentals for the rest of the year remains highly uncertain and geopolitical risks will likely continue to keep prices high,” the IEA said.http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/05/11/businesspro-us-iea-idUKBRE84A0CN20120511
 
European Countries Seek Easing of Provision Included in Iranian Oil Embargo
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [May 10, 2010]
—-Britain said Thursday that it was in talks with other European Union members about possibly easing a provision of their Iran oil embargo, set to begin in less than two months, that could cause harmful and unintended side effects because it bans Europe-based insurers from covering any ships that carry Iranian oil anywhere in the world. The development came as Iran and the so-called P5-plus-1 countries — the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — are preparing for a second round of negotiations over Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in Baghdad on May 23. Iranian officials have said they expect a gesture of good faith — like an easing of the sanctions — as the talks progress. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/world/europe/european-countries-seek-easing-of-provision-included-in-iranian-oil-embargo.html?ref=world
Why India blew Hillary Clinton off about Iran
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment [May 8, 2012]
—- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in India on Monday that New Delhi can reduce its oil imports from Iran further, pressuring that country to fall in line with unilateral US sanctions and Washington’s virtual blockade on the sale of Iranian petroleum. India, however, pushed back, saying it would maintain its trade ties with Iran. Clinton’s pressure on PM Singh will almost certainly largely fail. http://www.juancole.com/2012/05/why-india-blew-hillary-clinton-off-about-iran.html
 
US POLICY
Biden to Israel: Bomb Away!
From Wide Asleep in America [May 8, 2012]
—- Speaking to an international assembly of 1,600 conservative rabbis in Atlanta today, self-proclaimed Zionist Joe Biden said that Israel still had time to attack Iran if it so chooses. “The window has not closed in terms of the Israelis if they choose to act on their own militarily,” the Vice President told the congregation. “I would not contract out my security to anybody, even a loyal, loyal, loyal friend like the United States.” http://www.wideasleepinamerica.com/2012/05/biden-to-israel-bomb-away.html
(Video) Stephen Walt — Questioning U.S.-Israel relations
From Aljazeera [May 11, 2012] – 40 minutes
 
Dealing with false claims
Introduction
Beyond the basic negotiating parameters about whether Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium for a civilian nuclear program lie issues allegedly supporting US/Israeli/European claims that Iran’s nuclear program is really for military purposes.  Some of these claims are historical, bearing on what Iran intended to do or did do in the past.  Other claims are about current Iranian activities.  Most of these claims quickly become very technical, and when they are over-simplified in media reports appear very dangerous.  Even “disproving” these claims seldom eliminates them completely from the media debate about Iran’s nuclear program.  Here are two examples from this week’s news about such claims and counter-claims.
U.S. Treasury Claim of Iran-Al-Qaeda “Secret Deal” Is Discredited
By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service [May 10, 2012]
—- The U.S. Treasury Department’s claim of a “secret deal” between Iran and Al-Qaeda, which had become a key argument by right-wing activists who support war against Iran, has been discredited by former intelligence officials in the wake of publication of documents from Osama bin Laden’s files revealing a high level of antagonism between Al-Qaeda and Iran. That claim was presented in a way that suggested it was supported by intelligence. It now appears, however, to have been merely a propaganda line designed to support the Barack Obama administration’s strategy of diplomatic coercion on Iran. http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=107743
Group Sees Sign of Iran Cleanup at Nuclear Site
By Rick Gladstone, New York Times [May 9, 2012]
[FB – The issue of “cleaning up” Parchin was raised and dismissed a few months ago. Now it is back again, as a result of claims made by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).  This question will be raised at the talks in Vienna (IAEA) next week.  Iran has ridiculed ISIS’s claims, but they will undoubtedly continue to spin in the media.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/12/world/middleeast/nuclear-negotiator-seeks-beginnings-of-the-end-of-iran-dispute.html?ref=world]
—- New commercial satellite imagery of an Iranian military site that has remained off limits to international nuclear inspectors shows recent activity that suggests the Iranians have tried to clean up a suspected explosives testing chamber there, a group that tracks nuclear proliferation said Wednesday. The group, the Institute for Science and International Security, said in a report on its Web site that the imagery showed unidentified items lined up outside the chamber, possibly related to cleaning, and what appeared to be a stream of water from or near the chamber.
IRAN
Iranian Cyber-Struggles
By Narges Bajoghli, Middle East Report [May 3, 2012]
—- From the Green Movement in Iran in 2009 through the Arab revolts that began in 2011, social media have held center stage in coverage of popular protest in the Middle East. Though the first flush of overwrought enthusiasm is long past, there is consensus that Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 applications, particularly on handheld devices, have been an effective organizing tool against the slower-moving security apparatuses of authoritarian states. The new technology has also helped social movements to tell their story to the outside world, unhindered by official news blackouts, unbothered by state censors and unfiltered by the traditional Western media.
But what happens when digital means of communication and coordination are no longer an option for activists or, at least, a very dangerous option? The state of activism in Iran, nearly three years after the largest protests since the 1979 revolution, offers a cautionary tale for partisans of social media’s emancipatory promise. http://www.merip.org/mero/mero050312
The Small Islands in the Persian Gulf
Will UAE and Iran resolve the three islands dispute?
By Nima Khorrami Assl, Aljazeera [May 12, 2012]
—- Iran and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are once again at each others’ throats over the three islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb, and the Lesser Tunb. This latest round of rhetorical warfare was instigated by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s official visit to the island of Abu Musa on April 11; a move that some described as “tactical”, aiming to stir nationalist sentiment ahead of the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Istanbul. …Blame partly lies with Britain’s “half-solution” to the dispute and its continuous refusal to either support or deny the sovereignty claims of either Iran or the UAE. It is also in Tehran and Abu Dhabi’s opposing readings of history that one can find the root causes of their contemporary antagonism. If anything, it could be argued, their mutual geostrategic interest in the islands should have paved the way for their cooperation, not their competition. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/iran/
 
ISRAEL
Introduction
For the third week running, events in Israel have had a strong impact on analysis and speculation about the prospects for war against Iran.  First there was an outpouring of elite military opinion, claiming the Netanyahu government was reckless.  A week later there was the prospect of early elections, leading many to think that an Israeli attack would follow on the expected Netanyahu victory in September or October.  And this week the Netanyahu regime absorbed the right-center Kadima party, giving Netanyahu a huge majority in the Knesset (parliament), and thus canceling plans for early elections.  So now the speculation begins anew: Will the relative shift of the Netanyahu coalition towards the center increase or decrease the prospects of an Israeli attack on Iran and its nuclear program?  I’ve bundled below links to articles that address this question.
US Officials Worried Israel’s Unity Deal Raises Prospect of Iran Strike
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 10, 2012]
—- Top officials in the Obama administration are worried that Israel’s recent deal to form a national unity government between the Likud and Kadima parties raises the prospect of an Israeli strike on Iran prior to U.S. presidential elections in November. According to some reports, anonymous U.S. officials have expressed concern that Kadima was offered a place in the coalition to shore up support for a preemptive attack on Iran and that Kadima head Shaul Mofaz would support such an attack.http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/10/us-officials-worried-israels-unity-deal-raises-prospect-of-iran-strike/
(Video) Israel’s unusual union
From Aljazeera [May 10, 2012]
—- A surprise deal with opposition Kadima party, helps Binyamin Netanyahu avoid early elections, and broadens his coalition to become the largest in Israeli history. Inside Story with guests: Stephen Cole, Ian Black & Avishay Braverman.
 
Also useful – Amos Harel, “Is Iran just an excuse for Israel’s new unity government?” Haaretz [May 2012] http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/is-iran-just-an-excuse-for-israel-s-new-unity-government-1.429093; Zvi Bar’el, “An Israeli attack onIran? Not this year,” Haaretz [May 2012] http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/an-israeli-attack-on-iran-not-this-year-1.429105; Juan Cole, “New Israeli government likely won’t launch Iran attack,” Informed Comment [May 9, 2012]http://www.juancole.com/2012/05/new-israeli-government-likely-wont-launch-iran-attack.html; Ramzy Baroud, “The Struggle Over Iran: Tumultuous Israeli Politics Will Not Usher in Peace,”  Counterpunch [May 11, 2012] http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/11/the-struggle-over-iran/; and Jonathan Cook, “Israel’s back-room deal strengthens an authoritarian trend,” The National [United Arab Emirates] [May 9, 2012] http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/israels-back-room-deal-strengthens-an-authoritarian-trend#full
With no one willing to call the belligerent PM’s bluff, the fate of the Palestinians has dropped off the agenda
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent [May 13, 2012]
—- There has always been something stagey and contrived about Israel’s blood-curdling declarations that it is going to bomb Iran, but as a strategy it has worked astonishingly well, at home and abroad. Benjamin Netanyahu has been expert at manipulating Israelis’ perception of threat. . How far is Washington complicit in Mr Netayahu’s strategy of issuing horrendous threats, and how far does it believe them? Certainly, the belief that only an economic blockade of Iran, including a ban on the importation of Iranian oil, can restrain an Israeli onslaught has been useful to the US in isolating Iran.http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-netanyahus-threats-to-bomb-iran-have-served-israel–and-the-us–very-well-7742213.html
SYRIA
Annan: Syria Plan ‘Last Chance to Avoid War’
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [May 8, 2012]
—- Though again conceding that violations continue on both sides, UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan urged continuing support for his peace plan in Syria, saying it was possibly the “last chance to avoid war” and that Syria could quickly deteriorate if the ceasefire collapses. Both sides of combatants in Syria have been hyping the violations by the other side, while downplaying their own. Violence is, however, down significantly since the ceasefire began last month, and monitors continue to deploy around the nation. How much support the US can generate in the UN for the war remains to be seen. Though French President-elect Hollande has insisted that there was no policy change, outgoing President Sarkozy has been outspoken in demanding a war.
 
Though Disparate, Syria Rebels Tenacious Against Crackdown
By Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, New York Times [May 9, 2012]
—- The reality is more complicated, according to interviews with more than 20 activists and fighters, via phone, Skype and face-to-face interviews in Syria and neighboring countries, which offer a glimpse of the uprising’s anatomy. The picture that emerges — partial and anecdotal — is of a highly decentralized, proudly local movement, distrustful of the expatriate opposition. Many activists said they wanted both Sunni empowerment and equal rights for all. If there was unanimity, it was in the fierce conviction that future leaders should come from their own ranks — “exclusively from this popular movement,” Abu Omar said — not from exile groups, like the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and secular movements. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/world/middleeast/syria-rebels-though-disparate-are-tenacious-in-crackdown.html?ref=world
 
Also useful – Jason Ditz, “Syria, Allies See Foreign Backing Behind Terror Attacks,”Antiwar.com [May 10, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/10/syria-allies-see-foreign-backing-behind-terror-attacks/; Jason Ditz, “Rebels Threaten More Attacks, Accuse Govt of Not Keeping Ceasefire,” Antiwar.com [May 10, 2012]http://news.antiwar.com/2012/05/10/rebels-threaten-more-attacks-accuse-govt-of-not-keeping-ceasefire/; Kelly McEvers, “Jihadist Group Complicates Picture In Syria,” National Public Radio [May 10, 2012] http://www.npr.org/2012/05/10/152386940/jihadist-group-complicates-picture-in-syria
Kerry Argues for Safe Zones and Arming the Syrian Opposition
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [May 9, 2012]