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
February 3, 2013
Hello All – Using the annual Munich Security Conference as a platform, it appears that the United States, the EU, and Iran have agreed to meet in Kazakhstan during the week of February 25th to renew negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program. The actual meeting may not be a done deal, however, as Iran has stressed the need for a realistic agenda for the next meeting, one that would at least end some of the economic sanctions and indicate a willingness to accept Iran’s right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium as part of a civilian nuclear program. Despite this caveat, the announcement of negotiations is a welcome breakthrough, as diplomacy has been snoozing since last June, and Iran’s presidential election in June probably means that further negotiations will not be possible beyond March.
The renewed negotiations appear (underline, appear) to have been jumpstarted by Vice President Biden’s announcement at Munich that the United States was willing to meet with Iran if serious negotiations were possible. Iran has long insisted that direct negotiations with the United States was the key to resolving the many disputes between the two countries, of which Iran’s nuclear program is only one. Whether Biden’s statement represents a post-election readiness of the Obama administration to negotiate seriously with Iran remains to be seen.
Just as it was impossible for the Obama administration to make any diplomatic moves toward Iran prior to the November election, it will be very unlikely that Iran’s domestic politics will allow much flexibility on its nuclear positions before their June election. In the good/useful reading below I’ve linked several articles that reflect the fierce political struggles among what used to be considered Iran’s “conservatives,” who, now that there are no longer “reformers” or “liberals” on the scene, have established the main fracture in the Iranian political elite between “traditionalists” and “populists” (e.g. Ahmadinejad). It is hard to say whether the growing dominance of the “traditionalists” will make a nuclear agreement with the P5+1 more likely.
While diplomatic doors are cautiously opening, Israel’s attack on Syria last week cracks open the door to war with Iran. As noted below, Iran’s recent statement that it would consider an attack on Syria to be an attack on itself was quickly followed by Israel’s attack on what it claimed to be Syrian weapons bound for Hezbollah. Whether through accident or design, Israeli military action against Syria that draws in Iran would of course obligate the United States to also attack Iran, with calamitous results.
Once again I would like to thank those of you who have helped in distributing the Iran War Weekly and/or linking it on websites. Previous “issues” of the IWW can be read 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.
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
The US Needs a Completely Different Approach to Iran
By Flynt and Hillary Leverett, Race for Iran [January 31, 2013]
—- As Washington and its great power partners prepare for more nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration and policy elites across the political spectrum talk as if America is basically in control of the situation. Sanctions, we are told, are inflicting ever-rising hardship on Iran’s economy. Either Tehran will surrender to U.S. demands that it stop enriching uranium or, at some point, the American military will destroy Iranian nuclear installations. This is a dangerous delusion, grounded in persistent American illusions about Middle Eastern reality. … We return from our latest visit to Iran convinced this is the only way diplomacy can succeed. No one who has walked the streets of Tehran, seen that Iran’s economy is not imploding, and talked with a range of Iranians could think that sanctions – as severe as they are and might become – will compel either Iran’s collapse or its surrender. The only thing that will work is accepting the Islamic Republic and acknowledging its interests and rights – including safeguarded enrichment. http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2013/01/31/the-u-s-needs-a-completely-different-approach-to-iran/
In Which Direction Will the 2nd Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy Move?
By Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour, Iran Review [February 2, 2013]
[FB - For those who must wade through US-based “Iran-ology,” I thought this Iranian analysis of the post-election Obama administration tea leaves might be interesting.]
—- The people who Obama has chosen for his new national security and foreign policy teams are characterized by two prominent features. The first feature is the past familiarity as well as ease of contact and interaction between them and Obama. This means that the new people in key posts are familiar with Obama’s ways and, as a result, he will be probably facing fewer problems compared to his first term when dealing with everyday affairs of the United States foreign policy. Their second feature is their good command of internal politics of the United States. This also means that they will face less practical problems both inside and outside the United States. However, despite all the explanation about the behavior and composition of these groups, it should be noted that the US foreign policy is finally implemented within framework of a complex political context.. http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Complicated-but-Innovative-Diplomacy.htm
American and Iranian Apes on a Treadmill
By Paul R. Pillar, National Interest [January 26, 2013]
—- The late Paul Warnke, who was the chief arms control negotiator in Jimmy Carter’s administration, wrote an article in 1975 that was a critique of the U.S.-Soviet arms race and was titled, “Apes on a Treadmill.” Warnke saw the two superpowers as waging an endless competition that was not in either country’s interest and argued that the United States should take the first step off the treadmill. There are many differences, of course, between the U.S.-Soviet competition in strategic arms and the current confrontation between the United States and Iran. The most obvious one, apart from Iran being nothing close to a superpower, is that on the Iranian side there are no nuclear weapons, the regime says it does not want such weapons, and the U.S. intelligence community says the regime has not decided to build such weapons. The nuclear weapons most involved are the ones owned by Israel, which wants to preserve its regional nuclear weapons monopoly. http://server1.nationalinterest.org/blog/paul-pillar/american-iranian-apes-treadmill-8025
Waking Up to Iran’s Real History
By David Swanson, War is a Crime [January 11, 2013]
[A review of M. Lachlan White, Waking Up in Tehran: Love and Intrigue in Revolutionary Iran, due to be published this spring.]
—- Waking Up in Tehran is the memoir of Margot White, an American human rights activist who became an ally of pro-democracy Iranian student groups in 1977, traveled to Iran, supported the revolution, met with the hostage-takers in the embassy, became a public figure, worked with the Kurdish resistance when the new regime attacked the Kurds for being infidels, married an Iranian, and was at home with her husband in Tehran when armed representatives of the government finally banged on the door. I’m not going to give away what happened next. This book will transport you into the world of a gripping novel, but you’ll emerge with a political, cultural, and even linguistic education. This is an action-adventure that would, in fact, make an excellent movie — or even a film trilogy. http://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/11/waking-up-to-irans-real-history/
(Audio) An Interview with Muhammad Sahimi
By Scott Horton [January 25, 2013] – 60 minutes
—- Muhammad Sahimi, political columnist and professor of chemical engineering, discusses how Iran’s religious dictatorship can be traced back to the 1953 CIA coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq; the 2009 Iranian election and subsequent crackdown on political opposition; how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has squandered Iran’s oil revenues and created a kleptocracy; and why the US needs to mind its own business and let Iranians institute their own political reforms.
NEGOTIATIONS ABOUT IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Official Says Iran Is Open to New Round of Nuclear Talks
By Steven Erlanger, New York Times [February 3, 2013]
—- Iran’s foreign minister said Sunday that his country was open to a renewed offer of direct talks with the United States on its nuclear program and looked favorably on a proposal for a new round of multilateral nuclear negotiations on Feb. 25 in Kazakhstan. But the Iranian official, Ali Akbar Salehi, does not have the power in the Iranian system to decide these matters on his own, so his comments were viewed by European and American officials as more atmospheric, designed for the trans-Atlantic audience at the Munich Security Conference, than definitive. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/world/middleeast/irans-foreign-minister-calls-for-new-round-of-nuclear-talks.html?_r=0&pagewanted=print
Low Chance for Nuclear Deal Before Iran’s 2013 Presidential Election
By Mohammad Ali Shabani, Lobe Log [January 30, 2013]
—- After the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) in Moscow last June, dialogue at the senior political level was put on ice due to the American presidential vote. Eighty-five days have passed since the re-election of Barack Obama, and high-level talks between Iran and the P5+1 have yet to resume. There are many reasons for this. ,,, The most important factor affecting Iranian behavior, however, is how it has entered its election cycle. Tehran is filled with debate and rumors about likely presidential candidates and what they’ll be able to do after assuming office. Western policymakers would be wise to recognize that all politics is local and show an understanding for how the Iranian presidential elections may slow down dialogue. www.lobelog.com/low-chance-for-nuclear-deal-before-irans-2013-presidential-election/
The Iranian Nuclear Program is Speeding Up
Iran Is Said to Be Set to Accelerate Uranium Enrichment
By Alan Cowell, New York Times [January 31, 2013]
—- Iran has told the United Nations nuclear supervisory body that it plans to install more sophisticated equipment at its principal nuclear enrichment plant, a diplomat said on Thursday, enabling it to greatly accelerate its processing of uranium in a move likely to alarm the United States, Israel and the West. Currently, Iran uses less reliable IR1 models developed in the 1970s, but has been reported for several years to be trying to enhance its enrichment capability with newer centrifuges developed domestically from technology initially acquired from Pakistan. The Associated Press quoted a diplomat in Vienna as saying Iran had told the I.A.E.A. it planned to install over 3,000 of the IR2m centrifuges in addition to thousands of the older models at Natanz. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/world/middleeast/iran-is-said-to-be-set-to-accelerate-uranium-enrichment.html?ref=world&_r=0
Diplomats: Iran Prepared to Up Nuclear Program
From the Associated Press [January 31, 2013]
The Iranian Nuclear Program is Slowing Down
Israel: Iran slowing nuclear program, won’t have bomb before 2015
By Sheera Frenkel, McClatchy Newspapers [January 28, 2013]
—- Israeli intelligence officials now estimate that Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon before 2015 or 2016, pushing back by several years previous assessments of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Intelligence briefings given to McClatchy over the last two months have confirmed that various officials across Israel’s military and political echelons now think it’s unrealistic that Iran could develop a nuclear weapons arsenal before 2015. Others pushed the date back even further, to the winter of 2016. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/01/28/181276/israel-iran-slowing-nuclear-program.html#storylink=cpy
Phantom Menace: The Iran Nuke “Threat”
By Ben Schreiner, Counterpunch [January 30, 2013]
IRANIAN POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Ahmadinejad to make first Egypt visit by Iran head in decades
From Reuters [February 2, 2013]
—- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Cairo next week, becoming the first Iranian president to travel to Egypt since Iran’s 1979 revolution ruptured diplomatic ties between the two most populous countries in the Middle East. Ahmadinejad will head Iran’s delegation to a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo, said Amani Mojtaba, head of Iran’s interest section in Cairo, which it maintains in the absence of an official embassy. http://news.yahoo.com/ahmadinejad-first-egypt-visit-iran-head-decades-162747693.html
Report: Ex-Iran FM Mottaki slams Iran negotiating team
By Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor [January 30, 2013]
—- Former Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki has reportedly delivered a stinging assessment of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team. He cast Iran’s negotiators, in comments reported by Iranian news site Baztab, as amateurish and given to posturing, more obsessed with what city to hold nuclear talks, than in making diplomatic progress that could help relieve economic hardship suffered by the Iranian people. http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2013/01/4232/ex-iran-fm-mottaki-slams-iran-nuclear-negotiating-team/#ixzz2Jrx8S6cp
Iran’s Coming Presidential Election (June 2013)
Changes To Iran's Election Law Seen As Attempt To Prevent Ahmadinejad Influence
By Golnaz Esfandiari, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty [Janaury 30, 2013]
---- Iran's Guardians Council has approved changes to the country’s election law that significantly diminish the government’s authority over elections. A Guardians Council spokesman said the new law stipulates that elections will be run by a new central election board made up of representatives from the three branches of power, as well as seven "national, political, social, and cultural" figures. Previously, the Interior Ministry was tasked with organizing and overseeing all elections. Now it will play a much smaller role. The changes, which come as the Islamic republic prepares for a June 14 presidential vote, appear to be a preemptive move to prevent President Mahmud Ahmadinejad from using his office to manipulate the vote. http://www.rferl.org/content/changes-iran-election-law-power-struggle-ahmadinejad-khamenei/24888075.html
Iran Cracks Down on Journalists Ahead of Elections
By Omid Memarian, Al-Monitor [January 29, 2013]
—- Fourteen journalists in Iran were arrested this weekend [Jan. 26-27], and while Iranian officials say the mass arrests were not a result of the reporters’ “journalism activities” but security-related, reporters inside the country tell another story. … All 14 journalists belonged to the so-called reformist camp. The raid is considered the most aggressive crackdown on independent media since the 2009 presidential election, which was followed with the arrests of hundreds of reformist journalists and political activists, many of them still in prison after receiving long-term prison sentences. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/01/iran-newspapers-14-reformist-journalists-arrested.html#ixzz2JVMFrxVR
Iran’s Parliament Sacks Another Ahmadinejad Minister
By Jason Rezaian, Washington Post [February 3, 2013]
—- Iran’s parliament Sunday voted to impeach the country’s labor minister, the ninth minister from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet to be sacked during the president’s second term in office.
Sunday’s proceedings represent a dramatic escalation in the long-standing power struggle between Ahmadinejad and the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani.
Iran and Argentina Rapprochment
Argentina and Iran agree to interrogate suspects in Jewish center bombing in Teheran
From the Associated Press, [January 27, 2013]
Israel Rebukes Argentina for Deal With Iran to Investigate ’94 Attack
By Isabel Kershner, New York Times [January 29, 2013]
ISRAELI POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
—- Although Iran and its nuclear program were barely visible in Israel’s recent election, Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately announced that the priority of his new government will be to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He seized on the IAEA announcement that Iran was installing a new generation of nuclear centrifuges (article above) to stress the urgency of Israel’s situation, ignoring the simultaneous statements by Israeli Iran watchers that Iran had slowed its nuclear program (article above).
Netanyahu’s posturing adds another piece to the puzzle of what was the meaning of Israel’s attack on Syria last week. For the first few days the front-burner question was what actually happened. Now that it is clear that Israeli planes attacked several targets in Syria, the next questions are why and why now? The standard answer – to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hezbollah – is presented in several of the articles linked below. But I was struck – as was Paul Woodward in his article linked below – that the Israeli attack came immediately after Iran had stated that any attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran itself. Is Israel trying to provoke Iran into attacking it, so that an Israeli attack on Iran would be justified as self-defense, and the Americans would be forced to intervene on the side of Israel? We shall see.
Another piece of Israeli weirdness re: Iran last week was its support (and origination?) of the claim that there had been a giant explosion at Iran’s Fordow nuclear enrichment plant. Within 48 hours everybody but the Israelis had announced that the story was a hoax; but why would Israeli get behind such an easily disprovable hoax unless a) it had really bad intelligence? or b) it simply didn’t care that the hoax would be unmasked quickly and its exponents discredited? Myself, I’m baffled.
The Israeli Attack On Syria
Is Israel baiting Iran?
By Paul Woodward, War in Context [January 31, 2013]
—- Last week, Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that an “attack on Syria is considered attack on Iran.” Yesterday, in a dangerous act of brinkmanship, Israel called Iran’s bluff.But Israel doesn’t want to be perceived as risking provoking a war and so it portrayed its air strike on Syria as an imperative act of self defense necessitated by Syria’s alleged attempt to transport Russian-made SA-17 missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. http://warincontext.org/2013/01/31/is-israel-baiting-iran/
Israelis: Missiles were at Syrian military base when aircraft struck
By Sheera Frenkel, McClatchy Newspapers [January 31, 2013]
—- The anti-aircraft missiles that were the target of a disputed Israeli airstrike on Syria this week were on a military base outside Damascus and had yet to reach the highway that leads to Lebanon when they were destroyed, two Israeli intelligence officials familiar with the air assault told McClatchy on Thursday.The officials differed on the details, with one saying that the convoy carrying the missiles was parked at a military base in the Jamraya district outside Damascus, while the other said the convoy was in the process of being moved from the base to the highway. But both agreed that the location of the base, less than five miles from the Lebanese border, made Israeli officials unwilling to wait any longer to attack.
US Green Lit Israeli Attacks on Syria, Approves Future Strikes
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [February 2, 2013]
—- More and more confirmations are coming across the media that the White House not only green lit Israel’s Wednesday attacks on Syria, but that they have offered a blanket approval for future strikes.The Wednesday attacks targeted several different sites in Syria, and the Syrian government has shown footage of the aftermath of an attack on a military research facility, one which experts claim was regularly visited by Russian military personnel. … Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has become the first administration official to go on record about the attacks, saying that the US “fully backed” Israel in attacking Syria, adding that the US was concerned about possible transfers of anti-aircraft weapons because they might be used against “civilian aircraft.” http://news.antiwar.com/2013/02/02/us-green-lit-israeli-attacks-on-syria-approves-future-strikes/
Also useful/interesting – Jason Ditz, “Obama ‘Green-Lit’ Israeli Attack on Syria,” Antiwar.com [February 1, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/02/01/obama-green-lit-israeli-attack-on-syria/; and from War in Context “Syria Parries Israel With Verbal Strike,” [January 31, 2013] http://warincontext.org/2013/02/01/is-israel-heading-towards-yet-another-war/
The “Fordow Explosion” Hoax
Israeli Officials Peddle False Stories of Explosion in Iran
John Glaser, January 28, 2013
—- Did Israeli government officials aggressively promote an unsubstantiated story about an explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility? According to Ali Gharib at The Daily Beast, yes. He writes that it is “an object lesson that shows just how far some press—and even Israeli government officials—have gone down the rabbit hole on Iran issues by propagating a story reported on a conspiracy website.” Reports have been circulating for days claiming there was such an explosion at the Iranian enrichment facility at Fordow. It might have just disappeared, but Israeli officials started pushing the story in the press, without citing any evidence, of course. http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/01/28/israeli-officials-peddle-false-stories-of-explosion-in-iran/
Also useful/interesting – Jason Ditz, “IAEA: No Sign of Explosion at Iran Enrichment Plant,” Antiwar.com [January 29, 2013] http://news.antiwar.com/2013/01/29/iaea-no-sign-of-explosion-at-iran-enrichment-plant/; and Zachary Keck, “Iran’s Fordow Nuclear Site “Explosion,” The Diplomat [January 30, 2013] http://thediplomat.com/flashpoints-blog/2013/01/30/irans-fordow-nuclear-site-explosion/?all=true
SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN
Executive Orders and Legislative Acts Regarding Current Iran Sanctions
[A comprehensive list, with links to the documents, from 1984 to date.]
The United States Could Be Violating Its Own Iran Sanctions
By Brian Fung, The Atlantic [January 31, 2013]
—- It’s hard to think of another case where sanctions have had such drastic effects on a country’s economy so quickly. Iran used to export 2.14 million barrels of oil every day; that was two years ago. Now that number stands at some 890,000. … But despite the U.S. campaign to marginalize Iran, a new report suggests Washington may be unwittingly undercutting its own efforts by buying up Iranian oil — a clear violation of the sanctions prohibiting almost all economic activity with the pariah state. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/01/the-united-states-could-be-violating-its-own-iran-sanctions/272714/
Et Tu, Karzai? Afghanistan Violates US Iran Sanctions
By Nick Schwellenbach, WhoWhatWhy [January 30, 2013]
Iran crude oil exports rise to highest since EU sanctions
From Reuters [January 31, 2013]
—- Iran’s crude oil exports in December leapt to their highest level since European Union sanctions took effect last July, analysts and shipping sources said, as strong Chinese demand and tanker fleet expansion helped the OPEC member dodge sanctions. Exports rose to around 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, according to two industry sources and shipping and customs data
CIVIL WAR/INTERVENTION IN SYRIA
Syria: How We Can End the Bloodshed
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian [January 31, 2013]
—- The motives behind Israel’s attack on Syria on Wednesday are still as obscure as the nature of the target. But two things seem clear. It was related to Israel’s long war with Hezbollah in Lebanon rather than any desire to intervene in the fighting in Syria. Yet the attack was also a reminder that Syria’s turmoil is having dangerously unpredictable consequences across the region. Finding a viable political solution is therefore all the more urgent. So it was good to hear that Moaz al-Khatib, who leads the Syrian National Coalition – the group of exiles who support armed intervention against the Syrian government and are backed by western and Gulf Arab states – now advocates talks with Basher al-Assad’s people. This is not the view of French, British and US leaders or most of Khatib’s Syrian colleagues, who talk vaguely of a political outcome but only mean Assad’s unilateral surrender. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/31/syria-israel-attack-political-solution
The US and Syria: Six lessons from the past
Marwan Bishara, Aljazeera [January 29, 2013]
—- “If the United States drew back from military intervention because of… congressional second-guessing and Soviet bluster, the Turks… refused to demobilise the 50,000 troops they amassed along their Syrian frontier.” These words read as though they’re from the morning’s paper. But this scenario played out in 1957 in Syria. Washington had finally backtracked on instigating another coup d’état after its covert plans were exposed. It would have been the fifth attempted coup, successful or otherwise, since Syrian independence a decade earlier. … Unfortunately, America rarely remembers how much Washington has mucked around in other countries even though there are valuable lessons to be learned from past experiences. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013129111028388160.html
(Video) Syria and the US: The complicity of silence
From Aljazeera [Empire] [January 30, 2013] – 50 minutes
(Video) Who supports who in Syria?
From Aljazeera [Inside Syria] [January 27, 2013] – 25 minutes
—- We look at how support for the regime and the rebels has ebbed and flowed and how it is impacting the battle for Syria. www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidesyria/2013/01/2013126125733749625.html