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Iran keeps open mind on Donald Trump

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | November 17, 2016

On Wednesday, for the first time, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed his views on the US elections of November 8. The Tehran Times quoted Khamenei as saying,

  • Unlike some of those in the world who have either been bemoaning or celebrating the results of the American elections, we are neither bemoaning nor celebrating because the results make no difference to us. Nor do we have worries, and by the grace of God, we are ready to encounter any likely incident.

Khamenei said that from a historical perspective,

  • We have no judgment about this election because America is the same America, and over the past 37 years either of the two parties which has been in office not only has done no good (to the Iranian nation), but has always been an evil to the Iranian nation.

Khameini downgraded the significance of the US election and stressed that Iran’s focus should be on promoting and preserving the “internal strength of the establishment” and nurturing and preserving the “revolutionary spirit and orientation.”

The Supreme Leader’s remarks come amidst furious speculations in the American media, driven mostly by pro-Israeli Jewish lobby, to the effect that the Iran nuclear deal (known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) faces the prospect of sudden death any moment after January 20. The Israeli intelligence website DebkaFile, which routinely disseminates sensational items on Iran, even reported that Trump is contemplating a military attack on Iran as soon as he moves into the Oval Office.

Therefore, Khamenei’s indifference is striking. It must be noted, though, that Khamenei made no reference to US president-elect Donald Trump, directly or indirectly. What does that imply?

Simply put, Iran is not worried, since Iran does not expect anything dramatically different in the US policies toward Iran. The ‘psy war’ by the Israeli lobby has failed to have an effect. The Iranians would know that Israelis habitually create larger-than-life image of themselves, but the plain truth is that Trump has not been a candidate sponsored by the Jewish lobby in America. In fact, Jewish circles have attributed to him traces of ‘anti-semitism’, Trump’s son-in-law’s Jewish ethnicity notwithstanding.

Can it be that Iran has lines of communication open to Trump’s transition team? Now, that isn’t such an outrageous thought as it may seem at first sight, because, simply put, that is the way Iranian diplomacy always worked. Iran is a tireless communicator. A clutch of ‘red lines’ apart (such as the ‘Zionists’ or Daesh and al-Qaeda),  Iran’s diplomacy is willing to engage even adversaries or detractors.

What must be noted in this context is that two key personalities in the Iranian regime, both enormously prestigious and powerful within Iran and in the outside world, have hinted in the recent days that Tehran keeps an open mind on Trump – Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the Speaker of the Majlis (parliament) Ali Larijani.

Zarif said on November 11 that in his estimation, the Trump administration will eventually accept the landmark nuclear deal “once the dust has settled and people are briefed about the realities of the region and the world.” He added, “It will be in the interest of everybody to remain committed in practice to the JCPOA. But if there are doubts about the implementation, then Iran will have its own options as well.”

Zarif is a highly experienced career diplomat who served for long years in New York and enjoys extensive contacts with American political elites and the foreign-policy community. Zarif implied here that Tehran is inclined to take much of what Trump had said on the campaign trail regarding Iran as the stuff of grandstanding and politicking, and far from the final word on the subject.

Equally, the speaker of the Iranian Majlis Ali Larijani’s remarks in Tehran last Sunday to a big gathering of some 100 parliamentarians merits even more careful attention. Larijani cautioned the Iranian religious and political elites against making intemperate remarks about the US president-elect. In a highly nuanced remark, he counselled,

  • Analyses and remarks about the U.S. president-elect should be more mature, and hasty remarks and premature judgments should be avoided until the Foreign Ministry takes a transparent stance.

No doubt, Larijani made a hugely significant remark. Larijani is a veteran diplomat and statesman of many battles with ‘Great Satan’, and chooses his words with utmost care. In effect, he pleaded for patience till such time as when Zarif could take a “transparent stance”.

Larijani spoke in the context of some flippant remarks attributed to influential clerics lately scoffing at Trump. Evidently, he has restrained them from muddying the waters and cautioned them against making “premature judgments”. Larijani is close to Supreme Leader Khamenei.

The salience of what Larijani said is that it is critically important that Zarif gets a free hand to conduct diplomacy optimally in a dynamic situation in a high-stakes game when the contours of the transition in Washington are far from crystallized.

November 17, 2016 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran’s Khamenei says nuclear talks will ‘lead nowhere’

Al-Akhbar | February 17, 2014

Iran’s top decision-maker Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that while he is not against a resumption of nuclear negotiations with the world’s major powers, the talks will “lead nowhere”.

“Some of the officials of the previous government as well as the officials of this government think the problem will be resolved if they negotiate the nuclear issue,” Khamenei said in remarks published on his website Khamenei.ir.

“I repeat it again that I am not optimistic about the negotiations and they will lead nowhere, but I am not against them,” he added.

Iran is due to resume talks on Tuesday in Vienna with the P5+1 powers – Britain, France, the United States, Russia and China plus Germany – aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord on its controversial nuclear program following a landmark interim deal in November.

Under the interim deal, Iran agreed to freeze some nuclear activities for six months in exchange for modest sanctions relief and a promise by Western powers not to impose new restrictions on its hard-hit economy.

Western powers and Israel, which is the only country in the region to have a nuclear arsenal, have long suspected Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability alongside its civilian program, charges with no evidence and constantly denied by Tehran.

Khamenei said Iran would abide by its pledge to pursue the negotiations.

“The work that has been started by the foreign ministry will continue and Iran will not violate its commitment, but I repeat it again, it will lead to nowhere,” Khamenei said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is leading Tehran’s negotiating team, arrived in Vienna on Monday. He is scheduled to meet EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton over a working dinner.

Iranian media reported the negotiations would officially begin at 0830 GMT on Tuesday.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

February 17, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

West arrogance blocks P5+1 progress with Iran

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | November 23, 2013

Potential failure to reach an interim agreement at the P5+1 negotiations in Geneva this week can be attributed to various factors: The lingering damage to confidence caused by the French spoiler lobbed into the previous round earlier this month; the subsequent lack of commitment by the US to pursue the undoubted progress that had been achieved towards closing a deal; and the intrusive lobbying by Israel and its formidable American supporters in Congress creating unhelpful background tensions.

But another major factor is this: Western arrogance. The United States, Britain and France are still behaving as hegemonic powers whose arrogance blinds them to their own outrageous double standards and hypocrisy, and prevents them from treating Iran with mutual respect.

Without this basic ingredient of mutual respect, any negotiations will continue to be frustrated.

French arrogance was perhaps most salient at this particular time. Three days before the opening of the third round of P5+1 talks in Geneva, French President Francois Hollande travelled to Israel in a display of pathetic kowtowing.

On the eve of sensitive talks in Geneva, Hollande’s theatrical rhetoric about “taking a tough stance in support of Israel against a nuclear-armed Iran” was a reckless confidence-sinking salvo.

But more than this, the French leader betrayed the kind of counterproductive arrogance that characterizes the Western attitude generally towards Iran. This hegemonic mentality is at the root of ongoing political deadlock and the continued imposition of unethical economic sanctions on the Iranian population.

Why should France be allowed to have some 60 nuclear power stations operating on its territory supplying 80 per cent of that country’s total energy needs? Why should France be allowed full control of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment to unrestricted concentrations? Why should France possess up to 500 nuclear weapons? Yet when Iran asserts its legally entitled right to develop peaceful atomic technology, France and the other Western powers impede with unreasonable objections.

Such thinking – displayed by the French, but pervading the other Western powers too – is surely the apex of arrogant doublethink. And it is this mindset that must be addressed if the P5+1 talks are to progress.

This astounding Western arrogance was again revealed in the preposterous claim by the French leader before the Israeli parliament that his country stands against proliferation of nuclear weapons. How can a Western leader spout such arrant nonsense without being ridiculed and held to account? It is a well-known historical fact that it was France that played a crucial role in illegally proliferating nuclear weapons in the Middle East by arming Israel during the 1950s and 60s.

Washington and London also share due blame for creating this dangerous and criminal double standard of nuclear weaponry in the Middle East.

Countless investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency verify Iran’s claims of pursuing legitimate civilian nuclear energy. Iranian assurances have been issued numerous times, most recently this week, by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Nevertheless, the Western powers continue to thwart progress towards a mutual settlement by a) not acknowledging Iran’s fundamental legal right to enrich uranium as bestowed to all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and b) by continuing to cast aspersions on Iran’s avowed nuclear plans.

This attitude of the Western powers is arrogant and insulting to the integrity of Iran and its revered leader; it is hegemonic and presents an unreasonable, unlawful block on resolving the dispute.

The Western hegemons’ opinions and prejudices are simply being allowed to warp what is a legal process enshrining inalienable rights.

Hollande’s words and actions this week are ample proof of that. But here is another illustration of the Western arrogance from a quarter that shows how deep and problematic that mindset runs. In a debate televised earlier this week on Press TV between Iranian Professor Mohammad Marandi and American commentator Lawrence Korb, it was notable just how regressive Western thinking is. The more troubling aspect perhaps is that Mr Korb is considered to be a voice of reason among the Washington establishment, who is in favor of diplomatic rapprochement and a deal at the P5+1 talks.

Korb sought to make an equivalence between the US and Iran, saying that “mistakes have been made on all sides.” He cited in particular the siege of the American embassy in Tehran some 34 years ago as an example of alleged Iranian transgressions.

As Prof Marandi cogently pointed out, there is no comparison between Iran and US “mistakes.” The crimes committed by the US against the people of Iran are incomparable and inordinate, including the installation of the vicious CIA-backed police state of the Shah until 1979, the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner with the loss of hundreds of lives, the US-backed Iraqi war on Iran between 1980-88, including the American-assisted use of chemical weapons against Iranian civilians. Plus the ongoing raft of economic sanctions that target sick children and terminally ill cancer patients.

In all these crimes committed against the Iranian nation, the US has been supported directly by Britain and France.

Americans, including many supposedly progressive voices, are oblivious to the scale of horror that their country has inflicted on Iran (and many other nations besides). This obliviousness is the blind outlook of arrogance that infects the brain of Washington, London and Paris, and a good many of their citizens.

Americans need to listen more and talk less; they need to do some serious soul-searching instead of pontificating all the time.

Until that arrogance is eradicated, negotiations with these powers will always prove to be frustrating and may be even futile.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu urges continued boycott of Iran

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Al-Akhbar | June 16, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday for nations to continue boycotting Iran over its nuclear efforts after the election of a new president widely hailed as a moderate.

Netanyahu said it was Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and not the newly elected president, Hassan Rohani, who set a nuclear policy that has been challenged by tough economic sanctions and the prospect of military action.

“The international community must not give in to wishful thinking or temptation and loosen the pressure on Iran for it to stop its nuclear program,” the right-wing Netanyahu told his cabinet, according to a statement released by his office.

Israel, the Middle East’s only only nuclear power, has threatened to strike Iran over its nuclear program. It is also believed to be behind a string of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists over the past several years.

“The greater the pressure on Iran, the greater the chance of bringing a halt to the Iranian nuclear program, which remains the greatest threat to world peace,” Netanyahu said.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, and its main ally Russia has repeatedly said that there is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Netanyahu’s remarks come one day after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called for tougher sanctions against Iran regardless of who is elected as its new president.

“We must toughen the sanctions against Iran and make this country understand that the military option remains on the table to halt the progress of its dangerous nuclear program,” Israeli radio quoted Yaalon as saying on a visit to the United States Saturday.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Clapper: Iran Still Not Building a Nuclear Weapon; Purpose of Sanctions is to Foster Unrest

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | April 18, 2013

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee today and reiterated the same assessment regarding Iran as was delivered in March 2013.

The exact same statements – verbatim – were included in Clapper’s unclassified report, including the assessment that “Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so. We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Of course, as Clapper notes, Iran’s ability to potentially manufacture the components is inherent to its advanced nuclear infrastructure and is not an indication of an active nuclear weapons program, which all U.S. intelligence agencies agree Iran does not have.

As such, Clapper again reported to the Senate Committee, “Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.”

In his testimony, Clapper stated that, were the decision to weaponize its nuclear energy program to be made by Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran could theoretically reach a “breakout” point within “months, not years.” His report repeats the assessment, though, that “[d]espite this progress, we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered.”

Again, undermining the bogus claims that Iran is an irrational and reckless actor, Clapper maintained the judgment that “Iran’s nuclear decision making is guided by a cost-benefit approach,” balancing its own domestic interests with “the international political and security environment.”  Iran also has a defensive – not aggressive – military posture, one based on “its strategy to deter – and if necessary retaliate against – forces in the region, including US forces” were an attack on Iran to occur.

During questioning from Senators following his prepared remarks, Clapper admitted – as a number of recent independent reports have shown – that the increasingly harsh sanctions levied upon Iran have had no effect on the decision-making process of the Iranian leadership, yet have produced considerable damage to the Iranian economy and resulted in increased “inflation, unemployment, [and the] unavailability of commodities” for the Iranian people.

This, he said, is entirely the point.  Responding to Maine Senator Angus King, who asked about the impact sanctions have on the Iranian government, Clapper explained that the intent of sanctions is to spark dissent and unrest in the Iranian population, effectively starting that Obama administration’s continued collective punishment of the Iranian people is a deliberate (and embarrassingly futile) tactic employed to foment regime change.

“What they do worry about though is sufficient restiveness in the street that would actually jeopardize the regime. I think they are concerned about that,” Clapper said of the Iranian leadership.  It is no wonder, then, why Clapper refers in his own official report to the economic warfare waged against Iran as “regime threatening sanctions.”

Not mentioned in the session, of course, are the decades of repeated affirmations by senior Iranian officials that Iran rejects nuclear weapons on strategic, moral and religious grounds.  Within the past six weeks, this position has been reiterated by Iran’s envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh, President Ahmadinejad, and Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

Just two days ago, for instance, during a three-day diplomatic visit to Africa, Ahmadinejad declared, “The era of the atomic bomb is over. Atomic bombs are no longer useful and have no effect on political equations. Atomic bombs belong to the last century, and anyone who thinks he can rule the world by atomic bombs is a political fool,” according to a report by Iran’s state-run PressTV. He also pushed back the constant conflation in Western discourse of nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. “Nuclear energy is one thing and an atomic bomb is another. This useful energy must belong to all nations,” he stated.

Furthermore, reports that Iran has continued converting its stockpiled 19.75% enriched uranium into fuel plates for its cancer-treating medical research reactor gained absolutely no traction within the Committee or Clapper’s comments. For Congress, Iran is a threat simply by virtue of having independent political considerations, inalienable national rights and refusing to accept American hegemony over its own security interests.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who spends most of his time advocating for new, illegal military adventures in the Middle East, presented this wholly disingenuous and misleading question to Clapper: “Over the last six months, as we’ve been imposing sanctions and been negotiating with the P5+1 regime, [does Iran] have more or less enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb?”

None of Iran’s enriched uranium is “for a nuclear bomb” insofar as it is all far from weapons-grade and under the safeguard and seal of the IAEA. Iran’s enriched uranium is no more “for a nuclear bomb” than Graham’s fanciest set of steak knives are for throat-slitting.

“Can I just say it’s more?,” Graham proffered, revealing that he already knew the answer he wanted to hear, at which point Clapper chimed in. “Not highly-enriched,” he said, “but up to the 20% level.” Graham was undeterred from his propagandizing and grandstanding. “Well, they’re marching in the wrong direction,” he said. “We talk, they enrich.” AIPAC poetry at its finest.

Shortly before ending the session, in response to questions from Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, Clapper stated that the relationship between the American and Israeli intelligence communities – especially on the Iranian nuclear program – has “never been closer or more pervasive,” citing unprecedented levels of “intimacy.”

While each state continues to maintain its own unique sources for intelligence gathering, Clapper said, “generally speaking,” the United States and Israel are “on the same page” when it comes to Iran.

Pressing the issue on behalf of his AIPAC backers, Blumenthal asked whether all information is shared between the two nuclear-armed nations, at which point Clapper declined to agree completely.

“Pretty much,” he replied.

Why was Clapper being so cagey?  An Associated Press report from last July seems to provide an answer:

Despite inarguable ties between the U.S. and its closest ally in the Middle East and despite statements from U.S. politicians trumpeting the friendship, U.S. national security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat.

In fact, the AP states, “The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat” in the Middle East, meaning that the agency “believes that U.S. national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.” This is unsurprising, of course, as “Israel’s foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, and its FBI equivalent, the Shin Bet, both considered among the best in the world, have been suspected of recruiting U.S. officials and trying to steal American secrets.”

Did any of that make it into Clapper’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” today? No, of course not. Israel was only mentioned as a victim and an ally. One might think an untrustworthy, nuclear-armed serial aggressor, constantly threatening to drag the United States into an unprovoked military conflict with inevitable devastating consequences, all with the allegiance and blessing of Congress, would rank rather high on potential security threats to the United States.

But James Clapper isn’t allowed to say that.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran nuclear issue overhyped: Ex-IAEA chief Hans Blix

Press TV – March 7, 2013

On February 22, 2012, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons “a grave sin” from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.

The Leader described the proliferation of nuclear weapons as “senseless, destructive and dangerous,” adding that the Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek atomic bombs as the country already has the conventional capacity to challenge the nuclear-backed powers.
A former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has dismissed as “overhyped” the Western propaganda over the ‘threat of nuclear-armed Iran,’ saying there is no evidence that Tehran is even interested in producing weapons of mass destruction.

“So far Iran has not violated the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons,” Hans Blix said in Dubai.

He added that no action can be justified against Iran’s nuclear activities on “mere suspicions or intentions that may not exist.”

The former IAEA chief had previously said that Iran has been more open to international inspections than most other countries would be.

Iran has repeatedly expressed its strong opposition to any production, possession or use of nuclear weapons, saying such arms have no place in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear doctrine.

On February 22, 2012, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons “a grave sin” from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.

The Leader described the proliferation of nuclear weapons as “senseless, destructive and dangerous,” adding that the Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek atomic bombs as the country already has the conventional capacity to challenge the nuclear-backed powers.

The US, Israel, and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.

Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the NPT and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Despite the IAEA’s numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, the UN nuclear agency has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran’s “rejection of talks” with the US

Iran Affairs | February 08, 2013

The media are full of reports about how Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatullah Khamenei has ‘rejected talks’ with the US, trying to portray Iran as the unreasonably intransigent party in this standoff. But if you check the events just prior to this bit of news, you get a better sense of what actually happened:

JAN 31st 2013: Iran informs IAEA of plans to add 3,000 faster centrifuges to its main uranium enrichment facility

Feb 2: VP Joe Biden: “We have made it clear at the outset that we would be prepared to meet bilaterally with the Iranian leadership”

Feb 3: Iranian FM Salehi: “No red lines for talks”, “But we have to make sure … that the other side comes with authentic intentions with a fair and real intention to resolve the issue.”

Feb 6: Treasury Under Secretary David Cohen announces new sanctions on Iran to take effect.

Feb 7th: Iranian Supreme Leader: “You (US) should know that pressure and negotiations are not compatible and our nation will not be intimidated by these actions”

(Chronology by BibiJon)

February 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Flynt Leverett on Israeli and Iranian Decision-Making

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Race for Iran | September 9th, 2012

Flynt Leverett appeared on Background Briefing with Ian Masters; to listen to the interview, click here.  The discussion centered on two big topics:  whether Israel will attack Iran, and whether the United States can pursue a diplomatic opening with Iranian “hardliners.”

Asked about the prospects for a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear targets, perhaps even before the U.S. presidential election on November 6, Flynt argues that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is compelled to deal with two significant constraints on his decision-making.  The first is a “capacity constraint”:  the Israeli military, on its own, simply cannot do that much damage to Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.  This is a constraint that Netanyahu or any other Israeli prime minister would have to face; it helps to explain why the leadership of Israel’s military and intelligence services and most of Israel’s national security establishment is so strongly opposed to the idea of a unilateral attack.  Of course, this is not an absolute barrier facing Netanyahu; one cannot categorically say that he and his colleagues would never decide to do something strategically counter-productive or at odds with material reality.  But, in this case, material reality does make such a decision harder.

The second constraint that Netanyahu must deal with is a political one.  Broadly speaking, the prime minister of Israel does not have the same measure of “commander-in-chief” authority as an American president.  (Actually, the U.S. Constitution would suggest that American presidents should not have as much power in this regard as they currently wield, but that’s another issue.)  Put more specifically, Netanyahu, on his own, does not have the authority to start a war, against Iran or anybody else.

For a prime minister to start a war, he must have, at a minimum, the defense minister on board; with Ehud Barak currently holding the defense portfolio, that is probably not an insuperable obstacle.  Beyond this, however, historically-conditioned expectations in Israel are that a prime minister will also have very strong consensus within an eight-member inner cabinet and a larger, more formalized, committee on defense and security affairs within the cabinet.  While outsiders do not have transparent access to the deliberations of these bodies, myriad indications coming from Israel suggest that Netanyahu, today, does not have the requisite degree of consensus to order an attack on the Islamic Republic.

We have argued before that Netanyahu’s ultimate goal is to line up the United States to take on the mission of striking Iran militarily.  But the Obama administration is not about to start an overt war against Iran before the U.S. presidential election (a covert war, of course, has been underway for some time).  Netanyahu is playing a longer-term game than that.  We anticipate that this game will come to a head in 2013—either with a re-elected President Obama or with a new Romney administration—not before November 6, 2012.

Furthermore, as Flynt points out in the interview, scenarios of Israel launching a unilateral strike in the expectation that the United States will inevitably be “drawn in” depend on Israeli leaders making deeply confident assumptions about a multiplicity of variables (in Washington, Tehran, and elsewhere) completely beyond Israel’s control.  Again, this is not to say that Netanyahu and his colleagues would never decide to do something strategically unwise.  But, here too, material reality makes such a decision harder.

The interview segues to a discussion of American diplomacy with Iran with a question about the long-term effect of the George W. Bush administration’s undercutting of former President Seyed Mohammad Khatami and his reformist colleagues through Washington’s abusive reaction to Iranian cooperation with the United States after 9/11.  Playing off this point, Ian Masters asked Flynt’s view of a recent article in which Ray Takeyh argues that, because of the religious grounding of the ideology ostensibly driving Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran—unlike the People’s Republic of China—has failed to continue moving along a path of “moderation” and reform.  In Takeyh’s depiction, the Islamic Republic today looks (at least from official Washington’s perspective) like the People’s Republic if the Maoists were still in charge.

Flynt responds that the George W. Bush administration certainly blew a major opportunity to improve U.S. relations with Iran by its witless reaction (perhaps motivated by an ideology grounded in a particular religious view?) to Tehran’s post-9/11 cooperation with the United States.  Through the remainder of Khatami’s presidency, the Bush administration continued to blow opportunities for realigning U.S.-Iranian relations—most importantly by refusing to deal diplomatically with Iran during the nearly two years (2003-2005) in which it suspended uranium enrichment in order to encourage a serious negotiating process.  But to suggest that Iran’s post-9/11 cooperation with the United States was only a function of a reformist administration in Tehran and that Washington has no openings to deal with the current Iranian leadership shows only how willfully distorted is Takeyh’s reading of Iranian foreign policy.

Ayatollah Khamenei has been the Supreme Leader through the presidencies of Ali Akbar Rafsanjani (what many analysts call a “pragmatic conservative”), the reformist Mohammad Khatami, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a “new generation” conservative.  We fully expect Ayatollah Khamenei to continue serving in this position after the Islamic Republic elects its next president in 2013.  Under the Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad administrations, Iran made serious efforts to engage the United States on the basis of mutual interests; it insisted only that diplomacy take place in an atmosphere of mutual respect.  Khatami—like Rafsanjani before him and Ahmadinejad after him—could not have sought better relations with Washington without Khamenei’s backing.  It is successive American administrations that, on a bipartisan basis, have been too obtuse to take advantage of the openings that Tehran has afforded, demanding instead that the Islamic Republic surrender to American diktats on the nuclear issue and various regional issues up front.

Moreover, if one wants to stick with Takeyh’s analogy between the Islamic Republic’s current leadership and Chinese Maoists, then let’s follow the analogy all the way through:  the United States achieved its historic diplomatic opening with China when Mao still held power and the People’s Republic was still going through the Cultural Revolution.  If the United States insists on micromanaging Iran’s domestic politics to produce exactly the kind of interlocutor it wants to deal with, it will fail.  In the process, Washington will continue to miss opportunities to do what it so manifestly needs to do, for America’s own interests—to come to terms with the Islamic Republic as it is, not as those radically disconnected from Iranian reality might wish it to be.

September 9, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Imam Khamenei Urges Creating Nuclear-Free Middle East

Moqawama | August 30, 2012

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei called on the United Nations to assume a more decisive role in creating a nuclear-free Middle East.

During the meeting he held with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his accompanying delegation in Tehran on Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to nuclear disarmament as the common concern for all of humanity.

He highlighted, “The Islamic Republic of Iran reiterates its stance on a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, and the UN should make serious efforts to allay the concerns with regard to nuclear arms.”

Imam Khamenei warned about the ongoing attempts made by the United States and some world powers to equip “Israel” with more nuclear weapons, noting that the issue “constitutes an extreme danger for the region and the UN is expected to adopt measures in this respect.”

Moreover, Imam Khamenei criticized the “defective structure” of the UN and regretted how “the world’s most bullying powers, who possess nuclear weapons and have used them before, have dominated the Security Council.”

Referring to the US-engineered allegations against Iran’s nuclear energy program Imam Khamenei stated “The Americans are fully aware that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons and [they are] merely looking for a pretext.”

Imam Khamenei condemned US and “Israeli” attempts to launch cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities and criticized the IAEA over its inaction with regard to such aggressive measures.

Ayatollah Khamenei also criticized the United Nations for its inaction toward the US military threats against Iran, reminding that the world body “was expected to promptly counter the threat.”

Addressing the Syrian unrest, Leader of the Islamic Revolution described the crisis as a “very bitter issue” which has been taking a heavy toll on the “innocent people of the country.”

“Based on its religious teachings and beliefs, the Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to make every effort to solve the Syrian crisis,” the Leader added.

Ayatollah Khamenei deplored the arming of the Syrian insurgents by foreign elements and perpetuation of a “proxy war” against the Syrian government by certain countries as the major obstacle in the way of settling the Syrian crisis.

August 30, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian president to attend NAM summit in Tehran

Press TV – August 18, 2012

Egypt’s official news agency, MENA, said on Saturday that President Mohamed Morsi plans to attend the upcoming Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran.

Morsi’s trip to Tehran will be the first such visit since Iran and Egypt severed ties more than 30 years ago after Cairo signed the 1978 Camp David Accord with the Israeli regime and offered asylum to the deposed Iranian dictator, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

The 16th summit of the NAM member states will be held in the Iranian capital on August 26-31.

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei will address the Tehran NAM summit.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also expected to partake in the event during which the Islamic Republic will assume the rotating presidency of the movement for three years.

NAM, an international organization with 120 member states and 21 observer countries, is considered as not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.

NAM’s purpose, as stated in the Havana Declaration of 1979, is to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries.”

August 18, 2012 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Minister Meridor Concedes Iran’s Leaders Have Never Called for Israel’s Destruction

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | April 16, 2012

In a recent interview, one of the more moderate ministers in the current government, Dan Meridor, conceded that a notorious phrase widely attributed to Iran’s leaders including Pres. Ahmadinejad, that Iran would wipe Israel from the map, is false.  Though Meridor, a senior cabinet member in the Netanyahu ruling coalition, believes that Iranian statements about Israel being a cancer in the region are equally distressing to Israel, he acknowledged that neither of Iran’s current leaders had ever called for destroying Israel.  That of course, didn’t prevent him from lapsing back into precisely the same claim not once, but twice later in the interview.  It seems that some tropes are so engraved in a nation’s consciousness that a politician can intellectually know they are false, publicly admit it, and then contradict himself.

The interview proved interesting as well for exposing some of the underlying assumptions of Israeli attitudes and policy toward Iran.  When asked about the unique dangers that Iran posed to Israel or the Middle East, Meridor claimed that Iran has introduced a dangerous element into the region: religion.  Now, there’s no question that Islam is a critical element of the Iranian regime.  But was Iran the first to introduce such religious nationalism?  What about that notion of Israel being a “Jewish” state?  Seems to me that is a clear expression of it as well.  Of course, Israelis will argue that the character of religious expression in the Iranian state is fanatical, intolerant and homicidal, while the character of religious expression in Israel is moderate and tolerant.  That may be what Israelis would like to believe.  But is it true?

One of the primary elements of Israeli national purpose these days is the settlement enterprise.  The justification for it is purely religious in nature.  God gave us the land and commanded us to settle in it and warned us never to part with it.  That’s more or less the gist of the argument.  So if the Muslims and Arabs of the Middle East see such a fundamental element of Israeli nationhood underpinned by religious theology, what are they to think?

Further, when Bibi Netanyahu lays out his argument for Israel attacking Iran what language does he use?  The Holocaust.  Once again, this is discourse that is fundamentally religious in nature.  A Jew may argue that the prime minister has no choice because the Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust for their religion.  But the plain fact is that Netanyahu has many arguments he could wield in making his case.  The fact that he’s offered this one hundreds of times over the years indicates not only that he finds it a powerful one, but that it resonates deeply inside him as a Jew, and he believes it will affect his domestic and international audience in a similar way.

If I were to have to isolate one of the most important parts of my mission in writing this blog it’s to point out to both sides, but especially to Jews and Israelis, that whatever fanatical notions you seek to attribute to the other side, you better look in the mirror first, because it’s more than likely that your co-religionists and fellow citizens have expressed thoughts equally as fundamentalist in nature.

In yesterday’s Times, Steven Erlanger also reveals a certain western awkwardness about the injection of religious rhetoric into political discourse.  He says that Ayatollah Khamenei’s statements about Iran’s nuclear intentions are shrouded in a “fog” of theological terms:

Ayatollah Khamenei, who is not only the leader of Iran’s government but also the final authority on Islamic law, often uses religious language when he talks about the nuclear issue, which can jar Western analysts trying to gauge the meaning of such strong statements.

This is a further indication of how clueless secular western journalists can be to the role of religion in regions like the Middle East.  The unstated implication of such statements is that because Iran’s leaders are religious fanatics their word may not be trusted, nor can we ever know for sure what they really mean.  A further implication is that western secular leaders, when they make political statements, are speaking clearly in a language every reasonable person can understand.

This assumption is riddled with unsupported cultural assumptions.  If this were only a case of cultural misunderstanding, that wouldn’t rise to the level of an issue worth being overly concerned about.  But the fact is that western misimpressions of the states, cultures and religions of the Middle East has caused round after round of mayhem throughout history.  And we may be walking into yet another one.

James Risen, in an article from yesterday’s Times makes the following racist claim:

…Some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei’s denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.

Why is it that some otherwise excellent reporters seem to lose their heads when writing about this subject?  Note Risen refuses to tell us who “some analysts” are so we can judge the credibility of this.  Further, while I’ve seen neocons, anti-jihadis and other crackpots make this claim about Shiites, I’ve never heard anyone support it with any proof that any Shiite has ever used taqiyya as justification for lying in a political context.  Just as Jews may annul vows in a purely religious context on Kol Nidre, I’m sure taqiyya is a similarly religious-based precept having nothing whatsoever to do with politics.  This is at best shoddy journalism and at worst outright racism.

Another interesting side issue that arose in the Meridor interview was a reference by the reporter to a statement by Avigdor Lieberman during Cast Lead that Israel should level a crushing blow upon “Hamas” (by which he meant Gaza) that would destroy its will to resist. He likened such a blow to the atom bombs that the U.S. dropped on Japan to end WWII. Meridor claims Lieberman never made the statement, and clearly believes the interviewer is making it up. Unfortunately, he is not and Maariv provides the proof.

In the context of the interview, Lieberman’s statement is important because it shows that Israeli leaders have spoken with bellicosity equal to anything Iran’s leaders have said about Israel. Israel has used homicidal, if not genocidal rhetoric in reference to its Arab neighbors no less than Iran may have. I would actually argue that no matter how troubling or hostile some of Iran’s rhetoric may have been, Iran has repeatedly said that it had no plans to attack Israel pre-emptively. Israel has repeatedly threatened to do precisely that to Iran. So whose rhetoric is worse?

In the interview, Meridor repeats another false claim often made by Israeli leaders and journalists: that the IAEA report released a few months ago says that Iran “has” a military nuclear “plan.” At another point, he says that Iran is “aiming” at building a “nuclear warhead” for its missiles so that they might reach Israel.  At another point in the interview he claims the IAEA has said:

Yes, they [the Iranians] are going for nuclear weapons… They are after nuclear weapons.  They [the IAEA] described the plan very well.

This is at best a wild overstatement of what the report actually said and at worst a tissue of outright lies.  The report said there are indications that Iran may have such a program.  After the interviewer points out to Meridor that all of the U.S. intelligence establishment believes that Iran has not made a decision to get a nuclear bomb, the Israeli minister says:

They said, if I remember correctly, that Iran is going after nuclear weapons… A general understanding between us and American, I think, and Europe–England, France, Germany–is, with no doubts whatsoever, that Iran has made a decision to go there…

Er, well no, they didn’t say that nor do any of the countries named believe that.  Of such errors are wars made.

Then Meridor surprised even me, by tearing a page right out of Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes and invoking Kulturkampf to explain Iran’s supposed desire to wipe out Israel and the entire western world.  The grandiose conspiratorial nature of his thinking reveals just how delusional is the mindset of some of Israel’s key decision-makers:

I think that the standoff between America and Iran, and the Muslim world is a sort of Kulturkampf, a clash of civilizations.  And some groups that are not nationally based, but religiously based–call them Al Qaeda or Jihad or Taliban and others–who think that this is a way to stop the west and the domination of those ideas, will have a real boost in a victory of Iran over those westerners that are trying to change the course, the historical course…

With thinking like this coming from one of the more moderate and supposedly sophisticated members of the Israeli governing coalition, you might as well have Anders Breivik making Israel’s strategic decisions.  There doesn’t appear that much difference in thinking between Meridor and Breivik regarding the threat posed by the Muslim world.

When the Al Jazeera reporter asked Meridor whether Israel shouldn’t join the NPT protocol and lay its own nuclear program open to the same inspections that Iran allows. The Israeli almost laughably says that Israel’s refusal to join is a “sound and good” policy and “does not bother anyone seriously.”  He also states that the question of whether there will be a war in the Middle East is “in the hands of Iran.”  This reminds me in a number of ways of the thinking of the bullies, child abusers or wife beaters who tell their victims that the question of whether they will beat them up is solely in the victims’ hands.  At the very least, it seems like putting the cart before the horse.

On a related note, the single most comprehensive debunking of the “wipe Israel off the map” claim is this article from the Washington Post.

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Israeli Minister Meridor Concedes Iran’s Leaders Have Never Called for Israel’s Destruction

UNDER THE THREAT OF WAR, IRANIANS AFFIRM THEIR SUPPORT FOR THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett |  The Race for Iran | March 18, 2012

Iranians vote in Teheran

As we have discussed in multiple posts, major Western media outlets brought an agenda-driven and intellectually sloppy approach to their coverage of the Islamic Republic’s 2009 presidential election.  From their coverage of the Islamic Republic’s recent parliamentary elections, it would seem that there has not been much of a learning curve.

One all-too-typical example is The New York Times’ main “analytic” piece about the parliamentary elections, see here; the article, entitled “Elections in Iran Favors Ayatollah’s Allies, Dealing Blow to President and his Office,” was filed by Neil Macfarquhar from Beirut.  This specimen of bad journalism cites a former reformist parliamentary now living in the United States, an editor for the opposition Rooz online, and the Washington commentator Karim Sadjadpour (who favors the Islamic Republic’s overthrow), to assert that the elections were carefully stage managed (by Ayatollah Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, working on behalf of his father) as part of an ever increasing dictatorship to abolish the presidency and turn the Islamic Republic into a parliamentary-based, prime ministerial system.  One can find these themes in many other Western media stories about the elections.

To re-introduce a note of terrestrial reality into international discussion of Iran’s parliamentary elections, we asked our colleague, Seyed Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran, to offer his observations.  We are pleased to present Mohammad’s article below.

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UNDER THE THREAT OF WAR, IRANIANS AFFIRM THEIR SUPPORT FOR THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC

By Seyed Mohammad Marandi

Most of the Western so-called reporting on the Islamic Republic’s recent parliamentary election displayed very limited direct knowledge about Iran and often, as its authors’ acknowledged, derived its their information primarily from Western-backed opponents of the Islamic Republic.  As long as this goes on, Western countries will continue to miscalculate about the Islamic Republic’s internal politics and foreign policy—and then be left wondering, again and again, why they always get things wrong.

Five points of fact illustrate the shortcomings in this approach to “understanding” Iranian politics.  First of all, contrary to unsubstantiated “green” propaganda intended to damage the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei’s son Mojtaba is not an important political figure.  Claims of this sort that are recycled in the Western media have little effect inside Iran.  Regardless of what they think about his policies and beliefs, Ayatollah Khamenei is recognized even by his opponents (like Ataollah Mohajerani) as super clean.  Moreover, people recognize that, if Mojtaba had such an important role, he would be seen regularly involved in politics and high-level decision-making processes and institutions.  He isn’t.

Second, changing the structure of government by removing the presidency would require a change in the Constitution, a process that has little to do with this year’s parliamentary elections.  It would require a referendum—not a decree from Parliament.  The current parliament has had somewhat poor relations with the incumbent President; if the parliament to be formed out of this year’s elections also turns out to be critical of the President, this will neither be new nor have anything to do with changing the Constitution.  And, in any case, Ayatollah Khamenei never spoke about any imminent change in the Constitution.  A few months ago, in a question-and-answer session with students and academics, he said in response to a question that there could be changes in the constitution in the distant future if it were concluded that a different governmental structure would work more effectively.  He then gave the example of the current presidential system.

It is also inaccurate to suggest that eliminating the presidency would make the elected branches of government weaker.  If Iran were to have a prime minister it would make the parliament even more powerful.  Either way, it would have no effect on the combined scope of authority of the executive and legislative branches.

Third, the turnout was very high in the recent parliamentary election, around 65 percent.  In fact, the turnout in Iran was much higher than in analogous off-year congressional elections in the United States (for example, turnout was just under 38 percent in the 2010 American congressional elections), and higher even than in U.S. presidential elections (turnout was just under 57 percent in the last American presidential election, in 2008).

The decisions of former Presidents Khatami and Rafsanjani to participate, along with other reformists like Majeed Ansari, Seyed Mehdi Emam Jamarani, Kazam Mousavi Bojnourdi, and Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson Hassan Khomeini, reflect this.  If turnout had been low, why would they vote and increase the “legitimacy” of the voting process and of the election results?  (This assumes, of course, that they are opposed to the current political order as implied by much of the Western media, for which there is no evidence and which I don’t agree.)  If turnout had been low, why would they want to be seen standing apart from the majority who did not vote?

In fact, they knew that turnout was going to be high; they also recognized that such high turnout shows that the public trusts the voting process, that people feel their votes count, and that they are deeply committed to the Islamic Republic.  By casting their ballots these reformist leaders have stated that they accept the accuracy, validity, and legitimacy of the voting process and that they have no link to the “greens.”  If they believed the results were unreliable, why would they vote, thereby strengthening a “corrupt” system?  Instead, they have effectively stated that they do not accept claims that the 2009 presidential election or any previous presidential election was fraudulent, even though the voting process has not changed.  Merely through their participation, they have given the voting process a clear vote of confidence.

Other major reformists who campaigned to win seats had different calculations.  People like Mostafa Kavakebian (who lost), Mohammad Reza Khabaz (who lost), Masoud Pezeshkian (who won), and Mohammad Reza Tabesh (who won) wanted a high turnout from the very start.  While they are Reformists, they wanted a display of unity and strength among Iranians against what is widely seen in Iran as Western acts of war against ordinary Iranians through embargos and sanctions.  Indeed, there is evidence from polls and follow-up panels that the publication on election day in Iran of President Barack Obama’s interview, in which he proclaimed “I don’t bluff” in the context of a military attack on the Islamic Republic, may have driven up turnout, at least in Tehran, among those who might otherwise have stayed home.

Fourth, the fact that Ahmadinejad’s sister participated and lost (by a small margin), that many independents won seats, that reformist candidates stood for seats, and that there were numerous “principlist” coalitions taking part in the elections (e.g., Jebheye Motahed, Jebheye Paydari, Jebheye Eestadegi, Sedaye Edalat, each with a different list of candidates) and that many independents won seats shows that the elections were meaningful.  There was a broad choice of candidates and the counting process is trusted and reliable.

Fifth, I do not know who will be the next speaker of parliament.  But, contrary to uninformed Western speculation, Ayatollah Khamenei never involves himself in such issues.  If, as many Western analysts and reporters claim, the Leader is out to have a subordinated parliament under the speakership of Gholam Haddad-Adel, then based on this logic he would have told Ali Larijani four years ago not to stand against then-parliament speaker Haddad-Adel and, as Mr. Larijani is an ally of the Leader, he would have acceded.  In fact, the reason why the majority of parliamentarians voted to make Mr. Larijani their speaker four years ago was their perception that he would be more critical of President Ahmadinejad.  If, as Western pundits now commonly assert, the Leader wants to weaken Ahmadinejad, he should support Mr. Larijani’s continuation as speaker.  The logic underlying such speculation is clearly flawed—in no small part because it is based on information produced in the imaginary world of Western-based and funded greens and anti-government commentators.

Despite sanctions and other forms of international pressure, the Islamic Republic has the strong support of the public.  In contrast to many countries allied to the West, it has meaningful elections that include candidates with very different political views.  In my view, there is no doubt that the Islamic Republic is here to stay and that it will outlast the dying dictatorial regimes on the other side of the Persian Gulf.

March 18, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Comments Off on UNDER THE THREAT OF WAR, IRANIANS AFFIRM THEIR SUPPORT FOR THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC