Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Western governments considering easing nuclear demands on Iran: EU

Al-Akhbar | October 2, 2013

Western governments are considering allowing Iran to continue some uranium enrichment, as part of a possible deal to resolve a decade-old dispute that Tehran says it wants to reach within six months, a senior EU diplomat said.

The new stance – a reaction to President Hassan Rohani’s overtures to the West – would mean easing a long-standing demand that Iran suspend all enrichment, due to concerns Tehran could be developing nuclear weapons.

In an interview with Reuters, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said: “I believe part of the game is that if the Iranians prove that whatever they are doing is peaceful, it will, as I understand, be possible for them to conduct it.”

“It’s conditional. It is not a done deal, but nevertheless it is a possibility to explore,” he said. “Thanks to this rapprochement. How it will look, we don’t know.”

Lithuania holds the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of this year, giving Linkevicius a closer insight into many internal policy debates.

A series of UN Security Council resolutions call on Iran to halt enrichment. One of them demands “full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.”

Iran has refused to comply, saying its membership of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) gives it the right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology. That refusal has drawn several rounds of UN and Western sanctions.

Rohani, a moderate elected in June, has reiterated Iran’s insistence that it does not seek nuclear weapons, but has promised to clear up international concerns, hoping for an easing of sanctions that have hit its ability to export oil.

Western diplomats are cautious about the rapprochement, saying Iran has yet to offer any concrete proposals.

But, privately, many acknowledge that Tehran would likely need to be allowed to keep some lower-level enrichment activity as part of a broader political settlement, as long as UN inspectors were allowed sufficient oversight powers.

Israel, which claims the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to its existence, is insistent that nothing short of an end to enrichment is acceptable.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a UN summit Tuesday that the Jewish state was ready to act alone to halt Iranian efforts to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

“Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone,” Netanyahu said in an attack on overtures made by Rohani.

Israel is widely believed to have a nuclear weapons arsenal. It is the only country in the Middle East that hasn’t signed the NPT treaty.

Iran’s top general on Wednesday rejected Israel’s threat of military strikes.

“Today the choice of military option is rusted, old and blunt. It is put on a broken table that lacks stability,” said armed forces chief-of-staff Hassan Firouzabadi, quoted by Fars news agency.

“Such remarks stem out of desperation,” he said, slamming Netanyahu as a “warmonger.”

In a series of negotiations since April last year, six world powers have told Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity – a level that closes an important technological gap towards making weapons-grade material.

That demand will not change, diplomats say. But, in theory, Iran could be allowed to continue lower-level enrichment, up to 5 percent, to produce fuel suitable for nuclear power plants.

The next round of the talks between Iran and the six world powers, will be held in Geneva on October 15 and 16.

(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Can Washington Reciprocate Iran’s “Constructive Engagement”?

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett  | Going to Tehran | September 20th, 2013

As New York prepares for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly next week, the volume of Western media speculation about the prospects for a U.S.-Iranian diplomatic breakthrough is mounting to impressive levels.  Predictably, much of this speculation amounts to little more than wondering how many concessions the Islamic Republic’s new president, Hassan Rohani, is willing and will be able to make, especially on the nuclear issue.

As usual, we prefer looking at facts and authoritative statements of official positions over the speculation of journalists and pundits.  In this spirit, we want to highlight a few passages from President Rohani’s much noted Op-Ed in the Washington Post earlier this week, see here.

Three passages seem especially relevant for understanding Tehran’s position on the nuclear issue.  The first presents Rohani’s definition of “constructive engagement” (emphasis added):

“It is—or should be—counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others.  A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rightsIt means engaging with one’s counterparts, on the basis of equal footing and mutual respect, to address shared concerns and achieve shared objectives.  In other words, win-win outcomes are not just favorable but also achievable.  A zero-sum, Cold War mentality leads to everyone’s loss.”

The explicit reference to not relinquishing one’s rights is, of course, very much of a piece with Rohani’s statements, during his presidential campaign and since his election, that he is not about to surrender Iran’s right—as a sovereign state and as a non-weapons state party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—to enrich uranium under international safeguards.  Unfortunately, there is no concrete indication that the Obama administration is prepared to acknowledge this right.  In fact, one can find multiple statements from administration officials over the last five years publicly denying that there is such a right.  (This is, among other things, a legally and intellectually dishonest reading of the NPT.)

The second passage from President Rohani’s Op-Ed that we want to highlight here explains with admirable clarity why the Islamic Republic is not about to compromise its right to safeguarded enrichment (again, emphasis added):

“We must also pay attention to the issue of identity as a key driver of tension in, and beyond, the Middle East.  At their core, the vicious battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are over the nature of those countries’ identities and their consequent roles in our region and the world.  The centrality of identity extends to the case of our peaceful nuclear energy program.  To us, mastering the atomic fuel cycle and generating nuclear power is as much about diversifying our energy resources as it is about who Iranians are as a nation, our demand for dignity and respect and our consequent place in the world.”

President Rohani goes on to note, “Without comprehending the role of identity, many issues we all face will remain unresolved.”  Indeed.  Unfortunately, it remains far from clear that the Obama administration understands how tightly the matter of Iran’s nuclear rights is linked to fundamental questions of identity (like independence and control of the country’s energy resources) for Iranians who supported Imam Khomeini’s revolution and continue to support the political order it produced.

The third passage from President Rohani’s Op-Ed that we want to highlight discusses the requirements for diplomatic progress (yet again, emphasis added):

“To move beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country’s nuclear program or its relations with the United States, we need to aim higher.  Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think—and talk—about how to make things better.  To do that, we all need to muster the courage to start conveying what we want—clearly, concisely and sincerely—and to back it up with the political will to take necessary action.  This is the essence of my approach to constructive interaction.”

President Rohani certainly is not the first Iranian leader to want the United States to clarify its ultimate intentions vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic.  Unfortunately, it remains far from clear that the Obama administration is or will be prepared to lay out a clear and positive end game for nuclear talks with the Islamic Republic—for this would require the United States to acknowledge Iran’s aforementioned right to safeguarded enrichment as an essential pillar of any negotiated solution to the nuclear issue.

So, going into UNGA next week and looking beyond UNGA to renewed nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, the relevant question is not how much is Iran’s leadership prepared to concede on the nuclear issue.  Rather, the relevant question is whether Washington is prepared to abandon a strategic approach to the Middle East that has done profound damage to America’s own position in this vital region—in no small part, by rendering productive diplomacy with the Islamic Republic impossible.

This was very much the theme of an interview that our colleague, Seyed Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran, gave earlier this week to Russia Today, see here.  We append the interview, titled “Iran’s position strengthening while US in decline,” below, along with Russia Today’s editorial precede:

“Iran’s vow to never develop nuclear arms appeared to be an olive branch extended America’s way.  But it is Washington, and not Tehran who needs all the friends it can get these days, Professor Seyed Mohhamad Marandi from the University of Tehran told RT.

On Wednesday, Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani said of the Islamic Republic, ‘under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.’

Underscoring Rouhani’s concerted efforts to kick start negotiations over its controversial uranium enrichment program with the West, US President Barack Obama and Rouhani exchanged letters.  This followed recent elections in Iran and the two leaders may meet on the margins of the UN general assembly next week.  Rouhani, who took office in August, also ordered the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer, and a number of other political prisoners on the eve of a visit to the United Nations.

The White House has thus far reacted positively towards these overtures, with White House spokesman Jay Carney saying there is an opportunity for diplomacy when it comes to the issues that have presented challenges to the United States and our allies with regards to Iran.

Professor Marandi says that while the onus has been put on Tehran to return to the Western fold, it is Washington who needs Iran to help fix the mess it’s made in the region.

RTIran has always said that it would not construct nuclear weapons.  So why the apparently enthusiastic reaction from the US now?

Seyed Mohhamad Marandi:  It’s hard to say, it really should be asked why the United States didn’t respond earlier because this is what the Iranians have been saying all along.  But still I think the Iranians are quite willing to see if the apparent enthusiasm will lead to any change in US policy; that’s the important thing.  What the Iranians are doing right now is saying ‘look, we are going to preserve our sovereign rights as an independent country, we will continue with our peaceful nuclear program, we’ve never disregarded international law, there’s no evidence of that, but we are willing to create a new favorable environment for negotiations.’  So basically what the Iranians have done is put the ball firmly in the American’s court, where it’s been for quite a while, but they’re doing this basically for the international community to see, and it’s now for the United States to respond.

So far the United States has responded negatively.  As soon as Mr Rouhani became president [Washington] slapped on new sanctions, now they are taking a building that is linked to the Iranian community in the United States.  These are not positive signs, so the Iranians are waiting to see over the next few days and weeks whether the United States is going to rethink its previously irrational approach toward Iran.

RT: You mentioned peaceful energy purposes.  Will the US ever accept that?

SMM:  That’s up to the United States.  Iranians are not going to wait for US acceptance.  The Iranian position has been strengthened over the past few months, recent Iranian elections have shown Iran’s strength; the high turnout has shown there is a great deal of legitimacy in the Iranian electoral process.  The reason why some of these people in prison were released was not because of any human rights work that they did, but because after the previous elections (which they deemed fraudulent), they were helping to create unrest in the country.  But after this election, President Rouhani and many reformists and people from all backgrounds in the political establishment have said that there never was fraud and that basically this has strengthened Iran’s position.  Right now, while the rest of the region is in uproar and there’s increasing instability thanks to the United States, Iran is the only country that is completely stable and with a high turnout in the political process in the country.

On the other hand the United States has isolated itself by threatening Syria; the international community has moved against the United States, and even within the United States Obama and the political establishment has lost popularity and support over their proposed aggression against Syria.  So Iran feels that its position is much stronger today, and America’s position is much weaker.

RT: Could Iran’s new efforts to improve relations with the West be seen as a sign that sanctions have actually worked?

SMM:  Sanctions are working in the sense that some people have died because of a lack of medicine because Americans have basically tried to shut down the Iranian central bank, along with their allies.  But that has created anger among Iranians.  But at the same time, President Rouhani has said specifically that Iran is very willing to resolve questions that exist with regards to the Iranian nuclear program in the West as long as Iran’s rights are preserved.  But when the United States threatens countries, invades countries and imposes sanctions on ordinary Iranians, creating a lack of medicine for cancer patients for example, then that does not help resolve the situation.  The Iranians are not going to kneel to the United States.  Iran is a sovereign and independent country, that’s what the revolution was about 34 years ago, for Iran to gain its independence and overcome American hegemony.  It’s not a client regime like Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Jordan.  So if the United States comes to respect Iran, then we can have rapprochement.  The United States needs Iran, because thanks to its own policies, its destabilized the whole region, the United States has allowed Al-Qaeda to thrive through Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other oil rich dictatorships.  In order to salvage the situation, it needs a strong, powerful, secure and stable country like Iran to help resolve the current mess that they’ve created in the region.”

We will be spending time in New York over the next week, monitoring developments and meeting with senior members of the Islamic Republic’s UNGA delegation.  Whatever happens, it is likely to be an interesting—and potentially very revealing—week.

September 21, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Fallouts of Iran Sanctions

By Ali Fathollah-Nejad | World Policy Blog | July 31, 2013

Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rohani has promised to ease the tensions surrounding the international relations of his country. In line with the will of the majority of Iranians, the issue of economic sanctions – weighing heavily on the latter’s day-to-day life – will be a key to that end.

In general, the purpose of sanctions is to force a political opponent to do what she would not do otherwise. In the case of the sanctions imposed on Iran – during the course of what is commonly but simplistically referred to as the “nuclear crisis” – the stated goal has been to force a reversal of Tehran’s nuclear calculus toward slowing down or even halting its nuclear program. This goal has clearly not been met. Instead this period has witnessed ever more crippling sanctions – a form of “structural violence” exerted upon an entire country and its people.

Economic sanctions are one of the most preferred instruments of Western foreign policy. The immediate Western reaction to the Syrian crisis is the most recent evidence of this. In the Iranian case, sanctions have been an integral part of the transatlantic strategy pursued against Tehran, code-named “coercive diplomacy” in Diplomatic Studies. There, sanctions are usually presented as a quasi-peaceful means and as such inherently part of a purely diplomatic approach geared towards avoiding a military confrontation. However, as the Iraqi case demonstrates, sanctions are the last step before military action. In other words, “smart sanctions” are likely to be succeeded by “smart bombs.”

Apart from this worst-case scenario, sanctions have not proven to facilitate the resolution of conflicts; on the contrary, they rather tend to harden the opposing fronts. Frequently, opposing sides view sanctions through fundamentally different prisms. In this case, while the West conceives of sanctions in a cost–benefit framework – the heavier the costs imposed on the targeted country by way of sanctions, the more willing the sanctioned state will be to offer concessions. Iran on its part sees them as a means of illegitimate pressure against which she ought to resist. This explains why in the last couple of years the escalation of sanctions was accompanied by that of the nuclear program. For example, in 2006 – before the Iran sanctions were elevated to an undoubtedly crippling dimension by the United States and the European Union – Iran had a thousand centrifuges; the number today is much more than tenfold. This reality of the nuclear dynamics in the wake of sanctions remains largely ignored in Western capitals.

Moreover, it should be stressed that policymakers in the West have so far devoted much more time and energy to identifying which new set of sanctions to impose rather than to committedly and creatively finding a diplomatic solution of the decade-old stalemate.

The popular rhetoric of sanctions incorrectly characterizes the nature of the socio-economic effects imposed on the target country. Contrary to what is commonly claimed, sanctions actually weaken the lower and middle classes, particularly affecting the most vulnerable in society – workers, women and the youth. As a result, the power gap between the state and society widens. All this, as a matter of fact, actually dampens the prospect of popular uprising. A person struggling for economic survival barely has the luxury of engaging as a citoyen in the struggle for democracy. This explains the firm renunciation of sanctions by Iran’s civil society – voices that the West has largely chosen to ignore.

In political-economic terms, sanctions have largely paralyzed Iran’s civilian economy while state and semi-state economic entities – especially those associated with the Revolutionary Guards – have been able to benefit inter alia by monopolizing imports of various goods via “black channels.” State resources have buoyed those companies that have access to them, leaving others to drown in the tide of rising costs. Sanctions have also prompted enormous growth in the volume of bilateral trade between Iran and China (still about $ 40 billion according to the Iran–China Chamber of Commerce and Industries which is closely related to the regime) – to the detriment of producers and jobs in Iran. The reality of sanctions is that they have cemented the politico-economic power configuration in Iran.

Sanctions produce far-reaching effects at the geopolitical and geo-economic levels. Corresponding with the implicit geopolitical rationale for sanctions – that if you cannot control or influence a country, you will resort to weakening it – these restrictions have indeed stunted Iran’s  development trajectory. This inflicted damage has not, however, produced the ultimate goal of reversing Iran’s nuclear and regional policies and has in fact damaged Western interests by boosting the clout of countries like China, Russia, and other regional states.

In the wake of the U.S.-pressured withdrawal of the Europeans from the Iranian market, Iran was virtually handed over to China on a silver plate – something Beijing is indeed quite appreciative of. China’s economic presence in Iran can be witnessed all across the board: from the construction of the Tehran Metro to the exploration of Persian Gulf oil and gas fields.

Iran’s technocrats – a prime victim of the sanctions – observe this development with great concern. Among other things, they have seen that a healthy competition between different foreign competitors is sorely missing, and that the lack of high-tech (formerly delivered by the West) has reduced the quality of domestic production. All of this has a negative impact (mid- and long-term) on Iran’s economic and technological development. If the situation remains unchanged, such damage can hardly be compensated. As another case in point, the sale of Iranian oil to large customers such as China or India has turned into barter – a de facto “junk for oil” program has emerged. In addition, during the past couple of years China has been given preferential rates by Iran for its oil imports.

Finally, some of Iran’s neighboring countries also benefit from the sanctions. Most significantly, due to the energy sanctions against Iran, Russia can safeguard its quasi-monopoly on Europe’s energy supply – a strategic interest held by Moscow which is unlikely to be reversed easily. To a much lesser degree but still noteworthy, Turkey – which has turned into the sole land trade corridor reaching Iran from the West – has seen its profits in its dealings with Iran risen sharply. Not surprisingly, its business press has been cheering the Iran sanctions as providing Ankara with a competitive trade advantage. Also off the radar, Qatar which in the Persian Gulf is sharing the world’s largest gas field with Iran, has been able to exploit South Pars much more rapidly than Iran given the latter’s lack of access to advanced technologies. This has resulted in a tremendous gap of revenues between the two countries of many several billion dollars.

Ultimately, the policy of sanctions is counter-productive on multiple levels, most sensitively on diplomatic and socio-economic grounds. The sanctions – whether called “crippling” or “targeted” – disproportionately affect the civilian population. “Smart sanctions” are very much an oxymoron as “smart bombs” which allegedly function in surgical precision. And like their military counterparts, “targeted sanctions” inflict extensive “collateral damage.”

Despite the political need to seriously reconsider sanctions as a tool for a judicious and solution-oriented foreign policy, there are many political and institutional barriers to overcome before the extremely dense web of Iran sanctions can be dissolved – which remains not only a huge political challenge but also a moral one. The first step in this direction will be the sober realization among policymakers that while sanctions do have effects, these are not the ones officially proclaimed or desired – neither in socio-economic terms nor in the sphere of Realpolitik when it comes to altering Tehran’s nuclear calculation. Leaving the sanctions against Iran in place advances the specter of an Iraqization of Iran – with all its adverse effects internally (destruction of society) as well as externally (war and destabilization of an already too fragile regional balance).

To pave the way for a new chapter in Iran’s relations with the West, Rohani has already proved his wisdom by his choice of foreign minister. Mohammad-Javad Zarif, Iran’s former ambassador to the UN, has already been labeled as “Tehran’s leading connoisseur of the U.S. political elite”. All this undoubtedly presents the most suited prerequisite towards the aim of alleviating the multi-level liability that sanctions constitute. But at the end, it is the responsibility of those who have imposed the sanctions to initiate the process of their removal. The ball is now in the West’s court. It would truly be the “height of irresponsibility” if one missed this opportunity offered by the Iranian people who have already paid dearly for an utterly miscalculated transatlantic “coercive diplomacy.”

*****

Ali Fathollah-Nejad is an Iranian-German political scientist educated at universities in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. His website is at fathollah-nejad.com. 

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel’s Nuke Arsenal Off-Limits

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | July 15, 2013

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, host Bob Schieffer devoted more than six minutes of a ten-minute interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the topic of Iran’s alleged pursuit of a nuclear weapon, with Netanyahu explicitly threatening to attack Iran if it crossed his personally drawn “red line” on the level of permitted refinement of nuclear fuel.

Nowhere during that interview – or in the major news articles that I read about it – was there any reference to Israel’s own rogue nuclear arsenal or how destabilizing it is for one religious state possessing nukes to threaten to attack another religious state lacking a single nuke. The imbalance in this nuclear equation is so breathtaking that you might have thought it would be at the center of a testy Q-and-A. Instead it was nowhere.

Netanyahu also was allowed to denounce Iran as “apocalyptic” without any question about Netanyahu’s own frequent references to Israel facing “existential” threats. Indeed, Israel’s attitude toward using nuclear weapons is sometimes called the “Samson Option,” recalling the Biblical hero who destroyed himself along with his enemies. So, again, you might have thought Schieffer would pounce on Netanyahu’s self-serving remark. But, nah!

In other words, it was a typical day in the life of mainstream U.S. journalism, a profession which purports to be “objective” – meaning it should treat all parties to a dispute equally – but, of course, isn’t.

An “objective” interview or article would have included at least some reference to Israel’s nuclear arsenal and the question of whether Israel has the unilateral right to wage war (or even threaten war) against another country, with the particular irony that Israel is accusing Iran of pursuing a course that Israel has already taken.

But it is expected now that “objective” U.S. journalists will avert their eyes from a reality that Israel would prefer not to mention. In the real world of U.S. journalism, “objectivity” means following the bias of the powers-that-be and framing issues within the conventional wisdom.

In the CBS interview, Netanyahu also was allowed to take a free shot at Iran and its president-elect, Hassan Rowhani, who was disparaged by Netanyahu as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” whose strategy is to “smile and build a bomb.”

Netanyahu was given free rein, too, to demand that President Barack Obama demonstrate “by action” that he stands with Israel in its military threat against Iran. Those demands “should be backed up with ratcheted sanctions,” Netanyahu said. “They have to know you’ll be prepared to take military action; that’s the only thing that will get their attention.”

(It might be noted here that the United States has lots and lots of nuclear weapons and indeed is the only nation to have actually used them in warfare against other human beings. Meanwhile, Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.)

Netanyahu seemed perturbed that the Obama administration is hoping to reach an accommodation with President-elect Rowhani that would involve Iran accepting new safeguards on its nuclear program in exchange for relaxed economic sanctions.

The New York Times reported that “a senior [Obama] administration official” told reporters on Friday that Rowhani’s more moderate tone suggested he was “going in a different direction” from his predecessors and might be interested in reaching a broad settlement with the West.

In the CBS interview, Netanyahu was signaling that any accommodation with Iran – beyond one that would demand Iran’s total capitulation on its right to process uranium at all – is unacceptable to him. The U.S. press corps then repeated Netanyahu’s hard-line remarks without any of that troublesome context regarding Israel’s possession of an undeclared nuclear arsenal, considered one of the world’s most sophisticated.

That the U.S. press corps routinely fails to provide that sort of context is clear evidence that the principle of “objectivity” is one that is selectively applied, which would seem to negate the very notion of “objectivity.”

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Should be Expected From President Rowhani?

By SASAN FAYAZMANESH | CounterPunch | June 18, 2013

On June 15, 2013, Hassan Rowhani became Iran’s president-elect and raised expectations about the outcome of future meetings between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, collectively known as the P5+1. From 2003 to 2005 Rowhani headed a team that negotiated Iran’s nuclear program with France, Britain, and Germany (EU3). In these negotiations the EU3 made every effort to stop Iran’s enrichment activities. The result was the November 2004 Paris Agreement, which asked Iran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities voluntarily and temporarily in exchange for some vague and, for all practical purposes, undeliverable economic promises. In what appeared to be a kind of “good-cop, bad-cop arrangement”—where the Europeans and Americans were working together but playing different roles—the US gave this agreement guarded approval.

By 2005 there were reports that the US might support EU negotiations with Iran and accept the so-called carrot and stick approach. Even though this was no more than the bad cop joining the good cop, Israel and its lobby groups expressed opposition to any shift in US policy and waged a campaign against it. In Iran, too, there was opposition to the Paris Agreement, especially after the US gave the agreement its tacit blessing. The opposition became stronger with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President of Iran, and Rowhani was removed as the head of the negotiating team. After protesting that the Paris Agreement was turning a voluntary and temporary halt in uranium enrichment activities into a permanent freeze and that the EU had not kept its part of the bargain, Iran ended the agreement.

In 2006, the US, Russia and China joined the talks between Iran and the EU3. The group became known as the P5+1. Ever since, the meetings between Iran and the P5+1 have continued on and off, but have produced no tangible results. The question is can Rowhani change the equation, reach an agreement with the P5+1, and mitigate the sanctions imposed on Iran.

As stated earlier, the P5+1 consists of the US, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China. However, through proxies, there is also another power present at the meetings between Iran and the P5+1, i.e., Israel. Indeed, Israel is such a powerful factor that after every meeting between Iran and the P5+1, the US representative to the meeting briefs Israeli officials, sometimes even before briefing the US government. Thus, Iran is actually dealing with the P5+2.

The most import question is what these powers are trying to achieve by these meetings. Is their intention merely to end the nuclear program of Iran? Or are they ultimately trying to use these talks, and what appears to be Iran’s intransigence to end its nuclear program, to overthrow the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and replace it with a US-Israel friendly government? In order to answer this question, we have to divide the P5+2 into two groups: Russia and China on one side and the rest, which we can call the P3+2, on the other.

In the meetings between Iran and the P5+2 Russia and China seem to be merely tagging along, fishing in muddy waters to see if they can find some political or economic advantage. For example, in exchange for agreeing to impose the fourth set of UN sanctions on Iran, Russia made a deal with the US on the expiring 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the US deployment of anti-missile system in Europe, and China received less pressure from the US for its alleged currency manipulations.

Russia and China are ideologically not close to the Islamic Republic of Iran; nevertheless, they don’t seem to have any intention of overthrowing its government. They have never had a close relation with Iran in the past and don’t expect to have one in the future. Moreover, they don’t seem to believe that Iran has a nuclear weapons program and are not opposed to Iran pursuing some limited civilian nuclear program. If Iran were to deal with Russia and China directly, a resolution of the nuclear issue could be reached relatively rapidly.

The story is different with the other 5 members of the P5+2. All five, particularly the US and Israel, used to have very close relations with the Shah of Iran; and ever since the downfall of the monarchy in 1979, they have been trying to restore such relations. Moreover, Israel sees Iran as a major impediment to its continued occupation of Palestine, and this makes its animosity toward the Islamic Republic of Iran even more intense.

The P3+2, particularly the US and Israel, have used every excuse to facilitate the overthrow of the post-revolutionary government of Iran, and sanctions have played a significant role in this attempt. Among the many excuses that they have used are Iran taking hostages at the US embassy in 1979, supporting terrorism, not supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, developing weapons of mass destruction, destabilizing Afghanistan and Iraq, harboring Al-Qaeda, lacking democracy, being ruled by unelected individuals, violating human rights, not protecting the rights of women, not being forward-looking and modern and, of course, Iran developing nuclear weapons. The last one, developing nuclear weapons, is actually a relatively new excuse; it has been used as the rallying point since 2002.

In short, for 34 years sanctions have been levied against Iran, particularly by the US, even in the absence of any accusation that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Thus, members of the P3+2 appear to have a different agenda than merely ending or limiting the nuclear program of Iran; the agenda seems to be the good old notion of “regime change.” The formal meetings are used to show that Iran is not giving up its nuclear program, to pile up more draconian sanctions, to create enormous economic crisis, and, if there is a mass revolt, to wage a military attack against Iran. As long as this agenda exists, there will be no resolution, regardless of who the Iranian president is. Even if Iran agrees to halt its nuclear programs, all other excuses will remain.

Let us suppose, however, that in the meetings Iran concedes to each and every possible demand of the P3+2, or that the P3+2 reaches the conclusion that after 34 years of sanctions and threats of war there is no prospect of overthrowing the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Moreover, let us suppose that the US is apprehensive about another costly military conflict in the Middle East. Can sanctions be removed?

There are currently four multilateral sanctions and numerous unilateral sanctions against Iran. The four multilateral sanctions are imposed by the United Nations and, if the UN Security Council decides, these sanctions could be annulled. Some of the unilateral sanctions are imposed by the Council of the European Union. Theoretically, these sanctions, too, could be annulled if the Council decides to do so.

The majority of sanctions, however, are imposed by the US government. These sanctions themselves fall into two broad categories, those imposed by the executive branch and those mandated by the US Congress. The sanctions imposed by the executive branch are in the form of executive orders; and they, in turn, allow imposition of numerous sanctions by such entities as the Department of State and Department of the Treasury. These sanctions could be removed if the US president decides to do so. However, the same cannot be said of the sanctions imposed by the US Congress and signed into law by the president. An example of these kinds of sanctions is the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA), which was passed by the Congress on June 24, 2010, and signed by President Obama on July 1, 2010. These acts, which are usually much harsher and more sweeping than those imposed by the executive branch, cannot be annulled by the president at a stroke of a pen. They must be changed or removed by the Congress and this is technically very difficult. Moreover, it is hard to see how these sanctions can be removed given the fact that the underwriters of many of them are ultimately Israel and its lobby groups in the US, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). As along as Israel needs an “existential threat” to justify its occupation of Palestine, as long as the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives need the Israeli lobby groups to get elected—and would therefore sign just about every anti-Iran bill put in front of them—and, in general, as long as the US “military-Industrial complex” needs an “enemy” to continue its existence, removing Congressional sanctions is nearly impossible.

In sum, even if President Rowhani makes concessions on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, the P3+2 will ask for more; and if the P3+2’s intention continues to be “regime change,” no concession from Iran will satisfy them. Moreover, the removal of draconian sanctions imposed by the US Congress on Iran is so difficult that we should not expect real “sanctions relief” any time soon. The best that can be expected from Rowhani is the appointment of a more competent team of negotiators who can make it difficult for the P3+2 to carry out its “regime change” plan.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Netanyahu urges continued boycott of Iran

h.sharifi20121223094621973

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

Criticism of David Crist’s book Twilight War

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | August 05, 2012

Having perused the much-lauded book by David Crist, I can’t help but notice that it is not only light on citations but the material on Iran, and Iran’s nuclear program in particular, is either flat wrong or merely a reinforcement of conventional wisdom, doused in a good bit of innuendo and credulously passed along as fact with barely an acknowledgement of contrary information. This is exacerbated by his status as a “government historian” as well as someone with personal connections and knowledge of the events covered in the book, which when coupled with the dearth of citations makes it hard to tell whether he’s writing a personal memoir, official history, or a dramatic thriller.

I’m of course not in a position to check the accuracy of his characterizations of what people like Rice, Cheney, Abrams, or the generals in Baghdad knew, thought, felt or believed especially about military matters — though apparently he is. However I can cite three examples on the Iran situation which do not match up to the known public record:

First, on page 500 he asserts that Ahmadinejad restarted Iran’s enrichment program. This is one of those oft-repeated claims that has taken on the status of fact through repetition(1), the implication being that ‘that guy’, the ‘hardline president’, showed up and ruined it all.

However, Iran had announced the definite decision to end the freeze in a bitter letter to the IAEA on Aug 1st, before Ahmadinejad was sworn-in on Aug 6th. And, the Iranians had repeatedly warned that they planned to do so even before the 2005 elections started (2). In fact on July 18th, Hassan Rowhani, the head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, wrote a letter to the EU3 specifically informing them that the election had no effect on Iran’s negotiating position, that the process had the continued support of “both the President and the President-elect” as well as other agencies and officials, and warning them that they should not use the opportunity to back out of the negotiations nor make an offer which was intended to be rejected.

It is true the IAEA seals were broken on Aug 10th, just days after Ahmadinejad took office on Aug 6th. The actual resumption of enrichment was delayed because the IAEA had requested time to re-install their monitoring equipment — but it is simply incorrect to say that “Ahmadinejad restarted enrichment” and indeed I wonder if Ahmadinejad even had the legal authority to issue such orders since the nuclear program did not fall under the exclusive control of the President.

Meanwhile, absent from Crist’s account of affairs are the many Iranian compromise proposals that were put forth from 2003-2005, which included placing additional restrictions on the nuclear program well beyond what the NPT or even the Additional Protocol require (including an upper limit on enrichment) — or that all of these offers were summarily rejected due to Sec of State Rice’s insistence that “not a single spinning centrifuge” should exist in Iran. Months before Ahmadinejad’s election, the EU-3 had already agreed with the US to refer Iran’s file to the UNSC should Iran ever restart enrichment, contrary to EU’s promise to recognize Iran’s right to enrichment under the prior Paris Agreement and Saadabad Declaration — another fact that goes unmentioned by Crist. The whole affair is simply stripped of any such context or nuance and instead we’re told that Ahmadinejad came along and restarted enrichment. This is hardly a minor point because the lesson to the Iranians was clear from this whole fiasco for the Khatami administration, in which the enrichment program was set back for 3 years with nothing to show for it.

Furthermore, on the whole plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador affair, Crist seems to have already tried and convicted the accused used car salesman/ alleged hitman Arbabsiar. In fact he tells us that Arbabsiar’s handler in the Al-Qods force thought he had to rely on Arbabsiar since he didn’t have any other active operatives in the US, but felt that he could rely on Arbabsiar nontheless since the two were related. How Crist knows what Arbabsiar’s handler knew, felt, or believed — or if the handler is really related to Arbabsiar or even if he exists  — is never explained. Crist simply treats this whole assassination plot as established fact, with not even a pretence of any critical analysis or use of hedging language such as “allegedly” or “reportedly”. This, even before Mr Arbabsiar has had his day in court.

Finally, on the Khobar Towers bombing, again Crist seems to pass along the established conventional wisdom without reference to contrary facts or information. He claims that Khatami wrote a letter in response to the allegations by the US in a “typically Persian” fashion, denying Iran’s involvement and yet promising that the situation would not happen again. However, Khatami’s letter is a matter of public record and can been found online(4). Not even a tortured reading of the letter suggests any such implied acknowledgment by Khatami of Iranian involvement at Khobar. While Crist proclaims= that the Iranians had “once again” escaped any consequences for killing Americans, no reference is made to contrary information such as US Defense Sec William Perry’s statements in 2007 that the evidence actually pointed to Al-Qaeda(5).

Other bits of innuendo: He assures us that the Bush administration “had no doubt about the intentions of the nuclear program”  because the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak is “similar to” such reactors in other countries that have nuclear weapons programs — never mind that any structural similarity is simply due to the fact that the laws of physics equally apply to Iran as well as other parts of the world, or that Iran’s nuclear program including the reactor at Arak are subject to IAEA monitoring under the terms of Iran’s safeguards agreement (the dispute about the site is precisely when Iran should formally declare the site to the IAEA: before construction starts as required by the enhanced safeguards that Iran voluntarily implemented for a time as a good faith gesture, or 180-days prior to the introduction fissile material as required by the basic safeguards agreement. Nevertheless the Iranians have already allowed the IAEA visits to the construction site. Furthermore, heavy water is itself not “nuclear material” and therefore falls outside of the IAEA’s legal inspection authority.)

I must emphasize that I only perused the book but didn’t read it cover-to-cover, and don’t plan to do so.

(1) For example: “The  freeze lasted until August of 2005 when the newly elected President Ahmadinejad restarted the program.” http://www.carnegieendowment.org/static/npp/Jill_Iran_fact_1_Oct_sheet_1.pdf
(2) “Iran to Resume Nuclear Plans, Official States at U.N. Conference” – NY Times, May 4th 2005; “FM Kharrazi: Iran determined resume uranium  enrichment activities” AFP Mar 1 2005.
(3) Message from Dr. Rohani to E3/EU Ministers, July 18, 2005 http://www.armscontrol.org/pdf/20050718_Iran_Rowhani_EU3.pdf
(4) Iranian Response to Clinton Letter, undated, early September 1999. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB318/doc03.pdf
(5) “Perry: U.S. eyed Iran attack after bombing” UPI, June 6 2007 http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2007/06/06/Perry-US-eyed-Iran-attack-after-bombing/UPI-70451181161509/

August 5, 2012 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Comments Off on Criticism of David Crist’s book Twilight War