You are browsing the archive for Cyrus Safdari.

by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Bibi’s Bullsh*t, Iranian Intentions, and a Syrian Solution?

8:40 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

My apologies for being subsumed with my lln duties, lately!

Much has transpired since my last Mashup! Contrary to popular belief, the Iranian Sanctions are not the cause célèbre for Iran’s determined détente efforts!

Let’s reflect back a few months ago…

U.S. commander says Iran sanctions not working

Severe sanctions against Iran are not working, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East says.

Gen. James Mattis of Central Command made the statement at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday.

‘In your professional opinion, are the current diplomatic and economic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability — are they working’ Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, asked.

‘No, sir,’ Mattis replied.

So what we see is Netanyahu urges Obama to keep Iran sanctions in place… And our Veep totally agreeing…

Biden says Iran sanctions are most effective in history, that deeper sanctions are an option

Vice President Joe Biden says U.S.-led sanctions against Iran have been the most effective sanctions regime ever.

Biden says Iran has a choice. He says Iran can suffer deepening economic sanctions or negotiate its way back into the global community and economy.

He says the U.S. doesn’t know whether Iran is willing to do what’s necessary to resolve concerns about its nuclear program.

Because, you know Iran hasn’t shown any desire to remedy their plight, right…?

What is Kerry actually negotiating with Iran?

…While there is a lot of optimism, there’s room for quite a bit of pessimism too though just based on reading tea-leaves. For example, Kerry’s reply to the question below is not very comforting:

‘Asked what steps Iran could take to prove its seriousness, Kerry replied: “They could immediately open for inspection the Fordo facility, they could immediately sign the protocol of the international community regarding inspections, they could offer to cease voluntarily to take enrichment above a certain level.”‘

Except that Fordo has been open to inspections for years, since the Iranians (and not US intelligence agencies, as the NY Times claims) first disclosed the location of the site to the IAEA. In fact Mohammad ElBaradei himself visited Fordo, and famously said it was nothing more than a hole in the mountain and nothing to be worried about. You could not possibly be even slightly aware of the Iranian nuclear issue, without knowing the Fordo is already open to inspections.

Secondly, Iran has signed the Additional Protocol already, and offered to ratify it if its rights are also recognized, though Iran is absolutely under no legal obligation whatsoever to sign the AP, just as neither Egypt nor Argentina nor Brazil nor lots of other countries have signed.

Third, Iran has consistently stated that it is willing to limit enrichment to 3.5%. In fact Iran was forced to enrich to 20% due to US sanctions that prevented Iran from simply buying the fuel for a medical reactor (which the US gave Iran in the first place) that uses fuel rods made with 20% enriched uranium. So it was the US policies in the first place that caused Iran to increase its enrichment levels, even though the reactor in question posed no credible nuclear weapons proliferation threat and so the US sanctions on the sale of fuel for that reactor did not actually promote or protect any legitimate non-proliferation goals. The media have been very insistent on ignoring this fact even though they will gladly engage in all sorts of totally biased speculation about ‘how close to a bomb’ Iran’s 20% enrichment gets it, and other reporters have completely gone overboard and have made up their own terminology by referring to this as Iran’s stockpile of ‘medium enriched’ uranium too, though no such term appears in the IAEA Glossary. That’s how the media not only follow the dominant narrative promoted by the govt but further embellish it before they pass it on.

To be sure, both Glennzilla and Cyrus Safdari, pointed out the obvious ‘Sudden’ strawman argument…

Read the rest of this entry →

by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Hagel, Iran, Kerry, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and, Qatar

7:07 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Some more SoS Kerry:

…We came to Turkey yesterday most importantly to join with other foreign ministers from the Core Group supporters of the Syrian opposition in order to outline our vision – the support group – but also to hear and listen to the Syrian opposition outline their vision for the future of their country and for the important principles that were affirmed last night of pluralism, of the equality of all Syrians, of the effort to reject extremism, and most importantly to recognize the shared goal, the most important goal of trying to find a political resolution to end the killing, to end the destruction, and to keep Syria whole. That was a critical commitment by all parties, and I believe we’ve left here with clarity with respect to how we might try to reach out to the Russians, reach out to the others, and see if there isn’t a way to achieve that.

But absent that, we also committed to raise our assistance levels to the Syrian opposition in order to make it clear that we are not equivocating with respect to that commitment and that President Obama and others are deeply committed to a transition that affords the people of Syria the right to choose their future and to move away from this path of destruction which the Assad regime is wreaking on their own citizens, on their own country.

As you know, the United States, in fulfillment of our obligations with respect to supporting the opposition, committed to doubling our nonlethal aid and to giving much of that to local leaders who are trying to lay the groundwork for a stable and a democratic future. And each of the countries represented that were here yesterday all made a commitment to direct their military aid and assistance directly and uniquely, solely, through the Supreme Military Command General Idris. I think that may be one of the most important single things that was agreed on last night that can make a difference to the situation on the ground…

Interestingly, it was a much diminished crew of Syrian War Enthusiaists in attendance:

…In a joint statement by the 11 countries attending the Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, extreme concern was expressed over the Syria conflict and condemnation for the brutal campaign of the Syrian regime. But U.S. Secretary State John Kerry, at a press conference Saturday, said they were all still committed to a political solution.

I was pleased to today continue our discussion with our allies. They share the view we should have a peaceful transition,” Kerry said. “That’s the first priority of everybody.

Remember, at one point, there was 114 nations participating in the ‘Friends of Syria’ talks, as b at MOA succinctly pointed out today…!

Now, where is that Chuck Hagel that the AIPAC apparatchik had so feared?

Arms deal with Middle East allies signal to Iran – Hagel

… “The bottom line is that Iran is a threat, a real threat,” Hagel, who arrived in Israel on Sunday on his first visit there as defense secretary, told reporters on his plane.

“The Iranians must be prevented from developing that capacity to build a nuclear weapon and deliver it,” he said… … Asked about renewed debate in the Israeli media that Israel might have to strike Iran by itself, Hagel said “every sovereign nation has the right to defend itself and protect itself”.

Iran presents a threat in its nuclear programme and Israel will make the decisions that Israel must make to protect itself and defend itself,” he said.

But Hagel added the United States and other countries believe there is still time for diplomacy and tough international sanctions to have an impact.

The military option is one option that remains on the table, must remain on the table,” he said. “But military options, I think most of us feel, should be the last option.

Hello…? I swear it’s a full-court press …

Iran is biggest threat to nuclear pact’s credibility: U.S.

… “The actions of Iran and North Korea should concern every member of this conference,” Countryman told a news briefing.

“It is clear that if Iran succeeds in the project of constructing nuclear weapons, then it is not only the Helsinki meeting that becomes irrelevant, but it is in fact the entire credibility of this treaty.”

Countryman was referring to a decision last November to put off talks on banning atomic bombs in the Middle East that were due to have taken place in Helsinki in December.

Iran blamed the United States at the time for a “serious setback” to the NPT.

“The possession of such weapons by Iran constitutes a threat to the entire region and an impetus for greater proliferation, lateral proliferation of weapons, than we have ever seen.”

Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon would be a “genuine tipping point and would cause more damage to the treaty than anything else that has occurred in its history”, he added

What a crock of sh*t!

As my long-time fave Persian blogger, Iran Affairs’ Cyrus Safdari, had to say to the Leveretts:

Read the rest of this entry →

by CTuttle

Return of The Living Dead…

5:02 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

I always appreciate it when the Foreign Policy ‘wonks’ argue what I’ve said years ago…! Today, Stephen Walt, in FP, asked the eternal burning question…

Why do people keep predicting war with Iran?

… One of the background elements in this campaign has been repeated warnings that Israel’s leaders believed “time was running out” and that they were getting ready to launch a preventive strike on their own. This recurring theme has depended heavily on cooperation from sympathetic journalists and compliant media organizations, who have provided a platform to disseminate these various dark prophecies.

In September 2010, for example, The Atlantic published a cover story by Jeffrey Goldberg (“The Point of No Return”) based on interviews with dozens of Israeli officials. Goldberg concluded that the odds of an Israeli attack by July 2011 were greater than 50 percent. Fortunately, this forecast proved to be as accurate as most of Goldberg’s other writings about the Middle East. {…}

…Like I said, I can’t be completely sure that reason will prevail and that a war won’t happen, although there do seem to be a lot of sensible voices inside the Israeli security establishment who are counseling against it. What worries me most is that the people who have been sounding all these alarmist warnings will start to worry that their credibility is evaporating, and they will feel compelled to go to war because they’ve talked about it for so long. That’s just about the dumbest reason I can think of, but sometimes even pretty smart people do dumb things.

Does anybody realize that the last time Persia invaded any neighboring Nation, these United States were still British colonies…?

Now, what prompted my latest rant is this blatant agitprop from Ehud Barak, yesterday… Israel defense chief ‘suggests’ U.S. has new intelligence bringing worries over Iran in line with Israel’s…!

I thought Richard Silverstein best summed it up…

I don’t buy it. Not for a second. First, Barak Ravid, Haaretz’s stenographer for Barak, admits in a tweet that he hasn’t personally seen the report. He says that western and Israeli sources he considers “very reliable,” have. The Israeli source is likely Barak, who I wouldn’t consider reliable if he was the last defense minister on earth. The western source could very well be U.S. ambassador Dan Shapiro, who’s been leaking like a sieve to Israeli media on the Iran issue.

If you parse the Haaretz carefully (or even not so carefully) you won’t find a single piece of information in it that’s new or that even describes any aspect of the NIE. What I’m guessing is that Barak hasn’t even seen it himself. At no point does Ravid say that Israel has the report or has seen it. Which makes all of this nothing more than spin. Something unfortunately we’ve grown quite used to when it comes to Israeli security issues. Israel’s claims about Iran’s nuclear program have been riddled with deceit, lies and fraud. {…}

…Think on this as well: isn’t it a bit strange that there’ve been virtually no reports on the NIE in U.S. media. Why would the U.S. allow Israel to be the first to announce the news? Unless of course Barak is jumping the gun and doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Undoubtedly, there is a new NIE in the works and perhaps it does have strong things to say about Iran. But whether those things match what Barak is claiming is entirely dubious.

Even Emptywheel is confused by this new ‘leak’ war… I’m Confused. Are THESE Leaks Permissible, or Not?

…It’s okay for Ehud Barak, who was fed this intelligence either in normal intelligence sharing or alternately just handed the US the report in question and now is claiming that the report has been incorporated into the NIE (says a US official who seems determined to provide some explanation for this leak), to talk about leaked US intelligence on the record, but it’s not okay for the NSC spokesperson to do so.

It’s a new twist on the A1 cutout Dick Cheney used, I’m fairly certain: launder the leak through leaks to Israel, because no one in Congress or DC generally (except the FBI) gives a damn about leaks to Israel.

Whatever. I’m thoroughly confused. Am I right that the leak to Israel is considered acceptable but now the sources for the Reuters report will be targets of a witch hunt?

Ironically, let’s not lose sight that it is indeed a ‘war of leaks’… Saudi Arabia says it would ‘intercept Israeli planes en route to Iran’

…Saudi Arabia will not permit Israeli aircraft to cross its territory on the way to strike Iran, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Thursday. The message was passed to Jerusalem via Obama administration officials during recent talks in Israel, it claimed.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said later Thursday he had received no such message.

Senior Israeli officials reportedly see the move as a warning message from the US not to launch a unilateral strike, according to the paper.

Hmmm… But press on they must… Israeli leaders want to attack Iran before US election, says media report…

…The front-page report in the biggest-selling daily Yedioth Ahronoth came amid mounting speculation – fuelled by media leaks from both the government and its detractors at home and abroad – that war with Iran could be imminent, even though it might rupture the bedrock ties between Israel and the United States.

“Were it up to Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran would take place in the coming autumn months, before the November election in the United States,” Yedioth said in the article by its two senior commentators, which appeared to draw on discussions with the defence minister but included no direct quotes.

Spokesmen for prime minister Netanyahu and for Mr Barak declined to comment.

Yedioth said the Israeli leaders had failed to win over other security cabinet ministers for a strike on Iran now, against a backdrop of objections by the armed forces given the tactical and strategic hurdles such an operation would face.

“The respect which in the past formed a halo around prime ministers and defence ministers and helped them muster a majority for military decisions is gone, no more,” Yedioth said. “Either the people are different, or the reality is different.”

I thought my favorite Persian, Cyrus Safdari, best said it… This is just a pathetic display…

*gah*

Ramadan Kareem…!

by CTuttle

Israel or Iran, Cui Bono…?

6:00 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Let me start off the discussion with something Trita Parsi had mentioned to Laura Rozen recently…

…The United States wants Iran to stop enrichment to 20 percent, to turn over its stockpile of low enriched uranium, and to halt plans to make Fordo operational. “But what can they and the Europeans” offer in return? asked Parsi, who is the author of a new book on U.S. diplomacy with Iran. A “mutual freeze on any mutual escalation” is one possible formulation, he said. But western powers are “asking Iran to give up things they already have.” It’s hard to imagine, he added, that the United States would be prepared to offer Iran a corresponding suspension of sanctions already in place–particularly while a presidential election is under way in the United States…

Iran Affair’s Cyrus Safdari expands on the fallacy…

…And it occurred to me that in reality no one in the US can offer anything that Iran would logically and presumably ask for. For example, on the question of removal of sanctions: Can Obama actually remove the sanctions? He has the legal authority to rescind some Executive Orders, of course, but that is only a small part of the web of sanctions imposed around Iran. He would have to go up against the US Congress, which as that Tom Friedman character recently said, is “bought and paid for” by Israel. So how would these sanctions be removed, exactly? How could the State Department actually get Adelson to stop funding think tanks that hire PhDs as advocates acting under a guise of scholarly objectivity to promote the idea that giving up on sanctions amounts to Chamberlain bowing to Hitler? How could Obama get editors to stop or start using keywords and phrases over and over again in their publications, “Nuclear Weapons Program”, “Terrorism”, etc.? How could he do any of this, even if he didn’t have to worry about getting re-elected, because after all he can’t do anything unless he’s re-elected… {snip}

…So, am I right? Assuming that Washington wants to resolve things with Iran peacefully and is willing to make the necessary compromises to do so, IS anyone in Washington really in a position to deliver on such promises and to implement such policies in the face of domestic opposition, where being ‘weak on Iran’ is blood in the water for the opposing campaign? To sell any sort of real change in Iran policy to the public, or at least those who pay for his election campaigning, the President would have to be willing to consume a great deal of political capital. Can he get the necessary laws passed, and other laws rescinding? How many votes in Congress would that require? How much fighting will be required for each vote? Its just not possible. No politician in the US can do this. Even assuming he could win some of the fights, it would consume far more resources than any politician can be willing to dedicate to a single cause…

MJ Rosenberg, in Al Jazeera, cited Jeffrey Goldberg a few times…

Assassination in Tehran: An act of war?

The murder of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran suggests that Israel and neoconservatives are pushing for war.

…Writing about a piece in the current edition of Foreign Affairs that endorses bombing Iran as a neat and cost-free way to address its nuclear programme, Goldberg explains why he thinks the author, Council on Foreign Relations fellow Matthew Kroenig, is wrong. Goldberg says he now believes:

…that advocates of an attack on Iran today would be exchanging a theoretical nightmare – an Iran with nukes – for an actual nightmare: A potentially out-of-control conventional war raging across the Middle East that could cost the lives of thousands Iranians, Israelis, Gulf Arabs and even American servicemen.

Think about that for a minute. Uber-hawk Jeffrey Goldberg is saying that the threat posed by Iran is a “theoretical nightmare” while a war ostensibly to neutralise that threat would present an “actual nightmare”.

{snip}

…Here is Jeff Goldberg again in a column subsequent to the one I already cited:

If I were a member of the Iranian regime (and I’m not), I would take this assassination program to mean that the West is entirely uninterested in any form of negotiation (not that I, the regime official, has ever been much interested in dialogue with the West) and that I should double-down and cross the nuclear threshold as fast as humanly possible. Once I do that, I’m North Korea, or Pakistan: An untouchable country.

In short, for those hell-bent on getting the US engaged in a war that even Jeff Goldberg views as a “nightmare” for both the US and Israel, this is a very good day indeed.

Congratulations. Or something like that.

Jim Lobe really hammers home the point…

Whoever Killed the Scientist Was Aiming at Much More

…My sense of the last week or so was that the mostly verbal confrontation between Iran and the U.S., particularly regarding the Strait of Hormuz, was spinning out of control much more rapidly than anyone had expected and that the possibility of a conflict had suddenly become very real in ways the Obama administration certainly never intended. (See Anne-Marie Slaughter’s CNN column, “Saving Face and Peace in the Gulf,” as an example of “this is getting really dangerous all of a sudden”. Until last fall, of course, she was Clinton’s director of policy planning and a very influential figure in the administration.) So there seemed to be a real effort to dial things back, expressed not only in repeated statements by senior administration officials, including Clinton, emphasizing Washington’s readiness to negotiate, but also, if the always well-informed Laura Rozen is to be believed, a lot of diplomatic — some of it, I’m sure, behind the scenes — manoeuvring to get the P5+1 process back into gear, with Turkey serving as the convenor/mediator.

Under these circumstances, the timing of today’s assassination was particularly remarkable. Among other things, it makes me believe that the U.S., which condemned the attack and categorically denied any role in it (See Clinton’s statement in her press conference with the Qatari Prime Minister here), was not in fact involved.* That leaves two obvious suspects: 1) Israel and 2) a faction within the Iranian regime. If there was indeed an Israeli hand behind it, the assassination was not just an effort to set back the Iran’s nuclear program and induce fear among other scientists working on it. I think it was also a provocation designed to 1) blow up prospects for progress in any p5+1 negotiations that might convene over the next month or so; 2) strengthen hard-line factions in Tehran that oppose negotiations; and 3) possibly provoke retaliation that will further escalate tensions, if not armed conflict. Of course, all three of these overlap and reinforce each other. If it was an internal Iranian faction, which, frankly, I find more difficult to believe, both 1) and 2) above also apply…

About the possible internal Iranian faction within the Iranian Regime, both Emptywheel and Jim White are pointing to JSOC ops, as opposed to CIA ops, and, even the possibility of Mossad posing as CIA agents…!

Alex Kane at Mondoweiss had this to add…The headline you aren’t seeing: Iran wants talks, Israel pushing for war…

Foreign Policy has been abuzz with numerous posts…

Iran agreed to nuclear talks and an IAEA mission… And… Do Israelis really want to bomb Iran?

Now, as ex-CIA Middle East desk Chief, Philip Giraldi, updates his 2007 prognostication of What World War III May Look Like… He then paints a mighty bleak picture of What War With Iran Might Look Like…

God help us all…!