Iran War Weekly September 16, 2012

 In 1947 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists first placed a clock on its cover, with the hands at seven minutes before midnight.  Nuclear war was that close, the atomic scientists thought.  And over the past 65 years the hands of the clock have moved back and forth, from two minutes before midnight (1953) to 17 minutes before midnight (1991).  There is no similar clock counting down war against Iran, but if there were, the hands moved back a few minutes this week.
 
I base this guestimate on several indicators.  The first is the clear rejection by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton of Israeli president Netanyahu’s demand that the United States set “deadlines” or “redlines” beyond which it would not allow Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.  A second and related indicator is the further isolation of Netanyahu from the growing antiwar consensus (or at least no war without the United States) among Israel’s political and military elite.  The US political elite also spoke out against war this week, as instanced by a New York Times editorial and by a report on the “cost-benefit” of war that was signed off on by many foreign policy heavyweights from years past.  (Needless to say, no one from the political elite seems to have objections in principle to attacking Iran– the illegality of such an act is not even discussable – but pragmatic considerations, the impact of US economic warfare against Iran, etc. suggest delay and caution.)  And finally, as the New York Times lead story today suggests, the United States political leadership is preparing itself for a prolonged siege of US interests in the Middle East; and perhaps this is not a good time to start another war there.
Each of these “indicators” is discussed in good/useful articles linked below.  Among the links to good/useful reading about other main events from the past week, I have included a set of readings about the UN’s IAEA follow-up to its recent negative report condemning Iran’s cooperation regarding its nuclear program; an interesting critique of the weak legal basis for IAEA proceedings against Iran by Dan Joyner; a link to this week’s report on the cost-benefits of war with Iran and some useful comments on the report; good overviews of the failures of US policy toward Iran by William Greider and David Bromwich; a link to a comprehensive report by the Congressional Research Service on sanctions against Iran; and several commentaries on David Makovsky’s recent article in The New Yorker about the relevance of Israel’s 2007 attack on Syria’s alleged nuclear site as a model for what might be done against Iran.
For those who would like user-friendly daily updates re: Iran and Syria, I recommend the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMI) [UK] - http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/, and Syria Comment (now back up and running) - http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/.
 
Once again, I appreciate the help that many of you have given in distributing the Iran War Weekly and/or linking it on websites.  Previous “issues” of the IWW can be read at http://warisacrime.org/blog/46383.  If you would like to receive the IWW mailings, please send me an email at fbrodhead@aol.com.
Best wishes,
Frank Brodhead
Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
 
WHAT ABOUT WAR?
Why War with Iran Would Spell Disaster
By Murtaza Hussain, Aljazeera [September 12, 2012]
—- War with Iran would be no quick and clean affair, as many senior political and military figures have pointed out it would make the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which cost trillions of dollars and the lives of thousands of soldiers and civilians, seem like “a cakewalk”. The fact that it is becoming increasingly likely, inevitable in the eyes of many, and that it is high on the agenda of so many leading political figures warrants exploration of what such a conflict would really entail…. Not a war of weeks or months, but a “generations-long war” is how no less a figure than former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy describes the consequences of open conflict with Iran. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/09/201291194236970294.html
 
No Rush to War
Editorial, New York Times [September 14, 2012]
—- There is no reason to doubt President Obama’s oft-repeated commitment to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. But 70 percent of Americans oppose a unilateral strike on Iran, according to a new poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and 59 percent said if Israel bombs Iran and ignites a war, the United States should not come to its ally’s defense. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/15/opinion/no-rush-to-war.html?ref=opinion
Poll Shows Overwhelming US Opposition to Attacking Iran
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [September 11, 2012]
—- A new poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs shows an overwhelming opposition to the idea of attacking Iran among American voters, with 70 percent saying they are opposed to the idea of a unilateral US attack on Iran. The poll showed a declining number of Americans considering Iran’s civilian nuclear program a “threat” to American interests, and solid majorities opposed US involvement in an Iran war authorized by the UN or in joining an Israeli attack on Iran. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/11/poll-shows-overwhelming-us-opposition-to-attacking-iran/
Who’s Got the Nukes?
By William Greider, The Nation [September 12, 2012]
—- Israel’s prime minister is provoking another political dust storm over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but US news stories once again fail to mention awkward facts that are the true linchpin for this threatening crisis. Israel itself already has the Bomb. It developed its own nuclear weapons several decades ago, but has never officially admitted as much. And unlike other nuclear powers, Israel has never signed anti-proliferation treaties, nor has it submitted its nuclear arsenal to regular inspections by international authorities. Everyone knows this, at least the government officials on all sides do. Yet there seems to be a media taboo against sharing the information with the American public. Americans have a huge and dangerous stake in the matter. If things go wrong and Israel launches a pre-emptive unilateral strike against Iran, it would probably provoke retaliatory war-making by Iran. Like it or not, the United States could be pulled into yet another war in the Middle East to defend our ally. Shouldn’t people hear the whole story before the shooting starts? http://www.thenation.com/blog/169883/whos-got-nukes#
 
IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM
IAEA steps up pressure on Iran with condemnation of its nuclear defiance
By Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor [September 13, 2012]
—- The board of the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna voted nearly unanimously today to condemn Iran over its nuclear program, with the US and Western allies bringing Russia and China on board. The 35-member governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed “serious concern that Iran continues to defy” UN Security Council sanctions that require a halt to enrichment, and the resolution of outstanding questions about possible nuclear weapons-related work. The participation of Russia and China – which have shielded Iran from sanctions in the past – adds further pressure on Iran, but may have been more aimed at showing Israel that there is big-power unity behind a diplomatic, not military, solution to curb Iran’s nuclear progress. Still, compromise language meant to bring Russia and China along meant the text also supported the “inalienable right” of all signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes – a key inclusion for Iran. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0913/IAEA-steps-up-pressure-on-Iran-with-condemnation-of-its-nuclear-defiance
Also useful – “U.N. Agency Rebukes Iran for Failing to Cooperate,” from Reuters [September 13, 2012] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/14/world/middleeast/un-nuclear-watchdog-passes-resolution-on-iran.html?ref=world&pagewanted=print; and John Glaser, “IAEA Chief ‘Frustrated’ Over Delays in Iran Site Access,” Antiwar.com [September 10, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/10/iaea-chief-frustrated-over-delays-in-iran-site-access/
The IAEA Applies Incorrect Standards, Exceeding its Legal Mandate Regarding Iran
By Dan Joyner, Arms Control Law [September 13, 2012]
—- But the [IAEA Director General’s] report doesn’t stop there. It continues on to then apply two separate and additional legal standards and make two additional assessments based upon them. These separate and additional legal standards are:
1)      “The absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran”; and
2)      “That all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
So that got me to thinking, where do these other two legal standards come from? It is an important question, because essentially these two standards, together with the first clearly applicable standard, are the legal standards that the IAEA has been using as its scope of mandate for investigation and assessment regarding Iran’s compliance with its safeguards agreements for at least the last six years or so. http://armscontrollaw.com/2012/09/13/the-iaea-applies-incorrect-standards-exceeding-its-legal-mandate-and-acting-ultra-vires-regarding-iran/
Iran was forced to enrich 20% by the US – Former Iran nuclear negotiator
By Cyrus Safdari, Iran Affairs
—- Seyed Hossein Mousavian’s informative lecture on Iran nuclear issue in the Common Wealth Club in San Francisco, on C-SPAN, in which he points out that Iran was forced to enrich uranium to 20% to make its own fuel for a medical reactor that treats cancer patients, when the US interfered in Iran’s attempts to simply buy the necessary fuel as usual… I should point out that there was no “non-proliferation” goal served by this US interference in the purchase of fuel rods for this reactor. … So in short, by interfering with Iran’s purchase of fuel for this reactor, the US actually managed to push Iran closer to nuke-making ability by forcing Iran to learn to enrich uranium to 20% purity. And though Iran has repeatedly offered to cease 20% enrichment if it is only allowed to buy the fuel once again, the US has consistently refused this and other Iranian compromise proposals. So now we have to ask ourselves: Why did the US adopt this policy? http://www.iranaffairs.com/iran_affairs/2012/09/iran-was-forced-to-enrich-20-by-the-us-former-iran-nuclear-negotiator.html
 
US POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Is there no Plan B on Iran?
By David Bromwich, Mondoweiss [September 11, 2012]
—- It looks very much as if Barack Obama has no Plan B for dealing with Iran. The tightening sanctions and the crowding of U.S. war ships into the Persian Gulf almost constitute a siege. In addressing the Israeli interest, some of it conveyed directly by Netanyahu and Barak, much of it by the Israel lobby, President Obama has placated again and again–though without twitching at the precise moment or in the precise way demanded by Israel. He has signaled that what they want concerning Iran is what he wants also. Has Obama then put off a war in the fall by committing us to war in the spring? … It is amazing that in the three years since the failure of his short-winded negotiations with Iran in fall 2009 (not the “hands-on” negotiations he promised in 2008), this president has not worked so much as the length of one speech to try and build an alternative consensus for containment. The materials for such a consensus now exist outside Congress. http://mondoweiss.net/2012/09/is-there-no-plan-b-on-iran.html
 
Obama Rebuffs Netanyahu on Setting Limits on Iran’s Nuclear Program
By Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, New York Times [September 13, 2012]
—- President Obama on Tuesday rejected an appeal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to spell out a specific “red line” that Iran could not cross in its nuclear program, a senior administration official said, deepening the divide between the allies over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/14/world/middleeast/obama-rebuffs-netanyahu-on-nuclear-red-line-for-iran.html?_r=1&hp
 
Also useful – John Glaser, “Clinton: US ‘Not Setting Deadlines’ for Iran,” Antiwar.com [September 10, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/10/clinton-us-not-setting-deadlines-for-iran/; and Fariden Farhi, “Red lines or deadlines?” LobeLog [September 10th, 2012] http://www.lobelog.com/red-lines-or-deadlines/
US Leads Unprecedented War Games Exercise in Strait of Hormuz
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [September 15, 2012]
—- Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are swarming into the Persian Gulf, in the largest such military exercise ever undertaken in the region, as concerns of a looming Israeli strike on Iran still linger Countries leading the massive war games exercise include the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Fleets of warships will flood the Strait of Hormuz, the important waterway through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes, as a show of force to deter Iran from trying to close the straits or retaliate against US assets in the region, even in response to an unprovoked Israeli strike. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/15/us-leads-unprecedented-war-games-exercise-in-strait-of-hormuz/
 
(Video) Targeting Iran – Video: Iran war games
From Aljazeera [December 3, 2011]
Scowcroft, Brzezinski call for clear thinking on military action on Iran
From War in Context [September 13, 2012]
Also useful – Gary Sick, “Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action Against Iran,” Gulf 2000 [September 15, 2012] http://garysick.tumblr.com/ (a summary of the report and commentary from this Columbia University scholar); and for the report itself, “Weighing Benefits and Costs of Military Action against Iran,” [September 11, 2012] http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/weighing-the-benefits-and-costs-military-action-against-iran.
 
SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN
Iran Sanctions
By Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service [September 13, 2012] – 84 pages
—- The principal objective of international sanctions—to compel Iran to verifiably confine its nuclear program to purely peaceful uses—has not produced that outcome to date. Since late 2011, a broad international coalition has imposed progressively strict economic sanctions on Iran’s oil export lifeline, producing increasingly severe effects on Iran’s economy. Many judge that Iran might soon decide it needs a nuclear compromise to produce an easing of sanctions, because the energy sector provides about 70% of Iran’s government revenues. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RS20871.pdf
Sick of Sanctions
By Trita Parsi, The Daily Beast [September 12, 2012]
—- America might one day soon wake up to find it’s lost the Iranian people. Recent developments point to a shift in the balance of anger among Iranians—a shift that likely will be detrimental to America’s interests. Not only could the factors driving these changes sour the goodwill enjoyed by the U.S. in Iran, but they will likely also harm President Obama’s chances of softening Tehran’s position on issues like the nuclear standoff with the West. It may sound like a cliché, but the Iranian people really matter. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/12/sick-of-sanctions.html
Also useful – Cyrus Safdari, “History repeated: Why Iran sanctions will backfire on the hapless Obama administration,” Iran Affairs [September 15, 2012] http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/12932
 
Iran develops ‘economy of resistance’
By Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Financial Times [September 11, 2012]
—- Iran is reducing its dependence on oil by developing an “economy of resistance” to circumvent international sanctions over its nuclear programme, according to a senior regime adviser. Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of the Expediency Council – which drafts the country’s macro economic, political and cultural policies, told the Financial Times that the country would focus on developing self-reliance. http://www.campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=node/12926
 
ISRAELI POLICIES AND PERSPECTIVES
Israeli Sharpens Call for United States to Set Iran Trigger
By David E. Sanger and Isabel Kershner, New York Times [September 11, 2012]
—- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel inserted himself into the most contentious foreign policy issue of the American presidential campaign on Tuesday, criticizing the Obama administration for refusing to set clear “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear progress that would prompt the United States to undertake a military strike. As a result, he said, the administration has no “moral right” to restrain Israel from taking military action of its own. …In demanding that Mr. Obama effectively issue an ultimatum to Iran, Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be making maximum use of his political leverage at a time when Mr. Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, has sought to make an issue of what Mr. Romney says is the administration’s lack of support for Israel. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/world/middleeast/united-states-and-israel-engage-in-public-spat-over-iran-policy.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp
Also useful – Marsha B. Cohen, “Israeli PM Launches Verbal Attack on US,” LobeLog [September 11th, 2012] http://www.lobelog.com/israeli-pm-launches-verbal-attack-on-us/Barbara Slavin, “Netanyahu’s Ultimatum Misreads US Attitudes,” Al-Monitor [September 12, 2012] http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/netanyahu-ultimatum-misreads-moo.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter; John Glaser, “Barak Says Iran War Last Resort, in New Moderate Approach,” Antiwar.com [September 10, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/10/barak-says-iran-war-last-resort-in-new-moderate-approach/; also by John Glaser, “Netanyahu Deputy Breaks With Prime Minister’s ‘Red-Line’ Views on Iran,” Antiwar.com [September 14, 2012] http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/14/netanyahu-deputy-breaks-with-prime-ministers-red-line-views-on-iran/
The One Where Israel Bombed Syria
By Ali Gharib, The Daily Beast [September 10, 2012]
—- A Middle Eastern country covertly develops their nuclear program. Worried at the specter of losing its neighborhood nuclear monopoly, Israel pressures the U.S. to carry out a strike to destroy the nuclear reactor. When the U.S. balks, Israel goes it alone. And succeeds. This is not the story of a future Israeli strike against Iran; this is Israel’s attack on a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. This week in the New Yorker, David Makovsky leverages interviews with top Israeli and American officials to put together a granular account of the back and forth between Israel and the U.S. about what was happening at a suspected reactor site in the Syrian desert, and what to do about it. There is, however, an Iran connection: Makovsky tries to draw lessons for Iran from the Syria raid. But it doesn’t pan out the way he might hope. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/10/the-one-where-israel-bombed-syria.html
Israeli Official Cites 2007 Syria Strike to Justify Attacking Iran
By John Glaser, Antiwar.com [September 11, 2012]
—- An Israeli official on Monday cited a 2007 airstrike on a Syrian nuclear reactor to justify another unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear program if the US maintains its position of not backing action now.  “President [George W.] Bush did not agree to the United States taking part [in the 2007 raid], but in any event the right step was taken,” Environment Minister Gilad Erdan said on Israel Radio. Israelis like to cite two previous so-called “surgical strikes” on nuclear reactors of opposing states to justify a similar attack on Iran in the current context. One on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 and the other on Syria’s suspected site in 2007. Both examples are misleading. http://news.antiwar.com/2012/09/11/israeli-official-cites-2007-syria-strike-to-justify-attacking-iran/
Also useful – Jacob Hale Russell, “Israel’s Strike on Syrian Reactor Offers Few Lessons on Iran,” Al-Monitor [September 14, 2012] [interview with Makovsky] www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2012/al-monitor/qa-with-david-makovsky.html; and John W. Farlely, “New Yorker Magazine Concocts Case for Bombing Syria,” Counterpunch [September 12, 2012] http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/12/new-yorker-magazine-concocts-case-for-bombing-syria/.  The New Yorker article is available on-line only to subscribers, but a summary of it can be read at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/17/120917fa_fact_makovsky
We Must Make a Moral Stand Against any British Involvement in an Attack on Iran
By Abbas Edalat, Huffington Post [September 13, 2012]
—- If reports in yesterday’s Daily Mail are to be believed, Sir John Sawers was forced to make a special secret trip two weeks ago to Israel in a desperate bid to prevent this country from carrying out its most recent threats to launch a unilateral strike against Iran’s nuclear targets. Apparently, the British government decided to call in its top spymaster for this special mission as it had been sufficiently convinced by Netanyahu’s increasing determination to go it alone against Iran. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/abbas-edalat/british-involvement-iran_b_1880048.html
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