Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Center For Arms Control Launches Online Ad Campaign

The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation launched an online ad campaign this week to prevent a military confrontation with Iran. The ad began running yesterday and will run through Sunday on the following blogs:

The goal of the ad is to raise awareness about the dangers of a military attack on Iran and urge people to sign the Center's petition calling on Congress to press the administration to pursue direct, unconditional talks with Iran.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Upcoming Iran Briefings in DC

Here are a couple of upcoming briefings on Iran in Washington DC that may be of interest to Iran Nuclear Watch readers:

December 4
Noon-1:00 p.m., Ray Takeyh, Council on Foreign Relations, "United States Versus Iran: Another Cold War." Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, Webcast on the Wilson Center website.

December 6
Noon-1:30 p.m., Gary Sick, Columbia University, and Michael Jacobson, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "Iran: In the Crosshairs?" Center for National Policy, One Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Suite 333, Washington. RSVP online.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

War Is Peace, Sanctions Are Diplomacy

With much gratitutude to Chris Toensing, the Middle East Report Online and the Middle East Researchand Information Project (MERIP), I have a published a new essay entitled "War Is Peace, Sanctions Are Diplomacy."

The White House is pressing ahead with its stated goal of persuading theUN Security Council to pass far-reaching sanctions to punish Iran forrefusing to suspend its nuclear research program. Sanctions are whatPresident George W. Bush is referring to when he pledges to nervous US allies that he intends to "continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically." The non-diplomatic solution in this framing of the"problem," presumably, would be airstrikes on nuclear facilities in the Islamic Republic. The essay details the dangers of this framing, and suggests a pathway out of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AEI Scholar Says Iranian Bomb Is 'Intolerable'

In an Op-Ed in USA Today, Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute and a member of the State Department's Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, toes the line of the Bush administration and hypes the threat of Iran's nuclear program. Muravchik writes: "Our choice is stark. Accept Iran with an atom bomb or cripple its nuclear program by force. Nothing else will stop Tehran."

Muravchik is in favor of military strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities and argues that the President alone is positioned to carry out such strikes. He states: "Only strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities can forestall these terrible scenarios. This would not require a 'declaration of war,' an antiquated concept that has not been employed since World War II and rarely before. We would send no troops, conquer no land. Rather, we would act in pre-emptive self-defense...Congress can block presidential action, but in this case, most members will be satisfied to stand clear and let the president do what must be done."

Once again, the issue of resolving Iran's nuclear program is being framed as war or capitulation, but this is a false choice. It is also false to suggest that Iran's nuclear program poses an imminent threat to the United States. Yes, this is a challenging situation and its resolution has serious implications for the global nonproliferation regime. However, the reality is, there is time, albeit limited, for the U.S. to engage in direct talks with Iran without preconditions to resolve all outstanding issues. There is no reason to rush towards military confrontation. And, let's be clear, Muravchik is making the case for another preventive attack, not a pre-emptive one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Amazing Slides of Iran

With all of the spin in the mainstream media about Iran, it can become so easy to buy into the demonization of the entire country. A colleague forwarded me a link to Jadid Online. It has some amazing slide shows of life in Iran and it covers a wide range of issues from the Iranian perspective. My favorite so far is "The Heart and Soul of Isfahan." These slide shows really put a human face on what we, by and large, do not see here in the mainstream media - a complex and nuanced picture of a 7,000-year civilization.

New Resource Outlining Presidential Candidate Positions on Iran

The New York Times has compiled the positions of all the presidential candidates on Iran in an easily accessible format. And speaking of candidates positions on Iran, here is an excellent article by John Isaacs on the subject.

Will Sanctions on Iran Work?

Professor emeritus of government and foreign affairs at the University of Virginia Ruhi Ramazani published a new opinion editorial yesterday entitled "Sanctions on Iran: Will They Work?" It is one of the few articles in the media that addresses why, in fact, U.S. unilateral sanctions are likely to fail.

The Bush administration is couching unilateral sanctions as part of the its diplomatic efforts. Because of the intensified rhetoric against Iran emanating from the administration, sanctions are more palatable to Congress and the public when they are faced with the false choice of war or capitulation. To make matters more complicated, unfortunately, many foreign policy heavy weights are lining up behind the sanctions option because they do not understand Iranian behavior and they believe this is somehow the best approach. Professor Ramazani argues that while much of U.S. policy has focused on economic considerations, it has failed to take into account the psychological and political factors inside Iran, factors that are far more important.

Ramazani writes: "Historically, Iranian national sentiment soars in the face of foreign pressure. Like the leaders of the past, the current regime can benefit internally from resisting coercion by foreign powers such as the United States." He then succinctly articulates the history of interventions in Iran's political structure from the 19th century to present that have contributed to the "profound Iranian cultural, psychological and political realities" of today that make "America's newly expanded unilateral sanctions likely to fail, as have all previous sanctions since the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980."

Ramazani concludes:
"Diplomacy, rather than pressure or military action, remains the most realistic option. American and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad will soon renew discussions on Iraqi security. Yet to resolve the nuclear standoff between the US and Iran, unconditional and direct negotiations at higher levels are essential to avoid a military collision."

[Special thanks to Scott Harrop for sending along the article.]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IAEA Releases Report on Iran

The Institute for Science and International Security has posted the new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran on its website. Keep in mind the United Nations Security Council has been waiting for this report to determine how to proceed on a new round of sanctions on Iran. When I have a chance to review more closely, I'll post more analysis.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A New Sanctions Bill, Surprise, Surprise

On November 13, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced HCR 257, a concurrent resolution expressing concern regarding arms transfers to Iran and Syria by the Russian Federation andentities in the Russian Federation and urging the President of theUnited States to implement sanctions against such entities found to be in violation of United States law prohibiting arms transfers to Iran and Syria. It was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) are all original co-sponsors on the bill. The text of the legislation is not yet available in Thomas, but I'll post when it is.

Iranians and Americans Take Diplomacy Into Their Own Hands

To facilitate people-to-people diplomacy, Enough Fear designed an action to connect Americans and Iranians who otherwise would never have the opportunity to talk with each other. Yesterday, they launched their first diplomatic hotline in Boston Commons which gave the opportunity to passers-by to speak directly to someone in Iran.

According to the AP article on the action, which was picked up by several papers, WBUR in Boston and NPR, Sarah Shugars, 24, an Emerson College master's student who was the first to take the phone, asked the Iranian on the other end of the line, “May I ask how the U.S. is portrayed in the media?” A 25-year-old artist on the other end in Iran, whose name and hometown could not be identified for fear of Iranian reprisals, responded, “Iranians don't have a problem with the American people, and it's just the president that's problematic and giving them a hard time.”

While the governments of the US and Iran have not engaged in direct diplomacy at official levels for decades, this citizen action allows ordinary citizens in both countries to connect with each other and demonstrate a willingness to resolve tensions through dialogue and diplomacy. Nick Jehlen said that 15 to 20 people took advantage of the opportunity during the hour-long effort yesterday. Nick noted it was a test run for an action that could be repeated in other cities. I’ve announced in my monthly “Iran Update” e-newsletter and Enough Fear is looking for volunteers in other cities.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Iran Nuclear Update

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency held another round of talks on November 8, 2007 in Vienna to resolve questions regarding the country’s nuclear program. The meeting took place just before the IAEA Director General Mohammed ElBaradei is set to deliver a report on November 22 to the IAEA Board of Governors on the status of progress to setting outstanding questions on Iran’s nuclear program. The content of the report is a key factor in the decision to move forward with a third round of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council, as stipulated in a September 28, 2007 Statement from P5+2 (Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. plus Germany in consultation with the High Commissioner of the European Union) and reaffirmed during a meeting of those countries in Britain last week.

Following the last round of talks between the IAEA and Iran last week, Iran said it had provided all information the IAEA needed to remove ambiguities about its development of centrifuge machines. However, the IAEA has withheld comment on the progress of the action plan agreed to with Iran in August to resolve outstanding questions one by one.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to press for further sanctions on Iran within the UN Security Council, but reaffirmed with the European Union, Russia and China that it is offering negotiations conditioned on Iran's suspension of enrichment and reprocessing activities. President Bush recently said that

On November 7, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran's nuclear program was irreversible and insisted that his country had 3,000 centrifuges in its underground Natanz facility. Although he has made this claim before, he seemed to be suggesting the machines were in full operation. While diplomats and analysts agree that Iran now appears to have nearly 3,000 centrifuges installed, they see no evidence that they are being run together or all being fed with uranium for enrichment.

However, the Bush administration continues to hype the threat of the nuclear program. On October 17, President Bush stated in a press conference that he “told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” President Bush also defended his comments in a November 7 television interview. In a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on October 21, Vice President Dick Cheney stated, “The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose serious consequences. The United States joins other nations in sending a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, chief analyst for Israel's military intelligence, told the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on November 6 that if Iran's nuclear program goes unchecked, it could produce warheads by the end of 2009 or the beginning of 2010. On November 8, 2007 Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz called for International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohamed ElBaradei to be removed as head of the agency, saying he had turned a blind eye to Iran's nuclear ambitions. ElBaradei raised the ire of many Israeli officials after telling France's Le Monde newspaper that Iran would need "between three and eight years" to develop a nuclear bomb and that there is no immediate threat. ElBaradei said, “I want to get people away from the idea that Iran represents a clear and present danger and that we're now facing the decision whether to bombard Iran or let them have the bomb. We're not in that situation at all.”

Presidential Candidate Statements on Iran

The Friends Committee on National Legislation has compiled the major presidential candidates’ statements and votes on Iran, among other issues. This information is now available in a comprehensive report on their website and can be downloaded as a pdf document.

Oakland Passes Resolution Against Iran War

On Tuesday, November 6, the City Council of Oakland, CA voted unanimously to pass a symbolic resolution calling on Congress to stop the Bush administration from such an attack. Councilmember Jane Brunner said that articles on Iran in newspapers recently reminded her of the Bush administration's justification for war in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq five years ago. Councilmember Nancy Nadel joined Brunner in introducing the resolution. During the debate, about 15 public speakers offered their thoughts on the Iran resolution during the meeting, all of them speaking in favor of it. Nadel said her office did receive one phone call from someone questioning why the council didn't spend its time filling potholes, rather than passing political resolutions. She responded: “All I can say is if we had the billions of dollars that are being wasted on the war, we could fill an awful lot of potholes.” Cities for Progress and Code Pink, along with Iranian, peace and other concerned groups helped organize the campaign for the resolution.

Senator McCaskill Expresses Concern About Backdoor Military Action

Today, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) expressed concern over the Bush Administration’s provocative rhetoric against Iran. In a letter to supporters, she writes:

"My father, a World War II veteran, instilled in me an appreciation of our armed forces, and the young men and women who have done so much to protect the freedoms we cherish. He taught me to appreciate the gravity of warfare, and that war should be pursued only when there are simply no alternatives available.

"The Iraq conflict represents the unfortunate result when these principles are ignored, and I will continue to do everything in my power to force the President to change course. But Congress must be equally vigilant to ensure that new flashpoints in the Middle East do not follow the same failed course as our Iraq policy.

"In particular, I have been concerned with the Bush Administration's provocative rhetoric on Iran, and I am using my seat in the United States Senate to remind the President that military action requires the express consent of Congress. I have resisted efforts to provide what I would call "backdoor" approval for military action in that country. Last month, the Senate considered an amendment that would categorize Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a "foreign terrorist organization". To me, adoption of this amendment could essentially provide approval of military action against Iran, especially by this Administration. I am also concerned that this amendment was debated without the benefit of a single hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which I am a member.

"I voted against the amendment, and this month joined Senator Jim Webb and other Senate Democrats in a letter to President Bush stating, "We wish to emphasize that no congressional authority exists for unilateral military action against Iran."

"If Iraq has taught us anything, it is that we must be aggressive and vigilant in stopping President Bush and Vice President Cheney from dragging us into new military quagmires. I will continue to do everything in my power to prevent this from happening."

Senator Claire McCaskill

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

House Passes Anti-Iran Resolution

On November 5, after only five minutes of debate and not a single member of Congress questioning or speaking in opposition, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted by voice vote H. RES. 435, “Expressing concern relating to the threatening behavior of the Iranian regime and its leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the activities of terrorist organizations sponsored by that regime in Latin America.” The resolution was introduced by Rep. Rob Klein (R-FL) and had 43 co-sponsors when it came up for a vote under the suspension of the rules.

H.RES. 435 expresses concern for collaboration between Iran and Venezuela, and for Iran's growing influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Among other things, the resolution alleges:
“Whereas Iran and Hizbollah were involved in the two deadliest terrorist attacks in Argentina: the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 29 people and the July 1994 attack against the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), which killed 85 people;

“Whereas the Government of Argentina is currently seeking legal action against the perpetrators of the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack;

However, in an article entitled “Argentina’s Iranian Nuke Connection” published last year, Gareth Porter writes that he did not find any evidence to support the indictments or any charge of Iranian responsibility or Hezbollah involvement:

“Less than three weeks after that Iranian bid for negotiations, on March 17, 2002, a bomb blast destroyed the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, killing 26 people. Argentina, the US and Israel have long maintained that Iran was responsible for both that blast and the bombing of the AMIA headquarters in July 1994. ”But it seems unlikely that Iranian leaders would have ordered or knowingly supported any terror bombing in Buenos Aires just when they were concerned with nailing down an agreement to protect their important interests in relations with Argentina.”

He also notes: “The investigation of the 1994 bombing by the Argentine judiciary, which has no political independence from the executive branch, has had little credibility with the public, because of a bribe by the lead judge to a key witness and a pattern of deceptive accounts based on false testimony.”

Gareth is also working on a new critical analysis of this issue regarding the role of the Argentine case against the Iranians and the history of the US role in the case. I will post when it is available.

Durbin's Iran Bill Gaining Steam

On October 25, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced S. Res. 356. It now has ten additional co-sponsors, more than any other Senate resolution on preventing war with Iran. The additional co-spnosors are: Akaka, Bingaman, Brown, Byrd, Clinton, Dodd, Murray, Sanders, Stabenow and Whitehouse. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, but the Senators will look for other opportunities to introduce it. Senator Durbin’s legislation provides the next opportunity for Senators to go on record as a follow-on to the Webb letter. His goal is to attract a large group of co-sponsors in order to make it clear that many Senators are wary of a military conflict with Iran, at least not without prior Congressional approval.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Obama Introduces Iran Resolution; Calls for Engagement Without Preconditions

Senator Obama has just introduced S.J.Res. 23, a resolution to clarify that the use of force against Iran is "not authorized by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law. " In a New York Times article today, Senator Obama also articulated that he would "engage in 'aggressive personal diplomacy' with Iran if elected president andwould offer economic inducements and a possible promise not to seek 'regime change' if Iran stopped meddling in Iraq and cooperated on terrorism and nuclear issues."

Below is the full text of S.J.Res. 23.

Joint Resolution

Clarifying that the use of force against Iran is not authorized by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law.

Whereas the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq (Public Law 107-243) authorized the President "to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to — (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq";

Whereas, on September 26, 2007, the Senate agreed to a provision, Senate Amendment 3017 to Senate Amendment 2011 to H.R. 1585, stating the sense of the Senate that, "the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region";

Whereas, on September 26, 2007, the Senate also stated the sense of the Senate "that it is a critical national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi'a militia extremists in Iraq into a Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq";

Whereas, on October 25, 2007, the Department of State designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction under Executive Order 13382 in relation to concerns about their role in proliferation activities;

Whereas, on October 25, 2007, the Department of the Treasury also designated 9 IRGC-affiliated entities and 5 IRGC-affiliated individuals, as derivatives of the IRGC, as well as Iran's state-owned Bank Melli and Bank Mellat and 3 individuals affiliated with Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), as proliferators of weapons of mass destruction or supporters of terrorism under Executive Order 13382;

Whereas, on October 25, 2007, the Department of the Treasury also designated the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) as a supporter of terrorism for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations, and designated Iran's state-owned Bank Saderat as a terrorist financier, under Executive Order 13224; and

Whereas any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress: Now therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That nothing in the Authorization for the Use of Force Against Iraq (Public Law 107-243), any act that serves as the statutory authority for Executive Order 13382 or Executive Order 13224, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law including the terms of Executive Order 13382 or Executive Order 13224 shall be construed to authorize, encourage, or in any way address the use of Armed Forces of the United States against Iran.