The fact that Iran’s destabilizing tentacles reach far and wide is not new (especially for our regular readers). The fact that Hezbollah is supporting Assad in Syria is likewise no longer newsworthy. Even those with a rudimentary interest in the Middle East cannot escape the numerous articles elucidating Hezbollah’s on-the-ground open support for Assad’s regime.
However the reports earlier this week highlight a wider degree of long-term planning between the parties.
“Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanese proxy, are building a network of militias inside Syria to preserve their interests in the event that President Bashar al-Assad’s government falls or is forced to retreat from Damascus, according to US and Middle Eastern officials…
“A senior Obama administration official cited Iranian claims that Tehran was backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. “It’s a big operation,” the official said. “The immediate intention seems to be to support the Syrian regime. But it’s important for Iran to have a force in Syria that is reliable and can be counted on.”
At the same time, AFP reported the complaints of Yemen’s security chief:
“Yemen’s national security chief on Saturday accused Iran of “damaging Yemen” as the interior ministry said it was pursuing a probe into an Iran-linked arms shipment which was seized last month.
“Such a shipment cannot be made by traders or smugglers… Only an official power stands behind it,” national security chief Ali Hassan al-Ahmadi told reporters in Sanaa.”
Notice this same ambassador reiterated the worn-out mantra that Iran rejects all forms of terrorism. Seems Iran defines terrorism differently than the rest of us, as we learned once again through this Press TV quote of Iran’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations criticizing the UN’s approach regarding counter-terrorism.
A rather large case of the pot calling the kettle black. The media certainly got this one right.
This week’s media watch raged about Argentina’s decision to sign an agreement with Iran effectively exonerating Tehran for the 1994 killing of 85 people in Buenos Aires. Since the coverage went blurry early on, we’d like to bring it into focus.
In a recent post I lamented that the country’s official ‘short memory’ appeared to be iniquitously disregarding its own collective memory. This week, it was put down in writing.
Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald ridiculed the Argentina-Iran deal as making a mockery of justice
“The deal seems to put Argentina fully within the Venezuelan-led club of Latin American countries that support some of the world’s worst human rights offenders.”
Oppenheimer, tries to rationalize:
“Why is Argentina doing this? One theory is that it’s a pre-emptive break with Western democracies in anticipation of a possible New York judge ruling next month that — if Argentina loses the case — could force Argentina to pay up to $10 billion to bond holders and drive the country into default.”
He goes on to note that:
“A second theory is that Fernández is acting under the influence of her close friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whose narcissist-Leninist ruling style she seems to be increasingly copying.”
And what about:
“A third theory is that Fernández sincerely believes she can untangle the AMIA investigation with Iran’s cooperation.”
Whatever the reason, it is…
“A big blow to justice, and an insult to the memory of the 85 Jews and non-Jews who died in the terrorist attack.”
Ricardo Gil Lavedra highlights in the Argentinean press that the Iranians get everything they want, while the Argentineans gain nothing.
“In 2007, Argentine authorities secured Interpol arrest warrants for five Iranians and a Lebanese in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi is among the officials sought by Argentina, which is home to Latin America’s largest Jewish community.”
Back in May 2011, Buenos Aires passed up a golden opportunity to have Vahidi apprehended, when he visited next-door neighbor Bolivia for a rare trip outside Iran. Now, instead of facing Argentinean justice, the shoe is now on the other foot.
Two Iranian presidential candidates – Ali Velayati and Mohsen Rezai – will be on the bench… in Tehran, not in Buenos Aires. Velayati is one of the ‘Supreme Leader’s’ closest advisors. Rezai ran the Revolutionary Guards for 16 years. The ‘truth commission’ and any Iranian-led trial of this matter will be nothing short of a joke.
The media needs to come off its Israel fixation on this. The issue is about how Iran continues to prey on Latin America to cynically promote its selfish interests.
We should be crying for the people of Argentina.
The AP told its readers and subscribers yesterday that:
“ Iran sought Tuesday to spell out in its clearest terms yet that it is not seeking nuclear weapons, highlighting a religious decree issued by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that bans nuclear weapons.”
Ali Akbar Dareini, from the AP goes on to note that:
Iran authorities have often cited Khamenei’s religious edict, made more than seven years ago, in attempts to counter Western suspicion that Iran could be moving toward nuclear arms.
To highlight its seriousness, Dareini quotes an Iranian official, Ramin Mehmanparast, who said that, Iran would be willing to “register the fatwa as an international document.”
The only problem is… there is no document. There is no fatwa. Try and find it on any of Khameinei’s official sites of publications. I have written in the past at length on this imaginary fatwa (worth a read if I may say so myself). Likewise, the ‘supreme leader’ has been asked on many occasions about this mythological fatwa, and no response has ever been provided.
Sir, I would like it in writing…
Of course, the Iranian desire to rehash this myth is understandable: another IAEA inspections team has landed, sanctions continue to bite, tough talks lurk around the corner, and the threat of force remains an option. But what about the media, providing such a undiscerning platform? Consider these headlines:
Washington Post: Iran says supreme leader’s ban rules out nuclear weapons
You guys should be ashamed of yourselves! You look much too much like these:
Look at that – so much benefit of the doubt. At least somebody got it right:
Love the subtle nuance. For those who didn’t get it, Al-Babawa – which I understand is a Jordan-UAE joint production – ends with this:
Have your say: Do you think the statement is a political ploy? Or is there sincerity behind this unusual religious ruling?
Need I say more…?
Charles Robb, Dennis Ross, and Michael Makovsky’s fascinating article in the WSJ touched a raw nerve with many, including advocates of Iran’s nuclear program and the Iranian regime itself.
Ross, Ross and Makovsky open their article by discussing the economic impact of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, they also warn the WSJ’s readers that “failure to stop Iran’s nuclear-weapons program also would have myriad direct and indirect consequences…”
They note that:
Energy markets respond both to actual supply disruptions and to expected changes in supply and demand. A nuclear Iran would raise the likelihood of instability, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and war—and could thus drive oil prices up without disrupting the flow of oil.
Domestic instability in Saudi Arabia, the destruction of Saudi energy facilities, an Iran-Saudi nuclear exchange, an Iran-Israel nuclear exchange, and the lapse of sanctions against Iran.
The Iranian regime immediately hit back, in the same newspaper. Alireza Miryousefi, from the Iranian mission to the UN, declares confidently that:
The authors’ mention of a “Saudi-Iran nuclear exchange” is appalling and a grotesque stretch of imagination. Iran and Saudi Arabia have normal neighborly relations, underpinned by many historic, cultural and religious affinities, and bolstered by a strong relationship between the two nations, leaving no room for such fictitious scenarios as the authors toy with.
If only the Saudi’s agreed with you Mr. Miryousefi… (see my previous post)
And what about the claim that:
“Iran has always reiterated that her nuclear program is fully for peaceful purposes, and the intensive International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections have never revealed anything to the contrary.”
Last week the chief of the UN’s nuclear watchdog “warned that if there is no solution to the vexed Iranian nuclear issue, the situation is going to escalate.”
IAEA chief, Yukiya Amano explained to the Times of India that:
“We have been negotiating for close to 1 year but we don’t have concrete results and that is worrying… … Without cooperation from Iran, we cannot say whether or not their activities are for peaceful purposes,” he added.”
Reuters has, however, been leading the way on its reporting of the various condemnations emanating from the UN.
A few days before Amano’s interview, a UN GA resolution, sponsored by Canada and co-sponsored by other Western countries “condemned North Korea, Iran and Syria on Thursday for widespread human rights abuses”.
Simultaneously, the “UN Security Council impose[d] [further] sanctions on nuclear-ambitious Iran for providing military support to the Syrian government and violating a UN arm embargo on the war-torn country” (see this Reuters piece).
However, despite this multilateral censure of Iran’s behavior – and beyond the world leadership of the US on this matter – it is the current Canadian administration that once again excels in its tough stance towards Iran’s rogue activities.
“The Canadian government has listed the clandestine branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and, at the same time, removed a controversial Iranian opposition organization, the People’s Mujahedin, from the terror list.”
The Globe and Mail quotes Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, noting:
“The listing of terrorist entities sends a strong message that Canada will not tolerate terrorist activities, including terrorist financing, or those who support such activities.”
We, at Iran Media Focus, are particularly critical of poor reporting on the Iranian nuclear program and the human rights situation in Iran. However, we also feel that it is important to grant credit where credit is due. Canada’s attitude, the recent aforementioned activity/condemnations at the UN – as well as Reuters’ coverage of the matter – deserve particular credit and much praise.
People are still falling for it. Slippery Seyed is back to his old tricks and apparently has some new fans. Seyed Mousavian, for those who do not remember, is a former Iranian nuclear negotiator and spokesman for Khatami’s nuclear team. I have discussed his sophisticated tactics on behalf of the Iranian regime in previous posts, to be found here and here).
In the National Interest, Mousavian recently penned a 10 point elucidation of why “Iran doesn’t want the bomb”. If it was written by someone else and entitled ‘Why Iran shouldn’t get the bomb’, it may have some practical use.
Unfortunately, slippery Seyed is playing games. How do we know? Well, because the action of the country he claims does not want the bomb… does not match his own misleading and tendentious analysis.
Let’s go through the points (quickly), from 1-10.
1) Religious obligations
Well to put it simply. Khamenei’s mythical fatwa banning nuclear weapons does not exist. I challenge you to find it; in writing, on any of his official sites. See my lengthier blog post on this precise matter.
2) No long-term advantage
That is not how the Iranians see it. The magic word here is “immunity”. Iran’s leadership has seen how tyrannical, oppressive regimes with nuclear weapons have gained immunity (N. Korea), while those who oppress their people without these WMDS fall by the wayside (Libya, Iraq, Syria…).
3) Technology Choice
I ask: Just why does Iran need this technology for nuclear energy when they have more oil and gas than nearly every other country in the world? Probably because it is not nuclear energy they desire…
Iran is already isolated. Mainly as a result of spreading terror across the region, supporting a brutal Assad regime, and disregarding any semblance of human rights at home. A nuclear weapon, however, would enable the Islamic Republic to bully those neighbors it had previously merely alienated. And anyway, since when had isolation ever bothered rogue states in the past? (See this recent claim from a senior Iranian commander)
Mousavian says it himself: “Iran’s ultimate strategy is to be a modern nation, fully capable of competing with the West in terms of advanced technologies…” Liberal, modern, responsible democracies can indeed be trusted with this technology. Oppressive, theocracies which stone women and homosexuals while threatening the existence of other countries… well, they cannot.
What goodwill? The Iranian regime has been caught deceiving the IAEA over and over again during the last decade. In fact, they almost seem to be in a perennial war with the UN watchdog. See my recent blog post. What has changed now?
7) No Stockpile
Check out this recent summary of the IAEA November Safeguards Report (analyzed by former IAEA officials). These experts would beg to differ.
8) Enrichment Offers
Mousavian has a warped view of history. In the past, when external parties have offered to enrich Uranium in an open fashion (something Iran does not do) on behalf of the Islamic Republic… Iran has refused to cooperate.
Diplomacy, thus far, has been utilized by the Iranians as the ultimately foot-dragging mechanism, buying time, while speeding ahead with their nuclear program.
MAD indeed does not apply here; indeed Mousavian is conversely right in his assessment. It is his stated causation that is wholly incorrect. MAD would never work because the Iranian leadership sees martyrdom (a central tenet of Shia Islam) as a positive precept.
They have sponsored suicide terror attacks across the Middle East (and indeed beyond – Thailand, India for example). Iran knows that the US would categorically never even consider ‘wiping’ out Iran. Neither would Israel. In fact,
the only country threatening to remove another country from history is Iran.
Once again, the Iranian regime understands the important historical precedent of nuclear weapons serving as the ultimate deterrence; providing much needed immunity for oppressive, tyrannical, theocratic regimes; regimes that have neither legitimacy at home nor abroad.
10) Forget Regime Change
Once again… Nuclear weapons = immunity for tyranny (at least against external regime change).
FM Bildt. Be careful what you tweet. Mousavian has been serving the nuclear program of Iran for many years now, and nothing has changed. I suggest you have a read of these posts before claiming that the points of view this “well informed person” are indeed “worth noting”. Points of view, President Obama can do without.
Where does Yousaf Butt stand on the Iranian nuclear crisis?
This is no trivial question; in fact, the answer should be key for those – including a few thoughtful journalists like Julian Borger who relied on the article Butt co-wrote attacking AP’s recent nuclear diagram report (see our recent blog).
Our curiosity was aroused by the apparent disconnect between the host publication and the loose wording of the “article highlights”: “The diagram leaked to the Associated Press this week is nothing more than either shoddy sources or shoddy science. In either case, the world can keep calm and carry on”.
This is the language of scientists? More like the jargon of an agenda.
The AP story controversy aside, Butt is strongly on record in his opposition to current international policy in the nuclear crisis. For example, in a June piece for Foreign Policy he verbally assaults highly respected former IAEA senior official Olli Heinonen and then turns on the P5+1: “by refusing to ease sanctions on Iran in any meaningful way, the P5+1 offered no serious reciprocity in return for Iranian compliance.” Meaning, apparently, that Tehran is not obligated a priori to comply with IAEA and Security Council resolutions that it suspend enrichment activities and facilitate Agency inspections.
Butt feels so strongly about the need to give Tehran slack as it continues to churn out 20% enriched uranium that he even dispatched a letter to the editor of the Washington Post claiming that sanctions removal constitutes the best way to persuade Iran to cooperate – the official line from Tehran since sanctions began hurting, by the way. Other articles he has penned continue this line of thought.
These are the facts.
Indeed, just yesterday Butt let the cat out of the bag entirely, going solo in the Christian Science Monitor. There he employs the by-now familiar tricks adopted by those siding with Iran on the nuclear crisis: quoting Robert Kelley – their favorite former IAEA employee; exploiting a convenient quote from former senior Agency official Pierre Goldschmidt from 2009 (!); and promoting their uncanny view that somehow a media report proves the IAEA is losing credibility (again, Tehran’s song sheet – don’t remember hearing this when El Baradei was IAEA DG…).
Plus, a surprise: Butt presents himself as Henry Kissinger’s colleague and equal. No less.
You decide whether Butt is truly capable of writing a thoroughly objective scientific analysis related to the Iranian nuclear crisis. Our advice? Readers – and co-authors – beware.
Ali Gharib, a ‘national security expert’ formerly of Think Progress (word on the street is that he was booted out of the Center for American Progress), seems more interested in throwing in the towel, than securing the nation. When it comes to Iran, he seems to be advocating a non-policy of inaction and appeasement. But when a strategic adversary is determined to achieve a goal; Iran, nuclear weapons… inaction simply is not option.
In this Daily Beast piece, he bemoans a potential military solution (everyone’s last resort) by noting that
“A mere delay in Iran’s nuclear progress remains a recipe for creating the same conditions under which Israel operates against the Palestinians: a long war of varying intensity, with no end in sight. What is “cutting the grass” if not a metaphor for unending conflict?”
… History is likely to dispense with the euphemism of “mowing the lawn” and call this what it is: perpetual war.
No serious analysts would analyze either issue as cutting the grass. Rather it is extracting the weeds; from their roots. The weeds in this case are a wild, uncontrollable species: nuclear weapons. And this species could spread and infest a whole region. We cannot afford to sit and allow this danger to grow unimpeded.
When it comes to characters like Ali Gharib; we must be careful not to mistake ‘anti-war’ activists for genuine experts on issues of ‘national security’. Apropo, we just can’t resist sharing with you this description we found of him written by those activists:
Ali Gharib, New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy and LobeLog writer, discusses the FBI raids on antiwar activists’ homes, how Israel put Iran in “Axis of Evil” after 9/11, the Global War on Terror’s conflation of national resistance groups (and any enemy of Israel) with international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, neoconservative warmongers re-using the Iraq War playbook to gin up support for an attack on Iran, the tangled neocon web of familial relationships and the new cottage industry of neophyte Koran “scholars” quoting passages out of context to portray Islam as a religion bent on world domination.
What was this guy doing with the respectable Center for American Progress – and now with the Daily Beast?
At the beginning of the month, AP reported that:
The U.N. nuclear chief said Monday [6th November] that Iran is not cooperating with an investigation into suspected secret work on nuclear weapons.
Yukio Amano told the U.N. General Assembly that talks between the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran have intensified this year after an IAEA report in November 2011 said it had “credible information that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” he said.
On the 21st November, Reuters added that:
“ Iran has been hauling dirt to a military site U.N. nuclear inspectors want to visit, Western diplomats said on Wednesday, saying the findings were based on satellite images and they reinforced suspicions of a clean-up.”
While today there were two further developments:
- The IB Times reported that the IAEA servers had been hacked.
“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said a previously unknown anti-Israeli group called Parastoo — meaning the swallow bird in Farsi and a common name for girls in Iran — had posted the contact details of more than 100 nuclear experts on the group’s website three days ago.”
- ‘The Diagram’
It is not a smoking gun, but it is yet another piece of evidence pointing to the military nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
The AP reports that:
“The International Atomic Energy Agency — the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog — reported last year that it had obtained diagrams indicating that Iran was calculating the “nuclear explosive yield” of potential weapons. A senior diplomat who is considered neutral on the issue confirmed that the graph obtained by the AP was indeed one of those cited by the IAEA in that report.”
But George Jahn from the AP keeps his feet (and ours) firmly on the ground, by cross-checking the precise relevance of this diagram with one of the world’s experts in the field.
David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International Security is used by the U.S. government as a go-to source on Iran’s nuclear program, said the diagram looks genuine but seems to be designed more “to understand the process” than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.
“The yield is too big,” Albright said, noting that North Korea’s first tests of a nuclear weapon were only a few kilotons. Because the graph appears to be only one in a series, others might show lower yields, closer to what a test explosion might produce, he said.
The ISIS is indeed an extremely professional body whose analysis is worth further perusal for those unfamiliar with it.
Albright, along with Christina Walrond and Andrea Stricker recently presented an extremely detailed and well presented analysis of the most updated IAEA Safeguards Report. In addition, the ISIS’ analysis of the Parchin high explosives test site through satellite imagery continues to provide important pieces to the complex and often enigmatic Iranian nuclear puzzle.
Meanwhile, Iran’s war with the IAEA continues…
Iran’s centrifuges – as the cliché goes – are still spinning, even as most global affairs junkies are riveted by the explosions in southern Israel.
Since this latest report was barely a blip on the radar screen, we feel it our duty to make sure you know its most troubling findings – as summarized by the Institute for Science and International Security :
*Number of Installed Centrifuges both at Fordow and Natanz Increased
*All Centrifuges Installed at Fordow
*Advanced Centrifuge Program Making Progress
*Little Hope for Structured Agreement to Resolve Issues on Iran’s Past and Possibly On-Going Military Nuclear Activities
*Iran Continues Sanitizing Parchin Site
*IAEA Reiterates its Current Inability to Verify Completeness of Iran’s Declaration, Underlines its Mandate to do so
Hard to fathom why, in the age of internet news and the unlimited space that comes with it, so little room was found for what amounts to a startling update on the continuing Iranian march toward weapons-grade uranium.
So what else slipped under the radar recently when it comes to Tehran’s nuclear activities? We found this item quite enlightening. For those who are already so fatigued with the Iranian crisis they can’t be bothered to click on the link, the highlights:
Discriminatory implementation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has left many countries feeling that being a party to the anti-atom bomb pact hinders cooperation in the field atomic energy, Iran’s U.N. ambassador said on Monday.
He must be kidding – that’s Iran’s problem with the NPT? More like the world expects Tehran to comply with the treaty, after exploiting it for two decades…
The Reuters report adds some right-on background in this context:
Western diplomats and analysts have long expressed concern that Iran might one day follow North Korea’s example and pull out of the NPT and produce a bomb. North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 and tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.
Elder statesman Henry Kissinger also weighed in on the crisis in his recent Washington Post op-ed Kissinger believes ”the most urgent decision facing the president is how to stop Iran from pursuing a military nuclear program,” clarifying the cost of failure:
To draw the line at proscribing an Iranian nuclear weapon — as some argue — would prove unmanageable. Once the requisite amount of fissile material has been produced, constructing and equipping a warhead is a relatively short and technologically straightforward process, almost certainly impossible to detect in a timely fashion.
If so ineffectual a red line were to emerge from a decade of diplomacy by the permanent members of the Security Council, the result would be an essentially uncontrollable military nuclear proliferation throughout a region roiled by revolution and sectarian blood-feuds. Iran would thereby achieve the status of North Korea, with a military nuclear program at the very edge of going operational.
Again North Korea… Pretty grim picture.
Like many others, Kissinger recommends talks and compromise with Iran based on enrichment limits as the preferred course of action, but also cautions:
The time available for a diplomatic outcome shrinks in direct proportion as the Iranian enrichment capacity grows and a military nuclear capacity approaches. The diplomatic process must therefore be brought to a point of decision. The P5+1 or the United States unilaterally must put forward a precise program to curtail Iranian enrichment with specific time limits.
Kissinger makes much more sense that Gary Sick, in his recent piece in which he also recommends the president engage Iran – but for a very different reason: Sick’s argument, as far as we can understand, is basically this: since Tehran has its finger in all the relevant Middle East pies – from its illicit nuclear activity to support for Syrian massacres to fortifying terrorism – it should be rewarded with increased attention and respect.
After reviewing the latest IAEA report, we really don’t get that line of argument.
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