Beyond Words

The Blog Formerly Known as "Nagoftaniha"

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fool Me Twice

By Joseph Cirincione

I used to think that the Bush administration wasn’t seriously considering a military strike on Iran, because it would only accelerate Iran’s nuclear program. But what we're seeing and hearing on Iran today seems awfully familiar. That may be because some U.S. officials have already decided they want to hit Iran hard.

Does this story line sound familiar? The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames it for attacks on U.S. troops. The intelligence agencies say the nuclear threat from this nation is 10 years away, but the director of intelligence paints a more ominous picture. A new U.S. national security strategy trumpets preemptive attacks and highlights the country as a major threat. And neoconservatives beat the war drums, as the cable media banner their stories with words like “countdown” and “showdown.”

The nation making headlines today, of course, is Iran, not Iraq. But the parallels are striking. Three years after senior administration officials systematically misled the nation into a disastrous war, they could well be trying to do it again.

Nothing is clear, yet. For months, I have told interviewers that no senior political or military official was seriously considering a military attack on Iran. In the last few weeks, I have changed my view. In part, this shift was triggered by colleagues with close ties to the Pentagon and the executive branch who have convinced me that some senior officials have already made up their minds: They want to hit Iran.

I argued with my friends. I pointed out that a military strike would be disastrous for the United States. It would rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular regime, inflame anti-American anger around the Muslim world, and jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq. And it would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear program. Hard-liners in Tehran would be proven right in their claim that the only thing that can deter the United States is a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders could respond with a crash nuclear program that could produce a bomb in a few years.

My friends reminded me that I had said the same about Iraq—that I was the last remaining person in Washington who believed President George W. Bush when he said that he was committed to a diplomatic solution. But this time, it is the administration’s own statements that have convinced me. What I previously dismissed as posturing, I now believe may be a coordinated campaign to prepare for a military strike on Iran.

The unfolding administration strategy appears to be an effort to repeat its successful campaign for the Iraq war. It is now trying to link Iran to the 9/11 attacks by repeatedly claiming that Iran is the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world (though this suggestion is highly questionable). It is also attempting to make the threat urgent by arguing that Iran might soon pass a “point of no return” if it can perfect the technology of enriching uranium, even though many other nations have gone far beyond Iran’s capabilities and stopped their programs short of weapons. And, of course, it is now publicly linking Iran to the Iraqi insurgency and the improvised explosive devices used to kill and maim U.S. troops in Iraq, though Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace admitted there is no evidence to support this claim.

If diplomacy fails, the administration might be able to convince leading Democrats to back a resolution for the use of force against Iran. Many Democrats have been trying to burnish a hawkish image and place themselves to the right of the president on this issue. They may find themselves trapped by their own rhetoric, particularly those with presidential ambitions.

The factual debate during the next six months will revolve around the threat assessment. How close is Iran to developing the ability to enrich uranium for fuel or bombs? Is there a secret weapons program? Are there secret underground facilities? What would it mean if small-scale enrichment experiments succeed?

Fortunately, we know more about Iran’s nuclear program now than we ever knew about Iraq’s (or, for that matter, those of India, Israel, and Pakistan). International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have been in Iran for more than 3 years investigating all claims of weapons-related work. The United States has satellite reconnaissance, covert programs, and Iranian dissidents providing further information. The key now is to get all this information on the table for an open debate.

The administration should now declassify the information it used to estimate how long it will be until Iran has the capability to make a bomb. The Washington Post reported last August that this national intelligence estimate says Iran is a decade away. We need to see the basis for this judgment and all, if any, dissenting opinions. The congressional intelligence committees should be conducting their own reviews of the assessments, including open hearings with independent experts and IAEA officials. Influential groups, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, should conduct their own sessions and studies.

An accurate and fully understood assessment of the status and potential of Iran’s nuclear program is the essential basis for any policy. We cannot let the political or ideological agenda of a small group determine a national security decision that could create havoc in a critical area of the globe. Not again.

Joseph Cirincione is director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Essential that we do whatever possible to prevent a war on Iran


By Haleh Afshar, University of York, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, London Middle East Institute, Elaheh Rostami-Povey, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Sir, as three Iranian British academics, we are writing to express our grave concerns about the growing threat of war against Iran. It is essential that we do whatever is possible to prevent such a disaster.

We would like to clear a number of misunderstandings about Iran. As a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Iran asserts its right under Article IV of the NPT to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

The announcement last week of a nuclear breakthrough is part of this right and is intended for peaceful purposes.

Iran has complied with Articles I and II of the NPT not to acquire nuclear weapons, and Article III, where it accepts full safeguards. It has signed the NPT additional protocol and has allowed intrusive inspections beyond what is required by compliance with the NPT. Numerous inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency have failed to provide any shred of evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons programme.

Iran has repeatedly announced that it is committed to replace the course of confrontation with good-faith interaction and negotiations, as equal partner, for a peaceful solution to its nuclear issue. It has stated its commitment to non-proliferation and to the elimination of nuclear weapons, and considers nuclear weapons detrimental to its security.

It has declared its readiness to abide by its obligations under the NPT and to work for the establishment of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. It has invited the west and the world for cultural and technological collaboration.

Iran strongly condemned the September 11 attack and participated in overthrowing the Taliban regime in late 2001. In return, under the pressure of the neoconservatives in the US and their supporters globally, Iran has faced intimidation based on speculations about its intention of producing WMD.

For the majority of Iranians in Iran and outside Iran, this hostility towards Iran is about returning Iran to a client state for the benefit of US oil corporations and denying Iran's rights to research and development for generating electricity in the future, independently.

Iran is not a threat in the region or to the world as was suggested by the American Jewish Committee's full-page "statement" in the Financial Times recently. Iran is surrounded by India, Pakistan, Russia and Israel, which have nuclear weapons.

The US, UK and Israel, which perceive Iran as a threat, themselves possess WMD and refuse to commit to nuclear disarmament. Iranians believe that Israel may well use its nuclear weapons against them. They are all too aware that Israel has refused to sign the NPT and has not allowed the IAEA to inspect its nuclear programme.

The only chance the world has of avoiding another disastrous US military adventure in the Middle East is to resolve Iran's nuclear issue through diplomacy. It is essential that all voices opposed to the devastation of a new war in the Middle East speak out now. We need funds for human needs, not endless wars and conflicts.


Friday, April 21, 2006

The First Line of Attack Against Iran

Kurdish fighters infiltrated the border into the Iranian side

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iranian forces shelled Iranian Kurdish guerrilla positions inside mountainous northern Iraq early on Friday morning to repel an attack, a Kurdish official said.

"This morning Iranian Kurdish fighters infiltrated the border into the Iranian side and the Iranian army bombed the area and repelled them. The shelling hit Iraqi land at Sidakan," said Saadi Pira, an official of the Iraqi Kurdish, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, party.

There was no word on casualties in the shelling of the Iranian Kurdish rebels of the PJAK movement.

This unknown group has already stepped up their attacks against the Iranian targets. So the military operations against Iran has officially started and Americans have found the perfect stooges (“Kurdish fighters”) to do their dirty work.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Our Man in Ottawa

Canada's "cowboy" prime minister

Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, says: “Canada stands with allies against Iran," which means Canada will not sit this one out and will join Dubya and his thugs in their lunatic scheme for the Greater Middle-East.

In the meantime, take a look at this animation about a not so hypothetical attack against a major Iranian city with a population of more than 2 million people. It's very interesting that these "concerned scientists" even have a better solution for this doomsday scenario. They say instead of using the nuclear bombs, use friendly, run of the mill cruise missiles. That way, everybody will be happy and Dubya's plans can continue.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Like father Like illegitimate son

People on the Mexican side talk to friends and relatives through the wall separating the United States and Mexico.


A Palestinian woman squeezes through a concrete wall, part of the separation wall, separating Jerusalem from its suburb villages and other Palestinian areas.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

We Do Not Have a Nuclear Weapons Program

Published: April 6, 2006

THE controversy over Iran's peaceful nuclear program has obscured one point in particular: There need not be a crisis. A solution to the situation is possible and eminently within reach.

Lost amid the rhetoric is this: Iran has a strong interest in enhancing the integrity and authority of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It has been in the forefront of efforts to ensure the treaty's universality. Iran's reliance on the nonproliferation regime is based on legal commitments, sober strategic calculations and spiritual and ideological doctrine. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic, has issued a decree against the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.

Let me be very clear. Iran defines its national security in the framework of regional and international cooperation and considers regional stability indispensable for its development. We are party to all international agreements on the control of weapons of mass destruction. We want regional stability. We have never initiated the use of force or resorted to the threat of force against a fellow member of the United Nations. Although chemical weapons have been used on us, we have never used them in retaliation — as United Nations reports have made clear. We have not invaded another country in 250 years.

Since October 2003, Iran has accepted a robust inspection regimen by the United Nations. We have allowed more than 1,700 person-days of inspections and adopted measures to address past reporting failures. Most of the outstanding issues in connection with uranium conversion activities, laser enrichment, fuel fabrication and the heavy water research reactor program have been resolved.

Even the presence of highly enriched uranium contamination — an issue that some say proves the existence of an illicit weapons program — has been explained satisfactorily. Don't take it from me. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, its findings tend "to support Iran's statement about the foreign origin of most of the observed H.E.U. contamination."

It's worth noting, too, that Iran has gone beyond its international obligations and allowed the atomic agency to repeatedly visit military sites — and to allow inspectors to take environmental samples. The agency did not observe any unusual activities; the samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material at those locations.

Most important, the agency has concluded time and again that there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

In November 2003, for example, the agency confirmed that "to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities ... were related to a nuclear weapons program." A year later, and last September, it concluded again that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

Another point that has been obscured: Iran is ready for negotiations. Since October 2003, Iran has done its utmost to sustain and even resuscitate negotiations with Britain, France and Germany, the three European countries responsible for negotiating with us. Since August 2004, Iran has made eight far-reaching proposals.

What's more, Iran throughout this period adopted extensive and costly confidence-building measures, including a voluntary suspension of its rightful enrichment activities for two years, to ensure the success of negotiations.

Over the course of negotiations, Iran volunteered to do the following within a balanced package:

• Present the new atomic agency protocol on intrusive inspections to the Iranian Parliament for ratification, and to continue to put its provisions in place pending ratification;
• Permit the continuous on-site presence of atomic agency inspectors at the conversion and enrichment facilities;
• Introduce legislation to permanently ban the development, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons;
• Cooperate on export controls to prevent unauthorized access to nuclear material;
• Refrain from reprocessing or producing plutonium;
• Limit the enrichment of nuclear materials so that they are suitable for energy production but not for weaponry;
• Immediately convert all enriched uranium to fuel rods, thereby precluding the possibility of further enrichment;
• Limit the enrichment program to meet the contingency fuel requirements of Iran's power reactors and future light water reactors;
• Begin putting in place the least contentious aspects of the enrichment program — like research and development — in order to assure the world of our intentions;
• Accept foreign partners, both public and private, in our uranium enrichment program.

Iran has recently suggested the establishment of regional consortiums on fuel cycle development that would be jointly owned and operated by countries possessing the technology and placed under atomic agency safeguards.

Other governments, most notably the Russian Federation, have offered thoughtful possibilities for a deal. Iran has declared its eagerness to find a negotiated solution — one that would protect its rights while ensuring that its nuclear program would remain exclusively peaceful.

Pressure and threats do not resolve problems. Finding solutions requires political will and a readiness to engage in serious negotiations. Iran is ready. We hope the rest of the world will join us.

Javad Zarif is the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations.


Friday, April 07, 2006

How to Love a Hard-Liner



The ski resort of Shemshak, just outside Tehran, is the last place you would expect to hear expressions of nationalist ardor. The slopes are filled with wealthy Iranians who sip hot chocolate in the shadow of a dazzling sun and spend most of their time gabbing about designer skiwear and which party to attend that evening. But when the subject of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes up between runs, the skiers get excited. "I couldn't be happier with him," says Mehdi, 19, an architecture major. "We just want our rights, and he defends them." His sister Anahita, 24, says she changed her mind about the President when he refused to abandon the country's nuclear-energy program. "He stood behind his word like a man," she says.

That an Islamic hard-liner has inspired such pride among even secular, Westernized Iranians says everything about the political climate in Iran today and shows how Ahmadinejad has transformed himself from a lightly regarded ideologue to a national hero. In recent months the President has used the escalating standoff over Iran's nuclear program as a platform for broadening his appeal at home, framing the West as an enemy bent on weakening Iran by denying it legitimate access to technology. Indeed, many observers believe that Ahmadinejad is reacting to the masses' increasingly assertive mood as much as he is stoking it. "Before, you had people vs. the regime," says a Western diplomat in Tehran. "Now you have Iran vs. the West."

Many Iranians attribute their changed views to the realities of a changed Middle East. The late 1990s--when former President Mohammed Khatami led Iran with promises of tolerance and democracy--was a stable time when young Iranians clamored for more social and political freedom. But now with neighboring Iraq in turmoil, Iranians seem more concerned with bolstering their place in the region than with freedom of expression. A growing sense of vulnerability is why many find it easy to ignore Ahmadinejad's fundamentalist outlook and provocative remarks and concentrate on his nationalist defiance. "I don't like this regime, but I don't think Iran should be weak either, or else we'll end up like Iraq," says Nazanin Arafin, 33, a teacher. "In the end, I'd rather be oppressed by an Iranian than a foreign occupier."

While he rallies supporters to back a more confrontational stance with the West, Ahmadinejad has soothed the anxieties of young Iranians, who initially feared he would crush their personal freedoms. Instead government meddling has been limited to blocking thousands of news and cultural websites. Some believe the regime will impose harsher social restrictions with time, but others argue Ahmadinejad will refrain altogether, to avoid alienating the majority of young people, among whom he is now popular. Young Iranians are excited to find a leader who lets them wear baggy jeans and pink veils, and still stands up to what they consider a belligerent U.S. "Our civilization is far superior," says Vahid Mobaraki, 28, a gold merchant in the Tehran bazaar. "We don't need to be bossed around by a country with only 200 years of history."

By focusing public attention on the country's external adversaries, Ahmadinejad has sidestepped criticism for not addressing the country's internal social problems. Despite $60-per-bbl. oil prices, 16% of Iranians remain unemployed. Zahra Rassai, 46, a mother of four teenage sons, voted for Ahmadinejad, hoping he would reduce college tuition. "Nothing has improved in my daily life, but that doesn't matter," she says. "If we Iranians rallied together and boycotted Western products, they wouldn't have the right to dictate to us." It's just as likely, though, that the nuclear dispute will produce pain for Iran, by discouraging foreign investment and pushing the country deeper into isolation. The few critics of Ahmadinejad's who are willing to speak openly say incendiary remarks have already slowed the Iranian economy, and fear that his hostile tactics will elicit economic sanctions and the world's condemnation rather than its respect. "In principle, what Ahmadinejad says is beautiful. It's too bad it's him saying it," says Kamyar Sharifi, 41, a radiator manufacturer. "And the disturbing thing is that it's all a show, because nothing here is improving." Unfortunately for regime opponents at home and abroad, few Iranians seem to have noticed.


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