Category Archives: Iran

10 Most Censored Countries

Committee to Protect Journalists published a preview of their annual Attacks on the Press report, which released on Monday, 27 April:

Eritrea and North Korea are the first and second most censored countries worldwide, according to a list compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists of the 10 countries where the press is most restricted. The list is based on research into the use of tactics ranging from imprisonment and repressive laws to harassment of journalists and restrictions on Internet access.

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki has succeeded in his campaign to crush independent journalism, creating a media climate so oppressive that even reporters for state-run news outlets live in constant fear of arrest. The threat of imprisonment has led many journalists to choose exile rather than risk arrest. Eritrea is Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 behind bars-none of whom has been tried in court or even charged with a crime.

Fearing the spread of Arab Spring uprisings, Eritrea scrapped plans in 2011 to provide mobile Internet for its citizens, limiting the possibility of access to independent information. Although Internet is available, it is through slow dial-up connections, and fewer than 1 percent of the population goes online, according to U.N. International Telecommunication Union figures. Eritrea also has the lowest figure globally of cell phone users, with just 5.6 percent of the population owning one.

In North Korea, 9.7 percent of the population has cell phones, a number that excludes access to phones smuggled in from China. In place of the global Internet, to which only a select few powerful individuals have access, some schools and other institutions have access to a tightly controlled intranet. And despite the arrival of an Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang in 2012, the state has such a tight grip on the news agenda that newsreel was re-edited to remove Kim Jong Un’s disgraced uncle from the archives after his execution.

The tactics used by Eritrea and North Korea are mirrored to varying degrees in other heavily censored countries. To keep their grip on power, repressive regimes use a combination of media monopoly, harassment, spying, threats of journalist imprisonment, and restriction of journalists’ entry into or movements within their countries.’

READ MORE…

Saudis Pour Oil on the Mideast Fire

Anthony F. Shaker writes for Consortium News:

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his entourage arrive to greet President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)While denouncing Iran and its supposed Yemeni “Shi’a” allies in a recent speech, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, Saud ibn Nayyef bin Abdel Aziz, put his country’s Shi’a community — fellow citizens — squarely in his sights.

“While our country is going through what it is going through and standing together as one bloc,” he ranted, “we find the descendants of the Safavid Abdullah ibn Saba who try to divide that bloc.”

“Abdullah ibn Saba” refers to a Seventh-Century Jewish convert to Islam whose existence is uncertain but who has become a useful myth. True to every other brand of Salafist takfiris, Wahhabi clerics and Saudi government officials alike insist that a Jew “founded” Shi’ism and that his purpose was to destroy Islam from within.

Happily for them this unsavory and, to historians, comically false claim connects “Iran” and “Shi’ism” to the “Jews.”

Yet, there is nothing out of the ordinary in the governor’s diatribe. The United States’ second most important ally in the Middle East fully intends to play its sectarian card to the hilt. The signs are everywhere.’

READ MORE…

Iran Warned Houthis Against Yemen Takeover

Ali Watkins, Ryan Grim and Akbar Shahid Ahmed report for The Huffington Post:

[…] The newly disclosed information casts further doubt on claims that the rebels are a proxy group fighting on behalf of Iran, suggesting that the link between Iran and the Yemeni Shiite group may not be as strong as congressional hawks and foreign powers urging U.S. intervention in Yemen have asserted.

U.S. lawmakers and Gulf state leaders who are skeptical of the nuclear negotiations with Iran have pointed to the Houthis’ rise to power in Yemen as more evidence of Iran’s unhelpful expansionary objectives in the region. But the news that Iran actually opposed the takeover paints a more complicated picture. As the regime in Tehran has signaled, the Iranians are not unhappy to see their Gulf rivals embroiled in conflict in their neighborhood, but their advice against seizing Sanaa suggests that controlling Yemen is at best a secondary priority for Iran, far behind relief from sanctions that could come with a successful nuclear pact.

On the other hand, the revelation that the Houthis directly disobeyed Iran gives credibility to the White House’s argument that Iran is not directing the rebels, who follow a different branch of Shiite Islam than Iran’s leaders and are believed to care more about corruption and the distribution of power in Yemen than the spread of Shiite influence across the Middle East.’

READ MORE…

Sale of U.S. Arms Fuels the Wars of Arab States

Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper report for The New York Times:

As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets — but also the prospect of a dangerous new arms race in a region where the map of alliances has been sharply redrawn.

[…] The United States has long put restrictions on the types of weapons that American defense firms can sell to Arab nations, meant to ensure that Israel keeps a military advantage against its traditional adversaries in the region. But because Israel and the Arab states are now in a de facto alliance against Iran, the Obama administration has been far more willing to allow the sale of advanced weapons in the Persian Gulf, with few public objections from Israel.

[…] Industry analysts and Middle East experts say that the region’s turmoil, and the determination of the wealthy Sunni nations to battle Shiite Iran for regional supremacy, will lead to a surge in new orders for the defense industry’s latest, most high-tech hardware.’

READ MORE…

America’s Not-So-Ultimate Weapon: Economic Warfare

Paul Pillar writes for The National Interest:

‘The roots and manifestations of American exceptionalist thinking go way back. One of those manifestations is the use of economic measures as a weapon intended to coerce or deny. The specific thinking involved is that such measures employed by the United States, and even the United States alone, should be enough to induce or force change in other countries. The thinking is solipsistic insofar as it centers narrowly on the idea of American will and the exercise of American power and, as too often has been the case, pays insufficient attention either to the other nation’s motivations or to what damage or denial the United States is inflicting on itself.

More than two centuries ago the young American republic made one of its first big attempts at such economic warfare. The Embargo Act of 1807 shut down U.S. overseas trade in an attempt to get the warring European powers Britain and France to respect U.S. neutrality. President Thomas Jefferson’s intentions were honorable in that he genuinely sought neutrality in the European war—unlike so many today who, if they see an armed conflict going on somewhere in the world, believe it necessary for the United States to take sides even if there are bad guys on more than one side. Jefferson also saw the embargo as an alternative to war rather than a prelude to it—unlike many today, who are both sanctions hawks and military hawks.’

READ MORE…

Iran Deal: A Possible Crossroads to Peace

Robert Parry writes for Consortium News:

Secretary of State John Kerry and his team of negotiators meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his team in Switzerland on March 26, 2015. (State Department photo)The April 2 framework agreement with Iran represents more than just a diplomatic deal to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. It marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war.

Whether that more peaceful route is followed remains very much in doubt, however, given the adamant opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Sunni Arab allies in Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich sheikdoms. Netanyahu continued his denunciations of the deal — saying it would “threaten the survival of Israel” — and no one should underestimate the Israel Lobby’s power over Congress.

But the choice before the American people is whether they want to join a 1,300-year-old religious war in the Middle East between Sunnis and Shiites – with Israel now having thrown in its lot with the Sunnis despite the fact that Saudi Arabia and its cohorts have been supporting Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists.’

READ MORE…

Netanyahu told cabinet: Our biggest fear is that Iran will honor nuclear deal

Barak Ravid reports for Haaretz:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a recent meeting of the security cabinet that if a comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and the six world powers is indeed signed by the June 30 deadline, the greatest concern is that Tehran will fully implement it without violations, two senior Israeli officials said.

The meeting of the security cabinet was called on short notice on April 3, a few hours before the Passover seder. The evening before, Iran and the six powers had announced at Lausanne, Switzerland that they had reached a framework agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and that negotiations over a comprehensive agreement would continue until June 30.

The security cabinet meeting was called after a harsh phone call between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama over the agreement with Tehran.’

READ MORE…

Kerry Slams Iran for Urging Yemen Ceasefire

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Secretary of State John Kerry today angrily condemned the Iranian government for pushing for the ceasefire in the Saudi-led war against Yemen, saying the US is determined to stand with its allies in the region, and accused Iran of “destabilizing” the region with its efforts.

Kerry went on to insist that the Iranian government is “obviously” supplying the Houthis in Yemen, citing commercial flights between Iran and Yemen as proof.

Kerry’s claims were made in spite of WikiLeaks documents from the State Department affirming for years that the US is well aware that the Houthi faction in Yemen is a local faction, and has never been shown to have any significant ties to Iran.’

READ MORE…

The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s just running them at arm’s length

Seamus Milne writes for The Guardian:

Joe Magee Illustration on Saudi-led action in Yemen[…] Since the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan, the US and its allies are reluctant to risk boots on the ground. But their military interventions are multiplying. Barack Obama has bombed seven mainly Muslim countries since he became US president. There are now four full-scale wars raging in the Arab world (Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen), and every one of them has involved US and wider western military intervention. Saudi Arabia is by far the largest British arms market; US weapons sales to the Gulf have exceeded those racked up by George Bush, and last week Obama resumed US military aid to Egypt.

What has changed is that, in true imperial fashion, the west’s alliances have become more contradictory, playing off one side against the other. In Yemen, it is supporting the Sunni powers against Iran’s Shia allies. In Iraq, it is the opposite: the US and its friends are giving air support to Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Sunni takfiri group Isis. In Syria, they are bombing one part of the armed opposition while arming and training another.

The nuclear deal with Iran – which the Obama administration pushed through in the teeth of opposition from Israel and the Gulf states – needs to be seen in that context. The US isn’t leaving the Middle East, as some imagine, but looking for a more effective way of controlling it at arm’s length: by rebalancing the region’s powers, as the former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke puts it, in an “equilibrium of antagonisms”.’

READ MORE…

Six Things You Didn’t Know the U.S. and Its Allies Did to Iran

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Six Things You Didn’t Know the U.S. and Its Allies Did to IranIt’s hard for some Americans to understand why the Obama administration is so determined to come to an agreement with Iran on its nuclear capability, given that huge Iranian rallies are constantly chanting “Death to America!” I know the chanting makes me unhappy, since I’m part of America, and I strongly oppose me dying.

But if you know our actual history with Iran, you can kind of see where they’re coming from. They have understandable reasons to be angry at and frightened of us — things we’ve done that if, say, Norway had done them to us, would have us out in the streets shouting “Death to Norway!” Unfortunately, not only have the U.S. and our allies done horrendous things to Iran, we’re not even polite enough to remember it.

Reminding ourselves of this history does not mean endorsing an Iran with nuclear-tipped ICBMs. It does mean realizing how absurd it sounds when critics of the proposed agreement say it suddenly makes the U.S. the weaker party or that we’re getting a bad deal because Iran, as Republican Sen.Lindsey Graham put it, does not fear Obama enough. It’s exactly the opposite: This is the best agreement the U.S. could get because for the first time in 35 years, U.S.-Iranian relations aren’t being driven purely by fear.’

READ MORE…

The Pentagon plan to ‘divide and rule’ the Muslim world

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Yemen is on the brink of “total collapse” according to the UN high commissioner for human rights. Saudi Arabia’s terror from the air, backed by Washington, Britain and an unprecedented coalition of Gulf states, has attempted to push back the takeover of Yemen’s capital Sanaa by Shiite Houthi rebels.

As Iran-backed Houthi forces have pressed into Aden, clashing with Yemeni troops loyal to exiled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, the US has provided live video feeds from US surveillance drones to aid with Saudi targeting. The Pentagon is set to expand military aid to the open-ended operation, supplying more intelligence, bombs and aerial refuelling missions.

Yet growing evidence suggests that the US itself, through its Gulf allies, gave the northern Houthis a green light for their offensive last September.’

READ MORE…

Despite Deal, US or Israel Might Still Attack Iran at Any Time

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A groundbreaking framework agreement today between the international community and Iran has caused most to breathe a sigh of relief, as it seemingly forestalls the calls from hawks, non-stop for decades, to attack Iran.

But has the war been prevented? Not necessarily. Israeli officials, griping about the deal even before it was made, have dialed up that criticism more, and having failed to sabotage the negotiations through lobbying the US Congress, they may look to “veto” the deal by starting a war and assuming everyone will back them.’

READ MORE…

The neocons: They’re back, and on Iran, they’re uncompromising as ever

Jacob Heilbrunn reports for The Los Angeles Times:

If nothing succeeds like failure, then the neoconservatives who championed democracy promotion and regime change against Saddam Hussein are very successful indeed. After the Iraq war went south, the reputations of leading neocons such as former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz came into disrepute. But as the Obama administration has worked toward its controversial nuclear deal with Iran, the neocons have once again become the dominant voice on foreign policy in the Republican Party.

Writing in National Review on the eve of the agreement, the historian Victor Davis Hanson declared, “Our dishonor in Lausanne, as with Munich, may avoid a confrontation in the present, but our shame will guarantee a war in the near future.”

Over the last few decades, the neocons, who are mostly based at think tanks and magazines in Washington, have come to constitute a kind of military-intellectual complex. Their credo is as sweeping as it is simple: No compromise is ever possible with America’s foreign enemies. Instead, they are championing a liberation doctrine that allows them to present bombing and invading other countries at will as an act of supreme moral virtue.

Exhibit A is Iran.’

READ MORE…

A Short History of Iran-US Relations

Iran Has Been Two Years Away From a Nuclear Bomb Since the 1980s

Micah Zenko writes for The Atlantic:

The April 24, 1984, edition of the British defense publication Jane’s Defence Weekly informed its readers: “Iran is engaged in the production of an atomic bomb, likely to be ready within two years, according to press reports in the Persian Gulf last week.” Subsequent warnings from U.S. and foreign sources about Iran’s imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon have been offered over the past four decades. These false guesses are worth bearing in mind as news from the nuclear negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland, emerges.

More technical “breakout” estimates—the time it would take Iran to compile enough highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to fuel one nuclear weapon—continue to be published, with slightly varying timelines. Setting aside logic, wisdom, and a huge range of assumptions, if you average these five estimates, Iran would require 89.8 days, or three months, if it made a hypothetical rush for one bombs-worth of HEU.’

READ MORE…

Iran Framework Deal Reached, Talks Aimed at Finalizing Deal by End of June

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

US, German, and Iranian officials have begun confirming early Thursday that the long-sought framework on Iran’s nuclear deal has been reached, with the debate now centering on how much will be made public.

The framework is simply the basis for future talks, which officials say will begin immediately, and the new goal is to have the final agreement in place by the end of June.’

READ MORE…

Amnesty Report: Egypt, Nigeria Led World in Death Sentences in 2014

Cara Anna reports for the Associated Press:

Egypt and Nigeria accounted for well over 1,000 of the death sentences announced last year, more than a third of the world’s total, Amnesty International says in its latest annual report on the death penalty.

The London-based human rights group expressed alarm at the 28 percent jump in death sentences: 2,466 people in 55 countries were condemned to death in 2014. At least 607 people were executed in 22 countries last year.

[…] The countries with the most recorded executions last year were Iran with at least 289, Saudi Arabia with at least 90, Iraq with at least 61 and the United States with at least 35, the rights group said. In Iran, hundreds more executions were “not officially acknowledged” and the total could be as high as 743, the organization said.’

READ MORE…

Why the GOP is Sabotaging the Iran Talks: Interview with Jamal Abdi and Gareth Porter

Jamal Abdi of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and Gareth Porter, author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, join Thom Hartmann. The deadline has come and gone for a preliminary nuclear deal with Iran – and talks will now stretch into Wednesday. What are the chances the US and its partners actually reach an agreement with Iran? And why are Republicans really so eager to sabotage any rapprochment with the Islamic Republic?’ (The Big Picture)

Defense Secretary: Nuclear Deal Won’t Preclude US Attack on Iran

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In a highly controversial open letter earlier this month, a number of Senate Republicans warned Iran against signing a nuclear deal with President Obama, arguing the US couldn’t be trusted to keep the deal. They didn’t know how right they were.

Today, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sought to downplay the Iran talks, during remarks at Syracuse University, saying the deal wouldn’t have any impact on a potential US military strike on Iran.’

READ MORE…

Why Iran Distrusts the US in Nuke Talks

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern writes for Consortium News:

The Iranians may be a bit paranoid but, as the saying goes, this does not mean some folks are not out to get them. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his knee-jerk followers in Washington clearly are out to get them – and they know it.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the surreal set of negotiations in Switzerland premised not on evidence, but rather on an assumption of Iran’s putative “ambition” to become a nuclear weapons state – like Israel, which maintains a secret and sophisticated nuclear weapons arsenal estimated at about 200 weapons. The supposed threat is that Iran might build one.

Israel and the U.S. know from their intelligence services that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program, but they are not about to let truth get in the way of their concerted effort to marginalize Iran. And so they fantasize before the world about an Iranian nuclear weapons program that must be stopped at all costs – including war.’

READ MORE…

NY Times Article a Malicious Attempt to Undermine Iran Negotiations: Interview with Former IAEA Director Robert Kelly

‘Robert Kelly says David Sanger in the New York Times claimed Iran had backed off a commitment to ship Uranium out of the country, something that was later refuted by the U.S. State Department.’ (The Real News)

Leading U.S. Newspapers Incite “Supreme International Crime”

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

War op-eds in NYT, WaPoAfter the New York Times printed John Bolton’s “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” (3/26/15; FAIR Blog, 3/26/15), following the Washington Post publishing Joshua Muravchik’s “War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option” (3/13/15), veteran investigative reporter Robert Parry made an excellent point (Consortium News, 3/28/15):

If two major newspapers in, say, Russia published major articles openly advocating the unprovoked bombing of a country, say, Israel, the US government and news media would be aflame with denunciations about “aggression,” “criminality,” “madness” and “behavior not fitting the 21st century.”

But when the newspapers are American – the New York Times and the Washington Post – and the target country is Iran, no one in the US government and media bats an eye. These inflammatory articles – these incitements to murder and violation of international law – are considered just normal discussion in the Land of Exceptionalism.

Advocating for war is not like advocating for most other policies because, as peace activist David Swanson points out, war is a crime.’

READ MORE…

New York Times Accidentally Undermines John Bolton “Bomb Iran” Op-Ed in Own Pages

Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept:

The New York Times yesterday [March 26th] published an op-ed by the characteristically bellicose John R. Bolton, headlined “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Bolton, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.

In an unusual touch, a link added to the original online edition of Bolton’s op-ed directly undermines Bolton’s case for war:

… Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq … can accomplish what is required.

U.S. and Israeli politicians often claim that Israel’s bombing of Iraq in 1981 significantly set back an already-existing Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The truth is almost exactly the opposite.’

READ MORE…

Saudi Ambassador To U.S. Won’t Rule Out Building Nukes

‘The Saudi Ambassador to the United States would not rule out the possibility of the Saudis creating their own nuclear bomb to counterbalance a nuclear-armed Iran in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. “This is not something we would discuss publicly,” Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir said on “The Situation Room.” Later, when pressed, he said, “This is not something that I can comment on, nor would I comment on.” “But the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will take whatever measures are necessary in order to protect its security,” he added. “There are two things over which we do not negotiate: Our faith and our security.”‘ (CNN)

Saudi-Led Yemen Intervention Threatens Protracted, Sectarian War

Adam Baron writes for Al Jazeera America:

Yemen has lately become a hot topic of rampant strategic pontification, pundits rushing to make bold sweeping statements that seek to explain the turbulence in this conflict-wracked nation as simply another front in a region-wide strategic context. But reality — as most who follow Yemen would attest — is far more complicated.

Last September, the Houthis — a Zaidi Shia rebel group — took effective control of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, riding on a wave of popular discontent over the transitional government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. That government had been installed under a U.N.-backed deal mediated by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to end the Arab Spring-inspired uprising against the country’s longtime leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis quickly inked a deal with Hadi and other political factions, but tensions soon emerged. By the start of March, the government had resigned, while Hadi — after escaping house arrest by the Houthis in Sanaa — fled to Aden and declared it Yemen’s temporary capital. U.N.-mediated talks continued in search of a political settlement, while the Houthis moved to consolidate power. The power vacuum resulting from the steady collapse of Yemen’s political order had already proven a boon to extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and deepened an economic and humanitarian crisis that had already left half of the country’s population food-insecure.

Any hope of an early resolution to the crisis among Yemen’s rival factions has been quashed by the Saudi-led anti-Houthi military offensive — euphemistically named “Resolute Storm.” Five nights into the air barrage, a return to calm seems as far away as ever, while the outcome of the Saudi-led intervention remains uncertain.’

READ MORE…

Saudi Arabia’s Airstrikes in Yemen Are Fuelling the Gulf’s Fire

Patrick Cockburn, author of The Rise of the Islamic State, writes for The Independent:

‘Foreign states that go to war in Yemen usually come to regret it. The Saudi-led military intervention so far involves only air strikes, but a ground assault may follow. The code name for the action is Operation Decisive Storm, which is probably an indication of what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like to happen in Yemen, rather than what will actually occur.

In practice, a decisive outcome is the least likely prospect for Yemen, just as it has long been in Iraq and Afghanistan. A political feature common to all three countries is that power is divided between so many players it is impossible to defeat or placate them all for very long. Saudi Arabia is backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi but the humiliating speed of his defeat shows his lack of organised support.

The threat of further intervention by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council may be intended to redress the balance of power in Yemen and prevent the Houthis winning a total victory. But Saudi actions and those of the Sunni coalition will be self-fulfilling if the Houthis – never previously full proxies of Iran – find themselves fighting a war in which they are dependent on Iranian financial, political and military backing.

Likewise, the Houthis, as members of the Zaidi sect, were not always seen by Shia in other countries as part of their religious community. But by leading a Sunni coalition Saudi Arabia will internationalise the Yemen conflict and emphasise its sectarian Sunni-Shia dimension.’

READ MORE…

Arab League to Create Joint Military Force to Fight Iran

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Capping off weekend negotiations at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the Arab League has agreed in principle to create a combined military strike force, which officials saying is aimed squarely at Iran.

The force will be combined from Sunni Arab nations, and the current aim, admittedly preliminary, is for a force of 40,000 troops backed by warplanes to be created within the next four months.’

READ MORE…

The Yemen Crisis: Could Domestic Conflict Grow into Protracted Regional War?

‘As Saudi Arabia and Egypt threaten to send ground troops into Yemen, we look at the roots of the crisis. While many analysts have described the fighting as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, journalist Iona Craig says the fighting stems from a domestic conflict. “People try to frame this as an Iran versus Saudi kind of battle, which it has sort of become. But it is very much because of domestic politics,” explains Iona Craig, who recently spent four years reporting from Sana’a. We also speak to Brian Whitaker, former Middle East editor at The Guardian, about the decades-old history of Saudi intervention in Yemen.’ (Democracy Now!)

Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales

Lee Fang writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons SalesCould a deal to normalize Western relations with Iran and set limits on Iran’s development of nuclear technology lead to a more peaceful and less-weaponized Middle East?

That’s what supporters of the Iran negotiations certainly hope to achieve. But the prospect of stability has at least one financial analyst concerned about its impact on one of the world’s biggest defense contractors.

The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27th. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability.’

READ MORE…

Why the US is sitting out Iraq’s most important assault on ISIS

Michael Pizzi writes for Al Jazeera:

[…] The Tikrit campaign lays bare the layered dilemmas facing the U.S. in Iraq. For months, Washington has sought to paint its war against ISIL as separate from, if parallel to, that of Iran and its Shia proxies — a line is growing harder to maintain. As Tikrit shows, the U.S. is uneasy about the leading role Iran has taken against ISIL, an effort that is spearheaded on many fronts, including in Tikrit, by hard-line Shia militias that many say are liable to exacerbate the alienation of Iraq’s Sunni minority. Sectarian resentments were part of what made ISIL’s surge across Sunni lands in Iraq last June possible, with Sunnis in many areas allowing ISIL forces to move in unchallenged or even providing local conscripts. With Iraq’s fight against ISIL taking an increasingly sectarian cast, the U.S. is staying behind the scenes, limiting its role to airstrikes or military advisers.

But there is nothing covert about Iran’s role. This week photos were circulated online of top Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Qasem Suleimani rallying troops in the city of Samarra, where the Tikrit campaign was formally launched. The presence of Suleimani — who is accused of directing a Shia offensive on U.S. forces during the eight-year U.S. occupation after the ouster of Saddam — was seen by some as an affront to the U.S. and as a “flag-planting moment” for Iran, said Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shia militias and a contributing researcher to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.’

READ MORE…