Category Archives: Iran

US sanctions against Iran lifted after compliance with nuclear deal

Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for The Guardian:

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has ordered that nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran be lifted after a final report by the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Tehran had fulfilled its obligations under last year’s nuclear agreement.

In a statement, Kerry said the sanctions termination provisions of Iran’s landmark nuclear agreement were now in effect. President Barack Obama delegated authority to Kerry to make the determination. Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters in Vienna: “Today we have achieved Implementation Day of the joint comprehensive plan of action,” referring to the deal sealed last July.

The move came after the IAEA’s decision late on Saturday that Tehran had successfully complied with the terms of the deal. That announcement in turn followed the release of four dual nationals and a teenage student in a prisoner swap with the US. They included the Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who was held on charges of spying for over a year. The Iranian-Americans were released in exchange for seven Iranian nationals held in US prisons, apparently for violating sanctions. The timing of the prisoner swap implies that the issue had been discussed on the sidelines of the nuclear talks despite denial from both sides.

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U.S. Radically Changes Its Story of the Boats in Iranian Waters: to an Even More Suspicious Version

Glenn Greenwald reports for The Intercept:

When news first broke of the detention of two U.S. ships in Iranian territorial waters, the U.S. media — aside from depicting it as an act of Iranian aggression — uncritically cited the U.S. government’s explanation for what happened. One of the boats, we were told, experienced “mechanical failure” and thus “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters. On CBS News, Joe Biden told Charlie Rose, “One of the boats had engine failure, drifted into Iranian waters.”

Provided their government script, U.S. media outlets repeatedly cited these phrases — “mechanical failure” and “inadvertently drifted” and “boat in distress” — like some sort of hypnotic mantra.

[…] The U.S. government itself now says this story was false. There was no engine failure, and the boats were never “in distress.” Once the sailors were released, AP reported, “In Washington, a defense official said the Navy has ruled out engine or propulsion failure as the reason the boats entered Iranian waters.”

Instead, said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at a press conference this morning, the sailors “made a navigational error that mistakenly took them into Iranian territorial waters.” He added that they “obviously had misnavigated” when, in the words of the New York Times, “they came within a few miles of Farsi Island, where Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has a naval base.”

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A Bad Week for Warmongers as U.S. and Iran Quickly Resolve Sailors’ Breach Just Before Nuke Deal Kicks In: Interview Trita Parsi

Amy Goodman and Narmeen Sheikh recently spoke to Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, and author of the forthcoming book: Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Legacy of Diplomacy. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Media Condemns Iran’s “Aggression” in Intercepting U.S. Naval Ships — in Iranian Waters

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

News broke last night, hours before President Obama’s State of the Union address, that two U.S. Navy ships “in the Persian Gulf” were “seized” by Iran, and the 10 sailors on board were “arrested.” The Iranian government quickly said, and even the U.S. government itself seemed to acknowledge, that these ships had entered Iranian waters without permission, and were thus inside Iranian territory when detained. CNN’s Barbara Starr, as she always does, immediately went on the air with Wolf Blitzer to read what U.S. officials told her to say: “We are told that right now, what the U.S. thinks may have happened, is that one of these small boats experienced a mechanical problem … perhaps beginning to drift. … It was at that point, the theory goes right now, that they drifted into Iranian territorial waters.”

It goes without saying that every country has the right to patrol and defend its territorial waters and to intercept other nations’ military boats that enter without permission. Indeed, the White House itself last night was clear that, in its view, this was “not a hostile act by Iran” and that Iran had given assurances that the sailors would be promptly released. And this morning they were released, exactly as Iran promised they would be, after Iran said it determined the trespassing was accidental and the U.S. apologized and promised no future transgressions.

Despite all of this, most U.S. news accounts last night quickly skimmed over — or outright ignored — the rather critical fact that the U.S. ships had “drifted into” Iranian waters. Instead, all sorts of TV news personalities and U.S. establishment figures puffed out their chest and instantly donned their Tough Warrior pose to proclaim that this was an act of aggression — virtually an act of war: not by the U.S., but by Iran. They had taken our sailors “hostage,” showing yet again how menacing and untrustworthy they are.

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Could Iran Nuke Deal Help Create Way to Address North Korean Crisis? Interview with Joe Cirincione and Christine Ahn

Amy Goodman speaks to Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund and author of Nuclear Nightmares: Securing the World Before It is Too Late, and Christine Ahn, founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War. (Democracy Now!)

Why stoking sectarian fires in the Middle East could be Saudi Arabia’s biggest mistake

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Protesters burn an effigy of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz outside the Saudi embassy in IndiaSaudi Arabia will be pleased that the furore over its execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr is taking the form of a heightened confrontation with Iran and the Shia world as a whole. Insults and threats are exchanged and diplomatic missions closed. Sunni mosques are blown up in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq. The Saudi rulers are able to strengthen their leadership of a broad Sunni coalition against an Iranian-led Shia axis at home and abroad.

The motive for the mass execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others, many Sunni jihadists, was primarily domestic. The threat to the al-Saud family within Saudi Arabia comes from Sunni extremists in al-Qaeda and Isis and not from the Shia, who are only a majority in two provinces in the eastern region of the country. Furious denunciations by Shia communities and countries will do nothing but good to the reputation of the ruling family among the majority of Saudis.

Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi variant of Sunni Islam has been blamed by many outside the kingdom as the ideological forbearer of Isis, but the real danger for the monarchy is that it should be seen at home as insufficiently zealous as defender of the faith.

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Saudi executions were worthy of ISIS – so what now for the West?

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

[…] The killings represent far more than just Saudi hatred for a cleric who rejoiced at the death of the former Saudi interior minister – Mohamed bin Nayef’s father, Crown Prince Nayef Abdul-Aziz al-Saud – with the hope that he would be “eaten by worms and will suffer the torments of hell in his grave”. Nimr’s execution will reinvigorate the Houthi rebellion in Yemen, which the Saudis invaded and bombed this year in an attempt to destroy Shia power there. It has enraged the Shia majority in Sunni-rules Bahrain. And Iran’s own clerics have already claimed that the beheading will cause the overthrow of the Saudi royal family.

It will also present the West with that most embarrassing of Middle Eastern problems: the continuing need to cringe and grovel to the rich and autocratic monarchs of the Gulf while gently expressing their unease at the grotesque butchery which the Saudi courts have just dished out to the Kingdom’s enemies. Had Isis chopped off the heads of Sunnis and Shias in Raqqa – especially that of a troublesome Shia priest like Sheikh Nimr – we can be sure that Dave Cameron would have been tweeting his disgust at so loathsome an act. But the man who lowered the British flag on the death of the last king of this preposterous Wahabi state will be using weasel words to address this bit of head-chopping.

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Saudi Arabia executions threaten to plunge Middle East into greater turmoil

Bill Law, James Cusick and Sam Masters report for The Independent:

The beheading of dozens of Sunni and Shia prisoners by the West’s main Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, threatens to renew sectarian violence in the oil-rich kingdom and plunge the Middle East into greater turmoil.

The mass executions – in Riyadh, Mecca, Medina and in the eastern and northern regions – have been seen as a bloody statement of intent delivered by an increasingly powerless Saudi Interior Minister.

Among those killed was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a leading Shia cleric with the rank of ayatollah, a political prisoner and vocal supporter of protests against the Saudi royal family. His death, which has sparked outrage in Iran, the dominant Shia power in the region, is likely to lead to an escalation of hostilities in Yemen, where a proxy war between the two nations is being fought.

Iran’s leaders reacted furiously. Seminary students marched through the holy city of Qom in protest. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a senior cleric, told the Mehr news agency: “I have no doubt that this pure blood will stain the collar of the House of Saud and wipe them from the pages of history.”

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How False Stories of Iran Arming the Houthis Were Used to Justify War in Yemen

Gareth Porter reports for Truthout:

A man walks in Saada, in northern Yemen, a stronghold of the Houthi rebels, which has come under intense bombardment by the Saudi-led coalition, Sept. 7, 2015. (Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)Peace talks between the Saudi-supported government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels ended in late December without any agreement to end the bombing campaign started by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies with US support last March. The rationale for the Saudi-led war on Houthis in Yemen has been that the Houthis are merely proxies of Iran, and the main alleged evidence for that conclusion is that Iran has been arming the Houthis for years.

The allegation of Iranian arms shipments to the Houthis – an allegation that has often been mentioned in press coverage of the conflict but never proven – was reinforced by a report released last June by a panel of experts created by the UN Security Council: The report concluded that Iran had been shipping arms to the Houthi rebels in Yemen by sea since at least 2009. But an investigation of the two main allegations of such arms shipments made by the Yemeni government and cited by the expert panel shows that they were both crudely constructed ruses.

The government of the Republic of Yemen, then dominated by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, claimed that it had seized a vessel named Mahan 1 in Yemeni territorial waters on October 25, 2009, with a crew of five Iranians, and that it had found weapons onboard the ship. The UN expert panel report repeated the official story that authorities had confiscated the weapons and that the First Instance Court of Sana’a had convicted the crew of the Mahan 1 of smuggling arms from Iran to Yemen.

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IAEA Report Finds Many Allegations on Iran’s Nuclear History Are Baseless: Interview with Robert Kelly

Sharmini Peries talks to Robert Kelley, a former IAEA nuclear inspector. Kelley says that the IAEA had failed to adequately investigate charges that were made in the past by U.S. and Israel against Iran in order to derail negotiations. (The Real News)

Iran’s ‘Deep State’ Has the Most to Lose from Opening to the West

Editor’s Note: You can listen to a recent interview with Muhammad Sahimi discussing the below article here.

Muhammad Sahimi writes for The National Interest:

The comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – was signed on July 14. A few days later the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 2231 endorsing it. October 18 was the “adoption day” of the agreement, the day both sides began laying the legal groundwork for carrying out their obligations under the agreement. In particular, the European Union and the United States began the legal process to lift the economic sanctions against Iran.

Led by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s moderates and pragmatists have been trying to open their country’s gates to the outside world. Believing that the shadow of war has been lifted, they are trying to attract foreign investments, normalize Iran’s relations with the West and in particular the United States, and move the nation’s political system toward a more inclusive and open one.

But, Iran’s deep state – the security and intelligence forces and their hardline supporters that hide behind the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – does not want normalization of the relations with the West. While it does want lifting of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, it also abhors opening Iran to the world. The reason is clear: normalization of the political and economic ties with the West will lead to loosening of the deep state’s grip on political power. Loss of political power will inevitably lead to the loss of economic might and privileges that the deep state and its supporters enjoy.

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The Sham Syrian Peace Conference

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

I have always been enthusiastic in my support for peace negotiations, which have been neglected all too often in internal and international conflicts. But it is clear that the international conference on Syria that held its first meeting in Vienna on October 30 is a sham conference that is not capable of delivering any peace negotiations, and that the Obama administration knew that perfectly well from the start.

The administration was touting the fact that Iran was invited to participate in the conference, unlike the previous United Nations-sponsored gathering on Syria in January and February 2014. That unfortunate conference had excluded Iran at the insistence of the United States and its Sunni allies, even though several states without the slightest capacity to contribute anything to a peace settlement – as well as the Vatican – were among the 40 non-Syrian invited participants.

Iran’s participation in the Vienna conference represents a positive step. Nevertheless, the conference was marked by an even more fundamental absurdity: none of the Syrian parties to the war were invited. The 2014 talks at least had representatives of the Assad regime and some of the armed opposition. The obvious implication of that decision is that the external patrons of the Syrian parties – especially Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia – are expected to move toward the outline of a settlement and then use their clout with the clients to force the acceptance of the deal.

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Pentagon Chief: Gulf countries don’t need billions of dollars in weapons U.S. sells them each year

Jeffrey Goldberg reports for The Atlantic:

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had reassuring words for Israel when I interviewed him last week in his office at the Pentagon, but he also had blunt criticism of other American allies in the Middle East: the Arab Gulf states, who, he argued, sometimes appear unwilling to effectively engage their enemies. Carter suggested that these states—the members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and Egypt as well—would rather build show-horse air forces than commit to the dangerous work of countering ISIS and Iran, the main bogeymen of moderate Arab states.

“If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground,” Carter said, referring to Iranian military activities in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. “We don’t like it that they’re in the game on the ground, but they are in the game. There is a sense that some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet,” more interested in acquiring advanced fighter jets than in building—and deploying—special-operations forces.

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In Bid to Counter Iran, Ayatollah in Iraq May End Up Emulating It

Tim Arango reports for The New York Times:

In the struggle to transform Iraq from a dictatorship to a democracy after the American-led invasion in 2003, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest spiritual authority for many of the world’s Shiite Muslims, stood out as a singular champion of the effort to hold direct elections and ensure that politicians, and not clerics, rule the country.

In doing so, he shaped the relationship between religion and politics here as distinctly different from the Shiite theocracy in Iran, where another ayatollah wields supreme power.

Now, in the face of concerns over the growing power of Iran and its militia proxies amid a sectarian war in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani has made one of his biggest interventions in Iraqi politics, to try to strengthen the Iraqi state, experts say.

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Noam Chomsky on Power and Ideology

This past Saturday, Noam Chomsky spoke in front of a sold-out audience of close to 1,000 people at The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in New York City. In a speech titled “On Power and Ideology,” Chomsky discussed George Orwell, the suppression of ideas, the persistence of U.S. exceptionalism, Republican efforts to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal, and the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. (Democracy Now!)

Thanks to Libya, North Korea Might Never Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons

Doug Bandow, author of Foreign Follies, writes for The National Interest:

The Obama administration’s success in negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran has led to hope that a similar agreement might be reached with North Korea. Halt your program, dismantle some of your capabilities and accept intrusive inspections in return for “coming in from the cold.”

Unfortunately, there’s virtually no chance of that happening. The North already has a nuclear capability and views preservation of a nuclear arsenal as critical for domestic politics as well as international policy. Moreover, the West’s ouster of Libya’s Moammar Khadafy is seen in Pyongyang as dispositive proof that only a fool would negotiate away missile and nuclear capabilities.

Many, if not most, Korea experts long ago lost hope that the North was prepared to dismantle its nuclear program. In word and action, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) had demonstrated its commitment to being a nuclear state. While none of its neighbors desires that outcome, the North has ample reason to be well armed.

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Why is Saudi Arabia Now Supporting the Iran Deal?

Iran Deal: Don’t expect much change in post-Vienna US Middle East policy

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

If and when the Iran nuclear agreement gets through Congress, many people in Washington hope that Obama will articulate a more realistic strategy for the Middle East than what we have heard from his administration in the past.

But Obama has evidently decided this is not the time to articulate anything about the region’s future that he does not see as helping to sell the agreement on Capitol Hill. The real question is whether there is a clear idea waiting to be made public when the timing is right.

If there was ever an appropriate moment for Obama to articulate an overarching post-agreement policy vision that integrated the Iran nuclear agreement into a broader strategy for dealing with a Middle East at war, it was his speech at American University on 5 August. The time and place for the speech were chosen in explicit acknowledgement of John F. Kennedy’s speech at that same university 52 years earlier. In his speech, JFK offered a vision of a transformation of US policy toward the Soviet Union and the Cold War from one of confrontation to negotiations. But instead of using that occasion to explain how US diplomacy might play a transformational role in the Middle East, Obama limited the speech to defending the Vienna agreement in the narrowest terms.

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To Defend Iran Deal, Obama Boasts That He’s Bombed Seven Countries

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Beyond accurately describing Iran deal opponents, Obama also accurately described himself and his own record of militarism. To defend against charges that he Loves the Terrorists, he boasted:

As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat.

I’ve ordered military action in seven countries.

By “ordered military actions in seven countries,” what he means is that he has ordered bombs dropped, and he has extinguished the lives of thousands of innocent people, in seven different countries, all of which just so happen to be predominantly Muslim.

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Iran deal is about staving off the coming oil shock

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle Easy Eye:

[…] George Friedman, founder and CEO of private US intelligence firm Stratfor – which operates closely with the Pentagon and State Department – forecasted the US-Iran détente four years ago.

His prescient assessment of its strategic rationale is worth noting. Friedman explained that by reaching “a temporary understanding with Iran,” the US would give itself room to withdraw while playing off Iran against the Sunni regimes, limiting Iran’s “direct controls” in the region, “while putting the Saudis, among others, at an enormous disadvantage”.

“This strategy would confront the reality of Iranian power and try to shape it,” wrote Friedman.

Ultimately, though, the US is betting on the rise of Turkey – hence the latter’s pivotal role in the new anti-IS rebel training strategy, despite Turkey’s military and financial sponsorship of IS.

For the US, “the longer-term solution to the balance of power in the region will be the rise of Turkey,” which would “counterbalance Iran and Israel, while stabilising the Arabian Peninsula.” This will eventually generate “a new regional balance of power”.

Crucially, this regional balance of power would operate under the overarching sway of US military pre-eminence.

As Stephen Kinzer has pointed out, a US-Turkey-Iran axis would enhance the US ability to police Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Pakistan from a distance, while safeguarding oil and gas transportation routes to Europe.

But both Friedman and Kinzer missed another critical factor in these geopolitical considerations: the prospect of a global oil shock.’

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Gareth Porter on the Iran Deal: ‘Media Have Been Applying a False Narrative to the Entire Issue’

Gareth Porter was interviewed recently about the Iran deal on FAIR’s CounterSpin:

Gareth Porter: Well, of course there is a great deal that the media are missing about the background of this, because of the fact that the media have been basically applying a false narrative to the entire issue of the Iran nuclear program for so long, and that means that they are missing essentially the entire true history of the program.

In my focus on one particular issue, I don’t mean to suggest that this is by any means the only problem with the news media interpretation or take on the Iran nuclear deal. But what I thought was particularly appropriate at this point is to look back and see, how did the US come to the point where it was ready to negotiate a deal on the nuclear program with Iran? And the answer to that is certainly not something that you will learn from reading the news media accounts.

I’ve been following this for some years now, and what struck me about the relevant history here is that, in fact, if you go back to the 1990s, the people within Iran who are part of this very strong, the most powerful political faction in the country, really, the Rafsanjani faction–named after the former President Rafsanjani, who wanted to integrate Iran into the global capitalist economy, and realized that their only hope for doing that was to reach some kind of an agreement with the United States–really began in the late 1980s and early 1990s to engage the United States diplomatically and politically. And what happened was that the United States was simply not interested, either under the George H.W. Bush administration or the Clinton administration, and certainly not the George W. Bush administration.

Why did the United States not take any interest in diplomatic engagement with Iran? Because, at that point, Iran was simply too weak, and the disparity in power with the United States was simply too great. The United States government did not see any compelling strategic reason to have a negotiating process with Iran.

In my book, I point out quite precisely in the very early 1990s, when the Bush administration at that time basically shifted a policy that had been planned to be carried out by the White House to reciprocate a gesture by Rafsanjani in helping to release US hostages in Lebanon, by essentially making some public concession or gesture to Iran, and instead of doing that, in the wake of the victory over Iraq, the administration decided that they didn’t really need Iran at all in their plans for the Middle East, and simply embarked on a new period of hostility toward Iran. So that was the beginning of this 25-year period, essentially, of the US being much less interested in reaching agreement with Iran than Iran was.

That’s been misunderstood, because Iran has not simply said, United States, we’ll do whatever you want to have an agreement with you. They wanted the United States to lift the sanctions. And that was the primary issue for many years, and the United States wasn’t willing to do that. So it was not really until the second Obama administration that the United States really deigned to enter into a fundamental negotiating process with Iran. Up until that time, the posture of the United States was: We will put pressure on Iran to force it to give up  its nuclear program. Or, we’re really not interested in doing that; we will just carry out regime change, as was the case with the Bush administration.

What I’m really talking about here is the impact of the vast disparity in power between the United States and Iran, and how that has shaped the history of the whole question of the diplomatic engagement between the two countries.’

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW…

Anti-Iran Deal AIPAC Spin-off Relies on Iranian Ex-Terrorist Group

Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib writes for LobeLog:

CFNFI NCRI c2 640When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared war on the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers signed last week in Vienna, it put its money where its mouth is. AIPAC, Washington’s most influential pro-Israel lobby reportedly plans on spending $20 million over the next two months urging Congress to vote against the deal. But its efforts at a full frontal attack on the accord, inked by the P5+1 (the US, China, France, Russia, the UK, and Germany) and Iran is leading to some politically awkward alliances.

As part of its efforts to kill the deal with a congressional vote, AIPAC launched a 501c4 advocacy group called Citizens For A Nuclear Free Iran. The group, according to The New York Times, was “formed with the sole mission of educating the public ‘about the dangers of the proposed Iran deal,’” said spokesman Patrick Dorton. The Times reported that the $20 million budget would go to ad buys in as many as 40 states as well as other advocacy.

Now that the campaign is taking shape, the AIPAC spin-off appears to be relying on a typical, if troubling, ally of American groups and individuals opposed to diplomacy with Iran. Namely, two items on the website of Citizens for a Nuclear Iran, one of which was later removed, featured an exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

The MEK makes a cameo appearance in the television ad crafted by Citizens For a Nuclear Free Iran, the well-financed AIPAC spin-off, as well as on a now-removed news items on the group’s “Press Room” webpage—indicating that Nuclear Free Iran recognized a PR misstep by promoting the group.’

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Iran Deal: Obama Acts for America’s Interests

Eric Margolis, author of American Raj, writes:

shutterstock_274494032Barack Obama is the first American president to stand up to the Israel lobby since Dwight Eisenhower ordered Israel to withdraw from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in 1956-57.

Freed of re-election concerns and the need for vast amounts of cash, President Obama finally made the decision to put America’s strategic interests ahead of those of Israel by making peace with Iran. This was a huge accomplishment: the United States has waged economic and political warfare against the Islamic Republic since its creation in 1979.

Iran now looks likely to join Cuba in getting paroled from prison. Both refused to bow to Washington and paid a very heavy price that left them semi-crippled economically and isolated.

Unless the Israel lobby and its yes-men in Congress manage to block the nuclear agreement between Iran and major world powers, Tehran will be re-integrated into the world economic system and reassert its regional power. Iran is the world’s fourth largest producer of oil and a principal supplier to China and Japan.

Iran’s gradual return to unrestrained oil exporting may well spook markets that are already facing a severe glut of inventory that has driven down energy prices everywhere. So much for fears of “peak oil.”

It’s now time to begin dispelling the miasma of lies about Iran promoted by neoconservatives and their house media.’

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Is the ‘military option’ on Iran off the table?

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, writes for the Baltimore Sun:

[…] Looking for changes in official public statements was my bread and butter during a long tenure as a Kremlinologist. So on Wednesday, as I watched Mr. Obama defend the deal with Iran, I leaned way forward at each juncture — and there were several — where the timeworn warning about all options being “on the table” would have been de rigueur. He avoided saying it.

“All options on the table?” The open-ended nature of this Bush/Cheney-esque bully-type warning is at odds with Western international understandings spanning more than three and half centuries — from the treaties of Westphalia (1648), to the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) to the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal to the UN Charter (1945). Try raising that with Establishment Washington, though, and be prepared to be dismissed as “picky-picky,” or as quaint and as obsolete as the Geneva Conventions. Undergirding all this is the chauvinism reflected in President Obama’s repeated reminders that the U.S. “is the sole indispensable country in the world.”

But in the wake of last week’s accord with Iran in Vienna, it is possible now to hope that the “military option” is finally off the table — in reality, if not in occasional rhetorical palliatives for Israel.

Most Americans have no idea of how close we came to making war on Iran in 2008, the last year of the Bush/Cheney administration. Nor do they know of the essential role played by courageous managers of intelligence who, for the first time on the Iran nuclear issue, supervised a strictly evidence-based, from-the-bottom-up National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that concluded in November 2007 that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon at the end of 2003 and had not resumed that work.’

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Report: US to Give Israel Massive Increase in Military Aid for Iran Deal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Israeli media are quoting officials familiar with the situation as saying there are quiet talks going on between the Obama Administration and Israel’s new far-right government on a “massive compensation” boost in military aid for Israel’s acquiescence on the civilian nuclear deal with Iran.

The deal is expected to be spun in the US and Israel as a huge boost in military aid to keep Israel’s “competitive advantage” over Saudi Arabia after that nation buys new US weapons, though Israel of course isn’t on particularly bad terms with the Saudis to begin with.

In return, Israel would be allowed to keep publicly complaining about the Iran deal, but would privately tone down their efforts to undermine the deal.’

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How Three of the Iran Negotiations’ Toughest Issues Were Resolved

Gareth Porter, author of Manufactured Crisis, writes for Truthout:

Iranians holding their flag celebrate the announcement that Iran had reached a nuclear deal with world powers in Tehran, Iran, July 14, 2015. (Arash Khamooshi/The New York Times) The 159-page text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the six powers led by the United States does not contain any major surprises about the two central elements of the agreement – limits on the Iranian nuclear program and the timing and sequencing of lifting sanctions. And there is nothing in the text about the last major issue to be resolved – how the Security Council’s new resolution will deal with the arms embargo and ban on the Iranian ballistic missile program.

But details provided in the official text help confirm information available from other sources on the other two toughest issues: IAEA access to “suspicious sites” and the past allegations of Iranian work on nuclear weapons.

Below are brief accounts of what we now know about how these three major negotiating issues were resolved during the Vienna round of negotiations. The three issues are of particular interest because they have all been the most clearly linked to the politics of Israeli and Saudi opposition to the agreement.’

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Netanyahu: Israel Won’t Be Bound by Iran Nuclear Deal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In between bouts of angrily shaking his fists at the sky about the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared today that he doesn’t believe his country is bound by the deal in the slightest, and remains free to attack Iran at any moment.

Netanyahu has been insisting a nuclear deal with Iran would mean the destruction of Israel throughout the talks, empty rhetoric during the long period when no one expected the talks to actually lead to any sort of deal. With a deal now not only possible but agreed to, Netanyahu is struggling to get his rhetoric on track.

Israel wasn’t involved in the nuclear deal, and has no obligations under it, so saying they are not bound by it is effectively meaningless. The threats to attack Iran are nothing new, but feel even emptier in the wake of the deal, as it would fuel an enormous international backlash against Israel, even if US hawks are okay with the idea.’

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Pentagon chief reassures Israel: We will use “military option” against Iran if necessary

Kristina Wong reports for The Hill:

Defense Secretary Ash Carter reassured Israel and other allies in the Middle East on Tuesday that the U.S. would utilize the “military option” against Iran if needed.

“We remain prepared and postured to bolster the security of our friends and allies in the region, including Israel; to defend against aggression; ensure freedom of navigation in the Gulf; and check Iranian malign influence,” Carter said in a statement.

“We will utilize the military option if necessary,” he added.

“Our military — including tens of thousands of U.S. forces in the Middle East — are full speed ahead maintaining a strong presence in the Gulf.”

Carter’s remarks came after the administration announced it reached a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. ‘

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How a weaker Iran got the hegemon to lift sanctions

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

Now that Iran nuclear deal is completed, the attention of western news media and political commentators is predictably focused overwhelmingly on the opposition to the agreement within the US Congress and from Israel and the Saudi-led Sunni Arab coalition.

That media lens misses the real significance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is that Iran succeeded in negotiating an agreement with the United States that upheld its national right to a nuclear programme despite the obvious vast disparity in power between the two states. That power disparity between the global hegemon and a militarily weak but politically influential regional “middle power” has shaped not just the negotiating strategies of the two sides during the negotiations but, more importantly, how they came about in the first place.

The news media have adopted the Obama administration’s view that negotiations were the result of Iran responding to international sanctions. The problem with that conventional view is not that Iran wasn’t eager to get the sanctions removed, but that it was motivated to do so long before the United States was willing to negotiate.’

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Iran Deal Creates World’s Most Intrusive Inspection Regime: Interview with Lawrence Wikerson

Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and a former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is known for being critical of the Iraq War. (The Real News)