Category Archives: Iran

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.’

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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.’

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Iran FM: Open to 10-Year Partial Freeze on Some Aspects of Nuclear Program

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Just days after it was reported that he had ruled out the nuclear deal along those terms outright, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said his nation was in fact open to accepting 10-year limits on certain aspects of their civilian nuclear program.

Zarif didn’t go into detail, saying he was “not prepared to negotiate on the air” during the CNN interview, but seemed to leave open the possibility that the deal was going to be acceptable.’

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Former IAEA Director says No Basis for Netanyahu Iran Claims: Interview with Robert Kelley

Netanyahu’s hard line on Iran: A four-point reality check

Tony Karon and Tom Kutsch write for Al Jazeera:

Thumbnail image for Netanyahu warns Obama nuclear deal would pave Iran’s ‘path to bomb’Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday urged U.S. lawmakers to reject the nuclear deal being negotiated between Iran and world powers, warning that it would help Iran acquire nuclear weapons and threaten Israel’s survival. Iran’s regime could not be trusted to abide by any agreement, he warned, and he urged the United States to increase pressure on Tehran until it agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear program and change its regional behavior.

The White House has long warned that abandoning the current negotiating framework would open a path to war — an argument he rejected. But the Israeli leader’s characterization of the deal and of Iran’s current nuclear efforts have long been challenged by Western governments involved in the talks.

Here is a reality check of four of Netanyahu’s key arguments.’

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The long history of Israel gaming the ‘Iranian threat’

Gareth Porter, author of Manufactured Crisis, writes for Middle East Eye:

Western news media has feasted on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s talk and the reactions to it as a rare political spectacle rich in personalities in conflict. But the real story of Netanyahu’s speech is that he is continuing a long tradition in Israeli politics of demonising Iran to advance domestic and foreign policy interests.

The history of that practice, in which Netanyahu has played a central role going back nearly two decades, shows that it has been based on a conscious strategy of vastly exaggerating the threat from Iran.

In conjuring the spectre of Iranian genocide against Israelis, Netanyahu was playing two political games simultaneously. He was exploiting the fears of the Israeli population associated with the Holocaust to boost his electoral prospects while at the same time exploiting the readiness of most members of US Congress to support whatever Netanyahu orders on Iran policy.’

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Noam Chomsky: Despite Iran Spat, U.S. Support for Israeli Occupation Continues Without Pause

Why Iran Believes ISIS is a U.S. Creation

Kay Armin Serjoie reports for Time:

[…] Abdullah Ganji, the managing-director of Javan newspaper, which is believed to closely reflect the views of the government and the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guards, says that U.S. support for ISIS is in fact a way of ensuring Israel’s security and disrupting the Muslim world in the cause of advancing Western interests.

“We believe that the West has been influential in the creation of ISIS for a number of reasons. First to engage Muslims against each other, to waste their energy and in this way Israel’s security would be guaranteed or at least enhanced,” says Ganji. “Secondly, an ugly, violent and homicidal face of Islam is presented to the world. And third, to create an inconvenience for Iran.”’

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Drug Addiction In Iran

This is how a police state protects “secrets”

Marcy Wheeler writes for Salon:

This is how a police state protects "secrets": Jeffrey Sterling, the CIA and up to 80 years on circumstantial evidenceThe participants in the economy of shared tips and intelligence in Washington D.C., breathed a collective sigh of relief when, on January 12, the government announced it would not force James Risen to testify in the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. “Press freedom was safe! Our trade in leaks is safe!” observers seemed to conclude, and they returned to their squalid celebration of an oppressive Saudi monarch.

That celebration about information sharing is likely premature. Because, along the way to the conviction of Sterling this week on all nine counts – including seven counts under the Espionage Act — something far more banal yet every bit as dear to D.C.’s economy of secrets may have been criminalized: unclassified tips.’

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Jury Convicts Former CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling of Leaking to Journalist & Violating Espionage Act

Kevin Gosztola writes for The Dissenter:

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, of charges brought against him because the government argued he leaked classified information about a top secret CIA operation in Iran to New York Times reporter James Risen.

Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.’

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21st-century censorship: Governments around the world are using stealthy strategies to manipulate the media

Philip Bennett and Moises Naim report for Columbia Review of Journalism:

Two beliefs safely inhabit the canon of contemporary thinking about journalism. The first is that the internet is the most powerful force disrupting the news media. The second is that the internet and the communication and information tools it spawned, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, are shifting power from governments to civil society and to individual bloggers, netizens, or “citizen journalists.”

It is hard to disagree with these two beliefs. Yet they obscure evidence that governments are having as much success as the internet in disrupting independent media and determining the information that reaches society. Moreover, in many poor countries or in those with autocratic regimes, government actions are more important than the internet in defining how information is produced and consumed, and by whom.

Illustrating this point is a curious fact: Censorship is flourishing in the information age. In theory, new technologies make it more difficult, and ultimately impossible, for governments to control the flow of information. Some have argued that the birth of the internet foreshadowed the death of censorship. In 1993, John Gilmore, an internet pioneer, told Time, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Today, many governments are routing around the liberating effects of the internet. Like entrepreneurs, they are relying on innovation and imitation. In countries such as Hungary, Ecuador, Turkey, and Kenya, officials are mimicking autocracies like Russia, Iran, or China by redacting critical news and building state media brands. They are also creating more subtle tools to complement the blunt instruments of attacking journalists.

As a result, the internet’s promise of open access to independent and diverse sources of information is a reality mostly for the minority of humanity living in mature democracies.’

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War with Isis: The West is wrong again in its fight against terror

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Islamic State (Isis) will remain at the centre of the escalating crisis in the Middle East this year as it was in 2014. The territories it conquered in a series of lightning campaigns last summer remain almost entirely under its control, even though it has lost some towns to the Kurds and Shia militias in recent weeks.

United States air strikes in Iraq from 8 August and Syria from 23 September may have slowed up Isis advances and inflicted heavy casualties on its forces in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. But Isis has its own state machinery and is conscripting tens of thousands of fighters to replace casualties, enabling it to fight on multiple fronts from Jalawla on Iraq’s border with Iran to the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria.

In western Syria, Isis is a growing power as the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad loses its advantage of fighting a fragmented opposition, that is now uniting under the leadership of Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Yet it is only a year ago that President Obama dismissed the importance of Isis, comparing it to a junior university basketball team.’

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Iran expands ‘smart’ Internet censorship

Michelle Moghtader reports for Reuters:

‘Iran is to expand what it calls “smart filtering” of the Internet, a policy of censoring undesirable content on websites without banning them completely, as it used to, the government said on Friday.

The Islamic Republic has some of the strictest controls on Internet access in the world, but its blocks on U.S.-based social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are routinely bypassed by tech-savvy Iranians using virtual private networks (VPNs).

Under the new scheme, Tehran could lift its blanket ban on those sites and, instead, filter their content.’

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Non-Dollar Trading Is Killing the Petrodollar — And the Foundation of US-Saudi Policy in the Middle East

Former MI6 agent Alastair Crooke writes for The Huffington Post:

‘A profound transformation of the global monetary system is underway. It is being driven by a perfect storm: the need for Russia and Iran to escape Western sanctions, the low interest rate policy of the U.S. Federal Reserve to keep the American economy afloat and the increasing demand for Middle East oil by China.

The implications of this transformation are immense for U.S. policy in the Middle East which, for 50 years, has been founded on a partnership with Saudi Arabia.’

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U.S. State Deptartment Delays Release of Study on 1953 Iran Coup

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In 1953, the CIA orchestrated a coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadegh, installing Shah Reza Pahlavi.

It’s no secret that the CIA did it, and the US has admitted it time and again, but the State Department has announced it is once again delaying the release of its study on the coup, claiming the admission would undermine “ongoing negotiations with Iran.”’

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China is world’s worst jailer of the press; global tally second worst on record

Shazdeh Omari reports for the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Map of Imprisoned Journalists as of December 1, 2014‘The Committee to Protect Journalists identified 220 journalists in jail around the world in 2014, an increase of nine from 2013. The tally marks the second-highest number of journalists in jail since CPJ began taking an annual census of imprisoned journalists in 1990, and highlights a resurgence of authoritarian governments in countries such as China, Ethiopia, Burma, and Egypt.

China’s use of anti-state charges and Iran’s revolving door policy in imprisoning reporters, bloggers, editors, and photographers earned the two countries the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst and second worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Together, China and Iran are holding a third of journalists jailed globally—despite speculation that new leaders who took the reins in each country in 2013 might implement liberal reforms.’

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‘Coercive diplomacy’ and the failure of the Iranian nuclear negotiations

Gareth Porter writes for Middle Easy Eye:

‘After more than a year of negotiations between the United States and Iran, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement by the agreed deadline in July.  They have agreed to continue negotiating, but the failure to meet the deadline was clearly not caused by the lack of time.

To understand why the talks have remained deadlocked, it is necessary to review the Obama administration’s stance on diplomacy with Iran in the context of the long US history of favouring “coercive diplomacy” over traditional negotiations in managing conflicts with adversaries.

Reliance on coercive diplomacy is deeply imbedded in the strategic culture of US national security institutions. It has evolved over decades of US military and economic dominance in international politics, which has allowed the United States to avoid genuine diplomacy repeatedly.’

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Editor’s Note: The below interview with Gareth Porter, author of “Manufactured Crisis:The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” begins at around 16:05

Iran’s Non-Existent Nuke Program: Interview with Gareth Porter

Editor’s Note: Gareth Porter is an investigative journalist and historian who specialises on the Iranian nuclear issue. His latest book is ‘Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare‘. The below interview was recorded over two weeks ago. 

Thirty-five years after Iranian hostage crisis, aftershocks remain

Stephen Kinzer, author of The Brothers, writes for The Boston Globe:

‘Jimmy Carter has called Nov. 4 “a date I will never forget.” Other Americans may not remember the date, but as a nation we are still captive to the humiliating trauma that began unfolding precisely 35 years ago during Carter’s presidency. At 10:30 on the morning of Nov. 4, 1979, several hundred young Iranians climbed the walls of the American embassy in Tehran and stormed inside. By early afternoon, they had captured, blindfolded, and handcuffed dozens of American citizens and diplomats, including 52 who would remain in their hands for 444 days. Thus began a crisis that may now be seen as one of the crucial events in the modern history of both the United States and the Middle East.

Plenty has happened in the intervening decades to give Iran and the United States reason to mistrust each other. Each country has blamed the other for fomenting terror in the Middle East, and each has violently attacked the other’s vital interests. Yet when I recently asked one lifelong Washington insider to explain why the American political class remains so obsessed with isolating and punishing Iran, he immediately replied, “It all goes back to the hostage crisis.” The emotional legacy of that episode has proven astonishingly long-lasting.’

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Hawks Triumph in Senate; Will Push More Aggressive US Policy

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but much more important than which party took control is the nature of the incoming Senators from the new ruling party.

It’s not an influx of Tea Party members, reluctant to waste US funds on overseas adventures and suspicious of federal power, but rather a series of hawks in the model of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) that seized the reins of power last night.

The new senators are typified by Jodi Ernst (R – IA) and Tom Cotton (R – AR), who campaigned heavy on escalating the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria, as well as being more hawkish at essentially every opportunity.”

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Iranian Photojournalist Reportedly Detained After Covering Protest Against Acid Attacks

Robert Mackey reports for The New York Times:

‘An Iranian photojournalist was reported to have been detained on Friday, two days after his images of protesters deploring acid attacks on women in the city of Isfahan were published by news organizations around the world.

[…] Mr. Jafari had covered the demonstration on Wednesday outside the gates of a local judiciary office for the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency, which still features 20 of his images on its website. His photographs were also distributed internationally by Getty Images.’

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The U.S. Government War Against Reporter James Risen

Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler write for The Nation:

‘Ever since New York Times reporter James Risen received his first subpoena from the Justice Department more than six years ago, occasional news reports have skimmed the surface of a complex story. The usual gloss depicts a conflict between top officials who want to protect classified information and a journalist who wants to protect confidential sources. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sterling—a former undercover CIA officer now facing charges under the Espionage Act, whom the feds want Risen to identify as his source—is cast as a disgruntled ex-employee in trouble for allegedly spilling the classified beans.

But the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of US foreign policy. The recent announcement of Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general has come after nearly five years of the Obama administration extending and intensifying the use of the Justice Department for retribution against investigative journalism and whistleblowing.’

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Iran says nuclear suspicions are ‘fabricated ambiguities’

Frederik Dahl reports for Reuters:

‘Iran dismissed on Tuesday as “fabricated ambiguities” suspicions that it has carried out nuclear arms research, a day after it came under renewed Western pressure to help clear up U.N. watchdog concerns about its atomic energy program. Addressing an annual meeting of the 162-nation International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), senior official Behrouz Kamalvandi also said Iran was committed to trying to reach a negotiated solution to its decade-old nuclear dispute with the West.

“However, measures such as sanctions or double standard approaches certainly harm the negotiating process and cause further mistrust,” Kamalvandi, vice chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said. He urged world powers – which resumed talks with Iran in New York last week – to take “constructive and realistic approaches” and fully respect Iran’s nuclear rights in order to end what he called an “unnecessary” crisis.’

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Iranian FM: US ‘obsessed’ with sanctions against Tehran

AFP reports:

‘Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal.

“We are committed to resolving this issue,” Zarif told a Washington think-tank, but he argued the US was “infatuated” with sanctions and Congress was objecting to any deal “because they would have to lift the sanctions.”

“Iran has shown that we will live up to every agreement,” Zarif argued at a discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, just hours before the Iranian delegation was to meet in New York with US counterparts for fresh talks.’

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Israeli envoy: Nuclear Iran ‘a thousand times’ more dangerous than Islamic State

Ron Kampeas reports for The Times of Israel:

‘Saying a nuclear Iran would be a “thousand times” greater threat to the world than the Islamic State, Israel’s ambassador to the United States warned against including Iran in any coalition to derail the jihadist group.

Ron Dermer, speaking Wednesday to guests at a pre-Rosh Hashanah reception at his residence in suburban Maryland, also cautioned the US against accommodating Iran during the current effort to degrade IS.His urgent tone was the latest sign of a split between the Obama and Netanyahu governments over how to deal with Iran’s role in stopping IS, which is seizing swaths of Iraq and Syria.’

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The Geopolitics of World War III

Netanyahu suggested pitting ISIS against Iran

Michael Wilner reported for The Jerusalem Post in late June:

‘Threatening a borderless conflict between “extremist Shi’ites,” funded by leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and equally extreme Sunnis— a soft “alliance” between ISIS and al Qaeda— the Israeli prime minister suggested the United States should largely stay out of the fight, and instead allow the parties to weaken one another.

“Don’t strengthen either of them. Weaken both,” Netanyahu said.’

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Editor’s Note: What Netanyahu suggested is something a lot like the eight year blood bath that was the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s, a war which cost Iraq 500,000 lives and Iran over 750,000. Israel played a secret role by selling $75 million worth of weapons to Iran during Operation Seashell in 1981. The following year the United States started providing Iraq with weapons after Ronald Reagan removed them from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Everyone remembers the famous when Rumsfeld met Saddam moment from 1983. It’s a very dirty game and clearly the same kind of thinking still exists today, let your enemies kill each other while you sit back and enjoy the show. You can watch a documentary on the Iran-Iraq War here.

‘No plans’ for U.S. military coordination with Iran against Islamic State

Lazar Berman and AFP report:

The United States said Friday it has “no plans” for any military coordination with Iran in the fight against Islamic State fighters operating in Iraq and Syria “We are not going to coordinate military action or share intelligence with Iran and have no plans to do so,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, reacting to reports that Tehran had approved such an arrangement.

Harf said that Washington was “open to engaging” with Iran as it had in the past on select issues, notably on Afghanistan in late 2001, when the two sides worked to put Hamid Karzai into power after the fall of the Taliban. “But we will not be coordinating our action together,” she added. The BBC earlier reported, citing unnamed sources in Tehran, that Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had approved cooperation with the US in the fight against Islamic State. But Iran’s foreign ministry said the report was not correct.’

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