Category Archives: Iran

Post-sanctions Iran “could be the best emerging market for years to come”

Ian Black reports for The Guardian:

Iranian schoolgirls wave their national flag during the 36th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Tehran's Azadi Square.[…] Prospects for recovery occupy as much space in the Iranian media as the chances of reaching a deal in the P5 + 1 nuclear negotiations in Vienna, which are due to end by Tuesday. Things are already looking up. The economy rebounded out of recession and grew 2.8% in 2014, President Hassan Rouhani’s first year in office. The IMF predicts growth of 0.6% and 1.3% in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Inflation is down from 45% under the reckless and profligate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to 15% today.

Expectations are high in the energy sector – the source of 35% of government revenues. Oil exports have halved since 2012 though the deputy oil minister said on Sunday that they could almost double when sanctions are lifted. “We are like a pilot on the runway ready to take off,” a bullish Mansour Moazami told the Wall Street Journal. “This is how the whole country is right now.”

Oil matters. But Iran’s economy is far more diverse than that of Saudi Arabia, its great rival in the region. It is the world’s largest exporter of cement, as well as pistachios, saffron and caviar. Shipping is another big earner. State-owned Iran Shipping Lines has been badly hit by sanctions and stands to benefit significantly when they go, analysts say.

The single most urgent change business wants is the end to the ban on bank transfers under the international Swift system. “That has been the biggest blow,” said Rouzbeh Pirouz, chairman of Turquoise Partners. “But it’s not just that. Iranian companies have had difficulty trading and participating in global markets.”’

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Why Iran’s Supreme Leader Wants a Deal

Omid Memarian writes for Politico:

When Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was about to leave Tehran for Vienna last week, the Twitter handler for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted a tweet in English to show strong support for the negotiation team: “I recognize our negotiators as trustworthy, committed, brave and faithful,” the tweet said. It was clearly another attempt by the supreme leader to protect Zarif and his team from attacks by hard-liners in Tehran.

Despite his image as a hard-liner—and his occasional fulminations against Western perfidy—it is Khamenei who has been the guardian angel for Iran’s nuclear negotiators for the past 18 months. And if the negotiations end in a final agreement by July 7—the new deadline set as the original June 30 deadline expired last week—it will be Khamenei who makes the deal. Or breaks it.

Thus, as we head into the final stages, it’s important for the West to see beyond the supposed “red lines” that Khamenei has laid out in his remarks to understand the tricky domestic politics his comments are meant to navigate.

[…] All of these statements were very likely mainly intended for Iranian domestic consumption, and all these demands can be finessed in the language of a final agreement. As an economist close to the Rouhani circles told me last week from Tehran, “Iran has not been in the talks for 18 months to blow it, but to make a deal.”’

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US spin on access to Iranian sites has distorted the issue

Gareth Porter writes for Middle East Eye:

A public diplomacy campaign by the Obama administration to convince world opinion that Iran was reneging on the Lausanne framework agreement in April has seriously misrepresented the actual diplomacy of the Iran nuclear talks, as my interviews with Iranian officials here make clear.

President Barack Obama’s threat on Tuesday to walk out of the nuclear talks if Iranian negotiators didn’t return to the Lausanne framework – especially on the issue of IAEA access to Iranian sites – was the climax of that campaign.

But what has really been happening in nuclear talks is not that Iran has backed away from that agreement but that the United States and Iran have been carrying out tough negotiations – especially in the days before the Vienna round of talks began – on the details of how the basic framework agreement will be implemented.

The US campaign began immediately upon the agreement in Lausanne on 2 April. The Obama administration said in its 2 April fact sheet that Iran “would be required” to grant IAEA inspectors access to “suspicious sites”.  Then Deputy Security Adviser Ben Rhodes declared that if the United States wanted access to an Iranian military base that the US considered “suspicious”, it could “go to the IAEA and get that inspection” because of the Additional Protocol and other “inspection measures that are in the deal”.’

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The Iran I Saw

Christopher Schroeder, author of Startup Rising, writes for Politico:

[…] This is a tale of two Irans. This is, specifically, the tale of the other Iran.

The tale we hear most often focuses on natural resources like oil as their greatest asset or nuclear power as their greatest threat—a narrative frozen in time, stretching back decades with remembered pain on both sides. For many Americans, the reference point for Iran is still centered on the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran over 35 years ago; for others, it has focused on Iranian support for destabilizing regional actors against our interests and costing lives.

At the same time, of course, Iranians have their own version of this tale: Many remember well U.S. support for a coup of their elected leadership, our support for a dictatorial regime and later encouragement of a war in Iraq that cost nearly a half-million Iranian lives.

Politics, power, mistrust: This is one version of how the media frames discussion of Iran. It’s very real, and it has much caution and evidence to support it.

But there’s another tale, one I saw repeatedly in my trip there last month. It was my second visit within the year, travelling with a group of senior global business executives to explore this remarkable and controversial nation.’

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Iran launches anti-ISIS cartoon competition “to expose true nature of Islamic State”

Adam Withnall reports for The Independent:

‘Iran has launched an anti-Isis cartoon competition, inviting submissions from around the world which mock the militant group and the atrocities it has committed.

Organisers said selected works would be displayed at four cultural centres across Tehran, and that a winner would be announced on 31 May.

According to the state-run IRNA news agency, artists were briefed by Iran’s House of Cartoon to focus on “the crimes committed by the Islamic State (Isis)”.

Mohammad Habibi, the executive secretary of the contest, said 280 works had been selected from 800 submissions, including entries from over 40 countries such as Brazil, Australia and Indonesia.’

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Why Saudis Derailed Imminent Yemen Deal with Airstrikes: Interview with Joe Lauria

Joe Lauria is the Wall Street Journal’s UN correspondent. He discusses how a former UN envoy came forward with details of a power-sharing deal in Yemen and why Saudi Arabia would want to prevent that deal from becoming a reality. (The Real News)

Yemen: Terrified citizens caught between Saudi Arabia and Iran as air strikes and blockade threaten humanitarian disaster for millions

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

[…] So far the air strikes have failed to force back the Houthis. The involvement of a Saudi-led Sunni coalition has connected the crisis firmly with the broader conflict between Sunni and Shia branches of Islam that is inflaming much of the region. The United Nations says that more than 1,200 people have been killed and 300,000 forced to flee their homes as a result of Saudi bombing and ground fighting, which is particularly intense in Aden.

“The scene is disastrous, not just in the streets where fighting is going on but inside houses where families are often trapped and terrified,” Ahmed al-Awgari, an activist in Aden, told Reuters. “Women and children have been burnt in homes, civilians have been shot in the streets or blown up by tank fire.”

Yemen is facing a humanitarian disaster, with half of its 26 million people already malnourished before the air attacks began. Aid agencies say that the Saudi air and sea blockade is preventing Yemen from importing food on which it is wholly reliant. This includes some 90 per cent of the wheat consumed in Yemen and other essentials. Hospitals are closing because they have no fuel for generators and have asked car owners with petrol to help move the sick and injured.

In the last six weeks Yemen has joined countries like Syria, Iraq and Libya that are paralysed by violence, but aid workers say that the Saudi blockade means that conditions are worst in Yemen.’

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Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

[…] It amazes me that all these warriors of the air don’t regularly crash into each other as they go on bombing and bombing. And since Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines is the only international carrier still flying over Syria – but not, thank heavens, over Isis’s Syrian capital of Raqqa – I’m even more amazed that my flights from Beirut to the Gulf have gone untouched by the blitz boys of so many Arab and Western states as they career around the skies of Mesopotamia and the Levant.

The sectarian and theological nature of this war seems perfectly clear to all who live in the Middle East – albeit not to our American chums. The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia Yemenis and the Shia Iranians are bombing the Sunni Iraqis. The Sunni Egyptians are bombing Sunni Libyans, it’s true, and the Jordanian Sunnis are bombing Iraqi Sunnis. But the Shia-supported Syrian government forces are bombing their Sunni Syrian enemies and the Lebanese Hezbollah – Shia to a man – are fighting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Sunni enemies, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an ever-larger number of Afghan Shia men in Syrian uniforms.’

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The Pentagon’s ‘Long War’ Pits NATO Against China, Russia and Iran

Pepe Escobar writes for Sputnik:

Satirized painting of the Statue of Liberty painted on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy, in Tehran, IranWhatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain — alongside Russia — a key US geostrategic target.

As much as US President Barack Obama tried to dismiss it, the Russian sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran is a monumental game-changer. Even with the added gambit of the Iranian military assuring the made in Iran Bavar 373 may be even more efficient than the S-300.

This explains why Jane’s Defense Weekly was already saying years ago that Israel could not penetrate Iranian airspace even if it managed to get there. And after the S-300s Iran inevitably will be offered the even more sophisticated S-400s, which are to be delivered to China as well.

The unspoken secret behind these game-changing proceedings actually terrifies Washington warmongers; it spells out a further frontline of Eurasian integration, in the form of an evolving Eurasian missile shield deployed against Pentagon/NATO ballistic plans.

A precious glimpse of what’s ahead was offered at the Moscow Conference on International Security (MICS) in mid-April.’

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Controversial MEK Leader Invited to Congress, Calls For Iran Overthrow to Fight ISIS

David Francis reports for Foreign Policy:

Featured photo - Long March of the Yellow Jackets: How a One-Time Terrorist Group Prevailed on Capitol HillThe controversial leader of an Iranian dissidents group was called to Capitol Hill to lend her expertise about the Islamic State lawmakers. Her testimony Wednesday showed she was only interested in talking about Iran.

Maryam Rajavi, leader of the Iranian dissidents organization Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a group that until 2012 was list on the State Department’s terror list, insisted Tehran was the root of the Islamic State’s power. In prepared testimony, she mentioned Iran 135 times. By comparison, the Islamic State, or ISIS, got 19 mentions; Iraq was mentioned 48 times. Nuclear, as in Iran’s nuclear program, got 31 mentions.

But lawmakers tolerated Rajavi’s notion that “terrorism and fundamentalism came from the mullahs’ regime in Iran. When that is overthrown [the Islamic State] will be destroyed.”’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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”.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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