Category Archives: Iran

Saudi Arabia’s PR Machine Uses the 28 Pages to Blame Iran for 9/11 Attacks

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Last Friday the U.S. government finally released 28 pages of a 2002 congressional report that detail possible ties between the Saudi Arabian government and the 9/11 hijackers.

The document lists various forms of assistance provided by Saudi agents to the hijackers, including help finding a flight school and various forms of financial support when the hijackers arrived in the United States. Many of the findings in the report have not been fully vetted as several of the Saudi agents named in the 28 pages have refused to cooperate.

But that has not stopped Saudi-funded lobbyists and media outlets from claiming that the disclosure of the 28 pages ends all speculation about the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 terror attacks. Several outlets controlled by Saudi Arabia’s vast public relations machine are trumpeting the document as a vindication that closes the door on any suggestion that the Saudi government had any ties to the 9/11 terrorists.

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U.S. Had Extensive Contact With Ayatollah Khomeini Before Iranian Revolution

Saeed Kamali Dehghan and David Smith report for The Guardian:

Iranian leaders have reacted with fury to reports that newly declassified US diplomatic cables revealed extensive contacts between Ayatollah Khomeini and the Carter administration just weeks ahead of Iran’s Islamic revolution.

It was previously known that Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic leader of the Iranian revolution, had exchanged some messages with the US through an intermediary while living in exile in Paris. But new documents seen by the BBC’s Persian service show he went to a great lengths to ensure the Americans would not jeopardise his plans to return to Iran – and even personally wrote to US officials.

The BBC’s reporting suggests that the Carter administration took heed of Khomeini’s pledges, and in effect paved the way for his return by holding the Iranian army back from launching a military coup.

The BBC Persian service obtained a draft message Washington had prepared as a response to Khomeini, which welcomed the ayatollah’s direct communications, but was never sent.

The corporation also published a previously released but unnoticed declassified 1980 CIA analysis titled Islam in Iran, which shows Khomeini’s initial attempts to reach out to the US dated back to 1963, 16 years before the revolution.

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NRA Threatens Iran With Video About Men Who Wrestle Alligators

Ishaan Tharoor reports for The Washington Post:

As part of a new campaign promoting its agenda, the National Rifle Association published a bunch of videos featuring people who like guns making statements against the liberal elites, Hollywood celebrities and feckless political class that would supposedly pry their weapons away from them.

The video above, though, is directed at a different target: Iran.

It’s a particularly spectacular entry featuring a gray-bearded man in a wide-brimmed hat telling the “ayatollahs of Iran” to “listen up.” Here’s the opening conceit: “You might have met our fresh-faced flower child president and his weak-kneed, Ivy League friends. But you haven’t met America.”

The narrator, your weak-kneed Ivy League blogger discovered through Google, is Charlie Daniels, a popular country musician who sure is good at spinning some folksy yarns. He goes on to tell Iran what “America” really is:

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Iran Seeks Compensation From U.S. for 1953 Coup

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Iran’s parliament today voted on a bill requiring the government to request compensation from the United States for damages caused by the CIA’s 1953 imposition of a coup d’etat against Iran’s democratically elected government.

In August 1953, Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh sought to Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) and change the terms of the existing oil monopoly of the British company in Iran. The British government “invited” the CIA to force Mosaddegh from office, and they did so, restoring the monarchy which ruled Iran until the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Though at the time it was a “covert” action, albeit a poorly kept secret, US officials have publicly conceded that the coup was carried out, and the CIA has released some of the documents related to it, though they insist most were destroyed.

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The War Against the World: Washington Finds Enemies Everywhere

Philip Giraldi writes for Unz:

Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on the Defense Department's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2016. DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian CadizSecretary of War Ash Carter is concerned about America’s posture. No, it’s not about sitting with your back straight up and your knees placed primly together. It all has to do with how many enemies there are out there threatening the United States and what we have to do, globally speaking, to make them cry uncle. Ash outlined his views at a “posture hearing” before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17th, part of a process intended to give still more money to the Pentagon, $582.7 billion to be exact for fiscal year 2017.

I respect Ash at least a bit because he once studied Medieval History at Yale, though he apparently has forgotten about the Hundred Years War and the War of the Roses. Both devastated winners and losers alike, a salutary lesson for those who are concerned about what the United States has been up to for the past fifteen years. Yet Ash, who is characteristically no veteran and for whom war is an abstraction that must be supported by counting and piling up sufficient beans, thinks that more is always better when it comes to having fancy new toys to play with. Since his proposed budget will be giving the Navy a few tens of billions worth of Ohio class subs the Air Force will have to get its own strategic bombers so no one will feel cheated. Just wait until the bill from the Army comes in.

Ash justified all the needless spending by telling the Senators that there are five “security challenges” confronting the United States – terrorism, North Korea, China, Russia and Iran – before lapsing into Pentagon-speak about why more money is always better than less money. He attacked any attempt at sequestration, which would require budget cuts across the board, because it risks the “funding of critical investments.”

If you thought that investments were something financial services guys do you would be wrong. The War Department also knows all about it and also can generate “new posture in some regions” with all that extra cash. Why? To “protect the homeland,” of course, and to “have the ability to ensure that anyone who starts a conflict with us will regret doing so.”

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The Contrived Iran Threat

Philip Giraldi writes for The Unz Review:

Rev GuardsThe Israeli Minister of Defense is now telling anyone who is willing to listen that the Iranian government is building an “international terror network that includes sleeper cells that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives to be ready to strike on command in places including Europe and the U.S.” Moshe Yaalon elaborated that Iran intends to destabilize the entire Middle East as well as other parts of the world and is “training, funding and arming ‘emissaries’ to spread a revolution,” all emanating from a “dangerous axis” that includes Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.

These preposterous claims come on top of spurious assertions that Iran was building a nuclear weapon, repeated assiduously by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in his various administrations over the course of twenty years. As it turns out, Iran was not building a nuke and much of the information used to bolster the argument being made turned out to be fabricated by the Israelis themselves, which says something for their credibility.

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Iran Is Scared of America’s Hardliners

Reece Erlich writes for Foreign Policy:

Iran Is Scared of America’s Hardliners In the aftermath of the nuclear agreement, the debates in the United States and Iran have become a mirror image of each other. As some officials in Washington worry that the Iranian government will use the deal to secretly develop nuclear weapons, in Tehran, Americans are the nefarious party – intent on slapping sanctions back on Iran at the first opportunity.

“Iran has done its part,” said Foad Izadi, an associate professor of international and world studies at the University of Tehran. Since the agreement was signed last July, Congress has introduced dozens of bills “trying to torpedo [it]. Senator Ted Cruz says he will stop it. Obama won’t be president in one year.”

Although Iranians generally remain wary of the deal, outright opposition remains a minority view. The Iranian hardliners who opposed the nuclear deal lost decisively in parliamentary elections last Friday. Reformists, centrists, and independent conservatives won all 30 parliamentary seats in Tehran, and several hardline opponents of the deal also lost their seats in the Assembly of Experts, which is tasked with selecting the next supreme leader if 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dies or resigns.

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Elections A Blow to Hardliners As New Fault Lines in Iranian Politics Emerge: Interview with Trita Parsi

Sharmini Peries talks to National Iranian American Council president Trita Parsi who says it’s s no longer reformists versus conservatives as much as it is moderates with President Rouhani, and his opponents. (The Real News)

Iranian President Rouhani Praises ‘People Power’ After Election Gains

Al Jazeera reports:

Millions crowded polling stations on Friday to vote for parliament and the Assembly of Experts [Raheb Homavandi/Reuters]Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has earned an emphatic vote of confidence and reformist partners secured surprise gains in parliament in early results from elections that could accelerate the Islamic Republic’s emergence from years of isolation.

As of 0900 GMT on Sunday, latest results showed reformist candidates have taken all of the 30 seats in the capital Tehran, while Rouhani and his ally former president Hashemi Rafsanjani lead the winners in the assembly of experts, which is responsible for selecting the country’s next supreme leader.

It remains unclear if the results in Iran will be replicated in other parts of the country. But a Reuters tally, based on official but partial results, also showed independents winning 44 seats, reformists 79, and hardliners 106 in the 290-seat parliament.

A number of seats could be decided in run-offs in late April if no candidate wins the required 25 percent of votes cast. Eight of the initial winners were women.

A loosening of control by the anti-Western hardliners who currently dominate the parliament could strengthen Rouhani’s hand to open Iran further to foreign trade and investment following last year’s breakthrough nuclear deal.

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IAEA Report: Iran Complying With Nuclear Deal

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

The latest report from the IAEA has once again affirmed that Iran is complying with the terms of the P5+1 nuclear deal, a month after their previous report affirmed that the entire deal had come into force.

This affirmation comes irrespective of handwringing among US Congressional hawks about how Iran would never comply with the deal, and shows that the deal is firmly in place as Iran goes to the polls.

The only “violation” was an extremely technical one, in which Iran briefly exceeded its limit of stored heavy water by less than 1%, with officials saying they verified that for a few days Iran had 130.9 tonnes, in excess of the 130.0 tonnes they are allowed. Iran exported 20 tonnes within days of that, however, bringing them well under the limit again.

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Nitro Zeus: Massive U.S. Planned Cyberattack Against Iran Went Well Beyond Stuxnet

Dan Goodin reports for Ars Technica:

The Stuxnet computer worm that destroyed centrifuges inside Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site was only one element of a much larger US-prepared cyberattack plan that targeted Iran’s air defenses, communications systems, and key parts of its power grid, according to articles published Tuesday.

The contingency plan, known internally as Nitro Zeus, was intended to be carried out in the event that diplomatic efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear development program failed and the US was pulled into a war between Iran and Israel, according to an article published by The New York Times. At its height, planning for the program involved thousands of US military and intelligence personnel, tens of millions of dollars in expenditures, and the placing of electronic implants in Iranian computer networks to ensure the operation targeting critical infrastructure would work at a moment’s notice.

Another piece of the plan involved using a computer worm to destroy computer systems at the Fordo nuclear enrichment site, which was built deep inside a mountain near the Iranian city of Qom. It had long been considered one of the hardest Iranian targets to disable and was intended to be a follow-up to “Olympic Games,” the code name of the plan Stuxnet fell under.

 

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Iran: Morality Police App Blocked Hours after Launch

Shima Shahrabi reports for IranWire:

Ershad graphicJust 24 hours after the Android app Gershad was launched, users reported that the Iranian authorities had blocked access to it. The app, designed to help Iranians track — and therefore avoid — Iran’s “Morality Police,” generated huge interest across Iran, particularly in big cities. But a few hours after going live, it was inaccessible.

The name “Gershad” is a play on words, referring to the Persian term for Iran’s special morality unit, which is tasked with identifying and arresting anyone deemed to be “inappropriately” dressed or in violation of Islamic cultural values.

One user, Mohammad Reza, had only been using the app for a few hours on February 8 when his screen began displaying gibberish instead of providing the useful location information it was supposed to. “It didn’t take them even 24 hours,” he told IranWire, adding that he discovered the fault at around 2am .“You have to give it to them: Sometimes they do move fast. Now we need a filter-breaker for Gershad the same way that we need them for Facebook and other apps.”

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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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