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  • 10 July 2013
  • Posted By Layla Oghabian
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2013, Sanctions

Escalating Iran Sanctions Could Damage Hopes for New Beginning

On Monday, July 1 new Executive and Congressional sanctions on Iran, put in place before Iran’s recent elections, came into force. These new sanctions target the shipping and automobile sectors, financial transactions involving gold, and holdings of Iran’s currency, the rial. These latest sanctions come amid a growing debate over whether sanctions could undermine diplomatic opportunities and moderates within Iran in the wake of Iran’s recent elections. However, there is little sign that the sanctions will abate, with the House of Representatives considering a floor vote on new, sweeping sanctions in the weeks before Iran’s President-elect, Hassan Rouhani, even enters office.

Rouhani’s ability to deliver and change the policies of the Iranian government remains a question mark. During his campaign, the former nuclear negotiator pledged to “pursue a policy of reconciliation and peace” with the outside world, release political prisoners, and potentially to make Iran’s nuclear program more transparent in order to ease tensions with the West.  But his political flexibility may be limited in the face of intensifying economic pressure and fear that the United States is only interested in regime change.

  • 22 April 2013
  • Posted By Sina Toossi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions

Nuclear fishing boats and further proof that Congress is losing it on Iran

It is no secret that some of the most hawkish U.S. policies and positions towards Iran over its disputed nuclear program have come not from the Executive branch, but from Congress. Spurred on by AIPAC and other powerful pro-war lobbies and organizations, Congress has become a cesspool for blatant and often bizarre war-mongering Iran resolutions. Indeed, bills currently in circulation in congressional committees seek to do everything from removing waiver authority for sanctions on Iran; requiring that nuclear sanctions can’t be lifted until Iran becomes a democracy; goading Israel to start war with Iran and promising U.S. money and troops to do it; sanctioning anybody who engages in ANY form of trade with Iran (including humanitarian trade); and even  removing Iran from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (a treaty that obligates Iran to not build nuclear weapons).

Now, if you are wondering why Congress has been pursuing such counterproductive and overly aggressive policies towards Iran, you have to look no further than some of the people Congress is getting their Iran related information from.

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing a few weeks ago that in large part dealt with Iran, the several so-called experts called upon to inform our congressional representatives bordered on flat out deception in their testimonies to members of Congress.

Former CIA director R. James Woolsey, one of the panelists at the hearing, stated that Iran could assemble something that “passed for a nuclear weapon within a matter of very few months.” Now, Woolsey is certainly in a position to know the facts regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Namely, that Iran is not currently developing a nuclear weapon, does not have any uranium enriched to weapons grade levels (that producing a bomb would require a significant quantity of), and that even if it did decide to suddenly break out towards building the bomb, this would become immediately evident to both IAEA inspectors and to Western intelligence agencies. All of this has been corroborated numerous times by US and Israeli intelligence, and even in the latest testimonies of the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Needless to say, Woolsey is evidently not concerned with portraying a realistic and grounded picture of Iran’s nuclear program to Congress. He goes on to play the fear card by making several outlandish comments about how Iran’s putting of a satellite into space presents a risk to U.S. national security in terms of Iran eventually being able to explode a bomb in sub-orbit. Woolsey stated that such an explosion would have an “extremely strong decisive impact on the eclectic grid.”  He then recommended that the U.S. “get busy shielding [its] electric grid.”

Woolsey went onto to make his most brazen claim–that Iran could nuke the U.S. from a fishing boat. He acknowledged that  Iran does not currently possess a delivery system for a nuclear weapon, nothing would stop an Iranian “scud in freighter” coming within a few hundred miles of the east coast and shooting a nuclear missile towards the United States. “We need a missile system that can catch it,” Woolsey said, “If an Iranian fishing boat did this, we can do nothing unless we have these systems.” So, the lesson he is giving Congress here is to spend billions of dollars on some sort of defense system that guards again Iranian missiles being launched from fishing boats of the east coast.

Unfortunately, hyping up fictitious threats was not where this hearing ended. In his questioning of the panelists, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, stressed to the panel that the U.S. has not done enough to support the people in Iran. He specifically highlighted the Azeri, Baluch, and Turkmen ethnic groups within the country. Woolsey took up the honor of answering Rohrabacher’s plea for essentially supporting ethnic separatism inside Iran.

“We need to show people and let people know what side we are on in respect to Iran,” he said. “But in terms using economic power, using embargoes, using sanctions, taking gloves off completely in respect to those, doing everything we can to bring down their economy. I think that’s something we can at least make a very good effort at, and could use as part of the rallying cry for the American people and the people who have oppressed by Iran.”

Simply stated, the logic here is outstanding: Woolsey  thinks that by effectively destroying the financial livelihoods of people in Iran, the Iranian people will come to understand that we are on their side. This is when all the reporting and polling coming out of Iran is increasingly suggesting that the once friendly to America sentiment in the nation is eroding as a result of our policies towards the country.

Henry D. Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, topped off this committee hearing by telling members of Congress to avoid “conceding per-say rights to these and other states.”

“I believe our government and most our allies have gotten into the lazy habit of portraying the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) as a deal, that demands and supplies 3 things equally, nonproliferation safeguards, disarmaments, and the sharing of peaceful nuclear technology. This breezy three point NPT pitch, although popular, I think lacks historical or legal substance, it also I think, defies common sense,” Sokolski said.

The NPT is essentially the only legal document that Iran is signed onto that obligates it to not develop a nuclear weapon. Thus far, Iran’s nuclear program has operated under the framework of the NPT. Efforts to remove or provoke Iran to remove itself from the NPT will surely results in exactly what the West does not want, Iran actively going after a nuclear bomb. It is important to note that other states which have developed nuclear weapons, such as Pakistan, India, and Israel, are not signatories of the NPT.

The situation in Congress has certainly reached a fever pitch in regards to Iran. There is little reason to doubt that if many members of Congress could have had their way, a disastrous war with Iran would have begun a long time ago. Now, just as negotiations are showing signs of hope, Congress is seemingly doing all it can to derail them. While they are clearly heavily influenced by agenda-driven lobbies and individuals, it is important that they hear the voice of the majority of the American people, which have long been against war with Iran and for negotiations.

  • 16 October 2012
  • Posted By Dylan Zehr
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Israel, US-Iran War

Graham proposal pledges support for Israeli strike

Americans don’t want to be dragged into war with Iran by Israel.  According to recent polls:

  • 59% of Americans oppose the United States getting involved if Israel strikes Iran according to the 2012 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey.
  • 55% of Americans say an Israeli strike on Iran would worsen the U.S. military and strategic position in the Middle East according to an October 8 poll released by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).
  • 53% of Americans say Washington should maintain a neutral stance if Israel strikes Iran according tothe PIPA poll.  29% said the U.S. should discourage such action and only 12% said the U.S. should encourage Israel to strike Iran.

But in the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has a different agenda.  This November he is planning to introduce a resolution providing unconditional backing for Israeli military actions against Iran.  As NIAC’s Jamal Abdi writes in the Huffington Post, “Graham’s planned measure would outsource the decision about whether the U.S. goes to war to the Israeli prime minister, pledging that if Bibi decides to act — regardless of the consequences and our own calculations — the U.S. will provide money, troops, and political leverage”

Graham, who already used a Congressional resolution to endorse Netanyahu’s redline for war over the President’s, is now attempting to undercut the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staffs, General Martin Dempsey, who has warned, “I don’t want to be complicit if [Israel] chooses to [bomb Iran.]”

But Graham’s not stopping there.  He has suggested that, in 2013, he is lining up plans to pass a formal authorization for the use of military force against Iran.  And the supporters of such action are already setting that plan in motion.  A September 27 Washington Post op-ed advocates that an “explicit congressional mandate authorizing the use of force unless Iran meets specified requirements would demonstrate to all our resolve to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.”  The twist? It was written by Jeffrey Smith and John Bellinger III, two lawyers who work for Arnold and Porter, a registered foreign agent serving as Israel’s largest and longest serving lobbying firm in United States. The firm received over $1.2 million from the Israeli government in 2010 alone.

Barely two weeks later, according to Philip Weiss, there is speculation that Israel’s U.S. embassy may have planted a false story suggesting that the U.S. and Israel had agreed on a plan for limited strikes on Iran.  In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, the magazine’s CEO David Rothkopf quotes an unnamed source describing collaborative discussions between the U.S. and Israeli governments regarding a possible joint strike on Iran. The source describes the discussed strike in detail, saying that it would last between “a couple of hours” and a “day or two,” and that it would have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”

But the “scoop” immediately triggered broad skepticism in Washington and accusations that it was planted by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.  According to the Philip Weiss, U.S. and Israeli military officials have denied the entire conversation about joint strikes.  Weiss notes that, following the publication of the story, Israel’s #2 diplomat in the U.S.–Baruch Bina, whom the White House preferred to deal with over Oren–was transferred to Denmark.  Weiss speculates that the “joint strikes” story was planted against Bina’s objections. Allegedly, Bina argued “that it was inappropriate of the ambassador to feed such a line to Rothkopf, because it could only damage U.S.-Israeli relations.”

  • 10 September 2012
  • Posted By Brett Cox
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Election 2012, Persian Gulf, Sanctions

The Realities of “Preventive” Strikes

Certain media outlets as well as conservative political camps in both the US and Israel would have you believe that it would take no more than a few days of airstrikes to delay and/or end Iran’s nuclear program. This claim is misleading in more ways than I can count, but here are a few.

Compared to the peaceful options laid out by Trita Parsi at last week’s Wilson Center panel discussion, “preventive strikes” carry a high risk of Iranian retaliation, regional war and American casualties. Pacifist fluff? Hardly. Take it from Admiral Michael Mullen:

“The US is aware that the action of a military strike could be destabilizing for the entire Middle East region and potentially generate a nuclear weapons race in that part of the world. I think an attack would also be, by us or by anybody else, very destabilizing.”

Further, according to a report published by CSIS, Gen. James N. Mattis, Commander of US Central Command, told aides that an Israeli first strike would be likely to have dire consequences across the region and for United States forces there.

The report CSIS outlines that retaliation from Iran would include “swarm tactics” on a heavy US naval presence and a potential rain of missiles from Iran – well known in the region for an ample ballistic missile program. Missile attacks on Gulf neighbors, all members of a united Gulf Cooperation Council, would give them a right to return fire in self-defense.

  • 18 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

Kristol’s Push for Military Strikes Against Iran

William Kristol and Jamie Fly, neoconservatives who were instrumental in orchestrating the War in Iraq, are at it again.  While their previous war advocacy shop, the Project for a New American Century, is now defunct (after a job well done), they have reconstituted their pro-war efforts in the form of the Foreign Policy Institute.

This time they are calling for Congress to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iran–with or without support from Commander in Chief Obama.  Completely contradicting US, Israeli, and European intelligence, Kristol and Fly insist that Iran is a dangerous threat that is “closer than ever to nuclear weapons.”

These fear mongering tactics may have worked back in 2003 when Kristol and Fly organized support for the War in Iraq, but today we know better than to take the advice of war hawks such as Kristol and his cronies.  Their ridiculous claim that military action against Iran would “serve the nations interests,” only illustrates their disregard for the lives of U.S soldiers and the words of people who actually know what they are talking about.  The most prominent words used by military and civilian leaders to describe a strike against Iran are: disastrous, calamitous, and dangerous.  Their words to describe folks like Kritol and Fly could probably be summed up as: chicken hawks.

  • 18 June 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

Romney says war with Iran already authorized

This past weekend, Bill Kristol came out and said the President should seek an authorization for war with Iran from Congress.  It’s no surprise that Kristol and friends have ratcheted up their rhetoric in the days ahead of critical negotiations with Iran that the pro-war hawks hope will go badly.

Given a chance to weigh in on Kristol’s comments on Face the Nation, Mitt Romney doubled down.

Romney said the President already has the “capacity” to go to war with Iran right now–without need for further Congressional approval.

“I don’t believe at this stage, therefore, if I’m President, that we need to have war powers approval or a special authorization for military force. The President has that capacity now. I understand that some in the Senate, for instance, have written letters to the President indicating you should know that– that a– a containment strategy is unacceptable.”

Romney apparently believes that if a few Senators write letters saying containment is unacceptable, you’ve got your war authorization.

While that may not hold up in court, the House has indeed passed an AIPAC-supported resolution ruling out containment of a “nuclear weapons capable” Iran.  NIAC warned that Congress was giving the current or future occupant of the White House a “blank check” for war.  When the resolution came up for a vote, the top Democrat on House Foreign Affairs took time on the House floor to state on the record that it is NOT an authorization for force and the President would need to seek such authorization from Congress before waging war on Iran.  The statement convinced some Members concerned about an Iraq rerun to get off the fence and vote for the resolution.  It is unclear if it convinced Obama that the President can’t go to war with Iran just yet–but Romney clearly was not convinced.

  • 15 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, US-Iran War

If ECI, AIPAC, and Senate hawks think it’s time to launch a war, they should say so

Yesterday, the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) released a new ad (see the J Street response, above) rejecting diplomacy and calling for an immediate “action” with regard to Iran, further adding to the list of pro-war efforts to sabotage diplomacy and limit Obama’s maneuverability at the upcoming Moscow sessions. Although they never directly call for military action, ECI’s efforts to push for war with Iran are increasingly transparent.

The ad implies that an Iran with nuclear capabilities is around the corner, completely ignoring U.S, European and Israeli intelligence reports that say Iran has not decided to build a bomb and is years away from creating a nuclear warhead. Similarly, last week the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) released a memo saying, “Iran has taken advantage of the talks to advance its nuclear program.”

In a Senate letter AIPAC is sponsoring that is circulating in the Senate, Robert Menendez and Roy Blunt demand the most improbable ultimatums for Iran talks and tells President Obama to offer nothing in return, effectively killing any chance to negotiate a deal at Moscow.

However, neither ECI, AIPAC, nor Congressional hawks are directly calling for a war with Iran. A direct declaration of war would invite questions concerning the astonishing costs, the lack of achievable objectives, and why the country is being dragged into another war in the Middle East. In short, it would be political suicide. Instead, they choose the easier route of demanding Iran meet impossible red lines and blaming Iran when their demands are not met. 

As Obama has said, “If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be. Everything else is just talk.” They have rejected diplomacy, but are too cowardly to voice the only other option that they leave on the table- war.

Congressional zero-enrichment demand will “lead to either an Iranian nuclear weapon or a new war”

In an important piece in the LA Times, Daniel Kadishson explains how Congressional demands for “zero enrichment” as the only acceptable diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear impasse is obstructing legitimate chances to ensure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon and to prevent war.

“To prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon,” he writes, “verification is more important than zero centrifuges.”

Kadishson argues that “Members of Congress who demand only that Iran agree to a complete, permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and allow unfettered inspections in all facilities, and are trying to legislate that the U.S. can accept nothing less, are ignoring reality in a way that will likely lead to either an Iranian nuclear weapon or a new war.

Kadishson suggests that “it is better to let Iran openly have five centrifuges with international inspectors allowed unrestricted access throughout the country than to let Iran claim it has zero centrifuges and no nuclear military program without having the means to verify this.”  With this in mind, “U.S. negotiators should have bipartisan support from Congress to pursue any agreement that precludes Iran from building a nuclear weapon.”

  • 17 May 2012
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Iran Internet Censorship, Let's Talk Iran, Sanctions

The State of Iran’s Internet Repression

Podcast with Collin AndersonRecently, Collin Anderson, Washington-based Internet researcher  discovered a “Request for Information” or RFI issued by Iran’s Ministry of Information that raised questions about the government’s claims for setting up a “Halal Intranet.” What is the state of Iran’s cyber repression? What is the impact of U.S. sanctions and export controls on Iranian’s access to Internet communication? What can the U.S. government do to counter Iranian government cyber repression? Find out the answers to these questions and more with Collin Anderson.

Play
  • 3 May 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy

Dysfunctional Congress Threatens Iran Talks

As the United States and Iran look for an exit ramp off the road to war, they may find a surprising new obstacle: the very sanctions legislation that many credit for bringing Iran back to the negotiating table. As a result of that sanctions bill, Congress now has the de-facto power to block any diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. And the scary reality is that the same dysfunctional institution that almost drove the nation into default last summer can exercise this veto power over diplomacy by doing what it does best: nothing at all.

Congress created this dilemma when it passed draconian sanctions on Iran’s financial system and oil exports, but failed to give the President the power to repeal those sanctions under any conditions, regardless of whether Iran makes major concessions. Unlike all previous Iran sanctions, Congress did not make these new sanctions conditional on Iran’s behavior. If Iran agrees to certain criteria at the negotiating table, the President does not have the power to lift the sanctions. Now, only Congress can lift the most severe sanctions ever imposed on Iran.

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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