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  • 13 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Israel, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/13

Israel: Iran must choose between the bomb and survival

A senior Israeli cabinet minister said that Iran must to choose between obtaining a nuclear weapon and survival (AFP 12/12). “We believe that in order to stop the Iranian military nuclear project, the regime in Tehran should face a dilemma — whether to have a bomb or to survive,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon.

Speaking to Fareed Zarkaria, GOP presidential hopeful John Huntsman repeats the mantra that Iran has ‘already decided’ that ‘they want’ a nuclear weapon despite U.S. intelligence and the UN’s nuclear watchdog saying otherwise (Think Progress 12/12).

Nader Hashemi writes that the U.S. policy of isolating and sanctioning Iran has only served to strengthen the regime, weaken the middle class, and fuel Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Hashemi National Interest 12/12).

Central bank sanctions modified and to be voted on this week

Both the House and Senate negotiated and agreed on new Iran sanctions that they hope to pass this week. The new sanctions penalize foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran’s central bank.  Lawmakers from both political parties made slight changes to the legislation that would allow the option of imposing restrictions on such foreign financial institutions, instead of cutting them off entirely from the U.S. financial system. Democratic Senator Carl Levin did note that the bill is probably “96 percent” the same as legislation that passed the Senate last week (Reuters 12/12).

Meanwhile, the House will also vote today on new broad Iran sanctions legislation that includes a provision placing restrictions on contacts between U.S. government employees–including diplomats and members of the armed forces–and Iranian officials (The Hill 12/13).

Drone update

Iranian military experts claim they are extracting data from the U.S. drone (Washington Post 12/12).  Yesterday, President Obama requested the return of the drone (Guardian 12/12). Today Iran rejected the request (NY Times 12/13).

Israel: We don’t support M.E.K. delisting

Yesterday, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israel does not support MEK’s campaign to get delisted from the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list (Think Progress 12/12).  

Notable opinion: 

In a Huffington Post op-ed, Fariba Amini discusses the increasing war rhetoric against Iran, the dire consequences of a military attack, and the importance of diplomacy.

There is no question that the Iranian people will suffer in the short and long run and will bear the brunt of an attack. Americans will suffer in a different way: Higher gas prices at home which is not even comparable to what ordinary Iranian citizens will pay if and when a war breaks out. The damage will be irreversible.

It is only through diplomatic efforts that Iran’s nuclear program can be contained. Harsh words by the U.S. and its allies, more sanctions, including possible sanctions on oil, will only harden the regime. It is already hurting the people more so than the government.

To read the full piece click here.

Iran News Roundup 12/8

Presidential candidates continue war rhetoric

Republican presidential candidates continued their war rhetoric towards Iran on Wednesday (Reuters 12/7). Front running candidate Mitt Romney said that “covert and overt” actions are needed to pressure Iran.  Candidate Jon Huntsman added that “you have to have all options on the table.” Presidential hopeful Michelle Bachman said “the Pentagon must prepare a war plan.”

Stephen Walts argues against any covert or overt actions against Iran based on four grounds: the risk of undesirable escalation, the overestimation of the nuclear threat, the inevitable risk of “blowback,” and the reaffirmation of deep suspicions between the United States and Iran (Walts Foreign Policy 12/7). 

Sanctions watch

The Washington Post reports that AIPAC has endorsed sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank despite concerns that the sanctions would raise oil prices and benefit Iran financially (Washington Post 12/7). Platts reports that Iran may divert petrochemical cargoes meant for Europe to Asia if new sanctions are imposed by the European Union (Platts 12/7).

 Jayshree Bajoria details expert opinion on how increased sanctions would weaken European economies, shrink global oil supplies and raise prices, and do little to divert Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Bajoria Huffington Post 12/7).

M.E.K. status update

Republican legislators on Wednesday urged the Obama administration to remove M.E.K. from its list of terrorist organization (NY Times 12/7).

Fallen drone

According to a Washington Post article, the fallen drone incident highlights a growing covert strategy against Iran (Washington Post 12/7).  Iran’s PressTV broadcast the first images of the fallen drone.  U.S. officials say they doubt Iran can make use of the drone (AFP 12/7).

Notable Opinion:

In a Guardian op-ed, Seumas Milne says that an attack on Iran would turn a regional “maelstorm into a global firestorm.”

Iran would certainly retaliate directly and through allies against Israel, the US and US Gulf client states, and block the 20% of global oil supplies shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. Quite apart from death and destruction, the global economic impact would be incalculable.

All reason and common sense militate against such an act of aggression. Meir Dagan, the former head of Israel’s Mossad, said last week it would be a “catastrophe”. Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, warned that it could “consume the Middle East in confrontation and conflict that we would regret”.

To read the full piece click here.

  • 6 December 2011
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 12/6

Obama vs. Kirk
Speaking at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute today, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) claimed that the unanimous passage of his amendment to force the Administration to sanction Iran’s central bank demonstrated that support for Obama’s Iran policy has “collapsed” on Capitol Hill (The Hill 12/6).  The Obama Administration pushed back against the amendment, which was attached to the Senate’s defense authorization bill, warning that it could undermine international efforts on Iran, raise energy costs that would threaten a teetering European economy, and enrich Iran.  The Administration is working to change the central bank amendment during negotiations between the House and Senate as lawmakers reconcile a final defense bill to send to the President (Washington Jewish Week 12/6).  The White House has threatened to veto the bill, but for detainee provisions separate from the Iran sanctions .

Fallen U.S. drone

U.S. Military officials acknowledged yesterday that Iran is indeed in possession of an RQ-170 Sentinel drone (Think Progress 12/5).  Iranian military officials claim that the drone was taken down near Iran’s eastern border, yet Defense officials and experts doubt that the drone was shot down or taken down by a cyber-attack (Washington Post 12/5). There has been speculation that Iran could have used a ground based jamming system, Avtobaza, it purchased from Russia 6 weeks ago to take down the drone.  There is concern that Iran could exploit the drone’s technological capabilities (Christian Science Monitor 12/5). 

Escalating tensions

The Financial Times reports that Washington met with UAE representatives “to press for further isolation of Iranian institutions…threaten[ing] to cut off any transgressors from the US financial system” (Financial Times 12/5). Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guard in Iran has raised “operational readiness” in response to increased sanctions and the fear of a military strike (Telegraph 12/5).

  • 28 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Legislative Agenda, MEK, NIAC round-up, Sanctions

Iran News Roundup 11/28

Sanctions push in Europe, US
Financial Times writes that France is leading a push to implement a European Union oil embargo against Iran.  They report that while the UK is behind such a move, it is expected to meet resistance from Spain and Italy who are the two biggest importers of Iranian oil in Europe (Financial Times 11/24).   According to statements made by German Foreign Minister Westerwelle, Germany may be willing to support an oil embargo, but is not behind sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) (EA Worldview 11/28).  In the U.S., amendments to the annual defense authorization bill that would force CBI sanctions and limit any Presidential waiver could go to a vote this week.   Currently there are two competing amendments being proposed by Sen. Robert Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk, and according to a report in CQ efforts talks are currently underway to find language regarding these sanctions that both sides and the White House “can live with” (CQ 11/26).

Effects of Sanctions here and Iran
Recently there are increasing signs that Iranian sanctions are having an effect both inside and outside Iran.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the price of oil is rising as a result of talk by the EU of an oil embargo on Iran (Wall Street Journal 11/28).  Some have argued recently that if an such an embargo was put in place that Saudi Arabia could prevent an increase in oil prices by increasing their oil production to make up for the loss of oil from Iran.  Despite such talk, an article in Foreign Affairs argued against this, pointing out that if an embargo occurred, Saudi Arabia’s spare production capacity would be insufficient to replace the lost supply of Iranian oil, nor is it clear they would be fully willing to do this ( Foreign Affairs July/August).   Sanctions targeted against Iranian officials prevented Irani’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi from a planned visit to Denmark after Hungary refused to allow him to fly over their country (AFP 11/28).

Notable Opinion
Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer writes in the New York Times about parallels between the 1981 Israeli strike on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor and the current talks of striking Iran’s nuclear program.  He warns that we must heed “The Real Lesson of Iraq“:

Israelis tend to credit this attack for denying Iraq a nuclear weapons capability. However, sources that have emerged since 2003 demonstrate that the attack created an unprecedented Iraqi consensus about the need for a nuclear deterrent and triggered a more intensive effort to acquire them. By the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq stood on the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability.

What is known about Iran’s nuclear program suggests an attack could have similar consequences. Iran’s erratic nuclear advances over the past decade suggest that there is no consensus about whether and when to develop a nuclear weapons capability. While it is possible that Iran could develop fissile material for a nuclear weapon within weeks or months, such a high-risk move would require a consensus that does not currently exist in Tehran. Instead, Iran is edging closer toward a nuclear weapons option. An attack is one of the very few events that could create consensus in Tehran that it is necessary to develop nuclear weapons sooner rather than later.

Read the full piece at nytimes.com

  • 30 August 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 0 Comments
  • MEK

Louis Freeh offers FBI tour for Rajavi

“No one except the regime in Iran opposes the de-listing of the MEK,” Louis Freeh, former director of the FBI under two Presidents, said Friday at a rally in front of the Department of State supporting de-listing the MEK.

Excuse me? I am no fan of the current regime—nor are my parents, my Iranian friends, or the millions of Iranians who took to the streets after the June 2009 elections.  But for just about all of us, it’s beyond comprehension as to why delisting the MEK is even being discussed.

Yet Freeh writes us all off as regime supporters.

Freeh then promised to personally give a tour of FBI headquarters to MEK leader Maryam Rajavi if the MEK gets delisted.  It makes me wonder: if Hamas or Hizbollah started paying former officials $25K per speaking engagement, would they be able to tour the Hoover Building too?

It’s a shame that former public servants–Patrick Kennedy, Ed Rendell, and John Sano all spoke at the rally– have taken to promoting a cult-like organization with little to no support among Iranians, both inside and outside Iran. If these officials were to ask other Iranians, they’d find a deep seeded disgust for the MEK and the current regime.  They’d find that the Green Movement views de-listing of MEK as a gift to the regime.

  • 23 August 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • MEK

The MEK’s Propaganda Machine in Three Easy Steps

“The Green Movement, I understand from the testimony in Congress in July, has accepted Madame Rajavi,” said Canadian MP Carolyn Bennett on a talk show hosted last week by Jim Brown of the CBC.

Wait, WHAT? The Green Movement has “accepted” Rajavi?

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Green Movement has made it abundantly clear that they oppose the MEK.  They’ve warned that the Iranian government seeks to use MEK and its lack of support among Iranians to try to undermine the peaceful democratic opposition.  The Financial Times reported on how prominent Greens signed an open letter to Secretary Clinton calling on her to NOT delist the MEK, citing the harm it would do to Iran’s democratic opposition.  And most recently, Kaleme – the publication associated with the Green Movement’s Mir Hossein Mousavi – published an editorial last week strongly warning against supporting the MEK.

So where did Bennet get her false information from?  The MEK propaganda machine.

  • 19 August 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 1 Comments
  • MEK, Neo-Con Agenda

MEK, Iran interventions and Mossadegh

Iran Policy Committee head Raymond Tanter with members of the MEK's political wing, the NCRI

The Iran Policy Committee–a  Washington organization dedicated primarily to spreading pro-MEK propaganda on Capitol Hill and elsewhere around Washington–organized an event at the National Press Club yesterday that is raising eyebrows.

It wasn’t the  spectacle of former U.S. officials rehashing MEK-prepared talking points and referring to MEK as the “main opposition”–this we have all grown accustomed to (especially now that the big money machinations behind these efforts have exposed by the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Huffington Post).

It also came as no shock when the Iran Policy Committee’s head, Raymond Tanter, invoked the death of Neda Agha Soltan (while obliviously pulling up a picture of a completely different person).

It wasn’t even surprising that Tanter referred to the Green Movement’s Mir Hossein Mousavi – who has been under house arrest since February – as a “sell out,” particularly since the Green Movement has so unequivocally expressed its opposition to the MEK and the use of violence in the struggle for democracy.

No, the surprise came when the panel suggested the MEK should be taken off the terror list so they could stage a “tit for tat” campaign of attacks within Iran.  

Mujahedin Supporters Envision “Tit for Tat” Campaign Against Iran:

Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney said an MEK delisting should be part of a campaign of “proactive actions” against Tehran.  The MEK, he said, is the only “credible overt political-military counterforce to the Iranian regime.”

“We need a very active tit for tat policy,” said McInerney.  “So every time they kill Americans, they have an accident in Iran.”

John Sano, formerly of the Central Intelligence Agency, echoed those sentiments.

“I agree one hundred percent with what the General just said, it’s got to be tit for tat.  We have known that the Iranians have been in Iraq talking to our enemies.  We know that the MOIS has been in Iraq causing harm to U.S. personnel.  And the only thing that can counter that is force,” Sano said.  “I know that may sound too militaristic, but you have to go with what your enemy understands.”

I don’t think there has been a clearer sign that the campaign for delisting the MEK has little to do with supporting democracy in Iran or humanitarian concerns about Camp Ashraf but is instead central to a push to escalate a military confrontation with Iran.

The lesson of recent history–the disastrous war of choice in Iraq–has clearly not sunk in with this crowd.  But coming just one day before the anniversary of the 1953 coup d’état that deposed Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh (a coup that pro-sanctions, pro-war Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently endorsed as bringing “freedom” to Iranians), yesterday’s conference helped emphasize that the empirical history of miscalculated interventions and adventures in Iran have been completely lost on Washington’s pro-war establishment.

A full write-up from the event is after the jump.

  • 18 August 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 3 Comments
  • MEK

State Department includes MEK in latest terrorism report, but review still pending

The State Department today released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which includes the  Mujahedin-e Khalq under the section on Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

Does this mean the group’s terror designation has been retained and its multi-million dollar campaign to pressure its way off of the FTO list has failed?

No.

The review by Secretary Clinton regarding the MEK designation remains pending.  FTOs  are legally allowed to appeal their listing every two years, and Secretary Clinton’s decision regarding their most recent appeal will come out separately and is expected soon.

The Country Reports on Terrorism, on the other hand, is legally required every year, and–since MEK remains an FTO (at least until Clinton finalizes her review)–the organization is listed in the report.

The report does, however, include many important facts on the history, ideology, and current status of the MEK (which may be worth a look by some of the prominent former U.S. officials receiving cash to advocate for the group without doing their homework).  It also includes a few updates from last year’s report that may or may not suggest which direction the State Department is headed regarding the FTO review.  The main update from last year’s report is regarding the 1979 U.S. embassy takeover:

Though denied by the MEK, analysis based on eyewitness accounts and MEK documents demonstrates that MEK members participated in and supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and that the MEK later argued against the early release the American hostages. The MEK also provided personnel to guard and defend the site of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, following the takeover of the Embassy.

The new report also has omitted some items from last year’s report.  It no longer contains a passage on how Saddam Hussein provided MEK with millions of dollars from the Oil For Food program, and it no longer mentions that a “significant number of MEK personnel voluntarily left Ashraf, and an additional several hundred individuals renounced ties to the MEK and (have) been voluntarily repatriated to Iran.”

The full passage on MEK, with annotations from last year’s report, is included after the jump.

  • 16 August 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • MEK

Iran’s Greens Warn U.S. Against Supporting the Mujahedin

Kaleme, a leading Green movement newspaper run by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, has a very strongly worded editorial today warning foreign governments (ie, the U.S.) not to support the Mujahedin-e Khalq.  This comes shortly after 37 activists warned against delisting the MEK from the U.S. terrorism list, and is yet another sign of how concerned the Green Movement has become about the possibility that the MEK will get off the terrorism list and win U.S. backing.

The editorial makes clear that the MEK has no support in Iran, and that any foreign support for the group would have very serious consequences. According to Kaleme, support for the MEK would benefit the very Iranian hardliners who are trying to destroy the Green Movement and “defame” the U.S. in the eyes of the Iranian people.

The translation, courtesy of Parisa Saranj, is below. The Persian text is available on Kaleme’s website.

Kaleme: Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK); The symbol of Treason, Violence and Terror in Iran

I am saying, as someone who cares, the MEK with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead. You, [the leaders of the government] don’t bring them back to life for the sake of scoring points and taking revenge.” — Mir Hossein Mousavi, Statement no.17

In the modern history of Iran, there is no organization, no party and no cult more infamous than the MEK amongst the Iranian nation. The Iranian people are yet to forget how their beloved children were terrorized and martyred in the worst ways possible. And, thousands of family members and children of those murdered are still alive and witnesses to these crimes. The Iranian nation does not forget how this organization, along with Saddam Hussein, craved for the lives and honor of Iranians and assisted him in the suppression and massacre of the people of Iran and Iraq. Iranians are proud of the years they stood against the MEK and Saddam and on any opportunity possible they praise the hundred thousand martyrs of the Iraq-Iran war. Iranian people know very well that this organization used unlawful and illegal sources, which initially belonged to the Iranian and Iraqi people. They are well aware that the MEK owes its remaining financial power and its limited existence to the support which Saddam Hussein provided them during the war against our country.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of “violence and terror” in Iran and the slightest mention of this word [MEK] and the remembrance of this organization is needed to remind the Iranian audience of the violence, terror, and treason they caused. As long as the groundwork of this organization is cult-like behavior, the only solution for them is to submit to foreigners in order to stab its own people in the back. Any country that supports this organization defames itself among the Iranian people and remains infamous for defending violence and betrayal.

Leaders who are deceived into supporting the MEK are only making the wall of mistrust between the nations taller and are bringing back to life the bitter memories of anti-Iranian policies, such as 1953 coup.

Mojahedin-e Khalq are outcasts of the Iranian people; even before being the outcast of the government. To invigorate the ominous name of the MEK is only the wish of sinister enemies of democracy and rule of the people in Iran. Seekers of violence whether by MEK’s side or against them would be happy to see them empowered since violence creates violence.

The presence of this terrorist group in any part of the world could become an excuse for those in power in Iran to have unlawful confrontations with critics and protesters. They [those in power] would be the only group welcoming the official presence, even if they pretend to be their enemies.

Mojahedin-e Khalq is the symbol of violence, animosity, submission, and reliance on foreign powers. Thus, the organization is illegal and is the reminder of the most bitter of betrayals. Today, Iranian people who have become the example for nonviolent resistance, anti-dictatorship and independence for other countries, do not accept “violence and submission” and do not look kindly on the support of any government that relies on violence and submission.

In supporting the great Green Movement, we continue to consider Mojahedin-e Khalq hypocrites who “with betrayals and crimes committed are considered dead.” And we repeat Mir Hossein Mousavi’s warning by saying “No nation should bring them back to life for the sake of rewards and if they do so, they will remain infamous in the memory of the Iranian people.”

  • 5 August 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, MEK

MEK: Cult of the Chameleon

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDlNWErYCGw]
Maziar Bahari’s fascinating 2007 documentary on the Mujahedin-e Khalq, “Cult of the Chameleon,” deserves special attention given Secretary Clinton’s upcoming decision on the group’s terror designation.  The film, which was featured yesterday at a panel event assessing the ramifications of taking MEK off the terror list, is notable for its focus on the humanitarian aspect of the MEK issue.

Bahari, who appeared on yesterday’s panel along with Brian Katulis of Center for American Progress and journalist Barbara Slavin, has consistently emphasized that we must consider the individuals who have been swept into the MEK as victims of both Iranian government repression and victims of the cult’s leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi (read a full summary of the event here).