Currently Browsing

Posts Tagged ‘ iran diplomacy ’

  • 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.

  • 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.

In Iran, It’s Fun To Be A Rebel

If one asks the majority of Iranian youths why they want democracy, their immediate answers are surprisingly not freedom of speech, free elections or even a better economy. “Fun” is what most of them desire the most. Having fun without being told their behavior is un-Islamic or an attempt to topple the regime.

Since the Islamic Revolution, and the rise and fall of various government figures, the definition of fun in Iran has changed drastically. Often mixed with Islamic ideologies, some of the most basic social activities in Iran are defined improper for the youth and met with crackdowns, criticism and even arrests.

An event that aroused attention and hype in Iran last month was the gathering of over 800 Tehrani girls and boys in Water and Fire Park playing with water guns and bottles just laughing and wetting one another. The so called “water war,” which was originally organized via Facebook, spread to other major cities and became a cool way to pass a hot summer afternoon.

But a few days later, national TV aired its infamous confessions of those arrested with blacked out faces, speaking about the social media scheme in which young people had been seduced into toppling the regime through a water game.

How to respond to such serious allegations?  A mocking, sarcastic confession video of a young man explaining his extensive water gun training in Israel and America quickly spread via the event’s Facebook page. Mass emails containing photos of happy faces and soaked-in-water youth in the park made the rounds through Iranian inboxes.  Further events were planned, such as a kite flying gathering in Isfahan that promised to bring the youth together for celebration of the end of summer.  On the kites, young people would scribble a dream before flying them in the air.

Yet perhaps the allegations are true.  What seems to most of us to be a joyful assembly of young men and women could at the same time very well be a protest against a system that constrains its youth’s most basic dreams.

Unfortunately, Iranians have witnessed or directly experienced the brutal clampdown of the regime not only after Presidential election, but also through the aid it’s believed to be giving to the neighboring country, Syria against protesters of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. In the wake of the Arab spring , when hope for the future of Iran could rise from the ashes of 2009 turmoil, it is news like that from Syria which creates fear and intimidation for Iranians, leaving them to come up with alternative ways to voice their opposition.  What could be better than “fun?”

And what could be better than mocking–and reapproptiating–what the government legitimizes as proper. For example, each year, the Ministry of Culture holds a Festival for Twins of all ages–a night of (government-sanctioned) celebration, with music, performance and laughter. So, young people organized a slightly less official Gathering of Curly Haired Ones in Tehran’s Melat Park and, my personal favorite, the Festival of Bad Fashion. It has been through these events that larger gatherings such as water war were born.

Not every one is happy to see the youth of a country, who make up 70 percent of the population, coming together. So, the authorities will do anything to stop them–either with intimidation beforehand or constant crackdowns, which are promoted as acts of “restoring order” and “enforcing Islamic values.”

For those who cannot attend these events for reasons varying from obligations to fear and suspicions, social media is a great way to rebel while having fun.

Facebook invite for the "Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces"

Last week, I received an invitation on Facebook for an event called Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces with more than fifteen hundred attending RSVPs. For the location, organizers say the event will be held in every villa, street, garden, home and even public space.

It’s a perfect example of how Iranian youth have used sarcasm and laughter against the pressure, disorder and insecurity surrounding their lives.

Even though I don’t believe the behaviors of these Iranian youth are entirely and purposefully acts of rebellion, I do believe when you live in a country where everything you do–from what you wear and who you are allowed to sit next to on the bus, to what music you can listen to–is controlled by a select few, every opportunity you take to have a little fun can be, consciously or unconsciously, a way to rebel.

  • 3 July 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy

Hot Dog Diplomacy, Take 2

Last year, just before July 4th and only a few months after Obama took office with his pledge to engage Iran, the State Department sent a cable to every US Embassy around the world.  The message: for the first time in decades, Iranian diplomats could attend fourth of July parties.

The idea was met with some hostility in Congress, but overall it was considered a sensible move.  The Dobbins Plan, as it was known, was so popular mostly because the conventional wisdom in Washington agreed that barring American diplomats from interacting with Iranian diplomats abroad was such a self-evidently counterproductive thing to do.  Seriously, for thirty years it hurt Iran not one iota, but deprived us of an entire generation of diplomats who are familiar with Iranians and Iranian officials.

And this prohibition wasn’t a small thing.  When I interned in the US Embassy in Muscat, Oman, the first thing my supervisors told me was that I wasn’t to speak with any Iranian diplomats under any circumstances. I was allowed to shake the hand of an Iranian, but only if I couldn’t avoid it.  (I ended up doing exactly that once, having introduced myself to the guy standing next to me in a receiving line at a reception who happened to be from the Iranian Embassy.  He laughed just as soon as I said I am American, and gave me a knowing nod.)

Among  all the recommendations given to the entering Obama administration, this seemed to everyone like the first change they would enact.

But strangely, the administration has said absolutely nothing about it.  No change to the policy.  Not even a mention.  The prohibition continues.

Friends tell me that it’s only a matter of time before they finally allow low-level diplomatic contact, but by then it will have been more than a year and a half.  I say: it was a good idea last year, and it’s still a good idea this year.  What better way to put our best foot forward than to show Iranians how we celebrate the founding of our democracy?  The message of our founding fathers that imbues every Embassy’s July Fourth celebration is sure to be an appropriate model for Iran during this time of political tumult there.

  • 30 June 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Of extended hands and slaps to the face

Now that Congress and the UN Security Council have approved “the toughest Iran sanctions ever written,” the Obama administration has some breathing room to go back to its plan for diplomacy.  But did the engagement strategy ever really start?

If you remember, Obama’s “extended hand” got pretty well chopped off at the wrist on June 12 when Iran’s hardliners declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the victor in an election widely believed to have been fraudulent.  After that came calls for a “tactical pause,” followed by the revelation of the undisclosed enrichment facility at Qom and the abortive attempt to negotiate a fuel swap deal in October.  Taken as a whole, US engagement with Iran under Obama has consisted of two Nowruz messages to the Iranian people, a half hour face-to-face meeting on Oct. 1, the lower level follow-up meeting three weeks later, a letter or two to the Supreme Leader, and that dinner with Mottaki just before the UN sanctions vote that no one thought would accomplish anything.  That’s it.

The sad fact is that Obama’s Iran strategy has focused a lot more on US allies and countries like Russia and China than on Iran.  The bulk of our diplomacy has consisted of Stuart Levey lobbying allied countries to withhold business ties from Iran, and convincing UN Security Council members to impose another round of sanctions.  Even the sanctions themselves target European, Russian, Indian, and Chinese companies — everyone except Iran.

Thus — Republican talking points notwithstanding — Obama has not “wasted a year on diplomacy.”  He’s hardly wasted 24 hours on diplomacy.

That’s why it’s particularly sad to see (former NIAC advisory board member) Amb. John Limbert planning to resign from his position as Undersecretary of State for Iran.  Limbert, a former US hostage in Tehran and the best Farsi-speaker in government, was brought into the administration to negotiate with the Iranians, having literally written the book on negotiating with Iran.  Now, one year later, he’s leaving government to go back to the US Naval Academy after participating in less than a couple of hours of actual talks.  That’s too bad.

And the prospects for starting up talks again don’t look too bright either.  Ahmadinejad announced this week that Iran will be willing to sit back down at the negotiating table in late August, saying the lull is necessary to “punish” the West for imposing more sanctions.  He also laid out his own demands for talks — though don’t expect Iran’s envoys to cling to these preconditions with the same fervor that the Bush administration did to zero enrichment.  To sum them up: there’s only one country’s nuclear program that Ahmadinejad wants to focus on — and it’s not Iran’s.

Take a guess…

UN Sanctions Vote Expected Wednesday

Via Laura Rozen, the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on a new round of Iran sanctions Wednesday.

The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on a new Iran sanctions resolution on Wednesday, two diplomatic sources have told POLITICO.

“The goal is Wednesday,” one European diplomat said of the anticipated vote date.

“Vote is likely Wednesday,” another diplomatic source in New York said.

The UN vote, which is likely to pass 12-3 with Turkey, Brazil and Lebanon voting nay, is expected to have two major impacts.  The first will be to take the pressure off of the Congressional sanctions push.

Congress, which has been finalizing legislation sanctions Iran’s petroleum imports for weeks, had up until recently written off the UN process as weak and ineffectual.  But recently, Democratic leaders have slowed things down to give the UN time to approve its own measure, which the Obama Administration insists will serve as a useful “legal platform” for further sanctions that individual countries agree to impose.

Now that the UN is planning to go ahead with its resolution, Congress might become more open to some of the Administration’s requests for changes in the final version of the bill (many of which echoed NIAC’s own suggested changes to the legislation).

The second thing that is sure to be effected by UN action is the proposed fuel swap deal negotiated by Brazil and Turkey. But it’s difficult to say what that impact will be: either the deal continues ahead, or (perhaps more likely) it could be blown to bits.

As a group of prominent nonproliferation and Iran experts have said, the nuclear fuel swap — while inadequate in the eyes of some — is a worthwhile diplomatic opening that the US would do well to exploit.  But it’s hard to tell at this moment whether Iran will live up to its promise of walking away from any deal following a new sanctions resolution.  Prominent lawmaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar said last week:

If (the West) issues a new resolution against Iran, we will not be committed to Tehran’s statement and dispatching fuel outside Iran will be canceled.

So there’s a lot at stake here, and it all hinges on how Iran reacts to the upcoming sanctions vote.  For the US, that will mean either Obama runs the table — passing new sanctions in the UN and Congress, removing one bomb’s worth of nuclear material from Iran, and possibly even kick-starting comprehensive negotiations over important issues like human rights and the nuclear issue; or new sanctions that no one thinks will actually change Iran’s behavior.

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Shifting on 20% enrichment?

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Permanent Envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh relayed seemingly coordinated messages yesterday, hinting that Iran might consider giving up its 20% enrichment work, which is currently the biggest stumbling block for the fuel swap deal.

While reiterating the usual assertion that uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT, Mottaki added: “if we do not need the 20 percent we won’t move into that direction.”

“We have to do it since we have been facing a lack of any legally-binding assurance of supply,” Soltanieh also told reporters yesterday, adding “when we don’t need 20 percent uranium, we will not produce it.”

These statements might represent a cautious foray into a shifting position by Iran on the 20% enrichment issue.  Iran realizes that with 20% enrichment serving only as a backup plan, and possibly being wholly eliminated in the future, the West’s excuses for rejecting the Brazilian/Turkish deal would evaporate.

For me, now seems like the time to commit to diplomacy, especially when Iran is finally showing some willingness to compromise.

Why Rafsanjani is so important for the Greens

Six months ago in Mashad, Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a speech to a group of Iranian student activists saying: “If people want us, we will govern; and if they don’t, we will have to go.”

This might have seemed like nothing new, but it wasn’t coming from just anyone — it was said by Hashemi Rafsanjani,  Iranian cleric and a two-term Iranian president.  Still to this day known as one of the most powerful individuals in Iranian politics, Rafsanjani leads the body that has the power to unseat the Supreme Leader.

This one statement, coming from Rafsanjani, cracked the entire foundation of Velayat- e- Faghih — the rule of God’s representative over man and country.

Just a few days ago, Rafsanjani reiterated his statement when delivering a speech at the anniversary of a religious ceremony in Tehran. After welcoming his guests, Rafsanjani started speaking about the will of the people and how people are in charge of their own destiny. He said God will not take anyone to Heaven by force who doesn’t want to go himself; each person has the right to choose for him or herself the path he/she will take.

“We have to find the path of God ourselves with our own will. Our own will and that is what is important.”

These subtle political messages are common among Iranian clergies, and they regularly communicate with each other through speeches at different sermons, which can be extremely frustrating to an outsider. Rafsanjani later said:

“The path of good vs. evil has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to be around until the end of time. Humans have been and must continue to be responsible and free to choose their own path in this world.”

No wonder the hard-line conservatives have been severely attacking Rafsanjani lately. He has been around even before the Iranian revolution and has actively been one of the main pillars of the Islamic Republic establishment since its inception. At this point in time, though, he is coming to realize the incompatibility of the current establishment with the new Iranian generation and the democratic world.

He is aware that significant reforms will be needed in order for modern Iran to survive, which is exactly what the Green Movement has been saying for the past year. If the system does not bend with the demands of its people, then it will be just like what Rafsanjani said, but perhaps much harsher.

  • 17 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, UN

White House Statement on the TRR Nuclear Swap

The White House has released a statement on the nuclear fuel swap agreement Brazil and Turkey just reached with Iran:

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil.  The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns.  While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October.

The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds – and not simply words – its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA.  We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.

“My Thoughts Turn to Them”

A deal has been reached between Iran, Turkey, and Brazil, in which Iran has agreed to ship most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel rods to power a medical research reactor.  Deprived of the uranium, Iran cannot process it to the higher levels needed for weapons production. In addition, the fuel rods returned to Iran for Tehran’s research reactor cannot be processed beyond their lower, safer levels.

In addition, Iran has finally released French academic Clotilde Reiss, who has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison for more than ten months on charges of espionage as well as participation in rioting and civil strife. Her 10-year jail term was commuted to a fine of 3 billion rials ($300,000). Reiss was welcomed by President Sarkozy on her return home early Sunday afternoon.

Of course, Iran’s cooperation on these two fronts should not discount its lack of cooperation on an issue even more important, that of human rights. While many in the West can now rest assured that Iran now does not have enough uranium to build the nuclear bomb, at least for now, the Iranian people continue to be held in prisons throughout Iran. Iran’s human rights abuse has only increased since the June 2009 presidential elections and can be seen as recently as the very controversial execution of five Iranians just last week.

As Reiss said on her return to France,

I am thinking chiefly of two men who were executed in January 2010 and who were pretty much at my sides during the public trial. They treated me like a sister. I am thinking about them because I was overwhelmed by their stories. Now that I am free in my country, my thoughts turn to them.

Many others continue to be detained in prison in Iran, including women and children. Now that there has been some initial progress on the nuclear concern, at least temporarily, it is finally time for other powers to focus an equal amount of attention on the rights of the Iranian people.

Photo credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier; Atta Kenare / AFP/Getty Images

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,

[signature]

Share this with your friends: