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Posts Tagged ‘ iran diplomacy ’

  • 12 May 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

Video: Gates on Iranian politics

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Secretary of Defense Gates spoke with CNN’s John King yesterday about the internal situation in Iran and whether the resentment and popular unrest following last year’s election is still continuing.

I think Secretary Gates is correct in saying that, despite things being calm on the surface, there is a reservoir of popular dissatisfaction among the Iranian people.  That doesn’t mean that the regime will be overthrown tomorrow, nor does it even mean that there is going to be a huge protest on the anniversary of the June 12 election.

What it means is there is a whole political faction lying in wait.

Before last year’s election, progressives in Iran were largely Khatami-style reformists.  Now, the progressive movement in Iran is made up of the Mousavi/Karroubi school of reform — in addition to the more radical viewpoints among a portion of the population, which supports abolishing the Islamic government altogether.

As for the matter of sanctions — Gates says they have “had an impact,” and that more sanctions will have “more of an impact.”  But by defining the goal of sanctions (the “principal value,” as he says it) as political isolation for Iran, Secretary Gates shows a much more nuanced understanding of the sanctions issue than most sanctions proponents in Congress and among outside organizations.

To hear these people talk about it, sanctions are a magic bullet that can tear down Iran’s economy and bankrupt Tehran’s treasury.

Fortunately, Gates realizes that isn’t going to happen.  So — we hope — the administration has a plan for what to do next, after the sanctions are put in place and before we realize that they haven’t made all of our wildest dreams come true…

Is the Sanctions Debate Justifying the Military Option?

This post originally appeared at InsideIran.org.

To an outsider, it may seem like Washington is united in favor of imposing new sanctions on Iran. But, like in Iran itself, the internal wrangling over this question among Washington policymakers is much more complex and divided by factions than one may assume.

Congressional leaders from both parties have long called for new sanctions — and, bolstered by the strong support of the pro-Israel lobby, even some Democrats have undermined the President’s engagement strategy in their zeal for a more heavy-handed approach. Now that the administration has moved past direct talks and embraced the pressure track, one would assume that Congress, the President and the rest of the Iran policymaking community is in harmony.

But they’re not. Not even close.

  • 23 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, UN

Changing Course on Iran Sanctions

This post appeared in today’s The Hill newspaper.

New sanctions on Iran are about the surest bet in Washington these days.

Both the House and the Senate have passed a “crippling” gasoline embargo, and the administration has all but given up talk of negotiations in favor of pressing for UN Security Council sanctions “that bite.” In fact, the only thing left that the administration and Congress disagree on is whether the new sanctions should target all of Iranian society or just the hardliners in power — not an insignificant disagreement by any measure, but one that underscores the broader acceptance of the argument that new sanctions are the only game in town.

But given the fact that the U.S. has sanctioned Iran for decades with little to show for it, the debate over U.S.-Iran policy should not be boiled down to a question of how much more damage we can do. Rather, smart power dictates that the U.S. use every tool available, including those that have been taken off the table, such as lifting certain sanctions.

No one expects the U.S. to unilaterally lift its embargo on Iran. But certain sanctions have unambiguously failed to achieve their objective, contributing instead to the suffering of ordinary Iranians. These should be reexamined, and where appropriate, lifted.

  • 19 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, US-Iran War

One Overlooked Aspect of the Secret Gates Memo

The New York Times on Sunday reported on a secret memo written by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January warning that the US has no long-term strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

As always, a lot has been written about this already, so I’ll only focus on one aspect of it that I think is important.  This bit about predicting Iran’s intentions:

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

I’ve long argued that this option — the so-called “Japan option” — whereby Iran has a weapons capability but not an assembled, usable weapon, is what Iran actually wants.

  • 12 April 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

Taking “Yes” for an Answer

Image: FAS

Reviving an issue that most observers have declared to be dead in the water, the Federation of American Scientists is calling on the US to accept Iran’s counter-proposal on the Tehran Research Reactor fuel-swap.  In sum, the P5+1 should agree to Iran’s proposal to place 1200kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU) under IAEA seals inside Iran, later to be exchanged simultaneously for fuel assemblies that power Iran’s medical reactor.

We propose the perfect litmus test for Iranian nuclear intentions. The international community should simply say “yes” and accept the terms of Tehran’s exchange proposal…. Leaving the LEU in Iran is not a dangerous concession and would not be a change from the current state of affairs since all of the nuclear material would remain under IAEA safeguards. If the material is shipped to a location outside Natanz, such as Kish Island, this could further alleviate concerns about the possibility of a quick breakout.

The X-factor for the FAS analysts here is Iran’s recent decision to enrich up to 20% — a not insignificant change, since that will reduce by almost half the amount of time it would take Iran to develop weapons-grade uranium.  Reversing this decision, they argue, should be a top priority for the US negotiators.  Fortunately, it shouldn’t be difficult, as Iran has no practical use for 20% enriched uranium, and it is most valuable to them as a bargaining chip.

Under our proposal, Iran would be required to suspend 20 percent enrichment as soon as a fuel deal is made and permanently stop enrichment to higher degrees when the fuel is actually delivered. If we act quickly and the deal is successful, we will set the nuclear clock back by both stopping 20 percent enrichment and perhaps even leave Iran with less than a weapon’s worth of LEU. We will build confidence – for the West, that Iran is willing to cooperate, and for Iran, that the West can provide credible fuel guarantees.

It should be noted that there’s no “perhaps” about it — Western negotiators are unlikely to accept any deal that does not bring Iran’s stockpile below the so-called “breakout capability” of one weapon’s worth of LEU.  Given Iran’s technical problems in its enrichment facilities, this should still be a feasible option.

But FAS’s point is still a valuable one — the P5+1 should not lose sight of its main objectives here: “Our main concern should be to make it more difficult – not easier – for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.” Insofar as Iran’s counter-proposal does that, we should be willing to consider it seriously.

But if our pride gets in the way — if saving face becomes more important to us than stopping nuclear proliferation, then we’re in for a long, tough fight.

  • 26 March 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Reporting for Duty?

Hossein Yekta, a high ranking member of the Basij militia and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, said this week that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already declared “war,” but “no one is reporting for duty.”

Raja News, one of the most hard line news agencies in Iran reported that Yekta tells student Basijis to get into war formation because the war has already started, and it started in the universities.

“There is only one person in the country that can declare war, and that is the Supreme Commander of All Armed Forces. Only two times has there been a declaration of war in the Islamic Republic. Once in the eve of September 22, 1980, and the other was just a while back when “Agha” declared war on a full scale cultural attack that was launched against us.”

A friend of mine once told me that there are three social phenomena that can each change an entire generation: revolution, war, and mass immigration.  Those who experience these events are bound to have radically different perspectives than the generation that follows them, which is precisely what happened in Iran.  The generation that brought about the revolution all of a sudden found itself in a war with Iraq a year after taking power, and that war along with the revolution itself produced a mass immigration effect.

Today, many of the hard-liners in the Islamic Republic are the ones who obviously didn’t emigrate out of the country. They participated in the revolution, and many of them fought in the Iran-Iraq war. A generation with noble deeds in mind that is finding it harder and harder every day to re-gain the respect that it once had in the society. This generation’s mindset is still in the revolutionary days of Iran.  But that doesn’t sit well with the young and vibrant generation – a Green generation – that now makes up the majority of the Iranian population.  This new generation has no memory of the revolution, nor of the eight-year war that devastated the country in so many different ways.

The hard-liners view national policy like it’s a battle on the front-lines; as it was when they were in Khoramshahr, Talaieyeh, Majnoon Shahr and other border cities in which they fought.  They were celebrated in the ’80s for their courage, but the war is over. It was over twenty years ago.

Iranians today are hearing the war rhetoric getting louder and louder after last year’s disputed presidential election. The hard-liners realize that the youth do not relate to their values, so they think they must be supported by foreign elements. That is the reason why the establishment refers to its domestic struggle as a war, a “soft war.”

I think about what my friend said, and I think about it a lot. I agree with him that the first decade of the Islamic Republic did change an entire generation of Iranians; but I also believe that they will have to reconcile with the changing times one way or another.  I believe the new generation – the Green generation – will shun this “war” ideology, regardless of how loudly the establishment trumpets it.

The signs are already there: “no one is reporting for duty.”

Iranian Women Band Together, Caution Against Broad Sanctions

March 8th, International Women’s Day, was celebrated with even more passion this year in Tehran.

Zahra Rahnavard – the outspoken wife of the presidential election challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi –  issued a statement at a meeting with members of the women’s rights movement in Iran praising all the brave women of the Green Movement for their struggles during the past nine months.  She referred to the Green Movement as a very diverse network of ethnic groups, unions, students and of course women.

Rahnavard referred to the women’s movement in Iran as one of the most constructive approaches in shaping the future of freedom and democracy under the umbrella of the newly born Green Movement.  Representatives from Mothers for Peace – another organization formed after the disputed June 2009 elections that actively supports the Green Movement — joined Rahnavard in expressing alarm about the potential for the democratic movement to be derailed by punitive economic sanctions imposed by the west.

Non-violence in a civil disobedience struggle is a major principle for Mothers for Peace. Violence has many faces, and we identify economic-sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.

Rafsanjani: National Healer?

As one of the main pillars of power in the Islamic establishment, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani played a significant role in what became the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Depending on one’s political affiliation, Rafsanjani to this day is still either highly respected or highly feared in the  internal political circles of Iran.

Rafsanjani 75, a pragmatist who deep inside believes in reforms to sustain the Islamic Republic, is the head of two very important institutions; the Assembly of Experts, which is an oversight and an electoral body to choose the Supreme Leader, and the Expediency Council that is the author of all macro policies in Iran. The Expediency Council is also a mediator for the legal disputes between the Guardian Council and the Parliament.

This past summer, it wasn’t long after the first bloody protests and after Ayatollah Khamenei issued his ultimatum to the protestors that Rafsanjani proposed his own solution to the crisis.  Eight months later today, he continues to reiterate his previous positions. He is moving forward to try to build a process for reconciling the reformists and hardliners in the hopes that they might pull the country out of the present crisis.

Hasan Rouhani, head of the Defense and National Security Commission within the Expediency Council, is now moving forward on a piece of legislation to decrease the Guardian Council’s role in the election process.  The proposal would create a new National Election Committee to oversee the election process, cutting the influence of the Supreme Leader and eliminating the role of the Guardian Council.

Although this legislation has to be approved by the Supreme Leader to become law, it is such a compelling idea that Khamenei might have to think twice about rejecting it.  If it does win approval, it just might be the momentum Rafsanjani is looking for to seek a national reconciliation.

  • 31 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions

NIAC Applauds Shift Toward Targeted Sanctions

Contact: Phil Elwood
917.379.3787

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes the Obama administration’s decision to pursue targeted sanctions on Iran’s leaders rather than indiscriminate sanctions that would contribute to the suffering of the Iranian people.

“As the Iranian people continue to bravely stand up for their rights, NIAC has been calling on the Administration not to punish the Iranian people for the activities of their government,” said Dokhi Fassihian, member of NIAC’s Board of Directors.  “We are pleased that the Obama administration is committed to pressuring Tehran in a way that spares innocent people unnecessary suffering.”

In Congressional testimony submitted before the House Oversight Committee’s National Security Subcommittee in December, NIAC President Trita Parsi said that “after the groundbreaking developments of this past summer, continuing to ignore the impact additional broad sanctions will have on the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy will only come at our own peril.”

A noticeable shift has occurred in Washington’s plans for Iran sanctions in the new year.  The White House has told leading lawmakers that the Administration does not support untargeted sanctions legislation aimed broadly at the Iranian economy that would punish innocent Iranians. Senior US officials have told journalists that they prefer more targeted measures over so-called “crippling” sanctions because of the desire not to have the Iranian people blame the United States for their isolation.  “We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation — whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame,” stated a senior official.

NIAC has supported legislation that is designed to target Iranian officials responsible for human rights violations, while at the same time taking steps to remove harmful restrictions on the Iranian people’s access to information, basic rights and freedoms.

NIAC reiterates its call for lawmakers to support measures that stand with the Iranian people, and calls on Congress to support the President’s strategy for dealing with Iran

  • 28 December 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Obama’s Statement on Iran

From President Obama’s press statement today:

Before I leave, let me also briefly address the events that have taken place over the last few days in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in detentions, injuries, and even death.

For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with the iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people who are part of Iran’s great and enduring civilization.

What’s taking place within Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It’s about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran’s leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away.

As I said in Oslo, it’s telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people.

We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I’m confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.

Thank you very much, everybody. And Happy New Year.

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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