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  • 23 June 2015
  • Posted By Maria Hardman
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress

Nuclear deal would alleviate, not exacerbate, Iranian threat

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter testified before the House Armed Services Committee on the U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

Last week, as lawmakers convened a hearing with top administration officials to discuss US strategy in the Middle East, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Tehran to discuss Iraq’s crumbling security. Rouhani pledged Iranian support for Iraq’s fight against ISIL, noting that Iraqi security is intertwined with that of Iran.

On the Hill, however, the message was one in which the US must simultaneously counter a dual threat from both ISIL and Iran. “Iranian malign influence in the region is the other major challenge in our strategy in the Middle East, besides ISIL,” according Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. The strategy outlined seemed to be one at cross purposes with itself: the US would counter ISIL while at the same time countering Iran–the one country that is, arguably, most committed to defeating ISIL.

Iran already has a palpable presence in Iraq. Not only can Tehran’s influence be felt in Baghdad’s political arena, but the US and others have known of Iran’s support for Shia militia in terms of ammunitions, training, aircraft, and leadership for quite some time. Though often seen as an insurmountable challenge, Iran’s presence in Iraq has been a detriment to ISIL, and many of their interests in the country overlap with our own. Though collaboration on issues important to both Iran and the US has been a non-starter, the imminent nuclear deal could pave the way towards cooperation on issues of mutual importance, and lead to the establishment of diplomatic channels to address areas of challenge.

The dominance of the Iran-backed Shia militia within the security apparatus of the Iraqi state has likely lead to a marginalization of the Sunni, in such a way that the US now feels that empowering Sunni tribesmen is the only way to win back Iraq’s security. “The reality is that some of our Sunni partners both within and outside of Iraq are more worried about the Shia and Iranian hegemony than they are about ISIL,” said General Dempsey. Secretary Carter and General Dempsey explained the advancements in current US plans to recruit Sunni tribesmen in Iraq at the new installation at Taqaddum in Anbar province, and stressed that fresh Sunni recruits would be “essential” and “vital” to the effort to ultimately eliminate ISIL. But Carter admitted that the US had fallen short in its recruitment efforts, having trained just 7,000 Sunni Iraqi tribesmen, as opposed to the 24,000 it had hoped for.

Regardless of whether this effort proves effective, merely attempting to prop up Sunni forces is not a sufficient strategy for long term stability. For that, Iran will need to be brought into discussions on a path forward. Dr. Paul Pillar, of Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic Studies, has outlined for Politico how engaging Iran on regional issues could lead to gains over ISIL territory in Iraq, increased security over sea trade in the Persian Gulf, and a decrease in the volatility of the region overall. Ambassadors Ryan Crocker, William Luers, and Thomas Pickering outlined in a piece last year for the Washington Post that a deal on the nuclear issue could open up “a new strategic relationship between the United States and Iran [that] may seem impossible and risky, yet it is also necessary and in the interests of both.” Continuing to ostracize Iran will limit strategic cooperation on regional issues that could be paramount to slowing the “deteriorating trend” in the region lamented by committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX).

While opponents of a nuclear deal in congress are many, a deal with Tehran would undoubtedly open diplomatic channels that could be leveraged to increase coordination on a host of geostrategic issues. Allowing a deal to go forward would improve diplomatic relations, open up avenues for further discussions on issues such as human rights, combating narcotics trafficking and extremism, as well as mediating Iran’s perceived destabilizing influence in the region. By including Iran in a solution to the region’s problems, the US can address any “long-term threat” posed by current Iranian posturing and work with Iran to counter ISIS, combat narcotics trafficking and organized crime, and secure a more stable Persian Gulf region. While some in Congress may be keen to focus only on opposing a nuclear deal, true strategic thinking suggests that a nuclear deal can be a gateway to actually beginning to resolve the challenges in the region.

  • 27 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: June 27, 2012

Congress Eyes More Sanctions

U.S. lawmakers are seeking to finalize Iran sanctions legislation in July.  Senator Menendez said, “‘We’re trying to see if we can get the House either to largely accept what we put through, or to come to what would be a quick staff conference that would lead us to a final conclusion that we could ratify.’” (Reuters 6/27; Reuters 6/27).

Iran Threatens Retaliatory Embargo on South Korea

In response to South Korea’s announcement that it will suspend all oil imports from Iran, Iran has announced that it may put on an embargo on all goods from South Korea. According to the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy, South Korea’s shipments to Iran amounted to $6 billion last year (CNN 6/27; The Korean Times 6/27).

  • 27 January 2012
  • Posted By Jacob Martin
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 01/27

NYTimes: Israel doubtful that military strike would result in Iranian retaliation

The New York times reports that Israeli academics and intelligence officials are skeptical of the ferocity of Iranian retaliation tactics in the case of an Israeli strike and believe that possible measures, such as shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, would cause Iran to harm itself.  This belief is based on an analysis of Iran’s interests and previous actions, as well as the many over exaggerated threats presented in the past by Iraq and Hezbollah.  “A war is no picnic,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio in November. But if Israel feels itself forced into action, the retaliation would be bearable, he said. “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.” (NY Times 01/27)

Oil industry see Iran sanctions benefitting China, hurting West

Despite sanctions, Iran will continue to sell oil at a similar volume, although the majority of exported oil will go to China.  Being one of Iran’s only remaining customers, the Chinese will be able to bargain for a significantly reduced price on oil.  The West is relying heavily on an increased output from Saudi Arabia to avoid a spike in oil prices, which would hurt an already deteriorating global economy.  (Chicago Tribune 01/27)

U.S.-Israel joint missile defense drill now slated for October 2012

The largest-ever joint missile defense drill between the U.S. and Israel has been rescheduled for this Fall after news leaked that it had been suspended.  The drill, in which several thousand U.S. military personnel will be stationed in Israel, has been perceived as a signal to the region of the U.S. and Israel’s unity and resolve regarding Iran.  Auster Challenge’s abrupt cancellation two weeks ago fueled suspicions of a rift between the two countries in their approach to Iran, though U.S. and Israeli officials insisted it was due only to technical issues.  (Business Insider 01/27) 

  • 18 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/18

Israel acknowledges Iran has yet to decide to pursue a nuclear weapon

Israeli officials will reportedly present an intelligence assessment next week that Iran has not yet decided to pursue a nuclear weapon. This comes as the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey visits Israel next week. Additionally, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel is “very far off” from making a decision about a military strike against Iran. (Haaretz 01/18).

Obama has followed Bush’s Iran policy says former top State official

Nicholas Burns, the United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the George W. Bush administration said that the Obama administration’s policy “has been very tough with Iran,” and “has essentially followed President Bush’s policy towards Iran in President Bush’s second term.” The statement comes amidst allegations by the GOP presidential candidates that president Obama’s Iran policy has been weak (Think Progress 01/17).

  • 4 February 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 4 Comments
  • US-Iran War

Deja Vu All Over Again

On the heels of last week’s testimony by Tony Blair before Britain’s Chilcot panel regarding the Iraq war, Seumas Milne discusses in the Guardian yesterday the parallels between the 2002 run up to war with Iraq and the current escalation in rhetoric and military forces aimed at Iran .

In his column, “The lessons of Iraq have been ignored. The target is now Iran”, Milne writes, “We were ­supposed to have learned the lessons of the Iraq war. That’s what Britain’s ­Chilcot inquiry is meant to be all about. But the signs from the Middle East are that it could be happening all over again.”

He goes on to compare the current Iran rhetoric and George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, and analyzes the recent US announcement that it is “boosting its naval presence and supplying tens of billions of dollars’ worth of new weapons systems to allied Arab states.  The target is of course Iran.”

“In case anyone missed the parallels, Tony Blair hammered them home at the Iraq inquiry last Friday.” Milne writes, “Far from showing remorse about the bloodshed he helped unleash on the Iraqi people, the former prime minister was allowed to turn what was supposed to be a grilling into a platform for war against Iran. “

Tony Blair isn’t the only one who has apparently learned little from the lessons of Iraq.  In Daniel Pipes’ February 2 piece in the National Review, “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran”, Pipes offers the Obama Administration some free political advice: “He needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him,” Pipes writes.  The answer to Obama’s political difficulties?  Bomb Iran.

Pipes states that such an attack would be “more politically palatable” because it would be limited to aerial strikes and thus “would require few ‘boots on the ground’ and entail relatively few casualties”.  No mention, however, of the Pentagon’s broadly accepted assessment that such strikes would not eliminate Iran’s nuclear program and would play into the hands of Iran’s government as it attempts to fight a growing popular uprising.

Like any good political strategist, instead of making the case that starting a war with Iran is good policy, Pipes argues that its good politics—he even supports his argument with polling data.  The cynicism in Pipes’ argument is underlined when he compares his proposed new war with Iran to 9/11, noting that the most deadly terrorist attacks on US soil were a political boon that “caused voters to forget George W. Bush’s meandering early months”—just think what bombing Iran could do for President Obama’s poll numbers.

“If Obama’s personality, identity, and celebrity captivated a majority of the American electorate in 2008, those qualities proved ruefully deficient for governing in 2009.”  So in Pipes’ world, “bomb, bomb Iran” is new “Yes we can”.

  • 14 May 2008
  • Posted By Emily Blout
  • 1 Comments
  • Legislative Agenda, US-Iran War

US military rescinds Iranian supplied weapons accusation?

This just in from Keith Olbermann and the LA Times: US quietly rescinds “evidence” of Iranian supplied weapons in Iraq. Check out this video from MSNBC’s Countdown.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/24586408#24586408

  • 8 May 2008
  • Posted By Emily Blout
  • 4 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC

Iran in Iraq: whats next for the US

Word on the Hill is that there will be a lay-out of Iranian weapons that have been used by “special groups” to kill US soldiers and undermine the Iraqi government pretty soon. They are still deciding whether it should be Petraeus/Crocker or the Iraqi government who should present what several insiders have described as “strong” evidence that the Iranians are fueling instability and the recent in-fighting in Basra.

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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