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  • 26 September 2013
  • Posted By Mina Jafari
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

Congress races to distort facts and kill Iran opening

From IranFact.org

At the UN this week, the world saw a very different exchange between the U.S. and Iran than in the past years. Iranian President Rouhani declared that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons and seeks to remove “mutual uncertainties with full transparency,” saying Iran “does not seek to increase tensions with the United States.” President Obama welcomed recent positive signals from Iran and said, “We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.”

Yet some in Congress are saying something much different. Since Rouhani and Obama’s speeches, those who are not interested in peace with Iran have been warning against any change in relations, and have often resorted to many false arguments  to maintain that Iran is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” to use President Netanyahu’s description of the newly elected President.

Shortly after Rouhani’s speech, during an interview with CNN, Mike Rogers (R-MI) expressed his skepticism towards further nuclear talks and demanded that Iran first end its production of “over 20% enriched uranium.” The demand was odd given that Iran is not enriching above 20%. As is well documented by the IAEA, Iran has produced only low-enriched uranium (between 3.5%-19.75% concentration). Anything beyond 20% would be news indeed, and Rogers should present his evidence to the IAEA, ASAP.

But I suspect that Rogers, as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has more than sufficient understanding of what levels Iran is enriching to, and merely misspoke on this point. Yet, in the same sentence, Rogers also demanded that –before any talks continue–Iran must open the Fordow plant for inspection. This again is odd. While Fordow facility may be deeply fortified against potential military strikes, there are indeed UN inspections there. The IAEA visits the Fordow plant almost weekly and knows well what is going on in there. A quick glance at any of the IAEA’s quarterly reports on Iran’s nuclear program will tell you as much. Shouldn’t the head of the House Intelligence committee be aware of these simple and well documented facts?

Meanwhile, the heads of the House Foreign Affairs Committee–Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Elliot Engel (D-NY)–responded to Rouhani’s speech by setting an arbitrary deadline of 100 days for Iran to fix the nuclear issue. To put this in perspective, even Royce and Engel were unable to get sanctions legislation marked up in a committee very amendable to such bills in their first 100 days as its chairs. Yet they want Rouhani to fix all of the problems with Iran’s nuclear program in 100 days.

Then there is Senator Bennett of Colorado, who in a letter to a constituent stated, “Iran recently installed 180 advanced centrifuges at its production-scale uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz… [which] could be used to produce enriched uranium suitable for nuclear reactors.” Yes, that is in fact what centrifuges do. That’s what we want to make sure Iran is doing–instead of potentially using enriched uranium for weapons. The level of confusion on this fundamental point is embarrassing.

And then you have Ted Cruz (R-TX). Further complicating potential peace negotiations between Presidents Obama and Rouhani, the Senate’s new maverick introduced a  resolution which sets pre-conditions for such a meeting. In the text, Cruz misquotes Rouhani, claiming the Iranian President referred to Israel as a “a wound…on the body of the Muslim World.” This well documented false translation came from Iranian news sources that embellished a segment of Rouhani’s speech in which he said “Quds day […] is a day that people present the unity of Islam against any type of oppression or aggression. And in any case, in our region, it is an old wound that has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world, in the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the dear Quds.” He made no direct mention of Israel or Zionism–in fact, even Obama has referred to the lack of Israel-Palestine peace as a wound in the region. The misquote, however, has been exploited by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who does not want the U.S. to fall for Rouhani’s “charm offensive” and is desperate to get back to the days when he could claim Iran wants to “wipe Israel off the map.”

Then we have legislators who are just plain freaking out. Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are pushing for a bill which declares war on Iran. Franks even claims Iran has enough low enriched uranium that (if Iran kicked out IAEA inspectors and rapidly enriched it to weapons grade) could produce 20 nuclear bombs. I have no idea where he gets this number. The IAEA’s accounting of Iran’s total enriched uranium, according to the latest Arms Control Association brief, is that Iran has enough low enriched uranium for four bombs–though building a bomb would require many, many more steps. Franks made the exact same exaggerated claim in 2010. So by his estimate, Iran has not enriched any uranium since 2010.

These Congressional hawks apparently have no qualms taking extreme liberty with the facts, all in an unabashed effort to drag the country into another unwanted, unnecessary war.

  • 13 February 2013
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy

Reading the Iran Tea Leaves at the State of the Union

“The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon,” said the President in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

The brief sentence in the hour-long speech was fairly consistent with Obama’s remarks on Iran from previous addresses, but  may offer clues in its emphasis on a “diplomatic solution.”

In his 2010 and 2011’s speeches–years that the White House focused largely on ramping up pressure on Iran–Obama focused his remarks on how diplomacy had been utilized to isolate Iran, and ramp up tougher sanctions.

In 2010 he said:

These diplomatic efforts have also strengthened our hand in dealing with those nations that insist on violating international agreements in pursuit of these weapons. … That is why the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. And as Iran’s leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: they, too, will face growing consequences.

In 2011:

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before.

In 2012, with serious concerns of a looming military confrontation and pressure on the President to draw a “red line,” Obama stated clearly that prevention was his policy but peaceful options remained:

And we will safeguard America’s own security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before. Its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions. And as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent. Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.

But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better. And if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations.

The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe. Our oldest alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger than ever. Our ties to the Americas are deeper. Our iron-clad commitment — and I mean iron-clad — to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.

Whether or not this year’s comments suggest the White House is looking to invest political capital in negotiations that promise few quick fixes and may ultimately require a showdown with Congress over sanctions flexibility remains to be seen. The U.S. and P5+1 will enter a new round of negotiations with Iran on February 26 in Kazakhstan.

  • 6 September 2012
  • Posted By Stacy Hubert
  • 0 Comments
  • Election 2012, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Will Obama go on offensive about loose war talk?

On the eve of Barack Obama’s speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, it’s an open question as to how the President plans to frame the Iran debate.

At the Republican Convention last week, we heard loud and clear how Mitt Romney plans to differentiate himself from Obama: less talking to Iran, more talk about bombing Iran.

In his acceptance speech, he said of the President’s policy:

“…every American is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat. In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We are still talking, and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.”

Romney’s website continues down the same path:

U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with an understanding on Iran’s part that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table. This message should not only be delivered through words, but through actions.

And although as Romney states that “time has shown that existing sanctions have not led the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear aspirations,” he still believes more sanctions are the answer (which does not necessarily separate him much from Obama):

As for Iran in particular, I will take every measure necessary to check the evil regime of the ayatollahs. Until Iran ceases its nuclear-bomb program, I will press for ever-tightening sanctions, acting with other countries if we can but alone if we must. I will speak out on behalf of the cause of democracy in Iran and support Iranian dissidents who are fighting for their freedom. I will make clear that America’s commitment to Israel’s security and survival is absolute.

So Romney is covering his bases.  Axis of Evil reference: check. Claiming to support the Iranian people: check. Calling for another round of sanctions that punish those very same people: check. Attacking diplomacy: check.  But if  his intentions truly reflect some of his rhetoric, Romney would take talks of the table–which only leaves war.

U.S. Companies Blocking Communication Tools in Iran

With Apple’s vigilante-sanctions-enforcement/racial profiling of Iranian Americans receiving well-deserved attention, we wanted to spotlight similar over-enforcement of broad sanctions by tech companies impacting people inside Iran.  Below is a list of services not technically blocked by sanctions but still denied to Iranians by U.S. companies, compiled via researcher Collin Anderson who maintains and updates the list here:

Publisher Product Blocked By Company Require License? Notes
Google Google Talk X N
Google AdSense X Y
Google AdWords X Y
Google Android Market X N
Google Google Code X N
Google App Engine X N Cannot Host or Access Resource on Platform
Yahoo Yahoo Messenger X N
Yahoo Yahoo Web Messenger No SSL Support N
GoDaddy (all) X N Webpage Does Not Respond
Adobe (commercial products) X Varies Webpage Does Not Respond
Geeknet, Inc. Sourceforge X ITAR Issue
McAfee MacAfee Antivirus X Y
Symantec/Norton (all) ? Y
AVG Technologies (all) X Y
Oracle MySQL X Not Where Free
Oracle NetBeans X N
Xacti Group inbox.com X N
cPanel, Inc. cPanel X Y
Logitech (all) X Varies
  • 18 June 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: 18 June 2012

Talks Resume in Moscow

In what Reuters calls a “nervous atmosphere,” talks between the P5+1 and Iran resumed today in Moscow. A western diplomat said, “Ashton is willing to stay in Moscow as long as it takes,” although the climate inside the meetings was “tense and tough,” according to another unnamed Western source (Al-Monitor 6/18Reuters 6/17).

Talks are set to resume Tuesday (Al-Monitor 6/18Reuters 6/17). Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, has said Iran’s right to enrichment should be “’recognized and respected,’” while Western concerns for Iran’s nuclear program have remained high (Reuters 6/17). According to an Iranian diplomat, Iranians had three priorities going into this morning’s meetings: to criticize western negotiators for refusing Iranian requests for a preparatory meeting before the Moscow talks, to give a detailed response to all the points in a confidence building proposal put forward by the P5+1 in Baghdad, and to give the P5+1 a more detailed run-through of its five-pont plan (Al-Monitor 6/18).

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview ahead of talks in Moscow by saying: “’The problem is the following: If we would say only economic sanctions [will be imposed], then the Iranians will say OK, we will wait until it will be over. Now what the Americans and Europeans and Israelis are saying is if you won’t answer the economic challenge, all other options are on the table. It will not end there. Without that, there is no chance that the sanctions will [work]’” (Slate Magazine 6/15). When asked about his opinion of using military action against Iran, Peres emphasized the Iranians must see the threat of US military intervention as credible (Slate Magazine 6/15).

In response to Israeli concerns that the Iranians are merely buying time, an unnamed western official told The Guardian, “’The notion that Iran is playing for time and we’re playing for time is wrong. We have a sense of urgency. We’ve communicated this to the Iranians, and what we’re hoping is that their calculus will be affected by the bite of these sanctions’” (Huffington Post 6/17; The Guardian 6/17).

  • 5 June 2012
  • Posted By Milad Jokar
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

Ending characterization of “the other” is key to an Iran agreement

As a French-Iranian who has been exposed to both Iranian and Western mindsets, I have witnessed the lack of understanding that exists between Iran and the United States firsthand. During my travels and personal meetings, I have been able to access both narratives and what has struck me most is the harsh and intense misleading characterization of “the other” made by the political and media presentation. These different narratives create a problematic rift that heightens the political cost of finding a compromise between Iran and the P5+1 (U.S, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany). Hence, the decision-making on both sides is constrained by a political narrative driven by ideology more than the geostrategic and economic realities. One step to de-escalate is to lower this political cost by deconstructing the “otherization” of each side to allow a diplomatic resolution to be framed such that neither side loses face.

Unlike France, the United States and the Islamic republic have had more than 30 years of institutionalized enmity and this is why the political discourse on both sides has specifically been more aggressive and more prone to misconceptions. The rhetoric between the United States and Iran is still ratcheting up and the representation given of “the other” still deeply divides the average uninformed citizens in both countries. It is increasingly evident that the discursive strategy used by both the United States’ and Iran’s hardliners has been to simplify the representation of “the other” and to frame its complexity as an evil/demonic monolithic entity.

  • 18 April 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

Washington and Tehran’s Vicious Spin Cycle

The crux of negotiations between the U.S. and Iran is that, at some point, in order to succeed, each side will have to take a deep breath and shake hands on a deal. But thirty years of mutual demonization and fear mongering, means it takes serious political courage to come to the table, and even more courage—and a major investment of political capital—to actually accept a deal and sell it at home.

One way each side builds such political capital is to spin the talks as favoring the home team. This zero-sum approach—building capital at the expense of the other side—is dangerous and can create a precarious back and forth.

After modest success in Istanbul this past weekend, we’re seeing this back and forth play out as the sides prepare for the next round of talks in five weeks in Baghdad. Tehran has portrayed Washington as having softened its position and backed down from previous demands—particularly on the issue of whether Iran has the right to enrichment.

As Robert Wright speculates in the Atlantic, “If Iran’s leadership thinks it may do a deal with a government it has long framed as the great Satan, it needs to tell the Iranian people that it’s bringing Satan to his knees.” He points out that, as Tehran spins one way to build domestic support and to perhaps insulate the negotiations from political backlash at home, the opposite happens among opportunists in the U.S.

The Washington Times, for instance, takes Fars News at its word that the U.S. is granting Iran concessions, seizing on Tehran’s domestic spin to attack the talks. The very same groups that dismiss positive news like Khamenei’s fatwah against nuclear weapons as religious dissembling are, ironically, the most eager to treat Iran’s anti-U.S. spin as gospel–so long as it can be used to attack the Obama Administration’s diplomacy.

For its part, the U.S. is doing the exact same kind of spinning. In Haaretz yesterday, an unnamed U.S. official pushed back against criticism from Bibi Netanyahu that the Istanbul talks were a “freebie” for Tehran. Such an attack from Netanyahu–delivered with Senator Joe Lieberman at the Prime Minister’s side–is politically damaging for the White House and for the talks. Bibi may not technically be a domestic political opponent of the President, but nobody has bothered telling that to Congress.

  • 21 March 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Sanctions

Obama Norooz promise a good step, more needed to ensure U.S. not part of “Electronic Curtain”

Yesterday, President Obama released his Norooz message, which has now become an annual White House tradition marking the Iranian New Year.  Thankfully, these messages have actually come with some real substance.  In his  2010 message, Obama promised to increase opportunities for young Iranians to study at American universities, and he followed through by implementing a new multiple entry visa for Iranian students.  This year, he used the opportunity to announce much needed reforms to existing U.S. sanctions that have inadvertently contributed to Internet censorship in Iran.

NIAC praised the move–we have supported legislation in the past to do away with the entire process of licensing for Internet communication tools and services, which errs on the side of restricting and undermining the open exchange of information in Iran.  We’ve argued that opening the floodgates for Iranians to access outside technology is the best way to help Iranians overwhelm and counter government censorship–an open source solution to the problem.

Another important reason to allow applications like Java to be available to Iranians is that, without access to security patches and updated versions of the software, Iranian Internet users are far more susceptible to trojan horses and worms–which the so-called Iranian Cyber Army is well aware of and reportedly exploits.

So, while yesterday’s move was definitely a positive one, we also noted that more needs to be done to ensure U.S. sanctions don’t continue to help disconnect Iranians from the Internet, and to ensure access to satellite Internet and other services, software, and hardware are not blocked by sanctions for ordinary Iranians.  We also point out that the onus is also now on companies (such as GoDaddy, Google, DropBox, Skype, and Oracle) to make their services and software available in Iran.

  • 9 March 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Election 2012, US-Iran War

“Capability” ultimatum misses the point, threatens diplomatic opportunity

We’re at a rare moment in which both the United States and Iran have unclenched their fists and appear ready for real talks.

Obama, thankfully, has taken the pro-war crowd to task.  The P5+1 are finally setting new negotiations for April.  And Khamenei took the rare step of publicly welcoming new talks.

These are very hopeful signs that a breakthrough may be achievable.  But we’ve seen how opportunities have been sabotaged in the past by political opportunism, ultimatums and intransigence that has demanded maximalist concessions from either side and blocked compromise and diplomatic progress.

So, the question is: which side’s hardliners will screw things up this time?

Enter Senators Graham, Casey and Lieberman.  They recently introduced a resolution in the Senate that effectively says the U.S. will go to war if Iran acquires an undefined “capability” to build a nuclear weapon.  They defended their stance in the Wall Street Journal this morning:

Some have asked why our resolution sets the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a “nuclear weapons capability,” rather than “nuclear weapons.” The reason is that all of the destabilizing consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran will ensue as soon as Iranians have the components necessary for a weapon—and by then, it will be too late to stop them.

When some say that our red line is a “nuclear weapon,” it suggests that anything short of a working bomb is acceptable. This is exactly the wrong message to send.

The Senators should ask themselves how such a demand is read in Iran. As Eugene Robinson explains in his column this morning, “The truth is that every nation with sufficient wealth and scientific infrastructure has the capacity to build a bomb if it really wants to.”

Does the Lieberman-Graham-Casey trifecta really think the Iranians will capitulate to an ultimatum that demands they never achieve economic or scientific progress?  How do we sell that exactly?

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

Iran News Roundup 01/13

CIA memos uncover Mossad “false flag” operations

A series of CIA memos, written during the George W. Bush’s administration, describes how Mossad agents, pretending to be American agents and carrying US passports, reportedly recruited the terrorist group Jundallah to carry out a covert war against Iran (Foreign Policy  01/13).

U.S. sends warning to Iran’s Supreme Leader 

According to government officials, the U.S. has warned Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, via a secret channel of communication, that closing the Strait of Hormuz would constitute a “red-line” which would provoke a U.S. response. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also stated on Thursday that the closure of the Strait would not be tolerated (NY Times 01/12).

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei responded to Wednesday’s assassination of an Iranian scientist by saying that those behind the killing would be punished. “We will continue our path with strong will … and certainly we will not neglect punishing those responsible for this act and those behind it,” said Khamenei (Reuters 01/12). The Iranian scientist, Mostafa Roshan, was buried yesterday in Tehran (BBC 01/13).

U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta echoed strong denials by other top U.S. officials of American involvement in the assassination (The Guardian 01/13).

Russia considers Iran war a threat to security

Russia’s departing ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin told reporters that Russia considers Iranian involvement in any military action as a direct threat to Russia’s security. He also said that Israel is pushing the U.S. towards a war with Iran (Reuters 01/13).

U.N. to discuss nuclear program in Tehran

A senior U.N. nuclear agency team will be visiting Tehran on Jan. 28 to discuss allegations over Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian officials have suggested that they are ready to talk about the issue, according to two diplomats (Reuters 01/12). Some in the West have expressed skepticism over Iran’s readiness to discuss its nuclear program (Reuters 01/13).

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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