I have suspended writing new posts for this blog. I watch the Republican presidential debates and listen to the debate about bombing Iran and am speechless. There is hardly anything left to say.
Obama has no interest in bombing Iran. And although he caved into Bibi’s settlement expansion, he won’t green-light Israel to attack Iran. 2012 is not a year Americans will rally to support a president in a time of war. Americans believe they are overstretched with a dormant economy and believe Obama overstretched the federal budget through bail-out, stimulus and health care. An attack on Iran would make Romney a shoe-in. Even Obama wouldn’t let Netanyahu walk over him in this.
The majority of Americans don’t care about the Israel-Iran conflict. The Republicans are going wild on Iran to show that Obama is weak on national security, but Obama’s commander-in-chief narrative gets better with every Quaeda or Taliban leader offed, every drone that hits its target, those 2500 marines to be based in northwest Australia and on-going naval exercise near the South China Sea.
The Israeli leadership has been talking out of all sides of the mouth. Barak says Israel isn’t near a decision to bomb Iran one day. And the very next day, Israeli intelligence states that the aftermath of such an attack wouldn’t be as bad as many experts predict. Israeli officials have even back-tracked on whether Iran will ultimately go ahead and construct a bomb.
All of this occurs against the possibility Netanyahu will call for early elections this year and party elections that took place this week. Prepare for another round of hairsplitting debate tomorrow: this one on what the IEAE meant by its talks with Iran Monday and Tuesday were ‘good.’
Hundreds of Tehran demonstrators, possibly members of the hard-core Banji militia, demonstrated at the British embassy where a number of them broke into the compound, threw rocks, gasoline bombs, burned flags and threw documents out the window.
There were conflicting accounts of whether any hostages were taken in the embassy assault, which appeared to be a pre-orchestrated event sanctioned by the Iranian authoritiesl. Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency said six people from the embassy were seized by Iranian students from Tehran universities but inexplicably withdrew the report minutes later.
The semi-official Fars news agency said security forces were trying to eject the protesters, who were a minority from a larger group staging an anti-UK demonstration outside the compound…Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said that the police and various ministries had prior knowledge of the protest, which was organised by the student arm of the Basij armed group
“Any such action of this could scale can never be independent in the Islamic Republic. These gatherings are always approved by higher officials,” said Jabbari.
In an appearance on state television on Sunday, Sardar Mohamad Reza Naghdi, the commander of the Basij, said that the unit was “counting the moments” until it could strike against “Zionist forces”.
Jabbari said there a number of protesters had been taken into custody and that as of Tuesday evening, there was no official response from the Iranian government on how the protest unfolded.
Reaction to New UK Sanctions
The actions were in response to Britain’s tightening of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, including forbidding transactions with the Central Bank, and it followed an Iranian Parliament vote to downgrade diplomatic relations with Britain.
Information is still murky and ‘facts’ are subject to change. It’s unclear if the break-away group was sanctioned by the Iranian government or not. Regardless, the incident is a serious breach of international law and the duty of host countries to protect foreign embassies.
In another last-minute turn-around, Israeli PM Netanyahu failed to bring Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax money to a vote by his cabinet. Defense Minister Barak and officers from the military spoke for releasing the Palestinian money (collected from Palestinian economic activity) immediately and without conditions. The Israeli military fears that if the PA collapses from a crippling financial emergency, the West Bank will become even more volatile and a real danger to Israel’s security.
PM Netanyahu had signaled he favored releasing the Palestinian money but the ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs opposed the release. In addition, Haaretz reports that Netanyahu was told the Palestinians had hardened their position regarding peace negotiations, and Netanyahu retaliated by shelving the Cabinet vote to release the funds. As if the two are related! They are not.
Above the policy implications, Netanyahu’s decision underscores his own mercurial nature and why so many Palestinians and Europeans don’t trust him.
Mr. Netanyahu apparently wants to break the PA and take Israeli/Palestinian relations back to the pre-Oslo period. He has already negated provisions that two former PMs (Barak and Olmert) negotiated as part of a ‘final status’ treaty solution and insists that negotiations under his Administration start at zero.
While Defense Minister Barak argued that continued withholding of Palestinian revenue adds to the increasing friction between the two sides and Israel’s negative reputation in the international community, Netanyahu signaled he doesn’t really care about those consequences.
Does Netanyahu care if the PA collapses? Apparently not. He released hundreds of PA prisoners, including known terrorists and sent some back to the West Bank, the rest to Gaza, where some will once again be tempted towards violence. Either West Bank violence or the PA’s collapse would draw immediate Israeli retaliation up to and including the return to full occupation of Gaza and the West Bank with full Palestinian dependency on Israel.
Netanyahu’s vision of the immediate future looks increasingly like a lurch into the pre-Oslo past. If so, all bets are off and all restraints will be removed in the Middle East. And this is a man in charge of over 200 nuclear missiles! No wonder Iran wants its own bomb.
Not according to the Arms Control Association:
The broad outline in the IAEA’s latest report on the military dimensions of Iran’s program is not new, but rather, provides greater detail regarding weapons-related activities outlined in previous public reports.
The IAEA report and annex reinforce what the nonproliferation community has recognized for some time: that Iran engaged in various nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, then stopped many of them, but continued others.
The activities documented in the IAEA report, including research related to nuclear warheads, underscore that Tehran’s claims that it is only seeking the peaceful use of nuclear energy are false.
Iran’s warhead work also contradicts its obligation not to pursue nuclear weapons under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), under which states parties commit “not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
The report suggests that Iran is working to shorten the timeframe to building the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it remains apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable.
The report should prompt greater international pressure on Tehran to respond more fully to the IAEA’s questions, allow for more extensive inspections of its nuclear facilities, engage more seriously in talks on its nuclear program, and to agree to confidence building steps to help resolve the crisis.
In other words, Tehran is moving towards being capable of building a nuclear bomb and war-head delivery system, does not have one now nor is the IAEA is reporting an imminent threat.
The ambiguity in Iran’s intentions, not to mention those of Israel and the US, also shows no sign of lifting anytime soon.
Why should it? It appears Israel and the US have a covert strategy that is building obstacles for Iran on several fronts of its nuclear program. Top Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in the last few years. A virus set back the complex computer networks necessary for a nuclear program.
Now, more and more people are speculating that a large explosion in a Tehran missile factory last Saturday was not, as the government claims, an accident but may have been the work of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad. Even without Israeli involvement, the death of Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, the leader of Iran’s missile programs and favorite of the Ayatollah Khamenei, is in Israel’s interests. Mastering the technology needed to build a nuclear bomb is one part of a weapons program. Developing missiles and warheads that can carry a nuclear device is the other.
“Something strange is happening in Israel,” former IDF General Israela Oren told 300-plus guests attending a Jstreet luncheon yesterday. She referred to the open discussion within Israeli media about PM Netanyahu’s efforts to gain support from his cabinet for a bombing raid on Iranian nuclear facilities. Usually, such talk is kept secret and discouraged by the government, so the recent speculative chatting is seen by many Israelis as a smoke-screen shifting focus away from covert actions or else as a hawkish ploy to drive the US and Europe into tougher sanctions against Iran. Most of the Israeli military and intelligence networks seem opposed to a military strike against Iran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency will report on new evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb, several news outlets report. In addition, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the UK’s Guardian report new information regarding a possible US or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. It appears President Netanyahu is coming closer to getting his cabinet to agree on a strike and the British military is increasing its preparation for support of any US strike.
Rumors of an imminent attack surface every six months or so, but Israel began a full court press diplomatic offensive a in September, sending each of its foreign envoys instructions for explaining Israel’s latest thinking to their host governments. Iran has warned the West of havoc should Iran be attacked. At the same time, the Tehran hierarchy seems split over domestic issues and vulnerable.
In an interview with Christine Amanpour on ABC this morning, John McCain claimed that the Obama Administration didn’t really try to convince Iraq to keep a wresidual force (3,000 – 20,000) of American troops in Iraq past the legal deadline for withdrawal agreed to by the Bush Administration, December 31, 2011. Upon questioning how he could make such a claim, McCain said “I was there.” McCain then explained that over six months before, when he spoke to different representatives of the Iraqi government, they seemed agreeable to discussing amending the SOFA and retaining some American troops.
Let’s look at the facts:
It has been broadly reported that some in the Iraqi government wanted to keep US troops past the deadline for withdrawal. Others did not.
It has been broadly reported that the Administration entered talks on the subject months ag, with Maliki and the US Administration trying to work out some type of accommodation.
It has been broadly reported that the Iraqi government would not give American troops immunity past December 31, 2011, because it would violate their nation’s sovereignty and that the US could not accept leaving troops beyond the agreed-upon withdrawal date without this immunity
It has been widely reported that the Bush Administration invaded Iraq to ‘liberate it’ with the goal of leaving it a sovereign, independent nation and that Mr. McCain approved of and supported that invasion from the beginning.
The Iraqi government has spoken as a sovereign, independent nation. Yet, instead of celebrating that fact, Mr. McCain believes the Obama Administration should impose US paternalism and dictate the number of troops and conditions of operations to the Iraqis.
Mr. McCain is not a very smart politician. He knows that the US Embassy will have hundreds of contracted former soldiers defending it and its consulates in Iraq. He knows the State Department will hire independent contractors to fill in for American soldiers to train the Iraqi military. He knows the American people have no more stomach for the cost in lives and money of a continued war in Iraq.
A smart politician would have tried to take credit for the Bush strategy and insisted it worked. Instead McCain’s attacks on Obama for implementing the Bush SOFA and fulfilling a campaign pledge to bring the troops home seems shallow and outdated.
McCain ignores the internal politics in Iraq itself. He ignores the nationalist sentiment of Iraqis that has grown stronger the longer US troops have remained on the ground. Most Iraqis consider the US presence in Iraq an occupation and believe that sectarian divisions will moderate when the occupation ends. McCain ignores the Sadr movement, which vowed to challenge any remaining US troops militarily, that hold a sizable bloc of votes in the Iraqi Parliament.
By denouncing Obama for the Iraqi withdrawal, McCain displays his tin ear to the war fatigue of the American public and demands that the government focus on domestic concerns, not foreign policy adventures.
McCain is a figure of the past. He no longer represents the base of the Republican Party. But the American media is lazy and intellectually unable to keep up with foreign policy developments. It’s easier to go with the false perceptions of the same old same old .
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