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.
NATO ministers and Russia meet today in ongoing discussions about a European defense system. The Obama Administration axed the large-scale system anchored in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying they threatened Russian security. But Russia hasn’t changed its mind about the one under discussion either. Under the doctrine of ‘mutually assured destruction’, Russia believes a defensive shield that near its borders would threaten its offensive capability.
NATO, the Russians say, do not understand their position. NATO says the defense is meant only for short and medium ranged missiles from the Middle East, and that would also help Russia. I’m not sure telling Russia what might help it defend herself is a good NATO strategy. Russia’s countered the START Treaty on strategic arms. According to the Christian Science Monitor:
As frustration mounts among NATO officials, Russians have countered that the West does not understand their position. Alexei Arbatov from the Center for International Security told the Voice of Russia that his nation wants its interests taken into consideration and written guarantees that Europe will reconsider the missile defense system if the Iran nuclear threat diminishes.
“NATO’s position is not impeccable and inviolable, as the alliance’s chief claims it to be,” Mr. Arbatov said. “Besides, NATO should not force its will on Russia or dictate to it, not if it wants to have Russia as a reliable partner.”
Why missile defense is even an issue at this point is puzzling. It is aimed at defense against Iran. But of course Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, although it is testing ballistic missile capability. That project was set back by last month’s huge explosion at an Iranian defense plant that killed Iran’s top ballistics engineer.
UN investigators have released a new report accusing senior Syrian government officials and leaders of the country’s military and security forces of ordering mass atrocities in efforts to crush anti-government protests since March.
The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said on Monday that Syrian government forces committed crimes against humanity, including the killing and torturing of children, and held state officials responsible for murder, rape and torture.
“The commission believes that orders to shoot and otherwise mistreat civilians originated from policies and directives issued at the highest levels of the armed forces and the government,” the panel said in its report.
The UN actions and claims that over 200 children have been killed in months of violent clashes came in the wake of the Arab League voting to impose sanctions on the Assad government. The US and Germany are pushing the Security Council to take ‘decisive’ action against the regime.
“Now with the Arab League having acted and it becoming increasingly clear even for those that would rather deny it, that the Assad regime has participated in outrageous and now documented atrocities. The patience of its neighbors and now the international community has evaporated.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu continued his country’s criticism of Assad, adding,
“If the current pressure will open the way for a large-scale refugee movement, if tens, hundreds of thousands of people start advancing towards Iraq, Lebanon, the Turkey borders, not only Turkey, then the international community may be required to take some steps. But it will not be up to Turkey’s appeal only.”
Even without military intervention, Assad’s days are numbered. For the West, the stakes are higher than just Syria. The collapse of the Assad regime would be a blow to its ally, Iran, not to mention Hamas and Hezbellah.
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.
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.
If you ever thought that Barack Obama would change the post-Cold War/War on Terror assumptions and find a new direction for US global security policy, the last nail has been hit into the coffin of hope.
The Obama administration plans to bolster the American military presence in the Persian Gulf after it withdraws the remaining troops from Iraq this year, according to officials and diplomats. That repositioning could include new combat forces in Kuwait able to respond to a collapse of security in Iraq or a military confrontation with Iran.
It is clear that the US ‘footprint’ in the Persian Gulf and Middle East will continue to expand with both the goal and justification of encircling Iran. Although overthrowing Saddam Hussein removed the ‘natural enemy’ of Iran, thus enhancing the latter’s influence in the region, it was also a war to clear the path of an aggressive US national security strategy. The US needed both an excuse and a place to establish a strong military presence in the region and was counting on a weak Iraq to provide both.
In addition, last year the Administration agreed to sell Saudi Arabia $60 billion in weapons and began building a tailored down ‘missile defense system’ against Iran. It will send more naval ships through international waters in the area and strengthen the Gulf Cooperation Council, composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other assorted emirships and kingdoms (do we still need to add ‘undemocratic’).
Nuclear issue only part of Iran story?
The US is actively challenging Iran on its nuclear program. But this is only half the story. The real goal is to halt China and Russia from expanding their influence and economic partnerships in the region.
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